Monthly Archives: September 2013

Friday Favorite: Puffin Peter


I wasn’t feeling quite satisfied with the second read-aloud I’d selected for preschool story time when the bold yellow cover with a colorful puffin beckoned to me from the picture book shelves. I grabbed it and immediately knew I had a winner. Brightly colored illustrations in a book about two best friends Peter and Paul (who happen to be puffins) getting separated from each other and- with the help of a friendly whale- get reunited for a happy ending? Yes please!

It’s Puffin Peter, by Petr Horacek. This is a story that gets told quite a bit, but not exactly in this way…It’s not only a fun story about friendship, but a narrative about miscommunication as the whale mistakenly finds other types of birds matching the description of the lost puffin. I’m already a big fan of Horacek’s picture books New House for Mouse, Silly Suzy Goose and Butterfly, Butterfly. And like many of my favorite author/illustrators, I think I’ll be fond of anything he does (and I admit a special bias for collage art).  The preschoolers I read it to today seemed to love it just as much.


Dialogic Reading

Reading_Mama_ChildDialogic reading is a term that refers to a specific technique of reading encouraging active participation. We know from research that children who actively participate in reading improve reading skills and vocabulary, and learn more expressive language, among other benefits. So how is dialogic reading different from reading aloud to your child? It’s interactive, using open-ended questions. This article from Reading Rockets explains in more detail.

Here’s an example:
“Imagine that the parent and the child are looking at the page of a book that has a picture of a fire engine on it. The parent says, “What is this?” while pointing to the fire truck. The child says, “truck” the parent follows with “That’s right-it’s a red fire truck. Can you say fire truck?”

Follow these steps for a richer reading experience with your child:
1. Ask “what” questions
2. Ask open-ended questions
3. Expand upon what the child says

Friday Favorite: Animal Books

Spots_StripesHere are two of my recent favorites for the 2-4 year old crowd: Animal Spots and Stripes and Animal 123 by German author/illustrator Britta Teckentrup. These lift-the-flap books are sturdier than most and introduce young kids to a variety of animals– giraffes, snakes, elephants, leopards, etc. Both books are bold and lively, presenting patterns and counting in a playful way that fuels a child’s natural curiosity. Teckentrup has other books for children viewable here. Discover one today!

Blink of an Eye


Blink of an Eye, Frances England’s newest children’s album, is beautifully written, feel good music at its best. Since its release in early August, it’s quickly become a staple at my home and work. The songs are honest, fun, sincere, happy, nostalgic and sweet. This is an album both you and your kids will love.

All songs are written by Frances England and she confesses to have written some of them while making pasta or waiting for her kid’s class to end which just makes her more amazing to me. Guest vocalists include Elizabeth Mitchell (“Blink of an Eye”, “Look How the Light Dances With Trees”), Molly Ledford (“Bicycle Built for Two”), and Caspar Babypants (“Blink of an Eye” and “Little Wings”).

Favorites include “Place in the Sun”, Tell Me It All” (about the frustrations of being young and unconditional friendship), “A Bicycle Built for Two” (a lovely duet about taking a ride in the fresh air with a loved one), “Day You Were Born” (a love song to a child), and “Salt Water Spin” (about bravery). The happy percussion accompaniment on several songs (“Blink of an Eye” and “Move Like Saturday Night”) is infectious, prompting listeners to tap or drum along on the nearest surface. And the lyrics– England’s words capture the experiences of kids and parents so well that everything- even a simple bike ride- seems more endearing, more precious. My only complaint? I wish she had included the written lyrics in the package. Here’s a sample:

from Day You Were Born
“On the day you were born/the sky opened wide/Filled up with colors bright and lovely/we felt it inside…Come back to you, back to you, back you you…Always come back to you”.

from Tell Me It All
“Sometimes it hurts/and sometimes you cry/Sometimes it’s not so easy to be young, to be small, to be you. Sometimes you just need a friend/to sit down beside you/Who won’t talk, who won’t ask/who’ll just wait for you–I”ll wait for you…Tell me it all”

Cool Mom Picks writer Christina says:
“With her pretty, lilting voice which reminds me a bit of Norah Jones, and engaging lyrics that are uniquely her own, Frances England is an artist I always want to hear more of. Blink of an Eye is filled with mostly-acoustic songs that remind me of all those times my kids do or say something that knocks me out and I think: I want to remember this moment forever.

In other words: It’s a beautiful album when you need a break from all that jump-around-in-the-car-seat music, but if you’re as sentimental as I am you might just want a tissue nearby for that first listen”.

I couldn’t agree more. She also has an adult album out, called “Paths We Have Worn” Can’t wait to hear it!

Friday Favorite: Oh Baby!

oh_babyGiven my love of monkeys and monkey books, the cover of this book caught my eye and I could not resist.

Oh Baby! The A to Z from Kane Miller is an adorable ABC book full of real photos of baby animals. There are hedgehogs, newts, and an impala, as well as some more common animals such as elephants, kangaroos and zebras. Letters are printed in upper and lower case and very large, which is always nice to see in an alphabet book, and the name of the animal is printed under the letter. This book will introduce new vocabulary by introducing animals not usually seen in basic alphabet books.

Some pages have a description (“Oranguatans love to swing!”) or (“Racoon is clever with his claws”) while others feature the animal up close, staring out of the page at the reader with huge eyes. The design of the book really appeals, with some brightly-colored print popping on some pages, and more understated black and white on others. Read this and you’ll feel like you and your little one took a tour of the zoo without ever leaving your living room.