Month: April 2015

M, N, O, P is for lots of books!

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I took a short trip to Catalina to celebrate my birthday and spent yesterday at the wonderful Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, so today I’m playing catch up with the A to Z blogging challenge. Much like how you smash these letters together when singing the alphabet song, I’m cramming four rhyming picture book titles into a single post. Ready for my M-N-O-P installment?

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For M, I read Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! By Dr. Seuss. I’m always delighted to find a Seuss book I haven’t yet met, and this was another one. Though we don’t know why, the narrator makes it very clear that Marvin K. Mooney has worn out his welcome, and he is encouraged to walk, ski, ride, fly, or GO AWAY by any means possible. As always, there’s no limit to Dr. Seuss’s imagination, as Marvin’s suggested vehicles for departure are zany (“you can go by camel in a bureau drawer”) and often pulled from thin air. Who wouldn’t want to make their getaway by “Zumble-Zay”?

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For N, I read the Clement C. Moore’s classic The Night Before Christmas, with enchanting and kaleidoscopically colorful illustrations by Bill Bell. Christmas imagery bursts from every page, and I love the vibrant clutter. Another nice touch is the menagerie of house pets there to witness that famous visit from old Saint Nick. This one made me long for candy canes and gingerbread.

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For O, I read One is a Drummer by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Grace Lin. This book depicts multicultural experiences (Chinese and American) to illustrate numbers from 1 to 10. Chinese traditions (dragon boat races, New Year greetings, Dim Sum, mahjong, and meaningful symbols) are interspersed with other childhood activities (playing with puppies, climbing trees, merry-go-rounds, birthday parties, back yard summer games, etc) to teach counting.

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And finally, P is for The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen. The musical, playful rhyming text and gang of helpful marine life stand in stark contrast to the very dour pout-pout fish who thinks he’s powerless to change his glum nature.

“I’m a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face, so I spread the dreary-wearies all over the place.”

Unwilling to try and turn his frown upside down, it takes a fresh face to give the pout-pout fish a new perspective.

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L is for Llama Llama Red Pajama

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The only trouble with reading a bedtime rhyming story is that it works. I am sleepy! But I’ll type out what I can before my lids clamp shut.

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There are a LOT of go-to-sleep picture books out there. While Llama Llama doesn’t break the mold, it asserts its uniqueness by giving us a tale of llama drama when Baby’s busy mama can’t get upstairs fast enough.  I’m sure many parents can relate to the hyperbole and appreciate the reassuring conclusion.

And on that note, goodnight everybody!

K is for Kittens (Three Little)

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We’re going way back in history for today’s children’s rhyme. According to Wikipedia, “Three Little Kittens” first appeared in a collection of poems written by Eliza Lee Cabot Follen called Little Songs for Little Boys and Girls in 1833. It was later absorbed into the Mother Goose collection.

Notably, Follen’s poem is “considered a cornerstone in the shift from moral literature for children to romantic literature intended to amuse and entertain.” Follen achieved this by emphasizing “fantasy involving anthropomorphic characters, verbal play, and satirical nonsense.”

There have been many, but the picture book version of “Three Little Kittens” that I grew up with was richly illustrated by Lillian Obligado.

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Mmmm, pie!

I love how expressive Obligado’s kittens are each time they deliver a report (good or bad) to their mother on the state of their mittens. There’s even an implied spanking. :-O

Where did you first encounter the “Three Little Kittens”?

J is for The Juggling Pug

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Sean Bryan’s book has so many of my favorite things.

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First, I’m a sucker for picture books that center on the humorous aspects of pets. Then, there’s an absurd plot that generates great rhyming opportunities. It’s a story about a pug who wanted a hug so he learned how to juggle and became the town darling. But not everyone is thrilled about the pug’s other habits – like mug smashing, rug soiling, and soda chugging.

Pug promises to stop being “such a lug,” but does he mean it, or did this clever dog just demonstrate a new trick?

I is for I’m a T. Rex!

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You can’t walk two feet in the children’s section of a book store before spotting not one, but several picture books about that fearsome carnivore with the itty bitty arms: Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I found one where he roars and romps and growls and stomps, flaunting his special brand of dino stuff in Dennis R. Shealy’s rhyming picture book, I’m a T. Rex!

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I like that this take on the most famous “king of the Cretaceous” (good gracious!) is both unapologetic (“I sometimes bully, but I like to fill my stomach fully”) and informative. Readers learn that this legendary lizard was hatched from an egg, hunted and ate his fellow dinosaurs, and was thought to spar with the Triceratops and others tricky-named giants. Try reading “Carcharodontosaurus” aloud to your kids, parents.

These facts are a nice bonus, but the focus remains that T. Rex bad boy charm—making this one a winner in my book.

H is for Happy Halloween, Curious George

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It’s been a long day, so this will have to be a short A to Z post, however how lucky am I to have found not one, but TWO rhyming Halloween picture books? And Curious George is one of my childhood favs.

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The key ingredients of Halloween are arranged and described in a kaleidoscope of rhyming fun. Children-centric preparations start in the pumpkin patch and move on to decorations, costume selection, timing your “boos!”, and throwing a festive jamboree.

But the biggest treat, in my opinion, is George’s unique way of handing out candy to visitors—dangling from a chandelier, natch.

G is for Green is a Chili Pepper

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This book is gorgeous and is easily my favorite pick for the week. Pick it up, and you won’t want to leave the rich, thriving, and intricate world of its pages.

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In Roseanne Greenfield Thong’s Green is a Chile Pepper, colors aren’t adjectives. Objects are colors.

“Red is a ristra. Red is a spice. Red is our salsa on top of rice.”

The Spanish terms sprinkled throughout are translated and explained in the glossary. Each featured color is also printed in both English and Spanish. This book showcases a culture that embraces colors that are as bold and varied as their traditions and celebrations.

A strong sense of identity, pride, and community is evident in illustrations brimming with group activities and festivals, and with the subtle use of “we” and “our” throughout the text. The reader is invited to take part in experiences involving the cultivation and making of exotic foods, pastries, fanciful costumes, holiday celebrations, decorations, and crafts.

The home life spills out and blends with the outdoors where food is grown, games are played, and animals, earth, and sky are as vital and essential as hearth and home.

“The world is a rainbow of wonder and fun: Ribbons of colors rolled into one.”

F is for Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance

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I have a soft spot for Halloween (*cough* profile picture *cough*), and all things Halloween-related. Especially picture books that depict spooky things that go bump in the night. My recent discovery, Keith Graves’ Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance, fits nicely into that category.

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Frank is a decrepit monster who’s determined to dance! Donning his fanciest duds, and dumping a jar of ants down his pants (for good measure), Frank hightails it to the theater and jumps on stage to make his dancing debut.

To rave reviews! That is, until Frank literally starts coming apart at the seams. But who needs an arm, or an eyeball, or a brain when you’re having a good time?

E is for Eight Winter Nights

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While it’s a bit late for the holidays, today I read Laura Krauss Melmed’s cozy Hanukkah rhyming picture book, Eight Winter Nights.

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The story moves through the events characterizing each night of Hanukkah, emphasizing family togetherness and participation in symbolic traditions that include games, gifts, food, and charity. Melmed even playfully integrates Hanukkah songs into her verse.

Illustrator Ilisabeth Schlossberg bathes each evening scene in the muted glow of the menorah.

The story defers explanations and instead lets the reader bear witness to the activities as they unfold. Those (like myself) who are curious can explore the afterward in which a history of the holiday and meaning behind the traditions are explained.

This is an inviting read for Hanukkah observers as well as those curious about holiday customs they might not have grown up with.

D is for Dots (Lots of)

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Okay, I’m cheating on the title a little, but am working with what I could find on short notice. The author named his children Daniel and Drew, so I think I get extra credit for extending the theme to the dedication page.

However, if you happen to know rhyming picture books that do, in fact, begin with the letter D, please shout them out!

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Now we move from spots to dots in Craig Frazier’s Lots of Dots.  I love this book’s bright and simple graphics. It’s a fun introduction to shape recognition, and circles reign supreme.

I’d run out of ideas on good examples of circles in the wild, but Frazier finds them in surprising places. Drums, balloons, traffic lights, food, stars, and more are never called out by name but reduced to what they have in common (they’re all dots!) and compared to one another.

“Some dots are heavy, some dots are light, some dots are colorful, and some dots are bright.”

It would be easy to imagine snuggling with a little one and inviting him or her to identify all of the different “dots” depicted in this attractive primer.