Play-Doh Fairy Tale Sets

Here is a link.

In a more perfect world we’d just play this way without the need for the specialized molds – but I really think these are brilliant and smart marketing for Hasbro.  A very good preschool birthday gift idea – includes parental involvement, reading, acting, emotion and improvisation.  That is the makings of a quality toy.


Empowering Picture Book Reads for Girls

I came across this worthwhile list today – it is, however, loaded onto 15 different pages in order to create ad revenue for the site.  Here is the article.

One paragraph per slow-loading add-riddled page is inconvenient – so here, have a shortcut.  Now you and I can print the list out and take it to the library this week.

1) Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen, by Cari Best, illustrated by Christine Davenier

2) Brave Irene, by William Steig

3) Annie Bananie, by Leah Komaiko, illustrated by Laura Cornell

4) Tar Beach, by Faith Ringold

5) I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow

6) Sheila Rae, the Brave, by Kevin Henkes

7) Madeline Books, by Ludwig Bemelmans

8)) Eloise Books, by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight

9) 17 Things I’m Not Allowed To Do Anymore, by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Nancy  Carpenter

10) Strega Nona, Her Story, by Tomie dePaola

11) Amanda’s Perfect Hair, by Linda Milstein, illustrated by Susan Meddaugh

12) Imogene’s Last Stand, by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

13) Now Everybody Really Hates Me, by Jane Read Martin and Patricia Marx, illustrated by Roz Chast

All-Ages Comics for Emergent Readers

I credit comics for some of Bee’s early reading skills (and some of my own interest in reading as a kid). Below is a list of recommended all-ages comics.  Attached to the title links you’ll find a diversity of reviews, previews, publication sites, creator sites, and articles.

Bookmark and share this page.  Use it when you want a gift idea, report card reward, non-cash chore payday, birthday party gifts for classmates and friends, gift ideas for grandparents and godparents, and local library wish listing.

Luke on the Loose
Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever
One Stormy Night
Zig and Wikki
Little Mouse
Jack and the Box
Adventures in Cartooning
Amelia Rules!
CryptoZooey #1
Dinosaurs Across America
Dreamland Chronicles
Ed’s Terrestrials
Lions, Tigers and Bears
Magic Trixie
Poetry Comics: A Literary Postcard Book
Robot Dreams
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade
Tiny Titans
Little Lit publications edited by Art Speigleman

Support independent booksellers when possible.

For more information:

Update:  I just came across this great resource, too!  Click on the image below to go to the site.


Fantastic Morning at 2010 Lititz Kid-Lit Festival

Due to the no-sleepinest baby this side of slumberland, we contemplated bailing on this event but thankfully we got it together early enough to make the trip.  Missing it would have been a big mistake.

Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA is one of those rare wonders still weathering the business model that is Independent Bookstore.  You can shop them online (soapbox: and you should, if you love books – and are aware of the effects of mega-store monopolies, online and off, negatively impacting selection and living wages for creators of the writer, graphic designer, printer, publisher and illustrator varieties).

Today was their annual Kid-Lit Fest. Now that my Kid (Bee) is Literate we made attending this year a big priority, and it was a great way to spend our day.


I’d like to promote the authors that made the biggest impact on us:

(Nightbear & Lambie ©Kerry and Matt Royer – image used for review)

Writer and Illustrator couple Kerry and Matt Royer are creators of the book Nightbear & Lambie (and two other forthcoming titles, one is a holiday sequel to N&L, and one involves Spring Peepers).  The book is well written, lovely in its simplicity and bound to resonate in any family where there are favorite stuffed-animal friends installed among sleeping kiddos.  The illustrations are particularly nice – oil paintings with a skillfully consistent and appealing style and palate, many of which would make choice stand-alone prints.

First editions of Nightbear & Lambie are sold out, save for a handful of stores local to the creators (list).  Also, the book is available at Pottery Barn Kids, as part of a cool deal they struck since that retailer originally sold the toys in question to the Royer family.

There is karmic value here too, for those of you who have young families similar to my own.  They are a hard-working couple with young children, making the effort to strike out creatively despite the demanding schedule.  What they’ve accomplished thus far is commendable and I wish them continued success.


(images © their respective publishers/creators – used for review)

Illustrator (and author) Amy Wummer was present (here is a Random House profile), and I quickly recognized her by her work as a contributor to High Five Magazine (a junior version of Highlights, for the 6 and under set).  Amy draws a regular feature in the magazine that Bee is fond of (Tex and Indi and their cat named Cow), and she also does at least one cover for the magazine each year.  Turns out – she is incredibly proficient and has A LOT of other (award-winning) credits to her name.

Her style is very recognizable while, somehow, also unobtrusive.  It is perfect for storytelling, as it does not overpower the story and she’s so practiced that the consistency is seamless and the coloring perfectly suited.  Especially exciting for us is that Bee sort of stood out in the readings, she asks a lot of questions and volunteers personal perspective easily – after the reading, and having two books signed to Bee (reminder: I don’t use our real names in this family blog) – Amy told Bee to expect a surprise in a future illustration, she’s going to slip Bee into a story where a child is called for (presumably a background character).  Well, Amy got herself a friend for life with that gesture :).

The two books we purchased from her today (signed) are:

The third book in The Milo and Jazz Mysteries, called The Case of the Haunted Haunted House.  Bee is a big fan of the A to Z Mysteries, and while I can’t give an experienced opinion on the matter at the moment, the Milo and Jazz Mysteries seem to be a very good series to graduate towards after the A to Z Mysteries – the stories appear to be a bit more mature, complex, long (not overly so), and they contain ‘super sleuthing puzzles’ – brain stretchers, logic puzzles and focus on motives matching to crimes.  Young mystery readers are a lucky bunch in this day and age!  Also – thanks to Lewis B. Montgomery for furnishing the store with signed copies of the book, so we have both creator signatures.

Our other book illustrated by Amy is Samuel’s Baby.  A perfect choice for a 4-6 year old expecting a baby brother or sister.  Our little Pea is a year old now, but certainly we feel the change to our family dynamic still taking hold.  I imagine this story will further solidify Bee’s memories of this transition The book is clever and funny, as a class of kindergarteners share in Samuel’s experience in a unique and teachable way.


(image © respective publisher/creator – used for review)

Our third creative treasure trove was Laurel Snyder.  From her web page bio: Laurel Snyder is the author of  three novels for children, “Penny Dreadful,” “Any Which Wall” and “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains OR The Search for a Suitable Princess” (Random House) and two picture books, “Inside the Slidy Diner” and “Baxter the Kosher Pig.” (Tricycle).

Laurel was a delight to talk to, and she obviously loves her work.  She traveled the farthest of any of the creators we met today, having come from Atlanta for the event (see how cool Aaron’s Books is?).  She read both of her picture books to the kids gathered at the event, and Bee wasn’t happy that we had to only choose one.

We bought Inside The Slidy Diner, and after reading it – I am sure we’ll be investigating her novels in due course.  Laurel does some creative (and probably therapeutic) venting about the unpleasant side of working for a greasy spoon diner – in a wonderful ‘taken to the extreme’ manner that any kid would appreciate and enjoy.  She challenges the kids to count the mice.  I myself spent more time spying out the insect life (giant mounted ‘trophy’ roach hanging on the wall of the diner FTW).  A girl spends her days like a fairy tale servant, after being caught swiping a candy from a crone (alla classic fairy tales, like Hansel and Gretel, only entirely contemporary).

The witch in question is a hair-netted crone who scratches her itchy back with the grill spatula, leaving fly guts smeared on her sweater.  Yeah, it’s that good.  The illustrations (by Jaime Zollars), are wonderful as well (Snyder hopes to work with her again because they are a dream team).

Check out Snyder’s new novel, Penny Dreadful, when you see it hitting stores in late September.  The hyperlink I’ve attached to the title is an advance copy review compliments of Kate Messner (a discerning children’s book author).


This isn’t typically a review site – I hope I’ve been helpful, though.  These are books I recommend to people like me – people in young families full of brilliant young budding bibliophiles.  Choosing picture books can be daunting – I feel that all of these would please a discerning fan of the medium.  Also – these folks put in the legwork.  They love what they do.  They spend their perfect, sunny, crisp, mid-September Saturdays trying to expose folks to their work.  In my opinion, that commitment deserves an audience.

You can find (hopefully) your own local independent book sellers here:

Starting Preschool – Trying Times

So far, Bee is having a hard time being in (two day, afternoon pre-) school.  It has only been 2 days, mind you, but it is still a hard time for us.

She puts on a brave face at drop-off time (the first day she was so excited that she forgot to say goodbye – instead launching into “I have great news! Today is my first day of school!” with the teacher.  Then later the stories unfolded about how she was so sad while I was away.

Almost the very first thing to come out of her mouth when she woke on the second day of school was, “Why would we waste a perfectly good day like this at school?”, followed by “You’ve already taught me everything they teach there, anyway.”

She’s usually such a happy kid, and makes friends on playgrounds in 2 seconds flat, so it’s confusing new territory and it breaks my heart – but I’m trusting those that say it gets better.

Here is one resource, among several, that I’m ‘road testing’.

Quick Click: 9 Parent-Tested Ways to Ease Separation Anxiety – Ease preschool drop-offs with these simple suggestions.

We picked up a copy of The Kissing Hand this afternoon, too – and we’ve read it together three times.  Her teacher suggested making a necklace with our pictures on it that she can wear – so, we’ll try that tomorrow (her third day).  They are all reading A Pocket Full Of Kisses tomorrow in class (which is a sort of Kissing Hand sequel).

We addressed the subject of her being more advanced than many of her peers by choosing a mixed-age Montessori classroom for her – even so, her teachers seem very impressed by her vocabulary and knowledge.  When she isn’t crying.

I’ll post more about these days of change in our home – including pics and info about the biggest little change – but this post serves as my late night venting about a subject that is probably affecting a lot of families at this time of year.

Free Parent’s Guide to Nature Play (+intro to C&NN)

Here’s a great resource I was turned on to by the Children and Nature Network.

First, a little about C&NN:

The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. C&NN provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.

With C&NN you will find pretty much bottomless resources for raising happy healthy intelligent kids without going broke and by reconnecting with the natural world that is an integral part of what we are as the human animal.

Now, on to the resource I mentioned in the title of this post:

A Parents’ Guide to Nature Play:  How to Give Your Children More Outdoor Play, and Why You Should! by Ken Finch
Ken Finch, founder of Green Hearts Institute, has published this brand-new booklet for parents. Downloadable as a PDF, this 20 page guide helps parents understand the key elements of great nature play, why it is important, and how they can integrate it into their children’s daily lives.


Also, here’s an
Article about nature preschools.

Which sounds like a fantastic idea that needs to grow!  Support local efforts by first learning what opportunities are around you.  C&NN can help.

My interest in connecting children (and adults) with nature stems from the fact that we are an inseparable part of that natural world, and when it is thriving – we do as well.  All of our healthy activities and diets and analytical thinking comes from engaging the natural world directly – not on a monitor, by watching a cable channel, or by any other detached means.  I’m stunned and a little horrified by how many parents I know that do not even take walks in the woods with their kids – consider rocks, dirt or insects (for example) to be ‘bad or dangerous things’.  I want to shake these people.  I’ll post this (and things like it) instead.

We live in delicate interdependance with all living things – we ignore this at our peril.  Starting young is the best way to form healthy habits that last a lifetime.  As always, beware of woo which many people (including some educators, like Waldorf schools) are eager to apply to the natural world.

2009 US Library Summer Reading Program Kick-Off!

CR ART Poster 1-1

Today we kick off our summer reading program participation!  I kind of go nuts with it – because Bee loved it so much last year.  By ‘so much’ I mean lots of squeels of delight.  When I say ‘lots’ I mean daily.

I also have fond memories of doing this when I was young.  It led me to read a lot of things I hadn’t tried before (Roald Dahl, The Hardy Boys, and many more) – all on my own.

In addition to turning in our reading coupon/forms – we keep a chart with stickers in the reading corner of her room (I’ll post pictures of this at some point).  We’ve already read the first 110 pages of her first official summer reading book – a gift she got yesterday from her friend.

If you have young children – don’t forget to check out what your local libraries offer through the summer.  Many host magicians, puppet shows, demonstrations and more – in addition to regular story-times.

In case you aren’t familiar with the format of the summer reading programs, usually they work something like this:

For every 5 books read (or read to the pre-literate child) you get a token that you can use in a little vending machine for a small prize, or a ‘buck’ you can save up for bigger prizes.  For longer books, every 50 pages counts as one book. This year the bigger prizes are mostly creative supplies (like watercolor sets, brushes, etc.).  Also, most districts pool all the returned coupons for a drawing to win computers and other great stuff.