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Earth to Clunk

September 11, 2011

Earth to Clunck
written by Pam Smallcomb, illustrated by Joe Berger
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011
picture book

When his teacher, Mr. Zookian, assigns pen pals from other planets with the direction to send something from Earth, our young, blond-haired narrator with an attitude, sends his pen pal, Clunk (from the planet Quazar,) his older sister.

THAT will teach him to have a pen pal from Earth,” he thinks as he ships of the sister.

Clunk sends him back a Zoid. Whatever that is.

So, our narrator sends Clunk his dirty socks.

To which Clunk replies with three Forps. Who smell like dog food.

Back and forth go the not-so-lovely pen pal exchanges until mom demands older sister gets sent back from Quazar.

Clunk returns the sister with a glob and a note that changes everything. Maybe he’ll get a visit from Clunk. And just maybe, they’ll find how much they have in common. (Like being annoyed at pesky older sister.)

Earth to Clunk is an entertaining story about life with an older, pesky sister and making friends. We love it!

Book Play: Ask a distant friend with kids if you could partner up to be pen pals. Send your pen pal a postcard from your state.

Doctor Moms Guide to Pregnancy and Birth

September 4, 2011

The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth
written by Yvonne Bohn, MD, Allison Hill, MD, Alane Park, MD
Da Capo, 2011
parenting, non-fiction

I’m impressed by how much information this book gives moms-to-be! I especially like that the book doesn’t end with delivery but continues on with a section called “The Fourth Trimester.” I distinctly remember holding my newborn infant thinking, “Why didn’t I read any books on what happens now?” This book, unlike other pregnancy books, would have solved that issue. Which is just one of the reasons I’d recommend this book to anyone who is pregnant.

Also, there are chapters on complications, high-risk pregnancies and coping with “curveballs” like unsolicited advice, relationship issues, and work-related issues. Because this book is written by medical doctors, the information is solid medically which I appreciate.

Watch these doctors on their show, Deliver Me, on the Oprah network and read more advice on their blog.

WIN a copy of Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth! E-mail your name and address (to make book delivery faster) to with “Ultimate Guide” in the subject line. We will randomly select one lucky winner to receive a copy of the book. Deadline for entry is midnight MST on September 30, 2011.

Thankyouplease and the Circus of Good Manners

August 29, 2011

written by Pierre Winters, illustrated by Barbara Ortelli
Clavis, 2011
picture book

Six year old Nina wears her hair in braids, is often grumpy, and talks back to her mommy. One day, when Nina is outside calming down she hears a voice calling to her from a hole in a tree. She peers in and discovers the Circus of Good Manners led by the Ringmaster named Thankyouplease.

Inside the tree at the circus, the acrobatic men performing on the beam turn somersaults and say “Good morning!” “Good afternoon!” and “Goodnight!” When Nina joins in, she copies what they say. The ringmaster explains to Nina that using those words is the nicest way to greet people. Nina watches more performers, eats cotton candy, and learns more lessons. When she returns home, Nina is a changed little girl. She says kind things say to her mommy and apologizes to her dog, Hugo.

We love this imaginative story of Nina, a girl to whom we can relate. This book is a favorite for bedtime stories!

Book Play: Play Simon Says with good manners words like “please” and “thank you.”

Pretend play using good manners with stuffed animals or dolls.

The Story of the Watts Towers

August 22, 2011

Dream Something Big
The Story of the Watts Towers

written by  Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Susan L. Roth
Penguin, 2011
picture book, non-fiction

In the 1920s, Simon Rodia aka Uncle Sam, an Italian immigrant living in Watts, California, starts to create a structure of found objects. He builds his structure using rebar, cement, broken tiles, shells, bits of pottery, and whatever else he finds. He works for 34 years building what becomes colorful, beautiful mosaic spires now called the Watts Towers. When he’s done, Rodia walks away, never to be seen again. But, his legacy can still be seen today, and is captured in this beautiful book of collage illustrations and story told from the perspective of a little girl watching Uncle Sam work. It is an inspiring story of a big dream that you won’t forget.

Book Play: Build your own Watts Tower.

Hilarious Letters to the Teacher

August 19, 2011

Dear Teacher
written and illustrated by Amy Husband
Sourcebooks, 2010
picture book

Young Michael is NOT looking forward to school. So, he writes many imaginative letters to his teacher explaining why he won’t be attending.

In one letter, he’s just recently rescued someone off of Mount Everest and then searched for treasure in Egypt and that’s why he’ll be late for school.

Michael sends a ripped telegram explaining about looking for treasure in the Amazon, living off beetles and spiders, and how the hippo ate his compass.

Did I mention he was also attacked by pirates?

“Dear Teacher,

I might be a bit late for the first day of school. The weirdest thing happened today. The head of the secret service turned up! They need me for a special secret mission to find a missing explorer. I did mention the math test, but he just said that the future of the country depends on me. I couldn’t say no. Sorry Miss Brooks.



P.S. Bruno is coming with me—he makes a good bloodhound.

P.P.S. The stuff I told you is TOP SECRET, so please eat this letter.”

This entertaining book is perfect for the beginning of school — and the best letter is the last, a postcard from the zoo field trip to his mom and dad where he explains that he’ll be staying at the zoo to work with the wild animals.

Book Play: Write your own excuse notes, letters, postcards, and telegrams to your teacher! Illustrate and bind into a book like Dear Teacher.

Must Read Back-to-School Books

August 13, 2011

Little Girls Can Be Mean
written by Michelle Anthony, Ph.D. and Reyna Lindert, Ph.D.

Who is bullying your daughter? It’s not the big, mean monster on the playground; it’s more likely a good friend!

Little Girls Can Be Mean shows parents that the best friend – worst enemy bully is a reality for many elementary school girls and it teaches parents what we do to help our children.

What do you do about it? Well, you can’t fix it for them but you can help them learn how to problem solve it for themselves — the most essential of life skills.

***Read more about Little Girls Can Be Mean on Imagination Soup. 

The Kissing Hand
written by Audrey Penn

Chester Raccoon feels nervous about going to school so his mom gives him a kiss to hold in his hand while he’s away from her. And, Chester Raccoon gives his mom something to hold, too.

The Night Before First Grade
written by Natasha Wing

Colorado author, Natasha Wing, writes all the Night Before books in the familiar rhyme of the Night Before Christmas. Look for The Night Before Preschool and The Night Before Kindergarten as well. The books are always funny and reassuring.

Wemberly Worried
written by Kevin Henkes

I love Henkes books and this one is so dear because so many children struggle with worrying. Wemberly worries about everything. Most of all she worries about the first day of school. When she arrives at school, her teachers helps her make friends with another girl and soon Wemberly realizes that she hasn’t worried all day.

First Day Jitters
written by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judith Dufour Love

Tomorrow is kindergarten and Sarah doesn’t want to go. But, in this tale, Sarah is the teacher, not the student!

The Big Book of oParenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Wories
written by Michele Borbab Ed.D.

I first met Borba on Twitter and started reading her blog. Her parenting ideas are so helpful and practical I just had to buy her book. It’s packed with great advice for every situation. I love her style and her non-judgemental approach.

More Back-to-School Books here.

Surfs Up, Pig Kahuna

August 12, 2011

Pig Kahuna
written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler
Bloomsbury, 2011
picture book

Adorable Fergus and his little brother Dink love the beach and collecting treasures there – seaweed, pebbles, shark teeth?. But they don’t love the ocean; Fergus knows that the water contains lurking, murky ickiness.

One day the brothers find a surfboard. They decorate it and name Dave.

When Fergus leaves for ice cream, Dink realizes that Dave might want to return to his watery home.

What will happen when Fergus sees Dave drifting away? Will he get in the water?

Well-chosen but simple text accompanies these gorgeous illustrations depicting the imaginative collection life of the two brothers. You’ll find the lesson of overcoming fears just as poignant as the wonderful way the brothers use their imaginations to make Dave. Jennifer Sattler is a rising star in the children’s literature industry, I predict big things from her.

Book Play: Print out this Pig Kahuna Event Guide with story hour suggestions, mazes, and more.

The Secret Box

August 12, 2011

The Secret Box
written and illustrated by Barbara Lehman
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011
wordless picture book, 2011

The Secret Box is the  wordless journey of a box and the children who find it years after it was hidden. They discover the box under a floor board a yellow house.

Times change. A city, trolleys, buildings and a fair builds up around the house.

The box’s treasures connect the children through time and leads them both to the Seahorse Pier through a culvert behind the house.

The illustrations take the reader on an imaginative journey of adventure.

Book Play: Make your own wordless picture book. Read other wordless picture books.

Give a Tree a Big Bear Hug

August 7, 2011

Big Bear Hug
written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland
Kids Can Press, 2009
picture book

There once was a bear so filled with love and happiness that whenever he roamed the forest and came across another living thing, he would give it a hug.

No animal is too big, too smelly, too small for a hug.

But, what this bear especially loves to hug is trees. So, you can imagine his distress when a man with an axe arrives and starts . . . to chop down a tree!

Bear doesn’t feel like hugging now.

But, gives the man a big, ol’ bear HUG anyway.

And guess what? The man doesn’t want a big ol’ bear hug. He runs far, far away. And the trees are safe once more.

Book Play: Learn about trees. Look at bark on different trees. Use peeled crayons sideways on paper to make bark rubbings. Compare the differences between trees. Then look at the leaves on different trees. Gather as many different kinds as you can find. Make leaf rubbings using crayons and paper. Compare the differences of size, color, and texture.

Good Morning Lift the Flap Board Book

July 31, 2011

Good Morning Toucan
a Lift-the-Flap Good Day Book from Dwell Studios

Blue Apple Books, 2011
board book

Wow, do I love this book! Toucan says good morning to his friends who are waking up. Find who is waking up by lifting the sturdy flaps on each two-page spread.

“Caw! Caw! Who is waking up under the leaf?”

[lift the leaf flap]

“Good morning, CHAMELEON.”

It’s a sweet interactive story which ends with Toucan returning home to her babies with breakfast berries.

The modern illustrations are vivid with bold graphic lines and belongs to a nature series with a partner book, Goodnight Owl: A Lift-the-Flap Bedtime Book.

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