Monday, October 29, 2007

Bullies, Bossies, and Other Pests

It surprising to parents of three-year-olds that bullying and bossing and social games start early. Preschoolers are beginning to navigate this stuff, even before they get to kindergarten, and it can be painful to watch, even in the early stages. There is, however, more and more interest and awareness around bullying now than ever before, and with that comes a handful of picture books. Myself, I look for light-hearted, story-based, not-too-earnest ways of talking about bullying and being a good friend. These stories really don't talk in a direct way about what bullying is and how to deal with it, but rather offer a little tale, and in reading, I take the opportunity to comment on what is happening and ask questions of Pumpkinpie. "How do you think she feels right now?" "What do you think she could do?" Talking early and often is a great way to start the discussion and keep it going, and a book is always a nice, non-threatening place to begin.

This crop should open discussion with kids who still enjoy picture books, say from ages 3 to 8 or so, pretty easily. For early readers (about grades 2-3) who may want to read books on this theme by themselves, try simple chapter books Super Emma by Sally Warner or Jake Drake, Bully Buster, by Andrew Clements. (For more serious cases, though, there are books in the parenting section to help parents deal with the situation, especially for parents of older children, who may be facing more extreme degrees of bullying.)

Clara and The Bossy, by Ruth Ohi

Clara is happy to have a new friend, until Madison begins to criticize everything she does, and hurts another kid's feelings. She thinks about this one night, and decides that she needs to be herself more than she needs one more friend. She goes her own way, and soon enough, Madison follows, reformed.

A Weekend With Wendell, by Kevin Henkes

When Wendell shows up and spends the weekend terrorizing Sophie, she is at her wit's end. Finally, antagonism turns to friendship after Sophie gives him a taste of his own medicine. Once she gets her own back, the two find themselves having a great time together, and a whole new dynamic is in place.

Hooway for Wodney Wat, by Helen Lester, ill. Lynn Munsinger

The new rodent in class, Camilla Capybara is horrible. A know-it-all and a bully, she intimidates every other creature in class. When Rodney, who cannot say his R's, has to take a turn leading Simon Says, he totally defeats camilla, who doesn't understand his directions, not knowing about his speech. In the end, she disappears into the sunset, going "west" (instead of going to rest). What I love in particular about this book is that his weakness, for which he was teased at first, is the thing that makes him a hero to the others in the end, and his victory is not born of any bad behaviour on his part. It is a little simple, of course, and doesn't offer a solution per se, but it is nice for the underdog to be a hero and show her up.

Goggles, by Ezra Jack Keats

Proving that bullying is certainly nothing new, this classic title from Keats shows two young boys tricking a groups of bigger boys to avoid them when the bigger boys are picking on them. Features Keats' trademark urban setting and Peter, his frequent main character.

Is It Because?, by Tony Ross

One that promotes thinking about the root of bullying, and why the bully acts as he does. It is a tiny bit silly, to encourage a laugh and lighten the mood as you talk about something frightening. This encouraging empathy is a nice approach, though I think a child might want it paired with a book where the underdog triumphs, as well, to give a little lift of spirits and so that all the attention is not on the attention-seeking bully, as usual.

Duck, Duck, Goose, by Tad Hills

When Thistle, a new duck, moves into the neighbourhood, Duck is pretty excited - until he and Goose try to play with Thistle and discover that Thistle is pushy and bossy and overly competitive and in general, no fun to play with. While Goose tries to be a good sport for a while, eventually he and Duck give up, and fool the little duck into napping while they play their own games. (This is a followup to Duck & Goose, one of my favourite picture books of last year's crop.)

Ker-Splash!, by George O'Connor

This junior graphic book makes liberal use of the comic format and the superhero fantasies of the young to take on the topic of bullying. Set at the beach, a pair of kids pick on the younger brother of one of them, and then find themselves the target of a bigger bully. Seeing the parallel, they apologize the the little guy, and the three of them team up to defeat the big boy by distraction and teamwork. While the bully is avoided and doesn't get official comeuppance, the crab inching towards his sand-seated bottom in the last frame Delivers a snide and satisfying snicker.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Witches Are Coming! The Witches Are Coming!

Hallowe'en is closing in fast this year, and it seems even faster than usual, with the unseasonably mild weather. So rather than let it sneak up on me (and you) entirely, I'm giving you a week's head start on it! And rather than fiddle with loading pictures and Odeo players here (which, frankly, took me so long to get all together and working at the same time last year, I refuse to try again, sorry), I'm giving you a link to my list, chez Life of 'Pie, of favourite Hallowe'en stories for the young.

These Picks from the Pumpkin Patch, which include me reading two of the stories, are mostly quite gentle and younger-child-appropriate, but I've noted the two that I think are better for somewhat older kids. Enjoy, and happy spooking!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pumpkinpie's Picks

A new crop of books has come around, and a few of them have stuck.
Here's the handful that are keeping Pumpkinpie's attention these days.

Wynken, Blynken and Nod, by Eugene W. Field, ill. David McPhail

I was so happy to find that she loves this wonderful poem about sleep, a favourite of mine when I was a child. It has a dreamy quality of its own, and McPhail's stunning deep-blue nighttime scenes only add to its charm.

The Cat and the Wizard, by Dennis Lee, ill. Gillian Johnson
This story poem about two outcasts who find in each other great friendship is a real treat. It has silly bits and sweet bits, and it's told in lee's fun rhyming style. Even better, it is set in Toronto's own Casa Loma, the cat's home in this tale. The illustrations are a bit cartoony and whimsical, and hit a nice note for the story they accompany.

Up, Up, Down, by Robert Munsch, ill. Michael Martchenko
This might be my favourite Munsch story, as it lends itself so well to sharing with a group, complete with actions. And while the story does hinge on Anna not listening, she is not totally bratty, nor is the teaching-the-parents-their-own-lesson twist at the end of a really obnoxious variety. A cute and silly starter Munsch.

Boo and Baa Have Company, by Lena and Olof Landstrom
Boo and Baa are sheep, so for me, this starts out funny before I even open the cover. Luckily, the inside lives up to that expectation by being funny by way of dry understatements and leaving some things to be said by the terrific, graphically pleasing illustrations. In this tale (It turns out there are others! Must find them.), Boo and Baa find a cat stuck in their tree, and try to rescue it, with less-than-stellar results. Really, really cute, even if you are not a sheep freak.

What Will We Do With the Baby-O?, sel. by Theo Heras, ill. Jennifer Herbert
Compiled by a Toronto librarian (and sung by her on the accompanying CD, packaged separately), this collection contains a few less-common songs, including Pumpkinpie's current fave, Ally Bally Bee and the fabulous Jig Along Home, to which I could never remember all the words without a book like this one. I am, to be honest, not in love with the illustrations, but a volume of rhymes and songs does not depend on illustrations to interplay with text the way a story book does, so it is not a major flaw, and they are kind of fun and jaunty, after all.

Find these and more great reads at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ten Fidgety Fingers

Rhymes and fingerplays are a staple of library and daycare programming for young kids. They are great for children - they encourage remembering, small motor skills, and rhyming skills (connected to early phonics). They are great for grownups, too, as they can provide a brief diversion without any props, and can help smoothe along events like getting dressed, eating, bathing, and so on. They provide a backdrop for bouncing activities, for babies who like to bounce, and can even teach vocabulary in naming body parts and animals. Some of these can be learned in circle times at libraries and otherwise, if you can attend them. But how else can you find some to use with your baby? Here are a few starter resources for parents, some of which even make for fun storytime sharing.

Hand Rhymes, by Marc Brown

This small collection (and its companion, Finger Rhymes) is illustrated by Arthur author Brown in his quirky, recognizable style. There is a nice selection in these books, including some nice seasonal rhymes. Each line of a rhyme has a small box beside it showing the accompanying action. This makes it more awkward to use on the fly, but with many of these rhymes being a bit more involved, it could be well used with a slightly older child at a table or on the floor together so that you and your child both have your hands free.

Knock at the Door, by Kay Chorao

This sweet and gentle book is aimed at babies. Each line is accompanied by a small square illustration of the actions. This is useful for learning them, but the small size does make it more difficult to use at the same moment that you are holding a wiggly baby. I still recommend it for some lovely, cute content, however I would use this either to learn some rhymes yourself, or with a small table nearby that you could place the book on while you perform the rhyme and actions with your child.

Hippety-Hop, Hippety-Hay, by Opal Dunn, ill. Sally Anne Lambert

This book is arranged in sections according to age (birth to age 3), each started with a brief rundown of what your child can do and tips on how to use rhymes with them. There are several rhymes arranged on a page around a themed illustration, and in this case, the actions are described underneath in italics, as well as ideas on extending the rhyme. Music for a few is provided at the end, as is an index of first lines that eases the finding of favourite rhymes.

The Eentsy-Weentsy Spider, by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson, ill. Alan Tiegreen

This fun book of familiar rhymes (and it's companion, Pat-a-Cake) is made priceless by the quirky and slightly comic illustrations of Alan Tiegreen, best known for his work as the man who brought Ramona Quimby to life. Each rhyme's action is illustrated with nice large illustrations of kids, complete with arrows to show movement when needed. For older kids, this team has also put together books of marble games, tongue twisters, street rhymes and jump-rope chants, card and party games, autograph rhymes, and travel games. I have this dream where they have fantastically fun meetings to brainstorm concepts and try out possible entries, and I get to join them!

For parents and caregivers looking for extra rhymes or new material, I would recommend either checking with your librarian for professional resources, or visiting Perpetural Preschool, which has a massive quantity of songs and rhymes by theme. They need some sifting, as they are not all excellent, but it is a good resource for themed ideas (also for art, science, and snacks!).

For parents who would like to hear them or see them in action, look for CDs by Kathy Reid-Naiman, or videos by Sally Jaeger, all available in Toronto's libraries. Or come and visit a storytime!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Get up get up get busy

Get up and move that body!

Let's face it, sometimes a kid likes to bust a move, not sit still for a story. And sometimes, let's say when it's not bedtime, it's great to just let the little wiggler hop down and go to it. Heck, you can even turn it into a game and direct it a bit. And if you're lacking inspiration? Hey, I always turn to a book... Here are a few titles to get you and your babe bending and stretching, hopping and twirling.

Teddy Bears, Teddy Bears, ill. William B. Winburn

My favourite version of this was always a simple Harper Growing Tree version by Steve Scott, but I am now also a fan of this newer version. It is illustrated with photos of real teddy bears posed to perform the actions of this classic skipping rhyme. They are cute, but not cutesy, and there are some new actions in this rendition that I quite like. (It is also nice for me that the "say your prayers" rhyme has been omitted, so it's more comfortable to use with our multicultural public.)

We've All Got Bellybuttons, by David Martin, ill. Randy Cecil

Animals lead the charge in this fun, colourful book about the parts of the body and what we can do with them. We've got hands, and you do too. We can clap them. Can you? And, like so many great rhymes to share with your child, it ends with a tickle and a giggle, which I love for parent-child combos.

From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle

This is a go-to book for body parts in motion. It works its way through a variety of actions by associating each with an animal and challenging the reader to see if they can do it, too. I am a buffalo, and I can raise me shoulders. Can you do it? Kids love pattern and repetition, and tend to enjoy professing that yes, they can do it, while Carle's signature style elevates the whole thing, as he tends to do.

Toddlerobics, by Zita Newcomb

This and it's followup Toddlerobics: Animal Fun are designed for actions that toddlers can perform, and the book is framed as a visit to the toddler gym. The toddler crew are introduced by name on endpapers, and add personality to the cute-but-not-quite-icky-cute illustrations. I also like the bouncy rhyme scheme. Of these, I prefer the animal version, myself.

For older children, you could also try some fun skipping rhymes, like those found in Anna Banana: 101 Jump-Rope Rhymes, by Joanna Cole. Happy hopping!

For these and more lively titles, hop on down to your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.