Archive | April 2014

Belly Button Book

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Author: Sandra Boynton
Illustrator: Sandra Boynton
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Purchased: This one was a gift

Pros: What can you say about Boynton books that hasn’t been said a million times before? The illustrations are adorable, and the expressions she manages to convey are just fantastic (and even more impressive when your realize she manages to do so with just two dots for eyes, for example). They’re simple, perfect for young readers, and yet they still manage to capture attention a thousand reads later.

Now, one thing I will mention is that this book uses a “baby talk” phrase for belly button throughout (while still using the phrase “belly button” as well). See example here:

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I only mention this because some folks seem to want to stay away from all baby talk.

On another note, I love the little bits of humor that Boynton books typically include. It’s like stumbling across an inside joke every time you read them. My favorite example from this book is here:

Check out the hippo's shirt. Haha, get it?!

Check out the hippo’s shirt. Haha, get it?!

Durability: 3 bite marks. Holding up pretty well, standard wear.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

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Author: Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault
Illustrator: Lois Ehlert
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Purchased: TJ Maxx

Why: My sister had this book and it seemed fun. Plus, ABCs, duh!

Pros: What’s not to like about this book? You get your ABCs, you get a catchy rhythm, and you get bright fun font. No brainer. I also really like how the borders rotate between yellow with pink dots and pink with yellow dots. It’s a small thing but I notice it every time.

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Funny Story: My husband thinks this book was written by “hippies”. I have no idea why. But here’s another picture from the book. You decide.

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Durability: 4 bite marks. It’s slightly heavier than your typical board book so less carrying around/chewing.

Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You

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Author: Nancy Tillman
Illustrator: Nancy Tillman
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Purchased: Wal-Mart

Why: I was feeling super sentimental and this book seemed to capture the moment.

Pros: Beautiful prose, beautiful pictures. The sentiments are those that you want your child to hear everyday – that no matter what, your love will always be there. I will say, it did take a while for my son to warm up to this book. I think that’s partly due to the pictures. They’re gorgeous, but they have small details that probably weren’t easy for him to pick up on at the ripe old age of 6 months! There was one page that always stood out to him though:

He always loved the blue on this page

He always loved the blue on this page

Since then though, he has really come to love this book. With the maturity he now has at 14 months, he really seems to appreciate the small details. And of course I love reading this one to him because it says everything I want to say – and in rhyme! Perfect!

Finally, I also like that it’s a “quiet” book – and by that I mean, it’s one of the books I like to read to him when we’re winding him down. So many books are busy and loud and fun – and those are all great for different times – but I find it harder to find the good quiet books and this is one of them.

Durability: 3 bite marks. Holding up pretty well other than along the spine (as usual!).

Peter Cottontail’s Easter Egg Hunt

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Author: Joseph R. Ritchie
Illustrator: Rebecca Thornburgh
Publisher: CandyCane Press
Purchased: TJ Maxx

Why: We needed an Easter book in the rotation!

Funny Story: You will note the huge mark across the cover. That is where the cover literally cracked when I sat on it. Oops!

Pros: It’s a quick Easter read that little ones will really take to – rhymes, bright colors, what more could you ask for? My personal favorite Easter story is Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, which is clearly above the reading level of my one year old. Now, that hasn’t stopped me from buying it, but I will be saving it for when he is a little older. So in the meantime we’ll be reading this one…over and over again.

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Durability: 3 bite marks. Holding up well for now but I see rough days ahead.

Little Blue Truck

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Author: Alice Schertle
Illustrator: Jill McElmurry
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Purchased: Barnes & Noble (the now closed, Fifth Avenue location)

Why: Before my son was born, when I was hoping I would raise a child who loved to read (and not realizing that I was, in fact, creating a baby completely obsessed with reading) we asked friends to bring books to our shower to help build a library. Unfortunately, as you may have read from my earlier post on the 3 Books Never to Give Your Expecting Friend, we got a LOT of the same books. But at least one of those came with a gift certificate – so I was able to exchange it and get this one instead. This book stood out because it seemed pretty clearly geared toward boys with the bright blue cover and it being about trucks and all. Plus it seemed to have good rhymes. Sold!

Pros: It’s about a good-natured truck! Who overcomes the bad behavior of others with kindness! Who doesn’t want to embrace that lesson every day?! While you might think this is a quick Disney trip down Cars lane, that’s not the case, and this is a story that certainly stands alone (though it doesn’t have to since it has a sequel of sorts – “Little Blue Truck Leads the Way” — to be covered later, and yes, we already own that one too). The rhyming in this book is superb – easy flow, easy to read, easy to return to again and again. Although as I noted above, my first impression was that this was a “boys” book, it really is a universal story with appeal to boys and girls. No reason to exclude!

Now one interesting element to this book is the color palette — very toned down as compared to your “typical” picture books, or at least I thought so. For that reason it might not capture the attention of the littlest babies since it doesn’t have the bright shapes and contrast that their early vision can pick up. That’s obviously not a hard and fast rule, just something that applied for us and I thought I’d mention.

Note the toned down colors.

Note the toned down colors.

Durability: 3 bite marks. Wear and tear along the edges, though holding up pretty well given the chewing this has been subjected to.

Thank You Bear

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Author: Greg Foley
Illustrator: Greg Foley
Publisher: Penguin Group
Purchased: Amazon

Why: Cool sister recommended this one. She’d heard of Greg Foley through friends.

Pros: Oh, to be an author/illustrator must be an amazing thing. To be able to create a story and then actually put the images on paper exactly how you want them to appear – the power! Author/illustrators must be mad with it — I know I would be. Sadly, I cannot draw. At all. And so I flip through the pages of a book like “Thank You Bear” with wonder and no small amount of jealousy. Grey Foley does a fantastic job creating emotion with simple, beautiful illustrations. I adore them. Bear’s look of exuberance on the second-to-last page is so joyful that it brings a smile to my face every time I read it. But I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll have to go read it for yourself. Instead, I’ll show you another thing I love about this book – how the pages are color-coordinated to the accompanying illustrations:

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It’s a small thing but it makes the book stand out as it’s not something that I’ve seen before.

Thank You Bear has a delightful website which you should absolutely visit here.

There are two other books: Don’t Worry Bear and Good Luck Bear…and I’m sure that both will soon be a part of our library as well.

Durability: 3 bite marks. Holding up pretty well since it’s bigger than a Boynton board book. Just some fraying along the spine – prime teething spot, so it figures.

The 3 Books You Should Never Give to Your Friend Who is Expecting

Let me preface this by saying that these are classics. They are the books upon which children’s literature was built, at least in the United States. But you should never, ever buy one for your pregnant friend.

BrownBearBrownBearWhatDoYouSee

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Goodnightmoon

Why should you NOT buy these books for your friend who is expecting? Because they will receive them from everyone else. Literally, without fail, almost everyone else will buy them one of these three books. I think I received 4 copies of Brown Bear, 4 of Goodnight Moon and 3 of Pat the Bunny.

So look, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have these books in your library – they’re great for a reason. But when your friend’s shower invitation says to bring a book to stock the library for the baby, why not pass on these three and pick something else? You might just find a new classic as well.

New York baby

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Author: Puck
Illustrator: Violet Lemay
Publisher: Publishers Group West (PGW)
Purchased: MoMA Store (Soho)

Why: I think I was pregnant, or trying to be, and thought this would be a fun book to read to my one-day baby who would be born in New York City.

Pros: Colorful illustrations, easy to read text, fun New York references for parents raising children here (or people familiar with the city).

New York babies are special…of course they are.

New York babies are special…of course they are.

Now one of the great things about this book is that it will grow with your child since it has a fun activity page at the back of the book. For now, we’re just enjoying reading together but later, when my son is a bit older, we’ll be able to enjoy finding things in the pictures as well. That’s a definite plus as it extends the life of what would otherwise be a pretty simple board book.

Lots of activities for later

Lots of activities for later

Durability: 2 bite marks. As you can see this one has been chewed on a bit and it’s definitely showing signs of wear.

"Delicious" -- my son

“Delicious” — my son

A Confederacy of Dunces

Just look at this cover, it's totally kid friendly!

Just look at this cover, it’s totally kid friendly!

Author: John Kennedy Toole
Cover Art: Myron Grossman and Michael Tedesco
Publisher: Grove Press Books

If ever there was a kid-friendly book, this is it. I mean look, there is a cartoon bird on the cover! Second, it’s set in New Orleans – the most kid-friendly of cities. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a lovable lunk and his language is always appropriate. I can’t think of a better read-out-loud book for bedtime. Surely any child will dream of candy and rainbows after every encounter with Ignatius.

Alexander Girard Color

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Author: Alexander Girard
Designer: Gloria Fowler
Publisher: Ammo Books
Purchased: Gift

Why: This is the first book I’m reviewing that we didn’t actually purchase ourselves – we received it as a gift. So while I have no idea where this was actually purchased, I would hazard a guess that it was an independent bookstore in Brooklyn (hipster sister gave us this one).

Pros: Lively, colorful pictures that were among the first to capture my son’s attention. There are great contrasting colors and the pictures are big, so a baby can easily see them. There also isn’t really a story here – just a rhyme describing each picture. That actually worked well for us – when my son was just beginning to take an interest in looking at books he would never last for an entire book. So the “don’t you want to finish the book” part of me was fine with putting this down whenever and picking it back up again later.

Great contrasting colors for little ones.

Great contrasting colors for little ones.

Now, I do feel that I should mention one thing…or two. Take note of the following picture in the book. LOL! Now, this doesn’t bother me in the least BUT it definitely gets comments whenever someone reads through this book for the first time. Seriously, every.single.person. says something about this page.

Its a good thing my son is too young to ask about this picture!

Its a good thing my son is too young to ask about this picture!

Durability: 5 bite marks! Unprecedented! This is a really thick board book – meaning most of the time it’s been too heavy for my son to lug around and chew on. And honestly, I’m not sure if he could actually get the whole side in his mouth – he might have to unhinge his jaw (note: I was going to say “like a snake” but a quick google search informed me that snakes actually can’t unhinge their jaws, they can just open them really wide – interesting what you learn when doing a post and wanting to make sure you don’t say something idiotic. But I digress.).

Look at how chunky this book is!

Look at how chunky this book is!