Monday, July 1, 2013


Due to certain circumstances, I am taking a little time off from writing reviews.

Keep reading!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales

Nathan Hale addresses the crowd at bbgb in Richmond, Va.
On April 23rd, the marvelous bbgb bookstore in Richmond played host to a welcome guest, Nathan Hale. Mr. Hale is an author, children’s book illustrator and Lego fanatic who was in town to talk with young readers and sign copies of his new graphic novel series, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.


Hale: Do you guys want to hear how I got started drawing?

Crowd: Yeah.

Hale: All right. So check this out. When I was your guys’ age, all I wanted to do was watch TV. But guess what, my parents didn’t have one! They did not have a TV at all. So I would get pieces of paper and I would draw pictures of the shows I wished I was watching on TV.

And all my friends were talking about this show called “Chips Patrol” that was the coolest show on TV. I didn’t know what it was, ‘cause I didn’t have a TV. The show is really about some California motorcycle cops – C.H.P., California Highway Patrol, or something like that – but I thought it was about these chips [draws a corn chip with arms and legs] that went on patrol, and that lived. Little chips that are going around! I was totally missing out.

Also when I was a kid, I wanted to play Pac Man. It was a brand new thing; it was in the grocery store that my mom shopped at. I’d go with her and I’d say, “Please, can I play Pac Man?” and I would go up and move the joystick and push the buttons, but it would say Insert Coin. 

I was so obsessed with Pac Man and I wanted to play it. But my mom never gave me a quarter. EverSo, I made my own Pac Man. Do you know how I did that?

Child: By drawing it?

Hale: I drew it! I drew Pac Man and the ghosts. I colored them and I cut them out. Then I put them on a mat, like a level that I drew with the maze and stuff. And then I covered it with saran wrap so it kinda looked like a screen, and then I’d shake it around. And it was NOT FUN AT ALL. It was terrible! But I got in the habit of entertaining myself with drawings.


Now that he is earning his own quarters, Nathan Hale finds himself entertaining thousands of children with his drawings. His Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is an enticing introduction to some of the greatest stories of American History.

Beginning with One Dead Spy, Hale introduces his namesake Nathan Hale, the unlucky Revolutionary War spy who was hanged in 1776 and who is probably best known for his stirring last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Using Nathan Hale as the narrator was an idea that popped into Hale’s head while on the phone with his editor. Having a single narrator ties the stories of different historical periods together as a cohesive series. In this Hazardous Tale, a giant history book swallows up Nathan Hale as he is about to be hung by the British. He sees millions of stories from the past and future of American History and begins to tell them to the Hangman to stay his execution.

“I like the Hangman, he’s kind of a stand-in for me not knowing about things so I just kind of rely on him,” says Hale. “I think that kids also like him because they feel a little bit smarter than he is. He’ll ask overly simple questions and then the kids learn along with him. The Hangman always has the funniest things to say.”

Hale's second book, Big Bad Ironclad, has Nathan Hale telling the 1861 story of the battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. Hale makes sure to embellish a few of the more interesting historical details such as General Scott’s shouts of “Anaconda!” and a lively discussion of underwater toilets.

How accurate are his zippy little books? Hale and his crack team of fact-checking babies (see the book for details) work very hard to keep things factual. And Hale looks for interesting details that middle school history textbooks generally don’t mention. 

“I’ve discovered I like making things as accurate as possible,” he explains. “Things that aren’t accurate are just little bits of poetic license.”

Early fans will be pleased that there are more stories to come. Hale declares, “I just want to keep going and going and going.” And the historical Nathan Hale will narrate all of them. 

“The ongoing theme of the narration is that he is delaying the hanging, he is putting it off every time he tells a new story,” Hale noted. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get all the way to a book where we deal with that [hanging] but he keeps telling them.”

Due out this summer is a Hazardous Tale about the infamous Donner Party. “It is a tricky story,” Hale admits, “but what I’ve discovered in my school visits is kids love the gory details. It’s a very human story like the choices they make ... and we don’t get to the really grim stuff until the end of the book.”

Nathan Hale draws a portrait,  April 23, 2013.
But why tell history through comic books? Hale feels very strongly that the two go hand-in-hand. 

“I think because it’s so easy to visualize,” he relates. “You know you always hear about the Battle of Bunker Hill, but you never know why it is important. And in one diagram I’m showing how cannons on top of Bunker Hill can shoot ships that are in Boston Harbor. In one little diagram it makes sense. So I think comics are the perfect medium to describe complex things.”

“I’m not a historian, I’m a cartoonist who likes history,” claims Hale. “History is always a little dry to read when you’re a kid. If there’s a lot of pictures, and especially if there’s explosions and sound effects and goofy stuff, then suddenly you’re visualizing this piece of history thanks to a comic book style. It’s just a match made in heaven. It’s really fun.”

After reading the Hazardous Tales, Michelle Clark’s children impressed the Nauticus docent with their knowledge of the great sea battles of Hampton Roads. Thank you, Nathan Hale!


The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane (1895) can be downloaded at no cost on your Kindle or from Project Gutenberg. It is an emotionally intense look at the internal struggles of Henry Fleming, a young Union Army private who naively seeks glory, but at first doesn’t have the courage or character to be anything but envious and afraid.

It is his anger and hurt pride that finally influence Henry to take up the fight and become the standard-bearer for his regiment. A violent coming-of-age story with beautiful prose and vivid descriptions, this work of historical fiction is a must for young adult readers.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

For Crafty Kids

I have here a few rather unusual books that are getting a lot of attention from my children right now. The median age for these is probably about nine years, though I am far older and have enjoyed each one. Perhaps there is something in this bunch that would appeal to someone you love.

New, from one of our favorite authors, Tom Angleberger, is an Origami Yoda activity book, Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling (Abrams, 2013). What a delightful surprise to find that Tommy, Kellen and the rest of the Origami Yoda bunch have pulled together yet another case file, this one to teach us all how to be a master doodler.

“Who would want to buy a whole book full of junk like that?” asks Harvey. Answer: we would! Packed with adolescent humor and great drawing tips, this book is stooky!

There are blank pages for practicing doodles and color pages to fold. Readers can then combine both skills to make doodle-gami. Angleberger even provides tips on how to photograph your doodle-gami because so many of his fans - dubbed SuperFolders - like to post their creations on

For cub scouts, origami enthusiasts, or, heck, just about anybody, The New World Champion Paper Airplane Book (Ten Speed Press, 2013) is fascinating and fun. Written by John M. Collins and illustrated with step-by-step photos, this book is filled with information on aerodynamics, throwing technique and folding basics. It is scientific and thorough without being overwhelming.

Collins designed the current world record-holding paper airplane and has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to fold and throw pieces of paper. He has included in the book a full-color insert of 16 tear-out paper airplane models of regulation-weight durable paper stock.

My 9-year-old son can hardly wait for me to hand over this book. He has big plans for a serious fleet of aircraft. I'm hoping none of his creations go flying through his classroom. 

One of the oddest books I’ve ever come across, Papertoy Monsters: 50 Cool Papertoys You Can Make Yourself (Workman, 2010), is also one of our all-time favorites. Think kirigami and paper dolls gone crazy.

My children, ages 11, 9, and 7, took to this paper craft book immediately. I wasn’t surprised. Brightly colored, curious creatures with odd biographies and wicked teeth – what’s not to love?

What did surprise me was how many times my children spent hours upon hours at the kitchen counter carefully pressing out the scored templates and passing the hot glue gun from hand to hand. After completing a cartload of creatures, they worked together to make very silly monster-inspired films with the family video camera.

My kids completely devoured the book, leaving only the create-your-own papertoy monster skins untouched. Now they’re asking me to get them another copy!

Papertoy building was a beautiful exercise in patience and teamwork. I’m delighted by the way this activity brought the siblings together.

April Fool’s Day has already passed us by with narry a prank or trick. We’re just not clever enough to think of gluing a quarter to the sidewalk, or switching the salt and sugar. The good (or bad) news is that it is never too early to start prepping for next year.

Enter Julie Winterbottom, author of Pranklopedia: The Funniest, Grossest, Craziest, Not-Mean Pranks on the Planet! (Workman, 2013). It is a collection of blueprints for 72 safe, silly pranks for kids.  There are classic gross-outs like making fake dog poop or snot, and more modern annoyances like wrapping 30 rubber bands around your victim’s cell phone to see his surprise when he tries to take a call.

Scattered throughout the book are short histories detailing the birth of the whoopee cushion and other famous pranks. In the back, there are silly signs and fake certificates to cut out and put to use fooling your family and friends.

"Pranklopedia" is certainly entertaining to browse through, though some of the ideas are not what I consider “not-mean.” With a little parental involvement the book can provide an excellent opportunity to talk about humor, respect, and boundaries. Without even pulling a prank, parents and imaginative kids can have useful discussions about empathy and predicting the consequences of one’s actions.

Michelle Clark absolutely hates to be the victim of pranks. If she finds herself being bombarded by paper airplanes and fake barf, she will rescind this article. Send your comments and reading suggestions to her c/o Richmond Parents Monthly.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Little Golden Books

Spring always sends me skipping into a bookstore or library in search of fresh picture books with bright hues and enchanting stories. I look for nonfiction hardcovers with crisp photographs of backhoes and barnyard animals. I seek lively joke books and cheery bedtime stories. Sometimes, all I look for is a little flash of gold.

That gold is the distinctive foil spine of the Little Golden Books series. For over 70 years, generations of children have looked for the golden binding, knowing that great stories are there for the taking. Little Golden Books contain quality writing and art from some of the biggest names in the publishing business. They are perfectly sized for small hands, and are recommended for ages 2-6.

Classic stories and new titles are available through Random House. Some are available with a CD, others in boxed sets. There are so many titles that I can’t tell you about them all, so I have picked out some of my own family favorites to get your family started.

Gertrude Campton wrote two of our favorite classics, Tootle (1945) and Scuffy the Tugboat (1946), both pleasingly illustrated by Tibor Gergely. Tootle is a baby locomotive who struggles to follow the rules, especially Staying on the Rails No Matter What. Scuffy is a toy boat that is dissatisfied with sailing in a bathtub, “I was meant for bigger things,” he says, and sets off to seek adventure.  Both stories are engaging and they reinforce the virtues of prudence and temperance.

Based on a motion picture by Dr. Seuss, Gerald McBoing Boing (1950) is such fun to read aloud. Gerald is a boy who doesn’t speak words. No one knows what to do with Gerald; he doesn’t fit in at school or at play. Then he meets someone who appreciates his unusual talent and helps Gerald put it to good use. “Now Gerald is rich, / he has friends, he’s well fed, / ‘Cause he doesn’t speak words, / he goes boing boing instead!”

Prayers for Children (1952) is a sweet little book reverently illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Her beatific children are shown at prayer while going about the simple events of the day.  This is a lovely book with which to begin a foundation in virtue and establish the habit of prayer in your children. There is a whole collection of Golden Books Inspirational to help parents share biblical stories with children.

 Kathryn Jackson’s adorable story, Tawny Scrawny Lion (1952), illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, is the tale of a lion who never could get enough to eat – that is, until he became a vegetarian! What a fun way to teach the virtue of kindness. If you remember the audio book from 1976 with the wonderful song, “Carrot Stew,” you can listen to it again at Here's the link.

 Garth Williams illustrated some of the most wonderful books of the 20th century, including “Charlotte’s Web”, the “Little House” series, and “The Cricket in Times Square.” He also applied his talent to a number of Little Golden Books such as Baby Farm Animals (1953), and Home for a Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown (1956). Williams is a master of conveying texture. His animals are so appealingly bright-eyed and playful that readers want to pet the fluffy rabbits, piglets and puppies. Charming!

Little Golden Books also offers a number of books starring favorite characters that children recognize from TV and movies: Thomas and Friends, Barbie, Disney, and Sesame Street. Our favorite for four decades now is, The Monster at the End of This Book (1971), written by Jon Stone, illustrated by Mike Smollin, and starring your loveable, furry old pal Grover. Grover wants to stop the reader from turning pages to avoid getting closer to the monster at the end. The story has been adapted to a very entertaining ebook with classic Grover humor and great sound effects, but physically turning the page is so important to this story. Also, it is such fun to scream and whisper in a Grover voice. Best bet: share the book, love the book and later, for added fun, enjoy the ebook.

The Little Golden Book of Jokes and Riddles (2013) has funny, mid-century modern looking illustrations by David Sheldon which compliment the wacky jokes collected here by Peggy Brown. Perfect for kids who are just learning the art of telling a joke.

 Anne Kennedy illustrates the classic song, Old MacDonald Had a Farm (2013). You’ll find comfort in the familiar text and tune, but take a look at the surprising events going on at the farm!

Collections of high-quality stories illustrated by artists dedicated to beauty are important to have in your home so that children may return to them again and again. A shelf full of Little Golden Books will always be a treasured.

Michelle Clark wishes she had the ENTIRE Golden Books collection as well as the World of Peter Rabbit box set, but then that’s what the library is for. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Point To Happy" (Autism); "Knees" (Dyslexia); and "The Princess and the Peanut" (Allergies)

Communication is a major reason for reading any book to a child. When we read together we foster closeness, language acquisition, and values. Sometimes special circumstances require specialized books to help alleviate fears, overcome obstacles and enlighten the unaware. 

When a child has difficulties communicating his needs or feelings, books like Point To Happy, by Miriam Smith and Afton Fraser (Workman Publishing, 2011) can help.

With simple text and clear, large photographs, “Point To Happy” is intended to aid kids on the autism spectrum in expressing themselves and detecting the feelings of others. The attached pointer wand helps a child focus as he selects the appropriate pictures when the text is read. Photos illustrate emotions, objects and everyday activities. There is also a blank page for adding pictures of family and friends.

The grandmother, mother and aunt of an autistic child created “Point To Happy”. It is cleanly presented and well thought out. The book is oversized and sturdy for repeated use.

Though it is intended for autistic spectrum children, any toddler will benefit from the decoding and motor tasks fostered by this book. It offers kids practice in recognizing colors and parts of the body. Young children also need to study facial expressions and body language in order to empathize with others, and this book is a great way to reinforce those lessons.  

School-age children sometimes struggle with learning differences. Offering encouragement to dyslexic children is Vanita Oelschlager’s book, Knees: The Mixed-Up World of a Boy With Dyslexia (Vanita Books, 2012).

The main character Louis finds school frustrating, explaining that, “things get mixed up between my eyes and my brain.” Sometimes he feels bad. With patient teachers, loving parents and a few good friends, Louis perseveres. His dad tells Louis, “We’re all good at something. You just have to find it.”

“Knees” clearly explains what dyslexia is like for a fourth-grader. The simple text is written in rhyming couplets that keep the story flowing. Energetic pen and ink illustrations by Joe Rossi are a friendly invitation to read this book over and again, and perhaps even color the pages.

This is a nice book to offer some comfort and understanding to a child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia. Informative and entertaining, it is a great choice as a read-aloud for teachers who want to help other students better understand the challenges faced by a fellow classmate.

Children who suffer from allergies might want to read about their circumstance, too. The Princess and the Peanut: A Royal Allergic Fairy Tale, by Sue Ganz-Schmitt (Wild Indigo Publishing, 2011) helps kids ages 4-9 learn about food allergies through a story that borrows elements from the classic fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”

A young prince yearns for a real princess to be his wife, so he searches around the world but doesn’t find a girl who is quite right. In the middle of a storm, a dirty, wet young girl knocks at the gate and claims to be a real princess.

Instead of placing a pea under twenty mattresses, this book puts a peanut there. The sensitive princess breaks out in hives and must receive an Epinephrine injection and be looked after carefully for a few days.

When the princess, feeling sad, asks, “Why me?” the doctor magnanimously replies, “Ahh, but princesses are extraordinary, and extraordinary people have great sensitivities.”

The cute story with amusing illustrations isn’t just entertaining, it provides accurate information about what really happens when someone has a severe allergic reaction. “The Princess and the Peanut” helps take some of the scary out of such a situation.  

Find more suggestions for good books at

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cozy Up With A Classic

Histories and classics are sometimes forgotten by the young reader because he has so many choices at the library. Often it is the newest releases that are prominently displayed and thus garner the most attention. The books suggested here are a nice combination of history, classic story and innovation. Perhaps one will end up in your hands.

Cozy Classics: Pride and Prejudice
by Jack and Holman Wang
Simply Read Books, 2012

I loved this book before I even opened it. The idea – making a board book out of Jane Austen’s most treasured novel – is just too delicious for words. And the cover! Look at dear Elizabeth Bennet protecting her bonnet from the wind and tugging at her muddy skirts. Priceless.

Brothers Jack and Holman Wang condensed Pride and Prejudice down to twelve toddler-friendly words. Then they created and photographed sculptured dolls to illustrate the simplified story. The Wang brothers make the dolls by needle felting: using a barbed needle to tangle and compact wool fibers, forming three-dimensional felt sculptures. They are remarkably lively and absolutely beautiful.

Cozy Classics: Pride and Prejudice is the result. The first spread displays the word “friends” and we see Mr. Bingley smiling, his hand on the shoulder of Mr. Darcy. They are standing in front of the first page of the novel where we can just make out that oh-so famous opening line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” Delightful!

Cozy Classics: Pride and Prejudice is a must-read for moms who love Austen. Also available is “Cozy Classic: Moby Dick,” and coming this spring, parents can enjoy sharing a cozy version of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” and Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with their very young children.

Magic Tree House #47: Abe Lincoln At Last!
by Mary Pope Osborne
Random House, 2011

Beginning and middle readers may be interested by the extensive promotion of Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln.” Though they are too young to see the film, children can get in on the history by reading Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House #47 Abe Lincoln at Last! Osborne guides readers on a journey of the imagination to Washington, D.C. in the year 1861 to give the president a message of hope.

Osborne’s tremendous Tree House series is beloved by so many because its main characters, Jack and Annie, are smart, funny kids who are sent on some pretty unbelievable adventures to visit places where real history happened.

That special blend of fiction and fact often inspires a thirst for more information about a featured topic, so the folks from the Tree House series created nonfiction supplements. In this case, the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: Abraham Lincoln is a resource with information about life in a log cabin, what a blab school was like, and what headlines were in the newspapers in 1837. Did you know that Lincoln held a patent for an invention that would make boats lighter whenever they got stuck? Me neither.

by April Lindner
Poppy, 2011

For your teenager who was obliged to read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre at school and actually sort of liked it, there is a fun reimagining of that classic in April Lindner’s novel, Jane.  

Lindner modernizes the tale by wondering what would happen if a Jane Eyre were to fall in love with a rock star. Her character Jane Moore is the new nanny at Thornfield Park, home to world-famous rock musician Nico Rathburn. Fans of the classic novel will enjoy how Lindner is able to pay homage to the original while telling an emotional and engagingly modern story. It’s a great romance. The book is entertaining even to those who have never heard of Bronte.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with one caveat: Jane Moore has a physically intimate encounter with Nico just before she flees Thornfield Park. I have to say that I was disappointed. Lindner’s main characters are so evocative of Eyre and Rochester that I felt truly let down that Rathburn wasn’t willing, for Jane’s sake, to keep from going too far. Sex may be part of the protocol in modern romances, but here it is dissonance.


Probably the most classical you can get, story-wise, is to read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey – epic poems of heroism and hubris that have been translated and retold by many. If you are looking for a nice translation to read to your family, consider one of these:

The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy: Homer’s Great Epics, Rewritten for Children, by Padraic Colum (1918) – The high style is difficult for a grammar school child to read alone, but perfect for reading aloud to him as a child’s listening comprehension level is often quit a bit above his reading level.  

Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of The Iliad, by Rosemary Sutcliff (Frances Lincoln, 2005) - A lyrical, emotional retelling of the epic poem that should keep readers ages 8 and up enthralled.

The Adventures of Ulysses, by Bernard Evslin (Scholastic, 1969) – I use this retelling of the Odyssey when teaching eighth and ninth grade English. Short chapters and lots of action made it a quick, pleasurable read.

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, by Edith Hamilton (Little, Brown & Company, 1942) - A perennial bestselling collection of Greek, Roman and Norse myths that is the classic introduction to mythology for teen readers.

Michelle Clark would like to throw out the TV so there would be more time for reading classic literature, but then she might miss an episode of Downton Abbey.   

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Have a Beautiful Holiday

Each morning, I have the choice of driving east on either Broad Street or Monument Avenue. Oftentimes it is a flip of the coin as to which road I take. Lately, though, I have been consistently following the Monument route because my young passengers are far better off viewing the trees and cobblestones on the avenue than the unlovely signs, gas pumps and concrete of Broad.

Increasingly I find that beauty must be actively sought out. The world can be an ugly place. Often, folks don’t even notice the revolting; we have been blinded to its menace by its very omnipresence.

Ever since I became a parent, I have been acutely aware of how Americans are bombarded with ugliness – through the television, on the radio, in bookstores, and, yes, driving down Broad Street. And daily I battle the ugly.

In my role as a writer, I receive copies of "young adult" books that are marketed to pre and post adolescents. These books are hideous. The cover art is always a close-up of a pouty-lipped female staring blankly through her stringy hair. The story is about this teen -- likely called Loreili, Ariel or Astrid -- who is either a kleptomaniac, suffering from an eating disorder, depressed, or already dead. She lives in a dystopian society and trumpets that it is ok to dress and act like a prostitute as long as you’re not getting paid. On the back cover, other young adult writers rave about the book, calling it “dark,” “intense,” “mesmerizing,” and “horrifying.”

Even younger children’s books often reek of ugliness. Illustrators twist the human form into grotesque caricature. Writers seek to bully kids into the “correct” point of view.

Ugly is all around us and Richmonders forget to see it for what it really is. We fail to notice that the plasticized human bodies on exhibit at the science museum are monstrous and grisly. We tour the Picaso exhibition and suppress our instinctively negative reaction to the “art.”  We find amusement in the macabre parade of zombies through Carytown, and the Halloween horrors at the amusement park. And doing thus, we fail our kids.

What we should be doing is filling our children with a daily dose of beauty: taking them to parks and cathedrals, to live performances of dance, theater and symphony. We should spend evenings in the backyard staring up at the mighty stars. And we should read beautiful books to them.

Read and give beautiful stories this holiday season. Scrutinize the masses of offerings on the bookstore shelves and select works that are lovingly illustrated. Look for nature books with photographs that celebrate the infinite variety of the natural world. Focus on authors who tell worthy stories with eloquence. Find tales of self-sacrifice and true heroism.

Rediscover the beauty of the holiday season and share it with your loved ones.


Add these beautiful stories to your Christmas tradition: 

“Christmas Every Day,” by William Dean Howells (1892) – An entertaining lesson in the dangers of greed.

“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” from the New York Sun (1897) – A sterling editorial which reminds us that, “the most real things in this world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (1906) --- The timeless tale of selfless devotion between a husband and wife.

The Gospel of Luke 2: 1-17 – The reason for the season.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Board Books; Herve Tullet; Mary Blair

My youngest son is at an age where he loves a thick, slick board book under his chubby hands so he can use it to ski around the living room on hands and knees. He cares little for pictures and even less for story.

Growing into story takes time. In the meantime, board books provide good practice in the skills needed for reading: sitting patiently, turning pages, moving the eyes from left to right, listening, and recognizing illustrations.

Suggested here are several great finds for baby’s bookshelf.

Where’s Ellie?
by Salina Yoon
Robin Corey Books, 2012

Looking for an elephant behind plants and trees is so much fun in this simple, friendly book. Eye-popping colors and cute creatures give baby lots to look at on each page.

Baby Faces
by Mallory Loehr
Random House, 2012

Babies are naturally drawn to the beauty of other babies. With a smiling child lovingly illustrated on each page, this book gets immediate attention. The rhyming text tells what baby’s mouth, eyes and nose can do. When the reader pulls on the tab, the baby’s face changes to show each action. It’s also fun to play peek-a-boo with this book.

My Dad Is the Best Playground
by Luciana Navarro Powell
Robin Corey Books, 2012

Dad comes home from work to a joyous welcome from his children in this happy story. Dads and kids will want to climb, wrestle and frolic in imitation of the book. Beautifully illustrated with all the warmth and love of family, this one is a keeper.

Duck and Goose: Find A Pumpkin
by Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade, 2009

Splendid fall colors are the backdrop for darling characters Duck and Goose who go in search of a pumpkin. Spatial concepts of upon, under, in and on top are practiced while enjoying the simple story. The over-large size of this board book adds to its visual appeal. Duck and Goose star in seven additional board books.

The Let’s Play Games series
by Herve Tullet      
Phaidon, 2012

Totally cool and totally different, Herve Tullet’s interactive board books are aimed for the 2-4 year-old, but will impress everyone:

The Game in the Dark doesn’t look like much at first because you can’t read it with the lights. Charge it up under a light source and turn up the dark for an amazing glow-in-the-dark outer space show. To charge, hold each page under a light for a count of three Mississippi.  Then listen to the oohs and aahs as you trip through the galaxy. There is no text, just a creative glow to encourage lights out.

The Game of Sculpture is a sturdy cardboard “book” which folds open to become a modern art sculpture of your child’s design. It can be folded away again, displayed, or used as a playground for your Fisher Price Little People. When you’re done, recycle it.

The Game of Red, Yellow and Blue teaches children simple color mixing. Purple Square asks the primary colors, “Who are my parents?” and the colors combine to show how the secondary colors are made, “All different but all happy!”

Rumble! Roar! Dinosaurs!
by Matthew Reinhart
Robin Corey Books, 2012

I’ve recommended Reinhart’s books before and I’m doing it again. Though this is actually a pop-up book, I must mention it because the surprise of a triceratops leaping right off the page grabs the interest of any child who is learning to follow a book. With coloring opportunities inside the cover and factual tidbits about each dino, this book will interest your preschoolers, too.

There’s also Reinhart’s perfectly nice book, A Princess Like Me. The pop-ups are great though the story is girly fru-fru and has no substance.


A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books
ed. John Canemaker
Golden Books, 2012

My ignorance is showing because I had not known of Mary Blair before I got this gorgeous book, though I have definitely seen and enjoyed her work. Blair (1911-1978) was an artist who was involved in creating the enduring images in many Disney animated films such as Peter Pan, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Picture, if you will, the “It’s A Small World” boat ride at Disneyland – that’s Mary Blair.

The storybooks collected in this treasury are sweet tales made all the more pleasurable by Blair’s vibrant, sunny illustrations. Her passion for her art is evident in each brushstroke and color choice. Every page is a song to the beauty and innocence of childhood. Even the endpapers will delight you.

Share this treasure with your little ones; it is what picture books should be.