Little Ladies — Bold Women in Black History, An Inspiring, Informative and Very Important Book for All of Us

You really need to get this book, for the children you know and for yourself.  You will learn something, and you will be inspired!

Biographies are my favorite kind of history — always more fun and memorable than lists of battles and elections.  As a child, I read probably hundreds of biographies published in the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  Those highly entertaining books gave me my first understanding of  American history from all sorts of perspectives.  I particularly focused on the books about women who were famous for what they themselves had done, as opposed to those whose fame derived from their husbands, inspired me to think about what was possible.  Their stories were really important to me.
Vashti Harrison’s wonderful Little Leaders — Bold Women in Black History is similarly important and inspiring.  Little Leaders is written for children, but everyone should read it.  Really.  I guarantee you will learn something and you will be impressed.  I wish this book had been around when my daughters were young because it is designed to  spawn countless conversations about the struggles these women faced, the difficulties they surmounted, the sources of their inspirations and then their amazing contributions.   Harrison offers up capsule biographies and appealing illustrations of 40 remarkable black women.   The title Little Leaders, together with the simple illustrations of these women as girls, make the point that all the featured women started out as girls, and that their childhood interests often led directly to their later achievements.  These stories also provide lots of good background information about what life what like for these women and others of their time.  The happy result is that the reader ends up knowing a lot more than just what happened to a particular individual.  This is such a good way to inform children about their history and to provide context for their own times and their own opportunities and responsibilities.

Harrison includes famous women, as well as women who may not be so famous but clearly deserve to be.  It is no criticism of the book that I kept thinking of other black women who might have been included.  In fact the books just made me think of a whole host of people that deserve to be better known and celebrated.

This book belongs in every child’s library.


Excellent News! The Crayons Have Come Home


Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers have done it again!  The Day the Crayons Came Home is the perfect sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit.  It is completely hilarious and succeeds purely as a very funny children’s book.  If one is forced to consider the book at a more philosophical level, it does a great job of acquainting children with a number of useful concepts.   It shows what might happen when someone leaves home in a way that is very funny, yet offers useful cautions and considerations.  On an even deeper level, it raises issues about the crayons’ sense of self.  Some of them question their own colors.  I could go on, but really you should just read this book and enjoy the humor and appreciate the empathy it instills in its readers.

The Day the Crayons Quit


No need to come up with a catchy title for a review of a book called The Day the Crayons Quit.  This hilarious, yet thoughtful book, was written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.  This book tells Duncan, the colorer, what his crayons are thinking.  Not only is this a great story, but it is a great segue to having children imagine what their other inanimate possessions may be thinking.  I really recommend that you get this book and then share it with a young colorer.  This book is destined to be a classic.

I found it while I was browsing through the exceptionally wonderful children’s book collection at the Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  If you haven’t visited this museum, you are missing something truly special.  The collection is magnificent, and the museum building and its grounds are gorgeous.  There are even some easy trails for walking.  The current exhibits are “Van Gogh and Nature” and another focusing on Whistler’s Mother.  The Van Gogh exhibit is reason enough to make the trip.  I thought I had really seen a lot of Van Gogh  —  at the big museums, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and at a bunch of special exhibits through the years.  But, this exhibit sheds new light on what he was trying to do with nature and focuses on his influences.  I am so glad we made the trip.  You should, too.

A Porcupine Named Fluffy and Other Wonderful Books by Helen Lester


Helen Lester has written some of the very best children’s books.  A Porcupine Named Fluffy is a truly wonderful book about how silly it can be to try to conform to others’ expectations.  The story shows all the absurd ways the world’s cutest porcupine tries to live up to his name and become “Fluffy,” only to realize that it’s fine to be the way you are.  In addition to the lovely theme, the book is hilarious, so children adore it, even as the message comes through.  Tacky the Penguin follows a similar theme.  This very funny book celebrates how a brash penguin happily goes his own way in the face of shock and tsk-tsking from his fellow penguins.  Happily Tacky perseveres and proves his worth to his skeptical friends.  There is a whole Tacky series, and they are all fun.  Fluffy  and Tacky can be read again and again, and the humor never grows old.  They are both supported by excellent illustrations, too.

Author, A True Story,  is a little different.  It has humor and it has lovely illustrations, but the point here is the author’s story of how she became a writer.  This is a useful, interesting story and it gives children a blueprint to think about how they might become an author, too.   I particularly loved the fact that it showed how it all started when she was a child and how she succeeded.  It is also nice to see a girl as the star of this realistic, inspirational book.

If you haven’t discovered Helen Lester, you should!

Kids Love Those Animal Sounds!



In the new movie Inside Out there is a nice reference to how important books featuring animal sounds are to kids at a certain point in their lives.  This was certainly true in our house.  First, there was The Golden Book of Animal Sounds.  It wasn’t particularly catchy, but both of our daughters made their first associations between the spoken word and the book in front of them with that very same book.  Of course we loved it!  A much funnier book was Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La La La.  That book was a huge hit for many years.  It had great illustrations and adorable characters.  Even better, it was silly and got something wrong, so the kids had the opportunity to correct a grown up’s mistake.  That little “slip” was just hilarious.

The best animal sounds book for us hands down was Paul Galdone’s Over in the Meadow.  We went through multiple copies and learned it by heart.  In addition to animal sounds,Over in the Meadow  had counting, rhyming and Paul Galdone’s irresistible illustrations.  Its buoyant spirit and cadence brought out the ham in the reader, so it was just all a lot of fun.  It is sadly out of print, but copies can be found on line.  Get one!  If you can’t find the Galdone version, Over in the Meadow is a traditional nursery rhyme, so other versions are available.

Over in the Meadow demonstrates why animal sound books are so great.  Kids get to hear their parents being silly and, hopefully, throwing lots of expression into their performances.  I miss those days!