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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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One Wedding and a Meltdown

Ask Amy Green: Bridesmaid Blitz by Sarah Webb ($6.99, Candlewick, ages 11 and up) is a quick-paced, light reading “romp” through the 13- year-old Dubliner Amy Green’s fall school year.  As this is Ireland, the school structure is different, but the same girl clicks and teen dreams are all there. Filled with zany characters, Dublin-ese teen lingo (Fun and Funny!) and a positive view of contemporary family structures – Amy has strong bonds with devoted, divorced parents, half-siblings, and supportive cousin role models and godmothers.  She has tricky relationships to build with both of her parents’ significant others.  Webb provides an enticing glimpse at Paris as Amy and company travel there on a surprise shopping trip for Amy’s bride-to-be mother (hence, the title) for Amy’s mother.  The quaint Parisian side streets, delicious boulangerie aromas and alluring fashion boutiques are all there for the tasting!  Bridesmaid Blitz is a series that any tween thru teen would love to explore! Start with Bridesmaid Blitz or one of Webb’s funky “Ask Amy” titles in the series – Boy Trouble or Summer Secrets.

Ask Amy Green: Bridesmaid Blitz was reviewed by guest reviewer Dr. Juli Barry from Los Angeles. Dr. Barry has her PhD in 20th century American fiction.

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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.

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Have You Got That in Pink, Size 5?

Do you remember that wonderful feeling you got as a child, when in August, all the stores started to display the new fall styles? As the school year approached your excitement grew at the prospect of buying clothes in a bigger size because you grew, too.

In A Dress For Me! ($12.99, Marshall Cavendish/Pinwheel Books, ages 4-8) by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Mike Laughead, Hippo is keen to get a dress and, as in Fliess’s earlier companion book  Shoes For Me!, the choices are plentiful.

“Rows of dresses,
Wall to wall.
Watch me as I
Try them all.”

That’s exactly how I feel when I go shopping so I could not have said it any better! What I enjoyed in Fliess’s first picture book I once again enjoyed here. Her rhymes are terrific, none are forced or off beat. They flow easily which makes reading the book aloud with children such fun! Her descriptions truly convey the delight Hippo feels as she admires the selection.

“Pointy collar,
Puffy shirt,
Polka-dotted poodle skirt.”

The illustrator, Laughead has colorfully captured Hippo in all her dress-shopping glory.  His artwork is done in a bright and cheerful manner and makes me want to ask, “Do you have that in a size 10?”

If your kids are not already into all things clothing, they will be after this great read. “I’ll take this one, please!”

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So Many Shoes, So Little Time

Ronna Mandel reviews Shoes for Me! by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Mike Laughead (($12.99, Marshall Cavendish, ages 4-8).

My fixation with shoes dates back to my youth. I fondly recall my faux lizard skin purple penny-loafers and would not part with them until my big toe was beginning to push through the worn leather and my mother tempted me with latest look in lace-ups – Fred Braun’s – and I succumbed.

As a woman who still enjoys shoes I could definitely related to young hippo’s sense of awe at the marvelous multitude of footwear that exists. Please note, however, that having recently lost 15 pounds, I cannot relate to the hippo part! Upon realizing she has outgrown her shoes –

Feet got bigger,
heel to toe.
Time for new shoes. Off we go!

the character’s exuberance is contagious. When her mother takes her to the shoe store to search for the perfect pair, as a reader, I got excited, too!  So many children’s picture books told in rhyme don’t deliver, but Fliess has got it right. No sentence sounds forced nor does she ever miss a poetic beat. The lighthearted artwork by Laughead complements the playful text and never overwhelms us.

Shoes that clatter,
shoes that clop.
Shoes that light up when I hop.

See the video trailer here:

I recommend this picture book to share at story time and if you like this, consider Fleiss’ other two books, A Dress for Me and Tons of Trucks.

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