Book roundup: The Moon

As I have previously mentioned, Tiny J (2 years) is crazy about the moon. Like, she won’t sleep in the car anymore if we drive at night because she’s too busy updating us about whether or not she can see the moon. The exchange below was on loop for 2.5 hours on a recent drive home from my sister’s house.

“I see the moon, Daddy!”


“Mama, the moon is in my window! I can see it!”

[pause, wail] 


It has been a lot of fun finding moon books to enjoy together. There must be other moon-crazy children out there, so for them, and their parents, here is a roundup of our favourites.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd (board book). Let’s just get straight to the elephant in the room.  Regardless of any issues you may have with the child’s bedroom in this book (and there are many), there is still a little bit of magic lining the quiet that hangs in the air every time someone reads “Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere” and closes this book. Even if it’s the seventh time that night.

Moongame by Frank Asch (picture book). The illustrations may be simple and the palette may seem a little muted to modern audiences, but this story of a bear playing hide-and-seek with the moon is still a very appealing read.

Moon is Sad by Guido van Genechten (board book). It’s simple, it’s sweet, it has a unique structure, and it ends with a wee mouse giving the moon a kiss. Now my kids kiss the moon goodnight. So, a keeper.

I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay (board book). I’ve talked about this book before, but with its poetic writing and sense of wonder, it deserves a further mention. I keep waiting for my sister to ask for this loaner back, but hoping she doesn’t.

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle (board book). Eric Carle, famed for his famished larva, brings his striking collaged artwork to a lovely story of a dedicated father who wants to bring the moon down for his daughter to play with. An excellent Father’s Day gift if you’re thinking (way) ahead.

I’ll See You in the Morning
by Mike Jolley and Mique Moriuchi (board book).
 Full disclosure: this book isn’t strictly about the moon, but it makes the cut for two reasons: (1) there are enough pictures of the moon to meet Tiny J’s stringent bedtime moon-image quota and (2) it’s such a sweet book that I would shoehorn it onto just about any best-of list. Tiny J likes to say the lines over and over to herself, so sometimes after she’s supposed to be sleeping I’ll hear the refrain drift out from behind her closed door: Dream your dreams of moonbeams. Let the night become your friend. The twinkling stars will keep you safe till morning comes again. One of our all-time favourites.

So, here’s what I need to know: are other kids crazy about the moon or is it just mine?


Review: I Took the Moon for a Walk

TookTheMoon EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book (also available as a picture book)
Ages: 2-5
Author: Carolyn Curtis
llustrator: Alison Jay
Publisher: Barefoot Books (published September 2008)
Pages: 36
ISBN-10: 1846862000
ISBN-13: 978-1846862007

I took the moon for a walk last night.

Children’s book publishing is a kind of vast ocean, filled with an enormous variety of books: some wonderful, some terrible, and a huge number just kind of meh.

This makes finding outstanding books for your kids a challenging process (which is where we come in), but it also means that every once in a while you stumble on an absolutely lovely gem of a book by serendipity.

Tiny J (now two years old) loves the moon. As soon as the sun sets, she’s craning her little neck at the sky, searching for that glowing orb, and the whole street will hear her joy if she finds it (or her sadness if the moon is hiding behind the clouds — this kid really feels her emotions). She loves the moon so much that for her second birthday party, we had a moon theme. Which turned out to be really easy because all you have to do is cut out moons and stars from Bristol board and stick them to the walls. (We went all out and made moon-shaped cookies, too.)

While we were visiting my sister’s family over the holidays, my sister, familiar with Tiny J’s passion for the moon, pulled out a moon-themed book from their shelves to read, and both Tiny J and I were just entranced by it.

I took the moon for a walk last night.
It followed behind like a still summer kite, 
Though there wasn’t a string or a tail in sight,
when I took the moon for a walk.

We tiptoed through grass where the night crawlers creep,
when the rust-bellied robins have all gone to sleep,

And the Moon called the dew so the grass seemed to weep,
when I took the Moon for a walk.

Lyrical and enchanting, this is just the loveliest bedtime book. It has become a staple in Tiny J’s bedtime rotation, so I hope my sister isn’t hoping to get her copy back anytime soon.

[If you’d like an easy art activity to go along with this book, there’s one over at I Heart Crafty Things.]


All the World

Review: All the World

All the World EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book (also available as a board book)
Ages: 1-6
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Illustrators: Marla Frazee
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (published September 2009)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 1416985808
ISBN-13: 978-1416985808

Rock, stone, pebble, sand.

Marla Frazee’s illustrations always catch my eye when I see them. I’ve already talked about The Seven Silly Eaters and Everywhere Babies, two of my favourite Frazee-illustrated books, so perhaps I should move on to other artists, but she chooses the best books to illustrate. And also, she has the best name. Frankly, I wish my name was Marla Frazee. And not only because that would make me a two-time Caldecott medalist.

All the World is another book-that’s-really-a-poem. And, not unlike When I Was Born, it’s about life. But this book takes a broader perspective.

Body, shoulder, arm, hand
A moat to dig, a shell to keep
All the world is wide and deep.

Simple but profound ideas are brought to life in Scanlon’s tidy rhyming couplets and Frazee’s exuberant illustrations: a day at the seashore is rained out (Slip, trip, stumble, fall / Tip the bucket, spill it all / Better luck another day / All the world goes round this way) and we are reminded that some days are good, and some days are not so good.  Three children clamber into the branches of a massive tree, a young sapling in their red wagon ready to plant: All the world is old and new. Characters recur throughout the pages, widening the focus from one family all families, all people, all part of the world.

Everything you hear, smell, see
All the world is everything
Everything is you and me.
Hope and peace and love and trust
All the world is all of us.

A poem for everyone to enjoy. Is it weird that I want to buy children’s books and give them to grown-ups too? This is one I would love to share with my older friends as well as the younger crowd.



Review: I am a Bunny

iamabunny EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book (also available as a picture book)
Ages: 0-4
Author: Ole Risom
Illustrator: Richard Scarry
Publisher: Golden Books (originally published in 1963, rereleased January 2004)
Pages: 26
ISBN-10: 0375827781
ISBN-13: 978-0375827785

Kids’ books are amazing these days. There is an astonishing variety available, covering every topic and idea anyone can imagine, and they all seem to do something different — there’s The Book with no Pictures, which has (you guessed it) no pictures; there are books like Press Here! that invite the reader to push and press and tilt them; and stay tuned next week for a review of a book that’s entirely black and helps sighted children get an idea of what the world might look like to a blind person. I love it. As an avowed lover of children’s books, I revel in this wealth and abundance. I love to find books that do things differently and even test our idea of what a children’s book is.

But sometimes, I just want to read my kids a sweet little story about a bunny in overalls.

I am a Bunny is utterly lacking in gimmicks and pretension. A 1963 collaboration between influential children’s book publisher Ole Risom and beloved illustrator Richard Scarry, the book is a gentle exploration of the life of a little rabbit through the four seasons.

I am a bunny.
My name is Nicholas.
I live in a hollow tree.

Scarry’s illustration capture every leaf, every daffodil, and every butterfly in loving detail. Babies and young toddlers love examining all the different creatures and plants, and older children can look up the different birds and insects in field guides. And every child (and most adults) I have witnessed reading this book is captivated by the double-page spread of Nicholas blowing the dandelion seeds into the air.

This book captures the wonder of the natural world at the level of a bunny, or of a child. It’s  not a book you should race through, although it doesn’t have a lot of words and I will admit to pushing it as a bedtime story on rushed nights. This is the kind of book you should savour, delighting in every season as Nicholas enjoys spring, summer, fall, and finally winter.

And, when winter comes,
I watch the snow falling from the sky.
Then I curl up in my hollow tree and dream about spring.

Today’s kids always seem to expect more from toys and books: they want them to beep and boop and sing and dance and pop because so many of their toys and books do. But for more than fifty years now, babies and children have loved snuggling up with a favourite grown-up to enjoy the simple, natural magic of I am a Bunny. This book is the perfect baby shower gift (I got mine from our good friend and occasional nanny — thanks Sarah!) and a classic that belongs on every child’s shelf.

Review: Little Tree


GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book
Ages: 2-6
Author: E. E. Cummings and Chris Raschka
Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1-4231-0335-1
ISBN-13: 978-1423103356
Caldecott Medal winner (2006)

The holidays are a magical time of the year. Well, they’re supposed to be, anyway. Sometimes, between the cookie baking, gift buying, drop-ins and open houses, it can all feel a little overwhelming. Now that Little E is three and Tiny J is one, I’m finding it absolutely essential to slow things down this year. We’re just not doing as much. We’re giving fewer gifts, sending fewer cards, and trying to maximize our time with each other and with extended family. It’s so easy to forget why we’re doing all this: to be together and celebrate. (Unless you’re super into Christianity. Because then your reasons for enjoying Christmastime might be different than mine.)

This is Little E’s first year really Getting It when it comes to Christmas. She is stoked. And she loves, loves, loves our Christmas tree. It’s nothing fancy: just a charming, not-too-big balsam fir we picked out at a tree farm. We didn’t cut it ourselves, though we did get hot cider and reindeer cookies. But Little E runs over to it every morning when she wakes up and admires the branches from every angle, adjusts a few ornaments here and there, and often exclaims, “I love our Christmas tree!” You can’t beat a three-year-old an enthusiasm contest.

I think E. E. Cummings would have loved our tree too.

This little book beings with Cummings’ poem about a Christmas tree and then tells the tree’s story with sweet, whimsical watercolour illustrations that remind me of stained glass.

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see    i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

The poem is a simple, lovely, small jewel and the book takes the story of the tree further. “The little tree had a little dream. The little tree dreamed of being a Christmas tree, a beautiful Christmas tree in a city, far, far away in a place he’d never seen but only dreamed of, with his own little family in his own little house.” After its journey to a Christmas tree lot, the tree is purchased by “[a] little boy, a little girl, a little mother and father and their little dog.” The illustrations show the life and beauty of the city, and observant readers will spot Santa playing his role in fulfilling the tree’s Christmas wish, as the “little tree lifted up his little branches, like little arms, to show off all the little ornaments, ribbons, chains, and lights.”

“The little tree had found his own special place in the world, a special little place that was waiting for him all his life.”

(The only catch, of course, is explaining to the little ones that the Christmas tree winds up in a garbage truck after Christmas.)

But in the meantime, this book is a winner. And taking a few moments to read poetry with my kiddos is the perfect reminder of what the holidays mean to us.

Note: This edition does not seem to be in print anymore. But there are lots of copies available cheap on AbeBooks.

Review: Hippoposites


GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book
Age: 1-4
Author and illustrator: Janik Coat
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (May 2012)
Pages: 38
ISBN-10: 1419701517
ISBN-13: 978-1419701511

Here is a book your graphic design friends will love, your word nerd friends will go bananas for, and your kids might even enjoy.

Many of us have several books about opposites in our kiddos’ libraries: Sandra Boynton’s Opposites is a classic, but you could fill an Ikea Billy bookshelf with the range of opposite books available at any big ole box bookstore. Here’s one that’s a little different. Author and illustrator Janik Coat presents us with a simple, red, boldly illustrated hippopotamus on each page, corresponding to his opposite on the facing page. The opposite pairs work well together, often with a touch of humour: the light hippopotamus is floating away in a hot air balloon, while the heavy hippopotamus sinks to the bottom of the ocean. There are innovative tactile experiences to enjoy on many of the pages — feel the difference between soft and rough with plush and burlap — and no assumptions are made about the young reader’s ability, or more precisely lack of ability, to grasp more complex words (there’s an opaque/transparent pair and an invisible/visible pair). Some of the pages will work better for the parent than for the child they might be reading to: the front/side pair shows that the one-dimensional hippopotamus is reduced to a single line when he turns sideways. But if you’re tired of reading “high and low, fast and slow,” give this book a try and you’ll find yourself reading and explaining more interesting concepts like “clear and blurry” and “positive and negative.” The design is very modern and should appeal to hipster parents everywhere.

Review: This New Baby

download (2) EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book (also available as a picture book)
Age: 1-3 years
Author: Teddy Jam
Illustrator: Virginia Johnson
Publisher:  Groundwood Books (published August 2011)
Pages: 22
ISBN-10: 1554980887
ISBN-13: 978-1554980888

“This new baby / lies in my arms / like summer dark / sleeping on new grass …”

I love a book that is also a poem. This little book’s expressive, rhythmic words and contemplative watercolour illustrations bring to my mind Japanese poetry and Chinese brush painting — and yet are accessible enough for a young toddler to enjoy. Certainly a very young reader will not grasp the finer points of each simile (“my new baby’s cry / chases old ghosts / back into the shadows”), but I don’t believe that’s a good reason not to enjoy poetry together. This New Baby is a book that is impossible to rush through, one where each word dances in the air for a moment after it is spoken.

Please, give this sweet book to all the pregnant women you know. Its small loveliness deserves a presence on their bookshelves.

Review: I Love You, Little One


GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 3/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book (also available as a picture book)
Age: Newborn to 18 months
Author and illustrator: Nancy Tafuri
Publisher: Scholastic Press (published March 2000)
Pages: 15
ISBN-10: 0439137462
ISBN-13: 978-0439137461

There are certain books that are more beloved by parents than their children. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is a great example; while this perennial baby shower gift is guaranteed to reduce any new parent — especially any new mother in the throes of postnatal hormones — to a puddle of weepy sobs, it’s a book that parents are frequently more enthusiastic to read than their children are. I Love You, Little One falls into the same category. The sentiment is a lovely one: seven animals each ask, “Do you love me, Mama?” and receive reassuring, lyrical, and ecosystem-appropriate responses (Mama Duck says, “Yes, little one, I love you as the pond loves you, giving you food and places to swim. I love you as the pond loves you, forever and ever and always.”) The illustrations are fairly nice (though the animals are far better drawn than the people) and as the book progresses, the sun travels through the sky and the book ends with a mother putting her child to bed as night falls over a log cabin in the forest. I Love You, Little One is a soothing book that will inspire snuggly feelings at least as much in parents as in their children.

Review: A Book of Sleep

515jvzmvz9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book (also available as a picture book)
Author and illustrator: Il Sung Na
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 2011)
Pages: 24
ISBN-10: 0375866183
ISBN-13: 978-0375866180

Sometimes when I’m trying to put my toddler to bed, she has other ideas.

Okay, she frequently has other ideas.

The pacing of the stories we read before bed can help lead her from a state of literally bouncing off the walls (I do mean literally — one of her current favourite activities is running up to a wall or door and yelling “BOING!” as she bounces off) to a state of calm. All of this, of course, in the hopes that she will actually go to sleep. As we near the dreading Dropping of the Nap, this winding down has become increasingly imperative. Books with a slow, soothing pace help take our wee one from tearing through the hallways shouting “LOOK AT ME! I’M AN ELEPHANT!” to snuggling under her blankets. And since her snuggling under the blankets gets me to the next episode of Downton Abbey faster, I treasure books like Il Sung Na’s A Book of Sleep.

“When the sky grows dark and the moon glows bright, everyone goes to sleep…except for the watchful owl.” A Book of Sleep takes the reader, through the eyes of the owl and via graceful drawings, from animal to animal to learn how they like to sleep. The pacing of the words is rhythmic and sleepy and each delicately illustrated creature is gently slumbering. At last, all the animals awaken…except for the tired owl.

My only regret is that we own the board book version; I wish it was the picture book edition so that we could enjoy the beautiful illustrations more. I have recently discovered that Il Sung Na has other books, which I will be looking into as soon as I can. Really, this is the literary equivalent of a dart gun tranquilizer for children. Highly recommended.

Review: Are You Eating Something Red?

red EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book
Age: 1-4 years
Author and illustrator: Ryan Sias
Publisher: Blue Apple Books (April 1, 2010)
Pages: 12
ISBN-10: 1609050185
ISBN-13: 978-1609050184

A great introduction to healthy eating, Go Greenie! Are You Eating Something Red? features the appealing Greenie, who is some kind of green apple creature, choosing from a wide range of fruits and vegetables in each colour. The text is very simple — “Look at all the [red/green/orange/etc.] foods. / All are good to eat. / What [red/green/orange/etc.] food would you choose for a tasty treat?” — so as to avoid getting in the way of the main goal of the book: to show off lots of different fruits and vegetables in all their colourful goodness. Toddlers and preschoolers will love pointing out all the foods they can name, and might even pick up a few new ones (yellow summer squash? purple eggplant? green kiwi?”), and parents will love reading about the importance of eating a wide range of produce in a variety of colours…without having to watch their kids’ eyes glaze over as they discuss dietary fibre. We used this book to get our toddler involved in meal planning (well, as involved as a two-year-old can get) by asking her to point out fruits and vegetables she’d like to eat, and encouraging her to try new ones she didn’t know. Short and sweet, this book takes a straightforward goal that can be surprisingly hard to achieve — encouraging healthy eating through reading — and, in a word (okay, two), nails it.