The Ravenous Beast

June 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Title: The Ravenous Beast

Author: Niamh Sharkey

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Board Book

I originally bought The Ravenous Beast for the color scheme (its cover is purple, turquoise, and an orangy- yellow) and illustrations.  And the fact that Ayla fell in love with it in the bookstore.  That was a while back, and now our once new board book is chaffed, worn, and has a cracked spine.  Sharkey’s book has become one of her favorites.  It gets read at the table during lunch (my favorite time to read it), at night before bed from time to time, and every once in a while I read it at Half Price Books’ story time while the kids chow down on crackers.

If you make sure to do all the different voices and include the exclamation marks while reading, the book is always well received by children, despite the slightly disturbing end where The Ravenous Beast eats ALL the other characters.  I suppose the disturbing factor is lost on kids anyway because they all think its the funniest thing ever.  Truth be told, it is rather funny.  The whale is my personal favorite, but Ayla prefers the cat and the crocodile.

Sharkey is a well-known and accomplished children’s illustrator, not only does she write and illustrate popular children’s books like The Ravenous Beast, she is the Children’s Laureate of Ireland and is now collaborating with Brown Bag Films and Disney to create a show based on her book I’m A Happy Hugglewug.  Learn more about her and all her ventures on her blog:

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Hurray for Spring! And Elephants!

May 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 5/03/12

Title: Hurray for Spring!

Author: Patricia Hubbell

Illustrator: Taia Morley

Publisher: NorthWord

Genre: Childrens, Picture Books

Ayla has a wide assortment of books of her own, she can’t help it with a compulsive book buying mother.  But going to the library and picking out special books for just the week is always fun.  At a year and a half, she already loves books and spends a lot of time pretending to read or browsing illustrations.  ‘Shopping’ at a library, however, is so much different than shopping at a store.  For starters, there’s the Dewey Decimal System to contend with, something I honestly haven’t used in about ten years.  Then, there’s the lack of beautifully merchandised end caps – you can ask my best friend, I’m a complete sucker for a pretty display.  (That’s probably why I enjoyed making them so much in my merchandising days.)  Still, we manage to find precious gems and exciting reads every week.

This week we haphazardly pulled Hurray for Spring! off the shelf.  The poem tells of all the adventures one can have throughout the season and is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations of kids playing and dragon flies and flowers.  There’s mice playing in the weeds, beautiful blue skies, and the book is an all around treat.  We read it four times in a row before bed time Tuesday night because Ayla kept demanding, “More” as she turned the book back to the first page and patted the title, indicating a re-read.

I’d like to buy a copy to use to celebrate Easter every year.  Its fresh, lively, and is a good way to get kids excited about playing outside, but if read softly the cadence of the words can still put a baby to sleep.  We love Hurray for Spring! Even now Ayla discovered it in my hand and is hopping around, rummaging through the book bag, and begging me to read it again.

Busy Elephants

Author: John Schindel

Photographs: Martin Harvey

Publisher: Tricycle Press

Genre: Childrens, Board Books

In the past, we’ve tried Busy Penguins, which I loved, but Ayla had little interest in.  This time, Busy Elephants was all the rage.  Each page contains a photograph of elephants out in the wild, eating, running, bathing, etc.  And after months and month of every blessed furry (or even some non-furry) animals being called ‘Dog’ its nice to finally see her point with recognition at the elephants on each page, listen to me say elephant, and then try the word out on her own mouth.  So far, all we get is “lphn,” but that’s enough for me this week.  She’s excited to learn new words, even if she can’t quite pronounce them properly.  That’s what makes these kinds of books so great for babies: real photographs, repitition of a word, until by the end they’ve seen the world and added something to their vocabulary.

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – better late than never

March 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How Do You Hug A Porcupine by Laurie Isop

I love this one, and so did Ayla, but I must admit that I’m a little nervous about insinuating that the practice of hugging porcupines is acceptable at all! It reminds me of Dora the Explorer having picnics with snakes and bears.  Possibly a silly concern, but that’s what pops up in my head nonetheless.  We read this several times this last week.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle

Eric Carle is always a good read, as I’ve said in the past, I love his illustrations and so does the kiddo (who doesn’t?).  This particular book is especially neat because Carle gives tribute to the idea being inspired by the kids he has visited in the past.  I thought that was a nice touch.

I Am The Biggest Thing In the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

Our absolute favorite this week! We read this over and over again and plan to purchase a copy first chance we get.  Its always great (even if a little shocking) when a kids book surprises even the adults in the room, every time, without fail.

How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends by Jane Yolen

We’re on a mission to collect all the Jane Yolen dinosaur books, so imagine my excitement when I came across this one at a school carnival! Of course, we both adored it, but Ayla still prefers the bedtime one best.  Because she’s familiar? Or because its better? I don’t know.

Lullaby and Goodnight by Jill Ackerman

Ayla discovered this at Half Price Books and just had to have it.  We bought it, brought it home, and she’s gone to bed with it every night since then.  She loves the light up moon feature, and rocks back and forth to the song.  If we tell her to ‘push the star’ she gets so excited, knowing it will start the song again.

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The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 2/05/12

February 6, 2012 at 4:33 am (Reviews) (, , , , , )

Moo, Baa, La La La! And But Not the Hippopotamus – Sandra Boynton

We liked the last Sandra Boynton book so much; we had to try these ones.  Moo, Baa, La La La! Is wonderful, Ayla had me read it over and over again, even when she wasn’t feeling that well.  She’s been sick, diagnosed with Pharyngitis, and lost about 3lbs. That’s a lot of weight for a 15 mo.  But Moo, Baa, La La La! kept her in good spirits. But Not the Hippopotamus is cute, Ayla just didn’t care for it as much.  It might be an issue of color; Hippopotamus is a dark green, whereas Moo, Baa is a bright teal.  Who knows why babies go for the things they do, I just document my kid’s ‘reviews’ because she can’t do so herself!

Celestine, Drama Queen – Penny Ives

I didn’t think I’d care much for this, but Ayla grabbed it so I said ok.  After reading it though, I think its really cute.  Ayla wanted to read this as an ‘I’m sleepy’ read this week.  We would read through Celestine and then the usual signal of ‘Nurse me and let me rest’ she’d grab the Edna St. Vincent Millay poetry collection.  Ives story is wise and the watercolor illustrations appropriately girly for my little girl.

Which Witch is Which? – Pat Hutchins

This is one we’ll have to grab a few months down the road.  It’s a brilliant piece about twins Emily and Ella who are at a costume party and like different things, and its up to the reader to decipher who is who in each illustration: ‘Ella likes pink, Emily blue. Which witch is which?’ and one holds out a pink gift for the host and one holds out a blue one.  Between being ill and not really knowing her colors and whatnot, it just didn’t hold her attention this time.

What You Never Knew About Beds, Bedrooms, and Pajamas – Patricia Lauber

This is a great book to put curious minds to sleep.  Part of the Around the House History series, it goes through the entire history of beds, bedrooms and pajamas.  Ayla fell asleep about halfway through, but an older child would be more than capable of making it to the end.  It’s a great way to make bedtime learning time too, but no worries about making fun cozy story time in pajamas too scholastic, the illustrations by John Manders keep it all pretty fun.

Finklehopper Frog – Irene Livingston

With all the bright illustrations by Brian Lies, I thought this one was going to have a shoe in for Ayla’s affections without a doubt.  Quite to the contrary, she just wasn’t interested and kept pushing it aside to make me read Moo, Baa, La La La! again.  The poetry is fun, the rhymes mimicking the hopping of a frog as he tries to do things like the other animals.  In the end a bunny rabbit convinces him to be content being himself.

Geraldine First – Holly Keller

I was drawn to the illustrations, but they didn’t really captivate Ayla.  The story is definitely geared toward older children with younger siblings, and I think my nieces and nephews would find it quite funny.  Ayla probably wont share in this sentiment any time soon, if ever.

Introducing Limelight Larry – Leigh Hodgkinson

We both LOVED Limelight Larry.  It’s funny and clever, and the illustrations are exciting and beautiful.  The very best part?  All the different fonts and the surprise foil additions to Larry’s beautiful peacock feathers.  Had I seen this book prior to having Ayla, I may have done the entire nursery in Limelight Larry, maybe Ayla and I can paint her room that way together one day.

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The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 1/28/12

January 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Hippos Go Berserk – Sandra Boynton

Excellent kid’s book, whether you get the board book or the picture book edition, as we read from both this week, the kids love this! It’s a great counting book, as it counts both up to nine and down from nine, and it introduces the concept of addition with its final page, referencing the fact that all the hippos mentioned on each previous page put together would make forty-four hippos.  Originally copyrighted in 1977, this should be considered a classic.

Little Dog Poems – Kristine O’Connell George and June Otani

This is a great introduction piece to different kinds of poems and how often times poetry can get away with putting words all over the page.  What is unique about this poetry, is that its all over the page with purpose as its mimicking the dog featured in the over arching story.  We have dogs, and Ayla is around them a lot even at other peoples’ houses, so you could tell she really related to this book.

Toot & Puddle – Holly Hobbie

This one made me sad, in that I adore Holly Hobbie, but Ayla wasn’t really feeling it.  Which tells me to try again when she’s older.  Toot goes on a wild adventure, while Puddle stays at home, so in the course of the book the story happens with what Puddle is doing and then the alternate page has a postcard from Toot.  I found these kinds of things really cool at about 5 and up, whereas the postcards were kind of lost on my 15 month old.

Molly Who Flew Away – Valeri Gorbachev

We read this over and over again this week!  Ayla loves the illustrations, and is completely captivating by any story involving mice.  I’m not exactly sure what it is she loves about them, but she was in love with this book.

Pip & Squeak – Ian Schoenherr

Another mouse story, Ayla would get super excited on each page and point to the mice.  You could see the recognition on face, “I found it!” her eyebrows seemed to say every time as she jabbed the little mouse illustration with her pointer finger.  This was also my personal favorite for the week as well, its got an adorably clever twist ending, which is fun when you’re a parent reading baby books all week.

The Adventures of Odysseus – Hugh Lupton, Daniel Morden, Christina Balit

This is obviously way to old of a book for my kid right now, but I checked it out as research for the classical education I’m planning for my daughter.  In the classical education style you present topics to them every four years on age appropriate levels.  This book will be the perfect first introduction to The Odyssey, and Ayla already loves the illustrations even if she can’t sit still for the story yet.  Its also done by Barefoot Books: Celebrating Art and Story, for which I have a personal soft spot.

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The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 1/18/12

January 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Come Back, Cat – Joan L. Nodset and Steven Kellogg

How to love a cat: Hold him gently in your lap.  But don’t panic if he bites – he’s only playing.  Be careful not scare him away.  Listen for his ‘motor.’ He’s telling you he loves you, too.

Nodset writes a simple and easy to understand story of trial and error as a little girl chases the cat she wants to play with and how he react.  She presents a very basic and child-like dilemma: “I like you cat.  Why don’t you come? Don’t you like me?” with answers the child can derive from the next step and the illustrations “Then I’ll come to you, cat.” Throughout the book, you learn to pet softly, don’t squeeze too hard and a number of useful lessons for a soon to be young pet owner.  Ayla loved pointing out where the cat was on the page, and of course, my meow sounds.

The Night Pirates – Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright

I love this one!  And Ayla thought it was pretty great too, which is always a plus.  Reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are, Tom goes to sleep only to be bombarded by girl pirates and taken away to a treasure island via his floating house.  Its pretty awesome and the illustrations are fun and colorful.

Pooh Loves – Classic Pooh Board Book published by Grosset and Dunlap

Ayla is a sucker for all things Pooh, even though I didn’t really introduce her to him.  She picked out a Winnie the Pooh book on the first shopping trip to a bookstore we had together after she was walking and I allowed her to pick stuff up off the shelf.  She handed it to me and was very excited to get to take it out of the store with her.  Then, this Pooh book she picked out at the library all by herself as well.  There’s something about Pooh, forever and always, and this one is exceptionally sweet.

The Lion and The Mouse– Jerry Pinkney

This is one we’re going to have try another time.  It’s all pictures and no words, but it’s a picture book and not a board book.  Ayla kept demanding that I read to her, but I had to kind of just tell her a story.  The illustrations are based off of Aesop’s Fables and it’s been too long since I’ve read them to recite the tale.  If you pick this up, be familiar with the tale so that you’re prepared to help walk your kid/baby through the book.  Your kid makes you feel like a pretty crappy parent when they open a book and all you can say is “Uhhh, that’s a lion…”

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The Weekly Low Down on Kid’s Books

January 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Where to, Little Wombat? – Charles Fuge

This title was actually added to the previous Low Down on Kid’s Books post in an edit before I decided to make this a weekly ritual, but it belongs in this grouping.

Ayla wasn’t sure about sitting through the first page, but by the second she was hooked. The first time we read this she made me read it three times in a row and carried it around the house for an hour after that. The illustrations are fun and she loved being introduced to new animals she hadn’t seen before: wombat, emu, and koala. Plus, the story is super cute too.


Busy Penguins – John Schindel & Jonathan Chester

So I totally thought this rocked, despite the page dedicated to penguins pooping. But I love penguins. Ayla, on the other hand was not so interested. It didn’t matter how cool or cute the penguins were being, she was 100% focused on Where to, Little Wombat by Charles Fuge. Therefore, no matter how cool I thought it was, I can’t give it higher than a 3 out of 5 stars because kids books really should *mostly* be for the kids.


Jon’s Moon – Carme Sole Vendrell
Oddly spiritual in a creepy way for a kid’s book. Didn’t care for it. We had originally picked it up thinking the title would be fun for her because its got her daddy’s name in it, but you can’t judge a book solely on its title. The illustrations are beautiful though. Could be useful for teaching personification to a small child.


The Tickle Tree – Chae Strathie and Poly Bernatene
“A phantasmagorical flight of fantasy at your fingertips…” is no misconception! We adore this one at our house. The writing is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, if Seuss were more soothing and less rambunctious. The illustrations are worthy of being compared to Bryan Collins (of and if you follow me on anything, you know how much I love his work. The Tickle Tree should be part of every child’s bookcase, and maybe a few adults’ as well if you are a collector of poetry and art.


Click on the titles to see the books on

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The Low Down on Kid’s Books

January 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms – Yolen

This is Ayla’s first dinosaur book and the first thing we’ve read by Jane Yolen. Cute, clever, and rhyming this is great board book for a 14 month old learning to put her toys away before she leaves a room and goes to another. Its quickly becoming an afternoon favorite.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs – Barrett

Ayla and I read this recently for the first time. She seemed to enjoy it when I made the action loud enough, but its definitely going to be more exciting when she’s a little older. All in all, though, it does not live up to its hype.

Punctuation Station – Bryan P. Cleary

Ayla and I love Bryan P. Cleary books and are trying to collect them all. We checked this one out of the library this week, and as usual she found the rhymes exciting, even if she doesn’t quite know what they mean yet!

The Sea of Bath – Bob Logan

Ayla loves this one. She’s really into the illustrations and there’s the perfect amount of story per page, so she is able to sit still for just the right amount of time before she turns the page for you. We checked this copy out of the library, but I think I’ll have to go buy a copy soon.

Where to, Little Wombat – Charles Fuge

Ayla wasn’t sure about sitting through the first page, but by the second she was hooked.  The first time we read this she made me read it three times in a row and carried it around the house for an hour after that.  The illustrations are fun and she loved being introduced to new animals she hadn’t seen before: wombat, emu, and koala. Plus, the story is super cute too.
Shop Kid’s Books

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Exposure is Everything

November 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My whole life I have been enthralled by the world of books.  As a child, I was an avid reader the school librarian could not keep appeased.  I lived in the worlds of Laura Ingalls, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and more.  Although I went to college to study business, as soon as I was out I sought a position in a bookstore; my dream was to run the literature section, and I did.  I worked there for some years, fully stocked up my home collection, became the inventory manager, but then had a baby and so left the company.

We have 17 overflowing bookshelves in our house and books stacked on every available end table in between.  I have been gathering up children’s titles throughout my pregnancy until now for my daughter, preparing for a lust of the written word comparable to mine.

People keep warning me that she may not want to read, she may not like it like I do.  They keep telling me I cannot force my child to enjoy my hobbies.

I am not forcing her.  I am making the written word available.  She sees books everywhere, she sees people enjoying books everywhere.  In addition to our own collection that we read from every day, we visit the public library for group readings and she sees people outside her family unit gathering to enjoy a book.

My daughter is one year old, and already she often chooses Eric Carle over a stuffed animal.  She brings me Rainbow Fish and expects me to read it aloud while she sorts her blocks.  It seems sometimes as though she is not actually listening, just sorting her belongings, until I stop reading and she looks up and points at the book.  My daughter sorts through her picture books and flips through the pages, she even has her own little cushioned rocking chair she climbs into to do it.  She rocks and pretends to read while I lounge and read in our library in our house.

My daughter loves books, and I am both amazed and proud.  I implore the world to make books available to their children from a young age.  Read aloud to them, they cannot help but be interested and thirsty for stories and knowledge.

Get Your Kid Started!

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