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I had a blast at the SLV Fiber Festival this past weekend in Monte Vista, Colorado. I had storytimes with kids, demo’ed cat’s cradle string games, and sold the best and most fun kid’s books related to sheep, llamas, yarn–)and one chicken book ’cause it’s my favorite).

If you’re in the San Luis Valley and are interested in purchasing some books before I ship them back, shoot me an email at babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail.com. You know you’ve got birthdays, holidays, baby showers, and other special occasions coming up! And there’s nothing better than a book! 🙂

Here’s a list of what’s still available:

  • Feeding the Sheep–a little girl follows her mother’s activities through the year, learning along the way where her warm and lovingly made sweater came from.
  • Sheep in a Jeep (book & CD)–silly sheep try to drive a jeep, great rhymes and pictures, good for reading aloud or for beginning readers.
  • Where is Green Sheep–a Mem Fox classic with more silly sheep doing silly things (skiing down a sliding board?!), available in board book bilingual version.
  • Extra Yarn–brand new story about a magical yarn box and a girl who transforms her grey world with it, I think we’ve got a classic in the making with this one.

 

  • Tillie Lays an Egg–I am ga-ga over this book, Tillie lays her eggs all over and kids get to hunt for it in the photos created with retro farmhouse collectibles.
  • The Shepherd’s Trail–a cultural treasure, fabulous photos and just enough text to capture the dying art of the shepherd with the sheep in the back country, a real treasure. Only one copy left!
  • The Surprise–gives me giggles to even think about it and elicits an “awwww” every time at the ending, and don’t you want to see a sheep on a bathroom scale, with a blow dryer, and on a motor scooter?

 

  • The Dogs of Bedlam Farm–I generally despise children’s books written by adult authors (because they are usually just dreadful) but Jon Katz pulls this one off with just the right combo of photos and text to introduce children to Katz’ four farm dogs and their individual personalities and jobs.
  • The Littlest Llama–an overlooked gem, the littlest llama in an Andean herd can find no one to play with, wanders off, escapes trouble only to hurry home and discover she’s not the littlest any longer, bonus points for being told in well-structured rhyme.

 

  • Llama Llama Red Pajama–first in the series of Llama Llama books, if you don’t have this one yet for your little one, you need it (especially for bedtime “llama dramas” at your house).

If your budget necessitates getting these at the “big A,” I understand. Getting books to your kids is the most important factor.

But for now, you can get them from me with no shipping and only a dollar or two more. (And you’ll be supporting a local business with this mission).

Read on,

Babette

 

I don’t often post twice in a day, but today on Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels countdown, Wrinkle in Time came in #2.

Just about everything she says and everyone she quotes rings true for me then and now with Wrinkle. It was such a pivotal book for me (it’s cliched but true–it was life changing) that it is almost a visceral feeling to remember it. And until the last few years, it never occurred to me that it was significant for other people as well. 🙂 But it was and remains so (and it’s why it’s on my Top 5 YA books list).

All that said, this paragraph really stood out for me and I wanted to share it. Betsy writes:

“It also was science fiction, a rare bird in the world of popular children’s literature.  In her 1982 article “Childlike Wonder and the Truths of Science Fiction” in Children’s Literature L’Engle defends the use of such science fiction and fantasy in the’ reading lives of children.  She writes, ‘Recently I received a letter from a young mother who wrote that a neighbor had announced she was not going to allow her children to make their minds fuzzy by reading fantasy or science fiction; she intended to give them books of facts about the real world. For these children, I feel, the real world will be lost. They will live in a limited world in which ideas are suspect. The monsters which all children encounter will be more monstrous because the child will not be armed with the only weapon effective against the unknown: a creative and supple imagination . . . We do not understand time. We know that time exists only when there is mass in motion. We also know that energy and mass are interchangeable, and that pure energy is freed from the restrictions of time. One of the reasons that A Wrinkle in Time took so long to find a publisher is that it was assumed that children would not be able to understand a sophisticated way of looking at time, would not understand Einstein’s theories. But no theory is too hard for a child so long as it is part of a story; and although parents had not been taught Einstein’s E = mc2 in school, their children had been.’  Then she goes on to talk about Chewbacca (this is true).”

Did you read Wrinkle in Time when you were a child? Or as an adult? What were your reactions? I’d love to hear.

Remembering,

Babette

You’re invited to a Book Look–anyone, everyone, the more the merrier! I will be highlighting books that are great for grandparents to give for birthdays, holidays, or any day you want to make a kid feel special. Forgo the toys that will break or get forgotten. Get a book for a gift that lasts a lifetime.

So join us this Thursday, June 28, at 5:30 p.m. at my house. Don’t know where that is? Email me at babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail.com for address and directions. No RSVP needed and come as you are. This is informal, fun, and I’ll do all the work for you. There are few things I love better than helping find the right book for a kid!

(And if you really, really, really can’t come, you can order online. Email if you have any questions.)

See you then,

Babette

This wasn’t too hard. YA has really not been around that long, and subsequently there’s not that much really good stuff out there.

Now don’t get me wrong. I *love* reading YA novels. I actually prefer browsing YA shelves first when I’m looking for a new, good read. I consistently have better luck than with adult books.

But all in all, it didn’t take me long to come up with my list. And as I looked over other people’s lists, I was struck with how many of theirs were really new books.

Have me do this in about twenty years, and I’ll likely run screaming into the night. But for 2012, here my list:

  • Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Hungry City series by Philip Reeve
  • Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Yeah, I recognize that most of my books are not on others’ lists. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended one of these books, though, to a teen (or adult) and not had them love it. And while they are not Nobel prize winning literature, none of them are fluffy beach read either.

In other words, I HIGHLY recommend these five.

And they should win.

So there!

Keep reading,

Babette

PS–So what are your favorite YA books? No, seriously I want to know. I’ll even read them. 🙂

All kinds of lists for father’s day books are cropping up (what a wonder, since tomorrow’s the day!). Someone else’s list always makes you think of what your list would be. Most of my favorites are not about the big day but they are about dads, typical and atypical, and their relationships with their children. And there’s no sap here.

Here are my nominees, in no particular order:

  • Pink Me Up by Charise Harper: I have two boys, both almost grown, so I can be a bit “challenged” when it comes to “girl books.” I also want to do right by girls and not feed them any more stereotypes and junky expectations than can be helped. So Pink Me Up delights me. It’s about a little girl (bunny) and how her dad steps in to make her “pink day” possible. I like that she likes pink “just because.” I like that dad wears pink “just because” and to make her happy. And I like that’s it’s funny without making fun. Some books I like because of the way they portray the parents. This is one of those.
  • Just Like Daddy by Frank Asch: A little bear compares himself with his dad and the things he can do “just like daddy.” It’s got a cute twist ending, though, that even the youngest ones can get. Asch always does a great job with simple but telling pictures and just enough words to tell a good story. His books hold the interest of the youngest, beginning to handle full stories set, as well as their older siblings. His simplicity is deceptive.
  • Tractor Day by Candice Ransom: Short rhyming verse for each double page spreads shows a young daughter and dad taking the tractor out for the first time in the spring.
  • Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino: Boy and his dad have their special routine “every Friday.” Illustrations are retro with a bright but subdued set of colors. It’s a story of the kind of moments that form lasting relationships and memories and make a kid feel loved and special.
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen: The night, the snow, and the owls take center stage in this quiet, mesmerizing story told from a young child’s perspective. But none of it would be possible without dad.
  • So Much by Trish Cooke: So much fun! Everyone comes in the big, big family and everyone’s made a fuss over in the nicest ways including the baby and his dad.
  • My Father is Taller than a Tree by Joseph Bruchac: Quiet, pastel drawings reflect what dad’s are like to their children.
  • Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson: Dad may be in prison but he’s still someone’s dad. Straight forward depiction of a prison visitation day–and the excitement felt by someone coming to visit.
  • My Dad and Me by Alyssa Capucilli: Board book showing children and fathers spending time together.
  • Molly and Her Dad by Jan Ormerod: Exuberant illustrations by Ormerod match an exuberant father-daughter relationship.
  • A Place to Grow by Soyung Pak: An immigrant father shares the importance of freedom with his daughter while they garden. Truly lovely.
  • Pretend by Jennifer Plecas: Ah, dad’s a little imagination challenged but not for long!
  • A Father Like That by Charlotte Zolotow: Classic Zolotow tackles a difficult issue with her usual quiet care. What’s a father to a child who’s never had one present in his or her life? I imagine this book being a balm to kids who feel left out on Father’s Day.

And finally, for my two favorite novel fathers: Read A Wrinkle in Time and A Day No Pigs Would Die.

What are your favorite kid books about fathers?

Happy Father’s Day,

Babette

All children’s books do not have to address a “growing up” issue. Some books are teetotally just for fun, for imagination, for the story, for the pictures. Children’s books “exist” for a million reasons.

Yet I am a complete pushover for books that capture a child’s view of themselves and the world. Why Do You Cry? by Kate Klise is my latest fave in this category. (Red Is Best by Stinson is another; I’ve been having a blast reading it at storytimes the last few weeks.)

Little Rabbit is turning five and planning the guest list for his birthday. Since when he turns five, he is going to be too old to cry, he doesn’t want anyone else coming to his party who cries. Of course, he finds out everyone cries, no matter their age, even his mother.

The premise is very much a child’s way of measuring “growing up.” And it’s a true discovery each time he talks with someone and finds out that they still cry. Life is still new; Little Rabbit is still learning. (And here’s a bonus: Notice how his mother helps him.)

The list of reasons people cry is well done and covers a nice gamut of reasons without being cloying, melodramatic, trivial, or overdone and scary. Each reason is stated as just a fact–which each is.

Adults often forget that emotions are high on the agenda of “things to learn” in a child’s life. We come “pre-programmed” to experience feelings but not to know what they are, what to call them, how to live with them, how they are a part of us and our relationships with others and the world. Why Do You Cry? gracefully helps little ones in its own little way with that part of “growing up.”

It’s all life!

Babette

What’s the latest news today in the world of encouraging literacy and discouraging obesity? The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Academy of Pediatrics have made your friend and mine, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the poster child for obesity prevention. (Read more here.)

Yeah for fighting the evil twins, illiteracy and obesity, let’s all stand up and cheer, right?

Wrong. AHG and AAP–you blew it. Here’s how:

While children are not adults in miniature, they are still rational beings. Using TVHC to talk about obesity doesn’t make sense. Why? Because by the end of the book, despite having one tummy ache, the caterpillar does what caterpillars are supposed to do after eating LOTS. The caterpillar makes his “house” and then comes out of it a beautiful butterfly.

Do you see the incongruency when you pair THAT message up with the message of “don’t overeat” and “don’t eat unhealthy foods like lollipops and cake”? That’s what the caterpillar did and look how things turned out for him–SPLENDIDLY!

Children are smart. They are going to know that the message is mixed. The message sent by the book (caterpillars eat a lot and then they become beautiful butterflies) and the message from AHG and AAP (eat healthy food in moderation) do not go together.

Kids may not be able to figure out what’s wrong, that the messages don’t mesh, but they will pick up the disconnected vibe–and that will drown out the intended message.

When we work with kids and with kids’ books, we’ve got to give them both more credit than that.

A better choice? How about Little Pea by Amy Rosenthal? Like TVHC, it’s an all-around fun read. And it would be a great conversation starter about food and good eating habits.

Other ideas?

Here’s to thoughtfully thinking like a kid,

Babette

“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. She lives in a big white house with many rooms and balconies.”

Thus begins each chapter in the Juvi novel, Anna Hibiscus, one of the most delightful books I’ve read over the last year. Four chapters tell four stories of Anna Hibiscus’ life with her very large family in a very large city in Africa. By the end of the book, I was ready to move to Africa and into that big, happy family.

Everything is not perfect but everything is manageable. A trip to the beach becomes overwhelming until the whole family arrives; “‘It is not good to be alone,’ Anna heard them whisper…’A husband and three children is too much for one woman alone.'” Anna learns compassion and hard work when she sells oranges instead of the street children. The family frets over a daughter returning from Canada for a visit; will she have forgotten the African ways? And Anna shows initiative and gets to visit Canada–and see snow!

Great elements in Anna Hisbiscus?

  • Family is the central focus and what a great family they all are!
  • Each story is written from a child’s point of view, expressing a child’s feelings and showing how children can grow and learn when supported by family.
  • Each story shows a realistic view of modern Africa with a blend of the traditional and the modern.
  • Each story just feels so natural even though the setting and culture will be so different for many children here in the US.

I can’t wait to add more in the series to my collection!

Hope you enjoy too!

Babette

 

Winters are long here in the San Luis Valley. We get lots of cold weather but not much snow (it’s actually a desert up here at 7600 feet). So storytimes on winter, the cold, animals, and the exciting times when we do get snow tie right into a child’s daily experience here.

Here’s what I’m currently doing for wintertime storytime. The kids and I are enjoying it!

Books we are reading include:

  • Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
  • Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep by Maureen Wright
  • Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara

Before I start reading Tacky, I show the kids my penguin stick puppet. He’s simply made out of black and white foam with a yellow beak (some kids love pointing out that he has no eyes). We talk about his colors and what he is covered with–fur? feathers? scales? hair? Once we’ve figured out penguins have feathers, we can talk about other animals that have feathers–birds! And then we can talk about birds that fly–and birds that swim like penguins!

Lots of talking happening, and of course, only for as long as the kids are interested. It’s easy talking, though, and easy for the kids to join in with their thinking and ideas and words.

Then my puppet acts out this rhyme (pardon the bullet points, WordPress inserts double spacing otherwise):

  • Little penguin black and white,
  • On the ice, what a sight!
  • See them waddle, see them glide.
  • Watch them as they slip and slide.
  • Little penguins black and white,
  • On the ice, what a sight!

Then we read Tacky with lots and lots of expression! After Tacky we talk about what other animals do in the winter and bears and sleeping come up. Before reading Big Bear, though, I tell the kids I’m going to tell the same story two different ways (a great way to build narrative skills, btw).

First I do this rhyme to the tune of  “Up on the Housetop.” As a sing through it, I place first a picture of a brown bear, then of a blue cloud with a face drawn on it (like Old Winter in Big Bear), and finally a bear sleeping in a cave onto my makeshift flannel board (I use pictures printed in color from MS Publisher and place them on a white memo board with double sided tape).

  • There once was a bear who love to play (Put up brown bear)
  • In the woods most every day.
  • But then the winds began to blow (Put up winter wind picture)
  • And soon the ground was covered with snow.
  • Oh, oh, oh, ice and snow,
  • Oh, oh, oh, I better go-o
  • Into my cave to sleep all day (Put up bear in cave picture)
  • Until the cold winter winds go away.  Jean Warren

I’m amazed at how much the kids love this! Then on to the Big Bear book. We follow it with some snow fingerplays (see the left hand side bar for those) and wrap it up with Jack Frost. Don’t let this book fool you though! It looks far too simple to hold a bunch of squirmy kids attention but it works like a charm. And they love puzzling out the ending!

There you go, lots of conversation, vocabulary, print awareness (especially in the final pages of Big Bear, narrative skills,  and phonological awareness through rhymes. All wrapped up in one winter package.

Stay warm,

Babette

I live in one of the poorest areas in Colorado. I do storytimes at the local Head Start programs. I see kids who come from homes that are struggling. And the kids from these homes experience the wear and tear of such a life on a daily basis.

So what kind of books do I choose for kids who probably haven’t grown up being read to? Who might not know what a book is or is for? Who might not care or be interested in books? Who might have even shorter than normal attention spans?

Do I choose books by famous authors? Books with award winning illustrations? Or do I choose the shortest books? Books with the fewest words on a page? Books with sounds and lights and gizmos and gimmicks?

Nope! I choose books with “good stories.”

Let me give you an example. The Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday (so already I have one stroke against me), I visit a Head Start classroom. Actually it’s two classrooms combined into a teeny tiny reading space (two more strikes against me). And I start to read Don’t Want to Go by Shirley Hughes.

I can see the teachers look wide-eyed at me as I open this book. It’s got LOTS of words in it. And there’s nothing snazzy, razzle dazzle about the pictures.

It’s the straight forward story of a preschooler whose mom wakes up one morning with the flu. So dad (who has to go to work) takes her to an adult friend’s house for the day. The little girl’s plaintive cry is, “Don’t want to go!”

Of course, she goes anyway. She really doesn’t have much say in it. But there she meets a smiling mom with a friendly baby. The dog licks her hand, she helps the mom glue pictures into a book, she plays peekaboo and holds the dog’s leash on the way to the older brother’s school and even gets to watch a little TV with him.  At each transition her cry is, “Don’t want to go!”

And when dad comes to get her at the end of the day, once again she exclaims, “Dont’ want to go!” Adults love the ending–but kids? Kids love the in-between parts. These are situations and feelings they have experienced. They would want mom up in the morning.  They would want to stay home, too, not go to a stranger’s house. They would lose their mittens on the way and pout under the table and say “don’t want to” but then with warmth and understanding and careful coaxing find themselves enjoying the new moments–just like Lily.

What’s this have to do with “good stories?” An essential element of any good children’s story (for children of any age up through teens) is that the story needs to meet the kid where the kid is at developmentally.

The books that hold kids’ attention with no gimmicks or gizmos are the ones that reflect their experiences, their perceptions, their learning edges, their developmental issues, their world. These are the books with staying power. These become the classics.

Shirley Hughes understands three and four year olds. You hear it in Lily’s reactions, whether in her cry, her pout, her laugh,  or her saying no and then helping anyway. You see it in the illustrations–in the postures and faces of the characters. You hear it in the details she notices (“It was a yellow door, the color of the inside of Lily’s egg,” an egg which she remembers, btw, because she dropped it on the floor earlier). You see and hear it in the reassuring manner in which the adults react to her.

The book is clean and simple. It’s a “good story” for young children any time but perhaps especially right now during the holidays. There can be so many changes on a daily basis. And change is not easy when you are little and adults run the world.

So don’t let the number of words or the non-glamour of this book scare you away.  My Head Starters were dead into it, all the way through! Yours can be too! It is a winner–for groups or for just one or two in the lap–cause it’s a “good story!”

Give it a whirl!

Babette

Some books are so amazingly put together that one can’t help but wonder if the author and illustrator were totally aware of what they were doing–or if they got a little lucky.

I know they most likely knew what they were doing; people who are great at what they do make it look so simple and easy.

Yet I am still blown away by the book Maggie’s Ball by Lindsay Barrett George for the seamless way it puts together a good story with several early literacy skills.

Maggie is a dog with a yellow ball who is looking for someone to play with. The ball gets away from her, though, and rolls into town. Here’s where the fun begins.

The double page spread of the town has four shops around a circle. Lots of people are in town, doing and carrying a variety of “things”–hoops, scooters, dumbbells, wheelchairs. There are poodles, balloons, drums, easels, lollipops, monkeys. These illustrations provide lots and lots of “things” to talk about, encouraging conversation and building vocabulary.

What makes the picture different, though, is that virtually every image involves circles.

What’s special about circles? A circle is a shape and letters are made of shapes. As a child plays with, talks about, and recognizes shapes, he or she lays the foundation for recognizing letters years down the road.

Maggie goes to town to look for her ball and visits each shop. At each one there are many more circular “things” to talk about and name. There’s cakes, cookies, clocks, pizzas, pets, balloons. There’s also practice with discrimination skills. Is the lemon her ball? It’s yellow, and it’s mostly round. How do we know a lemon is not a ball?

Print on these pages is very succinct and very clear, building print awareness on each page, until finally a girl finds the ball and asks Maggie to play.

Remember how I mentioned that shapes build the skill of letter knowledge? Here it’s masterful: The girl has the round yellow ball in her hand. She says “Go fetch” across four pages. The “O’s” in “Go” are stretched out though, each letter “O” set clearly and distinctly across the four pages, even bouncing like a ball until the last “O” turns into Maggie’s “O” shaped, yellow ball.

The girl and dog play ball, become friends, and end the story by sitting together reading a book, an ending tying it all up with a dash of print motivation. I mean, if I could play and read with a dog as darling and expressive as Maggie (pages where where she is sad about losing her ball and then the ones where she is happy finding her ball just tug at you), I’d certainly want to read!

So there you have it: five of the six early literacy skills effortlessly wrapped up in one fun book. (Recap of the skills included: print motivation, vocabulary, print awareness, narrative skills, and letter knowledge).

Maggie’s Ball works on so many levels. I hope you’re kids will enjoy too!

Babette

I’ve had folks ask for specifics on the storytime that turned into such a great moment for developing the early literacy skill of print awareness (read more here).

I start off with a picture of a real sheep; her name is Miss Molly. And I have a bag of her wool. While the kids pass around and feel some of it (you may have to teach them “passing around” :-)), we talk about what wool is and what it’s used for. Then we read stories about sheep!

Here are the books we read:

The Surprise by Van Ommen: This is the wordless book I start with. The first spread is great for beginning to discern whether the kids have a sense of print awareness or not. It shows a sheep standing on a bathroom scale–and nothing else! The entire background in solid yellow. No distractions. Can they recognize that there are no words on the page?

Where is the Green Sheep? by Fox: If they can’t “see” that there a no words in The Surprise, show them Green Sheep and read a few pages. What’s neat about it is that you’ll have page with words and picture, another page with words and picture, another page with words and picture–then! boom! page with only words. Can the kids “see” the words on the picture-less white page?

The two books were just made for each other and made for highlighting print!

After reading both, we read Snow Lambs by Gliori. It takes a little preparation; show them the map on the end papers. Point out the house and river and tree on it. Various pages through out the story need some pointing, highlighting something in the picture, just a few extra words of explanation. But don’t overdo it. The kids may start off squirmy, but it’s a good story, well told, and they will be quietly engrossed if you give them time. They all want to know what happened to Bess!

Songs we sang:

  • Baa, baa, black sheep
  • 1 little, 2 little, 3 little lambies
  • Cows on the the farm (go moo, moo, moo) to the tune of Wheels on the Bus

This is one of my favorite storytimes! The kids love it, the teachers love it, and I love it! Try it with your groups!

Babette

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Contact Info for Babette

email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
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73 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

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