John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith tells the story of what some of our founding fathers were like before the birth of our nation, taking us back to when John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Tom Jefferson were boys. John was quite bold, taking up the whole chalk board to write his name. Paul was always shouting since he suffered some hearing loss in a bell ringing club (that was “before fun was invented”). George was honest to a fault–when dad forgave him for chopping down the cherry tree, he readily confessed to leveling the whole orchard and a barn! Ben was very clever, constantly coming up with sayings, and Tom was independent (he probably refused to be included in the title). Read this as a fun way to teach your child about people who helped make our country free.
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein is a book with many layers, much like its collage art illustrations by Ed Young. On the surface it’s the story of a cat named Wabi Sabi, who is trying to discover the meaning of her name, but underneath it is influenced by Zen philosophy. Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept which finds beauty in things that are simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious. This explains why everyone the cat asks tells her “it’s hard to explain,” why the city she walks through is not as pretty as the woods that surround it, and why she finally understands the meaning of her name when she sees herself, plain but beautiful, in the reflection of a wooden bowl of warm tea.
Frankenstein Takes the Cake is a humorous book of poetry by Adam Rex. It begins in a graphic-novel-esque format, with comic panels depicting Frankenstein’s bride introducing her green fiance to her judgmental mother. Wedding plans follow, interrupted occasionally with blogs by the headless horseman, and musings from Edgar Allan Poe and his rather unimpressed pet bird (quoth the raven “What a bore”), among other meanderings, up until Frank’s big day, featuring a very bewildered flower girl, and best man Dracula disgusted by the garlic bread at the buffet. Check out this story for a frighteningly good laugh.
The Water Hole by Graeme Base is a really amazing book. In essence it’s a counting story: animals show up in progressive numbers to drink from “the water hole.” However it seems the more animals there are, the less water in the hole, leaving them to converse amongst themselves (in animal language) where they think the water must have gone. Then there is a very sad page depicting a complete lack of water. Finally it rains and all the animals return to drink. I think the story can be thought provoking for a child (where does water come from, why is it important, etc), and the illustrations are spectacular, depicting not only the drinking animals but also “hidden” animals you and your child can search for.
Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy is a fun book to help teach your child a bit about math and measurement. In the story, a little girl named Lisa has to measure something for homework. Her teacher says she can measure anything, so she chooses her Boston Terrier, Penny! Lisa measures all sorts of things about Penny–how much she weighs, how much she eats and drinks, how fast she can run, how far she can walk. Lisa even takes Penny to the park to compare her to the other dogs there–who is the tallest? who has the longest tail? who can jump the highest? Find out what Lisa learns about her favorite pet in Measuring Penny.
A Mama for Owen, written by Marion Dane Bauer, is a charming story of a baby hippopotamus named Owen who loses his mother during a storm and is adopted by a 130 year old tortoise. It’s based on a true story! After a tsunami, in 2004, a baby hippo was rescued by Kenyan fishermen and taken to the Haller Park wildlife preserve. Upon his arrival, the hippo began following around an ancient male tortoise named Mzee, and Mzee didn’t seem to mind at all! This strange pair became best friends, subsequently garnering a lot of media attention. To this day tourists come from across the globe to witness the unique relationship between these mis-matched animals. A Mama for Owen features adorable illustrations by John Butler and is a truly heartwarming story for children 1-5.