Tuesday, February 27, 2018

If I Were A Caterpillar

Written by Richard Rensberry
Illustrated by Mary Rensberry
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
This is the final of three books shared with us for review by the author. T enjoys rhymes (like the others, this is a rhyming book) and is interested in bugs, so we were happy to read a caterpillar book.

Mom's Review

A narrator imagines a caterpillar's life and its transformation to a butterfly.

Told in rhyme, most of the life cycle of a butterfly is narrated. I have become so accustomed to seeing green caterpillars in T's books that the illustrations of a yellow and black caterpillar were a welcome change. The caterpillar inches along, eating caterpillar-appropriate food (no salami or chocolate cake here!) before entering the chrysalis stage and later emerging as a butterfly. Although this caterpillar is attributed thoughts and feelings, its actions are distinctly caterpillar. T is excited to look for caterpillars outside; he said he'd catch them, and we have plans to get some insect catching supplies as soon as the weather warms up. When it does, this will be a good read in conjunction with our hunt.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

After reading:
T gets his toy butterfly and holds it up to the butterfly at the end of the story.
Mom: Did you just match your butterfly to the one in the story?

Son: Yeah!

Mom: Did you like this book? What did you like?

Son: Yeah. I liked that it had caterpillars in it 'cuz I like caterpillars 'cuz I see them in the desert.
(He does? What desert? Is this in another book?)

Mom: Have you read any other books about caterpillars?

Son, runs to bookshelf: This one - The Very Hungry Caterpillar!
(That caterpillar doesn't live in a desert. I'm still confused.)

Mom: How are they similar and different?

Son: This one's big and this one's little.

Mom: Will you find your favorite page in [If I Were A Caterpillar]?

Son: This one! (points to page with "breezes come to tickle" phrase)

Mom: What's most important to know about this book?

Son: It was a caterpillar book.

Update: I think I have figured out the desert connection! I have been puzzling a while (I drafted the rest of this post some time ago), and I think he is thinking of a centipede. We have a desert pop-up book and there is a centipede in it. Looks like a caterpillar. I'll have to ask T when he's up in the morning!

Abigail's Chickens

Written by Richard Rensberry
Illustrated by Mary Rensberry
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
This is another of the three books the author offered us for review. T enjoys rhyming (this is a rhyming story) and roosters, so we were glad to check it out.

Mom's Review

A chicken's day is narrated through repetition and rhyme.

Three chickens give Abigail eggs daily and go about their business pecking and eating bugs. The rhymes flow smoothly for easy reading aloud, and T was already reciting the refrain with me after a couple of pages.  One of our neighbors has chickens, and reading this book fed into a conversation about that. This also gave us additional rhymes to incorporate into our daily rhyme games; we have developed a habit of using the same words, so different ones are helpful.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: Did you like this book? What did you like about it?

Son: Yeah. I liked that one of Abigail's chickens singed (sang).

Mom: Was there anything you did not like?

Son: No. It was a beautiful story.

Mom: Do you like things that rhyme?

Son: Yeah because I rhyme.

Mom: Who might like this book? People who have what?

Son: Chickens!

Mom: How did this book make you feel?

Son: Happy!

Mom: Was there something that made you feel particularly happy?

Son: How one chicken singed (sang)!

If I Were a Lighthouse

Written by Richard Rensberry
Illustrated by Mary Rensberry
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
Author Richard Rensberry offered us several of his books to review. T has been playing with rhymes a ton lately, so we were optimistic about his rhyming books.

Mom's Review

A lighthouse's functions are described in a poem.

Using rhyme and repetition, a narrator imagines what it might be like to be a lighthouse. Most of the vocabulary used is accessible to a young audience, but one of the final pages was a bit beyond T.  Each page shows a different lighthouse, and being in Massachusetts,  I immediately assumed that these were Eastern seaboard structures. About halfway through our first reading, however, I had to readjust my interpretation, as the Great Lakes were mentioned. I would like to know if these are specific lighthouses that we could find along the lakeshores. Regardless, this could be used not just for rhymes but also as a springboard for a lake or lighthouse conversation. Before our next visit to Lake Erie, we will have to read this and talk about what we might look for and see.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: Is there anything special about this book?

Son: It has a lighthouse in it. And lots of rhymes.

Mom: What did you like about it?

Son: I like that it had a lighthouse.

Mom: What did it make you think about?

Son: Think about real lighthouses...because lighthouses are real.

Mom: If you could be any building, what would you want to be?...Why?

Son: A tower because towers are very neat.

Mom: Is there anything neat about lighthouses?

Son: Yeah, it is a lighthouse. It is a house and a light!

Mom: Do you have a favorite page?

Son: This page ... I like the "[storms that hammer my cliffs]." Bang Bang.

Mom: Did you have any questions about this book?

Son: Why did it have a lighthouse in it?

Son: This reminds me of Switzerland.

Mom: How does it remind you of Switzerland?

Son: 'Cuz Switzerland has ducks and we liked to feeded the ducks.

Mom: And what does that have to do with the lighthouse?

Son: That has to do with the lighthouse...the connection is that lighthouses are with water.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends?

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Published in 2006

Why we chose this book:
We received a copy of this at our playgroup some time ago, and now T is getting into his dinosaur phase. We read this with his toy dinosaurs and made them "talk" with us about it afterward.

Mom's Review

Various dinosaurs demonstrate how one should and should not play with others.

To start the book, the audience is asked a series of questions about how dinosaurs play, implying that these initial examples were undesirable. Children are then told, "No. A dinosaur doesn't. He knows how to play," followed by examples of friendly behavior. As I read it I was wondering, however, if the message would translate from dinosaurs to humans. Ever since reading about how children identify with human characters, but not animals, I wonder how effective the morals of these stories are. (I mentioned this in a past post.) In talking to T, I saw that he indeed focused more on dinosaurs than how he could play with friends.

As far as the dinosaurs themselves are concerned, I liked that the type of dinosaur was labeled on each page. I hadn't noticed it the first time I read it because it is so small; T and I had wondered what some of the dinosaurs were, so I was glad to find answers right there.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: Do you like this book? What's your favorite part?

Son: Yeah. This page...when they go on the slide.

Mom: Do you go on slides?

Son: Yeah, at Elm Park I do.

Mom: Do you think these dinosaurs are real nice? Should we learn anything from them?

Son: Yeah. I learn if you're stuck, somebody will unstuck you.

Mom: Do you think these dinosaurs do a good job playing with their friends?

Son: Yeah.

Mom: Would you want to be friends with these dinosaurs?

Son: Yeah, I would say share your toys!

Mom: What should you do when a friend comes over? Should you hog all your dump trucks?
(This is an example from the book.)

Son: I should hug all my dump trucks.

Mom: What about your friends?

Son: Should I hug my friends?

Mom: If your friends want hugs.

Son: You should hug your friends if they want hugs!

Steampunk Alphabet

Written and Illustrated by Nathaniel Iwata
Published in 2013

Why we chose this book:
We were going to be attending Steampunk Weekend at local Tower Hill Botanic Garden, so T needed to know what steampunk was. Just showing him my Gail Carriger books wasn't quite cutting it, so we set out for the library. We asked for help at the children's desk (the children's librarians in Worcester are awesome!) and were given the only children's steampunk book in the library.

Mom and Son's Review
(son age 3 years)

Steampunk inventions correspond to each letter of the alphabet.

As we read, we talked a little bit about what we saw in each image, and what steampunk is. T understands it to be machines and metal and steam coming out; the pictures helped him understand what to expect in the floral displays and costumes he would see when we visited Tower Hill. It filled its purpose for us, but the text is appropriate to a ten-year-old. What ten-year-old is in need of an alphabet book? T asked several times what different words meant.  He did like pointing out where the steam came out in each picture, and afterward said some of the inventions he liked: "I like the egg. It is kind of neat. It is neat how those stuff can make noise and some stuff can't. I like that there is a part that can zip itself." T also liked that the pages were cardboard and he could hold the book and turn the pages easily himself.

Overall, I'd say that the illustrations give a young audience an impression of steampunk machinery, but the content is a bit advanced for the format.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hello, World! Dinosaurs

By Jill McDonald
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
I have been waiting and hoping for a dinosaur phase. For his birthday, T's grandparents got him a paleontologist kit from which we excavated three dinosaur fossils. I called the day we did it "Dinosaur Day" and we also read dinosaur books. He was totally into it! This was published about a week ago, and I reserved it at our library first thing. We are on our way into a dinosaur phase!

Mom and Son's Review
(son age 3 years)

Commonly known dinosaurs are introduced to the youngest audience.

This was a great fit for us. Although T is growing out of board books, he likes to be able to easily hold and turn the pages. The large text and bright colors catch his eye ("Hey, that's a red T!"), and the simple facts reinforced dinosaur knowledge he already had. We talked about all the different dinosaurs as we read, and once he found out that I didn't like velociraptors (how could I after Jurassic Park?), he had fun turning back to that page to tease me!

While reading:
Son, pointing to tools: I have a little brush and a little this and a little measuring tape and a smoother!

Mom, reading: Dinosaur bones are found by paleontologists...

Son, interrupting, pointing: That's a paleontologist!

Son, pointing to ankylosaurus: Is this the one you don't like?

Mom: No, this is my favorite. I don't like that one - velociraptor.

Mom, reading: Where did baby dinosaurs come from?

Son: These dinosaurs look cute. I would like to snuggle them...I would like to touch the eggs.

Mom: What do you think they might feel like?

Son: I don't know.

Mom, reading: Time to let out a big dinosaur roar.

Son: Nuuh! That was my cute roar!

Before bed:
Son, singing: Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs are so much fun to play with
They have fossils with them
And you can find some for your own

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book for little ones. Even the velociraptor looks friendly.

Excavating the fossils on "Dinosaur Day."

Red Alert!

Based on the teleplay "Cockroach Terminator" by Jeremy Shipp
Illustrated by Patrick Spaziante
Published in 2015

Why we chose this book:
When I asked if there was a particular book he'd like to review, T grabbed a TMNT figure (you can see it in his hand) and this book. T has been wild about the Turtles lately, so I thought it would be a good idea to get a book about them. I loved the Turtles as a kid! This would be radical, right?

Mom's Review

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fight a mutant cockroach and Kraang-droids from another dimension.

This has the Turtles and fight scenes, end of story. I think I regret my decision to get it for him. Let's just play Turtles, not read about them.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom:  What did you like, T?

Son: I liked the cockroach...I liked the page that was only the cockroach...I just liked it.

Mom: What was the best part of this story?

Son: The cockroach!

Mom: Who might like this book?

Son: The Turtles would, 'cuz it's their own book.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Penguins Don't Wear Sweaters

Written by Marikka Tamura
Illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
I love penguins, T is sometimes unsure if penguins are real, and the cover is cute, so I thought this new acquisition at our library could be fun (and a reminder that they are real).

Mom's Review

Friendly looking penguins are dressed in sweaters in a misguided attempt to rehabilitate them after an oil spill.

The narrative style reminded me of Uri Shulevitz's Snow, wasting no words. The penguins are healthy, then confronted with spilled oil, and finally returned to a blue sea. It is a gentle introduction to ecological responsibility for a young audience. What I found most interesting was the author's note at the end, detailing the penguin-sweater events that led to this book. 

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

After reading:
Mom: Did something bad happen to [the penguins]?

Son: There's yucky oil.

Mom: What if you saw a penguin in the oil? What would you do?

Son: I would wear my snow boots! Snow boots don't get anything in them. They protect your feet.

Mom: Did you like this book? What was your favorite part?

Son: Yeah. Where the penguins got icky and gooey.

Mom: How did this book make you feel?

Son: Happy.

Mom: What made you feel happy?

Son: How the penguins got helped.

Mom: What animals would you want to help if you could help animals?

Son: Monkeys and foxes.

Mom: Did you learn anything from this book?

Son: I learned that you should be careful with animals ... so that you don't hurt them.

Mom: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about this book?

Son: I would like to tell you that it was kind of neat...it was kind of neat because we haven't read it in a while.
(So not true! We read it multiple times just yesterday!)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Little Pencil Finds His Forever Friends

Written by Christine Calabrese
Illustrated by Maria Victoria Flores
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
Christine Calabrese offered to share this book with us for review and I was intrigued: when I taught first grade, helping children maintain proper pencil grip as their handwriting developed could be challenging. Now that T is making his first attempts at writing the letters in his name, I'm reminded of that and wondering how to help someone with such tiny fingers develop the proper grip.

Mom's Review

A talking pencil feels left behind when the other school supplies are used, but is gratified when someone grips him properly.

Illustrations alternate between drawings of smiling school supplies superimposed on classroom photographs and a drawing of a crying pencil. The rhymes flow smoothly until the final pages, and T was engaged and repeating the pencil refrain with me after a few pages. Many familiar objects are depicted, from play dough to rulers to markers, before the pencil is finally put to use. I had expected a greater focus on the proper pencil grip, and was first surprised that it is mentioned only once at the end. Upon further reflection, however, I think that placing the grip instruction only on the final pages avoids belaboring the point.

The illustrations and text show clearly how to properly hold a pencil for best handwriting results. Overall, I would say that this has great potential for classroom or home instruction - the colors are bright, the supplies have fun names, and it provides children with a friendly reminder of proper grip. And as a side note, the texture of the cover is very nice. I'm not sure what it is, but I like it. It's not quite paper. Almost like rubber. Maybe like a pencil grip?

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Note: "Guy" is a gender-neutral, species-neutral, life-neutral term that T applies to any toy or drawn figure that acts like a human or animal, from Princess Jasmine to Captain America to dinosaurs to Transformers to emoticon images.

Flipping through the book before reading:
Son: Ah. This a little guy book. Is this a little guy book?

Mom: Yeah. We're gonna read that. Do you like the looks of that?

Son: (pointing to the sad pencil and other items) This is the sad one. And this one's worried. And that one's crying....and happy! It's an expression book!

After reading:
Mom: Was this a sad story or a happy story or a little bit of both?

Son: Sad and happy...because there was a sad pencil.

Mom: And why was it happy?

Son: (pointing to the smiling fingers gripping the smiling pencil) Because these characters help him.

Mom: How could they help him?

Son: They could write with him!

Mom: Now, this book shows you how to hold a pencil in just the right way...

Son picks up crayon, albeit incorrectly: This way!

Mom, helping him adjust: This way...

Son: And then write! (moving crayon like writing)

Mom: What did you like about this book?

Son: This was a face book. . .on pencils and fingers and yeah.

Mom: Does this book show children how to hold something?

Son: A pencil.

Mom: And why might you need to hold a pencil?

Son: For drawing and writing.

Intermission: Son works excitedly and proudly on holding crayon properly.

Mom: Was there anything in the book that you didn't like?

Son: That the pencil was sad.

Mom: And how did you feel at the end?

Son: Happy

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mr. Potato Head Inventor: George Lerner

Written by Paige V. Polinsky
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
T's love of "Potato Man" began en route to Thailand in 2016 when he received a plush Mr. Potato Head from the flight crew. His affection for the stuffed potato transferred to the plastic ones at his playgroup, and seeing that Mr. Potato Head was a character in the Toy Story books we read compounded his enjoyment. Before my father visited us recently, he unearthed my old Potato Head family, and now T creates his own Potato Men. Last week, we visited the STEM exhibition at our library; books about inventors, including this one, were displayed. T was ready to read it right in front of the bookshelf!

Mom and Son's Review
(son age 3 years)

This was an imperfect fit for us. Although T asked to read it several times, "read" it to himself, and didn't want to return it to the library, the content seems to have been above his head. Each two-page spread is a chapter on the life of George Lerner or Mr. Potato Head; one page is almost fully text and one page is a photograph. The pages that did not show the toy did not seem to hold T's interest, but if I stopped reading as he moved away, he asked me to keep reading.

T and I had fun assembling our Potato Head family and lining them up before we read the book the second time. We proceeded to read a chapter to them and then make them talk with us, using T's toy microphone. T started each conversation by shouting, "Potato Man, can you hear me?" Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head asked T what he learned about them or if he had questions.

T talked to the Potato Head family about two items primarily: costumes and pipes. The final chapter is about different costumes that Mr. Potato Head can wear, such as Iron Man. T liked talking to our potatoes about the options they could choose from. Earlier in the day, I had commented to T that I found it interesting that pipes are no longer included with the toy. He asked Mr. Potato Head about that several times, wanting to know whey the new ones have no pipes. They were omitted after 1987 so as not to encourage kids to smoke. We have one green pipe for Mr. Potato Head, and I definitely remember pretending to smoke it as a kid.

For a parent who is now playing with Mr. Potato Head for the second time, it is an interesting read. By the time a child could read this book independently, he or she has likely moved on from playing with Mr. Potato Head. For a toddler, there were too many names and dates and higher-level vocabulary. If T is still interested in Mr. Potato Head in kindergarten/first grade, we could probably revisit this book with greater success.

The top picture has all of my original pieces. Can you find the pipe? 

Monday, February 19, 2018

You Hold Me Up

Written by Monique Gray Smith
Illustrated by Danielle Daniel
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
This was a new book at our library, and the title and cover art caught my attention. So glad they did!

Update: I started writing this post at naptime - we had initially read the book a few days ago. Tonight he selected it as his bedtime story, totally unprompted.

Mom's Review

Examples of encouragement and support.

You Hold Me Up is a simple, powerful book. Danielle Daniel excels at illustrating the beautiful message of supporting those we love and focusing our love on the children we have. It is as much a reminder to parents as it is a lesson for children of the value in recognizing the positive impact we can have on one another. If your library has it, I'd recommend reading it!

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

T did need an explanation of what it means to "hold someone up" emotionally. Each time we read he also asked what it means to comfort someone. He read this first with me and then with his dad, and we discussed it all together.

Mom: What was this book about?

Son: They showed their love...by sharing.

Mom: Will you tell me about the book?

Son: It's called I Hold You Up.
(No, it's not. But you're close.)

Dad: What do the characters look like?

Son: People.

Dad: But did they have any special features? What did their mouths look like?

Son: Sharing...hearts.

Dad: Why did their mouths look like hearts?

Son: Because they looooove each other.

Mom: Do you do anything that the people in "I Hold You Up" do?

Son: Yeah. I love each other.

Dad: What do you share with your mommy?

Son: I share my love!

Mom: I noticed that they do lots of things together, like singing and laughing and sharing. Do you particularly like doing any of those things?

Son: Laugh - HA HA!

Mom: Is this a good book? Who's it a good book for?

Son: Yeah! G!
(He pretty consistently wants G to read all his books.)

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Written and Illustrated by Donald Crews
Published in 1991

Why we chose this book:
I first came across this on a Facebook post about Black History Month. T has two of the author's other books, Truck and School Bus, and he liked this one too!

Mom's Review

Young Donald Crews visits his grandparents and takes comfort in the constancy of family.

Readers who live far from grandparents and extended family may identify with the author as he describes his trip to visit his grandmother. Crews emphasizes how happy he and his siblings are to visit and see that everything stays the same from year to year. The extended family comes together for a meal at the end of the book, but everyone is so excited to see one another that they barely eat. Reading this book to T called to mind childhood visits to my grandparents who lived half a country away, and it left me feeling happy.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

After reading:
Mom: Where does he [the narrator, Donald] go?

Son: He goes to his grandma's.

Mom: Are you kind of like the boy in here? Why?

Son: Yeah. Cuz I go to my grandma's.

Mom: His cousin comes from down the road. Do you have a cousin who comes? What do you do when you are at your grandma's?

Son: G. Play with him.

Mom: How did this book make you feel?

Son: Happy.

Mom: Will you show me your favorite pages?

Son: This is my favorite page...cuz of all the colors...This is my favorite...I just like it.
(First T showed the colorful endpaper and then he showed the page where Donald's family rides the train.)

 Mom: Who would this be a good book for? Why?

Son: G. Because he is a happy little boy.

Brandon Makes Jiao Zi

Written by Eugenia Chu
Illustrated by Helena Chu Ho
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
We're always glad to read T books about children with different backgrounds. When the author offered to share this book for a review, I was excited to read it to T.

Mom's Review

Brandon makes Chinese dumplings with his visiting grandmother.

I liked this book because I saw T in Brandon. When Brandon's grandparents surprise him with a visit from China, he is thrilled. And when he sees that his grandmother will make his favorite food with him, he is even more excited. In his enthusiasm, he makes a mess of the kitchen, but it is quickly rectified and he gets to eat his jiao zi (dumplings). After eating a whopping ten, he asks for another but doesn't eat it. Instead, he uses it as an art canvas to make a little face. I could see T doing all these things: T does happy dances like Brandon, he loves to help cook, he makes messes when he tries to help cook, and he loves little "guys."

Brandon Makes Jiao Zi incorporates some Mandarin, with context clues or English paraphrasing so that a non-speaker can understand. I like reading T books with some integrated foreign language. I know he is not learning Mandarin, but the exposure will lay a foundation for inter-cultural understanding and communication.  I read this to T several times, and sometimes we included my attempts at pronouncing the Chinese words, and sometimes I skipped over them. The author's website provides an audio of the book, which is how I learned to pronounce some of the words correctly (I hope).

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Note: This was also an ebook. Since it was the second ebook I read to T, he was not so confused about why we were looking at the computer, but he still wanted to know where the book was. We have no more ebooks on the horizon.

After reading:

Son: Why doesn't it show the jiao zi?

Mom: On the last page? Oh, he just ate it! What was this book about?

Son: He decorates, eats a jiao zi.

Mom: Do you feel like Brandon? How?

Son: Yeah. Happy.

Mom: Do you do anything like Brandon?

Son: I be silly...I do kitchen things.

Mom: Like what?

Son: Like I sprinkle [flour] on the table for making pizza.

Mom: Did you like this book? What was your favorite part?

Son: I liked it. I loved it. I'm gonna hug it...I liked the ghost part.
(Sorry kiddo, you're not hugging the laptop.)

Mom: Who might like reading this? What kind of kids might like this book?

Son: Silly boys and and and  creative boys might like it too.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Goats Eat Everything

Written by Mariya Anderson
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:s
T has recently been interested in astronauts and he loves space rangers. When the author of Space Goats Trilogy: Goats Eat Everything offered to send me a copy for review, this seemed like it could be right up our alley.

Mom's Review

A funny little goat from space sets an example for eating one's whole meal.

This book touches on three situations when children may need prompting to eat a meal. Perhaps the meal is viewed as boring by the child, perhaps the child is a guest at someone else's table, or perhaps a new food is being introduced. In any of these situations, a child might be expected to consume a food they do not particularly like or try something unfamiliar. The goat from the cover is shown to be a great guest because he eats whatever is offered to him and he tries everything, regardless of shape, size, or texture. In the second half of the book, the author has theorized the reason for goats' undiscriminating appetite: they are from another planet where there is no food. It is an imaginative tale that could spark conversation about different meal expectations. Parents who advocate a child's choice in eating may not find the message resonant with their approach to meals.

Coincidentally, we read Goats Eat Everything for the first time with our lunch, and T stopped eating in order to listen to the story and look at the pictures.  After reading (and resuming lunch), we talked about having the space goat as a guest. T said he'd like the goat to come and eat all the pickles and olives! Although the point is that the child should try any food, I'm with T on that one - no pickle and olive eating in this house! We don't actually have either in our home. No one would eat them. Well, maybe a space goat would...

Son's Review
(age 2 years and 11 months)

Note: We read this as an ebook. T had never read an ebook before, and was confused and sad at first that there was no book "to hold." I explained that this is like looking at pictures of the pages. He was okay with the idea and we proceeded to read. It went well once he accepted the format, but from now on I think we will stick to "real books," as he calls them.

Before reading:
Mom: This is called Goats Eat Everything. Do you like how he looks?

Son: I do. He looks wacky cuz he's carrying something. What's he carrying?

Mom: Flowers

Son: Why's he carrying flowers?

Mom: He's visiting someone and sometimes people bring flowers as a gift when they visit someone. It's nice to do that.

Son: What's the book about?

Mom: That's a good question. How can we answer it?

Son: Read it and find out!

After reading: 
Son: Would you read it again?

Mom: Sure. Did you like it?

Son: Yeah, I really liked it.

Mom: What was the best part?

Son: Even if I don't like pickles and olives the goats will eat the pickles and olives for me cuz I don't like pickles and olives.

Mom: Would you invite a goat for dinner?

Son: Yeah. For pickles and olives. If you give me pickles and olives I won't eat 'em.
(He's pretty focused on those pickles and olives.)

Mom: Was there anything confusing?

Son: It was confusing why goats eat tin cans.
(The book says that goats don't eat tin cans, but I've told him they do. I'd better check my facts on that one.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Juliane's Story...A real-life account of her journey from Zimbabwe

Written by Andy Glynne
Illustrated by Karl Hammond
Published in 2016

Why we chose this book:
Mixed in with chapter books in our library's Black History Month display were two picture books, including this one. I was glad to find something that was on T's level.

Mom's Review 

Young Juliane struggles with life at an orphanage before being reunited with her mother and leaving Zimbabwe.

This was a difficult but positive read for us, with much discussion throughout and after. T asked questions like, "Why did her mom leave?" "Why did she have to drink yucky water?" and "Why is she a fighter?" At the very beginning Juliane explains that her mother had to leave, but she didn't know why. Juliane guesses that people wanted to hurt her. I omitted Juliane's guess when I read the book aloud to T, as he would not understand someone's motivation to hurt another. Otherwise the content was manageable with conversation. T commented that he felt sad when we read it, and he and I talked about what made him sad as well as the positive aspects of the story and its happy ending.

Son's Review
(son age 2 years and 11 months)

Son: Juliane is kind of like a superhero!

Mom: How is she kind of like a superhero?

Son: She solves problems. Superheroes solve problems. That is how she is like a superhero.

Mom: Would you want to be friends with Juliane? Why?

Son: Yeah. Because she is sad.

Mom: How would being friends change that?

Son: happy

When Juliane was reunited with her mom:
Mom: How do you feel now?

Son: Happy, and sad that she cried.

Princess Hair

Written and Illustrated by Sharee Miller
Published in 2014

Why we chose this book:
Among a Black History Month display of chapter books at our library was this bright pink picture book cover. I was glad to find this and one other picture book at T's level among the more advanced texts.

Mom's Review

From puffs to dreadlocks to blowouts, these princesses show off different ways to style their hair while napping or running or rocking out. 

Princess Hair uses rhymes to pair hairdos with activities, such as princesses with braids leading parades. Although the narrative flow is disrupted by a few pages without rhymes, the upbeat tone and bright, happy images make for enjoyable reading. This is a positive portrayal of girls for any young audience.

Son's Review
(age 2 years and 11 months)

Mom: There were so many princesses doing so many things. I liked the "princesses with kinks who like to think." What did you like the best?

Son: I liked the rock and roll page!

Mom: Do you know anybody else who might like some of those princess activities?

Son: I think Uncle M. might like the cooking page because he cooks!

Mom: How did the book make you feel?

Son: I loved the book!...I'm gonna hug the book!...It made me feel happy!

Mom: What made you feel happy?

Son: How they dumped crowns on their heads!
(They didn't quite dump them, but they all did wear crowns.)

Mom: And what was the best picture?

Son: The dancing one.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

Written and Illustrated by Diane deGroat
Published in 1996

Why we chose this book:
for Valentine's Day

Mom's Review

A talking opossum sends unkind Valentine's Day cards to two classmates.

Acts of unkindness are set against the backdrop of a school Valentine's Day party. Lewis and Margaret had each treated Gilbert unkindly; he retaliates in a way that some children in similar situations may consider: he writes nasty cards to each, but doesn't sign his name. Although the act is initially satisfying, it quickly backfires. The whole class learns that he wrote the "bad Valentines" and ostracizes him until the end of recess. When asked about his motive, he explains that Lewis and Margaret had been unkind to him. All the children apologize, forgive, and celebrate together.

I had originally purchased Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink to read to my first grade students, so it was a handy choice for reading to T this week. I especially like that Gilbert handles his problem poorly at first and then must deal with the consequences, seeing that talking with his friends is a better solution. As a teacher and now as a parent I find that it is an easy conversation starter for how to handle small problems with friends.

Son's Review
(age 2 years and 11 months)

Mom: What did you think of this story? What was it about?

Son: It's an animal story. Gilbert is an opossum.

Mom: Do the animals act like animals or like people?

Son: They act like people - they are Valentine animals. They only come out when it's Valentine's.
(Okay, but not exactly. The focus is on Valentine's Day, but presumably they're around all year.)

Mom: Is there a problem?

Son: That he [Gilbert] wrote a bad poem.

Mom: Why is that a problem?

Son: Because it says roses are pink, your feet really stink. That's what it says...He shouldn't have written it.

Mom: What should he have done?

Son: He should have wrote nice poems. That is what he should do.

Mom: Would you want to be friends with Gilbert?

Son: Yeah. Only if he would write good poems to me.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Louise Loves Bake Sales

Written by Laura Driscoll
Illustrated by Kelly Light
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
T received Louise Loves Art some time ago at his playgroup (run by Worcester Family Partnership). We loved it, so when Louise Loves Bake Sales appeared on our library's new acquisitions list we snapped it up.

Mom and Son's Review:
(son age 2 years and 11 months)

Louise turns disappointment into a triumph for her little brother's bake sale.

With a heartwarming message of love, this I Can Read! Level 1 book shows how Louise helps her younger brother prepare for his bake sale. When he experiments with food coloring, destroying her frosting rainbow, she is understandably disappointed. She overcomes that feeling to find a positive outcome, bolstering her brother's spirits and putting her love for him first.

Sometimes T and I read a book with a snack or a meal. T selected this and was so enthralled that he didn't take a single bite during the entire story. He said that he liked Louise and the book, but that he enjoyed the original better (we read them back to back at one point). That said, he did ask for Louise Loves Bake Sales several times. 

Meet the Super Hero Squad!

Written by Lucy Rosen
Illustrated by Dario Bruela and Miguel Spadafino
Published in 2010

Why we chose this book:
T likes superheroes, especially Spiderman and Captain America, so this cover caught his eye.

Mom and Son's Review:

A variety of Marvel heroes are introduced in this Level 2 Passport to Reading book.

T was happy to see some of his favorite heroes and we both learned a few new ones. I was disappointed to see a gross gender disparity though — only one female hero among seventeen males.

After reading:
Mom: Which superhero was your favorite?

Son: Thing

Mom: You liked him more than Spiderman and Captain America?...Why?

Son: I liked Thing more than Captain America because he has those rocks that are all glued together.

Mom: Should kids who like superheroes read this book?

Son: No. They should read Frozen [Big Snowman, Little Snowman].

Mom: Really? Why?

Son: Because they [Anna, Elsa, and Olaf] are good guys. They do good things. They are superheroes.

Big Snowman, Little Snowman (Disney Frozen)

Written by Tish Rabe
Illustrated by the Disney Storybook Artists
Published in 2013

Why we chose this book: 
T wanted "character books" from the library, and this was the first one that he pulled of the shelf. Perfect - he loves Frozen books!

Mom and Son's Review:
(son age 2 years and 11 months)

This Step Into Reading Step 1 book uses rhyming and opposites in an effort to tell the story of Disney's Frozen. The text is choppy, disconnected from itself, and presupposes a knowledge of the film. What holds this book together is the mere fact that all the characters are from the same Disney movie.

As we read, T picked up on the opposites, pointing out, "This is the happy sister and this is the sad sister," and, "This is the big snowman and Olaf is the little snowman. Olaf is the cutest. I would like to hug Olaf...he likes warm hugs." T also noted, "Hey, this is kind of like a rhyme book!" He asked to read it several times, and stated, "I just like it." I really think that this is due to the simple fact that it is a Frozen product - he came across the characters in a Disney anthology and was been bitten hard by the Frozen bug.

I was about to write that we'd be better off without this book, but T just picked it up and starting "reading" it to his stuffed animals as their bedtime story.  I am surprised to hear that he remembers a number of the sentences verbatim or nearly so. I'll soften my criticism. Maybe we aren't better off without it, but it will go back to the library on our next visit.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pete the Cat and the Cool Caterpillar

Written and Illustrated by James Dean
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
T recently received a Pete the Cat book at his playgroup and liked the character. When our library added this to their collection, I thought he might enjoy it.

Mom's Review:

A talking cat catches a caterpillar and waits for it to become a butterfly.

Fans of Pete will likely enjoy his new bug-hunting adventure, in which he learns about caterpillars firsthand. This is a level 1 book in the I Can Read! series and contains rudimentary facts about caterpillars. With T, this book prompted a conversation about catching bugs in the summer and a comparison to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  It also prompted a debate over the species of Gus, one of Pete's friends. I checked the author's website just now. For the record, Gus is a platypus.

I did not have high expectations for this book; it is in the EZ reader category, like Step Into Reading books,  and the artwork does not appeal to me. I was pleasantly surprised, however, because it sparked T's curiosity about different bugs and he is now eager to borrow bug books from the library and to catch whatever he can once it warms up outside.

Son's Review
(age 2 years and 11 months)

After reading:

Mom: Did you learn anything?

Son: I learned that you should be very gentle with animals.

Mom: And what did Pete the Cat do in the book?

Son: Find bugs!

Mom: Is that something you would want to do?

Son: Yeah!

Mom: How did this book make you feel?...What made you feel that way?

Son: Happy - a spider caught bugs.

While reading:
Son: What do you think Gus is?
(Gus is one of Pete's friends. He is not a cat.)

Mom: I think Gus is a platypus.

Son: Why?

Mom: Because...
Son: I think he is a duck - he has a duck bill

Mom: That's what I thought at first, but then i looked at his tail and his body, and they look furry, more so than feathery. And his tail is big and wide, more like a platypus.

Son: I look at his feet and thought they were duck feet.

Mom: I can see why you say that. They do look like duck feet. Maybe it says on the back...oh, it doesn't....we can look it up after reading.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Vampirina at the Beach

Written by Anne Marie Pace
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Published in 2017

Why we picked this book:
T always wants a spooky book from the library, so when I saw a vampire I offered it to him. He plopped himself down on the floor and started flipping through the pages. Although it isn't actually spooky, two fold-out pages won him over.

Mom and Son's Review
(Son - age 2 years and 11 months)

A child vampire attends a monsters' beach bash.

Looking only at the text of this story, you will find a few suggestions for beach activities, along with safety tips. The illustrations, however, provide a richer story: we read this several times back to back and discovered something new in the illustrations each time. It was fun to talk about all the different mythical creatures and what they were doing, like a mummy who seeks sunken treasure with a metal detector and a young werewolf who warily eyes the rising moon. What appears at first to be a simple beach visit is, upon examination, a huge beach festival with contests, a multitude of monsters, and fun little details like the courtship of a mermaid and the vampire dad's pained expression at being dressed in a hula skirt.

After reading:

Mom: Tell me what the best part of this book was, T.

Son: It was when you get to lift those flaps.
(Two pages fold out to make a four page spread of all the monsters in a hula contest; this was the selling point for him.)

Mom: Do you think if other children got this book they would like it?

Son: No, it wasn't a spooky one. Vampirina books aren't very spooky.
(Even with this complaint, he asked to read it again and again and again.)

Mom: Who might like this book...Why?

Son: G...because it is a little orange-y. I think pink is a little orange-y.
(Vampirina wears pink and black.)

Mom: What would you want to tell G about this book?

Son: The bats are neat!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hippos are Huge!

Written By Jonathan London
Illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Published in 2015

Why we chose this book:
Teddy was standing next to the animal shelf in the non-fiction area, asking for a spooky book. Just as I was about to say that this is not where to find spooky books, the gaping maw of the hippo caught his eye.

Mom and Son's Review

Some basic facts about hippos are narrated.

Hippos are Huge! introduces children to hippos with funny, realistic illustrations, tidbits of trivia (did you know that males shoot dung at each other?), and a hippo's daily routine. The first time we read it, I only read the narrative that follows a female hippo's day. T wanted to read it again immediately, so I next included the fine print trivia that accompanies each illustration. On almost every page T said, "Oh wooowww," and we discussed a few of the more surprising habits of the hippo. I knew hippos were extremely dangerous, but never realized that they can chomp a crocodile in half; T responded, "That's exciting! We don't like crocodiles."  T is at the age where he wants to know everything, and this was a perfect hippo primer for him.

After reading it the third time:
Mom: What was your favorite thing you learned?

Son: I learned hippos are big.

Mom: Did you learn anything else?

Son: At the starting it was a little bit scary because hippos are big...I learned that you should stay away.

Mom: Why should you stay away?

Son: They can bite - a crocodile!
(The chomping of a crocodile was a major point of interest for us both.)

Mom: And what was your favorite part?

Son: I like that hippos have really big teeth.

Mom: Was there anything that you didn't like?

Son: I did not like that a kind of bird ate bugs out of the hippos ear because it is gross to eat out of someone's ear!

Later that night:
Son, to Dad: You should read that book, Daddy, when you're a little older.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

What Makes a Blizzard?

Written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Illustrated by Maddie Frost
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
We continue to sample our library's new acquisitions and are trying to add more scientific texts to our repertoire. Also, T asks too many weather questions I can't answer — I am really in need of some refreshing in elementary science.

Mom and Son's Review

An historic blizzard of 1888 is described, followed by an explanation of how blizzards form.

Appealing pictures and a dramatic story interested T at the start of this book. As we read about the cause of blizzards, however, I had to re-explain many concepts. He frequently asked me, "What does that mean?" and we stopped reading to talk about it. The book's diagrams were helpful in explaining how warm and cold fronts meet, and the activities sparked his interest. Next time it snows he wants to catch flakes on black paper and look at them under a magnifying glass!

Here's what we talked about as we read:

As we start to read about snow piling up:
Son: I would like to be out in that snow.

Mom: Well, this snow is moving really fast. The wind could knock you over. Would you want that?

Son: That would be okay because I like making snow angels!

Looking at the cold and warm fronts diagram:
Son: I like that redness.

Mom: Can I explain what that is...it's where the warm air is.

Son: And show me cold air.

Mom: This blue section is cold air, and here is where they bump. You get storms where they bump.

Son: Okay, I want to know why that happens.

As we turn to an activity page:
Son: Oh, oh, oh. She has earmuffs too!
(I wear earmuffs.)

Mom: I like that you pointed that out. This shows a project we can do next time it snows.

Son: We should!
(It didn't matter that he had no idea what the kids were doing, he already wanted to do it!)

After finishing the book:
Mom: So what did you learn from this book?

Son: "nuffin"

Mom: You didn't learn anything? What about when cold and warm air meet?

Son: I learned that the cold air pushes up the warm air and the water falls out.

I certainly refreshed my weather knowledge, and T now has a foundation.

If You Were A Kid Discovering Dinosaurs

Written by Josh Gregory
Illustrated by David Leonard
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
There are several reasons why we wanted this title. First, we're sampling the library's new acquisitions. Second, T has been interested in dinosaurs lately. Finally, I'm trying to incorporate more scientific concepts into our reading and activities.

Mom's Review

Two children discover a dinosaur bone, prompting a paleontological dig.

Miguel loves dinosaurs and Ruth loves hiking; together they discover a large bone fragment. Ruth's father calls the museum, paleontologists get to work, and finally the children are invited to the museum for a formal unveiling of their fossil. In addition to the narrative, photographs with dinosaur trivia are included on each page.

Although the story was appropriate for T, some of the trivia was beyond him. I'd probably recommend this for children who are either a little older or a little more dinosaur-oriented. We looked at and discussed the photographs, which engaged him more than the illustrations, and he was able to relate to the museum visit. T said that he enjoyed it, but I felt like this was not an ideal pick for us.

Son's Review
(age 2 years and 11 months)

Mom: What did you like about the book?

Son: This one. (points to the little girl, Ruth)

Mom: What did she do that you liked?

Son: Her dad said they can go to the "musimmy" [museum]
(This is not exactly accurate, but her dad did call the museum and they did eventually visit it.)

Mom: Was there anything you didn't like?

Son: I liked everything in it.

Mom: What did you learn from this book?

Son: I learned that it was a dinosaur one.

Mom: What did you learn about dinosaurs?

Son: I learned that they are fossils.

Mom: Would you like to find a fossil...why?

Son: Yeah, because fossils are neat.

Mom: What was the best thing in the book?

Son: I like that this is a dinosaur. (points to one of the dinosaurs)

Mom: Would you read this book again...and is there anyone you know who might enjoy this book?

Son: Yeah...G would like it.

Mom: What kind of people do you think might read a dinosaur book?

Son: scientists

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Written and Illustrated by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
We are checking out most of our library's new acquisitions if they have appealing covers. I know we're told not to judge books by their covers, but I definitely do.

Mom's Review

A cute little monster tires of stressful family dynamics and turns himself invisible.

Bub is the middle monster child with a star older sister, an adorable baby sister, and argumentative parents. He becomes crabby as a result of family strife and conceives a solution some children may have wondered about themselves. He disappears from sight and watches what happens when his family misses him. Spoiler alert: happy ending.

When I placed my hold request for Bub using my phone, the tiny book cover looked like a cat to me. I did a double take when I was given a monster book! The cuteness of all the illustrations appeals, but I most enjoyed the portraits in the background in Bub's home. Their expressions change to reflect Bub's emotions on each page.  Bub states how his family's behavior affects his emotions, and while children may identify with that situation, the fact that he is a monster may override their connection. As we drove home from the library, T told me he was going to look at the book to "see what the book is about;" his understanding that this was a monster story held true even after reading.

I liked it, but I've recently read that human characters resonate with children more than animal characters, so I've tried to strike a better balance.

Here's the article about human vs. nonhuman characters in children's lit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/01/only-childrens-books-with-humans-have-moral-impact-study-finds

Son's Review
(age 2 years and 11 months)

Mom: Did you like this book?

Son: Yeah

Mom: Why did you like this book?

Son: Because the [scary] monsters are going to come.

Mom: What did you think of the big ugly monsters?

Son: I think that they are kind of bad for Bub.

Mom: Did you like Bub or his sister Bernice better?

Son: Bub

Mom: Who did you like the best, Bub, Bernice or Baby?

Son: Baby

Mom: Why?

Son: Because she called him "Blub."

Mom: Was that a good name or a bad name?

Son: A good name

Mom: Was there anything happy or sad in this book or both?

Son: happy and sad

Mom: What was happy?

Son: How they found Bub.

Mom: What was sad?

Son: How they didn't find Bub...how he disappeared.

Mom: What do you have to say about the pictures?

Son: I have to say I like, I just like the pictures.

A House for Mouse

Written by Gabby Dawnay Illustrated by Alex Barrow Published October 2, 2018 Why we chose this book: We love fairy tales and nursery ...