We have a ton of books in our house I have no problem with that as LTD is reading well above his grade level and BB has plenty of pages to rip, but some of the books are frankly boring. That is why I am always pleased to find something truly interesting. The Alphabet of Bugs by Ann Cutting & Valerie Gates truly makes your eyes pop. The giant bright pictures of various insects followed by a letter based description makes for a non typical story time. Of course the difficulty level is challenging for those who find words hard to pronounce. Take the letter M for instance: Mason Wasp magnificently mimics Moccasin. Not for the faint of heart. And yes the book ends with a glossary so you can prove to the children that a Mason Wasp is a real bug. However, I do think I will need to get a Master’s degree to pronounce X for Xyleutes.
As much as I applaud the cause I will admit to a certain level of jealousy that I never published a book while 18 year old Jack Jones did. The story centers around an abandoned baby black rhino in a Zimbabwe wildlife park. The manager took the rhino home, naming him Chizi and raising him with his own family. While this cute, the real message is one about endangered species and poaching. However, the important information was slightly lost on my boys as a discussion of getting our own pet rhino was the main take away from the story. I was able to persuade them against it, and again I don’t want to spoil the books ending, by rereading the portion of the book about Chizi going back to the wild. I also like books that have a call to action showing kids what steps they can take to help and thankfully this books does included good information for the future without telling people where they can get their own rhino.
Now that, amazingly, LTD is reading books to BB I like to give them something with the right blend of words and fun pictures as BB is easily distracted during story time. In that regard, Weird & Wild Animal Facts has plot or moral lesson, instead offers cool action pics of even cooler animals with short (as the title implies) facts. The perfect book for a two year old to cut his brother off mid-sentence by flipping pages forward. The splash pages feature one animal at a time with the best being the Naked Mole Rat. However, and without giving away any spoilers, the best fact is that Hippos secrete something called Blood Sweat which protects them from sunburns. Stay for the kangroo as it appears to leap off the page.
Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! and Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion are fun books featuring, and I think you might be able to guess, Anna Banana. The books are by Dominique Roques with pictures by Alexis Dormal. I always like books about bedtime as they are usual nice ways to force the issue at night. Anna Banana uses her imagination to bring her stuffed animals to life (I hope it is her imagination and not illegal gene manipulation) and they play together. However, they want to go to sleep and she keeps them up but in classic lesson learned style they turn it all around on her. One of the more interesting features of the story is that her stuffies all have clever names with the best being foxface. Anna’s second adventure involves the animals getting hungry with the resulting solution to the problem being the creation of a chocolate cake. However, as you will notice from the title things do not go so smoothly but a lesson on teamwork makes up for the kitchen destruction. Both books feature a lot of kinetic energy which suits BB just fine as that is his default mode. The art is bright and silly reflecting the fast movement of the story.
As the boys have been going to the Aquarium a lot, sea creatures are all the rage in our house. David FitzSimmons sensed this fact and added to his book collection with Curious Critters Marine. As you may recall for past reviews, Mr. FitzSimmons style features amazing detailed pictures of a single creature against a stark white backdrop. Their are some that will say the octopus is the coolest, but for my money and my Maine pride, the Blue Lobster is the best. The pictures are aided by some witty descriptions of the sea life in question, but BB usually doesn’t let us get that far as he keeps screaming fish over and over again. So many of the children’s books and toys are what I would call “busy” but as in the past, I really dig the clean look of the Critters series.
As long time BTCS readers know well, LTD is a big fan of robots (BB is beginning to discover the joys that are robots since he shares a room with LTD). The new book Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski with art by Tim Zeltner fits nicely in our bedtime routine. The plot is ripped from the headlines (if the headlines were something that happened every night in our house) and revolves around Little Robot not wanting to go to bed. Of course since he is more machine than man he activates his “stalling program.” However, his Mom Unit is quite familiar with all his tricks and has a quick answer. In keeping with BTCS tradition I won’t spoil the ending but I think you can guess that it doesn’t end with him staying up all night. The tale is clever in that it uses robotic terms for typical stalling actions, like getting oil instead of a glass of water. As you can imagine LTD is digging this book hardcore, while I need to figure out how to reprogram the Mom Unit in our house to always change BB’s diaper so I don’t have to.
LTD loves a good mystery and so Tom Ryan’s book Peeve, My Parents’ Pet (illustrations by Kenny Durkin) provides a pretty funny one. The tale focuses on a little blonde boy who tries to figure out who his parents keep talking about since the animal in question clearly lives with them. As the title suggests, his parents have certain pet peeves resulting from various troubling actions the boy has committed around the home. Additionally, to trying to figure out where this new pet is, the boy seeks to learn why his parents wanted it in the first place if every time they talk about him they sound angry. The story reminds me of all the times LTD repeats something I have said to him, but slightly out of context or at in appropriate moments. Word play is one of our favorite past times, however, I will admit I don’t use the seemingly benign pet peeve phrase and usually go for something darker.
The other day, LTD and I landed on TCM showing 1933’s King Kong. I was reminded of a classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoon and told LTD that the world was in black and white until 1938. We went back and forth a bit before the jig was up, but I enjoyed having a laugh. This is a round about way of bringing up Lori Stewart’s Grandma, Aren’t You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today! The book allows me to immerse the boys in my favorite subject, history. The tale features a rhyming historical journey through the 20th Century told by a grandmother using a photo album for inspiration. We learn how kids enjoyed entertainment back in the day and learn fun trivia (1947: Peanuts cartoon strip first appears as L’il Folks, and becomes Peanuts in 1950). The section on toys is particularly interesting especially in light of the Great Depression, but for a real contrast the differences in playgrounds and play spaces between then and now is truly fascinating. However, LTD spent the majority of attention on the pages devoted to fashion and I think he wishes we still wore the styles of yesteryear. Of course the book concludes with an image of an iPhone.
In honor of the Peanuts teaser trailer’s release we have been exposing the boys to Snoopy and his friends. Three new Peanuts books cover great explorers, heroes and inventors.
What’s the Big Idea, Charlie Brown? focuses on the gang throwing a party to honor history’s greatest inventions. Of course while everyone comes up with a favorite, Charlie Brown has trouble since he can’t think of any big ideas. Don’t worry it works out (sort of) for him in the end.
Where Did You Go, Charlie Brown? deals with a day of adventuring by the Peanuts in the great outdoors. We learn about Lewis & Clark, Columbus and Neil Armstrong plus a female explorer. The book shies away from small pox and slavery, but keeps things more fun.
Who Cares, Charlie Brown? delves into civil and human rights told through the prism of a baseball game. Thankfully, Charlie Brown is manager so we don’t see him miss the ball. We learn about Martin Luthor King and Rosa Parks and that Charlie Brown doesn’t actually have to take the field to be a hero.
Each books features activity pages at the end.And yes the books maintain the traits we have come to expect from the Peanuts characters especially, Lucy and Peppermint Patty. (please note it is possible that since I have rediscovered these guys that Lucy may have borderline personality disorder).