Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gluten-free baking and some book reviews

Instead of crafts over the past couple of weeks, we've been doing some experimental gluten-free baking. For those who don't know, the bookworm can't eat wheat, nuts, egg, or dairy at the moment (along with apple, sesame, and chick pea). Because he's still nursing, I can't eat those things either. Before becoming a mom, I lived on carbs. Cookies, cinnamon rolls, pasta, pasta, more pasta, flaky pastry twists, cereal, etc. So this diet has taken some getting used to. Anyway, I'll save you all from that saga, but I did want to share a couple of baking successes we had this week, because they relate to our book reviews.

We discovered a way to make pancakes last week, and they're good...really, really good.* (*Caveat: I haven't eaten pancakes in a year. It doesn't take much for me to think a pancake is "really, really good," so I make no promises about the impression on your palate). We ate them every day. For a week. I just kept making a fresh batch for an afternoon snack. The bookworm helped to stir, and to dump the contents of measuring cups and spoons into the mixing bowl. But mostly he took the roll of taskmaster/drill sergeant, pointing at the spatula and the pan to tell me when to flip. And of course, taste-testing each pancake. Sometimes I used rice milk, sometimes soy milk, sometimes added in peach baby food, sometimes blueberries, once I messed up and used a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon thus using all of the wrong measurements...and every single batch has been like a little piece of heaven. Before limiting my diet, I might have laughed at "recipes" that include mixes, but now I know different.

Recipe: Gluten-free, Egg-free, Dairy-free, Nut-free (optionally blueberry) pancakes!

Ingredients:
1 cup of Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free Pancake & Baking Mix
EnerG egg replacer (1 1/2 teaspoons of replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons of warm water)
1 tablespoon of canola oil (& a little in the frying pan if it isn't nonstick)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup of vanilla rice or soy milk, depending on how thick you like your batter
shake of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Instructions:
Preheat pan on medium heat. Mix all ingredients (add the replacer last, after mixing the replacer and warm water in a separate bowl). Drop spoonfuls of batter into frying pan. Cook one side until surface starts to bubble (or, like me, just check the underside frequently to see if it has started to brown), flip and repeat until a golden brown. The recipe doesn't make all that many -- about 7 small pancakes. It's enough for my toddler and I, but you probably want to double it if feeding any more than 1 or 2 people. Apologies for the lack of a photo. We just kept eating them too quickly.

Optional:
1/4 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries, or
1/2 container peach baby food (note: this much really doesn't alter the taste at all, so use more if you want a peachy pancake and this much if you just want to hide some healthiness in there).
We've even started adding Whole Foods bacon bits to them for a little protein boost.

Related Book Reviews

If You Give a Pig a Pancake (Hardcover), by Laura Numeroff. This delightful book follows the pattern of best-sellers "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" and "If You Give a Moose a Muffin." In a journey that may seem familiar to all parents, an accommodating little girl finds herself racing around the house after a pig to satisfy his whims.

Excerpt:

"If you give a pig a pancake,/she'll want some syrup to go with it."

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: Unfortunately I haven't been able to get him to sit still for it yet, but the recommended age is 3-7, so we have some time. The illustrations are nicely detailed, so I think we'll be able to hook him in by pointing out objects to identify.



Yesterday we added the blueberries to our pancakes, which reminded me of this book.

Jamberry (Board book), by Bruce Degen. We discovered this board book at the doctor's office, and I (mom) thought the silly berry-centric rhyming was fun. Our little bookworm hasn't matched my enthusiasm for it yet, unfortunately.

Excerpt:

"Raspberry/Jazzberry/Razzamatazzberry/Berryband/Merryband/Jamming in Berryland."

Bookworm's interest at 12 months: Pointing out the blueberries now and then.

Want to read about more book inspired projects? Visit Teachingtinytots for a weekly reading theme challenge (this week was If You Give a Pig a Pancake) and Just For Fun for links to other book-inspired projects.

One more recipe

While I'm on the subject of baking, here is my favorite cookie recipe that conforms to our dietary requirements. It was modified from the recipe on the mix package to be dairy- and egg-free. (Photo at the top of this post).

Recipe: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Nut-free Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:
1 box of Gluten Free Pantry Old Fashioned Cookie and Cake Mix
7 tablespoons spectrum shortening
4 tablespoons of vanilla rice or soy milk
EnerG egg replacer: 3 teaspoons of replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons of warm water
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (make sure it is gluten free if this is a concern)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (in mix)
(separate bowl: 3 tablespoons of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon for rolling the cookies in).

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Grease cookie sheet with spectrum shortening or just line with foil.
Mix all ingredients (mix the egg replacer and water separately to make sure the replacer is dissolved completely before adding to the rest of the mix; let this be the last thing you add to the mix before baking). Form dough into balls; roll the balls in the cinnamon/sugar mix. Place on greased tray. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes approximately 16 cookies (more according to box, so I must make them big).

Enjoy!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Give away

Just a quick post to let you know about a fun picture book give away hosted by Amanda of Patchwork Books; check it out here!

Weekly Unplugged Project (Clothes)

I really wanted to start participating in the Weekly Unplugged projects at Unplug Your Kids. When I read that this week's theme was "clothes," I started daydreaming about this pile of cut up denim scraps I've set aside to make a picnic blanket out of worn blue jeans. It would make a perfect little quilt for the bookworm's blue patchwork teddy bear. I also pondered making sock puppet dogs, with brown fabric ears cut from my quilting fabric and cute button eyes. But the week kept passing on by. So yesterday, I pulled out my denim scraps and looked at them, and at my 15-month old son, and thought about what he'd really enjoy.

First, we took a couple of the denim pockets I had cut off of old jeans, and I filled them with mahjong tiles. Like most toddlers, he loves packing and unpacking things, and he's just starting to get fascinated with the concept of counting, so we spent a nice long while passing the tiles from one pocket to another, counting them as we went. And my scraps stayed in tact for that picnic quilt someday.

Later in the day, he headed over to his dresser of clothes and looked cautiously at me. He LOVES unpacking his drawers, and we usually prohibit it. But, I thought, why not? After all, it's fitting to the Weekly Unplugged theme. We must have spent an hour pulling clothes out, piling them on the bed, pointing to images on the clothes, balling them up and throwing them back in the drawers with amusing sound effects, piling them on mom's head, counting them.... he was in heaven. Next week we'll try to be more crafty.

(I do have an idea I'm going to make FOR him rather than with him. I took a shoe box, cut holes in the lid that fit the shapes in this Melissa and Doug 100 Piece Wood Blocks Set we have, and let him use it as a shape sorter. He likes it a lot, but the old Nike box isn't doing much for our decor, so I might use some of the old denim fabric to cover the box and cut the shape holes through that.)

Looking for a clothes-related kids book? See my recent review of "Blue Hat, Green Hat" here.

Next week's Weekly Unplugged theme is "bottles, and I have an idea...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Watermelon Award (Moo Baa La La La!)

I nearly forgot that today is Wednesday, which means we're due to post one of our little man's favorite reads. Looking through the books we've read but not yet reviewed on the blog (I try to pick a book we haven't yet reviewed to highlight for an "award," but not always), one book stood out. So, here it is:

Moo, Baa, La La La! (Board book), by Sandra Boynton. This is one of our favorite Sandra Boynton books, and one of the bookworm's favorite books overall. When we start reading it, we're always in for at least 3 or 4 read-throughs. The rhyming text is fun and clever, focusing on animals and their noises.

Excerpt:

"A sheep says Baa./Three singing pigs say LA LA LA!/'No, No!' you say, that isn't right./The pigs say OINK all day and night."

Bookworm's interest at under 12 months (and still now at 15 months): All.


Here's another Boynton book we read this week and haven't yet reviewed:

A to Z (Board book), by Sandra Boynton. This board book by Sandra Boynton features an animal/verb combo for every letter. The illustrations reflect Boynton's usual style. They're bright and clear and easily distinguishable (which is nice for alphabet and word books). The animal/verb combos are mildly silly, although they lack the rhyming, sing-song text of many of Boynton's books. This is an all around nice alphabet book.

Excerpt:

"Turkey tripping / Uglybirds being ugly / Vicuña Violinning / Weasel Whistling"

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: Unfortunately the first few reads weren't well received, but I'm going to chalk it up to timing for now and keep trying.

Parent's Peeve: Not a peeve, but an admission. I had to look up "vicuña." Ah, good old Wikipedia ("The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) or vicugna is one of two wild South American camelids, along with the guanaco, which live in the high alpine areas of the Andes. It is a relative of the llama, and is now believed to be the wild ancestor of domesticated alpacas, which are raised for their fiber.")

I'm editing to add a third Boynton book we just read for the first time today:

Blue Hat, Green Hat (Board book), by Sandra Boynton. This wardrobe-focused Boynton book teaches colors through the use of four characters - an elephant, moose, bear, and rooster. Each page features a different piece of clothing being worn (in varying colors) by the other three, then incorrectly by the rooster ("Oops" reads the text by his picture when he, for instance, wears his pants on his head). The book feels short, but it is charming and appealed to our little man from the get go.

Excerpt:

"Red shirt, blue shirt, yellow shirt, oops"

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He liked this one right away, and even laughed at the correct time on every page (as I read the repetitive "oops").

Parent's Peeve: The last couple of pages seem a little out of sync with the rest of the book to me (the rooster dives into a pool for some reason), but I'm probably just nitpicking. I like this one overall.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reviews: In the Town All Year 'Round and Gossie & Friends: A First Flap Book

Sincerest thanks to Jennifer of the Jean Little Library for reviewing In the Town All Year 'Round last month. You can read her review here. She called it "STUPENDOUS. AMAZING. FANTASTIC. and also EXTRAORDINARY." It's hard to ignore a recommendation like that, so we checked it out ourselves today.

In the Town All Year 'Round (Hardcover), by Rotraut Susanne Berner. I had high expectations of this book after reading a very positive review of it, and it did not disappoint. It is very Richard Scarry-esque, but without the picture labels (except on certain pages) and no pretend vehicles like pickle cars. Like Scarry's word books, these pages are chock full of fun images, and the illustrations are beautifully detailed. The people (many of whom appear to don subtle ethnic dress, unless it's my imagination) are engaged in normal (shopping, a parade) to slightly wacky (taking a bath in a tin tub outdoors) activities. We really enjoyed this one and will probably pick up a copy for our personal collection.

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: Not only did the bookworm happily read this in his stroller at the library (where he is always too overstimulated to sit through a book), but when we got home, he reached under the stroller to pull it out and start in on it again. A blue bus makes a repeat appearance on the first few pages, so that drew him in, but he also find many other favorite images, like balloons, cars, birds, and farm animals. There is so much going on on every page that I can tell his interest will be constant as he learns to recognize more of the objects.

Parent's Peeve: A man in the cafe is smoking! I may have to break out my whiteout. Or perhaps I could turn it into a book. It is a very small image and barely noticeable, but it is there.




And because I can never seem to catch up getting all of our reviews onto the blog, I'll add in a review of another library read we recently enjoyed:

Gossie & Friends: A First Flap Book (Board book), by Olivier Dunrea. This oversized flap book in the beloved Gossie & Friends series has a little bit of everything: flaps, opposites (up/down, over/under), colors, seasons, and counting. It doesn't delve very deeply into any of these topics, but introduces each one through the characters Gossie, Gertie, and BooBoo. I'm a fan of the "clean" illustration style of these books.

Excerpt:

"This is BooBoo. BooBoo is a small, blue gosling who likes to eat. What else is blue like BooBoo?"

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He likes the flaps, of course. I suspect he said "buh buh" when he saw the word "BooBoo," because he recognizes the B letter, but I need further confirmation of this fact. The whole book didn't keep his attention, but he was tired when we read it, so we'll try again. He usually likes the Gossie and Gertie books.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Board books about sleep/bedtime

In my neverending quest to find books which impress upon our son the appeal of sleeping, we read and reviewed a couple of books about bedtime recently. If you are looking for similar books, I reviewed a bunch of other books about sleep (including The Going To Bed Book, an Elmo lullaby book, Goodnight Boston, All Asleep, and Goodnight Gorilla) here. I also reviewed Goodnight Moon here.

How Do You Sleep? (Board Buddies) (Board book), by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud. I was happy to find this in the board book section of the library; I admit that its main appeal at the time was its newness, meaning that it lacked the chewed corners and unidentifiable food stains of most library board books. But aside from that, it is a very nice book in its own right. The illustrations of various animals sleeping are vivid and detailed, and the accompanying rhyme text is just the right amount for little animal lovers.

Excerpt:

"Little pig, little pig, beneath the sky, how do you sleep in your piggy sty? / I oink and I grunt, spread my hooves just right, then I dream dreamy dreams as my eyes shut tight."

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He keeps grabbing this and bringing it to us, perhaps motivated by a trip to the zoo this week. He enjoys the first half and then stops (but sometimes goes back to the beginning). I think he'll warm to the whole thing eventually.




Ten in the Bed (Board book), by Penny Dale. I thought this would be a funny book for our co-sleeping bookworm. The story follows the popular song of the same name, with a colorful cast of animal characters each in turn falling off the bed to an accompanying sound effect. I think it would be very well liked by any young fans of the song (and others as well).

Excerpt:

"There were nine in the bed and the little one said, 'Roll over, roll over!' So they all rolled over and Zebra fell out..."

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: For some reason, he closes the book partway through and shakes his head not to continue. It's a lovely book, so I can't imagine what he doesn't like. Do you think it may have something to do with my singing voice?!

Nonfiction Monday (books about baby signing)

I thought I'd jump into Nonfiction Monday posting by reviewing a few of our favorite books about baby signing.



(Nonfiction Monday is hosted by a different blog each week, and that blog collects links to all of the participating blogs which review a nonfiction book every Monday).


We've been signing with our little guy for awhile now. I love that it gives him a way to communicate before he's mastered the ability to speak much beyond "buh," "nananana," "mamama," and "dadada." At 15 months, the signs we use most often are "all done," "baby," "bird," "dog," "eat," "hat," "hot," and "water," and occasionally "more," "milk," "tree," "drink," and "butterfly." He also has a few homegrown signs like wiggling his fingers to tell us to put on his gloves. And he prefers to propel himself down to the nearest flat surface to demonstrate "sleep" rather than use the proper sign for it, but whatever works!

We just read this book this week, and it looks like it will be very useful in adding a few more signs to our list:

My First Signs (Board book), by Annie Kubler. This oversized board book is chock full of illustrations of babies demonstrating various signs. I like that the pages have enough going on to entertain the little reader while parents look at the signing instructions. The book teaches 43 signs. Each sign is accompanied by a baby demonstrating it, plus an instructional explanation (see excerpt). In addition, small text along the bottom of the pages offers general tips for signing, such as "Introduce only three or four signs to start with. The most successful seem to be milk, eat, more and bed." I think this would make a great introduction to baby signing or a nice addition to any book collection, since babies love pictures of babies.

Excerpt:

"dirty / Hand held palm down, under chin. Fingers wiggle."

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He makes the baby sign as soon as I open the book. I don't think he makes the connection that the babies are signing, so this is as much a book for me (to learn signs to teach him) as it is for him.

Parent's Peeve: There are always some differences in the signs from one book to another. I'm not sure if this is because some are using ASL signing and others a modified "baby" signing, but it would be nice if they were all consistent. We just go with whatever the little guy understands anyway, and what comes out when he learns a sign is sometimes quite different! As long as we understand him, we don't worry too much about technical perfection at this point.




We also read this book, which is a shorter, quicker read:

More Baby's First Signs (Board book), by Kim Votry. A library find, this was helpful to teach me a few more signs to teach him, as we've made our way through the 10 or so we already knew.

Excerpt:

Signs included are "ball," "flower," "hot," "sleep," "tree," "car," "water," "blanket,""cold," "rain," "baby," "airplane," "done," and "wind."

Bookworm's interest at 13 months: He already new and enjoyed the signs for ball, water, done, and baby. We started doing tree after reading this, and he uses that often outside now. I think I'll try car next, because he currently calls everything a bus ("buh!").




And this is the set that started us on learning how to teach signs in the first place:

Baby Signs Complete Starter Kit: Everything You Need to Get Started Signing With Your Baby (Hardcover), by Susan Goodwyn. We received this kit as a gift while pregnant and have loved it. It contains: 1) An 80-page Parent Guide to the Baby Signs® Program: An illustrated step-by-step signing guide for parents and caregivers, 2) a Parent DVD: A video introduction to the Baby Signs® Program 3) A Video Dictionary with real-life demonstrations of the 100 signs that are most useful to babies, 4) My Favorite Signs DVD: Video for babies that teaches signs through captivating animation, playful puppets and delightful signing babies, 5) A Signs at a Glance Flipper: 86 signs on a unique flip-card with magnetic backing for easy display on the fridge, 6) Baby Signs® Board Books: A set of 4" x 4" board books for little hands with colorful illustrations and a review page at the end of each book that encourages even more signing fun and interaction. Titles include: My Mealtime Signs My Bedtime Signs My Bath Time Signs My Pets Signs. There is a lot here, and we found it to be a great introduction to the idea of baby signing (and amazon has a nicely discounted price on it).

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: For the most part, we use this ourselves and then teach him. We only showed him the children's DVD that is included once. I think he'd enjoy it, but we are trying to hold off on TV/movie watching until age two. He'll flip through the books occasionally, but mostly he likes packing and unpacking the box it all comes in.

Parent's Peeve: The babies in the board books have odd names, like Songbird and Squiggles.




What do you think about the whole baby signing craze?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blog "award"

MaryAnne at Thrifty Craft Mama was kind enough to give us our first "award" this week.


The rules for the award:

Thank the person who gave the award to you, post the award on your blog or on a post, nominate 10 blogs which show great attitude/gratitude, link to the people you chose on your post, and comment on their blogs to tell them about the award! Whew. My favorite part of getting named was looking at the blogs of everyone else on this list.

I’m passing this award onto these blogs. Apologies if you have received it before or feel burdened by the obligation (10 is a lot!).:

Carole at Quilting Adventures (beautiful quilting)
What's for Lunch at Our House (fun bento box ideas)
HipWriterMama (musings about life, writing and children's books)
Maw Books (everything books!)
Mommy's Favorite Children's Books
(favorite books, media, toys and games)
Jean Little Library (wonderful book reviews from the librarian of the Jean Little Library)
Bees Knees Reads (passionate for picture books)
Books Lists Life (babies, books, AND quilting; she's got it all)
Selvage Blog (inspiration for the extreme scrap quilter)(I've now started a selvage collection!)
Teachingtinytots (great lesson plans and crafts, plus a weekly reading theme challenge)

Thank you, MaryAnne!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's raining (children's books about) cats and dogs

I suspect that as long as there have been and will be children's books, there will be children's books about cats and dogs. These are two of the signs our son knows, and he loves the chance to show them off whenever a dog or cat makes an appearance in a book. Here are reviews for a few of the books on our shelves that feature beloved canines and felines, and links to others we've previously reviewed.

Books About Cats

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes (Picture Puffin) (Paperback), by Eve Sutton. This charming little (non-board) book, a gift from New Zealand, is one that I think he'll grow into. As I write this review, I'm thinking that I'll try reading it to him again tomorrow, because he has been interested in cats lately. The story discusses the exciting goings-on of cats around the world, comparing them to the simple pleasure of the author's cat, who, as the title suggests, "likes to hide in boxes." A very cute story that seems particularly well suited to a boy with relatives spread around the world.

Excerpt:

"The cat from Spain/Flew an aeroplane./The cat from France/Liked to sing and dance./But MY cat likes to hide in boxes."

Bookworm's interest at 13 months: He enjoys the cats, but won't quite sit still for the whole book yet.




And how could we forget,

The Cat in the Hat (Hardcover), by Dr. Seuss. This was a fun one to read to him when the little guy was an infant, and he'd sit nicely through the whole thing. Now that he's a wriggly toddler, he won't tolerate it all, but I'm sure he'll love it again in a few months or years.

Bookworm's interest at 12 months: He likes the image of the cat in the hat.

Parent's Peeve: If I'm being nit picky, I'm not all that comfortable with the message that it's ok for two kids left alone to let a stranger into the house (even if he is the Cat in the Hat). But, we have to suspend reality for Dr. Seuss!




Previous cat book review: We recently reviewed the Pudgy Peek-a-boo book here.


Books About Dogs

Doggies (Boynton Board Books (Simon & Schuster)) (Board book), by Sandra Boynton. This cute board book, which is also a counting book, pleased mom and baby alike. The book counts dogs, and Boynton manages to come up with not only ten unique dogs, but also as many different barks. We got this one from the library, but I think it might deserve a spot in our collection. Funny that this one and Matthew van Fleet's "Dogs" both end with a cat.

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: At the moment, although he does enjoy the Doggies book too, he really gets excited to flip it over and make the sign for "hat" when he sees the preview cover for another of Boynton's books, "Blue Hat, Green Hat," which he haven't even read!




Go, Dog. Go! (Beginner Books) (Hardcover), by P.D. Eastman. I (mom) remember having this one as a child. He'll probably grow into it. The story could be better. It's loosely tied together by repeating scenes, like a lady dog repeatedly asking a male dog if he likes her hat, but the elements still seem a little random, particularly at the end.

Bookworm's interest at under 12 months: He liked it well enough, and often brings it to me now to show off the dog and first few pages.

Parent's Peeve: I keep wanting to stick an "e" on the end of "good-by."




Wag a Tail (Hardcover), by Lois Ehlert. A few years ago, we saw a cartoon in a photo shop that had a clerk saying to the customer something along the lines of "It looks like someone was trying to be creative." I couldn't help but remember that cartoon when I first read Wag a Tail. The illustrations are a unique scrapbookish style, with dogs with zig-zagged edges and button eyes. Fans of Lois Ehlert will recognize it as her work right away. The storyline is fairly plot-less, with dogs encountering each other on walks through a farmer's market and a park. The bibliophile wouldn't sit still to read Wag a Tail at first, but recently he's started to enjoy pointing out some of the button eyes in the book. Of course, at 14 months, he has plenty of time to grow into it.

Excerpt:

"Ha Woo/How are you?/We are cool./We never drool."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: The button eyes are the only thing he really takes notice of at this point.




Previous dog book reviews:
We reviewed a Clifford dog book here. And Matthew van Fleet's Dog book here. (There is a cat version too that we keep meaning to read). And Snuggle Puppy here. And a St. Patrick's day-themed book about a dog here.

Feel free to leave a comment to share your favorite dog/cat book recommendations.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review (Mah Jong All Day Long)

Board games play a big roll in our family. My husband and I met while playing a game, we used to host game night parties before 6:00 became bedtime, and we generally give the baby free access to a whole assortment of board games (minus the choking hazards). So the children's picture book below seemed like a natural addition to our book collection.

Mahjong All Day Long (Hardcover), by Ginnie Lo. I was delighted to pick up this book at a library book sale, and have been very pleased with the bookworm's reception of it, since he is obviously younger than the intended audience. "Mah Jong All Day Long" tells the story of Big sister JieJie and little brother DiDi, whose family plays mah jong, as the title suggests, "all day long." The book takes you through the life cycle of a family, as "these days Uncle T. T. sings a little out of tune, and Auntie Helen can't crack the watermelon seeds anymore. But MaMa serves as much tea as ever." It's a sweet story, and I think the humor would be appreciated by Chinese families and any families in which game playing has had a central role in family life.

Excerpt:

"Uncle T. T. sings Chinese opera while he plays. [Chinese characters for 'tape recorder' and 'sounds terrible!']"

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He was excited by the mah jong tiles, thinking they were the same as the dominoes we let him play with. We pulled out the mah jong set so he would see the difference, and now he loves playing with those tiles as well. He seemed to quite enjoy the book, laying his head down to imitate sleep when little JieJie was in bed (and her parents were still playing mah jong).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Watermelon Award (Pudgy Peek-a-boo Book)


Every Wednesday we highlight one book that has consistently been a favorite of the bookworm's. We bestow upon this book a "Watermelon Award." We've owned this week's book for many months now, and it always brings a smile to our little reader's face.


The Pudgy Peek-a-boo Book (A Pudgy Board Book) , by Amye Rosenberg. A cute, short board book - perfectly sized for tiny hands - with colorful drawings of cats and bunnies playing peek a boo.

Excerpt:

"Look inside the basket./Look behind the door./Find a peek-a-boo friend./ And then find some more."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: He especially likes the drawing of the cat hiding under the blanket at the end (since he likes to hide under a small quilt). But he smiles the whole time we read this one.

Parent's Peeve: Woe is me. I've turned into someone who praises a book about bunnies and cats playing peekaboo. But he loves it, and that's what counts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Five Questions

Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness sent me these five interview questions to answer as part of a blog "meme" (aka survey). I'm inserting in a few book reviews for books I mention that we've read and reviewed, but haven't posted here yet (we'll catch up on posting all of these eventually!).


1. What is a favorite childrens book that you are excited for Bookworm to read?

So many!

One that he hasn't shown interest in yet that I'm excited about is Harold and the Purple Crayon , by Crockett Johnson. I loved these books as a child. (For those who don't know, the story centers around a young boy (Harold) and his magical purple crayon, which seemingly brings to life whatever he draws. He uses his crayon to create (and escape) from all sorts of exciting adventures.).



I also love reading Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, by Al Perkins, with him. And a few more I remember from when I was young are "Danny and the Dinosaur," "The Monster at the End Of This Book" (review below), and Curious George books. You didn't expect me to name just one, did you?

The Monster at the End of this Book (Big Little Golden Book) (Hardcover), by Jon Stone. I remembered loving this board book as a child as soon as I saw the cover at the library. The book stars Grover of Sesame Street fame, as he implores his young readers not to turn another page for fear of reaching the end of the book, where rumor has it a monster is hiding. His growing anxiety is amusingly documented, and the ending is cleverly cute.

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: He seemed a little too young to enjoy it, although he did humor me and read it with me now and then.




2. How do you think your blogging will change as Bookworm grows up?

Right now I blog while he naps, and I tend to post pretty often. Once he's no longer napping, I might not be doing multiple posts per day anymore! Also, his books will get longer, so we'll read/review less of them. If we keep up with the blog for a long time, maybe his voice will start to come through more in the reviews.

3. What is another favorite hobby besides book blogging?

Quilting! I wrote a little about it during a "weekly geeks" challenge here, and I'm contemplating starting a quilting blog any day now.

4. What is the most important quality in picking out a good kids book?

That he loves it. That can be hard to judge at first because he gets overstimulated in libraries and bookstores. My next order will include Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (review posted below) and Goodnight Gorilla (review posted here). Sometimes I look for something I know will grab his attention, like a firetruck, bus, dog, bird, etc., but I can't really predict what he'll love. Unless it has flaps.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Hardcover), by Jr, Bill Martin. I had never heard of this book until recently, and since then I seem to hear reference to it everywhere. The story is set to a song starring the letters of the alphabet climbing up a coconut tree. If you need to know the tune (I admit I did!), there is a fun, animated YouTube video (just search by the book's title). We took it out of the library to test it out, and we'll be getting our own copy this week.

Excerpt:

"'Whee!' said D to E, F, G, 'I'll beat you to the top of the coconut tree.' Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room? Here comes H up the coconut tree..."

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He especially likes the phrase "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and calls "buh! buh!" when he picks out the book. He generally loses interest in the large version right where the board book would end. I'm debating whether that means we should get the full or board book version, but I think we'll go with the full one because we can always close the book now, and he'll grow into the whole thing eventually.




5. Who is you favorite book character, and why?

This is a hard one. Maybe Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon, because he has such a wonderful sense of adventure.


Want to be interviewed too? Leave me a comment saying so, and I'll email you five questions to answer.

Thanks, Kim!


Monday, February 16, 2009

St. Patrick's Day books for children

St. Patrick's Day (March 17) will be here before we know it, so I thought I'd get the ball rolling with these three book reviews about St. Patrick's Day for various recommended ages. This will give you plenty of time to order your copies as gifts for your little ones or get in your hold requests at the library! We look forward to reading and reviewing other books throughout the month and will include a link here to those new reviews.

St. Patrick's Day Countdown (Board book), by Salina Yoon. This charming little board book is perfect for infants on up. The cover and edges feature a sparkled clover. The text counts down from 5 to 1 using kid-friendly subjects like bunnies, butterflies, and leprechauns, coupled with bright, appealing images.

Excerpt:

"Three little leprechauns play hide-and-seek./ Two pretty butterflies flutter by the creek."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: He enjoyed the whole thing, requesting a second read-through when we finished it. He particularly likes the birds flying over the shamrock patches.




Lucky Tucker (Paperback), by Leslie Mcguirk. This paperback follows a cute white dog, Tucker, as his day starts off on the wrong foot, until he is fortunate enough to roll in a leprechaun's bed of four leaf clovers. Everything starts to go his way, and he has "his luckiest day ever."

Recommended ages 2-5.

Excerpt:

"Tucker chased after the leprechaun, but he got sidetracked when he saw a boy licking an ice-cream cone. The top scoop was about to fall off!/ Tucker made the catch! 'Wow, what a lucky dog,' the boy said."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: He loves dogs, so that got his attention quickly. He won't make it through the entire book yet, but he's younger than the target audience.




St. Patrick's Day Alphabet (Paperback), by Beverly Barras Vidrine. This alphabet book is aimed at an older audience than most alphabet books. The text for each letter is fairly detailed, covering a different aspect of St. Patrick's Day or Irish culture in general. Topics covered include musical instruments, leprechauns, certain towns and rivers in Ireland, and William Butler Yeats, among others.

Recommended ages: 4-8

Excerpt:

"J is for jig, an Irish stepdance. Irish dancers' feet move fast, up and down, back and forth. Even their parents and grandparents danced the jig on St. Patrick's Day."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: He's too young for this one now, although we enjoy flipping through it.


Nonfiction Monday (My Big Book of the Animal Kingdom)

Nonfiction Monday this week is hosted by Jean Little Library.



My Big Book of the Animal Kingdom (Board book), by MJF Media. A spontaneous purchase at the grocery store, this very tall, sturdy board book is filled with drawings of dinosaurs (16 types), birds, ocean life, insects, reptiles and amphibians, and land animals. Beneath each drawing is a fun fact or two about the creature.

Excerpt:

"Swan. Most young swans (cygnets) are dull gray in color until they are three years old. Then their feathers become a beautiful snowy white. A few swans are black."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: Pointing to the birds, dinosaurs, ladybug, and butterfly.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Clifford's birthday

According to Teachingtinytots, today is Clifford the Big Red Dog's birthday. Since I have a review of a Clifford book all written and not yet posted, I thought this would be a good occasion to share it. In essence, the bookworm wasn't old enough for the book yet, but perhaps your little reader will be. Does Clifford come in board books? We'll have to investigate.

Clifford The Firehouse Dog (Paperback), by Norman Bridwell. Our first Clifford book, this one was grabbed on the way out of the library, because I wanted something with fire engines in it (a recent favorite). Haven't made it through it yet (only 14 months), but he enjoys the first page or two and then moves on.

Excerpt:

"I asked the firefighters if Clifford could help them. They thought he was the right color for the job."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: Making a siren noise when he sees the fire engine.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Weekly Geeks (Winnie the Pooh)

Weekly Geeks this week asks about character names.

"For this week's edition of Weekly Geeks, we're going to take a closer look at character names. What are some of your favorite character names?

Go to Google or a baby name site like this one or this one, and look up a favorite character's name. What does their name mean? Do you think the meaning fits the character? Why or why not?

If you'd like, look up your own name as well and share the meaning."

I'll vary a bit from the actual assignment, because I can't think of any favorite children's book character names. I thought I'd use my answer to share the origin of Winnie the Pooh's name, because it is such an odd character name. If I were really judging it, I'd say it's not a very good choice for a name. It doesn't really make any sense, and it shares a part of its name with a synonym for diaper contents. But, Winnie the Pooh has become such a beloved part of popular culture and children's literature, that the name transcends all judgment at this point. Here is Wikipedia's thorough explanation of how the name Pooh came about:

Milne named the character Winnie-the-Pooh after a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was the basis for the character Christopher Robin. His toys also lent their names to most of the other characters, except for Owl and Rabbit, who were probably based on real animals, and the Gopher character, who was added in the Disney version. Christopher Robin's toy bear is now on display at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library in New York.[1]

Christopher Milne had named his toy bear after Winnie, a bear which he often saw at London Zoo, and "Pooh", a swan they had met while on holiday. The bear cub was purchased from a hunter for $20 by Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn in White River, Ontario, Canada, while en-route to England during the First World War. He named the bear "Winnie" after his hometown in Winnipeg, Manitoba. "Winnie" was surreptitiously brought to England with her owner, and gained unofficial recognition as a regimental mascot. Colebourn left Winnie at the London Zoo while he and his unit were in France; after the war she was officially donated to the zoo, as she had become a much loved attraction there.[2] Pooh the swan appears as a character in its own right in When We Were Very Young.

In the first chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne offers this explanation of why Winnie-the-Pooh is often called simply "Pooh": "But his arms were so stiff ... they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think - but I am not sure - that that is why he is always called Pooh."

We have two sets of Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner, one a grown up anthology that is Dad's personal copy (he'll share), and another lovely gift set of books from Nana that will be the bookworm's when he's ready for them. We pull them out now and then, but he can't sit through that much text yet. He does love to unpack the box of them! And the anthology made for wonderful reading to him when he was an infant.

Here's a review:

The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner (Pooh Original Edition) (Hardcover), by A. A. Milne. What can we say about Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner? If you don't have these wonderful collections of short stories in one form or another, go buy them. Besides being beautifully written, clever, and oh-so-cute, the Winnie the Pooh stories are extraordinarily quotable. (See the excerpt for one of my favorites). Also on our list to read: "When We Were Young," a prequel of poetry, and "Now We Are Six," a sequel.

Excerpt:

"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 'Pooh!' he whispered. 'Yes, Piglet?' 'Nothing,' said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. 'I just wanted to be sure of you.'"

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: When the bookworm was an infant, Daddy and I enjoyed reading this to him. Now he's a bit too squirmy for both this lovely compendium and the book set we have that separates each short story into a different children's book (with the same original illustrations). There is also a board book version available, but we haven't tried that one yet.

Parent's Peeve: How could I dare criticize Winnie the Pooh? We do prefer the classic versions to the Disney ones around here.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Toddler books about transportation

I don't know how we ended up coming home from the grocery store with a small stack of baby books about cars and trucks and buses and bikes today. I went to the store to buy ketchup. I peeked at the books section for a cutesie valentine's day book, but I couldn't resist these books about things our bookworm loves.

The first two are very small chunky style board books. I pondered whether we had outgrown these type of books (I generally pick the full rather than board book versions of books now, figuring they'll be read for longer). However, the death grip that the bibliophile had on this first one assured me that we will still get a lot of mileage out of them (no pun intended, truly).

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks from A to Z (A Chunky Book(R)) (Board book), by Richard Scarry. All the Richard Scarry favorites are here -- apple car, bananamobile, hotdog car, pickle car -- along with more run of the mill vehicles like ambulance, fire truck, and mail truck, all in a chunky little board book perfectly sized for clutching by infant and toddler hands.

Excerpt:

"watermelon truck...xylophone car.../yogurt car...and a zippermobile!"

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He likes to hold this and independently flip through it. We haven't read it enough times for favorites to develop yet, although I can imagine they'll be the same as from Scarry's other books.

Parent's Peeve: I wish they had included a bus.



Surprise, Thomas! (A Chunky Book(R)) (Board book), by William Heinemann. This chunky little board book features the famous Thomas train (and some of his friends), in a lift the flap format. Any young fans of Thomas will undoubtedly adore it. Our bookworm doesn't know who Thomas is yet, but I suspect that will soon change, so I bought some puffy stickers and this book so that we can at least have some literary introduction in there along with the onslaught of licensed merchandise which is sure to come as we move into the toddler years.

Excerpt:

(At press time, I can't find our copy, so I'll add an excerpt later).

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: We've only read it a couple of times so far, but he likes the flaps and a page with a magician in a top hat (the hat lifts to reveal a bunny).

Parent's Peeve: Since he isn't already familiar with the characters, it is a little nonsensical when the text announces "Percy" is behind the flap. I have to read it as something like "Percy, a train, like Thomas the train! Percy is a train!" But he'll pick up on it soon enough. Probably in an hour like every other toddler out there.


Cars & Trucks (Scholastic First Discovery) (Paperback), by Scholastic. This paperback is bound to delight any young fan of cars, trucks, bikes, buses and boats; it has a few of each (even a fire engine). A fun feature of the book is the addition of transparent pages here and there, which add a unique element. One page has a transparent page in between a two-page spread of a bus; on the transparent sheet are passengers getting on. As the reader turns the transparent page, the passengers are getting off on the other side. It's a neat effect. The explanatory text is a step above the simplistic language usually found in transportation books (see excerpts), although not particularly fun or funny.

Excerpt:

"The bags are well packed in the trunk, in the back./The engine is hidden under the hood, in the front."

"On the construction site by the port, the bulldozers and front loaders are very busy./The refrigerated trucks wait for the fresh fish."

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He likes the bus, of course, but other little details interest him as well, like birds in the air and dogs as passengers in the cars.

Editing to add: after having this book for awhile, a couple of peeves have emerged.   Some minor, like the text explaining that drivers have to turn on their lights because other cars have theirs on (not really the proper reason) or to be careful because they have passengers (again, not quite the reason to be a careful driver).  But, more annoying is that the text for the pages with the passengers getting on and off the bus seems to be backward.  As the text explains that passengers get on the bus, the illustration shows them getting off the bus, and vice versa.  I wonder if these are somehow translation errors from the french version.

Other transportation books we've read include:

Planes (Usborne Big Machines) (Board book), by Clive Gifford. A sturdy, short board book featuring five different types of airplanes and a couple of lines of text per plane. He enjoys it. The plane images are nicely detailed and large, each taking up a two-page spread.

Excerpt:

"These blades lift the helicopter into the air./ The helicoptor rests on these poles called skids."

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: All about equal.



(Does this qualify? Throwing it in here, because it's just so cute):

Sheep in a Jeep (Board book), by Nancy E. Shaw. I thought the clever rhyming text in this board board made it a really fun read-aloud book. It didn't really grab the bookworm's attention until he learned the sign language for "bird"; one happens to appear on nearly every page, so it then became a frequently requested book. We'll try it again when he can follow the story, which involves the amusing travails of a group of sheep...in a jeep, of course.

Excerpt:

"Jeep goes splash! Jeep goes thud! Jeep goes deep in gooey mud!"

Bookworm's interest at 14 months: At 14 months, just the bird. Hopefully that will change.



And ones we've read and reviewed here before (title links to our post with a review):
Trucks.
Barcos y aviones.
Boats.

Hope you find some ideas in there for your little grease monkeys.

Valentine's Day Love Ladder Frame craft

I'm sneaking in this children's Valentine's Day craft just under the wire. It was partially inspired by Not for Flashcard's friendship wreath craft, but I have been meaning to do something with photos for awhile. Our son's relatives are a bit spread out around the world, and I'm always looking for ways to remind him who they are and that they love him even though they're far away. When he was an infant (and cried A LOT), I would hold him and say, "do you know who loves you? Mama loves you, Nana loves you, Gran and Grandad love you, etc. etc." until he fell asleep. So this craft is inspired by that.


Valentine's Day Love Ladder Frame craft

Materials: popsicle sticks, glue, letter stamps and ink (or just a marker), small piece of yarn/string/ribbon for hanging, construction paper for decorative hearts (I used red bookmark sized cardstock).

Directions: Arrange the popsicle sticks together as shown with a thin layer of glue at the joins. Put something heavy on it and leave it to dry. At the top of the "ladder" glue a piece of red construction paper or cardstock with a stamped title on it (we used "who loves me"). Cut out little hearts. Glue them on wherever you want. You could also use glitter, stickers, etc. Use a marker to pen in the names of the relatives appearing in the frame. Add your photos to the back (we just taped them). Enjoy!



What did the bookworm REALLY do?: I pretty much gave up having him help me on this one, because the sticks needed to be left alone to dry (and items in any semblance or order just scream to be unarranged). I also wanted it to be more of a gift for him. He's only 14 1/2 months old though; I think older toddlers would enjoy this project.

We picked up this book today which makes a nice companion for this craft. As you'll see from the review, the star could use a ladder:

Never Too Little to Love (Hardcover), by Jeanne Willis. We happened upon this book at the library the day before Valentine's Day and snatched it up. The story involves a love between an unlikely pair -- a mouse and giraffe, and the mouse's attempt to reach the giraffe to give him a kiss. He piles up a growing assortment of items to try to reach. The pages are graduated sizes, allowing the items to stack on top of each other as the reader adds the next one to the ever expanding text, rereading the last ones along with the new. One of the first few items is a slice of watermelon, which is one of the bookworm's delights. He turns the graduated pages very quickly, and I don't have a chance to read the whole text as it's intended to be read.

Excerpt:

"He's too little, even on tiptoes on a cabbage, on a teacup, on a watermelon, on a matchbox, on a thimble."

Bookworm's interest at 15 months: He likes watermelon and the mouse.

Parent's Peeve: The second to last page has some sort of odd folded paper as the giraffe bends over. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be (his tale? his head? can't tell).






Looking for other books for Valentine's Day? I reviewed a few here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Weekly Geeks" (Alice in Wonderland)

This week's Weekly Geeks assignment is about book covers.

"Judge a Book By Its Cover! This week it's all about judging books by their covers! Pick a book--any book, really--and search out multiple book cover images for that book. They could span a decade or two (or more)...Or they could span several countries. Which cover is your favorite? Which one is your least favorite? Which one best 'captures' what the book is about?"

I nearly didn't do the assignment this week, because I couldn't think of a children's book with enough variety. But, tonight I peeked at Alice in Wonderland covers and decided to jump in with a post afterall. Wow; who knew there were SO many covers for this book? And that each would convey a slightly (or, in some cases drastically) different impression on the reader.

Here are a few I like (if price were equal, I'd probably be inclined toward the first. I'm a sucker for these covers that make you feel you are buying THE classic version):


And a few I don't care for:



This one is lovely, but reminds me more of "The Secret Garden" than Alice in Wonderland:


Most of the covers just seemed unremarkable to me (for a particularly remarkable book).