Archive for the ‘Books’ Category.

Kids books – a look into them.

As a dad, I spend most of my day reading kids books to my sons (though the baby is less interested in the content than in the chewiness of the pages).  Some of the books are fun, some are cute, and some do elicit a sort of “…the hell?” vibe.  Let’s have a look at some of the titles in the kiddies’ library.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd – Considered a classic kids book, its a really nice end of day book, right before bed.  The text is very gentle, and there is lots to look at in the pictures (and the pictures themselves help as they get darker and darker as the book progresses, creating an atmosphere of night and sleep).  Sean is really fascinated by the moon, so this book is always well received.  While it is well over 60 years old, it is out of time, and there is little in the book that requires explanation in the modern world (except maybe what a “bowl full of mush” is).

Alvie Eats Soup by Ross Collins – This is a book currently on loan from the library, but we may need to get our own copy as it is #1 on Sean’s list right now.  Its a fun book with a great illustrative style (very comic book…er, graphic novel type layouts).  The story is about a boy who only eats soup, and when his grandma, a world-famous chef, comes to visit, his parents try to get him to give up on his soup exclusivity before she discovers it.  Not terribly deep, and the ending is a bit odd, yet its a lot of fun to read.  Dad, of course, provides voices for the characters (for my buddies who’ll appreciate it, the soup delivery driver has one line, delivered as Henchman #24).  One particular page is a favorite, depicting a ring of stereotyped scientist/doctor types around Alvie on an exam table with the line “They tried analyzing him”.  Dad proceeds to create what he calls “scientist rhubarb”, little grunts of “oh”, “ah”, “mm”, “yes..”, “oo”, “I see…”, which causes Sean to laugh uproariously.  For that moment alone the book is worth reading over and over.

The Zigby the Zebra series by Brian Paterson – Since Sean’s first word (after “mommy” and “daddy”) was “zebra”, in reference to the zebra in the mobile over the changing table, Cathy’s parents found a hardcover version of a book about a zebra called Zigby Camps Out, part of a series of books.  Zigby and his pals Bertie (an African guniea fowl) and McMeer (a meerkat) get into G-rated hi-jinks with a whisper of danger.  The illustrations are bold and colorful, and the characters have distinct personalities which work well in the stories.  We’ve since discovered that these books originated in Great Britain: Paterson was born in Scotland and lives in Henley, England, where he is a graphic designer and author/illustrator.  So our attempts to find other books has been difficult.  We’ve supplemented this one with another hardcover (Zigby Hunts for Treasure, Sean’s current fave), a softcover (Zigby DIves In), and a board book (Zigby: The Go-Kart, a counting book).  But the most fun I’ve had with these books has been developing voices for the characters.  Each reading becomes a mini-play with Dad providing voices and sounds in addition to narration.  I didn’t know of Mr. Paterson’s British background at first, or else I would’ve given them British dialects (Cathy adds voices too, and knowing about the author’s nationality she gave McMeer a Scottish brogue:  I’m already committed to the voices I came up with, and can’t change mid-stream).

Books by Dr. Seuss (and others) – We have a few books by Dr. Seuss, as well as some by other authors under the “Dr. Seuss” brand.  The ones Sean enjoys most are:
One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish – Probably liked for its variety, its also a long-ish book that I always forget is as long as it is.  It is fun, and the rhyming words make for good reading opportunities (like finishing the sentence-type games).  I do some voices for some parts.  An interesting anecdote is one time at supper I casually did a line from the book, and Sean prompted me with the start of the next page.   I had to wrack my brain to remember what came next, and Sean kept pace, ultimately forcing me to get the book and make sure I knew what came next!
Are You My Mother? (by P.D. Eastman) – Another one the boy likes to read, so he can point out items seen by the baby bird in his quest.  The book is a non-rhyming book, but uses repetition and is easy to follow.  My favorite line is actually one word, “No.”, spoken by a chicken: The voice I chose for that character is just silly sounding, and made more so by the fact its on only one word.
Put Me In the Zoo (by Robert Lopshire) – More like unto a Dr. Seuss book (in the writing, but visually different), this is a fun rhyming book about a creature who believes his unusual talents regarding his spots merit a place in the zoo.  The boy and I have fun making sound effects for the various “spot abilities”, such as changing color and putting them on other things.  I need to cement the voice used for the main character; it floats around too much.
My Many Colored Days (written by Dr. Seuss, illustrated posthumously by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher) – Seuss uses colors and moods to help kids see the ways they are different with different moods.  The paintings accompanying the poetry are rough and lively and help convey the mood of the color.

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak – This is a newer acquisition by the wife, and is becoming popular with the older boy.  I know of Sendak from the book “Where the Wild Things Are”, which I admit I haven’t read.  But if this book is representative of his work, all I can say is, yikes!  There are forces at work here beyond simple fantasy.  I’m convinced that the author dropped peyote, stared into his refrigerator for about an hour, then wrote it down (and did some very impressive illustrations).  Cannibalism, naked kid (and not “aw, cute” naked – explicit, Sistine Chapel grade nudity), three bakers who looked like they stepped out of an Oliver Hardy spawning chamber; yes, its weird.  It ends with a simple epigram claiming that this fever dream is the reason there’s cake in the morning.  Uh huh.  We’re going to…slowly…back away now…

I am looking forward to the time when I can get some more lengthy prose books and begin sharing stories at bedtime, beyond the simple picture book.  That way, my boys and I can create our own illustrated stories as we read.