The Freezepocalypse in picture books

I’m typing next to an open window, and there has been a steady stream of pedestrian traffic outside.  It’s up to 28 degrees today, and it’s a comparative heat wave.  Last weekend, we were preparing for a Freezepocalypse of ridiculously low temperatures (even for Minnesota), and my family spend two and a half days stuck inside our small apartment.  Here are three picture books that, together, represent our Freezepocalypse:

imbored2  babypenguinsev soupday

 

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black is for my six-year-old, for obvious reasons.  I felt more like the mama penguin who needed a little time to herself in Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion.  Side note to parents: Do you need a time out yourself? Read your kids this book to introduce the idea.  You’re welcome.

Fortunately, my wonderful partner decided it was a Soup Day as in Soup Day by Melissa Iwai, so we were well fed.  Soup makes everything better.

Books and soup.  That’s how we got through our Freezepocalypse.   How about you?

What does winter sound like?

If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have looked for the answer in a picture book.  It seems like a picture book sort of question, doesn’t it?

photo (1)“Snow came singing a silent song,” writes Lynne Rae Perkins in Snow Music.  In this book, winter is quiet after a snow fall, but there is a whole symphony of sounds if you listen for them.  Cars, trucks, and animals all sound different in the winter.  There’s a beauty in the whispers of snowfall and the loud scrapes of trucks clearing the way.  There’s a beauty in the differences.

For the past several weeks, I have had a different answer to the question.  I have had Haley Bonar’s new EP Wntr Snds on repeat, and these six songs are spare and intimate in a way that creates just the warmth that we need in a cold, cold Minnesota winter.  “Like Ice and Cold” is my personal favorite.  In this song, winter sounds like change, like hope.  Maybe it isn’t so different from Snow Music.

If you need a little encouragement to see what winter can offer during this sub-zero week, try one of these and listen closely.

Find Snow Music at your local library or indie bookstore. Or get more wintery picture book suggestions here.

November Book Pick: Wild by Emily Hughes

Wild_by_Emily_HughesI was all set to write about a proper adult nonfiction titles as my November Book Pick when a package arrived at my door that set aside my well laid plans for something completely different.  There was just something about Wild by Emily Hughes that made it stand out in the sea of picture books that I see or read about.  The 100 Scope Notes review called it “Sendak-ian,” and I couldn’t agree more.  Maurice Sendak’s books might have been full of the fantastic, but there was a level of truth to them that not every book even tries to reach.  Wild reaches right for a truth that might not seem terribly kid-friendly–that some things cannot be tamed–and makes a story that will almost certainly get kids thinking.

wildthingsThere might be something in the timing of my discovery of this picture book.  You see, it arrived (courtesy of the publisher; see the disclaimer below) just after I’d finished reading an advance copy of Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta.  I’m sure I’ll be blogging about this one again closer to it’s 2014 publication date, but for now I’ll say that it is a kidlit geek’s must-read.  For all those readers who think that books for young people are full of sunshine and lollipops, Wild Things will clue you in to all the subversive books in kidlit history and the stories behind them.  It will whet your appetite for something that seems to break the rules the next time you’re browsing in the children’s section.  I think that’s a good thing.

Wild breaks some rules.  Grown-ups might not completely appreciate it at first, but I hope you’ll give it a chance.

Find Wild at your local library or indie bookstore.  Wild Things will be published in April 2014.  More about it here.

Disclaimer: Wild was reviewed from a copy courtesy of the publisher.  Wild Things was reviewed from an ARC via my employer.

Miss last month’s Book Pick?  Check out Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Thursday 3: New Picture Books (and one bonus)

Fall is a great time for books!  My Thursday Three for today features three newly available picture books:

welcometo whenlions tortoiseandthehare

  • Welcome to Mamoko by Aleksandra Mizielinska – I love wordless picture books in general, but this is especially cool.  It gives a cast of characters at the beginning, and teh book is part seek-and-find, part story starter.  My daughter and I have had lots of fun with this one. :)
  • When Lions Roar by Robie Harris – Robie Harris is best known for her sex ed books for kids.  Here she teams up with one of my favorite illustrators to look at the things that scare us–from lions roaring to parents yelling–and how to calm down when we feel afraid.  Great for preschoolers.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney – This nearly wordless version of a familiar story is just as good as the author’s previous Caldecott-winning work.  Beautiful.
  • Bonus: Moo! by David LaRochelle – Technically this book isn’t on shelves until next week, but it is one you’ll want to watch for.  Super cute and fun.  Also minimal words, which seems to be a theme with me lately.  Here’s a trailer:

Miss the last Thursday 3 post?  Check out Three Recent Reads

August Book Pick: Hello, My Name is Ruby

hellomyname

My daughter is different from me.  She is our neighborhood welcoming committee.  She never misses an opportunity to meet a new friend at the park, at the store, or through our living room windows.  Frankly I get a kick out of it.

That isn’t me.  In classic librarian fashion, I’m more introverted.  Sure, I’ve gotten pretty decent at faking extroversion over the years.  I can hold my own in a trade show booth and enjoy it, and I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking.  But I’m far from greeting random passersby out my windows.  And given the choice, I’d probably sit in the grass with a good book rather than approach strangers at a park.

My daughter’s extroverted tendencies–and I always speak of these traits as tendencies rather than absolutes–are delightful and at times nerve-wracking.  Sometimes putting yourself out there can hurt.  Sometimes people are mean.  Usually, though, saying hello is great.  You might make a new friend, learn something new, or travel on an adventure.  Like Ruby in Philip Stead’s new picture book Hello, My Name is Ruby.

Ruby is a little bird who says hello to every bird she meets.  Usually, it’s awesome.

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But every once in a while, it isn’t, and Ruby feels a bit sad.

ruby1

It’s an ode to the extroverted.  Just like Eileen Spinelli’s When No One is Watching is an ode to the introverted.  Together, the books make a an opportunity to appreciate everyone’s tendencies.

Miss last month’s Book Pick? See Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond

Check out Hello, My Name is Ruby at your local library or buy it at an indie bookstore. You might also be interested in When No One is Watching from a library or bookstore.

Want to be in a band?

wanttobe

I came across Want to be in a Band? at work recently as I was going through some new picture books, and I paused.  It isn’t often you find a picture book that is one part memoir, one part instruction manual for the music industry.  And it’s illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators?!  Love.

I wasn’t familiar with Suzzy Roche of the family folk-band The Roches before this book.  I’ll add it to the list of trivia I have learned from my work in the book industry.  In any case, Ms. Roche reveals the secrets to successful musicianship. Here they are for anyone secretly harboring a desire for family folk band stardom: A lot of practice, a lot of shows, and not letting the critics get you down.  Most of all, it’s about love.  Love for the music and love for your sisters.  That’s the important thing, she says.

Maybe I liked the book because I have a thing for memoirs and picture book memoirs are so rare.  Or maybe it’s because I really do want to be in a band despite my ridiculous lack of musicality.  Actually, it’s probably because I’ve been listening to a lot of The Ericksons (a local sister band with a folk/rock sound) lately, and I can’t help but wonder if they sing at breakfast.  Because that’s what being in a family band is like, right?    Perhaps Roche spoiled the fantasy a little bit with her pragmatism, but next to Giselle Potter’s folk art style illustrations, I’ll allow it.

Whatever the reality, sisters can make some lovely music.  Here is “Where Do You Dwell?” for you to listen to while you imagine a life in which you practice a lot, play a lot of small shows, ignore the naysayers, and just love music.

Find Want to be in a Band? from your local library or support an independent bookstore. No affiliate stuff here.  Just trying to support my fellowbook people. :)

Also, you can name your price for The Ericksons music here.

Waiting for Spring

redhatLast weekend there was a collective sense of glee in the Twin Cities as we got our first taste of nice weather after months of seemingly endless winter.  We were all mischievous little bears borrowing hats with a shout, metaphorically speaking.  Of course, I always think life is like a picture book, and in this case, it’s like Red Hat by Lita Judge, in which there are no words–only sounds–to tell the story of some animals having a lot of fun at the end of winter.

We were right there with them.  No hat stealing that I saw, but the sounds of spring were in the air.  The park near our building was packed with families playing, grilling, smiling.  It felt like we lived at the park all weekend, and it was glorious.

This week has been decidedly less glorious outside, and the general glee has dulled as we debate whether we need winter boots and coats now or if spring jackets will do.  As we faced a snowy forecast on Wednesday, I tried to avoid complaining, but even my bright-side nature can only go so far against snow in May.

In the end, the snow missed us to dump record-breaking amounts to the south and east of here.  I stuck with my sneakers and spring jacket with only a slight sense of regret as I waited for my bus at 7 a.m. with a sharp wind chilling the air.  A winter coat might have been a warmer choice this morning, but I very happy to be leaving my boots in the closet.  Not exactly a “Roweeeee!” kind of happy, but I’ll take what I can get.

We just need a little more patience, and the cold, rainy, brown will turn to green, wonderful spring.  Actually that reminds me of another picture book:  And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano.  It’s a quieter book than Red Hat.  It’s more about the waiting, but the spring, when it finally arrives, is no less wonderful.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

Thursday 3: Getting Ready for Easter

I’m excited for Easter this year because my daughter will spend it with us rather than with her grandparents.  My parents usually have Ladybug spend her Spring Break with them, and last year it meant that she was there for Easter.  We still celebrated Spring officially at the May Day Festival like we always do, but Easter passed by without any colored eggs or baskets or bunnies.  This year, I’d like to make up for that.  After the winter we’ve had (are still having, it seems), we will be celebrating every spring related holiday we can find.   Our plans so far include a family lunch and fancy clothes  because it’s time to come out of our winter hibernation, dress up, and enjoy the weather–even if it doesn’t really feel quite like spring yet. :)

In preparation for the festivities, we have been reading, of course.  Here are our picks:

easterbooks2

Pictured:

Chester’s Colorful Easter Eggs by Therese Smythe – A good choice to read before coloring eggs for the first time perhaps.  Cute and colorful picture book for preschoolers.

The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen – Ever wonder where the Easter Bunny comes from?  Here’s a possibility.  I don’t think it’s canon or anything, but it’s a sweet story.  And it’s fun to speculate about the bunny’s back story.

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs by Janet Morgan Stoeke – Simple story for the very young about the silly hen who never seems to know what’s going on, which is a big factor in kid humor as I’ve written about before.

You can read about our last Easter celebration (from 2011) here, complete with our spring related book picks from back then.

Did you miss last week’s Thursday 3 on my photo blog?  3 Funny Graphic Novels for Kids

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

Our Digital Life

It’s official.  My daughter, age 5, now has a digital device of her very own.  Granted, it’s just an old hand-me-down iPod Touch with a few games on it.  But  still, there’s a part of me that feels weird about dedicating a device to her use with all the talk in parenting circles about limiting screen time.  Not to mention the fact that we’re a tech-oriented family already.  I’m not sure I’m ready to add another generation in the digital mix.

hellohello3There are about a million lists of do’s and don’t’s for families navigating screen time issues, but I’m more inclined to look to books for advice.  I think you might be surprised at what you can learn from picture books, even if you’re a not a kid.  Like Matthew Cordell’s Hello!  Hello!, for example.  In this picture book, everyone is too busy with whatever gadget to say anything but a distracted hello to the little girl who is restless and sick of her own electronic options.

hellohello

Until the girl is beckoned outside by a little leaf

hellohello2

From there the book explodes with color and imagination as the girl and her family say hello to what they’ve been missing.  It may sound a bit over the top or message-y, but the story is wry enough to transcend what might have been preachy.  Instead of rolling my eyes at yet another guilt-inducing admonishment to put down my smartphone, I was smiling, nodding, and looking around.  Asking myself, what have I been missing while glued to my device?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say a book like this is more effective than a list of the ways that screen time is bad for families any day of the week.  There’s only one rule on my list of do’s and don’t’s: Read picture books.

Okay, two rules: Read picture books and take their advice.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from links in this post may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

Reading Hands Can with one hand

handscan2I am very pleased to say that Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson is now available in paperback.  This picture book was first published ten years ago, and it has become a preschool favorite.  The bright colors, simple rhyme, and real-life photographs make it a good choice for 2-6 year-olds learning about their bodies and celebrating all the cool stuff they can do.  Not to mention it is great for talking about what it is like to have one hand with little kids.

That might seem like an odd thing to say because there are no one-handed kids in the book, but I have found this book to be a great jumping off point as I talk to kids because they tend to be most curious about the basics.   For example, these are real questions I have gotten from kids:

  • “How do you hug?”
  • “How do you put pajamas on?”
  • “Can you hold hands?”
A peek inside Hands Can

A peek inside Hands Can

Most adults can see obvious answers to these questions, but younger kids (under age 7 or so in my own personal experience) have a hard time working through these questions without guidance.  This is where Hands Can comes in.  I like to take each activity photographed in the book as a brainstorming session.  From the very first page with the little boy waving hello, I ask for other ways we say hello.  Kids can give creative answers.  After all, we might use our voice, our eyes, one hand, or maybe two if we are very excited.  I might demonstrate how I tie my shoes when we get to that page or have them come up with ways to accomplish other tasks with one hand or some other physical restriction for an exercise in problem solving.

In the spirit of answering questions about what I can do, I thought I would answer the one question that doesn’t really get asked: “Is there anything you can’t do with one hand?” Most people probably assume there are lots and lots of things I can’t do, but there are surprisingly few.  It took me a while to come up with these, but here are three things that are difficult (not impossible) to do with my prosthetic arm (and my work-arounds) :

  • Grinding pepper.  For a long time, I just bought ground pepper so that I didn’t have this problem, but my husband is a bit of a foodie who likes things like freshly ground pepper, which means that peppering my food becomes a much more difficult task than it had been in the past.  Usually I just ask for help, but I have been coveting the battery operated pepper grinder at my mother-in-law’s house.  Technology, for the win! 
  • Ziploc bags.  These are difficult because my prosthesis does not grip tightly enough to hold the bag while I am zipping it closed.  To get around this, I can secure the bag against something and zip.  In a pinch, I have been known to use my teeth.  It isn’t classy, but it gets to job done.
  • Headphones/ear muffs.  I can put on headphones or ear muffs well enough, but I feel like I look a little silly when I do it because my fake arm doesn’t bend all the way to my ear.  Fortunately, I really don’t use either of these things very often.  As you might imagine, I was an early adopter of ear buds.

For more information see my FAQ about my fake arm or this article in Book Links magazine about the books I use to talk about my disability.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of any purchases made from these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)