Thursday, February 18, 2010

Three Favorite Children's Books This Week

I seem to have lost my will to blog lately, despite the fact that we have actually been reading more than we have in months.  I'm just posting quickly to share our most recent book order (I figure it is the ultimate complement when a parent shells out the money to buy a book).  These are three books that our son (at almost 27 months) has been loving this week from the library, so we decided to add them to our permanent collection.

The Little Engine That CouldThe Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.  I have read this just before naptime and bedtime every day since we got it from the library last week.  The bright, cheerful illustrations really do this classic story justice, and he warmed to it right away.


Truck Driver TomTruck Driver Tom by Monica Wellington.  The text is cute, but the real show stealer for our guy is the last page, which contains miniaturized versions of all of the vehicles that appear in the book, asking the reader to go back and find them.  (Cars and trucks?  A quiz?  Our infant bibliophile is there.)


The Scrambled States of AmericaThe Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller.  I posted about this recently.  He is probably too young for the text at this point, but he loves playing with the maps in the book, and I like it enough to be confident that he'll grow into the story.

What have you been reading lately?  What was the last children's book you read that you loved enough to buy it?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

10 Geography Activities for Two Year Olds

Thanks to the suggestion of Christy at Superheroes and Princesses, lunchtime and dinnertime have looked like this at our house lately.  Before you get all angry at her, she's not responsible for our overeating of chicken nuggets and french fries (that's all me).  But she did suggest the book that has become this week's mealtime entertainment tool:

The Scrambled States of America (Hardcover), by Laurie Keller.  Kansas is bored (see excerpt).  So he decides, with the help of his best friend, Nebraska, to throw a party.  All of the states come.  They decide at the party to swap places for a change.  This seems to be a great idea, at first.  But then Kansas, who changed places with Hawaii, is now more bored than ever stuck out in the ocean by himself.  The southern states are freezing in the north, and the northern states are getting sunburned in the South.  Eventually, normalcy returns as the states go back to their usual spots.  The book's charm is multilayered, with a main story that is enjoyable and witty, alongside clever commentary from the states peppered throughout.  I added this one right to our wishlist (probably soon to go into our shopping cart), along with the sequel, the Scrambled States of America Talent Show.
"All day long we just sit here in the middle of the country. We never GO anywhere. We never DO anything, and we NEVER meet any NEW states!"
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: For a long time, we couldn't get past the first page (which is just a U.S. map), because he is so enamored of playing with maps lately.  But I have read him the entire book twice now, and he stares in rapt attention, pointing now and then to particular states he recognizes.  It is definitely geared toward older children, but I think since he likes it now, he'll REALLY like it later.  He also loves the maps and images of the states at the end of the book.  I tried to get across the concept that the states have moved all around and are now in the wrong places, and that they are being funny. I think that is as much of the storyline as he can pick up right now.

Related Activities i.e. 10 Geography Activities for Two Year Olds

Our son's interest in geography has exploded these last couple of months, but it is a bit of a challenge to come up with games that are suitable for his age level.  I know some of these may be better suited for an older child, and I would never suggest pushing your child if he/she is not interested.  Here is what our son most enjoys:
    Melissa & Doug USA Map 51-Piece Floor Puzzle
1.  Ask him to find places by name ("Where is California?") or to name a place ("What is the name of this state?").  This is the one we do most often -- daily if not hourly lately.

2.  Who lives where?  We have many relatives spread around the globe, and I like to ask him who lives in what state/country.

3.  Rhyming.  He enjoys finding place names that rhyme ("Nebraska and Alaska," "Nigeria and Algeria," etc.)

4.  Places Out of Context.  The back of the Scrambled States book contains a few pages with images of each state and some facts.  I was surprised to see how many of the states he could recognize out of context this way.  So I thought today that I might try to create some cardstock states, with or without the state names on them (maybe I'll write the name on the back of the card).  I think he'd have fun with those.

5.  Stories/Facts About Places (a.k.a. "Mommy tell you!").  I got a little sick of names one day, and started trying to tell him simple facts about each state, such as "Mississippi has a big river" and "California has a famous bridge."

Hugg-a-Planet Hugg-A-Planet
6.  Talking About What States/Countries Are Near Each Other.  I don't know if this deserves an entire number entry on its own, but he likes to do this.  If we have him find Arizona, for example, he'll say "Arizona near California and Nevada!"

7.   Iphone Games.  I downloaded a geography game to my iphone last week, and he loves clicking on it and trying to make it buzz or ding, but to really play would require, at the very least, being able to read.  I would like to find him a simple country identification game, where I read the question to him and he locates it on the map, but in general, I think most of the games are geared toward older kids. 

8.  Puzzles and Board Games.  So far, we just use a melissa and doug states puzzle and our globe.  The games I have seen seem better geared toward readers.  I just discovered these Geopuzzles, which look wonderful and are available for five continents.  I just leave the states map assembled on our coffee table.  We sometimes look at Risk together too, but since some of the place names have changed and many aren't labeled, it is a little confusing for him.

9.  YouTube.  We have not found many geography videos he loves (have any suggestions? please share!), but a couple of cute ones are this continents video and this one re: countries.  He generally only likes videos with songs. 

10.  Books.  Last, but not least!  So far we have only really read the Scrambled States and our atlas (thanks Britt for that idea).

How do you have fun with geography in your house?  Have you posted about any geography related crafts, activities, games, etc. on your blog?  If so, please share a link to your post in the comments.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Feed Me Books Friday: Lift the Flap Books

This week's theme for Feed Me Books Friday is "Lift the Flap Books."  We have some very clear favorites in this category.  The first two were easy to pick, and I like to give them to new moms.  The others that came to mind for our third favorite are all more of a fold out page style, rather than lifting flaps -- Karen Katz books, a really fantastic book we just got out of the library called Alphabeasties (full review coming soon), Playtime Peekaboo, or Curious George Bigger and Smaller.  So, I went to the source and asked my little reader which of those he likes the most, and he opted for the last one.  Just don't ask him again in 5 minutes, because you're sure to get a different answer. 

Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap BookDear Zoo, by Rod Campbell
You can read our full review of this here.  It is a sweet story, and a sturdy, fun book.  Now that the Infant Bibliophile is a little more communicative, I decided to ask him why he liked it.  This is what he had to say:
Open the Barn Door (A Chunky Book(R))
"Because it has lion and doggie and animals."

Open the Barn Door (A Chunky Book(R)).

This was one of our little guy's first favorites.  Its small size is perfect for tiny hands to grasp.  Our full review is here

"Because it has animals."  Does anyone sense a pattern here?

Curious George Bigger and Smaller Lift-the-Flap Board BookCurious George Bigger and Smaller Lift-the-Flap Board Book

Fold out pages show comparisons between bigger/smaller, higher/lower, clean/messy, etc.   Our full review is here.  

Why does he like it?  Let's ask him.  "Because it has a kitty."

We did a related craft awhile back.  You can read about it here. 

You can see all of our reviews of lift the flaps books here.

What are your favorites?

Note: If you click on any of the links above and buy anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Review: Eric Carle's From Head to Toe

We have a new favorite around here this week.  As my husband said, "it has been awhile since he asked us to read a book three times in a row." 

From Head to Toe (Hardcover), by Eric Carle.  Animals each perform some characteristic act, and ask the reader (and a person on the pages with them) whether they can do it too.  The activities - turning your head, bending your knees, thumping your chest, etc. - are perfect for toddlers.  A great, fun book that has gone to the top of my list of favorite 2nd year birthday gifts.
"I am a monkey and I wave my arms.  Can you do it? / I can do it!"
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: We read it three times in a row (and then made him get ready for bed), and he asks for it often since.  Daddy read while Mama acted out the parts, and he followed suit.  He loves it.
Parent's Peeve: The second to last page reads: "I am I and I wiggle my toe.  Can you do it?"  Shouldn't it be, "I am me."?

I'd like to buy a copy, but I need help.  Does anyone know if the board book and hardcover/paperback versions are the same?  When they are, I prefer board books for their pricetag, and being able to easily stuff them in my handbag or stroller.  Although, the large images in the full version are nice.  Maybe the paperback is the way to go.  It is $1 less than the board book anyway. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Valentine's Day books

Henry in Love (Hardcover), by Peter Mccarty.  Henry becomes smitten with his classmate Chloe.  Henry is illustrated as a cat and Chloe as a bunny.  For not all that many words (generally a brief sentence per page), the author conveys quite a bit of storyline.  Henry awakes to the smell of homemade blueberry muffins, one of which his mother packs in his lunch bag.  At lunchtime, Henry saves the muffin for his afternoon snack.  He plays with an older football player on his way to school - Chloe's older brother.  We learn that Henry thinks Chloe is "the loveliest girl in the class."  Some recess gymnastics offer an amusing glimpse at young love courtship (see excerpt).  After some desk rearranging, Henry and Chloe end up seated next to one another for snack time.  Henry wordlessly hands his muffin to Chloe.  "Chloe ate the blueberry muffin. / Henry had a carrot."  A sweet story, illustrated nicely in a subdued pen and ink style.
"At recess Henry decided to walk up to Chloe.  'You're not going to talk to a girl, are you?' said Sancho. / Henry did his best forward roll. / 'Show him what you can do, Chloe,' said Abby. / Chloe turned a perfect cartwheel.  Henry was impressed."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: I wasn't sure he would like it.  It is probably better suited for a slightly older child, but he sat through the entire thing, and pointed at the muffin.  I think he understood that Henry "shared" his muffin, at least.
Parent's Peeve: In the beginning of the book, the line "He got ready for the day" accompanies an illustration of Henry in his underwear, from behind, standing in front of a toilet.  It seemed like a weird choice to me.  But it didn't ruin the book for me or anything.   Hey, it might even help with potty training.

This next one certainly isn't a Valentine's Day book, but it occurred to me that it could make a sweet choice as a gift for the holiday, for a child or maybe even a quiet couple on their wedding day?

The Very Quiet Cricket (Hardcover), by Eric Carle.  A young cricket is born.  A big cricket says "Welcome!" and the little cricket tries to respond, "so he rubbed his wings together.  But nothing happened.  Not a sound."  As he encounters all different insects - locust, praying mantis, worm, spittlebug, cicada, bumblebee, dragonfly, mosquito, luna moth - the scene repeats.  Until he meets a female cricket.  And then, see excerpt.
"As the luna moth disappeared silently into the distance, the cricket saw another cricket.  She, too, was a very quiet cricket.  Then he rubbed his wings together one more time.  And this time . . . / he chirped the most beautiful sound she had ever heard."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: He loved making the book do the chirping sound, of course.  I feared he wouldn't really let me read it to him once we got it home, and would just want to keep turning to the back to hear the chirp.  But, I was happy that he sat through and enjoyed the whole thing, helping to name some of the insects.
Parent's Peeve: The same line repeats often.  I mean, very often.  That is, it repeats.  Often.  But, you know, kids like that.  Often.

I was hoping to get this one today (I love the cover), but all of the copies were out (no surprise -- I should probably start putting hold requests on Easter books). 

My Heart Is Like a Zoo

Here is a link to other Valentine's Day/love-themed books we have reviewed in the past.

Do you buy Valentine's Day gifts for you kids? I haven't bought anything yet.  I am leaning toward just making him some muffins in heart-shaped muffin cups.  I did buy a new puzzle for him, but I gave it to him as soon as it arrived today.  I do feel a new book order coming on soon ...

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Few More Titles For "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" Fans

Tomorrow is library day!  Which means a) we will be getting an armload of new books, and b) I need to return all of the books that I have been procrastinating posting about here.  Here are two that I am considering buying after we return them:

* Note: if you click through the links in this post to, you will see that these books are not currently available there.  This is due to the standoff between Amazon and publisher MacMillan over the price of Kindle books, which has resulted in Amazon pulling books from their store.  Hopefully this will be resolved shortly.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (Board book), by Bill Martin Jr..  Bill Martin Jr. / Eric Carle take on animal sounds in this fun companion to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
"Hippopotamus, Hippopotamus, what do you hear? / I hear a flamingo fluting in my ear."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: He loves it, especially the last page, which summarizes all of the previously introduced animals.

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? (Board book), by Bill Jr Martin.  A baby bear begins the pattern in this one, and the last animal in the chain is a Mama Bear.  Unlike "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See," this book does not focus on color.
"Striped Skunk, Striped Skunk, what do you see? / I see a mule deer running by me."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: He loves this one too.  I'm debating whether to pick up copies of this one and "Polar Bear, Polar Bear," because he really enjoys them. 

If you like these two, you'll of course also want to check out these two, both of which we own:

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? Board Book (Once Upon A Sign)Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? Board Book

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?

We have only read the board book versions of these.  Have you read the full length versions?  Do you know how they differ?  Do your kids enjoy these books also?

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