Category: books

make way for ducklings

make way for ducklings

okay, okay, preschool book review week starts in earnest with an old chestnut that i feel gets overlooked nowadays — robert mccloskey’s make way for ducklings. it isn’t hip. it isn’t trendy. it isn’t cool.

but boy, is it a great, great book for preschoolers.

the story is one that most little kids can comprehend — duck parents are looking for a good place to raise a family. they finally find one. the dad has to go away. the mom teaches the kids and takes them on a tumultuous walk. dad comes home. everyone quacks happily ever after.

i cannot pick up this book without a few things happening.

1) i imitate an irish policeman whenever i read the voices of the cops in the book. (for you bugs bunny fans out there: “hey clancy, let’s take the boys and surrrrround the house!”)

2) i dissolve into laughter, along with my kids, whenever i have to read the ducklings’ names (lack, mack, quack, pack, oh, who the hell knows them all, i just know they rhyme). and:

3) we end up reading it twice in a row. at least.

the brown-tone drawings are absolutely stunning, earning this bad boy a caldecott. no, they just don’t write them like this anymore.

admittedly, i am a mom who enjoys the hip books; but i must confess that, in the same way i am beginning to rediscover the old, corny Disney movies (hayley mills, anyone?) and enjoying them, i am discovering older storybooks from my childhood, wistfully remembering how it took me longer to wise up and become the cynical chick i am today.

maybe if we read more mccloskey books, my kids will stay younger longer.

Make Way for Ducklings

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss

one more gap-bridging book — one that both BC and jools adore!

people adore the click clack moo books by doreen cronin, and i would agree. there’s something wonderful about subversive cows and ducks taking over the joint. but take a gander (har-dee-har, i’m such a card!) at another book by cronin that makes jools nearly pee himself. ok, so that’s no mean feat, but it nearly makes me pee myself, too!

diary of a worm is a silly little journal filled with deep observations about life as an annolid. so yeah, worms aren’t fascinating, right? well, maybe not, but this little worm, illustrated so amusingly by bliss, makes some observations that are worthy of the monty python troupe. two favorites:

1) when the worm gets in trouble with his mother for telling his sister that her face looks exactly like her rear. (she’s a worm. it does.)

2) when the worms do the hokey pokey. a challenge when you consider how they’re built.

apparently, cronin also takes on diaries of other creeply crawlies. i can’t wait to check them out. that is, if jools ever lets me return this bad boy.

Diary of a Worm

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book by lauren child

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book by lauren child

alert the media: i am now hereby bridging the gap between tween girl books and preschool books. just cos every now and again, i have to find a book that works for BC and jools. not an easy task, i would add. but someone’s got to figure it out, and why not me!

as you might figure from yesterday’s post, i am a HUGE, and i do mean HUGE fan of lauren child. not even the charlie and lola series, which brought her some bit of fame thanks to disney picking up the cartoon, but all the clarice bean books, which i discussed yesterday.

but if you’ve a kid who either:

a) loves fairy tales;

b) destroys books; or

c) all of the above,

then you’ve got to read Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book. child examines what happens when her hero ends up in a fairytale storybook that he has doodled on, torn a bit, and basically manhandled. a modern-day alice falls through the looking glass, and boy, the consequences are hilarious!

c’mon: if you were supposed to be a fairytale mainstay and someone doodled a mustache on you, you’d be pissed, too.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book

clarice bean series by lauren child

clarice bean series by lauren child

tween girls book week concludes with a major fave, the clarice bean books by lauren childs. some of these are chapter books, some are picture books, but all are amazingly cheeky fun.

there’s something so hilariously fragile and funny about clarice and her family. her father is too busy at work; her mother is, well, a bit self-involved; her surly teenage brother is in cave-boy mode; her sister is surgically-attached to the phone; her little brother, minal cricket, is a handful; her grandfather has more than a few senior moments; and her uncle ted, the fireman, is simply a hunky hoot. anyone who has to balance family and hysteria can relate to the over-the-top things that happen in the books. child is perfectly attuned to a girl of a certain age who has to deal with calamity in her daily life. i suspect this is what my house is like on certain days.

incidentally, if you’ve been weaned on charlie and lola (and want to run screaming whenever it shows up on the disney channel), please please PLEASE don’t let that stop you from checking out clarice (i’ve put some faves below, but there are more.) she’s simply THAT FUNNY.

if your kid has finished every junie b. jones book there is, it’s time to graduate to clarice bean. you may find that you like the book, though, even more than your daughter does. i can’t wait to take them out and read them again… (if BC will let me.)

utterly me, clarice bean

clarice bean spells trouble

clarice bean, guess who’s babysitting?

junie b jones by barbara park

junie b jones by barbara park

pity poor junie b. jones.

the scrappy heroine of many, many books about her hapless adventures in kindergarten and first grade, she has been reviled by plenty of elementary school teachers, who ban her from classrooms because she commits a sin so heinous, she might cripple your child:

she speaks like an honest-to-G-d kid.

some teachers and parents fear that if your kid reads junie b., her english and her grammar will be ruined for years to come. (i know mine has.)

honestly, though, as a writer, i adore junie b.’s voice. park has captured the diction and attitude of a girl-of-a-certain-age to perfection. and as a parent, i adore the fact that her stories are soooo funny, soooo engaging, that BC actually wanted to read. we’ve listened to a bunch of these on tape during car trips, and i’m here to tell you that even BS got wrapped up in the plots. i never, ever understand why people are so frightened by a book. yes, books are very, very powerful instruments. banishing them does no one any good.

in spite of 1st grade teachers discouraging their students from reading from this series, don’t worry about barbara park. i’m sure she’s crying all the way to the bank.

i’m still waiting for junie b to end up as a float in the macy’s t-day parade.

Junie B. Jones’s First Boxed Set Ever! (Books 1-4)

Junie B. Jones’s Second Boxed Set Ever! (Junie B. Jones)

Junie B. Jones’s Third Boxed Set Ever! (Books 9-12)

Junie B. Jones’ Fourth Boxed Set Ever! (Junie B. Jones)

the best/worst christmas pageant ever

the best/worst christmas pageant ever

i know, i know. what’s a nice jewish girl like me reading a book like this to her kids?

barbara robinson penned this classic way back in 1972. since then, she has written two more in the series about the six awful Herdman children and how they disrupt life among not just the kids but the entire small-town Ohio community. the Herdmans steal. the Herdmans threaten. the Herdmans are terrible to their insane cat. the Herdmans, left to their own devices by an absentee mother (who chooses to work two shifts at her job, and most of the parents cannot blame her), manage to set fire to things, shut down events, and even paint poor little Howard’s head.

it sounds tragic. but it’s a hoot!

robinson has a dry wit that permeates every bit of this book. you have the bored children, who could care less about the pageant. you have the narrator’s beleagured mother, who gets roped into heading up the pageant this year after the Queen Bee Mother Who Runs Everything (and you moms out there know exactly the type i’m talking about) gets hospitalized. and, of course, you have the Herdmans — six over-the-top children who have never stepped foot inside a church and who, through the oddest of circumstances, end up playing all the lead roles.

if you are looking for a book that de-commercializes christmas in a humorous, lighthearted, but incredibly meaningful way, this is it. this is the literary accompaniment to linus van pelt’s speech in A Charlie Brown Christmas. i’m not even christian, but i can appreciate that. and this is all delivered in a non-preachy, frankly hysterical way that appeals to adults and kids alike.

(BC is still running around the house, proclaiming: HEY! Unto YOU a child is BORN! read the book, and you’ll find out why.)

hey ms. robinson — there are a lot more school holidays. PLEASE write more about the Herdmans!!!!!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best School Year Ever

The Best Halloween Ever

happy birthday to you by dr. seuss

happy birthday to you by dr. seuss

::amazing guitar intro:: you say it’s your birthday?

it’s BS’S Birthday too, yeah!

and while it’s not strictly a tween girl book by any stretch, i thought i’d write today about one of my favorite (and jools’ favorite) seuss books, Happy Birthday To You! i think this one gets overlooked a bit — i mean, it’s hard to compete with the classics, and lord knows ted wrote his fair share of amazingly enduring reads.

in short, this book reminds you that you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and, gosh darn it, people LIKE you! because, as ted wisely writes:

If you’d never been born, well what would you do? If you’d never been born, well what would you be? Why, you might be a WASN’T.

i love this book because it works for kids, it works for grownups, it works for kids who think they’re grownups, and anyone else i’ve forgotten. basically, you are somebody worth knowing and celebrating — just because you’re you!

So, BS:

…that’s What the Birthday Bird Does in Katroo.

And I wish I could do All these great things for you!

Happy Birthday to You!

kit, an american girl by valerie tripp

kit, an american girl by valerie tripp

there are certain things that are predictable when a young lady turns a corner into the tween world. one, that she’ll probably start to love horses. two, that she’ll start asking for sleepovers. and three, that she’ll fall in love with the American Girl doll franchise (or some reasonable facsimile thereof.) i haven’t yet bought BC any AG stuff (i don’t feel like putting a second mortgage on the house to do so); and we have not yet made any treks to the big store in the Big Apple; but we do enjoy reading the American Girl books. and probably our favorite series thus far (we’re still not nearly anywhere near done) involved Kit, a girl from the Great Depression.

kit is a plucky girl picked out of one of those andy hardy musicals, only, there’s no musical involved here. she wants to be a newsgirl, and she starts out the series as a very proud, somewhat spoiled little chick. but don’t you fret — the Great Depression beats her ass down but good. (naw, i’m joking. sort of.) the chick never loses hope, even when the bank threatens to take her house back. i love the way that the american girl series’ get you talking about american history — sort of like sneaking veggies into your kids’ food and they don’t even know it.

last year, BC did a book report on the series. some of you faithful readers may remember my panic when i realized that girlfriend wanted to dress up like kit. but it all worked out, and i only wish i could get BC to dress in that 1930s garb again — she looked adorable. then again, i’m a sucker for the early ’30s — i still remember the time i made up a drinking game with friends to a marx brothers movie. any time they said something of that period, you had to drink. things like: “say!”

yep. loved the ’30s. pity that asshole hitler had to go and destroy it all. too bad he wasn’t sucked away in a dustbowl.

Kit an American Girl (6 Book Set)

matilda by roald dahl

matilda by roald dahl

we first met matilda when one of BC’s best friends gave out books in birthday goody bags instead of plastic crap. (yay, mira!!) we were further encouraged when BC’s second grade english teacher, a roald dahl fanatic and all-around amazing teacher, read the BFG and the twits to the class with great animation and admiration for the works. at this time, we’ve read the book several times. we’ve even seen the movie twice, though admittedly, the book is much, much better.

read this book.

the story, about a genius girl who faces some of the worst adults ever (including her parents and her principal), is a wonderful fantasy about how adults are not infallible — and how love can prevail. you have to laugh at the names in the book (Bogtrotter?); and you will be surprised when matilda’s parents scold her for doing something so terribly naughty as reading books instead of watching crap TV.

if words like telekinetic scare the bejeebers out of you, fear not: this is not any sort of carrie meets the horsey set. but you will laugh. i promise. and you will cheer on matilda and miss honey with abandon as the story goes on.

i think the very britishness of it is what is lost in the movie, now that i think of it. and that’s simply wrong. it’s not that danny devito or rhea perlman do a bad job; they don’t. but this is a british story within a british school and caste system. without that, it misses a bit. after all, this is the story that got BC singing: we don’t need no education. we don’t need no thought control. [note to self: don’t let her go into school singing that.]

so read the book — don’t see the movie first — or else i’ll bend a spoon, or move a desk with my mind. or something like that. cos if matilda can do it…


otherwise known as sheila the great by judy blume

otherwise known as sheila the great by judy blume

caveat here: i heartheartheartHEART judy blume. i was a judy blume reading fiend as a young girl. i mean completely, absolutely, unalterably.

and before i go any further, i must say one thing here with clarity and feeling: thank you mom. thank you SO MUCH for not being one of those idiot parents who wouldn’t let her kids read judy blume. you know, those parents who are afraid of their kids reading books that talk about s-e-x? sassy kids who act like themselves in a book? you never thought i would turn into some sort of insane degenerate just because i was reading these and other books. you just were damn glad i was interested in reading. i mean, who knows: if i wasn’t reading about sex, i might be out there having it, instead!

(just kidding about that last one, mom.)

anyway, judy blume’s children/young adult books sort of break down into three different spheres for me. there’s the young kid sphere, with books like freckle juice. there’s the mature sphere, with books like forever (and yes, i was one of the girls who knew every page where the naughty bits were) and are you there G-d? it’s me, margaret. and then, there’s the middle of the road. the fudge chronicles, i think of them. kids are sassy, but they’re still at the point where they don’t like the opposite sex. well, not much, anyway. and while i love fudge and its subsequent sequels, i’ve always held a special place in my tiny heart for sheila the great. for any girl who ever felt afraid and hid it behind a false bravado (not that i have ever known anyone to be like that… ::whistling::), sheila is a beacon. she’s fearful of a lot of things. and, in time, she learns to welcome, and even embrace, some of them.

while the situations in the book bear little resemblance to my life, i must say that sheila is like a little alter ego for me. i love her. and plenty of tweens will, too.

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great

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