Tag Archives: toys

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

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I was about to read this sweet story tonight when my oldest asked to read it to us (a first!). He did so with incredible fluidity and expressiveness and I’m so very, very surprised and delighted.

Although we haven’t read it very often, both of my boys really enjoy this book, which winds down a busy day of work and play by saying goodnight to big trucks one by one. My youngest noted of the picture above that the crane truck has a teddy bear to cuddle, a star for if he wakes up in the night, and that he looks very happy. Me too.

Author: Sherri Duskey
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld

 

The Magic Nesting Doll

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Once upon a time a girl named Katya lived with her grandmother
at the edge of the forest. They worked hard and loved
each other tenderly, until one day the old woman fell ill.
She called Katya to her side and said, “Little pigeon, my time is
near. Soon you must make your own way in the world, but I have
a gift that will help you.” She took a little matryoshka, a nesting
doll, out of a small box. The doll was smooth and bright, painted
in the likeness of the grandmother with apron and kerchief.
Katya started to open the doll.
“Stop!” said the old woman. “Not yet. If your need is great,
open the doll and help will come. But you may only do so three
times. After that, the magic will be gone. Keep the doll and
remember me.”

After her grandmother dies, Katya goes out into the world where she is told that:

“Ever since the Tsarevitch fell under a wicked spell that turned him
into living ice, it is always winter without thaw, night without moon,
and dark without dawn.”

Can Katya’s magic and courage break the spell, saving the crown prince and the kingdom? While there may not be much suspense (at least for an adult reader), getting to the answer is a pleasure. The story feels like a classic fairy tale, with an interesting Russian flavor, and Laurel Long’s illustrations are utterly beautiful (as in her The Twelve Days of Christmas). Although the boys enjoy this book, they do not reach for it as yet.

Author: Jacqueline K. Ogburn
Illustrator: Laurel Long

On Market Street

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On Market Street, vendors of items from apples to zippers all wear (or are made of) their wares. I’ve loved this beautiful alphabet book from the first time I saw it as a child. The boys prefer The Racecar Alphabet, but this is the week when I share some of the books that I currently enjoy more than they do, in honor of Mother’s Day.

Author: Arnold Lobel
Illustrator: Anita Lobel


 

Fuzzy Rabbit

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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

Monkey and Me

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Monkey and me,
Monkey and me,
Monkey and me,
We went to see,
We went to see some. . .

A girl and her toy monkey imagine going to see all kinds of animals. That’s it, really (with one small visual twist at the end). Visual clues give a hint to what type of animal they will be going to see next (in the photo above, they are anticipating elephants), which is fun, and this is an outstanding read aloud; the repetitious refrain (quoted above) is perfect (if ungrammatical).

When the boys were very, very small, they each loved this book. Like When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, it arrived in a Cheerios box in 2008 (which was a truly banner year for the spoonfuls of stories promotion in our house). The version we have is very small and, well, it was free, so I had no qualms about flapping it about to make the boys laugh (especially on the bats page, to make the bats “fly”).

The boys have outgrown it now, but this book is highly recommended.

Author: Emily Gravett
Illustrator: Emily Gravett

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

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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

Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist series

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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

 

The Sea-Breeze Hotel

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Things are not looking good for the owner and employees of the aptly-named Sea-Breeze Hotel:

“It’s too windy to fish and swim,” moaned the children.
“It’s far too breezy for beachcombing,” the parents
complained.
“It’s even too blustery to sit on the balcony,” the
grandparents grumbled.
And they all packed their bags and went away.

But then an employee’s grandson makes a kite to cheer up the hotel owner. Once the other employees see what fun she is having with it, they make kites too. And once people begin to notice the kites circling and soaring overhead, they all want to visit the kite-flying hotel and “[n]ot one person complained about the wind.”

Author: Marcia Vaughan
Illustrator: Patricia Mullins

The Animals’ Merry Christmas

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This collection of short stories and poems is one of my very favorite books. I loved it when I was a kid and now I love reading one or two of the stories to the boys each night before bed during the lead up to Christmas. The stories are absolutely charming and the pictures are beautiful and I wish this version (from 1969) wasn’t out of print (the version currently in print cut out a few of my favorite stories–I have no idea why). Don’t let the missing stories stop you from picking up a copy of the new edition, if you don’t have one already. This book is contains so much holiday joy; it really shouldn’t be missed.

Author: Kathryn Jackson
Illustrator: Richard Scarry

Alexander

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It was bedtime. Chris and his father sat side by side on
Chris’s bed.
“Alexander was a pretty bad horse today,” Chris said.

His father lit his pipe. “Alexander, the red horse with
green stripes?”
Chris nodded.
“What happened?” Chris’s father asked.

It seems Alexander has had a rough, rough day. But Chris’s father reassures him that “anybody can have a bad day once in a while” (even, it turns out, Chris), and still be able to look forward to being “wonderful” tomorrow.

This charming vintage book feels extremely contemporary (well, except for that pipe), and is the perfect reminder that tomorrow is another day.

Author: Harold Littledale
Illustrator: Tom Vroman