Wednesday, April 22, 2015

“Big Machines Float!” by Catherine Veitch

Age: 3-5 years
Genre: non-fiction picture book

Does your preschooler like vehicles? How about BIG vehicles? Part of the Heinemann “Read and Learn” collection, the Big Machines series uses real photographs to show some of the biggest vehicles on land, sea, and air. In Big Machines Float! the reader explores things that travel on water including ice breakers, cargo ships, galleons, and cruise ships. Each ship is rated on a scale of big, super, or mighty and is described in basic terms suitable for the young reader. My three-year-old loved seeing the variety of “big, big boats” featured in this book, and I’m sure we will enjoy exploring the other books in this series, including Big Machines Build!, Big Machines Drive! and Big Machines Ride Rails! Look for the Big Machines series at your local library or bookstore.

Bibliographic Information:
Veitch, Catherine. Big Machines Float! Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2015.

Big Machines Float! on

Friday, March 27, 2015

“Jacob’s New Dress” by Sarah & Ian Hoffman with illustrations by Chris Case

Age: 3-5 years
Genre: picture book

The title of this book caught my attention when I saw it on the shelf at the library. I used to teach 2-3 year olds, and the boys in my class loved wearing dresses for make believe time. I’m not sure how their parents felt about it, but it’s all part of exploring their world. When I saw Jacob’s New Dress, I thought, Ooo, a picture book about boys who like to dress like girls! So I read the story and found a unique and relevant tale that takes a nurturing and non-judgmental look at a boy who likes to wear dresses.

Jacob is a preschool boy who loves to play dress-up with his friends. Though he could dress up as anything, including the more traditional boy costumes of a dragon, firefighter, or cowboy, he chooses a “sparkly pink dress” and a crown. His classmate, Christopher, has a problem with this and asks Jacob, “Why do you always wear the girl clothes?”  Luckily for Jacob, he has an understanding teacher, Ms. Wilson, who steps in and says Jacob can use his imagination to dress up however he wants. When Jacob gets home, he talks to his mom and dad about wearing dresses. The next day Jacob creates a dress for himself out of a towel and belt, and his mother reluctantly lets him wear it to school. But Jacob gets teased again. When he tries to talk to his mom about it, he feels like he can’t breathe waiting to see what she will say. His mom tells him, “There are all sorts of ways to be a boy,” and then helps him make his own real dress to wear whenever he wants.

Jacob’s New Dress tackles the issue of gender nonconformity in a realistic way. The authors don’t shy away from the fact that Jacob gets teased for his choices, but they surround him with adults who are able to keep an open mind and be supportive. The authors of the book have their own gender-nonconforming son, Sam, and their expertise in the subject matter shines through and feels real. Jacob’s New Dress shares an important story that many children could probably relate to, whether they dress up sometimes just for fun or every day. This book would be well-suited to being read in a classroom setting where the teacher could talk to the children about the issues raised in it.

Bibliographic Information:
Hoffman, Sarah & Ian. Jacob’s New Dress. Chicago, IL: Albert Whitman & Company, 2014.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

“Toot Toot Beep Beep” by Emma Garcia

Age: 1-4
Genre: Fiction, Picture book

My two-and-a-half year old boy continues his obsession with cars, trucks, and all vehicles, so many books we read fall into that category. I recently brought home for him Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia, and he immediately fell in love with it. This is a simple book with simple text and bright, colorful paint-and-collage illustrations. Each vehicle has two eyes on the front to help give him or her some character. The book features seven different vehicles, each of which makes his or her own sound. Whether it’s the jeep going “beep beep” or the van going “chugga chugga,” children will love hearing this book read aloud and repeating the sounds after you. In about a week, I was surprised to find my son could recite almost the whole book from memory. Now he loves “reading” it aloud to me. If your child is interested in cars and trucks, you should pick up Toot Toot Beep Beep and share it with him or her for a fun read.

Garcia, Emma. Toot Toot Beep Beep. New York: Boxer Books, 2008.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

“Madeline and the Old House in Paris” by John Bemelmans Marciano

Age: 3 and up
Genre: Picture book

I recently attended a wonderful yearly event, the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. This is a day when over 50 authors and illustrators come to Princeton, NJ and sit outside the library at tables with big stacks of their books just waiting to be signed for eager children (and adults). While maneuvering through the crowds, which seem to get bigger every year, a Madeline book caught my eye. I grew up reading about the French orphan and her many adventures, and I thought surely the author isn’t here. He can’t still be alive. Those books were old when I was young. But there was a gentleman sitting at the table in front of several Madeline books, so while he chatted with a child and parent, I picked a book up and flipped to the “about the author” portion on the back flap. Here I read that this man, John Bemelmans Marciano, is grandson to Madeline’s original creator, Ludwig Bemelmans, and “carries on the Madeline legacy.” So I purchased a copy of Madeline and the Old House in Paris and thought I’d see how it compared to the Madeline stories I knew and loved.

Marciano has used the familiar characters, including the titular Madeline, Miss Clavel, and neighbor boy Pepito. In this story, the head of the school where Madeline lives (“the old house in Paris” referred to in the title), Lord Cucuface, comes to visit and takes a telescope he finds in the attic. Later that night, awakened by a strange noise, Madeline leads her classmates back to the attic and finds a ghost. The ghost reveals himself to be Felix de Lamorte, and the telescope Lord Cucuface took belongs to him. He needs it back so he can witness a comet that only comes every 221 years. Madeline and Pepito devise a plan to scare Lord Cucuface and return Lamorte’s telescope to its rightful owner in time to see the comet. I enjoyed having a new Madeline adventure to read and was pleased with Marciano’s creation. His artwork is very similar to Bemelmans’, including some illustrations entirely in yellow, black, and white. He uses the same rhyming style in his text, and it reads well. Reading this book put a smile on my face as I recognized the rhythm and characters of my childhood. Though the story involves a ghost, he is not in the least bit scary, and I doubt that young children will be frightened by this book. Fans of Madeline should welcome this and the other new stories Marciano has lovingly created.

Bibliographic Information:
Marciano, John B. Madeline and the Old House in Paris. New York, NY: Viking, 2013.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

“My Bus” by Byron Barton

Age: 2-5 years
Genre: picture book

The newest book from author/illustrator Byron Barton is sure to delight fans of his previous transportation books, such as My Car, Airport, Trucks, Trains, etc. Using bright and colorful block illustrations that resemble cut paper (but which the book notes were actually done using Adobe Photoshop™), the text follows a bus trip with bus driver Joe. As Joe drives around town, he picks up dogs and cats at each bus stop, and then drops them off at a boat, train, and airplane to continue their journeys elsewhere. At the end of the day, one dog remains on the bus: Joe’s dog, which he takes home. Children will enjoy seeing the animals and various modes of transportation, and parents may appreciate that the book allows practice in basic counting, addition, and subtraction. My Bus is a great new edition to Barton’s repertoire and would fit well on any young child’s bookshelf.

Bibliographic Information:
Barton, Byron. My Bus.  New York, NY: Greenwillow Books, 2014.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“My No, No, No Day!” by Rebecca Patterson

Age: 2-5 years
Genre: picture book

This book came across my desk at the library on a day my two-year-old son was having a particularly hard time doing anything. He didn’t want to eat, or get dressed, or ride in the car… every parent has been there. My No, No, No Day! tells the story of Bella, a young girl who is having a bad day. She doesn’t want to eat the egg her mom made her for breakfast, doesn’t like her shoes and kicks them off, doesn’t want to ride in the grocery cart at the store, and on and on. All the while her patient mother and baby brother try to go on with their day without Bella’s bad temper catching up to them. At bedtime, however, Bella decides to let her mother read her a story, even though Bella doesn’t really want a story.  The story calms Bella down and she tells her mom, “Today was a very bad day, Mommy. Sorry.” Of course Mommy understands that some days are just like that, and the next day, Bella has a much better time.

I like that this story acknowledges Bella’s feelings and doesn’t just make her out to be “bad.” The incidents the author creates seem very believable, and the reader feels for Bella (and her family) as she tries to make it through a day when nothing seems to go her way. I’m not sure I believe that in the end Bella would apologize to her mom, but I would like to hope that actually happens sometimes. Parents and children alike should relate to My No, No, No Day! and reading it could open up a good conversation when a child is feeling grumpy.

Bibliographic Information:
Patterson, Rebecca. My No, No, No Day! New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2012.

“Mighty Dads” by Joan Holub with illustrations by James Dean

Age: 2-5 years
Genre: picture book

In this colorful and bright picture book, we see big “Daddy” trucks and little “child” trucks as they work together to build a city. The story is told using rhyme, and though the meter doesn’t always read smoothly, the text flows overall. Each truck makes its own sound or completes an action, such as the bulldozers that “roar, roar, roar” or the dump trucks that “fill, drive, dump.” It can be a little confusing for the reader since the sentences start with “They go…” which to me implies it is a sound they are making, but “roll,” “dump,” or “lift” are not sounds. I think it would have been better to stick to sounds for consistency in the book and not throw in actions as well, but maybe I am being picky. After we have watched all the trucks work, we see the Mighty Dads say they are proud of their little ones, a positive message to send to any child.

My two-year-old son, who loves trucks and construction equipment, really enjoys this book because of the variety of vehicles pictured. He wants to know what each one is called. He points to the Daddy and child trucks on each page, so he is also learning “big” and “little.” Mighty Dads is a great read-aloud for parents with truck-obsessed children.

Bibliographic Information:
Holub, Joan. Mighty Dads. New York, NY: Scholastic Press, 2014.