Friday, November 25, 2011

Out of Everywhere Into Here

What do you give a newborn boy,
With eyes that twinkle full of joy?
A bundle of books just his size,
Full of wonder, love and surprise.

Click the links below for reviews of four board books "for now and to grow on." Or scroll down the page!

This New Baby by Teddy Jam
It's a Little Book by Lane Smith
A Box of Bugs by David Carter
You Are My Cupcake by Joyce Wan

This New Baby

Written by Teddy Jam
Paintings by Virginia Johnson
$8.95 (board book), 22 pages

A mother watches her newborn, and wonders about all that he sees and feels in this tender poem originally published in 1999 as a picture book. 

"This new baby / sleeps in my arms / like a moon / sleeping on a cloud," the mother muses, as she holds him close, her face touching his.

Later, she says, as he drifts into a dreamworld in father's lap, he's "like a hawk drifting through the sky."

For a time the baby's still, then something stirs inside him, disquiets him, "the sound of hawks' wings lifting," and he lets out a cry, deep from inside.

It's a Little Book

Written & illustrated by Lane Smith
$7.99 (board book), ages 4-8, 24 pages

A baby donkey tries to guess what a book is for and comes up with adorably silly uses in this pint-size companion to Lane Smith's gem It's a Book.

Instead of facing off over reading formats (the donkey's laptop verses the gorilla's book), as they did in last year's book, the two discuss the purpose of books as only babies would:

Plunked down on the floor, with their legs straight in front of them, as if they just lost their balance and tipped over -- both saying things, but not quite talking them over.

The donkey suggests what a book could be, as his ears perk up in a quizzical way. The gorilla, a burly little guy with a tiny hat, dismisses every guess with a matter-of-fact "No."

A Box of Bugs

4 Pop-Up Concept Books
Created by David Carter
$14.99 (board book set), 64 pages, ages 4-8

Boys and bugs. It's one of life's sure things.

It seems as soon as boys can walk, they're hunkering down with a hand in the path of a roly poly, trying to coax it up for a ride.

And you know what that means. It's just a matter of time before they're carrying them inside, asking if their bugs can stay. 

As parents, we love to see them enthralled in nature, but wouldn't it be nice if some of the bugs in their hands weren't so real, yet still moved about as if they were?

Well, the bugs in Carter's adorable set of four pop-up books do just that. They flap and crawl, while introducing toddlers to the basics of colors, opposites, counting, and up and down.

You Are My Cupcake

Written & illustrated by Joyce Wan
Scholastic, 2011
$6.99 (board book), 14 pages

Babies have us the moment we see them. One look at those cheeks and eyes, and we get all melty inside.

And when they're our babies? Well, we think we'll burst from happiness, or as the idiom curiously goes, we'll "just  eat them up," every little toe.

In this adorable board book, Wan plays off that familiar expression and the intoxicating feeling we get from babies with names we reach for to show our affection.

Two Books for a Big Brother and Sister

Here are two ideas to keep a big brother and sister happy and busy while mother and baby snuggle nearby.

Cupcakes! (A Sweet Treat with More Than 200 Stickers), by Brandy Cooke, photos by Connie Kramer, Little Simon, $6.99 (board book), ages 3-5, 18 pages, 2011. A little decorator is needed quickly to sprinkle on toppings and make them stick! In this sweet board book, nine cupcakes with towering swirls of frosting are laid out for readers to decorate with colorful stickers. The stickers, stored in an envelope on the inside cover, are photographs of real-life confections and look as yummy as the frosting they stick on. There are sugar bugs to crawl up a chocolate mound of buttercream, gumpaste flowers to decorate a verdant swirl of frosting, and a host of mammals to swim and climb about the others, from gummy whales to a koala, lions and dinosaurs. In the first five spreads, Kramer suggests toppings that would match a frosting's color scheme. On the last spread, which unfolds four ways with a cupcake on every page, she invites readers to decorate frosting any way they like. Charming and irresistible, Cupcakes! is a delicious-looking project -- without any mess!

Guido's Great Coloring and Drawing Book, created by Guido Van Genechten, Clavis, $14.95, ages 9-12, 176 pages, ages 7 and up, 2010. Get ready, get set, draw! In this whimsical activity book from Holland, children receive coloring assignments designed to tickle their imaginations. In some, they're asked to finish drawings, such as color sweaters onto fish, draw a face around a pair of glasses or draw a line around a grid of dots to match a pattern. My favorite prompt challenges children to draw strange little animals that might live in the beard of a gnome pictured on the page. Other prompts are wide-open -- an assignment is written but nothing else appears beneath it. In one of these, children are asked to draw a nice picture with a single line and in another, they're asked to draw a lucky person. Some prompts are challenging, like drawing a bundle of noise, but others are just silly.  Sprinkled here and there are also a maze, a few math problems and a writing prompt. As with Taro Gomi's coloring books, there's a magical quality to Guido's book because in order for it to be completed, it needs a child's imagination. And since imaginations flow about, the outcomes are unique to the moment and delightfully unpredictable.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Over the River and Through the Wood

The New England Boy's Song
About Thanksgiving Day
Written by Lydia Maria Child
Illustrated by Matt Tavares
Candlewick, 2011
$16.99, ages 4 and up, 32 pages

A family's eagerness to get to grandfather's house is felt in every verse and slide of their sleigh, in this handsome, cozy edition of a beloved Thanksgiving song.

Acclaimed Matt Tavares illustrates Lydia Maria Child's 1844 poem, "A Boy's Thanksgiving," which became the song, "Over the River and Through the Wood," and in the most regardful way, keeping to the simplicity of her words and the time.

The boy remains the center of the family's New England outing, leaping onto the sleigh to grip the reigns before his family steps inside. As he holds them high in his mittened hands, the boy imagines flying through a spray of snow.

After his family climbs in, the boy slips over onto the bench, and his father, sitting next to him, leans forward and raps the reigns. His mother, in a bonnet, long gold coat and billowy scarf, scoops his little sister onto her knee so she can see store fronts as they pass.

The boy's face is gleeful and eager, and his left arm, as if spring-loaded, shoots in front of his father to point to freshly made toys in a store window. The father isn't jolted in the least. If anything his jaunty countenance only grows as he soaks in his boy's joy.

But as the poem goes, nothing delays them today; only family is in their sights. "We would not stop / For doll or top, / For it is Thanksgiving day," the boy seems to sing out with not a grumble or sigh.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Balloons Over Broadway

Written & illustrated by Melissa Sweet
$16.99, ages 4 and up, 40 pages.

A man with a knack for making things move turns the concept of marionettes upside down and creates one of the greatest parades on Earth.

In this marvelous tribute, Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet uses a menagerie of objects and illustrations to tell the story of Anthony "Tony" Sarg, the artist behind Macy's parade balloons.

Sweet's telling is wondrous, as she echoes Tony's creative genius with her own playful use of wood, fabrics, color and sketches.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

To Fly or Not to Fly?

From George Flies South by Simon James
As icy winds scatter the last of fall leaves, our skies fill with flocks of birds arrowing southward at a purposeful pace.

But was it easy for our plumed friends to go? Or for us to see them go? Here are two picture books about the angst of saying farewell, even if only for a season.

Acorns and Stew, Too is about a girl who finds a way to keep ducks safely grounded and George Flies South is about a baby bird mustering up the courage to fly away.

Click the titles above to go directly to the reviews or scroll down the page.

Acorns and Stew, Too

Written & illustrated by Ruth Orbach
$15.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

A gumptious little girl uses nails and needles, acorns and stew to safely keep a flock of friends with her through the winter in this adorable picture book.

Illustrated in vintage style, with ink drawings punctuated with bright cheery color, the story plays out an imaginative plan that readers will feel a part of too.

Lenore looks every bit the free spirit with her tousled straight hair and cherry-red jumper over a fuschia shirt, and she knows what she needs:

To keep everything she loves just as it is.

Her house, its yellow door, her street with birds and trees, her cozy room, her everyday breakfast of pancakes, butter and jam, and her cat Sam.

But mostly, she wants the ducks in the lake nearby to stay where they are. Everyday she slings a bag of bread crumbs over her shoulder to share with them.

George Flies South

Written & illustrated by Simon James
Candlewick, 2011
$16.99, ages 3 and up, 40 pages

A fledgling takes flight in a way he never imagined in this darling book by the creator of Leon & Bob.

George, a tawny wisp of a bird, would rather snuggle in his nest than try out his wings and fly south.

Perched midway down the branch of a big tree at the entrance to a city park, the nest seems cozy and safe.

But Momma bird knows it won't be either for long.

Only a few leaves still cling to the tree and soon snow will come and worms will be hard to find.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Saint Francis of Assisi's
Canticle of the Creatures
Reimagined by Katherine Paterson
Illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Chronicle, 2011
$17.99, ages 4-8, 36 pages

A two-time Newbery Award winner adapts a beloved hymn into a children's prayer in this stunning book of paper-cut tapestries.

Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) rephrases the blessings of Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures as children today might recite them.

The changes are subtle, just enough to draw children closer to the spirit of the song, and reflect Paterson's deference to the original work. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Haulidays is Back!

Enter now to win a "haul" of Chronicle books valued at nearly $500!

Leave a comment at the end of this post by Dec. 2 and you'll be entered in a random drawing to win the 29 books listed below.

Be sure to leave a way to contact you in your comment or by emailing me with your email address here.

Last week, Chronicle contacted bloggers across the web to post their favorite Chronicle books for its 2nd annual Happy Haulidays Giveaway.

In exchange, bloggers and the readers who comment on their lists will be entered for a chance to win the books listed on their blogs.

In addition, a charity of the bloggers' choice will be entered to win the same books. I've chosen Fairview Elementary School in Denver's poorest neighborhood.

That means if Where the Best Books Are! wins, one set of Chronicle books will be sent to one of you, to Fairview and to my blog!

Chronicle will announce the winners in early December! To enter, you must be a U.S. resident 18 years or older.

Here are my picks!

Winter's Night: Pop-Up Advent Calendar by Beth Krommes ($10.99)
Milk & Cookies by Tina Casaceli ($24.95)
Scribbles: A Really Giant Drawing and Coloring Book by Taro Gomi ($19.99)
Fairy Tree House by Saviour Pirotta and Lockheart ($19.99)
Snow Baby: Finger Puppet Book ($6.99)
Shadow, By Suzy Lee ($15.99)
Olive, the Other Reindeer: Deluxe Edition by J.otto Siebold and Vivian Walsh ($19.99)
Up by Jim LaMarche ($16.95)
Rosie and the Nightmares by Philip Waechter ($15.95)
Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace ($14.95) 
Bruno Munari's Zoo by Bruno Munari ($17.99)
Eric Carle Decorative Prints by Eric Carle ($24.95)
The Conductor by Laetitia Devernay ($18.95)
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld ($16.95)
Daily Doodle: 2012 Daily Calendar ($12.99)
The Sock Monkey & Friends Kit by Samantha Fisher and Cary Lane ($17.99)
I Love the Rain by Margaret Park Bridges and Christine Danvenier ($15.95)
The Chore Board: A Helping-Around-the-House Game by Sarah Malarkey and J.otto Siebold ($14.99)
All Mixed Up: A Mix-and-Match Book by Carin Berger ($8.95)
Ivy and Bean Paper Doll Play Set by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall ($14.99)
Little 1 by Ann and Paul Rand ($16.99)
I Heard it from Alice Zucchini: Poems About the Garden by Juanita Havill and Christine Davenier ($15.95)
Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces Stroller Cards by Jane Wattenberg ($9.99)
A Zeal of Zebras by Woop ($17.99)
Amy Butler's Little Stitches for Little Ones: 20 Keepsake Sewing Projects for Baby and More ($24.95)
Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts: Fuzzy Felted Friends ($14.95)
MoMa Modern Play House ($19.99)
Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids ($24.95)
Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman ($19.99)

For a grand total = $497.19

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Goodnight iPad

Written & illustrated by Ann Droyd
$14.95, All ages, 30 pages

It seems like only yesterday that Margaret Wise Brown's bunny fell asleep saying nighty night to the moon.

Now all sorts of things are glowing in his house -- iPads, WiFi, Nooks -- and the last thing Bunny wants to do is tell them goodnight.

In fact, no one in his family wants to wish their devices goodnight -- well, except Granny. She hasn't warmed up to electronics (at least not that she realizes).

It looks like Granny will just have say all of their goodnights for them -- and give those glowy things the sendoff she thinks they deserve.

In this hysterical parody of Brown's Goodnight Moon, David Milgram (aka "Ann Droyd") shows an old-fashioned gal getting her digital family to bed by hurling all of its distractions out the window.

The result is a bedtime gem for the digital age that underscores how hard it is to tear kids and parents away from gadgets -- made all the more funny juxtaposed with Brown's sweet 1947 poem.