Tag Archives: food

Scaredy Squirrel

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WARNING!
Scaredy Squirrel insists that
everyone wash their hands
with antibacterial soap before
reading this book.

Scaredy Squirrel, true to his name, is afraid of just about everything. He has an emergency kit on hand at all times, plans for emergencies, and never leaves his nut tree until one fateful day… Well, I don’t want to spoil the fun (and there is lots of fun to be had).

Like One Kitten for Kim, this is a great book to read with early readers and non-readers, due to the humor and repeated rebuses (pictures that take the place of words). Be ready to read it repeatedly.

Author: Melanie Watt
Illustrator: Melanie Watt

 

Again!

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A little dragon is very excited about his favorite bedtime story. So excited that whenever his sleepy mama finishes it he has the same request: “Again!” When she finally falls asleep, things get surprisingly… heated.

The boys love yelling along with the little dragon (to the point where my husband came racing in recently wondering what was wrong). Channeling the dragon mother’s renditions of the ever-evolving (and shrinking) bedtime story is lots of fun, and there is a physical (die-cut) surprise at the end of the book that never fails to amuse us all.

Author: Emily Gravett
Illustrator: Emily Gravett

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

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In the words of my youngest: “I love this one! The tiger eats everything!” Charming, very British, and perfect for before bed.

Author: Judith Kerr
Illustrator: Judith Kerr

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is another book that needs no introduction and is utterly wonderful. Though there are many hints of the darkness to come (gulp), the tone is largely playful and the story and setting are as imaginative as ever. And it is here that Ms. Rowling, through Dumbledore, quietly states a message that goes to the heart of the series: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

About a year and a half ago, after we enjoyed reading the first book in this series together, I read half of this second book to my oldest before he lost interest. Now a number of his friends are reading the series and he decided to give it another try. He raced through the rest of the book (mostly by himself) in a matter of days and then hopped straight into the third and fourth books in the series (more on them to follow).

Author: J.K. Rowling
Illustrator: Mary Grandpre

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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I’m going to assume you know the plot of Wardrobe, given its status as an extremely widely-read, acknowledged classic of children’s literature. You may not know, however, that there is much controversy over which book in the Narnia series should be considered the first one. I started our journey to Narnia here, as Mr. Lewis did midway through the last century, because I think starting with the later-written prequel, The Magician’s Nephew, ruins the mystery and magic of Wardrobe.

I wasn’t sure how Wardrobe would work as a read-aloud and was pleasantly surprised to find it worked beautifully. Reading it aloud took much less time than I had expected and my oldest was very interested throughout.

First caveats:

Most adults know the Narnia books have a very Christian subtext, but most children (judging by my son and my childhood self) do not notice, at least with the early books in the series. A lion that dies to redeem the sins of others and then comes back to life? Carry on! It is no stranger than a magical chocolate factory staffed by oompa loompas or a father who goes out for some milk and is delayed by aliens, pirates, vampires, and space-traveling-talking dinosaurs. Whether you love that or hate the subtext, some familiarity with Narnia is is necessary for cultural literacy (for example, without Narnia, the excellent His Dark Materials trilogy wouldn’t make nearly as much sense). There is a bit of obvious sexism in this book, but it is not outrageous, particularly for the time period in which it was written.

Further caveats (with spoilers):

I’m not sure how far we’ll venture into this series together; I read Wardrobe early on as a child and really enjoyed it, but checked others in the series out of the library out of order and got deeply discouraged by The Magician’s Nephew (which I thought explained things that needed no explanation and just wasn’t terribly interesting) and then The Last Battle (which, among many other issues, has the Problem of Susan; nearly universally unsympathetic and one-dimensional characters; and an apocalypse, in every sense of the word, that destroys Narnia) and gave up on the series. But I recently read the third book in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which was sent to me through a shipping error), and think my oldest would love it (although it comes with some caveats of its own, which I’ll detail if it ever gets its own entry) so I’ve ordered Prince Caspian to see if we should read it before Dawn Treader.

Final caveat:

Make sure your child is old enough for this book and this series; when good and evil battle things out in Narnia (and they do at least once in each of the Narnia books I have read) the details are vivid and the outcomes can be very, very grim.

Author: C.S. Lewis
Illustrator: Pauline Baynes

Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life

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Unlike most of the books I feature here, this is not a book for reading aloud from cover to cover. Instead, this is a book for dipping in and out of, admiring the extensive illustrations and learning myriad new things. Chapters on land, barns, tools, planting, animals, food, and crafts provide an entry point for just about any range of interests and this book would make a wonderful present for just about anyone of any age.

Randomly opening the book to a section on poultry, in four pages we learned: the anatomy of an egg, how to identify (by their footprints) predators that could attack the flock, the average number of eggs one hen lays each year, two ways to tell how old an egg is, and the type of duck my mother had as a girl (a Call duck).

My oldest loves to read through this book on his own and is lobbying for us to try some of the recipes (especially the maple fudge).

Author: Julia Rothman
Illustrator: Julia Rothman

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis

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In a 1989 interview with The New York Times, celebrated chef and author Edna Lewis said: “As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.” This book focuses on that childhood, those good flavors, and how the rhythms of growing and gathering food affected the day-to-day life of Ms. Lewis’ family.

The boys love this book; the pictures and lovingly-described foods keep them spellbound. I do have a few small caveats: the recipes included at the end of the book are inspired by Ms. Lewis, but are not her own; the speech of the characters is highly stylized (old poetry and rhymes about food make up much of the dialogue, which may take some getting used to); and we all agree the author of this book likely has never actually heard a whippoorwill (we have learned from camping that its call is anything but melodious–instead it is a dead ringer for an hours-long car alarm).

Author: Robbin Gourley
Illustrator: Robbin Gourley

 

Ice Cream Summer

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In this book, a boy composes a rather plain-vanilla letter to his grandpa sharing what he’s been doing and learning over the summer (the toothsome illustrations reveal that it is all related to ice cream). Locating ice cream lurking in unexpected places is a large part of the fun–nearly all the pages are highly detailed and lend themselves to close examination.

Author: Peter Sis
Illustrator: Peter Sis

 

Those Darn Squirrels Fly South

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Genius squirrels follow wintering birds to a tropical paradise. Will their grumpy friend Old Man Fookwire be far behind?

Like the first book in this series, Those Darn Squirrels!, it is difficult to read this book once; as soon as it is done, the boys ask me to read it again. Since they are laughing their heads off for much of the book (no matter how many times we read it), I’m happy to comply.

Author: Adam Rubin
Illustrator: Daniel Salmieri

 

Tap-Tap

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It was early on market day when Sasifi and her mama
started down the path to the main road. The sky was still
gray. Mama carried a big basket of oranges on her head.
Sasifi carried a smaller one.
“Will we ride in the tap-tap today?” Sasifi asked.
“No,” said Mama. “We will walk to market, the same as
always.”

Sasifi has just turned eight and is very proud that she is now big enough to help Mama on market day. But she would love to try traveling in a tap-tap (a brightly painted share taxi) instead of walking. This engaging book deftly portrays a way of life very different than our own (the boys wondered why Sasifi’s family did not just buy a car, which lead to an interesting discussion) and is gently humorous. My youngest especially enjoys it.

Author: Karen Lynn Williams
Illustrator: Catherine Stock