For the most part the age difference between the boys isn’t such a big deal but when it comes to bed time stories there are not a lot they can agree on. Jason Chin’s book about the Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon) has something that appeals to all age levels. The tale features big colorful splash pages depicting all manor of wildlife but the story telling structure is geared to a slightly advanced reader. Using a time traveling theme the book shows what the massive canyon looked liked all throughout the last few millions of years. Told via a surrogate hiker character we journey up the layers learning geology and biology. The Grand Canyon is one of those places that everyone says you have to experience because you can’t process the massive scale unless you are standing there. Mr. Chin has created the next best thing to an actual visit especially since the end features a fold out four page spread of the whole canyon (I can only assume the real thing is only slightly more impressive).
LTD is always up for a good project, but I am not always up for spending a lot of time being his slave. However, both boys are like most humans alive on the planet big Star Wars fans and so projects marrying those worlds are welcome. The Star Wars Builders series of books offers a choice to build some models and avoid the glue. These paper models come in sheets that you punch out and slot the pieces together. The boys have been digging the Droids but there are also Star Fighters and the Millennium Falcon. Additionally, the sets come with an accompanying book offering details and facts about R2 and X- Wings. I will caution that you either need The Mommy or a lot of patience as some of the pieces, especially the ones that need to be bent, can be challenging to assemble. You also need to supervise the pieces as they are taken off the sheet, since the slots will tear if not treated with respect.
Now that LTD has plowed through all of Harry Potter the choices are endless. Lately, he has been into Indiana Jones and BB has been bragging on pirates so John Matthews Henry Hunter series seemed like a logic choice. Mr. Matthews is a prolific author who is big into King Arthur (yes, to answer your question he lives in the UK). LTD has been reading the tale out loud to BB with mixes results. However, the story from what I gather is pretty interesting. It seems Henry Hunter’s buddy Charlie needs help because his parents are missing. Henry and his partner Dolf take up the quest. The story is set in the Caribbean which leads us to not only pirates but they pirate himself, Blackbeard. BB is psyched because they are technically ghost pirates. The book features a quick introduction explaining the origins of Mr. Hunter which brought us all up to speed on why he is able to hunt pirates in the first place. The book also has a few illustrations that set the mood and provided BB a welcome distraction from interrupting. Since the author is also a historian the book is rich in detail which makes it slightly cooler than the normal stuff LTD reads. Plus BB has announced he wants to be a ghost pirate for Halloween.
BB didn’t 100% join the Series of Unfortunate Events bandwagon but he wanted in on the Lemony Snicket action. So the new book, Goldfish Ghost satisfies the urge. The paranormal tale, with art by Lisa Brown, centers on a Goldfish (born on the surface, but never addressed as a ghost) who is lonely. He looks for company in many different places but doesn’t quite find what he is looking for. As usual, I won’t spoil the ending, but needless to say he finds a friend. The story is interesting because it doesn’t specific deal with the Goldfish being “dead” but astute readers will pick up on it. The book also provides a welcome opportuinity for BB to say the word ghost, which he pronounces, ghost-is-sss. The illustrations are often busy which provides a nice contrast to the muted tone of the tale. Needless to say when I found out a goldfish can live more than a year I told the kids nope after their request.
I’m a big believer in using comic books to teach kids to read. Falynn Koch has taken the concept a step further by adding science to the mix. Part of the Science Comics series Bats: Learning to Fly begins with a intro to the topic followed by a cool graphic novel adventure. The tale focuses on a brown bat who sustains damage to his wing. In a reverse Dracula situation it is a human who hurts the bat. However, once taken to a bat clinic we learn about the different types of bats. Falynn’s art is bright and bold plus she is from Buffalo, where The Mommy went to high school. LTD has been announcing his new bat knowledge every chance he gets, while BB doesn’t understand why Batman is not featured. And yes there is mention of Vampire bats.
The phrase this is not your daddy’s dot to dot book comes to mind. LTD has been kept quite busy as of late filling out the over sized connect the dots book, Marvel: Spider-Man 1000 Dot-to-Dot Book. The activity book features 20 hardcore puzzles each sporting over one thousand dots. Not that is a lot of time in which I can be left alone to finish dinner at a restaurant. There are so many dots and they are close together that only his small hands can complete the challenge. I don’t think I could complete Spider-man without going crazy. One good thing they did was to change the dot color throughout the page so you don’t go dot blind trying to figure out where you left off. LTD is gearing up to tackle the pull out poster in the middle that features over 1700 dots. and to that I say, better him than me.
BB is cruising through his fours and in that regard still manages a pretty good meltdown at least once a week. Since he will be going into Kindergarten on the young side we are always looking for ways to prevent screaming attacks. Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D new book, with art by Jo Gershman, deals with possible solutions to a childhood behavior classic (and yes not all adults have outgrown them as well). Even though Jilly is a kangaroo she still throws a mean temper tantrum and the tale demonstrates ways parents can work through them. The story shows the different triggers that set off Jilly and her parents patience and as usual, I won’t spoil the ending, but needless to say, it involves using words to express feelings not screams and punches. The first example deals with her older sibling playing chess without her and it reads exactly like what happened to everyone in our house yesterday (LTD has learned to play chess). Now lets hope we can learn the lessons on patience explained in the book during the bedtime reading as BB in addition to tantrums also interrupts a lot.
Now that Spring is here, the boys have been wanting to spend more time outside (even if the temperature doesn’t cooperate with that goal). Kathryn Hast’s new book Otis Grows feels right for the dual nature of Spring. First, I am struck by the illustarions by L.M. Phang which have an interesting quality that doesn’t feel like your typical children’s style. The tale focuses on Otis who is an onion with fascinating genetics. His mother is a chicken and his father is a blue flower. On the surface that would seem like enough, but the challenge for him is that his mother is a member of the Nuh-Uhs while his pops is a Yes-Chum. Of course Otis decides to postpone the conflict by running away. Our hero’s journey involves adventures with other “colors” to learn about differences, coming together and figuring out what it means to belong. I know what you’re thinking, does a book about a talking onion with chicken/flower parents have a guest appearance by Nelson Mandela. The answer of course is yes. One of the neat things about the book is that, since all kid’s books read repeatedly, each reading lends it self to more and more discussions of the themes.
Thankfully, both BB and LTD don’t seem to engage in gossip as much as they do enjoying “telling” on each other. In an effort to nip any gossip gateway conversations we recently read, Janice Brown’s Rumorang (with pictures by Lane Raichert). As the title suggests the tale focuses on the dangers of spreading lies about our friends. In a page out of the game Telephone the book’s characters share a secret about Petunia that spreads like wildfire. Of course the rumor circles back to Petunia and we all learn how actions have consequences even if those actions only involve mere words. The message of the tale is encased in the silly way the rumor grows as to not hit the children over the head or enter dark territory. I have not gone into detail about the origins of the word Rumorang, but I will let you google it at your leisure. The singular focus of the story allows the message to come across and the tale allows for questions after reading.
BB long in his brother’s shadow is always wanting to read what LTD is reading. Since he can’t read Harry Potter yet (especially since he calls it Heater Potter) we like to get him cool books more his speed. Heather Alexander has a new series featuring flaps and questions. Dinosaurs, Farm, Human Body and Jungle feature bright spread pages with questions answered in flap form. The art by Andres Lozano is simple with a pop quality the kids seem to like. For instance, how many teeth are in my mouth? on a drawing of a child’s face. The answer by the way is 32 when an adult and can be found under the mouth flap. Of course BB loves the intestine page with the flap on waste. Thankfully, the there are not a crazy amount of flaps to make things cluttered and the pages are sturdy but we shall see if BB can still destroy. The books are helpful as of late since BB has really run with the “why” ball and I can’t keep up with all the different questions. Example: yesterday, he asked me what spider blood looked like which resulted in me having nightmares from a google image search.