Celebrate Aunt and Uncle Day on July 26th

July 25, 2014

Time to celebrate those relatives near and dear to your hearts:  aunts and uncles!  Summer is the perfect time to take note of these important family members. And we’ve got the book recommendations to help.

AuntsWhat Aunts Do Best, What Uncles Do Best by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

We all know kids love to spend time with their aunts and uncles–and vise versa.  Numeroff’s book is a fun way to enjoy those memories and think about creating new ones.  The parallel stories are in a kind of “flip book” format and can be read to focus on either aunt or uncle good times.  Refreshingly, the activities are pretty gender neutral, too:  building clubhouses, staying up late for TV/movie watching–and both sexes cook and shop.  Endearing expressions on the faces of the animal critter families add to the book reading pleasure.  A great kick-off for Aunt and Uncle Day!

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 Uncle-ElephantUncle Elephant by Arnold Lobel

This funny, thoughtful–and a little sad–tale of a young elephant visiting his uncle is now in its second generation of entertaining our family members.  The format of several small stories makes it a great choice for the youngest child, and early readers enjoy their success as they read it themselves.  The charm of the story, though is not lost on the adults in the family.   This poignant story of love of family, joy, and hope is a winner, and one of my favorites.

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 UncleUncle by J.P. Martin, illustrated by Quentin Blake (New York Review Children’s Collection)

Who wouldn’t love an elephant who sports a purple dressing gown?  And lives in a huge ramshackle castle with a crew of quirky and funny friends?  Thank goodness this 50-year-old classic has been re-issued, and it’s still hilarious and intriguing across generations.  Based on the stories that Martin used to tell his kids, Uncle contains a delightful selection of adventures, mostly with the detestable Badforts.  Quentin Blake’s illustrations are just the ticket.  Perfect read-aloud fun.

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Aunt-ClaireAunt Claire’s Yellow Beehive Hair by Deborah Blumenthal, illustrated by Mary Grandpre

Though the titles is a grabber,this book isn’t just about Aunt Clair.  It’s about Annie exploring her family and what makes each member special.  The old photos on her grandmother’s mantel are a perfect starting pace, as her great-aunt shares the stories that go with them.  The exploration branches out to include mementos such as letters, and even a lace wedding veil.  Annie and her aunt create a family history album, that might be an inspiration for your family as a summer project, too.  And as a side-note, the illustrations will look oddly familiar to readers of the Harry Potter novels.  yes, Mary Grandpre is the cover and interior illustrator for that formidable series.

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July 20th is Moon Day

July 18, 2014

Team-MoonMoon Day, July 20th, commemorates the day man first walked on the moon in 1969.

The Apollo Space program, begun by President John F. Kennedy, was created to put the first man on the moon. Apollo 11 fulfilled that dream, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. What an amazing and historic event!

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched from Cape Kennedy Space Center atop a huge Saturn V rocket. On July 20, 1969, the Lunar Module, nicknamed the “Eagle”, touched down on the surface of the moon at Tranquility Base. Upon landing, Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong reported “The Eagle Has Landed.” A few hours later, Neil Armstrong, stepped off of the Eagle’s ladder, placed one foot upon the moon’s surface and proclaimed: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

A wonderful story of the first moon landing for kids (and the adults in their lives) :

Team Moon:  How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

What I love about this book is that it opens up the backstory of the first moonwalk and demonstrates that this is not just the story of the astronauts, but of thousands and thousands of people who made it happen.  Like the seamstress who had to put together 22 different layers of fabric for each space suit.  The many engineers who had to work to create heat shields to protect the capsule from the heat of re-entry. Imagine the soft-ware engineers, telescope crew, navigators, and more. . .The book reads like a documentary, with stunning photographs, interviews, oral histories, and other primary sources from the period.  Definitely a book to pore over with the whole family.

 


Spunky YA Feminists

July 11, 2014

It’s a banner year for feisty females in YA movies based on books.   If you’ve been a fan of John Greene’s work, you’ve been delighting in the praise for Hazel (The Fault in Our Stars).  Or maybe you’ve been following Tris’ appearance on the big screen (Divergent)?  No need to wait for follow-up movies this summer: meet some new heroines from different genres, times, and places.  And best of all, these spunky feminists are all in series, so you can binge read on their adventures  these summer days!

MilaMila 2-0 by Debra Driza

We are initially drawn into the story of 16-year-old Mila and her mother who have recently moved to Minnesota to start a new life after the tragic death by fire of Mila’s father.  It’s soon clear that something is off, though.  Mila can remember so little of her former life–is it really just the trauma of the accident?  When she suffers an accident of her own, Mila is shocked to discover that under her skin is not bone and blood, but wires and tubes.  What is she?  And who is chasing her?  Though there is a key love interest–handsome and kind Hunter–the story is less a romance than a thriller sci-fi mystery.  Gripping, fast-paced writing.  Mila comes to rely on herself and her many strengths, while coping with coming to terms with her identity.  Loved it!  And also loved the sequel, Mila 2-0 RenegadeCan’t wait for the third installment in this planned trilogy.

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StarstruckStarstruck by Rachel Shukert

Welcome to LA, circa 1938.  Glamorous Hollywood in the studio heyday.  Margo is chasing her dreams to become a star, right alongside her new friend and former vaudevillian Gabby Preston.  The two become friends as minor starlets on the Olympian Studio set.  Along the way, they meet other Hollywood hopefuls with surprising back stories. . .and dirty secrets.  Lots of backdoor intrigue, with strong teen-aged girls fighting their way through a male-dominated system. The story continues in Love Me, just out, with new surprises about each of our favorite characters.

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ThroneThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Known as Adarlin’s Assassin, she is the most feared killer in this magical kingdom.  Captured and sent to prison, she is given a chance for freedom if she agrees to be a fighter for the Prince.  When he pulls her out of prison to come to court, he is amazed to discover that she is an eighteen-year-old girl. Celaena is an awesome heroine–strong feisty, witty.  Maas’ kingdom is compelling, with political intrigue, dangerous assassins, and yes–an actual castle made out of glass. There is ancient magic, romance, great characters, and action–everything a summer read should offer!  And when you finish, you can jump right into Crown of Midnight, where Celaena’s adventures continue.

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July is National Hot Dog–and Ice Cream–Month!

July 5, 2014

hot-dogsHot dogs and ice cream?  Talk about a celebratory month!  The hot dog has a fascinating history; check it out here. Can you believe it dates back even further than the German frankfurter of the 15th century?  Amaze your friends and family with your hot dog history trivia!

ice-cream-2

 

Ice cream’s origins are more contested.  Some say  as far back as the 4th century BC in Rome (History of Ice Cream); others cite China or Iran.  Our favorite resource is The Farmers’ Almanac with their  History of Ice Cream Timeline.

Why  not bring along book friends as you savor these national treasures?  Here are some favorite book characters who will appreciate enjoying these treats with you.  You might just indulge in their book worlds for some inspiration!

Pigeon-hot-dogThe Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

A hot dog is a most prized possession for Pigeon.  He can’t wait to gobble it up–but “special guest star” Duckling is also eying the potential feast. “Is that a hot dog?” he asks Pigeon innocently. Mo Willems provides his signature witty dialogue and vocabulary:  “Each morsel is a joy!  A celebration in a bun!”  Pigeon proclaims.  Friendship does ultimately prevail as the two share the hot dog.  A perfect companion to your hot dog celebration with friends!

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Stick-DogStick Dog Wants a Hot Dog by Tom Watson

If you like silly sort-of slapstick humor, Stick Dog and his friends (and their adventures) are for you.  Always hungry, these doggies discover frankfurters in the sequel to Stick Dog.  The five dogs encounter many challenges, including a hungry raccoon episode–as they maneuver to distract the frankfurter guy.  Great humor for the whole family–and particularly appealing for the 7-10 year-old set, who can read it themselves (maybe aloud to their families!)

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Share-Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

Elephant (Gerald) is much the philosopher as he ponders the important question of the title of the book.  I mean, really, he has this delicious ice cream–should he gobble it right up, or share it with his best friend Piggie?  Of course, with Mo Willems at the helm, there is the fitting (and charming) solution.  (And don’t miss the Pigeon ice cream cone in the back!)

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WemberlyWemberly’s Ice-Cream Star by Kevin Henkes

How about a board book for your little one to appreciate ice cream month?  And sharing?  In this sweet Kevin Henkes’ book, Wemberly gets an ice cream treat, but then her worries begin.  Will it melt on her dress?  And what about her stuffed animal Petal?  Shouldn’t she have a treat as well?  Wemberley solves the problem with Zen-like patience as she waits for her ice cream to melt–and she and Petal each have a bowl of ice cream soup.  Short text and wonderful images make this a winner.

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A Trio of Summer Board Books

June 27, 2014

Toddler,-board-bookOur toddler friends like all kinds of books, including regular hardbound and paperback picture books, read-aloud treasures, songbooks. . .But there’s something special about the indestructibility and tactile feel of board books.  In the past, we’ve sung the praises of board books and even recommended a list of our favorites.  This summer, we are checking out some of the new board books to recommend to Vivi, Hudson, Boden, Roger, Pippin, Jax, and June.  Here’s a trio of new favorites to add to the classics!

Toy-BoatToy Boat (Board Book) by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Loren Long

This is a board book that will grow with your little one through pre-school and beyond.  David is at the center of the story, and the other “character” is his little home-made toy boat; (be sure to look carefully for the face in the cork holding up the mast).   A simple tale, told with grace through straight-forward text; readers explore the bounds of freedom and closeness.  As parents, we can’t help but see the parent-child bonds, though children may view it more from the perspective of the closeness of a particular toy and its potential loss, and journey back home.  Gorgeous book to pore over with your young reader.

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 Hide-and-seekHide and Seek at the Beach by Kenny Harrison

What’s your favorite beach game?  Is it Hide and Seek?  That’s the go-to game for Harry and his friends.  But it’s hard to hide when you’re a hippo.  Little ones are quickly engaged and get in on the joke as Harry tries to hide. . .behind a beach umbrella, under a sand castle, in a hammock. Cheery and bright illustrations, a wonderful chance for interaction with toddler readers, with its large text type and lilting rhymes.  Tuck it in your beach bag to share on a day at the beach!

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FarmerThe Farmer’s Away!  Baa Neigh!  by Anne Vittur Kennedy

What happens when the farmer is away from the farm?  In this infectious board book, we find out about all the mischief the animals get into. Books that are interactive with making the sounds of the animals are such fun for kids–and parents who get a kick out of seeing their kids laugh aloud at the silliness.  The animals make all the sounds you’d expect–and more, as they frolic in an extravagant manner.  Picnicking and racing inner-tubes are only the beginning.  How about jet-skiing, ballroom dancing, or taking off in a hot air balloon? Of course, the animals are able to settle down quickly when warned by an arf arf that the farmer is returning.  A favorite with the youngest child–and still fun for pre-schoolers.

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Artists’ Lives Through Picture Books

June 21, 2014

~posted by Ruth

Sunday painters like me are drawn to studying and appreciating the art of the masters.  It’s also fun to learn about their lives and share their creative spirit and process with our young artist friends.  Picture books to the rescue.  Here’s a few of my recent favorites that are sure to delight friends and family.

A-Splash-of-RedA Splash of Red:  The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Pippin’s first box of colored pencils  was his first “teacher,” as this important African-American artist loved to paint and draw from a very early age, though art lessons were out of the question.  Even after his war injuries in WWI, when he lost the full use of his right arm, he continued to paint, relying on his left arm to guide his shaky right hand.  His works hang in major art museums today, and he is revered as an important twentieth century artist.  The writing in this book pulls readers in, and the illustrations are delightful, combining images with quotes from Pippin. No wonder this book is the winner of so many awards  including:  Schneider Family Book Award; ALA/ALSC Notable Children’s Book; Robert F.Silbert Honor Book).  A wonderful book to share with children.

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Noisy-PaintboxThe Noisy Paintbox:  The Colors and Sounds of Kandinski’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre

To Vasya Kandinsky, the colors in his paintbox sounded like an orchestra preparing for a concert.  He heard the colors singing to him, and he could see the sounds themselves dance. This drew him to a unique vision for his art, becoming one of the very first masters of abstract art.  We have always been intrigued and inspired by synesthesia, a kind of collision of sensory experiences, allowing some folks to see sounds or letters as colors, or hear visual stimuli. It’s a treat to encounter this condition as part of Kandinsky’s biography. His life story is well told, and the pictures that accompany it are spot on.

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HenriHenri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter

Henri Matisse’s art is accessible to everyone, but perhaps his paper cut-outs are especially intriguing to young children who can try on his scissors craft.  A painter throughout his life, Matisse turned to cutting out his shapes and designs from paper when he was convalescing from surgery and too weak to paint.  The brilliant Jeanette Winter mirrors his art in her illustrations, from his early museum-framed art to the full-page compositions as he becomes ill. Her simple yet eloquent text captures Matisse, his art, and his story.

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Fresh Veggie’s Day, June 16th

June 14, 2014

VeggiesA favourite veg? I love them all,
Cabbage, leek and beans so tall. . .

writes British poet Margaret Muttram   (see her full Ode to Veggies below)

Mid-June is the perfect time to delight in the world of fresh vegetables through exploring Farmers’ Markets, creating tasty meals, sharing feasts together, and of course, reading books about Veggies!

We start with a terrific book for family projects:

At-the-Farmer's-MarketAt the Farmers’ Market with Kids:  Recipes and Projects for Little Hands by Leslie Jonath, Ethel Brennan, and Sheri Giblin

Great information for kids–and adults!–on what kinds of vegetables are available at Farmers’ Markets,  how to judge the ripeness of different vegetables and fruits, as well as tips on how to store each kind.   Then there are the recipes:  65 nutritious ones, that look both healthful and like they would please kids.  (We’ll be test-cooking and tasting soon!)  Colorful and well-designed photos grace the book, so it’s a pleasure for all the senses.

And here are a few of our favorite picture books to conjure up your own vegetable appreciation celebration.

 FFarmers'-Market-Dayarmers’ Market Day by Shanda Trent, illustrated by Jane Dippold

I can really identify with the main character of the book, as I remember the delight of Saturday outings with my family, with my own money to spend on a treat.  She’s even a bit clumsy, like me.  I also like the rhyming couplets and colorful energetic images.  It’s a perfect early reader book, one that truly celebrates vegetables:  “A forest—green with broccoli trees, / cucumbers, and pods of peas. / Bushels brim with fruit to eat: / Tomatoes, plums, and peaches—sweet.”  A delightful child’s-eye view of Farmers’ Market.

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Growing-Vegetable-soupGrowing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert (and bilingual version of board book, too!)

Lois Ehlert’s bold bright pictures are the perfect complement to the bouquet of vivid colors of the veggies that summer gardens–and Farmers’ Markets bring to our plates (and soup bowls!) “Dad says we are going to grow vegetable soup”  begins this garden to table tale, with tools and seeds, then gardening–and finally harvesting and chopping, and creating a fine soup, with recipe included.  A summer time go-to at our house, and now we also love the bilingual board book version in Spanish as well as English.

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Ugly-VegThe Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

This is for the gardener who delights in his or her “ugly vegetables,” not just the pretty flowers.  A sweet story from Grace Lin about a Chinese Mom and her little girl who patiently tend their garden of vegetables that yields the ingredients for an aromatic and delicious soup.  The neighborhood comes together in the fall with flowers and a meal to share.  Illustrated with Grace Lin’s signature bright and appealing picture–and an added bonus of a pronunciation guide for Chinese pronunciation of vegetables and a recipe for tasty soup!

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And here’s the full Margaret Muttram poem:

Kids-and-veggiesOde to Veggies

A favourite veg? I love them all,
Cabbage, leek and beans so tall.
On Brussels sprouts I have my doubts,
But Christmas wouldn’t be right without.
Recently I found pak choi -
In Asian dishes it’s a joy -
While other recipes really need
A touch of good, old-fashioned swede.
Parsnips pleased me as a child;
I now love garlic, even wild.
But if I really have to choose,
It’s ginger lights my taste bud fuse.
It spices savoury and sweet,
Gives both a subtle hint of heat.
Stir-fries, biscuits, crumble, jam -
It gives them all a tasty wham”
Other veg would just be bland
Without ginger’s helping hand.

~Margaret Muttram


June is National Accordion Awareness Month!

June 7, 2014

accordionAccordions!  Everybody loves them–at least that’s what participants and audiences at the annual International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, Texas proclaim.  This instrument is beloved all over the world:  German polka festivals right alongside New Orleans zydeco, Irish music, klezmer, and so much more.  So it’s fitting to take the month of June to raise our awareness of this versatile instrument.  At Lit For Kids, we always start with a book, and we’ve got a great read for you.  Then, check out a couple of our info links below for a fun-filled month of accordion festivities.

Mendel'sMendel’s Accordion by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Johanna Van Der Sterre

The joy of music is clear on all the faces of Mendel’s family, from Mendel himself as a traveling musician in “the old country,” to his great-grandson in America.  Besides being a celebration of the klezmer music, the simple but lively text also tells the story of the Jewish immigrant experience, weaving in how these rich cultural experiences have been brought to our contemporary lives.  The book ends with interesting historical facts about accordions–and klezmer music in particular.

Accordion Facts

All About Accordions (PBS)


Celebrate National Doughnut Day, June 6th, 2014

May 30, 2014

DonutsThe first Friday of June is traditionally National Doughnut Day. . .So, June 6th this year is the perfect day to ask the question, Who Needs Donuts? especially when it is answered by author and illustrator Mark Alan Stamaty.  This 20th century classic had been out of print for decades–but was re-issued a few years ago to introduce a new audience to the delights of Stamaty’s absurd–and delightful–story and pictures.  One starred review says it best:  “With an illustration style that mixes a benign Hieronymus Bosch with an urban Where’s Waldo?, Stamaty’s off-the-wall humor is on target for little kids and big kids today.”

Who-needs-donutsThere’s so much going on in the detailed drawings, you can’t help but notice new delights every reading.  The basic story centers on Sam, who feels that something is missing in his life and heads to the Big City on his trusty trike, searching for “more donuts than his mother and father could ever buy him.”  The basic moral (in suitably hippie terms) is “love is all you need.” (“Who needs donuts when you got love?”)

So, for this year’s National Donut Day, sit down with your family and a plate of donuts and pore over Who Needs Donuts?  (Hint:  We all do!)

 


THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH, the Latest Mo Willems

May 24, 2014

~posted by Ruth

pigeonI am a Mo Willems fan–and that’s putting it mildly.   I have read all his books (no mean feat as there are dozens and dozens), follow his blog Mo Willems doodles, and even made the cross-country trip to visit his special showing at the Eric Carle Gallery in Amherst, Massachusetts . So of course, I was eagerly awaiting the publication of another Pigeon book on April 1st:  The Pigeon Needs a Bath.  Lucky for me, I was able to have it in my hands before visiting  Bitsy Parks’ first-grade classroom in Beaverton, Oregon and could gift them with a copy. (The only thing more fun than reading a new Mo Willems books is sharing it with appreciative kids!)  And they love it as much as I do.

What’s not to love?  We are reunited with a Pigeon with attitude–this time, he simply doesn’t see the need for a bath.  After all, he had one last month.  Maybe. The visible stink waves radiate from Pigeon’s body, but he insists he doesn’t need a bath. The best spread is a two-pager with 29 panels with Pigeon’s complaints about what’s wrong with the whole bathtub situation:  too hot, too cold, not enough toys, too many toys. . .My first-grade friends giggled and laughed through the whole book.  We all appreciate the emotions and expressions that come across–and also the thoughtful and sophisticated language and vocabulary, like “It’s a matter of opinion”; and “Purely coincidental.”

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or family friend, this book should top your list to share with the kids in your life.  Happy Reading!


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