Monthly Archives: October 2012

Scared Silly with Halloween Books

Ghouls, bats, princesses, and black cats will soon be roaming our neighborhoods. It’s trick-or-treat time!

Halloween is a holiday that is hundreds of years old. Its traditions have merged and morphed from a celebration of the harvest and an honoring of the spirit world to its present day rendition of dressing in costume and collecting candy.

As you introduce your children to this cultural tradition, you can choose how to explain the creatures and customs that may initially be frightening. Ghosts, witches, vampires, and mummies can be mysterious and threatening, but often show up in children’s books as fun-loving characters. Things that may be scary, can be less so if they are explained and explored.

Read some Halloween books before the holiday and set the stage for your young child to enjoy the spookiness of the night!

“Five Little Pumpkins” illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. This board book has bright illustrations of jack-o-lanterns that act out the well-known rhyme. The pace and text are just right for a toddler. Also for your young child, try “Ten Timid Ghosts,” by Jennifer O’Connell for a rhyming countdown from 10 ghosts to one haunted house. Illustrations are colorful and friendly.

“Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Axel Scheffer. As a witch rides her broom on a windy day, the wind keeps blowing things away. She has to keep making trips down to the ground to collect her hat, her wand, her bow, and more.  At each trip a critter asks if there is room on her broom to join her, so she collects lots of friends along the way too.

“Broom, Zoom!” by Caron Lee Cohen, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. A little witch with a big, red, pointed hat and little green goblin with a long red tail both want to use the same broom. They don’t want to share, but when they see that each has important work to do with the broom, they take turns so both can use it. Illustrations are big areas of color with black outlines.

“Big Pumpkin” by Erica Silverman, illustrated by S.D. Schindler When a witch grows a pumpkin that is so big that she can’t get it off the vine, she needs help from her friends the ghost, vampire, mummy, and bat. It takes teamwork and cooperation to get the job done and make the pumpkin into a delicious pie.

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Children’s Books for the Season

What does autumn mean to your family? Watching the wind scatter red and gold leaves down the street, picking out a big orange pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern, and smelling the pungent whiff of burning wood in the neighbor’s stove; autumn is a time of warm colors and warmer clothes.

Read about the changing weather and the bounty of the fall season with the young child in your life. Cozy up together and enjoy some children’s books about autumn!

“Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin” by Tad Hills. Colorful illustrations and short, punchy sentences are the hallmarks of the “Duck and Goose” series of board books. Toddlers will love going on a pumpkin hunt with these two feathered friends. Where is that big, beautiful pumpkin hiding?

“Fall Leaves Fall!” by Zoe Hall, illustrated by Shari Halpern. It is quite amazing that a green leaf can change to a brilliant color in fall. If you look closely you’ll also see that leaves are different shapes and sizes. They can be raked into piles and glued onto paper. Very young children will like the straightforward narrative of this book paired with the bold illustrations.

“Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” by Lois Ehlert. This is the story of a tree from seed to sapling to full-grown sugar maple. Using collage of handmade paper and found objects Ehlert shows how a tree is raised to grow in a nursery and sold to be planted in someone’s yard. This book may give you some ideas about planting your own tree. Fall is a good time to do it!

“The Apple Pie That Papa Baked” by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathon Bean. Reminiscent of 1930’s style lithographs, the illustrations are just three colors–blocks of gold, black, and red on manila paper. This is a cumulative story that you’ll recognize as a variation on “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”  Here’s a sample: “These are the roots, deep and fine, that fed the tree, crooked and strong, that grew the apples, juicy and red, that went in the pie, warm and sweet, that Papa baked.”

“Corn is Maize: the Gift of the Indians” by Aliki. This book is chock full of information about corn and its history as a crop plant. Did you know that corn can only grow with human help? It needs to be planted and tended to thrive. This book requires a long attention span from your young listener, so is most appropriate for 5-8 year olds.

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A Second Story Line

Most of the time you can read a children’s book and see that the pictures show just what the words in the book say. That’s what we expect.

But other times the story says one thing, and the pictures show even more than the words. In these books the illustrator has had fun creating a second story line. This kind of book you can read over and over with more rich discussion with your child each time.

In the “Big Red Barn” by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Felicia Bond, the main story is about a farm and the animals that live there. But a second, subtle story in the pictures is about a butterfly visiting each animal. The rhyming text tells about horses, hens, and cows. Meanwhile, the little butterfly flits here and there in the pictures, having an adventure on its own.  Your toddler’s sharp eyes can find this tiny insect on the pages if you ask, “Where is the butterfly now?”

Author/illustrator Denise Fleming has fun with a secondary character in her book  “In the Small, Small Pond.” Using brightly colored paper handmade paper, Fleming’s illustrations show scenes of pond life from tadpoles to geese, herons to minnows. The text bounces along with simple rhymes about the aquatic animals. If you look closely, you’ll see that there is a green frog on every page jumping in and out of the pond life and sometimes sitting still in the water with just his red eyes showing. “Is there a frog on this page?” is a great game to play as you read this book.

For pre-schoolers, check out the book “Funny Farm” by Mark Teague. This is one of a series of books featuring Edward the Boston Terrier dog, who dresses in a suit and red bow tie.  Look for scenes within the scenes such as in the picture of Edward digging hole. Take a second look and you’ll see a groundhog popping up out of a hole next to Edward’s. When the cows are getting milked, we see a tiny churn and a mouse making butter. When Uncle Earl plows the field, an ant and beetle do the same on a miniature scale

“The Fixits” by Anne Mazer, illustrated by Paul Meisel is a book with a lot of pre-school humor. Things start breaking and the Fixits start fixing, but the more they fix, the more they break! The little girl and dog in the pictures are very excited, but the boy is busily trying to fix the mess the Fixits are making. You and your child could make up your own stories from looking at the zany happenings in the illustrations that aren’t mentioned in the story.

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Take a Listen

Have you ever gone on a “sound walk” with your child? Take a stroll inside or outside and just listen. Quiet now… what do you hear? Can you hear a dog barking? Children playing? Car motors revving? Can you pick out the hum of the refrigerator, a door creaking, or your own breathing? Listen. What’s that?

As you go on your walk you can write down the noises you hear and what made them. You could even make a running list of sounds you hear each day and start a “sound collection.” One day you may come across more unusual sounds like the neighbor practicing guitar or a garbage truck loading. Keep adding to the list!

You can use children’s books to explore sounds, too. As you read a story with animals in it, point to the animal and ask your child what sounds it makes.  “What does a cow say?” “What does a cat say?” In other books you can ask about vehicle noises, sounds that the wind or ocean makes, or the noises at a park or playground.

Here’s a sampling of the many books for children that feature sounds.

“Yip! Snap! Yap!” by Charles Fuge. You’ll meet all kinds of dogs in this book, from hungry to yappy to itchy, and they each have great sounds to go with them. “Aroo! Aroo!” Dogs are barking, growling, munching, snoring, and more. This is a great vocabulary expander.

“Baby Says ‘Moo!’” by JoAnn Early Macken, illustrated by David Walker. The rhyming text follows the baby’s ride in the car and what they see–a horse, a dog, a duck… Each time this baby’s parents ask what sound any animal says, the baby says “Moo.” When they finally see a cow, baby is asleep and very quiet.

“The LOUD Book!” by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska.  A companion to “The Quiet Book,” this not a story, but depicts “loud” in its illustrations. At each page turn you’ll see a noisy scene with just a few words on the page, such as “home run loud.” Marbles get spilled in the library, then you find yourself in the middle of a crowded swimming pool. The limited text gives lots of opportunity for your child’s imagination to expand on what might be happening in each situation.

“The Listening Walk” by David Kirk. This is the story of a special kind of “sound walk,” one at night listening to noises that may seem scary. Kirk’s Miss Spider character takes her son Wiggle on a night walk outside and shows him that what he thinks is frightening, is really not.

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