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.
We found this little book at a thrift store sidewalk sale and I immediately recognized it as a book I had when I was a kid. Children’s book legend Mercer Mayer’s 1978 Little Monster’s Neighborhood is for my money the best book in the Little Monster series (not to be confused with his Little Critter series). The plot isn’t really as the story features Little Monster simply describing different things in and around his hometown. Truthfully, the book is more of trip down memory lane for me as I remember the faces of the different monsters at the market, gas station and doctor’s office. Little Monster’s Neighborhood is one of those books that LTD reads to himself at bedtime and since that is a quiet activity that is the only recommendation needed.
Children’s book legend Syd Hoff tells a simple story in Captain Cat, a story that avoids the politics of the Military-Industrial Complex to focus on a cat who wanders on to an army base. The training soldiers adopt the cat and award him the (I assume honorary) title of Captain. The story is simple as Captain Cat joins the squad and has fun with the new recruits and even makes a best friend. However, the only reason I’m bringing any of this up is because last night when I was reading this to LTD I got to the part where one page had the all the soldiers marching in the rain and the mud and the next where Captain Cat was sleeping on the bed instead of joining the troops like he did when they went to the mess hall or KP duty. I started laughing out loud and then the little guy cracked up. He really didn’t know why I was laughing but he started laughing anyway, really hard and so I suggest Captain Cat if you want to wind up your kid before bedtime.
As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know LTD has long been a big fan of Halloween and most things spooky and so for a few weeks all he wanted to read at bed time was the amazing Carl Reiner’s 2003 tale Tell Me a Scary Story…But Not Too Scary! The story centers on a young boy and his mysterious new neighbor. The boy does that I’m scared and don’t want to look but I know I’m going to look anyway thing. The story, which is told in the first person by the boy, begins each section with narrator stopping and asking if things are too scary and if he should continue or not. This disclaimer provides plenty of fun as the little guy says he doesn’t want to go on, then quickly says yes turn the page.
One of the plot points revolves around a glass eye that I told LTD was a marble. And with that in mind I will leave you with this incident. Last night, LTD wanted to read Tell Me a Scary Story… however what The Mommy and I heard was that he wanted to read the Richard Scarry book about marbles. It took about twenty minutes, but it all got sorted out in the end.
A buddy of mine was dealing with his 10 year old son the other day and he told him that he sounded like a broken record. Of course, his son quickly said what’s a record? With that in mind I present 2008’s Raining Cats and Dogs by Will Moses. The book offers simple easy to understand explanations for the everyday expression we tell our kids. Expressions that traditionally result in a toddler missing the point, for instance, when you tell a three year old that they are in a pickle the conversation goes off in an entirely different and unintended direction. One of the strengths of the book is that you can skip pages with ease (when you are tired) and the story doesn’t suffer since it is basically a dictionary. Each expression is followed by funky art, a straightforward meaning and an example of use in everyday life.
Spill the Beans: Someone is supposed to keep a secret-but instead tells all. “What was in the pail was supposed to be a secret, until Georgiana spilled the beans and told everybody.”
The Bear Went Over the Mountain by Iza Trapani converts the classic children’s song into book form with amazing results. She uses big splash panels to fill up the whole page with a big bear and bright colors. The titular bear journeys through all four seasons using his senses to explore the area near and over said mountain. The detailed yet fun art shows the bear’s expressions really well especially when encounters a porcupine and disturbs a nest of bees. Trapani shows us the bear’s sense of whimsy and fun during his adventures from hibernation using his sense of smell and touch, etc. The book includes the original song and music if you feel like getting out the piano and teaching your little one the song.