Monday, September 22, 2008

There's a Potty Goin' On Around Here

Ah, potty training. Feared by parents who haven't been there yet, subject of parenting books galore, and known to drive grown men to the very brink. I was lucky in this regard - Pumpkinpie was on the case before I was really even worried about it. Even so, I employed a book or two, in my usual manner, to help explain things to her, to show her other kids in action, and to give us a talking point. Now I can't tell you how to go about potty training your child (sorry), but I can tell you about a few good titles to help put forth the suggestion.

Girls_potty_board_bkThere are a, um, boatload of board books and other small volumes on this, many split into gender-specific boy and girl books. In the library, board books are not organized in the catalogue, and therefore cannot be requested on hold, so I won't give you suggestions for those here, except to say that if you are looking to buy one, I did really quite like the Dorling Kindersley (publisher) board book entitled My Potty Book for Girls, which I took home to read with Pumpkinpie. (ISBN for easy finding online: 0789448459, cover image so you know you've found the right one if you're looking, since board books can be tougher to locate and this one doesn't really have an author to be filed under.)

No More Diapers for Ducky!, by Bernetter Ford and Sam Williams

This is a cute, newer (2006) book in the field, and features drawings that are sweet, but not saccharine - a balance that can be hard to strike. When Ducky goes to Piggy's house to play, Piggy is busy on the potty, so she amuses herself for a while as she waits. And as she waits, her diaper becomes cold and wet and not so comfy, until she wriggles out of it and decides she's going to make the bold move to potty usage with her friend. How successful thsi first trip is, we don't know, but the book is a nice one, and uses my personal favourite among potty training methods - peer pressure. If that works for you, bring this one home.

I Want My Potty, by Tony Ross

Fans of the Little Princess have a go-to book on potty use here, as she decides she is sick of diapers, but has some adjustments issues with potty use initially. Soon she got used to it, and agreed that the potty was indeed "the place." Even so, even a potty-trained princess can have an accident now and then when she is too far from the potty, it turns out, which is a nice way to address that such slip-ups are a part of the learning process, not a major flaw in the learner.

The Potty Book for Girls/Boys, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, ill. Dorothy Stott

This duo of small, rhyming, gender-specific books makes for a ncie introduction to pottying. In it, a child is comfortable with diapers, but when a box arrives and it is a potty, s/he is willing to give it a try. Accidents happen, so do times when s/he needs to sit for a spell. Still, his/her parents are encouraging, and all involved are proud of the eventual success, which is celebrated with phones calls to grandma and the purchase of new underwear.

My Big Boy / Girl Potty Book, by Joanna Cole, ill. Maxie Chambliss

This small book starts out by setting up the similarities between the main character and the reading (read-to) child, so that the child may relate to him - clever. It asks questions along the way to involve the child, encouraging them to discuss their own experiences or guess what is happening along the way as the boy gets a potty and tries it out. He doesn't have immediate success, but after a few tries, he does, to his parents' great delight. The child goes to pick out underpants, but still wears a diaper at night for a while, making for reasonable expectations. The books also show that the child has an accident when he forgets, but that it is not a big deal. It ends on a note of encouragement: "You can learn to use the potty, too. Then won't you be proud of yourself!" The boy version of this duo mentions also the boy's father teaching him to pee standing up. These are simple and straightforward, but create a nice environment of being supportive without pressure. I quite like them, in fact.

Try pairing these wtih a silly story about potty use, like Andrea Wayne-von-Konigslow's Toilet Tales to lighten things up, too.

Find these and more great resources at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Name Game

kitten kitten bo bitten, fee fi fo fitten, mee my mo mitten, kitten...

By now, my own bundle, so far known as The Bun, should have arrived. And hopefully, been named. I say hopefully because, well, around our house, the naming of babies is a long, arduous process. And other bloggers I know say it was tough for them, too. So how do you explain this to the sibling-to-be who may, as Pumpkinpie did, have her own ideas about being involved in the naming? How do you explain why a name is so important? Well, if you're me... you rely on someone else. Someone more articulate. Someone published.

Here are a few good stories about how we get and adapt to the names our parents choose for use.

Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum's parents chose what they were certain was the perfect name, and until she started school, she loved it, too. When she becomes the target of mean girls and it turns into a source of teasing, though, she dreams of other, less flowery names (like Jane). Her parents try to reassure her, being as loving as they can, but what really turns things around is the introduction of the music teacher, Miss Delphinium Twinkle, whose name is everything Chrysanthemum's is and who is considering that very name for her soon-to-be-born babe. Turns out, the mean girls would love the name Chrysanthemum after all. Need I even elaborate about Henkes' usual genius with handling social situations for young children and showing loving, supportive environments for the exploration of such things? I thought not.

The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi

Unhei has just moved from Korea, and is unsure about her name. She gets teased on the school bus, and resolves to choose an American name. Yet her Korean family and the community see her name as beautiful. She tries a few new names in the mirror, but none feel right. At school, she finds a jar full of name ideas on her desk from her classmates - names of family members and story characters and more. As she becomes more comfortable, and with the help of one classmate's interest, she chooses to keep her name and teach the others to say it properly. This is a lovely tale of fitting in and coming to appreciate your own name, something that any child with an unusual name (like Chrysanthemum, above) might appreciate.

A Perfect Name, by Charlene Costanzo, ill. LeUyen Pham

Mama and Papa Hippo are struggling to name their baby daughter - and her naming ceremony is tomorrow. The problem is, there are so many beautiful names, and they all mean lovely, appropriate things. How to pick just two? They try them out on her, with no result. They try considering her personality, with too many results. In the end, it is her splashing in the water at the ceremony itself that inspires her perfect name. A cute take on the trials and tribulations of choosing a name, this easy tale is illustrated with wonderful illustrations full of joy.

How I Named The Baby, by Linda Shute

For my money, this is the one that best explains all the ins and outs of baby naming. In this family, they are working together to find a perfect name for either a boy or a girl (they don't know which it will be), and the older boy (future sibling) is part of the process. All the same things that most parents take into consideration are here - they are looking for a name that is not too old, but not too new, has a meaning they can live with, is not too fancy, but not too short. They find inspiration in many places along the way - the name might have a family connection, could be biblical, could come from a naming book or the name of a hero, could be a floral name... They find that they like different names, as we tend to do in my house (ahem, Misterpie!), but in the end, they find names that they feel are just right. It's a great explanation of how complicated it can be, yet very endearing and child-friendly.

You may also want to check out the baby naming books in your library's adult non-fiction section at 929.4!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, September 1, 2008

God Is In the Picture Books

421pxblake_ancient_of_days_2 Misterpie and I really haven't discussed how we will approach the topic of faith with Pumpkinpie. I was raised with no religious education at all, while his family were church-goers, but he did not continue on his own steam, so it is not something that we make part of our daily life, by any stretch.

Still, it is an important part of the lives of many, a major force in the world today and in the past, and something that I think speaks to a child's wonder about the world around them. It's not something I want to ignore or dismiss, however awkward I find my own unplumbed feelings. Being without a real denomination of my own, though, I am interested in talking in broader terms about the aspects of religion that I think are common across a number of major faiths, and that seek to make us better people. This is about the depth that I am comfortable with myself, and I think it leaves the topic open for further exploration as she grows older.

It also means that, in looking for picture books that address god in these sort of broad strokes, I can be inclusive of a multitude of diverse beliefs, and that these titles can be of use or appeal to people from a wide range of backgrounds. That being the case, and it being harder to find things that are not specifically "Christian" or "Jewish," for example, I thought I would share some of the books I've found that can serve as nice openings to discussing religion gently through picture books at a child's level.

A note: If you are looking for books that explain a particular faith or ritual, please do go to the children's section of your local library and ask for help or browse in the 200-299 section, for we do carry books on topics particular to a variety of religions and beliefs.

Bagels From Benny, by Aubrey Davis, ill. Dusan Petricic

Benny's grandfather makes the best bagels anywhere, but he won't accept thanks for them. Why not?, Benny asks one day, to be told that bagels are made from wheat, and wheat comes from the world, which was made by God, and so God deserved the thanks. Benny thinks about it, and decides to do that by offering Him some of the bagels. He asks his grandfather for some each week, sneaks into the synagogue, and puts them in the holiest of places, where God must live. When it is time for temple, they are gone - God must have eaten them! After a few weeks, it is discovered that a poor man has been coming to the synagogue and believes that God is giving him the bagels to feed him. He promises now that he has found a job, he will help others in turn, and Benny's grandfather, initially upset at what looks like sacrilege, tells Benny that he has indeed thanked God, for he has made the world a little better by this result to his actions. This is on the face of it, a quintessentially jewish tale, but the appreciation for God's work and the helping of others are aspect of many religions, making this lovely story highly transferable in terms of the lessons of generosity, gratitude, and faith that it imparts.

Big Momma Makes the World, by Phyllis Root, ill. Helen Oxenbury

Essentially a retelling of the week of creation, Big Momma, baby one her hip, creates light and dark, water and sky, and so on. As the week goes on, she adds the flora and the fauna, and as she is just about ready to be done and return to the chores of keeping her own house, "she figured she better finish things off in one big bang" that creates all the other little details except for one important one - some people to keep her company. By the end of the week, she is ready for a rest, so she turns over the care of this new earth to the people, but she keeps an eye on things as she goes about her business ever after. A cute retelling, this one will irk literalists, but might appeal to those who want to share the story of creation with a newer, feminine twist. It does have a certain cute, warm, motherly appeal, and I can see how a mother creating things would make sense to a young child, too.

Giant, or Waiting For The Thursday Boat, by Robert Munsch, ill. Gilles Tibo

McKeon, a giant, is angry that St. Patrick chased the snakes, elves, and other giants out of Ireland at god's behest, and wants to pick a fight with god. At last, he is told that god is coming on the Thursday boat. A small girl arrives, and watches as a parade of boats arrive, carrying a rich man, an important man, and a soldier, all of which turn out not to be god. The girl mollifies McKeon out of his anger, until the next day, when she tells him that St. Patrick has gone to continue his work in heaven. McKeon joins him, and the two seek out god to sort out their differences. They find there the little girl, who tells them that they are each doing their jobs, and that they must find a way to get along. There is, after all, plenty of room heaven. This book was very controversial when it came out, for its portrayal of god as a young girl, and is a definite departure for Munsch, though it features some of his hallmark storytelling chops. I can't say I found it a terrific book, but I do like the point it makes about living with people's differences.

What a Truly Cool World, by Julius Lester, ill. Joe Cepeda

Not for those who take their religion and creation myths too seriously, this vibrant picture book featuring an African-American cast of characters (god, his wife, his secretary, and an angel) strays quite a ways off, to humourous results. The fact is, the angel Shaniqua thinks earth looks a little boring, and has no trouble sharing this with god, who reluctantly agrees to make some changes to the drab green, brown, and blue world he has created. Together, he and Shaniqua add flowers and butterflies through the power of singing down colours onto the earth, and bring beauty to the world. A fun bit of fluff, this one.

Hot Hippo, by Mwenye Hadithi, ill. Adrienne Kennaway

There are dozens of stories in our folk and fairy tale collections about how chipmunks got their stripes, elephants got their trunks, and so on. But rarely do these actually involve a deity. When Hippo is hot and wishes to swim in the river, however, he goes straight to the god Ngai, who told the fishes to swim in the sea and the animals to walk on land, and makes a request. Ngai is protective of his fishes, so hippo promises to show him that he is not eating them, and from this is born many of the hippo's characteristic behaviours. I like this one for the care Ngai takes of his creatures and for the way he interacts with hippo, considering his promises until they can come to an agreement. Also lovely are the soft yet vibrant illustrations filled with warm tones that perfectly suit the hot setting.

Whaddyamean? by John Burningham

As much about the environment as religion, this book begins with the premise that god made the world, and upon coming back to check up on it, is disappointed with what he sees. The two people he finds awake (as he'd put everyone into a deep sleep so they wouldn't see him) are little children, and he tells them to go forth and remedy the ills of the world, invoking his name. They do so, and when they encounter resistance, tell the people that god told them to spread this message, and people comply. By the time god comes back to see the changes, the world is a better place. This one is mostly, I must say, a commentary on the state of the world and why it is messed up, but gives a nice message, too, that god cares about the world that he is said to have made.

Find these and other amazing tales about the world at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.