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.]

 

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Review: Sleep Like a Tiger

Sleep Like a Tiger EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-8
Author: Mary Logue
Illustrator: Pamela Zagarenski
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 2012)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0547641028
ISBN-13: 978-0547641027

Once there was a little girl who didn’t want to go to sleep even though the sun had gone away.

Sound familiar?

“Does everything in the world go to sleep?” she asked.

Her parents say yes, everything in the world goes to sleep. Even their dog, “curled up in a ball on the couch, where he’s not supposed to be.” Caldecott Honor winner Pamela Zagarenski’s exquisitely surreal dreamscapes bring to life the dozing animals, from the majestic whales who “swim slowly around and around in a large circle in the ocean and sleep” to tiny snails: “They curl up like a cinnamon roll inside their shell.”

Sleep Like a Tiger

The little girl, who is of course still not at all sleepy, lies in her bed “warm and cozy, a cocoon of sheets, a nest of blankets. Unlike the dog on the couch, she was right where she was supposed to be.”

She wriggled down under the covers until she found the warmes spot, like the cat in front of the fire.
She folded her arms like the wings of a bat.

She circled around like the whale . . .
and the curled-up snail. 
Then she snuggled deep as a bear, the deep-sleeping bear,
and like the strong tiger, fell fast . . . asleep.

The words are reassuring, rhythmic, and gentle. The illustrations, made through a combination of digital artwork and mixed media paintings on wood, are luminous, beautiful enough to be hung in a gallery. There are details to enjoy on every page, from the crowns the family wears to the bunting in the girl’s bedroom that reappears throughout the dreamy animal scenes to the daytime and nighttime scenes of enchanting dream trains on the endpapers. Reading Sleep Like a Tiger may resolve even stressed-out parents’ insomnia troubles. Hands down, our favourite new bedtime book.

Review: And Then It’s Spring

And Then It's Spring EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-6
Author: Julie Fogliano
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (published February 2012)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1596436247
ISBN-13: 978-1596436244

You guys, sometimes after a long winter, I just cannot remember what spring feels like.

I remember that plants grow, but I can’t quite recall the smell of earth and buds they bring with them or exactly how the tulips look right before they open up (or, in my case, right before the squirrels and rabbits eat them).

We stumbled on this book at the library and I feel like it has reminded me, not only of that smell or the bright green of the first few brave stems pushing their way up toward the sun, but also of that lengthy period of anticipation, when the snow has melted but everything is still brown.

First you have brown, all around you have brown
then there are seeds
and a wish for rain,
and then it rains
and it is still brown,
but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown,
an
is that a little green? no, it’s just brown sort of brown

A little boy plants his seeds and cares for them — accompanied by his friends (a dog, a rabbit, and a turtle) — and, when they do not grow, wonders “if maybe it was the birds / or maybe it was the bears and all that stomping, because bears can’t read signs that say things like please do not stomp here — there are seeds and they are trying” until one day, of course, he walks out of the house “and now you have green, all around you have green.”

Julie Fogliano’s sparse, expressive, and poetic text accompanies lovely, captivating illustrations by Caldecott medalist Erin E. Stead, who creates her images with a combination of woodblock printing and coloured pencils.

I fell in love with this bespectacled boy and his friends, pressing their ears to the ground to listen for “greenish hum that you can only hear if you put your ear to the ground and close your eyes” and Little E fell in love with the little dirt piles, each carefully labelled with the seeds inside, the seeds that are trying.

A story of hope, and waiting, and perseverance, and green.

Oh, green, you can’t come soon enough around these parts.

 

Review: This New Baby

download (2) EditorsPick (2)

EDITOR’S PICK
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: Wind Says Goodnight

windsaysgoodnight EditorsPick (2)

EDITOR’S PICK
GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Age: 3-6 years
Author: Katy Rydell
Illustrator: David Jorgensen
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (published March 1994)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 0395604745
ISBN-13: 978-0395604748

Fair warning: this book appears to be out of print. This is a travesty, because Wind Says Goodnight is among the loveliest, gentlest stories I have found to read at bedtime. I discovered the book was out of print when I tried to bulk-order a bunch of copies to give to pretty much everyone I know who has either a kid or a sleep disorder. Currently topping my to-do list is “Email HMH Books for Young Readers to demand they do a reprint of WSG.” If that doesn’t work, I may start an online petition, or a picket, or perhaps a campaign of veiled threats of violence. Which would sort of go against the spirit of this soothing, lyrical lullaby-in-a-book.

Wind Says Goodnight tells the tale of a child who can’t fall asleep because Mockingbird is singing outside, on the branch of a tree. The night wind asks Mockingbird to stop singing, but Mockingbird can’t stop singing until Cricket stops playing, and Cricket can’t stop playing until Frog stops strumming, and Frog can’t stop strumming until Moth stops dancing…well, you get the idea. What really stands out in this story, along with the graceful, repetitive storyline, is the vibrantly descriptive language. When at last the night wind scoops up Cloud to cover the earth so Moon will stop shining so Moth will stop dancing, the gentle rain “began to fall, tumbling down through the dark, splashing on the flat bay waters, skipping on the warm green earth.” Author Katy Rydell’s lyrical prose brings the scents of the damp earth and the sounds of the creatures’ music to life, and the story’s sweet, cadenced rhythm work together with Jorgensen’s distinctive pencil crayon illustrations to put this book squarely in my favourite category: Xanax for Children, or books that will bring down even the most hyper toddler or preschooler and put him or her into a sleepin’ state of mind. Never have I read through the book without finishing in a low, near-reverent whisper.

So cruise your used bookstores, watch on eBay, check out the used books on Amazon and AbeBooks, or send bomb threats to the publisher, but one way or another, find yourself a copy of Wind Says Goodnight. Your bedtime routine will thank you.