“The Seven Silly Eaters” by Mary Ann Hoberman

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Some like it hot, some like it cold, and little Peter Peters drank only warm milk. It wasn’t a problem for the patient Mrs. Peters. Her little Peter could always count on a perfectly warm cup of milk. Just like his sister Lucy could always be pleased with the homemade pink lemonade and their brother Mac with lump-free oatmeal. The kind Mrs. Peters ended up catering to preferences of  all of her seven picky eaters. Picky as they were, the children appreciated their mother’s efforts. They tried to show it on Mrs. Peters’s birthday, which lead to the most surprising birthday gift for their hard-working mother. 

In this comic take on the topic of fussy eaters, which suddenly turns into a birthday book, the story is as familiar and fresh as mom’s homemade food. Many a mom can surely relate to Mrs. Peters’s cooking dilemmas and perhaps find her one-meal-for-all solution quite handy. The book is written in delightful rhyme, which only enhances the humor and makes reading aloud a family treat. Together with the engaging and hilarious pictures by Marla Frazee, “The Seven Silly Eaters” is quite a memorable book that will fill the tummies of your little readers with lots of giggles.

I must admit, I can quite relate to Mrs. Peters… There are days when I’m cooking four different meals for the four of us. I am getting smarter though (or more tired) and my list of common favorites starts prevailing on our family menu. Besides, although I respect individual likes and dislikes in the food area, I think it is vital  for the family to share one meal from time to time. That’s one way to make family traditions and memories. Like this one:

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Who can say “no” to baked apple pancake!

“Mean Soup” by Betsy Everitt

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Horace had a bad day. He blanked out during a test, got an embarrassing love note, had to drive home with crazy Ms. Pearl.  He felt so mean. His mother tried to start a conversation but he only wanted to growl back. Clever mother had a clever idea. She suggested making a soup. The recipe required a pot of water and salt, like any regular soup.  But when mother and Horace started adding screaming and growling into the pot, as well as twenty stuck-out tongues and Horace’s dragon breath,  there was no doubt they were cooking something more than an ordinary soup.  It was called “Mean Soup”. A few spoon bangs on the pot and Horace began to smile. The recipe was working. It was a perfect way of “stirring away a bad day”.

What a genius story! What a perfect recipe for averting a disaster!  What a fantastic parenting tool! As a mom two boys, I can tell you that at the age of 7 and 3 your lives can be filled with a lot of drama and misery. Your homework might not get showcased or you might miss a 3 pointer basketball.  You will have to take a nap at preschool even though you’d like to play instead. Loudly. Or there might be green beans for lunch and you don’t eat green food so you are hungry and angry. Bad mood can be infectious. One person’s tantrum can easily ruin the day for the whole family. But maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe cooking a “Mean Soup” together can save the day? I’m ready to try it. How about you?

 

 

 

“Meet the Dullards” by Sara Pennypacker

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A boring book deserves a boring write-up. So, here we go, without further ado, meet the Dullards.

The Dullards’ child-rearing strategy was quite… boring. But kids don’t always listen to their parents and  Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud would sometimes come up with such crazy ideas like playing outside,  going to school or reading books. The Dullards couldn’t tolerate such behavior. If it wasn’t the genes, it must have been the place.  “It’s like a circus around here.” It was time to move somewhere duller. But nothing is perfect. Perfectly boring that is. Can you imagine a welcome by an excited neighbor with a chunky applesauce cake? However, even that couldn’t compare to the bright and flowery wallpaper….

Will the Dullards find a perfectly dull place to raise their children? Will the children keep trying to escape the monotony?

This book is so boring through and through. Dull pictures by Daniel Salmieri, uninteresting characters, dry humor… Add it all up and you’ve got an extra hilarious story! ( The exclamation mark is to annoy the Dullards). A story not only for children.

I don’t wish any child to be raised by the Dullards, but I think that a dull moment here and there would not be a bad idea for our over-scheduled and overstimulated kids. Let’s dare to be Dullards once in a while. Boredom can be good. Even inspiring. It can lead to creativity. Our bored kids can actually surprise us with something not so boring after all.

 

 

“Wolfie the Bunny” by Ame Dyckman

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As a big sister of three brothers, I used to struggle with my role as a child. Many a time did I wonder if we would ever connect as siblings. When I was in college, my two youngest brothers were finishing elementary school. I saw them a few times a year at most. But we did connect eventually. Now that we are all grown up, the age doesn’t matter and my brothers are beyond my siblings. They are my friends.

In other words, the thing with siblings is that, sooner or later, they will bond, despite all the rivalry, jealousy, age gap and different personality traits. As read and seen in “Wolfie The Bunny.

While the Bunny Mama and Papa are quite smitten with a new family member, baby wolf, Dot the big sister, just knows better: “He is going to eat us all up!” Wolfie’s growing appetite only confirms that the Bunny family will be next, after the carrots, which Wolfie can’t have enough. Just like he can’t have enough of Dot. He follows her everywhere, including the Carrot Patch, where Dot finally gets a chance to free herself from the unwanted helper. Yet, as the bear at the store tries to turn Wolfie into his dinner, brave Dot is the one to save him. And with what style!

A warm and reassuring story about family dynamics, siblings, adoption, veggies… engagingly and creatively illustrated by Zachariah Ohara. I love reading it with my little boys, who prove this book relatable and relevant on a daily basis.

Dinosaur Starts School by Pamela Duncan Edwards

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With the school year about to start or just started in most schools, a book about the thrill, or trauma, of the first day of school might be a good idea. How to explain to a little kindergartner what it is going to be like at the big-kid school? How to make the first day a positive experience for an anxious five or six-year old? How to prepare for the worst case scenario? Perhaps reading about how Dinosaur and his friend do it might help?

When Dinosaur sulks, roars, stamps his feet and finds numerous excuses why he shouldn’t go to school, his friend tells him about all the fun he can have and all the things he can learn at school. He tells him not to worry about messing up his painting because that might be a way to create something beautiful. And he tells him not to overthink the yucky lunch menu. There is always a salad for herbivores. Dinosaur learns he shouldn’t worry about being shy, because there will sure be other shy dinosaurs with whom he can build sand castles and play tag. After a pep talk like this, there is nothing left for Dinosaur than to smile his “big, toothy, Dinosaur smile”.

And that’s what you will get from your own Dinosaurs after reading this warm and reassuring story, so brightly illustrated by Deborah Allwright. May it be a great school year for everyone!

“The Insomniacs” by Karina Wolf

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This book recommendation is for my always traveling and always jet lagged husband, and for anybody who has ever had trouble getting on schedule in a different time zone.

Everything changed for the Insomniac family when Mrs. Insomniac took a job across the time zones. Adjusting to a life on another continent wasn’t easy. When it was time to work and study, the Insomniacs wanted to sleep. When everybody else slept, the Insomniacs were ready for action. They tried everything, from drinking milk, meditating to counting to a thousand, but nothing helped.  Finally, the Insomniacs got tired of fighting off their nocturnal habit and decided to embrace it. As they started exploring the night world, they noticed that the night was teeming with life and exciting things to do. From moon bathing, to eating nightshade vegetables, the Insomniacs discovered that perhaps waking up after sunset might suit them after all. One can always study and work remotely. 

What a wonderful celebration of the night! I guess, one can expect nothing less than a great nocturnal story, if the author’s last name is Wolf, right? I think it is the first book about night that is not sleepy or dreamy. It is energizing, actually.  Is it the lunar energy perspiring through the book? And then one must not forget the grotesque pictures by The Brothers Hilts: so dark and mysterious.  Who would think it was the artists’ picture book debut?

To sum up, if you and your little ones should be sleeping now, hope you are having good dreams. But if you are not, because you can’t, stop wasting your energy on tossing and turning. Follow the Insomniacs. Use the energy of the moon. Discover a night owl in you. Have a good night!

“How To Cheer Up Dad” by Fred Koehler

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A little tribute to Dads and a great gift of read-together for Father’s Day and every day!

Little Jumbo’s dad’s day wasn’t up for a good start.  First it was the raisins rain that threw him off,  then a fight over a bath and brown overalls. Little Jumbo suggested a time-out for dad. Well, it was Jumbo who got one instead. He decided to think of a way to cheer his dad up. Between a trip to the park and ice-cream store, fishing and reading books, dad’s mood’s improved indeed. Thanks goodness Little Jumbo knows how to cheer up his dad, because a cape cut out of the curtain won’t do the trick…

Enjoy the story and have a great Father’s Day!

“Library Mouse” by Daniel Kirk

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Sam was a literate mouse, who lived at the library. He ate cheese like a rodent and swallowed books like a bookworm. When his head was spilling over with information and ideas, it was time for Sam to write a book of his own. His autobiography, “Squeak”, was followed by a picture book and a whodunit, which Sam put on bookshelves for children to read. Everyone wondered who the mysterious author was and the librarian decided to write him a note and invite him to the library. Sam knew that he was too shy to read in front of people, so what was he supposed to do? He put his creativity to work and children got their meet-the-author event indeed. 

The ending of this story is so creative that I just can’t spill all the beans. You need to read it for yourselves. But for the rest of my post to make sense, I must mention that clever Sam found a neat way to inspire children to write their own books. In Sam’s mind, writing wasn’t as hard as people thought. “If only they would try, they might find out that writing was really lots of fun.”

Considering Sam’s approach to writing, I have a feeling that he must have been acquainted with the work of Carol S.Dweck, Ph.D. In her book “Mindset”, she proves that we can do a lot more than we think, if only we set our mind on learning and try our hardest. From Picasso to Mozart, from sports stars to writers, the most achieved individuals got to the top and stayed there, not because they had some incredible, beyond-human talents, that we, normal people, don’t possess, but because they worked extra hard to fulfill their dreams.

Back to writing, I don’t claim that the love of writing will make all of our children published authors, but following Mrs. Dweck’s research and Sam’s way of thinking, it might be fun to try and learn a new skill. Our potential is unknown.  Who knows what might happen when we encourage our children to put their ideas, thoughts and dreams on paper?

An immensely inspirational story, greatly valuable for libraries, schools and writing workshops.

They Have the Music in Them!

Today my six-year-old decided he was going to write a song. I was impressed and encouraging. A few minutes later I got to read the opening lines:

“I am gona get on fire

like a cobra

or a black mamba

fiting a tiger”

 I complimented my rookie songwriter on his creativity but I also wanted to give him some constructive feedback. How about adding rhymes? My input wasn’t well taken, though. Actually, I got to hear that “rhymes make a song sound stupid”.

Two thoughts followed:

The first one was about music. Music is kids’ best friend and I’m happy my boys are friends with music. Apparently, even the science confirms that children who play instruments are happier. In other words, let’s keep music alive in our homes. Any music, from folk to classical. I was hesitating for a while about the influence of the radio on my sons’ taste in music, but you know what, even a cheap radio hit can be inspiring. Actually, I’m quite positive that it’s the Swift, Perry & Co that gave my son the idea to write his first hit-to-be. Even if I would prefer to believe that it’s the music classes I kept signing him up for while in preschool (A propos music classes, I fully recommend Kindermusik. I am enjoying it again with my two-year-old. It’s so engaging,  diverse, and so professional! Check it out. They might offer classes in your area.) And let’s not ignore the innate musicality of children. Nobody has taught our younger son to wiggle his hips to the music the way he does. (Unless it was “The Wiggles”) Let’s give our children opportunities to develop what’s already in them.

My second reflection was about my son’s rhyme comment. I was surprised to hear that a kindergartener considers rhymes silly. Perhaps all those publishers who reject rhymed picture book manuscripts are right after all? Perhaps rhymed book are too simplistic indeed for this sophisticated generation? Generation Apple, by the way. I concluded so after my son had spelled ‘Island‘ as ‘iLand‘.

“Almost” by Richard Torrey

Jack is almost six and, in his world, he is almost grown up. He can almost wear his older brother’s clothes, ride a big bike or make his breakfast. Never mind that his brother doesn’t let Jack touch his shirts, Jack’s feet can’t reach the pedals of the big bike and he spills milk all over the counter instead pouring it over the cereal. Luckily, despite being so almost adult and so almost accomplished, he is not too grown up to give his mom a hug every now and then.

Our children want to grow up so fast, don’t they? They can’t be just five or six years old. They are always five and a half or six and three-quarters. Yet, at the same time (and thanks goodness), there will always be moments when they don’t mind forgetting about their age (real or imaginary) and being just our little children. My head is full of examples, but it is kind of secret worth keeping, isn’t it. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Sweet, amusing and so true a story, which perfectly captures the paradox and dilemmas of growing up.  In our family it is the two-year-old who thinks he is six, like his brother.  And he sure acts like one. Almost, that is.

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