Welcome to this week’s edition of What We’re Reading Wednesday!
This week marks the inaugural column written by members of the Simple Kids Book Review Team. I’ll be sharing more information with you about our review team later this week. Each Wednesday, these children’s literature enthusiasts will share a book review for SK readers in one of each of these age groupings: birth and toddler, preschool, early elementary, and upper elementary.
I am so grateful that these amazing women have volunteered time out of busy schedules and active lives to introduce to you some of the finest books in children’s literature!
Birth to Toddler
from Kelly (Notions & Threads)
It’s all about daddy in our house right now. I took advantage of my 13-month old son’s rare “Mama” babbling the other night to ask him, “who’s your best buddy all day long?” His answer? “DaDa!” Oh well.
One of our favorite books right now is all about daddy too. It’s entitled Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben and we first heard it during baby-and–me story time at our local bookstore. This small board book shows how six different animal daddies kiss their babies and ends with “my daddy kisses me all over.” The illustrations are simple, warm paintings and give young babies and toddlers one clear image to focus on.
What I love about this book, other than the amount of cuddling it calls for, is that it also provides an opportunity to teach your child body parts like nose, neck, and ear. Our favorite page shows a daddy squirrel giving his baby “a kiss on the paw.” My son holds his hand out so that I can kiss it—even if I’m not his best buddy – DaDa. This book is part of a series of “Mommy” and “Daddy” books like Mommy Hugs and Daddy Cuddles that share the same simple, comforting messages illustrated with different animals that are familiar and inviting to young children.
from Amy (Girlfriends Get Real)
My first introduction to the wonderful author Mem Fox came through the book Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! As a mother of three young girls, the title made me curious. When I looked at the illustrations I knew we needed to add this book to our home library. My three year old resembles Harriet in looks and in actions.
This book is a favorite in our house. My girls giggle at the trouble Harriet gets herself into. The illustrations by Marla Frazee perfectly portray how Harriet’s mischief is so innocent in her eyes.
“Harriet Harris was a pesky child. She didn’t mean to be. She just was.”
Harriet’s mischief starts with little things like spilled juice and jelly on her pants. Her mother’s impatience starts to grow as her antics get sillier. Finally her mother puts her down for a nap. Harriet decides she is not tired so instead she has a pillow fight with her puppy. Her mother’s patience grows thin when feathers are flying everywhere.
Her mother yells and Harriet cries. Both are feeling very bad about their behavior. They both apologize and then they both start to laugh at the very big mess.
This book is a wonderful reminder that sometimes, even in the middle of the mess, we need to laugh.
from MJ (turnitupmom)
With school just around the corner, I wanted to share a book that communicates an invaluable life lesson: It’s okay to be different. In fact, in the case of Odd Velvet by Mary E. Whitcomb, different is fun and inspiring.
According to her classmates, Velvet is odd. From the moment that she hands her teacher half a sparrow’s egg on the first day of school, Velvet’s peers perceive her as strange. She wears hand-me-downs, brings a milkweed pod for show and tell, and carries a used brown paper lunch bag. Velvet plays alone on the playground until, one day, she wins the school drawing contest with a mere eight crayons. Gradually, Velvet’s classmates are drawn to her creativity, and when Velvet hosts an original, imaginative birthday party, everyone begins to emulate her innovative ideas.
One thing I absolutely love about Velvet is that although she is perceived as odd, Velvet is perfectly content with who she is. She isn’t a wallflower, sulking in a corner, feeling sorry for herself. Through Tara Calahan King’s exaggerated illustrations, we come to love Velvet’s oversized glasses and sweeping smile. Velvet doesn’t, for a moment, miss out on life. Rather, her classmates miss out on her friendship.
As parents, I don’t think that we can over-emphasize tolerance- respecting the unique personality, background, beliefs, and talents of every human being. As many of our children enter new environments this fall, they will inevitably encounter children who are different. Odd Velvet offers parents the perfect opportunity to launch into a conversation about respect and friendship. From Velvet, we learn that different is not weird, strange, or even odd. In many cases, different is fun, exciting, ingenious, and inspirational. Even as adults, we often admire and wish to befriend people who are different. Why? Because they have something special to offer the world. I whole-heartedly believe that reading and talking about this universal theme encourages children to respond with empathy and an open heart when they encounter someone who deviates from their perception of “the norm.”
Before school starts, read this book alongside your child, and when you are finished, draw something beautiful with a box of only eight crayons. Let’s honor all of the “Velvets” in our lives.
from Diana (HOLES in my Shiny Veneer)
My first pick for What We’re Reading Wednesdays just had to be Ida B… and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan as it’s the best book I’ve read all year. Ida B Applewood is just the girl Richard Louv would love to meet, since she spends every moment possible either planning to be outdoors or actually being there. In fact, Ida B spends so much time outside in the brook, on the mountain, and in the orchard that her family’s apple trees all have names and personalities for her.
It is in one of Ida B’s frequent conversations with her apple tree friends that she first learns that life has new plans in store for her. Whereas up until now her idyllic days had been full of homeschooling and hours outside, Mama’s diagnosis with cancer will change all that. Mama’s aggressive treatment means that Ida B has to return to public school, or as Ida B calls it, “that Place of Sure Body-Cramping, Mind-Numbing, Fun-Killing Torture.” Even worse, in order to pay the medical bills, Daddy has to sell some of their land to be developed, meaning that some of her apple trees will be sacrificed.
What makes Ida B such a singular character in kid lit is not her communication with her tree friends or her precocious speech, but the internal changes that happen as life changes all around her. Some may quibble that Ida B overreacts, but in her despair, Ida B reacts as any smart and sensitive fourth grader might: she decides that the only just resolution is that her parents learn that they are to blame for her anger and misery, so that things can go back to the way they were. She comes to the decision that she must turn her heart into a rock and shut out all love until Mama and Daddy see the error of their ways. With her goal of returning to homeschooling, Ida B enters Ms. W’s delightful 4th grade class determined not to enjoy a single minute of it or make any friends. To get her family’s land back, Ida B puts every ounce of energy into scaring off the new neighbors (her classmate, Claire, and her family.)
Hannigan gets Ida B to eventually see the wreckage she has created by isolating herself and lashing out at all who would love and comfort her, but it is not an easy process for Ida B. There is no big hug-and-kiss scene, either with her parents or her classmates. It is Ida B’s painful and slow growth that makes this book so real: Ida B’s raw emotions will leave a lump in the throat of any reader who has ever been angry at the unfairness of life.
Happy reading, everyone!