Aug 162012

We loved “Everything Goes on Land” by Brian Biggs (see previous review!) so we were super excited about the early reader “Everything Goes – Henry Goes Skating,” since Emily, our 5-year-old, is just starting to read. Either that, or she memorizes books. It’s hard to say for sure. Unfortunately, Emily didn’t even get her paws on it before Daisy, the 2-year-old, swiped it and has been hoarding it ever since. She hides it under her blanket until it’s time to read and only then does she take it out; if anyone else tries to touch it she says NO! and crosses her fat little arms defiantly. It’s the only book she lets me to read cover to cover without asking to skip pages.

It follows the basic format of the other one, and perhaps all of the books in this series; Henry, the main character, goes somewhere with his family and they see things that go along on the way: cars, trucks, buses, even horses. I love how, in this early reader book, the word “zamboni” is introduced because it’s a fun word to read and say, and I’m sure when Emily finally gets ahold of the book she’ll feel really good about piecing those sounds together.

I’m not sure what Daisy loves SO MUCH about it, but I suspect it’s the same reason we like “Everything Goes on Land.” It’s just so – happy. She wants everything explained in detail, and the birds with hats are of endless fascination for her. She likes the bus pages a lot, too, which would make the writer glad because we gleaned from the other book how much he likes drawing them. And we’re thankful he does.

Disclosure: I’m not paid to do this review, but I did get the book for free from a super nice person at HarperCollins. 

Mar 212012


“Everything Goes on Land” by Brian Biggs is a combination storybook, look-and-find, and counting book that is layered with subplots, how-things-work diagrams, and easy humor. Fair warning to parents: If you read it as a bedtime book, which you absolutely should, start the bedtime process early, because you and your little ones will want extra time to explore and examine each page in detail.

The basic plot is a boy and his father drive through a city to (spoiler alert!) pick up mom at a train station. Each page spread is a detailed bird’s-eye view of their journey through the city that focuses on one type of transportation: trucks, buses, bicycles, trains, etc. These spreads are interspersed with pages that simply diagram cool things, such as how a car engine works, or what’s inside a refrigerator truck.
If the book was that and only that, it would be great fun. But there are other layers of storieson top of the main one, and this is why it takes so long (and why it’s such a delight) to read. For example, on every page there’s something that doesn’t belong. Finding that thing, and discussing candidates for what may or may not belong, is endlessly entertaining for my preschoolers. (“So, you’re saying a car filled with water is normal, but a purple car is not?” or, “You’ve really seen an alien riding a bus in real life, so you don’t think that’s unusual?”).

Also on every page is a hidden bird with a hat, sometimes more than one bird with a hat, or birds who don’t have hats that want one. Subplots weave themselves throughout; on an early page, someone’s car breaks down, the next page a tow truck shows up, on a later page the car is in a mechanic’s shop, and all in between there’s theorizing about why the car won’t run. And, to top it off, the numerals 1 through 100 appear throughout.
My three girls, who range in age from two to five, absolutely love this book. We discover something new every time we read it.

HarperCollins has a VERY cool Browse Inside beta site where you can flip through the pages of the whole book.

Disclosure: I’m not paid to do this review, but I did get the book for free from a super nice person at HarperCollins. 


Feb 102012


If you’re encouraging any kind of music appreciation in your child, you’ll love this book. It has a natural cadence

to it without relying on rhyme; when you’re reading it aloud the words come out in a slow smooth beat like you should be at a poetry mike with a bass plucking away in the background (“Did Pete cry? Oh goodness, no! He kept walking along and singing his song. … groovy!”). There are some lines meant to be sung, sure, but the music is inherent in (and celebrated with) the natural rhythm of language.

The girls loved it for an entirely different reason, mostly involving shouting out color names (“Uh-oh! Pete stepped in a large pile of strawberries! What color did it turn his shoes?”  ”RED!!”) but also because Pete is sooo cool. He’s the hipster zen cat who doesn’t bat an eyelid when things go unexpectedly, plays his guitar when it suits him, and ends on a note that has resonance for parents as well as kids: “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song … because it’s all good.”

Pete the Cat is by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean. If I were to choose exactly right now who would paint murals all over my house, it would have to be Mr. Dean, as long as it was just pictures of Pete the Cat standing on giant piles of berries and saying “rock and roll.”

Disclosure: I’m not paid to do this review, but I did get the book for free from a super nice person at HarperCollins. 

Feb 102012


When My Baby Dreams is a collection of cleverly staged photos of a sleeping baby named Mila arranged in dreamlike scenarios made out of what appears to be laundry. The author apparently had a blog of the photos and it became quite popular, now the book.

You’re jealous, right? Who wouldn’t be? My initial wave of jealously broke down roughly like this: (10%) I should have thought of that, and  (90%) Mila is an awesome sleeper — do other people’s babies really sleep that much? Then, as I read the book, it quickly became clear that even if

I had thought of dressing my sleeping baby is a giant worm outfit, I couldn’t have executed it so stylishly. The arrangements are incredibly clever and the use of textiles makes you look at fabric in a new way. I’m still quite jealous that Mila apparently does not fuss or poop or barf the white right off that fluffy deep rug, but this is offset by my feeling that any mom who can actually generate money by leaving laundry on the floor is awesome.

I incorrectly thought this was a book for new moms, but was wrong: the girls love it. The two-year-old likes poking her finger on every page and saying “BAYbee, BAYbeeee,” while the four-year-old and five-year-old  find the whole concept fascinating and think Mila is the funniest thing ever. (Funny is not the word I would use, because I’m still so jealous she sleeps so well, and on the last page she wakes up CUTE and SMILING — seriously? That’s just rubbing it in). It’s currently Emily’s favorite book. She calls it the “Watch Mila Sleep” book. I have not explained to her why it would not have been possible to do a similar book using her as the model.

When My Baby Dreams is by Adele Enersen. And she has a super cute blog.

Disclosure: I’m not paid to do this review, but I did get the book for free from a super nice person at HarperCollins. 

Feb 092012


Extra yarn is about a little girl in a winter town who finds a box of yarn that never runs out. It’s a kind of gentle fairy tale with just a hint of magic, the kind of magic that’s quiet and in the background and takes second stage to the real miracles of kindness, generosity, and confidence.

“On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town,
where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow
or the black of soot from chimneys,
Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.”

It’s been a long time since I read a kid’s book I liked as much as this one. There’s a quiet reassurance in the voices of the writer and the illustrator, a steady building of color and plot until the immensely satisfying ending. Annabelle is the kind of role model we dream of for our children: she counters adversity with kindness and a steady confidence, and the simple strength of her good nature gives her immunity from destructive forces near and far.

It’s hard to tell from the cover how soothingly beautiful the illustrations are, how they convey feelings of cold and warmth, how the entire book is a study in the nuances of color and contrast. Every night we read it through once then start again, this time discussing each drawing, savoring each detail. I am not kidding that the girls and I have each selected a favorite brush stroke on each page.

Extra Yarn is written by Marc Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, and I hope they do another.

Disclosure: I’m not paid to do this review, but I did get the book for free from a super nice person at HarperCollins.