Friday, November 27, 2009

Things That Go

Yes, we'll be reading stories as usual on Monday morning at 10.30am.

This week we're doing an old favorite. Things That Go.

Smash Crash by Jon Scieszka, David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon
The first of the excellent Trucktown series by Scieszka and what can only be described as contemporary children's illustrator royalty. These books are intened to interest young boys in reading. As such, some parents find them a little difficult to sanction. As the title suggests, two trucks, who are best friends, ride around the town smashing and crashing, sometimes this is helpful and sometimes it isn't. They try to avoid the adult presence in the book, but they can't zoom away forever.

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper and Loren Long
his 1950s classic is seen throughout the world as a truly American tale. A struggle over adversity and a triumph for the little engine who wants to be helpful and try her best. I read from a version with the original text and modern illustrations by Loren Long, but I edit as I read. The idea of giving a child a "jack knife" now seems too odd to read aloud. I also edit the mean-spiritedness of the unhelpful trains, although mostly because my audience is normally 3 years and under and expecting them to sit still for the full length of the original text is a little unreasonable.

Machines go to Work by William Low
One of those beautiful books which is more about the illustration than the story. A series of machines at work and some whole page flaps make this a very popular one with the under 3s.

B is for Bulldozer by June Sobel and Melissa Iwai
We can find all the letters of the alphabet on this construction site and the last page gives us a great and eXciting surprise.

Tractor Trouble
A little board book about a cow who thinks she can drive a tractor and the chaos that ensues. This one is not available to buy, unfortunately as it is published by UK retailer Marks & Spencer. Good old M&S :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

You, Me and Everyone

(This is a slightly nebulous theme which allows me to include some great new books. Although it could also be titled "being ourselves and being together")

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

A brand new book with warm illustrations and a simple rhyming scheme which links together everything and everyone in the world. It's an inspirational read, just in time for the holidays.

Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty

Jeremy never plays outside with the other children from the neighborhood, so when he draws a very demanding monster who comes to life, he has to rely on his own wits to get it out of the house. A book about tackling your inner demons and about joining the group to save yourself, from yourself. I also think that this book gives children the opportunity to see an abusive relationship where one party is unequivocally monstrous.

On a lighter note, that's the funniest hat I've ever seen a monster wear.

My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk

From the dream team that brought us the classic Chugga Chugga Choo Choo is a truck related story with some sneaky counting and off kilter rhythms. Fun all round.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

A little boy discovers a small patch of green growing in the city and helps it along until the city is full of garden and gardeners. Crisp modern illustration, with a fantastical twist and a simple storyline make this one of my favorite new books of 2009. It's actually the story of the Highlands railway, a disused railway track in NYC which has been converted to a community garden.

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

Duck decides to ride a bike and show off to all the other farm animals. Their responses are complex, they say moo, or squeak, or oink or maaa, but they think something different and then they do something else entirely! It's difficult to know what other people really think, but it's easy to have fun playing together.

The songs will be “This is Me” by Laurie Berkner, "Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes" and "Old Macdonald"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the City

Noisy City Night by Sara Anderson. There are lots of good noises in this excellent board book, the weeeeee you of firetrucks the rumble of underground trains and the old man muttering. It's a delight to read aloud and always catches the toddler's attention. The book is also made of cityscape cut outs and has a number of jokes for the grown ups, take a look at the wording on the billboards, my favourite is "you never did like peas".

Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson and Daniel Kirk. That's right, that Stevenson. It's a great little poem about a boy building a city from blocks and then laying waste to it. Daniel Kirk is an expert illustrator and he really brings the poem and the city to life.

Corduroy by Don Freeman. There are many department stores in the city, just like the one that Corduroy the bear lives in. A charming children's classic which stands the test of time. A small bear really wants someone to take him home, but he needs to find his missing button first, he has quite an adventure looking for the button. In the end though, he doesn't need it for someone to love him and take him home.

The Adventures of Taxi Dog by Debra Barracca, Sal Barracca, and Mark Buehner. A stray dog is adopted by a taxi driver in New York and together they meet lots of new faces. Just like the other Barracca and Buehner books there are lots of things to see in the illustrations. I always skip the page with the pregnant woman thought, she's not "sick", she's having a baby, a strange association to make in a modern book.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. A fantastic little book about the perils of taking a beloved toy to the laundrette. I love it when the Dad is about to give up looking for Knuffle Bunny, takes one look at his daughter and decides to look harder.

We'll be singing "The Wheels on the Bus", "Train is a-Coming" and "My Dog" and the poem will be Julia Bird's "Picture Book for Urban Babies".

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


So Much! by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury

This is a beautiful big book, with a wonderful warm heart. It's the story of the gradual gathering of a large family, through the eyes of the baby. Helen Oxenbury's illustrations are as emotive as ever and Trish Cooke's lyrical words are a delight to read aloud.

Where's My Mom? by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

A poor lost monkey is befriended by a mother butterfly who has a little difficulty in understanding that he looks just like his Mom. The story may be about tramping through the jungle looking for your parents, but the page to page hilarity of the butterfly getting it wrong always amuses the preschoolers, especially when she mistakes the Mom for the "elephant, again!".

Ben and Gran and the Whole Wide Wonderful World by Gillian Shields.

This one may be difficult to source in America, but try your local bookstore, they'll certainly try to find a supplier for you. Ben lives on one side of the world and Gran lives on the other side, although sending messages is fun, it's no substitute for seeing your favourite person. So Gran goes on an epic journey to get to Ben whilst Ben prepares for her arrival. This is a great book to read to a transportation loving toddler, as Gran uses any means necessary, including camel and high speed express train to get to Ben.

Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.

Sometimes families go on adventures together and in this popular version of the traditional story it's the Dad who takes the lead. It's illustrated by Helen Oxenbury who apparently enjoyed the subject matter being people and not anthropomorphic animals. There is a real sense of family adventure here and we can all understand why the bear looks so sad and lonely on the last page.

Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M Joose.

Toddler's love to push their parents and test the limits of the love. This charming book with an Innuit theme, calmly explains that Mama's love knows no limits, even if you turn into the meanest polar bear there ever was.

The songs will be This Train is going to Grandma's and will visit the grandparents of everyone who wants to tell me where they live, Deep Down in My Heart and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. The poem will be Everybody Says by Dorothy Aldis.