Monday, April 20, 2009

Pumpkinpie's Picks

I haven't mentioned for a while now what my Pumpkinpie has been enjoying, which I think is a good window into what she and I like, so I think it's about time I pull back the curtain on bedtime at our house once again, especially since I've been buying new books like a mad thing lately. (That's what happens when you have time to browse bookstores while on mat leave...) She's also taken very strongly to some good stuff, surprising even me a little, given that this child has had some dubious favourites in the past. New on the playlist are:

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett, ill. Ron Barrett

This old classic was a surprise hit with Pumpkinpie! I thought it might hit her funny bone, but it is a slightly more sophisticated humour than I quite expected from a girl who still loves a good fart joke more than anything. Okay, so her favourite part is the man with a noodle stuck over his head, but still, I'm delighted to have her enjoying this amusing tall-tale of weather gone weird. Being more sophisticated also means that this would work for a child a year or two older till, too. (I'm not sure the forthcoming movie will work, though, depending on how muich they focus on the danger of the storms getting out of control. Will have to preview that one.)

Watch Me Throw The Ball! and I Will Surprise My Friend! (Elephant & Piggie books), by Mo Willems

The Elephant & Piggie series by kidlit superstar Mo Willems is fantastic, and so far all of them have been hits with her. These are the latest two we have been reading, and they crack both of us up every time. The serious and slightly stressed Gerald is balanced nicely by his light-hearted friend, Piggie, and Willems' signature cartoon style makes them quick and easy reads for parent and for emerging readers. We have on occasion taken turns reading parts, which works well with the colour-coded speech bubbles, the two characters, and the simple, short phrases. Yes, I'm fooling my child into reading to me, at least a little. What's not to love?

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate, by Kim Kennedy, ill. Doug Kennedy

Pirate Pete is looking for some rascals to crew his ship, and when he interviews a few, he finds that while they may be dirty and ready to steal and plunder, might swab the deck and fire a cannon like a pro, it is still hard to find a mate who can talk like a pirate, his prime criterion. After sending all the prospective pirates over the plank, he discovers that he had the prfect crew member on board the whole time - his parrot, who apparently has picked up his speech habits. This one is really funny, but be prepared to have a sore throat from growling in pirate speak night after night after night. (Yes, it was in heavy rotation.)

The Cow That Laid An Egg, by Andy Cutbill, ill. Russell Ayto

Marjorie the cow did not feel special, living with cows that seemed to do circus tricks, so her friends the chickens take matters into their own hands. Things get a little out of control, and it looks like the game is about to be up, when a surprise twist melts Marjorie's heart and makes the silly story sweet. The story and resolution remind me of Dr. Seuss's Horton Hatches An Egg, rendered in a simpler barnyard tale and illustrated in a style that brings to mind Lauren Child, of Charlie and Lola fame. Overall, a fun read with a cute ending that manages not to leave a sappy aftertaste.

Originally posted on Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, April 6, 2009

'Pie on Pie

As the weather grows warmer (well, okay, not today, but on the whole, we're getting there...), my thoughts turn to summer. yes, I love spring, but I dream of summer. The warm weather, the carefree feeling in the air - and the fruit. And, of course, because I have a sweet tooth, the fruit pies. Well who doesn't love pie? Since I'm not alone, there are some terrific picture books that pay tribute to the wonders of pie. You just might want to make sure you have some on hand if you are going to make these part of your reading, because you know they are going to want some...

Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson, ill. Tara Calahan King

This young boy has never had an enemy before, but now he does, and he doesn't know what to do. But his dad (who, oddly, looks a little like Richard Nixon...) does: you make enemy pie. Must be full of groos things, he decides, and offers some up, btu they aren't what his dad needs for the pie. As his dad mixes and bakes the pie, the kid tries to dream up the horrible stuff that must be in it, and is a little confused by the good smells wafting from the ktichen. (If it smelled bad, explains dad, your enemy wouldn't eat it. Sneaky!) So does it do bad things to your enemy instead? Dad keeps quiet, but tells him that the delivery is tricky - you have to spend a day with your enemy being nice to him. Of course, by the end of it, the two have become friends and the delicious pie is simply dessert. Funny and clever, I like this take on how to handle an enemy without ever teaching.

Sweet Dream Pie, by Audrey Wood, ill Mark Teague

A special pie is made on this street, but only now and then. When it seems time again, candies and all things sweet are baked into a massive mountain of gooey goodness, and everyone wants some. The smell is overwhelming, and all the neighbours partake, but when they overeat, things begin to get weird, and the dreams begin to get out of hand. By Wood, a master of silly, and Teague, whose illustrations are a marvel, this combination makes for some magic of its own in the form of a great book, though I think it works better for slightly older kids.

How To Make An Apple Pie and See The World, by Marjorie Priceman

If you want to make the perfect pie, you need the finest of ingredients, right? So in true over-the-top foodie style, you might want to travel the world to fetch the freshest, most exotic spices, for a start... This is a fun story of an around-the-globe trip, a sort of Amazing Race for pie, even if it is ludicrous. because really, isn't ludicrous one of the best ingredients for a kids' book? (See what I did there? Ingredient? Heh?) If your child is curious about voyages, why not take a fun one like this, and end on a note of dessert?

Pie in the Sky, by Lois Ehlert

This simple, wonderfully illustrated book is typical of Ehlert's, and reminds me quite a bit of her Growing Vegetable Soup. In both, a father tells a child that they are growing a foodstuff, and the child is then involved in the growing of the ingredients. They emphasize not only where food comes from and the cycles of growth, but also the patience required. As the tree goes through its growth cycle and birds and raccoons eat from the cherry crop, excitement grows, until it is time to pick cherries and make them into pie. The making of the pie is part of the story, and could serve as instructions if you wanted to try it out at home, as well. Cooking is, in fact, a great activity to share with children, not only teaching them about the reading and following of instructions, but also some rudimentary math and science skills. In the end, though? Oh come on - cherry pie, people! Yum.

The Apple Pie Tree, by Zoe Hall, ill. Shari Halpern

This book is another one about the tree in the backyard, this time an apple tree. This book is also aimed at young children, with lovely but simple collage illustrations, however this book does a pretty good job of walking quickly through the seasons and cycles of the tree and the robins it houses. In the end, though, apples are harvested and added to apple pie. A recipe at the end adds a nice element for extending the story if you are inclined towards baking with your child, and is joined by a bit of information on bees and pollination. The focus here is less on the pie, but the book is a great one for sharing with a child where fruit comes from. (Life cycles are also a kindergarten curriculum element, so it's a good way to bring some of that home.)

Original posted on Better Than a Playdate.

The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, by Lauren Thompson

This is a riff on the familiar cumulative rhyme "this is the house that Jack built," this time celebrating where the apples came from. The art in this book takes up the neo-retro trend seen in Chris Wormell's gorgeous woodcuts, in Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure's new All in a Day, and even to some degree in Kevin Henke's A Good Day. The ivory pages and black, red, and brown colour scheme further the older feel of the book and work well for the rural setting. A nice simple intro to apples for the young.

All for Pie, Pie for All, by David Martin, ill. Valeri Gorbachev

Five cats all eat a slice of pie, which leaves one slice sitting while they nap. Five mice all eat some of that, which leaves six crumbs sitting while they nap. The ants eat those, and then they, too, nap. When everyone wakes up hungry, the Grandma cat suggests they bake another pie, and everyone pitches in. It's cute, and makes a sort of interesting turnaround of the Little Red Hen story.