Author Showcase : Melanie Watt

Nothing makes you feel like a horrible parent faster than that little voice in your head saying ”  I am so sick of that book, maybe he’ll want to watch TV instead”.  Please tell me I am not the only one who thinks that sometimes. Some books are just bad and for whatever reason kids find the worst in the bunch and fixate on them. To avoid that mishap read great books, like these from author/illustrator Melanie Watt that will make you and your kids giggle.

Have I Got a Book for You! is really tongue and cheek! It’s like an infomercial but on paper, complete with a salesman wearing plaid pants. After I skimmed through it I wondered if my 4 year old would get it, since it’s humor while appropriate for young kids might be over their heads. He thought it was hilarious and the little twist at the end was a huge hit too. I don’t want to give it away so I can’ say more but trust me this is a fun and silly read aloud to enjoy.

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach is so funny. I love books like this that have absurd humor thrown in. Before you even read the story on the inside flap you will notice a blurb that ends with “This story is not suitable for pirates” it just makes me giggle! The story follows the most anxious squirrel you’ll ever encounter as he tries to make his own beach, only to end up at a busy one! What I love about this book are the details, the small asides will have you laughing and the main story will keep even young ones totally entertained. My son loved it especially the part about the pool being the ocean and the flashlight being the sun, even at two he was trying to tell the squirrel how wrong that was. Super fun and a great message about overcoming fears as well.

Scaredy Squirrel at Night I love Scaredy Squirrel. His crazy anxiety, tendency to play dead and hilarious facial expressions never fail to make me laugh out loud while reading.  I love this installment because it talks about something very topical in many preschooler’s life – nighttime anxiety. I was expecting a funny book but it was also really touching and useful in regards to conquering fears. I must say for any new parent the bits about sleep deprivation will hit home, trust me.

scaredy squirrel makes a friend

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend is hilarious! I laughed  from start to finish, my son who was 18 months old didn’t get the humor at all but laughed at me laughing! Older preschoolers will get most of the humor though and like my son, will love the pictures ! Here is my favorite line : in very small print on the inside cover it reads ” * Caution: this story not suitable for walruses. ” Oh how I laughed ! The dry humor aside, the book follows an anxious squirrel looking for a friend , but one that is safe and won’t bite! Of course the message is about taking risks and kids will get it! I love this book!

Eric Carle Books

I adore Eric Carle books. Not just because they are bold, bright and inviting for kids and their imaginations but because I have enjoyed teaching with them for years. First my students then my own son and soon my daughter too. Here are some of the many books we have reviewed of his over the years.

A House for Hermit Crab is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t loose any of the entertainment in trying to hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug and almost time for the hermit crab to leave it behind and find a bigger one.  The book teaches about sea creatures, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is  difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable .

Draw Me a Star is often not read in classrooms simply because of a depiction of a naked man and woman. It’s not what most parents expect to find in an Eric Carle book but it is very fitting in this beautiful and really touching book. The story although very similar to a biblical creation story isn’t necessarily reflective only of a christian view point , rather as I read it is was the author’s own creation. It begins and ends with a star , and hits all the right points in between.

Hello, Red Fox is a fun interactive book about colors and the color wheel. Kids will love the “trick” on each page. The trick being that if you stare at a color for long enough then stare at a blank page the complimentary color will appear! This book is great, but not for a group, a class will disintegrate into “Let me!!” and “My turn!” quickly so this is really is best read one on one!

Mister Seahorse is a story about the more involved fish fathers in the sea. Mister seahorse isn’t the only fish that takes care of his eggs until they hatch , in the book we meet other dads that do too. I didn’t realize how many people don’t like this book until I read some reviews on amazon when ordering the book a few months ago. Many parents are off put by the father fish who announces he is “babysitting” his own baby fish. It never really bugged me even though when a parent says that in real life it irks me. All the positive daddy fish outweighs that one comment for me.

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle ( illustrator) What I appreciate about this book isn’t just the vibrant illustrations or the repetitive text that encourages children to recite it along with the reader, it’s that the book is a great intro to endangered animals. The book introduces readers to animals like the giant panda , bald eagle and giant sea turtle that are all endangered.  When my son was little he liked the repetition, colors and rhythm the test provides, now that he is older reading this book sparks talks about taking care of the earth and all her inhabitants.

The Greedy Python by Richard Buckley and  Eric Carle ( illustrator) is a fun fable about a snake that is so greedy he eats all the animals in the jungle, even ones much larger than him like an elephant! My son thinks this book is hilarious and loves that the animals work together to escape their fate.  The story gets even sillier when the greedy snake ends up eating his own tail!

The Grouchy Ladybug is more than a cute book about a crabby bug. The Lady bug is looking for a fight and each hour she finds a bigger and bigger animal to fight with until she is unintentionally slapped by a big whale’s tail! I loved using this book to teach telling time, as there is a picture of an analog clock on each page. I would use a play clock and as I read each page ask one child to come and set our classroom clock. Also don’t be put off by the fact that the lady bug tries to pick fights, no animal takes her up on her offer and you can spin that into a great lesson about not giving into people who are trying to pick fights.

The Very Busy Spider was a favorite of my son’s from the get go. We have the board book edition and what I love about it, is that the spider web in it is raised and offers a sensory element to reading the story. This is a story of hard work, persistence and also helps reinforce animal sounds. Perfect for toddlers !

The Very Hungry Caterpillar When I sat down to think which book is my absolute favorite, the one that kept coming back into my mind was this classic. As a child the holes the caterpillar made in the pages fascinated me, the colors enchanted me and I remembering being amazed that the caterpillar turned into that huge colorful butterfly! In university while studying elementary education I chose this book as the literary inspiration for a cross curricular unit study for grade 1.  I made math lessons with fruit, science lessons about observing insects and the butterfly life cycle and health lessons about smart food choices. Then teaching preschool I used this awesome book to teach the days of the week, basic counting and more. When I was pregnant I chose this book along with a few other favorites to be my son’s nursery theme. Now that my son is 3 we often pull down the Very Hungry Caterpillar felt board and play with it as we read the story. To me this book is a given, and for every stage of my life, student, student teacher, teacher, mother it has come along for the ride!

The Very Lonely Firefly was one of my son’s favorite books to read before bed when he was a toddler, not so much because of the story but because the board book version has flashing lights at the end ! The story is all about a firefly looking for another firefly but mistaking all different light for a friend. Toddlers love this book because it gives them a chance to be bossy and say ” No that’s a flashlight” to the firefly. The text is the right length for little guys but not boring for older kids , and I need to mention the little lights are really quite magical in a dark bedroom, especially if you are in a place that doesn’t have fireflies!

Which Eric Carle book is your favorite?

Author Showcase : Harriet Ziefert

At my local library ( where I get 90% of the books I review) I know where a handful of authors books are and Harriet Ziefert is one author I never forget to check when I am looking for new books. Her books are well written, sensitive to a child’s perspective and I feel good recommending her as an author not to miss to parents. Here are just a few of her many books for you to check out.

Beach Party! reminds me of “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle , and that comparison is a compliment. This large board book is a fun and cute way to introduce toddlers to movement as well as animals you find or want to avoid at the beach. The reader is asked how they want to walk today then they see how each animal moves. This would be a fun read for a circle time where kids could get up and move!

Hanukkah Haiku is a bright and cheery look at the traditions surrounding the holiday within the parameters of a haiku on every page. The illustrations by Karla Gudeon are so detailed I spent ages just looking at all of it. Each page is a haiku that goes along with a night of Hanukkah and it also explains briefly some of the other traditions like playing driedel , eating latkes and chocolate gold coins!

Hats off for the Fourth of July is a fantastic book for children who are just understanding what this holiday is all about. The book follows a parade with hints of what is next to come along, making the reader feel the same feelings real parade goer does as they stand on their tipy toes to see what is on it’s way. My son really enjoyed the book because it was packed with marching bands, motorcycles and more. My son will see his very first 4th of July parade tomorrow and this book helped me explain what he’ll see and when we get home it will help us discuss what we saw. Useful and entertaining.

One Red Apple is stunning. I really enjoy this author but most of my praise for this book lands squarely on the illustrator Karla Gudeon’s shoulders. WOW. I just adore the look, and creativity of this book. The story follows the cycle of one apple from orchard, to market back to seed, tree and back into the hands of a child. I enjoy books like this that simply explain the cycles of the natural world to young kids , but you can’t miss this one.  As I turned each page I gasped, it’s one of those books you just need to sit and look at because eqach time you do you find some little detail you missed before.

Snow Party is a magical book that celebrates the biggest holiday for snow people, the winter solstice. I wish I had had access to this book when I was teaching because it’s a perfect way to read a story about celebrations without focusing on one tradition, or leaving out another. The illustrations are beautiful and the idea of snow people eating and dancing in the middle of the night is delicious!

Author Showcase: Anne Rockwell

I have reviewed so many of Anne Rockwell’s books that I had to do a search to find them all, and there are too many to include in one post. I haven’t adored everything she has written but every time I go to the library ( any of the 3 nearby branches) I go straight to her section to see what’s in !  I particularly love her holiday books and my son loves the transportation ones.

Father’s Day I really liked this book, it is about a class full of students writing stories about their dads at school and ending with a party where they present the books to their fathers. What I enjoyed was the diversity of this book , it covered all different kinds of dads and children and all the things they most enjoy doing together. My son was rather attached to the dad and son playing soccer , and I had a mean craving for chocolate after reading the page with a dad and daughter making fudge! A wonderful activity after reading this book would be to write your own story!


Fire Engines by Anne Rockwell is the current favorite at our house. I found it at a thrift store for twenty five cents and I am definitely getting much more than my money’s worth! It’s a cute book with easy text and cute cartoon dalmatians as fire fighters. I particularly love that there is a fire boat in the book since we often see those around here. Cute book for fire engine lovers!  Edited for 2010 – this is STILL a favorite and my son recently “read” it to his baby sister, it’s not yet clear if she will adore firetrucks as much as her brother but I am sure she’ll like this book.

Good Morning, Digger is not going to be put onto my must buy list. It just seemed flat and boring. The story follows a vacant lot and the digger that comes it to start construction on what will transform into a community center. There really weren’t any characters and the text seemed unenthusiastic, there was nothing to latch on to and make a real connection with. To make matters worse I think I have to pay a late fee at my library on this one.  Edited for 2010 - we recently read this book at the library and my son as I predicted loves it. I still stand by my review , and as much as I adore this author I am not a huge fan of this book.

Our Stars is another wonderful non fiction book from this author illustrator. The book shares the most basic facts about stars with the reader as well as more complicated facts about constellations, comets and meteors. I love that the facts are shared pretty independently on each page, so if something is above your toddlers head you can simply skip that page, until they are . The illustrations are fun enough to grab attention but detailed enough to help explain the facts being presented

Presidents’ Day is a perfect introduction to presidents, some of their major accomplishments and some major points in American history. The story follows a class putting on a play and we learn about some of the most significant presidents as the children do. Even if President’s Day is months away you can use this book while learning about money , linking the various presidents on coins and bills, or for Independence day too!  Very cute and age appropriate for older preschoolers.

Valentine’s Day by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell is a lovely book with a a cute twist. The story follows a class making special valentines for each other , some are very touching others goofy. The story doesn’t reveal who the Valentine’s are for. There are pictures of the same girl with the various students though so after a while you are clued into that they are for her we still don’t know why. I was so worried she was sick in the hospital, as it turns out the class goes to the post office to send it away to a classmate that is far far away! I like the idea of a class all writing to a friend far away, focusing on friendship and not candy! I also love any book that causes my son to say ” Let’s go see a map of where she lives mama!”

Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train was another book I had to renew over and over at the library because my son refused to return it! When we went on vacation this year my son took his very first train ride just like Allan in this book and like Allan was excited and took every moment in! I like that this book captures the excitement of a little boy who is obsessed with trains but the end leaves readers hanging and had me wondering if there was a page missing in my copy! Still the illustrations are vibrant and my son loved this book.