45. “Nicky and Big Bad Wolves” by Valeri Gorbachev

Another great story by Valeri the Great, I mean Valeri Gorbachev. I know, there are other children’s writers worth mentioning in my blog, but as I have told you earlier, obsessive- compulsive is surely one of my traits…

When my son first saw the book,  he immediately asked: ” So, how many Big Bad Wolves are there?” Funny as it sounds, it is a valid question. Both Three Little Pigs and  Little Red Riding Hood were bothered by just one beast, weren’t they?

Coming back to Nicky, a little rabbit with big imagination. One night, his carrot-sweet dreams were interrupted by a horrible nightmare: he was chased by a pack of wolves. They were riding bikes or flying a balloon. There were a hundred of them, or fifty, or perhaps just fifteen. Either way, they were finally gone thanks to brave Mother Rabbit and her broom.

If your child is scared of monsters under the bed, or wakes up at night screaming, read them the story about Nicky and his bad dream. Wait till the daytime, though. The book might help them to understand the difference between the real and not real. And if not, it is still a great story that will keep them excited till the very last page.

By the way, where do children get an idea of monsters in the first place? We never mentioned anything to our son, and yet recently, when I turn out the light , he pops a question about potential monsters in his room. Isn’t that weird?

44. “Nicky and the Rainy Day” by Valeri Gorbachev

Every time the rain is expected, the first thought that runs through my head is: “What a bummer! What are we going to do at home?” Our stamina for playing Candy Land, finger painting and reading books is above average, but so is our energy.  I can’t speak for all the stay-at-home-moms, but I tend to fill the day with a variety of outdoors activities. Not only because I love the fresh air and my son thrives in the park or swimming pool. Mostly, because otherwise he will spend hours jumping on the couch, racing around the house and performing the wildest acrobatics, and I will be one step closer to getting a heart attack or losing my sanity. Whichever comes first.

Now, what does it all have to do with Nicky? Nicky and his brothers and sisters stayed at home on a rainy day. How about going to a desert, mountains, jungle, south pole…? Nicky was full of ideas what to do instead of staying at home.  As the children were discussing their impossible, according tho their mother, options, they didn’t even notice that the rain stopped and they could go out to play in the puddles.

I like that.  Even if it rains outside, we can always make it sunny in our heads. Our imagination can bring us to any place and on any adventure we like. A magical adventure, that is.

The story, as always by this great writer, strikes with lively, humorous, child-like conversations and the warm pictures of a bunch of cute and funny rabbits appeal to both, big and small readers.

43. “Big Scary Monster” by Thomas Docherty

You are about to skip this post, as you are not interested in books giving your child nightmares, right? Well, don’t. The title is the only “scary” thing about this book, and the only “scary” thing about the Monster is his loneliness.

The Monster was the biggest individual on the top of the mountain and “BOO!” was his awkward way of engaging with the smaller creatures. Hopefully, that is. Everyone deserves some benefit of the doubt, don’t they? He was a bully, sure, but as they say, a bully is a victim, sometimes.  Our Monster was a victim of his odd size. Being different meant struggling with acceptance and we do need to feel accepted to live our lives the right way, don’t we? Besides, the Monster had never been in other creatures’ shoes. He hadn’t known the feeling of fear, until he left the mountain and met beasts bigger than himself. It was a great lesson for Big Scary Monster. It completely changed the way things were on the top of the mountain.

I really like the complexity, gravity and relevance of the message.  Misleading appearances, friendship, bullying… Small can be big sometimes, depending on the distance, and big doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems.

42. “Shrinking Mouse” by Pat Hutchins

Mouse and her friends were sitting in their wood and looking at another forest, which seemed surprisingly small. What’s more, Owl that was headed that direction was shrinking as well. Fox hurried to save Owl from vanishing, but as he was slowly disappearing as well in the eyes of his buddies, Rabbit rushed to save him, and then Squirrel dashed to save Rabbit and Mouse ran to save Squirrel. When all the animals got to the forest, they were amazed to see that it wasn’t that small after all. But their own wood was!

Genius! I would never come up with a simpler and more engaging way to explain the intricate concept of perspective to a little child. My son has learned his first relativity theory without even knowing it. Brilliant!

41. “Too Many Frogs!” by Sandy Asher

Rabbit lived alone, ate alone and read  alone. He appreciated his simple way of life. “No fuss, no clutter.” Until one stormy night. Froggy was caught by the rain outside and he knocked on Rabbit’s door. Rabbit didn’t mind to give Froggy  a little shelter but it was surely an inconvenience. He was about to  read himself a story… alone. The next days, not only did Froggy come to listen to the story, but he also fixed himself a snack,  got all comfy and even brought his family. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Rabbit did mind the crowd, indeed. But when he tried reading on his own again, it wasn’t the same anymore. Even the snack and comfy sitting weren’t helping. He missed his listener. Luckily, they Froggies were waiting outside. ” So much fuss! So much clutter! It was a different way of life. And Rabbit liked it.”

I used to love my peace and quiet too. Reading on my own, at any time of a day or night. Until my little Froggy came into my orderly and predictable life. He totally violated my simple routine. And so what?! I love every moment of my chaotic existence. And what about reading? My books have to wait a bit… Now it’s the picture books era. I have a loyal and engaged  listener. He turns reading into an unforgettable experience. How could I miss on that?!

40. “Giraffes Can’t Dance” by Giles Andreae

Gerald was a giraffe of many talents but dancing was not one of them. It wasn’t a problem on a daily basis, but it was a disaster one day per year, during a jungle dance competition. Embarrassed by his clumsiness Gerald would have drowned in his sadness and loneliness if not but for one wise cricket. He gave Gerald just one piece of advice: ” sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song.” These simple words did magic. Gerald started dancing to the music played by cricket. All animals were puzzled and amazed by his performance. And Gerald? “We all can dance,” he said, “when we find music that we love.”

“Giraffes Can’t Dance” overwhelms the reader on so many levels. First, it throws you in the middle of the African savannah by the warm, crimson-gold pictures by guy Parker- Rees. Then the light and enchanting rhyme carries you through the pages, like in trance. And then it leaves you flooded with deep thoughts. There is so much you can gather from this children’s story. The message that sticks with me the most is about how much of our success in life depends on a right teacher and how much a right, charismatic  teacher can influence our potential.

I am a teacher and a young mom. The cricket is my role model. I want to inspire my students and my son, help them discover the precious gifts and talents hidden in them. We all can move the mountains. We just have to find the right way, tools or… music to do it.

 

39. “I’m not sleepy!” by Jonathan Allen

My son has been potty trained for a year now, yet he tends to put off going to the restroom when he doesn’t want to miss on playtime.  I guess for a little child, interrupting means ending. One time, as  he was wiggling his legs trying not to pee, but denying his need to go potty, I insisted otherwise based on his weird stomping.  “I’m just dancing!” He explained firmly appalled by my accusations.

Baby Owl was sleepy according to everyone but himself. He was stretching, yawning, his eyes were closing, but Baby Owl claimed that he was just preparing for flying lessons, was bored or thinking. He wouldn’t go to bed, until Papa Owl came up with a trick…

“I’m not sleepy!” is such a reality show! Baby Owl is basically my son’s twin. A mirror image if you like.  Deja-vu. Haven’t I read this book before? Oh, no, that was just my son talking!  

The book is such reading pleasure. Fully recommended for every Owl family. Perhaps next time, when you have to fight with your not-so-sleepy-child about the bed time, you  can use Papa Owl’s clever trick?

38. “Wolf’s coming!” by Joe Kulka

Little Pig is playing catch with Dad Pig, Mr. Raccoon is fishing, the Bunny family are gardening…. but suddenly they all of them quit their activities and run for their lives. They must hurry!. A loud noise is getting louder and the scary shadow is getting larger. The Wolf is getting closer. The frightened creatures hide inside a house, shut the door, pull down the blinds. The hungry Wolf opens the door, his ember eyes glow in the darkness…

The tension grows as you turn the pages, it keeps you on the edge, you virtually think you are reading a first-class thriller. A children’s version, that is.However, the genre changes by the very end. I am not going to spill the beans here but I can tell you that it will take you and your little listener by surprise. LOL! Joe Kulka’s tricked us all!

I fully recommend this book as a birthday gift. Why? You will know after you read it.

And let me just say, I feel sorry for poor Wolf. Whenever he plays a role, we do assume he is a bad guy, don’t we?  So unfair!

37. “Hello My Name is Bob” by Linas Alsenas

Bob is orderly, diligent and likes to…sit. Jack is wacky, fearless and can’t sit still. “It’s amazing how two bears who are so different can be friends.” Yet, they are. Very good friends.  And by the way, also quite funny ones. Boring or crazy they can crack you up.

The book is sheer reading pleasure. Dry humor shines through both text and pictures.  My son carries the book around the house asking me to read it over and over again. He keeps quoting it and “wacky” is his new favorite word.

On a serious note, I love the message that the story brings. In the era of celebrities and trend setters, we may not forget that we are all different and we should appreciate our uniqueness. We all have so much to offer even if we think we are useless and pathetic. Opposites attract, after all, so why copycat and imitate? We are not a box of cookies made with the same cookie cutter.  How boring would that be! On the other hand we should also remember that “at the end of the day, we are not THAT different. Jack can be boring, just like me.”

36. “A Picnic with Monet” by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober

I used to visit a museum in every city I visited. I still do. A Children’s Museum, Natural History Museum…  I tried to buck the trend a year ago and I took my son to the Museum of Fine Arts in Cleveland. We basically jogged through different exhibition halls to keep up with my son’s attention span and to save other visitors from undesired sound effects, and left immediately after his attempt to kick a huge ball sculpture resting in the middle of the room. Well, he could not read the “do not touch” signs. We ended our tour in the gift shop and cafeteria. It was a great cultural experience, considering the circumstances.

So, how and when do you introduce your child to the Fine Arts?

We have started with a little board book. ” A Picnic with Monet” is a collection of painting by the very Master, accompanied by a poetic text. The words and images act in a perfect harmony and take a child on a lyrical journey to the world of Claude Monet. We start off at the Saint-Lazare Train Station in Paris, pass by the fields of poppies, a pond of water lilies… and end up on the Waterloo Bridge. The whole tour is magical and  the book’s enchanting power is truly impressive.

My son’s favorite painting is Gare Saint-Lazare. Which one appeals the most to your child?

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