Clap Hands, by Helen Oxenbury

Board Books, Clap Hands Helen Oxenbury
Title: Clap Hands
Author: Helen Oxenbury
Age Category: Infant to 2 years
Genre: Baby Board Books

Helen Oxenbury: Clap Hands

Clap Hands—one of Helen Oxenbury’s beloved board books—is a simple tribute to activities that young children delight in.  The words of the board book are as follows:

“Clap hands, dance and spin;
Open wide, pop it in;
Blow a trumpet, bang a drum;
Wave to daddy, wave to mum.” Continue reading


Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal

This post is the second in a series outlining selection criteria for children’s books.  The series starts here with “How to Choose Children’s Books,” if you want to read from the beginning.  Last time, in laying out the road map for this series, I introduced the notion of a book’s subjective appeal, i.e., the considerations that might make a book appealing to a child.  In this post I will begin discussing subjective appeal in more depth, and in particular I will argue for the importance of considering subjective appeal among the selection criteria for children’s books.

Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal

So, here is the central—and what I take to be very important—point: choosing a kids’ book with subjective appeal is not optional.  Rather, it is a crucial, non-negotiable part of the selection.  Now, this might go without saying for most of us: of course we aim to choose children’s books that kids will like!  However, this is not obvious to everyone.  I have in mind here a certain kind of parent or caretaker that Continue reading


Bad Children’s Books: The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Bad Children's Books
Title: The Adventures of Captain UnderpantsBad Children's Books
Author: Dav Pilkey
Age Category: 6 to 8 years
Genre: Juvenile fiction
Our Rating (out of 5):

George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the main characters of The Adventures of Captain Underpants, are pranksters of the first order.  In this installment of Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, George and Harold pull an outrageous set of pranks at their elementary school football game.  However, unbeknown to them their mean principal Mr. Krupp has caught all of their antics on videotape and he proceeds to use the tape to blackmail them into behaving well in school and serving his every whim.

After a few days of following Mr. Krupp’s rules, the boys remember a comic-book advertisement for a “3-D Hypno-Ring” that will allow them to hypnotize Mr. Krupp and lay hands on the incriminating videotape.  George and Harold follow through with their plan, and in the process have some fun with Mr. Krupp, making him believe Continue reading


How to Choose Children’s Books

It goes without saying that a child’s engagement with good books is important and valuable to her development.  Not only can reading good kids’ books expand a child’s cognitive abilities, but it can also spur a child’s emotional, moral, and spiritual development.  However, a quick visit to one of the big online or brick-and-mortar book retailers is enough to make you realize there are zillions of children’s books.  Some of these books are good, but many are not.  So, if you are looking to buy children’s books, you are left with a question: “How do I choose good children’s books?”

In this post I begin a multi-part series that I hope can go some way toward answering the question of how to choose children’s books in a general way, such that after reading the series (or part of it) you will be more equipped to choose kids’ books, even if you don’t have access to reviews or recommendations.  I have chosen to write on this topic in a series of posts since I hope to treat the topic in some depth.  So, consider this post an introduction.

How to Choose Children’s Books: A Roadmap

The roadmap for this series is as follows.  In the first part of the series I will discuss the factors that make up what I call the subjective appeal of a children’s book.  In other words, Continue reading


The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

Juvenile Fiction The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Age Category: 9 to 12 years +
Genre:  Picture Book

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: Summary

Brian Selznick’s 2008 Caldecott Medal winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, introduces Hugo Cabret, an orphan boy who secretly maintains the clocks at a Paris railway station. Hugo’s father—once an horologist—died in a fire while repairing an automaton, a highly complex machine designed to look and to write like a human being. Hugo has salvaged the remains of the automaton, now hidden in Hugo’s room in the walls of the train station, and he steals mechanical parts in his attempt to finish his father’s project of restoring it. Hugo is convinced that, once restored, the automaton will convey a message to him from his deceased father.

However, when Hugo’s path intersects with Isabelle, another orphan, and her godfather Papa Georges—the toymaker in the railway station from whom Hugo has been stealing parts for the automaton—Hugo’s plan to restore the automaton yields unexpected results. The restored automaton indeed has a kind of message from Hugo’s father, but it turns out the message is also connected to Papa Georges. As the mysterious story unfolds, Hugo is slowly transformed Continue reading