Monthly Archives: July 2013

For the love of monkeys


I hope to encourage more children to discover and love reading, but I want to focus particularly on the appreciation of picture books, and the reading of both pictures and words. Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader’s imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.
-Anthony Browne

This post is for those of you who, like myself, love and adore monkeys. You know who you are. Feature some cute monkeys in a picture book and you’re enthralled. Mention a monkey-themed story time and I’m getting my monkey puppet out to rehearse. Ask for some monkey picture books and I’ll give you a whole stack within five minutes (Favorites include Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein, Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett). That said, I have to point out that Anthony Browne’s book One Gorilla: A Counting Book is one of those pictures books you will not be able to resist even if you’re less enthused about monkeys. It is gorgeous. He features various primates- from gorillas to gibbons, from mandrills to spider monkeys, all vividly expressive and striking. It is very simple, with the focus on large numbers 1-10 and the names of the primates; only the last couple pages contain more: “All primates. All one family. All my family…and yours!”

I always sensed Anthony Browne was a big primate fan, based on his books Gorilla, Willy the Chimp, etc. But these images are so breathtaking, it seems as if he must have lived among primates to gain some intense understanding of them. I particularly love the orangutan, chimpanzee, and spider monkey pages. The gorilla is reminiscent of the main character in his endearing book Little Beauty, a story about an unlikely friendship between a kitten and gorilla. His stories are great for preschool and beyond. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.


Friday Favorite: Kids Albums That Rock!

Girl_musicAs a parent and youth librarian, I’m a big fan of children’s music that doesn’t prompt parents to want to hide in a corner /jump out a window. The following are my current “Top Ten” favorite kids albums (including local Portland, Oregon rocker Mo Phillips). Maybe I’ll do a separate post with honorable mentions because it’s so hard to choose (Jack Johnson and Friends Sing-a-longs and Lullabies , They Might Be Giants, For the Kids (various artists) and Caspar Babypants would definately be included).

I grew up in the 70’s listening to artists like Marlo Thomas, Peter, Paula and Mary, Burl Ives, Schoolhouse Rock, The Beach Boys, and Pete Seeger. You can probably tell that now I favor folk and rock music a bit, and although I recognize the value of nursery rhymes and albums like this one, I rarely choose them when I’m reaching for something to inspire a living room dancy party with my kids. For more ideas on children’s music that doesn’t suck, check out the excellent blog Zooglobble!

1) Catch the Moon by Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell 2007
Both of these artists individually have other albums for kids, but this is one of my favorite collaborations.

2) Family Time by Ziggy Marley 2009
This one is probably in my top 3 for family listening. It’s just that happy and fun.

3) Fascinating Creatures by Frances England 2006
“Acoustic Pop”
I’m not embarrassed to admit this album has temporarily replaced Alicia Keys in my car and yep, I listen to it even without the kids along. I can’t wait to hear her new album, “Blink of An Eye” coming out August 6!

4) Songs for Wiggleworms (2000) and
5) Wiggleworms Love You (various artists) (2005)
Well-known, more traditional children’s songs done with class.

6) Putumayo Kid’s albums (various titles and artists)
Where do I begin? I haven’t heard a Putumayo kid’s album I didn’t like. These are the ones I grab to play before and after story time- even if I’ve never heard it before, I know it’s going to be good listenin’. My favorites include Jazz Playground, Dreamland, and Brazilian Playground.

7) Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie by Elizabeth Mitchell 2012
I love every Elizabeth Mitchell album out there, but this is a recent one I have played a billion times.

8) The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band 2010
If you’ve ever attended a preschool story time, chances are you’ve heard Laurie Berkner. My toddler loves “Bumblebee Buzz Buzz” so much he asks for it several times a day. Her songs are silly, catchy, and totally in tune with little ones.

9) Robot Rodeo by Mo Phillips 2010
“Rock” He’s a creative, funny, weird, talented local rocker who reminds me a bit of Jack Black and whose album Robot Rodeo is a favorite. Frankly I’d listen to anything he does. He gets kids. His music is worth checking out and if you’re a local, get your kids to a concert!

10) Catch That Train by Dan Zanes and Friends 2011
What the what? Apparently musician Dan Zanes has teamed up with Elizabeth Mitchell. The result is “Turn Turn Turn” and I can’t wait to hear it. Check out this video where Dan tries to teach you how to play the song “Catch That Train”. Oh, if only I had a guitar…

Little Scientists

Girl_DandelionJean Piaget, a child development theorist and pioneer observed that children are “active builders of knowledge- little scientists who construct their own theories of the world.” He established four stages of development that children experience: Sensorimotor (Ages 0-2), Preoperational (Ages 2-6), Concrete operations (Ages 6-11), and Formal operations (Ages 11-adult). You can read a brief explanation here. He basically concluded that young children don’t think like adults, and that by allowing a child’s learning to be a “hands-on” exploratory process (versus simply transmitting information to them), we help them build their own knowledge. If you get tired of your little one always asking “WHY?” remember that asking questions is their job as a little scientist.

Exploring the outdoors has been a favorite activity with my two active sons this summer. Even something as simple as walking around the neighborhood or park can lead to new observations and active learning. There is a large rock bordering a garden bed in our backyard, and almost daily, my preschooler asks me to help lift it up so he can look underneath for bugs. We talk about what the spiders or worms might be doing. We also check the progress of our tomato plants every day, taking great delight in watching the tomatoes grow bigger, gradually transitioning from bright green to a deep orange-ish red.

Some of my favorite picture books speak to early discoveries about nature: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin, Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, The Listening Walk by Paul Showers, Denise Fleming’s books such as Beetle Bop and In the Tall, Tall Grass, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle…I could go on and on!

Reading Rockets has some solid suggestions for “building background knowledge” with your child: 1. take field trips, 2. talk about it and 3. follow up with a book. This supports the learning model Piaget found so valuable- allowing kids to get direct experiences with the world around them- experiencing, discussing, exploring, pondering, questioning- etc. then extending that knowledge with good books (the books I mentioned are stories, but I recommend using a mix of easy nonfiction books and picture books, according to specific topic). One book series that helps kids learn about science is Joanna Cole’s The Magic School Bus series, and there are some cool online resources for helping kids learn about the natural world, including this one. Check out this page for more ideas to help nurture your little scientist!

Friday Favorite: Emma Dodd

Love_Bugs_DoddPosh_Dog_DoddIt started with Dog’s Colorful Day: A Messy Story about Colors and Counting (2003) by English author/illustrator Emma Dodd. I fell in love with this book a few years ago, and soon discovered that I love pretty much every one of Dodd’s books. Her books are super cute, clever, educational and entertaining narratives that never grow old. They usually feature animals, and address learning concepts like colors, counting, and the ABC’s as well as feelings such as love, affection, admiration, friendship, and more. These are great books for story times, with large, bright illustrations, rhyming text and a great sense of humor blended into the story line.

Her picture books are perfect for the toddler/preschooler/pre-K crowd. One of her latest books, Foxy (2012) stars a little girl who is nervous for her first day of school and her friend, Foxy (an adorable red fox) conjures up things to help ease her anxiety, but doesn’t necessarily produce the things he means to. Her books with Giles Andreae, I Love My Mommy and I Love My Daddy are so cute and humorous you’ll want to share them again and again. They have an affectionate rhyming narrative and capture a young person’s perspective on the many reasons they love their parents. Her book I Love Bugs is another favorite- and a good one for summer when little ones are outside observing various insects, from “fuzzy sunny honey bugs and furry whirry funnys bugs” to “flouncy frilly flutter bugs and silly clitter-clutter bugs” (As you can tell, the vocabulary in this book is fabulous!) Dodd’s “I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!” and “I Don’t Want a Posh Dog!” (emphasizing the endearing nature of loveable ordinary pets) are also favorites, but there are so many it’s hard to choose which one I love the most. I hope you’ll feel the same way.

Parent’s Choice: Picture Books, Mobile Apps and More

How_CatIf you’re looking for some new picture books to share with your child, check out these from the Parents’ Choice website. My favorites include Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore, How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure, Night Light by Nicholas Blechman, How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan, and I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau. Parents Choice also has suggestions for 2013’s best audio, magazines, tv, software, toys, and more. I like their “Read, Play, Learn” section as well, full of great information, ideas and suggestions for your family.

Need some new mobile apps to check out? Here are their suggestions. I don’t have alot of personal experience with mobile apps for kids, so I would love to hear what you’re currently using with your child!