55. “Moose on the Loose” by Kathy-jo Wargin

“What would you do with a moose on the loose?” What if you bumped into him in your yard, or in your kitchen, or in your bathroom?! Well, I would most likely stare at the beast or start screaming, or both at the same time. However, it seems that children might take a different, more daring approach. Who knows, if my son was the lucky moose-on-the-loose-finder, he might want to play hide and seek with him, or take turn turns on slides. They could even cook together and the moose might sleep in his bed? Kathy-jo Wargin has surely put lots of wacky ideas in my little boy’s head!  Luckily, at least she gave me the last say as far as the moose’s potential moving-in with us…

This absurd and amusing read-aloud is a sheer pleasure! I don’t want to make any uncomfortable comparisons, but the story reminds me a bit of my  favorite “If you Give a Moose a Muffin” and the rhyme pattern brings Dr. Seuss on my mind. So, if you like either, you must fall in love with the book. My son already has. He has memorized most of the text, as well, so we read it in duet laughing at the far-fetched would-should-could hypotheses. All in all it’s better to be prepared for a one-on-one encounter with a moose at large. You never know what’s hiding around the corner…

54. “Little Otter’s Big Journey” by David Bedford

Little Otter, too scared to dive with his mother to find some food, chooses to wait for her at the edge of the sea. But what baby will stay put and patiently wait for their parents? Bored Little Otter sets out to find his mom. On the way he meets Whale, Pelican and sea lions, which concerned about the safety of the little one, decide to help him on his mission. Eventually, not only does Little Otter find his mother, but he also plucks up enough courage to dive with her on the way home and promises not to float away again.

I love this book and recommend for a variety of reasons. First of all, it is so refreshing to take a break from all the bunnies, kittens and ducklings and read about otters and pelicans for a change. Secondly, the story is so positive and energizing. Little Otter overcomes his fear of diving, other animals are spontaneously helpful, and mother otter seems such a role model. When she wraps her little baby in a blanket of seaweed, she seems so caring. She teaches her baby independence, but it doesn’t stop her from being wisely protective: “No matter where you are, my baby, I’ll always find you.”

And as far as the illustrations by Susan Winter, I have never thought that otters can be so cute!

 

 

 

53. “One Rainy Day” by Christina Butler

If you need to cool off on a super sunny summer day, why don’t you read a  book about something refreshing, like snow or rain? We chose the rain. Snow might be too much of a temperature shock.

It was raining and Little Hedgehog looked forward to splashing in the puddles in his  yellow raincoat, rain boots and under his red white polka dot umbrella. But not everybody was as happy about the rain. Mole and the Mice lost their homes. Hedgehog was eager to help his friends and thanks to his umbrella slash parachute slash boat, the mission was accomplished and the whole rescue and rescued team ended up at Badger’s for daily chat and a cup of cocoa.

Isn’t it a cute little story of caring and friendship? And the adventures? Mole being blown away by the wind, falling into the river, the mice on the verge of sinking… the children will sit breathless until the happy ending.

I love the warm color pictures by Tina Macnaughton and the bright and shiny accents. And I like the sound words that the story is filled with: pitter-patter, splash, bump…

The book has its snags, though, so let me warn you. Since we brought it home, it hasn’t stopped raining… Go figure! I am glad we didn’t choose a book about a snowy day.

 

52. “I’m a Truck Driver” by Jonathan London

Isn’t it amazing that while little girls dress up as fairies and princesses, most of the little boys are fascinated by the more down-to-earth, hard-working people? Seriously, Have you seen a preschooler pretending to be  a prince ? When my son’s friend, Finnegan, was asked about his age, he would answer: “I’m two and a half. I am a construction worker.” His other friend, Aaron, has always been a train operator, and my son tends to “work” either as an eighteen-wheeler or a race car driver.

No wonder, “I’m a Truck Driver” was on our reading list. The book is a collection of big pictures (by David Parkins) of big and heavy machines. Among others, there is a Cement Truck, Bulldozer, Crane, Garbage Truck, Snowplow. Each illustration is accompanied by a four line rhyme describing the impressive job the machine does. The text is cleverly written in the first person, so my son basically thinks the book is about himself. Yesterday, as we were in the park and he was sitting on a toy digger, I heard him saying: ” I’m a Power Shovel operator. I dig up the land.” Sure, why not?

When I was a little girl I just wanted to be a teacher. I know, quite boring. And guess what? Predictably, twenty years later I got my teacher’s certificate. As the saying goes, “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.” I have always been better in theories than practice. Although, I was pretty proud of myself the other day when I helped my son to fix one his tricky constructions. He commented with a complement: “Mommy, you will be an engineer some day!”

51. “My Friend Bear” by Jez Alborough

A friend in need is a friend indeed. Yet, if you know someone, with whom you can laugh until your stomachs hurt, that is your real friend.

Eddie has a teddy bear, Freddy. What a shame Freddy doesn’t speak!  Big Bear has a teddy too, and his doesn’t talk either, until… Eddie tricks Big Bear into thinking that his giant teddy can converse. Once the scam is revealed and the Bear realized his silliness, the boy and the Bear can’t stop laughing. “Do you think that they’re lonely? Not anymore… That’s what having friends is for.”

“My Friend Bear” is a superb story. Once again, Jez Alborough put a complex matter of loneliness and friendship in a seemingly simple picture book format and arrived at a masterpiece that speaks to children and adults alike. Unbelievable! You just have to read it and see the funny (or fuzzy?) pictures. The story is written in rhyme that makes it a read-aloud delight. You basically can stage the whole thing and give your children a little show.

And then just join Eddie, the Bear and their teddies in a long and silly laugh until your bellies ache. Doctors recommend it on a daily basis, and so does the writer, I guess, looking at the number of synonyms of laughter he used in the story.

The  book made me think about my old school friends- every time I would see them, my belly would get proper workout; and about my son’s friends: crazy laughter sessions with Polina, giggling under the table with Finnegan… what a shame thy had to move away…

I wish us all to always have a friend with whom we can be silly.

50. “Watch Out! Big Bro’s Coming!” by Jez Alborough

Little Mouse knew that the rough and tough and “ever so big” Big Bro was coming. He gave the scoop to Frog, Frog warned Parrot, Parrot shared his fear with Chimpanzee, who told the scary news to Elephant.  The beast grew out of proportions by the end of the gossip chain and all the animals hid in panic. And then, Little Mouse’s bigger brother came…

The book is a truly hilarious take on the concept of relativity. It is amazing how huge certain not-so-big things appear in the eyes of the little people. I still remember what metropolis my tiny home town seemed to me when I was seven, and now? The world is shrinking as we grow, isn’t it? At the same time some other things grow bigger as we travel. When I lived in Europe, I thought I knew how big big was. A big cup of coffee was 250 ml, a large pizza was always for sharing, and high building had ten floors. When I moved to the US, I got second thoughts and had to do some readjustments to my reference points. The local big is huge, gigantic, XXX-Large! It makes me think I am shrinking now…

49. “Push Button” by Aliki

“I know a little boy, a Push-Button boy,” goes the opening sentence and I happen to live with that button pusher under the same roof.  As most boys, my son is pretty mechanical and pressing buttons is his favorite pass time. It is often helpful, I can’t deny. He can basically make my espresso now, turn on the music, turn off the light… There some less pleasing side effects, however, as when I find my empty dishwasher running again…

“FLOP- toast pops up, VROOM- car goes zoom,” BANG, CLACK, RING… page by page you get a litany of onomatopoeic expressions, so crucial in learning to speak, with a cute and funny visual. It is pure entertainment and if you make an effort to produce some extra special sound effects as you read the rhyme, children will have a real show.

But the book is more than a children’s dictionary of sounds. There is a little story to it. A boy’s finger gets sore from all the pushing and pressing which makes him discover different activities like hopping, hiding, running or… reading. I like that. After all, even future engineers have to broaden their horizons from time to time.

As far as engineers, my technically trained husband keeps telling a joke that it is not a question if our son will be an engineer, but what kind. The funniest part of this joke its that he is quite serious. I just keep rolling my eyes and laugh. It is all up to my son. My only request is: love your job and do it well. What do you tell your Push-Button Boys?

48. “Where’s My Mom?” by Julia Donaldson

Let me start with a little anecdote. One day when I was failing to find a video my son had insisted to watch, Victor impatiently commented: “Mommy, why do you keep on getting it wrong?” I cracked up. Isn’t it what the monkey said to butterfly? My son quoted Julia Donaldson. No wonder, we have read “Where’s My Mom?” a zillion times at least. And no wonder we have. It is a great picture book, indeed.

A little monkey has lost his mom and the jungle Sherlock Holmes, butterfly, tries to trace her following the little monkey clues. She is big, but she isn’t an elephant, she has legs, but she isn’t a spider, she is soft but she is not a bat… Why can’t butterfly get it right? Where does it get those random suggestions? Well, if you think about butterfly’s babies and what they look like…

The whole monkey family gets reunited in the end, which is great, but the laughs that you get from the whole silly misunderstanding are guaranteed on every page. Delicious read!

 

47.”Some Dogs Do” by Jez Alborough

Sid the dog was feeling happy. So happy it made him fly like a ‘dog-shaped balloon”. So what? Nobody believed him. His friends called him a liar. They challenged him and he failed to provide the proof of his supernatural talent. Sid’s balloon of happiness popped. He felt very unhappy and misunderstood, until… his father shared a secret with Sid… So, “Do dogs fly? Is it true? Some dogs don’t and some dogs do!”

I think I have found my next favorite writer! Jez Alborough’s way with words and pictures is very addictive. I just want to read more and more of his incredible feel-good stories. They also make us think. It is the best combo a book can offer a child.

Albert Einstein said, “There are two ways to live your life… One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.” I choose the latter. No worries, I am not trying to deny the rules of physics and chemistry here. It is the 21st century after all. I just don’t believe that there is nothing beyond science, logic and statistics. Perhaps a little baby’s face just twists in a grimace, but I view it as a smile and it melts my heart down. Falling in love? It is just pheromones at work. Surviving cancer? It is nothing more than an achievement of advanced technology. Well, you call it whatever you want to. I believe in miracles, as this approach gives me an inexplicable power to strive for the commonly impossible. At the same time, it reminds me that we are just people and we don’t have answers for everything.

 

                           

46. “The Perfect Gift” by Mary Newell DePalma

Lori had found the perfect gift for her grandma.  It was a beautiful red berry. She didn’t get too far, though, when the berry hip-hop-plopped into the river. What  a bummer!  A helpful chipmunk tried to reach it but she couldn’t, neither could a long-necked goose. To the rescue came a great diver, frog, but nobody noticed a greedy croc… . Did poor Lori have to visit her grandma empty-handed? No way! The animals put their “feathers and paws” together and prepared a great new gift for Lori’s grandma. Viva team-work!

This book is so refreshing. The story is written with such lightness. Numerous alliterations and onomatopoeic expressions  make it  most pleasurable read-aloud. There is not a boring moment throughout the book and the simple story is so touching! Little Lorikeet grasps the readers’ hearts from the very first page.

My dear grandma has been ill since last week. We can’t go to see her as she lives far, far away, in Poland, so we decided to send her a little something with our best wishes. Since she loves flowers, I wanted us to draw one. Victor decided that a car would be better. And so we sent a little red car her way. We hope this will make her feel better. What do you think?

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