Children’s Book Reviews
If you are a loyal reader you may have noticed that my son’s seemingly ever present Batman shirt has been replaced. Yes we are on to a new obsession. Are your kids like this too? Do they dive into something obsessively? Well our new thing here is Lego – mostly Lego Star Wars but Lego City is a close 2nd. I firmly believe in using their love to keep them learning and finding books that interest them instead of trying to force their interest in books we like. So here are some Lego themed books to look for at the library or while you are shopping for holiday gifts.
City Adventures, No. 3: Calling All Cars! (Lego Reader, Level 1) by Sonia Sander was the first Lego book we checked out from the library a while back. We’ve since bought the book because my son loved reading it and could do it without any help. The story is a simple one about a bank robber and the police that must save the day. Stories like this really appeal to young kids because they are so black and white. The bad guy stole money , now the good guy will get him! What I love about them is that they involve him even more in the Lego world, and after reading he does go and create more.
LEGO City: Fire Truck to the Rescue (Level 1): Fire Truck To The Rescue! by Sonia Sander is another great Lego book for emergent and early readers. If your child is like my son and loves fire fighters and fire trucks this is a great book. Not just because of the subject matter but also because they may already be familiar with how some of those words look in print, giving them some confidence to tackle this book solo! My son likes to make stations out of duplo and act out this book after reading it. It’s also a favorite for rides in the car.
LEGO City: Ready for Takeoff! (Level 1) is not just a cute book for Lego fans but also for anyone taking a trip by plane to get their kids ready for what to expect. I was pleasently surprised by the quality of the details and how well it helps my son prep for air travel. We got it for a trip from Seattle to Chicago we took this summer and it was an instant hit. The text is a great mix of sight words, words that need to be sounded out and the illustrations are wonderfully helpful for kids needing visual clues for some words. Even if you aren’t going on a plane any time soon this is a good book all about air travel, and it just happens to also be set in Lego City.
LEGO Kingdoms Defend the Castle (DK READERS) by Hannah Dolan is another Lego book I find my son curled up reading solo. This one is about two feuding groups of knights and there is an evil wizard in there too. Knights are a big part of my son’s pretend play so I knew this book would be a hit when I bought it. I like the vocabulary in this book, my son loves big words too andI find him repeating the words quietly to himself as he practices the pronunciation. It makes me happy to know he is reading what he wants to but I don’t have to worry that he isn’t being stretched as a reader or reading complete drivel in an attempt to read what he’s interested in.
LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia was the most loved 5th birthday gift my son received. I can not tell you how much my son loves this book and as someone who adores reference materials herself I can’t say I blame him. I love this book too, it’s helping me speak his language and know who and what he’s talking about all the time. So like the cover says it’s a character encyclopedia, there is no story, instead every page is dedicated to one Star Wars character turned mini figure. Now most of the text tells you about the Lego sets the mini figure comes in , variations on the mini figure and when it first appeared in the toy. However there is still a great description of the characters and huge illustrations of each. The small amount of text is perfect for my son and since he is into the characters not the collector like details he simply skips that without missing out on anything. I should say that this unlike the previous books is not a leveled reader. If I was making a guess I would say that it’s geared towards the average 8-10 year old. I definitely have to help and or read the majority of this book, especially the more obscure Star Wars names. I love that we can read a little or read a lot and that the book is not such a heavy volume because I have a feeling it will be the book of choice at night for months to come!
Little Miss Austin: Pride & Prejudice
words by Jennifer Adams, art by Alison Oliver
Gibbs Smith/Raincoast Books
Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite stories; I’m a romantic at heart I guess. BabyLit from Gibbs Smith/Raincoast Books is a fun way to introduce children to the world of classic literature. Little Miss Austin: Pride & Prejudice is a sweet counting book focusing on elements from the story: 1 English Village; 2 Rich Gentlemen (Mr Bingley and Mr. Darcy). Each spread focusing on one number (up to 10) with the number in large type on the left side and a simple drawing to illustrate the number and story on the right. The book helps reinforce number recognition with the large number and counting elements in the illustration. Even without the Pride and Prejudice references it is a lovely counting book but who doesn’t want to count the courting couples or sisters? Even the cover art makes the book look like a piece of literature versus just a board book. I’m looking forward to seeing more classics come out in this collection.
Ones and Twos
by Marthe Jocelyn and Nell Jocelyn
This lovely rhyming book follows two girls and a bird. The copy is fun, focusing on the numbers two and one: one bird, two eggs. One girl, two legs. The collage-like illustrations are colourful and extend into the bottom border of the page where readers can enjoy finding pairs and explore patterns. My 4-year old loved picking out the patterns (one, two, one, two) as well as finding examples of one and two in the images themselves. Ones and Twos adds an early concept book appeal with a delightful story to go along with it.
If I Could Keep You Little
I love Marianne Richmond’s books, like the Night Night book I mentioned in an early post. If I Could Keep You Little is a book for parents as much as kids. Although it’s not a new book (released in 2010), this fall season always seems to be a time of reflection. Perhaps it’s the timing with back to school. We cherish the special moments and stages our kids are at right now like singing them lullabies or dressing them in cute outfits. Sometimes we wish they would never grow-up, never loose their dependence on us, but we also know these new accomplishments bring other special moments to share. Parents will recognize their own feelings painted through the lovely pages. This books is a great way to talk about your child’s development and achievements and might also address some fears they may have about growing up.
Happy Birthday, Hamster
Birthdays are such an important thing for kids. The day is all about them. They want to feel special and they want their friends and family to feel excited for them too. Happy Birthday, Hamster follows Hamster and his friend dog as they do some errands: visit the bakery, toy store, and card shop. Hamster can only think about his birthday but dog just seems to be doing errands. But the surprise is on Hamster when they get home to find a party waiting. I love the story pattern in this boo: description of all the fun things in the shop, Hamster’s ideal choice, what dog ends up getting, then moving on to the next shop. The images are colourful and fun, the way a party book should feel. On the shop page the author uses rhymes to describe what’s in the shop, kids will love being pulled in when asked what they would choose.
I want to thank Crystal from Raincoast Books, Sylvia from Tundra Books and Nikole from Scholastic Canada for my review copies.
What are you reading with your kids today?
________________________________________________________________Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a mom of 3 , and is the Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief at EverythingMom.com.
We love frogs and since finding many in our back yard we have been reading all about them, and the other day we made a fun and easy for all ages craft. My daughter loved using the Do-A-Dot paint markers for the first time and my son have fun working on fine motor skills rolling up the frogs sticky tongue. After we snuggled in our book nook and read some favorite frog books .
- Gather your materials. You will need a paper plate , some green paint, red and black paper, scissors and glue.
- Start by cutting your paper plate in half and painting it green. My daughter loved this step and would have happily done it all day. Becareful if you choose to use these with younger children , the suggested age is 3+ because the top can come off ( check out our original review) watch constantly ! Also they aren’t as washable as some paints so you might want to grab a smock.
- While the paint dries, cut out some red eyes.
- Black pupils
- Red tongue.
- Have your child roll the tongue up tightly.
- Add glue to the back side of the plate.
- Add the eyes.. and if you are a toddler take them off again…and add them…
- Add the pupils.
- Add glue to the front and add the tongue.
- Let dry.
Books About Frogs
Too Many Frogs by Sandy Asher is a funny tale about a introverted Rabbit and a friendly Froggie who is a little clueless that he is imposing on Rabbit’s politeness when he invites himself over to listen to stories every night. Rabbit eventually breaks down and has had enough when Froggie brings his whole family reunion with him one evening to hear the stories as well. You will like how this story ends , the goofy but warm characters and expressive illustrations.
Once Upon a Lily Pad by Joan Sweeney is a cute book about two frogs that lived on the lily pads in Claude Monet’s gardens. I love the theme of life cycles in this story with the frogs hibernating and having more than one set of tadpoles… and eventually the painter not reappearing. It’s actually a great gentle book to start a open discussion about death without having to go into the thick of things right away. I love how it sparks interest in the painter and his beautiful work as well as can be used as a launchpad for an outdoor painting activity ( en plein air) . So many ways to use this book.
Leap Back Home to Me by Lauren Thompson gave me goosebumps and made me want to give the author a high five. The little frog leaps away from mama frog going further and further away but leaps back home to his mama each time with then end being spot on with the text changing from ” then leap home to me” to ” when you leap back home , here I’ll be”. My heart was aching seeing the little frog grow so fast! I love this book. It’s got very simple repetitive text ( great for emergent readers!), the illustrations by Matthew Cordell are goofy and sweet. They match the text perfectly so they give great clues to readers who may be struggling with a word. As a read aloud this book is awesome , not only because the repetitive text has a great rhythm but as the little frog gets more independent and goes further from home the things he is leaping over are pretty goofy and will get more than a few laughs from any audience you are reading it to!
We love knights! I am so thankful that my son is interested in knights because not only are there lots of story books about them, there are fantastic non fiction choices too. Here are our reviews of a few books about knights that we have read recently.
Small Knight and George by Ronda Armitage is a gem! This story is funny, cute and a great message about not being what we think we should be but rather who we truly are. Small Knight is not so sure about being, brave and fighting but he does know how to make a friend. When he sets out to slay a dragon he ends up befriending one. A great book for all kids . Even though my son is presently all about battles and weapons he still likes and relates to this more peaceful story of a knight. As soon as I read it to him I was searching for the next in the series.
Imagine You’re a Knight! by Meg Clibbon is a fantastic book for children interested in what being a knight is all about. There are so many great details and answers given that I am eager to read more in this series. My son loves this book and not just because it answers his many questions about knights but also because it’s the type of book that you can open and close as time permits , reading a little or a lot and still enjoying it. I like the humor and illustrations by Lucy Clibbon. It’s a great choice for 4 and older. 3 year olds might find it to be too much.
Knights & Castles (Insiders) by Phillip Dixon is a visually stunning book. This is not a book intended for preschoolers . But kids eager to learn more about medieval life, how castles were constructed and the realities of being a knight ( and other social positions) will appreciate it. I urge parents to read through it first because it’s geared towards older elementary through adult and explains the history in great ( not necessarily preschool appropriate) detail. My son loves this book, mostly due to the incredibly illustrations that offer a look back in time. As a mom who has a degree in history I adore these books but make sure to read it with him to explain the more complex information that is included.
The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke is a tale about a princess named Violet who was raised with her 3 older brothers by her father after her mother dies in childbirth. Her brothers are trained to be knights and she to learns to joust , ride horses and sword fighting. Her brothers ( like most) tease her and tell her that she’ll never be as strong and it’s a maid who tells her that she won’t be as strong but she can be smarter. That message stood way out for me and is why I think this is such a great book. When her father sets up a tournament for Violet’s hand in marriage she takes things into her own hands. She shows everyone how she is smarter than all the other knights and with hard work trains to win her own hand in marriage . I love this book not only as a great empowering one for girls but also to show boys that girls don’t have to fit a specific mold either.
My Favorite Michael Laura Heiman is such a wonderful book about pretend play. In it a little boy Michael dresses up as all sorts of roles from business man to knight to pirate. Eventually he pops out with no costume and his mom tells him that she likes him as all those other roles but that this everyday Michael is her favorite. Kids who love to dress up and get deep into pretend play will like this book. My son who is almost never without his sword and shield and loved this book, since taking it out of the library a few days ago it’s been read many many times.
The Bravest Knight by Mercer Mayer had my son smiling on the edge of his seat until the end. The story is about a little boy who imagines he’s a knight living a thousand years ago. He imagines he is a squire who is loyal to a knight and even saves the knight from time to time. My son loved this, especially the part about the squire saving the knight. Then in the end the knight battles a troll and dies. You don’t see it but after that the little boy decides maybe living back then wouldn’t be so cool. I was like really Mercer Mayer? He’s dead? What?! I totally didn’t pre-read it either ( will I ever learn??) and my son was stunned. Thankfully my resilient bossy 4 year old announced I needed to turn back the page and re read it saying the knight was just inside eating . So yeah we loved most of the book.
Take Care, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas such a sweet book about three little dragons who agree to cat sit a wizard’s pets and the Good Knight who helps them get it right. The story is filled with mishaps when the dragons who can’t read yet try to figure out the wizard’s written instructions. The outcome is hilarious and will have your children giggling. I also love the message about using pictures to give clues for reading, but to remember to ask “Does this make sense?”