It is really, really challenging to find an age-appropriate book for young kids that want to know what naked bodies look like for boys and girls. But the search was worth it; this book is perfect. Your curious kid gets to see what everything is and what everything does using the real terminology in a completely straightforward and appropriate way. Even the family dogs are included in the explanations, adding to the beautifully matter-of-fact tone.
Author: Robie H. Harris Illustrator: Nadine Bernard Westcott
A blizzard is coming, so Mother Rabbit bakes carrot cake and knits her beloved Little Rabbit a hat. He loves it and asks her to make hats for their friends too. She happily agrees, they work together on the hats, and the friends (after seeing how warm they are and how special they feel wearing them) are very appreciative. Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit go home and have carrot cake, warm and secure in each other’s love and being together (“the best gift of all”). The end.
It sounds so simple, but the pictures are so lovely and the rabbits are so realistically warm and their relationship is so caring; it may be the coziest book I have ever read. And both the boys still love it, which always surprises me a bit and also makes me happy each year. Apparently it is the first book in a series about Little Rabbit and Mother Rabbit, but we haven’t read the other books (which are focused on particular issues, like handling cleaning up or crying or nightmares).
It is Christmas morning and at first everyone in Morris’s family is very happy. But while Morris’s three older siblings are all interested in swapping with each other for playtime with their new presents (a beauty kit, hockey outfit, and chemistry set), they don’t want to swap for playtime with Morris’s new bear. Morris is deeply disappointed. But what is that under the tree? And what is a disappearing bag anyway? The answer surprising, and the book is a total pleasure–perfect for any sibling, or anyone who’s ever felt in need of a bit of magic.
Every year, after Thanksgiving, I bring out the Christmas books. Every
year, after New Year’s Day, I put them away again. I still read the
books aloud to the boys in the order they pick, and each year this book
(along with Shall I Knit You a Hat?, which I’ll be posting about soon; Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree; and The Christmas Wombat)
is one of the first chosen. My oldest likes it so much that in 2017
he asked for (and received) a bear just like Morris’s as his Christmas
In this story, which was inspired by the author’s grandmother own journey, a Polish family flees war and hunger around the turn of the last century. They are immigrating to the United States to join the husband/father who went first. Nearly all of their possessions (which are already vanishing few by current standards) must be left behind. Their journey via foot and steerage-class is difficult. They don’t speak English. But they have each other and reach Ellis Island on Christmas Day, where they are met with kindness and decency and ultimately welcomed to their new country. We’ve been reading this book for years; this year it was especially meaningful.
Author: Maxinne Rhea Leighton Illustrator: Dennis Nolan
Posted onJanuary 8, 2019|Comments Off on Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert
The Santa in this story is a hard-working, hard-playing, jolly but largely solitary fellow who spends the entire year happily using his unmatched expertise in kids, toys, and gifts to match “the exact right kid with the exact right toy 99.9 percent of the time.” As always, Marla Frazee’s pictures are wonderful and reward settling in and really enjoying the details (like the subtle and funny “post-credits scene” on the back cover).
Author: Marla Frazee Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Comments Off on Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert
Bruce is a grumpy bear with one joy in life: preparing and eating fancy egg recipes that he has carefully researched online. But after a batch of (free-range organic) goose eggs hatch while he is off gathering firewood, Bruce becomes “the victim of mistaken identity.” (“MAMA!”) Much as he tries to get things back to normal (and he really, really tries, which is where a lot of the humor comes in), his life will never be the same.
This book kicked off a series, but we never picked up the later books; by the time they came out, my boys’ interest in new picture books was waning.
Author: Ryan T. Higgins Illustrator: Ryan T. Higgins
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?).
Where and what can a home be? Some of Ms. Ellis’ answers are conventional (for example, a nest), others are pure fantasy (see the picture above). Her drawings are deceptively-simple and peaceful–perfect for before bed. But what gives the boys the most pleasure is that every double-page spread in this book contains a dove. Sometimes the dove is easy to spot. Sometimes it is very well hidden. The boys always love finding it.
Posted onJuly 13, 2015|Comments Off on Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis
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).
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
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