Archive for the ‘Picture Book Spotlight’ Category
Huck came to me with How to Read a Story by Kate Messner and Mark Siegel. “Mommy, will you be my reading buddy?” (That’s Step 2 in the book.) Why of course I will!
He starts reading me the book. And then, halfway through, only a few pages after the sneaky video I took below, he…stopped reading out loud. Got sucked into the story and read silently for the first time. Thanks to this charming picture book, I got to be there for the moment of transition. It was magical. And yes, since he’s my youngest, a little bittersweet–the last one to cross the bridge to solo, silent immersion. But only a little bittersweet. Mostly just magical.
It’s been a while since I did a big fat Rillabooks post. The books are piling up! Literally and figuratively. When I want to blog about a book, I leave it out after we’ve read it. This means:
1) There are stacks of books on every flat surface of this house; and
2) We keep reading those books over and over, because they’re out where we can see them.
Which is fine, because I wouldn’t have had the urge to blog about the book in the first place if it weren’t in some way delightful.
Another thing that’s happening a lot lately is that Huck collects favorite picture books to read in his bed at night. I could probably skip writing about them and just post a picture of his headboard every morning. No stronger recommendation for a children’s book than being made part of a five-year-old’s hoard, is there?
But here, I’ll do a proper post. Kortney, consider this my thank-you note for that lovely write-up the other day.
Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet. Here’s a book that beckons a child in and invites him to touch and “mix” blobs of color on the page. Drag some red into the yellow blob, and when you turn the page, naturally you’ve got orange. What interested me is how completely Huck entered into the conceit, touching and swirling those painted spots on the page just as if he were playing an iPad game. “Like this?”—tentatively at first, touching the dot as instructed, and then turning the page and crowing in glee at the change. He engaged just as thoroughly as if it were an app, red + yellow magically turning to orange under his finger. This thrills me, I have to say—the willingness to enter into a game of make-believe with a book when so much in his world trains him to expect animations for every cause-and-effect. The book is full of fun, with dots of color skittering across the page as if alive. Gorgeously designed, too: big bold colors against clean white space. We also enjoyed Tullet’s Press Here which similarly invites interaction. At five, Huck seems to be exactly the right age for these books. We’ve read Mix It Up together several times but most often he carts it away to his bed to enjoy solo.
(You’ll want your watercolors handy after you read this book. Or do as we did and whip up a quick batch of play dough: 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup salt, 1 cup water [add slowly; you may not need all of it]. Knead until it isn’t sticky. I go sparingly on the water and leave a lot of loose flour in the mixing bowl for the kids to rub their hands in before I start handing out lumps of dough. Then, for each lump, a drop of food coloring. They love working it in, watching it marble its way through the blank dough. After the colors are well mixed, I like to add a tiny drop of lavender or cinnamon oil, or a bit of vanilla extract. The smells make them so happy! “I’m probably going to play with this for one or three hours,” Huck informed me when I got him set up the other day—after I’d remembered such a cheap and easy cure for listlessness existed in the world. Why do I forget about this for months at a time? A batch will last in the fridge for about a week. Rilla can measure and mix it by herself. Very handy when, say, an older sister is wrangling with Algebra 2 and needs mom’s attention for a while.)
Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema, illustrations by Petra Mathers—over and over and over again! Beloved by Rilla too (and all her older siblings before her). Utterly satisfying rendition of a Mexican folk tale in which a clever little sheep outwits, repeatedly, with comic effect, a coyote intent on eating her for dinner. Might I recommend reading this one while lying down so that all of you can stick your legs in the air when you get to the part about Borreguita “holding up” the mountain.
Creepy Castle by John S. Goodall. Out of print but if you can track one down you’re in luck. All six of my kids have loved this book to pieces. No! Not to pieces, fortunately! It’s got flaps inside, each spread flipping to become a new picture. An almost wordless book, which means the kids and I get to narrate the adventure as the two hero mice make their way through a seemingly deserted castle. There’s a sinister fellow hiding in the bushes; he locks them in a scary room with a dragon guarding the stairs, but they climb out the window and splash into the moat. My littles especially like the moment when the villain gets his comeuppance at the end. I can’t count how many dozens of times I have read this little book. They never seem to get tired of it.
Another book back in circulation these days is Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime. (Sniffle: two-year-old Huck in that post.)
Meanwhile, I’m making my way through the leeeeennnngggggthy list of Cybils YA nominees and will have some to recommend in a post coming soonish.
Borreguita and the Coyote, Creepy Castle, Herve Tullet, John S. Goodall, Mix It Up, Petra Mathers, Picture Book Spotlight, picture books, play dough recipe, Rillabooks, Verna Aardema
Here’s a book I thought I’d blogged about before, but it seems I only mentioned it briefly.
by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.
We first read this absolute gem of a picture book last year during the CYBILs. Fell so utterly in love with it—the lot of us—that a library copy wouldn’t do; we had to have our own. Huck and Rilla were overjoyed when I pulled it out this morning. Sophie’s instant bond with a butternut squash is utterly believable, and not just because Huck formed a similar attachment once upon a time. “Bernice” becomes Sophie’s best friend and closest confidant, all through a bright and beautiful autumn. But as winter approaches, Bernice begins to get a bit squishy about the edges. Sophie’s parents make gentle attempts to convince Sophie it’s time to let her friend go, but since their suggestions involve treating the squash like, you know, a squash, Sophie’s having none of it. Her own solution is sweet and heartwarming, and it makes my kids sigh that contented sigh that means everything has come out exactly right.
It is Wednesday, isn’t it? I’m off kilter somehow.
Every now and then one of my littles will shout “ELIZABETH!”—I would say ‘for no apparent reason,’ because it’s always a non sequitur, but there is a reason and it’s very apparent: what they mean is “I want to read My Name Is Elizabeth!“ Elizabeth doesn’t like being called Lizzie, Liz, Beth, or Betsy, and although my two youngest children have short names that don’t lend themselves to nicknaming, they wholly sympathize with Elizabeth’s plight, and approve of her insistence on proper nomenclature.
(They also approve—heartily—of the exception she makes for her little brother.)
Whenever this book is rediscovered, I seem to be called upon to read it several times a day for a week or so. This has been one of those weeks. I’m not complaining.
Just finished e. lockhart’s We Were Liars. Utterly unsettling. I mean that in a good way. More on it later.
And a heads-up for you.
I got an email from FutureLearn about this upcoming course—Literature of the English Country House—and I honest-to-God squealed.
We’ll be using a wide range of texts spanning the history of literature from Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ to Oscar Wilde’s ‘Canterville Ghost’. Along the way we will examine sections from a play by Shakespeare, poetry by Margaret Cavendish, and brief passages from novels by Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. We will even look at fiction by a country house resident Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Starts June 2. Thought you might like to know.
Here’s a little moment in time. Right after I read The Little Fur Family to Huck (for the first time!) the other day, he wanted to read it himself. This is one of my favorite picture books to read with very young kids, and I can’t imagine how it slipped past Huck until now—I found this copy of the book at the bottom of a box of toys earlier in the week. Of course the very best edition is the tiny one with the faux-fur cover. It’s around here somewhere, but I don’t recall seeing it in ages. It’s probably under a bed.
Anyway, when I grabbed my boy for the read-aloud, he was reluctant to listen, as he very often is right at the beginning. And then, as nearly always happens, before I finish the first page, he’s hooked. It went double this time around. He fell hard for the little fur child in the wild, wild wood, like so many before him.
I caught a good chunk of his reading on video. There’s background noise from his big sisters and brother, but you can hear him pretty well. I love watching the leaps kids make at this age—the substitutions where they think they see where the word is going and plug in one they know, like his “fun children” for “fur child” and “mom” for “mother.”
I don’t know if I caught this stage on video with any of the other kids. I have a pretty young Rilla reading an Ariel speech from The Tempest—you can’t hear much in the recording but it melts me to see the confidence with which she attacks some quite challenging text—but nothing, as far as I can recall, of the others at Huck’s stage. I’m glad I captured this much. Those sneezes!
I think I mentioned before that I’m trying to take a picture of all our readalouds—an easier way to record the books than writing them down.
These are a few of our recent lineups. All out of order, but the dates don’t matter, do they?
Rilla is so in love with the Post-Impressionists right now. I kept saying, We need to go to the library to get the Katie books, and then a bunch of things slid off a shelf and there was this one right on top. I’d forgotten we owned a copy!
The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher fills me with all kinds of warm, wistful feelings. One of my first-ever purchases from Chinaberry, I believe, way back in the day. How many hundreds of times have I pored over its pictures with a wonder-eyed little one?
Okay, this one—a stunner. At the Same Moment, Around the World. Just what it sounds like: one moment in time, chronicled time zone by time zone, country by country, in beautiful illustrations full of cheer and heart, and rich in visual detail. We’re in love. (It doesn’t come out until March; this is a review copy.)
Cat Says Meow is charming, too, a bit of typographical fun that tickled Rilla’s funnybone especially.
Linnea is another one that carries me back to earlier days—in this case, before I even had children. I bought my copy of Windowsill Garden with my employee discount at the children’s bookstore where I worked during grad school. I grew millions of houseplants in those days, and Linnea was a girl after my own heart.
And these two, oh how beloved. Rilla and I read a chapter of each, every day (or nearly so). She was skeptical about Milly-Molly-Mandy at first—the cover didn’t do much for her—but I started reading the first chapter and as I suspected, she was swept right up by the magic of MMM holding all those separate errands in her head. And then chapter two, when Milly-Molly-Mandy has to decide how to spend a penny? I’m not being the slightest bit ironic: this is seriously captivating stuff. Every day I’m so excited when it’s time to curl up for our double-header.
Gonna try, at least.
Failed utterly last year at keeping up my Rillabooks log. Of course, it’s really a Rilla-and-Huck-and-sometimes-Wonderboy log, which makes the keeping-up all the harder.
My strategy this year is to snap a picture each day after we’ve finished reading.
One thing I like about this method is that I can track frequently requested rereads alongside newer books. It’s been fun to see a book appearing two or three days in a row as it moves into the Favorites position and then is eventually superceded by a new charmer.
I’m posting the pics on Instagram, when I remember, tagged “today’s #readalouds.”
A few remarks:
Cookie the Walker. They love this book. If I’d thought of the photo idea sooner, it would have appeared in about ten in a row. I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t have expected it to spark such an obsession—but it’s on its way to Scoopy the Steam Shovel territory, if you know what I mean. Twice now I’ve taken it back to the library, but the librarians keep shelving all my returns on the display rack, so every other time we go, Huck grabs it again.
But oh you guys, if you haven’t checked out Sophie’s Squash yet, do. It was one of our Cybils finalists—the whole darn judging panel was crazy about it. It’s delightful. Sophie adopts a butternut squash as her baby and best friend, and, well, to say people in my house can relate to that notion is an understatement.
(Sophie’s a more devoted companion than my guy was.)
Well, since all previous methods of logging our picture book reads have proven unsuccessful over the long haul, I’m going to give this quick-and-easy method a try: I’ll try to snap a pic of each day’s pile and toss it up on Instagram. Then, if time permits, I can annotate the photo here. Here’s yesterday, a very good haul—mostly library books of the kids’ choosing.
Love Monster was sent to me for review and has a lot of charm. I think we’ve all had days where we’ve felt like the only monster in Cutesville.
Sing is the familiar Sesame Street/Karen Carpenter song, but illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, which is always a good thing. I would pretty much like my whole life to be illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.
Tap the Magic Tree was a Rilla pick, I believe, and delighted all three of my youngest, but Huck most of all. At least, until he dissolved in tears over the page that Rilla tapped first. Each tap, rub, wiggle, or air-kiss brings changes to the tree as we follow it through the seasons.
This Plus That is delightful, and of this bunch is the one I’d be most likely to buy. Little equations from daily life. Chalk + sitting = school. Chalk + jumping = hopscotch. Gave us loads to talk about. Amy Krouse Rosenthal always does.
This Is Our House is a sweet and simple story of three generations of family making a life in one beloved city house. The kids seemed to find it really satisfying, in a kind of calm and peaceful way. It has been requested several more times since that first read. They enjoy the comforting full-circle of the pattern: the little girl learning to walk on the same street her mother had toddled on years before; the same cherry tree blooming in the spring. Wonderful art in this one.
The Silver Moon is a poetry collection and we’ve only read a few pieces—lovely so far.
My Father’s Arms Are a Boat is a book I would hesitate to give as a gift but would recommend to certain friends, certain kids…it’s a very sad story; the mother has died, the father and son are mourning, but this is shown through poignant words and actions, not spelled out in a narrative manner. It’s one quiet night, one starry sky, one touching conversation. A hard book to describe. We were into it before I knew what I was reading, and the children were captivated, there was no turning back…and I wouldn’t want to, I’m glad we shared it together. But it’s a sad, haunting poem of a book, and I can see that it might be emotionally wrenching for some children. So don’t do what I did. Preview it first. It’s a good read for adults in its own right.
Okay, I can guarantee I won’t be annotating every one of these photos. But I can snap the pic, at least, and have the record.
(No photo for today because—gasp!—we didn’t read any books together!)
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang.
Sometimes you just want a book that makes a kid belly laugh. From the moment Baby Billy makes his appearance, mustachioed from the get-go, Huck and Rilla were in stitches. As Billy grows, his mustache makes it easy for him to assume a variety of roles: cowboy, cop, painter, circus ringleader. But beware the toddler with a long, twirly, Snidely Whiplash mustache: you might have a wee villain on your hands. The surprise ending generated the biggest guffaw of all from my small fry. When Huck discovered the book had gone back to the library, he very nearly grew a bad-guy mustache on the spot. Don’t worry—just like Billy, he recovered his good-guy wits before any dastardly deeds were done. Mustache Baby will be making a repeat visit very soon.