Monday, March 31, 2008

Lovey Love

They love the loveys, don't they? I think a lovey is a wonderful thing - built in comfort and security, easing of transitions, something to tell their troubles too. I encouraged Pumpkinpie's attachment to her loveys, and even bought duplicates in case of loss. Let's face it, loveys are as good for the parent as they are for the child for quite some time.

But then comes trouble. Maybe the lovey gets lost - what to do? Or maybe that sweet toddler gets a little older, and the time has come that you think maybe they should get ready to at least leave the lovey at home, if not detach themselves from the now-worn and grubby object altogether. Or maybe you think the lovey is fine at home, but your now-older child starts wondering if his friends will think it's babyish. It can be an emotional tug-of-war, figuring out how to handle this stuff, how to walk a line between encouraging your child towards growing, respecting their lovey love, soothing fears or sorrow, and figuring out what you think is acceptable in what circumstances.

Of course, as always, I like to share a story about another child and their lovey troubles. Here is a nice little sampling.

Owen, by Kevin Henkes

Owen loved his blankie. It went wherever Owen went. They played together, slept together, and ate together. But the neighbour started to point out that Owen was getting older and ready for school. What to do about the blankie? None of her suggestions turn out very well, nor do they turn Owen off his blankie. It's Owens' mother, who finally finds a way to make blankie into something more acceptable to tote around with him. This story is, of cuorse, cute and funny and rings true, and it also shows a compromise - a way to accept Owen's attachment, but repackage it for his move into the realm of older kids.

No More Blanket for Lambkin!, by Bernette Ford, ill. Sam Williams

Lambkin's friend ever-so-gently, yet firmly, takes lambkin's dirty, much-loved blanket, and plays laundry with it. Once it dries, it is found to be riddled with small holes, so the friend takes it, ties a ribbon and a couple of knots, and transforms the blanket from a tattered cover to a sweet lambie doll much better suited to playing. Not a total removal, but this story gives another option - make it into something else. A pillow, framed art background, stuffed toy? A nice way for a blanket to end up.

Ira Sleeps Over, by Bernard Waber

Ira is a big kid - big enough for a lseepover with his friend Reggie. But Ira still sleeps with his bear. He agonizes over whether to take it or not - will Reggie laugh and call him a baby? His sister thinks so, his parents don't. Turns out in the end, he's not alone in still clinging to an old favourite while trying to pass himself off a more grown up than he might feel sometimes. This story is reassuring to kids who wonder if they are the only one who still like some of the remnanats of early childhood - they are not alone, no matter what the other kids like to pretend. It can do a person good to know that other people worry about this stuff, too. This is a classic - and one of my childhood favourites, too.

Dogger, by Shirley Hughes

Dave's big sister sleeps with lots of stuffed animals, but not Dave. He only loves Dogger. So when Dogger gets lost, then found, then bought by mistake off a rummage sale table, Dave is beside himself. What would he do without Dogger? Luckily, Dave's sister understands, and trades her lovely, newly-won bear to get Dogger back. This book is filled with the love of the young boy, the panic and despair of missing his lovey, and the heartwarming action of his sister. Hughes' trademark details and warm colours bring the whole thing to life perfectly. Just lovely.

Find these and other tales of growing up at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pumpkinpie's Picks

We've been busy this month, but also at home more than usual, what with March Break and Easter weekend and everything else. which also means more storytimes in the middle of the day. Doesn't mean more varied stories, mind you, because like many kids, Pumpkinpie will ride it til the wheels fall off, or until I bring home something newer. Here are a handful that have, for better or for worse, been on repeat play at our house this month. Oh, my poor throat.

Unicorn Races, by Stephen J. Brooks, ill. Linda Crockett

This is one I received for a publisher's review, and as soon as she saw the sparkly, purple, unicorn-bedecked cover, she sprang upon it and claimed it. I like to preread things, but I didn't even get the chance. As it turns out, it is fine for a three-year-old, even if it was sent to me for older kids. It is awfully girly, which means she loves it and I wouldn't choose it, but will read it for her because it is not offensive, just not my style. Who am I to impose my style on her, anyhow, right? For the full review, take a peek over at Kittenpie Reads Kidlit. (This is, by the way, from a small publisher and not available through the library, though it is on Amazon, if you have a unicorn freak in your life! Links at Kittenpie Reads, as above.)

Mad About Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans

This collection of six well-known Madeline tales had Pumpkinpie busy for a solid week at least - and stretched out storytime something fierce. Some nights it was all Madeline, all the time! But I do love introducing her to classics like these, and when she loves them, I will fully indulge it until the shine wears off. These are just as charming as ever, although the one about running away with circus gypsies is, um, a smidge dated, and sure to make you cringe a bit. No matter, they love it anyhow.

Cinderella Penguin, and

The Emperor Penguin's New Clothes, by Janet Perlman

These retellings of classic fairy tales are fun - they are pretty straightforward, with the occasional flightless waterfowl twist, like Cinderella's glass flipper. The illustrations are in a cartoonish style with enough details to keep Pumpkinpie hunting princesses while I read, and there are a few cute touches. Overall, I like that they are not too fluffy and princess-y, even while they stay true to the original stories.

The Little Mermaid, adapted from Hans Christian Andersen's versions by Ian Beck

This was a tough call for me. Generally, I don't like adaptations - I figure when the kid is old enough to handle the real story, that's when they are ready to hear it. But with all the princess gear going around among her three-year-old set, mermaids - and the Little Mermaid according to Disney - are part of the package. We tried a Disney storybook I brought home, and she was not happy with it, nor was I. I read the original, and wasn't thrilled with the ending, in which she dies. So here it is - my compromise. it's close to the original in many ways, including the sea witch's solution of a dagger, but here it is meant for the prince's new bride. Like the original, she can't do it, and jumps into the sea. But the ending is a departure, and she returns to being a mermaid, having broken the spell with her decision. Using this version feels like a middle ground to me - kind of a cop-out, but not going fully Disney, either. If you're looking for something in between, it's a nice one, and has lovely illustrations that appeal to the girly without being too saccharine, to boot.

Lily's Big Day, by Kevin Henkes

When Lily's beloved teacher announces he is getting married, she is wildly excited. She has always wanted to be a flower girl. Trouble is, Mr. Slinger has a niece... Lily begrudgingly agrees to help the niece out, and ends up with her moment in the sun, after all, when she saves the day. As usual, Lily is a hilarious handful - since she's not your child - and a whole bouquet of fun.

Find these and other new favourites at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Friends Through Rough Weather

I love a story about friends, and think they are important in helping show children how friends can support each other. But sometimes the waters of friendship grow choppy, and hard to navigate. We talk to our kids, of course, and encourage them to come to us when they have troubles, but it can be good for them to know ahead of time that these storms, too, will probably pass over. These stories show some different scenarios in which friends might find themselves at odds, but come back together in the end.

Sunshine and Storm, by Elisabeth Jones and James Coplestone

Sunshine, and orange cat, and Storm, a black dog, are friends. But when Storm comes in from a wet walk in the rain and shakes himself all over Sunshine, she is none too pleased. And when she hisses at him, he runs away, feeling hurt. They stay apart for a bit, each feeling bad, until they reunite and forgive each other. Sweet without being too lesson-y, this book features unusual and expressive paintings.

Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes

Lily is very excited about her new purse, glasses, and quarters - so excited that she can't keep quiet about them and gets in trouble with her teacher. She loves her teacher, but now she is angry, and she leaves a nasty note in his book bag. She feels terrible afterwards, though, and learns to say sorry, to make it up with a new, nicer note, and to move forward, a little wiser. While not a friend book, I include this to show a similar scenario involving another person who will be prominent in your child's life for a significant portion of it!

Horace and Morris, But Mostly Dolores and

Horace and Morris Join the Chorus (But What About Dolores?), by James Howe, ill. Amy Walrod

In the first book, the boys join a boys-only club, and Dolores decides to join a girls-only club in response. None of them are happy where they are, though, and they miss their adventures together. But one day, Dolores makes a different decision, one that brings them back together, and even adds a couple of new but like-minded mice to their group. The five friend start a new club - where anyone adventurous is welcome. In the second book, the boys get into the choir, but Dolores is left out, and feels it keenly. She writes a note to the music teacher to express herself, and he discovers that she has a talent for lyrics, if not for singing. She is included in the choral performance of her own work, having taken some lessnos from the choir's Moustro. These situations are common childhood troubles - every kid know that being left out feels pretty bad - but come to nice resolutions. There is a great sense of humour in these works (by the author of the Bunnicula series of chapter books), and the illustrations of fun and quirky enough to suit the mice perfectly. Pumpkinpie has been loving these.

Duck & Goose and Duck, Duck, Goose, by Tad Hills

In the introductory book, a favourite of mine, Duck and Goose fall out over the ownership of an egg they find in the park. Neither will relinquish it, so they find themselves stuck together for a while, during which time they grow pretty close, and by the time they figure out the egg is not an egg, they are ready to play together as great friends. The second book finds them navigating the introduction of a third party. The new little duck has Duck pretty excited, and Goose pretty cranky, until she wears thin on Duck, too, who misses Goose and sets off to find him. In the end, the two team up again, bonding over things they enjoy in common. Again, these two books explore some pretty familiar childhood terrain, but show a child that friends can figure out a way to come back together, even if they find themselves feeling angry, left out, or jealous. These books in particular are simple and sweet, yet vibrant and amusing enough to appeal to a nice range of kids.

Find these and other great tales of friendship at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gone Fishin' (Ice Fishin', It Would Seem)

I'm taking some March Break respite this week, but I though I would leave you with a pair of fun new books I found recently and wanted to share with you. (And when I say new, it's likely to be 2006-7, just so's you know.)

Chicky Chicky Chook Chook, by Cathy MacLennan

This one makes me think of my darling Mrs. Chicky every time. (If you don't know her, you should - she's kind of an honorary MBTer, but lives too far away to join the fun for real.) Anyhow, apart from reminding me of Chicky Chicky Baby, this book is the kind of crazy, silly nonsense that makes even the most staid of parent don their silly hats and voices and run amok. The language is all about sound, lending itself perfectly to bolstering the teaching of phonetics: Sunny, sunny, hot shine. Snuggle, snuggle, sleepy shine. Lazy... dozy. Snoozy...woooooozy. This all blends with the animals and their actions in a manner both descriptive and romping. The paintings are unusual, too, with soft-edged blobs of colour, bold splashes and lines, and details that cross cute and amusing, all splayed out across pages of brown paper. Really, it's a fun trip through this book.

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, by Carla Morris, ill. Brad Sneed

Melvin was a library kid, one of those ones who hangs around a lot and gets to know the librarians, without being a nuisance - the ones we librarians think are kind of neat, actually. The ones who are curious, who talk to grownups, and who like to share. The librarians in his library love Melvin, and help him in his hobbies, his school projects, and his role in the school play. They help him prepare to win the spelling bee and the science fair, and to be on a Tv trivia show for kids. He worked there in high school, wrote them letters from university, and one day, joined them, helping a new little curious boy identify his grasshopper (a redlegged grasshopper, to be exact). This book captures the joy we take in looking stuff up, in encouraging curiosity, and in seeing kids learn to think for themselves. In short, every blissfully nerdy thing about librarians and the kids we love the best is laid bare here by the author, a librarian herself, and dressed up in fun illustrations for sharing. My only quibble with this? What library has three librarians, all on the desk at the same time, and all with time to help a kid sort his baseball cards?

Find great stories and a ton of March Break fun at your local library this week!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pumpkinpie's Picks

February lends itself to wanting to curl up in a chair with a good book - which is just what Pumpkinpie and I did plenty of. Here are a few of last month's most-requested titles.

My Naughty Little Sister Stories, by Dorothy Edwards, ill. Shirley Hughes

Our first real foray into chapters, these stories are chatty, cute, short, and nicely episodic. Pumpkinpie loved them and asked for them often, revelling in stories of kids her own age, and not requiring sustained attention to a prolonged narrative. A great first start, they even boast the odd illustration by Shirley Hughes. We started with an anniversary collection drawn from several of the original novels, and she loved it. I may have to lay hands on some more to keep the momentum going.

Mariana and the Merchild, by Caroline Pitcher, ill. Jackie Morris

Pumpkinpie is in love with mermaids, unicorns, and princesses these days. But rather than succumb every time to treacly fairy tales, I throw in a few fok tales with those same themes, and she loves them just as well, while I feel less like I've given up to the girliness. This one is a twice-daily read around our house for the last week or two - she corrects me if I substitute a word, as I sometimes do. While this Chilean folktale is not in the library, as far as I can find, it is still in print and available online.

The Balloon Tree, by Phoebe Gilman

A more princessy fairy tale, this modern story by Canadian favourite Gilman features a feisty princess who saves the kingdom when her nasty uncle tries to take over in her father's absence. Still, it has those elements a young girly-girl loves - the princess is a young girl in a lovely dress, there is a wizard and magic, and there are tons of balloons. I also love the illustrations, inspired by medieval manuscript illumination. Overall, it's a hit with both of us.

Olivia Forms a Band, by Ian Falconer

I hadn't read the Olivia books to Pumpkinpie before - I often wonder if children find them as funny as adults do - but this one was an immediate hit. She loves the noises, the silliness, and the saucy little pig. Though the story seems disjointed to me, she loves its collection of moments which are perfectly captured, it must be said. Funny and sweet, it drew her right in - though in the spirit of fair warning, I should tell you that she insisted on being nosiy herself for days, stomping around with instruments and shouting, "Clang! Bwap!" at odd moments. I may have a few extra grey hairs a a result.

Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer

Dogs. Silliness. What's not to love? To be honest, this has been one of my favourite silly stories for years running, now, and the eight kindergarten classes I read it to recently quite agreed. It's just absurd enough to appeal to toddler and preschooler humour, and Jules Feiffer, being a New Yorker cartoonist, puts across the funny deftly in his simple illustrations.

poetry by Dennis Lee (The Ice Cream Store, Bubblegum Delicious, Alligator Pie), as well as still-beloved Here's A Little Poem (sel. Jane Yolen, ill. Polly Dunbar)

I am a firm believer that kids are naturals for poetry, and that they love it and are drawn to its rhythms and rhymes until we solemnly teach them about how serious it is. But it doesn't have to be serious - there is a ton of fun poetry out there for kids, and why not teach them to love it while you still have the chance? Pumpkinpie adores Dennis Lee, and the brilliantly selected verses in Little Poem and requests them with fair regularity. Makes my heart sing to a skipping song beat.

Find these and other great stories to share at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.