RSS Feed

Tag Archives: kids

She’s learning and I didn’t even notice

Posted on

Elisa Kleven’s The Lion and the Little Red Bird is about a bird who wonders why a lion’s tail is different colors on different days (red, orange, blue, etc.). She asks him, but he doesn’t understand bird. They form a friendship despite the language barrier. A rainstorm ruins the bird’s nest and causes the lion to bring her inside his cave, where the reason for his ever-changing tail is revealed. When the bird finally finds out that he’s been painting with his tail she sings a beautiful song that the lion loves. It’s about inter-special friendship, the power of art and music to transcend cultural differences, and colors. One hardly notices the colors with everything else that is going on and I love that. My daughter also loves lions, so she’s happy. The rare books that trick one into learning are great — not because my daughter needs to be tricked, but because I enjoy reading books which don’t make me think “now I am reading about counting, now I am reading about coloring, she is learning about coloring now, she is learning about counting now” but instead have some sort of narrative.

There is a great Pimpa book (Pimpa va a casa di Nino) which, although not as subtle, manages to count from one to nine with a convincing (though slightly bizarre) narrative. The main trick is, I think, that completely different things are counted. So instead of say, just choosing a totally random example, one monkeys, two monkeys, three monkeys, etc. it is about a dog who gets in a canoe to visit her penguin friend Nino. [I used to have some stuff here about rainbows, but it proved too controversial and I revealed my lack of scientific rainbow knowledge.] I bet you are more interested in what happens at the end of this book than in the ten little monkeys jumping on the bed one, right? Armando gets a treat from the North Pole.

Choose your own non-adventure

Posted on

Apparently, according to wikipedia, I grew up in the heyday of choose your own adventure books. I was kind of excited when I looked them up that their origin story has to do with telling your kids bedtime stories and running out of imaginative material. I have never given my daughter a choice in what happens in her bedtime story, because I never get a chance: she often tells me what is going to happen, without any prompting. Let me rephrase this, it is almost impossible to get her to stop telling me what I am supposed to tell her. She also gets irritated and will change the story. Sometimes she is in the mood to see a dragon, sometimes she is not (this can change from minute to minute). She is often pretty insistent about hanging out with lemurs, bunny rabbits, and monkeys. Recently I had her fly with purple monkeys. “Mom,” she informed me, “monkeys do not fly.” I told her it was okay since it was a story. In the enchanted forest she lives in (in her bedtime story) flying monkeys are questionable but library dwelling dragons, talking lemurs, party going gorillas, tiny giraffes (she often asks me to make the animals little so she can hold them), and mermaids are fine. She takes her monkeys very seriously.

A lot of kids books are kind of interactive. They will ask the reader/listener “Do you know x?” or “Can you guess what y is?” “Do you know where z is?” Often they have correct answers because it is a question about something in the book. There are also books that ask open questions (What does your daddy do?). Then there are books that are kind of the opposite of choose your own adventure books, because they ask a question, you have a choice, but the result is going to be the same no matter what you choose. In Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus if you tell the pigeon he can drive the bus, the story makes no sense. Perhaps that is part of the point (and the title does give some direction), that the listener should learn how to respect directions and say “no” since they were told to do so. Seeing as my listener is a two year old she frequently tells the pigeon he can drive the bus. But he doesn’t because that is not how the story is set up. Do you think if I asked Mo Willems really nicely he would write a choose your own adventure kids’ book I could read to my daughter? Monster at the End of this Book (the first one, not the adulterated Elmo version), by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin, actually does a pretty good job at pulling off a children’s version of “choose your own adventure:” if you listen to Grover and stop turning the pages, you just stop turning the pages (putting down the book) and if you don’t listen to him, you keep reading and find out what happens. Kind of limited though, because you in fact have just chosen to not continue on the adventure.

My child may be psychic

Posted on

So this post may be along the lines of “things one shouldn’t admit aloud, let alone write for the whole world to see.” Sometimes I think my daughter can read my mind. We’ll be walking along and she asks me about someone I was just randomly thinking about, even though we weren’t walking by anything connected to the person. She’ll ask me about something I am thinking to myself that I do not understand how she could guess or know that I was thinking. Anyway, she has also (a more commercial, less unnerving, more annoying personality trait) figured out that representations of stuff represents stuff that can be acquired. She’ll point to a picture of a toy or book and tell me she wants it. So far I have had a few answers: “Great” (hoping she’ll forget about it). “Why don’t you tell your aunt?” (Hoping my sisters will just find this cute and not materialistically horribly spoiled AND hoping my daughter will forget about it by the time she sees them). “Why don’t you tell your grandma?” (hoping my daughter will forget by the time she sees her and because I am kind of interested to see what my mom would do, this would not have worked for me as a kid at all, but grandchildren are different). “Okay, maybe for your birthday” (Which is in about a year). I have also made a few exceptions and gotten her some things, all of them monkey books. Three of them are Five Little Monkey books she mentioned wanting (already discussed this, frankly I wanted them as well) and the other is Curious George Goes to a Costume Party. She, for some strange reason, repeatedly pointed to this Curious George book (pictured on the back of one of her other Curious George books). Over and over again. I got it for her and discovered it involved Curious George (one of her top ten favorite monkeys) JUMPING ON A BED (one of her favorite things monkeys do). How did she know this book would have this in it? How did she choose this particular book? Answers: she somehow read it somewhere else (but her school tells us the books they read) and knew it, it is a coincidence, the cover of this Curious George is particularly interesting (below, would this be the one you would choose?) or she is psychic.

Making the world colorful with reading

Posted on

I remember reading/having read to me Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (written by Judi Barrett and drawn by Ron Barrett) as a kid. I primarily remember the story within the story, of a city whose weather provides sustenance not water. I did not remember as vividly the wonderful frame story, depicted in black and white. A grandfather flips a pancake, it lands on the kids (providing the idea for the story he tells in which food falls from the sky). At the end the kids go out and the sun looks like a pat of butter (it’s in color, unlike the rest of the frame). Real life events provide the inspiration for a fictional story that then changes the way the listeners perceive the world. I think as a kid I even thought that maybe, just maybe it wasn’t actually a story and that the sun at the end could be a pat of butter. Because, yeah, fiction is that good.

Using my words I will destroy you

Posted on

In The Paper Bag Princess (story by Robert N. Munsch and illustrations by Michael Martchenko) and Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys Wash a Car a less physically powerful, but smart princess/monkey is able to get a dragon/crocodiles to use up their strength using just words. The princess and the monkey ask the other more reptilian creatures to prove their might and in the process of proving their strength, they use up the energy they otherwise might have spent eating the princess/monkeys. A fox meanwhile uses his words to outwit and eat a Gingerbread Man in The Gingerbread Man (or at least Walt Kelly’s version of the Gingerbread Man, from Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies). The gingerbread man is so fast he thinks no one can catch him; he is so excited to boast of this to the fox that he gets too close to him and ends up eaten. All of these stories offer some great little lessons (if you feel like looking for a lesson), using your intelligence you can do a lot even if you aren’t super strong, don’t rely too much on any one quality (strength, fire breathing, beauty, etc.), and, most of all, don’t have too much pride in that one quality — it will be your downfall. You will end up eaten or hungry. 

Sneezing monkeys

Posted on

Speaking of google searches, do NOT look up “do monkeys sneeze.” You’ll turn up one sexually strange link and one weird picture. Fine, I’ll share the picture (from bbc news). Sometimes my daughter and I pretend to take each other’s noses. Myanmar monkeys could not play this game (that or they did, and played it too well). Sneezing monkeys get into a lot of trouble in books; sneezes cause monkeys to make a mess and almost wake up Mama when they are making cakes and to disrupt their monkey bridges (with a wet lion as a result, who knows what happens next! It may be far worse than messed up cake). If I only acquired monkey knowledge from my daughter’s books I would think crocodiles and sneezes were the two biggest dangers facing monkeys.

Image from The Monkey Bridge (story by Joy Cowley, illustrations by Susan Moxley)

More five little monkeys, some answers, and more questions

Posted on

We went on a couple-hour drive last weekend and discovered we need to own all of Eileen Christelow‘s Five Little Monkey books for our cross-country trip (or else I would have to read the same three books over and over and over and over again). Or, if not all, at least more. So we purchased three more and I have discovered a few things.

Regarding last Monday’s post: Mama goes dancing by herself; is that a date in her car (above)? Picture from Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Go Seek. Also, here are the photos she has up in her house (From Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do). Is that her in the wedding photo? What do you think? I am torn between the joys of imagining what her situation is and really, really wanting to actually know. Story of my life.

For a long time my daughter has been recounting the story of the alligators/crocodiles and the monkeys. I couldn’t wait to figure out exactly what she was talking about (there are a couple of versions) and it turns out it was from reading Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree at school. The first time I read the book, I got worried that the crocodile was in fact eating the monkeys, something that would explain my daughter’s intense crocodile hatred. Crocodiles are also a large, evil presence in Five Little Monkeys Wash a Cartoo (see below). My daughter often yells at them “GO AWAY GO AWAY!” as we read. My daughter’s father and I have been wondering, are they really monkeys’ enemies? By, “really” I mean in nature. Do monkeys often get snapped out of trees? Do crocodiles or alligators eat monkeys? Oh! Question partially answered (from the author’s page):

When I started working on this book, I was saying the rhyme with “. . . teasing Mr Alligator . . .” But then I did a little homework and found that alligators and monkeys don’t live in the same places. However, some monkeys and some crocodiles do.

When we were at Five Little Monkeys (the store, not the book, confused yet?) we saw a crocodile Folkmanis puppet and were enticed. We know our drive will involve a lot of monkeys and it seemed like it might be a fun way to act out some of the many scenes of crocodiles and monkeys we’ll be reading. Okay, and to be honest, with all the monkeys in our life, we probably kind of liked the idea of pretending to eat the monkeys (after a certain number of readings one is almost rooting for the crocodiles, unless one is my daughter). We showed it to my daughter, smiling, “Should we get this? Isn’t this nice?” and, unfortunately, she started screaming, “NO, no that’s TOO scary!” Since we can’t justify getting a toy just for ourselves, we left it. My daughter is fiercely loyal: her friends’ enemies are her enemies and she is not going to make friends with a crocodile. Perhaps we haven’t read Lyle Lyle Crocodile enough; maybe if I try reading that over and over again we’ll be able to convince my daughter she needs a crocodile puppet. At least two members of this family would really like that.