24. “Duck on a Bike” by David Shannon

Have you ever had a crazy idea that you have never chosen to execute, just because someone might have called it crazy? Have you had a wild dream that you have always decided to keep just a dream?  Skydiving, a trip to China, acting school? Somehow, the older we get and the more capable we become, the less we dare, don’t you think? That is why I love watching children. They don’t worry about should, could would. They just don’t worry, period. If they want to do something, they just go for it.

And so does one particular Duck. He decided to ride a bike. He wasn’t really a smooth rider, but he gave it a try. As he was having fun, the other animals were taking their time to worry about his safety, question his judgement, accuse him of showing off or watch him with envy. Luckily, when given an opportunity and bikes, all the animals hopped on the bicycles and followed  Duck’s idea. Duck’s craziness was inspiring.

I don’t know whether my son will be a leader or a follower, but I do want him to be able to dare. I want him to reach for the moon. That’s what life should be about.

Great story, David, Shannon and  I love the pictures. and my son loves Duck’s next wild idea!

23. “Mouse was Mad” by Linda Urban

Yesterday was the day when my son confirmed that he is a real man, indeed.  He loves pressing buttons. Luckily, not yet on the remote control, but on the elevator, traffic lights or door bells… anywhere, anytime.  He even pushed MY buttons a few times.

We were crossing the street and he wanted to turn the pedestrian crossing light. Somebody had done it before us, so I hurried across the street not to lose the signal, but my obsessive-compulsive son wanted to walk back and press the button HIMSELF. He walked home in tears, screaming hysterically, as I was quietly debating who should give in: me or him. I couldn’t decide. Ten minutes later  we walked back to press the unfortunate button.

Later, we read books and we opened “Mouse Was Mad”. I could not believe how relevant our random read turned out to be!

Mouse was mad. He was hopping, stomping, screaming, rolling… Nothing was helping. Actually he was getting more annoyed as he couldn’t do any of those actions perfectly. Hare laughed at him hop, Bear ridiculed his stomp, Bobcat did not approve of his scream and Hedgehog criticized his rolling technique. Suddenly the mouse stood still for a bit, took a big breath and… not only did he impress the other animals, but also felt much better. He was not mad anymore. 

I was happy that our screaming incident didn’t end up with time-out or yelling, but quietly. As if my son stopped believing in the power of his venting. Did my silence challenge him? He wanted me to talk. I felt in control. “What control?” you might think.  Did I let him do what he demanded? Yes and No. I view it more as a compromise. He calmed down, apologized for throwing a fit and promised not to do it again.  After all, it is not easy to reason with tired children (my son dropped his naps two weeks ago). Besides,  obsessive-compulsive runs in our family.

If your little mouse gets mad or drives you mad, don’t vent. Just give yourselves a minute to stand still and take a deep breath. Then read this book. They story and the pictures by Henry Cole will make both of you smile.

22. “The Missing Chick” by Valeri Gorbachev

High time for another reading delight by my favorite children’s writer and illustrator. ” The Missing Chick” is basically a detective story. CSI for children, you might say. Mother Hen thought  that her seven chickens were helping her hanging the clothes on the clothes line, but as Mrs. Duck found out there were just six of them. Where is the seventh child??? The whole village engages in the search, including the fire brigade and policemen. Will they find him?

Of course they will. Children’s story without a happy ending is useless. The chick is found and he promises not to get lost again. Until he does of course.

Don’t you know it the first hand? “Mommy, I will not do it again,” my son would look at me with his big eyes after I would tell him off for jumping on the bed. Sure he won’t. Until five minutes later…

21. “Drum City” by Thea Guidone

I came across this title as I was trying to figure out the latest publishing trends. None of my manuscripts seemed to captivate editors, so I wanted to know what does. “Drum City” did and I have to say: justly so.

A boy is drumming in the yard. More and more children join him  with pots and pans and they start marching through the city. Everybody listens to the power of the beat. Everybody joins the parade. The parade changes the city into the Drum City.

“Drum city” is a read-aloud rhyme. Line by line, and you can’t resist thinking that you are reading to the beat of a drum. The story is so perfectly paced that you can hear the music, the rhythm, you hear it even as you pause. And it is getting louder and louder as the story develops. You are surrounded by millions of drumming drums!

Splendid!

I was a bit skeptical about my almost preschooler’s ability to appreciate fine writing. Well, the book has passed the test. We both love it. Numerous call-for- action-words make the reading a live performance and it keeps us on the edge as the whole city and the world joins the parade. “Let’s drum!”

And so we drum indeed. All in all the kitchen is filled with pots and pans.

20. “The Crunching Munching Caterpillar” by Sheridan Cain

Although bugs do not belong to the most charming creatures, they surely can be intriguing for little boys and girls. Kids somehow love them! No wonder that those nasty worms and spiders make the cutest book characters.

In this story, a caterpillar dreamed about flying. Unfortunately,  as a bird and a bumblebee noticed, he had legs and legs are for walking.  The poor caterpillar would have probably given up on his dream if not for one wise butterfly: “Who knows? Perhaps one day you will fly…” The caterpillar waited and his dream came true.

” The Crunching Munching Caterpillar” is one of those books that make you smile. It somehow releases only positive emotions and immense energy. You just want to set out to follow your dreams. Immediately. We can be what and who we want to be. We just need to have faith, patience and perseverance. And we have to surround ourselves with the right people. Those who gave up on their dreams will most likely talk you out of your pursuit of happiness.

I don’t know if Sheridan Cain approves of my interpretation but this is what I am gathering from her story and what I am conveying to my son. By the way, we love the pictures too, Jack Tickle, and have fun looking at different shapes of leaves after the caterpillar munched through them.

19. “10 Little Rubber Ducks” by Eric Carle

I assume that Eric Carle does not need a long introduction to the American readers. There is virtually no library or a book store in the country that does not have his books in their catalogue. And justly so, I guess. He is a writer/illustrator that definitely stands out and deserves attention. I have to admit that I am not a fan of his pictures, but I do appreciate the simple yet poetic writing.

“10 Little Rubber Ducks” tells a story about a journey of a box of the quacky toys. They start at the factory, get loaded on a ship and end up overboard due to a heavy storm. What will happen with 10 little rubber ducks?

I don’t want to spoil the surprise but I can tell you that one of them will go north, the other one left, and one other duck will join the real duck family and experience some communication problems…

My son really enjoys the adventures after the ducks get separated. It is not that sad as you might think. The ducks swim in different directions ( a perfect tool to practice prepositions) and meet various animals. Unfortunately, the first part seems to rather bore my son and we often need to skip a few pages. And I have to agree with my boy. Although the introduction is as original as anything by Eric Carle, I do not think that it is overly riveting. What do you think?

18. “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” by Anna Dewdney

When my son turned two and people started rolling eyes and mentioning the ‘terrible twos’,  I had no idea what they were talking about. My son was a well-groomed toddler, a bit opinionated but what’s wrong with being assertive? I was excited about his growing independence, coordination and verbal abilities. Now we can truly communicate, I was thinking. What was I thinking?! When he turned two and a half, he mastered the art of opposites, negotiations and lobbying at the Washington D.C. level and  turned my shopping experience into a nightmare blitz. To give you a visual, he plays hide and seek at department stores, does cart races in supermarkets and fills his cart with bananas, pounds of cheese and anything else that is within his reach.

Mama llama takes her baby llama shopping. Of course, this is not what little llama planned for his day, so he doesn’t really cooperate. Out of boredom and to prove a point, I guess, he starts throwing the content of the cart on the floor, until mamma llama, who by the way could play super nanny, puts her foot down. Llama llama gets reminded about being a team with his mommy. They clean the mess together and mama doesn’t forget about a treat after the errand is done.

I just loved the way the shopping drama was solved. I jumped at the first opportunity to  use the team talk and believe it or not, it did work. But of course, my son remembered the whole message… And so, on these hot summer days, we finish our errands with a scoop of vanilla… But don’t we both deserve it?

17. “My Truck is Stuck” by Kevin Lewis

A truck gets stuck. ” Rotten luck.” How to make the truck go? Who can tow it? A car full of travelers, a jeep, a bus…? Or perhaps a tow truck with a mechanic? ” What luck! My truck is not stuck!”

This is basically how the story goes. Quite simple and predictable, like the bright and cartoonish pictures by Daniel Kirk.  But unlike the way it was executed. Kevin Lewis, took a few good words, rhymed them, added great pacing, catchy repetitions, spiced it all with humor and arrived at a rhythmic read-aloud that basically reads itself. It is a board book, it is meant for babies and toddlers and I catch myself quoting it regardless of the context! go figure. Both me and my son know it by heart.

Usually, when I borrow a book from the library, we try to exploit it and move on to a new story. No purchase necessary. “My Truck is Stuck” is a different category book. It simply can’t be exploited, so when I spotted it in a bookstore, I just had to buy it. We read it a year ago, we read it yesterday, we will read it again.

16. Cluck o’clock by Kes Grey

I love to pick a book by a writer that I have never heard of and get amazed at its greatness and originality. The book by Kes Grey is one of those fine finds.

“Cluck o’clock” is basically a journal written by a… chicken. Hour by hour, minute by minute, it tells you how the life on a farm goes from a chicken’s point of view. You might think that there is nothing more boring and uneventful than a day of this clucking bird (before it turns into paultry)? Well, appearances can be misleading. “6 to 8. We sit on our nests. We lay white eggs or brown eggs. ( Marge does requests.)”, “12.25. We practice our clucks. Tell a few jokes and dive-bomb the ducks.” , ” 4.15. We go to the stable. To visit the horses, Molly and Mabel.”  These are just a few items on their busy daily agenda.

I love how detailed the chicks are, ( perhaps a bit too detailed for my two and a half year old, though), what sense of humor they have (not always detectable for children, but it will make the parents crack up; children will love the humor in the pictures by Mary McQuillan), and how they can tell the time!  Isn’t it motivational to have your children learn it as well? If the chicks can do it, your child can do it too! But seriously, the book is a great tool for teaching telling the time in a fun way.

Kes Grey’s imagination and creative word games make this book a masterpiece. It is so unique that you just wonder how one could ever come up with this clever absurd!  Genius!

15. ” All Aboard to Work- Choo-Choo!” by Carol Roth

Although I am not one of those super-moms doing a double shift as a homemaking goddess and a money-maker, most of my friends successfully combine the two roles. Seriously, I don’t know how you are doing it girls. But I guess it is all a matter of good planning and that is unfortunately the skill I miss. Anyways, as far as the working moms, or dads. Even though most of them are happy to leave the screaming babies, dirty diapers and cereal stuck to the carpet for at least a couple of hours a day, and for somebody else, they do have moments of weakness. It is not always easy to tell a child  that the work is calling but just for a little while. Try to explain to children the concept of time!). It is not always easy not to miss the stubborn toddler and a bossy preschooler, either!

“All Aboard to Work” is a cute picture book that deals with this dilemma. The topic seems a bit too heavy, serious, a bit too sentimental for little ones… Not in this book. A bunch of working parents hop on the train to go to work and then they take a train back home. The characters are pictured as various animals which already makes it amusing and more abstract. The main message is hidden between the lines and it is up to the parents to dig into it and translate to their children.

The story is full of distractions that attract the children’s attention: the train that choo-choos on every page, for example. (I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical of a “choo-choo” book, as my son has been over the baby phrasing for months now. But, he loves the book! ) Secondly, the story is a fun memory game. Every time someone new hops on the train, the whole list of passengers is repeated, from the last one to the first one. (ex. ” the duck that loves trucks, newt in his suit, cat with his hat”) My son enjoys this part the most.

And the yellow taxis and tall building remind him of NYC that we saw this weekend, so the book seems suddenly so relevant!  It was a great find at the library, indeed.

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