Posts Tagged ‘Children’s books

A Kiss for Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and pictures by Maurice Sendak

I have often admired those with the skills to execute both the writing and the illustration that make a children’s book. Many times, however, it is someone else’s unique interpretation of a story that gives it some added depth.

This was reinforced this past week with Maurice Sendak‘s death. Where the Wild Things Are, the book he authored and illustrated, obviously made a huge contribution to children’s literature (and our thinking about the kind of information and thinking of children), but, to me, it is his illustrations of the Little Bear series that show his talent and his love of humour.

The Little Bear books depict the world from a young bear’s perspective including his understanding of himself and his interactions with others (family and other animal/human friends). His mother’s frank explanation of what will happen to him when he tries to fly like a bird to the moon is a classic in parental humour and honesty –
“And maybe ,” says Mother Bear, “you are a little fat bear club with no wings and no feathers. Maybe if you jump up you will come down very fast , with a big plop.” (Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and pictures by Maurice Sendak)

The story that I find most lovely is A Kiss for Little Bear. This book is the final one in this series and the only one published after Where the Wild Things Are (there are hints that maybe Little Bear shares Sendak’s love of drawing wild things). It is the illustration on page 22 with Little Bear laughing as the little joke he has started with a kiss being passed along from friend to friend that shows Sendak’s skills as an artist. The mischievousness and fun of this illustration makes the words and characters in this story come alive. When you get a copy of the book, let us know if you agree!

Merci Monsier Sendak!


Two great things about fall are the proliferation of new books (just in time for holiday giving) and the number of book awards which ensure our reading lists are overflowing with interesting choices. For adults — the Giller Prize, Toronto Book Awards, and Man Booker Prize provide reading recommendations, and the public library makes it possible to get all these great reads.

For children there are also reading programs that can recommend reading choices that will appeal to your child. Here are some links to some interesting reading programs for children:

I’m also a fan of the Toronto Public Library blog Growing A Reader. When you don’t have the time or the inclination to roam and discover in the library, these kinds of programs are sure to help you find something good.

In the spirit of this fall’s new releases and to give you some of my daughters’ top picks, this week we want to suggest you add the following three titles to your reading list:

My Rhinoceros
Elizabeth was crestfallen with the thought of having to return this one to the public library, so it may be a book we end up adding to our home library. It touches on (truly) exotic pets so it is a good starting point for a discussion of why it is important for animals to live in their natural habitat and/or what kinds of things to keep in mind when getting a pet. It is a lovely, silly story of a young boy and his rhinoceros. Does this rhino pop balloons? Does he poke holes in kites? Has the boy gotten a clunker of a pet? Have a read to find out!

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
This story has a great rythming pace and is an action-packed twist on the classic. I find it lots of fun to read aloud and I bet you will too!

My girls do lots of drawing so they were bound to like this one. It has the same zany appeal shared by our other two recommendations. Young Harvey doesn’t believe the calendar note or his mom’s warning to NOT doodle on this day. So with his imagination on full force he makes doodle after doodle trying to correct the initial problem created when he draws a gigantic fly. Eventually his mom must come to the rescue and a lesson is learned (or is it?) about the dangers that creative people face on… Doodleday!

We can’t wait to discover what other new (and new to us) stories are waiting to be read. Please feel free to share the good new books you have encountered and keep us all reading!

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola

I’ll admit it – I’m a big crier! Sad (or happy) movies (with big sound tracks), novels with stories and endings that make you feel like you are losing your best friend (again), opt-ed pieces in newspapers, or children’s books like Love You Forever by Robert Munch. So I pretty much knew what was coming when one of my daughters picked out a book with the title Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs. I tried to dodge it with “We’re taking too many books out already!”, but somehow it stayed in our library check-out pile. Now I have to admit I’m glad it did.

Death is a really hard and scary concept for kids (OK, for almost everyone), but it shouldn’t be ignored. It is around us all the time – my daughter’s daycare friend’s father died suddenly; even more recently one of my good friends’ dearly-loved 99 year old grandmother died; and today I spent some time mourning the unexpected loss of Jack Layton, a man who gave such incredible energy, intelligence and realness to politics in Canada. As much as I would like to shield my daughters from the pain people feel from these losses, it is a reality. It is only through talking about death that children are able to begin to understand and develop the coping skills they will need to deal with what they will face throughout life.

This book presents 4 year old Tommy, a child who gets to connect with both his grandmother and great-grandmother every week. He does this with an innocence and love that is generous and lovely. His defense of his great-grandmother saying “she looks beautiful” is touching and wise. Based on my own relationship with my grandmother, I have always hoped to pass on to my daughters an appreciation of the beauty of old people. I never anticipated finding a book that also helps to convey that message. The death of his great-grandmother and her empty room is heartbreaking. His hope remains when he sees a shooting star in the sky, first for his great grandma and later after his grandmother died. I think this is a comforting and good message for this age range.

This book is based on the author’s personal experience. He is also the author of other books like Strega Nona. It is obvious that old people had a great influence on his life and I’m very grateful that he passed along the stories and wisdom that he gained from these connections.

Wendy’s Grandma at 97 years old
Wilma Nichols (May 23, 1911 – May 23, 2011)

Wolf’s coming!, by Joe Kulka

This picture book is a fun, fast-paced, rhyming twist on the classic tale of a wolf! Around our house it is referred to as “Taylor’s favourite!”, after one of my daughters’ pre-school daycare classmates who just couldn’t get enough of this book! For children who are a little bit older, and able to manage a little bit of suspense in their stories, try adding a bit of vocal tension and pace your reading to make this wonderful book one that will receive demands of “again!, again!”. It has a birthday party ending which resonates with children.

I’d suggest your audience for this book is a little bit older (4-6 years), or who have been exposed to many types of stories. Some children find the suspense element just a bit too overwhelming. Enjoy!

Are you a parent or a caregiver who is interested in finding new, interesting and meaningful books to help instill a love of reading in a young child? If so, this blog is for you! It will help you discover good young (ages 3 – 8) children’s books fast.

These are books that have been read by my two daughters (Elizabeth, now age 7 and Sophie, age 4) and myself. We get many of our books through the Toronto Public Library so whenever possible we will provide a link to the library listing and their wonderful system where anyone with a valid Toronto Library card can place a hold for a book. When your book arrives at your local library branch a nice lady will phone you and leave a message so you know your next book discovery (or rediscovery) awaits. Hopefully no matter where you live, your local library (or bookstore) will be able to help you get these books.

Who doesn’t love all the tried and true classics in children’s books? Little Bear, The Giving Tree, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Winnie the Pooh, and the list goes on and on. We love them too, but this blog is going to try and take you down a different path. We will try not to list of the books you will find in classic lists (if you haven’t already, check out Michele Landsberg’s Guide to children’s books which has some old favorites and some you may not have heard of before) or the current magazine favorites. We want to help you discover lesser-known books that would be good additions to your reading list.

And because there are so many books out there, we invite you to make your own recommendations to add to this list. We are aiming to include one book each week for the next year!

Let’s all read happily ever after…

The End.