208. “Knuffle Bunny” by Mo Willems

Although we have read and enjoyed Mo Willems’ Pigeon series, I have been ignoring his other bestseller “Knuffle Bunny”, thinking that my preschooler would be too old for it. After all, the story is about a baby’s first words, isn’t it?

Trixie, the baby in question, went to the laundromat with her dad. The girl was helping to load the machine. Not only with clothes though. As a result of a terrible mistake, she also washed her favorite stuffed animal. She realized that on the way home, but even though she was pretty expressive about it, her dad didn’t make sense out of Trixie’s babbling. Luckily mom figured things out and the whole family ran back to the laundromat. And wouldn’t you know it that the girl’s first words were…

“Knuffle Bunny” is surely not for babies. They can’t extract the humor from the situation and the outrageously hilarious pictures, created with mixed media technique: black and white background photos and snazzy cartoonish characters. Strikingly original and memorable.

No wonder “Knuffle Bunny” sells like hot buns… Mo Willems is a master! He can entertain children and parents alike.

207. “Ready for Anything” by Keiko Kasza

Duck and  Raccoon were planning a picnic but Raccoon got second thought. What if they get attacked by wild bees? And fall in the river while running away from the stinging insects? And what if it will start to rain? They will look for shelter, but the cave they will find will already be taken by a scary dragon? Duck almost bought into Raccoon’s  black thinking but he got his senses back. What if they will see lots of lovely butterflies outside? And have lots of fun splashing in the river?  The weather might be great for flying a kite? And the dragon in the cave might be a playful baby dragon?  That would be nice!  Racoon agreed to go but not without an umbrella, flash light, emergency kit and other ‘necessities”. What could go wrong on a little picnic? But Duck, where is your picnic basket? Luckily, Raccoon was “ready for anything”. 

In this amusing picture story, Keiko Kasza captured the eternal fight between optimists and pessimists.  Some of us always hope for the best and act accordingly and some of us worry that everything they do will go wrong. Research shows that optimists live longer and are happier, so why not to be one?  But even though I usually see a half full glass instead of half empty, I still run my mental check list before leaving the house for example. It drives my husband nuts, but hey, it was the worrying pessimist who saved the picnic, right?

206. “There’s an Alligator under My Bed” by Mercer Mayer

If your children didn’t agree with the yesterday’s method of ghost busting, today’s story should offer them a more effective solution and a better feeling of being in control.

A boy had an alligator under his bed. A tricky one, that hid every time the boy’s parents wanted to see it. Finally, the boy decided to get rid of the beast. He lined up gator’s favorite snacks, like cookies and fresh veggies, between his bedroom and the garage and then waited for the animal to eat them one by one. It worked!  The gator was out of the house and the boy was safe. But what about his daddy when he goes to the car in the morning?

The writer of “Too many Dinosaurs”, who apparently has a special connection with unusual animals, wrote another fun story. It is basically a page turner. As soon as we finish reading it with my son he already says “again”. Very creative,  entertaining and so empowering! A perfect giggle-trigger.

205. “Brave Little Monster” by Ken Baker

Little boys and girls are scared of monsters. It is a fact. But do the children know that little monsters are scared of little boys and girls?

Little Albert shivers in his monstrous bed. He can’t fall asleep as he is scared of a little girl hiding in his closet. She is eating ice-cream that drips on Albert’s clothes and once she is done with the treat she will want to eat the little monster. That’s what little girls do. And under Albert’s bed, there is sitting a little boy. He is doing coloring and when he is done with his crayons, he will want to eat Albert. Albert’s mom insists that there is no such things as little children, but Albert knows better. He has to scare the scary creatures away. Oh, he is a brave and creative little monster indeed.

Isn’t it a genius way to free our children from their bed-time fears? Monsters, ghosts…  The list can be  long.  Anything can become terrifying and intimidating in a dark room, but  as it turns out, even monsters and the likes have their phobias and weaknesses. And if to believe Geoffrey Hayes’s illustrations, they look and act quite funny when in panic.

We should more often use this approach in life: laugh at what scares us. We often get  intimidated by successful or powerful  people because forget that next to their strengths they also have their weaknesses. Just like us.

Very original, engaging and super funny story.

 

204. “How the Grinch stole Christmas!” by Dr. Seuss

I was in two minds about writing a Christmas relating post in the middle of January, but I decided to go for it for two reasons.  First of all, we did read this book yesterday with my son and got captivated by it,  and secondly, today I visited a friend, who still couldn’t part with her Christmas tree. So, love me or hate me , but why not? Which child wouldn’t like Christmas to last at least for a month?

Since, unlike me, you might have been raised on this classic, you probably wonder what the fuss is about. Well, I have just read it for the first time  so I am under the spell and all excited.  I admire Dr. Seuss’s writing in general, but I think that this one is one of this best. As always, the story is comic to the level of absurd. It is written with impeccable pacing, rhythm, effortless and original rhymes and is illustrated with his signature cartoonish pictures. His style can’t be confused with anyone else’s. (Who would dare copying him anyway, right?)  I love his preposterous characters,  even the Grinch who hated Christmas.  Nobody knew the reason why he did.  “Perhaps his heart was two sizes too small.” (my favorite line!) Regardless of the reason, his heart grew by a few sizes, just in time to  celebrate the Merry Holiday. He realized the power of  Christmas with or without presents and feasting. And so should we and our children .

And this is why I am so happy I read this memorable and inspiring story with my son. Too late for the latest Christmas but in time for the next one.

203. “Francis the Scaredy Cat” by Ed Boxal

Someone smart (and daredevilish) said that being afraid should not be our reason of not doing something. This quote rings in my ears every time I panic. It helps me to do great things despite the fear. It does brings me into troubles from time to time, sure, but without bigger regrets in the bigger picture.

Francis the cat was afraid of the dark and of “the whispery hissy monster (…) in the garden on a stormy nights.”  Nobody knew about this phobia, not even his best pal, Ben. One night, Ben wasn’t home and it was already late and dark. Francis worried that something could happen. What if the  hissy monster had caught Ben? Despite being scared, Francis left the house and climbed up the tree to save his friend. The terrifying creature was there and the scaredy cat had to face it. It was a cat. Like Francis. Not so scary in the end. And Ben, safe and sound, was waiting near the tree, with his “kind hands and voice as familiar as pillows and pajamas”.

I just had to quote that last line. It is so poetic and it really captures the lyrical mood of the  story. The metaphors, together with the intense pictures in the colors of the moonlit sky, are truly captivating and leave the reader overfilled with feelings. And thoughts. Francis the scaredy cat  overcame his fears to help a dear friend. What a brave cat! I hope my son will approach his fears with the same attitude.  After all, being scared can be a good thing. It can lead to great things. It can bring the best out of us.

202. “Too Many Dinosaurs” by Mercer Mayer

Living in the suburbs has many charms and garage sales are one of them. They help you to meet your neighbors, realize how much useless stuff you really own and get real bargains if you know how to haggle. Sometimes, however you can buy a real cat in the bag, or rather a baby dinosaur ready to hatch.

No kidding. It happened to a little boy. His mom wouldn’t agree on a puppy, but he found a consolation at Mr. Jerry’s yard sale: a huge dino egg. Before the boy knew it, he owned a dino baby. A fully outdoors dino, which ran away and caused lots of panic and havoc in the town.  The boy managed to find his new pet with a sound of a horn, another yard sale bargain. Unfortunately, the dinosaur came with company… It was too many dinosaurs for the boy’s mom to handle. Suddenly, a  puppy sounded so much better an option.

This amusing and colorful story left my son with a smile on his face and me with two afterthoughts: it is extra dangerous to send your child on emotional shopping, even if only with a dollar in their pocket,  and secondly, even though we master the art of saying “no” to our children’s unreasonable requests, they somehow get their way eventually.   We are doomed, aren’t we?

201. “Boy Wonders” by Calef Brown

As parents we can’t wait for our babies to speak. We record their first words, call the entire family because the child said book. It was probably just ba-ba-ba, but never mind. We are all excited when they put two words together, which we call talking in sentences, and we proudly call them assertive or independent when they say no. It sounds so sweet…  And then the reality hits us. They say “no” to everything and it sounds less sugary, they start talking back and they flood us with endless questions. A moment of peace and quiet becomes suddenly a wishful thinking. But as far as the constant questions, it is hard to blame the little creatures for their curiosity. They have a world to discover and a lot on their mind, like for example:

If bees get hives and  paper plates have memories of being trees. If giraffes have high-pitched laughs and if you are a bike when you are too tired. Does mud in a puddle makes it muddled? Are hiccups  less impolite than a belch? And how about jealous clouds: do they steal each other’s thunder?

Oh, boy!  If every boy ponders like the one in “Boy Wonders” then I need to do some reading in case I am asked for an educated answer. And some diction exercises for the reading purposes, as some of the questions are real tongue twisters: ” Would a happy toucan from the Yucatan become cantankerous up in Anchorage or the Yukon?” I admit I have no idea, but I can point the places on the map…

And seriously, Calef Brown surely does know his way with words. The script is filled with very original puns and challenging puzzles, far beyond a preschool level. Judging by my son’s engagement, the book makes sense for little children but extra clarification is needed.

200. “The Dog Who Loved The Good Life” by Bryan Langdo

As I am not a pet person ( wagging dog tails make me nervous, cats scratch, fish are too deep (or shallow)… I tried to have a hamster once, but it didn’t last), I can’t really relate to certain ways certain pet owners show their affection to their furry friends. I am thinking feeding them with gourmet meat, taking them for stroller rides and bringing them to animal spa. Whatever the reasoning behind, I just can’t see how even the best trained animals can enjoy it. But what do I know! If the modern pets are as fastidious as Jake…

Jake was the dog who looooooved living a high life. He ate at the table with his owner, Mr. Hibble, he used his toothbrush, drove his car, spent hours watching TV, liked to dress up and knew his manners. It was a bit too much for Mr. Hibble. He tried to teach Jake a lesson: he made his sleep in the doghouse and sent him on vacation to California, but Jake always came back. Finally Mr. Hibble got an idea: why not to give Jake to his niece, Sara? She would love  company for her tea parties! You just have to see Jake’s face!

Jake is truly a dog with a flair and personality and Bryan Langdo did a great job writing an amusing story which he hilariously illustrated.

199. “Don’t laugh, Joe!” by Keiko Kasza

Yesterday  I told you about my son’s love for Keiko Kasza’s work. Today I have a proof: another book by this great children’s writer and illustrator. We’ve been reading her stories for a few days now. And if yesterday’s recommendation made you smile, today’s will make you burst in giggles.

Joe the Possum was about to learn how to play dead. (I know, playing dead does not really agree with children’s literature, does it?  This line was actually the reason why I dismissed this book some time ago. But I missed the point: Joe was a possum and playing dead is what possums do to stay alive. All in all, I assure you that the story is more merry than morbid.) However, Joe wasn’t doing the best at learning this crucial survival skill. When his mom tried to simulate danger and poked his tummy like a grumpy bear, or shook him as a fox would, Joe just laughed. (How else, she told him not to, right?) Until suddenly, a real grumpy bear stomped in. Will Joe play dead well enough? Oh, yes he did. Actually even too well, considering the grumpy bear didn’t really mean to attack Joe…

To cut a long story short, Joe’s giggling, although wasn’t adding to his grades at the school of life, was a real gem. Joe’s laughing was contagious.  With his laugh, Joe was making everyone else laugh. Even the grumpy bear, who didn’t like being grumpy. Perhaps even the little bear that is sitting in your lap?

 

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries