In a sea of endless children’s books I’m still always impressed when I find one that is elegant and dare I say beautiful. Lane Smith uses sponge-paint art to make There is a Tribe of Kids pop. The tale follows boy on an epic journey through our natural world. Each setting he encounters whether it be elephants, butterflies or the ocean he learns about different “tribes” but continues searching. I don’t want to spoil the ending but I think you can guess what he finds at the end (hint: see book title). The story is easy to follow and the art captures the beauty of nature in almost magical fashion. All of which is to say none of that matters to BB who just likes the whales.
Both my children ask a lot of questions, which shows they are curious and intelligent, however answering them can be as exhausting as a supreme court nomination hearing. That is why we gravitate towards books with a lot of facts but sometimes those types of books don’t make great bedtime tales. Virginie Morgand’s new book What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? solves a lot of my book requirements. First up the art really pops. The pictures have a retro printed feel and are wicked bright with a sense of fun. The tale is broken up by area like hospital, farm and school to show the different applicable occupations. For some reason, the boys are drawn to the section on action-packed jobs. LTD only focuses on the Secret Agent as he wants to be a spy when he grows up (I assume working a desk job at the CIA since he keeps telling people he is spy and thus blows his own cover). While BB digs the usual suspects of astronaut, firefighter and police officer. The section headings first explain the setting like the airport or university before discussing the jobs inside. For my money the Water Sports Instructor looks like a fun job based on the pictured surf board.
I’m not much of cat person, which is to say I don’t like cats at all. However the lead character in Ruth Chan’s new book, Where’s the Party? is a cat. Not a problem since the cat in question is confined to the pages of the book and not clawing my eyes out. The story focuses on Georgie who instead of lasagna loves to throw parties especially for his friends. The central issue of the tale is that Georgie has thrown a spur of the moment party and everyone is too busy to come. In keeping with Beyond the Car Seat rules I won’t spoil the ending but I think it is safe to say that just as in Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come. The real treat of the books is the layout and singular story focus. Lately, BB has been picking long books at bedtime and I simply cannot handle that. Where’s the Party? is the perfect length.
Whenever I mention a historical figure or frankly anyone in the news LTD always asks me if they are alive. For a long time I thought it was part of his usual obsession over death, but it turns out he asks because he wants to be able to write them a letter. In that regard, Jules Archer’s new book, The Unpopular Ones: Fifteen American Men and Women Who Stood Up for What They Believed In, feeds his curiosity. The book features well known Americans like Thomas Paine and Woodrow Wilson, but brings to light lesser known subjects like Bethenia Owens and Jonathan Walker. I know what you are thinking, who are those last two? No spoilers. Some of the book is a little above LTD’s pay grade but it does make for interesting conversations. At the core is the concept of standing up for what you believe in. As an added bonus you get to explain to the kids what a “hussy” is during the chapter on Amelia Bloomer.
LTD is almost four years older than BB and so their choice of reading material greatly differs. However, BB will do and wants to do anything that his older brother does. In that regard, I recently hit pay dirt with Mo O’Hara’s series My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish. Most of the books are for those kids reading chapter books but she did something cool and made a version for the preschool set. The books feature Frankie the titular goldfish who suffers from being a zombie but on the up side can hypnotize using his eyes. A little backstory, “Frankie was a completely normal pet goldfish . . . until Tom’s evil-scientist big brother, Mark, tried to murder him with toxic gunge! Luckily Tom and his best friend Pradeep shocked Frankie back to life with a battery, and he’s been their zombie-fishy friend ever since.” BB’s book is called, The Fintastic Fishsitter features little sister Sami watching over Frankie and trying to stop Vampire kitten Fang from eating him. The cool thing is that when BB reads just like his big bro he reaches a pretty high level of excitement. And of course, I know what you’re thinking, yes the down side is that now they both want a pet goldfish.
Author Leanne Shirtliffe is an award-winning humor writer but she is also part of a movement to make children’s books more diverse. As part of that mission she created the character of Wilma Lee Wu. The second book to feature the spirited youngster is No More Biege Food. As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know all too well, BB is what they call a problem eater. So this tale of culinary introductions not only speak about interesting food choices but has the added benefit of introducing diverse characters. Wilma objects to her parents seemingly boring meals and demands more. Her mother, not to give into a tyrant, tells her to cook her own meals. So Wilma interviews her neighbors and discovers all the tasty richest different cultures have to offer. The jury is still out on how much of the tale penetrated into BB’s pallet but I will try anything to get away from 50% mac and cheese and 50$ rice and beans.
I’m not hip enough to teach the boys about Banksy, but they certainly know their Legos. Jeff Friesen’s book honoring the street artist, Bricksy, Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art has inspired LTD and given BB a good chuckle. The thing I like best about the photos of Legos in various street scenes is that the boys learn that one can use Legos to create anything. A lot of kids simply make the X-Wing fighter or Batmobile on the box and never experiment or use the Legos to create their own designs. The book uses an original Banksy in the corner to create a larger spoof splash page. The only down side is that since LTD is an artist (as he will tell anyone who asks or doesn’t ask) he know has another tool in his toolbox to create amazing works. Like we needed an excuse to buy more Legos.
With two boys running around we don’t have a lot of princess stuff in the toy chest. Okay, we don’t have any, but usually the guys don’t play the gender card and certainly talk about Frozen when they see it. However, LTD has on occasion identified pink items to be avoided. That is why The Mommy and I encourage the reading of books with female protagonists. Ava the Monster Slayer is one such book. Lisa Maggiore’s story with pics by Ross Felten centers around the glasses wearing, stuffed animal pig carrying Ava and her quest to retrieve said pig from the dryer in the basement.The message of the book is particularity useful as LTD refuses to go upstairs alone to put on his PJ’s even though it is light out. On a side note he will request BB go with him, which I find funny because whatever is upstairs that frightens him, he thinks BB will either fight or serve as a human shield. The action is depicted with a colorful comic book style kinetic energy and while not be too scary doesn’t paint the monsters as being cute. In fact they are worthy of slaying. Of course long time BTCS readers know I will not spoil the ending of a book, but as I often write, I think you know that Ava’s piggy doesn’t get eaten by monsters.
Since it is almost time for our annual trek into NYC I thought the boys would like a pep talk for dealing with the people of said city who occasionally exhibit a less than friendly attitude. Kelly Canby’s new book, All the Lost Things focuses on a little girl named Olive and her adventures in the city. The tale centers around her noticing everyone being cranky and feeling bummed about it until she finds basically a lost and founds under the street. The art is funky with almost a graffiti vibe and features hand written text which makes the book more kinetic. In keeping with BTCS policy of not spoiling the ending I will tell you that Olive gets to take items out of the lost and found and use them back in the city in her quest to get everyone out of their stress of the city induced funk. The only challenge will be explaining to the boys that next time we are in the city they won’t find any lost and found under the streets except maybe an alligator or CHUD.
Mike Curato has followed up his beautifully illustrated Little Elliot, Big City book with an equally majestic tale featuring Little Elliot. We have many, many books floating around but BB gravitates towards only a few that make his limited playlist. He really digs Little Elliot and I’m happy to bend to his repeated expression of “again” since the art is so cool. In this outing Little Elliot, Big Family; Elliot and Mouse are doing great, but when Mouse goes off to his family reunion it leaves Little Elliot to wander the cold New York streets searching for the meaning of it all. Yes, I’m being overly dramatic but the retro images give everything a heightened since of gravitas. In keeping with the Beyond the Car Seat policy of not spoiling the end, I won’t reveal too much, but I’m sure you would be safe in your assumptions that the tale’s conclusion doesn’t involve Elliot forever wandering the streets alone.
Create a Family Portrait with Little Elliot here.