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.