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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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Divorce From A Kid’s Perspective

Living with Mom and Living with Dad (15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 3 and up) written and illustrated Melanie Walsh is a picture book that does such an extraordinary job explaining the delicate subject of divorce from the point of view of a child.

In the book Walsh introduces a little girl who deals with living in two separate houses – one with mom and one with dad, but still manages to call them both home. I love, love, love how Walsh uses insert flip pages in her illustrations to depict life with mom and then FLIP, she depicts life with dad.

She cleverly starts off at mom’s house with the pink door then FLIP, she’s at the top floor of dad’s apartment. She continues to show us her rooms – yellow walls at mom’s house and FLIP, she has flowery wall paper at dad’s. Walsh even addresses the little girl’s fear of the dark and how her needs are met by showing us that at mom’s she has a cute panda night light and FLIP at dad’s she has a string of butterfly lights.

Reviewed by Ingrid Vanessa Olivas.

Life should not end because of divorce. I am proud of the mom and dad in this book and how they still do activities with their daughter – camping with dad and visiting a farm with mom. As a teacher sometimes we are faced with having to ask both parents to attend a school play and seeing them both there is heartwarming.

Finally, Walsh even shows us that it’s okay to miss one parent when with the other. Bringing a backpack with a few favorite toys, looking at photo albums or simply making a phone call can ease that heart ache. At the end of the book readers will find a photo gallery of pictures of different family members who love the little girl. What a cool idea and one that anyone can easily implement at home. I adore this book and I can’t wait to read it to my new Kindergarten class this year because, while it’s sad to say that some of them are going through divorce, it will be nice to show them a simple, comforting storybook dealing with this sensitive subject.

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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. 

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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.

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Why a Baby Needs a Mommy

Instructions: Find Heartstrings and pull

Mom-to-be Karen B. Estrada weighs in on a heartwarming book for new and expectant moms just like her!

Being at the very end of my pregnancy may make me vulnerably susceptible to anything having to do with babies, but Gregory E. Lang’s words of wisdom in Why a Baby Needs a Mommy ($14.99, Sourcebooks, recommended for adults),  pulled at my heartstrings. Adorned with Janet Lankford-Moran’s touching photographs of babies, often with their parents, Lang’s book offers its readers 100 reminders from a baby to its parents such as “I need you to stimulate my mind. I want to be as smart as you are.” Some of the reminders may seem obvious, but many of them are subtle reminders to parents that a baby is not yet capable of reasoning, mechanics, and understanding the way we are, and that it takes patience, compassion, and selflessness to raise a child.

Lang begins his story with a thorough introduction explaining his motivation for writing this book, namely that there were many times in the rearing of his own daughter when he and his wife wished some manual for being a perfect parent existed to assist them in the adventures of parenting. Lang’s hope in writing Why A Baby Needs a Mommy is “to give new parents, and especially moms, most often the primary caregiver, nurturer, and teacher, a glimpse of what they should know about and do for their children.” His words of wisdom, from the innocent lips of a baby, do provide parents with gentle guidance—not so much about what to do or not do, but about what a baby needs and what we as parents may occasionally forget. Why A Baby Needs a Mommy is a book I will leave laying around my home so that, once my baby comes, I can flip through it—particularly on those challenging days when I feel like giving up—and have Lankford-Moran’s charming photography and Lang’s words of encouragement remind me that no parent is perfect, but we are all doing the best we know how. 

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Welcome to Ladybug Lane

Krista Jefferies reviews The House at the End of Ladybug Lane 

I don’t know a child who has not asked, if not begged, his or her parents for a pet.  Some parents would be fine with having a pet in the house, but not the obsessively neat parents of Angelina Neatolini in Elise Primavera’s The House at the End of Ladybug Lane ($16.99, Robin Corey Books, ages 4 and up).  While Angelina’s parents are known for “vacuuming the grass” and “polishing the flowers,” Angelina is quite the opposite with her naturally untidy ways. Although her parents refuse to give her a pet, Angelina still begs for one and even wishes for one as she gazes at the stars that, to her, look like animal constellations.  Her plea is answered as a magical ladybug appears on Angelina’s windowsill to grant the little girl her wish. However, the ladybug mishears Angelina and instead of giving her a pet, she conjures up a pest, who makes a mess of the house while creating delicious culinary treats. Every request Angelina makes is misinterpreted as something else. Illustrations by Valeria Docampo help tell the tale with large, detailed images that pull readers into the story as every creature that enters the house turns it upside. This quirky, hard-of-hearing ladybug is a mix of Cinderella’s fairy godmother and the Cat in the Hat, and the mishaps that result are troublesome but tickling. The story does culminate in a happy ending for Angelina, in which her parents accept her for who she is—a good lesson for parents as well as kids.  This is a fun read for any child, just be ready for them to ask for a pet afterward!

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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!

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