Mem Fox: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Mem Fox books Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, cover artMem Fox books Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, cover art
Title: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little ToesMem Fox books Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Author: Mem Fox, (illustrations: Helen Oxenbury)
Genre: Baby Board Books
Age Category: Infant to 5 years

Baby’s toes are one of nature’s wonderful features.  When I catch a glimpse of them I can’t help but marvel a bit.  The toe pads are almost perfectly circular.  And the skin is so fresh and pure-looking.  As parents know, they are also great for tickling and nibbling on…okay, okay, I’ll stop now.  Suffice it to say, for all you fellow baby-toe-lovers out there, this Mem Fox book is a gem that’s sure to make you and your baby smile.  It was first published in 2008, but has recently been released in a baby board book edition.

Mem Fox Book: Summary

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little ToesMem Fox books Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury opens with the following lines:

“There was one little baby who was born far away,
and another who was born on the very next day.
And both of these babies—as everyone knows—
had ten little fingers and ten little toes.” Continue reading

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Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman: Summary and Review

Are you my Mother? by P.D. Eastman, cover art
Title: Are You My Mother?Are you my Mother? by P.D. Eastman
Author: P.D. Eastman
Age Category: 3 to 5 years
Genre: Picture Books (Beginner Books / Easy Readers)

Well, I’m a bit late with this—Mother’s Day was last Sunday—but I couldn’t resist.  This is one of my favorite Beginner Books / Easy Reader picture books.  A classic.  I still remember reading it with my mom when I was about four…

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman: Summary

Are You My Mother?Are you my Mother? by P.D. Eastman by P.D. Eastman opens with a mother bird sitting on a big yellow egg in her nest.  The egg starts to jump and shake, so the mother bird decides she had better go and find some food to feed her baby bird, who is about to arrive.  Soon after she flies away, the egg hatches, and the baby bird asks, “Where is my mother?”

Since the baby bird can’t see his mother anywhere, he decides to go looking for her.  He steps out of the nest, falls to the ground (can’t fly yet!), and sets off on an adventure to find his mother.  He encounters a series of things—a kitten, a hen, a dog, a cow, a steamboat, an airplane, and a large steam shovel that he calls a “snort” (because it snorts!)—and asks each in turn, “Are you my mother?”.

Finally, as the baby bird is puzzling over the snort, the huge machine Continue reading

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Children’s Books for Earth Day: One Child, One Planet

Children's Books for Earth Day, One Child One Planet, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick, cover artTitle: One Child, One Planet: Inspiration for the Young ConservationistChildren's Books for Earth Day, One Child One Planet, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
Author: Bridget McGovern Llewellyn
Photographs: Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Picture Books

Children’s Books for Earth Day

One Child, One PlanetChildren's Books for Earth Day, One Child One Planet, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick is an attractive children’s book for earth day that conveys the message and importance of resource conservation to children aged three-to-eight-years-old.  The book conveys this message via loosely rhyming verse and photographs of children and animals interacting with stunning natural landscapes and habitats.

This children’s book for earth day begins by briefly describing the earth and the trouble it faces due to global warming, and then focuses on what people—and especially children—can do to help counter global warming via conservation.  Specifically, the book points to familiar practices such as reducing the consumption of water, planting trees, conserving electricity, recycling, reducing the use of electronic devices, and generally squashing greedy consumer habits. Continue reading

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Easter Stories for Children: Petook, by Tomie dePaola, Caryll Houselander

Petook: An Easter Story, by Tomie dePaolaTitle: Petook: An Easter StoryPetook: An Easter Story, by Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Author: Caryll Houselander
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Picture Books

Creating good traditional Easter stories for children is difficult for a couple of reasons.  First, the traditional story is quite violent, so a graphically illustrated version of the story could be quite shocking or disturbing for a young child.  Second, the deep significance of the story can be pretty complicated for a young child, and so creating a picture book that tells the story in a way that is both true to New Testament theology and understandable for a young child is challenging.

Some picture books navigate these challenges by simply presenting the text from one (or several) of the Gospels along with illustrations that are not overly detailed.  I think Easter: The King James VersionEaster: The King James Version, by Jan Pienkowski, by Jan Pienkowski is a tasteful example of this approach.  As the title suggests, Pienkowski just presents relevant parts of the King James text, which she illustrates using silhouettes so the pictures are not too gory.

However, as I see it, the trouble with Easter stories for children that take this approach is that Continue reading

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The Egg Tree, by Katherine Milhous: Easter Picture Books

The Egg Tree by Katherine MilhousThe Egg Tree by Katherine MilhousTitle: The Egg TreeThe Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous
Author: Katherine Milhous
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Easter picture books

Easter is coming, and so I’ve been planning to review some Easter picture books.  However, when I started looking around online and in the library for good titles, it seemed there really weren’t that many.  Either I found a lot of “cute” but shallow books about eggs and bunnies—which I liken to marshmallow Peeps: sweet but not very nourishingThe Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous—or I found illustrated versions of the New Testament text.  Now, don’t get me wrong: marshmallow Peeps and the New Testament have their place; my kids will likely get a dose of both this Easter.  However, in my view, neither make for particularly good picture books.

Now, thankfully there are a few good picture books for Easter out there, two of which I’ll share with you in this and the next post.  The first one—1951 Caldecott Medal winner The Egg TreeThe Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous by Katherine Milhous—is only loosely connected with the biblical Easter tradition, as I will describe.  In the next post I will review Petook: An Easter StoryPetook: An Easter Story, by Tomie dePaola by Caryll Houselander and Tomie dePaola, which has a more direct connection with the traditional Easter story.

The Egg Tree, by Katherine Milhous: Summary

The Egg TreeThe Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous by Katherine Milhous is set in the Red Hills of Pennsylvania, in a rural Pennsylvania Dutch community.  The picture book opens with two young children—Katy and Carl—spending their first Easter on their grandmother’s farm, along with four of their cousins.  The children wake up early for an Easter egg hunt, but Katy can’t seem to find any eggs in her unfamiliar surroundings.  Feeling discouraged, she makes her way up into the attic and, to her surprise, Continue reading

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The Lion and the Mouse, Caldecott Medal Winner

picture books the lion and the mouse caldecott medal Jerry Pinkney
Title: The Lion & the Mousepicture books the lion and the mouse caldecott medal Jerry Pinkney
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Picture Books

The Lion and the Mouse Book

Jerry Pinkney’s 2010 Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, The Lion & the Mouse,picture books the lion and the mouse caldecott medal Jerry Pinkney is a retelling—or, rather a re-showing—of Aesop’s traditional fable by the same name.

As the story is traditionally told, a mouse is caught by a lion and pleads for her life by arguing that one day the lion might need her help. Although the lion scoffs at the thought that a tiny mouse could ever help such a mighty beast as a lion, he releases the mouse. However, the lion subsequently gets caught in a hunter’s net, and the mouse—hearing the lion’s distressed roar—ends up freeing the lion by nibbling a hole in the net. The traditional moral: “Little friends may prove great friends.” Traditionally, then, the story is meant to embolden the meek (“You may be a great friend one day!”) and to encourage the proud to look out for the little guy.

However, in Pinkney’s picture book, the moral is not so tightly constrained, largely because the only words Pinkney uses are onomatopoeias—i.e., words that Continue reading

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Multicultural Children’s Books by Ezra Jack Keats

In this post I will highlight the work of one of my favorite children’s authors, Ezra Jack Keats.  In particular, I will focus on a six-book series of multicultural children’s books by Keats that features a single character—a boy named Peter—and that includes two of Keats’s most celebrated books, The Snowy Daymulticultural children's books and Whistle for Williemulticultural children's books.  All six of these multicultural children’s books are appropriate for 3-to-5-year-olds.
multicultural children's booksmulticultural children's books
Title: The Snowy Daymulticultural children's books
Author: Ezra Jack Keats
Age Category: 3 to 5 years
Genre: Picture Books

Life of Ezra Jack Keats: Multicultural Children’s Books Author

The following brief account of Keats’s life and career is excerpted from the website for the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation:

“Ezra Jack Keats was born on March 11, 1916, to impoverished Polish immigrants of Jewish descent in East New York, which was then the Jewish quarter of Brooklyn, New York. He was the third child of Benjamin Katz and Augusta Podgainy, and was then known as Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz.”

From early on it was evident that Keats was gifted as an artist.  He won several awards for his art in junior high and high school, including a national contest run by the Scholastic Publishing Company.

“Keats entered the service of the United States Army on April 13, 1943…After World War II, he returned to New York… Two years after the war, Jack, in reaction to the anti-Semitic prejudices of the time, Continue reading

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