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.
Fobie Friends is a rhyming book series that can be accompanied by plush toys from the books (you can also get e-books and t-shirts). The series deals with over coming common childhood fears. For instance, their first book, Did My Owl Just Growl? focuses on being afraid of the dark. The tale leads a boy on a journey (through his imagination) around the creepy woods and shows him the dark isn’t that spooky after all. The publishers (a team of parents & grandparents) make it clear that the books are designed as a tool for parents to help their kids, but they are rooted in fun and that if you feel your child experiences an a-typical amount of fear it may be best to consult a doctor. Other books deal with climbing at the playground and going in the water. The water book is something I could have used when I was a youngster as anyone will tell you that I hated the going in the water. The rhyme scheme of each story makes them pretty user friendly for young ones to keep things light as a guide animal helps the main character face their fear and prevail. Of course, with the way today’s world looks sometimes I’m ready for the adult version.
Before we begin I want to preface that many books on sign language feature examples in either art or photo form that I find difficult to follow, the publishers are good intentioned, but the picture usually confuses me. However, this is not the case with The Baby Signing Book by WeeHands founder, Sara Bingham. We had some small victories teaching LTD to use ASL and hope to replicate the results with BB. The big ones for us were ‘more’ and ‘all done’ which come in pretty handy at meal time. The book features an explanation of the how and why to teach babies and kids to sign (cuts down on frustration) and includes over 400 signs. Lastly, the book offers songs and rhymes to seal the deal. Perhaps the best quality of the book is helpful advice based on the child’s age. Yet, as mentioned earlier I found the example pictures incredibly easy to follow and that has not always been the case with the past signing information I have tried to use.
In our ongoing quest to nurture LTD’s artist talents, not to mention get him away from electronic screens we are always looking for new ideas. Susan Schwake 2012 book, Art Lab for Little Kids features 52 cool projects for budding preschool Picassos. The book focuses on the works of well-known artists for motivation and subject matter. For instance, the work of Ashley Goldberg influences the lab using cotton balls to make colorful paintings. The author also includes her ideas like painting with marbles and spray bottles. It is nice being able to do projects that not only seem fresh and creative but also don’t include Thomas the Train pencils or Dora stamps. However, since the book deals with what I call real art not Shrinkie Dinks, it is very important to remember to wear appropriate craft clothes and keep wet paint covered hands away from the wall. Not a bad idea to hide the dog as well.
When I was a kid it seemed like the classic fairy tales were all the rage and I am hard pressed to remember that many stories that weren’t little red riding hood related. However, LTD’s generation is what The Mommy calls Digital Natives and they have the world at their finger tips. In other words besides a few of the big ones (Snow White and Goldilocks) I don’t think LTD knows anything about the classics. The compilation, Fairy Tale Comics is edited by Nursery Rhyme Comics’ Chris Duffy and features a mix of 17 tales ranging from beloved standards and less known adventures. For every Hansel and Gretel you’ll find a The Prince and the Tortoise. Each tale is adapted by a different author/artist but my favorite is Give me the Shudders by David Mazzucchelli for the simple reason that he drew Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One. The collection is probably not for really young ones, but definitely worth a look if you are searching for material left of Disney’s center.
This morning LTD announced that he wanted to be a doctor when he grows up. This is curious because last week he wanted to be an astronaut. One of his interests (when he isn’t running around naked) is space with a concentration on the planets. Professor Jim Bell’s new tome, The Space Book: From the Beginning to the End of Time, 250 Milestones in the History of Space & Astronomy features planets and so much more. The heavy book is presented in chronological order starting with the Big Bang in 1.37 Billion BCE and goes up to the near future. Each spread opens with the event and explanation on the left and a bright amazing photo on the right. Scientists and astronomers are highlighted with their achievements but the real magic is in the awesome photos of spiral galaxies, Quasars and Uranus (come on that’s potty mouth). The text is way above LTD’s clearance level, but it’s cool for me to understand so that I can simplify it for him. Or to be more accurate for him to some day read it and explain it to me.