When I first saw it in the Netgalley catalog, I was startled by the title It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids by Heather Shumaker (Tarcher, 2012). Not share? Isn’t that the first thing we teach our babies during play dates? I was delighted by some of the concepts in this parenting book, not because I agreed with it all, but because it opened my mind to different ways to approach teaching my children about relationships, compassion, and dealing with the ups and downs of life.
Mem Fox is a successful children’s book author and literacy expert. But her expertise in Reading Magic (Harcourt 2001) comes across as personal and passionate, mostly because she writes foremost from her position as a mother. Her main point in writing this book is to read aloud to our children, making it a fun time and a game, as parents let their children learn from the words that surround them in their daily lives.
I loved reading this book. Nothing Ms Fox said was surprising or new to me. Back in 2009, I started a project to read my then 26-month-old son 1000 books before he started kindergarten. Just over 18 months later, we’d read 1000 different books together (that I’d recorded, at least) and he was reading on his own. Everything Ms Fox suggests is thus backed up by our application of it! It was not a struggle. It was fun. (more…)
Just a few weeks before my second child, a daughter, was born, I stopped at a bookstore with my son and we bought her a book. It was Pride and Prejudice: A Babylit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver. In just 10 pages, we visited the story of Pride and Prejudice by learning about some of the important countable nouns in it: FIVE sister, TEN thousand pounds. The pictures are modern, and for this particular “primer” the nouns highlighted are lots of fun. Will a baby “get” the plot of the classic novel? No, but it sure is fun for a mama who loves the book!
New to the classics for babies scene is the Cozy Classics series by Jack and Holman Wang (Simply Read Books, 2012). In a similar way, these books share the plot with the youngest people, but these books do with just one word on each page. It’s amazing how they manage to share so much of the story in one word per page! The accompanying pictures are photographs of needle-point felt dolls and scenes. I am not able to sew in anyway so this is very impressive to me too. I read the Pride and Prejudice and the Moby Dick Cosy Classics as digital review copies from the publisher. Does a child need to know “peg leg”? No, but the format is a fun one for the parent who loves the classics!
And then there is a more complete picture book version. I discovered Moby Dick: Chasing the Great White Whale by Eric A. Kimmel and Andrew Glass (Feiwel and Friends, 2012) as a part of the Cybils 2012 fiction picture book judging process. It is a poetic sea shanty retelling of the story of Moby Dick. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I love reading the classics, so I was delighted to see a picture book about a favorite book of mine, although I must admit I was surprised to see Moby Dick, of all classic books, retold in picture book format. The book is so much fun for someone who enjoys Moby Dick. It begins with “Call me Ishmael” and it really does capture the feeling of the book in some respects: the desire to go whaling, the night in the inn with a man with a tattooed head, meeting Captain Ahab, the anticipation of the chase. The illustrations are gorgeous paintings, and one can see the brush strokes in the marvelously rich pages. I really enjoyed seeing the story come to life in the pictures. And yet, there is something odd as a whole about this as a picture book. One of the things I love about Moby Dick is the rich language; so much of my enjoyment of the book depends on the eloquent ponderings of the narrator.
As a whole, the story of Moby Dick is rather gruesome: sailors hunting down a large animal and killing it in a brutal and disgusting way. In the picture book, the language is reduced to a sea shanty rhyme, and the illustrations do the talking. It’s a nice introduction to Moby Dick’s plot but do young children really need the plot? I also took exception to the “moral” added to the end of the picture book. Herman Melville’s creation is certainly not something that ends with a trite moral: it’s far more complicated than the plot suggests, and his purposes in writing it (the “moral” if you will) is something to explore in doctoral length dissertations, not picture books. I don’t believe it was necessary to sum up the book in such a trite way: I believe it detracts from the whole.
In the end, then, I’m rather conflicted about this picture book: I love it since I love the original, but I wonder as to the necessity of it for children. Do we really want to talk about chasing and killing whales with our young ones? Why not wait until children can experience Melville himself?
Note: I received digital review copies of the Cozy Classics books for review consideration.
It has been more than a month since I finished reading Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman (published 1998). By waiting to write my thoughts, I may not have as many specific examples and quotes to share with my readers. However, by letting the book percolate in my mind as I went about my life, I can even better declare that Gottman’s slim volume is a helpful and essential reminder of the role of parents in the lives of young children.
While parents and teachers often devote lots of time to teaching academics and well rounded activities (from music to athletics), how often have parents considered the ways they are helping their children develop emotional intelligence? In a world were people are increasingly pulled in a variety of directions, the ability to regulate emotions and control one self in a complicated world is essential. Gottman’s book helps me see my opportunities for teaching my kids. It also gives me realistic ways to implement the teaching of emotional strength. (more…)
White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, and Pratfalls of the Presidents’ Children by Joe Rhatigan (Imagine Publishing, 2012) provides a fun and colorful picture of the history of children in the White House. From George Washington’s step-daughter to the Obama girls, White House Kids gives an interesting portrait of how life changed for the children of the nation’s most well known public official. It’s not easy being a kid, and being thrust in the limelight while still a child obviously brings an entirely new set of difficulties.
I’m not usually interested in pop culture celebrity biographies, but White House Kids provided an interesting contrast to other celebrity biographies out there. Because of the historical nature of the White House and the presidents, reading this book gave historical insight into the presidents. A number of things surprised me about White House Kids, mostly because of the breadth it covered through history and the interest it provides for youth today who may be interested in history, the presidents, as well as current “celebrity kids” like Malia and Sasha Obama. (more…)