Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nostalgia Comes Calling

I have many boxes from my childhood.  I've been slowly sorting through their contents, discovering mementos like t-shirts (I was on the A's softball team in elementary school during my only team sport stint) and buttons (including multiple Ben & Jerry's tour pins, which they don't even give out anymore).  I honestly don't know what to do with all these pieces of my youth.  They trigger vague memories, but they don't hold a special place in my heart.  Yet I feel guilty getting rid of them....

Then I came upon a box I had hoped to find: my childhood books!  I finally had a fun-filled walk down memory lane and no decisions to make.  I was definitely keeping these!  There are certainly too many to share, but in keeping with the nature of this blog, I will only post the picture books.  And rather than pull cover pictures from the internet, I'll take the pictures myself, just to show you how "old" and well-loved my copies look :)

Panda Cake (Author/Illustrator: Rosalie Seidler) – When I opened the front cover of this book, I found the following inscription: “To Laura Jane Elisabeth from Nana Lamson, Christmas 1978”.  My grandmother passed away in November and I was struck by what else I had just learned about her.  She gave me a picture book for Christmas before I even turned one.  She signed her name “Nana”, which she always asked us to call her, but we never did.  She was always Grandma to me.  (Why is that?)  I also learned that she placed a value on reading and learning.  This story deliberately teaches a lesson, which is something I would attribute to her.  A panda and his brother go shopping for cake ingredients, creating shortcuts by “finding” the seeds and berries along the way.  The older brother sends the younger home with the ingredients while he goes to the fair with his mother's money.  The animals that all felt robbed were invited for cake and when the irresponsible brother returns home, all he gets are “two crusty pieces of leftover bread.”

Miss Suzy (Author: Miriam Young; Illustrator: Arnold Lobel) – This book feels like a home-grown bedtime story, as it rambles a bit and doesn’t feel too cohesive, but as a child, I loved it.  Miss Suzy, the tidy gray squirrel is chased out of her house by a gang of red squirrels.  She finds refuge in an abandoned attic dollhouse.  She is soon joined by a troop of toy soldiers she finds in a box and “she took care of them like a mother.”  (Upon re-reading this, I was reminded of Snow White.)  Finally, when she shares her tragedy with the soldiers, they march on the red squirrels and force them out of Miss Suzy’s house.  The whole story wraps up with the soldiers agreeing to come to dinner once a week and Miss Suzy tidying up her house just as it was.  The muted and then colorful illustrations by Arnold Lobel are a real treat.

Be Nice to Spiders (Author/Illustrator: Margaret Bloy Graham) - Does anyone else remember Weekly Reader Book Club? That is the origin of this book. An orphaned spider begins to take care of all the flies at the zoo, teaching the staff that spiders are useful creatures. A satisfying story with another good lesson. We were very big on catching and releasing insects in our house as a child... I wonder if this book had anything to do with it?

Uncle Wiggily and the Runaway Cheese (Author: Howard R. Garis; Illustrator: Aldren Watson) - Not many books are more inviting than those with maps of the story setting on the endpapers. I loved pouring over the map of Uncle Wiggily's neck of the woods and imagining the story again and again. In the story, the runaway cheese posed a problem that needed to be solved. (I bet my Dad loved reading this story to us for the physics angle!) After an encounter with a bear (which seems completely out of place), Uncle Wiggly rigs up the cheese to roll as a wheel on an axle. Howard Garis was prolific and wrote many Uncle Wiggily stories and the story ends with an oral storytelling tradition: "And if the doll's dress doesn't go walking off down the street by itself and scare the baby carriage so that it runs away, I'll be back to tell another story."

Goodnight Moon (Author: Margaret Wise Brown; Illustrator: Clement Hurd) - Does this book need an introduction? I think every child, since it was published in 1947, is familiar with this rhyming bedtime story. Much of the fun was pointing out the objects and the juxtaposition of the color spreads and the black and white sketches that alternated throughout the book. As an adult, the line "Goodnight nobody, Goodnight mush" strikes me as rather a stretch, but who can argue with a classic?

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss) - What's a childhood without Dr. Seuss?  I loved the silly rhymes and all the concoctions of his imagination.  I remember The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back were favorites, as well, but they were not in my book box.

Gregory, the Terrible Eater - Follow this link to see my post from another week.

Christina Katerina & the Box - Follow this link to my post from another week.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Diary of a Wombat
Author/Illustrator: Jackie French/Bruce Whatley
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books/2002

Genre/Audience: Fiction (or narrative nonfiction?)/Ages 4+

Themes: wombats, Australia, diary format

Opening: "I'm a wombat.  I live in Australia.  As you can see from my picture, I look a little like a bear, but smaller.  I live in a hole in the ground.  I come out mostly at night, and during the day I sleep.  I eat grass and roots and, of course, the occasional treat..."  The diary follows.

Synopsis: From Publishers Weekly- "What, exactly, do wombats do all day? One enterprising wombat answers that question and a few others in diary form in French's (No Such Thing) tongue-in-cheek picture book. After explaining his unique Australian heritage, the star of this volume paints a funny, if rather dull, picture of his daily routine. "Monday Morning: Slept./Afternoon: Slept./ Evening: Ate grass./ Scratched./ Night: Ate grass." Things begin to perk up, however, when the wombat discovers its new human neighbors. Before long, the always-hungry creature is at their door begging for food (preferably carrots or oats), digging in their garden ("Began new hole in soft dirt") and turning his neighbors' belongings into scratching posts. Happily, the human family appears to take the antics of their adopted wild "pet" in stride (though the wombat sees things a bit differently "Have decided that humans are easily trained and make quite good pets"). Whatley (the Detective Donut books) appears to relish this character study; he paints the chocolate-brown wombat in numerous poses and expressions--rolling, scratching, sleeping, chewing--on an ample white background. The artist gives the star expressive eyes without anthropomorphizing her. The often cuddly looking wombat may leave some readers envious of its languid lifestyle. And those curious about other animals' activities can explore Diary of a Worm, Ages 4-7." (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Why I Love This Book
A book written in diary form from the point of view of a wombat is hysterical.  The clever illustrations are the link that young children need to infer what the wombat means when he says he "won battle" against a "flat, hairy creature invading my territory" (it was a door mat).  This book is creative, unique and, while simple, offers many ways to use it in the classroom. 

Writing prompt: Create a diary for a local woodland animal or your own pet!

Grammar: Sentence fragments - What are they?  How are they used in this text?  When is it "okay" to use them?

Geography: Study Australian animals.  Are the habits of the wombat in the text accurate?  Are they a nusiance to humans?

Many great activities here:

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eat Your Peas!: Books About Picky Eaters

From the time I learned I was pregnant, I was determined to do everything possible to ensure that I had a healthy eater who liked a wide variety of foods.  That sounds like the goal of a woman who is not yet a parent, right?  Yup...

I did everything "right" from infancy.  I made my own baby food, I made sure I offered a variety of vegetables and fruits.  I introduced various textures and taste combinations.  And until recently, my 3 year old was a really good eater.  And I was a proud mom for having achieved nutritional success with my munchkin. 

It was much to my chagrin, then, when my previously good eater turned into a not-so-good eater.  In fact, he has become a terrible eater.  I've caved to the advice of the pediatrician and started giving him a daily vitamin since he now eats ZERO vegetables.  I don't want to make dinnertime into a battle, but I find myself using phrases like: "You can have more ______, if you eat another (pea, slice of carrot, etc.)"  Ugh!  The trap I thought I had avoided....

So, to sooth my ego and frayed nerves, this week's theme list is about picky eaters.  And did I find a treasure trove of books out there!  I guess I'm not the only parent who has dealt with a strong-willed child at the dinner table.

Gregory, the Terrible Eater (Author: Mitchell Sharmat; Illustrators: Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey) - This childhood favorite of mine plays on the role of healthy food choices through the lens of goats that view junk food (literally!) as the best diet.  I always LOVED that Gregory, the goat, preferred fruits and vegetables to shoes and boxes.  After Gregory goes from one extreme to the other, however, he learns the importance of balance in his diet. 

The Seven Silly Eaters (Author: Mary Ann Hoberman; Illustrator: Marla Frazee) - In sweet rhyming verse, with illustrations that are reminiscent of a by-gone era, the eating habits of 7 brothers and sisters unfold until mayhem ensues.  This makes their mother a wreck and when they try to make her something special for her birthday, what they really make is a mess.  Enjoy the surprise ending that draws all their favorites together into one, unique dish!

Night of the Veggie Monster (Author/Illustrator: George McClements) - The hysterical illustrations make this story come to life as a boy, forced to eat his peas ("a whole three tonight") turns into a Veggie Monster!  The parents quip in speech bubbles, watching the drama unfold with detached remarks.  I will definitely be sharing this one with my preschooler!

I Will Never NOT EVER Eat a Tomato (Author/Illustrator: Lauren Child) - When Charlie has to feed his little sister Lola, he creatively creates a fascinating story behind each food (that Lola claims to hate) and changes the names so she is enticed to try them.  Lo and behold, she likes a variety of foods!

Little Pea (Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Illustrator: Jen Corace) - Similar to Gregory, the Terrible Eater, this is a story of eating habits turned on their head.  Little Pea, Mama Pea, and Papa Pea are a happy family.  But what do peas eat?  Candy, of course?  And does Little Pea like candy?  Not in the least.  You'll have to read it yourself to find out what his favorite dessert is!

MORE Picky Eater books that I discovered, but decided not to formally include in my list.  Look them up for more on this topic!

The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating (A. W. Flaherty/Scott Magoon) - A look at how the Loch Ness Monster came to be.

Tales For Very Picky Eaters (Josh Schneider) - Five short stories.

Bread and Jam for Frances (Russell Hoban/Lillian Hoban) - A classic in the Frances series.

Sweet Tooth (Margie Palatini/Jack E. Davis) - Imagine having a loud tooth in your mouth always yelling and demanding sweets....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Birthday Story Contest

After some encouragement from family and friends, I've decided to enter Susanna Leonard Hill's Birthday Story Contest.  It takes a lot of guts to enter a writing contest for all the world to read, but I decided that this was another stepping stone on my way to attaining my goal of publication.  While this one may never make it into print, it was fun to try out the birthday theme.  Enjoy!

By Laura Renauld
250 words

“A bugle, please, Mommy?”
Bailey Bear pleaded.
For his birthday,
It was all that he needed.

All day he marched,
Beating a drum.
He grabbed his guitar
And started to strum.
Bailey loved music.
He knew in his soul
That learning the bugle
Would be his next goal.
His birthday arrived.
The gift on the floor
Was much too big
To fit through the door!

He was disappointed.
It looked out of place.
A bugle would fit
In a small-ish case.
Bailey tried to smile
As he lifted the top.
When he got it open,
He was in for a shock!
Out danced many instruments,
From A to Z.
A symphony of notes
In perfect harmony.
An Atoke,
A Bugle,
Chimes, and
A Drum.
An Erhu,
A Flute,
A Guitar,
Kidi, and

A Ney,
An Oboe,
Pan flute.
A Qanun,
Saxophone, and
The last two instruments
Didn’t dally or dither:
A drum called a Yonggo,
And, of course, a Zither.
The instruments lined up
In alphabetical order.
They all took their cue
From an invisible conductor. 
“Happy Birthday to You”
Played so loud and so clear,
Bailey basked in the music
And grinned ear-to-ear.
Atoke: African boat-shaped, metal bell
Erhu: Chinese fiddle
Iya: Cuban drum
Jembe: African drum
Kidi: African drum
Ney: Asian flute
Qanun: West Asian zither
Yonggo: East Asian drum

Friday, May 18, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
Author/Illustrator: Mem Fox/ Julie Vivas
Publisher/Date: Kane/Miller Book Publishers/ 1985

Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4+

Themes: memory, old age, secrets, friendship, intergenerational relationships

Opening: "There was once a small boy called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what's more he wasn't very old either.  His house was next door to an old people's home and he knew all the people that lived there."

Synopsis: From School Library Journal: "A small boy, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, knows and likes all of the old folks in the home next door, but his favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she has four names, too. Hearing that she has lost her memory, he asks the old folks what a memory is ("Something from long ago" ; "Something that makes you laugh;" "Something warm;" etc.), ponders the answers, then gathers up memories of his own (seashells collected long ago last summer, a feathered puppet with a goofy expression, a warm egg fresh from the hen) to give her. In handling Wilfrid's memories, Nancy finds and shares her own. The illustrations are splashy, slightly hazy watercolors in rosy pastels which contrast the boy's fidgety energy with his friends' slow, careful movements and capture the story's warmth and sentiment." John Peters, New York Public Library

Why I Love This Book:
Children can be open, honest, sincere, and literal, all of which make Wilfrid endearing.  They often don't see the social labels or notice the differences among people, making them the perfect conduit through which to open our adult eyes. 

Writing prompt: What's a memory to you? Why?

Make a collection of artifacts, like Wilfrid does, and tell the stories behind each one.

Hear the story read here:  Site also includes a number of related activities.

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Favorites: Happy Birthday to Me!

It is May 16 and it is my birthday.  What better way to celebrate than to share with you my favorite children’s books?  At this point, I need to include a disclaimer to say that these are my favorites AT THIS MOMENT.  Subject to change on a whim or a new read.  But isn’t that everyone’s prerogative?  To change their minds if something better comes along?  Or to allow different favorites for different times in our lives?

As I write this, I am already overwhelmed by the choosing.  I’m sure that I will leave out a really important, life-changing book and regret it!  Thank goodness for edit-friendly blogs and understanding readers! 

This post will take the form of a list, rather than short reviews for two reasons:
1.      The list is much longer than usual, so it would take a lot of time to summarize each book, which brings me to…

2.       My selfish need to give myself the gift of time – to read!  (It is my birthday, after all!)

Without further ado, here are my (current) favorites, in no particular order.  I’d love to hear yours.  Please share!

Board Book: Hippos Go Berserk! (Sandra Boynton)
                Why?  Because Sandra Boynton never dumbs down her vocabulary, even for the littlest readers.  And it is a hysterical concept book.

Early Reader Series: Mr. Putter and Tabby (Cynthia Rylant/Arthur Howard)
            Why?  Mr. Putter and his old cat Tabby are so endearing, as are their neighbors, Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke.  Each one has a complex personality that shines through every story.  I especially love Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book.  Can you guess why?  It is inspirational J

Fiction Picture Book: (how to decide?!?) All the Places to Love (Patricia MacLachlan/Mike Wimmer)
                Why?  It makes me cry every time.  And the paintings by Mike Wimmer are gorgeous, transporting the reader to rolling, rural farmland.

Wordless Picture Book: Tuesday (David Wiesner)
                Why?  I love frogs.  So frogs surprised by a night when they can fly?  Even better!

Middle Grade Novel: The Giver (Lois Lowry)
                Why?  I have read this book every year since I picked it up, which I think was in high school.  Utopian/Dystopian literature has a special appeal for me and this one is an incredible look into the darkness lurking in the secrets of a perfect society.

Author: Cynthia Rylant
                Why?  She is such a versatile author, having written early readers, poetry, picture books, middle grade novels, memoir, fantasy, narrative nonfiction…I’m sure there are some genres I’ve left out.  So many of my favorite books are written by her.  She is the writer I long to be in my dreams.  Just like her series Mr. Putter and Tabby, she is inspirational.

Poetry: Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (Kristine O’Connell George/Kate Kiesler)
                Why?  These poems remind me of camping with my family as a child.  The title poem is especially engaging, as it describes the roasting techniques of my brother and I perfectly.  Or at least that’s the way I remember it J

Nonfiction Picture Book: An Egg is Quiet (Dianna Aston/Sylvia Long)
                Why?  This gorgeous book has the feel of poetry, the facts of nonfiction, and the visual appeal of an art show.

Childhood Fave (MG novel):  A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
Why?  I had such a visceral experience reading this book, sitting on my bed, knees tucked up to my chin, heart pounding when Meg has to walk down the street of identical houses toward IT, a gigantic  brain responsible for the Dark Thing, that I don’t want to read it again since I’m afraid I won’t enjoy this book the same way.

Mother-to-Be Book: MA!  There’s Nothing to Do Here!: A Word from Your Baby-in-Waiting (Barbara Park/Viviana Garofoli)
                Why?  When I was pregnant, I read this book many times to my bump.  I could never make it to the end without crying.  Hormones or no, have tissues on hand for this very funny, very sweet book that captures the longing to be a mother so perfectly.

Poetic Novel: Love That Dog (Sharon Creech)
                Why?  This poetic novel, told by Jack through his poetry journal, lets the reader into his thoughts and feelings in such a unique way.  You follow him from defiant evasion of poetry, to catharsis through it.  This was a page-turner for me.  I think I read it in one sitting.

Childhood Fave (Pic Book): Christina Katerina and the Box (Patricia Lee Gauch/Doris Burn)
                Why?  Ingenuity and imagination are the playmates of children.  Find this classic and see what I mean!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Long Night Moon
Author/Illustrator: Cynthia Rylant/ Mark Siegel
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/ 2004
Genre/Audience: Nonfiction/Ages 3-6

Themes: Native American culture, moon, poetry, months

Opening: "Long ago Native Americans gave names to the full moons they watched throughout the year.  Each month had a moon.  And each moon had its name...."

Synopsis: From School Library Journal: "Books this good come along once in a blue moon. Rylant opens this radiant offering by explaining: "Long ago Native Americans gave names to the full moons they watched throughout the year. Each month had a moon. And each moon had a name.…" The two-page illustration shows a woman holding a baby and looking at the nighttime sky. Scenes of their house and the surrounding countryside accompany the 12 poems that follow, beginning with January and tracing the cycle of the year. To read the text is to be bathed in the magic of moonlight, magic extended by Siegel's luminous charcoal, pencil, and pastel landscapes. February's picture is stark and cold; a solitary stag, his breath a white cloud, stands by an icicle-shrouded bear den. The stag appears again in March as does the den without the icicles, and the painting glows with green tones: "a Sap Moon rises/over/melting ponds,/sleepy bears,/small green trees./It tells a promise/and a hope." The woman and the now-older child reappear at the end and again gaze at the orb from their garden gazebo: "And in December/the Long Night Moon waits/and waits/and waits/for morning./This/is the faithful moon./This one is your friend." Savor this thoughtful book, and pair it with Jane Yolen's Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987) for a lyrical bedtime read-aloud."–Kathleen Whalin, York Public Library, ME 

Why I Love This Book:
Cynthia Rylant is brilliant and so versatile.  She can write poetry, picture books, early readers, middle grade novels, memoir, nonfiction....I'm sure I've left something out.  This poetic, nonfiction book is a favorite.  Short, free-verse poems paint a picture of each full moon during the year, each with its own personality.  This book came to mind this week because of the enormous full moon we were graced with.  It is May.  It was the "Flower Moon" and it was "Happy to be here."

Choose your birth month.  Name the moon, just as the Native Americans did, and write a poem about it.

Study moon phases. 

Study Native American traditions.  Compare them to your own traditions.  How are they related to the calendar year?

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Recently, my three year old has started to say, with a mischievous grin, "I don't love you," whenever I tell him I love him.  I know that he is learning about language and emotions and playing with meanings, but it is a bit heart-rending, nonetheless.  Luckily, my 21 month old is just starting to mimic "I love you," so from him I get "Ah-wuv-oo", which is heart-melting.

Being a mother runs the gamut of emotions on a daily basis, but loving your child never changes.  I've learned to relish the unexpected hug and the happy "Yay!" that accompanies an announcement that we are going somewhere they love, whether it is the park, the library, or the front yard.  These make up for the tantrums and the daily dinner mantra: "I don't like this..."

Happy Mother's Day!  Enjoy these heart-felt books.

My Mama Had a Dancing Heart (Author: Libba Moore Gray; Illustrator: Raul Colon) – The lyrical prose follows a mother and daughter as they dance their way through the seasons.  With wild abandon, the mother shows her daughter how to live joyfully and engage deeply with the natural world.  This book is an ideal choice for mothers, children, dancers, poets, and artists. 

Someday (Author: Alison McGhee; Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds) – I have used this book as a new mother gift and a Mother’s Day gift, perfect for mothers and daughters.  It is not so much a story, as a dream list, beginning with a mother and her baby girl (“One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one.”) and ending with the girl as an old woman, remembering her mother.  Beautifully illustrated moments in time tug at the heart strings.  Be forewarned, this is a tear-jerker.  But sometimes, you just need to cry at the beauty the parent-child relationship can hold.

Tweak Tweak (Author: Eve Bunting; Illustrator: Sergio Ruzzier) – A little elephant asks many questions of her mother while they are on a walk together.  This sweet book highlights a child’s curiosity and a mother’s role in teaching, encouraging, loving, and, eventually, letting go.

Motherbridge of Love (Text by ‘anonymous’ for the charity Mother Bridge of Love; Illustrated by Josée Masse) – This beautiful text deals with the two different kinds of love: that of a birth mother and an adoptive mother.  Adoptive children often question where they come from and this book is a sensitive way to begin a conversation.  The charity Mother Bridge of Love was started in 2004 to create a resource for adopted Chinese children, that bridges China and the West.

Mama’s Day (Author: Linda Ashman; Illustrator: Jan Ormerod) – Celebrating a mother’s love for her child, this book highlights the special things mothers do with and for their babies, while the side illustrations are rich springboards for lap stories as you share this book with a child.  A quintessential Mother’s Day pick!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures
Author/Illustrator: Carlyn Beccia
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/ 2010
Genre/Audience: Nonfiction/Grades 1-4

Themes: history, medicine

Opening: "Instructions for use:
1. Some cures in this book are gross.  Please don't eat lunch while reading."

Synopsis: From Booklist -
Author-illustrator Beccia has gathered some of history’s strangest cures for what ails you. Some of these are silly (puppy kisses), some are sticky (spider webs), some are stinky (skunk oil), and some are sweetly sentimental (a mother’s kisses). Do any of them work? You bet, and part of the fun is guessing which ones (don’t you dare turn to the page where the answers are revealed). Arranged by malady (coughs, colds, fevers, etc.), each section is typically introduced by three possible cures, with wounds getting nine choices. The pages that follow reveal which cures work, why, and when and where they might have originated. Beccia’s droll text is greatly enhanced by her witty single- and double-page illustrations, filled with humorous details. Boys will especially enjoy the ickier cures (anyone for urine drinking?), while teachers and librarians will welcome the careful research and the useful appended bibliography. Grades 1-4. --Michael Cart

Why I Love This Book
The concept, organization, and illustrations are superb.  Not to mention interesting and educational.  If you have ever wondered about the origin of "frog in my throat", read this book!

Math: Sort the cures by origin.  Create a graph for which cures worked and which didn't.

Family Research: Ask your parents and grandparents is there were any unusual ways to treat colds, hiccups, etc. when they were kids.

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cars and Trucks

I have two boys and they like typical boy things.  Anything with an engine absorbs their attention: planes, trains, big machines, tractors, buses, motorcycles, trucks and cars.  I've already done a post on train books (which are truly their favorite), but trucks and cars come in a close second.

I have to admit, I've never really understood the thrill of things that VROOM.  Engines have never excited me and my view of cars is purely utilitarian.  (Yes, I own an minivan and I have no underlying feelings that this fact makes a negative statement on my life.)  But no one told me that having boys automatically signs you up for an intense immersion course on "things that go".  Believe it or not, I now know the names of many construction vehicles (they are not all generic "diggers".)  And most surprisingly, I have come to LOVE some truck and car books, but probably not for the same reasons my sons love them.  They love these books because engines  and fun noises are involved.  I love these books because they are funny, well-written, and cleverly illustrated.  They just happen to be about a truck or a car. 

So here's my list of favorites, which I don't mind reading over and over again to my boys.  (Note: I have only included fiction books.  There are MANY nonfiction books that are worth your time if you have a truck-aficionado at home.)

Little Blue Truck (Author: Alice Schertle; Illustrator: Jill McElmurry) - This book has moved into my top ten favorite picture books of all time.  Okay, I don't really have a top ten list, but if I did, it would be there!  It is adorable.  Little Blue Truck is the epitome of a good friend.  All the barnyard animals love him and he comes to the aid of a not-so-nice dump truck.  A bouncy rhyme bumps the reader along the road as you come to the satisfying conclusion.  And don't forget to look closely at the illustrations.  The toad has quite a personality!

Cars Galore (Author: Peter Stein; Illustrator: Bob Staake) - The whimsical, rhyming text of this book pairs with vibrant, off-beat illustrations that stretch the imagination.  Just try to picture this page: "Hundred-feet car./ Incomplete car./ Scary shark car./ Noah's Ark car!"  Reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, the crazy cars and funky drivers make this book a hit that my kids want to hear and just sit and look at again and again.

Sheep in a Jeep (Author: Nancy Shaw; Illustrator: Margot Apple) - This deceivingly simple book is full of wit, humor, and rhyme that makes it a page turner and a vocabulary builder: "Sheep tug.  Sheep shrug.  Sheep yelp.  Sheep get help."  (from two pigs with tattoos!)  While these sheep are not too bright, they solve their jeep problems in an unexpected way.  Love this one!

Trucks: Whizz! Zoom! Rumble! (Author: Patricia Hubbell; Illustrator: Megan Halsey) - This book is one of a series by this fabulous author/illustrator team.  The cadence and rhyme is similar to Cars Galore and the collage illustrations are full of puns and unusual drivers.  For example, the phrase "New trucks" has an accompanying illustration of a stork driving a "deliveries" truck full of babies! 

My Truck is Stuck! (Author: Kevin Lewis; Illustrator: Daniel Kirk) - This book is so well loved in our house that nearly every page has been repaired due to exuberant page turning!  And it is very wrinkly.  What better testament can you get for a children's book?  Another rhyming book, this one uses repetition, counting, a cyclical story, and a variety of helpers that come along to get the truck un-stuck to drive the story.  Now if illustrations tell at least half the story in a picture book, this one goes even further.  I don't want to give anything away, but you HAVE to read the illustrations to get the joke at the end of this book!  That's all I'm going to say.  I LOVE this truck book!

Run, don't walk, to your nearest library for all these terrific car and truck books!  Post a comment to share your favorites.