Careful, you might get stuck too!

Billy Bloo is Stuck in Goo by Jennifer Hamburg.

I’ll be honest with you here – I wasn’t overly excited when my daughter picked this book up off the library shelf (for no justifiable reason I might add). However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book, a really entertaining read.

I’m not quite sure what it was about the presentation of the book that didn’t appeal to me, but there’s something that doesn’t catch the eye in a way that does the book justice. Like the old saying goes – you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. It obviously appealed to my daughter enough that she picked it out of the crowd of books, but I probably would have skimmed over it if it weren’t for her.

Summary

“Billy Bloo is stuck in goo. Who will help him, tell me who? Who’ll unstick him from this goo? Would you? With madcap mania, a troupe of merry volunteers attempt to rescue poor Billy Bloo, only to find themselves stuck in goo too!”

This book is great for both toddlers and pre-school age children.

What I love about this book

What makes this book so appealing is its sense of humour and its rhyme. The rhyme is very natural, making it easy to read in an entertaining manner. The story line is nice and simple. It is an engaging read for a varied age group due to its simplicity, coupled with the rhyming words.

The illustrations are quite cute – they look as though drawn by a child. A host of interesting and silly characters are introduced as Billy Bloo tries to break free from the goo. Hamburg also sprinkles a bit of cheeky humour throughout the illustrations.

This book provided a good chuckle for both child and reader alike.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Set a nice reading pace and make sure you give the rhyme good flow and intonation.
  • Take the time to look into the illustrations and read some of the little jokes out loud. Some further explanation may be required for younger audiences.
  • Discuss the individual characters – what makes them unique and how they tried (and failed) to get Billy out.
  • Give the characters a bit of personality.
  • Have fun and a good chuckle!

Why Dr Seuss Has Storytime Covered

There’s a reason why Dr Seuss books have been popular with kids (and parents alike) for decades. They make for the ultimate storytime.

Seuss’ books hit all the key elements that make for great reading:

  • Repetition and rhyme,
  • Interesting characters,
  • Quirky and imaginative stories,
  • Bright and playful illustration,
  • Humour,
  • Depth of character.

I’m willing to bet that there aren’t many book collections in english-speaking homes that don’t feature at least one Dr Seuss book. For those of my generation: our parents grew up with these stories, we grew up with them, and we want to share them with our kids too. They are enjoyable stories for the reader, as well as those being read to – a critical element to successful storytime. They have proven the test of time and are a fantastic addition to any home library.

I imagine that I’m not saying anything new here for most of you, but I think it’s important to take the time to appreciate the great work of Dr Seuss and the joy he has brought into so many families’ lives.

While I believe that his books will live in perpetuity, I also fear that they may get drowned out. As parents of young children in this current era, we have so many storytime options available to us (this is a good thing). We also have an array of fantastic books to choose from, but books also compete with the attention of digital media. We need to continually go back and appreciate some of these founding influential authors such as Seuss.

Seeing Dr Seuss’ stories being re-made into movies keeps them current in popular culture (and reminds us of their existence!). However, there is nothing like getting the enjoyment with your family in the manner that was originally intended – by reading the book!

Everyone has a favourite (mine is The Cat in the Hat), so make a family tradition out of it. Or, in the spirit of the upcoming festive season – grab a copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

If you haven’t already done so – top your child’s book collection up with at least one Dr Seuss book and you’ll have storytime covered for years to come.

 

Green with Envy

The Crunching Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain

If you love the theme and ideas of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, you’ll love this book too.

While I give credit to Carle for first picking up on the idea of the beauty of a caterpillar’s/butterfly’s life cycle,¬†The Crunching Munching Caterpillar gives a little more personality to this particular caterpillar character. Cain also touches on a few emotional themes, important for teaching young children: envy, jealousy and finding your own strengths.

Summary

“Caterpillar longs to be able to fly. He envies Bumblebee his wings, and he wishes he could soar through the air like a bird. But all he can do is crunch and munch his way through a blackberry bush. When Butterfly comes along she smiles a secret smile because she knows something Caterpillar doesn’t!”

This book is best suited for toddlers and pre-school age children.

What I love about this book.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons between The Very Hungry Caterpillar and this book, but I think the intended audiences and theme focus are quite distinct.

I would say that Carle’s book captures a larger audience. In a really simple but beautiful way, Carle takes us through the process of caterpillar-butterfly metamorphosis. This is why it is such a popular and timeless book (must have for your library!).

In this book, Cain seems to focus more on feelings and emotions, using the metamorphosis to illustrate the point. She addresses some of the more unpleasant feelings such as exclusion, jealousy, and being different. However, ultimately, demonstrating that everyone has their own abilities and beauty. She also touches on the idea that eventually everything can come around to your favour in due time.

The language used throughout the book is a bit more complex than that used in The Very Hungry Catepillar. Sentences are longer and overall the book is a bit more word-y. For this reason, it is better suited for older toddlers and pre-school aged children. It also doesn’t quite have the same sing-song flow, so needs a bit of added character when reading.

The illustrations in the book are bright and engaging.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Read this story with a slower pace. The flow is not particularly natural. Try give a bit of character to the dialogue of each of the animals/insects.
  • At the end of the story discuss the caterpillar’s feelings – why might it feel this way? How did the caterpillar deal with these feelings?
  • Draw parallels with your child’s experience with similar emotions and the types of strategies that can be used to address the feelings.
  • Reiterate that it’s good to be different and everyone has their own strengths/abilities!
  • Highlight the positives of the story – good things come to those who wait.
  • As well as the emotional side of the story, discuss the life-cycle of a caterpillar-butterfly. If your child has read The Hungry Caterpillar draw the parallels.

Animal Rhyme Time

The focus of this book review is The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland.

This book is one of a collection of 5 books:

  1. The Very Cranky Bear
  2. The Very Noisy Bear
  3. The Very Itchy Bear
  4. The Very Hungry Bear
  5. The Very Brave Bear

I absolutely love this collection (hard to say which one is my favourite). The illustrations are wonderfully artistic, detailed and expressive. This series is a must for all family book collections.

The books have interesting plots and the rhyming language is a joy to read.

The collection is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!), and for purchase at various book stores including Dymocks and Angus & Robertson.

Summary

“In the jingle jangle jungle on a wet and windy day, four little friends meet a very cranky bear. Can they cheer him up?”¬†

The other titles in the collection follow the cranky bear (who is also very brave, itchy, noisy and hungry) through adventures and problem solving scenarios with the four little friends (moose, lion, zebra and sheep).

Suitable for toddlers, pre-schoolers and early school-age.

What I love about these books

The Cranky Bear series would be my own personal favourite reads in my daughter’s collection of books.

They are written with a sing-song rhyme which makes them an easy read and gives the reader good opportunity to add tone and interest to the story.

The illustrations are highly detailed, giving extra interest to the already captivating story.

They are a perfect trifecta of language, story structure and illustration – making for an enjoyable storytime every time.

There are also some subtle messages to each of the stories which make for good “teaching moments” with the kids, and also for parents to reflect on their own behaviour.

My favourite moments

My favourite moments in these books include:

  • The logic of the “four little friends” that the bear would only be happy if they gave him things that made them happy (learning a bit about empathy and self-centredness) – The Very Cranky Bear
  • Bear working really hard to find Polar Bear a home in trade for his pile of delicious fish – The Very Hungry Bear.
  • The competitiveness of Bear and Buffalo to “one-up” each other, only to be scared off by a tiny little frog – The Very Brave Bear.
  • Bear has a go at all the different instruments with not great success, until he uses his voice as an instrument! After a rocking day, he finds solace in the violin – The Very Noisy Bear.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Find a reading pace that works for you and your child. It is easy to get a bit carried away with these books because they have been very well written. It is difficult to keep the enthusiam for the rhyme if you have to stop often to explain/discuss with the child. Try to read at a slower pace if necessary, that way you can keep the flow of reading and your child can still understand the story.
  • There are a few larger/more complex words and sentences in these stories, so take the time to go back after you’ve read the story to explain them to your child.
  • Take the time after reading the story to discuss why the bear/furry friends acted a certain way and did things they way they did. This can help teach your child more about empathy and behaviour.

When I’m Feeling….

When I’m Feeling Angry by Trace Moroney

Shortly after I wrote my post about how reading builds resilience, I received a message from my daughter’s childcare. The message was to tell parents that the centre is teaching the children about their emotions and self-regulation. An interesting coincidence since the acknowledgment and regulation of emotions is also an important part of building confidence and self-esteem.

After my son was born, my daughter made an interesting selection of books for borrowing at the library. It included When I’m Feeling Angry and When I’m Feeling Sad.

She was right in the midst of dealing with a whole array of emotions with the arrival of a new little brother. She had been the only child (and grand-child on my side) for nearly 4 years, so her world was being drastically shaken up.

I recall the first day I was able to start taking her up to kinder drop-off again after the birth (my husband had been doing this while I recovered) and her exclamation, “Everything is back to normal again, hooray!”… It wasn’t until she said this that it really hit me how much the new arrival was affecting her emotionally. I hadn’t really taken the weight of this into consideration until she said this. I did think, however, you poor thing, your life will never be back to “normal”…

The “When I’m Feeling” books by Moroney were an excellent support tool for my daughter during this time. They broke down some of the emotions to “child-size bites”, so that they were tangible and relatable. They identified the emotion, the cause of the emotion and ways of dealing with it.

The illustrations were also very sweet, using a bunny as the primary character.

The books in this series include:

  • When I’m Feeling Angry
  • When I’m Feeling Sad
  • When I’m Feeling Nervous
  • When I’m Feeling Jealous
  • When I’m Feeling Disappointed
  • When I’m Feeling Lonely
  • When I’m Feeling Happy
  • When I’m Feeling Scared
  • When I’m Feeling Loved
  • When I’m Feeling Kind

The books are best suited for toddlers and preschoolers. They can be purchased at book stores such as Dymocks and can be borrowed at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!).

 

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

I’m sure you have the song stuck in your head already just by reading the title! A timeless classic book and absolute must read to your kids.

This book is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!), and for purchase at numerous stores – Kmart, BigW, Dymocks, etc.

The ABC are also showing an adaptation to a short 30min movie – see here.

Summary

“Brave bear hunters go through grass, a river, mud, and other obstacles before the inevitable encounter with the bear forces a headlong retreat.”

Suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and young school age children.

What I love about this book

By far what I love most about this book is the sing-song style in which it was written. The repetition of phrases being similar to that of the chorus in a song “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!” It really is a joyous read.

The illustrations are also beautiful. Oxenbury captures the sense of adventure through the use of alternating black-and-white and colour watercolour images. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and really captures the imagination.

The powerful combination of language and illustration make this an extremely engaging book. I suspect this is why it has been such a popular book since its first publication in 1989.

The story is also a great aspect of the book – it is adventurous and engages all of the senses to draw you in.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Try as best as possible to read the story uninterrupted to get the best effect from the sing-song language.
  • Put on your storytime acting hat! This story is best read with lots of good intonation, sound effects, variations in volume and appropriately placed pauses.
  • Get carried away with the story, but also take the time afterward to go through some of the illustrations with your child to further explain what the family is doing.
  • You can use the story as a song to enact your own bear-hunt at home!

Not so scary after all!

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

This is a very entertaining read for toddlers and pre-schoolers alike. It helps to take the fear of the “monster-under-the-bed” away when your little one sees the monsters in their silly underpants.

The book is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!) and for purchase at Booktopia.

Summary

“There are prowly monsters howling loudly and drooling monsters from the steamy swamp. There are wild, woolly mountain monsters and spiky, spooky monsters from outer space. And they all have one thing in common – they LOVE underpants!

This hilarious Underpants story is hairy, scary – and silly! You’ll never think of monsters in the same way again!”

This book is best suited to a preschool age, but would also be suitable for toddlers. It would even be appropriate for younger school age children.

Although the book deals with monsters (which some younger children may find frightening), they are certainly not portrayed in a scary manner.

What I love about this book

The illustrations in this book are fantastic – bright, detailed, creative and engaging. Each page tells its own story and the illustrations deserve their own explanation in addition to the story text.

What I really love about this book is the theme with which it deals – taking the fear out of the unknown and the perception of “scary monsters”. It picks up on the notion of vulnerability and that things aren’t always as they seem.

The way that the theme is presented is perfect for little ones. Talking about brightly coloured underwear on a monster is humourous and silly. A lovely light-hearted book that can also help teach children about their emotions.

The monsters in the book are bright and full of personality. They are not dark or creepy characters; rather a character who could be be-friended.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Take the time on each page to go through the illustrations with your children.
  • Talk about the patterns and colours that your child can identify.
  • The rhyme in this book is a little strained. Try reading each paragraph slowly and uninterrupted (if possible!). This will help your child take the words in and so that the flow of the story is not broken.
  • The way the sentences and words are arranged are not as simple or as direct as other rhyming books, so it doesn’t not lend itself well to word/letter recognition for younger kids. Try take the focus to the illustrations once you have read each paragraph in its entirety.
  • Read in a light hearted manner to reinforce how “silly” the monsters look in their colourful underpants.
  • At the end of the book, take the time to discuss fears with your children. Explain how sometimes things seem scarier than what they really are. When we take a look at and tackle what scares us, it takes away the fear-of-the-unknown. This is often what scares us more than the “scary-thing” itself. Sometimes we can even have a laugh at what used to scare us!