It’s December, and my list-loving heart rejoices! Websites and publications have been naming the best children’s books of 2013 since October. (October! Isn’t that a bit like Christmas carols before Halloween?) These lists are wonderful resources for gift ideas for the young readers in your life, or simply a nice reference if you want to make sure you didn’t miss any highly rated chapter or picture book published this past year. From the fantastically detailed and dazzling illustrations in Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book “Journey” to the antic adventures described in Gregory Hughes’ chapter book “Unhooking the Moon,” you’ll find something to satisfy any kiddo on your gift list. Here are a few of my favorites from these lists, followed by a round-up of links to the lists themselves for your browsing pleasure.
“Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” by Peter Brown
Any kid who has ever squirmed uncomfortably in dress pants or tight shoes, having been admonished to “sit still” and “be polite” (and what kid hasn’t?) will identify with Mr. Tiger. The animals in Brown’s not-too-preachy book about the joy of just being yourself are stuffy, formal and exceedingly proper. Mr. Tiger tries to fit in, but he finally sheds his finery and takes off for the jungle so he can go wild. When he begins to miss his friends, he returns to the city and is pleasantly surprised by changes that have occurred in his absence. A joyful, funny read about self-expression and finding a happy medium. Continue reading
July 18 marks the 95th birthday of the man South African children affectionately call “father Mandela.” A fighter of apartheid, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his stance against racial discrimination and white-minority rule in his country. Once a poor student attending school in his father’s too-big, cutoff pants, he became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Children can learn a lot from Mandela’s legacy, like the importance of standing up for what you know to be right, the power of education and the valuable lessons of equality and reconciliation. Mandela’s words from his inaugural speech are hopeful, moving and strong. Continue reading
“Dinosaur A-Z” is a favorite bedtime read in my house, and by the time I get to Zephyrosaurus, I’m totally winging the pronunciation. That’s one reason why I appreciate the Dino Dictionary website: when you click on a dino’s name, it plays an audio file of the correct pronunciation. For the budding paleontologist in your family, there are descriptions of the more than 300 known dinosaurs, discussion of the latest theories in dinosaur research, dinosaur clip art and links to other resources for learning more facts and finding out where you can visit dinosaur bones in person! (Missourians can head to the St. Louis Science Center, where admission is free and prehistoric exhibits are always on display.)
And because we can’t recommend just one online home for dinosaur facts, we also suggest Age of the Dinosaurs from the BBC. This comprehensive site covers the rise and fall of dinosaurs and sea monsters and includes simple games for young fossil hunters and science buffs.
This season of Summer Reading is a perfect time to “dig into reading” about dinosaurs online!
Once again, I’ve learned the great joy of revisiting a book from my childhood. I thought I remembered the story of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” but it turns out those memories were muddled by images from the animated film based on the book and largely revolve around the spider Charlotte and the pig she saves, Wilbur. On a recent road trip, my family listened to the audiobook version of this classic, read by White himself—a real delight as his New England accent and warm voice are a perfect match for the text and create the feeling of being told a story by one’s grandfather. I was surprised to learn that the pig’s initial savior is 8-year-old Fern. Mr. Arable, Fern’s father, is set to slaughter the runt of the litter, but Fern pleads for Wilbur’s life to be spared.
“Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.” When I heard this line, I really, really hoped my 9-year-old was listening. Getting her out of bed in the morning is torture. Continue reading
School has been out for just over a week, and at my house we have already made forts from sticks lashed together with fancy knots, learned how to survive in quicksand and created leaf-and-flower-decorated ice bowls to hold and chill our fresh fruit.
Books made us do it.
My favorite boredom-busting trick is to leave a pile of activity, game and project books on the coffee table and let my 9-year-old choose something fun to do with her unstructured time. She is a sucker for any book with an interesting cover, and the library has plenty.
“This Book Made Me Do It” by John Woodward has instructions for everything from baking a chocolate cake to surviving hypothermia. Instructions for knitting, paper-folding, outdoor games and more should keep your kiddos busy no matter what their interests. Continue reading