Every so often I ask LTD what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer is always an artist. Even when he picks rock star or astronaut he adds, and an artist. Chip Kidd is probably the most well known modern graphic artist (check out the Jurassic Park book cover) and he has turned his talents to the world of children. Kidd’s design book for kids, Go, features an easy to understand introduction to the world of graphic design including form, typography, content and concept. The main theme explores the best way for a young designer to communicate their idea and share it with everyone. Lastly, Kidd includes 10 design projects like “design a logo for a cause you believe in.” LTD is a little young to appreciate all the concepts, but truthfully I am learning a lot so maybe we will be opening a family design shop, but if LTD has any voting power I’m sure the shop will just be about robots.
If you have ever typed a child’s health or medical question into google then you know what kind of Pandora’s Box that opens. Sometimes you just want to keep things simple and look at a quick reference like say a book. Doctors from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children have written a very user friendly guide, The A to Z of Children’s Health, that tracks from birth to age 10. Now I know what you’re thinking, we don’t need another kid’s medical book? Well, this one is Canadian (no it doesn’t just focus on hockey injuries) and is extremely user friendly. The over-sized book features big example pictures and follows the a to z format to handle one topic at a time. For instance, you can easily find information on everyday accidents and mishaps to more serious conditions like spina bifida and shingles. The guide also deals with non-physical matters like sibling rivalry and bullying. I can’t stress enough how user friendly the book is compared with other voluminous children’s health tomes, especially when you consider you usually don’t turn to these types of books when everything is okay, but when you are freaking out.
In an effort to expose the boys to the state of my birth I welcome most things Maine related. In fact the other day LTD was preparing for his field trip to a farm and informed me that since he was going to a farm he needed to wear his moose socks. Islandport Press joined in LTD’s yankee education by releasing There are NO MOOSE on this Island written by Stephanie Calmenson with art by Jennifer Thermes. The tale centers on Jake and his father’s trip to an island. Jakes’ dad tells that they will be able to see all sorts of cool animals, but Jake really wants to see a Moose. Of course as the title explains the island comes sans moose. However, and I don’t want to spoil the ending, the title may be a bit misleading. The story uses fun rhymes as Jake discovers island life while slightly implying the dad has a problem with his senses. The last pages are devoted to facts about moose, but didn’t really dive into why LTD thought his moose socks would be perfect for a farm visit.
Now that it is BB’s turn to ride the relive Daddy’s childhood train it was time for some retro super hero action. Downtown Books line of DC Super Heroes Board Books began with the “My First Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman lines that LTD (or more importantly me) thought were cool. BB is digging (and eating) DC Super Heroes ABC 123 and Opposites. The plot is perfect for BB as it revolves around colors, letters and shapes and doesn’t deal with the nature of heroics or the question of how mortal men feel surrounded by Gods like Superman. Now a word of caution that the art is from the seventies and the Hawkman and Captain Marvel have leapt of the screen from the Superfriends days. The books are pretty cool and beat reading about ducks quacking or trucks beeping. And remember U is for Up, Up and Away.
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.