“Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct” by Mo Willems

 

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Edwina was known for more than her accessories. She would lend her tail at the playground when children needed a slide, and she would gladly change a lamp light in the street. She also baked the best chocolate chip cookies for everyone.  She shouldn’t be doing any of those things though. She shouldn’t be. As any other T-Rex, she should be extinct. Was Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie the only one to realize that? How could he make everyone listen? Well, he couldn’t convince everyone, but Edwina was willing to hear him out. Reginald was right. Now Edwina also knew she was extinct. And it didn’t change a thing. 

In other words,  with the right attitude, anything is possible. The facts might be what they are, we don’t need to deny them, but it is up to us to decide how we want to feel about them. We can simply choose not to be bothered.

The other day my almost 4-year-old son was standing next to a girl with quite irregular facial features. He looked at her for a while and then he simply said: “You look weird.” He wasn’t trying to be rude, rather inquisitive, but since I wasn’t sure how the girl or her parents were interpreting it, I pulled him quickly aside and tried to explain that such comments could seem hurtful. “How would you feel if someone told you that you looked weird? What would you do?” I confronted him hoping for some remorseful reflection on his side. I forgot I was talking to my own little Edwina, though. “I would say it back”, he responded light-heartedly.  And I have no doubt he would. Just like Edwina, my son can’t be bothered. (And just like Reginald, my other son just needs to be heard.)

 

“Strictly No Elephants” by Lisa Mantchev

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A boy has a pet. It’s a Pet Club Day. Clearly, the boy should head out to the Pet Club, right? Wrong. The boy has a little elephant for a pet and those are excluded. As the two rejected friends walk back home, they meet another pair of unwanted Pet Club members, a girl with a skunk. The children  share their sadness regarding the ungrounded exclusion. However, instead of wasting time on sulking, they decide to open their own Pet Club, where everyone is welcome. Quite a popular Pet Club indeed.

A very relevant story for readers of all ages. Diversity, however present in our lives, is still a controversial topic.  Are we afraid of differences?  Do we find sameness superior? What could happen if we started including instead of excluding?

With her warm and subtle story about loyalty and friendship, complemented by equally warm and subtle illustrations by Teagan Yoo, Lisa Mantchev succeeded in sending a very clear message to our children. She vividly pictured how misleading  and hurtful prejudices can be and how profusely our society could benefit from embracing diversity. Including can be so inspiring.

 

“Maple & Willow Apart” by Lori Nichols

 

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Maple is a big sister and starts a big-girl school. Willow is a little sister and has to stay at home. Maple brings home endless exciting stories about kindergarten. Willow has to learn to have fun around the house by herself. Maple makes new friends at school, Willow meets Pip by an oak tree. Now Willow has stories to share too. As the girls learn to build their separate routines, they realize that they miss each other and find a way to reconnect and share their new worlds. Willow might be too small to go to school with Maple, but Pip isn’t. 

Yesterday was my son’s last day of the summer vacation. However nervous he felt this morning when I dropped him off at school,  I am positive that when I pick him up, he will be bursting with excitement.  I’m sure that his younger brother, a preschooler, will notice the difference between the summer with his brother and the fall without him.   And that’s why we will read the story of Maple and Willow tonight, to remind my boys that they should never allow the school routine to drift them apart.

“Maple and Willow Apart”, with its sweet pencil illustrations, is certainly a heart-warming celebration of the sisterly bond.  And it is a wonderful book to read at this time of the year, to prevent the school-separation drama.

“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!

“Hug Machine” by Scott Campbell

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Have you ever met the Hug Machine? He looks like an ordinary child, except, he is exceptional at hugging. Actually, if you are on his “to hug” list, and chances are quite high you are, you might experience it first hand. For the Hug Machine there is nothing too big or too small, too hard or too soft to be hugged. He is on the hugging mission.  From calming to uplifting, his hugs can do wonders. And if you wonder from where the Hug Machine gets his hugging powers, the answer is one word: pizza. Having said that, if you come across the Hug Machine in your area, let him give you a hug. And don’t forget, even the Hug Machine could use a hug from time to time. 

What a heart-warming story! You read it and you immediately want to hug someone. Especially your very own hug machines, to whom you are reading the story. With simple language and cartoonish pictures, Scott Campbell sends us a powerful message: hugging is so good for us. Or even better, the combo of reading and hugging. Let’s make both a habit.

My younger son, and our family hugging machine, knows the power of the hug all too well.  He never asks to be carried or held. He goes with “Hug me up, please.” Who can resist such a request! I tried it once, considering my son is almost 4 years old and weighs almost 40 lbs. His response came quickly and on top of his lungs. “Nobody wants to hug me!!!!” I just wonder what the people in the park must have been thinking…

 

 

 

 

 

“Once Upon An Alphabet” by Oliver Jeffers

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If you think it is just another ABC book, you are up for a surprise. After all, it is written by the world’s favorite storyteller. If Oliver Jeffers is the author, it must be a book with a unique story. Or 26 masterful stories. One for each letter.

From a story about Edmund, the astronaut who wanted to explore space but was afraid of heights, to a story about a cup who had a fatal dream of leaving the cupboard a little tale about Hellen living in half a house, until she woke up on the wrong side of bed, Jemima and her jelly door, or an owl who just kept moving onward, the readers are up for something unpredictable, hilarious and totally ingenious, letter by letter. And then add to it Jeffers’s inimitable, minimalist and humorous pictures! “Once upon an Alphabet” is definitely a  reading treat for the little readers (and their parents alike).

 

 

 

“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.

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