Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Did Someone Say Car-schooling?

Yes, "Car-schooling" - it's when you turn travel time into learning time (it's also the title of a book by Diane Flynn Keith.  I recently came across an interview with Jim Weiss about his educational and highly entertaining story recordings on Diane's Carschooling website - here.)
Have you entered my SUMMER GIVEAWAY for one of Jim Weiss' CDs?  Go here for details - last day to enter is July 2, 2013.  Three (3) lucky winners will be able to chose a Jim Weiss Storytelling Recording from Greathall Productions. Jim's CDs are a fun way to CAR-SCHOOL while you're on that summer road trip!!!

Besides reading aloud good literature or listening to entertaining audio story recordings while on the road, here are some additional car-schooling ideas:

  • Make a travel journal/scrapbook.  Start it at home - with a map of where you're going and maybe some fun stickers glued onto the cover of a spiral notebook or sketchpad - then add to it during the trip as you buy postcards and they dictate or write about what they see each day. Leave empty spaces for photos so the kids can finish it when you're back home and have your pictures developed.
  • Make road trip activity bags for each child.  I love this idea of themed (like "ocean" and "zoo") activity bags, here from The Peaceful Mom. Include car friendly activities such as crossword puzzles, dot-to-dot books, word searches, and mad libs, to name a few.
  • Teach your kids map skills.  Bring along a map or atlas just for your kids. You can purchase maps that are laminated or you can print one from the Internet. Highlight your route, marking stops and sights, then put the map in a sheet protector in their travel journal/scrapbook.
  • Create a Road Trip Music Playlist.  Our kids loved helping us download favorite tunes to make fun playlists for our trips.  We included a large variety of music that the whole family could enjoy - including jazz and classical music (Carnival of the Animals was very popular, as was Route 66!)
  • Bring healthy snacks to keep kids happy. Water bottles, cheese sticks, granola bars, fruit, nuts, dried fruit...
Do you have any summer road trip tips (or tricks) to share?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SUMMER GIVEAWAY: Jim Weiss Storytelling CDs

7/3/13 - GIVEAWAY OVER. Congratulations to my three winners - Fibia, Michelle, and Lee Anne!  And thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway - enjoyed all your comments, and I'm so happy to have new followers.  Remember to look for Jim Weiss' wonderful recordings at your local library!
As promised, here are the details of my SUMMER GIVEAWAY:  Story recordings by Jim Weiss to help pass the time on those family summer road trips!  I am thrilled to offer three (3) lucky winners each an autographed Storytelling Recording CD of their choice from Greathall Productions.

Not familiar with acclaimed storyteller Jim Weiss?  I reviewed several our our family's favorite Jim Weiss audio story recordings on my blog post yesterday - go here.

How to Enter the Giveaway:
  1. Sign in to the Rafflecopter widget (below) with your name and email. This is the only way to be officially entered into the giveaway! 
  2. You will see a list of tasks with big green buttons next to them. Each task has a point value. 
  3. Click on the ones you want to complete and follow the instructions. Please note that it is not enough to just click the green buttons; you must also complete the task to earn the points. 
  4. The more tasks you complete, the more times your name goes in the hat to increase your chances of winning. 

IMPORTANT: You must sign in to the Rafflecopter widget below in order to be “officially” entered in this giveaway! (Your email won’t be published or shared. I use emails only to contact the winner.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Details:
  • The giveaway will be closed at 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, July 2, 2013 . 
  • Winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. 
  • In order to enter the contest, you must sign in to the Rafflecopter widget and complete at least one task. Winner is chosen randomly by Rafflecopter. 
  • Giveaway is open to residents of the United States only. 
  • The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter and contacted via email. If the winner does not respond with the requested contact information within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer is a Time for Stories! Don't Miss These...

Giveaway time! What have I got to make that summer road trip a little bit easier?  Story Recordings!

I've partnered with Greathall Productions to give away three Jim Weiss Storytelling CDs!

My SUMMER GIVEAWAY STARTS TOMORROW, but today I want to introduce you to Jim Weiss and review some of his recordings.

"Jim Weiss is a master narrator especially when it comes to 
conversation…he takes on persona easily, 
male or female, young or old…" 

Jim Weiss brings stories to life with his voice, which is at once soothing and spellbinding.  He doesn't have the benefit of costumes or props, yet he has no trouble holding kids' (or their parents') attention. And he plays the part of a wide range of characters!
As I listened recently to Jim Weiss' skillful telling of The Jungle Book I was transported to Kipling's jungle - Jim does all the voices, of course: Mowgli; his "brothers" the Wolves; Bagheera; Baloo the Bear; Shere Khan; Messua (Mowgli's human mother); and more! 

Our family first came across Jim Weiss' stories back in the 1990's, through our homeschooling connections. The audio recordings (cassettes in those days!) were perfect to listen to on summer road trips. Our kids were entranced! 

Jim and his wife started Greathall Productions ("Intelligent entertainment for the thinking family") in 1989 and to date have produced over 47 storytelling recordings! You can navigate their website and not only find CD recordings grouped by age listening level, but also hear samples of many of the recordings.

Our family's favorite Jim Weiss storytelling recordings:
ARABIAN NIGHTS (ages 5 and up) We were definitely transported by these eloquently told tales of Scheherazade, including Jim's retelling of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves".
SHE & HE: ADVENTURES IN MYTHOLOGY (ages 5 and up)  This collection of several well-known Greek Myths was a perfect compliment to our unit study of Greece.
SHERLOCK HOLMES (ages 8 and up).  My husband and I were as entranced by Jim Weiss' retelling of these Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson stories as our kids!

Not to be Missed:
THE JUNGLE BOOK - If you think you know the whole story from the Disney movie, guess again!  Your kids will love Weiss's tellings of the stories of Rudyard Kipling: "Mowgli's Brothers"; "Tiger! Tiger"; "Red Dog"; and "The Spring Running". (ages 7 and up)
AMERICAN TALL TALES - These uproarious American folk stories will have you laughing out loud...You'll meet Paul Bunyan, taller than the trees and mightier than the rivers; Johnny Appleseed, whose gentle generosity make him a beloved legend; and Pecos Bill, whose outrageous Texas-sized exploits make him the greatest of all cowboys. (ages 5 and up)
BEST LOVED STORIES IN SONG AND DANCE - Three favorite tales (for girls and boys): "The Twelve Dancing Princesses"; "The Sleeping Beauty"; "Snow White and Rose Red".

Unabridged Narrated Books (these will not be included in my Giveaway, but I had to mention them!):
CARRY ON, MR. BOWDITCH (unabridged, ages 8 and up). A Newberry winner, the book is based on the the real life of Nathanael Bowditch, inventor of a new method for sea navigation: lunar reckoning. The story is set during the American Revolution, and is a touching biography of a worthy hero. I read this book to my kids, but I wish we would have had this recording! (6 1/2 hours on 6 CDs)
COME ON, SEABISCUIT!  - This is not the Hollywood version of this remarkable story! read my past post here.  (3 1/2 hours on 4 CDs)

Be sure to stop back by my blog tomorrow for details about how to enter my SUMMER GIVEAWAY of Jim Weiss Storytelling Recordings (giveaway runs 6/25 - 7/2/13)...  good luck!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Just What You Need for that Road Trip!

SUMMER GIVEAWAY: It's the first day of Summer, and I've got just what you need to make your summer road trip a little easier.  
Watch for details on Monday... 
(hint: it's missing from this picture.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Was Harold Here With His Purple Crayon?

If you've ever driven through a Southern California neighborhood in late May to early June, and looked up at the sky through a canopy of purple jacaranda trees, you'd swear that Harold had been there with his purple crayon!
"And he set off on his walk, taking his big purple crayon with him..."

A couple of weeks ago, knowing the jacaranda trees would be in full bloom, I made sure to drive through the cute town of Fullerton, where I couldn't resist stopping to take a few photos.  I rolled down my car window to let in the air, thick with the scent of the sweet purple flowers!

Since the blooms last for a total of about six weeks, some wilted purple blossoms were already starting to fall to the ground. And now that it's mid-June, I can picture the streets covered in a carpet of purple!

Katherine Olivia "Kate" Sessions is to thank for these gorgeous jacaranda trees.  She was a horticulturist (formerly a teacher) best known as the landscape architect for San Diego's Balboa Park.  In 1892 she asked city officials to lease 30 acres of "City Park" to her for a nursery.  

In return, she would plant 100 trees per year throughout the park and donate others to the city for planting elsewhere.  She brought jacarandas to Southern California in the early part of the 20th Century.

Reading about Katherine Sessions, I couldn't help but think of Crockett Johnson's "Harold".  Katherine wanted a garden for her city, so she planted it.  Harold, a curious four-year-old boy with a purple crayon, created an imaginative world of his own by simply drawing it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Mom Who is "Cultivating Readers"

Today I'd like to introduce you to another blogger who is passionate about good books for children - Michelle Leichty, a Mom who blogs over at Cultivating Readers.
"Here at CultivatingReaders.com, you will find a mother’s perspective on a book your child is reading, suggestions of books your child would enjoy, and books your whole family will enjoy reading out loud together."

It's so affirming to come across a kindred spirit when it comes to reading aloud good literature to kids! I discovered Michelle's blog through her sister-in-law Molly Sabourin (whose Close to Home blog and book are not to be missed either!)

I've enjoyed Michelle's posts about the books she and her children are reading.  When I asked her to do this interview, I don't think I realized how similar our philosophies are when it comes to what constitutes good literature for children.  Even the reasons why she started her blog are much the same as mine!  (And: we are both from Illinois and have a history with Campus Crusade for Christ and homeschooling - now that's quite a coincidence.)

Here's a little bit about Michelle:  
"I have been an avid reader as long as I can remember. I would ask for books for every holiday and birthday, but my mom refused to buy them for me because I would be done with them before the day's end. As a result, I got to know my local library quite well!

 I grew up in Illinois, and graduated from the University of Missouri with a Journalism degree. I worked at a TV station in Iowa, and met my husband at the church I attended. Then I joined him on Campus Crusade for Christ staff, producing videos at their headquarters in Florida.

Our four children were born in Florida before we moved back to Illinois. I've been homeschooling since 2003, although this fall we will have two children in public school (10th and 6th) and two at home (8th and 5th)."

What inspired you to start a blog about children's books?
Even though I am an avid reader, I had a hard time transitioning to reading to my children. When I started teaching them at home, I started by reading books for them - and felt a little lost walking into the library. Where do I find good books to read to my kids? The ones that all of us would enjoy, not based on the cartoon character of the month? As I continued to homeschool, other moms started asking me for book recommendations. I was searching for something to do for myself, in the midst of giving so much to others, and decided to try blogging. Three years and over 250 posts later, I can truly say I love reading and writing about children's books. 

What is your criteria for a book making it onto your blog; how do you pick the books that merit a review/post?
It's a work in progress, I think. Right now, I'm writing about books my children and I love. I would call them books with 'substance'. I think books are like food - some food will keep you going for hours, and some food will give you a sugar high followed by a huge crash. I like to write about the books which have longevity - solid characters, an engaging plot, and a good message. I'll admit, some of the books I've written about fall more into the 'candy' category (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, for example), but a majority are books readers will read over and over again.

That said, I'm considering writing about all the books I've read - the mediocre and the awful. As my children are growing older, I'm realizing I can't keep up with what they're reading and I know other parents feel the same way. It's nice to know what is in the books my kids are reading - and there are some books I have encouraged my children to avoid because of world view, character or plot issues.

What are some your family's favorite read alouds: 
Picture books:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - I think I can still recite it from memory!
Fancy Nancy and Amelia Bedelia books. 
My boys especially enjoyed Magic School Bus books and author Seymour Simon (take care with world view issues if you believe in Biblical creation).
Bible Stories by Ella K. Lindvall are great for reading aloud and for early readers.
Authors: Margaret Wise Brown, Virginia Lee Burton.
Our favorite new author is Mo Willems. Even though we are out of the picture book stage, every child in my house reads his books and laughs out loud. There are so many - but I'll stop there!

Chapter books: This is asking a lot! We've read hundreds of books aloud, how can I choose? Let's see...
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes, which got us started on the rest of her delightful books.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (long, but very much worth reading, as are all of his books.)
Humor: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald keep us laughing, as do Henry Winterfeld's Detective in Togas and it's sequel The Mystery of the Roman Ransom.
Classics: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books; Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr.;
Andrew Lang's Fairy books. We keep returning to The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis.
Authors: Marguerite Henry, Linda Sue Parks, Gloria Whelan, and every time I read Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer, I like it even more.

Any advice for parents as they head out to their local library? 
  • Pay attention to what your children are reading. Just because the book is marketed for children doesn't mean it's meant for your child. Even though I can't read everything my kids are reading, I still read the jacket covers of all the books my kids check out - and have said 'no' to some as a result. 
  • Pick out some books for your children. We keep a basket in our living room for library books. All the books the children choose go in it, as do the books I choose. If they want me to read to them, I'm sure to have something I'll enjoy reading instead of only Geronimo Stilton or the latest Disney release. 
  • Browse the audio books. We listen to so many books on CD or Play-a-way as we drive in the van. It's a great way to generate discussions, or enjoy a shared experience - and know what your kids are reading. 
  • Befriend your librarian. They may have suggestions for books or authors you don't know and will enjoy.

Thanks so much, Michelle! I hope my readers will visit you over at Cultivating Readers. It's a wonderfully informative blog for parents who care about what their children read!

Friday, June 14, 2013


Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance. 
~Ruth E. Renkel 
Hop On Pop (Dr. Seuss)

As a follow-up to my Mother's Day "Most Memorable Literary Mothers", here are my Favorite Literary Fathers from children's literature...

My Top 10, in no particular order:

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
I just had to post this wonderful photo of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
from the film Adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird [source]
"Atticus, he was real nice" 
"Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." 

"Papa" from Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me (Eric Carle)
But no matter how much she stretched, she could not touch the moon.
"Papa", said Monica to her father, "please get the moon for me."
 "Here", said Papa to Monica.  "I have the Moon for you."

Charles Ingalls, "Pa", from the Little House books (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Art by Helen Sewell, 1940 - source
"It can't beat us!" Pa said. 
"Can't it, Pa?" Laura asked stupidly. 
"No," said Pa. "It's got to quit sometime and we don't. It can't lick us. 
We won't give up." 
Then Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.

King Babar, Father of triplets! from Babar and His Children (Jean de Brunhoff)
Babar was peacefully fishing and thought the children were playing. As he hears this desperate cry for help, he understands that something serious must have happened. He stands up and trumpets angrily when he sees the horrible crocodile...
Now everyone is asleep. Babar and Celeste will go to bed too. They are gradually calming down after all these exciting events.
"Truly it is not easy to bring up a family," sighs Babar. "But how nice the babies are! I wouldn't know how to get along without them anymore."

The Daddy from Knuffle Bunny (Mo Willems)
"Trixie and her daddy went down the street, through the park, past the school, and into the laundromat...But on the way home, Trixie realized something..."

Mr. Weasley, from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
Ron: "Yeah, Dad's crazy about everything to do with Muggles; our shed's full of Muggle stuff. He takes it apart, puts spells on it, and puts it back together again. If he raided our house he'd have to put himself under arrest. It drives Mum mad." 

Frank B. Gilbreth Sr, "Dad", in Cheaper by the Dozen (Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey)
"Dad took moving pictures of us children washing dishes, so that he could figure out how we could reduce our motions and thus hurry through the task. Irregular jobs, such as painting the back porch or removing a stump from the front lawn, were awarded on a low-bid basis. Each child who wanted extra pocket money submitted a sealed bid saying what he would do the job for. The lowest bidder got the contract." 

Mr. Moody -"Father"- from Little Britches, Father and I Were Ranchers (Ralph Moody)
"I wish I knew how Father was able to say things so as to make you remember every word of it. If I could remember everything the way I remember the things Father told me, maybe I could be as smart a man as he was." (read my post about this wonderful book here.)

Captain Crewe, "Papa", from A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Illustration by Ethel Franklin Betts
Then he went with Sara into her little sitting-room and they bade each other good-by. Sara sat on his knee and held the lapels of his coat in her small hands, and looked long and hard at his face. 
 “Are you learning me by heart, little Sara,” he said, stroking her hair. 
 “No,” she answered. “I know you by heart. You are inside my heart.” 
And they put their arms round each other and kissed as if they would never let each other go. 

Mr. Penderwick from The Penderwicks Series (Jeanne Birdsall)
“...even a tiny bit of deceit is dishonorable when it's used for selfish or cowardly reasons." 
 - Mr. Penderwick”

"HAPPY FATHERS DAY!", and thanks again to all my Facebook followers for your wonderful recommendations!

It was so hard to pick my Top 10 Literary Dads - here are a few more fathers that I had to give an "Honorable Mention" to:
Lavrans Bjorgulfsson, Kristin Lavransdatter's father (trilogy by Sigrid Undset).  Was there ever a more long suffering father? If you've not read this series, set in medieval Norway, put it on your summer reading list! (YA-Adult Fiction)
Mr. March, "Father" from Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) Because of the war, he's an "absentee father" for much of the book, adored by his wife and daughters;
Carson Drew,"Dad", from the Nancy Drew series - a widower and respected lawyer - he often enlists Nancy's sleuthing help with his cases.
Mr. Bennet, from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - his style is a bit sarcastic and passive aggressive, but seriously, considering he had to manage a household of five girls and one ridiculous wife, he did pretty well, don't you think?

These Dads might make next year's list:
William, the imperfect father from Danny the Champion of the World (Roald Dahl) - I can't personally recommend this book until I've read it (not sure how I missed it, since my oldest son is a huge fan of anything by Mr. Dahl!).  It was nominated by My Book Corner. You can read an interesting and comprehensive review of the book here by Mari Ness at tor.com.
Moominpappa (The Moomin Dad) from Tove Jansson's Moomin series.  I have got to get my hands on these books - have had them recommended so many times!

My Real Life Dad:
This post is dedicated to my own father, who passed away ago barely one year ago.  You can read my tribute to him, here.  An author, editor, musician, and priest, he was first of all a devoted husband to my mom and a loving dad to me and my five siblings.  A list of his books can be found here on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When in Doubt...

“Harry — I think I've just understood something! 
I've got to go to the library!” 
And she sprinted away, up the stairs...
“What does she understand?” said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from. 
“Loads more than I do,” said Ron, shaking his head.
“But why’s she got to go to the library?” 
“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt, go to the library.” 
 ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Monday, June 10, 2013

Maurice Sendak: From Window Dresser to Wild Thing Creator

Today would have been beloved author and illustrator Maurice Sendak's 85th birthday.  Sendak died just over a year ago, May 8, 2012.  He is best know for writing and illustrating the Caldecott Medal book Where the Wild Things Are, but he lent his detailed illustrations to many other children's books, including one of my favorite childhood series: Else Homelund Minairk's Little Bear books.
As a child, I recall being completely caught up in those simple stories of imaginative Little Bear -- his travel to the moon and his encounter with a mermaid at the seaside -- all via Sendak's wonderful illustrations. The cover art, framed beautifully by twisting branches and flowering vines, is not typical of children’s books; but Maurice Sendak would be proud of that!

His creative artwork is a perfect example of how influential exceptional picture books can be in cultivating art appreciation for little ones.  In high school, I was constantly drawn to the detailed floral beauty of William Morris textiles, as well as the pen and ink cross-hatch style of Edward Gorey’s illustrations. I sometimes wonder if my early exposure and fascination with Maurice Sendak's art had anything to do with forming my future tastes.
Richly detailed Sendak illustrations can be found in
Dear Mili, by Wilhelm Grimm (more photos here - source)
Often sick and kept indoors as a child, Maurice Sendak loved spending his time reading and drawing. I read somewhere that the first book Sendak read as a boy was Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, and that he always kept his original copy of it as a reminder of the influence of great storytelling.

Other than having taken a few night classes in art after high school graduation, Sendak was basically a self-taught artist. This talent, combined with his admiration for Walt Disney’s Fantasia - which he saw at the age of twelve - inspired Sendak to pursue a career where he could utilize his artistic abilities. 

From Window Dresser to Wild Thing Creator 
Here are some interesting facts and trivia about this very gifted man...
  • Before he wrote and illustrated books, Maurice Sendak was commissioned as a window dresser for F.A.O. Schwarz. 
  • His first-ever illustrated book was a 1947 science textbook, Atomics for the Millions, co-written by his high school biology teacher. If you're lucky enough to come across the first edition of this collector’s item in a used bookstore, grab it!  (Click here to see images from the book). 
  • Maurice Sendak's Caldecott Medal winning book, Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963, is one of the top ten bestselling children's books of all time, about a mischievous boy named Max, his imaginary wild friend-things, and their rumpus in the forest.  It was originally conceived as "Where the Wild Horses Are", but Sendak told People Magazine, "I couldn't draw horses." (go here to read my past post about the 50th Anniversary of Wild Things.)
    • Maurice Sendak's "The Hobbit", in pen and ink, 1967 (Credit: Maurice Sendak/Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University)
  • Another bit of information many may not be aware of, is that Sendak (at J.R.R. Tolkien’s request) submitted two illustrations for The Hobbit's 30th Anniversary Edition in the late 1960's.  There was a bit of a mix-up and mislabeling of the artwork samples, so Tolkien did not approve the drawings. The two men never did talk in person, because the day the publisher had scheduled their meeting, Sendak suffered a heart attack.  You can read more here about "the 1960's masterpiece that could have been", in this LA Times guest essay by Tony Di'Terlizzi.
  • In the late 1970's Sendak began a second career designing sets for ballets and operas (both stage and television productions).  His chief musical passion was always Mozart. 
  • Sendak described his books as stories "about human emotion and life. They’re pigeonholed as children's books, but the best ones aren't -- they're just books". (From a People Magazine interview in 2003.)

What is your favorite book by Maurice Sendak?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happy Birthday to Richard Scarry, a BUSY Man!

Richard Scarry (June 5, 1919 - April 30, 1994) was born in Boston (his inspiration for Busy Town?), Massachusetts. He wrote and/or illustrated over 300 books, which have been translated into 30 languages, selling over 300 million copies worldwide! 

Scarry once said,
“I’m not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten. I am very happy when people write that they have worn out my books, or that they are held together by Scotch tape. I consider that the ultimate compliment.”

Well, I have to say, my childhood copy of the big book BUSY, BUSY WORLD is all taped up along the binding! I remember fondly the double-decker bus on the cover, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I've always been interested in travel and cultures, probably be because of that book, with its fun illustrations depicting countries and life all over the world...all inhabited by anthropomorphic animals!!

I honestly can't think of an author/illustrator who has created a bigger (or more fun) world of animal characters for young children than Richard Scarry.  He considered himself a fun-man disguised as an educator. 
"Everything has an educational value if you look for it. But it's the fun I want to get across."

He got his start illustrating and writing lots of "Little Golden Books" in the 1950's.  Go here to see them all!  
But his big break came in 1963, when he wrote Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever, in large-format.
His stories are easy to follow because of all the detailed pictures and matter-of-fact text -- even though the action taking place can be quite complex.

I remember pages full of funny scenarios: 
A city street with a gorilla driving a banana truck -
while swerving out of the way of an exploding fire hydrant - 
that has just been hit by "Lowly Worm" (in his little apple car) - 
with "Mr. Fixit Fox" showing up to tow him away - 
while "Sargent Murphy" (a dog) is directing traffic...

And that's only maybe half of what was going on in a two page spread!

Because of the fun animal characters that show up over and over again in the stories, as well as all that's happening on each page, kids want to look at and have these books read to them over and over again, in case they miss something the first (or second, or third) time!

What's your favorite Richard Scarry book?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chewable Books for Teething Babies? You Choose.

Copyright by CartoonStock
(used with permission)
In my past post "How to Find the Best Books for Babies and Toddlers", I recommended lots of great board book titles to choose from because they have sturdy pages for little hands and mouths.

Well...when my grandson's first tooth appeared he was barely five months old!  We'd sit down to read his little board books with him, and suddenly all he wanted to do was chomp on them.  "Gumming" the books was one thing, but we witnessed first hand how all-out gnawing with sharp little teeth could eventually take its toll on even the sturdiest board books!

My daughter and I decided to go on a search for some soft cloth books,hoping to preserve our board books past the teething stage (and for later grandchildren, right??)
We were happy to discover lots of soft book choices for babies at our local bookstore -- many more than when my own children were little!  

Here are some benefits of soft books for young (teething) babies:  

  • Light-weight cloth books are easier for young babies to hold than board books.
  • They're chewable!
  • They're washable!
  • Pages are squishy and easy to turn.
  • Plastic versions are perfect for the bath.
  • The books are easy to stuff into a crowded diaper bag.
  • They make for a great game of hide-and-seek.

  • These days at almost eight months old (and working on tooth #4), my baby grandson seems to have pretty much gotten book chewing out of his system.  Since we let him chew on the soft books to his heart's content, he again loves sitting and listening while we read him board books.

    He's also started holding his board books and turning the pages on his own - often using his feet!

    Board books vs. soft books? Whatever you choose for your baby to chew, choose wisely...

    Go here to read my post about what to look for in choosing the BEST books for babies and toddlers.  And click here for some of our personal favorites.

    And follow these "Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers" - from Jim Trelease:
    1. Your main objective is to teach your child to love the printed word. 
    2. Pretend you’re having a party to introduce the world to your child and books are the guests you’re introducing. 
    3. Attention spans are built over pages and pages, not overnight. 
    4. Caress the child while reading. 
    5. Point to objects on the page while reading.
    6. The story becomes clearer with repeat readings.
    7. Board books are meant to be handled and chewed on.
    8. Make certain times ritually story times — bed time, bath time, potty time, nap time, or snack time.