Monday, April 30, 2012

Kids Books A to Z: Z is for Zipperump A Zoo

The Zipperump-a-Zoo is the only creature missing from Professor Wormbog's alphabetical collection of beasts in the classic book by Mercer Mayer. So, the Professor embarks upon a journey around the world, in the air, underground and in the sea, trying to find one. Alas, you cannot find the Zipperump-a-Zoo unless it wants you to!

Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo was created long before the Little Critter and Little Monster series. You can almost recognize some of the characters, though, as you page through and look at the illustrations. This book was out of print for several years, but has been brought back to delight new generations of kids.

Kids Books A to Z: Y is for Young

Ed Young is the author of the classic children's book Lon Po Po. It was the winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1990. The story is a Chinese fairytale, based on Little Red Riding Hood, with illustrations done in panels like in ancient Oriental paintings.

Three girls are left at home while their mother goes to visit their grandmother. Lon Po Po is the wolf who comes to their house, pretending to be their grandmother. The oldest girl sees through the wolf's trick and plots to get rid of him once and for all. The girls manage to trick him into a basket at the top of the tree and then drop the basket so that he falls to his death.

Ed Young has also written 17 other books and illustrated over 60 for other authors. His Chinese heritage is his biggest inspiration for his work.

Kids Books A to Z: X is for X-Factor

What is that X-Factor that makes a children's book stand up to the test of time? I think the stories need to be realistic in the sense that a child can relate to the characters and the situations. The situations should be familiar from one generation to another. Illustrations always seem to be better when they are hand-drawn, instead of computer-generated.

Books that are read to a child at a young age are going to stick with her for the rest of her life. Different books are going to speak to different children. So, when you find ones that work, read them again and again so that they are passed on.

I think it is also important for the book to be in physical form. You get more out of a book when you can engage most of your senses. There is something to be said for feeling the smooth pages of a new book. There is something about that new book smell. You have less eye strain when you're looking at a piece of paper instead of a backlit screen. And it is easier to snuggle when paging through a book than pushing on a touch screen.

What are some of your favorite books? What was that "X-Factor" that helped it to make your list?

Kids Books A to Z: W is for Walsh

Ellen Stoll Walsh is a very sweet and humble woman whose simple picture books for kids are extremely popular.

Her books featuring mice are used to teach children about simple concepts. Mouse Paint teaches kids how the three basic primary colors are mixed to make all of the other colors as the mice make a mess.

Mouse Count teaches kids how to count up to ten and back down again as the mice play a trick on a snake.

Mouse Shapes teaches kids some basic shapes while also showing how they can be used to make other shapes as the mice play a trick on the cat.

Other books of hers include other animals. In Hop Jump, a frog shows that dancing is just as much fun as hopping and jumping. It's okay to break away from what you are always expected to do.

For Pete's Sake is about an alligator who is convinced that he is a flamingo.

Ellen Stoll Walsh lives near Rochester, where I live. I have had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of times. She is a very quiet and humble woman who does not wish to catch up to the modern age. She declined being interviewed, does not do email and does not have her own website. She simply likes to share her creations with the world.

Kids Books A to Z: V is for Virginia Lee Burton

Virginia Lee Burton is a classic children's author whose books have delighted generations. I think that my personal favorite one is The Little House. When the house was built, it was out in the country. As the years went on, the city moved in closer and closer until the house was completely dwarfed by skyscrapers on either side. Eventually, the little house is moved back out into the country and is happy again. It's a great example of how life has changed over the years. It amazes me how true it is now, almost 70 years after it was written. It also won the Caldecott medal in 1943.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is a classic that was written back in 1939. It chronicles the development of industry while also demonstrating the importance of loyalty and friendship. It's also mentioned in Beezus and Ramona.

Virginia Lee Burton wrote four more books and illustrated several others. Her style is distinct and classic.

Kids Books A to Z: U is for Uncle Wiggily

Uncle Wiggily is a character who was created 100 years ago. My grandmother was a big fan of his and taught us all about the various characters.

Uncle Wiggily himself was an elderly rabbit who suffered from rheumatism. He had a tendency to help the other animals in the forest and occasionally had run-ins with some unsavory characters. He liked to solve their problems and to protect them from the bad guys. Author Howard Roger Garis created 79 books about his beloved characters.

Grandma had the Uncle Wiggily game, in which you made your way through the forest. The clues on the cards were always in rhyme. I loved playing it with her.

Kids Books A to Z: T is for Toddler Tools

The Toddler Tools series by Elizabeth Verdick is one of my most favorites to use in my classroom. I received a set of several of them a few years ago, to review when I started my book blogs. My students love the stories and often chant the catch phrases contained within each book. The rhyming text holds their attention while also teaching very important lessons. Parents and teachers can use the reference sections in the back of the book to provide further information about child development and other activities.

Children learn how to use good manners, to clean up after themselves, to separate from Mom and Dad, and how to be good friends. Several new books have been added to the series since I did my initial reviews. I would love to get them so that I can have a complete collection. Find them on Kindle and as board books.

Read an interview I did with author Elizabeth Verdick back in 2009.

Kids Books A to Z: S is for Scarry

One of my favorite story collections when I was a child was a book called Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever! It featured word book-type pages, classic Scarry stories, fables, poems and more. It was how I learned new vocabulary and got that warm and fuzzy feeling from a good story. I also cherished this book because it was given to me by my grandmother. She had Alzheimer's and was placed in a nursing home when I was about 5 or 6. She passed away when I was 9. We were very close when I was little.

My favorite story was about a little bear who has to go to bed. He is riding on his father's shoulders and his dad "forgets" that he is up there. Father searches the whole house for his son, who stifles a laugh. Good Night, Little Bear is also available as its own Little Golden Book.

Another one of his book collections that I had as a child was Richard Scarry's Best Mother Goose Ever. This was how I learned a lot of my nursery rhymes.

His trademark characters illustrated dozens of books for children. Word books had detailed drawings with dozens of objects on a page, each one labeled. Stories often had some kind of a lesson in them. Many of these were featured in a place called Busy Town, which eventually ended up with its own TV show. Most of his books are still in print and he is just as popular now as he was back then. He is a valuable addition to any children's library.

Review of A Bedtime Kiss for Chester Raccoon

The sun has risen, which means it is time for Chester Raccoon to go to bed. But he is afraid to go to sleep, because that ray of sunshine looks like lots of scary things! Clouds and shadows amplify his fears. Mrs. Raccoon reassures him that there is nothing to fear from those rays of sunshine. She gives him a Kissing Hand to aid his sweet dreams and he is able to finally fall asleep.

This book, which is a part of the beloved Chester Raccoon series by Audrey Penn, is a cute way of letting young children know there is nothing to fear at bedtime. It's amusing how the rays of sun and shadows are just as scary to a raccoon as those moonlight beams and shadows are for kids. When reading this story, kids will exclaim, "Hey, the sun isn't scary!" As a response, adults can note how Chester wouldn't find that moonlight and starlight scary. It's the same thing.

This book is quite short and written in rhyme, which makes it perfect for the younger toddler and preschool readers. Older children who are looking for more lengthy adventures like in Chester's previous books may be a little disappointed with its simplicity. But this allows for younger readers to be introduced to Chester Raccoon and to have their own story to which they can relate. Illustrations are less vibrant than in previous stories, but are more appropriate with the simpler text.

A Bedtime Kiss for Chester Raccoon is a great book to read to a child before going to bed or before a nap. Include a Kissing Hand and you have your own nighty-night ritual in place with your little one.

I recieved a complimentary set of galleys from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my review of this book.

Kids Books A to Z: R is for Rey

H.A. Rey and his wife Margaret were best known for their mischievous monkey Curious George. His antics made him so successful that all of these years later, he stars in his own movies and TV shows and numerous spin-off books.

The Reys were responsible for some other classic picture books, though. Pretzel is a story about the longest dachshund in the world. He is eager to impress a girl dog, but she wants nothing to do with long dogs. And then one day she finds him to be quite helpful!

Spotty is a story of a little rabbit who is different from the rest of his family. He has spots all over his body, while the rest of them are all white. So, he takes off to see the world and to be accepted for who he is.

Where's My Baby? teaches children about animals and their babies.

H.A. Rey also created children's books about his fascination with astronomy. The husband and wife team created numerous other children's books over their years, with easy-to-recognize letters and illustrations. Several generations later, they are still beloved by children everywhere.