You know that fab feeling you get when you hear a good joke and notice the corners of your mouth pushing out a huge smile? Well that’s also the feeling you and your children will get when reading B. J. Lee’s boisterous new book,There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth with illustrations by David Opie. Yes, all it takes is one hungry alligator to get the action going in this Florida-animals-themed variation of the beloved cumulative rhyme There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly and reminiscent of kidlit fave, A Fly Went By.
Soaking up the sun and minding his own business, the titular gator finds a winged visitor has landed on his snout. You can guess what happens but still be teased to read on.
“There was an old gator who swallowed a moth. I don’t know why he swallowed the moth. It made him cough.”
Gator then goes on to swallow a crab (I mean it did give him a jab!) And the slew of Sunshine State creatures eventually eaten also includes an eel, a ray, a pelican (see above), a panther, and a manatee. Opie’s illustration of ALL the animals squished inside gator’s stomach is spot on and one of my faves, but the one above where there’s still some room gives you a good idea of the vibe going on. While reading the book, be sure to take note of the expressions and body language depicting how no one wants to be anywhere near crab’s pinching claws.
You may think that when the gator swallows the shark his tummy will be full, but no, he and Lee don’t stop there and that’s exactly why the (belly) laughs will linger with every page turn. What a humorous way to learn about survival of the fittest in a Florida setting!
This guy’s just greedy enough and silly enough to gulp down the entire lagoon which pushes him beyond capacity if you get my drift. In a series of hysterical illustrations that work wonderfully together with Lee’s terrific tale, it’s conveyed how totally stunned and slightly repulsed the ejected animals are. And if the above artwork doesn’t hint at a whopping “Get ready! I’m about to go gator-wild!” I don’t know what will!
Share this fun story with anyone you know who loves a rip-roaring read aloud and watch the grins grow along with the gator’s gut.
A Unicorn Named Sparkle’s First Christmas, Amy Young’s third book in this funny series, doesn’t disappoint. Cutie pie Sparkle continues to delight readers with silly antics offset by his true friendship with the little girl who loves him.
Lucy—perhaps like someone you know—believes the best thing about Christmas is “Lots and lots of PRESENTS!” And, of course, who better to give great presents than your BFF? However, even with Lucy’s insistent reminders, Sparkle doesn’t quite grasp the concept. It is, after all, his first Christmas.
Young’s illustrations capture the exciting buildup of holiday madness (cookies, ice skating, the mall) and, of course, a crazy-messy wonderful house. If you enjoy playful underscored by heartfelt friendship, this book’s for you.
This beautiful, extra-large, 12-page board book’s sparkling art invites readers to journey into wintery landscapes. Each scene has several lift-the-flap opportunities for little hands to discover hidden wonders.
Written in rhyme, the story takes the reader through a day in the forest. First, the little Christmas tree awakens to find the woods have turned from green to white. Creatures explore until the sky clouds over and snowflakes fall once more.
Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s digital illustrations in Little Christmas Treeconvey the best of snowy weather. Brightly colored berries and animals contrast well with the forest’s earth tones. Silver foil accents add a lovely effect. Young readers will delight in revisiting these tranquil sceneries.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, LITTLE ELLIOT Written and illustrated by Mike Curato (Henry Holt BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
★Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews
Merry Christmas, Little Elliotis a lovely addition to the seasonal standards with its fresh look at a familiar theme. You may know Little Elliot (an elephant with pastel spots) from previous books. In this holiday adventure, Elliot isn’t excited because he doesn’t have Christmas spirit.
So he sets off with Mouse to try and find this elusive thing. None of the typical wonders (The Nutcracker ballet, a spectacular tree, or sledding) incite Elliot until a mysterious envelope leads the two friends to discover what this time of year truly means.
Mike Curato’s classic art enhances and amplifies the story line. The beautiful book has an old-fashioned feel with a timeless message. Santa tells Elliot that he can’t give him the Christmas spirit, “You have to find that yourself.”
Be sure to look under the picture book’s dust jacket for a clever alternate cover image.
The above three books were reviewed by Christine Van Zandt
I’ll be honest. Pookie can do no wrong by me. Sandra Boynton is a personal fave so I’m biased when it comes to her books as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows.
On Christmas Eve, little Pookie pig is ready for a walk in the snow with Mama. When noses get frozen, it’s time to head inside because “There are garlands to make and lights to turn on and cookies to bake.” Family and friends will soon be arriving and Christmas songs will be sung. Boynton’s 18-page rhyming board board is festive and endearing and features all the trademark cuteness that make this a wonderful addition to the beloved go-to series. With eight books available, there’s definitely a great selection to keep your youngest ones entertained. And now, with Merry Christmas, Little Pookiein the mix, children can easily spend all year with Little Pookie!
Be careful what you wish for is what I kept thinking as I read The Broken Ornament, a touching picture book about empathy, thoughtfulness and self-reliance. As the story opens “Jack wanted this to be the best Christmas ever.” When that means adding more ornaments on the tree, Jack’s mother warns him about the one he intends to hang. It shatters and his mom hastily retreats upstairs followed by his dad with a box of tissues. Clearly that ornament was meaningful to his mom. It’s only when a fairy named Tinsel emerges from the ornament shards that Jack gets the over-the-top Christmas experience he longed for. But something was missing. Was there a way to replace the broken ornament? Tinsel helps Jack learn the story behind the ornament’s importance and explains that only Jack has the power to come up with a solution. Once Jack puts his mind to it, he figures out a beautiful way to show his remorse over his action that, while not bringing back the old ornament, helps everyone have a joyful Christmas after all. Sometimes there’s magic in the small things. I absolutely loved DiTerlizzi’s spread of Tinsel’s magical creatures (Santa, elves, snowmen, reindeer, nutcrackers) gathered in the snow outside the living room window looking in at the happy family. Santa’s got a spotlight on him as he holds a glowing Tinsel in his hand. Young readers will be thrilled to witness the positive outcome along with the Christmas cast of characters. Buy local and treat yourself to this beautiful book to share with your family this holiday season.
The above two books were reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Please click here for Part One of our 2018 Christmas Books Roundup. Please click herefor Part Two of our 2018 Christmas Books Roundup.
Let’s get ready for the holiday today with this roundup of new books for children.
Canticos: Little Chickies/Los Pollitos by Susie Jaramillo (Encantos Media; $14.99, Ages 0-5) This adorable, sturdy board book, the first in a series, celebrates moms in a most unique way. Its format is reversible – an original Spanish version is on one side for both the enjoyment by native Spanish speakers and to encourage the early learning of a second language. Turn it over for an English adaption of this children’s nursery rhyme about little chicks being born and their devoted mama hen seeking food with which to feed them. She provides warmth when they’re cold and gives them all the love they deserve. Designed in accordion style with bright artwork and the simple story (no more that six words on a page) on both sides, the book can be read folded up or opened up in its entirety. Have your little ones try it both ways. Preschoolers will find all the interactive lift-the-flaps and spin-wheel features hard to resist. I know I did! A bonus – little ones can sing along with the Canticos: Los Pollitos App for smartphones and tablets. There are activities to keep your children busy and entertained for hours. For every Canticos book purchased, the company will donate books to preschool programs across the U.S. to help low-income families in need. Visit the website to see what other books are on the horizon. www.canticosworld.com
Mamasaurus Written and illustrated by Stephan Lomp (Chronicle Books; $16.99, Ages 3-5) Illustrator Stephan Lomp makes his picture book debut in Mamasauras as both author and illustrator. After Babysaurus slips off the back of Mamasaurus and loses sight of her, he embarks on a “Are You My Mother?” type journey through the wild jungle. As he encounters the offspring of various dinosaurs, Babysaurus is certain someone will have spotted her – after all she takes huge steps, has a wonderful long neck, is taller than the tallest tree and “She’s the biggest there is!” Using bold artwork (I like the white text against the black background) with some subtle humor, Lomp’s Mamasaurus is a fun addition to this Mother’s Day Roundup mix.
You Made Me a Mother Written by Laurenne Sala Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins BYR; $15.99, Ages 4-8) This charming book, just perfect for Mother’s Day, opens with a mom-to-be waiting for the birth of her first child. “I followed advice. I read twelve books. I ate lots of spinach. Could you tell I was nervous?” The mother in this story expresses her love for her child, her desire to make him happy and the honest realization she’s not perfect, but willing to do all that’s in her heart to be there for her child. “I made you, but you made me a mother.” That powerful last line resonates with me and is a moving one to share with children. Sala has found an original way to present motherhood to youngsters with an economy of words and richness in spirit. Glasser’s touching illustrations add to the joy of this story making it a most delightful Mother’s Day read.
Our Love Grows Written and illustrated by Anna Pignataro (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; $16.99, Ages 4 and up) Meet Panda Mama and her son Pip, together in a bamboo forest, the beautiful setting of this heartwarming story. Pip asks “Mama, when will be big?” And Mama explains, in the most poetic and touching of ways, how exactly when compared to nature, he has indeed grown while at the same time, so has her love for him. The things the mama panda points out to her son are so evocative and lovingly told in gentle rhyme. “Once this tree was smaller too. And the stars above were just a few. Your paw print was tiny in the snow, and every step was far to go.” Getting into the head of a panda isn’t easy, but Pignataro makes it seem that way with the imagery and examples. Kids will appreciate seeing the sweet owl plush toy Pip holds in most of the spreads and parents will enjoy the calming cadence of the text, likely choosing this as an ideal bedtime story that’s definitely not just for Mother’s Day as a mother’s love is year ’round.
Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Ella The Elephant: Ella and the Mother’s Day Surprise (Grosset & Dunlap; $3.99, Ages 3-5) My Mother My Heart: A Joyful Book to Color by Eleri Fowler (HarperCollins; $15.99)
Look at this inviting cover. Don’t you just want to hug the little fella? And his signature scarf, this time in orange, is P R E C I OU S!
Moving the clocks back an hour, along with cooler evenings here in L.A. means fall has finally arrived, making it the perfect time to share an autumn-themed picture book.
Salina Yoon’s latest, Penguin and Pumpkin, featuring the popular character we all adore from her three previous picture books (Penguin and Pinecone, Penguin on Vacation, and Penguin in Love), introduces readers to Pumpkin, Penguin’s fledgling younger brother. Eager for a change of scenery, Penguin is ready to explore, but Pumpkin’s simply too young to go. “I’m not a baby!” exclaims the fledgling, but when Grandpa puts in his two cents, it’s clear little Pumpkin is not going anywhere. So …
“Penguin, Bootsy, and their friends headed to the farm.”
Help your kids look out for the sleepy penguin who can’t keep his eyes open during ocean travel. Too cute! Once on land, it’s pumpkins galore for the gang as everyone chooses a favorite to bring home. Penguin, however, can’t stop thinking about his little brother as he sees the wonderful time his friends are having picking out pumpkins. Back home, “The fall explorers were excited to share their treasures from the farm.” But Pumpkin is nowhere to be found. Turns out he was making his own fun, but still really yearned to see fall.
With one beautiful surprise gesture orchestrated by his older brother, Pumpkin gets to experience fall in all its colorful glory. The book has a glow about it that feels like Thanksgiving time. Yoon’s bold illustrations, with their thick black outlines, seem to shout out to youngsters who read her books, “Copy me!” And they do! Yoon gets the most amazing fan art which demonstrates the appeal of her Penguin.
This simple story with its message of love for a special time of year, and for a sibling, will warm hearts and make penguin lovers out of children everywhere.
Here are links to other Salina Yoon books we’ve reviewed.
If you follow this blog on a regular basis you know that we’re totally crazy about the Kohl’s Cares program and love spreading the good word every chance we get. Kohl’s Cares not only supports children’s health and education initiatives nationwide, but it offers parents an opportunity to buy affordable books, toys and other items for family and friends at the unbelievably low price of $5 for any item. That’s just unheard of these days when a five dollar bill is usually what you’ll be charged for postage alone if you order online! Here’s the link: http://www.kohls.com/catalog/kohl-s-cares.jsp?CN=4294731838
Plus, on top of these fab $5 items, we’ve also got an exclusive 10% off code for kohls.com. You can use FALLMOMTEN until the end of December! It can be used to stack savings with one other department specific code. Don’t wait another day to place your order or head over to a local Kohl’s to take advantage of this great deal on the Peanuts gang merchandise.
There’s a Charlie Brown plush toy (yes, at $5) and a personal fave of GRWR, Woodstock! Again, just $5 for this funny, little yellow bird who lights up children’s faces everywhere.
Pick up a few copies of these classic Charles Schulz books to give as gifts to young visitors or to keep on hand and use as stocking stuffers. Choose from Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown; The Kohl’s Cares Peanuts “Be Yourself” Book; A Charlie Brown Christmas; You Can Be Anything; and a Peanuts Classic gift set that includes Happiness is a Warm Puppy and Christmas is Together Time.
Kohl’s also has not forgotten about you, parents. If you’re thinking, “What’s Christmas and New Year’s without a festive meal?” Well, then Holiday Cheer is just right for you. Packed with tons of holiday recipes, decorating, entertaining and gift ideas from Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Country Living, this $5 book works well both for your own family or as a hostess gift during all the activities in the days and weeks to come. We like giving the gift of music, too, so why not give Upon a Winter Solstice, a CD from Trans-Siberian Orchestra? At $5 each, you can’t go wrong.
Kohl’s Cares Cause Merchandise Program for Kids: Since the program began in 2000, this philanthropic program has raised over $231 million dollars for children’s health and education programs in local communities across the country. Help support Kohl’s Cares today by making your purchase of a Peanuts classic and bringing these treasured storybooks into your homes. Click here now to visit the website to learn more.
Maybe it’s because fall is my favorite season. Maybe it’s because the weather gets a bit cooler here in L.A. The street where I live gets tons of trick or treaters beginning about five o’clock with the littlest monsters, penguins, princesses and elves making an appearance before bedtime. The creative costumes never cease to amaze me. One year I recall we had a Mozart, a rain cloud and a laundry basket! I look forward to every shouted TRICK OR TREAT?! In honor of Halloween I’ve put together a varied selection of books to sit down and peruse after they’ve emptied bags and examined their hauls.
WHERE’S BOO? (A Hide-and-Seek Book) by Salina Yoon, Random House Books for Young Readers, $6.99, Ages 0-3. This interactive board book will attract little ones with its velvety-faced kitty on the cover and velvety tail at the end. Parents can help children solve the mystery of where Boo is hiding beginning with a jack-o’-lantern and ending with a door in this die-cut 18 page guessing game. The pictures are sweet not scary, a perfect introduction to All Hallows Eve!
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA HOSTS A SLEEPOVER by Anne Marie Pace with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, ages 3-5. Last year’s Vampirina Ballerina was so popular she’s back again and this time she’s hosting a sleepover. While this picture book is not strictly for Halloween, what better time of year than right now to share a vampire tale? Dad helps with homemade spider invitations, Vampirina tidies up, the menu is prepared and the sleepover party begins! Full of the same delightful detailed artwork featuring all the necessary vampire accoutrements including caskets and headstones plus all the not-to-be-missed facial expressions courtesy of Pham, this latest picture book is something to sink your teeth into. Pace throws in puns galore so parents can get a giggle, too. There’s even a pull-out spread to add to its appeal. This sleepover’s a lids down success.
GHOST IN THE HOUSE by Ammi-Joan Paquette with illustrations by Adam Record, Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 3-7. What works so well in this picture book is that it’s not only a cumulative counting book beginning with a little ghost, but it’s a fun read-aloud as well with its catchy rhythm and rhyme. Ghost in the House manages to mix a slightly spooky premise and lighten it with a cute cast of characters including a mummy, a monster, a skeleton, a witch and a little boy. The bonus: No trick or treaters anywhere in sight makes it an ideal read for any dark and stormy night!
HALLOWEENHUSTLE by Charlotte Gunnufson with illustrations by Kevan J. Atteberry, Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, $16.99, Ages 4-8. Get ready to boogie to a funky beat that will get your youngsters chiming in. Skeleton’s in a dancing mood, in fact he’s got a whole crew of hustling creatures following his lead, but things keep tripping him up, first a crooked crack, then a cat and finally a zombie’s foot. Here’s the catchy refrain your kids will latch onto:
“Bones scatter! What a clatter! Spine is like a broken ladder!”
There’s a hoppin’ Halloween party where Skeleton enters a dance contest, but can he keep it all together? Let’s see what a friendly skeleton girl and a little super-strong glue can do!
OL’ CLIP CLOP, A GHOST STORY by Patricia C. McKissack with illustrations by Eric Velasquez, Holiday House, $16.95, ages 6-9. This haunting, well-paced and tersely written story is one you’ll want to tell by a roaring fire while huddled next to your child. The climax, where there’s usually a fright, though not as scary for an adult as it may be for a child, is deeply satisfying. The good part is that it’s actually a happy ending because it’s good riddance to the villain, mean John Leep. This well-off, but miserly and greedy landlord has a cruel fate planned for the widow Mayes of Grass Hollow. He’ll demand the rent in full or evict her, throwing her out into the night on a cold Friday the thirteenth, 1741. Velasquez’s artwork of dark upon dark sets the ominous nighttime mood, with the lightest color being the white of widow Mayes’s cap and mean Leep’s linens. The clip, clop, clip, clop sound of Leep’s horse Major gets more and more frightening as Leep feels he is being followed on his way to the widow’s house. What’s in store for the stingy man as leaves the desperate widow wondering if she’ll lose her home? Will he make it home alive?
Sesame Street’s Walkabout Cookie Monster showed up, stealing both the show and lots of little hearts (yes, and mine, too!). The event featured interactive reading/writing activities for the more than 100 children and parents who attended. There were volunteers from several insurance companies on hand in addition to the caring Children’s Bureau staff, all there to help youngsters make books, color pictures and design bookmarks.
The interest in Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day was evident in the smiling faces filling the room. Dads sat with babies and toddlers on their laps as they tried out interactive computer games, moms encouraged pre-schoolers to participate in preparing the books made from those versatile brown school lunch bags, and volunteers helped explain how everything worked.
This totally free program, both in English and Spanish, targets kids from birth to age five with an emphasis on getting parents to start the conversation at home to get youngsters interested in reading and writing. “Just by taking little incremental steps,” said Alex Ben Morales, L.C.S.W., President & CEO, Children’s Bureau-Southern California, “parents can start their children on the path to becoming well-rounded individuals by the time they begin Kindergarten.”
William E. Ross, CEO of IICF spoke about how important early literacy was in children’s development and stressed the need to read to them every day. The idea to partner with Sesame Workshop arose out of the need for business and community to come together Ross said. Since both organizations believe our children are the future, their commitment to bringing these types of opportunities to those underserved in L.A. and other major U.S. cities is commendable. The initiative first launched in New York on October 11 with Los Angeles being the first regional launch. Chicago and Dallas are next in line.
About Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, the landmark television program that reaches millions of children every day in more than 150 countries. The Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere reach their highest potential. Delivered through a variety of platforms, Sesame Workshop develops research-based content – including television programs, books, games, mobile apps and community engagement initiatives – that supports early childhood learning, helps prepare children for school, and addresses developmental needs. The Workshop’s programs are tailored to the needs of specific regions and focus on topics that help young children and families develop critical skills for lifelong learning. For more information, visit us at www.sesameworkshop.org.
About the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF)
The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation was established in 1994 and is completely directed and funded by the insurance industry. The foundation helps communities and enriches lives by uniting the collective strengths of the industry to provide grants, volunteer service and leadership. Since its inception in 1994, IICF has contributed more than $20 million in grants to charities and 166,000 volunteer hours to hundreds of community nonprofit organizations. IICF is a registered not-for-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Learn more at about the IICF at www.iicf.org.