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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

I’m back! 🙂 And over the next few weeks, I’ll fill you in on some of the changes in my life and work. To kick things off, though, I want to share a most memorable story for this Memorial Day–and kick off a new series of articles. Developmental Milestones will share stories and examples from the “real world” of how children grow. It will put some concrete flesh on the theoretical bones of developmentalists like Piaget, Erikson, Elkind, and others.

Let’s start off with a photo. It’s not mine to embed so click here to take a look. Yes, that’s a five year old boy, patting the President of the United States head. Yes, he asked to pat it, to touch the President’s hair. Why? To see if it was like his own.

What’s going on here developmentally? During ages 1-3, children begin to develop a sense of being separate from the people around them. During ages 3-6, they begin to develop an identity. They aren’t just a separate entity, a different “thing” from you or me; they are a separate being with a unique identity. Of course, a 3 year old doesn’t verbalize or even think about this but all the things that make us human are driving him or her to explore identity.

What makes me “me” and not you? (And yes, if this sounds familiar, you are right. This exploration gets re-visited in adolescence; some actually call the teenage years “the second adolescence.” :-)) At this age the exploration is on very basic levels–Am I a boy or a girl? How do I know that? Am I strong, smart, shorter, taller, brown like you or white like her? Can I be a knight, a princess, a fire fighter, a doctor, a chef, a mother, a father?

Do you see where this is leading? Can I be President?

“Who am I?” Jacob is asking. Am I like him? His skin color is like mine; is his hair like mine?  Can I have fuzzy hair and be President? Can I be black with fuzzy hair and be President?

What do children see? Who do we allow them to see?

Don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing didactic here. We don’t have to “teach” or knock them over the head with a two by four about prejudice or gender issues. But we do have to be aware of how much they are learning. It is important that all children see that a black person can be President or that a woman can be a doctor or that a dad can change diapers. It is important that they see their faces in books (including on the covers) and movies and computer games.

No matter what strides we make as a society in overcoming prejudice and racism, we will always have to remember that children ages 3-5 will be exploring identity. We need to give them opportunities to explore all the possibilities.

Questions? Comments? Just click below the headline. Want to read more? Click here for “Obama and the Snowy Day.”

Have fun!

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

 

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

I’m not a big fan of interviews. They just don’t flip my switches. But I couldn’t resist this one with Beverly Cleary, author of the Ramona books (among many others).

I remember reading and loving Ramona when I was a kid. I remember even more vividly reading Ramona to both my boys. They are so different from one another, it’s amazing they are biologically from the same two parents (they are).

But both boys adored Ramona.

So what is it about Ramona that elementary aged children, even boys, like so much? Cleary says it well and I’ll say it a bit differently–they identify with her.

Around age seven, kids head into a new stage of development with new interests and new tasks. Many of those involve becoming competent, in kid-like ways.

That might mean learning how to be friends or how to sit still for a little longer. It might mean learning how to keep up with their stuff, make things be it a pinewood derby car or cookies. It might mean learning how to have a good fight and settle differences or how to play baseball or handle a paintbrush.

Ramona is a normal kid, going through normal kid stuff in this stage of growing competencies. It’s a struggle sometimes. It’s funny sometimes. Kids root for and identify with Ramona because that’s where they are at too.

It’s no magic formula. When stories meet kids where they are developmentally, kid and story go click–and said kid loves the story and the book and the reading. Beverly Cleary remembers and understands what it’s like to be six or eight or ten. And six or eight or ten year olds have loved her for a very long time because of it.

Thank you, Beverly, for Ramona and Henry and Ralph S. Mouse and all the other “kids” you’ve introduced us to!

Babette

I just received a terrific new board book! It’s Happy Baby, edited by Fiona Watts, and it would be great to add to your early literacy collection. Here’s why:

  • Most of the rhymes are “new” ones that you probably don’t know.
  • Each double page spread includes the words and directions for bouncing and playing with baby during the rhyme.
  • There’s a CD included so no worries about the ones you don’t know.
  • Each rhyme builds phonological awareness and fun times shared with this book will build print motivation as well.
  • Babies and parents are multicultural–AND there’s a daddy included!
  • The last two pages give a developmental guide to playing, dancing, and moving with baby.

This will check out well in any children’s collection, but it would also be a marvelous book to give to new parents and to parents who are not quite sure what to do with baby and how to play with them.

Happy Bouncing!

Babette

One hundred books makes for a really long list! 🙂 Here’s the next twenty-five. And on the Fuse #8 blog, the countdown has made it to #13; click here to see more. But now, back to the “shopping list!”

50. Island of the Blue Dolphins by O’Dell

49. Frindle by Clements

48. The Penderwicks by Birdsall

47. Bud, Not Buddy by Curtis

46. Where the Red Fern Grows by Rawls

45. The Golden Compass by Pullman

44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Blume

43. Ramona the Pest by Cleary

42. Little House on the Prairie by Wilder

41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare

40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Baum

39. When You Reach Me by Stead

38. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Rowling

37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Taylor

36. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Blume

35. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fired by Rowling

34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Curtis

33. James and the Giant Peach by Dahl

32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by O’Brien

31. Half Magic by Eager

30. Winnie-the-Pooh by Milne

29. The Dark is Rising by Cooper

28. A Little Princess by Burnett

27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Carroll

26. Hatchet by Paulsen

That’s all for now. I’ll add #1-25 after she finishes her countdown. And then I’ll tell you my favorites for the whole 100. 😉

Link to #100-76

Link to #75-51

Link to #50-26

Stay tuned,

Babette

Thomas Cahill has a marvelous piece in the NYTimes today about the Irish and how they saved Western Civilization after the fall of Rome. How did an obscure, ragtag bunch of folks in the early days of the Dark Ages manage  such a feat? They copied books.

What’s an added bonus in his article is his mention of their sense of play in the midst of all the seriousness of the world dissolving around them and the rest of Europe. And of course, it being St. Patrick’s Day, Patrick gets his fair share of credit as well.

I wish Cahill had mentioned another saint, though, one equally as important to the preservation of books and thereby civilization. That is St. Columba. I learned about him through a fascinating children’s book, Across a Dark and Wild Sea by Don Brown.

As a boy St. Columba was known as Columcille, and he was son of a king. But the church taught him reading and writing, and he was forever hooked–to the point that he copied a book rather illegally and thereby started a war. Yes, a war over a book. (Boys eat this up, let me tell you!)

Devastated afterward by what his actions had wrought, he exiled himself to an island off the coast–and thus was born the religious community of Iona.

The book combines fact, some of the legends associated with Columba, watercolor illustrations that stir up the windswept coasts of Ireland, a calligraphic guide to the Uncial alphabet from Columba’s time, and a bibliography. There’s even a diagram of a coracle (no, I’m not going to tell you; you have to read the books! ;-))

As you can tell, it’s one of my favorites.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day,

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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