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A Page in a Book




By Paige Gardner Smith


ON GRAPHIC NOVELS With the immense popularity of the Wimpy Kid, Big Nate and Captain Underpants graphic novels, it’s no surprise that middle-grade readers and pre-teens are looking for more graphically illustrated book series with enthusiasm. Not just for comic-book compilation anymore, publishers are producing a much larger variety of graphic novels and manga to suit the tastes of these growing readers as their reading skills and tastes mature. The following titles are highly recommended for readers who are ready to move up into more advanced reading coupled with the play-by-play illustration that characterizes the best of graphic novels.

Amulet: Book One: The Stonekeeper

By Kazu Kibuishi (Scholastic)

When their mother is kidnapped and carried away by a creature not of this world, siblings Emily and Navin cross a fantastic hidden threshold into that world to try and rescue her. Armed only with an amulet that dispenses some degree of advice and help, Emily strives to protect her brother as they venture further afield in this foreign land to save their mom. As they discover allies (and enemies) along the way, they also find mysteries that multiply with each answer they secure. Compelling, inventive and beautifully illustrated in full color, the Amulet series offers a continuing story with additional novels that will keep readers hooked and always on the lookout for the next Amulet!

The Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle By Christopher Ford (Philomel / Penguin) If you imagine Homer’s Odyssey as the springboard for a graphic novel idea – then lose the springboard, drain the pool and turn it into a skateboard park – you’ll have the beginnings of ‘The Stickman Odyssey.’ With only a passing nod to the original tale, Ford’s take on the Greek saga introduces Zozimos who is banished from his home in Sticatha, condemned to sail upon stormy seas, slay monsters, and pursue quests – all in an effort to get back home. The stick-figure illustrations are stunningly comedic and expressive, and don’t miss a beat of real character development in this book. Irreverent, irrepressible and on-target for middle-grade readers, this laugh-out-loud graphic novel will convince every reader that there’s more to stick men than meets the eye! 42 | birminghamparent | april 2013

Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever By Stephen McCranie (Philomel / Penguin) Mal’s a brilliant kid, a genius, with a talking dog named Chad. But no one knows it. He’s flying under the radar, coming across as simply a dorky kid to those around him, including Megan, the girl he’s crushing on (just a little). The upside to being so smart is that when you’re tasked with an assignment for school, you may have the extra talent and tools to score big. With his (man’s) best friend and advisor Chad by his side, Mal takes on time travel itself to look into his future by going into the past! With shades of “Calvin and Hobbes” and elements of “Dexter’s Laboratory,” the ‘Mal and Chad’ series are ideal next-step books for reluctant readers and for graphic novel fans!

A Page in a Book




By Paige Gardner Smith

The Gift of Grandfathers Grandfathers often have the special gift of wisdom and extra attention to share with our children. For children who are blessed to know their grandfatherly forebears, they often gain the benefits of their grandfather’s life experiences and memories through those rare and treasured interactions. Getting to know their grandfathers is a vital part of children’s lives as they work to assemble their understanding of how families are made and grown, how each relationship is different and special. The following titles explore the unique connections between children and their grandfathers in beautiful, loving and poignant ways.

Max and the Tag-Along Moon By Floyd Cooper (Philomel /Penguin Books for Young Readers) At the end of Max’s visit with his Grandpa, the hardest part is saying goodbye. As their last hug is framed by the rising full moon, his Grandpa says, “That ‘ol moon will always shine for you…on and on!” And true enough, as the family drives away, Max watches his Grandpa recede from view while the moon waxes large. Through all the twists and turns of the drive the moon plays peek-a-boo, yet it is always there. But when the clouds arrive, the moon is hidden and Max isn’t sure that it’s shining anymore. Missing his Grandpa AND the moon, Max lies in bed and worries about the absence of both until a gentle light begins to fill his bedroom, keeping his Grandpa’s promise. A lovingly illustrated testament to a relationship that is constant despite the challenges of time and distance, Max and the Tag-Along Moon is gentle support for kids missing a grandparent.

Joone By Emily Kate Moon (Dial)

Zayde Comes to Live By Sheri Sinykin, Illustrated by Kristina Swarner (Peachtree) Rachel thinks she knows why her Zayde (grandfather) has come to live with her and her family. Although no one has told her, she knows because he is dying. He is no longer able to play hide-and-seek, or catch a ball without getting tired. He runs out of breath when he reads to Rachel, so she reads to him. While she’s aware that she will eventually lose her Zayde, she’s more worried about what will happen to him when he dies. She doesn’t know who to ask until the family’s rabbi visits. The answers she receives are reassuring and allow her to focus on every moment, every breath that she can still share with her Zayde before the end. The title alone, Zayde Comes to Live, is an optimistic message leading a powerful story recommended for kids who are facing the loss of a grandparent or elder relative. 44 | birminghamparent | august 2013

Joone revels in the life she shares with her Grandpa in his homey yurt. Narrating the ways they spend their days, Joone offers a child’s eye view of the ways that her grandfather finds a balance between play and parenting. Her words reveal bits of her Grandpa’s life (before he was old) showing that she’s paying attention to who he was, as well as who he is. With lively illustrations and spare text, readers will appreciate the blending lives of a loving grandfather moving slowly through the day while his adventuresome, full of zest granddaughter runs, climbs and swims with enough energy for both of them.

A Page in a Book




By Paige Gardner Smith

THE FASHION IN KIDS BOOKS As new parents, we dress our babies in the sweetest, cutest clothes the minute they leave the hospital. As long as they will let us, we put them in the clothes we like, because we know the fashion clock is ticking. There quickly comes the time when our child says, “I don’t want to wear that,” the time when they start making their own fashion choices. Sometimes it’s a cringe-worthy combination of PJ pants, cowboy boots and a puffy vest. Sometimes they prefer an eye-blinding blend of fuchsia, turquoise and camouflage anything. It’s the beginning of our children starting to see clothes as an outward extension of themselves – the same way adults do. Offering kids a

The New Sweater

new way to look at what we wear and why, the following titles

By Oliver Jerrers (Penguin)

feature colorful stories that revolve around articles of clothing.

In a world full of Hueys who all look alike and think alike, it’s hard to stand out. But one Huey, named Rupert, decides to knit himself a sweater. And wearing it, he distinguishes himself from the rest of his peers. The other Hueys think Rupert’s new look is a bit odd. But Gillespie thinks the sweater is cool – and knits one that he can wear, too. Soon the look catches on and Hueys everywhere are sporting the same sweater. No longer viewed as odd, but rather a trend-setter, how will Rupert stand out from the crowd now? Jerrer’s simplydrawn, wildly expressive world of Hueys is the perfect landscape to illustrate the power of one brilliant orange sweater to make an individual fashion statement.

Lost and Found

By Bill Harley, Illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Peachtree) Kids know what it means to have a favorite clothing item…and what it means to lose it. For parents (and kids) who have turned the house upside down before school in the morning seeking the elusive hat-shirt-scarf-whatever, this title will strike a familiar chord. When a boy loses a special cap knitted by his grandmother, he begins an all-encompassing search to find it before her visit. He discovers a mountain of items, separated from their owners in the school ‘Lost & Found.’ But to get to through the avalanche of stuff and find his hat, he must cultivate a relationship with the school’s crusty custodian. His hat search evolves into a mission that reunites classmates with things from the box, and finding homes for unclaimed items along the way. A warm celebration of natural attachments to favorite clothing, Lost and Found is a great kids’ book find! 44 | birminghamparent | february 2013

Laundry Day

By Maurie J. Manning (Houghton Mifflin) A poor shoeshine boy is hawking his services (without much success) on an early 20th century city street when a red scarf floats down around his shoulders. Looking up, among the clothes lines strung between the city’s buildings, he realizes it’s laundry day and the scarf could have dropped from a host of neighbors’ lines. Climbing fire escapes, shimmying up drainpipes, the shoeshine boy carries the scarf from balcony to balcony seeking its owner. He meets people from different cultures and countries as he navigates through buildings filled with immigrant families. The boy’s journey to return the scarf becomes more than a goodwill mission, it opens up a world of discovery with its own rewards.

A Page in a Book




By Paige Gardner Smith

Real Boys Who Made a Difference Looking at our little boys we can’t help but wonder who they will become as adults. We ask ourselves what we can do to foster their strengths, to give them courage to take on hard challenges. Their experiences as children often provide the early inspiration that moves them in the direction of a future that is both rewarding for them – and sometimes rewards the greater community as well. Cultivating a “can-do” attitude in children goes far toward building their confidence to follow their heart, pursue their dreams and blaze new paths. The following titles share the inspirational stories of young men who stepped up to a challenge and made a difference!

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind By William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (Dial Books for Young Readers / Penguin)

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau By Jennifer Berne, Illustrated by Eric Puybaret (Chronicle Books) As a little boy in France, Jacques Cousteau was fascinated by water. How it felt, why he floated on it, why rocks sank in it. He dreamed of flying among the fish below, delving their world beneath the surface of the water. But you can only hold your breath so long. As he got older he began to explore his passion for mechanics, chemistry and film, learning how cameras worked, processing his own film and making a LOT of home movies.

He dreamed of flying among the fish below, delving their world beneath the surface of the water. But the sea kept calling to Jacques until he found a way to fly among the fishes below. His invention of scuba gear, with his friend Emile, and his knowledge of film-making allowed him and his friends to record the unseen beauty beneath the waves, inspiring generations to protect its fragile majesty. With poetic rhythms, stark illustrations and inspirational afterword, “Manfish” is a book you’ll dive into regularly! 44 | birminghamparent | july 2013

Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story By Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia (G.P Putnam / Penguin) When Mikey’s father heads off to war, he wants to be brave and go with him. But as his Dad boards the train, he reminds Mikey that sometimes it takes bravery to stay behind and support the war from home. When Mikey asks his mother what he can do to help with the war, she reminds him that the soldiers need knitted socks and caps. She offers to teach him how to knit, and he immediately nixes the idea… because “knitting is for girls.” But when he sees pictures of firemen knitting, and the president raising wool sheep on the White House lawn, he realizes that everyone can do their part. Mikey decides he’s brave enough to take up the needles and learn to knit. (He even persuades some of his buddies to join him.) This story is based on the true “Knit Your Bit” efforts across the U.S. when schools and clubs hosted contests, knitting bees and other events to get everyone knitting for the soldiers overseas.

In William’s village in Malawi, there was no electricity or running water. He spent his days alongside his neighbors and family farming in the drought-plagued earth. But at night he dreamed about the radios he heard, cars he saw on roads – he wanted to know how they worked. As the crops dried up brining famine in its wake, William was forced to leave school and had to find another way to learn. Using the small library near his village, he found an English dictionary and taught himself to read the science and technology textbooks. He learned how things worked and believed he could make something that would help his village – a windmill. But with no money for tools and materials, the boy William will have to use all his creativity and tenacity to build something that may save his village. The title’s message of strength and perseverance is as lovely as the richly illustrated pages that bring this true story to life.

A Page in a Book




By Paige Gardner Smith

The Complaint Department When they are young, kids don’t always understand why they “shouldn’t,” “must not” and “can’t” do certain things. Because they don’t have power to control circumstances and haven’t grown mature enough to understand the “why” of “not,” they sometimes act out or complain about their lot in life. The following titles explore the necessary restrictions that many children experience in light-hearted ways that may help them move past the complaining, and on toward the rewards that follow patience, positive attitudes and proper perspective.

This Monster Cannot Wait! By Bethany Barton (Dial Books for Young Readers / Penguin) Young Stewart is going camping for the first time in just one week – but he simply cannot wait! His excitement is overwhelming – and his patience, nonexistent. Stewart tries everything he can think of to make it happen faster. Changing the clocks, building a time machine and acting out are some methods he tries until his final stunt gets him into trouble with his parents. Will the camping trip ever come? A subtle homage to the classic book “Monster at the End of this Book” with a nod to the “Monsters, Inc.” movie, this book is filled with delightful illustrations and hilarious asides that parents will appreciate as this read-aloud charmer is enjoyed again and again!

My No, No, No Day! By Rebecca Patterson (Viking / Penguin) Sometimes, it’s just not your day. When Bella wakes up to her baby brother Bob in her room licking her jewelry, she starts her morning screaming at him. And her day goes downhill from there as her complaints stack up and her unhappiness multiplies. She won’t eat her breakfast, she won’t wear her shoes, and she screams at her mom as she tries to wiggle out of the shopping cart. Simply everything is making her uncomfortable, unhappy and loud about it. With scenarios that are all too familiar to kids (and parents), Patterson touches on the moments when kids are just tapped out, and losing their self-control. Her illustrations include priceless expressions from bystanders that parents will recognize from their own public tantrum moments. This title explores the moments that can trigger a “No” day and offers hope for kids and parents that tomorrow is another chance to get to “Yes.” 32 | birminghamparent | june 2013

I Can’t Do Anything! By Thierry Robberrecht, Illustrated by Annick Mason (Magination Press / American Psychological Association) There’s a veritable laundry list of things that a spirited little girl can’t do. It seems so unfair. She looks around the animal kingdom and sees behaviors that are perfectly normal and accepted for them. Chameleons stick out their tongues, but she can’t. Hippos have bad breath, bur she has to brush her teeth every morning. Llamas spit on others to express their displeasure, but when spits on her friend Leo, she gets time-out. Is there any time for her when she can just do anything? Kids will love learning about animal habits and perhaps discover their own opportunity to be a little wild in the right setting.




Every little girl is entitled to her measure of

By Paige Gardner Smith

royal treatment as a little princess, but not all young ladies are cut from the same royal purple cloth. Some may want to wear the ermine-trimmed gown, while others prefer to chase the ermine through the woods, catch it and tame it. The following titles introduce princesses who break the mold (a bit) from the gently-reared stereotypes of pampered, gently-spoken damsels in distress. Introduce your young reader to princesses who cut through the princess fluff and make their own way, on their own terms with royal flair!

Dangerously Ever After By Dashka Slater, Illustrated by Valeria Docampo (Dial / Penguin)

From pet scorpions and brakeless bicycles to her collection of broken glass and daggers, Princess Amanita’s tastes are a bit edgy among young royalty. Her garden is lush with stink lilies, swinging mace vines (look out!) and needled cacti. But when young Prince Florian rolls by on his bike, he’s not put off by her dangerous garden. He wants to make friends, so he gifts her with a lovely bouquet of roses from his own garden. Without a terrible odor or razor-sharp leaves, Princess Amanita puzzles over the roses… until she discovers the thorns. She asks Prince Florian for rose seeds to plant in her own garden, but instead of roses, Princess Amanita gets a crop of ‘noses’ that sniffle, snore and disturb the whole castle. Hitting the road to return the troublesome blooms to Florian, Amanita gets lost and only something that “smells good” can help her find her way. With lush and capricious illustrations, ‘Dangerously Ever After’ is a delightfully unconventional princess story! 44 | birminghamparent | march 2013

You Can’t Eat a Princess

By Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre (Price Stern Sloan / Penguin) Every kind of amazing chocolate dessert is being laid out for Princess Spaghetti’s party when she discovers that her father, the King, has been abducted by aliens from outer space! She asks for the royal guards to help with a rescue mission, but they are not brave enough to go. The princess takes matters into her own hands, going after her father with a plan to get him back before he becomes the aliens’ main course. Using every bit of the authority and diplomacy that comes with her role, Princess Spaghetti takes the lead on the King’s rescue, finding a sweet solution that will keep him off the aliens’ menu in the future. Putting the lie to the damsel in distress, ‘You Can’t Eat a Princess’ is a delicious addition to every little girl’s book menu.

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas

By Tony Wilson and Sue deGennaro (Peachtree Publishing) Prince Henrik knows he must someday marry a princess, but he doesn’t know how to find the right one. His married brother suggests placing a pea under layers of mattresses and inviting candidates to sleep upon them. He says only the most sensitive and delicate of princesses will detect the pea underneath. But Henrik’s brother’s princess wife appears to be merely thin-skinned and touchy. Henrik wants to find someone who is just the opposite; a princess who likes camping and hockey, a girl who smiles and is resourceful and kind. So Henrik tries his own variation on the “pea” method on visitors to the castle. With a thin sleeping bag and a packet of frozen peas, Henrik hopes his test may just weed out the ‘delicate’ princesses from the one who is tough enough to be a real princess. Whimsically illustrated with collage, gouache and pencil, this light-hearted approach to matchmaking will delight princes and princesses alike.

A Page in a Book




By Paige Gardner Smith

IMAGINATIVE ANSWERS FOR KIDS Children are simply the best at coming up with the answers they want, getting the results they desire using nothing but their imagination. Their imaginative powers are unbounded by the conventions and boundaries that tend to hamper our freethinking as we age. A child’s unlimited optimism in the face of obstacles shows in their artwork, their play and even in their responses to questions. Ask any three-year-old how they would to get to a faraway place like China, and their imagination is likely to produce an answer as simple as “I’d just go.” The following titles highlight the power of imagination to transport us, to find our answers and to get us where we want to be.

The Amazing Hamweenie By Patty Bowman (Philomel / Penguin)

Dream Friends

Tiger in My Soup

By You Byun (Nancy Paulsen / Penguin Books for Young Readers)

By Kashmira Sheth, Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbler (Peachtree)

Melody has the best dream friend ever. When she sleeps, she and her enormous white cat-like friend can fly, dance and play hide-and-seek, they can do anything they imagine together. But during the day, Melody has trouble summoning her dreamfriend to keep her company in her new school, where she has yet to make a friend. Using the power of her imagination, she closes her eyes and practices a dance she learned from her dream friend. When a real voice chimes in “Is that a new game?” she opens her eyes to see another little girl who’d like to learn the dance. Supporting the idea that dreams are the inspiration for action, Dream Friends is a brilliantly illustrated window into the beautiful resource that is a child’s imagination.

When a young boy is left in the care of his teen sister, all he wants her to do is read his book about tigers with him. But she’s got her ear-buds in, groovin’ in her own world, and doesn’t want to take the time to read with him. After all, she’s only supposed to make his lunch. But when she puts his bowl of alphabet soup in front of him, he suddenly spies a tiger in his soup! The tiger steams and swirls out of his bowl and his ordinary lunch quickly becomes a fight for his life (and lunch). His battle with the tiger draws his sister’s help as spoons drop and soup gets cold. Will this play for attention get him the book time he’s seeking with his sister? For the kids whose imagination roars for recognition, Tiger in My Soup is the recipe for required reading.

44 | birminghamparent | may 2013

Hamweenie is a cat…who also is a star waiting to be born. In his mind, he’s a famous magician-acrobatentertainer who is destined for fame and the adulation of children worldwide. He imagines himself in the spotlight center-stage, under the big top and with his name writ large across the sky as “The Amazing Hamweenie.” But his dreams are hampered at every turn by his caregiver, a little girl who loves him with baths and costumes (balanced with treats and hugs). Convinced he is being alternately drowned and poisoned, Hamweenie bides his time looking for every opportunity to escape and find his destiny. But readers will find that his imagination is his best vehicle for escape – because his real captivity is the best life ever. This is a delightful title both for its droll humor and highly detailed artwork!

A Page in a Book


R e comm e nding

t h e B e s t B ook s fo r C hi l d r e n & T e e n s

By Gerry Paige Smith

The Beauty of Solitude Because our children are growing up in an age of social media, flash mobs and Skype, it’s easy to assume that they will never be alone. But there are times that they will be alone, either by choice or through circumstance and it’s important that children understand the differences between being alone and bring lonely. Being alone gives children the opportunity to hone in on details typically lost in the clatter of company; to appreciate sights, sounds and feelings that can be buried by outside stimulation. Even loneliness has its place in our hearts as it makes our time of reunion and together moments even more cherished and special. The following titles explore solitude, loneliness and alone time with great beauty and sensitivity, helping young readers appreciate the special times that are theirs, alone.

Octopus Alone By Divya Srinivasan (Penguin / Viking) Octopus is very comfortable in the quiet confines of her cave, watching the underwater world and its beauties float by. But when a group of seahorses discover her refuge (and her), their friendly interest and enthusiasm feel like too much to bear. Octopus quietly goes into camouflage mode and sneaks away. As she slips into the darker deeps alone, Octopus finds herself enjoying the spaces where no one is watching. She twirls, wiggles and somersaults as she revels in the peaceful, quiet darkness. She is comfortable and happy. But after a while, she remembers the sea horses and decides to return – refreshed by the solitude – to get reacquainted with her new friends. Beautifully transitive illustrations celebrate both the lively wonders of the sea and the serenity of the deep ocean.

Silence By Lemniscates (Magination Press) Told from the perspective of a young girl, Silence is an expansive exploration of the quiet beauty of being alone. When the girl is by herself, she can hear her heart beating as she runs, her breath moving to and fro. The sounds of her legs swimming, her feet dancing might be lost in a crowd, but when she’s alone, she can hear them like never before. Birds talking, bees buzzing and the wind blowing are not hidden behind the murmur of conversation and company. Being alone among silence gives voice to the quieter sounds, awakening subtle senses that may be rarely used in world of distractions that demand our attention. The undiscovered pleasures of solitude and silence are everywhere in this breezy and beautiful ode to quiet times and quiet spaces. 40 | birminghamparent | october 2013

Snook Alone By Marilyn Nelson, Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering (Candlewick Press) Nothing gives Snook more pleasure that his days spent in the company of Abba Jacob, with whom he shares a monastic life on a quiet island. Snook spends every day by Abba Jacob’s side while he works, prays, and gardens: they are a constant pair. But when a violent storm separates them, Snook is left stranded on the island to make his way alone. At first sad and afraid, Snook begins to explore his home on his own. New adventures and elements of the island are Snook’s alone to discover with increasing pleasure while he waits for the return of his friend. Recognizing the fear that comes with isolation, this title offers a poignant balance, celebrating the heightened awareness that comes with being alone. An inspiration for kids who struggle with separation and alone time, this story finds the bright side to being solitary while you wait to be reunited with your companions.

A Page in a Book




By Paige Gardner Smith

Living a Colorful Life Just as a child’s vocabulary grows from the simplest words to complex sentences as they mature, so too does their grasp of color. Beginning with the most basic colors of black, red, blue and yellow, kids quickly learn to recognize the blending of primary colors to add the greens, purples, orange and more. Even with crayon labels helping them expand their rainbow, their maturing vision and vocabulary let them discern broader and more diverse hues around them. They learn to associate them with their other senses until their palette begins to overflow with colors that define much of their world. The following recommended reading titles shine the light on the life of color through the eyes of a child.

Colors for Zena By Monica Wellington (Dial Books for Young Readers)

The Day the Crayons Quit By Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel) When young Duncan opens his coloring box, he discovers his crayons gone and in their place, a collection of letters explaining why they’ve quit. His crayons have essentially gone on strike, complaining of their poor working conditions – each color has their own sad story to tell. Red is overworked (coloring fire engines and covering the big holidays of Christmas and Valentine’s Day). Beige is underworked (and suggests more fields of wheat in drawings).Yellow and Orange both believe they are the true color of the sun and are not currently speaking to each other. And poor White doesn’t even get used without Black’s outline! The resignation letters are hilarious – and full of the crayons’ selfserving tips for young readers to discover new ways to use ALL the colors at their disposal. From the furious scribbler to the finicky colorist, the laugh-outloud title will become a top shelf favorite for every budding artist in the family.

Waking up in a room of gray and muted hues, Zena is bursting to leave the house in search of all of her colors! Through each two-page spread in this book, she navigates through every color that she loves. One street is filled with yellow as a school bus and taxi move past yellow buildings and the flower shop. When she turns the corner the pages burst with the reds of a fire truck, a double-decker bus, an art store and more crimson hues. Zena adds all her favorite colors throughout her journey in the neighborhood. Ideal for young readers who are just starting to identify colors with traditional objects, kids will enjoy finding all the things that fit into the color schemes with each leg of Zena’s exploration!

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood By Tameka Fryer Brown, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans (Viking) Young Jamie has a very clear color sense of feelings. Associating colors with both the moments that make him feel good and the times when he is not so happy, Jamie’s moods are colored by his experiences. One of his best moods is the purple kind; the cold plumeating, grape juice-drinking, listening to music kind of mood. But when his brothers send him off so they can play video games, Jamie’s mood becomes colored by a stormy gray. His yellow mood is warmed up by baked corn pudding, lemon pie and curry chicken, all served in a bright kitchen with his family. Supporting the associative sense of color to communicate feelings, My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood helps young readers articulate and expand the sense of color beyond putting a crayon to the page. | 41


ye ten the pla mo en sal

birthdays! the best day of the year Everyone has one day of the year that is very special to them – the day that marks the anniversary of their birth. Children pick up their sense of birthday excitement early when parents are keen to celebrate the date they welcomed their child into their world. Kids begin to recognize that the day is special for them and come to anticipate it with eagerness and excitement as it often entails some form of celebration – from the small family dinner to the full-on party with friends, decorations and gifts. The following titles look at birthdays from both ends – so birthday kids as well as invited guests can anticipate the events that surround the special day!

Not Last Night But the Night Before

including, bathing, baking a cake (licking the icing, of course), blowing up balloons and welcoming the first guests to the party. Recommended reading for the run-up to the big birthday, Happy Birthday, Bertie is a perfect primer for a child’s first real party with guests, gifts and games.

By Colin McNaughton, Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark Publisher: (Candlewick Press) Already in his pajamas the night before his big day, a boy hears knocking at the front door. The cats caper into the house, and it’s just the beginning of a colorful procession of eager guests who all bluster through the door bearing gifts (and usually trampling him underfoot in their rush to come in). A regular roll call of fairy tale, fable and nursery rhyme characters come calling in this brightly illustrated storybook that conveys the excitement of gift giving for attendees (and the honoree’s anticipation of a birthday in the morning). This title is a brilliant addition to the birthday book shelf!

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

By Candace Fleming & G. Brian Karas Publisher: (Schwartz & Wade) Invited to the princess’s 10th birthday party, young Jack can’t afford to buy a gift so he trades for ingredients to make a special cake for her. Decorated with walnuts that spell her name and crowned with a beautiful strawberry, Jack begins the trip with the perfect birthday cake he made for the princess. But between his home and the castle, misadventure whittles away at his cake until he arrives with nothing but the strawberry – and then discovers the birthday girl is allergic to strawberries! Will Jack have something worthy to share with the princess? While teaching children the value of gifts from the heart, Clever Jack Takes the Cake, serves up a sweet lesson before any birthday for both honorees and attendees.

Happy Birthday, Bertie! By Marcus Pfister Publisher: (North-South) Awakened with a birthday kiss in the morning, Bertie hits the ground running as he and his family move through all the preparations to celebrate his big day. All the traditional events and trappings are included in this paean to a child’s birthday party Auburn-Opelika Parents I October 2011

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being shy, seeing shy...start out by saying “hi!” Some kids are just naturally shy. But in today’s socially engaged world, it’s not always an asset to be shy, especially if it leaves an introverted child feeling left out or feeling lonely. Finding ways to help timid kids engage with their peers is foremost on many parents’ minds. It’s also helpful when outgoing children learn to recognize and understand shyness so that they can also help bring shy kids into the circle of activity. The following books explore shyness from both the inside perspective and outside view so that all kids can learn how to help open up doors that may be only quietly knocked upon.

The Boys

mond every time he’s near, saying “Hi!” to him. She finally approaches Desmond (hiding in a book) and asks to read with him. Before long they are fast friends, with Gloria drawing Desmond out of the background and into plain sight and into the welcoming world of his peers. With a strong ‘pay it forward’ feeling, Disappearing Desmond is a charming title for any child whether they blend in or stand out!

by Jeff Newman (Simon & Schuster) Perhaps it’s a perfect parity that one of the best books to explore shyness is a wordless book. “The Boys” opens on a Tuesday with a little boy grabbing his hat, mitt and bat and heading for the park. But once there he can’t work up the courage to approach the other ball players and join the game. Instead he quietly joins a group of old men on a park bench, who over the following days observe his problem and find a novel way to bring him off the bench – and by the following Tuesday, the boy has gathered the courage to join the game. Brilliantly conceived and executed, adults and kids will love this wordless treasure that speaks volumes about overcoming shyness and helping courage along.

Say Hello

by Jack & Michael Foreman (Candlewick Press) Wandering the world alone, a single pup wants to be with others but hasn’t found an opening until he happens upon a group of kids playing ball. He approaches them to get in the game and after a moment of surprise, the kids include him in the play. A boy watches from the sidelines, also wanting to join in yet too shy to make the first move. But the dog, who has been in the same position as the boy, notices him and draws him into the circle of play with a simple gesture of “hello”. Adapted from a heartfelt poem written by second year college student, Jack Foreman, Say Hello draws from his own experience and communicates simply and clearly the loneliness that can accompany shyness in children – while offering a simple word that open doors to bolder moments.

Disappearing Desmond

by Anna Alter (Alfred A Knopf) Desmond is shy and does his best to blend in with the background (and he’s very good at it). He’s rarely noticed by his classmates, even his teacher has a hard time seeing him sometimes. He’s used to his anonymity, until the new kid Gloria shows up at school. She’s outgoing, loves the spotlight…and sees DesEastern Shore Parents I August 2011

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Best books for touring school! The ‘going to school’ experience is different for every child. They each discover the subjects they like best, the challenges they like least and the learning styles that suit them best. And school can be a big place. Different rooms for this, special areas for that, and a schedule of activities that can be overwhelming for some as they work to nail down what hall leads where and begin routines that will become habit before long. As they adjust to their first taste of academia, exploring books that tour schools from various perspectives can help kids learn a bit more about the world of classrooms and the land of learning!

Hornbook and Inkwells

break for recess. But this Gingerbread Man wants to be part of the class, and races to catch up with the kids. On his quest to find the children, he meets the gym teacher, school nurse, art instructor and principal before he finally discovers his class (who had put up ‘Missing’ posters of him around the school upon finding him gone!) The traditional “Run, Run, as fast as you can” rhyme is echoed in Murray’s text as the cookie, seeking his friends, sprints toward a sweet reunion with his class.

by Verla Kay, Illustrated by S. D. Schindler (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) Following the experiences of brothers, Peter and John Paul, young readers will get a charming peek into school as it was for many kids in the eighteenth century in Hornbooks and Inkwells. Long ago, students of all ages learned together in one room, using lessons inscribed on wooden paddles, and writing on birch-bark paper. The discipline was stern, and the bathroom (outhouse) drafty, but recess was just as joyous then as it is today! Kids will enjoy finding the differences (and similarities) between school two centuries ago and their classroom today. Inspired by the memoir of a colonial schoolmaster, Kay’s brief rhyming text is the perfect accompaniment to the informative pictures that also narrate the tale.

Follow the Line to School

by Laura Ljungkist (Viking) On the first brightly-colored page, a thick unbroken black line spells the words ‘school’ and ‘explore’ before looping around and into the front doors of a primary school. The line continues from page to page touring each classroom and learning center in the school. The line wends all over each page, highlighting, outlining and completing objects and images that children will find in their own classrooms, media centers and lunchrooms. The text presents seek-and-find opportunities for readers, question-answer moments for read-aloud partners, and the ‘line’ itself just begs to be traced with a fingertip as it tours the school from one end to the other. The rich mixed media images leave no subject untouched and no area unexplored for kids taking their first tour of school!

The Gingerbread Man: Loose in the School

by Laura Murray, Illustrated by Mike Lowery (G. P. Putnam’s Sons) A classroom of kids work together to mix ingredients, stir batter, shape dough and finally… bake a warm, handsome Gingerbread Man. They leave their cookie creation to cool as they Eastern Shore Parents I September 2011

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A Page in a Book by Paige Gardner Smith

Big Brothers, Big Sisters, New Baby! When a new baby is on the way, and there’s a first-born in the house already…the adjustments, both big and small, mark the kind of relationship that will evolve between the new siblings. Excitement and anticipation are often mixed with fear and uncertainty as a child ponders the coming interloper. Parents can help their child prepare for the changes to come with a new baby by discussing the additional demands on their time and the changing routines as well as the increase in love that fills the home of a growing family. The following titles offer a light-hearted look at some of the questions and feelings that older siblings-to-be are sure to ask – before the little one arrives… or certainly, after!

There’s Going to Be a Baby

by John Burningham & Richard Morris (Candlewick Press) A mother kneels beside her son’s bed and tells him, “There’s going to be a baby.” As the mom’s pregnancy advances, she and her son take special outings over the following months (visiting the zoo restaurants, the bank, the doctor, etc.). Each new setting generates questions about what kind of person the baby will become. The son’s question about the new arrival send his imagination soaring as he ponders the potential for his coming sibling. The illustration style is reminiscent of vintage comics and lends brilliant comedy to the child’s questions about the new baby (and its future!).

Bye-Bye Baby

by Richard Morris, Illustrated by Larry Day (Walker & Company) On the day his baby sister arrives, Felix has pretty much made up his mind that he doesn’t like her. He turns to his stuffed donkey Poncho with his complaints and concerns. From the constant crying to new demands on his mother’s time, Felix, along with Poncho, is definitely feeling the squeeze. When a trip to the zoo wraps up with an inconsolable baby sister in the backseat, Felix discovers that he may have something to share with his sister that will give them common ground to build a new relationship. Bye-Bye Baby acknowledges the resentment some kids may feel toward a new baby, while reinforcing the importance of growing individual connections between siblings.

Once Upon a Baby Brother

by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Tricia Tuse (Farrar Straus & Giroux) Lizzie is a natural storyteller, sharing her made-up tales with her parents, schoolmates and even her loyal dog, Big George. But when her baby brother, Marvin, arrives…her parents don’t have time to listen like they used to. School begins to seem like a refuge where she can share her tales with her teacher and class. But while Marvin and Mom are away for the weekend, she hits writer’s block on a comic book assignment and needs a story with interesting characters. When Marvin returns (and spills drink all over her work), Lizzie finds the inspiration she was looking for as well as an appreciation for the new character in her life! Find more A Page in a Book recommendations at



Eastern Shore Parents I October 2011

A Page in a Book

by Paige Gardner Smith

Loose Tooth Tales to Chew On

One of the first ‘rites of passage’ for young kids is when they lose their first baby tooth. The first wiggle is so exciting and the prospect of engaging in the tooth fairy tradition of ‘reward under the pillow’ is appealing to any enterprising child. But as the wiggle becomes a wobble, and the wobble becomes a twist…the actual losing of the tooth can become a bit intimidating for the child with a changing smile. Fear of pain or loss can overshadow the event. Siblings and friends, with overly-dramatic suggestions on how to usher the tooth to freedom, often enhance this trepidation. To help kids prepare for the exit of a used tooth, the following books explore the lighter side of dental change and the perks that come along with losing a tooth!

Tooth on the Loose

by Susan Middleton Elya, Illustrated by Jenny Matheson (G.P. Putnam & Sons) A bilingual story of a young girl’s plan to get her tooth out, Tooth on the Loose explores every child’s eagerness to free the tooth and their hesitation to do the actual deed. Told in rhyme, a young chica needs her tooth out in time to use the tooth fairy money for her Papa’s birthday gift. But, family member’s suggestions to expedite the tooth’s exit are not very comforting. As the day approaches, the tooth is not letting go, and she must find another way to give a special gift at the birthday dinner. Introducing Spanish words that explain themselves in the text, the child moves beyond her lack of dinero for her diente and gives her father the most special gift of all!

April and Esme: Tooth Fairies

by Bob Graham (Candlewick Press) In a small family of tooth fairies, everyone has to pull their weight. Notified about a lost tooth (via a cell phone call from an anxious grandmother) and armed with all the household particulars (one dog, no cat) young siblings, April and Esme, are ready to lift off on their first mission to retrieve a tooth and leave a coin. But first they must convince their parents they are ready for the job. Just as losing a tooth is a growth milestone for kids, April and Esme are trying to grow up, too. The illustrations are filled with delightful images of a diminutive fairy household and offer charming renderings of two wee fairies trying to get their first tooth retrieval right. Recommended for the child who can’t sleep on tooth fairy night, visions of April and Esme’s adventure will help them keep their eyes shut tight!

Bear’s Loose Tooth

by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Margaret K. McElderry Books) Bear is BACK! And he’s got a loose tooth! The ‘Bear’ books from the amazing team of Wilson and Chapman are always entertaining and lovingly illustrated to invite young readers into the cozy circle of Bear’s forest friends. In this latest book, our favorite bear is eating lunch when suddenly a tooth is loose! It’s his first – and in the midst of the excitement, he begins to worry about what will happen next. Happily, his friends are quick to provide help and reassurance with this perfectly natural development. Ideal for the child with concerns about their loose tooth, this rhyming story will soothe their fears and encourage them to take the fate of their tooth into their own hands. Find more A Page in a Book recommendations at

Montgomery Parents I November 2011



AWASH IN BATH TIME BOOKS Kids’ feelings about bathing can be as changeable as their clothes. Some loathe the moment and will do anything to avoid the scrub, while others want to jump in before water hits the bottom. But either way, somebody’s getting wet. In addition to washing away the dirt of the day, being in a bath is a special private moment for splashy play and imagination. No television, phones, video game or visitors – it’s just a child, some tub toys and a watery world of their own…at least for a while. The following titles all relate bath time adventures that are sure to “wet” your child’s appetite for their next tub time!

Treasure Bath

bath, too. As other animal friends tow themselves (and their toys) into the tub, the bath becomes a seascape of surreal proportions. Big things become small and tiny things are gargantuan as the friends shape and reshape their world of water. But, as every child knows, even big tubs have containment limits and water displacement becomes a common tub time lesson for every kid. But Elephant in the Bathtub reminds that there are never any limits on the imagination of a happy bather!

by Dan Andreason Publisher: Henry Holt & Company One of the best things about wordless books is that the ‘reader’ can embellish the tale with his own interpretations and imaginings, much like a child can make a bath either a chore or an adventure. After helping his mother bake a cake, the young boy (now wearing some of the icing) is guided to the bathtub. His expression makes it clear on approach that he has mixed feelings about the task. But as he settles into the water, his imagination takes him downward into an underwater adventure. Of course, his voyage eventually leads him back to the task at hand, but the combination of purpose and play makes this charming wordless book a fine foreword to bathing!

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub

by Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood Publisher: Harcourt Originally published almost 25 year ago, King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub remains one of the most exuberant tributes to the pleasures of the bath. Featuring a cast of courtiers in resplendently royal garb who try in vain to lure their king out of his luxurious bath, the battle of wills about getting in or out of the tub will ring true with parents and children alike. With witty wordplay and charming voice, the story is amplified a hundred-fold by the lush, detailed oil painted illustrations that deserved the Caldecott Honor award when it premiered. Packed with wonderful small details, this title is a re-reader’s delight that celebrates the joy, and potential adventures, found in the bathtub.

Elephant in the Bathtub

by Kristina Andres Publisher: North South Books When Elephant sunk into his roomy bath, it wasn’t long before Cat came along (with a box of tub toys) and climbed in. There was still plenty of space when Giraffe (and some mice) wanted to join him in the Mobile Bay Parents I July 2011

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Good night, little beasts! Choosing the best bedtime story to waft a little one off to sleep can be a challenge for the family with a full bookshelf. Clearly, adventure tales and stories of woe or wildness may not make the first cut. Filling children’s heads with stories that make their mind race won’t do much to help them calm down and relax into a state of slumber. The following titles feature animals that are peacefully and quietly making their way toward sleep. These bedtime beasts will help lead your child down the forest path, around the darkening jungle and through the stable door to the world of sweet sleep and peaceful dreams. the world of dreams. The Teddy becomes a gentle, giant grizzly and the boy finds himself changed into a young bear companion as they make their way through peaceful glades and cool streams. The night is full of quiet marvels and bear pleasures. When dawn begins to appear, the two return from the dream to the waking world with the closing sentiment, “And none but Teddy will suppose that you know what the grizzly knows.” What the Grizzly Knows is a great send-off on the road to sweet dreams.

Hush, Little Horsie

by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Ruth Sanderson Publisher: Random House Kids From the highland moors to the western prairies, mother horses are watching over their foals at play. When evening comes, and the young horses settle down, the mothers promise to watch over them even as they sleep. The repetitive rhyming text is a reassuring counterpart to the beautiful equine illustrations from Sanderson, whose talent rendering horses is unparalleled. Horse lovers will appreciate the breeds in their traditional settings, while others will get a warm introduction to the beauty of the horse. The gentle message that a parent’s attention and love continue on even as they sleep is just the right kind of comfort for a child preparing for bed. Hush, Little Horsie is an ideal book for horse lovers to nuzzle up with!

by John Butler Publisher: Peachtree As the day is almost done, a mother rhino lies down and quietly beckons her one baby to sleep as well. Likewise, a monkey makes a lush bed for her two babes and calls them to rest. And so it goes as each animal leads their growing group of offspring to bed. The lyrical rhymes lend themselves to a ‘call and response’ as incarnations of the phrase, “Sleep, said the mother”... “I’ll sleep said the one,” repeat throughout so children can begin to participate in the reading over time. Paired with lush, peaceful illustrations (featuring growing numbers of soft white moths on each page), Butler’s use of color and darkening light make this title a beautiful new bedtime favorite!

by David Elliot, Illustrated by Max Grafe Publisher: Candlewick Press Taking a Teddy bear to bed can be just the beginning of a grand bedtime journey. When a little boy cuddles up with his favorite bear and drifts off to sleep, their camaraderie moves beyond the bed and into Mobile Bay Parents I August 2011

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