Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's Wrong With My Hair? By Satoshi Kitamura

The Politics of Hair - the subject of many books: children's books, beauty books, adult books, empowerment books, blogs, reality shows, and magazines.  We spend BILLIONS of dollars a year at the salon.  Hair-care products account for our largest non-food expenditures at the grocery store.

And yet, our hair is the single most uncontrollable part of ourselves.  We are born with it, it changes color, texture, length, and style throughout our lives, and we are obsessed with controlling it.  Strangers comment on it.  We poke and prod our children to mold them into some vision of what we want them to be.

I hate it.

So I am often wary of children's literature that addresses hair as a subject.  Do we project our obsession onto our children too early?  These are things I  worry about.

But I have been thinking about themes for this blog, and the other day I happened across this book: What's Wrong With My Hair by Satoshi Kitamura.  Its main character is a Lion, so I was thinking of a Lion Theme.  Instead, I found a lovely adventure, sweet illustrations and a surprise ending!  How fun!

Let me go ahead and ruin the surprise by telling you what it says on the front cover.  There is a little circle that reads "Buy the Hole, get the Whole Book for Free!"

Confused?  Let's use a pictorial explanation - a break from this wordy post - 

What a fun book.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Books to discuss feelings

I'm in a bad mood today.  I'm not feeling great.  My family visit just ended.  And I feel like the catch-up game of motherhood is a bit relentless right now.

So while you talk among yourselves, here are some books to read to your children that help get a handle on these precarious whims we call feelings.

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton
 Duck and Goose, How Are You Feeling?  By Tad Hills
 Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Refresh your Night Routine - Bedtime Books

There are four bedtime books that never leave our bookshelves:
Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Bedtime Kiss for Little Fish by Lorie Ann Grover
I'll See You in the Morning by Mike Jolley and
Lullabies by Usborne Books

The reason they never leave the shelves is because we both have them committed to memory.  Each night we turn off the lights and recite them, culminating in singing the lullabies.  It is a soothing routine and sometimes she is asleep before the end of the second book.  On the rare times when she is not asleep by the last lullaby, I know something is amiss.

Some days you need a routine before your routine.  Or a backup routine.  So I always look for some good books to fill in those needs.

My new favorite is Yawn by Sally Symes.
 I love that a children's book attacks the subject of extreme contagions, like yawns.  It starts with a baby, running uncontrolled through a cast of very cute animal friends, and SPOILER ALERT ends with all of them snuggling  fast asleep in bed.  It can change a bouncy, high-on-speed-seeming toddler into a yawning, cuddly squish-fest.

For older children, I really like When I Woke Up I Was A Hippopotamus by Tom MacRae
An active child has an active day, pissing just about everyone off in the process.  But he is reasonable, makes amends, and learns from his mistake.  This book would be an awesome tool for diffusing an active and imaginative child close to bed.  My girl loves it.

When all else fails, we sing a song that I used to sing when she was a very small infant.  It basically is "Sleep Baby" over and over again.  Someday, when that fails, I'll be buying a copy of Go the F@k to Sleep!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Variations on a Theme: Elephants

Recently themes keep emerging in my mind - books about animals, books about school, books about emotions, books about transportation.  So I thought perhaps I should do some posts about these themes as they emerge.

So let's begin with our sweet, not-so-little, pachyderm friend, the elephant.

Whenever you are talking about animals, I immediately think of the wonderful Let's Go to the Zoo series from the Smithsonian.  They have one called Elephant and Mommy, in which the elephants romp about, eat, get clean, and other lovely everyday elephant activities.  It's cute, it's photographic which I like for babies who seem to sometimes get confused by illustration styles, and they are very simple.
But recently our local library did a special section featuring elephants.  We have now read so many cute books for toddler/preschool aged children about elephants!

My daughter and husband after only a few days with a particular elephant book have started a daily call-and-response about a small elephant named Kai-Mook.
It's got nice onomatopoeia, a sweet story, and I think is meant to be a gift book, but it is quite fun.  There is one very odd illustration where the monkey in the story has grabbed the baby elephant's bottom.  I probably read the book 5 times before I noticed it, but now I keep thinking "uhhhhhh, what the ????"

Another sweet story about a small elephant is Kidogo.  Kidogo means little or "a little bit" in Swahili.  In the story the elephant goes on a quest to find an animal smaller than he is.  It has a nice empowering theme, it has a very sweet ending, and for every way that Kai Mook seems a bit bratty, Kidogo seems sweet!
Of course there are other wonderful books about elephants too... the Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hears a Who, the Elephant and Piggie series by my pal Mo Willems, and for you adults... Water for Elephants wasn't too bad either (although I wasn't a fan of the ending).

Go forth, swing your trunk, trumpet your voice, and enjoy some books with your wee one about these not-so-wee friends.

Stay tuned for more themes!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Author Alert: Leslie Patricelli

The time has come.  The time when I must try push aside embarrassment and begin to discuss bodily functions with my child.  Potty training is looming.  Positive signs are being seen.  Interest is being shown.  Resistance to the ways of babies everywhere are being resisted.

What is a mom like me to do?  Find a book!

This book is perfect!  It's simple.  It covers the process.  It has positive emotions and fun pictures.  And my daughter LOVES it.

Thank you Leslie Patricelli.

But I have loved Leslie Patricelli's books for awhile.  I have been reading my daughter the Birthday Box for almost a year - we started long before she had any concept of what a present was, what a birthday was, or even what a box was!  Because it's a lovely book.
Also recently, while on our Leslie Patricelli book, I picked up the bilingual version of her book Higher, Higher.  I was shocked how quickly my daughter picked up the Spanish (a language we have not previously introduced).  Now she asks for it by saying "Mommy, do you want to read Higher, Higher, Mas Alto, Mas Alto?"  And occasionally when we are celebrating she puts her hand up to high five me and says "Amigos!"

Very cute.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Kenya Christmas

Let's compare and contrast: A Kenya Christmas by Tony Johnston and my very own Christmas in Kenya.

In the book, an eccentric aunt arrives in the village with her two pet cheetahs, gives elaborate gifts, and just happens to have a Santa suit with her.

During my Kenyan Christmas, no gifts were exchanged, the only exotic animals we saw were some monkeys along the side of the road, but eccentric aunts were plentiful, tipsy, and animated.

In Mr. Johnston's book, a fat man with a red suit magically appears and delights the family and the villagers.

On Christmas Day in Kenya, we went to a wonderful park, ate some freshly barbecued goat, sang songs, played games, and spent a delightful day with our family.

I think I win.

But if you cannot accommodate thousands of dollars in airfare, vaccinations, and weeks of leave, then A Kenya Christmas is a fun book, with good vocabulary words in Kiswahili, and although clearly a work of fiction, it will surely provide your child with some whimsy and some wonder about how Santa might operate in other lands.