Bloggers Extraordinaire

Booklights is a new blog from three incredible bloggers: Jen Robinson, Pam Coughlan (Mother Reader), and Susan Kusel (Wizard’s Wireless).  They have partnered with PBS Parents to create a blog that will “inspire a love of reading in your child.”  Huzzah! 

This is definitely a blog to keep an eye on and already has some great posts worth reading.  I love that they introduced themselves with lists of their favorite picture books.  Great stuff!

Squawking Matilda

Squawking Matilda by Lisa Horstman.

Unique illustrations pair with a story about responsibility in this picture book.  Mae receives a note from her Aunt Susan saying that she is sending her a chicken to live with her.  Mae loves to have new projects, so she thinks a chicken would be perfect.  When Matilda arrives, she doesn’t look like any other chicken on the farm.  First Mae needs to learn to care for a chicken: food, water, and cleaning up the coop.  And the jobs become difficult and a little dull, so Mae goes on to work on other things.  In her absence, Matilda pines away and loses almost all of her feathers.  Mae finally realizes something is wrong and sets out to do things right.  She creates a chicken-sized jacket and hat to keep Matilda warm without her feathers.  And the two of them become fast friends.  When Aunt Susan arrives to check on Matilda though, Matilda is nowhere to be found.  What could she be up to now?

Horstman created puppets for the illustrations with stainless steel innards and felt bodies with polymer clay hands and heads.  The puppets were photographed against neutral backgrounds and the details of the scenes were done with painted backdrops that were added later.  This process created intriguing illustrations that are obviously more 3D than a flat painting but still retain some of the painted feel as well.  The characters are charming, especially the cat who is always looking hungrily at Matilda and Matilda herself with her expressive head of feathers.  The story line is accessible and interesting too with wry touches of humor throughout.

This book is appropriate for ages 4-6 and would make a handsome addition to a chicken storytime with its unique feel.

Hello Baby!

Hello, Baby! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Steve Jenkins.

Take two amazing children’s book creators and put them together and you get a treat like this book.  The book starts with a simple question, “Hello, baby!  Who are you?”  It moves from one animal guess to the next with each animal doing an action that children will love to imitate.  Fox has created a joyous bouncing verse that romps from one animal to the next with great merriment.  Paired with the amazing paperwork art of Jenkins, the book is taken to another level. 

As I read this book, my mind immediately heard the chorus of preschoolers pretending to be yawning hippos.  I also saw groups of children rolling their eyes like geckos.  Jenkin’s art is realistic and vivid.  The colors shout from the page and children will enjoy looking closely at the art even though it will project perfectly to a group.  Fox’s words are brief and lovely, perfect for sharing with toddlers.  At the same time there is a sophistication about the art and the verse that will make it of interest to older preschoolers as well.  This is most definitely not solely a toddler title.

Highly recommended as a great pick for toddlers and preschoolers.  But expect lots of animal actions and silliness along the way.  Appropriate for 2-5 year olds.