Monday, May 23, 2011

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty McDonald

This wonderful classic series for kids may seem a bit dated to parents, but kids continue to love it.  Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the type of woman who fills her home laughter, fun, warm cookies and cold milk. She has a gift for understanding children and loving them despite their faults.  Throughout this series Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle uses humor, magic and just plain common sense to help hapless parents with their unruly children.  Following a strict formula each chapter starts with a problem and ends with the problem solved and the children having happily learned their lesson. Of course, the lessons learned are still applicable today! The audio book, performed by Karen White, is a wonderful choice for the summer--either for some down time at home or in the car.

Note: Yes, these books were written in the fifties and yes, it shows.  All the families are made up of a happily working father and a stay-at-home mother-- each firmly placed in their stereotypical gender roles.  As with all "classic" books there are things readers of today will not agree with or may even find offensive.  Why not take the opportunity to discuss these issues with your children while reading these books?  

Books in the series:
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle-- Illustrated by Hilary Knight. 1947.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic-- Illustrated by Hilary Knight. 1949.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles Farm-- Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. 1954.
Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle-- Illustrated by Hilary Knight. 1957.
Happy Birthday Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Co-authored by Anne MacDonald Canham -- Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 1997.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Audio Books for the Very Young

Audio books for the very young are somewhat difficult because they are usually only about two minutes long. One of the greatest things libraries now offer is the ability to download audio books onto your iPod.  At my local library I could download any of the Pinkalicious books for 14 days. So while they are only a few minutes long each, if you download several they can last for a few car rides.

Additionally, here are a few suggestions for longer CD's:

Animal Tales read by Jim Weiss. Includes: The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Lion and the Mouse, The Rortise and the Hare, The Crow and the Pitcher, City Mouse, Country Mouse, Giggly Biggly and the Invitation, Goat Gets Away, The Cat Who Went to Church, and Canticleer the Rooster

The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky. Read by Jack Prelutsky.  Jack Prelutsky is one of my favorite poets for kids.  He gets that kids like things that are weird, crazy and just don't make any sense!  This is a collection of those wonderful and weird poems for kids.  On you can listen to a three minute sampling of the audio CD.  It sets the poems to music, so it is not technically an audio book.  Prelutsky has several other poetry collections to try as well.

Lilly's Big Day and Other Stories by Kevin Henks. Performed by Richard Thomas and Christine Ebersole. How can you not love Lily? A wonderful vivacious character featured in many of Kevin Henks's books.

The Cat in the Hat and other Dr. Suess Favorites. Performed by Kelsey Grammer, John Cleese, John Litgow, and Billy Crystal, Dustin Hoffman, Walter Matthau, and Mercedes McCambridge.

Frog and Toad Audio Collection by Arnold Lobel. Read by the author. Frog and Toad have always been one of my favorites.

Another CD to check out is the broadway musical based on these books.  Wonderful music that follows the stories from the books faithfully. One scary story that initially you may want to skip, but after hearing it a few times my kids loved listening to it! Great for kids of all ages!

A blast from the past...

Two wonderful song and story collections that I listened to growing up.

Free to Be You and Me: Marlo Thomas and Friends A classic! So many wonderful songs and stories including: William Wants a Doll, Atalanta, and Ladies First.  Definitely from the 70's!

Pete Seeger Abiyoyo and other Story Songs for Children.  Includes Sam, the Whaler (my 4 year olds favorite), Sweepy, Sweepy, Sweepy and Where's My Pajamas? (Yes, my mom did hide our pajamas and put this song on while we went crazy searching for them!).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Two Wonderful Comic Book Series

Two comic book series kids (and parents) will love!  I'm a huge advocate of let them read what they want to read-- comics, magazines, newspaper sports pages, anything that will keep them interested and entertained.  These are two wonderful, funny comic book series that I enjoy just as much as my son.

We just discovered the very funny Big Nate series written by Lincoln Pierce. What started off as a newspaper comic, Pierce has now turned into a book series with text interspersed with comics.  The characters are lively and fun and completely relatable to kids.  Nate gets in all kinds of trouble--the kind of trouble kids love to read about, but not have to endure themselves.  Nate is in middle school, but my eight year old has loved these books.  Often compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I am not surprised at Big Nate's success.  I do find Nate a bit more endearing than Greg, he's so charming it's hard not to like him.

The first book in the series is selected comic strips originally published in newspapers, Big Nate From the Top.  The next books in the series are: Big Nate in a class By Himself, Big Nate Strikes Again and Big Nate out Loud.  There is also a comic strip collection: I Smell a Pop Quiz and a book titled Big Nate Boredom Buster: Super Scribbles, Cool Comix and Lots of Laughs (this is more of a how to book with doodles, secret codes and comics where the reader fills in the blanks.)

Calvin and Hobbes is a hilarious cartoon written by Bill Watterson. Watterson published the daily strip from 1985-1995.  I loved this series as a kid and was pleasantly surprised when my 8 year old became obsessed with these wonderful comic books.  I love books kids can't put down!  Calvin is an incorrigible 7ish year old boy who has wonderful adventures with his tiger Hobbes.  He, like Nate, is one of those kids constantly in trouble, but that you can't help but love. His world includes his parents, his neighbor Suzie, the bully at school Moe and his teacher Mrs. Wormwood. Calvin's vivid imagination comes to life with his alter-egos Spaceman Spiff and Stupendous man.  If you have never read Calvin and Hobbes you will love it just as much as your kids!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Close to Famous --Joan Bauer

On my latest visit to the library, I spotted a Joan Bauer book on the New Books shelf and couldn't wait to take it home and read it. Bauer is one of those reliable authors that I always know I'm going to enjoy. Her books contain many of the same elements: a strong female heroine, family conflict, humor and growth. The main character usually starts off troubled and confused at the beginning, but by the end she gains the strength and insight to believe in herself.  I first read Bauer's books a few years ago and they have always stuck with me.  Bauer's books deal with difficult issues, but things are never too dark turning to humor rather than sadness.  These are great books for late elementary and middle school girls.

Her latest book, Close to Famous, uses cooking as its focus. An overused devise, but still works here especially if you love to cook.  Foster and her Mother flee Memphis in the middle of the night to escape her mother's abusive boyfriend.  After driving aimlessly they end up in the tiny town of Culpepper, West Virginia, a run down town with its own mix of quirky residents. Foster faces many challenges including: the death of her dad in the Iraq War; her mother's complicated past with abuse; her learning disability that has made her feel stupid; and her mother's fear of never learning how to come out of the background and let herself shine.  Foster's escape from her everyday life is her love of cooking.  She uses her gift to create wonderful cupcakes that have the ability to win over anyone and (in a tense situation) save the day.

I love Bauer's simple straight forward style of writing, her wonderful characters, her dealing of difficult issues in a light, humorous way and her constant message of hope.  Bauer's books have won numerous awards including a Newberry Honor. To learn more about Joan Bauer and read more about her other books, check out her great website

Monday, May 2, 2011

Great Early Chapter books For Girls -- That Boys Will Also Enjoy

Three great chapter book series with spunky, spirited heroines.

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald

The first book in the Judy Moody series introduces us to Judy, her younger brother Stink, and her best friend Rocky.  Judy starts out third grade by making an 'All About Me' collage a theme that loosely holds the book together. The real charm is getting to know Judy, a funny, relatable heroine dealing with everyday issues. These short entertaining books are perfect for the those just starting with chapter books.

Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker

Clementine is a spunky spirited heroine with lots of zest for life.  Her choices usually lead to disastrous--and humorous-- results, but everything turns out okay in the end.  These are great read alouds with wonderful emotion filled illustrations that liven up the story. Clementine could easily be compared to a toned down Junie B Jones or to the ever lovable Ramona Quimby.

Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper

Grace starts out third grade learning, to her dismay, she is one of four Graces in her class. Her determination to stand out leads her to be stuck with the disastrous nickname "Just Grace."  Grace loves to draw comics and spices up the book with her "Not So Super" comics.  She is quick to point out life's injustices as well as to help those in need with her secret 'superpower.' A quick fun read with an amusing and determined heroine.