“Everyone is always good at something.” It was a mantra I heard throughout my childhood, from my teachers, to my own mother…and one that I find myself echoing today with my own kids. When my 9-year-old laments that she is small for her age, I remind her that bigger isn’t always better. “Just listen how loudly you can sing,” I tell her as she belts out a number from her theater class. Because each of us is unique, we have qualities and traits that we may sometimes frown upon or even take for granted without fully realizing the beauty in their purpose. That’s the theme behind a new children’s book, Clumsy Duck, in which the title character’s self-imposed name fails to capture his true talents. The duckling spends the better part of the story tripping over his webbed feet until his determined friend Little Chick helps him figure out his exactly why his feet look the way they do. From running up and down a hill, to waddling through a field of flowers, Clumsy Duck ends up flat on his face time and time again. Just when he appears to have lost all hope, our little friend makes it to the pond where he emerges triumphant. The message of patience and endurance rings true for Clumsy Duck, one that will resonate for readers big and small in this age of impatience and instant gratification. “Look hard enough and you’ll find the answers” is another adage I came to learn, and it certainly holds true for Clumsy Duck and any other little ducklings you may know.
In a Nutshell: It’s easy to criticize what we don’t understand. This new picture book is an eye-opener for young readers in need of a little reassurance when they don’t know all the answers.
My 5-year-old was so happy to have art class on her first day of kindergarten. She spends quite a bit of time drawing detailed pictures, and I can never seem to find her without a crayon or marker in hand. While I’ve yet to take her to an art museum, I suspect we’ll be spending quite some time navigating the halls of MOMA and the Guggenheim…someday. Until then, we’re relishing Arlo’s ARTrageous Adventure!, a story of what happens when a young boy spends the day in art museum and it turns out to be a rather lively show. His grandmother attempts to school him on the seriousness of art, but he soon learns that looks (and life) is not always what it seems. As readers turn the pages and step through the museum along with Arlo, they come across paintings and sculptures that appear to come to life, thanks to a series of inviting flaps. A stone-faced lion statue guarding the front entrance immediately changes his expression as Arlo hurries past. Aged oil paintings of assorted historic figures become contemporary scenes of domesticity, while modern sculptures adopt silly poses. A much-needed poke at modern-day parenting so focused on the value of education over entertainment, this delightful story has plenty of hidden surprises–and not only for kids.
In a Nutshell: Life imitates art–or is it the other way around?–in this interactive book that begs kids to ‘please do touch!’
“Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” is a fitting description for my soon-to-be kindergartner. She’s been enthusiastically picking out her backpack, new school clothes and supplies like there’s no tomorrow. Plus, we’ve been checking out nearly every first day of school picture book from our library (luckily, there’s no limit!). While I don’t fear my 5-year-old will have any separation issues, reading with her about what she can expect is my way of preparing her for the big day–and getting her into the groove for storytime. One of my favorite books so far is the just-released Rufus Goes to School, an adorable story about a precocious pig who’s determined to go to school, even if he is an animal. Prompted by the desire to read his favorite book, he acquires all the necessary gear–from backpack to blanket–to start his school year off right. Even when he is told time and time again, “No pigs in school!,” he refuses to give up and continues to arm himself with more and more supplies. Just when readers may have lost hope that Rufus will ever become a bona fide student, we are pleasantly delighted with the outcome. A heartwarming story about how drive and determination always win out, Rufus Goes to School teaches a lifelong lesson that proves this persistent pig had the right stuff all along.
In a Nutshell: Perfect for the kindergarten-bound child, this new book primes new students fresh out of the gate.
My car is in desperate need of a wash. After too many months of wet weather, muddy feet and the like, this mom taxi has taken quite a beating. Of course, the line at our local car wash has been five miles long lately. If only my imagination could transport to the pages of the latest picture book to cross my desk. Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe is the place to be, especially if you happen to live with anyone who knows his T-Tex from a triceratops. It’s also the center of a make-believe business where these prehistoric creatures come to have their regular scrub-down (where else can these guys fit when a bath tub is out of the question?). If I ever thought the job of keeping two kids clean was hard enough, this book makes me appreciate the fact that I don’t have to clean all those spikes and knobs on an Ankylosaurus; now that’s exhausting! Regardless of whether or not your kid has a love affair with these monstrous creatures, this story will certainly make them a little less scary. A T-Rex who’s afraid to get shampoo in his eyes? Who knew!…
In a Nutshell: How do you keep a dinosaur dirt-free? This silly story turns a car wash into a creative clean-up spot that’s dino-mite.
My 4-year-old has a definite sweet tooth, and her latest sugary obsession is Pez (remember those candies that come in their own dispenser?). Because she covets her Hello Kitty Pez like it’s gold, she has a hard time sharing with her big sis (who also loves Pez, but not nearly as much). During a recent battle at the dinner table, my little one reluctantly agreed to give her sister some of her treats…but the biggest surprise came the following day when her sister graciously brought home some leftover coloring sheets for her art class. As my girls have come to learn, a kind gesture like sharing something with others–especially something you love–doesn’t go unnoticed and sometimes yields its own reward. This is the perfect lesson for a young animal in Little Raccoon Learns to Share, a delightful new picture book by Mary Packard. Looking at the cover alone, I knew there was something utterly familiar, and once we delved into the story, I realized just what it was. The adorable animal drawings by illustrator Lisa McCue were instantly recognizable, as she has illustrated many of the Corduroy stories my girls and I have read over the years . Also familiar was the story line of the title character desperate to hold on to her treasured berries, even at the expense of her friends. As she ponders what might happen if her generosity costs her more than she bargained for, I couldn’t help but smile at my own daughter’s propensity to over-think a situation (wonder where she gets that from?) and potentially miss out on the fun. Luckily, thanks to a wise suggestion from the raccoon’s mom and the acceptance of her peers, she learns as my 4-year-old did: that sharing with others makes it’s all the more likely that they will share with you. That’s a lesson learned that can last lifetime. Little Raccoon Learns to Share will be available in April.
In a Nutshell: No one ever said sharing was easy. With charming illustrations and a gentle subtext, this new children’s book helps little ones understand that giving a little can go a long way.
Our next-door neighbor has been renovating his home for the past six months. Thanks to Superstorm Sandy and some other setbacks, it’s been taking a lot longer than expected. But because he is such a kindhearted guy (and always apologizing for the noise and commotion), we could never truly be angry with him. So when I opened the pages of Wooby & Peep new picture book, I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder–had someone been spying on us these last few months? Did the author see when a tree guy was removing some broken limbs from next door and accidentally knocked over our garden fence? Let’s just say that sometimes neighborly mishaps make for new friends…like they do in this charming tale where a quiet, keeps-to-himself Wooby is suddenly befriended by a boisterous Peep (his name does not do him justice) who practically bends over backwards to get in Wooby’s good graces. And yet, every attempt at kindness–from fixing a broken fountain, to replacing a lost tree (ahem, ahem)–backfires. You might cringe from all this devastation if it weren’t for the hilarious comic-book panel illustrations and tongue-in-cheek asides from resident onlookers. And yet no matter how many times Peep fails, in the end, it’s the sincerity of a simple message–to have a friend, you have to be a friend–that resonates with us all. As for us, we’re looking forward to a housewarming party…any day now.
In a Nutshell: A heartwarming picture book that shows how friendship can sometimes happen when you least expect it.