LTD loves a good mystery and so Tom Ryan’s book Peeve, My Parents’ Pet (illustrations by Kenny Durkin) provides a pretty funny one. The tale focuses on a little blonde boy who tries to figure out who his parents keep talking about since the animal in question clearly lives with them. As the title suggests, his parents have certain pet peeves resulting from various troubling actions the boy has committed around the home. Additionally, to trying to figure out where this new pet is, the boy seeks to learn why his parents wanted it in the first place if every time they talk about him they sound angry. The story reminds me of all the times LTD repeats something I have said to him, but slightly out of context or at in appropriate moments. Word play is one of our favorite past times, however, I will admit I don’t use the seemingly benign pet peeve phrase and usually go for something darker.
The other day, LTD and I landed on TCM showing 1933’s King Kong. I was reminded of a classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoon and told LTD that the world was in black and white until 1938. We went back and forth a bit before the jig was up, but I enjoyed having a laugh. This is a round about way of bringing up Lori Stewart’s Grandma, Aren’t You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today! The book allows me to immerse the boys in my favorite subject, history. The tale features a rhyming historical journey through the 20th Century told by a grandmother using a photo album for inspiration. We learn how kids enjoyed entertainment back in the day and learn fun trivia (1947: Peanuts cartoon strip first appears as L’il Folks, and becomes Peanuts in 1950). The section on toys is particularly interesting especially in light of the Great Depression, but for a real contrast the differences in playgrounds and play spaces between then and now is truly fascinating. However, LTD spent the majority of attention on the pages devoted to fashion and I think he wishes we still wore the styles of yesteryear. Of course the book concludes with an image of an iPhone.
LTD has been watching a lot of shows featuring volcanoes (I would like to be able to tell you that they were on the NOVA or Reading Rainbow apps, but truthfully a lot of Justice League, Young Justice and Ben 10 sport crazy volcano action). So in the interest of steering him towards some science instead of secret lairs, it was time for make our own volcano action. Mike Adamick’s new book, Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments features 30 cool experiments that were right up our alley. Among the DIY family friendly experiments you’ll find clear easy to follow instructions and even clearer pictures. The experiments are grouped by subjects including Biology, Physics and the Human Body. The banana balloon may be a little gross but it is a lot cool. However, I caution you not to try the Mentos and Coke Rocket indoors. Also some of the experiments can be medically helpful like the Marshmallow that measures your pulse (if you can manage to keep LTD from eating the lab materials). Oh and before I forget, yes the book includes instructions on how to make a volcano, that childhood right of passage that LTD is now old enough to enjoy.
Photographer David FitzSimmons first Curious Critters did indeed make us curious so much so that we have been enjoying Volume Two. These crisp, striking and up close images of bugs, birds and furry animals are almost hypnotic. He now offers audio books features new songs by Foster Brown and those in the know will understand why that is a cool name. The audio books feature animal’s talking, sound effects and music. Don’t ask how an animal can talk you might not be ready for the answer. In addition to the beautiful pictures you also learn cool facts like Eastern box turtles can live longer than humans (over 150 years). I can’t stress enough how neat it is to see these animal up close against a stark white background. My attempts to duplicate the effect with our dog have ended in disaster.
Now that LTD is doing what Huck Finn used to call “book learn’” I have so far been able to help him with his spelling as most of the words are, as you can imagine, short. However, since I am a horrible speller I have turned to Jim Halverson’s kid friendly book, Spelling Works. Long time teacher, Halverson features the methods and exercises he has had success with in the real world. His goal is to get beyond mere memorization and have the children do exercises that play into a larger story. And yes before you remind me, yes the book also has spelling mazes. Of course, I have turned to the book for the rules that I can never ever seem to remember like the silent e rule and apostrophes. He also places a premium on being able to spell in the modern world so you can correct auto-correct. The book is a little above LTD’s current pay grade but great for my refresher course. And yes The Mommy will be teaching him math because if you think I’m a bad speller wait till we get to algebra.
As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know LTD wants to be an artist when he grows up and when he lists the things he likes there are only three: Robots, Monsters and Dinosaurs. Well, Adventures in Cartooning: Characters in Action has two out of three (robots & monsters). The book (really a graphic novel) by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost stars a Knight on an overweight horse on his quest to well basically meet crazy characters. The book is part of a series designed to inspire and help kids create their own cartoons and comics. This one focuses on character development and by that I mean The Peanut Butter and Jelly Fish and Evil Owl. The plot centers on a director making a movie and everyone in the kingdom auditions, hence the introduction of wacky characters. The story explores not just what makes a character stand out (costume and look), but their motivations as well. Of course this is all well and good, but LTD was a little too focused on the before mentioned robots and monsters to really get the true message of the book.
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.