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.
Where LTD goes BB follows and they are both always up for a good adventure. Author and artist Trevor Lai’s new book, Tomo Explores the World is set on a small island that is basically one big fishing village. The titular focus of the tale, Tomo has no great desire to follow the path set by everyone on the island and become a fisherman. After he finds his great-grandfather’s Adventure Journal fate chooses another path for him and his canine companion Captain. His friend Maya joins them as they explore the sea. The art is big and colorful but what I really like which sounds a little sterile is the typeface. The words are in white or black depending on the background and very easy to read. Why should that matter, you ask? Because at bedtime it is pretty dark in their room and I often can’t see the words in many a book (no I don’t need reading glasses). As usual, I won’t spoil the ending but I will say that BB has been digging the baby whale.
We don’t travel as much as we would like and we certainly don’t travel internationally. We frequently field questions about other countries even if the kids keep using state, country and continent interchangeably. In that regard we have been reading, The Barefoot Book of Children by Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma with art by David Dean. The book focuses on how children around the world live and explores different cultures. In simple easy to understand language (without being patronizing) the book shows the differences in how people look, live and the make up of their families. The hand painted pictures are incredibly colorful and the splash pages really pop. LTD has been locked on the pages about how people communicate by learning the phrase, “Excuse me, do you know where the taxis are? In Grand Central Station. BB is fixated on how kids take baths around the globe. I guess a lot of kids take showers in New Zealand. The book does a nice job of showing the differences but instead of list form the authors have tied things together and show how we are all interconnected.
Occasionally, The Mommy will notice that she lives with three boys. And when you combine that fact with LTD overhearing some nonsense at school about the 2016 election it was time to balance the scales. Jennifer Fosberry’s new book features her star in another adventure, Isabella: Girl in Charge. The tale with art by Mike Litwin centers on main character Isabella waking excited to attend a big event (no spoilers but it has to do with Washington,DC). As her parents explain each time she brings it up, the event hasn’t started yet. The twist is that every time her parents speak to her she is no longer Isabella but a different female advocate or politician including Sandra Day O’Connor and Susanna Salter, the first woman mayor in America. The excitement builds throughout the story until she finally nears the Capital. The end of the book features a timeline of women in politics presented in an easy to digest format. The added benefit for me is that The Mommy has no excuse when the boys ask for a bedtime story and I can go downstairs to chill.