Today I Read…I Like Myself!

Image result for i like myself karen beaumontToday I read I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, and illustrated by David Catrow.

I like myself. I like my insides and my outsides and what I think and what I do. I like who I am, when I’m silly or creative or messy or quiet or wild or calm. I like me!

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I know I’ve been reviewing a lot of picture books lately, but a) I seem to have a lot of small children in my life who need new books lately (all small children need new books), and b) you all seem to like these reviews a lot more, based on new likes and followers whenever I post reviews of picture books compared to posts about anything else.

I found this book at the book store while I was searching for a first birthday gift for Second Niece, cousin to Tiny Niece and Giant Nephew. (Still working on a better name for Second Niece.) I like Karen Beaumont and David Catrow–I’ve previously reviewed their collaboration I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More. It’s a very positive message about self-esteem and being who you are, and liking it. And kids will laugh at things like polka-dot lips, pig snouts, and giant warthog tusks. The little girl in the book is creative and active, roller-blading, pretending to be a rocket ship, and riding a bicycle worthy of Dr. Suess. It’s a good book for very casual diversity as well–the little girl is black, though it isn’t directly relevant to the story, but one particular picture has her waking up in bed with truly wild natural hair, about four times bigger than she is. It is powerful to have that image paired with the lines “Even when I look a mess, I still don’t like me any less,” since I know there are still controversies about attitudes towards natural black hair. This isn’t a new book by any means, as it was published in 2004, but this is still a great lesson I would like to have Second Niece (and Tiny Niece and Giant Nephew too) grow up knowing. After all, I like her an awful lot, she should like herself too.

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Today I Read…Chicken Butt!

Image result for chicken butt erica perlToday I read Chicken Butt! by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole.

Hey Dad, guess what?

What?

CHICKEN BUTT!

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I borrowed this book from the library and read it to Tiny Niece. Big mistake…she LOVED it! Pretty sure it’s because it says the word “butt” and right now toilet jokes are the height of humour to her, but to be fair she’s four. (And maybe I was hoping she’d like it and drive her parents nuts with saying “chicken butt! chicken butt!” over and over again. Being an auntie is the best revenge you can get on your siblings.) The next time I saw her, she asked me to read it again, but I had to tell her that I had returned it to the library. So Tiny Niece looks up at me with those big blue eyes and says “Auntie, will you buy the book for me?”

You know what really works? Asking a librarian for a book. She’s a clever one, my Tiny Niece. And she’s starting Senior Kindergarten, so that totally counts as a present-giving occasion, right? And books are educational, so it’s not like spoiling her and buying her something she asked for for no reason….Yes, I’m justifying, and yes she’s getting the book.

It is an entertaining read, using a callback formula, where the child asks the father questions and the dad responds. Any caregiver will be familiar with the endless joke “Guess what?” “What?” “Guess what?” “What?” “Guess-” “OK, does this joke ever end? Not if a toddler is telling it. The illustrations of Dad’s face will amuse the adult reader, as he starts off indulgent and gradually gets visibly tired of the joke, but the son still thinks it’s hilarious. The vocabulary is simple enough that the adult can read the dad’s part, and the child can read the son’s part, to read together, or this would be a great read aloud, either with a partner or with audience participation. The illustrations are great, full-page and bright, and the facial expressions are especially well-done.

The only question is, how much will my sister and her husband want to kill me when Tiny Niece starts chanting “CHICKEN BUTT! CHICKEN BUTT! CHICKEN BUTT!” at the top of her lungs? Oh well, they lived through Giant Nephew loving Toot, so they’ll just have to endure Chicken Butt too.

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Today I Read…Everyone Loves Bacon

Image result for everybody loves bacon kelly dipucchioToday I read Everyone Loves Bacon written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Eric Wight.

Bacon is pretty great. He’s funny, and talented, and he smells nice, and everybody loves him. Except French Toast, because French Toast doesn’t like anyone. But some people like Bacon a little too much…

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This one is destined to be part of the birthday gift for the Trickster Baby, as well as Do NOT Open This Book. I bought it because bacon, which I maintain is a reason in and of itself. I rather enjoy this bacon renaissance we live in, and all fo the bacony goodness it has produced. The Bacon Sundae I’ve tried was actually pretty good, though the Bacon Potato Chips were a little disappointing. Adults who love bacon will find this picture book hilarious. Children, well…if they understand the twist at the end, it is actually kinda dark. At least, it is for bacon. I think you can guess what happens when someone really loves bacon? And it’s breakfast time? The illustrations are charming, of the other foods who love Bacon, and the diner they live in. Special shout-out to the Canadian Bacon in the toque who wonders why he isn’t loved as much as Bacon, since I am Canadian–sorry, CB, but you’re in an American diner and they just don’t understand you the way we do up North. I’d read this to older kids, around grades 1-2, who get why the ending is funny, because everyone really does love Bacon.

Hm, I wonder what’s in the fridge…

Today I Read…Do NOT Open This Book

Image result for do not open this book andy leeToday I read Do NOT Open This Book written by Andy Lee, and illustrated by Heath McKenzie.

Look, this is really simple. Don’t open this book. Just put it down and go read something else. It’s nice out, don’t you want to play outside? No? How about…a puppy! Yes, if you go outside right now, a puppy will be waiting for you!…A puppy with ICE CREAM!…Look, I’m begging you, stop turning the pages or else something really awful is going to happen…Stop, please…Oh no!…

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I love interactive picture books, especially ones like this where the adult reading it can really make it a performance. I ADORED The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak when I first discovered it at an OLA Super Conference a few years ago, and so did every class I read it to at my elementary school as soon as I bought a copy. This book I found at the bookstore as I was hunting for a gift for the first birthday of a friend’s child, and given how contrary the father can be, I had to get this one. (Seriously, if the world falls to a trickster/evil overlord in about 20 years, it’s going to be this kid, so might as well start buttering him up early.)

The premise is about, as is obvious from the title, a blue monster who begs the reader not to open the book, and then to stop turning the pages, or something terrible will happen (I won’t spoil it by telling you what). He rants and he raves and he begs and he tricks, but the pages just. keep. TURNING. The lettering is great, and keeps changing font size and some bits are all capitalized to add emphasis while Blue Monster is speaking , which is useful both for when the adult is performing the book for a child audience, and to use to teach learning readers about voice and emphasis. The illustrations are clean and charming, mostly of Blue Monster himself in various poses and emotions as he pleads for the turning to end.  This book is simple yet entertaining. Hmm, I wonder if I should go pick up another copy for Tiny Niece and her brother Giant Nephew. I mean, it’s not spoiling if it’s books, right?

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Today I Read… My Dad Used to Be So Cool 

Image result for my dad used to be coolToday I Read My Dad Used to Be So Cool written and illustrated by Keith Negley.

My dad used to be so cool. He was in a band! And he had a motorcycle and tattoos and I bet he had so much fun. Now all he does laundry, and he vacuums, and he ties my shoelaces, and he takes me to the park. I wonder what happened?

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I found this picture book at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May (yes, I think it’s obvious that I’m behind on posting). The author also wrote Tough Guys Have Feelings Too, which I also really liked, about how men in stereotypical male jobs like superheroes and firefighters have emotions that they can express. However, since I saw these before Father’s Day, obviously I had to get copies to troll my brothers in law.

This is a cute picture book, all about the kid musing on how his dad used to be a really cool rock star, and he doesn’t understand what changed to make his dad so boring. Through the art, we see dad taking care of his son and the home. The drum set is in the closet, the skateboard is on the wall, the motorcycle is for sale. We also see a big pull out spread of Kid and Dad playing at the park, chasing each other all over the playground, and then finally wading out into the water together. Maybe dad is still a little bit cool. But then he rocks out in the car,  which is SO EMBARRASSING! This is a nice representation of dad being perfectly  competent at taking care of his home and child, and showing that dad may still have tattoo sleeves from when he was younger but they have no bearing on his ability to nurture. It’s a nice demonstration of a step away from traditional gender roles, showing a more modern family. We don’t know if he’s a single dad, or if mom is away at work, or if there’s a second dad away at work, or what the rest of the family looks like, and it doesn’t matter. Dads do not always have to be the incompetent buffoon whose mistakes mom has to fix, and they don’t have to be the one who can fix your bike but not your sandwich, and it’s nice to see that sometimes.

Still gonna troll my brothers in law and tell them they can remind my nieces and nephew of when their dads used to be cool though. After all, what else is family for?

Today I Read…My First Book of Girl Power and Batman’s Hero Files

my-first-book-of-girl-powerToday I read My First Book of Girl Power and DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files by Billy Wrecks, illustrated by Erik Doescher.

Girls are strong and smart and brave and kind. They can be heroes! Come and learn about some of the DC Super Heroines.

And: Batman likes to know everything. He keeps files on all of the Super Friends and their special Super Powers. Let’s read his files together!

Tiny Niece has started to like Superman and Batman, and as her Nerdy Auntie I feel it is my duty to encourage this. Especially Superman, who is better than Batman. But as her Feminist Nerdy Auntie, I really want her to know some of the female super heroes–Batgirl and Supergirl and Wonder Woman, who don’t have the same overwhelming amount of merchandise as the boys do. I deliberately went looking for some books featuring the female super heroes (and maybe bought some of the DC Super Hero Girls dolls, which are pretty cute and bend better than Barbie). But books with the girl heroes are actually pretty hard to find. There was one book I looked at that had 4 stories about Marvel’s Avengers, and in those 4 stories the only female character mentioned by name was Pepper Potts. And she had to be rescued. And there was one drawing of a random female bystander who also had to be rescued. Now, there have been tons of female Avengers over the years, and even the movies have Black Widow (although not my Black Widow movie, I wants it, I wants it, where is my Black Widow movie?!?) But there is nary a girl to be found in the board books and early readers I was looking at, at Chapters and the independent comic store. And as much as I enjoy the DC Super Hero Girls, it’s really aimed at an older age group than my Tiny Niece, who is just turning 4. The rare books that do include a girl hero, the ratio is usually about 1 girl character for every 5-6 boy characters. I wanted a book with a fair ratio of girl to boy characters. I ended up getting this book, which is only about girl heroes, and an early reader DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files. That one has Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, with Wonder Woman and Batgirl (Supergirl not included). And there are at least pictures of Catwoman and Cheetah, though none of the villains are named.

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They’re both good books, which describe the various hero’s powers. Girl Power is a board book, and it only has a maximum of about 3 sentences per page. The language is fairly advanced, and it’s more for an adult to read to a child. Batman’s Hero Files is a reader, intended for children who are learning to read on their own, so it uses basic vocabulary and short sentences, although I’m not sure who decided ‘indestructible’ is basic vocabulary. And I do like that Girl Power emphasizes that being smart and brave and kind are qualities as worthy of praise as being strong. Hawkgirl is posed with her mace, but her description talks about her healing abilities. Batgirl likes to read books and program computers. Mera likes to explore new places. It would be nice if they included some heroines of colour–at least Batman’s Hero Files feature a black Green Lantern and Cyborg, but I guess I’ll have to be happy with baby steps of representation.

So yes, I absolutely have an agenda regarding promoting super heroes to Tiny Niece. I love superheroes. I love stories about people who try to save the world. But I want Tiny Niece to grow up to realize that she can be a superhero too, and not have to always be rescued.

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Today I Read…Toot and No No Yes Yes

Today I read No No Yes Yes and Toot, written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli. She is the same artist who illustrated the Mini Myths books by Joan Holub, which my Tiny Niece adores, so I was really interested in checking out her writing as well. These two in particular are going to be part of the Christmas present for Tiny Niece and her younger brother Giant Nephew.

Normally I summarize books in these reviews, but the titles pretty much summarize them for me. Toot is about, well, tooting. Because fart jokes are hilarious to the under 5 crowd. I fully anticipate this will be a big hit with the kids when I pull it out and read it to them on Christmas Day. Their parents may be somewhat less thrilled, but hey, isn’t the point of gifts for your nieces and nephews to annoy your siblings? I’m pretty sure that’s the purpose of noisy battery-driven toys. And while this book isn’t battery operated, it does provide the chance to make sound effects. Toot! In all seriousness, it is also good for normalizing bodily functions, and it does point out that everybody toots, even mommies and daddies and doggies. Though there is still some question about whether Fishy toots.

No No Yes Yes straddles that fine line between providing useful instruction and giving kids bad ideas. I’m sure that the scenarios in the book will all be very familiar to anyone with a toddler in their life. The language is as simple as possible, and can be used for teaching opposites as well as proper behaviour. For each double-page spread, one page is a ‘no no’ activity, like drawing on the walls, pulling kitty’s tail, and putting your toys in the potty. The opposing page has a corresponding ‘yes yes’ acceptable activity, like drawing on paper, petting kitty nicely, and pooping in the potty. Hey, toilet jokes are the next step up from fart jokes. Since Giant Nephew just hit the Terrible Twos, I’m hoping that this book might help a bit, especially the “no no” page for hitting other kids with a toy hammer. Even if it does make a funny “thunk!” sound.

I love the illustration style, simple and bright, with the same non-gendered protagonist. These two are my favourites, but Patricelli has a whole series of board books. Here’s hoping that Giant Nephew loves them as much as Tiny Niece loved Play Nice Hercules and Be Patient Pandora. Well, maybe not quite so much, reading the same book 6 times in a row is enough, right? Right? Tiny Niece, can Auntie read a different books ye–no, no she can’t. Ok sweetie.

Oh , The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-goSo David Gerrold, who will have “Creator of Tribbles” on his gravestone, has a Kickstarter project for a Star Trek version of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!  That’s pretty much all I needed to hear. There’s not much in the description or the video, but the concept alone caught me, as two of the best things ever mashed together become something even greater. You know, like how peanut butter and chocolate make Reese’s Cups. As of this time, it is fully funded so it will be made, but there’s still 9 more days for people to get their orders in before the campaign is over. Ty Templeton has mocked up covers for two of Gerrold’s other books, The World of Star Trek and The Trouble with Tribbles, and to be honest I would probably buy all three if they really were all picture books. A Seussical picture book telling the story of The Trouble with Tribbles? Perfection! Unfortunately, I think they are just covers for existing books, but maybe a series? Huh guys? Seriously, there are alien species in Star Trek just begging to be Seussized. Seussised? Seussinated? Suessed? Not sure about the grammar here, but I’d be willing to work on it if it means more of these adorable books.

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Today I Read…If You’re a Monster and You Know It

If You're a Monster and You Know ItToday I read If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley.

If you’re a monster and you know it, show it! Snort and growl, smack your claws, stomp your paws, twitch your tail, give a ROAR! Show everyone what a great monster you are! And then do it all again!

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I found this book in the public library while I was looking for a story to read for a job interview. It didn’t end up being the one I used, but it was a strong contender. It’s a monster version of If You’re Happy and You Know It, using Ed Emberley’s distinctive, creative, and brightly coloured illustrations. I wish I’d had this one at the school I was working at last year– I had some trouble finding a Hallowe’en story for the kindergarteners that was short and holiday-themed and not at all scary (some of the parents didn’t approve of witches or monsters or ghosts, which makes it really hard to pick a good Hallowe’en story). The monsters in this book are bizarre but more funny than scary, and younger children would have fun dancing along to the actions in the song. You could also use this as part of a library program and include a craft, by getting kids to draw their own monsters or to cut out different monster body parts from construction paper and get kids to glue them together however they want, to make a real monster mash. Tentacles and claws and extra eyes, oh my!

This book is a real family project–Ed Emberley did the illustrations, his daughter Rebecca Emberley wrote the words, and her daughter Adrian Emberley recorded a sung version which can be downloaded for free from Scholastic here.

 

Today I Read…Dinosaur vs

DInosaur vs SchoolToday I read three of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs books, Dinosaur vs School, Dinosaur vs the Library, and Dinosaur vs Bedtime.

Dinosaur likes to ROAR! Dinosaur is the best at ROARING! But what about when Dinosaur has to do things and NOT ROAR? Can he do it?

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This is a great series for the kindergarten and under set. The words are simple and repetitive, mostly variations of “Dinosaur vs *something*”and “Dinosaur wins!” Dinosaur stories are always a safe bet for little ones–they’re pretty much universally adored by small children, boys and girls, and Bob Shea’s colourful illustrations are great. And these books are terrific for story time because you get to ROAR along with Dinosaur! Currently there are 6 in the series, Dinosaur vs Bedtime, Dinosaur vs the Potty, Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur vs Santa, Dinosaur vs School, and Dinosaur vs Mommy. They’re good books for teaching behaviour. For example, in Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur has fun roaring at lots of things, but he has to use his “inside roar” (great phrase!)  when he’s in the library, and then he can’t roar at all during story time. But if he doesn’t roar during the story, then everyone can hear it so they all win!

Dinosaur vs the Library

The layout of the books is well set up for increasing excitement when reading aloud. There are usually 4 pages devoted to each thing that Dinosaur roaring against. A right-hand set up page saying “Dinosaur versus…”, and then you have to turn the page to see what he is up against, such as meeting new friends, talking grown-ups, or a shy turtle. The accompanying right-hand page shows the reaction of whatever he is roaring about, and then you turn the page again to the next left-page to see that “Dinosaur wins!” It means that when you read it’s easy to build up mini-climaxes and increase the tension before you turn the page.

Just remember, not even Dinosaur can defeat Bedtime!

Roar, roar, snore…
DInosaur vs Bedtime