Friday, February 10, 2012

Bibi's Bookshelf 2012-01

I’ve decided to share the occasional review of children’s books, sharing recommendations from my granddaughter, Brianna (whom I prefer to call Bibi until she decides she’s too old for that nickname).  These reviews will focus more on her delight or lack thereof although I will interject my own responses as well.  She is four-years-old and some of these books may be revisited when she’s older, meaning I’ll read them to her again in another year and maybe she’ll love what she previously found uninteresting.  In the meantime, here are Bibi’s recommendations.
You know a book’s a winner when, at the end, the child immediately says “Read it again.”  Four times, again again again.  The illustrations are simplistic and perfect for what proves to be an uncomplicated story.  So what is there to love?  The story is interactive.  The child is encouraged to interact with the book by repeatedly refusing the pigeon’s request to drive the bus.  Sounds pretty tedious to read, doesn’t it?  It’s not!  It is fun to be emotive, following the expressive quality of the illustrations while having Bibi there giggling and say “no” as she points to the page.  I don’t know how many times she had someone read the book to her when she took it home but I know she loved it from the very first.

In previous reviews for children’s books, I’ve occasionally recommended ways to use the book as the child grows.  I’ve called these “For Further Exploration.”  I will continue to do this whenever possible.

For Further Exploration
  • When the child is old enough, have the child pick a favorite animal and create a similar story in which the chosen animal wants to drive the bus.  Perhaps an elephant would offer the reader a peanut as a way of bribing out a yes.  Or maybe a snake wants to drive a taxi.  Or maybe that same pigeon comes back and wants to drive a train.  Let the child have fun choosing what they want to do and then write and illustrate a book of their very own.  (Why not scan a copy of this book and share it with family and friends and the author?   Or send me a copy.  I’d love to see how some of these suggestions are used by you and your child(ren).)
  • Make a book of transportation.  In this book the pigeon wanted to drive a bus so begin with a bus and then think about other ways of going from one place to another.  Include everything from walking to flying, running to sailing, riding in a car to crawling.  Perhaps you can make a scrapbook with photographs of your child doing the various things like walking, skipping, running, etc.  Take other pictures of your child in a car, bus, bicycle, etc.  This is a project that can grow with the child and maybe will never be fully finished but can still be updated for many years to come.  (Sure, this will embarrass your teenaged child but when that same child is an adult they will be delighted to see this book and maybe be reminded of something they have yet to do.)
  • If you live in a city that has a public transportation system, plan a bus trip to somewhere new.  Together look at a bus schedule and map and show your child where you will begin your bus trip and count the number of stops between there and your destination.  Be sure to talk about etiquette rules like letting people get off the bus before climbing aboard. 
  • If you don’t live where there is public transportation, why not take an imaginary trip to a family member who lives in another city or state?  For instance, a lot of Rob’s family live in Kentucky while most of my family lives in New York and New Jersey.  Using a map, find the cities where different family members live and plan an imaginary trip there and back or even from one family member’s home to another.  How much would it cost to take the trip there and home again?  How much time will it take?  If you go to more than one place, have your child use math skills to calculate the cost.  Be sure to suggest that longer trips will also require having food packed or extra money to buy food on the journey.  
Book she also liked very much.


My First Words at HOME from Star Bright Books
This book is available in a bilingual Spanish/English version but the version I read was only in English.  Darn.  I am a strong believer in starting a second language early.  This is a simple book full of brightly colored pages.  The first four pages show things your child might find in your kitchen although some of the things may be a little more obscure in some homes than in others.  I don’t know that most people have a scale in their kitchen (we do) but that doesn’t mean your child can’t recognize a picture of a scale.   Other things include a cookie jar, refrigerator, colander, apron, dustpan, and rolling pin.  The next four pages have photographs of things found in a living room.  Then other rooms—such as a bedroom, bathroom—as well as a few pages for the back yard.  I don’t know if it was the simple design of the white pages with items on it or what but Bibi asked for this one to be read to her more than once as well.

For Further Exploration
  • Some of the things in one room may be found in another room.  For instance, the book says a phone is in the kitchen but your phone may be located in another room.  And the outlet in the book’s living room can be found in all sorts of other rooms.  Hunt for some of these things in your own home.
  • Count how many of each thing is in one room.  How many outlets?  How many chairs?  How many lamps?  How many plants?  Then count how many doors there in the house.  How many light switches?  Etc.  For the early mathematician, try adding up one room with another.  If one room has 2 outlets and another room has 1, how many outlets are in both rooms?
  • Make word labels for some of the things in a room and put a little double sided tape (or a loop of tape) on the back and make a game of taking the labels and taping them to the different things around the house.  Or, if you want to make this game re-usable, don’t use any tape and just put the label close to the object.  (Post-It © notes can also be used but won’t last very long.)
  • Try mixing up the labels and putting them on the wrong item and then have your child put them where they belong. 
  • Take a photo scavenger hunt and take pictures of the different things in a room and create your own picture book using your own things.  Use the labels you made to head each page.  Create a furniture scrapbook and add to it as your child gets older, from crib to first bed to older bed, etc.  (You can also do this with the homes of family who live nearby or even far away and collect pictures of different things your child would find in a grandparent’s home or an aunt’s home or even a relative’s home who lives far away.  Why not ask your family members to take a picture of their bed or desk and send it to you?  Be sure to send a thank you note from you and your child.)
  • Make a set of cards the same size as the labels and put photographs of the different things onto the new cards.  Have the child match the word with the picture.  (These can be stored in a file folder or manila envelope.) 
  • Have your child cut photographs out of magazines or store catalogues of different pieces of furniture.  Collect these and when you have enough sort them in different ways.  Find all of the red things or things you sit on or things you would find in a bedroom.  You can also do this with the cards you make if you made, especially if your family helped you by adding photographs from things in their own homes. 

Book she didn't like enough to sit through.


It’s a Big World Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi
I have a feeling that Bibi is too young for this book because she was not the least bit interested in my reading it to her.  I can’t say I blame her.  Sometimes when she is not interested in my reading a book to the very end, I still go back and read it when I’m alone.  Perhaps because I found the story engaging enough or liked the illustrations and wanted to keep exploring.   I was not immediately drawn to finish the book.  In fact, a few days passed before I picked it up to finish it.  The story is cute and the images work very well with the content.  I think that if Bibi were older or interested in ice skating, I would have had a hard time tearing her away from this book.  Or perhaps if she loved pigs as much as my mother does.  A portion of the  proceeds for this book goes to Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation.  And although I wasn’t blown away by the book and Bibi wasn’t swept away either, I did think of some ways I would build upon the content.  (Note to Parents:  I would recommend you read this book through before trying to read it to the child.  Some of the greetings won't be easy for non-multi-lingual readers and you may want to practice saying these phrases so you can read them more smoothly.)

For Further Exploration
  • There are many books about pigs, from The Three Little Pigs to Charlotte’s Web.  Why not read several books about pigs, both fictional and factual.  Watch pig themed movies as well including Babe and Charlotte’s Web.  Even small children can enjoy novels when you read one chapter an evening.  This also helps develop attention spans as children have to remember from one day to the next what previously happened in the story.
  • In the book, Poppy goes to Paris.  Using a map or a globe, trace Poppy’s trip for New York City to Paris, France.  Poppy also makes friends from all over the world.  Try to find a city or place that begins with the letter P in each of these other countries and see how far away from Paris these friends live.  Maybe even plan an around-the-world trip for Poppy as she goes to visit each of her friends.
  • Using blank post cards or 5x7 index cards, have your child make their own travel postcards.  They can either pretend they went to a far off country, like Poppy, or they can draw a picture of places they go closer to home—like school, the park, the library.  Have your child dictate or write a note to a relative who lives far away and mail it.  Hopefully the relative will send a card back.
  • With your child, plan a trip to Paris, France.  Make a list together of the places you would want to see and the things you would want to do.  Plan on where you will stay and what you will eat.  (Many restaurants now have their menus online.) 
  • Why not spend the day eating French foods?  Have a croissant for breakfast and some French Onion Soup (or even French Garlic Soup) for lunch.  For dinner, a quiche and salad.  And of course, don’t forget a dessert.  Perhaps a plate of small petit fours or an éclair or Napoleon would end the day right.  Be sure to listen to some French music while enjoying your meal.
  • For older children, watch a French foreign film.  Cocteau’s La Belle et le Bête was a personal favorite of mine when I was growing up.  Other classics include The Three Musketeers, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Cyrano de BergeracFor younger children, you might prefer to watch Beauty and the Beast, which has several French terms sprinkled throughout. 
  • Poppy learns many ways to say hello in the book but there are many more languages out there so why not learn different ways to greet people in different countries?  Write these words onto Post-It notes and put the appropriate greeting on a map of the country.  Try to have at least one greeting on every page of your family atlas.
  • Visit the official website for the Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower, and anywhere else you and your child would imagine Poppy and her parents went while in Paris.  Many museums now offer “virtual tours” on their websites.  If you’re fortunate enough to live near a city where an exhibit from the Louvre is scheduled, be sure to take your child with you to the local museum.  But, if you’ve never been, don’t forget to “always dream” of someday going to the Louvre for yourselves.

If you have further suggestions for exploration, please leave a comment because someone else may be reading who wants more ideas.  Needless to say, my suggestions are not meant to be exhaustive.  But it is my hope that the ideas will allow a picture book to grow with your child and years or even decades from now it will still be there on a shelf, perhaps being shared and loved by a grandchild or two.

(This post and future Bibi Bookshelf posts are a part of my participating in the Illustrated Year Challenge.)

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