Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pumpkinpie's Picks

Pumpkinpie has found a few new faves this month, and discovered some old classics that speak to her, too. I love a blend of old and new, because while children's literature has certainly taken off and produced some wonderful new stuff, the really good stuff from long ago has endured for very good reason, too. Here are some current bestsellers in our story chair.

McDuff and the Baby and McDuff's Wild Romp, by Rosemary Wells, ill. Susan Jeffers

Pumpkinpie loves dogs, and recently has been pretty nice to other people's babies, so I brought home McDuff and the Baby, which seemed a good combination. I really love the retro feeling of the illustrations (and totally covet all of Lucy's shoes!), and the story is sweet and simple. She loved it, too, and asked for more McDuff stories. I'll bring home more as I find them, but this second book, about McDuff and a cat tagnling over a dropped meatball, is pretty funny.

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?, by Jane Yolen, ill. Mark Teague

I'll post about this whole series at some point, but this month we are loving this early etiquette book for its silliness. It's backfiring somewhat, because now she's trying to figure out just how one would bubble one's milk, but we never get past sticking beans up the dinosaur's nose without a good shared giggle. Which I love. (And, to be honest, kind of encourage with huge exaggeration and a funny voice. Shh! Don't tell Emily Post!)

Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans

Pumpkinpie has suddenly discovered the appeal of Madeline, perhaps because she is so into peers right now and it seems pretty neat to live with twelve little girls, even if it does mean being in two straight lines. She is also oddly fascinated by books that involve the hospital (Curious George, Miffy, and so on). I don't think she's connected it with the lovely, velvety My First Madeline doll that's been hovering around in her room since birth, though, strangely enough. For my part, I am happy enough to share the familiar pleasure of simpler pictures and the nice metre of the rhyming (although I admit, slightly stunted rhymes in spots) tale.

Pancakes, Pancakes, by Eric Carle

So Jack waked up and informs his mother that he would like a big pancake for breakfast. And she replies that she is busy and he has to help, and sends him on errand after errand, coincidentally showing us where all the ingredients come from. Finally, he has it all assembled and helps cook it. Pumpkinpie loves pancakes, and now Pancakes, Pancakes, too. (Plus I love how the mom shows Jack just exactly what is involved in his "simple" request and makes him do it himself!)

Clara and the Bossy, by Ruth Ohi

I brought this home after enjoying The Couch Was a Castle, by the same author. Truth be told, I don't love it, though I thought the theme would be a good one, with Pumpkinpie negotiating some new terrain in terms of friendships these days and trying out her own bossy voice, too. I think it kind of misses out on the bossiness, and goes more into mean girl territory, while neer really mentioning how the kids involved are feeling. don't get me wrong - I hate a book with an earnest, heavy-handed Message. But I do think if you are going to talk about being bossy... you might want to talk about being bossy. Still, Pumpkinpie picks it time after time. Perhaps she's getting the scenarios that are presented, perhaps she just likes Clara's purple dress. Whatever, right? She's into it.

Angus and the Cat, by Majorie Flack

Before Pumpkinpie was born, a friend threw a book shower for me, and everyone brought their favourite books from childhood. One of my best friends brought the Angus books, lovely old gems illustrated in a bold and slightly hallucinogenic style. They are funny in a very dry fasion, employing Upper Case Letters to great effect. In this one, Angus is affronted by a new member of the household, but comes to find it welcome in the end. As predictable as it might be, it's a storyline kids seem to love over and over again. The other Angus tales are pretty amusing, too.

Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

Yes, I'm slowly feeding her the whole Henkes oeuvre as she grows into them. She's loved every one so far, though there are a few I think might be a little ways off, still. This book is especially near to my heart because I am obssessed with names, and this is all about a little girl who loves her name until she gets teased, and then learns to love it all over again. Sweet and sad and funny and just pitch-perfect in that familiar style that I love so very much. Sigh. Have I mentioned before that I heart Kevin Henkes. I think I may have...

Find these and other great story-chair reads at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fresh Fodder

Every week or two, a library receives a box of new materials. It will be a mix, containing books, DVDs, books on tape, CDs for children, teens, and adults. It's often taken a while to wind its way through the paths of pubisher to distributor to library, through processing, and out to the branch. But it is always a little thrill to see what's in there. Today, to atone for my scant blogging while on holiday recently, I share a few new finds with you, ones that have just hit the shelves and are still all fresh and shiny.

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do any More, by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter

This hilarious gem stars a kid full of creativity and bright ideas. Too bad they all get her into trouble. Was stapling her brother's hair to his pillow so wrong that she shouldn't be allowed to use a stapler anymore? In the course of one school day, she is disallowed from doing reports on beaver, dedicating reports to beavers, telling everyone she owns 100 beavers, setting Joey Whipple on fire and showing him her underpants, and walking backwards, either to or from school. Sheesh. This kid is totally being stifled by grownups lacking in imagination! (Probably for kids about 5-8 years old.)

My Book Box, by Will Hillenbrand

This simple, toddler-friendly book is great fun, and a terrific starting point for discussing possibilities and engaging in creative play. It asks, quite simply, "What can I do with a box?" A few fun possibilities are illustrated by an elephant and frog playing together, until they hit upon the idea of a book box, which they can take everywhere so they always have something to read.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by various artists

The time-worn joke is answered by a stellar lineup of 14 children's authors/illustrators, each afforded their own two-page spread. Many answers are entirely visual, setting up a scene that makes one side clearly preferable for one reason or another, while a few have added a verbal answer as well (Because the light was green!). The whole colection is funny, and great to share with a child just getting into the age of jokes or one firmly in command of his comedy routine (say 4-8 years).

Belinda and the Glass Slipper, by Amy Young

Belinda, the ballerina with enormous feet, was introduced to us in Belinda the Ballerina, in which she overcame them to become a star. When Belinda wins the part of Cinderella from an ambitious new dancer, the younger, smaller-footed Lola is not amused. Lola, in fact, locks Belinda in a closet and takes to the stage in her role! A fellow dancer finds her, helps her get ready, and she comes on in time to steal the show at the ball. A fun book for fans of ballet, and a talking point for jealousy, if it happens to be rearing its ugly head.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People To Freedom, by Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Kadir Nelson

I am a sucker for tales of people with strong convictions and the courage to back them up, and Harriet Tubman is no exception, getting me right in the heart. In this version of events, Harriet converses with god, who guides her and lends her strength as she runs away, and helps others escape along the Underground Railroad. The language is poetic, the paintings stunning, and Harriet's faith deeply expressed. Absolutely lovely, and a powerful tale of courage for an older child (I'd say 7 or over).

Who Am I? Yoga for Children of All Ages, by Jane Lee Wiesner, ill. Annie White

I am someone who is skeptical of yoga for children, in general. Perhaps because yoga is a bit too crunchy for me, perhaps because it seems like putting an adult thing on children. Yet, for all my cynical nature, when I opened this book, I was delighted. Simple illustrations show a child in many basic yoga poses set against the object that inspires them. I reach like a giraffe. I point like a triangle. I grow like a tree. All of the poses and ideas are chosen to be accessible for children, and the book could be used as a game of imagining to make the forms fun for children. Further information is given in the endnotes for parents who want to explain in more depth, as well. I am in fact, to my surprise, liking this so much, I am going to take it home to Pumpkinpie this week!

Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry, coll. Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, ill. Polly Dunbar

This fantastic collection of first poems is 100 pages of fun for the very young. Poems are short and bouncy, and authors range from more classic (A.A. Milne, Hilaire Belloc) to more modern and silly (Colin McNaughton). The topics are pitch perfect for young kids - family, pets, seasons, nature, bedtime, eating, and more - and divided in the index into headings. The illustrations hit a fun, light note - sweet without being saccharine. This one I love so much I am planning to get my own copy.

These and other delightful new books are available through your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's Just My Imagination, Running Wild and Too Fast

I am a big fan of imaginative play for children, and I love to see it reflected in books for children. There is something fun and perfectly evocative of childhood to these titles about imagining games that just makes me smile.

The Couch Was A Castle, by Ruth Ohi

This is a recent favourite in the House of 'Pie. Each page shows a pair imagining a new scenario on the couch, with a small image of the reality and a larger contrasting image of the imaginary version. Great fun.

Toby, What Are You?, by William Steig, ill. Teryl Euvremer

William Steig is a great storyteller, but as it turns out, he also has a silly streak and completely understands the joy of imagining goofy things. In this book, Toby is pretending to be different things, and has his parents guessing. Sometimes they are right, sometimes not, but they have a fun running game right up until he is a cowboy and rides his horse to bed. (I also enjoy Steig's book Pete's a Pizza, in which Pete's parents pretend to make him into a pizza to cheer him up. Comes complete with tickles and silly jokes served deadpan.)

Imagine You Are a Dolphin, by Karen Wallace, ill. Mike Bostock

This book and its companion, Imagine You Are A Crocodile, are not so much books about games of imagination as they are jumping-off-points for such games. Beautiful, informative, and begging for children to run with the imagining they suggest. I could really see a child plunging into the land of make-believe armed with this good window into the lives of either animal.

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

The quintessential book about a child's imaginings, in which Max is sent to bed without any supper, imagines himself sailing far away, in and out of nights and days, until he reaches a land where he becomes the beloved king and has the wildest rumpus he could ever desire before finally returning to his home, where his dinner is waiting for him - and it was still hot. Wild, fantastical, and eminently quotable, this gem is a classic for a reason.

Find these and other books of the wild and wonderful at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.