14. “My Buddy-Daddy” by Aga Chapas

Happy Father’s Day!  There are lots of ways to celebrate the wonders of fatherhood and show the dads in our lives how much we appreciate them. I would usually start with a card, but last year I decided to go one step further and crown my husband’s new role as an awesome father  with words AND pictures. I wrote a picture book.

Although the book was based on observations of my own family, I found out later that there are lots of other boys and dads who can easily relate. Perhaps you can see your husband and son in it as well?

A little boy can’t wait for his dad to get back home from work. As soon as his father enters the house, the magic begins. As soon as the dinner is finished, the living room changes into a soccer field. There is playing with cars, reading books, chasing balloons, snacking on a couch and a good night “I love you”.

The book is written in rhyme, and its light tone is meant to serve as fun read. The cute cartoonish pictures by Dagna Ziolkowska appeal to the small children  by their simplicity and clarity. The book contains two special pages: “My Best Memories as Dad” and “Our Projects” that allow dads to make the book their own. It can come with a personalized dedication.

The book is available for a preview and purchase on my website: http://www.touchwithwords.com.


13. “Snip Snap” What’s that? by Mara Bergman

What’s making that noise? Does your child tend to be scared of the unknown, monsters under the bed, or dragons, even if made of plush? My son is now at this stage. The other day I saw all of his ‘scary’ toys: a rubber dinosaur, dragon, some suspiciously looking cougars and tigers, on our bedroom floor. He didn’t want them in his room for some reason.  A sign of weakness or of being in control?

Either way, if your child seems to be scared of something, read with them ” Snip Snap ! What’s that?”  A creepy alligator will keep them on the edge as his “gnashing teeth” crunch on the piano and chairs. The beast comes closer and closer to three little children. Obviously he will eat them. ” Where the children scared? You bet they were!” I love this line, by the way. But before your  child’s adrenalin level goes through the roof, the little people will turn into virtual heroes with one decisive “Alligator, you get out!” And here is your chance: if children are so naive they can believe in monsters, why not to help them believe they can win over them. Just let them to tell them off, yell at them, show them who is in charge!

I love the way the book is written. It is so interactive. The reader is asked questions, is made to think. I like the humor and grotesque of the whole situation as well. And let’s not forget about the word choices. Swish, swoosh, slither, flicking tongue, flashing eyes… All this makes the alligator so alive, so real, but also so absurd that it turns into funny and harmless. The pictures by Nick Maland, although a bit too busy in my opinion, are a great visual to the story. I like the cartoonish children.

A bottom line is, the book is reading delight I wish I would have written it myself.

12. “Truck Stuck” by Sallie Wolf

How many times have you been stuck in the traffic jam caused by some I-know- it- all-driver, who thought he could outsmart the road signs? How annoying is that? Not as annoying as the staring crowds that build up in the nick of time, right? “Truck Stuck” is just one of those  black driving scenarios told in the most amusing way.

The story is written with the minimum words. “Truck stuck. …we’re stuck too! Jobs to do.” A perfect choice for a book about driving. There is no chit-chatting on the road.  At the same time, the story becomes so approachable for a toddler or a preschooler. It speaks their language. Broken syntax, key words, you know what I am talking about.

I love the pictures. Andy Robert Davies calls his creations ‘weird and wonderful’ and oh, yes, aren’t they weird and lovely? I admire the richness of details and I am amazed how many more side stories are told by the very pictures. You must see it for yourself. The countless characters are so alive, you almost hear how noisy the whole accident scene is.

The book might appear a read for a boy, but trust me, not only a boy will enjoy it. All in all, it was written by a woman and another woman recommends it, so go ahead and read it. It will add a new dimension to your next traffic jam incident.

11. ¡Perros! ¡Perros! Dog! Dogs! by Ginger Foglesong Guy

Being multilingual and a linguist, I’ve made it my mission to expose my son to languages and hope he would view it as an opportunity. So far so good. His Polish is expanding from day-to-day and his Spanish is catching up thanks to my son’s wonderful teacher. I do my share with Spanish books.

Our latest discovery is ¡Perros! ¡Perros! Dogs! Dogs! It is a picture book written in both English and Spanish, but it is not a typical Spanglish, like “Fiesta Fiasco” for example, which I will surely introduce some time soon. This book is written in two language versions but it comes together as one. I love the idea! If only you know the basic pronunciation rules in both languages, you can easily help your child read the story. And if you don’t, you can do it my husband’s way and make it up as you go. Your child is smart enough to get the gist. That was me, the mom, speaking, not a language teacher, of course.

All kinds of dogs are running through the town. Where are they going?  Although the story is very simple, the added value of this book is its educational aspect. Accurately chosen descriptions of the dogs, teach adjectives in the two languages. The wording is limited, full of repetitions, to help the child isolate the target vocabulary and to remember it better.  The cartoonish pictures are entertaining and  play an important role as a visual learning element.

Read and learn Spanish. You have every reason to try this clever head and shoulders!

We started reading the book in the full double version. Then I read the Spanish version loudly and I whispered the English part. I made my son point to what I was reading. Now I point and my son “reads” in Spanish.

10. “Nutmeg and Barley” a budding friendship by Janie Bynum

I am trying to keep my book choices gender neutral or at least mix and match enough to satisfy  both boys and girl and their designated readers. Although, is it really possible to predict what topic can really appeal to our little ones? My son loves books about cars but every night he falls asleep to my story about Goldilocks that I must tell without any shortcuts and omissions.

“Nutmeg and Barley” was a random pick at the library. I saw a little squirrel and a mouse on the cover and I gave those cute rodents a chance. It is a purely feel-good story about a fun-loving squirrel and a loner mouse. They think they have nothing in common, yet some invisible forces attract them to each other. Having learned that a friend in need is a friend indeed, and  they allow for their friendship to blossom. So there is a message in it as well.

I do like the concept and my son was surely interested in hearing what happened next, but I have to admit that I didn’t really love the execution of the idea. The writing is a bit too wordy, there are lots of dialogues but nothing really stands out. The whole thing is a blare, as if the story was just a background to the pictures. I think I like the pictures more than the writing and I am not sure if that’s the right order.

Either way, the book is cute and it makes you smile.

9. “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson

Yesterday was a reading feast for my son, and today I have planned a treat for myself. Don’t take me wrong, though, I am not forcing my son to go through my favorites against his will. “Room on the Broom” is without doubt a delight for both of us, although we probably enjoy it differently.

If you ask me, this book is Julia Donaldson’s best. It is truly the finest art in the children’s literature. The word craft,  that this Scottish writer exhibited in this rhyme is superb. In other words, I am  basically envious of her talent.

“The witch had a cat and a very long hat…” The opening line reads and the mystery begins. Every time I read it, I spontaneously read it out loud.  It feels like reciting some medieval manuscript. Let me remind you, it is meant for preschoolers. The accumulation of words with ‘r’, that you just want to read the Scottish way, adds so much power to it. The sheer number of onomatopoeic words, the rhythm, clever rhymes, pathos. The story surrounds you with the spirit of… Gothic? Mystery? Grotesque?  A bit of everything. What a perfect balance of funny, scary and witty! Not everyone can write how Julia Donaldson does.

My son is most likely ignorant of all of the above, but the way this book captivates him is a fact. His favorite character is an emerging from a bog monster, that saves the witch from a scary dragon. “Buzz off, that’s my witch!” The monster says and my son cracks up.

The book is an ideal tool for a speech therapist or for a parent concerned with their child’s pronunciation.  And it is perfect entertainment for everybody else.

8. “Garage Tales” by Jon Scieszka

Not everyday is a holiday, but it is a holiday everyday if you read good stuff. Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown series is surely the good stuff, at least according to my seriously engaged in the auto issues two and a half years old son.

The “Garage Tales” consist of three stories about several members of the “Trucktown gang”. The stories are stripped down to the very basic conversations. Truck conversations that is. Monster Max calls for help after an unfortunate accident, Izzy wants to get dizzy, and Gabby and Jack try to find the way to Pete’s party. My son would probably elaborate on each and every topic, but to me, that would be the gist. The top-notch pictures play here an indispensable role. David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon- your creativity has surely made a mark on my son’s imagination.

My son loves the book not only because he loves trucks, but because the Trucktown trucks are alive. They can speak and each of them has their own personality. I love using this book  as a learning- to- read tool. Thanks to big letters, short and predictable headlines supported by the pictures, my son has learned to recognize  and spell numerous words: left, right, truck, dip, bump, stop… And we are having lots of fun learning the road signs too!

7. “Balloons Balloons Balloons” by Dee Lillegard

First we went to a birthday party, then to a strawberry festival… We came back home with a bunch of rainbow balloons.”Balloons, Balloons, Balloons” was truly a suitable read by the end of the day and I have to say, that my son’s interest in the book was the best yet. The  story has been with us since his first birthday ( it came as a gift- keep it in mind when debating a great birthday present), but although I’ve loved the melodic rhyme from the first time I read it,   it has taken my son some time to take to it. I have been checking his interest periodically, and yesterday was our success story time.

“Balloons, Balloons Balloons” is a very simple concept. It is a rhymed poem about balloons flooding the world. Different children try to catch different colors. The wording is simple, full of repetitions. It is very well paced. It could basically be a song.

My son loves hearing different children’s names, especially when these are the names of his friends. We also play ‘I spy’ and counting games. The book is perfect for drilling colors.

As far as the pictures by Bernadette Pons, I am not in love with the bunnies instead of children. I guess they do not speak to me. But my son doesn’t mind and that is all that matters. I do love the technique, though and the colors and everything else. The numerous details make you discover something new in the pictures every time you read the book.

I think if the book came in the board version, we would have made more use of it earlier on, but since we are already past the book-chewing phase, I am not going to complain about the format. I just recommend it for preschoolers.

6. “What’s the Big Idea, Molly?” by Valeri Gorbachev

I can’t wait any longer to introduce this great writer. He has definitely earned his spot and made his name in the children’s literature. Not sure whether it is his Ukrainian background that speaks to my Polish roots, or the universal relevance of his stories, but I am a big fan and I would surely add Valeri Gorbachev’s work to any preschooler’s must-read list.

“What’s the Big Idea, Molly?” is perhaps not as great in my eyes as “Red, Red, Red”, for example. somewhere in the middle my son seems a bit distracted, as if he wanted to fast forward a few pages. But this is what we’ve been reading today, so why not to talk about it?

As a little mouse Molly struggles finding some poetic inspiration, her friends struggle with a great idea for  Turtle’s birthday. They keep suggesting the same things, until Molly gets a bright idea and they all work together to prepare a great gift for Turtle. By the way, working on the gift project turned out to be pretty inspiring for Molly.

The story, as usual in Gorbachev’s books, is super simple. The dialogues and narratives are very straightforward,  the wording is limited but carefully selected. The simplicity is not boring and awkward but appeals to children, speaks on their level. At the same time, there is always some deeper meaning, lesson or message hidden in the story. Working together, playing together, being good friends, being nice to each other. Core values conveyed in a subtle and touching  way.

I think it is great to read to our children books filled with numbers, letters and other elements that make them great students. But let’s not forget about the books that make them great friends and great people.

5. “Bigger than Daddy” by Harriet Ziefert

Isn’t it ironic than while we would like to stop the time when our children are still sweet and cute, they want to grow as fast as possible? They want to bigger than mommy, daddy, trees and houses. Is it just the control game, or do they start disagreeing with us even before  the hyper-assertive  teenage?

Anyways, if your toddler or preschooler has aspirations to be big, “Bigger Than Daddy” will surely be a book they can relate to. This book can even make them rethink their ambitions.

A little boy likes to pretend he is big and he makes his dad to act out as a baby. Until… the boys gets hungry and there is no one big enough to fix the dinner. I have to say, this is a golden trick. I can’t wait to play its personalized version on my own son, who tends to get pretty bossy from time to time (…terrible two,  don’t you love it?). I guess I will have to show him the consequences of being in charge at our home.

Coming back to the book, the structure is very simple, based on dialogues. A bit awkward, a bit funny. Kind of boring, but painfully realistic. I read it and I hear my son and my husband talk.  And the cartoony pictures by Elliot Kreloff are a great choice of visual. They are more than a background and they speak to both children and parents, which is not always a matter of course.

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