Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rereading and Reviewing The Read-Aloud Handbook - Chapter 7: The Print Climate in the Home, School and Library

Chapter 7 of The Read-Aloud Handbook is about "the print climate" at home, and at the end of the day, it's the reason I collect children's books so passionately. It's also the reason I love Jen's latest post about setting up a reading nook for your kids! And why I'm always drawn back to Read-Aloud Dad's post about the "benefits" of boredom.

This chapter convinced me that one of the greatest gifts I can give my kid is "books on hand." For all those hours of the day when nothing is scheduled, let the default entertainment be a book. (There are disadvantages to this plan, however: A major source of disarray in this house is books scattered everywhere all the time. Oh well.)

Anyway, in this chapter, Trelease outlines the ways that living in a book oasis or a book desert effects the intellectual nourishment or starvation of entire populations and certainly specific children. He writes, "The last two decades of research...unmistakably connect access to print with high reading scores and, conversely, lack of access with lower scores."

And here's a quote from literacy activist David Mazor that hits home with me every time: "I live in this community [Amherst, Mass.] where we have all these books that no one's read since junior was in fourth grade. So out they go to the yard sale go the books on a weekend. If nobody buys them, they get thrown out. It's like having all these oil wells in your backyard. 'What a nuisance! How are we going to get rid of all this excess oil?' Books in affluent homes don't get reread or worn out." I find this to be so very true. I come across the most amazing books in the most amazing condition, and they are invariably inscribed with gift dedications to little children from doting aunties or grandmas. The book lay fallow and unread for five or so years, and then was quietly sent to Goodwill. These books are in virtually new condition and at $1 each, I wouldn't dream of passing them up. Trash to treasure and all that.

The most important section of this chapter, however, is the rain-gutter bookshelves suggestion. Basically: Display books with the covers out, which appeals to kids much more strongly than barely readable spines. Pinterest exists to show you a million fantastic examples of rain-gutter bookshelves or the trendy new Ikea-spice-rack bookshelves alternative. The spice-rack thing is totally on my list for next time I hit the labrynthine nightmare that is Ikea, but I'm not braving that store just for spice racks!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Illustrations from Tales & Legends, Golden Treasure Chest

I try not to be an illustration junkie, because I have waaaaay too many random hobbies as it is, not to mention that illustration is not really the focus of this blog, but this book was too interesting not to scan. Here are some selections from the Tales and Legends volume of the Golden Treasure Chest set edited by Bryna and Louis Untermeyer (Golden Press book number 15602). There's so much imagination and diverse inspiration in this book that it's a little dazzling!

Evil stepsisters, evil stepmother, cute kitty, Cinderella. As the kids on the Internet would say: "HATERS GOTTA HATE." Illustration by Gordon Laite.

Bluebeard and Mrs. Bluebeard, illustration by Kanako Tanabe.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, illustration by Seymour Chwast

Image from Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamb, illustration by Lowell Hess
Image of the evil queen and her mirror, from "Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs," illustration by Sheilah Beckett.

Cover of the Golden Treasure Chest, Tales and Legends, edited by Bryna and Louis Untermeyer.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Joe Kaufman's Big Book About Earth and Space

Joe Kaufman's Big Book About Earth and Space - Golden Book 16845 - Published 1987.
So after I discovered Joe Kaufman's Big Book About Things Work, I decided (in the interests of the child's future STEM education, of course) that I had to have his other "big" science books. I got our scanner set up (whee!), so here are some selections from his Big Book About Earth & Space, which was originally published as Joe Kaufman's About the big sky, about the high hills, about the rich earth...and the deep sea.

It's basically a combination earth science and astronomy book, and the topics covered are: Early ideas about our world, the stars, the planets, the sun, the moon, the earth, gravity, energy from the sun, the air or atmosphere, the weather, weather instruments, clouds, lightning, thunder, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, the seasons, climate, plains, plateaus, hills, mountains, mountain climbing, trees, forests, jungles, deserts, the polar zones, moving continents, earthquakes, volcanoes, underground, caves, rocks, minerals, crystals, water, the oceans, seashores, rivers and lakes, ponds, bays, streams and the Future (featuring, of course, Kaufman's trademark future people wearing personal antennas).

Life without gravity looks way more fun, yes?

This 1970s weatherman has such character.

There's waaaay too much going on this illustration, but the energy and whismy (and the emo animals) are a good example of Kaufman's overall illustration style.

In addition to How Things Work, Human Body and Earth & Space, I've found Joe Kaufman's Big Book About Mammals and Birds and Joe Kaufman's Slimy, Creepy, Crawly Creatures, which covers invertebrates, insects, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Are there any other Kaufman books out there that you've enjoyed? Inquiring minds want to know!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Music to Learn By: Classical Music for Ensmartening Your Child

Here's another one. Someone suggested Smart-Wiring Your Baby's Brain as an adequate, less-expensive substitute for Bright from the Start, and that person was wrong, but as the world's most musically ignorant person, I really appreciated their list of recommended classical music. No one still really adheres to the idea that Mozart inherently improves brain function, but (a) it can't hurt, (b) early exposure to all the arts has to be brain-building on some level, (c) I had no idea before this list what would be a good idea to share with the kid!

So anyway, this is page one and this is page two of Winifred Conkle's classical music selections for your small person.

Child Labor! AKA Practical Life Tips

I'm clearing out some books and scanning key pages that I wanted to save even though I didn't love the whole book. First up, the list of age-appropriate chores from Barbara Curtis' Small Beginnings book. I haven't seen anything like this elsewhere, but I'm finding that developmentally targeted lists (of books, chores, activities, projects) are invaluable. You can work out the pace yourself, but you know which age to target.

Anyway, here's the list of age-appropriate chores, part one (age 1.5 to 4) and here's list of age-appropriate chores, part two (age 5 to 10). Enjoy. :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012


The Gessell Institute book about two-year-olds says that handedness may not be defined until age three, but over the past few weeks I've become virtually certain that Jackson is a righty. Both of us are righties so it makes sense, but my middle brother is a leftie born of two right-handed parents, so it can always be a surprise.

I'm mostly interested in what this means about his "brainedness," i.e. will he be more noticeably "left-brained" because he is right-handed? I think I've noticed a certain asymmetry in myself--my right side is physically overdeveloped compared to my left, and I'm not great at typical "right-brain" activities. 

I'm hopeful I do a better job on J than I did on myself in terms of integrating his "sides." When he was a baby I was supposed to do "crossing the midline" activities with him and I never did, but hopefully at the ripe old age of (almost) two it's not too late!

Further reading: Wikipedia's lateralization of brain function article

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bookmark This: Chit-Chat Checklist

There's nothing I love more than a good developmental checklist (except maybe a good recommended reading list), so I love that Pennsylvania researchers have compiled a list of the 25 words most commonly used by two-year-olds. The average two-year-old has between 75 and 225 words, but these are the first 25 words that emerge first (on average; as always with kids, YMMV). Jackson has all of these words, and I think they were all among his first words except for cookie, eye and nose, which came later. We may or may not have a second kid, but if we do, I love that this list exists as a resource!

  • all gone
  • baby
  • ball
  • banana
  • bath
  • bye bye
  • book
  • car
  • cat
  • cookie
  • daddy
  • dog
  • eye
  • hat
  • hello/hi
  • hot
  • juice
  • milk
  • mommy
  • more
  • no
  • nose
  • shoe
  • thank you
  • yes

Friday, March 9, 2012

Used Book Report: More ValueTales & Old-Timey Astronomy

Man, there's a new dollar-a-book used book emporium near our house (housed in the old Borders space at the Howard Hughes Center) and I am going to get in truh-buhl if I go there to much. Towit:

Ahhh! I found 12 ValueTales in great condition. I love these ridiculous old things. To this day I'm weirdly obsessed with  diplomat and early United Nations leader Ralph Bunche because of the ValueTales book about his life. I know explicit morality plays are wildly out of fashion, but I think they're harmless at worst (the kids will figure out morals in all the usual ways, this is just reinforcement!) and kind of educational at best, so I was delighted to find these values-based biographies for the stockpile in the garage.
I also snagged four Bright & Early books for our collection, including the out-of-print The King, The Mice & The Cheese from the wonderful, underappreciated Eric Gurney. I think the New Tricks I Can Do is one of those suspicious exploitative sequels, but eh, what the hell...
Two Anno books for a few years from now, a Random House Pictureback about harbors and waterfronts (we love trucks and ships around here), a new vintage Richard Scarry (i.e. a typical Scarry compilation repurposing lots of existing familiar material), Ask Mr. Bear (which came recommended for this age group in one of those Gessell Institute books, plus we love Marjorie Flack from Ping and Angus; as it turns out: it's great and/or already a family fave!), and another Emberley monster book since we love Big Green Monster so much.
Larry Sanger recommended the Oxford Picture Dictionary so this was a nice find. The astronomy book is from 1940 (!) but the text is actually so brief, gentle and open-ended that I only spotted two instances where it's explicitly out of date: plant life on Mars and, of course, Pluto as a planet.  The Countryside book is British/European, but has some really nice interactive nature-study projects that should be applicable here, even if the plants and animals are different.
A bunch of totally random vintage pictures books from the '60s and '70s, including one by a very funny British author named Colin McNaughton, who wrote and illustrated a personal fave of mine: If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs.

The Power of Nothing

As you probably know, I am a talker, and I consider it my duty as an engaged mom to constantly fire-hose my kid with enriching vocabulary and well-enunciated language expansion. But what if we stopped yammering at the kid for a little while?

Last night Andrew proposed an experiment: Let's follow the practices of the (slightly wackadoodle but intriguing) RIE people, and just quietly observe our child from a distance, without interfering and without saying anything. Husband is much better at not engaging than I am--the metaphorical buzzer rang on me a couple times when I was all, "Not on the wedding quilt!" and I couldn't not sign (come on, it's silent!), but overall, we did well, and it was so interesting. We didn't say anything or suggest anything, and we didn't do anything other than follow the kid's directly expressed orders: "Stamps down...Open dis."

Jackson happily entertained himself with little or not assistance from us for well over an hour, and we got a terribly interesting and surprising perspective on our kid. Just listening to his unabridged inner monologue is hilarious. He edits himself with "No" when he knows he's not supposed to do something or that something is wrong, and he's just hilariously happy when he finds a mirror: "Jackson. Hello, hello, hello, Jackson."

Anyway, the highlight that relates to topic of this blog came  when he brought us a copy of Go Dog Go, and said, "Read Dog Go." Andrew mouthed to me, "Let him read it to you." So we let him read Go Dog Go to us, and it was a thrill.

He opened the book and pointed at the"Dog," and said "Dog,"and then he turned the page and pointed at the words "Little dog," and said, "Little dog," and then I pointed at "Big dog," and he said "Big dog." Now, he was by no means reading, but he was associating illustrations and familiar concepts with print. Next he flipped to one of the pages where that poor needy girl dog is always begging for approval asking, "Do you like my hat?" and he pointed at the words "Hello. Hello." and said, "Hello, hello." On the page where the dogs are in the boat at night, he muttered to himself and said, "Night. Dogs. Night." He's not sounding out words, and I don't even think he's necessarily even doing simple sight words, but he does know that certain words happen in a certain order, and that words have a connection to print!

On a related note, we were on a walk recently, and there was a city council candidate's lawn sign for an upcoming municipal election. He walked up to the sign and first announced, "No parking!" (He thinks all signs say "No parking.") And then when I told him that sign said something else, I saw him run his finger under the words and start muttering a bunch of letter sounds to himself. I'm pretty sure that the letter sounds in question had little or nothing to do with the actual words, but he was imitating his buddy Tad from Leap Frog's Talking Words Factory and making sounds in association with letters.


Anyway, the kiddo is in a really fun phase, and we are definitely going to shut the heck up and let him do the talking (and the reading) again soon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Heart PJ Library!

This post is mainly a nudge for any Jewish or half-Jewish mamas out there to join PJ Library, which sends a free book each month to Jewish children from age 0 to 6. We got our first volume this month, and it's the wonderful Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback. Based on an old Yiddish folktale, it's just a fun read with a great moral, and the illustrations are the definition of vibrant. We were sent a special paperback edition produced for the PJ Library readership. This edition includes front and back cover flaps that have additional information placing the story in context, as well as describing in more detail a key Jewish value presented by the book. I'm obviously going to learn as much or more from this process as is Jackson, and I'm so excited.

Another Great Art Book Series for Little Kids: Colleen Carroll's How Artists See Series

I've loved discovering high-quality art books for children because I think that there's no reason they shouldn't start seeing grown-up art at an early age. There's no need for high-level analysis or art history for years to come, but just having these images in their visual memory banks can't hurt and there's no reason to think it won't provide the same kind of vague cognitive benefits as early listening to great works of music.

ANYWAY, I just found another series I love, in addition to the Lucy Mickelthwait and Philip Yenawine books I've recommended in the past. These are by an educator named Colleen Carroll and they're all called "How Artists See _____." Each book contains sixteen works of art, divided into four themes. For example, How Artists See America is divided into West, South, Northeast and Midwest.

At first I thought the books were a little more text-heavy than I preferred, but as I actually read through the first three I found at a library booksale (PeopleAnimals and Weather), I came to really appreciate her thoughtful questions about what techniques the artist used to convey feelings or ideas. She uses a great range of eras and styles, and isn't noticeably repetitive of other children's art books in my collection.

The cover of How Artists See Families uses a relatively recent painting of an American family.

This painting called "First Steps" by Vincent Van Gogh is much sweeter and more wholesome you'd expect. Van Gogh's brand is "genius with violent mental problems" but this is more like one of Mary Cassatt's family images. 
I'll try to post a full title list here soon, but in the meantime, if you spot one of these at a yard sale, grab it!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Joe Kaufman's Big Book About How Things Work

Joe Kaufman's Big Book About How Things Work - front cover

I wasn't even sure what I had in my hands when I found Joe Kaufman's Big Book About How Things Work at Savers in Vegas, but I instantly recognized the style of the book as being the same as the style of my beloved childhood human-body book, which I mentally refer to to this day. Seriously, if you tell me anything about the immune system, I still visualize a bunch of little white blood droplets looking very angry on their way to battle. A little web research reveals that that book, now lost to me, must have been Joe Kaufman's Big Book About the Human Body or the earlier version Joe Kaufman's How We are Born, How We Grow, How Our Bodies Work, and How We Learn.

Anyway, this guy is just so fantastic. There is virtually no information about author-illustrator Joe Kaufman online, but according to the copyright notice inside the book he was born in 1911, so he's either 100 years old or...not. Suffice it to say, this book is just a wonderful, charming and funny introduction to mechanical engineering and gadgets and applied science, and so help me I've learned a lot just in the last 24 hours of owning this book!

No lie, Jackson had his first-ever hissy-fit at the airport when they took his stroller away to put it in the cargo hold. He was bereft, but I whipped out this book (which I was carrying with me because my suitcase full of Savers loot had hit the 50 lb. weight limit), and I showed him this cutaway of a passenger plane, and suddenly he was all better. "Stroller under plane? Stroller under plane."
Elevators and escalators explained, with help from a few 1970s haircuts and outfits. This book was originally published in 1971 as Joe Kaufman's What Makes It Go? What Makes It Work? What Makes It Fly? What Makes It Float? This version is the retitled 1987 reprint. There is still very much the flavor of 1971 in the attitude and illustrations, so I assume it wasn't too dramatically revised.

"Guess which one of these astronauts was the first man to step on the moon?"

Here is the obviously Space Race-influenced introduction to the book:

A NOTE TO PARENTS: This book was designed to help answer one of the most frequently asked questions of childhood--"What makes it work?" It is a basic introduction to the mechanics, and the concepts behind the mechanics, of a variety of appliances, machines, and vehicles. Although it was designed primarily for young readers from six to ten, older children and adults will surely find much to learn and enjoy. In fact, the entire family can share many exciting and rewarding hours studying the great ideas of inventors of the past as they are incorporated into the things we use today. We hope the book will awaken the child's interest in the roles science and technology play in giving us the things we take for granted, and perhaps encourage him to go on to more detailed works in areas of particular interest. It may also be a beginning for those who will one day make the discoveries that lie ahead.

Two young ladies playing dress-up go head-to-head in the great domestic war over electric versus gas stoves.
Look at this cuckoo collection of cuckoo clocks!
Embarrassing confession: At first thought these guys were the Three Stooges, but no, that's Chico, Harpo (on the harp) and Groucho Marx demonstrating three musical instruments. (Tuba, clarinet and harmonica are explained on the next page, with no further assistance from the Marx brothers.)
Example four on the tape recorder uses page: "A tape recorder is useful to international spies...for recording important diplomatic secrets." 
I just think the kaleidoscope images are beautiful, and so precise!
"Oh wow! the FUTURE" pretty much predicts the iPad and ubiquitous personal computing. Joe Kaufman wins!
Joe Kaufman's Big Book About How Things Work - back cover, with a few more cute illustrations

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Used Book Report: Latest from Savers in Vegas

Here are the highlights from my latest trip to Savers in Las Vegas with my mother-in-law.

This 1965 retelling of The Gingerbread Man by Wallace C. Wadsworth, illustrated by Anne Sellers Leaf has supercute vintage illustrations (find the ladybug on almost every page!), and even got a good review from a businessman at the airport who overheard me reading it to Jackson while we waited. ("That's a good story!") The Riddles book is an English translation of a 1991 Czech book by Vaclav Fischer, illustrated by Blank Rojejskova, in a very bright, almost '70s style. Lots of fun and brainstorming to come out of this one!

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, a hardback of Guess How Much I Love You and a book called Feelings by Aliki, the third of which is extremely non-linear and almost a series of oblique, too-canny cartoons about emotions. Looking forward to plumbing the depths of this one.

Seuss writing as LeSieg plus Roy McKie illustrations? Love it, even though I must admit I've never heard of Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog? before. I unreservedly adore The Digging-est Dog, which I've been looking for for ages. It was a childhood fave, and then I was so happily reintroduced to the Perkins-Gurney tag team through Hand Hand Fingers Thumb when Jackson was little(-er). Also, I found two neat Little Golden Books: an early '90s Sesame Street environmental book called From Trash to Treasure by Liza Alexander, and Four Puppies by Anne Heathers, which is about the changing of the seasons as seen by four collie pups.
Under the Bodhi Tree is a pretty illustrated storybook about the life of Siddhartha from the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association; A Little Pigeon Toad is one I have already (love Gwynne's wordplay books!) so this one is for resale; and a Sesame Street counting book called I Can Count to Ten and Back Again by Linda Hayward, since this is going to be numbers-counting year with J.
And last but not least, Snow Lion by David McPhail, and Bicycle Bear, both of which I got on the strength of the Parents Magazine Press brand. And then, last but not least, I was thrilled to come across the adorable and important I Am a Bunny tall book  illustrated by Richard Scarry!

I have one other special treasure from Savers that I need to show you, but it's so fun (for me at least) that it'll get a stand-alone second post. Happy thrifting everything!