I Love You Through and Through: A+

Unknown-2I Love You Through and Through, written by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak is a lovely, sweet book that everyone should own.  It’s simply about unconditional love, e.g.,  “I love your happy side, I love your sad side.”

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Rosie Revere, Engineer: A

imagesI love this book! Written by Andrea Beaty, Rosie Revere, Engineer is a inspirational children’s book about not giving up. This book will motivate children, and adults to get going on the projects we love, specifically those we don’t succeed at the first time.  The illustrations by David Roberts are fantastic, possibly a little circus-esque-scary but wonderful and full of life.

“She handed a notebook to Rosie Revere, who smiled at her aunt as it all become clear.  Life might have it’s failures, but this was not it.  The only true failure can come if you quit.”

Willow’s Whispers: B

Unknown-1Willow’s Whispers is a rare book in that the author Lana Button puts the “message” front and center, for real kids, with real experiences.  Button stays away from hidden euphemisms and agenda pushing.  The book is about a little girl named Willow who  speaks so softly that her words come out in whispers, no one, other than her dad can hear what she says.  We see Willow constantly unheard and overlooked  in many scenarios at school. Kristabelle, the presumed “popular” girl takes advantage of Willow’s soft-spoken and shy demeanor,  but don’t worry creativity and a little light engineering of a make-shift microphone gives Willow the courage to speak up for what she wants.

Other than the character of Kristabelle I really like this book.  What I don’t like about Kristabelle is that she seems overly stereotyped into her character– blonde, aloof and so intentionally mean, “‘Excuse me?’ Sneered Kristabelle.”  While all of the other characters in the book participate in ignoring Willow, none of them are painted as doing so intentionally–who’s to say Kristabelle was intentionally taking advantage?

If you have a shy child, or if you fear your kid is acting the part of Kristabelle, read this book, give your kids something real to relate to.

Bunny Days: D-

imagesBunny Days, written by Tao Nyeu lives on the top shelf in my charges room, if I can help it that is.  The top shelf is not an ode to top-shelf liquors, the top shelf is just simply out of her reach and eye-shot so I don’t have to read this disturbing sadistic book.

The story line is simple, there are six bunnies, two goats and one bear.  The author has Mr. Goat “accidentally” mangle the bunnies in each of the mini vignette’s. After the torture has ensued the goat offers no apology, he continues with his daily chores, unaware and unconcerned that he has chopped off the bunnies tails, sucked them into a vacuum, etc. Instead of Mr. Goat taking responsibility for what he’s done, Bear comes to the “rescue,” fixing the bunnies in ways that would never work in real life, like putting them in a washer.  Wouldn’t this only and make their pain and suffering worse?

The few times I’ve read this book I cringe, because the reality of tails chopped and suffocation in the washer, even if it’s on delicate, is all too much for me.  And really what message does it send?  Sure, I guess the message is, “help out your friends when they’ve been beaten and abused” and while this is a good, moral message, it seems  to me the amount of physical brutality is a little unnecessary for toddlers, couldn’t the author have made the point a different way?  Mr. Goat is painted as the bad guy and doesn’t even know it, maybe instead of fixing the Mr. Goats mishaps Bear should put an end to the torture.

Maybe the better message would be, “Hey Goat, pay attention dude, you keep hurting my friends.  What’s going on in your life that you don’t even notice the pain you’re inflicting? Are you depressed?  Let’s get you help!”

Tip: Don’t buy this book, and if you already have it, put it out of sight on the top shelf!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: A

UnknownThis is such a great book, full of  sensory imagery and adventure.  The author, Michael Rosen takes his little readers through tall grasses, roaring winds, heaving storms and monstrous mountains.  Each outdoorsy “obstacle” is followed by a mantra,

“We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we have to go through it!”

Maybe it’s just me, but this mantra is such a great lesson for little kids to learn in life.  Things can be tough, sometimes we have to deal with it, and go straight on through.  At least, that’s what I get out of it– my charge on the other hand just wants to go on a bear hunt!

1-2-3 Magic: Review

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I recently read 1-2-3 Magic, by Thomas Phelan… I know, in the past I’ve talked negatively about mass cultivation of parenting books, mainly because over-reading tends to eliminate personal  authority and experience.  Why trust instincts when a book can tell you what to do? The truth is, sometimes parenting books can be helpful, specifically in reassuring parents and caregivers that what their child is doing is “normal.”

Children are constantly going through dramatic developmental changes, and often with these new and exciting shifts come earth-shattering tantrums. I have been going through this lately, and I must admit, sometimes reading a book can be helpful, mainly in reassuring me that the fits are normal and that the way I’m handling the tantrums is best for all involved.

1-2-3 Magic provides some helpful tips about discipline and motivation, 2 key factors when dealing with a tantrumy toddler.  We need discipline to make sure that during the tantrum phases we aren’t automatically giving into the irrational demands and poor behavior from out little ones.  And we need helpful motivation (for them) to make transitions easier.

What I like about 1-2-3 Magic:  It’s simple and honest, for example: “You’ll never like or get along with your children if they are constantly irritating you with behavior such as whining, arguing, teasing, badgering, tantrums, yelling and fighting.” (11) Here the author displays a simple and honest truth, which most parents don’t want to admit to, that is, it’s possible to not always like your children.  I want to insert here that the author rightly so differentiates between like and love, while you will always love your children despite their terrible behavior, you probably wont like them because of that same terrible behavior.

The counting of negative behavior is simple: Your 5 year-old  Jimmy is throwing a fit because you won’t give him chocolate, you say “1…” Jimmy continues, “2…” He’s still going “3, take 5(alone minutes)”

Promoting Start behavior is slightly more complex, only because there are many ways to see the process through.  You can chart, reward, time them, etc. I like that the author explains the difference between “stop” and “start” behaviors.  This is important because you don’t want to count your child, and negatively reinforce them when trying to get them to brush their teeth on their own.  That will only leave a bad taste in their mouth about brushing teeth (pun intended.)

What I don’t love about 1-2-3 Magic:  The author emphasises a no talk method while counting and even after the child has some minutes alone.  He explains that young children are not logical, reasonable people (true), and that by talking, and explaining details of why certain behavior is “bad” only leads to frustration for both parent and child.  The author thinks it’s best to keep quiet and not explain, simply count. I don’t like this because I think it’s important to *calmly* and *simply* explain why certain behaviors are wrong.  I have often had success by calming talking something out.

I think instead of simply eliminating communication parents and caregivers should be encouraged to both use a tactic like counting, coupled with a follow up explantation, i.e., “You had to take 5 because you hit me, and that hurts.”  The explanation should not be a monologue, it should be one simple, calm sentence.  I think children deserve to know what happened, and why they had a “timeout,” so communication is necessary. We don’t need talk to them like adults, but like people we respect, and whom we want to respect and communicate with us later in life.

One other thing that bothered me…. the author is heteronormative in his language and scenarios.  I’m probably, being overly PC, but it definitely stuck out to me, so if your someone who notices this type of behavior be warned, but also know that it doesn’t seem to affect the potential effectiveness of the 1-2-3 model. It’s just slightly disappointing.

Llama Llama Time to Share: A+

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Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney is a great book about sharing, a lesson and skill which is one of the hardest to teach and instill in children…and sometimes adults. The thing that I love about the book, and most of the Llama Llama collection is that it offers a lesson which can be easily identified by young children. Llama Llama Time to Share acknowledges the difficulties sharing can entail and the fun which is gained when sharing actually happens.

When the child I watch is having difficulty sharing I reference this book (we read it constantly per her request.)  She immidiately knows what I’m talking about and usually decides to do what Llama Llama would do. This book gets an A+ because the message is clear, relevant and worth learning.

Even Firefighters Go To The Potty: D-

UnknownEven Firefighters Go to the Potty by Wendy and Naomi Wax receives a D- because it’s horribly stereotypical and heteronormative.  As stated in the title, this is a potty training book, but what it really seems to be “training” or instilling in it’s readers is digressive social stereotyping.  Almost all of the professions feature white-males, the only other race imaged in the book is African-American, this is a typical race quota. The race quota can be seen in many late Nineties and early 2000’s shows, where a once all white cast, simply throws in a black person to “diversify.” But really all this does is amplify, and naturalize racism, by assuming that white and black extremes take care of the diversity quota. What about all other races?

The two-African-American MEN imaged in this book fulfill a race stereotype, one is a baseball player, the other is a server.  There might be one woman in the book, but her gender-ambiguity is hard to visually read, especially in comparison with the hyper-masculine male characters.

The ONE (possible)  woman featured has long hair, virtually the only “tell” this might be a woman, all other features are masculine, or hard  to read. In another, more progressive book, I wouldn’t assume this doctor were female, the long hair wouldn’t automatically make me think “female” but in a book that has proved to be socially digressive I’m leaning toward female. Long hair on a guy is just too much.

The possible woman is a doctor… great right? Maybe not, because either the doctor is a male, or the female doctor is, stereotypically unattractive, i.e., looks Vs. smarts. Women, stereotypically are not thought of as being both attractive and smart, you’re either one or the other.

Not every book needs to be ambiguous about gender relations, nor, does every book need to display different races, i.e. books centered around one-race families. The images, alone are to blame for the D- rating this book receives.  They’re so visually digressive that it overshadows any good message which could have been accomplished by simply doing the socially responsible thing of diversifying biological-sex and race through image. In a book which references many different professions including cop, firefighter, baseball player, server, doctor, there should be diversity in biological-sex and race.

The Giving Tree: A+

GivingTree-1The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite books for children. Why do I love it so much?  Because The Giving Tree provides lessons in emotional education in a beautiful, and simple way.  I also love that the pictures are in black and white, which allows some room for creative imagination.

Interactive Experience:  Ask your child to find the boy.  Throughout the book the “boy” is often hidden in the branches, finding him is a fun interactive way to make them apart of the reading experience.