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.
As long time BTCS readers know well, LTD is a big fan of robots (BB is beginning to discover the joys that are robots since he shares a room with LTD). The new book Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski with art by Tim Zeltner fits nicely in our bedtime routine. The plot is ripped from the headlines (if the headlines were something that happened every night in our house) and revolves around Little Robot not wanting to go to bed. Of course since he is more machine than man he activates his “stalling program.” However, his Mom Unit is quite familiar with all his tricks and has a quick answer. In keeping with BTCS tradition I won’t spoil the ending but I think you can guess that it doesn’t end with him staying up all night. The tale is clever in that it uses robotic terms for typical stalling actions, like getting oil instead of a glass of water. As you can imagine LTD is digging this book hardcore, while I need to figure out how to reprogram the Mom Unit in our house to always change BB’s diaper so I don’t have to.
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.