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.
I’m not hip enough to teach the boys about Banksy, but they certainly know their Legos. Jeff Friesen’s book honoring the street artist, Bricksy, Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art has inspired LTD and given BB a good chuckle. The thing I like best about the photos of Legos in various street scenes is that the boys learn that one can use Legos to create anything. A lot of kids simply make the X-Wing fighter or Batmobile on the box and never experiment or use the Legos to create their own designs. The book uses an original Banksy in the corner to create a larger spoof splash page. The only down side is that since LTD is an artist (as he will tell anyone who asks or doesn’t ask) he know has another tool in his toolbox to create amazing works. Like we needed an excuse to buy more Legos.
With two boys running around we don’t have a lot of princess stuff in the toy chest. Okay, we don’t have any, but usually the guys don’t play the gender card and certainly talk about Frozen when they see it. However, LTD has on occasion identified pink items to be avoided. That is why The Mommy and I encourage the reading of books with female protagonists. Ava the Monster Slayer is one such book. Lisa Maggiore’s story with pics by Ross Felten centers around the glasses wearing, stuffed animal pig carrying Ava and her quest to retrieve said pig from the dryer in the basement.The message of the book is particularity useful as LTD refuses to go upstairs alone to put on his PJ’s even though it is light out. On a side note he will request BB go with him, which I find funny because whatever is upstairs that frightens him, he thinks BB will either fight or serve as a human shield. The action is depicted with a colorful comic book style kinetic energy and while not be too scary doesn’t paint the monsters as being cute. In fact they are worthy of slaying. Of course long time BTCS readers know I will not spoil the ending of a book, but as I often write, I think you know that Ava’s piggy doesn’t get eaten by monsters.
Since it is almost time for our annual trek into NYC I thought the boys would like a pep talk for dealing with the people of said city who occasionally exhibit a less than friendly attitude. Kelly Canby’s new book, All the Lost Things focuses on a little girl named Olive and her adventures in the city. The tale centers around her noticing everyone being cranky and feeling bummed about it until she finds basically a lost and founds under the street. The art is funky with almost a graffiti vibe and features hand written text which makes the book more kinetic. In keeping with BTCS policy of not spoiling the ending I will tell you that Olive gets to take items out of the lost and found and use them back in the city in her quest to get everyone out of their stress of the city induced funk. The only challenge will be explaining to the boys that next time we are in the city they won’t find any lost and found under the streets except maybe an alligator or CHUD.
Mike Curato has followed up his beautifully illustrated Little Elliot, Big City book with an equally majestic tale featuring Little Elliot. We have many, many books floating around but BB gravitates towards only a few that make his limited playlist. He really digs Little Elliot and I’m happy to bend to his repeated expression of “again” since the art is so cool. In this outing Little Elliot, Big Family; Elliot and Mouse are doing great, but when Mouse goes off to his family reunion it leaves Little Elliot to wander the cold New York streets searching for the meaning of it all. Yes, I’m being overly dramatic but the retro images give everything a heightened since of gravitas. In keeping with the Beyond the Car Seat policy of not spoiling the end, I won’t reveal too much, but I’m sure you would be safe in your assumptions that the tale’s conclusion doesn’t involve Elliot forever wandering the streets alone.
Create a Family Portrait with Little Elliot here.
Since The Mommy is the creative one when it comes making art projects with the boys, I need to turn to outside sources for assistance lest we get paint on the walls, each other and the dog (feel free to substitute glue or markers for paint). Chris Barnardo’s new book Made with Dad offers us projects in our wheelhouse but The Mommy is still in charge of the gluegun and iron. The projects range for arts and crafts and science to spaceships and ray guns. LTD gravitated towards the Dragon-hunter’s googles while I dug the helicopter even if mine version didn’t really look like the one in the book. The book really puts a modern spin on those old rainy day craft books from my youth. I’ll take a spaceship over soup can telephones any day.
There is something either sad or awesome about a book that we have read so much that BB knows all the words. Shake to Assemble! is such a book. The Avengers centered book allows the reader to assemble the Avengers by completing center tasks. Calliope Glass has written a fun tale featruing instructions on how to get the team together. Ron Lim & Richard Isanove provide some sick art. In order to get each hero you follow Hawkeye’s directions including tapping, shaking and blowing on the book. Be prepared for repeat readings as this book results in the request, “again.” Perhaps the best instruction comes last in order to finish assembling the Avengers you need the Hulk. Of course you only get Bruce Banner and you need to make him mad to see the Green Goliath. Unfortunately, we have a habit of reading the book at bedtime which doesn’t make for a great pre-sleep mood, but the book is too cool to say no to. And don’t worry (as always no spoilers) the Hulk doesn’t stay mad.
We have a ton of books in our house I have no problem with that as LTD is reading well above his grade level and BB has plenty of pages to rip, but some of the books are frankly boring. That is why I am always pleased to find something truly interesting. The Alphabet of Bugs by Ann Cutting & Valerie Gates truly makes your eyes pop. The giant bright pictures of various insects followed by a letter based description makes for a non typical story time. Of course the difficulty level is challenging for those who find words hard to pronounce. Take the letter M for instance: Mason Wasp magnificently mimics Moccasin. Not for the faint of heart. And yes the book ends with a glossary so you can prove to the children that a Mason Wasp is a real bug. However, I do think I will need to get a Master’s degree to pronounce X for Xyleutes.