Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Great Picture Books for Friendship

Friendship is interesting at a young age.  It truly is fleeting, but children learn so many important things from it.  

My two-year-old girl loves nothing more than going to a "friend's" house and trying on all their beautiful princess things.  Although we know she is too young to really play side-by-side with others, we want to teach her to respect and enjoy others as best we can.  

My five-year-old boy wants to make friends with everyone that he encounters.  He enjoys going to his friends' houses and playing with their toys, but when they come to our house to play he wants to hide all of his toys and share nothing.  

The following stories have helped both children understand the importance of respect for others and how wonderful friendship really can be.  

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
One of our favorite books from one of our favorite authors, whom I have mentioned a few times thus far (and more below!).   Leonardo is not a very good monster.  Silliness ensues before Leonardo makes a very important decision.  The kids think this book is a hoot, but the ending is really touching.

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Not the usual silly Mo Willems fare, but a terrific tale of friendship, loss and renewal.

Pigs Make Me Sneeze! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems
Any of the Elephant and Piggie book series could fall under the friendship category.

Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by P. Kahumbu
Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley
Both of these are fantastic friendship stories that actually occurred. Children adore the animals pictured and the true stories can't be beat. 

My Friend and I by Lisa Jahn-Clough
Sharing - the most difficult part about early childhood friendships.  Best for young children, but effective for any preschool or early school age child.

Making a Friend by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
A truly beautiful book about the power of friendship.

Ninja Cowboy Bear presents The Call of the Cowboy by David Bruins, illustrated by Hilary Leung
This is a silly story, but was very influential on my five-year-old.  The Cowboy is not respecting his friends and must learn to do so before they can enjoy their time together.

The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell
A wonderful book that shows that friendship is more important than things.

This is Our House by Michael Rosen
Most kids would rather play with a cardboard box than expensive toys, so this book is great because the plot revolves around a cardboard box.  But the story that unfolds is so much more than creativity with a box.  It is a perfect story for a child that is not eager to share.

Sam's New Friend by Thierry Robberecht, illustrated by Philippe Goossens
This simple story has a great message about friendship.

We love new books at our house - if you love any other literature on this topic, please share!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Great Picture Books for Eating

There are two very picky eaters living in my house. One will eat just about any vegetable that we put in front of him(his favorites are brussels sprouts and asparagus!), but no meat. The other will eat no vegetables and only some meat. We spend a lot of time trying to hide vegetables in sauces and trying new things in hopes that we will finally find something that they like.

It really must just be a phase that nearly every child must pass through. I was just such a child and now I will eat anything - o
ctopus, pigeon, kangaroo.  All of the difficulty that I gave my parents I am surely experiencing now with my own.  I don't think that we can change them or force them to eat anything.  All we can ask is that they try everything put before them.  

These books have been terribly helpful in teaching our children about food.  That it doesn't just appear on the table.  That other kids are picky, too.  That it is okay to not like something.  But everything is always worth a try, or maybe a few!

Books for Picky Eaters:

The Seven Silly Eaters by MaryAnn Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee
This beautifully illustrated book is an excellent example to teach children to appreciate their food and not be rude.

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
My parents used this book on me when I was a child.  I would only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just like Frances. I'm not sure that this book changed everything, but it sure helped!

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

Eat Your Peas, Ivy Louise by Leo Landry
The perfect book for kids and parents.  A very familiar scenario for many!

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
A classic that deals with not wanting to try something.  It is really quite silly, so be sure to discuss what is going on.  I think my kids get so taken with Dr. Seuss' goofiness, sometimes they can miss the moral of the story.

Books to Teach About Food:

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
This is an excellent book to introduce a lot of produce to your kids.  We receive a 20 week vegetable share from a local farm.  Our children have learned a lot from the produce we bring into our home, but this book helped put much of it in a perspective that they can enjoy.

Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie de Paola
Two terrific choices on a familiar staple written by fantastic authors.  Paola's book is wordless, which is always fun for little ones to "read" on their own.

Some cool classics related to our topic of food:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ronald Barrett

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

We love new books at our house - if you love any other literature on this topic, please share!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Great Picture Books on Differences

I did not begin this blog attempting to go through the alphabet.  However, I realized today that my first few posts were A, B, and C.  So for now I will carry on in alphabetical order.

Where to even begin on this topic?  There is so much wonderful literature focusing on differences. The variations are staggering, but the overlying message is the same: different is good, just be who you are and be proud.  This is very important to me as a mother.  

I want my kids to be who they are - I only want to help them become good, kind people.  My girl loves pink and everything princess - me being a tomboy from a young age, this has been difficult to handle.  But I embrace her for who she is.  My boy is not into trucks and dinosaurs, like most boys.  If it involves music and dance - he loves it.  I went to see the Broadway musical Spiderman Turn Off the Dark and brought home the soundtrack.  He suddenly loves Spiderman.  My husband and I love him all the more for this.

Embrace the differences.  I would love for my children to grow up knowing how meaningful this is.

Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk
(see also my page Best Book & Learning App's - this is available in a mobile version)
We love this book (and the app). No one wants to attend Miss Spider's Tea Party as they are scared that Miss Spider is going to eat them. But Miss Spider may not be what they assume.

Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski, illustrated by Lee Harper

I Like Myself!  by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow

Be yourself, love yourself.  It's okay to be different as long as you are true to yourself.

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler, illustrated by David Lee Csicsko

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Spork  by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Great companion books that can teach children about utensils and differences at the same time.  Both are adorable books with very nice messages.

Our favorite author has two fabulous books about making new friends and accepting that they are different: 
Swim, Little Wombat, Swim! by Charles Fuge
It's a Monster Party! by Tasha Pym, illustrated by Charles Fuge

Other notable books dealing with differences and individuality:
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Suki the Very Loud Bunny by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan
"Slowly, slowly, slowly," said the sloth by Eric Carle
My Princess Boy: a Mom's Story About a Young Boy Who Loves to Dress Up by Cheryl Kilodavis, illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone

We love new books at our house - if you love any other literature on this topic, please share!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Great Picture Books for Cooperation

Cooperation is tantamount to the success of any human being.  Children can use this skill with parents, siblings, friends, aquaintances, etc.  

We have trouble at our house, as most surely do, with siblings sharing.  When reminded that if they cooperate and play nicely together, then everyone has more fun.  It really does work, but it helps to keep a book highlighting cooperation in the mix.  As always, take full advantage of your library.  Most of the books mentioned here we do not own.  I love the variety of stories and ideas that we can share with our kids because of the vast collection available to us through the library.

Greysen, my 5 year old book-lover, recently had a gift certificate for Barnes and Noble that "needed" spending.  We happened upon this first book.  Sitting in the store, we read a whole stack of books and this is the one that Greysen chose to take home.  

Red and Yellow's Noisy Night 
by Josh Selig
The illustrations are lovely and the simple story tells of olive tree inhabitants, Red and Yellow, who must work together to have a peaceful night.  The story is actually based on "The Olive Branch," an animated television series that promotes an understanding of conflict resolution and mutual respect.  More information is available through The Little Light Foundation.  Their website includes a wordless video of Red and Yellow's story:  http://www.littlelightfoundation.org/    I look forward to what the foundation may do next.

My Friend Rabbit 
by Eric Rohmann
Rabbit always seems to get into trouble, but he fortunately has some great friends that with some cooperation can solve any problem. This Caldecott Award winner really captures children's attention.  They want everything to turn out well and root for everyone working together.

The Little Red Pen 
by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens 
This is a fantastic take on the classic story The Little Red Hen.  The illustrations are fun and oh do the kids enjoy seeing the inanimate objects come to life.  The little red pen's friends do not want to help her.  "Not I!"  This story goes further than most Little Red Hen adaptations, in that the conflict is resolved through the cooperation of the friends.

The Tale of Pip and Squeak 
by Kate Duke
A tale of sibling discord, but when they have a common goal they learn to work together or cooperate.  The illustrations are quite detailed and the overall message is a great one for bickering siblings or friends.  

Cooperation books continued: 

by Leo Lionni

Duck and Goose 
by Tad Hills

A Little Story About a Big Turnip 

by Tatiana Zunshine

Whale is Stuck/Whale Gets Stuck 
by Karen Hayles, illustrated by Charles Fuge
[It appears that this book had a recent reprint under a new title, but both are the same book.]

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen 
by Howard Binkow
This book also has a great accompanying website (http://wedolisten.org/) where you can watch/read many Wigglebottom stories and access other related activities. 

We love new books at our house - if you love any other literature on this topic, please share!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Great Picture Books for Bullying

I don't feel this topic can be covered too early in a child's life.  Bullying is such a large part of our current society.  I believe the best way to combat it is to show children at a young age how horrible it can be.  Bullying and peer pressure can be so detrimental to a person of any age and I feel the following books are helping my children understand these concepts. I want to teach my children compassion and empathy and that it is okay to stand up for others and to be yourself.

There is an added benefit to reading picture books to your children.  Not only do they learn, but we learn as well.  I have learned new, subtle methods for dealing with anger.  I have learned to be more careful what I say and show my children more compassion.  Very often we forget that they are always listening and look to us to learn the most important values in life.  I have felt that by reading picture books and focusing on these topics our whole family has grown and learned and is far better for it.

These books all deal with bullying in a little different manner.  At the top of our list is: 

Hats by Kevin Luthardt
This is a nearly wordless story, but quite effective.  My kids were very moved when the boy is nice to the bully, in essence befriending him.  It is very simple for young children to be able to grasp the concept of bullying.

Jungle Bullies by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Vincent Nguyen
To get what they want, the larger jungle animals bully the smaller ones until Mama Monkey shows them all the benefits of sharing. We enjoy this book thoroughly.  It is a frequent request at our house.  A highlight is the repetitive saying that features: "...please share it with me as a friend, don't be mean to me again."  Vincent Nguyen's animal illustrations are very expressive.  As always the kids adore the animals, but take away so much more from the story.

Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg, illustrated by Steven Gammell
Patrick Edward's fierce monster mother helps him deal with some obnoxious bullies. Beautiful illustrations. It is similar in theory to Jungle Bullies, but quite different as a whole.

Pinduli by Janell Cannon 
A beautiful story full of animals, Pinduli faces bullies.  The book is also about loving yourself and how Pinduli comes to realize that he is special, even though bullies tell him otherwise.  By the author/illustrator of Stellaluna.

Noni Says No by Heather Hartt-Sussman, illustrated by Genevieve Cote
Not focused on bullying, but on asserting yourself.  Noni can't say no, so people (even friends) take advantage of that.  She has to learn how to assert herself.  The illustrations are fun and the lesson stirs interesting conversations.  

Other Honorable Mentions for Bullying/Peer Pressure:
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
Please Don't Tease Tootsie by Margaret Chamberlain 
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patti Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow
One by Kathryn Otoshi

A few more indepth books on the topic of bullying from one of our favorite local Wisconsin authors: 
A Weekend With Wendell
Chester's Way

We love new books at our house - if you love any other literature on this topic, please share!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Great Picture Books for Anger

This was the first topic that I got really serious about. I went to the library and got every book available. I didn't know what else to do. I had a 2+ year old that didn't know how to express his anger and didn't want to listen to Mom or Dad. So we tried books. And they were lifesavers!

We don't know if one particular book did the trick because we read so many, but I think they all help in a small way. It gave Greysen (and now we're reading them again with Camden) some words to express what he was feeling.
How Are You Peeling? by Saxton Freymann continues to be one of our favorite books about feelings.  It is fun and the kids love to talk about how they think the fruits and vegetables are feeling.

Other great books dealing with anger:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Finn Throws a Fit by David Elliott, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai

No Biting by Karen Katz (0r No Hitting by Karen Katz)

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban, illustrated by Henry Cole

When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

Sometimes I'm Bombaloo by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Yumi Heo

I'm So Mad! by Robie H. Harris, Nicole Hollander

When I'm Feeling Angry by Tracey Moroney

Also a series and author/illustrator that we adore, An Elephant and Piggie Book by Mo Willems, has a lot of books dealing subtly and humorously with feelings. The following titles are most closely related to the topic of anger:

I Am Going
I Love My New Toy!

Or a great book illustrated by Charles Fuge -  Trumpet: the little elephant with a big temper by Clarke, Jane.
These books are all great, but the best thing they do is spur a dialogue between you and your child.  Talking about what you read is the most important part of reading with a child. 

Here is my daughter, Camden, reviewing some of these books:

We love new books at our house!  If you love any other literature on this topic, please share!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our Absolute Favorite Author/Illustrator

I have always loved books. My entire life I have been fascinated with them, the beauty of them.  I was an advanced reader at a young age and just wouldn't put books down.  I still find myself doing that, although in the past few years it is usually Childrens' Picture books that catch my fancy.  Of course, these do combine two of my favorite things: literature and art.  

Picture books can be truly engaging, educational and beautiful.  My husband and I spend a lot of time reading books to our children, ages 2 and 5.  They in turn spend a lot of time curled up with their favorite books.  Our 5 year old, Greysen, is just grasping basic reading skills, so a whole new world of reading is opening up to him.  Camden, our precocious 2 year old, will rarely sit still, but loves to sit in front of the bookcase and "read" all of the books - her often word-for-word retelling is amazing.

I think books hold an amazing power for children to learn and grow.  Not simply for the language skills, but also the life lessons.  I will try to label all of the books that I post so that the topics covered are easier to access.  My local librarians are incredibly helpful when it's come to finding books on particular topics: sharing, anger, loss, bullying.  I have looked in the past for a website to help me find great books within these topics, but have found none.  If you know of any, please share them here.  

What better way to start this blog than with our favorite author/illustrator, Charles Fuge. This does not cover one particular topic, but we enjoy his books so thoroughly that he must be the first thing that we share.

I believe our first encounter with Charles Fuge was with his book I Know a Rhino.  We happened upon it at the local library and oh what fun!  

"I know a Rhino, We like to take tea, I have two sugars, and Rhino has three"

Very simple rhyming and fun animal illustrations.  That is probably what we love most about Fuge's books.  I don't know a child that doesn't adore animals and his illustrations certainly make the animals adorable.  

Sadly, this book is out of print, but you can find it at the library or in used format (that's where I got our copy).

When I discover an author/illustrator that I love, I enjoy searching out their other literature.  We have found that we like (and subsequently own) nearly everything that Fuge has written/illustrated.  

Bedtime Hullabaloo! is by far our favorite book.  Written by David Conway and illustrated by Charles Fuge, Bedtime Hullabaloo! is just so much darn fun.  While I've read some critics feel that the alliteration and wordplay is uneven, my whole family thinks it is great fun.  

"One night on the silly savannah a ludicrous leopard is leapfrogging to bed..."

Greysen and Camden can recite the whole book (and can tell someone when they've read it incorrectly!).  We plan to share it at a Campfire Stories event at our library this week.

Once again, Fuge's illustrations are playful and amusing images of animals.  

We have read every book on the list below of Fuge's works and loved them all.  His earlier works are not as playful, the animal illustrations are a little more realistic, but still beautiful.   We usually give gifts of books and those pictured here are top choice!

Greysen and Camden's review of all of the above books: "We love the animals and the stories that have stuffed animals.  We love the animals.  We love the animals!"

I tried to label each book as to the main topics or themes covered.  I will likely revisit many of these books in future posts.  

Charles Fuge Illustrated Books
Title Author Labels
Whale is Stuck/Whale Gets Stuck Hayles, Karen cooperation, problem solving
Flea's Best Friend Fuge, Charles dogs
Dinosaurs! : a spot-the-difference puzzle book Parker, Steve puzzle
Sam's Sneaker Search O'Brien, Claire lost, found, shoes
My dad! Fuge, Charles dad, father
It's a Monster Party!  Pym, Tasha  differences, new friends
I Know a Rhino Fuge, Charles bedtime, animals, rhyme
Trumpet: the little elephant with a big temper Clarke, Jane temper, tantrum, anger
I Love It When You Smile McBratney, Sam  bad day, bad mood, smiling
Yes We Can! McBratney, Sam  individuality, friendship
This is the Way Fuge, Charles animal sounds, animal actions
Yip!Snap!Yap! Fuge, Charles sounds
Astonishing Animal ABC Fuge, Charles ABC, alphabet, animals
Bedtime Hullabaloo Conway, David  bedtime
Three Little Dinosaurs Fuge, Charles flight, dinosaurs, friends
Wombat Series:
Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball Churchill, Vicki favorite things, bedtime
Found You, Little Womat! McAllister, Angela  getting lost, being found
Swim, Little Wombat, Swim! Fuge, Charles making new friends, differences
Where To, Little Wombat! Fuge, Charles adventure, home
The Adventures of Little Wombat multiple (includes the first four books)
Watch Out, Little Wombat! Fuge, Charles imagination, monsters
Gilbert Series:
Gilbert the Great Clarke, Jane loss, making new friends
Gilbert in Deep Clarke, Jane fearless, danger, adventure
Gilbert the Hero Clarke, Jane baby, brother