Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner (Chronicle Books, $16.99) explains that, “Under the snow is a whole secret kingdom where the smallest forest animals stay safe and warm”. As Messner states in an Author’s Note, this “secret kingdom” does actually exist and she provides information about the seasonal ecosystem. She provides some scientific information about the different animals that appear in the story: red squirrels, shrews, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hares “famous for their seasonal color change”, beavers, bull-frogs, and bumblebees. Messner also offers a list of further reading, so, although the story is a fictional account of a child cross-country skiing with (her? his? well, it’s winter) father, the information included is accurate. The illustrations display a cross-section of the forest, snow, the “secret kingdom” or the animals’ habitats, and the frozen ground. Despite its picture book format, it is likely to appeal to slightly older children, ages 6-9, who enjoy non-fiction and learning about the environment.
Board books are such a good idea. I’m suddenly interested in knowing when they first started being produced. If I ever get around to doing research on the history of board books I’ll be sure to include it in a future post. Perfect for birth – 2 1/2, they are durable, portable, and nice to chew on (an assumption based purely on observation). I like it when authors, illustrators, and publishers produced board books that have specifically be designed for that format, but it is also common for popular hardcovers to be later released as a board book. Sometimes, in the case of Hug by Jez Alborough (Candlewick, $6.99), the board book format makes so much more sense than the hardcover. The book contains 3 words: hug, mommy, and Bobo. Given that “mommy” and “Bobo” appear only once, the entire story is basically comprised of one word and the story that Alborough has created with that single word is impressive. A small primate (not my area of expertise) walks through the jungle and sees other animals in endearing familial embraces. The chimp (?) responds to the snakes, elephants, giraffes with the astute observation “hug”. Bobo, as we later learn is his name, experiences a range of emotions, from delighted to despondent, as he feels increasingly alone. His petulant wail “HUG” and pitiful whimper “hug” draw the concern of all the other animals. Fortunately mommy runs with arms wide open. My grandmother always used to hug us and say, “I’m going to squeeeeze you, till you burst” and this sentiment is perfectly demonstrated in the warm embrace Bobo finally finds. A satisfied interspecies collective “Hug” concludes the story. The board book is perfect, though, because you can hold the book in one hand and hug with the other. It’s a great book to get a busy 1 1/2 year old to sit still for a few minutes as you practice your dramatic voice while trying to read all the different emotions that hugs can evoke.
Books for babies is probably our most frequent request. My new personal baby book of choice is Haiku Baby by Betsy E. Snyder (Random House, $6.99). First, it’s just so pretty, but keep looking and it gets better and better. There are 7 tabs about different natural elements and rather incongruous animals with a haiku for each:
high on mountaintop,
hippo watches snowflakes dance—
winter has begun
The accompanying hippo, complete with pink scarf and bird, standing on a mountaintop and watching the snow flakes fall is priceless.
The book covers the various seasons and each page is equally delightful.
in tickly-toe grass,
a buttercup offers up
yellow nose kisses
“tickly-toe grass”?!?!? Can’t you feel it? The hard t, k, and g sounds evoke walking through the grass barefoot in the summer. I love that the words then smooth out into “yellow nose kisses”, perfect for laying outside perhaps snoozing in the afternoon sun.
These haikus dance off the tongue and are perfect for reading aloud while snuggling with a baby. But don’t neglect this book for toddlers up to 2. The illustrations are simple, but there is plenty to look at and offer interactive games. I suspect no one will be able to resist the invitation to tickle those little toes.
Today’s category is rather general, because this recommended series covers a lot of topics. Turtleback Books, of HarperCollins, publishes a series of books entitled Let’s Read and Find Out – Science ($5.99), which are edited according to levels. The levels are as much about cognitive development as reading level. Level 1 includes titles such as Clouds, From Seed to Pumpkin, Fireflies in the Night, My Five Senses, What Lives in a Shell, and A Nest Full of Eggs.
Level 2 contains significantly more books and is more conceptual than Level 1. Examples of titles in Level 2 are Why Do Leaves Change Color?, Fossils: Tell of Long Ago, What Happens to Our Trash?, How Do Birds Find Their Way?, Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, Volcanoes, How Do Apples Grow?, Forces Make Things Move, What Will the Weather Be?, and the latest title, Almost Gone: The World’s Rarest Animals.