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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Children's Books: Recent Reads List Ages (2-4)

This is a continuation of my previous post on recent books we've read and enjoyed. I wanted to separate the list by age group for easy reference.

The two year old seems to be developing a preference for certain types of books. Picture Books are still the top favorite. But, some of the I-Can-Read/Beginner-Reader Books of his sister's seem to have definitely caught his attention. Not that he can read them, but, he likes it when she reads them to him.

This again, is by no means a sorted list of favorite reads, just a small subset of the books we've read over the last couple of months that appealed to us.

  1. Alphabet House / written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

    This instantly became my favorite as it came into my hands at the right time when I have just introduced the letter sounds to Og for a phonetic approach to reading.

    The book invites us into the Alphabet House to find the things that start with A to Z. Each page focuses on one letter. The cut-paper art work arranges a scene with some of the members of the rabbit family and objects usually familiar to a toddler - just objects around the house, fruits, toys, utensils and suchlike - in an uncluttered way so as to facilitate easy recognition.

    The simplicity of the cut-paper work, as well as the clever arrangement of the scene to pack as many things as possible that begin with that particular letter sound so that with subsequent reads the toddler confidently looks for more objects and thrills at discovering them, makes this book a valuable tool for learning.

    For example, for the letter P, as a small part of the scene, there is a Pan, Plate and Pie on the shelf. However, the Pan is Purple with a Peapod on it, Plate is Pink with a Pumpkin, and the pie is possibly Peach Pie or Pecan Pie. Now, whereas Og simply identified Pan, Plate, Pie in the first read, on subsequent reads with a little nudge like, "What color is the plate?" and so on, he could pick out the others. Another object on the bottom corner of the P page was a Pillow with Pink Plaid Pillowcase.

    I simply love this book as its deceptively simple presentation packs chockfull of learning fun. Of course, vowel sounds are tricky, and 'C' makes two sounds, which kids learn eventually as they sort it out in their heads. Judging by the 2 weeks of repeat requests, looks like Oggie likes this book as well.

  2. Finn Throws a Fit! / by David Elliott ; illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

    For some reason, Ana and Og like this book way more than I expected. Thanks Mom for giving this book! I love the art work, love the style. The text is simple, easy for Ana to read to Og, which she likes to do.

    If we've ever had a bad day in our lives, a day when we simply cannot handle even the things we used to like, when every little thing sets us off, erupting like an instant volcano, then this book will be easy to relate to. I admit, I've had many days like that thanks to Oggie not sleeping at nights...

    Little boy Finn, comically rendered as an egg-like blob with limbs, is having one of those bad days. The book doesn't dwell on why he has a bad day as that is immaterial. It also doesn't say how the fit subsides, as that is rather immaterial. But, it focuses on how the environment looks when Finn is throwing this fit. He cries... the house floods.

    Initially, I was a bit skeptical, wondering why on earth would a parent read this to their child, focusing on the fit, as if encouraging it and even reveling in it. It didn't help that the parents in the book seem to be portrayed as poor saps. But, I guess from my side of the fence, I can see the positives of this book, as Ana easily recognized the silliness of it, and Oggie didn't care about the fit all.

    As a bystander, this book made the whole toddler tantrum thing seem amusing. Which is an attitude some of us parents find it hard to develop when in the middle of it.

  3. Dancing feet! / by Lindsey Craig ; illustrations by Marc Brown

    I loved this book as soon as I laid eyes on the cover - the happy dancing elephant simply teased my craft-y side: my mind immediately assembled corrugated paper, paints, scissors and glue to affirm that Imitation Is The Best Form Of Flattery Adoration. Ana and I have done a couple of projects based on this book's art work - that has to be its own post some day soon.

    But, the hint of the animal on the page along with lilting rhythmic text that is hard to read without tapping one's feet, "Tippity, Tippity Little Black Feet / Who is dancing on tippity feet?"... leads to the next page which shows that, "Ladybugs are dancing on tippity feet / Tippity tippity happy feet"...

    Stompity, Clickity, Creepity, Stampity - the repetition along with pictures of happy creatures dancing makes this cheery little book a lot of fun to read aloud.

  4. The Adventures of Polo by Régis Faller

    Polo is a spunky pup who likes to set off on an adventure armed with just his backpack, resourcefulness, sunny disposition, and curiosity. The vibrant colors, playful cartoon-like drawing, and dynamic easy-flowing panels make this wordless book a treat to "read".

    Wordless books are wonderful for all ages - we can choose to interpret it as our minds allow. I just let Oggie point to the picture and "talk" about what he sees. Sometimes it is "Uh-oh, he fall in the water", sometimes it is "He in the boat"... and even if it seems like Oggie is just describing the panels, he seems to have fun turning the pages to read to "the end". And then, looks at me expectantly to read it again, this time using my words and interpretation to keep up the flow.

    Originally published in France, Polo seems to have cultivated a universal following. The stories start out simple and sometimes can get quite complex, depending on who is "reading" it. It reminded me a bit of Harold and the Purple Crayon in that Polo finds a rope, which becomes stairs that he uses to climb up and then slides down the rope slide to land on a cloud... It gets from absurd to fantastic in no time.

    Through close-ups in some panels, sometimes stopping the flow with a full-page panel, along with subtle hints like punctuation marks, not to mention facial expressions, artist Faller makes it a delightful experience to follow Polo along in his adventures, silently.

  5. A pair of socks / by Stuart J. Murphy ; illustrated by Lois Ehlert

    I like Lois Ehlert and I picked up this book before even knowing about the MathStart series. The text is short and easy to follow, and the pictures are in bright bold colors to catch the eye.

    A lone striped sock wants to find its partner. It looks in the hamper, washer, dryer, the usual places and fails. It finally finds it in the dog basket.

    Finding the matching pairs of socks in each page makes this a fun learning experience for the little ones while honing the pattern-recognition skills. Plus, there are suggested activities at the back if we want to take it a step further.

    Not really a top favorite of mine, but, since I had to read it a zillion time to Og, it managed to grow on me. I am yet to explore the other MathStart books, but I am in no hurry.

  6. Zero is the leaves on the tree / by Betsy Franco ; illustrations by Shino Arihara

    Most of the toddler counting books introduce 1 through 9 easily. Introduction of the numeral '10' could potentially add a certain complexity, but, many counting books seem to do it consistently, so, kids learn to recognize the number ten.

    The concept of zero while simple, may not necessarily be easy to present. Zero is the Leaves on a Tree was a book I had earmarked for Ana, and was surprised to find that her teacher had already done a good job of introducing zero into her world.

    Since Oggie showed interest in the book, I started reading it to him casually. The changing seasons and outdoor scenes, along with soft colors and tones, and some dynamic movement makes it visually appealing.

    "No sound is Zero sound". And since I had recently introduced the concept of Opposites to Og through a few examples and he was beginning to like the word "Empty" ("empty plate", "sippy cup empty") I was debating adding Zero to the mix, but, it didn't stop me.

    I've been encouraging Ana, (and thereby myself, as I have to set a good example), to minimize the use of negatives, depending on the situation: "Amma, can I have ice cream?" is easy to answer with a "No, Ana, No ice cream before bedtime!"... but with this new self-imposed rule, it prompts me to not snap an irritated No, but to rephrase with, "You can have yogurt or buttermilk if you are hungry; choose." to which a quick, "Zero yogurt, zero buttermilk, Amma" brings an instant smile that dies at birth when I hear, "I am hungry and I choose ice cream"...

    But, I am digressing...

  7. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear / by Audrey and Don Wood (reviewed here earlier)

    What's the only thing a little hungry mouse can do with a red ripe strawberry when a big hungry bear is expected any minute? Why, eat it, of course!

    And that is what he does in this sweet book with huge eye-catching illustrations inviting requiring the reader to pull the narration forward. The text is simple even if it has a few words that are possibly not part of a toddler vocabulary, but the pictures easily explain the meaning without me having to. The mouse is incredibly adorable, and the strawberry seems like a mutant giant next to the mouse who scrambles to keep it from Bear's hungry paws.

    The book also talks about sharing. Of course, Bear is never in the pictures, even if he is in the picture. Just the anxiety of losing this ripe juicy meal to a large and strong Bear seems to drive the mouse as he tries to save the strawberry for himself, thanks to the reader. And, the relief and elation he feels in the end after having eaten it (and sharing half with the reader) is simply precious.

    I would have loved to dedicate a whole post to this book. Left to itself, the mouse probably would have been fine just picking the strawberry and enjoying it at its convenience. But, (no) thanks to the reader, it gets very exciting.

    Thanks for giving us this book, Mom, you know the kids love it!

  8. Mama's kiss / by Jane Yolen ; illustrations by Daniel Baxter

    We've enjoyed a few of Jane Yolen's books before. The pink-ness and the girl made this "Naanaa's" (Ana's) book in Oggie's mind. But, when the three of us read it the first time, Oggie started liking it more than Ana.

    Mama throws many kisses, but one kiss misses. This kiss is presented as red lips with wings, flying around. We track the kiss through the pages as the text describes its journey. The story is simple and sweet.

    Not one of my favorites, but, I liked the concept - just like how a smile propagates itself until the whole world is smiling - "A kiss can go the world around, And come back where it should be found." That, and the fact that I kiss my kids a lot, (to the point where even Oggie has learnt to say, "Stop! No Kiss"), and that somehow will show them how much they mean to me...

  9. Thumb Thumb Books (1-10)

    A surprise package from my parents from India recently included a bunch of books for the kids. One of them is this set of 10 Thumb Thumb books - just about 10 pages each, about the size of a 5x7 photo album, in paperback, packed with wonder.

    There is no discounting the appeal of simplicity and playfulness in reading to kids. Thumbprint makes up the art work, and a few simple sentences makes up the story, such as it is. Each book affirms 'I can read this book' at the end which is empowering for beginner readers.

    Even if it takes a couple of minutes for Oggie to assert with some clarity, "I love Tum Tum Tum-bee Tum Tum Tung-ee", I wait patiently grinning from ear to ear for him to finish making his statement - music to my ears :)

  10. What do you do when a monster says boo? / by Hope Vestergaard ; pictures by Maggie Smith

    Since the cover is mostly on a blue background, and all things blue are naturally his, Oggie picked it out from the library shelf. I liked the book when we read it there, so i brought it home expecting repeat reads. I was not disappointed.

    The "monster" in the book is the little sister who throws tantrums, bites, pulls hair and can generally be annoying to her older brother. Rather than reacting militantly, in anger, the book suggests positive ways to deal with such situations: "What do you do when a monster pulls hair?/Show it your teeth and pretend that you'll bite?/Forget all your manners and start a big fight? No, no NO! The best thing to do when a monster pulls hair/Is find its soft tummy and tickle it there."

    The repetition and rhythm, plus the bold bright pictures makes this book a fun read. The book easily appealed to Ana, even if she doesn't remember to practice it with Og when he pulls her hair or throws his truck at her. Oggie, at two, possibly didn't quite get the whole picture, but, he seems to have caught on the fact that there is no "monster" in the book and that the little girl is pretending to be one :)

  11. Five for a little one / Chris Raschka

    Five Senses - Smell, Hearing, Sight, Taste, Touch - are what this book talks about. In a simple way. I liked Chris Raschka's artwork that I encountered for the first time in A Kick In The Head (An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms), and A Poke in the I ( concrete poems collection) (Paul B. Janeczko), and that's how I found out about this book.

    We've been reading it for almost 10 nights in a row and Oggie hasn't gotten tired of it. There's a lot of white on the pages which gives it an uncluttered look even if there is a lot on each page. The colors are soft, the outlines are dark yet fuzzy, and the text flows well.

    However, the counting aspect of the book seemed incongruous - "Smell is 1" - for the little guy, but, the concept of the five senses is presented well enough for Oggie to grasp.

  12. Because a little bug went ka-choo! / by Rosetta Stone (Dr.Seuss) ; illustrated by Michael Frith

    I love Dr. Seuss, even if by any other name.

    Chain stories are fun - something insignificant happens, which sets off another event, which sets off another, until it has snowballed into this chaotic scene.

    This is a fun book to read aloud, and the pictures are busy, complementing the text well, making it easy to follow along. Which makes it difficult to skip pages like I do with McElligot's Pool or even Cat In The Hat Comes Back without Oggie catching me and demanding that I read correctly.

    Each time I read it, something new about the picture comes into view as the eye glazes over the familiar. A master at his craft, Dr. Seuss, writing as Rosetta Stone, has made this book both silly and profound at the same time.

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At 2:31 PM, Anonymous utbtkids said...

I am sure we will love 2 and 3.

Pair of socks is great ain't it? Based on this book, we have a sock pairing work for the children in my class.

We listened Mouse-strawberry-bear in the library story hour and bought it home when my older one was two. Loved it. But I haven't read it to my second child. I must.


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