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).
Occasionally, when in the car, I flip on the tunes and see if LTD digs the song. I have the station set to classics from the 60s,70s, and 80s. He requests the Beatles since it is one of the only bands he has heard and remembered, but I tell him that I can’t control the radio’s playlist. However, my quest to have the boys not listen to One Direction and Miley Cyrus now has a cool new book. Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story by his son Sebastian Robertson with illustrations by Adam Gustavson provides a great gateway to get LTD to listen to some cool tunes. The simple biography follows the Canadian musician and songwriter on his journey to legend. The tale features some really interesting tidbits that I had no idea about including how young he was when he started and his work with Bob Dylan. The highlight of the book was then showing clips of The Last Waltz to LTD so he could enjoy. Of course he enjoyed them for only so long before wanting to watch what we normally watch on youtube, which is Batman cartoons. The good news is that now when we listen to music in the car he asks, “is the Robber Robbyson?” instead of the Beatles.
The Nana used to tell me tales of getting money and her father making her put a little in the bank. I have tried to do the same with the boys, but since LTD isn’t getting an allowance yet we he isn’t quite ready for the big schmoola speech. However, he does go to the bank with me and has a limited understanding of the concept (Daddy, why don’t you just go to the bank? is said, every time he hears that I don’t’ have any money). Wendy Bailey’s new book Alex’s Ten-Dollar Adventure with illustrations by Ernie D’Elia is part of our financial education. The tale focuses on Alex receiving some cash for his upcoming birthday and wanting to buy a toy with it. However, on his way to the store he is exposed to the concept of the impulse buy. As with all Beyond the Car Seat book reviews I won’t spoil the ending but needless to say it involves his actual birthday (another extra thick birthday envelope) and a valuable lesson (pun intended). The story concludes with insturctiosn on how to make your own piggy bank out of a plastic bottle. Or you could return the bottle for a nickel but you wouldn’t have a place to put it.
You would think it was because of Halloween, but LTD really digs ghosts, monsters and the like throughout the year. The Ghosts Go Haunting satisfy’s his things that go bump in the night fix nicely. The tale, written by Helen Ketteman with illustrations by Adam Record features all manner of ghosts, goblins and mummies. The story focuses on an ever increasing number of spooky creatures haunting a school. The tune, which took me a long time to remember as it was one of those things I knew I knew but could not quite place, is The Ants Go Marching. The Ghosts go haunting one by one and so forth. The zombies go stumbling ten by ten is perhaps the best or section especially when sung out loud. I mean how many times during the week do you get to sing, brains, brains? The art is colorful and more silly than spooky which is important as lately, LTD has been biting off more than he can chew in the watch scary things department. It is a little unclear why the creatures are focusing their attention on a school, but LTD did enjoy the section where the principal freaks out.
When you hear the words, by the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, you take notice. I always wonder why Judith Viorst didn’t write more but than I realized it was none of my business. And Two Boys Booed is her brand new book with illustrations from Sophie Blackall and is very different from Alexander. The first thing you notice is that it is a flap book which makes for more direct reader involvement it also means I have to keep it away from BB for the immediate future (#onemanwreckingcrew). The tale centers around an boy (name unknown) as he prepares to sing in the school talent show. The other students each do their act and through repetitive phrases we see the boy totally ready to sing and completely without nerves. As with all Beyond the Car Seat reviews I will not spoil the ending except to say that his previous boasts that he was not nervous were not exactly on the money and kids do in fact boo (which I like because it is realistic) but I betray no confidence in concluding that it has a happy ending.
I got my sister a copy of Humans of New York because she asked for it as a birthday present and it turns out I basically got one of the last copies before they needed to print more. I guess it was popular. As such, we never want to seem uncool so we have been reading LTD Little Humans by Brandon Stanton. The tale features big crisp photos of kids around NYC. The tagline is, “Little humans can do…” followed by different photos depicting concepts like friendship, love and helping. It is all very neat, but all that matters to my boys is that one of the pages features the answer to the titular question: Super Hero tough! with a picture of a boy in a Batman costume and his dog in a Robin costume. However, I am running into a problem as some of the kids have clearly dressed up for their picture and now LTD wants to go on a shopping spree.
The Mommy is a big Halloween nut and has influenced the children to join her in practicing the dark arts of the season. LTD likes to walk the razor’s edge between scary and not really scary at all. It is for this reason that we focus a lot on Halloween books instead of haunted houses. Keith Graves’ The Monsterator features one of LTD’s favorite things (the other two being Robots & Dinosaurs). The tale focuses on Master Edgar Dreasdbury, a boy not really interested or excited by all that Halloween has to offer, that is until he discovers a little titular machine called the Monsterator. As usual, I won’t spoil the ending except to tell you he does get turned into a monster but is surprisingly cool with the change. The real neat feature of the book is the last few pages that contain flip book style options for the reader to create a whole bunch of different mix and match monsters. As BB is frequently in destroyer mode, he is the only thing a monster book fears and will have to wait until older to enjoy.
When I was a youngster back during the Taft administration you couldn’t throw a rock without hearing about cowboys and Indians. That type of play may have fallen out of fashion, but I still have a fondness for it. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads puts a modern spin on the cowboy narrative tradition. Bob Shea (with pictures by Lane Smith) crafts a tale in the vain of The Outlaw Josey Whales and Unforgiven. No, that’s not true in fact the Kid Sherfiff makes a point of not using a gun. The Toad Brothers are causing trouble all over town and the Kid Sheriff is convinced that dinosaurs are behind the crimes. I know what you’re thinking, he’s crazy and the book uses the American old west as a metaphor for mental illness, but trust me when I tell you that the Kid Sheriff isn’t crazy and in fact has a plan. In keeping with BTCS tradition, I won’t spoil the ending, but rest assured justice is served.
Now that LTD and everyone else has officially started school, I figured it might be time for a better late than never review. We have read LTD a few books over the years about getting ready for school and they have all been fairly straight forward. However, Stewie Boomstein Starts School takes a slightly different tack. Written by Christine Bronstein with illustrations by Karen Young, the story focuses on Stewie, a child with typical 5 year old problems. Stewie is depicted as not only being funny but also as loud and angry. I enjoyed those aggressive character traits as many books deal only with being scared of the first day of school. In this tale, Stewie has a pretty bad first day and his family has to rally around him to figure out a game plan to survive day two. The narrative deals with Stewie being off his routine and not having access to a clear schedule like at home. As usual, it is Beyond the Car Seat policy not to spoil the ending, but I believe you a can guess how the Boomstein family creatively ensures Stewie doesn’t drop out and become just another statistic.