Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Koala Lou

Fox, Mem. Koala Lou.

Koala Lou is an old friend of mine. Well, as "old" as a friend can be that was published in 1988. Quite honestly, I didn't 'discover' Koala Lou until I was in college. I loved, absolutely loved, taking children's literature classes. But back to focusing on the book...

Koala Lou is a book that shouldn't be missed. It's simple, beautiful, and timeless. "There was once a baby koala so soft and round that all who saw her loved her. Her name was Koala Lou."
Thus begins a book of a mother-daughter's loving relationship. "The emu loved her. The platypus loved her. And even tough little Koala Klaws next door loved her. But it was her mother who loved her most of all. A hundred times a day she would laugh and shake her head and say, 'Koala Lou, I DO love you!'" But as the years go by and Koala Lou has new siblings added to the family, there are times she begins to doubt her mother's love. What will she do to earn her mother's love and approval? And what can the mother do to share Koala that love is truly unconditional? Read and see for yourself!


Fox writes, "Like mothers and fathers and teachers, authors should not have favourites. I can’t help it: Koala Lou is my personal favourite, probably because it’s about sibling rivalry and not winning an important competition which means it’s about me."

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Robinson, Barbara. 1972. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

This little gem of a book is only 90 pages long. It's been a favorite of mine for years, and I really can't recommend it highly enough. It is just one of the best Christmas books ever.

The Herdman's were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toolhouse. (1)

Meet the Herdman's: Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys. They're described as "six stringy-haired kids all alike except for being different sizes and having different black-and-blue places where they had clonked each other." (4)

The first chapter we see what they're all about--the troubles they cause, the fear they create among their peers, etc. But chapter two is when it really gets exciting.

Mother didn't expect to have anything to do with the Christmas pageant except to make me and my little brother Charlie be in it (we didn't want to) and to make my father go and see it (he didn't want to). Every year he said the same thing--"I've seen the Christmas pageant." "You haven't seen this year's Christmas pageant," Mother would tell him. "Charlie is a shepherd this year."
"Charlie was a shepherd last year. No...you go on and go. I'm just going to put on my bathrobe and sit by the fire and relax. There's nevery anything different about the Christmas pageant."
"There's something different this year," Mother said.
"Charlie is wearing your bathrobe."
So that year my father went...to see his bathrobe, he said.
Actually, he went every year but it was always a struggle, and Mother said that was her contribution to the Christmas pageant--getting my father to go to it.

Here is where we learn that this won't be an ordinary pageant as we plainly see in chapter three at the casting. This year the Herdmans land all the big roles--through fear and intimidation, yes--but the roles are theirs just the same.

The first pageant rehearsal was usually about as much fun as a three-hour ride on the school bus, and just as noisy and crowded. This rehearsal, though, was different. Everybody shut up and settled down right away, for fear of missing something awful that the Herdmans might do. (43)

It soon becomes evident that this pageant will be one-of-a-kind, though no one quite expects it to turn out the way it does. Let the Herdmans surprise you this Christmas!

The Best Christmas Pageant is funny and charming and true-to-life. It makes a great read aloud too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bessie P. Gutmann

Nursery Songs and Lullabies Illustrated by Bessie P. Gutmann
Nursery Poems and Prayers Illustrated by Bessie P. Gutmann

Together these books would make a lovely gift for expectant mothers and new mothers. The illustrations are sweet and subdued. There's just something 'precious' about them. I can't really explain why.

100 Books Your Child Should Hear...

Here is a a library's list of 100 Books Your Child Should Hear Before Starting School. The library is the Public Library of Westland. There are 100, but I'm listing only ten. I've got to motivate you somehow to go visit their site after all :)

  1. Where’s My Teddy?
    Alborough, Jez
  2. Miss Nelson is Missing
    Allard, Harry
  3. Happy Birthday, Moon
    Asch, Frank
  4. Ten, Nine, Eight
    Bang, Molly
  5. Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing
    Barrett, Judi
  6. The Three Bears
    Barton, Byron
  7. I Like Myself
    Beaumont, Karen
  8. Madeline
    Bemelmans, Ludwig
  9. The Mitten
    Brett, Jan
  10. Clifford, the Big Red Dog
    Bridwell, Norman
The site also includes Anita Silvery's 100 Best Books for Children The list begins with birth and goes through age 12.

Board Books: Birth to Age 2

Picture Books: Ages 2 to 8

Books for Beginning Readers: Ages 5 to 7

You will definitely want to finish the rest of the list which includes "Books For Young Readers: Ages 7 to 9" and "Books for Middle Readers: Ages 8 to 11" and "Books for Older Readers: Ages 11 to 12."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lookybook...Gail Gibbons...Thanksgiving

The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians

Morris, Carla. 2007. The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians.

What librarian could ever resist this book? It is the story of a boy, Melvin, who visits the library regularly. When the book opens, he's just a little boy. By the time it closes, well, he's all grown up. In between are lots and lots of trips to the library, lots of conversations with the three reference librarians, and lots of reading and research activities. The refrain "That's how librarians are. They can't help it" echoes throughout whenever a problem is solved quickly and efficiently. And the illustrations by Brad Sneed are just perfect, so charming. I just loved, loved, loved this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Santa Who?

Gibbons. Gail. Santa Who?

Santa Who? is a 'history' of how Santa Claus came to be Santa Claus. In other words, how the modern, American version of Santa Claus came to be what he is today from various ancient traditions and lore. In Santa Who? Gail Gibbons draws upon many cultures to tell the rich history of the Christmas gift-giver. You may be familiar with a few of these facts, but chances are that you might just learn something new about Santa.

Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford

Lankford, Mary D. Christmas Around the World.

Twelve countries are visited in Mary D. Lankford's picture book Christmas Around the World. Australia. Canada. Ethiopia. Germany. Great Britain. Greece. Guatemala. Italy. Mexico. The Philippines. Sweden. United States--Alaska. Each country receives a two-page spread. One page being devoted to text. The other page being an illustration by Karen Dugan. Overall, I think this is an interesting read. The book also includes a few crafts, a bibliography, and even a pronunciation guide.

This title is appropriate for third graders on up (or second graders with advanced reading abilities).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

All I'll Ever Want For Christmas Doll

McKissack, Patricia C. 2007. The All-I'll-Ever-Want-For-Christmas Doll.

Christmas always came to our house, but Santy Claus only showed up once in a while.

It's the Depression. And Nella and her two sisters are wondering if Santy will make an appearance this year. Nella more than anything wants the beautiful Baby Betty doll she saw advertised in the paper. She imagined what it would be like to play with her. She talked about how she was the only thing she ever wanted...ever. I flat-out refused to give up my dream. So, without my sisters knowing it, I wrote Santy Claus a letter and sent it all the way to the North Pole. Will Nella get her wish? Will the Baby Betty doll be hers? And if she does get it...will she share with her sisters? Read and see. This one is too good to miss!

Christmas Around the World

Kelley, Emily. 2004. Christmas Around the World.

This book is part of the "On My Own" holiday series. It is a book designed for children--kids--to be able to read on their own. That seems so obvious, doesn't it. Yet when I was looking at my local library, there were few books I thought were really appropriate, really accessible to young readers. There were many great books to choose from. But they all seemed more appropriate for children in upper elementary school. Those in fourth and fifth and sixth grade. This title, on the other hand, looks accessible to younger readers, second graders on up. There are fewer details perhaps. But the book still serves an important purpose: showing kids that though some things may be different between cultures, there are always similarities as well that unite us. The countries "visited" include Mexico, Ethiopia, China, Germany, Lebanon, Sweden, Australia, and Russia. Note: to make these books even more appealing to kids, the author has included a few pages of Christmas jokes and tongue twisters.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Adult Reference Books for Parents, Teachers, Librarians, etc.

I was searching Amazon, and I decided to compile this list. I figured that if I was interested, other people might be as well. These books could be sitting on your local library shelves just waiting for you to 'discover' them. My library has a great section the Parent-Teacher section. Most of these have the dewey number of 372. something or 649. something. A few of these I've looked through. Most are just ones I've read about on Amazon. So I can't "testify" about any of them too much. But I know this...if I had the time...and the resources...I'd love to read all of them at some point.

Story Stretchers for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos: Experiences, Activities, and Games for Popular Children's Books

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Gryphon House (September 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0876592744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0876592748

Growing A Reader From Birth by Diane McGuinness

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039333239X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393332391

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1st printing edition (September 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156010763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156010764

Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos by Susan Straub and KJ Dell'Antonia

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc. (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402206127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402206122

Baby Read-Aloud Basics: Fun and Interactive Ways to Help Your Little One Discover the World of Words by Caroline J. Blakemore and Barbara WEston Ramirez

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM/American Management Association; 1 edition (July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081447358X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814473580

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); 6 edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143037390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037392

How To Get Your Child To Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (June 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123085
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123083

Playful Reading: Positive, Fun Ways to Build the Bond Between Preschoolers, Books, and You by Carolyn Munson-Benson

  • Paperback: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Search Institute Press (February 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574828576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574828573

What Should I Read Aloud? A Guide to 200 Best-selling Picture Books by Nancy A. Anderson

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: International Reading Association; 1st edition (August 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872076792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872076792

Friday, November 9, 2007

Give the Gift of Books

Books make the perfect gift for any occasion. Especially baby showers. Why? Because it's never too early to start a little one out on books. Why give a book? Books grow with the child. Books are interactive. Your giving the gift of reading and quality time and happy memories. Here are a few websites that explain the benefits of reading to your child from the very beginning.

Reading Books to Babies
Exploring Books With Babies
Baby's First Teacher
Enticing a Restless Reader
Reading to Babies, Toddlers, and Young Children: The Why? The What? And The How?
Reading to Your Baby
Reading and Language: About My Baby
Grow Up Reading--Babies
Babies, Books, and A Lesson in Happiness by Mem Fox

There are also plenty of books out there on the subject as well. A search on Amazon or the online catalog of your local library will bring you many results. The experts all agree, books are a good thing.

I'm not an expert on babies by any means. But I can testify to the benefits of having been read to growing up. I am who I am because of my mother. Reading was a loving, pleasurable bonding time. My happiest memories are of being cuddled up with my mom while she's reading to me.

I love to give books at baby showers. Sure most people don't register for books. But they're an important part of a baby's development just the same. Here's my trick. I either go for the boxed gift sets like Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. OR I make my own gift set. For example, I love to pair small stuffed animals with books. My favorites? Ty Pluffies. This little lion would pair GREAT with the classic book The Tawny, Scrawny Lion. Also available is an adorable little elephant that would go with The Saggy, Baggy, Elephant (one, two, three, kick!). Also available is the line Ty Baby.

And what about buying some classic Golden Books and pairing it with this great audio CD. It features: The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat, Tawny Scrawny Lion, and The Saggy, Baggy Elephant.

Here is a list I compiled a few months ago listing 2007 releases of board books. Of course, with Amazon, older titles are available as well. I'd suggest just browsing around in the stores yourself. Read the books and see how "fun" they are. Every time I go to Target, I love to take a few minutes to browse the board book and picture book section. I usually end up reading quite a few. And compiling a few mental lists. Unfortunately, the publishers have all been difficult to track down. But oh how I wish I could get my hands on Roger Priddy's books. There is also quite a nice line called Piggy Toes Press.

One last tip, sometimes mothers-to-be let their friends and family in on what they are planning to name the baby. Sometimes it works out that the baby-on-the-way will have a literary namesake. In cases like these, it is very fun to get that book as a shower gift. It's usually unexpected and quite appreciated.

Say Cheese

School picture day has never been so much fun as it is in Say Cheese by Lauren Child. Picture day is fast approaching as Charlie and Lola prepare to be their best. But Lola, like always, will need a miracle to get through the day all clean and tidy by the time it is time for pictures. Will Lola take that perfect picture? Can she resist the many temptations that will beset her before school, during art, during recess, and during lunch? You'll have to see for yourself what this duo ends up doing to get the 'perfect' picture for their mom!

Young Readers Challenge

This challenge is for those interested in reading more children's literature. (From board books, novelty books like bath, shape, or pop-up, picture books, early readers, chapter books, etc.) Think of this as referring to the "E" (Easy) and "J" (Juvenile or Junior) sections of the library. The challenge will go from January to December 2008. Any books written for the 12 and under crowd. (Interested in reading books for the 13+ crowd? Then join the Young Adult challenge.)

Choose 12 or more books for the challenge. You can choose with a theme--Calecott winners and honor books OR perhaps Coretta Scott King Award winners and honor books. Or not. You could choose a handful of authors to focus on--Laura Ingalls Wilder, A.A. Milne, C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, etc. And read a few books by each. Or you could read twelve books by the same author--like all Beverly Cleary or all Judy Blume or all Barbara Parks. You might want to read twelve books about horses or ponies. Or you might want to read twelve books in a series. Or twelve fairy-tale related books. You could even get elaborate and read 26 books A-to-Z. A theme is NOT required. A list is not required. Choose what you like. Choose as you go. Or plan it all out now. Whatever you want.

This would be a great challenge to join with your kids. You can read aloud to them. Or for older children, you can read a book together and take turns.

To sign up for the challenge leave a comment and/or join Mr. Linky. Link to your main site where you'll be posting reviews OR post a link to a specific post where you're mentioning the fact that you're joining the challenge. You don't have to list your books yet if you don't know. Your post can simply say...I'm joining this challenge...I'll come up with my list later. But I would appreciate it if when you do create your list you'll update that post. Or come back and leave another comment with a specific link.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Must Have for Charlie and Lola Fans

Lauren's Child picture book, I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato, has just been released in pop-up format. The original book was a great treat. Charlie and Lola are the unforgettable brother and sister duo. Lola is a picky eater, and it's up to her big brother Charlie to make sure Lola eats a nice, healthy meal. This book was one of the first in the cartoon series as well. So while the story may be a familiar one, it's a must-have in my book. Why? Well, the pop-ups are fun. They make Lauren Child's playful illustrations even MORE playful than before. (Which is hard to do, by the way!) The publisher of this one is Candlewick press.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Why Amazon is Dangerous but in a GOOD way...

Runaway Bunny Board Book and Plush Gift Set

If you were to buy all three together, Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, and Very Hungry Caterpillar, you'd qualify for free shipping! (Two alone wouldn't reach that $25 point.)

Another Perfect Gift Idea...

More Adorable Gift Sets

I found this on Amazon--it was released 2005ish--you might find it in "real" stores as well. I'm just not sure. But wouldn't it be great for baby showers???? (Or any occasion really where there are babies about.)

As would this one....The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book and Plush set. Also at Amazon.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Boy With Two Belly Buttons

The Boy With Two Belly Buttons by Stephen J. Dubner. Illustrated by Christoph Niemann. HarperCollins. 2007.

Honestly, I didn't know quite what to expect from The Boy With Two Belly Buttons. It's obviously a silly book with a cutesy message of self-acceptance...but somewhere between the covers of this one...I was charmed and pleasantly amused. It begins off simply, "Solomon never thought it was strange that he had two belly buttons until he got a baby sister. Anya had only one." At first he was concerned, his sister was missing a belly button. Then the devastating news hits him: one was the right number of belly buttons a person should have. He was the odd one, the different one, the freak. The next pages has Solomon seeking out the bellies of young and old...trying to find some answers. His quest even takes him to a professor of buttonology. But it isn't until he meets a famous movie director that our young hero learns that being special, one-of-a-kind, unique is the best thing he could be. While I suppose some might find it silly or over-the-top, I find it charming and enjoyable. I haven't tried it out with kids, I don't have easy access, but I would imagine that it would inspire a few giggles along the way.

I think what makes this story a success, besides the text of course, is the artwork by Christoph Niemann. See what I mean...