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The Last Books Before Kindergarten: A Few More Recommendations from my Son and I before September

4 Aug

I have written two previous posts (click here and here) about the fun and important campaign 1000 Books Before Kindergarten which encourages parents to read to newborns, infants, and toddlers to foster an early love of reading as well as an important bonding opportunity.  Of course grandparents, older siblings, cool aunts, and other caregivers are also encouraged to help meet the goal that before Kindergarten every child has 1,000 books read to them.  As we get ready for my son’s first day of Kindergarten this autumn, we continue to read together; one of the best parts of my day is reading him books before bed.  Several books from the previous post continue to be favorites, but here are several more that we’d like to recommend.  Now is the perfect time to check them out and sign up your child(ren) and yourself for our summer reading challenge ( where reading doesn’t just entertain and educate, but also wins you prizes!

Penguin Problems by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith

You may have heard of First World Problems, well they are nothing compared to penguin’s problems.  Jory John’s Penguin Problems look at the troublesome annoyance that plague a grumpy little penguin.  The message about focusing on the larger positives in one’s life instead of minor daily aggravations is one that I find important to be reminded of not just for my son, but for myself as well.

The Secret Life of Pets by Dennis R. Shealy

The Secret Life of Pets is my son’s favorite book right now.  We have to read it every night, and as we start him on his journey of reading himself, he is beginning to pick out sight words and sometimes will attempt to read the book to me.  The book is based on the popular animated movie and in my opinion is better since it focuses on the best part the cute and quirky animals that live in a New York City apartment building and what they do when their owners are away, and leaves out the convoluted rescue plot that makes up the second half of the film.  My son’s favorite pets are the zaftig cat Chloe and the hyper Pomeranian Gidget.

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Another book on almost nightly rotation continues to be the Very Hungry Caterpillar, but Tommy is also a fan of other books by Eric Carle as well.  There are many books that emphasize the special bond between moms and their children, but this is the perfect choice for all the dads out there.  As Mister Seahorse swims around waiting for his own babies to emerge from his pouch he encounters the other paternal caregivers of the fish world including Mr. Tilapia, who shelters his eggs in his mouth.  Mr. Seahorse also swims right past some camouflaged fish as well who are depicted “hiding” behind clever translucent foregrounds.  This is often Tommy’s choice for times his dad reads to him.

The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan

Who is creating the beautiful topiary around town?  My son loves a good mystery and has a good heart so he can relate to the little boy in the story who not only finds out who the mysterious man who is creating the arboreal masterpieces is, but also helps him with his work in this charming picture book by the Fan brothers.

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems

The quirky rhymes and bright colors are enjoyable fun as a cute little frog living in France attempts to run her very first errand with tongue twisting hilarity in Nanette’s Baguette, a recent work by the always popular Mo Willems.  My son is a fan of both fresh made baguettes as well as this silly story.

The Man in the Moon and The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie by William Joyce (Books 1 and 2 Guardians of Childhood Series)

The Guardians of Childhood Series has been adapted as animated feature, but even more engaging are the original stories.  The first two in the series, The Man in the Moon and The Sandman were gifts from my artistically inclined Aunt and Uncle and the illustrations are gorgeous.  The Man in the Moon tells the story of the very first guardian of childhood who started out as a little orphan on the moon.  My favorite of the two The Sandman tells the story of the guardian who brings children good dreams.

The Gingerbread Man by Nancy Nolte and illustrated by Richard Scarry

There are many types of literary gingerbread men to choose from including The Library Gingerbread Man (Dotti Enderle), The Ninjabread Man (C.J. Leigh), or Gingerbread Baby (Jan Brett), but my son frequently devours the classic Golden Book about the constantly on the run version that is the same one my mom would read to me as a child and was one of her favorites to have her mom read to her.  This is one of the early books illustrated by Scarry, author/illustrator of the popular Busytown series.

Biscuit Loves School by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

My son was introduced to the Biscuit series about an energetic little puppy by my mom (aka Meme to my son) and any time he sleeps over Meme and Pepe’s house she would have to read him a Biscuit book before bed. He has started working to read a few at home to himself.  You may want to start your children with Hello, Biscuit which introduces the little pup and explains how he got his name.  If your little one is getting ready for the first day of kindergarten or preschool have them check out Biscuit Loves School.

The Popcorn Book written and illustrated by Tomie de Paola

The Popcorn Book was a baby shower gift from a family friend who enjoyed reading it to her own son. It turned out to be a great choice since my son LOVES popcorn and finds science and history interesting so this classic work which discusses the background of popcorn is his favorite nonfiction book on our rotation.  Also check out one of my favorite fictional picture books from my childhood Popcorn by Frank Asch which features a bear’s party overrun by popcorn when all the guests bring some to share.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Books of Hope and Healing

18 Dec

Ed. note: I’m excited to welcome back Lois Rubin Gross to the Staff Picks blog for this informative post on an important topic for our children. -kw

Hello, Hoboken. I’m making a guest appearance on the blog from chronically sunny Florida. I’ve missed so many of you and your children. I wish you all happy holidays, whichever ones you celebrate. This is a season of light and acceptance for all people, although your children are getting very different messages from the television and, perhaps, from classmates, this year.

The reason I asked the wonderful editor of this blog, Kerry Weinstein, for permission to visit with you is that messages that are inundating us. I’ve heard from one mother whose child is packing her bags in case the army comes to the door to take them away. Another mother told me, on Facebook, that her child is five years old and sensitive to the scorn of classmates who may not understand differences but can certainly parrot bad adult messages. One child checks the locks, each night, for safety. Another child cries because she is afraid she will be deported to a country she has never visited.

There are, literally, hundreds of titles to teach children acceptance of cultural, religious, ethnic, and differences in abilities. I’ve selected a really small group of these titles to present to you. Most are mild, focusing on being new in a class of strangers who don’t speak your language or look like you. Two graphic novels are appropriate for older children young teens with more serious content and explorations of self-identity. If these books don’t meet your needs, the Children’s Department Staff will be happy to help you find alternatives. You may also respond to this column and I will do my best to find you other books specific to your child’s needs and comprehension levels.

I’ve always thought that the old saw about the United States being a melting pot was wrong. I see our country as more of a salad bowl, where different ingredients maintain their identifiable shape and taste, but contribute to a fine dish. By the way, if you are interested in clarifying your own thoughts on the events of the day, I’d like to suggest a book that came out, post 9/11.  Its title is The Faith Club, by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner. In the dark days following the attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, these three women–Muslim, Jewish, and Christian–formed a group to learn about each other’s religions and cultures. Through many meetings, they exchanged often diverse and angry messages, but also learned to appreciate the great similarities among the Mosaic faiths and the goals they had for their families. This is an excellent book club selection.

Remember that you can control the message in your own home, even if you can’t protect your child from every screen or every significant encounter with adults who have different opinions or classmates who have been influenced by the adults in their lives. You are also the best judge of the appropriateness of the media your child consumes and the best judge of how the news of the day is impacting your child.

The universal message of peace on earth seems to be lost, this year, and we must work to making it a clearer goal in the coming year. Meanwhile,  I sincerely wish that you are all happy, fed, clothed, and surrounded by love. Please give your kids an extra hug from me. You are all in my heart.

 Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki.


The author and his family were interred in a camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.  Mochizuki’s parents lost their home and possessions because of their Japanese ancestry. Ken and his friends need a distraction and turn to the great American pastime of baseball to help them deal with racism in this important book about a dark chapter of American history. (Ages 6 to 12)

Beautiful Yetta, by Daniel Pinkwater.


This is one of my favorite multicultural books by one of my very favorite authors. Yetta, the chicken, is on her way to the butcher’s shop with all her poultry friends. The truck she is riding in has an accident and Yetta, a clever bird, manages to escape in Brooklyn. At first, she wanders the streets, meeting only threatening rats and unfriendly pigeons. Soon she stumbles on a flock of parrots who live in Prospect Park (it’s true!). When Yetta saves them from a cat, the parrots adopt her into the flock making them birds of an unusual feather. The book is written in Yiddish, transliterated English, English, and Spanish. It is the best possible example of unlikely alliances that form unusual friendships. (Ages 4 to 9)

The Composition, by Antonio Skarmeta and Alfonso Ruano.


Pedro loves to play soccer. It’s his passion. However, when his teammate’s father is imprisoned by the government, Pedro learns an important lesson about courage and standing up for one’s beliefs. Pedro writes an important school composition about living in a dictatorship called, What My Family Does at Night. A story of friendship and courage. (ages 5 to 10)

Chicken Sunday, Patricia Polacco.


Image via Amazon

An African American family befriends a young Jewish girl from Russia. She and her new “brothers” are mischievous but are wrongly accused of egging a shop owned by an observant Jewish man. The three work together to try prove their innocence in the face of the unfair accusation. (Age 5 to 10)

Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson.


Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya, because she has old-fashioned toys and hand-me-down clothes. When Maya stops coming to school, Chloe and her friends learn an objective lesson in both inclusion and kindness. Chloe becomes the change she wants to see in the world. (Ages 4 to 9)

El Deafo, by Cece Bell.


This is a superhero book with a decided difference. Cece’s old school only taught children with hearing impairments. Her new school is immersive and Cece finds it hard to fit in with hearing people. Equipped with a Phonic Ear, Cece discovers that she has a “superpower” in that she can hear whatever her teacher is saying, anywhere the teacher is. This new ability helps Cece make friends but she soon figures out that she is being used to spy on the teacher. This experience teaches Cece the real meaning of friendship and how her special power can be used for good. An acclaimed graphic novel for older children and young teens.  (Ages 10 to 14)

Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say.


This is a beautifully illustrated Caldecott winning book that tells the real life story of the author’s grandfather who loved his native country, Japan, but also loved his new home in California. This is a poignant story about longing for a lost land while striving for acceptance in a new place. (Ages 4 to 10)

Hidden, by Loic Dauvillier.


A French Jewish grandmother shares a hidden part of her past with her granddaughter. Grandmother reveals that, during World War II, she and her mother were hidden with the help of a Christian neighbor and a nearby farmer. The Nazis have imprisoned the child’s father, and she and her mother and child rely on the good will of strangers to keep them safe. Grandmother’s revelation or her secret leads to a confrontation with her own daughter about why she hadn’t shared her history. A moving graphic novel for older children and young teens. (Ages 10 to 14)

Looking Like Me, by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers.


This picture book done by an award-winning father and son team, teaches children about identity, self-esteem and the wonderful possibilities that exist for every child. While the child in book is African American, the book presents a strong poetic message of what qualities make every child unique.

The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi.


Unchie is a new arrival in the United States. She has come to this country from Korea. When she starts school, she discovers that no one in her class can pronounce her name. She wants to be liked and accepted and so she decides to change her problematic name. She asks for suggestions from her classmates, but a jar full of commonplace American names do not suit her as well as her own Korean name. She decides to stay Unchie and teaches her friends about her culture so they can appreciate where she comes from. (Ages 4 to 8)

The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania AlAbdullah with Kelly DiPucchio.


Two girls of different backgrounds become fast friends. They meet, each day, to share their lunches until the day Salma brings humus and Lily brings PBJ. Lily says Salma’s sandwich sounds yucky and their disagreement goes schoolwide. The solution is a picnic for everyone and a delicious lesson in cultural diversity. (Ages 4 to 8)

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad, by James Rumford.


Ali loves soccer, music, and dancing but, most of all, he loves the ancient art of calligraphy. When bombs start falling on his city, Ali begins to write and draw to give his life purpose. A story of purpose and survival in a war torn land. (Ages 6 to 10)

Snow in Jerusalem, by Deborah da Costa.  Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.


Image via Amazon

Two boys in Jerusalem’s Old City, one Jewish and one Muslim, unwittingly adopt the same stray cat that wanders the streets of their city. When the cat unexpectedly crosses the street that divide them, the boys meet and become friends on an unusual day when snow falls in their divided city. (Ages 6 to 10)

All of these books are available in the BCCLS Library System. I can also make other recommendations for your child’s specific needs if you contact me through the comments at the bottom of this post.

-Written by Lois Rubin Gross, Retired Children’s Librarian

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