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Jez Alborough’s Six Little Chicks

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.

barronseduc_2253_5471420In 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.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Begin The Year With Artful ABCs

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.

Norton Simon ABCs CoverNow 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!

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Christmas & Winter Themed Picture Books Roundup

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.

51ICC4OuGHL._SL500_AA300_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.

61KzPfwFodL._SL500_AA300_Julie Andrews’ Treasury For All Season: Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year ($19.99, Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, ages 6-18) by Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton with illustrations by the incomparable Marjorie Priceman. A second marvelous anthology from a most beloved and consummate performer that is sure to keep the entire family entertained.

9780802728432Penguin 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.

9780375867736Cecil 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.

517jguTOydL._SL500_AA300_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.

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Not Always What They Seem

Debbie Glade reviews two little books by Jim Averbeck that teach us that things are not always what they seem…

EIExcept If  ($12.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Ages 2 and up) is an extremely creative little book (with a big idea) that begins with a simple egg. Will it become a baby bird? Perhaps, except if it becomes a baby snake, or perhaps something else. Author Jim Averbeck taps into the youngest readers’ imaginations and shows them that things are not always what they seem.

What I like about this story is that it opens up the youngest readers’ minds to different possibilities – a lesson they can utilize in many aspects of their lives. Also the big, colorful, illustrations are delightful and will put smiles from ear to ear on every reader’s face.

Oh No, Little Dragon($14.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Ages 2 and up) is a ONLDstory with a theme all children can relate to. Meet Little Dragon who, after taking a bath, can no longer breathe fire. No matter how hard he tries, he just cannot make fire come out of his mouth. Without fire, Little Dragon fears his mommy will no longer love him.  Hasn’t everyone experienced that fear at one time or another? In this toddler tale, as in Except If, things are not always what they seem. Here Little Dragon learns that no matter what mischief he may make, his mommy’s love will last come what may.

This picture book is ultra charming, colorful, captivating and has a heartwarming message, too. The simple illustrations are just as enchanting as the story, and in the end I found myself reading it again. And so will you!

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All Treat, No Trick Halloween Giveaway Part 2

Did you read yesterday’s post when we introduced a fun fall giveaway? In order to be eligible to win, go back and check out yesterday’s review and then, after reading today’s as well, enter if you dare. You just might be the winner of over $150 worth of Halloween books!

Halloween’s just 22 days away! And to get the excitement brewing, we’re giving away a bunch of books for boys and ghouls (and one for parents as well) to enjoy before their big night out. Scroll to the bottom for more info after reading all the reviews.

Vampirina Ballerina writtten ($14.99, Disney/Hyperion Books, ages 2-6) by Anne Marie Pace with pictures by LeUyen Pham, is wicked and whimsical with arabesques and a twist. Pace takes a typical budding ballerina tale and turns it on its head in the best possible way! Add the plethora of vampiralicious puns coupled with killer artwork from the ever talented Pham, and this ballerina picture book rises above the others, or should I say flies, soars and sweeps? If Vampirina just follows her mom’s advice (remembering not to turn into a bat or trip on her cape to name a few), she’ll achieve her goal. Fangs a lot for this fab read.

The Secret History of Hobgoblins ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 8 and up) by Professor Ari Berk had me at Hob! I have been fascinated by the lore of of these little folk since falling for J.K. Rowling’s Dobby so it came as no surprise that I found myself studying every last word on each elaborate page. The old-world style in which the book is presented will no doubt capture your child’s attention as it did mine. Full of detailed artwork in color and black and white, fold-out spreads, flaps to flip and facts to glean, The Secret History of Hobgoblins (is that a tongue twister?) fascinates as it entertains. We learn from the book’s opening that the Secret Folk (who thrive on hospitality and domestic order) are sharing their privately held practices with us in order to “herald a swift return to the hospitable practices of the past.” Hear! Hear! Learn about where they live, what their spells and charms are and how to peacefully cohabit with them. Frankly, while I could really use a hobgoblin at home, I must resign myself to just reading about them in Berk’s engaging new book.

The Monster Alphabet ($7.99, Price, Stern, Sloan, ages 3-7) by Michael P. Spradlin and illustrated by Jeff Weigel provides a field day for monster hunters like narrator Morgan Marvin Marshall. This intrepid traveler will take children around the world searching for monsters from A-Z. There’s the Abominable Snowman hiding in the mountains of Nepal, the Ogre found “most everywhere” and Zombies (aka living dead) who will “eat the brains straight from your head,” and Spradlin’s monster hunting Marshall will find them all. Now I am not sure I want to read this to a 3-year-old at bedtime, but with the light-hearted illustrations that definitely don’t scare, I certainly would not hesitate to illuminate my little one about gargoyles, hydras and imps around Halloween. And it’s told in uncomplicated rhyme, too. Kids may even find a bit of costume inspiration from Weigel’s artwork. Bonus feature: For each alphabet letter illustrated, there are 3 hidden objects beginning with the same letter to be found on every page.

Haunted Castle ($15.95, AZBooks, ages 5 and up) by Nadezhda Shumovich is the perfect Halloween book for pop-up book fans. It’s Halloween night in a small village where threesome Nick, little Alex and Kristy find themselves bored after their local trick or treating is soon finished. Kristy suggests they visit the castle at the forest’s edge for some more exciting entertainment. Who should greet them when they arrive but a vampire butler along with a slew of other costumed party goers or so they think! It’s not until they notice no mirror reflections of these dressed up ghouls that the kids realize they might be the biggest treat at this gathering. Some quick thinking saves the trio but not before readers get to share the spooking with REALLY SCARY SOUNDS in this sound effects and “Nightmarish 3D” book.

Duck & Goose Find A Pumpkin ($10.99, Schwartz & Wade Books, ages 2 and up) is yet another delightful board book for the preschool set and for story time by author/illustrator Tad Hills. The pages are large and durable, the art is adorable, bright and inviting and the story is just simple enough for your littlest reader. Duck and Goose go in search of a pumpkin after they see the one Thistle has found. It’s not long before the pair are looking in a log, a pile of leaves, up in an apple tree, in a pond, on top of a stump all for naught! But with Thistle’s help, perhaps the pair’s luck will change. Learn more about this award-winning author and his other Duck & Goose books by clicking here.

It wouldn’t be Halloween without mentioning the always popular Scream Street series, Book #7, Invasion of The Normals ($5.99, Candlewick, ages 8-10) by Tommy Donbavand available in paperback. As the first page professes, “The fiendish fun continues at” so what are you waiting for kids?  This is an ideal choice for reluctant readers with short chapters, imaginative illustrations and even free collectors’ cards inside the back cover! Take a walk down this street, but you’ve been warned! Something strange is going on and it could be NORMAL!

On Monday, October 8 and then again on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 we’re reviewing and/or briefly mentioning books that we’ve read recently then giving them away the following week! So **read both posts before entering. And guess what? If  you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to by midnight on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all 11 books covered (worth a value of $153.77) just in time for Halloween!! Remember to write Halloween Book Giveaway in the subject line.  **YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED IN THE 2 BLOGS as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day!! Click here now for more detailed rules. Good luck!

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Picture Book Review & Giveaway Day 3


Today is Day 3 of our picture book giveaway worth over $130, and the theme we’ve chosen is Learning.

Monday, September 10, through Wednesday, September 12, 2012 of this week we’ll be reviewing and/or briefly mentioning picture books that we’ve read recently then giving them away! And guess what? If  you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to by Monday, September 24, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all books covered!! Remember to write Picture Book Giveaway in the subject line.  **YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED ALL 3 DAYS as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day!! One lucky winner will receive eight hardcover books worth a total retail value of $136.88!  We’re making it SO easy for you to get your kids reading again this back-to-school season. And isn’t that priceless?  The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Monday, September 24, 2012 and a winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Click here now for rules. Good luck!

Green ($16.99, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, ages  2-6) written and illustrated by Caldecott Honor Book and Geisel Honor Book awardee, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, will make you and your children think about green in a whole exciting new way. I’m in the process of repainting both the interior and exterior of my home and since green is one of my two favorite colors (the other is purple), I just knew I would be wild about this book. And speaking of wild, of course there’s jungle green, forest green, sea green, lime green and pea green covered. But what really works so well is how there’s a deliberate die cut on every spread which little ones will love looking through. Add to that how they’ll enjoy talking about a certain surprise they may notice when peering through to a different page to find moths flitting near a fern or the delicious looking red apples on a tree, or the word khaki hidden in tall grass.  Here’s a great book of discovery for youngsters that is ideal to use as inspiration for creating their own picture book or work of art.

My Pop-Up World Atlas ( $18.99, Templar Books, ages 5-8) by Anita Ganeri and Stephen Waterhouse is a book right up reviewer Debbie Glade’s alley. She’d loves promoting geography to kids and here’s a book that would make doing so all the more fun. Who doesn’t love a pop-up book?  Travel around the globe from the comfort of your sofa as you learn facts, check out maps, lift flaps, pull tabs, spin wheels. There are so many thing to do on every page to keep a child glued to this book. 

**Recap – To be eligible for the giveaway: 

1. Read our blog this week
2. Like us on Facebook
3. Send us an email to by Monday, September 24, 2012. Write “Picture Book Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, write:
a. The names of all the books mentioned in our blog posts from Monday September 10 through Wednesday September 12, 2012.
b. Your name
c. Phone number
d. Address
A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
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Big Beautiful Bugs!

Debbie Glade gets all bug-eyed about an enthralling kids’ book.

I absolutely love insects and cannot seem to read enough books about them! Step Gently Out ($15.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 2 and up) is an uncomplicated, captivating and delightful book about bugs. The story is actually a lovely poem by Helen Frost, wonderfully complemented by Rick Lieder’s incredible photographs. You’ve never seen such close-ups and details of insects as these! Each photo features a different creature with a magically misty background of that insect’s habitat. Your child will enjoy taking his or her time to study each picture. In the back of the book you’ll find more information about each insect featured in the poem, making the story both poetic and educational.

I admire the way the author and photographer turn insects into something so beautiful. The book is an ideal way to introduce young children to the world of entomology. Step Gently Out would make a wonderful gift for any child.

Click here to watch Candlewick’s amazing trailer video about the book.

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Fridays Featuring Flintridge – Picture Books

Catherine Linka shares her picks of …


When I choose new picture books to carry in the store, I may select five out of fifty the publisher shows me. I try to choose books that kids will want to hear over and over, and that parents won’t mind reading forty, fifty or a hundred times. 

I look for great characters, and wonderful, perhaps wacky artwork. I look for books that are fun for adults to read aloud, because the language is rhythmic or because there’s a chorus kids can join in on. I love books where children find surprises hiding in the artwork that adults might miss. And I adore books that make children laugh.

Picture books are made to be shared between an adult and a child. Even after children can read on their own, they will often return to a favorite picture book for the memory of togetherness with someone they love.

Here are some fun, new titles you may not have seen yet.

THIS MONSTER NEEDS A HAIRCUT by Bethany Barton ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers)

Stewart is a young monster who’s afraid that if he gets a haircut, he won’t be scary so he won’t get it cut. His dad wants Stewart to get a haircut, because things keep disappearing into Stewart’s out-of-control locks. Wacky artwork that both boys and girls will adore. Great for ages 3-5 years.

THE REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BIG DINOSAUR by Richard Byrne (   Tiger Tales Books

Kids will laugh at Jackson the dinosaur who protects his jar of jelly beans from a larger dinosaur by claiming the beans belong to his friend. The bullying dino tries every trick to get Jackson to turn over the candy, but in the end Jackson and his friend turn the bully around. Lively, perfect read aloud for adults who love to act out books. Ages 2-4 years.

ABC ZOOBORNS by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland ($12.99, Beach Lane Books)

Fans of the outrageously cute photography in the original ZOOBORNS will swoon over the new ABC ZOOBORNS. One look at the minute koala on the cover and you’ll be hooked. From A is for Anteater to Z is for Zebra, ZOOBORNS is adorable. Ages 2 and up.

1-2-3 PEAS by Keith Baker ($16.99, Beach Lane Books)

You may already know Baker’s LMNO PEAS alphabet book. 1-2-3- PEAS has the same infectiously charming artwork. Peas in hats and glasses and tutus help readers count up to ten and then one hundred. Fun, engaging, repeating text with lots of hidden details to engage children in the art. Ages 3-5 years.

SQUID AND OCTOPUS: FRIENDS FOR ALWAYS by Tao Nyeu ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers) 

Squid and Octopus are friends, but even friends disagree sometimes. Three short gentle and loving stories show how friends explore the world together. Charming artwork, and silly jokes. Ages 3-5 years.

Please visit the Flintridge Bookstore today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads  and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Also visit the website at to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events.

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Rotten Days and Toddlers’ Ways

Rita Zobayan is today’s reviewer.

When I first read My No, No, No Day! by Rebecca Patterson ($16.99, Viking, ages 2 and up), I burst into commiserative laughter. This story rings true for anyone who has raised a toddler or has seen a toddler in full-fledged fit. Bella, l’enfant terrible, is not having a good morning. Her baby brother, Bob, has gotten into her room and licked her jewelry, and that is only the beginning of a very bad day for Bella, Bob and their enduring mother.

Patterson has a talent for capturing the experiences, discontent and language of young children. As one thing after another upsets Bella, she expresses her anger in that special way that only young children can.  Then I came downstairs and I saw that egg. I cried and cried and said, I can’t eat that! And Mommy said, “You could eat it last week. Look at Bob eating his mashed banana.” After the terrible egg I didn’t like my shoes either. So I took them off all by myself, shouting, No shoes! And then we had to go shopping and Mommy said, “Please stop all that wriggling, Bella.” But I couldn’t stop wriggling and in the end I shouted, Get me out!

Patterson is also the book’s illustrator and does a great job of depicting the situations and facial expressions that parents dread: a toddler having a tantrum in public and lying on the floor; the tearful, angry, pinched face of the toddler; the annoyed or sympathetic faces of onlookers; and so on. Patterson does an especially nice job of adding expressions to the plush toys and animals that witness Bella’s bad day.

 I read this 32-page book to my three-year-old daughter while she was in the throes of a tantrum. After a few minutes, she stopped her crying and yelling, and settled down to hear about Bella’s battles. As we read along, I asked my daughter about Bella’s behavior and what she thought of it. Through her tear-streaked face, she replied and recognized that Bella was “grumpy,” and that she was “having a hard day.” We then talked about why my daughter was also having a hard day. The ability of children to recognize other children’s behavior reflected in their own is a wonderful learning tool and My No, No, No Day! does a great job of facilitating that. 

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A Board Book That Teaches Opposites in a Big Way

Hippopposites ($14.95, Abrams/Appleseed, ages 2 and up) written and illustrated by Janik Coat is reviewed by Ingrid Vanessa Olivas.

Hippopposites is a bright and sturdy board book that my 3-year-old daughter, Penelope, immediately gravitated to. If you are looking for a way to introduce or explain what opposites are to your toddler, then Janik Coat does a great job of explaining this concept. The cover alone has an eye catching red hippo that she uses throughout the book.  Her illustrations are simple but effective. Each opposite word has its own page so there is no room for confusion. The word small would be on one side and large on the other and, as an added bonus, I even changed my voice to add more drama. A squeaky voice for small and a deep booming voice for large. My daughter just LOVED this!

Author Coat even adds texture to depict soft and rough so that you may feel this pair of opposites. Great touch, no pun intended. And everyone knows when you add something you can feel kids love it, just like mine did! I especially enjoyed her choice of opposites: invisible, visible, positive, negative, free, caged, alone and together. My daughter wanted me to read this book over and over again. Of course I did not mind, but what brought chills to me was when she started actually using the words. As parents and educators, there’s nothing that gives us more satisfaction, than when our children start using words in the correct context. Overall Janik Coat did a terrific job of getting the ball rolling with opposites so much so that you automatically want to think of more. Less. Good-bye. Hello.  Keep the clever conversation going with this great new book for youngsters.

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Elmo’s Havin’ a Party

Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash!–A Step into Reading App ($3.99Sesame Workshop and Random House Children’s Books, ages 2 and up*)  is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

NOTE: *The iPad rating is for 4+, but I believe a child two years and older can benefit from this app.

            My three-year-old daughter is like most of Generation Z: she understands technology at a very early age. She knows the basics of how touch screens work, understands that the blue bar means loading and knows that devices have to be charged. She’s also very aware of apps, and even has her particular favorites. Despite her growing technological sophistication, however, she is still a young child who loves cuddling up next to Mama and being read to. She still believes that characters from books (and television/movies) are real, and actively uses those media to engage her own imagination.

            Enter Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash! !–A Step into Reading App, an iPad application that is an interactive storybook. This easy-to-use educational app centers on Elmo’s birthday party. It’s an immediate hook, really. After all, which child doesn’t want to see what’s going to happen at Elmo’s party? We follow along as Sesame Street’s very own Bob McGrath narrates how Elmo prepares for his party and invites his friends, who, in turn, brainstorm thoughtful gifts. And, of course, we get to join in the birthday fun along with Abby, Big Bird, Zoe, Cookie Monster and more of our favorite Sesame Street residents!

As we read, my daughter and I enjoyed the story’s features. Each page had something enjoyable, such as changing Elmo’s drawings, moving refrigerator magnets, and my daughter’s favorite, of course, tickling Elmo.  The words were highlighted as we followed the narration. All words, once touched, pop up and are pronounced. Words bolded in red have a pop-up text box, a verbal definition and follow-up question. For example, following the definition of dish, Bob asks, “What is your favorite birthday dish?” These seemingly small touches made it so easy to personalize the story for my daughter. She wasn’t passively viewing Elmo’s birthday, but was actively thinking about and imagining her own.

In addition to the story, there are three games. The first consists of placing the invitations into the correct mailboxes and promotes letter identification. The second game has the reader match Elmo’s gifts with their beginning sounds. In the final game, the reader helps rhyme the content of Elmo’s dream because he loves to “dream in rhyme.” The games alone held my daughter captive for extended periods of time because they were fun and simple to play. Over and over, she moved the invitations into the mailboxes, checking to see which letters matched and reading the letters out loud.  I loved seeing how proud she was as she announced, “I did it!”

            The piece de resistance for me was the ability to record the story in my own voice. Now, I’m no David Attenborough, Oprah Winfrey or Bob McGrath, but, boy, did I enjoy trying to be. Even my older daughter, who is far removed from the Sesame Street age group, got in on the act, snuck away the iPad and recorded the story for her younger sister to listen to!

            The app has more features, including a “Parent Info” section that provides reading tips and parent tips. There’s a help section that includes a screen shot with story page explanations and the settings menu features. These are handy guides because the app has a lot going on, and the guides made it easier to make sure I wasn’t missing any of the many components.  (Unlike my daughters, I’m not so technologically sophisticated. My older daughter figured out the recording feature before I did!)

            Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash! !–A Step into Reading App impressed both of my daughters and me. It’s silly, good fun that promotes literacy via technology. What more could a former English teacher ask for her Gen Z kids?

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Utterly Lovely One

Today’s review is by Krista Jefferies

Utterly Lovely One ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 2 and up) by author-illustrator Mary Murphy is a simple declaration of a mother’s love.  This isn’t exactly a story, but more of a lesson from a mama bird to her baby that while there are countless lovely creatures in the world, hers is the loveliest of them all.  It is a mantra that every parent can relate to, as well as any aunt, uncle, or grandparent who has a little one to adore.  Though I have no children of my own, I easily feel this way about my nieces and nephews who, to me, are obviously the most wonderful children in the world—of course, I am biased, but aren’t we all when it comes to the little angels who tug at our hearts.  While some may criticize this book for not having a proper storyline, I believe it tells the oldest and most relevant story of all—the story of love and devotion.  It also sends a positive message to children that all kids are special in their own way, and everyone is loved by someone.

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Give Peas A Chance

Peas on Earth ($6.99, Robin Corey Books, ages 0-3) by L.A. local Todd H. Doodler is reviewed today by Krista Jefferies. For her bio, please visit our homepage.

Peas on Earth is an adorable board book by Todd H. Doodler, a pseudonym for author and artist Todd Harris Goldman.  This is an easy-to-handle book that will entertain young children while teaching them the value of peace on Earth.  The author plays with the word “peas” to show how everyone should get along like “two peas in a pod” or like “peanut butter and jelly,” which is an uplifting and positive message for children.  This story blends learning and fun with every color-filled page. Because of the playful artwork, children might not even realize that they are absorbing a valuable lesson, but their parents will certainly appreciate both the images and the intent. The book illustrates a world in which even ants would say, “Bless you!” to an anteater’s sneeze, and elephants and mice would “share their cheese.” The cheerful faces throughout the book happily lead up to the delightful pop-up at the end, which children will enjoy getting to over and over again.  This book is sure to appease any young reader!

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God’s Creations

All Creatures Great and Small, illustrated by Naoko Stoop ($6.95, Sterling Children’s Books, ages 2 and up), is reviewed by the newest book lover on this site, Rita Zobayan. See her bio on our homepage.

I have a certain affinity for the Anglican hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” As a child growing up in London, I often heard this hymn sung during church service, on BBC period pieces, and on English television staple, Songs of Praise. Therefore, when I saw Naoko Stoop’s board book, All Creatures Great and Small, I was excited to take it home and share it with my daughters.

This children’s picture book version of the 1800’s hymn features a young girl and her monkey. The reader follows the pair as they observe and interact with the wonders of God’s creations: animals, flowers, landscapes and seasons. Stoop’s simple but charming illustrations infused with rich and warm hues invite the reader into the pictures, which look as if they have been painted on to a subtle wood grain background. My three-year-old daughter greatly enjoyed pointing to the pictures and naming the actions and animals.

At 20 pages, the book has readability. If you are familiar with the hymn, you can sing the verses and the refrain, which starts and ends the book. Luckily for the musically challenged (such as myself), young children are often forgiving of an out-of-tune, pitchy rendition when it’s sung by their parents. My daughters didn’t seem to mind my off-key warbling. I’m sure the book’s charm provided the sufficient distraction.

All Creatures Great and Small is a great fit for parents who are looking for an easy to understand, faith-based book to present to their young children.


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