Monthly Archives: April 2008

Baby! Baby!

So many board books are just wrong—adaptations of popular selling books with too much text or ooey-gooey parent sensibilities. Friends, board books have a distinct place in the children’s literature canon and “Baby! Baby!” (Random House, $6.99) has earned its place. Why? Because author Vicky Ceelen has taken a very simple concept and conveyed it in photographs. It will be mesmerizing to babies and toddlers and a lot of fun for mom and dad, too. All Ceelen does is present a variety of baby expressions and poses and pair them with an animal in a similar pose. The typical newborn with legs curled up really does look like a frog when you think about it. There is striking symmetry between a child and a chimp trying to fit all fingers and maybe a whole hand into their mouths. Small children love to look at photographs of people and they adore animals. This one will be requested, studied, and chewed on, just as a board book should be!

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Baby Brains and RoboMom

Simon James’ Baby Brains and RoboMom (Candlewick, $15.99) is a delightful ‘be careful what you wish for’ scenario for uber-moms and dads. Mom and dad did everything right with their baby while in utero and now that he’s born he’s a baby genius! Their little darling begins inventing while in diapers, but soon sees that motorized strollers and electric baby rockers are less than ideal for an exhausted mom and dad. So he invents them a robomom. At first all is well as robomom washes the car, prepares the meals and bathes Baby Brains. But the life of a busy mom is even too much for this mechanical miracle. Soon the Brains family is having nuts and bolts with engine oil for breakfast, Baby Brains is dunked into the dishwater and hung out to dry on the laundry line. “I want my mommy!” says Baby Brains. Moral of the story: there’s nothing that can replace a mother’s tender love. Darling illustrations and lovely interplay with the text. It’s got a sophisticated premise, so might tender older, striving readers


.

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Mrs. Biddlebox

Woohoo! It’s Poetry Month. Just my humble opinion, but nobody does poetry like Harcourt. You see lovely poetry books from other publishers, but this is a publisher that seems to have a nose for lilting rhymes, playful, tummy-tickling, rollicking, good-time rhymes. Ferocious free verse. Just great stuff. Sigh. We’ve had quite a week here in Michigan: snow, hail and rain have pelted the adventurous spring buds. That inspired me to re-read Mrs. Biddlebox, Her Bad Day and What She Did About It! (Harcourt, $15) by Linda Smith. “On a grubby little hill, in a dreary little funk, Mrs. Biddlebox rolled over on the wrong side of her bunk.” Poor Mrs. Biddlebox. It looks as gray outside as newly paved cement and she’s just in a horrible mood—can’t you relate? But unlike the rest of us, who simply mutter, what can you do when you live in Michigan/Portland/Buffalo/Toledo? Mrs. Biddlebox decides to be proactive. “I will cook this rotten morning! I will turn it into cake! I will fire up my oven! I will set the day to bake!” Marla Frazee channels grumpy dumpy Mrs. Biddlebox with illustrator’s elan. Sometimes it just pleasing to be in a bad mood. Find more great books from Harcourt at http://www.harcourtbooks.com/childrensbooks/

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Tikki Tikki Tembo

Here’s one from the vault. I can still almost remember this name by heart from childhood readings (I was tempted to put a Ricky Ticky Tavi on the front at first). Tikki tikki Tembo (Square Fish, 6.95) by Arlene Mosel is not the full name of the first and honored son of his Chinese parents. No, his full name is Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo. The second son’s name is Chang. When Chang falls into the well, it’s no big deal. His older brother runs to find help to get Chang out. But when Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo falls into the well, Chang must get that mouthful out to his most honorable mother as well as the old man with the ladder…well, it almost undoes the child. The suspense both visual and narrative, the delightful illustrations and the ability of kids to chant with urgency Tikki’s long long name, make this book a winner. First published in 1968, Square Fish is devoted to re-issuing titles from backlists of MacMillan’s imprints: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers and Roaring Brook Press. Wonderful authors like William Steig, Polly Horvath, George Selden, Natalie Babbitt. Oh my. Visit them on the web and start drooling: http://us.macmillan.com/squarefish.aspx

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