The narrator of this bittersweet story (a special favorite of my youngest) really, really wants a pet, but her mother keeps saying no.
I asked her every day for a month, until she finally said,
“You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need
to be walked or bathed or fed.”
I made her promise.
Then (with the help of the school librarian) she finds a pet that actually fits the criteria: a sloth. When he arrives, she finds the reality of “Sparky” doesn’t conform at all with what she thought having a pet would be like.
While kids seem to focus on humorous aspects of the situation, adults will notice there is a lot going on here about what happens when expectations don’t match up with reality. Come for the laughter; stay for the loss, grief, and love (or is it the other way around?).
Author: Jenny Offill
Illustrator: Chris Appelhans
Morris looked at the candy.
He liked the gumdrops.
He said, “Give me some of those.”
The man said,
“They are one for a penny.
How much money do you have?”
Morris looked. He had six pennies.
“I have four pennies,” he said.
The man laughed. “You have six!
Can’t you count? Don’t you go to school?”
Morris asked, “What is school?”
The rest of the book answers this question, as Morris immediately heads off to school and learns lots of new things. Perhaps most importantly, by the end of the day he knows how to purchase the right amount of gumdrops.
Morris takes things very literally, and the resulting misunderstandings (like in the picture above) really tickle my youngest (who is getting ready to start school himself). This book also presents many opportunities for him to participate in the reading (for example, by counting Morris’ pennies).
Author: B. Wiseman
Illustrator: B. Wiseman
Fuzzy Rabbit had been with the family for
as long as he could remember. His dungarees
were faded. He had a hole in the elbow of his
sweater, and his buttons were all odd ones of
different sizes. One of the stitches of his mouth
had come undone, and he couldn’t even smile.
Fuzzy has been feeling sad of late. His little girl, Ellen, used to take him to school with her, but recently she has started leaving him at home with the other toys. And, for the first time, she forgets to take him downstairs for her birthday party. Fuzzy is starting to wonder where he fits in. Luckily, by the end of the book he is reassured he is loved and regains his confidence (and his smile).
The pictures here are a big part of the attraction; I remember poring over them as a girl, wishing I could play in (or, better yet, have) Ellen’s room and toys. Now I enjoy noting that Fuzzy Rabbit (or “Alpaca,” as he is known in the U.K.) was made for Ellen by her mother and that Ellen has all the skills she needs to repair him. This is a favored book of my youngest, who is very interested in stuffed animals, birthdays, and school.
Author: Rosemary Billam
Illustrator: Vanessa Julian-Ottie
When I was a kid, Calvin and Hobbes was the highlight of the comics page. When this big box set came out in paperback a bit over two years ago, I pounced. Last year, I started reading it to my oldest before bed. Now he is devouring it without me (but he loves to show me the strips he thinks are the funniest, like the one above).
Author: Bill Watterson
Illustrator: Bill Watterson
This series, about a slightly-diabolical genius whose science skills far outpace her social skills, has been making the boys HOWL with laughter. In a very happy coincidence, the poem generator above was part of tonight’s bedtime reading. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Author: Jim Benton
Illustrator: Jim Benton
Posted in Chapter Books
Tagged Animals, bedtime, Diverse Books, food, Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist, Jim Benton, Machines, school, science, science fiction, series, toys, Valentine's Day
When Louis’ Scottish uncle sends him a tadpole as a birthday present (fresh from Loch Ness), it does not turn into a frog. It does, however, turn into a wonderful (if utterly impracticable) pet.
Note: This version of the book is out of print. In 2004, a new version was issued with a revised text and all new illustrations. The changes were not an improvement. Look for the version of the book that has the “tadpole” gazing up at Louis in profile, rather than a straight-on view of them both.
Author: Steven Kellogg
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
[T]he children drew pictures
of their chicks to post on the walls. All
of the other children’s pictures were cute
and yellow and very much alike. Sally’s
“Good work, children,” said Mrs. Henshaw. “Now let’s
investigate what our little chicks like to eat.”
“Mine likes seeds!” said one boy.
“Mine likes beetles!” said another.
“Mine is trying to eat the other chicks,” said Sally.
One of these chicks is really not like the others. But every time Sally tries to point this out, her teacher simply tells her not to be difficult. While the teacher’s careful refusal to acknowledge the elephant (dragon) in the room is increasingly absurd, Sally begins to love her “chick” despite the many challenges it presents.
Ultimately, this sweet, dryly funny book is about differences, unpredictability, and loving the one you’re with.
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrator: Andrea Wesson
This cute book was a kindergarten orientation present. If you tweak the grade, it makes for a nice night-before-the-first-day-of-early-elementary-school tradition.
Author: Natasha Wing
Illustrator: Julie Durrell
“Sometimes we all have to do things we
don’t want to do,” she told him gently. “Even
if they seem strange and scary at first. But you
will love school once you start.”
“You’ll make new friends. And play with new toys.”
“Read new books. And swing on new swings. Besides,” she
added. “I know a wonderful secret that will make your nights
at school seem as warm and cozy as your days at home.”
If you have a kid starting kindergarten or preschool, you need this book. My oldest’s (wonderful) kindergarten teacher read this on the first day of school and it made a HUGE impression.
Author: Audrey Penn
Illustrator: Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
Violet is “a mechanical genius” with a particular gift for building flying machines, a faithful canine sidekick, and supportive parents. What is not to love about book starring a strong, independent, STEM-focused female protagonist whose skills and moxie lead her to save the day?
Well… First, the book presents Violet’s inclinations as way outside the norm for a girl: “while other girls were playing with dolls and tea sets, Violet played with monkey wrenches and needle-nose pliers.” Although this book was just published six years ago, this feels outdated. Second, Violet is an outcast. She eats lunch alone; other kids make fun of her; and she hopes to compete in an airshow because, if she wins a prize, “maybe then the kids at school would be nice to her.” While she ultimately saves the lives of an entire Boy Scout troop, and gains the respect of her community, there is real pain here that the wish fulfillment doesn’t hide.
But the boys love this book and focus on Violet’s brilliant designs, her dog, and the happy ending. (We do talk a bit about how the other kids at school are being unkind and missing out by not getting to know her.) This is the first book on this blog that we discovered through my oldest bringing home books from his school’s library, but I’m guessing it won’t be the last.
Author: Steve Breen
Illustrator: Steve Breen