There are all kinds of love. Love for a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a pet, a friend or in the case of Loved to Bits, the love of a stuffed animal. Stripy Ted has been everywhere and done everything with his owner, an imaginative young boy. During their adventures this plush pal has experienced all the fun two friends can have, but at a cost. Over time, Stripy Ted’s lost all his limbs and even an eye. But that hasn’t stopped him from joining the boy and for that the child is grateful. The fearless stuffed animal may be battered and worn, but “The truth was now, I liked him better. I could hold him in one hand. He fit right, just here.” The bond between boy and beloved teddy bear make for tender reading in this rhyming picture book. Filled with sweet illustrations that softly convey the depth of love between the pair, Loved to Bits makes not only a charming Valentine’s Day story, but a delightful year round bedtime tale.
I always wanted to be an aunt because of the special relationship I’d have with my niece or nephew. If I were an aunt, like the one in Auntie Loves You!, I’d want to do all the things she does with her little “bunny-kins bunny …” Together the pair go to the beach together, play games, sail boats and play hide-and-seek. The affection the bunnies share for one another is evident in all the illustrations which are tender and evocative. The font is large and the rhyme predictive making the story accessible for beginning readers and just the right length for a bedtime story. “We go together like sprinkles on cake, like kisses and hugs, or ducks on a lake.” I love the sweeping landscapes and can almost smell the sea air in the beach scenes. Another nice feature in this picture book is a presented to page for an inscription and date as well as a spread in the back matter with a place for “A Special Letter to My Favorite Bunny” and a beautifully designed page to paste a photo of child and auntie.
If you enjoyed Dragons: Father and Son, Dragons in Lovewill not disappoint. I bet you didn’t know that when flames shoot out of a dragon’s mouth it’s a sign of love. In this amusing picture book, Drake the young dragon gets kissed on the snout by his friend, Violet. “It left Drake feeling hot and confused.” He flies away, trying hard to hold back the fire building up inside but cannot. While he has to admit the kiss didn’t hurt, the feelings were not anything he’d been used to and so he decides he has to avoid his friend. In a dragon dad to dragon son chat, Drake finds out that breathing fire is how dragons show their love, but that might not be an easy thing for Violet to deal with. Drake continues to stay away … that is until he hears noises in the park and sees that his friend is being bullied. Those flames come in handy to fend off a bully. They singe the meanie, but don’t scare away any of Drake’s friends, especially Violet. In fact, it appears coming to his friend’s rescue has sparked a greater love. Lacroix’s prose and Badel’s art leave the ending up to kids to decide which provides a great jumping off point for discussion. Violet points to her cheek and seems to want Drake to give her a kiss, but will he? Kids are going to get a kick out of the humorous illustrations that are full of expression and capture the dynamic of this age group so well.
I know, the title Isle of You sounds like “I love you” and it’s supposed to because that’s really what matters most—to love yourself and know you are loved. Isle of You does a wonderful job of conveying a place children can go to inside themselves to make themselves feel better when they’re feeling sad, lonely or even angry. This is such a great idea. On the Isle of You everything is there to help improve a bad mood or feeling. “There’s the welcoming committee, waiting with wide-open arms. What would you like to do first?” Whatever your heart can imagine is there and all it takes is imagination. This type of positive visualization is sure to shift the blues to pinks, yellows and greens. And best of all, it offers a way to quiet any negative thoughts and replace them with ones that are bound to make them kids feel good. Swim in a waterfall? Sure! Relax on a hammock? Why not? “The choice is yours.” Try your favorite dessert, walk along the beach, make a wish on a starfish. This feel-good story is complemented by magical, and soothing artwork that will lift the spirits as it assures youngsters they are loved just before they drift off to sleep.
This sturdy 48-page board book featuring 35 full-page artworks is ideal for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or any birthday. And you don’t have to be into museums to appreciate the beauty of My Art Book of Love. The first book in Phaidon’s My Art Book collection, this gorgeous book will introduce little ones to all the joys of art in its many shapes, sizes, colors and mediums. I was thrilled to see such a diverse selection included in My Art Book of Love and impressed how the author was able to find such terrific examples to convey: Love is … , Love feels … , Love makes you …, Love looks like …, Love is everywhere., and Love is beautiful. Artists represented range from Klimt to Cassatt, Wiley to Warhol, Bechtle to Botero. There is much to enjoy in the pairing of Love feels … “Warm like the sun on your skin … ” with Boys in a Pasture by Winslow Homer or Love is everywhere. “And inside your home,” The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner. I recommend this series, and this book in particular, to share with toddlers to foster the love of art in all its glory. Look out for My Art Book of Sleep, too.
Making a List and Checking it Twice! Bookseller and reviewer Hilary Taber’s Top 15 Picks
Of course this list of 15 picture books is influenced by my own personal taste, but as a bookseller of many years I hope to guide you to some of my personal favorites from the 2015 publishing year. This is by no means a comprehensive list because I have so many favorites, but these are the picture books I would really love to give as gifts. I’ve tried to arrange these in age order and hope that helps you if you plan to give books as presents to children this holiday season. Happy Reading!
What could be funnier than veggies in undies? Clever text pairs brilliantly with discussion of all different types of underwear and the text can help a child transition from diapers to underwear. Or it can just be a hysterical, giggly book about underwear. Consider Vegetables in Underwear appropriate for two-year-olds and up.
It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon Written and illustrated byJarrett J. Krosoczka (Alfred A. Knopf BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-7)
Anyone who has ever taken care of a child knows this truth. It is really hard to loose your balloon to the sky above when you let go of it! In a simple and straightforward way Krosoczka points out that many childhood hardships are tough, but there’s an upside to a lot of them. You could scrape yourself, but you also might get a glow in the dark band aide! We grown-ups tend to forget how these common childhood dramas are powerful and important to children. The strength of this book is in affirming that the adult in their lives notices these hard times. At the end of the book the author encourages children to notice that when it rains you can look for the rainbow in all kinds of situations! A great reminder to get your kiddo to be able to reframe, stay positive, and look on the bright side.
Black, white and red illustrations accompany perhaps the most perfect book about crows I’ve seen. With their red scarves on they fly to get some snacks. They snack all the way to a dozen. In the meantime a cat has been watching these crows with a possible snack in mine! Counting Crows is a charming counting book that I highly recommend!
A new pop-up book! What fun! Carter delivers yet another wonderful book! Set to the words from the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” with “If you’re a robot and you know it clap your hands, jump and beep, shoot laser beams out of your eyes!” Children will delight in the familiar song set to a new theme, and the pop up elements are used to make the robot do everything that’s in the song. With the pull of a tab the robot claps it’s hands, jumps, shoots lasers out of its eyes, and more! Recommended for those children able to handle a pop-up book with care.
This book gave me the chills because it’s that beautiful. A girl moves from the country to the city, and finds that next door is a Butterfly Park. She wonders where all the butterflies have gone! Soon all her new neighbors are helping her to discover that what is needed here are flowers to attract the butterflies. The park is restored and a special fold out page reveals the Butterfly Park full of children and butterflies once more. Each page is filled with light and glowing color. A science lesson on the side provides depth, while the illustrations provoke awe and wonder. A picture book that does not disappoint!
This dreamy, magical book is a cut paper triumph. With gold swirls in the night sky on some pages, this book begins with the end of a play date. Addy begins the nighttime journey back to her own home. Addy and her sister play a game of hide and seek with the moon as they watch it seemingly disappear and then reappear on the car ride home. Under a bridge and behind a mountain the moon seems like a constant friend who follows you home. Rich colors and a masterful command of the cut paper style make this a perfect bedtime book. Is this book a possible Caldecott winner? Only time will tell!
Once Upon a Cloud Written and illustrated by Claire Keane (Dial Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5)
Veteran Disney animator Claire Keane, whose background includes her work on Disney’s “Tangled” and “Frozen,” brings to life Celeste’s dream journey on her request to bring back the perfect gift for her mother. Along the way she meets the stars, moon and sun. However, the right gift for her mother just doesn’t present itself. The next morning she is inspired by all the beauty she has seen! She finds flowers that remind her of the stars in her dream and ties up the perfect gift with her own hair ribbon. A visual delight in purple and pink, Once Upon a Cloud makes a perfect gift for a thoughtful child you know who particularly delights in fantastic illustrations.
What a gorgeously illustrated book. Did you know that a group of geese is called a gaggle? Or that a group of owls is called a parliament of owls? Or that a group of peacock is called ostentation of peacocks? Each page introduces the groups by their collective names and gives a brief summary of each animal. A wonderful introduction to animals! Pen and ink drawings are combined with watercolor or fabric pieces. My favorite page is a group of sheep in sweaters made with a swatch of sweater fabric. You only have to look at each page to see how lovingly each page was created. I would be pleased to see this win the Caldecott!
This is by far one of the best picture books this year for gift giving. A narrator who is unknown at the beginning of the book directly tells the audience about who took your sandwich. A bear wakes up one eventful day in the woods to follow a truck filled with the delicious scent of berries all the way to the big city! Many adventures ensue with the discovery of the sandwich in question. Visual clues give away the fact that our narrator is in fact a dog seen in the park on one page. He is one unreliable narrator because guess what? He ate your sandwich! Sure he saw the whole thing happen. Blame the bear! Grin worthy text pairs nicely with illustrations infused with light and the bear’s epic journey from woods to city and back again.
Philip Stead brought us the Caldecott Award winning Sick Day for Amos McGee, and this new book is equally endearing. Peter and his dog, Harold, have just moved into a new house on the edge of a wood. Feeling that they need some backup, Peter wisely uses big pillows to create Lenny to guard the bridge that runs between their house and the woods beyond. Lenny is a wonder to behold! However, maybe Lenny is lonely out there all alone? Enter a new big, pillow friend for Lenny in the form of Lucy! The four of them become great friends and add one more to the group. Peter’s next-door neighbor is a little girl who is fond of owls. So, the woods beyond the bridge might not be so bad after all, especially with good friends by your side.
A girl borrows a magical book from her teacher, but when the words spill out, the little girl is disappointed. However she soon realizes that she can create her own story out of all the words that were once inside the book! A celebration of imagination married with absolutely stunning illustrations make me wonder if this might be a Caldecott winner this year.
How many things can the number one be? A counting book and also an ode to all the different kinds of families out there make this multicultural picture book a must have for your family. Children will enjoy scenes they see everyday from doing laundry to going to the zoo. “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.” This strong ending helps us all to recognize how important all families are.
How I love this book. Phillip has an imaginary friend named Brock who is always up for adventure. Off goes Phillip’s family to the fair, along with Brock of course. Brock wants to ride the big kid rides, but Phillip and Brock get separated. When Phillip finds that his imaginary pal is missing, he goes searching for him. Luckily another little girl who has an imaginary princess friend with her at the fair sees Brock and takes him home with her. Phillip is at last reunited with Brock, and now they have two brand new friends. All imaginary friends are drawn in crayon which gives this book a special flair!
Caldecott Award winner Kevin Henkes hits another one out of the ballpark with this sweet story of five toys who sit on a windowsill waiting for things to happen. Each toy has a special thing that they enjoy seeing. The owl waits for the moon. A pig with an umbrella waits for the rain. This tale of friendship amongst toys is a special one with soft illustrations on rich, creamy paper. The toys move to different spots on the windowsill and it’s up to the child to say if they are being moved or do they move by themselves? What a treat! This is especially good for youngsters transitioning to longer picture books. I’m calling possible Caldecott on this one! Those gorgeous, but simple illustrations are simply genius. Henkes does it again.
This story of an orphan named Delphine tells the tale of the power of a kind soul and a song sung from the heart. Delphine serves the Princess Theodora where they both live on the savannah. Delphine’s life is very difficult, so she sings to lift her spirits. When Theodora’s niece, Beatrice arrives Delphine’s expectations of having a playmate her own age are dashed when Beatrice proves to be spoiled and prone to blaming Delphine for her own mistakes. Delphine’s song is heard by twelve giraffes who take her on a journey across the savannah. When they return Delphine to her home they mistakenly put her in Beatrice’s room. There Delphine finds the reason for Beatrice’s unhappiness for Beatrice’s own mother had recently passed away. Beatrice is comforted by Delphine’s song and the two go on magical adventures together. Kraegel’s The Song of Delphine, a Cinderella story with a magical twist of visiting giraffes? I’ll take it!
We hope this helps you to make your list and check it twice! Wishing you and your loved ones a happy holiday season!
– Reviewed by Hilary Taber
Good Reads With Ronna is proud to be an IndieBookstores Affiliate. Doing so provides a means for sites like ours to occasionally earn modest fees that help pay for our time, mailing expenses, giveaway costs and other blog related expenses. If you click on IndieBound and buy anything, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase supports our efforts and tells us you like the service we’re providing with our reviews, and for that we sincerely thank you.
Hanukkah arrives early again this year and so it’s time for our annual Hannukah books roundup featuring our faves for you to share with your children. All these books make great gifts, too, so why not give the gift of a wonderful story?
NONNA’S HANUKKAH SURPRISE by Karen Fisman with illustrations by Martha Avilés (Kar-Ben; $17.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, Ages 3-8) This simple, seemingly straightforward Hanukkah story of girl gets Hanukkah Menorah (aka hanukkiyah), girl loses Hanukkah Menorah, girl gets new Hanukkah Menorah has several super, smile-producing twists. For one thing, Rachel’s haukkiyah is made up of 9 female Maccabees instead of males, and this year, Rachel’s Hanukkah celebration will be away from home, with Nonna, her Italian grandma. I love how Fisman’s put a 21st century spin on this charming Hanukkah tale of today’s typical blended family where one parent is Jewish and the other is not. Rachel worries she won’t be celebrating Hanukkah at Nonna’s who celebrates Christmas, but her mom’s made sure to bring everything along including dreidels, candles, and traditional Hanukkah gelt so that the Festival of Lights will be just like at home. But when Rachel leaves her Maccabees menorah on the airplane, it’s Nonna and her sweet surprise that saves the day in this heartwarming tale of acceptance, respect, and a grandma’s love that knows no religion, only devotion to her granddaughter.
IS IT HANUKKAH YET?by Chris Barash with illustrations by Alessandra Psacharopulo (Albert Whitman & Company; $16.99, Ages 4-8) Like its predecessor, Is it Passover Yet?, Is it Hanukkah Yet? in under 200 words, successfully creates a holiday mood with its festive artwork and joyous tale. This picture book opens with a snowy scene of nature. “When frosty winds blow and snow’s all around And there’s no sign of green on the trees or the ground. Hanukkah is on its way.” Barash and Psacharopulo take us from the bucolic outdoors as animals gear up for the long winter to the indoors as a family makes their preparations for the arrival of family, friends and the joyous eight night long celebration of Hanukkah. From stirring, frying and baking traditional Haunkkah foods, to the lighting of colored candles “When the blessings are said and the first candles glow” to the singing of songs and playing dreidel, the small pleasures of the beloved Festival of Lights can be found and enjoyed on every page of this lovely book.
HANUKKAH IS COMING! by Tracy Newman with illustrations by Viviana Garofoli (Kar-Ben; $5.99, Ages 1-4) From Hanukkah is coming! to Hurray! Hanukkah is here!, this 12 page board book with its gentle rhyme and repeating phrase, serves as a perfect introduction to the holiday for young children and builds anticipation. A brother, sister and silly dog mention all the special things they love and look forward to about Hanukkah. Whether it’s cooking latkes that “Hiss, sizzle, pop,” or spinning the dreidel with its nun, gimel, hay and shin, Hanukkah is coming and that’s something to get excited about!
SAMMY SPIDER’S FIRST TASTE OF HANUKKAH: A COOKBOOK by Sylvia A. Rouss and Genene Levy Turndorf with illustrations by Katherine Janus Kahn (Kar-Ben; $16.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, Ages 2-8) Making his 15th appearance, “Sammy Spider dangled from his web as Mr. Shapiro told Josh the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil.” While spiders don’t celebrate the holiday, Sammy could certainly watch as all the cooking began! In this latest installation of the anthropomorphic arachnid, we get a helpful intro, and recipes divided into sections of Simple Snacks, Miracle Meals (LOVE the Maccabee and Cheese), Tasty Treats (check out Melt-in-Your-Mouth Menorahs), Crafty Ideas (salt dough Hanukkah decorations are a personal fave) plus a section on Lighting the Menorah and Hanukkah Blessings. This is a terrific hands-on book for families this holiday season and definitely one to hang onto for years to come.
Reviewed by Ronna Mandel #Readukkah
Good Reads With Ronna is proud to be an IndieBookstores Affiliate. Doing so provides a means for sites like ours to occasionally earn modest fees that help pay for our time, mailing expenses, giveaway costs and other blog related expenses. If you click on an IndieBound link in a post and buy anything, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase supports our efforts and tells us you like the service we’re providing with our reviews, and for that we sincerely thank you.
We’re delighted to share the following enlightening guest post by author Jodi Mays.
How do you teach a feeling or emotion? For some parents this is as difficult as asking what a color smells like, and yet kids today are bombarded with messages and imagery that does just that. From television, to magazines and social media, kids are picking up these impressions from an early age. So, how do you make sure the right messages are getting through to them? This was a question that plagued me when my son was young. How do I teach my son about emotions and self-esteem?
It was easy for me to say, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Or to remind him to be aware of others feelings but, as most parents may agree, it is not always what you say that imparts the best lessons. As a family, we have always been drawn to reading; turning to books to pass the time and getting lost in worlds both big and small. Reading became a way for us to tackle many of these tough ideas, which led to some incredible conversations about everything from self-esteem to compassion and kindness; conversations that may have been too difficult to broach on their own, without the help of books. It was these conversations that led me to write my first children’s book with the hope that I could pass along some of the same valuable lessons of self-worth and acceptance. After all, building a strong foundation of confidence and self-esteem is important for everyone and the basis that I hope will carry my child confidently into the future.
It is with this in mind that I want to share some of my favorite books on acceptance and self-esteem.
The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss: You can’t really go wrong with this classic book. In The Sneetches, Dr Seuss weaves a story that teaches self-worth and acceptance, which is extremely fun to read. The Sneetches are born either with or without a star on their tummies, which leads an unscrupulous monkey to take advantage of their differences. In time the Sneetches learn to accept and embrace each other’s differences.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy: In this book Lucy is the subject of ridicule for her favorite food, spaghetti in a hot dog bun. Lucy stands by her choice even when others are mean and mock her for being one-of-a-kind. When these same friends need help, Lucy has the courage to make the right choice. This story is truly empowering for any child who has ever felt different from the crowd.
For School Agers
Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud: This book contains beautiful illustrations that pair easily with simple prose to help younger children learn how to be “bucket fillers.” It teaches children to show their appreciation with simple acts of kindness and love, which will not only boost the self-worth of those who get their buckets filled but also those who do the filling as well. It reminds children that a little kindness and acceptance can make the world a better place.
Unstoppable Me; 10 Ways to Soar Through Life by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer: This book builds on Dr. Dyer’s first book, Incredible You, and the ideas of “no limit thinking.” Kids are encouraged to embrace what makes them unique instead of simply trying to fit in. It embraces all of the wonderful quirks and qualities that every child is born with and teaches them to use these special traits to navigate stressful situations and enjoy life’s wonderful moments.
Freckle Juice by Judy Blume: No one defined a generation of young readers, struggling to navigate through life’s challenges better than Judy Blume. In her book Freckle Juice, she weaves the story of a young boy who simply wants to look different than he does. As young people sometimes do, he trusts the wrong person to help “fix” his problem with her secret recipe for freckles. This book is a classic for anyone who ever felt like they were missing a key feature to make them perfect.
Tween You and Me by Deb Dunham: Switching gears, Tween You and Me is a non-fiction book for tweens and parents living with tweens. It is a thoughtful and practical guide to navigating changing bodies, relationships and feelings in a way that encourages both self-expression and responsibility as well as lessons in respect for the young reader. Growing up is hard enough. Nurturing healthy self-esteem only adds to the challenge. Tween You and Me acts as a road map for the journey ahead.
For Young Adults:
The Creative Journal For Teens, Making Friends With Yourself by Lucia Capacchione: A combination of journal and how-to, this book offers teens a safe way to work through some of the complex challenges they face in everyday life. Written by a registered art therapist, this book can help teens to clarify their goals while strengthening their self-confidence by giving them a safe place to write down their feelings in a somewhat structured environment. For any teen that has difficulty expressing their emotions, this book can be a valuable tool.
The Skin I’m In by Sharon G Flake: This book is geared toward more mature, young adult readers and touches on race and class as well as self-esteem. It follows a young girl, Maleeka Madison, as she and her mother struggle with the death of her father. In her attempts to become more popular she finds herself the target of bullies. Throughout the story Maleeka has an internal battle to discover who she really is and who her real friends are. The Skin I’m In weaves a story about self-confidence, friendship and the consequences of trying too hard to fit in.
– By Jodi Mays
Jodi Mays is a free-lance writer. She divides her bi-coastal living between Malibu, CA and Longboat Key, FL. She moved with her family to Innsbruck, Austria with 5 English-German dictionaries and 15 duffle bags at a young age and still resides there at times throughout the year. She has one son with whom she traveled the world while he competed in International Junior Tennis Tournaments. She uses her colorful adventures as a modern-day gypsy as inspiration for her writing. THE DAY WE RODE THE RAINBOW is the first book of an interactive and fun series called ‘The Book Series with a Purpose.’ She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
The dedication in Anna Dewdney’s latest, Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa, reads “For grandparents everywhere, and the little llamas who love them.” And if you’ve got a little llama fan, this sweet tale of a first overnight away from home, is sure to delight.
Dewdney’s rhyme is impeccable and infectious and the premise relatable, making this new picture book the perfect read-aloud and go-to bedtime story for Grandparent’s Day on September 13th.
Mama Llama brings her son to spend the night with his grandparents.
“Mama’s picture in a frame. Different. Also just the same.”
Rather than dwell on Llama Llama’s disappointment and despair, Dewdney shows young readers all the fun activities he gets up to with Gram and Grandpa. There are some good distractions to be found; A ride on the tractor, pulling up carrots in the garden, woodworking, trying new foods and scanning the night sky, all destined to become cherished memories.
It’s only when Gram spots tears at tuck in time that
“Llama’s lips begin to quiver. Llama starts to shake and shiver. Llama needs his Fuzzy near, but FUZZY LLAMA ISN’T HERE!”
Grandpa comes to the rescue with a more than suitable substitute, his very own “special toy” from childhood to keep his grandson company. Content, cared for, and comfy, little Llama learns that a grandparent’s love can make any house feel like home. Dewdney’s empowering story and sympathetically illustrated characters combine to make Llama Llama Gram and Grandpamy pick not only to allay the fears of any reluctant overnighter, but ultimately to celebrate the joys of grandparenting.
While Christmas is celebrated all around the world, different cultures have their own traditions and ways of celebrating. ‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanishis a new spin on the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
A Latino family is preparing to host relatives and friends on Christmas Eve. They are busy making tamales stuffed with pollo (chicken) and queso (cheese). When ready, they participate in posadas (the reenactment of the Nativity) where families stroll from house to house, asking for shelter. Once back home, the family drinks warm mugs of chocolaty champurrado (a thick hot chocolate drink) and play loteria (a game similar to bingo). Then, it’s time for Misa del Gallo (midnight mass) before the celebration continues with more food and a delicious dessert called bu~nuelos (a sweet fritter covered with cinnamon). It’s a wonderful night of family and festivities.
The artwork is bright and inviting. Little details, such as colorful banners and the town’s architecture, give a feel for the setting. I found the facial expressions, including that of the family cat and dog, to be especially engaging.
The rhyming text makes the book easy to read, even for non-Spanish speakers. With satisfied bellies and sleepy eyes, we head to the sala for one last surprise. Giggling and cheering, we dash for the tree, where regalos are waiting for you and for me! A glossary of 47 Spanish terms is included, as is an author’s note about the origin of this story.
With diverse literature in high demand, ‘Twas Nochebuena provides fun insight into a cultural celebration of Christmas Eve. Feliz Navidad! – Rita Zobayan
Link to review of Round is a Tortilla, also by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.
If you’re looking for a sweet board book to tuck in a special little person’s stocking this Christmas, Maisy’s Christmas Tree, (Candlewick Press, 2014; $6.99, Ages 2-5) is the perfect pick. Written by Lucy Cousins, the ever-popular Maisy is decorating her Christmas tree with her friends. Cyril the squirrel, Tallulah the chicken, and Charlie the crocodile are all helping out in their own special way, stringing lights, hanging candy canes, and wrapping presents. Eddie the elephant is in charge of the tree topper: an angel who looks exactly like Maisy!
Bright primary and secondary colors with a bit of silver sparkle make this a visually appealing book. Its small size and Christmas tree shape make it easy for little hands to hold and help turn pages. Even a toddler full of Christmas anticipation will sit through this book of under fifty words which gently builds to a grand finale. Maisy and friends sing carols around her beautiful tree then shout, “Merry Christmas, everyone!” – MaryAnne Locher
Link to review of Peck, Peck, Peck, also by Lucy Cousins.
Little Golden Books are endearing. I’m not sure if it’s the vintage-style art work or the sense of innocence that seems to emanate from the words and pictures of a bygone era, but there’s no denying the “aww” that goes along with the series. So, it’s no surprise that Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Bookby Diane Muldrow draws in both young and old. Compiled from the art of a variety of LGB, this is a guide to keeping your sanity during one of the happiest yet busiest times of the year.
“Christmas is coming!” waves a happy Santa. But, what about all that baking, the endless cycle of cooking and cleaning, and the rounds of social obligations…when you could be taking a nap. Then there’s the snarled holiday traffic…and the scary holiday crowds! The excess! The expense! Then comes the weight gain. Yes, Christmas certainly comes with stresses and obligations. It’s easy to get caught up in the commotion and consumerism. However, don’t spend all your time preparing…It’s a time for traditions, a time for giving the very best of yourself…a time to reach out to someone who’d otherwise be alone. For one night in a manger, under a star, a night witnessed by both shepherds and kings, when gifts were given to a waiting world…and the gift of hope for a peaceable kingdom.
While younger children might not understand the message about keeping the crazy out of Christmas, they will almost certainly enjoy the illustrations and message of love and family. Filled with LGB favorites, such as the Poky Little Puppy and Richard Scarry’s artwork (among many talented others), the book harkens to the wonder and nostalgia of childhood. This is something that LGB does so well. Adults are transported back to their childhoods (and perhaps will remember reading LGB as youngsters), and children will adore the sense of warmth that the illustrations create.
Everything I Need to Know about Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book is a new Christmas favorite in our household, and once you read it, you’ll see why. – Rita Zobayan
Link to review of We Planted a Tree, also by Diane Muldrow.
*We’re so thankful to you, our readers. You care about sharing the best books with your children and we do, too. So as promised, after reaching 2000 Twitter followers, we are now celebrating with a “We’re Grateful for You Gargantuan Giveaway” worth over $200 just in time for the holidays. Click the links to read our reviews of the books because you’ll see we’ve included lots of our faves.
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MaryAnne Locher reviews FARMER DALE’S RED PICKUP TRUCK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $7.99, Ages 2 and up) .
Are you ready to take a ride in Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck? (Author Lisa Wheeler has the reader chugging along down a country road in her rhyming board book. Wheeler’s words and Ivan Bates’ illustrations give personality to the farm animals that fill the pages and Farmer Dale’s truck. Until…
Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Ivan Bates, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014.
The truck bounced up. The springs all popped.
The bumper bumped. The pickup stopped.
With the truck broken down on the side of the road, tempers flare. Then, cow, pig, goat, sheep, rooster, and Farmer Dale, work as a team to try to figure out how to get the over-loaded truck moving again. Until…
The pickup bounced and shimmied.
It groaned and squeaked and wheezed.
It spit a thankful cloud of smoke
and started with a sneeze.
The rhyme in this book moved along perfectly, even when the pickup truck didn’t. The illustrations of the anthropomorphized animals were full of life. My favorite part of the book is the ending. Not because I want the book to be over, this is one I’ll read many times over, but because there are even more animals to see and Bates’s illustrations paint a picture worthy of another story.
The Christmas ABC, written by Florence Johnson and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin (A Little Golden Book Classic, $3.99; Ages 2 and up), is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
The Christmas ABC by Florence Johnson with illustrations by Eloise Wilkin, A Little Golden Book Classic, 2013.
Christmas is a time of family gatherings and memories, and the Little Golden Book Classic The Christmas ABC captures that spirit perfectly. Filled with nostalgia, it is a sweet book that harkens to the simple and innocent feel of Christmases past.
A is for Angels looking down from above, Guardians of Heaven that sing of God’s love.
K is for Kitten, so warm and so cozy when Santa comes in, so jolly and rosy.
N is for Neighbors who come over to say, “Merry Christmas to all, what a joyous day!”
Y is for Yuletide, the time for good cheer, When Santa and presents and stockings appear.
The illustrations complement the text with images that are sentimental and cheery. My youngest daughter especially enjoyed picking out the extra details, such as the cookie shapes (tree, reindeer, wreath, and Santa) that adorn the P for plum pudding page. Whether you have a preschooler who’s learning the alphabet or you enjoy a trip down Christmas lane, The Christmas ABC is sure to be a pleaser from A-Z!
Books as Gifts, The Good Reads With Ronna Holiday Gift Guide
Good Night Little Me by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by Mary GrandPré from I See Me! Personalized Children’s Books, www.iseeme.com
Beginning today Good Reads With Ronna will be sharing books we recommend as gift ideas this holiday season including these beautiful personalized children’s books from I See Me! (www.iseeme.com).Order your customized book by Sunday, 12/15/13 and get it in time for Christmas (Continental U.S. only). PLUS:Use the code “goodreads” to get a 15% discount! There are so many cool choices on the site so don’t just take our word for it, go on and check it out.
I was excited to get my review copy of the latest I See Me! personalized storybook in the collection, Goodnight Little Me(the me gets customized to the name of your child) written by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by Mary GrandPré’. You may recognize the latter name since Mary GrandPré was the award-winning illustrator of the Harry Potter® series. Her artwork is cheerful, dreamy and colored with muted blue and purple tones setting just the right mood for a bedtime story. Couple the soothing, sleepy time illustrations with Dewing’s rhythmic parade-themed tale and you’ll have one content child heading off to the land of nod in no time at all.
My copy was entitled Goodnight Little Tyler,and the name Tyler (I don’t know a Tyler, but you might so comment here and you may win a copy!) was incorporated into the story and illustrations over 10 times (samples shown here are from the I See Me! website where Elizabeth is the name used). My kids, with their uncommon names, would have gone wild over a personalized book when they were little, but even if their names had been Michael or Mary, they would have been delighted to see their name printed inside the pages of a such a lovely book. Even the glossy pages feel good to the touch.
“Sail away, sweet Tyler, on silver moonbeams, as the Goodnight Parade marches into your dreams.”
Interior artwork from Goodnight Little Me written by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by Mary GrandPré, I See Me! Personalized Children’s Books, 2013.
I love how the marriage of words, art, plus a youngster’s name can turn a very good bedtime story into a magical celebration of make-believe in a sky filled with all types of friendly looking animals. There are owls, eagles, frogs, mice, bears, sheep, cats, monkeys, and dogs. There are also some very happy looking cows jumping over a rainbow adorned moon as well as Dish and Spoon. As the story comes to a close, the back of the child is seen watching the parade end with an adorable doggie kick line. As your little one sails off to sleep, you’ll be pleased that you chose an I See Me! book to brighten their dreams.
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? by Salina Yoon from Random House Books For Young Readers, 2013.
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 2013.
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 from Candlewick Press, 2013.
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!
Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson with illustrations by Kevan J. Atteberry, Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2013.
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 by Patricia C. McKissack with illustrations by Eric Velasquez, Holiday House, 2013.
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?
NEW PICTURE BOOK FIVE LITTLE MONKEYS: A HALLOWEEN TREAT
Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat by Eileen Christelow from Clarion Books.
Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat byEileen Christelow (Clarion Books, $16.99 Ages 2 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Halloween is here and the silly simians in Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat sure like to monkey around! Mama Monkey sends her little troop out with Lulu, their favorite babysitter, and warns her, “Don’t lose the rascals!” Along their trick-or-treat route, the monkeys meet up with their friends and decide to trick poor Lulu. Who is really behind the alien and goblin masks and underneath the banana, princess, and ghost costumes? Lulu is confused, but does Mama figure out her children’s monkey shines?!
With this installment, Eileen Christelow continues her popular Five Little Monkeys series. As a Halloween treat, three recipes—eyeball cookies, white chocolate frosting, and worm juice—are included. Full of spirit and art that fits the monkeys’ rascally natures just perfectly, this book is frightful fun.
The author of Hug and Duck In The Truck is back with a playful tale of some lucky, plucky little chicks!
Forget the three little pigs and think chicks; five little chicks to be precise, with one on the way. But it isn’t Mother Hen who saves the day.
In author/illustrator Jez Alborough’s Six Little Chicks (Barrons, $6.99, ages 2 and up), “The big bad fox is on the prowl.” And who but the ever alert owl is the first farm friend to sound the fox alarm. Despite all her valiant efforts to keep her offspring safe by having them play close to the chicken hut, Mother Hen must also pay attention to her soon-to-hatch egg. While protecting the egg, Mother Hen hears a “HONK HONK HONK!” from a slightly freaked-out fowl. Goose is warning her that “The big bad fox is on the loose.” After looking all around, Mother Hen must return to the egg.
Told in catchy rhyme, Six Little Chicks will entertain toddlers and pre-schoolers with its repetition of sounds like “click, clack, click,” “peck, peck, peck,” and “cheep, cheep, cheep.” Alborough’s artwork always manages to convey both wit and warmth. The animals’ facial expressions are worth the read alone. And while the tale may be a cautionary one, it’s also one of community because Owl and Goose help fend off the hungry fox from a potential feeding frenzy.
The real stars of the story are the five unassuming, playful, plucky and happy-go-lucky, chicks. They are indeed lucky when you find out how they stick it to the fox just in the nick of time! I’ll give no spoilers here, but I will recommend getting the book, an affordable paperback perfect for Easter, springtime and story time.
Ronna Mandel reviews Picturing The ABCs at the Norton Simon Museum
Published by Norton Simon Museum; Created by the Norton Simon Education Department and Authors Lynn LaBate and Manny Guardado, $15, ages 2 and up.
We are so fortunate to have an abundance of world-class art museums here in Los Angeles. One particular favorite of mine is Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum with its unparalleled former private collection amassed in the 20th century by businessman and visionary Norton Simon.
Now with the publication of Picturing The ABCs, Norton Simon’s first children’s book, parents can watch the world of art come alive for their children while flipping through the 108 pages of this hardbound book. The ABCs serve as an ideal introduction for both parents and children to the museum’s masterpieces and beautifully landscaped grounds. The 26 die-cut pages invite children with an initial peek through the window to then turn the page to view the original artwork in its entirety.
Make the ABCs an interactive experience, too. Choose to visit the museum first and buy the book as a souvenir to view again and again or better still, why not consider getting the book first, familiarizing your youngsters with the art work then planning a day out looking for all the paintings, sculptures and sketches in person?!
I never tire of children’s books that promote the love and appreciation of art in all its forms. You’ll see a wide range of art included from Vasily Kandinsky to Vincent Van Gogh, from the Dutch Masters to Modern Art. Whether you’re a fan of the more common A is for apple or the more unusual R is for ruff, all the selections will entertain and educate, too. Start off the new year with this great new book!
Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles. — Unknown
Ronna Mandel share her notable picks for Christmastime books sure to bring a smile to your children’s faces this holiday season.
Quentin Blake’s A Christmas Carol($16.99, Pavilion Children’s, an imprint of Anova, ages 7–9) by Charles Dickens with illustrations by Quentin Blake, made famous by his legendary illustrations for Roald Dahl. Blake’s inimitable artwork fills this large-bound volume of the classic Scrooge tale that never gets old.
Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman ($17.99, Alfred A. Knopf, ages 5 and up) – watch what ensues when a little village is engulfed in freezing cold weather and residents try to find ways to keep warm. A charming tale to read again and again in front of a toasty fire.
Penguin and Pinecone ($12.99, Walker & Co., ages 4-8) written and illustrated by the prolific and extremely talented Salina Yoon. Yoon is a multi-award winning author/illustrator who continues to delight with books that speak to children in most original ways. If your youngsters are into all things penguins, this heartwarming friendship story will make the perfect present.
Cecil The Pet Glacier ($17.99, Schwartz & Wade Books, ages 4-8) by Matthea Harvey with folky illustrations by Giselle Potter. Pet glacier? Don’t let the unusual title stop you from delving deeper inside because a treasure of tale lies within. I found myself enchanted by the persistence of Cecil to befriend young Ruby. Ruby, initially rejecting the glacier’s offer of friendship, yearns to be like all the other children learns, like I did, not to judge a book by its cover. The message of this uplifting picture book celebrating individuality is one to embrace and share.
Dinosaur vs. Santa, the latest in the series from author/illustrator Bob Shea ($15.99, Disney-Hyperion, ages 2-6) is sure to win over a lot of toddlers who just might picture themselves in place of this roaring red guy! Dinosaur writes a letter to Santa asking for a choo-choo, Dinosaur decorates the tree, Dinosaur makes a surprise for Mom and Dad. And, despite all his rip-roaring antics, including taking a peak when he hears Santa downstairs delivering goodies, Dinosaur wants to remain on Santa’s nice list so off to bed he goes. The bright, bold illustrations only add to this book’s appeal.
Need more ideas? We also recommend the following:
Cowboy Christmas ($10.99, Golden Books, ages 2 and up) by Rob Sanders with illustrations by John Manders.
Together at Christmas ($15.99, Albert Whitman and Company, ages 2 and up) by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Bin Lee.
Santa’s Hat ($16.95, Running Press Kids, ages 4 and up) written and illustrated by Linda Bleck.
Sad Santa ($14.95, Sterling, ages 4 and up) written and illustrated by Tad Carpenter.
A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas($14.95, Sterling, ages 3 and up) by Philip Yates with illustrations by Sebastia Serra
Christmas at the Toy Museum ($15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 3 and up) written and illustrated by David Lucas.
Rabbit’s Snow Dance($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers, ages 3 and up) as told by James & Joseph Bruchac with illustrations by Jeff Newman.
Peppa Pig and the Lost Christmas List($12.99, Candlewick Press, ages 2 and up) from the Nick Jr. TV show created by Neville Astley, Mark Baker and Phil Davies.
A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus ($15.99, Source Books, ages 4- 8) by Susie Schick-Pierce, Jeannie Schick-Jacobowitz and Muffin Drake-Policastro with illustrations by Wendy Wallin Malinow.
A Perfect Day($16.99, Greenwillow Books, ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Carin Berger.