Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today is the 110th birthday of Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Google is celebrating with a Google doodle featuring The Little Prince. For some reason it is not being included on but english-speaking Saint-Exupery fans can hop over to Google UK where the charming little doodle can be seen all day.

Why not knit one?

When I was pregnant with Oona my partner and I had all sorts of plans to make handmade picture books for our budding bookworm. Alas, the best laid plans were soon put to rest once our sleepless wonder arrived. Time passed and the plans were forgotten. Until last week when the folks at Cool Mom Picks wrote about some very cool handmade wooden baby books (check out their post here). 

I can't work wood, but I can knit and long ago I ordered the yarn to make a little picture book I found in Kat Coyle's book of baby patterns,  Boho Baby Knits: Groovy Patterns for Cool Tots. This book is probably a bit young for Oona (19-months) but what the heck, I'm going to make it. If it works out (i.e. I actually finish a project) I'm going to design a knitted alphabet book that will serve Oona for the next few years.  For those of you who have the time or inclination you could design your very own knitted books using some simple math skills and graph paper for knitters.

Below: Kat Coyle's most excellent book as pictured in Boho Baby Knits (cute baby not included with pattern).

Bite this Book

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Puffin Handbook

To celebrate its 70th birthday Puffin has put together the "Puffin Handbook". Its a free booklet that includes articles about child literacy, essays by writers including Eric Carle, and a list of the 70 best children's books from Puffin's extensive catalogue. This handy-dandy reference list is divided into categories by age and has recommendations for babies through to teens. My favourite from their books for baby list: Janet and Allan Ahlberg's  Each Peach Pear Plum. You can download the Puffin Handbook here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More, Fewer, Less (learning to sort-of count)

Last week my 18-month-old's new word was two. I'm pretty sure she doesn't know what it means but it got me thinking that maybe it was time to introduce her to that mainstay of little kid lit: the counting book.

Off we we went to library to look for a suitable one for an 18-month-old. It was confusing. For one thing, what is a suitable counting book for a toddler? For another, there must be at least 1000 counting books at the library. Maybe I am exaggerating a wee bit, but no-one can deny that an awful lot of ink and paper has been put to use in an attempt to teach kids how to count.

As Oona was frantically pulling half the books in the library off the shelves I managed to find an at least close to age-appropriate book,  More, Fewer, Less by Tana Hoban. In case you are not familiar with Hoban, she was the author of numerous children's books in which she used her photographs to introduce basic concepts to kids. The popular Black on White and White on Black books are considered must haves amongst many parents of young babes..

Strictly speaking More, Fewer, Less is not a counting book it is a comparison book, but I think it works well for the "pre-counter''.  It is a collection of brightly coloured photographs grouping various types of every day items in smaller and larger amounts. The book itself is text-less, but the note on the inside of the jacket flap encourages readers to  make the comparisons suggested in the title: more, fewer and less. Its a really versatile book that lends itself equally well to making other comparisons - differences in colour, size and shape are just a few of the possibilities.

Its so much fun to watch Oona's little eyes scanning the photos while she points out details and differences. I don't expect she'll be learning her numbers anytime soon but she sure is happy to sit on my lap, look at the beautiful photographs and happily babble two-two-two......... 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Margaret Wise Brown collection ends book buying moratorium

I was trying to place a moratorium on the buying of books until my family and I move house at the end of the month. I absolutely hate moving and the less things to take the better. Don't ask me why I decided to pop into our local children's book shop today - I think I actually believed I could just take a peek and leave without a new book in hand.

Alas, there will be one more book making the move with us. But what a book! Friendly Tales (Little Golden Book Treasury) Twenty stories and poems by my beloved Margaret Wise Brown including Sailor Dog (who doesn't love a sailor dog?), The Colour Kittens, and Home For a Bunny. Best find in a long while. If you have small children buy this book, your family will enjoy exploring the stories of the incomparable MWB for years to come.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Richard Scarry's Biggest Word Book Ever - Big, Busy and Full of Words

written and illustrated by Richard Scarry
publisher Random House Books for Young Readers

Wow, this really is the biggest word book ever. Every inch of its two-foot tall pages is covered with
scenes from life in Busytown , each object labelled with words or a short sentence.

For those of you (if there are any) who aren't familiar with Busytown -  its a very busy place populated by an assortment of eccentric characters. The citizenry is made up exclusively of anthropomorphic animals: butcher pigs, sailor cats, policeman dogs, handyman foxes, mice that drive pencil cars and one Lowly Worm.

The sheer number of things to look at keeps my 18-month-old happily occupied for 1/2 an hour at a time (that's at least 5 hours in toddler time). Meanwhile, my husband and I are endlessly entertained by Scarry's slap-stick style humour (kind of like a print version of a sketch comedy).

This book is big, busy and brilliant.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One For Father's Day

written by Margaret Wise Brown
pictures by Stephen Savage

Forgive me if I gush, but I just really love the books of Margaret Wise Brown. When Simon and Schuster recently released the previously unpublished The Fathers Are Coming Home, I felt like a Beatles fanatic finding a lost recording. I pre-ordered the book months before my husband's birthday and counted down the days.

Originally written as a welcome home to the fathers returning from World War II the book shows various types of animal fathers returning to their children at the end of the day. Typical of Wise Brown (who was never typical) the animals featured in the book aren't limited to the cute and cuddly (though they are there too).This book celebrates animal dads of all kinds, even the Bug whose family lives under a log and the kind-of creepy looking Daddy Long Legs who, I am sure, loves his children too.

The book is illustrated by Stephen Savage whose retro-looking linocut illustrations are perfectly suited to Wise Brown's trademark sparse and quirky prose. I don't think they could have found a more suitable artist for this one. Check out Stephen Savage discussing his work on the book here.

And we grew up okay....

Check out Jacob Lambert's darkly comic musings about the picture books he loved as a child,


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Guggenheim Children's Book Reissued

Guggenheim Children's Book Reissued
Goo-Goo Goo-gen-heim! First published in 1970, the Guggenheim Museum had reissued the long out of print children's book, I'd Like the Goo-gen-heim. Small kids might not be able to say Kandinsky but that won't stop them from loving the pictures. Can't make it to the Guggenheim Gift Shop? No problem, buy a copy from their online store.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

International Children's Digital Library

A few months ago I was scouring the Internet looking for websites about kid's books from around the world. As a film programmer much of my exposure to other cultures comes from the foreign films I watch. Since my daughter is too young to watch films (btw there are a lot of really great foreign kids films out there) I had the idea that the she could get similar exposure to the wider world by reading (or looking at) foreign kid's books.

My Internet search resulted in a fantastic find, The International Children's Digital Library, a free on-line library of the best of children's literature from around the world.

According to the ICDL website, their goal is
"...... to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world. Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children's literature from the world community."

To view the books in the collection simply go to ICDL website and select a book. You can flip through the pages as they appear on your computer screen. The site also features tips on using the library as a teaching tool; virtual exhibitions that feature books from around the world with similar themes; and it allows you to create a personal library account where you can keep track of your favourites.

With over 4447 books in 54 languages, the ICDL provides a unique opportunity to expose children to art and literature from cultures other than their own. And the advantage of picture books is that even if you can't understand the language you can still appreciate the illustrations.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Little Blue Truck

by Alice Schertle
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (2008)

A friendly blue truck drives down a country lane happily greeting his animal friends along the way. As the rain clouds roll in, a self-important dump truck comes speeding along with nary a nod for anyone, let alone a kind hello. When Dump's carelessness gets him stuck in the muck none of the animals are interested in helping him out. Along comes Little Blue to take on the improbable task of freeing the enormous Dump. Instead poor Little Blue gets himself stuck right along with Dump. All the animals come rushing to answer Little Blues beep beep beep for help, and together they teach Dump an important lesson about friendship and being a good neighbour.

McElmurry's folksy illustrations are what sets this book apart. I grabbed it off the book shelf and bought it before reading a single line. An odd thing for me to do since I'm usually more interested in prose (yes, even in children's books). But this book is all about the rustic charm of the pictures, with rich colours and homespun details reminiscent of decorative folk art.

Luckily, the writing is nearly as charming as the illustrations. The light hearted cadence keeps what could have been an overly preachy tale well-grounded; while a cacophony of beeps, quacks, moos and maas provide plenty of opportunity for a lively and interactive reading. Its inviting rhythms make it a pleasure to read out loud and easy for small to children to follow along

All in all, a most delightful find.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why this blog?

Welcome to my first blog post otherwise called 'why this blog?'.

Since becoming a stay-at-home mom to a cheeky toddler I've developed a bit of an obsession with picture books. I've seen a lot of them - the good, the bad and the ugly. Make no mistake about it - all picture books are not created equally. I'm not into books that are just another marketing tool for some movie or tv show and I'm not into books that are written to mindlessly entertain.  I'm into books that treat little kids like the intelligent (though slightly unrefined) people they are. This blog is dedicated to those books.