“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).

 

 

 

“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.

 

 

“Is there a dog in this book?” by Viviane Schwarz

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You might think you have already seen everything from the world of tail tales.  After all, it’s been raining cats and dogs in kid lit for a while. But have you read “Is there a dog in this book?” by Viviane Schwarz? The furry pups and purry felines have never been more entertaining.

Andre, Moonpie and Tiny suspect there is an intruder in their book. A dog. The older cats know of dogs and they are dreading a potential encounter with the yappy, smelly, scary cat hater. They try to find a safe place to hide: behind a sofa, in the piano,  in a suitcase? As the fear of the dog grows in the older cats, so does the curiosity in Tiny. He wants to know what dog is. He wants to pet it. He finds is friendly. Thanks to brave little Tiny, Andre and Moonpie learn that even though they know of some dogs, they haven’t seen all dogs yet. Some dogs are soft, friendly and they love cats. But wait a minute… Where is that dog now? 

Next to bright, humorous illustrations, pages filled with inventive flaps, the book is written in the breaking the fourth wall format, to fully engage the reader in this hysterical hide-and-seek.

But it’s not only the humor that strikes me in this story. It’s more about what a serious message this amusing tale conveys. Andre and Moonpie show us so clearly that it is not always true that the older we grow the wiser we get. Our experiences often lead us to bias, bitterness and various prejudices. As a result we can’t see things with Tiny’s innocence and genuine curiosity. But perhaps we should try? Perhaps every now and then we should try to look at the world the way children do? They clearly have lots of fun exploring and gathering their own, positive, experiences. They can even teach us something new.

The other day, my three-year old taught me for example that if I dropped my IPhone into the bathtub filled with water, it would still work…  I thought otherwise but he proved me wrong. Yeah, I know, that’s not the lesson I had in mind…;-)

“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.

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School…” by Davide Cali

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You would think that with the kids back in school my life has gotten a bit easier. In a way it has. My days are more peaceful, indeed. But as far as the mornings, “hectic” is an understatement. Between making breakfast, packing lunch-boxes, locating the homework folder and backpacks, it is a whirlwind. And then add to it the most stressful of all: trying to leave the house in time in order to avoid “tardies”, a trip to the principal’s office and getting my son in trouble. Been there, done that. Not fun. I’m sure many of you can relate. Not sure if anyone could think of as many outlandish excuses for being late as the boy in today’s book.

So why was he late? 

First he had to go borrow some bread from the neighbors because giant ants had eaten his cereal. Then ninjas attacked him and the school bus got in hands of a massive ape. At some point he shrank and then got huge. He had a breakfast with someone who looked like Red Little Riding Hood. Bigfoot and Yeti got in the way, later, so did a chess game…. But these were not even the real reasons. He had forgotten the backpack!

Hilarious! Extremely fun and action-studded, both the story and Benjamin Chaud’s pictures. It helps to put your own coming-late-to-school in perspective.

“What A Trip!” by Arthur Yorinks

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We used to have fish fights with my son. Every time I would make cod or tilapia for dinner, he would throw a fit and simulate choking. Not anymore. Not since we read about a certain Mel eating swordfish. Whether it was the intriguing name or meaty taste, I am not sure, but it did the trick! My son wanted to try it. It was love at first bite!

So who is Mel and why did he eat swordfish?

Mel was a typical boy from New Jersey, who happened to trip and fall… into another dimension. A pointy dimension. Cars, houses, dogs, people… everything was pointy there. Another trip and Mel was back to New Jersey. He tried to explain to his parents and friends about the pointy reality, but nobody believed him. He tried to go back, but nothing worked. Not even eating swordfish or tripping himself. His obsessive behavior worried his parents and he was sent to a special camp for klutzes, from which he was sent home for collecting arrowheads and making spears. Suddenly, as Mel was helping his dad at work, he vanished before his father’s eyes. The second trip to the pointy dimension was even more adventurous. And this time he didn’t have to explain anything to his parents. They knew better to believe him. 

And hopefully you will believe me that this hilarious story by Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski’s cartoonish illustrations, make it a great reading treat for the whole family. Before or after the swordfish dinner. Hmm… I might give the asparagus spears a try next time.

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