I’m a big believer in using comic books to teach kids to read. Falynn Koch has taken the concept a step further by adding science to the mix. Part of the Science Comics series Bats: Learning to Fly begins with a intro to the topic followed by a cool graphic novel adventure. The tale focuses on a brown bat who sustains damage to his wing. In a reverse Dracula situation it is a human who hurts the bat. However, once taken to a bat clinic we learn about the different types of bats. Falynn’s art is bright and bold plus she is from Buffalo, where The Mommy went to high school. LTD has been announcing his new bat knowledge every chance he gets, while BB doesn’t understand why Batman is not featured. And yes there is mention of Vampire bats.
The phrase this is not your daddy’s dot to dot book comes to mind. LTD has been kept quite busy as of late filling out the over sized connect the dots book, Marvel: Spider-Man 1000 Dot-to-Dot Book. The activity book features 20 hardcore puzzles each sporting over one thousand dots. Not that is a lot of time in which I can be left alone to finish dinner at a restaurant. There are so many dots and they are close together that only his small hands can complete the challenge. I don’t think I could complete Spider-man without going crazy. One good thing they did was to change the dot color throughout the page so you don’t go dot blind trying to figure out where you left off. LTD is gearing up to tackle the pull out poster in the middle that features over 1700 dots. and to that I say, better him than me.
BB is cruising through his fours and in that regard still manages a pretty good meltdown at least once a week. Since he will be going into Kindergarten on the young side we are always looking for ways to prevent screaming attacks. Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D new book, with art by Jo Gershman, deals with possible solutions to a childhood behavior classic (and yes not all adults have outgrown them as well). Even though Jilly is a kangaroo she still throws a mean temper tantrum and the tale demonstrates ways parents can work through them. The story shows the different triggers that set off Jilly and her parents patience and as usual, I won’t spoil the ending, but needless to say, it involves using words to express feelings not screams and punches. The first example deals with her older sibling playing chess without her and it reads exactly like what happened to everyone in our house yesterday (LTD has learned to play chess). Now lets hope we can learn the lessons on patience explained in the book during the bedtime reading as BB in addition to tantrums also interrupts a lot.
Now that Spring is here, the boys have been wanting to spend more time outside (even if the temperature doesn’t cooperate with that goal). Kathryn Hast’s new book Otis Grows feels right for the dual nature of Spring. First, I am struck by the illustarions by L.M. Phang which have an interesting quality that doesn’t feel like your typical children’s style. The tale focuses on Otis who is an onion with fascinating genetics. His mother is a chicken and his father is a blue flower. On the surface that would seem like enough, but the challenge for him is that his mother is a member of the Nuh-Uhs while his pops is a Yes-Chum. Of course Otis decides to postpone the conflict by running away. Our hero’s journey involves adventures with other “colors” to learn about differences, coming together and figuring out what it means to belong. I know what you’re thinking, does a book about a talking onion with chicken/flower parents have a guest appearance by Nelson Mandela. The answer of course is yes. One of the neat things about the book is that, since all kid’s books read repeatedly, each reading lends it self to more and more discussions of the themes.
Thankfully, both BB and LTD don’t seem to engage in gossip as much as they do enjoying “telling” on each other. In an effort to nip any gossip gateway conversations we recently read, Janice Brown’s Rumorang (with pictures by Lane Raichert). As the title suggests the tale focuses on the dangers of spreading lies about our friends. In a page out of the game Telephone the book’s characters share a secret about Petunia that spreads like wildfire. Of course the rumor circles back to Petunia and we all learn how actions have consequences even if those actions only involve mere words. The message of the tale is encased in the silly way the rumor grows as to not hit the children over the head or enter dark territory. I have not gone into detail about the origins of the word Rumorang, but I will let you google it at your leisure. The singular focus of the story allows the message to come across and the tale allows for questions after reading.
BB long in his brother’s shadow is always wanting to read what LTD is reading. Since he can’t read Harry Potter yet (especially since he calls it Heater Potter) we like to get him cool books more his speed. Heather Alexander has a new series featuring flaps and questions. Dinosaurs, Farm, Human Body and Jungle feature bright spread pages with questions answered in flap form. The art by Andres Lozano is simple with a pop quality the kids seem to like. For instance, how many teeth are in my mouth? on a drawing of a child’s face. The answer by the way is 32 when an adult and can be found under the mouth flap. Of course BB loves the intestine page with the flap on waste. Thankfully, the there are not a crazy amount of flaps to make things cluttered and the pages are sturdy but we shall see if BB can still destroy. The books are helpful as of late since BB has really run with the “why” ball and I can’t keep up with all the different questions. Example: yesterday, he asked me what spider blood looked like which resulted in me having nightmares from a google image search.
Thankfully LTD and BB don’t really fight all that much. I don’t want to jinx it but they mostly play well together. However, when issues arise it is nice to have a few options on hand. Louis Thomas’ new book, Hug It Out! offers a novel approach to discipline. The tale revolves around siblings Woody and Annie and their no stop bickering. As the story progresses their mother reaches the end of her rope and lays down a new punishment. She issues an edict stipulating that whenever they fight they must hug. What could be worse for a brother and sister? In reading this book I could not help but think of my boys as BB will try to hug his older brother, an act met with derision. The story is tight and focused allowing for the point to get across and hopefully sink in. However, every time we read it BB wants to hug LTD afterward and the ensuing fight negates the lesson of the tale.
Now that LTD is burning through books, he doesn’t even get sick reading in the car, we are always striving to have interesting books on hand. Dustin Hansen’s new tome Microsaurs features as the title suggests little dinosaurs. Central characters Danny and Lin discover these tiny creatures during a go pro skateboard session. The story also features art by Hansen. The kids travel to a secret lab where they find a whole lot of little dinosaurs and more. As usual, I don’t want to spoil the ending but let me just write that it involves shrinking. and of course the story features a not so mad scientist because you can’t have tiny dinosaurs without a professor type. LTD has even taken to reading some of story out loud to BB but this type of activity is fraught with interruptions and distractions. Additionally, BB was more interested in the skateboarding than the fact that little dinosaurs were running around.
We are slowly trying to help BB learn to read. He goes back and forth between saying he would like to read and not caring. Topsy Turvy: Animals by Wes Magee with art by Tracey Tucker is providing BB with a fun first assignment. The book features rhymes that are silly and fun. The pack pictures are bright, busy and fit the text perfectly. Each page depicts a specific animal adventures. BB has been digging this gem: “A family of lions have baked beans for lunch. Hugh hippos and rhinos play soccer. Crash! Crunch!” I occasionally like books with out a traditional narrative or story so that I can skip pages or use the we will read the rest tomorrow night. It is especially nice as some of the rhymes become tongue twisty after a while. Hopefully, the book will encourage him to read but not encourage him to only speak in rhyme.
Since the boys don’t really go camping or lets face it, go outside all that much I think it is important for them to learn about things like compasses and other life skills. Author Paul Boston’s new series, Find Your Way includes titles like Under the Sea, In the Jungle and Underground. The books teach young readers about navigation with a goal toward improving math and map skills. The books feature coordinates (and an explanation of what coordinates are) and different objects to find. One cool feature is the selection of mood of transportation with BB picking Sea Turtle (even though he is punching a little above his weight and gets lost frequently) and LTD always picks the Submarine. After completing each mission the reader gains entrance into the castle. Now that the boys are budding cartographers we are ready to explore the ocean if anyone ever provides us with the ability to breathe underwater.