Monday, November 17, 2008

Pumpkinpie's Picks

I wasn't going to do a Pumpkinpie's Picks post for a while - I had posts ready! With themes and stuff! But I am about to overstep my parenting ethics, and I bet I'm not alone, so I'm here to share my pain, people.

You remember how in the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, Calvin always wanted to read Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooey, every. single. night? Much to his parents teeeth-gnashing horror? Yeah. Pumpkinpie has a Huey, and my head is about to explode in a gooey kablooey.

Have you hit this particular wall in storytime before? Where you can't stand the thought of reading that one book even just one more time? What I want to know is - what did you do? Because I'm about to hide a book or two around here and tell Pumpkinpie I just don't know where they could have gone! But I hate the thought of deceiving my child, and I don't know if I can bring myself to do it. So tell me - what do I do?

And meanwhile, in the interest of public service, let me advise you not to take any of these home unless you want to find yourself reciting them in your sleep.

Skippyjon Jones, by Judith Schachner

This is currently enemy #1. Hamster Huey, if you will. Not only does she want this one every night, but it requires silly accents, which grow old after being trotted out a few times running. Plus, she practically knows it by heart herself, but refuses to give me a break and read it to me, instead. I've begged her for a night off, threatened to have Skippyjon go on vacation, and told her I need some variety, but I've only succeeded in getting one night's respite. A tale about a wild, crazy little cat with a massive imagination (and ears to match), it's silly, and I always figured it wouldn't play as well here as in the states, where there is more exposure to Mexican stereotypes culture, but apparently, background doesn't matter when there is funny to be had.

Miffy. Any Miffy. Series by Dick Bruna.

I love Miffy, in fact, and we have a handful that get rotated, so I don't mind this, but I warn you - if you venture down Miffy Lane, make sure you have a few different books on hand so the rhyming cadence, the simple illustrations, and the cute bunny don't grow too worn, because they'll get asked for night after night. I remember these from when I was a kid, actually, and loved them myself. Sorry, mom.

Dora's Storytime Collection.

Woe betide the friend who bought us this one. Dora shows have to be seriously cut down to fit a short few-page format for storytime books, and they, um, lose something in the translation. Yes, the shows are better. Oy. Still, at least she keeps choosing a sweet one about making a birthday cake for her mother, which involves some of her favourite things and mine - cake, birthdays, and chocolate. And I get a hug and I love you at the end, just like Dora's mom. Payoff!

Hello Kitty, Hello World

For a kid who likes Miffy, Hello Kitty is sort of a natural progression, seeing as she is drawn in much the same bold, graphic style. In this book, Hello Kitty is off to see the world, and she shows us some of the most famous things from each country she visits, as well as telling us how to say hello. The first few times we read this, I loved it. Cute! Fun! Even sort of educational! How nice to have my daughter aware that there are other places and cultures out there! How wonderful to hear her attempt to say hello in Swahili! But really. How many nights can I play tour guide for the same items? I think I know now what it must be like to run one of those tour buses, and it ain't pretty. My rendition's getting shorter and shorter. Maybe I need to bust out an atlas and an almanac so I can add in some new fun facts to spice things up.

Olivia Forms a Band, by Ian Falconer

I don't mind this one so much because, well, it's really funny, and somehow making all the crazy noises night after night isn't as bad a crazy accents. While it kind of feels like a bunch of funny bits strung together rather than a narrative, which I usually prefer, Olivia is a howl, and Pumpkinpie cracks up as I start imitating horns and cymbals gone awry, especially after seeing a parade full of marching bands this weekend. And like the Miffy books, there are a few Olivia books, so if your kid likes them, you can switch things up a bit, which really helps. As does the talent of the author/illustrator, which I can't help but admire, even as I read this for the hundredth time.

Find these and other addictive paper at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Paleontology 101

What kid doesn't love dinosaurs? After all, they are fascinating. Gigantic, fierce, and deliciously scary, without ever being any real threat at all, thanks to the vast separation of time. Best of all, we know enough to dig up immense bones and create museum exhibits to fuel a child's imagination, enough to study them and learn about their lives and eating habits, yet they retain a sense of mystery, because there are still plenty of things we don't know and probably never will. If that doesn't get your sense of wonder stirring, I don't know what would. So it is that they are also a favourite theme in kindergarten classes, and your child may well come home telling you all about which have long necks and eat plants.

A great way to increase a child's interest in storytime is to tap into his/her other interests, and there are plenty of great dino titles to do the trick. (They are always much-requested among visits of younger classes, too.) This way, you can indulge your child's obsession, keep them focused as you read, and brush up on your own dino knowledge a bit, too. After all, if you want to be the cool parent, you'd better know your Compsognathus from your Pachycephalosaurus.

Dinosaur Roar, by Paul Stickland

This is a beginner for the milder mannered, for sure, as it is downright cute. Roly-poly, sweet-looking dinos frolick around to illustrate various opposites - not fare for the fan of the fearsome. Yet, it is a favourite of mine for using with young children because it is funny, uses adjectives you never find in any other opposite book, and I've never met a class who didn't love it.

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, by Byron Barton

This book is a simple one, using Barton's typically bold illustrations, but walks in general terms through some of the different types of dinosaur types. It doesn't use names in the text, but talks about how different groups of dinosaurs lived or looked, a good level for the budding dino enthusiast. The specific dinosaurs and their names are found on the endpapers, where I found that he used some more obscure dinos, as well as the usual suspects - Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and the like.

Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff

This classic beginner reader holds its appeal well, as does the fantasy of playing with a real dinosaur - but a friendly plant-eater, please. Here, a dinosaur (an Apatosaurus, by the looks of things) comes to life on a museum visit, and her and Danny leave the museum for a day of fun. They help people on the way, too, no doubt leaving a few pacemakers working hard. Danny would love to take the dino home as a pet, but in the end, the dinosaur must go back to the museum, and promises that they can play again another day. A sweet, cute dino and simple drawings with a cartoon feel make this a hit.

My Dinosaur, by Mark Weatherby

This book is so sweet, it's a dino bedtime story. It reprises the fantasy of having a dino of one's own to play with, but here, the dinosaur appears at a young girl's window at bedtime, and takes her for a ride through the cool, dark forest. Their moonlight adventure is quite short and ends with her home asleep and, of course, possibly dreaming. The illustrations are of a softness that give the whole thing a dreamlike, foggy quality, and are really, very lovely. This one won't give anyone nightmares.

Older children may enjoy some of the more complicated dinosaur stories out there, and the hard-core dino enthusiast will no doubt follow them, too. They are, essentially, both more in-depth and detailed versions of the "and I have a dinosaur of my very own!" fantasy, Carrick's having more realistic dinosaurs, and Joyce's employing his usual fantastic retro-futuristic, ready-for-movies feel. Try:

Patrick's Dinosaurs, by Carol Carrick [and other in series]

Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures With the Family Lazardo, by William Joyce

Don't forget to also check Dewey number 567 for simpler non-fiction books by Ailiki, Bernard Most, and books in the True series. These are a must and will feed the curiosity of even the most serious dino lover, while avoiding the really graphic gore of some of the dino books for older kids. They may seem a bit heavy, but studies have shown that children will read at a dramatically higher reading level when reading about something they love, so encourage them to explore books that you might think are too much for them, anyhow. You never know just how much they might be getting out of them!


a dinosaur song! Sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice...

One, two, three, count with me
One, two, three, count with me
Triceratops had three big horns
'Cause that's the way that he was born,
One, two, three; One, two, three.

Dig up these and other great dinosaur tales at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.