191. “Oh, Were they Ever Happy!” by Peter Spier

I am taking a little risk with this book, as I don’t want to put wrong ideas in your children’s heads. Although the real culprit should be the writer, right?

Mom and Dad Noonan decided to paint the outside of the house. Since they had some errands to do earlier, they left their children with the sitter, who… didn’t show up.  What should the children do alone in the house? Well, they found a lot of paint in the garage and in the basement, so why not to help the parents get the painting started? Actually, the whole job had been done before the parents came back. You just have to imagine how stunning the house looked in  purple, green, red, blue and other colors of the rainbow. The parents must have been happy!  “Oh, were they ever happy!”

A very bright and certainly colorful story. Light and entertaining. But if you choose to read it to your children, I suggest you get rid of all the paint leftover in your house. you know, just in case your children want to make YOU  “Ever Happy”.

190. “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late!” by Mo Willems

Although I have been intrigued by the work of Mo Willems for a while now, I wasn’t quite ready for it. And if I am not ready, I can’t properly introduce it to my son. I have made this mistake once with Richard Scarry’s “Busy Town”. I mentioned to my little reader that the book was a bit too busy and too long in my oppinion and now he reminds me about it every time I want us to read it. Yesterday came the right time to discover Mo Willems. And the Pigeon. And some funny guy in some old-fashioned pajamas, who asked us to make sure that the Pigeon wouldn’t stay up late. But the bird was far from sleepy. He was rather ready to party, or to watch a TV show.  He wanted to talk, count the stars, get some water- anything but sleep. Until finally… Yaaaawn and zzzzzzzzzzz. Good night, Pigeon.

To cut a short story shorter, the bird was supposed to go to sleep and he didn’t want to. A simple bed time story then? Nothing like it. It will rather make your children revive  and burst into laughter than trigger yawns.  On one hand the book reminds me of Jonathan Allen’s “I’m Not Sleepy!”, with the minimalistic illustrations and dry humor. But at the same time, the Pigeon series (because it’s a series) sets a very unique tone.  I love the innovative, interactive format, where the story is basically a dialogue with the reader. What can be more engaging?! The illustrations are hilarious and the Pigeon… He is quite a character. A must read!



189. “One Smart Goose” by Caroline Jayne Church

Farmer Brown had a smart duck on his farm, but on another farm, the smart one happened to be a goose… 

While all the geese in the gaggle were clean and shiny, the Goose splashed in mud and his beak was far from gleamy. As the geese were not a very tolerant society, the dirty Goose was always laughed at and teased. Always that is, but for the nights when the sneaky fox would visit the farm and chase all the geese. All that is, but for the dirty one. Once the other geese learned the trick,  they started rolling in the mud themselves. But, why was the dirty goose suddenly taking a soapy bath? Well, looking at the sky, it was about to snow, so dirty was not exactly the way to go…

It was sure one smart goose, that dirty goose. Not only did he know the rules of camouflage and how to outsmart a fox, but he also managed to cope with his black sheep status. He kept doing his own thing  and it paid off eventually. He saved the geese from the fox he earned respect from his bullies.

It is a shame that when you are different you need to prove yourself doubly, but does it really matter?  What does matter is that if you are true to yourself, you are happier and eventually the world will see your true value.

“One Smart Goose” is a wonderful piece of writing. Greatly entertaining and inspiring. Highly relevant.

188. “Giggle, Giggle, Quack” by Doreen Cronin

Doreen Cronin has already ‘visited’ my blog a few posts ago when I was writing about super funny diaries written by Worm and his buddy, Spider.  Today’s story takes place on a farm and the animals are much bigger, but what all Cronin’s characters have in common is the sense of humor.

Farmer Brown was leaving on vacation and left his brother, Bob, in charge of his farm. Bob was not expecting much trouble, as Farmer Brown left him notes with instructions for every day. Things would have run smoothly if not for one clever and literate Duck, who made some adjustments to the notes. In the results, Tuesday was a pizza night, on Wednesday the pigs got a soapy bath and on Thursday cows got to choose a movie…

I don’t know what Old McDonald would do if such things happened on his farm, but Farmer Brown surely had his hands full with the inventive Duck.

Doreen Cronin confirmed her talent one more time and Betsy Lewin matched it with entertaining watercolors. The book is certainly worth introducing it to your children if you like to see them LOL. I just hope it won’t put ideas in their heads… Duck falls short of a role model…;-) 



187. “When Pigasso Met Mootisse” by Nina Laden

Hope everyone had a merry holiday weekend and you are ready to carry the happiness over to the New Year. We are still visiting family and next to batches of home-baked cookies and other treats we are indulging ourselves with a broad collection of pictures books, which my mother-in-law collects. I feel like I am at the bookstore and bakery at the same time.

“When Pigasso Met Mootisse”  was the first one to catch my son’s eye. Not that he knows the modern art history, but if the cover is painted with Mattisse’s colors…)

Pigasso and Mootisse were neighbors. Do I need to add that they were painters?  They practiced different styles and although they were very famous in their category, they didn’t really appreciate each other’s art. They teased and undermined each other’s talent.  Pigasso claimed that Mootisse painted like ‘a wild beast’ and his paintings were like ‘color-by-numbers’ and according to Mootise, Pigasso painted like ‘a two-year old’ and his colors were like ‘mud’. Things got ugly. “It was    art mess.”  Until the “pig-headed and bull-headed” artists realized that even though their styles differ extremely, they also complement each other and brushes together they could do something incredible.  And they did indeed.

A very unique take on the history of modern art. A perfect way of bridging the art of Picasso and cubism as well as the bright style of Matisse to the little children. It teaches and  entertains greatly. Very inventive and very educational. My son loves it and so do I!

186. “Wake Up, Papa Bear! by David and Maxwell Algrim

In our house, we follow two patterns as far as our morning routine is concerned. During the week, my husband wakes up first, then me, then our son. During the weekend, our son is the early bird that makes me get up soon after him, and my husband gets to sleep in. Most of the times I find it fair and I don’t mind, but there are mornings when I like to put in use the tricks suggested by today’s book.  In other words, I don’t prevent my son from waking up his dad, the little Bear way…

Little Bear saw his Dad sleep in his bed. How should he wake him up? By tickling his feet, poking his nose, GROWLING, jumping on the bed…? Or perhaps by giving him a Big Bear Kiss? 

Let your children find out for themselves as you read to them this cute, little touch-and-feel book, warmly illustrated by Adam Relf.

Try it out. I am sure Daddies won’t might their little ones interrupting their sleep THIS way, and mommies might get some bonus minutes under shower, which they surely deserve on the Christmas Eve.

Have a great morning and even Happy Holidays!

185. “If you Take a Mouse to the Movies” by Laura Numeroff

If you ever decide to take a mouse to the movies around the Christmas time, and  your mouse is like thee Mouse, you better be ready to readjust your plans…

Thee Mouse innocently asked for popcorn, which reminded him of the Christmas tree decorations. He wanted to make a popcorn string for the tree, but didn’t have one. On the way to the tree stand, the Mouse saw a snowman. Why not to make one? And a fort. And have a snowball fight with her easygoing friend. Until the Mouse got really cold and it was time to get cosy at home, listen to some Carols and make ornaments. But where was the popcorn string again? He got the popcorn. ” And chances are, when you give him the popcorn, he’ll want you to take him to the movies.”

Another light and funny read by the famous Numeroff/Bond duo. The story, as always in this series, is written in a form of an entertaining hypothetical scenario: what will happen if…, elevated to the level of absurd. The appeal of this book might be more seasonal, but hey, this is just the season!

184. “Up and Down” by Oliver Jeffers

When we finally got unstuck from Oliver Jeffers’s “Stuck”, we  moved on to “Up and Down”.

A boy and a Penguin- two friends doing everything together. Until one of them decided to follow his dream of flying.  Alone. The boy tried to be supportive, but the odds were against the Penguin. The determined duo was ready to look for help, when Penguin decided to respond to a job offer at the circus: Living Cannon Ball. The Penguin got to fly, but one  terrifying flight was enough to realize that “there was a reason why his wings didn’t work very well… because penguins don’t like flying.”

Another masterpiece by this great writer and illustrator: odd, witty and memorable. It makes you want to laugh, think and stare at the pictures, all at the same time.

Following your dreams is surely a hot issue in the time of New Year’s Resolutions. I believe we should follow our callings. Some people like to have dreams, but never really go for them. They say, they can’t live without a dream. I am saying, who says there is just one dream per person per life? New dreams can be made every day, so catch them when you can and either live your dream or make sure that it’s not for you, as Penguin did. As the saying goes, it is always better to regret having done something, than to regret not having done it.


183. “Giggle-Wiggle Wake-Up!” by Nancy White Carlstrom

If someone decided to check what subjects prevail in children’s books, I imagine that it would be the bedtime stories. There are many bedtime stories, indeed. Too many,  and I hope that publishers have noticed that as well.  Nancy White Carlstrom  must have been ahead of the game and she chose to write a morning story for a change. A terrific one, let me add. Actually, she wrote a song. Seriously, the story is written in rhyme and with such impeccable rhythm and pacing that you basically want to sing it to your child.  You want to sing to them about a “tiny-shiny wake up” and “sniffy-whiffy eat-up” and even about a “splashy-flashy wash up” . And after you are done with the up-beat  morning routine,  you move on to “tipsy-topsy fun” and “a jingle-jangle day” at school. I guess the above quotes give you an idea about the style of the book and how playfully and with what craftsmanship the writer uses repetitions, alliterations, and onomatopoeias.  And on top of all that, there are bright and morning-sunny pictures, that  even on a rainy day  can bring lots of  sunshine to every child.  Delightful read!

182. “I Know Here” by Lauren Croza

 A little girl lives in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, where her father is building a dam.  All the girl knows is “here”. The trailers along the road, with a school as one of them. All the nine students in the school, with her as the only third grader. A forest with howling wolves, foxes and moose. However, the dam project is coming to an end and the girl’s family will be moving to Toronto.  But she doesn’t know Toronto!

Even though eventually the girl will get to know her new city and perhaps even fall in love with it ( who wouldn’t like Toronto?!), she will miss her old home for a while, because it was her comfort zone.

“I Know Here” is a very special take on the issue of moving, which in the times as mobile as ours is highly relevant. It shows moving from the point of view of a child, in a very poetic way, and with very expressive pictures by Matt James. For a grown-up moving might be just a new address or an adventure, but for a child it can mean turning their lives upside down, removing them from their comfort zones and throwing into deep waters. Some children will thrive in such circumstances, like the girl’s brother, who was very excited about the move, but others might find it traumatic.

How do we prepare children for a move to a new city, state, country, next to showing them our support? I don’t think there is one answer to that but I like the idea of the girl’s teacher. She asked children to think about all the great aspects of their old place that they would like to bring to Toronto, and then paint them.

I have to admit that when I was leaving Antwerp after seven wonderful years in that city I did the same. And it did help me to leave it behind, indeed.



Previous Older Entries