Monthly Archives: October 2013

Friday Favorite: Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger


OMG. One of my co-workers showed me this brilliant book. Although I haven’t read it to my kids yet, I think it’s a wonderful story, one whose deeper message is presented with a good dose of comedy- making the very serious subject of bullying more digestable, and understandable on a basic level. This one will make an entertaining read-aloud as well.

Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger opens with an adult bull telling a younger bull to “GO AWAY!” The young bull, hurt and lonely, shouts insults when his peers ask him to play. The insults are very G-rated, such as “slowpoke” (to a turtle) and “you stink!” (to a skunk); each time he volleys one he gets bigger on the page until he can barely fit into the story…soon, just his feet fit. Finally, when a goat calls him out (“Bully!” he bleats) he ditches his tough, mean persona and agrees to play, following his friends out past the fence into an open field. The font size follows the emotion- big as the bully’s anger heats up, and smaller when he realizes what he’s doing.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is an award-winning author from New York who also wrote the books First the Egg, Green, What If? and the Dog and Bear books. For Bully, she has used a stick dipped in ink to illustrate the book, and drawn cartoon-like characters whom you immediately care for. She has made this story both simple and complex, while addressing an intense subject.

I recommend sharing books on bullying with your preschoolers, kindergarteners and early elementary school age kids. Here are some recommendations (I’ll mention a few here but check out Little Parachutes for more titles:

Bully by Patricia Pollaco
The Bad-Tempered Ladybug by Eric Carle
Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy
Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney
The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others by Sornson and Dismondy
Leave Me Alone: A Tale of What Happens When You Stand Up to a Bully by Kes Gray
You’re Mean, Lily Jean! by Frieda Wishinsky

as well as these titles.


Phonological Awareness and You


Tonight on the way home, to avoid playing the same song my kids ask for over and over in the car (it really is a great song, I just couldn’t stomach it for the 10th time today) I made up a game.  “Guess which animal I am?” I said and went “Moo, Moo!” My almost-two-yr-old exclaimed “COW!” I told my preschooler it was his turn. “Meooow! Meooow!” he said and we guessed cat. Then it was my youngest son’s turn. He said “I’m a tiger- ROAR! ROAR!” He didn’t quite pick up on the guessing game fun, but made a sound that approximated a tiger’s roar.  It was way more fun than listening to the same song again, and involved their active participation while exercising one of the early literacy skills.

Phonological Awareness is one of my favorite skills to discuss and highlight in story time.  It’s the ability to hear and play with smaller sounds in words. There are so many creative things you can do with this skill, but here are some ideas for some basic things to start with:

Babies: Sing songs! Sing nursery rhymes, make up songs with baby’s name,.. Don’t like singing? Play music and bounce baby or tap the rhythm.

Toddlers: Sing songs! Sing nursery rhymes, songs with animal sounds, incorporating actions. Wheels On the Bus is a good story for this (change it to “animals on the bus” and you can practice animal sounds).

Preschoolers: Sing songs! Sing nursery rhymes and favorite songs!  Rhymes introduce sound patterns that are not only fun, but will help your child learn to read later. Play rhyming games (I Spy with my little eye something that rhymes with cat), or clap your child’s name or different words with one clap per syllable.  Books that are great to enhance phonological awareness: Down By the Bay by Raffi, any Dr. Seuss book, Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr and Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.

Need more info and book suggestions? You can read more here.

Friday Favorite: Golden Books Gown by Ryan Jude Novelline


Remember your favorite Little Golden Books? If your answer is yes, you just have to see this gown  made from Golden Books! Ryan Jude Novelline is a pretty talented designer, I’d say. You should read more in the Publisher’s Weekly article, but here’s one of my favorite quotes from the interview:

“My mother and I were sitting in her writing room talking about how children’s books have such unfortunately short life spans. Books read at such a young age leave such long-lasting impressions on a person’s character, yet the physical books themselves barely last beyond one or two generations of use. The Golden Books series in particular was one that was passed down to me from my mother that heavily influenced my artistic identity. As a small child, I would tuck myself away and in silence passing hours attempting to perfectly replicate characters on printer paper to hang on my bedroom wall. Until I had conversation with my mother about the books, I had not reflected upon the many hours I spent admiring them as a child.

Can the emotional impact of these books endure beyond their initial use? This became my challenge. I was told I could never achieve such volume with paper, but in this case, I was stubborn and ignored arbitrary restrictions”.

Climb Aboard The Thunderbolt Express! a review of Matthew Porter’s new picture book


*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review. I wasn’t compensated in any other way and this is strictly my opinion.

Porter_Jazz_Band Porter_train

There’s a new monkey book in town and I had to see it. Matthew Porter, author and illustrator of Tails Chasing Tails and Monkey World ABC has published a picture book, Monkey World: The Thunderbolt Express. This is a story your young train aficionados will want to hear.

“All aboard!” calls the station master. A whimsical cast of characters (a detective, magician, ventriloquist, inventor and band leader) all board a train and settle in for a smooth trip.  Soon, the journey gets dicey as Napoleon the pug disappears, the bridge ahead is missing, and the train’s brakes fail while “The Thunderbolt shoots down the line faster than lightning. Speeding headlong into danger. Rushing toward the terrifying gap.” I won’t spoil it, but its entertaining, funny and dramatic finish is worth the trip. It may involve underpants, a little monkey named “Little Billy” and a crocodile or two. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Porter’s illustrations are made from distressed pinewood with vibrant colors added.  They have a stylized look and energetic, bright energy. His characters are distinct, in both appearance and name, from flowery scarf-knitting Ms. Trixie to purple pinstriped suit and sunglasses-wearing musician Jango Jenkins. I think the illustrations help carry the story and make this book unique. Each page offers vast details that invite you to linger.  Porter’s text presents vocabulary words like “marvelous”, “jive”, “unfurling”, “ploughs” and “disembark” and make this a great read-aloud for preschoolers and older.

If you’d like to check out Matthew Porter’s artwork, go to his Etsy shop (and try to resist the Han Solo, DJ or Superman monkeys he has there).

If you’re local, Matthew Porter will be at one of my favorite places, Powell’s Books this Saturday, October 19 doing a reading for kid’s storytime.

It’s Common Sense

Child_TVI recently wanted to find a movie for our family’s first “movie night” at home and was a bit overwhelmed by all the options.  As a parent, it’s impossible to preview every single book, movie or tv show your child wants to consume (especially if you have more than one kid!). Finding age-appropriate books and movies can be daunting.

Common Sense Media is a great resource for helping determine what materials are right for your family. This rich resource offers reviews of books, music, movies, apps, games, and more. They are a nonprofit, independent organization “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology”.

There is an easy-to-use search box in the upper right corner- just enter the title of the book, movie, etc and choose from the list.  For each entry, there is a brief summary and review as well as “what parents need to know”, an age appropriateness rating and discussion of content (things like violence, positive role models, consumerism, language, substance use). There’s a place to read both parent and kid reviews and a list of questions to discuss with your kids.

Check out the “Best Movies” for Kids page, categorized by age group and genre. They also offer other “Best of” lists, such as music, books, apps, games, etc.  I love that you can narrow down searches by age.  Finally, here are some recommendations for the preschoolers in your life.