218. “Moses Goes to the Circus” by Issac Millman

Today’s book brings children to two different worlds. One is a glamorous, snazzy and loud world of Circus. The other one is a quiet and enigmatic world of a little boy, Moses. Moses is like every other boy, except he can’t hear. He uses sign language for communication. Thanks to the sign language interpreter in the circus, he can enjoy the performance as well as the rest of the audience.  And what a show it is: wild animals, acrobats, clowns! Thanks to Isaac Millman’s story and pictures, not only can the readers participate in the experience, but they can also learn how to talk about it in the American Sign Language. The book provides signing instructions.

I have to honestly admit, that as much as I love learning languages, I am quite ignorant about the sign language. I am more verbal than dexterous, for one, and I never met anyone who signs. As a young mom, however, I noticed that  many educators and  parents promote the sign language as the first means of communication for babies. It is supposed to help them to express themselves without frustration. Personally, and as a linguist, I don’t support this theory. I think that signing can often delay the speaking skills, and the parents so eager to talk to their children will have to wait even longer. But I do agree that signing provides children with extra stimulation and helps to enhance coordination and fine motor skills.

 

217. “Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!” by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Not sure how it has happened but I have a great sous-chef in my kitchen. Nope, it is not my husband. It is our little preschooler. We make pancakes, waffles and muffins together and we don’t even make a horrible mess. It hasn’t always been so smooth, though. During our trial period, for example, when I asked my son to crack an egg, he first gave me a perplexed look and then excitedly squashed the egg in his hand.   Apparently, the cooking jargon can be confusing and not only to my little boy…

Big Brown Rooster, bored with his daily chicken feed, decided to bake a cake from his grandma’s, (who happened to be Little Red Hen) recipe book. He needed helpers and he found three eager ones: Turtle, who “can read recipes”, Iguana, who “can get stuff” and Pig who “can taste”. Unfortunately, although the candidates got the job in the kitchen, they had a hard time meeting expectations. When Iguana was supposed to fetch some flour, she brought a petunia,  his way of sifting flour was diving into it and he measured it with a  ruler. Pig wanted to taste every ingredient and Turtle added his icing on the cake when he dropped it on the floor. Luckily, Rooster’s fountain of patience was overflowing and he didn’t mind starting all over again. Practice makes perfect. And so was the second strawberry shortcake: perfect.

Judging from the pictures, it looks delicious indeed. Me and my son will surely use the recipe provided in the book and try it out. And for now, I can assure you that the book is a treat in itself. A scrumptious read for every little child, who wants to dab into the art and vocabulary of cooking. It is a great area for experimenting and nurturing creativity. Besides, I also believe that my son needs to know his way around the kitchen. After all, it is not a ladies-only area.

Secondly, the book is also a delight for every little spelling bee. They will surely be interested to hear that flour and flower are pronounced the same (heterographs) and that the word measure has a few meanings (homonyms).

216. “First Snow” by Emily Arnold McCully

Yesterday we took a drive along Route 1. Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, Bodega Bay… The weather was gorgeous. The sky was blue, the air was crisp. trees were blooming… Spring, as I remember from my childhood, was in the air. But it is January. Most of the world is in the middle of the winter. Last year this time we were basically snowed under and our Saturdays were passing on heavy shoveling. But as I was shivering from cold, our son was making snow angels. Let’s read bout snow today.

The first snow was a great attraction for the little mice. They went sledding and ice-skating with grandma and grandpa.   Everybody had a great time dashing down the slope. Everybody, but for scared Bitty. “Come on, Bitty, you can do it!”  And she did it indeed. But as Bitty discovered the fun of sledding, it was hard to make her stop. Bitty sure slept well that night. 

The story is not very complicated, but charming in its simplicity. The original characters, snow and scarf loving mice, add a lot of humor to the situation. So do the amusing pictures. I love the one when the little mice help to push the truck up an icy hill. Besides, the watercolors are such a great way to bring the reader to the winter wonderland. You basically want to follow the mice to the slope.

So, if it snows by you,  don’t wait any longer. Put on your warmest coat and gloves and build a snowman in your yard. Make the most of the winter, before it goes away.

215. “Where Is My T-r-u-c-k?” by Karen Beaumont

I always thought that obsessiveness is a trait of adulthood. Little did I know. Looking at my three-year-old, obsessed with playing the same games with the same children (or me and my husband, the only worthy substitute playmates who know the rules) all the time, and at the stubborn little boy from today’s book, we can become obsessive much earlier.

Timmy was inconsolable. He had lost his favorite red truck and it was the only toy on the whole planet he wanted to play with. He started frantically searching the whole house and yard and reminiscing about what a great truck it was.  Not only for him but also for his dog Bowser. And by the way, what was Bowser digging  out there by the gate? Could it be Timmy’s red truck? 

A hilarious rhyme about the power of persistence in the context of lost and found,  brightly illustrated with wacky kind of cute pictures by David Catrow. A real laughing treat for little boys and girls, who can easily relate to Timmy’s drama, can’t you? It’s not easy to live a life without your favorite blanket, pacifier or doll, right?

214. “The Water Hole” by Graeme Base

Today’s book is not what I would usually take from the shelf. At first sight it seems to be nothing beyond a richly illustrated  number book. Not really my style of pictures, kind of “Legends of Narnia”, and counting books are too basic for my son. Yet, he was the one who insisted on bringing it home.   Well, children do like wild animals (and the crowded ZOOs confirm it), and there was a moose and a panda on the cover, so I wasn’t surprised. We gave the book a try.

Apart from quite magical pictures of numerous wild beasts and always useful numbers, the book offers a mystery: drying up of a secret water hole, which provides water for 1 rhino, 2 tigers, 3 toucans…10 kangaroos. Page by page the hole shrinks and one day it vanishes and animals go away. Until a little rain drop turns into what looks like the biblical deluge.

A very interesting and multi-level picture book. The animals are grouped per continent,  so children can see which animals live together. Lots of new and intriguing names to learn, like cassowary or passenger pigeon. And the intricately created pictures (watercolors, pencil and gouache on hot-press illustration board) are really breathtaking.

We were all but disappointed.

 

213. “Talk, Oscar, Please!” by Karen Kaufman Orloff

Oscar was a dog of many talents. He could bark, growl, howl… But he couldn’t talk. If he did, thought a little boy, they could go to school together, or Oscar could coach their soccer team, or act as a nature guide during hikes. He could even order his own food at the restaurant and crack a few jokes at the playground. How about winning a quiz and becoming famous, or educating a veterinarian on the topic of fleas…? The boy had a lot of ideas for a talking Oscar, but actually, it didn’t matter. They were best friends. He could understand Oscar even without words.

Another charming little story about a great friendship between a child and his pet. Equally cute and feel-good  illustrations by Tim Bowers. People often wish their furry friends could speak, as if that would make them a full-fledged substitute of a human friend, but do they really need to verbally prove themselves? Their company and loyalty is usually beyond any conversation, isn’t it?  So, don’t talk Oscar, please!

 

 

212. “But I Wanted a Baby Brother!” by Kate Feiffer

While expecting parents just hope for a healthy child, the older siblings-to-be worry if the new baby will make a good playmate. Girls usually want a sister to play dolls with, and boys want a trained ball kicking partner. Unfortunately, oftentimes, mistakes happen. Like in case of Oliver Keaton…

… who although wanted a brother,  got a little sister. And nobody even noticed “the mistake”. Everyone just talked about how adorable she was. But was she? All bold and incapable of throwing a ball back? Oliver decided to trade his little sister with his friends, who already had several little brothers. however, he got second thoughts when he found out that the other baby boy cried all night. Oliver kept his eyes open for a trading opportunity, but the more time passed, the more convinced Oliver was that other babies, even if they were boys, were not better than his sister, who was actually getting quite fun.  

And then Oliver’s parents announced that there would be another baby in the family? A baby brother perhaps?

A hilarious story for the whole family. Especially if you are planning to expand it. It might help you to prepare your big sister or brother-to-be for the unexpected. And this book will do it with a great dose of humor in the script and cartoonish illustrations by Diane Goode.

Adding a new member to the family is a big change to the older children. My son will still have to go through it and we will have to make it a positive experience by showing him our love for him has not changed with the arrival of a new baby, and secondly, that whether a sister or a brother, a younger sibling can always make a great playmate and companion. Will it be effective? We’ll see when the theory meets practice. For now, I will gladly hear your stories.

 

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