Feed Me Books Friday: Halloween for the Younger Crowd

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Scary

What I love about Halloween for toddlers and preschoolers: a day devoted to pretend and imagination and playing dress-up! What I don’t love about Halloween: filling little minds with ideas of ghosts, witches, haunted houses, or otherwise scary creatures or places. Call me naïve or accuse me of sheltering my children, but aren’t there enough scary things in the world without telling them about imaginary things to be scared of “for fun?” When I taught middle school and my students devoured Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, it made for a good discussion of urban legend and fun, chill-inducing read-alouds at Halloween time. However, finding books appropriate for younger children, engaging books that highlight the fun without giving the creeps, has proven a little challenging for me!

Costume Fun
Here Comes Halloween!
The best part of Halloween for young children is the dress-up. Deciding what to dress as, selecting or crafting a costume, and showing it off at parties or trick-or-treating is plenty of excitement for little ones. I was drawn to Here Comes Halloween, by Caroline Jayne Church, because the illustrations so closely match those in one of my favorite books, I Love You Through and Through (reviewed here). I was not disappointed once I got a look at the text. It is a board book, including some touch and feel features and flaps, but even at 4 years old B continues to enjoy it. A child explores his Halloween costume choices through dress-up and imagination. What fun!
And Then Comes Halloween
Also centered on the choice of costume but including other seasonal elements as well is And then Comes Halloween, by Tom Brenner. This picture book has more advanced text and detailed illustrations. The feel is just magical as the family goes about seasonal preparations for Halloween, which include costume selection as well as decorations, pumpkin carving, and changing weather. The conclusion of the book is trick-or-treating and happily off to bed, which is exactly the kind of Halloween experience I hope for my boys.

Seasonal Selections
Apples and Pumpkins (Stories to Go!)
Last week Maggie of Red Ted Art linked her review of Apples and Pumpkins to Feed Me Books Friday, and I just had to check it out. It was an excellent follow-up to our trip to the pumpkin patch with B’s preschool class. The harvest season is more emphasized in this story, but it does include carving the jack-o-lantern and trick-or-treating.
Kids' Pumpkin Projects: Planting & Harvest Fun (Williamson Good Times Books)
Prior to our pumpkin patch trip, I checked out Kids’ Pumpkin Projects, by Deanna F. Cook, from our library. It’s not a read-aloud, more of a reference for parents or a project book for older kids. Great year-round projects though, including planting a pumpkin garden, caring for it, harvesting, enjoying, and preserving pumpkins. We enjoyed several recipes and B is adamant that next year’s garden include a pumpkin vine.

Some Friendly Tricks
How Do You Know It's Halloween?: A Spooky Lift-the-Flap Book
So how do you explain the phrase “trick-or-treat” without being too scary? B and I talked about tricks like riddles or fun surprises. B is a lover of riddles in general, so I used that interest and understanding to make a friendly introduction to some of the Halloween icons he’ll see in the stores, decorating the neighborhood, or costuming older kids. How Do You Know It’s Halloween, by Dian Curtis Regan, presents riddles in the form of listed clues and a revealing flap. Some of the items revealed include a jack-o-lantern, a skeleton, and a ghost, but the illustrations are friendly and nothing menacing is suggested by the clues. We used it as another opportunity to talk about real and pretend.
Boo Who? A Spooky Lift-the-Flap Book
A similar lift-the-flap riddle book is Boo, Who? by Joan Holub. It introduces Halloween stand-bys like a ghost and a witch with simple, rhyming riddles and light-hearted illustrations. The final riddle reveals the “scariest monster” in a mylar mirror! Great reminder that the costumes kids encounter hide kids just like them and are nothing to fear.
Appropriate for: toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

Any suggestions for making Halloween fun and friendly? Leave me a comment or link up a review of your own (whether or not it’s Halloween themed).
And don’t forget to enter the giveaway on Wednesday’s review post!



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Has the butt been neglected?
As I mentioned in my last post about learning about our bodies, I have one more body part book to share with you today, and is also a book giveaway! I received the opportunity to review The Butt Book, by Artie Bennett with you. According to the jacket, this book “pay[s] homage to an unsung body part.” So is the butt really “unsung?” If you’re a parent of a preschooler, you might think, as I did initially, that butts receive enough attention without devoting story time to them. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I got past my fear of potty humor and shared the book with B.

Funny, witty, and even admirable:
Bennett’s rhymes are clever and bold, graphic illustrations by Mike Lester add to the humor. This book is the opposite of the disruptive child at story-hour whispering something about somebody’s underpants. The premise is that the butt has been unfairly excluded from lessons and celebrations of our body, and the argument is convincing! The book begins with a presentation of the facts: butts come in many shapes and sizes and have a variety of linguistic and affectionate nicknames. Bennett goes on to point out some notable animal butts (large, small, and specialized). Which leads to the key message: “butts are vital body parts.” As the book describes, they are important for sitting, dancing, swinging, and riding. Rest assured, potty-humor is non-existent; however it is noted that the butt is necessary for proper use of a toilet seat. I appreciate Bennett’s honest and straightforward presentation of the butt; it is fun without slapstick and even includes some interesting facts and useful reminders!

A good match, after all…

I admit, I was initially unsure whether The Butt Book would be a good fit for Little Sprout Books. As much fun as it sounded, could I really pitch a book about butts as developmentally appropriate? After a thoughtful reading I found there is much to love about The Butt Book, and I am thrilled to “get behind it,” as Bennett puns. It’s sure to entertain preschoolers right up through elementary students. Even my middle school classes would have giggled at this one! Delightfully, it’s also a fun way to demonstrate that it is possible to talk about butts (and other body parts) in socially appropriate and respectful ways!

I have one copy of The Butt Book to share with a Little Sprout Books reader. How to enter:

1. Leave a comment to tell me what body part you’d teach your child the unsung virtues of. (or just say “I wanna win!”)
2. Follow and/or subscribe to Little Sprout Books via Google Friend Connect, RSS, Facebook, or email and leave a second comment to say so. If you’re already a follower/subscriber, thank you, leave yourself a second entry! If you follow/subscribe multiple ways, I appreciate it, but I’m limiting entries to two.

Contest is open to US residents only, and will close at midnight Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Winner will be selected using random.org and notified by email, so be sure to leave your contact info info if you don't use blogger/google profile! I received 2 copies of The Butt Book for my review/giveaway. I was not otherwise compensated in any way and my opinions are my own.

I’ll be sharing some favorite Halloween Books this week for Feed Me Books Friday – there’s a shortage of good ones for little kids in my opinion, so if you have a suggestion, come link up!


Bodies and Bones

Monday, October 25, 2010

What are they for?

When we got out our Halloween decorations, the skeleton prompted some questions from B about what’s inside our bodies and how they work. We’ve also been talking about Real and Pretend from last week’s preschool theme, which is timely to address some of the Halloween decorations and costumes. We talked about how a skeleton has a head, body, arms, hands, legs, and feet just like us. We posed the skeleton in various positions and then copied him with our own bodies – and then we found a good book to go with our play.

I Can Do It!
From Head to Toe
Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe is a fun book to play along with as you read, and has the added benefit of both cognitive and motor development as children learn about body parts and then practice using them. Each page features a different animal performing an action with a specific body part: the giraffe bends its neck, the cat arches its back, etc. Younger children will enjoy learning the names of body parts, while older children will refine their cognitive concept of those parts by comparing their own bodies to those of the animals. We enjoy reading this book like a game of Simon Says. B is pretty adept at mimicking the animal movements now, but T continues to learn more body part names, and enjoys the show B puts on.

Starting Simple
I Love You Through And Through
While T may not be quite ready for the games in From Head to Toe, he does know several body parts, and we have fun practicing and learning more with I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak. The playful text and illustrations identify both physical and intangible things to love. Not only do we love hands and eyes, but also behaviors like giggles, and personalities, like “your silly side.” We like giving kisses or raspberries on each body part mentioned. T isn’t quite ready yet, but B enjoyed demonstrating the behaviors and emotions. This is just a fun cuddle-up book, but it also makes a really nice precursor to the more active From Head to Toe.

Real and Pretend
Outside-In: A Lift-The-Flap Body Book (Lift-The-Flap Body Books)
As we talked about all the things our bodies can do, B became more and more curious about how it works! We recently received a book from Grandma that helped with some of the explanations. Outside-In, by Clare Smallman is a through reference book of kid-friendly text and lift-the-flap illustrations that answers questions like “What is blood?” “Does food go into our legs?” and “Why Do I Get Goosebumps?” At 32 pages, it’s a lot of information to take in at once, but we read a section at a time, and paged through all the pictures even without the text. Topics include skin, muscles, blood and circulation, lungs, bones and teeth, and digestion. Flaps help children picture the muscles, vessels, and organs inside them that are discussed in the text. It’s a book we’ll keep handy for answering more of B’s questions as they arise.
Parts (Picture Puffins)
A fun read that emphasizes the importance of understanding our bodies and knowing the difference between real and pretend is Tedd Arnold’s Parts. The rhyming text and comical illustrations chronicle a boy’s escalating concern that his body is falling apart when he notices lost hair, peeling skin, and even a booger mistaken for a piece of brain! He is finally assured by his parents that his panic is unnecessary and all these parts are made to be lost and regenerated. There are some facts to be learned from the story, but emphasizing that the boy’s fears of falling apart are unfounded is important for the younger crowd. Arnold’s sequels, More Parts, and Even More Parts revolve around all of the bodily idioms that fill our vocabulary, like a broken heart or laugh your head off. While B has a pretty good grasp of the way many of these are used in every day speech, the humor of the literal (mis)understanding is a little beyond him, so I’m keeping those on the “for later” shelf.
There’s a little something for everyone here, so I’m saying:
Appropriate for: Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers, Primary Grades
Come join We Play at Childhood 101 and show off your great ideas at ABC and 123’s Show and Tell.

Come back Wednesday for a body-part related book-giveaway! And don’t forget to link up your own book recommendations Friday at Feed Me Books Friday!


Feed Me Books Friday: Rags are Riches

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Books without the Sharp Edges

I’ve got nothing against board books, hardbacks, or paperbacks, but there is something so soothing about literally cuddling up with a soft cloth book, also called rag books. When I was pregnant with my first child I bought books that he still hasn’t grown into, but I also found cushy-soft books that seemed just right for a delicate baby. B didn’t show too much interest in them; he preferred the bouncy rhythm of Boynton board books or stimulating touch-and-feels. The rag books mostly languished in the toy basket until T was born. T finds tearing paperbacks apart and flinging board books across the room entertaining, so the cloth books have suited him much better. He can wave, flap, pound, or chew them to his little heart’s content and the books (as well as my furniture, my nose, and my own books) are none the worse for wear. So today I’m sharing my favorites from the rag category.

The Attention Getter
My First Taggies Book - Sweet Dreams Taggies
Not much plot to follow in Sweet Dreams, from the creators of Taggies, but babies find plot overrated. There are three 2-page spreads featuring a kitty, a bunny, and a puppy. Each features a textured appliqué as well as a two-line wish good night. The unique feature of this book, however, is the addition of ribbon loops, or taggies, all around the edges of the page. Between the tags and the textures, this book is a tactile treat! T has given those taggies a real workout of tugs and twists, and they’ve held up beautifully.

The Classic Revisited
Sleepy Bunny (Pat the Bunny Cloth Book)
Pat the Bunny was a childhood favorite for me – I still have the worn, spiral bound copy my mom saved. It was important to me to share that particular book with my own baby, and as I went looking for it, I discovered many branches in the Bunny family tree. Pat the Bunny Sleepy Bunny is a rag book that follows the bedtime routine of the familiar Bunny. A ribbon tethers a 3 inch stuffed bunny to the spine of the book, so the reader can play-out the actions such as putting away toys or finding a book. The last page includes a cloth pocket on top of the bed illustration so the Bunny can be tucked-in to sleep. The illustrations are reminiscent of the classic, but I wish there were a little more interaction on the other pages – perhaps a pocket to tuck the toys in, or cloth flaps from which to choose the book. It would be more engaging and better development of dexterity. As a bedtime book, it fits the bill. The rehearsal of routine helps little ones anticipate their own approaching bedtime behaviors and prepares them to settle down for the night.

The Cognitive-Motor Combo
Good Night Little Bear

The favorite rag book of both of my boys has been Good Night Little Bear. It’s distributed by the Books are Fun company, and I purchased it from a display in the teacher’s lounge of my school before I was even pregnant. Bought one for our nephew and saved another for “the future.” It was a good investment. Little Bear is also on a ribbon tether to the spine of the book, but he has something to do on every page, and he even comes clad in removable red pajamas. This book is based on the same kind of cognitive routine rehearsal as Sleepy Bunny, but it includes more of the course of the day. Little bear plays, eats, washes, brushes his teeth, listens to a story, gets hugs from Mummy, and then tucks in bed on the last page like the Bunny. Each page has a pocket or flap to manipulate, which is great for motor development. Little Bear had a period of popularity with B when he transitioned to falling asleep in his big boy bed – it was a combination of a familiar story, a bit of a lovey, and a sense of control of the situation. T enjoys him more already - he is getting more and more adept at tucking him in the pockets with each reading.
Appropriate for: babies, toddlers

Did you or your children have rag books? Were they enjoyed or overlooked?
Please link up your recommendations for the week below!

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