308. “Miss Bindergarten Plans a Circus with Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate

If you read my previous posts, you have already met this most resourceful teacher, Ms. Bindergarten. She is always full of inspiring ideas, but her latest initiative is certainly the most ambitious and original. She is planning a circus with her class. They paint posters, blow up balloons and prepare the most intricate stunts. Gwen will be showing off her somersaults, Henry his tricks with hula-hoops, Quentin will perform as a weight lifter. Everyone is engaged and everyone will perform, but who is going to be the real circus sensation? Your little readers might want to find out.

A delightfully frolic rhyme, warmly and brightly illustrated by Ashley Wolff. The lively colors just explode from every page as they would in the real circus.  One can have so much fun in kindergarten!

But what I really like about this book is that it does not end with the story. Children get a few bonus pages which focus on colors and mixing colors. Besides, the readers get to meet each and every student of Ms. Bindergarten’s class. All twenty-six of them. Surprisingly, their names begin with different letters of alphabet. What a fun way to learn your ABC’s!

307. “Badness for Beginners” A Little Wolf and Smellybreff Adventure by Ian Whybrow and Tony Ross

Mom and Dad Wolf try hard to raise their two sons big and bad like themselves. They teach them rhymes, like “Never Say Thank You”, promote burping and other misbehavior. The younger, Smellybreff is doing a great job being bad, but Little Wolf just doesn’t have it in him. He tries to put on an angry grin, and people think he smiles. Unlike his baby brother, who destroys a newly repaired bridge, throws up at a restaurant and makes a waitress trip. The parents are proud of Smelly and hope that Little will catch up on badness, until they fall into their own trap…

This is a really tricky story, isn’t it? Totally upside-down. A grown-up or a school age child can easily grasp the humor and filter the message but isn’t it too confusing for the little children, who are always told to do things right, say thank you and be nice to people? I decided to test it on our son. To my surprise he seemed totally into it. Of course, I couldn’t resist commenting as we were reading, that we should NOT follow the Wolf family practices,  but I think he had figured it out by himself.

Quite funny, smart and definitely different. Considering that our children like to do things the opposite way, perhaps a lesson on badness is indeed an effective way to teach them goodness.

306. “The Story of James” by David McPhail

James went fishing with his baby brother. He caught a large fish, but lost the little guy. Where could he had gone? According to the fish, and a curious note, the boy was headed to the seashore. But where was the seashore? A lion agreed to give James a lift and then a weird couple playing checkers  confused him with some conflicting directions. James gave a few coins to an owl for more information on his brother but she wasn’t very helpful. Neither was a turtle. Finally, James got to the seashore but instead of his brother he saw the very same fish that had brought him there. Was James ever going to find his younger sibling? 

I don’t want  to keep you on the edge, so I assure  you that he will. But where, it is up to you to find out.

A really special story. It’s over twenty years old, so hope you can find this little gem, which so wonderfully mixes the reality and magic. A serious issue of responsible big brotherhood is cleverly interwoven with the thrilling world of dreams. As a result, the story  captivates the reader from the first page to the last one. Including the back cover.   It’s storytelling at its best.

305.”The Featherless Chicken” by Chih-Yuan Chen

Chickens have feathers by nature, but one chicken was an exception. He was born without the fluffy outfit and his bare skin caused him a lot of trouble. He was cold and felt ugly. He wanted to go boating with four beautiful, feathered chickens, but they wouldn’t mingle with the featherless one. However, they did find him intriguing when the naked bird approached the pretty group again, dressed in a coat of mud and leaves. And when all the birds got soaking wet during the boating, the featherless bird finally saw that he was not worse or uglier than the rest.

What’s the moral from this lively story? By the end of the day, we are all the same. We all have our fears and dreams, we all need to eat and drink, sleep and shower… We all have a bad hair day and get a pimple every now and then. So feathered or featherless, let’s teach our children to always be proud of themselves.

A smart little tale. Well written. Humorous and deep. Original pictures. Very engaging and memorable.

 

304. “No Hugs Till Saturday” by Julie Downing

Have you ever  shortened your child’s time-out or let them eat desert before dinner even though you had claimed otherwise?  According to the books, we shouldn’t do that, right? We should stick to our word. We should remember we are in control. But what if we aren’t?

Felix was deprived of his ball “till tomorrow” as a result of playing with it in the house, which was not allowed. He didn’t like it. He decided to reciprocate and “punish” his mom by depriving her of his hugs, till Saturday. But since it was only Sunday, mom found the punishment pretty unbearable and Felix decided to shorten the penalty by a day. By afternoon, the hugging would already resume on Tuesday, and by the end of the day, the ban on hugging was lifted, upon the mutual agreement.  

A pretty hilarious take on discipline, anger and the power of hugs.  Children need structure and parents should not be afraid to impose it. Sensibly,  though, and with love. Anger is human, but we can all learn to manage it, and nobody should be deprived of the basic human need, hugging. Especially moms, and dads and grandmas, and children and friends…

And last but not least, the story is a great pretext and an engaging tool to practice days of the week. I almost forgot to mention the warm and humorous illustrations.

 

303.”The Bear Who Shared” by Catherine Rayner

There are many life lessons a child needs to learn and one of them is that generosity is good and selfishness is lonely. Most of the parents do a good job teaching “nice sharing” to their children, yet incidents happen and you never know when a child will refuse to share their favorite toy or candy.  Many parents feel obliged to scold or reprimand, in order to show their disapproval of such behavior, yet I believe that the positive reinforcement and good example are much more effective. Today’s book offers a great example.

Norris was a wise bear. He knew that plorringes were the best fruit of all. Norris was also a kind bear. He knew that if he got the last fruit from a plorringe tree, he should share it with Tulip and Violet. Sharing the fruit brought Norris two new friends and lots of more sharing and happiness. 

A very simple, yet powerful little story, warmly illustrated with watercolors. I wish us all lots of wisdom and kindness.

302. “Duck Soup” by Jackie Urbanovic

Yesterday I promoted gardening, today I am proposing a book about cooking. Sounds dull, but not if you do it with Max the Duck and his crazy friends, Brody & Co.  

You might remember from “Duck at the Door”, that Max took to cooking as soon as he moved in with Irene. He enjoyed trying out various recipes, until FOLLOWING the recipes was not enough. Max wanted to create his own soup masterpiece. And while he was in the garden looking for a perfect herb to add the final touch to his creation, Brody, Dakota and Bebe were trying to figure out what soup was cooking in the kitchen. Could it be duck soup?????!!!!!

As always with Max, the story is full of twists and turns and the illustrations are simply hilarious. Lots of  fun for the whole family.

301. “Tops & Bottoms” adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens

We all know that laziness doesn’t pay off, yet many of us would agree that  being idle comes quite naturally to a human being. How else would we explain the success of such ‘indispensable’ devices like the remote control or microwave oven.  Why bother cooking if we can order a take-out and why walk if we can drive? We don’t move enough? Let’s drive to the gym then , right?  I want my son to make better choices and “Tops & Bottoms” offers a great lesson on a short-lived glory of doing nothing.

Bear was a lucky heir of his father’s fortune and land. Ironically, he didn’t inherit his father’s motivation. All he wanted to do was sleeping. Unlike his neighbor, Hare, who was smart and eager to work, but had no land and has been through some dire straights. Clever Hare, came up with a plan to do business with the sleepy neighbor. The Hare’s family would work on Bear’s land and then they will share profits with the land owner. “So what will it be, Bear?’ asked Hare. “The top half or the bottom half?” Bear chose the tops. But since Hare planted the field with carrots and radishes, Bear’s crops were nonexistent. The next year Bear chose the bottoms, but what was he supposed to do with the roots of lettuce and broccoli? The third year Bear demanded both.

Will Bear finally get his share of crops or will Hare trick him one more time? I can only tell you that on the fourth year, Bear realized that if “you snooze, you lose.”

A delightful story with a moral, engaging pictures and lots of information about vegetable gardens.

300. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

Our son is three and a half and he is an avid collector. He gathers leaves, rocks, shells… but his primary goal is to expand his already large collection of very specifically profiled toy cars. Recently he’s even started collecting quarters, as he noticed that a few of those coins can buy him a new Matchbox or a Hotwheels. I thought it was time for him to meet Hector (“Hector the Collector”), who collected everything from old belts and chipped vases, to broken bottles and trains without tracks. Even though others considered it all junk, for Hector it was treasures. My son could relate to Hector,  indeed. He also loved a story about Terrible Theresa, who wanted  a pancake from the middle of a pancake stack (“Pancake?) and laughed at Ridiculous Rose, who chose to eat with her toes. (“Ridiculous Rose”) We even read my favorite poem “Smart”, about a boy who traded a dollar bill for five pennies, for five is more than one. That poem was perhaps a bit confusing for my son’s little brain, although when he wanted to trade with me three dimes for my two quarters the other day,  I wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke or he knew what he was doing.

Shel Silverstein is undoubtedly one of my favorite poets and I am glad I could already introduce him to my son. His perception of the world,  playing with words and the ultimately wacky drawings are so unique, odd, refreshing, universal, memorable, hilarious, inspirational….and everything else you want from a great piece of writing. A wonderful treat for my 300th post! Happy reading!

299. “It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny” by Marilyn Sadler

Funnybunny had some identity issues. He didn’t like carrots, his big ears and a large family. He decided to leave home and look for a more suitable way of living. Living with the bears was quite fun, until the winter. Funnybunny didn’t fancy a long hibernation period, the bear-way. Being a bird  seemed attractive at first, but how can you be one if you can’t fly? Funnybunny tried to mingle with possums and other animals, but it never worked.  The biggest faux pas was trying to live with the skunks. Finally Funnybunny arrived at a predictable conclusion, that perhaps it was time to go back home. Being a bunny is not so bad after all.

Superbly entertaining, cutely illustrated (by Roger Bollen) and outstandingly smart a story. We all have had moments when we wished we could swap our lives with someone else, haven’t we?  Or exchange our families with someone else’s, right?  But I think that at the end of the day, we all know that our way of life is the only right one for us, because it is ours.  The grass is always greener on the other side, they say. And aren’t they right!

I hope your children will enjoy the book and will always be able to accept themselves the way they are.

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