Fobie Friends is a rhyming book series that can be accompanied by plush toys from the books (you can also get e-books and t-shirts). The series deals with over coming common childhood fears. For instance, their first book, Did My Owl Just Growl? focuses on being afraid of the dark. The tale leads a boy on a journey (through his imagination) around the creepy woods and shows him the dark isn’t that spooky after all. The publishers (a team of parents & grandparents) make it clear that the books are designed as a tool for parents to help their kids, but they are rooted in fun and that if you feel your child experiences an a-typical amount of fear it may be best to consult a doctor. Other books deal with climbing at the playground and going in the water. The water book is something I could have used when I was a youngster as anyone will tell you that I hated the going in the water. The rhyme scheme of each story makes them pretty user friendly for young ones to keep things light as a guide animal helps the main character face their fear and prevail. Of course, with the way today’s world looks sometimes I’m ready for the adult version.
Before we begin I want to preface that many books on sign language feature examples in either art or photo form that I find difficult to follow, the publishers are good intentioned, but the picture usually confuses me. However, this is not the case with The Baby Signing Book by WeeHands founder, Sara Bingham. We had some small victories teaching LTD to use ASL and hope to replicate the results with BB. The big ones for us were ‘more’ and ‘all done’ which come in pretty handy at meal time. The book features an explanation of the how and why to teach babies and kids to sign (cuts down on frustration) and includes over 400 signs. Lastly, the book offers songs and rhymes to seal the deal. Perhaps the best quality of the book is helpful advice based on the child’s age. Yet, as mentioned earlier I found the example pictures incredibly easy to follow and that has not always been the case with the past signing information I have tried to use.
I’m not saying LTD is going to be a doctor when he grows up, but he does spend a lot of time asking about body parts and telling jokes about the butt. Author Joe Rhatigan and artist Anthony Owsley’s book, Ouch! (The Weird & Wild Ways Your Body Deals with Agonizing Aches, Ferocious Fevers, Lousy Lumps, Crummy Colds, Bothersome Bites, Breaks, Bruises & Burns & Makes Them Feel Better!) is slightly over LTD’s current pay scale, but I like to get things more advanced and have him not understand all of it, then make it too simple. The book deals with kid style injuries (skinned knee anyone?) and discusses what happens to the body and how it heals. The topics include sunburns, pulled muscle and the dreaded pink eye. Each splash page is set up in sequence of First Response, What Your Doctor Does, What Your Body Does and What You Can Do To Prevent It. Unlike a lot of the so called body books that LTD is so fond of Ouch! is interesting because it just deals with the everyday kid specific maladies, but even the more serious stuff like broken bones is still presented in a chill way without the Joe Theismann graphics. Now that LTD is able to use a little logical thinking the book provides an opportunity for him to go off on about a million tangents, so be warned if your kid is verbal and you are squeamish.
As LTD is gearing up to read by himself (the other day he read the word Tots on a pack of wipes by himself, so Harvard here we come) I thought it might be time to highlight a ‘learning to read’ series instead of a one book review. Award winning, Kane Press focuses on early childhood development and their titles are geared towards reading out loud and learning. The books are designed for early readers and those younger who need read along assistance. In addition to reading fundamentals, Kane also offers a series in math, science and social studies. True little ones could start with Animal Antics A to Z. This alphabet series is 26 books strong, for obvious reasons, with each book focusing on a different letter. Please note if you go down this road you may have to read things like this out loud over and over again, “Daddy was delighted with Dilly’s new dance.” The Let’s Read Together series uses phonics and rhyming to encourage independent reading. The books also feature both short and long words with playful vowel combinations. Each book contains an “Activities to Do Together” page in the back, further encouraging independent reading. It is pretty amazing watching and listening to your child go through the process of reading out loud, but it will soon lead him to ask me to help with the spelling and then we are all in trouble.
In our ongoing quest to nurture LTD’s artist talents, not to mention get him away from electronic screens we are always looking for new ideas. Susan Schwake 2012 book, Art Lab for Little Kids features 52 cool projects for budding preschool Picassos. The book focuses on the works of well-known artists for motivation and subject matter. For instance, the work of Ashley Goldberg influences the lab using cotton balls to make colorful paintings. The author also includes her ideas like painting with marbles and spray bottles. It is nice being able to do projects that not only seem fresh and creative but also don’t include Thomas the Train pencils or Dora stamps. However, since the book deals with what I call real art not Shrinkie Dinks, it is very important to remember to wear appropriate craft clothes and keep wet paint covered hands away from the wall. Not a bad idea to hide the dog as well.
As The Mommy doesn’t get home until 7 during the week, dinner has always been a challenge for us. At least once a month we announce that we are going to try and eat at home more and then I put that idea in the bin marked unused good intentions. However, now that LTD is old enough to ‘help’ us cook. I have turned to Lynn Fredericks and Mercedes Sanchez’s Get Your Family Eating Right. The book centers around the goals of not only cooking at home, but using fresh ingredients and including the whole family in the process. I know what you’re thinking, Yeah Right. However, the book includes time saving tips and task ideas by age range. Each recipe offers steps for both the adult and child. Another focus is on meal planning which is an area that I spend a lot of time saying the words ‘I should’ instead of ‘I do.’ I guess now I have no more excuses as to why I keep eating ice cream for dinner.
(Makes 10 tasting portions)
1 14-ounce can black beans
1 14-ounce can corn
1 medium red onion
2 plum tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 ripe mango
1 bunch cilantro
3 ounces pineapple
juice or to taste
Kosher salt to taste.
1. Carefully open the cans (adults discard the
lids as they are very sharp). Strain the beans
and corn in a colander and rinse well. Place
them in a large mixing bowl.
2. Dice the onion, tomatoes, red pepper and
mango. Transfer diced ingredients to the
3. Next have kids clean and dry the herbs,
pluck off the cilantro leaves from their stems,
tear them up and add them to the mixing
bowl. Now squeeze the limes into a measuring
cup or right into the bowl. Make sure to
get every bit of juice squeezed out — or use
4. When the diced ingredients have been
added along with the lime juice and cilantro,
add the pineapple juice to taste, with kids
mixing well with wooden spoons. Add salt to
taste, seasoning with more salt and drops of
pineapple juice as necessary.
When I was a kid it seemed like the classic fairy tales were all the rage and I am hard pressed to remember that many stories that weren’t little red riding hood related. However, LTD’s generation is what The Mommy calls Digital Natives and they have the world at their finger tips. In other words besides a few of the big ones (Snow White and Goldilocks) I don’t think LTD knows anything about the classics. The compilation, Fairy Tale Comics is edited by Nursery Rhyme Comics’ Chris Duffy and features a mix of 17 tales ranging from beloved standards and less known adventures. For every Hansel and Gretel you’ll find a The Prince and the Tortoise. Each tale is adapted by a different author/artist but my favorite is Give me the Shudders by David Mazzucchelli for the simple reason that he drew Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One. The collection is probably not for really young ones, but definitely worth a look if you are searching for material left of Disney’s center.
Now that LTD is beginning to read one of the words he can spell and read, is appropriately enough, his name. Personalized books always make a nice gift, usually from a grandparent, but when the little ones begin to read it makes things a little cooler. Flattenme has a ton of personalized gifts from wall art, cards and t-shirts and of course books. In addition to books with names in them you can get one with photos. The book featuring your child’s name is called, OWL Always Love You and works best at bedtime as the story and tone is suited to a relaxing sleepy mood. If you want to move past names to pictures the photo books feature a range of choices including story-lines centering on superheroes, pirates or fairies. However, the photo book about the potty may not be suitable for all temperaments. Flattenme also provides what I consider grandparent gifts of t-shirts, water bottles and posters. But the real benefit of the site is that you can say they ‘flattened me.’
Thanks to the wonders of DVR LTD has never watched a commercial and he has also never seen the news. With all the bad stuff that has happened in the last few years the family has been able to deal with it on our own terms without the 24 hour news cyclone screaming in our faces. When LTD was talking a lot about death we turned to Leo Buscaglia’s The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, but after events like Hurricane Sandy it was nice to be able to use Alvaro F. Villa’s Flood. The interesting thing about this book is that we didn’t read it to LTD we ‘read’ it together because it is a wordless story. The narrative told through powerful pictures shows one family’s struggle dealing with a major flood. The family has to leave their home when a powerful storm sets in and deal with thoughts of what that they will find when they go back home. However, ultimately the story offers hope and optimism. By asking the question, what do the pictures show? The adult can gauge the child’s level of comprehension and begin the discussion tailored to his or her development. Plus you can’t go wrong that when you buy Flood the purchase supports Save the Children’s Domestic Emergency Fund.
Summer time allows our thoughts to turn to the beach and the beach means the ocean. I give you 2013’s sea creature book Shimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life by Jim Arnosky. For some reason it seems LTD digs sea creatures more than land animals and we all know BB’s feelings about octopi. Shimmer & Splash honors the big wide open ocean by having not only big splash pages of animals like Dolphins swimming and jumping, but it features pullout spreads of sharks and game fish. Of course this comes with a word of warning that pullout pages can easily be destroyed if they fall into the wrong hands. In addition to the sea life swimming off the page the words are filled with cool facts and descriptions of the different sea creatures. But at the end of the day you can never go wrong with a drawing of a Great White Shark’s tooth at actual size. Shimmer & Splash could just as easily be a coffee table book instead of a children’s book since the art is expertly painted.