As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know well, BB is a lot more hands on then LTD was when he was three and half. That is why the series of books/activity kits featuring Rescue Vehicles, Construction Vehicles and Monster Trucks is totally in BB’s wheel house. The box comes with a set to build, poster, stickers, model and of course fact book. The kits are a little above BB’s pay grade but LTD is happy to help him set things up since he thinks they belong to him and not BB. However, the card stock set pieces also need The Mommy’s help for assembly as I don’t do well with delicate work. The fact book features more mature information that I like instead of a simple child-like explanation of sirens, hoses and bucket lifts. Of course no book will probably ever be able to get BB to say excavator instead of X-Vader, but I will always hold out hope.
LTD gravitated towards less obvious interests when in preschool, but BB has no problem joining the things that move crew. Trains, race cars, buses and construction equipment delight him to no end. In that regard, Stephen Savage’s new book, The Mixed-Up Truck sits in the sweet spot between a story you can read at bedtime and a four discussion beginning with the question what is inside a car? The tale follows a cement mixer on his first day on the job. However, things don’t go quite as planned as he mixes up the cement with flour and then sugar. I won’t spoil the ending as usual, but while the title suggests a mix up, things work out in the end. The story is simple and short and therefore perfect for multiple readings at bedtime. The art is crisp and fun, but I dig that the story doesn’t have the usual bad guy just a few simple mistakes that get corrected, lesson implied.
BB has been getting into animals lately in fact he informed me just this morning that he wanted to “live on a farm.” Author Jane Yolen and Illustrator Bob Marstall have hit upon just the right balance of simple ready for bedtime story telling with amazing huge splash page art. BB is really digging the story of a bird laying an egg, watching it hatch and exploring the new world together. The rhymes work well to share the story for BB at his current age. Jane Yolen created the book (the first of a series) especially for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the leading authority on birds. PS: Ithaca is gorges. The splash pages really pop especially during the egg hatching segment but BB keeps making me show him the page where the newborn bird stretches its legs for the first time as it is “silly.”
In a sea of endless children’s books I’m still always impressed when I find one that is elegant and dare I say beautiful. Lane Smith uses sponge-paint art to make There is a Tribe of Kids pop. The tale follows boy on an epic journey through our natural world. Each setting he encounters whether it be elephants, butterflies or the ocean he learns about different “tribes” but continues searching. I don’t want to spoil the ending but I think you can guess what he finds at the end (hint: see book title). The story is easy to follow and the art captures the beauty of nature in almost magical fashion. All of which is to say none of that matters to BB who just likes the whales.
BB has been talking a lot about what he wants to be when he grows up. The latest is a Knight (not sure how well that pays). In that regard he has been digging Author Lucy George and Artist Ando Twin new series Busy People. Each book focuses on Astronaut, Doctor, Police Officer, Fire Fighter and Teacher. As the title suggest each tale focuses on the daily life and work of the above busy people. The explanations are easy to follow with wide eyed characters. I particlurly like the section at the end of the books that shows associated busy people like the Forensic scientist and Flight controllers. There is also a cool part showing equipment and uniform details that have led to BB declaring each one to be this year’s Halloween costume. Thankfully the book on Astronaut’s features a Robot lest LTD declare the series to young for him.
Both my children ask a lot of questions, which shows they are curious and intelligent, however answering them can be as exhausting as a supreme court nomination hearing. That is why we gravitate towards books with a lot of facts but sometimes those types of books don’t make great bedtime tales. Virginie Morgand’s new book What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? solves a lot of my book requirements. First up the art really pops. The pictures have a retro printed feel and are wicked bright with a sense of fun. The tale is broken up by area like hospital, farm and school to show the different applicable occupations. For some reason, the boys are drawn to the section on action-packed jobs. LTD only focuses on the Secret Agent as he wants to be a spy when he grows up (I assume working a desk job at the CIA since he keeps telling people he is spy and thus blows his own cover). While BB digs the usual suspects of astronaut, firefighter and police officer. The section headings first explain the setting like the airport or university before discussing the jobs inside. For my money the Water Sports Instructor looks like a fun job based on the pictured surf board.
Like most parenting concepts follow through and consistency are key. These are never more true than when dealing with matters of discipline. The Mommy and I have used 123 Magic in the past but due to factors such as stress, busyness and laziness we have not always held true to the core mission and techniques. LTD is about to turn 7 and is acting like a teenager and BB is now 3 and is deep into his Three-nager phase as well. It was time to return to the manual. The popular 1-2-3 Magic books and accompanying industry are valuable for their simplicity. The real work comes in changing and learning new habits.There are so many many many many books about raising children and heaven help you if you google anything, but you do need a guiding principle to fall back on if you can actually remember to use it. The book deals with start behaior and stop behavior in a clear way as any parent reading will easily recognize the examples. Now in the sixth edition we turned back to it as a reminder that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We were also reminded that following a discipline pattern is hard work that requires constant upkeep. I hope that the second time through will be the charm and I expect the boys to be perfect angels from now on.
Whenever I mention a historical figure or frankly anyone in the news LTD always asks me if they are alive. For a long time I thought it was part of his usual obsession over death, but it turns out he asks because he wants to be able to write them a letter. In that regard, Jules Archer’s new book, The Unpopular Ones: Fifteen American Men and Women Who Stood Up for What They Believed In, feeds his curiosity. The book features well known Americans like Thomas Paine and Woodrow Wilson, but brings to light lesser known subjects like Bethenia Owens and Jonathan Walker. I know what you are thinking, who are those last two? No spoilers. Some of the book is a little above LTD’s pay grade but it does make for interesting conversations. At the core is the concept of standing up for what you believe in. As an added bonus you get to explain to the kids what a “hussy” is during the chapter on Amelia Bloomer.
LTD is almost four years older than BB and so their choice of reading material greatly differs. However, BB will do and wants to do anything that his older brother does. In that regard, I recently hit pay dirt with Mo O’Hara’s series My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish. Most of the books are for those kids reading chapter books but she did something cool and made a version for the preschool set. The books feature Frankie the titular goldfish who suffers from being a zombie but on the up side can hypnotize using his eyes. A little backstory, “Frankie was a completely normal pet goldfish . . . until Tom’s evil-scientist big brother, Mark, tried to murder him with toxic gunge! Luckily Tom and his best friend Pradeep shocked Frankie back to life with a battery, and he’s been their zombie-fishy friend ever since.” BB’s book is called, The Fintastic Fishsitter features little sister Sami watching over Frankie and trying to stop Vampire kitten Fang from eating him. The cool thing is that when BB reads just like his big bro he reaches a pretty high level of excitement. And of course, I know what you’re thinking, yes the down side is that now they both want a pet goldfish.
Author Leanne Shirtliffe is an award-winning humor writer but she is also part of a movement to make children’s books more diverse. As part of that mission she created the character of Wilma Lee Wu. The second book to feature the spirited youngster is No More Biege Food. As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know all too well, BB is what they call a problem eater. So this tale of culinary introductions not only speak about interesting food choices but has the added benefit of introducing diverse characters. Wilma objects to her parents seemingly boring meals and demands more. Her mother, not to give into a tyrant, tells her to cook her own meals. So Wilma interviews her neighbors and discovers all the tasty richest different cultures have to offer. The jury is still out on how much of the tale penetrated into BB’s pallet but I will try anything to get away from 50% mac and cheese and 50$ rice and beans.