Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A dad who rocks and Trucks that Roll.

I apologize for the long, long break between posts.  Our house got hit hard with every kind of weather-changing infection you can imagine: strep, ear infections, RSV, and pneumonia.  Gorilla even ended up in the hospital for three days over Thanksgiving.  It was a scary time but I was actually relieved to get to a place where she could get fluids and oxygen.  She (and I!) spent a lot of time in an "oxygen tent". 
So many books, so little time.  Take one on into the oxygen tent, baby.
While I was in the hospital with Gorilla, my husband totally took over the affairs of the household, including the two boys, the disgusting poopy (cloth!) diapers and floorful of puke I left in my wake in my rush to get the baby to the doctor (who sent her on to the hospital).  Despite the fact that the situation meant that we couldn't be with his large family (who were all supposed to be together for the first time in 2.5 years) over Thanksgiving, he was Super Dad personified.  He took the boys to the library, gave baths, did laundry, cleaned, cooked, made cookies, built train tracks, gave breathing treatments, dispensed antibiotics without reminders, and still hauled the whole crew in to visit with the hospital-bound females twice a day (usually bearing coffee.)  I felt guilty about not being there to do my job and a little ashamed that he seemed to be doing it with considerably more grace than I usually do.
But the boys did miss me, and were very happy when "that nurse said Mama can go free", according to DD.  I had hardly scarcely gotten in the door with the last of the suitcases, discharge information, and get-well balloons before both boys called to me from the couch, laden with books.  Not to imply that my husband didn't read to them in my absence - he did.  But he didn't read the quantities that they're accustomed to, and so my sense of usefulness was renewed and we got to work.
One of the first ones in the stack was Trucks Roll by George Ella Lyon.  This book was given to DD at birth by my dear friend Kristin.  She blogs about family, life, adoption, faith, books and a lot of other things here, and you should definitely check her out.  Her daughter was two when DD was born, and Kristin and her husband had found themselves reading Trucks Roll quite a bit to little Cate.  Four years later, we're still so glad to have it as part of our personal library.  I love the realistic trucks rendered by Craig Frazier.  The text includes some great words my boys hadn't heard before, like "pistons", "dispatcher", and "weigh stations".  The rhymes are successful (certainly not a given!) and while there are many glimpses of "real life" as a truck driver, there is some fantasy as well (one spread depicts a pile of oversized chocolate chip cookies on the flatbed).  I like this word picture:
Haul them through mountains,
over rivers, past towns -
around blue sky curves,
through rain pouring down.
There's a refrain ("trucks roll!"), and I'm fond of those in a picture book.  It means I can quote portions of the books and the boys can chime in at the end.  The predictability appeals to them and makes them feel smart.  We all know how I love a book that inspires imaginative play:
We have read this book several times since Saturday night, and today Teep found his toy truck to play with while looking through the book.
I found him in his bedroom like this, repeating over and over again, "trucks roll!" I don't know how to give a higher recommendation than that.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Birthday Week in Books

DD had a birthday recently.  Well, at the end of October.  It's taken me awhile to get my act together.  He turned four years old, and I had been thinking, prior to his birthday, how he was really seeming to "get" a lot more of the details surrounding the big day.  While I still can't stop delighting over his birth in the best month ever, he's always felt at the end of a row of family birthdays that start in early July (Teep), proceed to me in mid-July, and wrap up with my husband's birthday in late September.  Previous years have been hard on him, but this year he really seemed to be grasping the concept of the passage of time and the changing months, and I decided to capitalize on that feeling of anticipation with a week of birthday books.

I wish I'd taken more pictures.  Like, one a day or something.  But I didn't, and such is life with three small children.  I really like the one I did take, though.  I also wish I could say that I put a lot of thought and care into the selection of these books, but I didn't.  The idea of the week of birthday books came to me the day I would need to start reading them, and I just scrambled to find ones that would work.  As it happened, DD got a gift from his grandparents that acted as the first day of birthday books!  Since there are so many, I'll review a little differently today with just highlights of what he liked about the books and what I liked about them.

1: Five Little Monkeys Storybook Treasury by Eillen Christelow
This treasury includes five Five Little Monkeys stories, but the one in question is Five Little Monkeys Bake a Cake.  My boys are really wild about the Five Little Monkeys books, and DD was excited to read through all of the collection before his grandparents had made it out of the driveway after giving it to him.  But I made a special big deal about the birthday one and how it was going to be the first in a week of birthday stories. 

What he liked about it: "About eating the cake!  That's silly!" (Of course.)
What I liked about it: It's fun and funny for children, but there's some humor in there for parents, too.

2. The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle 

What he liked about it: "The shapes!" (A little boy gets a secret birthday message {shocker!} with a map to get to his birthday present.  Shapes are used to preserve the cryptic nature of the note.)
What I liked about it: The idea of a map, the unique way shapes are used, and the way the book appealed to all of the children (4, 2, and 6 months).

3. A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban
I should say that DD adores Frances and we read all of our Frances books on a regular basis, so this one wasn't new to us or anything.

What he liked about it: "Eating the cake!" Hmm.  Sensing a theme, here.
What I liked about it: All Frances books include some good talking points, good fun, and good chuckles for parents and kids alike.  This one's no different, and since it hits on the difficulty of waiting, when it's someone else's birthday, it's always a good read around here.  (Oh, yes, I know they're very, very long.  I do.  Sometimes it's just worth it, though!)

4. Humphrey's Birthday by Sally Hunter

What he liked about it: "The superhero suit!"
What I liked about it: The whimsical illustrations are lovely, the message is good, and there are plenty of great, descriptive passages that really set the scene.  I'm sad this one's out of print.

5. Curious George and the Birthday Surprise by H.A. Rey
This is another book that we read frequently, so I just talked up the significance of the birthday story/birthday week.

What he liked about it: "When the dogs clean up the icing for the cake!"
What I liked about it: George's efforts to help the man with the yellow hat as he's preparing for the party, and the fun familiarity of a beloved character.

6. Whopper Cake by Karma Wilson

What he liked: "Making the cake in the truck!" (You're kidding me!  Something about the cake?!)
What I liked: It's really best quoted:
Grandma blows her candles out. "I've just one wish, I guess.  I'll enjoy this whopper cake...and YOU clean up the mess."
Can I get an amen, moms?  Also, there is lots of fun vocabulary. (DD frequently shouts, "Eureka, I have just the thing!")  And a cake recipe in the back!  Get thee to a book store and get it, really.
7.  Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow
What he liked: "All the fruit."
What I liked: Everything.  Every little bit.  Our copy of this is mine from my childhood and it brings back happy memories.  With Sendak's genius at illustrating and Zolotow's at storytelling, it's a slam dunk.  See if your children can start to guess, mid-book, what each next present will be. Published in 1977, it's still available today! 
8. On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman 
This was maybe a little bit of a stretch because it's not about a birthday, in the traditional sense.  But it is the sweetest little love "song" about the night a baby was born, and it seemed appropriate.  When I was afraid I'd never have children, I fell in love with this book and the companion baby book, The Wonder of You
What he liked: "All the animals."
What I liked: The illustrations, the text, the magic.  It's all so sweet and gentle and lovely.  I think this is such a nice new baby gift. 
I would call this a very successful experiment, and I think I'll try to do something similar leading up to Christmas, and up to birthdays here on out.  It was easy and fun to do and it built excitement and anticipation.
And since this post is a little light on photos, I'll throw this one in here.  It has nothing to do with birthdays.  I asked DD to pick up his books and put them on his bench, last week.  This is what I found.
Hope Elmo likes to read.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Baby's Boat

I dare you to not fall in love with Baby's Boat.  I really do.  I also hope you don't have to pay $160.36 for a copy, which is apparently what it's retailing for on, these days.  Listen, I don't know why some of the best books in the world sometimes go out of print, but I want to be sure to feature some of them, so that you know to grab them if you come across one of these titles someday at a yard sale or whatever.

I didn't realize it until I was doing some research for this post, but the text of Baby's Boat is evidently the lyrics of an old lullaby.  Even without knowing and appreciating that song, I instantly melted when I first saw this book.  The soft illustrations feature this little sweetie "sailing" in a sea of blankets and pillows, with her teddy bear nearby.  To me, it is always reminiscent of the beloved Wynken, Blynken & Nod.

Gorilla donned her purple to match the book.  Not really.

What is it about the moon and the stars?  They just make for such a magical backdrop for the classic Wynken, Blynken & Nod, and for Jeanne Titherington's Baby's Boat.  I had no problem reading this one to my sons, and it was in fact a bedtime favorite of my firstborn's for quite some time.  But this book's main character is a little girl, and I've enjoyed introducing it to my daughter.  The simple text is sweet and lovely, and includes two repetitions of this heart stirring refrain:

Sail, baby, sail
Out upon that sea,
Only don't forget to sail
Back again to me.

This little picture book only has 72 words, and I included 16 (or really 32, since those are repeated) above for you.  I think both its subject matter and brevity make it a great choice for a very young baby, or for in utero reading (if you're into that!) or for bedtime, or all of the above.  When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I routinely read aloud two books that I wanted him to recognize once he was in my arms: Baby's Boat and Bear Snores On.

Maybe he recognized them and maybe he didn't, but I will say they were both favorites of his from early on, and I offer these old pictures as proof.  Aww.  Wasn't he a cute little guy? (Don't take his frown/serious expression as displeasure.  He has always taken seriously the task of concentrating on a book.)

I hope you'll find this one someday, somewhere, and be able to snatch it up for something less than your car payment.  But....looking back on these sweet pictures, maybe it (and the memories you'll make with your babe) is worth your car payment after all.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms

Well, just look at this cover:

I really just couldn't help but pick it up and look through it when Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms showed up on my shelving cart at the children's department I supervised back in 2002.  Christine Kole Maclean's endearing picture book follows a young boy through his busy, busy day of sampling various career choices (firefighter, police officer, EMT, construction worker, helicopter pilot, train conductor, astronaut and garbage-truck driver).  I first read and fell in love with this book before I had kids, because the little boy (whose name changes with each occupation) brilliantly uses what's available to him in the  household to construct the things he needs.  His fire truck is the couch with a bowl as steering wheel, the police officer's prisoners get locked up in a crib "jail", the EMT's patient gets bandaged with toilet paper, etc.  Now, I have little boys who not-as-brilliantly-but-just-as-persistently attempt to build things.

You guys, the boys pull these pillows and blankets out and around my house multiple times a day. It's honestly a source of frustration to me, so I love to read Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms to remind myself that they're not hurting anything and they are growing their imaginations and it's actually a really beautiful thing.  That's DD there in the second photo, inside the toy box, surrounded by pillows.  And his firefighter hat. 
I love the way the little guy in the story incorporates his sister in every new imagining, and how she's right there with him.  The little sister in our house is too young to play along, but that doesn't really stop my boys from including her.  The other day DD and Teep were having this conversation at the breakfast table:  DD:  "When I grow up, I'm going to be a construction worker!" Teep:  "Me, too!" DD:  "And we'll have a special seat for Gorilla up on our digger machine."
As you might have guessed, a common theme throughout the story is that the kids' mother is (so much more sweetly than I) encouraging this play, and repeatedly reminding her little son that "Even firefighters" (police officers, helicopter pilots, etc) "hug their moms".

(Firefighter playing trains, and unenthused "astronaut".)
This whole book is a good example of how my children translate things they see in books into their personal reality, but I still love it when books come up in everyday life.  Here's a quote from the book, during the portion when the little boy is playing a train conductor:

"What do you get when you buy a ticket? a lady asks.
"You get a ride to Chicago," I say.
"No, but you can buy food in the dining car."
"No, no hugs.  Only a ride to Chicago."
"Even conductors hug their moms," she says.
Recently,  DD asked where his friend Sam lives.  When I told him that Sam lives in Chicago, he immediately grinned and said, "No, no hugs.  Only a ride to Chicago."
I really wanted to get my act together and post about this book on September 11th, because another really great thing about it is that the publisher donates a portion of the sales from the book to the Twin Towers Orphan Fun.  You know what else?  Christine Kole MacLean is such a friendly person!  You want to think that's a given for a children's book author,'s not.  She has several other books and you can check her out at her website above.
I'll stop sitting around at the computer now, because....
...I've got some little firefighters who need a hug.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bear Feels Scared

Are you the kind of person who thinks your friends and family are the best and smartest and best looking?  And they are, of course, but you also think that because you love them?  I am totally that kind of person, and in the spirit of full disclosure I've got to let you know that author Karma Wilson and I are friends.  It's also 100% relevant to this post that you know that we are friends because she writes amazing books for children, and not that I laud her talent simply because we are friends.  Once upon a time (over ten years ago, in fact), I sang the praises of one of her books online, and she emailed me to say thanks.  We've stayed in touch ever since, and even got to meet up in Chicago in 2006.  So.  Listen.  If you pay attention to one thing I say on this blog, it should be this: run right out and buy Bear Snores On for your little guys.  If my pal gets a little royalty spike, that'll be awesome.  But you and your kids will be the real winners.


  I don't want to put an age limit on it, but you could start reading Bear at birth.  Or hey!  I read my copy to my oldest before he was born.  We are very careful with books at my house and our board book of this is the only book we've ever thrown away.  Because it was just.plain.worn.the.heck.out.  My son cried as I picked up the individual pages and threw them away, and that was with him knowing we had two more copies of the book in the house!  Bear Snores On is the first in a series of 8* (so far!) and each one deserves its own review, but that's a job for another day.  In this book, you'll meet Bear and his friends.  You will delight as your tongue somersaults around impeccable rhyme, spot-on rhythm and onomatopoeia galore.  When your two-year-old brings you this one for the 187th time, it's unlikely indeed that you'll inwardly groan.  The refrain "And the Bear Snores On" comes back again and again and your little ones will love being able to predict that it's coming.  Jane Chapman's illustrations are so lovely that you'll probably want to climb right in the book. 

But this review is actually not about Bear Snores On.  It's about Bear Feels Scared

I wanted to review a fallish book, and this is a favorite around here.  In order of publication it's the sixth Bear book, but each one can stand alone.  In this story, Bear becomes lost (I can heavily relate to that scenario) in his beloved woods.  While Bear tromps along in the middle of a storm, wind and leaves swirling, his friends are cozied up back home in his lair.  Jane Chapman really shines in this one.  I love the purplish blue hues throughout, and the storm is brilliantly depicted.  As Bear tries to find his way home, his faithful friends become worried at his absence.
"Wren tweets from his perch, 'We must all go search!  What if bear feels scared?'"
All of the Bear books have a predictable refrain, and it's "Bear feels scared" for this one.  Well, Bear does feel scared.  He's lost and cold and alone, and we see him huddled up trying to find refuge from the storm.  But his friends are on the job, and they have a plan:
"Badger lights and lamp and he shouts, 'Let's go!  All the birds search high while the rest search low.'"
I'll let you in on a secret: the friends find Bear.  Two of my favorite illustrations from the story show all the creatures cuddled up together - safe, loved, happy and warm.
Let's face it, sometimes it's a scary world out there.  For kids and for grownups.  When I see Bear cuddled up with his friends, I picture myself surrounded by the many people who have gotten me through hard times in my life, especially my brother and sister-in-law.  Kids get scared, too, and I love for my own children to listen to a story that demonstrates some real life.  People do get lost (literally and figuratively) and cold and scared and alone.  There are storms.  Life does seem hopeless when you're in the middle of it.  But then, your friends find you.  And it turns out that although you were blinded by despair and wind and rain, you were really just ten feet from your lair.

"And the bear feels safe."



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Night Pirates

Thanks to my dear friends who hosted a Build-A-Library shower (how perfect is that?!) for me before my daughter was born, Gorilla has a bookshelf in her bedroom filled with books that feature princesses and ballerinas and fairies and more pink, purple and teal than I've maybe ever seen in one place.  So perhaps it's ironic that the first "girl" book I'm reviewing is about...pirates.  Yes, pirates.  We celebrate femininity around here, but we also appreciate books that break the mold in some way.  According to my note in the front of my copy of The Night Pirates* by Peter Harris, I purchased it in June of 2006.

My husband wouldn't make his way on the scene until later that summer and I didn't have children of my own, but I distinctly remember carrying this book around the Barnes & Noble at which I worked, trying to convince everyone with kids, (especially girls), to buy it.  Children's books are my passion and I can happily discuss them for hours, but there are only a few that I felt so strongly about as this one.

The story opens on a dark, mysterious night.  "Down down down the dark dark street they came.  Quiet as mice, stealthy as shadows." Stealthy?  I love it!  Why not have a vocabulary lesson while we're at it?  Each carefully chosen word paints the picture.  We meet Tom, a nice, brave little boy who's in his bed, about to have an adventure.  And then we meet the pirates, matey!  Pirates?  Oh, yes.  Rough, tough little girl pirates.  The little girl pirates need the front of Tom's house for a disguise, but do they turn him down when he asks to join them?  ("And did the girl captain say, 'Certainly not!  You're only a boy!' Oh no, not at all!  Instead she roared 'Welcome aboard!"')  I appreciate a great story as much and probably more than the next guy, but at the end of the day I'm a mom first, and I've got to admit to loving the inclusive attitude of our little girl pirates.  Speaking of inclusive, my big boy loves nothing more than his baby sister, and this is how they cuddled up to enjoy the story:

Tom and the little girl pirates have a wonderful adventure which includes sailing, rough, tough grown-up pirates, treasure, and escape!  The little girl pirates return Tom and the front of his house to their rightful places, and you and your wee pirates can have a good time figuring out what's not quite right on the last page.

One of my favorite things about picture books is the way anything is possible.  For me, it's refreshing to take a mental break from the cooking and laundry and dishes and bills and go to a place in which little girl pirates casually swipe the front of the house for an evening, attach it to their ship, and sneak up on grown-ups, undetected.  I don't think you or your (male or female) kiddos will be disappointed by this one.

*This link is to the pop-up version, which I've actually never seen.  My copy is a traditional hardcover, which appears to no longer be in print.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My World

As a third-born child, I always tease my parents that I got the short end of the stick as far as the usual suspects: baby pictures, hair brushing, attention, and - most importantly to me - books.  But there are a few books that were mine, only mine, and one of them was Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny.  Because that book was actually given to me, I remember requesting it often.  I confess that the charms of the beloved classic, Goodnight Moon, escaped me until I had my own children.  I have come to appreciate the great green room, the comfortable repetition, and the soothing words in the last 4 years or so.  We pull it off the high (because my books are alphabetical by author, ya'll) shelf every now and then and the boys like it well enough.  But the Margaret Wise Brown title that gets (by far!) the most attention around here is Goodnight Moon's companion book, My World.  It was originally published in 1949 and illustrated by Clement Hurd.  It went out of print for decades and is now back in print.

The text in this little board book is choppier than the melodic Goodnight Moon, but my children bring it to me again and again.  The book follows the little bunny through his day: waking up, eating, playing, interacting with his parents, washing up.  His cozy home in the country always makes me feel homesick for a simpler time.  My two year old son is especially interested in the few pages without text. 

Teep spends a lot of time talking about how the daddy is putting the baby to bed, the moon in the window, the rocking chair, etc.

And this breakfast scene is probably his favorite.  He's inexplicably sure the mama is making beans (hey, I'm a vegetarian, but I draw the line at beans for breakfast!) there at the counter, and that the daddy has an egg, and so on.  We get to discuss the sounds that dogs and cats make, and generally have all sorts of imaginings about what is going on.
This photo shows Gorilla checking out another of the boys' favorite scenes.  Here the little bunny works on his toy car while the daddy repairs the real car.  My boys go around the house repeating "Bang, bang, bang!  My car.  My car won't go very far."
Margaret Wise Brown never had children of her own, but tried out a lot of her stories on the children who attended the experimental school at which she worked.  She tweaked her texts based on the responses of the children and the result seems to be books that children more or less universally love.  By the way, if you're interested in knowing more about Margaret, Leonard Marcus wrote a lovely biography, Awakened by the Moon, which I found fascinating and informative. 
This is one of those books that I picked up when I was a childless bookseller because I thought MWB probably knew what she was doing even if the book didn't appeal to me personally all that much.  Well, she proved me right.   The edges of our copy of this sturdy book are worn from love and use.  We all think you should give it a try, too!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Good Night, Gorilla

Well, let's just start with a little explanation.  Our third born child is a girl.  We never thought we'd have such a thing and we think she's so pretty and feminine and sweet.  Which makes her nickname, Gorilla, seem a bit curious.  The fact is, my husband never met an ordinary word he wanted to leave alone, and songs had better just run for cover.  Fond as we are of trains around our house, the "Thomas and Friends" theme song is a favorite.  Except my kids know it better as "Thomas and Fiends".  You get the picture.  So when the little female showed up we adapted our second-favorite lullaby, "Sweet Baby Boy" by Randall Goodgame (we adore all of his stuff and you should absolutely check him out here), to work for our sweet baby girl.  Sweet baby girl quickly got changed to sweet baby gorilla.  DD (firstborn who requires everything to be decently and in order) raged, Teep (second born, always up for a good time) thought it was hilarious, and I mourned the large, hairy implications for our not-small, definitely already-due-for-a-haircut daughter. But as nicknames tend to do, Gorilla stuck, and now the word is synonymous with our sweet, smiley baby. 

SO.  My dear friend and fellow bibliophile, Jaclyn, has a knack for sniffing out perfect,
unowned-by-me books for my kids, and she showed up at church yesterday bearing Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann for our own gorilla.  (Her genius selections for the boys will come up in future reviews, you may be sure.)  I usually wait to review books until I've lived with them for awhile, but we're all already in love.

The text is sparse, but the illustrations can really carry it.  And I say that as a person who loves words considerably more than I love pictures.  Rathmann does a brilliant job of depicting a zookeeper's weary frame, hunched over and tip-toeing around the zoo, checking in on each animal and telling him or her goodnight.  He remains unenlightened about the fact that the gorilla stole his keys and is freeing each animal that the zookeeper visits.  A trail of animals follow our worn-out zookeeper into his house and make themselves comfortable in his bedroom.  When, none the wiser, the zookeeper's wife bids him goodnight, she gets 7 responses from the various creatures.  Perhaps my favorite spread depicts a dark room with just her startled, wide-open eyes.  I won't reveal everything, but will say that the last page highlights the gorilla snuggled between husband and wife in bed, and there's something endearingly familiar about that situation.
I really love a picture book that has text that is memorable or brief enough (or both!) that a child can feel that he is "reading" a favorite book independently.  This book showed up in our lives yesterday and my two boys have already got it down.  The fun, detailed illustrations make for some great talking points, as well.  (How did that mouse on pages 1 and 2 manage to retrieve the high-hanging banana he's holding on pages 3 and 4?  Does anyone recognize the stuffed toy in the elephant's cage? etc.)
An older (5 and up?) child might be bored by this one, but if you have little guys, it's definitely worth a read!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

When I landed my dream job - bookseller for Barnes & Noble - in July 2000, I couldn't imagine life improving much.  And then I set my sights on my dream position within that dream job: Children's Department Supervisor.  My then-boss seemed surprised at the passion with which I made my case: "Yes, I know it's considered a difficult job.  Yes, I just started with the company three months ago.  Yes, I really, really, really want this." Don't almost all good things happen in October?  I got the job.  My immediate supervisor told me to spend a lot of time reading the books.  I would, he said, have a lot of customers who came in looking for "that one book about a mouse in a green dress who has a picnic and my daughter just or there will be no peace ever again in our house."  Um, okay.  I could handle that assignment.  I set right to work devouring picture books, and King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Don and Audrey Wood was one of my very first favorites.

Published in October (of course!) of 1985, it was a Caldecott Honor book, and with good reason.  The illustrations are lush, detailed and only my devotion to books stops me from dismantling this one and framing each page.  The premise is this: King Bidgood is in the bathtub and intends to stay there.  The distraught young Page calls on the adults in his vicinity for direction: "Help! Help!...King Bidgood's in the bathtub and he won't get out! Oh, who knows what to do?"  The Knight, the Queen, the Duke, and the Court all offer suggestions.  ("Get out!  It's time to battle!", etc), but King Bidgood only suggests that battling, lunching, fishing and the Masquerade Ball can all be handled in the bathtub!

If there's anything a young child likes, it's a ludicrous suggestion like eating lunch in the bathtub. My DD and I read this one recently for the first time in a while and he was fascinated.  He wanted to know how the fish got in the bathtub, what they were eating, and what was the meaning of the masquerade ball.

Don and Audrey Wood are masters of storytelling and illustration, and this book is as beautiful as it is fun.  But in my opinion, the best part about it is while a growing number of adults are stumped by this royal bathtub predicament, it's the little Page who comes up with the solution.

Check it out!  I bet your little Page will be stomping around the house like mine has been all afternoon, chanting "King Bidgood's in the bathtub and he won't get out!"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Little Boy

The inscription in the front of my copy of Alison McGhee's Little Boy indicates that I bought it in 2008, well before I had a little boy of my own.  But while my desire for a son was considerable, the book's many merits are its own.

It was intended as a father-son companion to McGhee's lovely mother-daughter picture book, Someday.  While there is a father figure in the periphery of this story, I don't automatically categorize it as a parent child book.

I love the simple, rhyming text, which playfully outlines a typical little boy's day, focusing especially on his exploits with his "big cardboard box".  And the big cardboard box is the reason I chose to review Little Boy as my inaugural blog entry.  My boys asked me to read it recently.  That afternoon, after I emptied a package I'd received in the mail, they asked for the box.  It's not especially big, but their imaginations are.

 After they had it decorated, the real fun began:

The boys spent the better part of an hour playing with, in and around this box.  In my house, there's no truer test of a popular plaything than the "timer test." In other words, if I have to set my oven's timer for five minutes per child with the toy/box in question, they are having a good time. 

Little Boy is a heartwarming little book and the illustrations by Peter Reynolds are perfect, but ultimately my favorite thing about it is the way it opened the eyes of my sons to think of a box as a delightful way to spend an afternoon.

My favorite quote: "Little boy, so much depends on...your starship pajamas, that story about llamas, the way you don't worry, the way you won't hurry, and...your big cardboard box." 
This is a perfect baby shower gift or birthday present for a little guy.  And check out Someday for a girl, too!