Something We Read: Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

This week, I want to focus on another of Bitsy’s favorite picture books for Picture Book MonthEating the Alphabet (shown above in board book form, but also available in other formats at this link), like a lot of alphabet books, is one in which the illustrations are the real star of the show. There is a good variety of vocabulary to found be in this book, too (Kumquat! Kohlrabi! Xigua!).

Eating the alphabet Peach through Pomegranate

I think this book is a really fun one for little ones who are discovering new foods. Because it’s a quick read, it’s a really good one for the short attention span of an active toddler. Bitsy brings this one to me frequently, we read it, then she wanders off to play some more. Reading then feels fun, not forced. A learning activity I’d like to do with her soon, but haven’t tried yet, is to take this book with us next time we go grocery shopping and search for each of the fruits and vegetables in Eating the Alphabet. When I do that, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Something We Read: Rooster’s Off to See the World

Rooster's Off to See the World

Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month, a time to celebrate picture books for their importance in developing literacy, and the joy they bring us as readers. Bitsy and I enjoy picture books together every day. In celebration of Picture Book Month, I plan to do some extra posts about the children’s books we read. This week we read a book that is an excellent example of the great work that can be done by authors and illustrators in this format: Rooster’s Off to See the World, by Eric Carle.

Reading Together

This story is one adults can enjoy as much as children. Bitsy loves the different voices I do for all of the animal characters. The colorful illustrations are so appealing to little ones, and I love Eric Carle’s distinctive collage style.

rooster's illustrations

The story is so clever. A rooster awakes one morning and forms the notion he would like to travel. “So, right then and there, he set out to see the world.” As he walks along on his journey, the rooster meets other animals who accept his invitation to travel the world. Cats, frogs, turtles, and even fish swimming in a brook form the travel party.

rooster's travel party

Cocksure as one would expect a rooster to be, he made no plans or preparations for his bold endeavor at world travel. The animals soon feel the deprivations of an ill-prepared trip, and one by one each group of animals abandons the trip and returns home. The rooster ends up alone again, finds himself hungry and homesick, and returns to the comforts of home as well. In the end, he falls asleep and has “a wonderful happy dream–all about a trip around the world!” This is a good place to ask your little one what you think the rooster will do next: will he be satisfied with dreaming about seeing the world, or will he make real travel plans and try again?

Rooster's dream

While the book is good for teaching counting, addition, and subtraction, it does so in a very subtle way–the main focus is the story. The illustrations include a visual in the top corners showing the growing, then declining number of animals on the trip as each group of animals joins or leaves the party.

counting with rooster

One rooster is joined by two cats, then three frogs, four turtles, and five fish. The fish, then the turtles, followed by the frogs, and finally the cats take their leave of the rooster, until there is just one animal present again. The way this is done through illustrations shows just how important picture books are to early learning.

As you can see in several  other posts here, Bitsy and I love Eric Carle books. This is one of my favorites, though. I like the distinct personalities of the different animal characters, and the humorous tale. The rooster, with all of his colorful feathers, must have been a particularly fun animal for Carle to illustrate, and stands out to me as one of the most beautiful of his illustrations. I highly recommend this one for your child’s collection.

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Some Updates

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October is off to a nice start.

buggy cover

We’ve been using the Very Hungry Caterpillar shopping cart cover I bought after the shopping trip a couple weeks ago that taught me why we needed one. As you can see, Bitsy seems to be really happy in it. The cart is more comfortable for her now, and there are loops to attach some of her favorite toys. It’s great to have some things for her to play with that she can’t throw out of the cart. Since she has her butterfly and fox, she won’t need to try to play with the groceries! And I feel more confident that she is secure in the cart.

buggy cover toys

The toys don’t come with the cart cover. These were some fun developmental toys gifted to me from my baby registry. They’re soft and cuddly, and are good for sensory development. Different parts make crinkly sounds when touched, and they have different textures and colors. The butterfly has a mirror, and Bitsy is sooo into mirrors right now.

Baby Rosary

baby rosary

We go to a mothers and babies playgroup each week. The children play together while the mothers chat. The head of family outreach does a wonderful job with this ministry. She creates a handout each week with the upcoming Sunday’s gospel, her own reflection and discussion questions. We read these together and pray together while the children play. This week we did this wonderful baby rosary craft. It was very easy, and gave us moms something creative to do with our hands while we talked. We used string, a plastic crucifix, and beads. Tape on the end of the string made it easier to run the string through the beads. The babies will enjoy feeling the different textures of the beads, and as they grow can say very simple prayers, like “I love you, Jesus,” “I love you, Mary,” for each bead. Now Bitsy gets to have her own rosary like Mama.

Fall is Coming Slowly

BITSYWALKING

Even though October is here, it’s still pretty hot. The mornings and evenings are a little cooler now, so family walks with Bitsy are much more pleasant now. Having her walk in shoes is going to be a process. They still feel awkward to her, and she prefers to be barefoot. She loves being outside and exploring. She chases her shadow, and stops to look at every little thing. She’s been reading The Poky Little Puppy a lot lately, so I tell her she’s like the Poky Little Puppy, stopping to learn about whatever she sees, hears, and smells. I tell her this is a good way to be: curious, and taking time to experience the little things.

I’m getting excited about Halloween. I don’t like to put up decorations too early. I’ll wait another week or two before I put up a Halloween wreath. I’ll make it in the next few days. Last year, Bitsy was adorable in her Wonder Woman costume. I’m really looking forward to taking her trick-or-treating this year, now that’s she’s so social.

Wonder Woman baby costume

Things are pretty busy with school right now, but I’ll get a little break between big assignments in a couple weeks. I’m taking Collection Development this semester. I’m working on a weeding assignment in which I choose items from a particular section of the library to weed. Weeding is one of the things I miss the most about working in the library, so this is like a dream assignment for me.

I hope you’ll all have a happy October. Even though I’m so busy, I will be slowing down and taking time to enjoy this fun season, and I hope to have plenty to share with you here.

 

 

Something We Read: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

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Last Stop On Market Street was the first book I put on Bitsy’s Amazon baby registry, and the first one I bought since I was too impatient to wait for someone to buy it for us. I was just so excited about having books for her, and this one in particular  I knew would be special. It received some of the most prestigious honors in children’s literature. It is a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, the winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, and a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.

These awards speak well for the book, but what attracted me most was its content and message. After church, CJ and his grandmother take the bus to the soup kitchen where they volunteer each week. CJ sees his friends go home in their cars, and wonders why he can’t do the same. He feels a little sorry for himself, but his grandmother patiently, lovingly, and wisely shows him how fortunate they are, and how to find beauty all around them in this ordinary excursion. Who needs a car when “we got a bus that breathes fire?” CJ’s friends who get to go home after church will not get the chance to meet all the people CJ and his grandma see on the bus and at the soup kitchen. CJ doesn’t need a smartphone to hear music when the man across from him on the bus has a guitar, and plays a song for everyone. CJ closes his eyes to appreciate the music. It takes him out of the bus to an imaginary place of freedom, beauty, and magic.

After CJ and his grandmother exit the bus in the neighborhood of the soup kitchen where they volunteer, CJ looks around at the “crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows, and boarded-up stores.” He asks his grandmother why “it’s always so dirty over here.” She points out a rainbow and tells him that being “surrounded by dirt” can sometimes help you be “a better witness for what’s beautiful.” CJ then recognizes his grandmother’s gift for finding beauty, and looks around to find it himself in the street lights, stray cats, and shadows around him. When they approach the soup kitchen and see the people they serve every week, CJ tells his grandmother he is happy to be there.

There are so many messages in Last Stop on Market Street that I want to share with my daughter, and I’m glad I have this book to help me do that. I want her to be able to find joy and beauty in everyday settings, and be grateful for our many blessings. I want her to have close relationships with her grandparents, like CJ and his grandmother have. His grandmother is such a positive influence, teaching him some of the most important lessons for living a happy, meaningful, and useful life. The illustrations show diverse characters, something very important for every child to see in their books. Most of all, I love the sense of community CJ’s grandmother clearly has and is teaching him. She connects with the people all around her. She sees the bus as a valuable public space where people can interact and learn from one another. She smiles and wishes a good afternoon to all the other passengers, and has CJ do the same. The way she speaks of the people they serve at the soup kitchen shows that she does not condescend to the people she serves. She treats them not only as equals, but as wonderful people she and CJ are honored to know. I think the book conveys all of these messages without being preachy. I try to share these messages when I read it to Bitsy through my voice, expression, and pointing to the illustrations, delighting in all of the beauties CJ’s grandma points out to him. I’m so glad Bitsy has been enjoying this one. The message, as well as the condition of the book in its hardcover format, should hold up for her for years to come.

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Something We Read: Little People, BIG DREAMS

Little People, BIG DREAMS: Ella Fitzgerald by 

Isabel Sánchez Vegara, Illustrated by Bàrbara Alca

ella

Just look at that adorable cover!

Bitsy seems really drawn to this cute illustration of little Ella Fitzgerald, and often carries  this book around with her and brings it to me to read to her. At this toddler stage, sitting still for a whole book can be difficult. If a toddler is having trouble sitting still for an entire story, that’s okay. It better to skip some sentences or whole pages, or let them run around while you read, than to make them sit still until you finish the book. You want to help them develop a love of reading, not make it a chore. I do sometimes miss the days when I could read her books with longer, more complex stories than the ones in her board books, whenever I wanted. For whatever reason, Bitsy seems to stay pretty engaged with this book, though. I think she likes Ella’s friendly face and the colorful illustrations.

This one is fun for adults, too. There are little references for us to enjoy, like Ella’s mother reading Mrs. Dalloway. It gives us a lot of music to explore. At the beginning, we see a musically-precocious little Ella Fitzgerald listening to the Boswell sisters on vinyl. This group was a new discovery for me, and fortunately you can find their collections on Youtube, including what fans in the comments say are pretty rare, deep cuts.

We also learn about Ella Fitzgerald’s collaborations, band, and solo work, including illustrations of her album covers. What a great way introduce one of America’s greatest singers to children! Bitsy is so drawn to music, and this book has prompted me to play some of Ella Fitzgerald’s music for her.

 

The story is a very positive one about overcoming adversity and following your dreams. It does briefly touch on some difficult events in Ella’s life–her mother’s death, skipping school, being sent away to “a strict school as punishment,” and running away from home. It doesn’t dwell too much on these events and topics, and tells about them in a way that I believe children can handle.

Little People, Big Dreams

This series features the stories of women who have achieved great things. It follows their stories from childhood, showing little ones that we all start small, but can accomplish a lot if we dream big and follow those dreams. The books are written for young children, but are enjoyable for all ages. According to this interview, the author was inspired to write books about female heroes to fill a gap she discovered when looking for books to read to her nieces.  There just weren’t as many books about real-life, strong, courageous women as she’d found about men. The books aren’t just for girls. They are about dreamers, and intended for all children.

Vergara writes all the books in the series, but works with different illustrators. I loved all the illustrations in the book about Ella Fitzgerald. One page really stood out for me for the way Alca illustrates Vergara’s figurative language. Ella Fitzgerald’s “velvety voice wrapped around the audience like a blanket.”

blanket

I am so excited to keep sharing stories in this series about the lives of great women with Bitsy. I think the next Little People, Big Dreams we’ll read will be Rosa ParksMother Teresa, and Jane Austen. There are many from which to choose in this series, and you can probably find the stories of some of your heroes to share with your children.

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Something We Read: Little Owl’s Colors by Divya Srinivasan

A few weeks ago, I told you I included two books to read to Bitsy in my hospital bag when she was born. The first book read to her was Home For a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. This week I’ll tell you about the second book she read, which we read several times this week: Little Owl’s Colors by Divya Srinivasan.

Little Owl's Colors

This book was a baby shower gift from my Amazon baby registry I like that it uses nature to teach colors–a gray raccoon, blue pond, purple flowers, a red cardinal eating red berries.

Little Owl’s Colors was the first book we read by Divya Srinivasan. We have one other–Little Owl’s 1-2-3. She is both author and illustrator of the books in the Little Owl series, of which there are three more– Little Owl’s Night , Little Owl’s Day , and the upcoming Little Owl’s Snow –as well as Octopus Alone, a book about a shy octopus who learns to balance playing alone with playing with friends. I plan to complete Bitsy’s collection of Little Owl books.

I was so happy to find out that a new book (Little Owl’s Snow) is coming out in time for Christmas, because I love Divya Srinivasan’s illustration style. In addition to the books she wrote and illustrated, she has done art and animation for This American LifeNew Yorker, Weird Al, and others. She illustrated perhaps the most visually-appealing book I’ve seen recently: Neil Gaiman’s Cinnamon.

 

See her portfolio here. I’ll be on the lookout for more work from her.

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Something We Read: Baby Faces Books

babyfaces books.jpg

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Now that Bitsy can walk and bring me books to read to her, I’m really enjoying seeing which ones capture her interest–the ones she wants to read over and over again. Babies love looking at pictures of other babies, and lately Bitsy has been bringing me her books with photos of babies quite often. These are very appropriate books for her at this stage. It can be hard for a new walker to be still and focus for a long time, but these books are short and sweet, and the babies’ faces capture her attention. I love seeing her react to the babies’ different facial expressions.

The two we’ve been reading a lot this week are Goodnight, Baby by Rourke Board Books ,and Hugs & Kisses by Roberta Grobel Intrater from the Scholastic Babyfaces seriesHugs & Kisses features real parents and babies showing affection. I like to read her this one we snuggle at nap time, night time, or when we wake up in the morning.

Goodnight, Baby is one we borrowed from the library that will be hard to return because she has gotten pretty attached to it. I may have to order a copy, which we often do when she loves a library book this much. Fortunately, there are used bilingual English/Spanish editions editions available on Amazon for under $6.

The pictures and text in Goodnight, Baby are adorable and sweet. It’s perfect for helping a baby or toddler settle down for the night. I let my voice get softer as I read each page, and this seems to be very soothing for Bitsy. My only complaint is that in two places, the book ends sentences with prepositions. I’m just picky about stuff like that, but Bitsy and I enjoy this book so much, I’ll have to let it slide. I just correct it as I read, saying “Put away your toys,” in place of “Put your toys away.” I’m nerdy. My husband calls me Diane Chambers.

Bitsy also loves seeing babies’ faces in her favorite Youtube video. It’s video of the Suzuki Songbook 1 for violin, with toys, animals, and children smiling & playing. Bitsy is very interested in music, and we enjoy this video together almost every day. She smiles back at the babies, and laughs, claps, and points when she sees the toys and animals she likes best. Give it a try with your little one here: