Skip to content

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. 

Share this:

Read With Me, Please

Read with Me: Best Books for Preschoolers by Stephanie Zvirin is reviewed by Krista Jefferies.

In her book, Read with Me: Best Books for Preschoolers ($18.95, Huron Street Press), Stephanie Zvirin offers parents numerous helpful tips to encourage their children to read, along with a comprehensive catalog of kid-friendly books. Zvirin, an editor for the American Library Association (ALA), provides insight about the types of books that are appropriate for each age group and how to share the experience of reading with children at the various stages of their early lives. 

This book is logically organized, each chapter building on the previous one like adding train cars to a locomotive on this journey to literacy.  Each list of suggested reading is alphabetically ordered, and filled with a variety of books for both boys and girls.  Among Zvirin’s recommendations for infants and toddlers are books that include bright colors and vibrant pictures, subjects that include everything from animals to sports, stories that teach anything from opposites to counting (in English and Spanish), and multi-cultural characters that expand a child’s scope of the world.  Her lists for older children, ages 4-8, include books that adhere to a child’s growing sense of the world, offering themes like family, friendship, nature, and make believe.

This book is a great tool for parents, but it’s also useful for family members, friends, daycare providers, and anyone else with an opportunity to read to kids. I recognized strategies I’ve used with my nieces and nephews, and even my students while reading aloud with them, such as changing inflection to capture characters’ voices or to show enthusiasm.  There are also plenty more to try out in the future, simple tips that make reading a constant fixture in a child’s life.  I plan to pass this book along to a friend who has recently mentioned he’d like to read more with his children but doesn’t really know where to start.  This is a terrific starting point for any parent, and Zvirin’s advices don’t stop here—the final pages offer an array of reputable resources for reading guides and book blogs that will connect anyone to the wide world of words. 

Share this:

Bye-Bye Bully Bye-Bye!

Freda Stops a Bully, ($6.95, Charlesbridge Publishing, ages 3-6) written by Stuart J. Murphy and illustrated by Tim Jones, is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

How many of you remember the schoolyard bully? You know, the kid who made fun of maybe you, perhaps your friend, or maybe someone you didn’t know.  How many of you wish you’d known what to do about or say to that kid? With bullying incidences being highlighted more and more often these days, preparing our young children with strategies to seek help against bullying has become increasingly important.

As part of Stuart J. Murphy’s “I See I Learn” series, Freda Stops a Bully provides relatable, simple and straightforward tips to help young children handle a bully. The story centers on Freda who likes to wear her pink shoes and Max who calls her “funny feet.”  Freda and her friends try various methods to deal with Max and his name calling. As they try each of the methods, we see what works and what doesn’t. At 28 pages, the book is long enough to cover the story and short enough to keep young readers engaged.

Presented in fun, comic-style illustrations, the book features animal characters situated at home, school and the park. Freda seeks assistance from the primary adult figures in young children’s’ lives: parent and teacher. These familiar settings and adults will help young readers understand and relate to Freda’s predicament.

The end of the book features a review of the four “what to do about a bully” strategies and provides five discussion points/activities for a child to engage in with a parent/teacher. Useful both at home and in a classroom, Freda Stops a Bully provides a good starting point for helping children identify and deal with bullying.

Editor’s Note:  We all know that sadly, bullying is not limited to the playground. With summer around the corner, children may encounter similar situations at a camp, park, vacation getaway or even summer school. Use this book as a gentle way to approach the topic and begin a meaningful conversation.

Share this:

Make Time to be a Kid!

Just the title, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister ($16.95, Flashlight Press, ages 5 and up) made me want to read this book. Written by Linda Ravin Lodding, this is a story written as much for parents as it is for kids.

Ernestine is a typical girl, who likes to play like other kids her age. But Ernestine’s parents have so many activities scheduled for her, that there is no time for fun. Between school homework, sculpting class, ballet, tuba, karate and even yodeling and knitting lessons, Ernestine hasn’t a minute of free time.

One afternoon, Ernestine’s tells her nanny that she is going to the park and refuses to go to her planned extracurricular lessons. What do you suppose happens when Ernestine’s yodeling teacher reports to Mr. and Mrs. Buckmeister that their daughter is missing from class?

In this age of overachieving children and over-parenting parents, this book teaches a valuable lesson – that kids are kids, and they need their playtime. In addition to the wonderful storyline, you and your child will love the fabulously creative and colorful illustrations by Suzanne Beaky as much as I do.

If you are the type of parent who over-schedules your children’s activities, this book will make you see things in a new and brighter light. You’ll want to take your child and run through a park, throw a ball or just sit on a blanket and look up at the clouds together. Ernestine Buckmeister teaches you there’s simply no better way to spend your time.

Share this:

Buy Me! Get Me! I Want! aka The Toddler Chant

Karen B. Estrada reviews Betty Bunny Wants Everything

Although I’m still just on the brink of becoming a parent, my husband and I both try to promise ourselves, however foolishly, that we will not spoil our children. We want to teach them the value of money and that they cannot have everything they want, but neither of us have yet to have the experience of shopping with a clever child who is able to talk her way into getting what she wants. Michael Kaplan’s Betty Bunny is a “handful” who believes this moniker is a compliment. In Betty Bunny Wants Everything ($16.99, Dial Books, ages 3 and up), when Betty’s mother tells her she can get just one item from the toy store, she instead goes wild, filling up the card with oodles of toys. Kaplan perfectly describes a child’s mindset: “She didn’t know what any of these things were or what she might do with them, but she knew she had to have them.” Betty’s mother tries the line all parents have used at some point,“You can’t have everything you want,” but Betty insists it is her mother who does not understand. Betty wants these things, and she does not see why she cannot have what she wants. While feisty Betty’s three older siblings watch in disbelief, each of them having chosen just one toy, Betty continues to pile the cart high with things until her mother finally pays for the toys for Betty’s siblings, picks Betty up, and walks out of the store leaving Betty’s cart full of treasures behind. Betty kicks and screams and cries the whole way home.

Stephanie Jorisch’s bright watercolor illustrations move us through the store to the stages of a toddler’s tantrum as Betty sits sulking in a green chair covered in cloverleafs, hoping her father will see her side and tell her mom that she was mean. Instead, Betty’s parents take her back to the store and give her some money to buy whatever she wishes. I love the way Kaplan interjects subtle sarcasm that only a parent will pick up on throughout the narrative of this book while simultaneously telling the story of a very precocious child who is always trying to outsmart her parents. Betty is not a brat, but a typical lovable toddler who is no longer fooled at her parent’s tricks and has already learned how to work the system; but Betty’s parents are wise as well, and they tailor their parenting tactics in order to continue trying to teach Betty valuable lessons. Betty Bunny Wants Everything is a great read for any parent who has ever taken a child shopping—and what parent has not had to say “no” to his child and risk that unending tantrum which draws the eyes of other shoppers? This book will bring a smile to the face of the parents while teaching a child that lesson we are always trying to get across—things cost money, and money does not grow on trees (at least that’s the line my parents always used). Trying to educate children about financial smarts and the value of money can’t begin too early, so why not take a page from Betty Bunny’s parents and let this book help you in educating your child the next time you take her shopping.

Share this:

The Kid Dictionary Spells it Like it is For Parents

Mom-to-be Karen B. Estrada weighs in on this play-on-words paperback perfect for parents.

Although I won’t be a parent for a few more weeks, I have enough nieces and nephews to appreciate the humor (and accuracy) of the many creative words in Eric Ruhalter’s The Kid Dictionary: Hilarious Words to Describe the Indescribable Things Kids Do ($9.99, Sourcebooks, recommended for adults). Ruhalter seems to have a clever word to describe every quirky thing children do as well as the parental responses to normal childlike behavior. My husband and I have already practiced “maddress (mad-DRES) v: to refer to a child by his first and middle name in a stern voice, thus denoting that he’s about to get in trouble.”  Don’t all parents do this when running through a list of names, just to see what sounds best in a scolding tone? You know you have a good first-middle name combination when they roll off the tongue dripping with intimidation and unspoken threats of punishment. And as a child myself, I remember plenty of fights with my younger brother over who would get to push the elevator buttons. What is it about pushing the buttons and watching them light up that is oh-so-satifying? Well, Eric Ruhalter may not have the answer to that question, but he does have a word for it: “uptitude.” I’ve also been guilty of “yupping (YUH-ping) v: to acknowledge what your two-year old is communicating to you when you have no idea what he’s trying to say.” In fact, I have two, two-year old nieces who both love to jabber. One is particularly proficient at speaking to my husband and me on the phone, but there is certainly a lot of “yupping” that goes on from my end when having a conversation with her.

The Kid Dictionary by Eric Ruhalter is a great coffee-table book to give to any parent or soon-to-be parent, or to just keep for yourself for those days you need a laugh. Leave it laying around the house where you can pick it up and browse through a few words, and I bet you’ll find yourself saying, “my child did that today!” or perhaps, “that is exactly how I reacted!” Ruhalter’s collection of words lets parents know they are not alone in dealing with the frustrations of raising a child and helps to lighten the mood when incidents leave you feeling like somewhat less than parent of the year. So grab a copy of The Kids Dictionary and give it to a parent you know who could use an occasional laugh amidst all the stress of parenthood!

Share this:
Back To Top