Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Three Books for the Transportation Loving Toddler (Spotlight on Anastasia Suen)

You know when you discover a new word, place, issue, and then suddenly seem to hear about it everywhere?  You wonder if your brain had just been skipping over the references before or if the whole world is just on your wavelength.  For me, that "new" word this week is author Anastasia Suen. 

Many months ago, I subscribed to her blog, but when it changed addresses at some point, I neglected to resubscribe.  When I was recently combing through the blogs in my reader, I rediscovered her blog, 5 Great Books, and I even blogged about it in my BBAW Kick-Off post.  Then a week later, I went to the library.  The Infant Bibliophile requested books about cars this week (surprise, surprise), and having exhausted the list of those I know by heart, I hit the online catalog.  I can across Red Light, Green Light (see review below).  And when I pulled that off the shelf, I grabbed another two with it.  Ah, "authored by Anastasia Suen.  How do I know that name?"  Then today, I read apost on Jen Robinson's Book Page that mentioned that Ms. Suen was the founder of Nonfiction Monday (something I had known and forgotten), and that A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy just posted an open thank-you letter to the author.  So, hop.  Here I go on the bandwagon.

Anastasia Suen has authored 115 books.  Here are the three we read this week.

Red Light, Green Light (Hardcover), by Anastasia Suen. If you're not paying close attention when this book begins, you might wonder why there are zoo animals in the intersection or (as my husband asked the first time he read it aloud) pencils in the road. But, all will become clear as you reach the conclusion of this sweet picture book. The brief text, which is perfect for toddlers just beginning to read picture books, narrates the action as a boy creates lively city scenes with plenty of fodder for transportation-loving toddlers. The idea of the boy creating the scene reminded me of the clever conclusion to Construction Countdown (quite a different book, which we own and love).


"Red light, stop. Green light, go. / Cars and trucks drive to and fro."

Bookworm's interest at 22 months: Of the three we read this week, I think this one captured his interest the most. The style of the colorful illustrations (by Ken Wilson-Max) seems suited for his young age. I think he enjoys it enough to consider purchasing our own copy, which I don't do very often these days.

Window Music (Hardcover), by Anastasia Suen. My husband and I at one time lived in different states, connected by a rail line. We spent A LOT of time on the train that year, and with all of its quirks, I'm a huge fan of this mode of transportation. "Window Music" is a lovely tribute to locomotive transport. The text is simple and sweet, following a young girl and her family from departure to destination, focusing in particular on all she sees out the window. I just peeked at the listing for the book, and I'm going to borrow this description of Wade Zahares' illustrations, as summarized by the Publishers Weekly review: "In his first picture book, Zahares uses thickly applied paint and strong, geometric forms to create scenery that looks almost sculpted. A wave resembles a curl of plaster; a grape arbor is a tangle of thick wiry tendrils and bulging fruit; the train winds through the very peaks of conical snow-dripped mountains. The trip begins and ends in a docile, realistic station, but in between, the journey takes some surreal turns. This magical excursion is music with several movements, returning readers to a familiar theme in the final stanzas." Yes, what they said. I think my favorite part of the book is the conclusion, as night has fallen and the train pulls into the darkened station. I can just feel myself reaching for my suitcase, wrapping my coat around me a little tighter, and stepping onto the platform.


"train on the track clickety clack / behind the sign, cars in line/ street after street under our feet"

Bookworm's interest at 22 months: Once we got beyond just shouting "choo choo!" gleefully 14 times, he enjoyed this. I'm not 100% certain he's connecting the text to the illustrations (getting that the text is describing the train ride), so I'm going to work on that the next time we read it. The illustration style, which really is beautiful, doesn't necessarily lend itself to identifying items on every page (a favorite game of our son's and my trick for engaging him in a book), so he kind of breezes past the middle pages quickly.

Parent's Peeve: The book doesn't appear to be in print any longer, which is a shame, but if you like the sound of it or enjoy a copy from the library, there are plenty of used copies to be had on

Delivery (Hardcover), by Anastasia Suen. Like Window Music, Delivery is also illustrated by Wade Zahares. The book begins with early morning (gassing up of a delivery van) and ends at nightfall. In between, we see bicycles, airplanes, logging trucks, cement mixers, trains, and even oil pipes, all doing their part to complete deliveries.


"Boxes and cans come in trucks and vans / Unwrap it all for shelves on the wall"

Bookworm's interest at 22 months: Although the illustration style is the same as Window Music, there is more detail to the illustrations here, and every page contains a number of items (house, helicopter, tree, etc.) that pique his interest.

Parent's Peeve: Again, out of print, but plenty of used copies around.

If you're interested in other children's books about transportation, click on the highlighted words for our earlier reviews.

Do you have any favorite titles by this author?  Please comment and share them with us.


Anastasia Suen said...

I'm so glad you liked the books - and the blogs! Before they went out of print I bought several boxes of Window Music and Delivery, so I have copies here at home. (I've signed and mailed these 2 books for toddlers all over the globe!)

Infant Bibliophile said...

Thank you for commenting! We plan to work our way through more of your titles soon. I like how the books contain just the right level of text for an active toddler. And Red Light, Green Light might go on our birthday/Christmas list for the little guy.

ReadingTub said...

I loved Dos Anos / Toddler Two. That may be fun for the Infant Bibliophile since he is, well, almost two!

Infant Bibliophile said...

Ooh, thanks for the suggestion, because we also (ok, I also) love books with Spanish in them. And our library has it. Onto my request list it goes!

vanessa said...

Thanks for suggesting Red Light, Green Light! It sounds like the perfect book for Juliet in her current traffic light obsession stage. :) I"m going to look for it this week. I have not heard of Anastasia Suen yet, so I look forward to reading her works!