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Countablock by Christopher Franceschelli with art by Peskimo

by Christopher Franceschelli with art by Peskimo
(Abrams Appleseed, 2014, $16.95; ages 1-3)

AlphablockcvrCountablock by Christopher Franceschelli is no ordinary counting book. Of course, it has numbers 1-10 and then highlights 20, 30, 40 and so on until 100. It features fun objects to count, such as snowmen, heads of hair, baskets of cucumbers, and popsicles. Each main number is represented in words and a die-cut numeral over a double two-page spread. For example, we see forty eggs become [turn the page] thirty nine chicks and one dinosaur. Ninety kernels of corn become [turn the page] ninety pieces of popcorn.

However, the real delight is in the incredible artwork by the husband and wife design duo, Peskimo. The art has a retro/vintage style that nevertheless feels fresh. Cute expressions and cheery colors will appeal to both adults and children. Number 100 is treated to a double gatefold that is replete with characters from the previous numbers and lots of jigsaw puzzle pieces.

This companion to Alphablock has earned a starred review from the School Library Journal and positive reviews from Kirkus Reviews and the New York Times. Sturdily built with thick pages and strong covers, this book should be able to withstand the little hands that will want to explore it again and again. It will make a great gift for the preschooler in your life.

– Reviewed by Rita Zobayan

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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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What Shall I Wear Today?

Debbie Glade finds a picture book that suits her.

After your child reads Get Dressed! ($12.95, Abrams Appleseed, Ages 4-8) by Seymour Chwast, you’ll likely never have to hound her to get dressed again. Before even opening the sturdy cover, readers are sure to be excited to see what’s in store.
It looks like a shirt and tie and has two flaps that open like a jacket to reveal lots more. Each page is a tri-fold made from thick card stock featuring a collection of clothing and props on the outside cover of each spread, with a theme on the inside. For example, a hat, backpack, coat, snow boots, scarf, earmuffs and mittens leads to a wonderful illustration called, “Get dressed to keep warm,” showcasing each of those items.

After one reading, you’ll agree this book really encourages your kids to use their imaginations. It will make them want to hunt through their own closets to put outfits, toys and household items together to create themes for playing make believe. The illustrations are fun and cute and really make this book special.

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