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.
Lately, LTD has been staying up wicked late and so I always enjoy reading him short stories and Little Elliot Big City fits the bill nicely. The story focuses on the elephant Little Elliot with the catch being that this particular elephant is, as his names suggests, little. The art is amazing and the tale features many wonderful splash pages that give the book a movie feel. Mike Curato’s work shows a love for New York of yesteryear and the images create a nice sense of nostalgia. As keeping with Beyond the Car Seat policy I won’t spoil the ending and will only add that Little Elliot’s size plays a “big” part.
LTD calls Mother’s Day Happy Mother’s Day as in I made you a card for Happy Mother’s Day, but Father’s Day is just Father’s Day, but he did ask me, but he had to check with his teachers first, what I wanted. Dave Engledow’s Confessions Of The World’s Best Father features in both words and photos his greatest (worst) parenting nightmares. Told through Day headlines like Day 1 and Day 580, he explores his daughter Alice Bee and his adventures on the bad parenting express. Day 490 shows a small kitchen fire while Day 393 depicts how many household items can fit in a normal bathroom toilet. Every picture contains his World’s Best Father mug like the Playboy bunny. My only regret is showing the book to LTD who perhaps took away the wrong lesson and asked to re-enact many of the photos. Who am I too argue, Day 1 begins.
Every now and again, it’s nice to be able to read the boys a story that doesn’t feature Transformers or other toy characters. Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal new book. A Bucket of Blessings is beautifully drawn by Jing Jing Tsong. The tale, based on an Indian legend, tells the us about Monkey and his quest for water during the dry season. The story is told through bright vibrant colors and simple text. The narrative is clean and focused and just the right length for bedtime. All of this isn’t important to LTD because all he cares about is the fact that the protagonist is called Monkey and the more you say the word Monkey to a little boy the more they laugh. The book also features an Afterword by Maya Angelou with the words, “it is a blessing to be a blessing” which fits nicely into LTD’s lessons at school as the kids are learning about empathy. The blue of the water is so bright that I thought we were going to wet the bed reading it. And in keeping with my policy of not spoiling the ending of books, I won’t tell you if the village gets water or not, I would only remind you that the book isn’t called a bucket full of dirt.
As long time BTCS readers know all too well, LTD is, in his words, a great artist. The Mommy and I are always looking to encourage his growing talent without pressuring him. Sophie Benini Pietromarchi’s The Colour Book features a clear easy to read approach to explain how to mix shades and use color effectively to create striking images. She deals with topics including primary and complementary colors, how to create your own color and shading all through collages and story telling. She also goes deeper into how color can convey feelings and mood. LTD especially enjoys making up his own names for colors and I think it is pretty cool that he is moving beyond using red, green, yellow and blue all the time.
LTD has been watching a lot of shows featuring volcanoes (I would like to be able to tell you that they were on the NOVA or Reading Rainbow apps, but truthfully a lot of Justice League, Young Justice and Ben 10 sport crazy volcano action). So in the interest of steering him towards some science instead of secret lairs, it was time for make our own volcano action. Mike Adamick’s new book, Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments features 30 cool experiments that were right up our alley. Among the DIY family friendly experiments you’ll find clear easy to follow instructions and even clearer pictures. The experiments are grouped by subjects including Biology, Physics and the Human Body. The banana balloon may be a little gross but it is a lot cool. However, I caution you not to try the Mentos and Coke Rocket indoors. Also some of the experiments can be medically helpful like the Marshmallow that measures your pulse (if you can manage to keep LTD from eating the lab materials). Oh and before I forget, yes the book includes instructions on how to make a volcano, that childhood right of passage that LTD is now old enough to enjoy.
In a way things today are a lot easier for kids in terms of no spanking and the iPad, but they have to deal with things we never really had like constant testing in school and over scheduling. Lori Lite’s book, Stress Free Kids examines the different pressures children face and offers instructions to steer parents in a helpful direction (and to not add to the stress). She offers exercises in breathing, relaxation and positive reinforcement. One of the things that I liked was her real world situations chapters including holidays, death and terrorism. As LTD is really into Yoga he already “practices” some breathing, but then again we haven’t taken a plane trip with him yet. The book also covers traveling and sports so we are getting ready for potential future trouble spots. Interestingly, she adds sections on diet, exercise and how to deal with anger so her advice can work in the real world. BB is taking a nap as I write this or I’m sure I would have more tension filled words.
Photographer David FitzSimmons first Curious Critters did indeed make us curious so much so that we have been enjoying Volume Two. These crisp, striking and up close images of bugs, birds and furry animals are almost hypnotic. He now offers audio books features new songs by Foster Brown and those in the know will understand why that is a cool name. The audio books feature animal’s talking, sound effects and music. Don’t ask how an animal can talk you might not be ready for the answer. In addition to the beautiful pictures you also learn cool facts like Eastern box turtles can live longer than humans (over 150 years). I can’t stress enough how neat it is to see these animal up close against a stark white background. My attempts to duplicate the effect with our dog have ended in disaster.
Now that LTD is doing what Huck Finn used to call “book learn’” I have so far been able to help him with his spelling as most of the words are, as you can imagine, short. However, since I am a horrible speller I have turned to Jim Halverson’s kid friendly book, Spelling Works. Long time teacher, Halverson features the methods and exercises he has had success with in the real world. His goal is to get beyond mere memorization and have the children do exercises that play into a larger story. And yes before you remind me, yes the book also has spelling mazes. Of course, I have turned to the book for the rules that I can never ever seem to remember like the silent e rule and apostrophes. He also places a premium on being able to spell in the modern world so you can correct auto-correct. The book is a little above LTD’s current pay grade but great for my refresher course. And yes The Mommy will be teaching him math because if you think I’m a bad speller wait till we get to algebra.