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!”

[pause] 

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

[pause, wail] 

“I CAN’T SEE THE MOON!”

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-cover
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
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.

MoonIsSad
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.

TookTheMoon
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-9781481431811_hr
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.

SeeYouInthemorning.jpg
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: Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

Unicorn

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-6
Author and illustrator: Bob Shea
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (published June 2013)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 1423159527
ISBN-13: 978-1423159520

Things are a lot different around here since that Unicorn moved in.

Nothing’s been going right for Goat since Unicorn moved to town. Goat bikes to school; Unicorn flies. Goat shows off his magic tricks; Unicorn turns stuff into gold. Goat bakes marshmallow squares “that almost came out right”; Unicorn makes it rain cupcakes.

Goat sulks, full of resentment for this flashy newcomer and his magical capabilities, when Unicorn comes over to investigate his goat cheese pizza. Turns out poor Unicorn can only eat glitter and rainbows (“Darn my sensitive stomach!”). Maybe being a unicorn is not all it’s cracked up to be — and maybe Goat and Unicorn can find a way to be friends.

This book is a giggler, that’s for sure. Some of the humour flies a bit over young kids’ heads — I loved Goat’s fantasy of a Goat/Unicorn crime-fighting duo: “Taste my cloven justice! You’ve been unicorned!” but none of the six or eight kids I’ve read this to seem to catch the old-school superhero references — but I have no problem with a book that tosses the occasional humour bone to the beleaguered parental reader (thanks!) and there’s plenty in this story to keep kids of all ages laughing. The sketchy, irreverent illustrations are a spot-on match for the cheeky text and there’s not a child alive who can’t relate to the idea of being upstaged by a flashier friend. A great jumping-off point for a chat about jealousy, friendship, and how everyone is different, or a silly read that will have you and your kiddo tittering. Your pick.

Review: Beyond the Pond

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GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-6
Author and illustrator: Joseph Kuefler
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (published October 2015)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0062364278
ISBN-13: 978-0062364272

Just behind an ordinary house filled with too little fun, Ernest D. had decided today would be the day that he’d explore the depths of his pond.

Children always want to know things.

“What’s in that box?”

“What are you eating?”

“What’s under the surface of that pond?”

The trouble with the rushed and over-busy way we live right now is that instead of celebrating curiosity, we have created a world where curiosity is perceived as annoying, where we tell children “I don’t know, get in the car” and “We’ll look later” when they ask us “What’s that?” “What’s in there?” “How does that work?” We don’t have time to sit down with them, to wonder with them, to say, “I don’t know what’s in that pond; why don’t we find out together?”

Well, Ernest D. decides to find out on his own.

First he tries a stick, a fishing line, and a stone, but nothing hits the bottom of his pond. So he gathers his supplies, stretches three times, and dives . . .

. . . down between the fishes and the frogs, past the squid and sharks and shapeless things, into his pond forever deep.

I won’t reveal to you the wonders Ernest D. finds in his pond, nor the strange and astounding world he discovers on the other side. But I will tell you that when Ernest D. returns, nothing is as it was when he’d left.

His house seemed a little less small.

And his town looked a little less ordinary . . . Beyond every street and silent corner was a place unexplored.

“Exceptional,” said Ernest D.

[You can read a wonderful interview with Joseph Kuefler, including some preliminary sketches of the book, over at Design of the Picture book.]

 

Review: Hannah’s Night

HannahsNightCover

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 2-5
Author and illustrator: Komako Sakai
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group (published March 2014)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1877579548
ISBN-13: 978-1877579547

One day
when Hannah woke up,
she was surprised to find
that it was still dark.

I often wonder if my kids realize that the world doesn’t disappear while they’re sleeping. I wonder if they know that once they’re asleep Tall Dude and I have whole other experiences without them (granted, those experiences are frequently limited to Netflix, some wine, and this crack-popcorn my friend Lindsay introduced to us, but I feel like my kids would want in on that if they knew it was happening).

In Hannah’s Night, a little girl wakes up even later than Netflix-and-wine-o’clock, in the wee hours when her parents and her sister are still sleeping and Hannah and her cat Shiro are the only ones awake. Their discovery of the thrilling, silent nighttime world is told through Sakai’s gentle, understated text and textured acrylic-and-oil-pencil illustrations in a palette of deep blues and dark greys.

With no one to tell her what to do, Hannah gives Shiro some milk, helps herself to some cherries without asking, and through a window looks at the moon and discovers “the prettiest dove she’d ever seen.” She also helps herself to some of her sister’s toys, but as the sun rises, Hannah begins to yawn, snuggles up on the edge of her sister’s bed, and falls fast asleep. Sakai brings the sweet wonder of Hannah’s view and the simple magic of the night to life in this lovely bedtime tale.

[You can also enjoy an interview with Komako Sakai over at the wonderful Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.]

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.]

 

Review: You are not small

youarenotsmall

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 2-5
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrators: Christopher Weyant
Publisher: Two Lions (published August 2014)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1477847723
ISBN-13: 978-1477847725

You are small.

This begins You Are Not Small, with a very big furry creature telling a much smaller furry creature exactly what he (she? it?) thinks about her size. “I am not small,” replies the little guy (gal?). “You are big.” The big critter introduces the little critter to its friends (“They are just like me. You are small.”) and the little critter brings its friends into the mix (“They are just like me. You are big.”) and they duke it out for a while  with much shouting (“Big!” “Small!”) until a giant creature stomps into their midst with a BOOM and tiny creatures parachute in from the sky, and everyone peacefully resolves that size is relative after all and the creatures all wander off to grab something to eat, ending with one of the teeny-tinies telling the giant, “You are hairy.”

Tiny J has recently been saying “I can’t, I’m too little” a lot, which tells me that we — Tall Dude, her big sister, and I —are saying that to her too much. I got this book for Tiny J as a Christmas present to try to convince her that size is relative — you know, though she be but small, she is mighty (and she is mighty).

I don’t know whether the message is getting across, but I do know that when the giant creature BOOMS into the middle of the scene, it sets both of my kids off into peals of giggles, and that’s good enough for me. Tiny J hasn’t said “I can’t, I’m too little” in a few weeks, so maybe we’re getting there.

You are Not Small

 

Review: Get Out of My Bath!

Get Out of My Bath!

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 2-5
Author and illustrator: Britta Teckentrup
Publisher: Nosy Crow (published August 2015)
Pages: 24
ISBN-10: 0316015474
ISBN-13: 978-0316015479

It’s Ellie’s bath time.
Can you help her make some waves?

Ellie the elephant is enjoying her bath, accompanied by her rubber ducky, when she is joined by an uninvited visitor: a bright green crocodile splashes in to join her. Then a flamingo turns up. And then…a tiger! At last, when it seems the bath cannot possibly fit another creature, a mouse joins the party. What’s a poor elephant to do?

Little fans of Press Here, Tap the Magic Tree, and other interactive picture books will enjoy this simple, sweet picture book with its bright collaged images and its invitation to the reader to tilt the book this way and that to make waves for Ellie to ride and (every kiddo’s favourite part — or at least my kids’) to shout, “Get out, Crocodile!” The book features lovely attention to detail, from the spot gloss on the water to give it some sheen to the droplets on the last page. Get Out of My Bath! is simple but definitely a winner. And best of all, it’s suitable for kids of different age groups — Little E (four) and Tiny J (just turned two) have been loving reading this one before bed for the past week. If you’re walking past our house around seven, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear a very loud “Get out, Crocodile!”

 

The Insomniacs

Review: The Insomniacs

The Insomniacs EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 4-8
Author: Karina Wolf
Illustrators: The Brothers Hilts
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (published August 2012)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 0399256652
ISBN-13: 978-0399256653

The Insomniacs weren’t always a night family.

After moving twelve time zones away for Mother’s new job, the Insomniac family finds themselves with a problem: they are up all night and can’t stay awake during the day. With some inspiration from their nocturnal animal neighbours, they decide to embrace the night themselves.

With a story that could have come from Neil Gaiman and illustrations reminiscent of Tim Burton’s, The Insomniacs is not your typical picture book. An utterly unique cast of characters, including a little girl with an unusual menagerie of nighttime pets, is complemented by surprising and wondrous illustrations in a palette of deep blues, indigo, and black. There is something oddly comforting in the nighttime world of the Insomniac family, and certainly something magical. Highly recommended.

 

The Story Blanket

Review: The Story Blanket

The Story Blanket EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-7
Authors: Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz
Illustrator: Elena Odriozola
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (published July 2009)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1561454664
ISBN-13: 978-1561454662

Deep in the snow-covered mountains was the tiny village where Babba Zarrah lived. The children loved to settle down on Babba Zarra’s big old blanket to listen to her stories.

Babba Zarrah, noticing a hole in little Nikolai’s shoe, decides to knit him some nice warm socks. But the village is snowbound and there is no way to buy new wool. So she unravels a little bit of the story blanket to knit the socks.

Then she notices that the postman is looking chilly.

Once socks have been knit for Nikolai and a scarf for the postman, Babba Zarrah moves on to warm mittens for the schoolmaster  and a shawl for the grocer, leaving her gifts anonymously. No one knows who is knitting the wonderful presents. The story blanket is growing smaller and smaller by the day, and the children must sit closer and closer together to hear Babba Zarrah’s stories. Eventually, the whole village, down to the tailor’s scraggly cat, is warm and snug, and the story blanket is gone! The people of the village come together to find out what is going on and to give a memorable gift to Babba Zarrah to thank her for her generosity.

This charming story knits together (see what I did there?) themes of generosity, the gift of the handmade, and the importance of community, all with the enduring sense of timelessness of a classic folk tale. The illustrations of rosy-cheeked children and warm woolly blankets and the simple but graceful writing are a rare match, and the book’s attention to detail goes right down to the endpapers that feature the pattern of Babba Zarrah’s pink floral dress. The Story Blanket is a great conversation starter for talks about giving to others, about storytelling, and about supporting one another, but at the end of the day, it is an absolutely lovely picture book.

 

Review: Ella Kazoo Will NOT Brush Her Hair

Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-6
Author: Lee Fox
Illustrator: Jennifer Plecas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Press (Published December 2009)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 080278836X
ISBN-13: 978-0802788368

I think we’ve all hit upon certain things that our kids will NOT do. One kid will NOT wear a red shirt, another will NOT try the broccoli, and another will NOT get into his carseat.

Obviously, some “will NOT”s are more manageable than others. I’m all for picking your battles, but someday that kid is going to have to get into that carseat. We’ve all been there, and where do you choose to draw the line?

Well, Ella Kazoo will NOT brush her hair.

She hides in the cupboard and under the stairs
She roars at her mom like a big growly bear.
She whines and she moans and she howls in despair,
but Ella Kazoo will not brush her hair
.

Her mother tries various tricks, but to no avail. Ella Kazoo’s hair grows longer, and wilder, as gleefully illustrated by Jennifer Plecas’s playful drawings, until at last the hair begins to take on a life of its own.

Ella Kazoo will not brush her tresses.
One morning they slip into some of her dresses.
They creep round a chair and slink over the table.

They climb down the stairs and they swing on the cable.

“My goodness!” cries Ella.
“This hair must be chopped . . .
or scissored or shortened or layered or lopped.
But most of all, Mother, this hair must be stopped!”

A crack team of hairdressers is brought in, but Ella is unimpressed with their proposals. At least an accord is reached and they trim! snip! and chop! until Ella Kazoo has just one lovely, manageable curl tied up in a bow.

All due to a haircut, quite simple and snappy,
both mother and daughter are blissfully happy.

And of course, now, Ella brushes her hair.

This book is a favourite for kids (certainly for mine) because the power is in the hands of little Ella Kazoo. Any book that puts power in kids’ hands is going to be a hit. Every kid is regularly subjected to doing things or having things done to her that she doesn’t like: having her hair washed, brushing her teeth, having her nose wiped. And yes, brushing her hair. A kid making a stand against a parent is a winning plot device, and in this case, both find happiness in the solution so even the parents who never want to read about disobedient children have little to complain about (though they always seem to find something, don’t they?).

Some readers of this book have complained that Ella Kazoo has to cut off all her hair to be happy, but I like the ending. Her hair wasn’t working for her anymore, so she changed it — not because someone else wanted her to. Everyone gets to change themselves up when what they’re doing isn’t working. I do take great issue with one line in the book, though: “She puts on a dress with some earrings and pearls, / and lipstick and perfume like most other girls.” Blech! I change that line whenever we come to it. I don’t like any text in children’s books that puts people in boxes, gender or otherwise, and this book definitely puts Ella and all little girls in a box.

Quibbles aside, however, the rhymes and illustration are a delight and this book has made it easier to get Little E to let me wash and brush her hair by adding an element of silliness. “If we don’t brush your hair, it will get so big it will sneak into the freezer and steal all the Popsicles! It will take up the whole house and there will be no room for the dog! We must brush your hair!“Any book that gets the kids giggling while we’re trying to get something done is a winner in my book. And in theirs.