Saturday, November 17, 2012

Little Friends

I cannot tell you how much I LOVE these books!  I first heard of them when one of my first grade students brought Little Pea to share with the class and then memorized it to compete in the school story-telling contest.  It tickled my brain and struck me as clever over and over again.  I was left thinking, "How brilliant!"

These books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace draw on the common complaints of children and twist them around.  Kids find it hilarious that the very things they want are what these little friends complain about most.  For instance...

Little Hoot has a good life.  He enjoys attending school, playing hide-and-go-seek with friends, and even his time practicing owlish behavior, like pondering seriously.  But there is one thing Little Hoot does not like.  Every night, when his friends all get to go to bed early, he has to stay up late.  That's just the rule when you're an owl.  Little Hoot grudgingly complies with his parents' requirements, but vows that when he has kids, he'll let them go to bed as early as they want.

Little Oink is similarly happy with life...for the most part.  He digs playing with his friends, savors his days at school, and relishes bedtime with his parents (where they play "This Little Piggy" before putting him to sleep).    But the one thing Little Oink doesn't love is mess up time.  While all his other friends are tidying up their rooms, he's forced to unmake his bed, pull all his clothes out of the drawers, and generally turn his room into a pigsty.  His only reprieve is playing house once all his dirty deeds are done, so he can sweep, scour, and scrub to his heart's content.

Little Pea also has it pretty good.  He has loving parents and he can roll down hills really fast!  But every night at dinner, he knows his worst fear awaits him.  While all of his friends get to eat their vegetables, all he is given is candy, and he must finish it all before he can have a smidgen of broccoli or spinach!  Little pea may have to choke his candy down, but he's determined to get what he really wants.

Maddie isn't old enough to understand why these books are truly so clever and funny, but she enjoys them nonetheless.  Brian and I enjoy them even more!  These books combine a quirky idea, perfectly-placed puns, delightful illustrations, and clever characters.  I'm definitely looking forward to adding this series to our bookshelf, and until then they remain a frequent request at the library.

The Boss Baby

A new baby arrives at the house, and from the very first moment, it's apparent that he's the boss.

This was another lucky library find that became an instant favorite.  In fact, it is one of the few books that I forced Brian to read when he got home after I first read it.  Maddie loved it for the illustrations, story, and funny baby behaviors.  Brian and I loved it because it was so darn hilarious...and was so true.  In so many ways it reminded us of our days as new parents, when we quickly learned that the baby is boss.

This boss has a lot going for him.  His drinks are made to order, he enjoys a spa and an executive gym, his relentless demands are met with immediate results, and anytime he doesn't feel immediately satisfied he just lets his employees know.

But what happens when his employees just become too overworked, overtired, and overwhelmed?  Well, he might just have to change his tactics.  But make no mistake - he's still the boss.

Brian and I are gifting this to some siblings expecting new babies, and it's particularly good for first-time parents.  We loved Marla Frazee's expressive illustrations and funny-but-true depiction of a new baby's arrival.  This is a book Maddie and I are always excited to rediscover on the library shelves.  It's the kind of book that kids enjoy (and definitely find funny), but that parents almost enjoy more...because we've been there.

Randy Riley's Really Big Hit

Randy Riley stood at bat,
he gazed out at the mound.
His knees began to tremble 
and his heart began to pound.

What boy doesn't love baseball?  Randy Riley certainly does.  But there's just one problem...

Then Randy started thinking
about the pitchers throw
and wondered, without gravity
how far the ball would go

Randy Riley is so caught up calculating the science and mathematics of things that he strikes out at bat every time.  In the illustrations, you can see his frustrated and disappointed team members in the background, shaking their heads, kicking the fence, and looking pretty despondent.  It's enough to make anyone feel down.  Luckily, Randy has another passion that is always able to cheer him up!

But something beyond baseball
brought a smile to Randy's face.
What Randy Riley really loved
was stuff from outer space.

Such begins a book that quickly became a new favorite in our house.  Randy's passion and genius are quickly apparent, and when paired with the well-rhymed phrases, this book was one we couldn't put down.

This book was one of those lucky finds at the library.  The combination of well-written verse, baseball, robots, outer space obsession, and fun fifties-style illustrations made this an instant 'hit' at our house.  (Pun intended.)  In the story, Randy uses his outer space interest to detect a meteor-sized threat to his home town, then uses his love of baseball to save the day...and finally get a really big hit.

We had this book in our house for five weeks, and Maddie never got tired of it.  We read it at least once, and up to three times a day.  Sometimes we'd read it two or three times in a row.  She loves books in verse, so I think that was part of the appeal.  But I think she also loved Randy's obsession as much as he did.  The book immerses you into it with Randy, and it's captivating.  Several pages were memorized before we finally loaned it back to the library (until next time), and Maddie still loves to say "Ka-Pow!" from one of her favorite pages.

This book is great for young toddlers interested in well-written verse and detailed pictures, but would certainly interest young listeners and readers up through about second grade.  I love that this book could especially peak the interest of boys, and will probably gift it to a few boys in the coming years.  As the parent reader, I never tired of the book (which is saying a lot!) and was as sad as Maddie to give it back to the library.  Request a copy today!  You won't be sorry.