Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Books

It's almost Halloween!  We've had a number of Halloween books at our house but these are two of our favorites.  

Pumpkin Soup is fun for all ages.  It's not specifically a Halloween story but of course it has the pumpkin theme, and there is just the right toddler-appropriate touch of scariness toward the end.  The story starts out with the duck, the cat, and the squirrel, who live together and make pumpkin soup the same way every time, each doing their own specific job.  When the duck decides one day that he'd rather stir than put in the salt, the other two are scandalized.  Duck leaves in a huff, and then the other two figure out that having their friend around is probably more important than how they fix the soup.  I love the way this book is written.  There are lots of great descriptive words which makes it fun to read out loud.  And I'm a fan of the subtle-but-there messages about friendship and trying new things.

The Widow's Broom was a new one for us this year and was definitely more appropriate for the Buddy, who is five.  I tried reading it to the Nugget once but she didn't make it past the third page and was clearly not following the story.  Of course Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations are amazing.  The detail in the black and white pictures is absolutely incredible.  This was a great semi-scary choice for my sensitive Buddy.  It has just enough creepy factor to be fun, without giving her nightmares.  The story begins with a witch's broom that is starting to lose its power, and drops its witch off without warning in a lonely widow's garden.  The widow is clearly freaked out, but she invites the witch inside to heal up, and the witch rewards her by leaving behind her broom.  The broom can sweep by itself, but then the widow figures out that she can teach it to do other things and pretty soon it's a big help around the house.  All is fine until her narrow-minded neighbors get involved, and then the widow has to outsmart them to keep her broom.  It's a great story with a little twist at the end.  The Buddy loved it!  Younger kids might need a little help understanding what is happening in the story, but five-year-olds and up will probably enjoy it.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chapter Book: Misty of Chincoteague, Part 1

When the Buddy was about 4 years old, we started reading some simple chapter books.  I figured at this point she was old enough to follow the story, even if it took us several days to finish the book.  We started with the Magic Treehouse Series (more about that in a future post) and have branched out from there.  This is one of my favorite things to do with her--I get to introduce her to some non-picture books, including some of the books I loved best as a kid, but I'm still there to explain anything she might not understand.  I'm going to attempt to blog our progress through chapter books in sections, so I can give an idea of our thoughts as we go.  

I never really went through the "horse phase" as a little girl.  My Buddy, however, has had an off-and-on relationship with the horse phase.  Currently it's on, in a big way.  She's particularly interested in Chincoteague ponies, since we visited Assateague Island last year and got to see the ponies in their natural environment.  When her grandparents visited Chincoteague, they gave the Buddy an amazing close-up photo of a pony that now has a place of honor on her bedroom wall.  So I figured Misty of Chincoteague would be right up her alley.  So far we've read the first three chapters and her reaction has been mixed.  It is by far the highest-level chapter book we've tackled, meaning that there are a lot of words that seem to be way beyond the Buddy's vocabulary.  Heck, there were one or two words that were a bit beyond my vocabulary.  But she seems to be following the gist of the story at least.  I'm already seeing some themes that betray the age of the book and I think that's going to come out more as we go along.  Girls aren't allowed to go on the pony roundup, etc. etc.  This is something the Buddy and I are going to have to talk about as we move through the book.  

It seems like maybe this book is a bit ambitious as a read-aloud to a 5-year-old, but we're going to keep going and see how we do.  Right now I think the Buddy likes the idea of reading about a Chincoteague pony, but maybe isn't that into this book specifically.  We'll keep you posted!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Have You Seen My Potty?

I'm not going to lie to you.  This book is pretty weird.  If you are at all uncomfortable with what they call "potty humor" this is not the book for you.  However, if you are trying to introduce your toddler to the concept of toilet training in a really low-stress way, you might want to check out Have You Seen My Potty?  

There are so many potty books out there.  Pretty much every television character that's popular with the toddler set has produced a book or a DVD telling kids how awesome it is to use the toilet.  The Dora book with the button that makes the flushing noise may be one of the more annoying things ever to enter our home.  Have You Seen My Potty? is definitely a potty book, but it takes a more interesting approach.  The book tells the story of Suzy Sue, who has something very important to do.  Something important that she does every day...can you guess what it is?  Unfortunately one of the farm animals has made off with her little red potty and now all the animals are using it, vastly improving hygiene conditions on the farm but making it impossible for poor Suzy Sue to do her business.  It all works out, and by the end of the book Suzy Sue has her potty back and the farm has never smelled fresher.

Both of my kids have enjoyed this book.  The Buddy liked it when she was about two, although I don't think it made her feel the slightest bit more motivated to use the toilet.  She thought it was hilarious, and would crack up at the same point every time.  We must have hit it just right with the Nugget though because it did seem to get her to take more of an interest in the whole thing.  The rhyming text is fun to read out loud and the illustrations are perfect for the funny-and-a-little-wacky theme of the book.  I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone not actively working on potty training but if you find yourself at the point where you'll try anything to get your kid interested in the idea (and believe me, I've been there...twice) then this book just might work.  And if not, at least it's kind of funny.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Emily's Balloon

My Nugget loves this book.  I mean she LOVES IT.  We've had it three times from the library.  The last time we got it, we were walking around looking for something good to check out and she happened to spy this on the shelf.  You should have seen her face light up.  It's the first book she's ever really connected with in that way.  

Emily's Balloon is a very simple book about a little girl who gets a yellow balloon.  She becomes pretty attached to the balloon, but then a gust of wind whisks it away and lands it in a tree.  She has to go to bed without the balloon, but her mother promises to get it down for her in the morning.

There were a few things I liked about the book right away.  The text is very simple and reading it feels peaceful.  It's a great book for before bed.  The illustrations are very abstract, almost blurry, and they are mostly monochromatic so the yellow balloon really stands out.  The book captivated the Nugget from the first reading, and she is generally the type of kid who likes bright, shiny books with flaps and popups and things she can try to rip off, so there must be something good there.  I can't argue with that.  At first I was not a huge fan of this book because I just felt that there wasn't much story there.  But maybe that's what's great about it.  You might remember as a kid developing an unreasonable attachment to a random object, like a balloon or an action figure or a crappy toy from McDonalds.  Sure it was forgotten after a day or two, but for that day or two it was the most important thing in your life.  Emily's Balloon captures that feeling pretty well.  Clearly my Nugget can relate.

Bad Apple

I want to kick off this blog with a post about my favorite of the new books we've read this fall.  The start of fall weather makes me want to look for books about leaves, apples, pumpkins, and Halloween.  Bad Apple was one of the first books to come up in my searches.  Of course the Hemingway name added some interest.  Apparently Edward is Ernest's grandson, although he doesn't mention that anywhere on his web site so clearly he's not trying too hard to let people know.  

This book was a pleasant surprise for us.  It definitely has a message, but it doesn't beat you over the head with it.  Mac, the apple, wakes up one morning with a worm stuck in his head.  Turns out the worm is named Will and he's super fun, and Will and Mac have a good old time playing games and finishing each other's sentences.  All is well until they run into some of Mac's buddies on the playground.  The other apples start making fun of Mac and calling him a "bad apple."  Will takes off without Mac telling him to go away, which could be either an interesting touch or a missed opportunity for Mac to experience some conflict and resolution.  But Mac soon discovers that Will left behind a hole that can't be filled (get it?) and goes in search of his friend.  He'd rather be a bad apple with his buddy than a sad apple without him.  

Again, the message is clear, but not annoying.  The pictures are great too.  I loved the expressions on the faces of Will and Mac, and the overall tone of the illustrations helps keep the book from being cheesy.  Of course there are lots of little apple jokes included to keep the parents interested.  I asked the Buddy if she learned anything from this book.  She said "if your friend gets lost, you need to go find them."  That is probably not exactly what Mr. Hemingway was going for, but I'll take it.