Which New Release Are You (& Your Kids Most Excited About?)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Frenzy

We are in the midst of a full-on Fall Frenzy here at my house.  Now that the first few weeks of school, the first round of back-to-school illnesses and the first rush of soccer practices and games have come and gone I find that I have a little time to squeeze in an entry about books celebrating my most favorite time of year.   I love the fall.  I love the changing leaves, I love the pumpkins, I love the crisp, chilly air, I love the football and I especially love autumnal children's books. 

This year there is wonderful new crop of fall themed books for you and your kiddos to enjoy.  One of my newest favorites is Sophie's Squash.  It is written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.  In this book the title character Sophie visits the farmer's market with her parents where they pick up a squash for dinner.  However, Sophie quickly claims the gourd for herself and names her Bernice.  Bernice fits just right into Sophie's arms, looks fantastic swaddled in a blanket and is the perfect companion for rolling down hills.  Bernice, it turns out, is the perfect companion for everything and the two are inseparable.  That is until the unthinkable begins to happen.  The illustrations are cute and playful. This a sweet and clever story about loving something (or someone unconditionally) and learning how to let go.  It is a very gentle and thoughtful way to introduce loss and I heartily recommend checking it out at your local bookshop or library.

Another fantastic new fall book is Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes written by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky and illustrated by Susan Swan.  This is a great book that not only celebrates the season but explores shapes.  It's a fun way to introduce this important first concept.  The rhyming text is a delight to read and the illustrations truly capture the bright, colorful days of fall.  I see lots of books about shapes but Pick a Circle, Gather Squares is a unique and timely picture book that stands alone.  It's already a favorite of mine to recommend to parents and preschool teachers looking for books about the fall as well as shapes.  It definitely deserves a spot on your book shelf.

Caldecott Honor Award winning author and illustrator Peter McCarty's newest book Fall Ball is a must have for football obsessed families (like mine).  McCarty's pen and watercolor illustrations tell the story of children freshly released from the confines of school and their attempt at a game of pick-up football.  Things don't go quite as expected as the kids are surprised by Mother Nature in a variety of ways.  It's a fun, fast paced read that celebrates not only football but the changing seasons as well.  It's a perfect bedtime book for all your football fans.

Finally, I simply cannot wrap up a review of fall favorites without mentioning Lois Ehlert's Leaf Man.  It's not a new book but it is my most favorite fall book.  It is beautiful, whimsical, delightful, educational and utterly unique. Leaf Man (like so many of Ehlert's books) is a true celebration of nature.  It reads like a love letter to fall.  The illustrations will take your breath away.  So pick up a copy, snuggle up with your kiddos and prepare to be swept away. 

Fall is the perfect time to settle in with a great stack of books.  Find a cozy spot and share one of these or one of the many, many other wonderful fall books out there.  These a just a few of my favorites but I am always on the look out for more!  So sound off below with your suggestions! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Because (As My Good Friend Pete Would Say) It's All Good

If you do not know who Pete the Cat is, please stop reading this blog right now, I'm serious stop reading. Put on your shoes, turn off the lights, pick up your keys and proceed immediately to the nearest book store or library. Walk in and go straight to the customer service desk and tell them you need Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean. Any Pete book will do after that but start with I Love My White Shoes. Go find a quiet spot and prepare to giggle, to be charmed and even to rock out a little with this deceptively simple picture book.

If you have ignored the sage advice above and are still reading this, then in the interest of advocating children's literacy (and all things groovy) I shall continue. Pete The Cat is a cat. He's a blue cat. He's a groovy blue cat. He's a groovy blue cat who loves his white shoes. Are you with me so far? One day he's out for a stroll. He's just walking around (with a guitar of course) singing a little ditty about his white shoes and how much he loves them. When the unthinkable happens - he steps in the largest pile of strawberries you've ever seen. His white shoes? Well they aren't white any more. They are of course red. It is how Pete reacts to this unexpected transition is what makes Pete so darn awesome. He doesn't freak out. He doesn't throw a tantrum. He doesn't demand a brand new pair of white shoes. He just changes his tune up a bit. Now he's walking along singing about loving his red shoes until once again the unthinkable happens. He steps in a gigantic mound of blueberries. Once again he keeps walking along - singing about, you guessed it - how much he loves his blue shoes. Other mishaps occur and the shoes continue to change throughout the story. You get the idea. The moral of Pete the Cat, as Litwin and Dean tell us, is that no matter what you step in you just keep on walking along, singing your song, because it's all good.

I think this is a wonderful life lesson. It comes packaged in an adorable cat, silly shoes and sing-song text, but it is still a life lesson. One that while aimed at the preschool set is one that all children and adults struggle to understand. Pete's groovy attitude towards the unexpected twists and turns he encounters is a model that we can all strive to follow. His personal philosophy isn't the only reason to love Pete, however. Underneath that Rolling-with-Punches lesson are some important educational elements.

Litwin's story moves quickly using repetition, song, and simple cause and effect prediction making this an extremely interactive book. Most kiddos just love, love, love to be a part of the story. Meanwhile, Dean's illustrations make Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes a fantastic first primer for learning colors. Most of the illustrations stick to the primary colors with shades of brown, green and of course white, thrown in for good measure. The bright, cheerful colors grab kids attention and really hold them to the page. The illustrations themselves are playful and fun. They depict one aspect of the story at a time. As much as I love intricate illustrations for older kids I find that simpler is really better with those kiddos who are first learning to sit for stories.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes is not the only Pete the Cat book. Happily there are three other full length picture books currently available. Pete the Cat: Rocking In My School Shoes is about going to school for the first time. It is a perfect book to read as kiddos head back to the classroom this fall. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons offers a great first introduction to counting and simple math. There is also a cute Christmas book called Pete the Cat Saves Christmas. Currently, all of these books (in extremely loved and tattered states) live on our bookshelf along with an assortment of Pete the Cat beginning readers and a Pete the Cat version of the Wheels on the Bus that came out this spring and summerWe are excitedly waiting the arrival of a new full length picture book called Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses which is due out in October (Yay!).

So if you don't already have a Pete book then it is seriously time to stop reading and get yourself to a bookstore. I promise that your toddlers and preschoolers will be captivated by Pete and so will you because to know Pete the Cat is to love Pete the Cat. I mean, c'mon what's not to love about an Uber groovy, guitar playing, surfing blue cat?