339. “Tweak Tweak” by Eve Bunting

Since my son was born, he’s always been my loyal walking companion. At first, our walks meant me pushing him, quietly sleeping in a stroller. Now, we are walking at even pace, and our strolls are all but quiet.  Mommy, what is under the sidewalk? Mommy, is this car faster than daddy’s? Mommy, what makes the house not move? He pops a new question every minute. I love it! I love to hear what’s on his curious mind  (and it feels good to be treated like an omniscient)

If your child is at the stage of exploring the wonders of the world, or you would like to encourage them to do so, “Tweak Tweak” might be a book for you.

Mama Elephant took Little Elephant for a walk. He was supposed to tweak twice if he had a question. And he sure did have many of those. He wanted to find out who was sitting on the acacia tree and if he could jump like a frog. He was intrigued by a butterfly and he found out that even though he couldn’t fly, he could wave his ears like butterfly wings.  He wondered if he could sing like a songbird, but mama helped him to discover roaring. Little Elephant learned a lot, just by asking questions. 

A gentle story  and warm illustrations, by Sergio Ruzzier, about discovering the world together. Children learn always, whatever they do. They don’t need to be at school and study with a book. Real life experiences can serve as the best and the most enjoyable lessons. In other words, dear fellow parents, never ignore your children’s silliest question. Promote them, by giving a helpful and enriching answer.

338. “Surfer Chick” by Kristy Dempsey

The summer is making  big steps towards us, so a book with a beach theme should  be a suitable read. Especially,  if the illustrations, by Henry Cole, resemble postcards from Southern California. The blue ocean and the sky, the golden sun and the sand… You’ve got the picture,  right? Now let me tell you a few words about the story.

Chick lived on a beach, but her life was not free of pressure. Her father was a surfing legend. She simply had to learn how to surf. Unfortunately, the skill was not genetic. She had to practice like anyone else and it wasn’t easy. She didn’t give up, though, and finally managed to impress herself and her hero. A new legend was born.

Humor, originality, lively tone, action, color… This rhyme has it all. Lots of laughter guaranteed for the big and little readers alike. I would like this story just for the laughs, but it also makes me think about the power of role-models in children’s life. Young people need someone to look up to, follow and copy. Whether they are inspired by their parents (ideally), teachers, sportsmen, historical figures or even celebrities, may it always lead to self-improvement not self-destruction.

337. “With You Always, Little Monday” by Genevieve Cote

On a Monday night, forest animals found a little baby rabbit. They accepted him in their forest family and called him Little Monday. Little Monday was a happy rabbit, but deep inside, he was bothered by one question: who and where was his mommy? As he found out, it was not Swan, or Owl, or Bear. After all, he couldn’t swim, stay up late at night, or sleep through the winter like them.  Tired of the search Little Monday fell asleep. And there she was: smiling at him from the moon, calling his name and assuring him that she was always looking after him. 

Charming and very touching. Warm illustrations in the colors of the moonlit night. Did you know that you can see a shadow of the rabbit on the full moon? I had no idea.  Apparently it is there to remind us, that “no one is truly alone in the night”.

Whether your children are afraid of darkness at night, or misses you when you travel for work, or if they don’t know their biological parents… this book might bring them some comfort and smiles.

 

336. “Ella Kazoo Will NOT Brush Her Hair” by Lee Fox

Some children will not let you wash their hair, some others will not let you brush it. Look at Ella Kazoo.

She would hide the brush in a dresser with socks or in the garden. Every time her mom would approach her with a brush, she would run off like a hurricane. Her hair looked as if she had a bird’s nest on top, but she would not brush it. Until, her hair outgrew Ella’s wildest imagination. Literally. Ella’s frizzy curls took over her bed, room and house. “This hair must be stopped!” And so, thanks to a crew of hairdressers, Ella got a cute little hairdo, with just one, easy to brush lock. Uff!

Delightful and entertaining. Humor bursting from every line of this lively rhyme. Amusing illustrations by Jennifer Plecas. Very well written, original and not only for girls. My son had a great time reading it. I guess he was happy he didn’t need to fight with a brush on a daily basis.

 

335. “Mario Makes a Move” by Jill McElmurry

Mario the squirrel liked to make different moves: from “twirly ballet arms” to “super looper”. The whole family thought the moves were amazing, artistic, astonishing…. So did Mario, of course. However,  when his Amazing Amazer didn’t  to impress his friend, Isabelle,  Mario started doubting his amazing skill and hobby. Should he start collecting sticks instead? Isabelle, had a better idea. The two combined their skills and created something even more amazing. 

Hilarious, witty, engaging, and humorously illustrated story about two athletic squirrels. It can be read for pure entertainment but it doesn’t lack  deeper messages. For one, it promotes teamwork. Mario and Isabelle’s team performance was so much more impressive than their individual stunts. Secondly, it shows that nothing good comes from raising a child in a bubble of superlatives. If Mario’s family provided him with some reality check, he wouldn’t be so disappointed to hear that “anyone can make a move”. Children need to know their value and need to feel loved, but if we constantly brainwash them with “the best, the smartest, the prettiest…”, then no wonder that we arrive at millions of talentless teenagers competing to become a new American Idol.

Recently a friend told me she resists calling her daughter pretty in order not to make her over-confident. My advice was just to add two words to the complement: you are so pretty FOR ME. Every child should be the prettiest for their parents, but no parent should make their child believe that the whole world turns around them. It is simply unfair to the child.

334. “The Ugly Duckling – El Patito Feo” Adaptation by Merce Escardo i Bas

You must know this simple tale about a little swan, mistakenly hatched in a duck nest and mistaken for a duckling. An ugly duckling. At first, the swan tried to live his life the duck way, but it was not easy to fit in. It was obvious that he was different. He didn’t belong there.  The swan left the only family he knew in pursuit of happiness and understanding. He didn’t find it among geese, he didn’t find it on a farm. He found it among the most magnificent creatures he had ever seen: Swans. He was one of them.   

What I want my son and other children to gather from this story is that there are no ugly ducklings, only misplaced swans. (And here we come to the question my son posed after reading the story: how did the swan egg get to the duck nest?) Children should never doubt their greatness and steer away from those who make them believe otherwise.

“The Ugly Duckling” makes me think about another book, “Matilda”, by R. Dahl. It is a story about a little genius born into a family of crooks and  ignorants.  Like the little swan, Matilda was very lonely, constantly humiliated, and misunderstood, UNTIL  she found Ms. Honey…

I have been looking for “The Ugly Duckling” for a while and I am really happy with this copy. It is published by Chronicle Books, as a part of Bilingual Books series. The story is retold in a very approachable way, suitable for toddlers and preschoolers, engagingly and humorously illustrated by Francesc Capdevilla, and it can be read in both, English and Spanish.

333. “It’s All About Me!” by Nancy Cote

There are many recipes for a complete family.  A traditional family with mom and dad, a single parent, one child or four or six… For us it’s always ben a 2+2 concept. Me and my husband knew that we wanted a child, but  we also knew that once we had one,  he or she would need a companion, so two was the ideal number. However, as today’s book confirms, not every child wants a baby brother or sister…

A boy gets lots of love and smiles from his parents. Whatever he does, from crawling to playing in mud, he the best. Why would mommy and daddy want another baby, then? Especially, the baby that can’t do anything, but for sleeping, crying and pooping. Of course, eventually, the ice-breaking happens and the big sibling can’t imagine not having his little baby brother around. Eventually, the older boy is old enough to realize that it is not all about him, it is not about which child is the best, but that “a family’s best”

“It’s All About Me!” is a concept story with a twist. The lively rhyme bursts with humor and the warm illustrations engage the reader on every page. It is a wonderful story for every growing family. Children’s will reaction on a new family member is hard to predict, but it is worth preparing them for their arrival.

332. “Heart in the Pocket” by Laurence Bourguignon

Little Jo-Jo had one favorite place to be: in his Mama Kangaroo’s pouch. Even if he could, he would never want to be a cloud, because the wind would blow him far away from his mom. He didn’t care to as free as a bird or as soft as a butterfly. He didn’t envy  a lizard that it could draw on sand with its tail. Jo-Jo wanted to stay in his mama’s pocket, so he could always feel her heartbeat. It was time Mama Kangaroo showed her little child that it wasn’t  really so bad outside. Besides,  regardless of where little Jo-Jo would be, she would always keep his hear in her pocket.

The world can seem a wild and scary place for a little child. Luckily there is mom: the first and the biggest ally, partner, friend, guide, spokesperson… Everything seems easier when it’s done with mom. But it can’t always be this way. In due time, a smart mom needs to prepare her child for independent discoveries. Daycare, preschool or school, can be traumatic experiences for a scaredy heart. But they don’t have to be, if a child knows that we always have them in our hearts.

A delightful and touching little story about the bond between  mother and child and dilemmas of growing up. Engaging plot, that takes you by surprise. Wonderfully warm and sunny pictures by Valerie d’Heur.

331. “Rock-a-Doodle-Do!” by Michael Foreman

There are moments in life that seem like a dead-end.  We feel redundant, dispensable, replaceable… The doors of opportunities appear to be closing on us. What we often forget is that we should keep trying opening new doors until we find an unlocked one.

Look at this old donkey. Once his master tried to get rid of him because of the age, the animal decided to run away and follow his dream of becoming a musician. On the way to the city, he met an old dog, a cat and a rooster, all of them too old to please their masters. Why not to join the donkey and become musicians as well? The crew didn’t make it to the city, though. Their destiny lead them to an old cafe, that was just being robbed. Although the animals didn’t plan to, they successfully scared the thieves away and ended up with enough money to turn the old cafe in a popular concert hall. 

I must say, the old donkey was a smart beast. Although he was too senior to be worth his keep on a farm, he was not too old to pursue his dream. As you can see, a setback, turned out to be an opportunity to start a new chapter in life. A much more exciting chapter, I must add.

In other words, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.  The sooner our children realize it, the better off they will be in life.

 

 

330. “The Perfect Nest” by Catherine Friend

Do you know the feeling when you carefully plan for something, diligently prepare  for it, and then life takes you by surprise and not only do you need to adjust to a new situation instantly, but you have to make the best out of it.

Jack the cat was building a perfect nest, to attract a perfect chicken that would lay a perfect nest for his omelette. It did work. A Spanish-speaking Chicken came and did his job.  But then a French-speaking Duck followed the Chicken, and so did  some curious Goose with a southern accent. Jack had three perfect eggs for three perfect meals. Almost, that is. At first, the birds didn’t want to leave the nest, and then the eggs cracked one by one. What was Jack supposed to do with three cute babies that called him… mama? Willy-nilly, he found out that they all fitted perfectly in the  perfect nest. 

This story is both touching and outrageously hilarious. Great script and sense of humor. Warm, lively and engaging pictures by John Manders. My son laughs out loud every time we read this story.

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