Category Archives: books

Reading Wednesday

Reading Wednesday

Are you on Goodreads? I am!. Why don’t you head on over and check out my reviews.

In the meantime, here are some books that Niko especially enjoyed.

What books do YOUR kids enjoy? What books do you enjoy reading to your kids? What books stand up well to the “read this book 50 times in a row” test? Hit me up in comments!

"The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish"

“The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish”

“The Day I Swapped my Dad For Two Goldfish,” by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, is the charming and seriously weird story of a kid who swaps his dad for two goldfish. His mom objects (of course) and he has to follow a chain of swaps to get his dad back. It’s a little adventure story. The illustrations are really something else. I bought this book in 1997, WELL in advance of having kids.

"Shimmer and Splash"

“Shimmer and Splash”

“Shimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World Of Sea Life,” by Jim Arnosky, is a lushly illustrated book by an artist/naturalist who really looks like he loves what he’s doing. This is a fantastic introduction to the ocean and the life in it, although it’s also very text heavy, so it can be hard to sit down and read aloud in one sitting. We usually read sections of this book, or Niko looks at it himself. Arnosky has written a lot of books about ~NATURE~ and I want to get more of them for Niko. NOTE: I won this book in a giveaway at Bebeh Blog.

"Dogs On The Bed"

“Dogs On The Bed”

“Dogs On The Bed,” by Elizabeth Bluemle & Anne Wilsdorf, is a rollicking, goofy, rhyming account of what happens when you have a bunch of dogs in your bed. It also made me miss having a dog, while being glad I’m not dealing with a bed-stealing, shedding, slobbery, fur furnace any more. A mixed bag! The illustrations are absolutely charming and expressive and the writing is playful and fun. This is a book that lends itself well to reading outloud, and expressively. I think the people who will most appreciate this book are people who love dogs and have more than one of them. A really fun read!

dinothesaurus

“Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings,” by Douglas Florian, is a playful and quirky book about dinosaurs. Unlike a lot of dinosaur books for kids, the text isn’t just rhyming. No, it’s actual straight up poetry, playing with line breaks and stresses and language. The poems are bouncy and fun, a joy to read aloud, unlike most stilted, predictable rhyming couplets you see in kidlit. The illustrations are likewise unique and crafted, vaguely reminiscent of Dave McKean’s painting-collages, but simplified. Toward the back of the book is more information about the dinosaurs mentioned as well as a bibliography of texts for more and deeper reading. If you’ve got a dinosaur lover for a kid, this book is a good addition to your library.

"It's Time For Preschool"

“It’s Time For Preschool”

“It’s Time For Preschool,” by Esmé Raji Codell & Sue Rama is a scripting book for kids entering school. A lot of kids don’t handle change or the unexpected well, and giving them a script and telling them what to expect can be very helpful. This book opened a lot of discussion and reassurance, and I’m going to pick it up again before Niko starts school this fall.

What Lives In A Shell?

What Lives In A Shell?

“What Lives In A Shell,” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld & Helen K. Davie, is a book about shells and the animals that live in them. Some live on land, some live on water. Some are large, some are small. This early science book, designed for pre-k and kindergarteners, is a nice introduction to shelled animals. The text, and sentences, are short and engaging and the illustrations are clear and attractive. The book stands up well to repeat reads. It’s a great introduction to science book. I’m very pleased with this series.

get_wet

” I Get Wet,” by Vicki Cobb & Julia Gorton, is a solid science book about the science of water, including some fun and easy hands-on experiments kids and adults can do together. The text is simple and easy to understand, with some interesting artistic typography in places. The illustrations are fun, too.

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Boys, Girls, and Babies

Boys, Girls, and Babies

One of Niko’s favorite books is “Babies” by Gyo Fujikawa. If you can find an old version of this in a used book store or thrift store, pick it up. It’s delightful. Sadly, current versions remove a few pages, which is appalling since it’s a very short book to begin with. Fujikawa was dedicated to portraying a wide variety of babies and children in her books, and her illustrations are delightful. After reading the book, we’ll talk about the different babies and kids. Are they happy, or sad? What are they doing? What are they thinking? Following the advice of anti-racism educators, we look at skin color and hair color and texture and talk about how some people are different in the same way we look at clothing and activities (this baby is wearing pants, but this baby isn’t. This baby is putting on socks, and this baby is wearing a funny hat. this baby has long straight yellow hair and light skin. This baby has orange hair. This baby is wearing a kimono. This baby is crying. This baby has curly hair and dark skin.). And sometimes I ask him if a baby is a boy or a girl.

Sometimes he gets confused.

And sometimes it’s really not clear if one of Fujikawa’s babies is male or female. It’s just a fat faced baby in a diaper!

He does better with older kids, who are wearing gendered clothing and hair styles.

This one has pants and short hair. It’s a boy. This one has long hair and a dress. It’s a girl.

But this one? Wrapped up in a towel and grinning? That’s a baby.

There’s boy, there’s girl, and there’s baby.

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Speaking of moose…

Speaking of moose…

I was looking for picture books about moose to put on hold at the library for Niko, when I came across The Moose With Loose Poops, a book that only one library branch had. I could not believe my eyes and snorted a little snort of laughter. Especially when I read this review on Amazon:

I accidentally bought this book (I was thinking of If You Give a Moose a Muffin) but I was entertained just the same. In fact, their plots are kind of similar what with the chain reactions and all.

Apparently, it’s part of a series of picture books discussing medical issues with kids (colds, sore throats, earaches… and gastroenteritis) written by a medical doctor. I can totally see the value of this book, of this series, in helping kids understand what’s going on with their bodies and not be afraid of something that is, frankly, frequently scary.

But dang, man.

Dang.

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You’re a good eyayint, Carl!

You’re a good eyayint, Carl!

Yonks ago, before I had a kid, before I was married, back when I lived near the always-foul-smelling Morse stop on the red line (seriously, every single time I walked past it some dude was urinating on the wall of the building like urine alone was keeping the station standing), I got sick.

I was low-key miserable. You know how it is. Tired, cranky, full body ache, scratchy throat, listless, vaguely nauseated, my upper lip a snot trough. Nesko went to the store to pick up canned chicken soup, crackers, ginger ale, drugs, and Martha Stewart Living magazine all of which are vital to my recovery process. He kept calling to check in and see if I wanted/needed anything else. I added coke, frozen pizza, and popsicles to my list. He called again. I started teasing him with stuff stores don’t carry. I said I needed an elephant.

He came home with my groceries, AND some flowers, AND a stuffed elephant. Because he is the best.

That elephant has had a special place in my life ever since.

Niko hasn’t really used a lovey until recently. Sure, he uses a pacifier when he’s sleeping, or feeling ill, or getting jabbed again and again with sharp needles at the doctor’s office because I delight in his suffering. But he hasn’t really had a comfort object.

And then, somehow, out of all the stuffed animals and blankets and sharp pointy trains he has, he selected the elephant as his special lovey. He flirted a bit with a soft blanket, and with a baby doll, and with a length of wooden train track, but he settled on the elephant. At nap time, he protests that he NEEDS his EYAYINT. WHERE MY EYAYINT? I NEEEEEEEED IT he bellows, then he finds it and drags it back to bed by its trunk, singing a song. He settles in, nuzzling it. He tips its head back, trunk pointing up, while making elephant noises. Sometimes he brings his baby doll along for a ride.

I bought a copy of “Good Dog, Carl” at the thrift store. It’s a slightly mis-bound board book and Niko, who loves dogs and babies, really enjoys it. I checked “Carl’s Masquerade” out of the library about a week ago, and it’s in heavy rotation right now… read before every nap and bedtime and sometimes in between as well. Niko reads it to us, and reads it to his baby and his elephant. And then he decided that his elephant was named Carl, and Carl looks after Baby, and Baby rides on Carl.

So he sits on the floor and prop his baby doll, Baby, up on Carl the Elephant’s back and trots them around. When he goes looking for his elephant, he reminds me that HE NAME CARL. And when he goes to sleep now, Carl and Baby snuggle in with him.

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Frances!

Frances!

Like a lot of parents, we are trying to inflict our own positive child hood experiences on Niko. Which means, in Nesko’s case, Niko’s learning Communist-era Football (soccer, to those of us in the USA) fight songs, and Yugoslavian pop songs from the 70s, and eating spaghettios. And in my case, that means mostly wooden trains and a million weird kids’ books and lots of making up goofy songs. (We also dress him in nerdy clothing a lot. Because he can’t stop us. HAH! this shirt offers +5 to nakedness! He has +10 charisma! He is a level 3 human! ZIIIING)

Niko is really into Russel Hoban’s “Frances” books, some of which were illustrated by Lillian Hoban (they were married, they got divorced, they kept working together; the first book was illustrated by Garth Williams). We have “Bedtime for Frances” (aka GO TO BED NOW FRANCES), “Bread and Jam for Frances” (aka NYOM NYOM FRANCES) and “A Baby Sister For Frances” (aka FRANCES HAS A BABY!). How much does he enjoy these books? So much that sometimes he asks for them instead of Thomas And Friends stories. How much does he enjoy these books? So much that sometimes in his sleep he murmurs about wanting A Red Car Toy (Lightning McQueen from “Cars”), and sometimes he murmurs something about Frances.

The books are pretty dated in some ways. In “Bedtime,” Father Badger (who is the disciplinarian) threatens to spank Frances if she doesn’t go to sleep; there’s a pretty clear division of labor among the genders. And they’re dated in good ways as well. Frances catches snakes in a pillow case and does tomboy-ish things and has a male best friend (who often wears purple checked pants), two things that aren’t seen quite as often among girls in kids’ books today (at least the ones I’ve seen, anyway). They are clever, sweet stories, very solid, and sprinkled throughout with little songs just begging to be sung.

If you grew up reading them, take another look at them. If you’re looking for something for your kid, check them out. There’s I-Can-Read versions that are edited to be simpler, but the original texts have a richness the edited ones lack.

What are some of your favorite childhood books? What are you re-sharing with your kids? I’d love to know.

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Friday Five: Books books books

Friday Five: Books books books

Here are five of Nikola’s (current) favorite books. As a note, I’m using my amazon.com affiliate account, so if you click on a link and buy something I make an imperceptible amount of money.

  • I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry is the calm, gentle story of a bunny named Nicholas, who lives in a hollow tree. Niko loves the bunny, and loves the sweet story and pictures. When I feel like adding extra enrichment, we work on colors, numbers, animal names, and the difference between jonquils and daffodils.
  • THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD-THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL EDITION by “Watty Piper” is the retelling of a bit of Americana, a story that apparently originated in Church sermons and Sunday School lessons. “Watty Piper” was the name used by in-house writers for the original publisher. I don’t think Niko gives two figs for the book’s message, it’s got trains in it and that’s all he cares about.
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a timely story, as we have a total of about 26 inches of snow on the ground right now. Niko likes hearing about the little boy who gets bundled up and goes out into the snow.
  • Bread and Jam for Frances (I Can Read Book 2) Although this is an abridged version and I want to get the original, unabridged version, Niko still loves this book. All the Frances books have really charming, awesome little songs in them and Niko has recently started swaying along to the beat as I sing them. This is one of his comfort books, when he isn’t feeling well and needs extra reading snuggles.
  • I Love You Stinky Face is an awesome story about a mother and (gender not specified in the text) child winding down for the day and getting ready for sleep. It’s a great story about parental love that isn’t sappy or codependent.

What are some of your favorite books to read to kids? What are some of your favorite books from your childhood?

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