Author: Rita

Want your kids to love reading? You need to love reading to them.

Evidently reading to your kids is more than just reading to your kids. And seriously pedigreed educational consultant Diane W. Frankenstein explores her concept of “conversational reading” in her excellent resource, Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read. The idea is simple, and probably even common sense: Instead of just droning on, make the process interactive. So this reference guide includes specific books sorted by age, along with questions to help bring each one to life. There’s also a chapter on generic conversation starters that will work for almost any book,...

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Keeping her pants up while getting down

My daughter’s going through a growth spurt, and any jeans without those little adjustable waist button-and-elastic dojobbies tend to sag to her rear’s danger zone without an actual belt. I’ve spent the past several weeks plying her with all the pleather monstrosities that came with her jeans. “But Mommy!” she cries. “I hate belts!” Well. She used to. Then I showed her the rock themed children’s leather belts and belt buckles that Cutie and Patootie sent my way that, like, totally rocked her world. The belt buckles are Joan Jett big, and see that record over there? It actually...

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A female pirate? Ahoy.

We love Oliver Chin, author of the Tales from the Chinese Zodiac Series. In his latest book, Baltazar and the Flying Pirates, Chin teams up with illustrator (and blogger!) Justin Roth in this, um, high-flying tale of adventure and fortune. The best part? The head pirate, Captain Redlocks, is a redheaded woman. Oh yes she is. And she captains the Cutlass, the fastest ship in the skies. Because not only men can be all swarthy and adventurous and brandish swords and wear cool black eye patches. (Does anyone besides me see a hat tip to My Lady’s Cutlass, the...

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Brains = Cool

With my daughter starting kindergarten, I’ve been thinking a lot about kids thinking lately. And more specifically: how to make thinking cool to my kid. Part of the problem? Pop culture surrounds kids with celebrations of the body, not the mind. That’s why I love the new Thinkers Collection of kids’ tees at Peek … Aren’t You Curious? The innovative t-shirt designs turn ideas from Newton, Einstein, Descartes and Copernicus into teams to cheer on. But they’re not ordinary shirts–these fabulously constructed 2-in-1 thermal tees combine adult-clothing detailing and quality with kid-approved softness — lessons taken from co-founder Amy...

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Cartoons for the thinking mama

When I was in high school, an artist friend of mine and I wrote a graphic novel during biology class featuring the adventures of our teacher’s prominent nose, thus beginning my love affair with random and edgy hilarity. If you adore the absurd, you are going to love Nicole Chaison’s graphic memoir, The Passion of the Hausfrau: Motherhood, Iluminated which is one part memoir, one part modern illuminated manuscript, and all parts brilliant. The narrative from cartoonist, writer and mom-of-two Chaison is funny enough, but the cartoons that illustrate every page take it to another level. From Chaison’s adventures...

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Green: A great color for every baby

There’s so much advice for new moms to wade through, and after being pregnant and told you can’t eat spicy tuna rolls or a good brie for ten months, it would be easy to throw up your hands by the time you get around to choosing the safest, most earth-friendly fabric softener for all those onesies. In Healthy Child, Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home, author Christopher Gavigan of the CMP beloved Environmental Working Group, offers practical, common sense, non-judgy green parenting advice for environmental newbies and devoted composters alike. You’ll find tips for choosing a green...

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I can bring home the bacon, I can wipe your butt with one hand

My childless co-workers are intrigued by my ability to open almost anything with one hand. I did not possess these mad skillz when I was a new mom. So while the diaper clutches from Kristi G Diaper Bags touted the “EZ-Wipe System,” I was apprehensive. (And not just because it sounded like something more suited to a car wax than a chic accessory.) As it turns out, I admire the bag’s modern look, stylish cloth and fancy-schmancy G hardware, and seriously, one-handed wipe removal. Zippering it all back together does take two hands, but by that time, the poop...

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Excessively motivated parents, your owners manual has arrived

After researching my proposal for my own parenting book (Ahem, Sleep Is for the Weak, shameless plug, shameless plug) I thought I’d read every baby handbook on earth. And, I admit it, I became really jaded and snooty about them. Let’s just say there’s a lot of rehashing going on in the baby humor world and it’s hard to find a fresh perspective. The Perfect Baby Handbook: A Guide for Excessively Motivated Parents is totally different. Talented ex-Radar writer and Details creative director Dale Hrabi has produced a half graphic novel, half biting satire that had me at “competitive...

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Just the right shade of … skin

My daughter recently drew a picture of herself and one of her school friends. She made herself pink and her friend brown. Neither color was exactly … right. And as a budding artist, she was bothered by the limitations of her crayons. Just as her hair isn’t really “red” and her skin isn’t really “pink,” her friend’s skin wasn’t exactly “brown” or “black.” Nothing quite worked. But now! No kid (or adult) will have to settle for pink, brown, yellow, red, or black. We can all draw our own color — the skin shades we really are. This set...

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Our favorite dolls get ink

We love Melissa Conroy’s Wooberry dolls. The originals are not only designed from her child’s sketches, they’re also handmade. And beyond adorable. In a move that touches my writerly heart, the dolls have gone meta and returned to their paper-based roots in pOppy’s pants, Conroy’s first (and hopefully not only) book. Featuring pOppy and pEnelope, two of Conroy’s signature dolls, this picture book combines photography and drawings and had my daughter and me wondering just how much sewing did Melissa have to do to get this book created? I especially love the postcript by the author’s father, Pat, which...

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Baby quilts approved by those of us who know baby quilts

I’m from small-town Iowa, so when my daughter was born, the Quilting Ladies (as they are known) whipped up something custom, no problem. I didn’t even have to ask. But fear not, Quilting Lady-less mamas, for Etsy has delivered once again. Baby Jayne’s quilted blankets have the piercing/batting/quilting/edging quality of aging Lutheran church ladies’ work, but these lovingly handmade baby quilts can be had by anyone with a credit card and mailing address. I’m also impressed by the design of these blankets, especially the classic looking black and butter cream baby quilt which would appeal to even you city...

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Something new in baby bibs? Believe it or not, yes.

I know, organic cotton is cool, plastic is not.  But cotton gets … wet. With the drool. And the spit-up. And the yams. I’m grossing myself out just thinking about it. Never fear, though — Wow Baby has a new line of US made, double-lined, organic bamboo bibs and burp cloths with removable, clear-plastic liners that keep your baby and your shoulder from growing mildew by noon. It’s one of the more innovative things we’ve seen in bibs recently. In a word, they’re soft. The cotton goes next to your baby’s skin, and even the plastic backing is thinner...

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You say Maria, I say Mariah. Or, nah. Let’s stick with Maria.

Linda Rosenkranz and Pamela Redmond Satran raised baby naming to an art form with their original 1988 baby-naming book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason – names that practically seem pedestrian with today’s Talullahs and Artemises.  Now the authors are back with Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby and I admit there are quite a few people I know who I wish had had this book when they were pregnant. I’ve seen a lot of baby name books, but this one takes the cake for style, originality and lip synch. Some of my surprise favorites included...

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Childrearing advice for when you’ve misplaced your gay uncle

Fellow blogger and Vanity Fair contributor Brett Berk has unleashed on the world his parenting perspective with The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting: Candid Counsel From the Depths of the Daycare Trenches. Berk obviously has no uterus and no children. That said, you may be asking yourself where does he get off giving me advice? But what he does have is nearly twenty years of experience as a classroom teacher and preschool director, plus a wicked directness I find strangely endearing. Forget Supernanny — send me Brett Berk, stat. Certainly this book will offend some people. Berk believes in...

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Comicon fans, this one’s for you. Or your kids.

From skateboard and sneaker design to children’s picture books, Australian artist Luke Feldman has created quite a cult following of his waif-like illustrated characters known as Skaffs. They hang in the Cartoon Art Museum, they delight hipster animation fans, and now they come to life in the vibrant children’s book Chaff n’ Skaffs: Mai and the Lost Moskivvy, created along with illustrator and co-author Amanda Chin. Mai (the lead Skaff in this story) heads on an outrageous adventure with her strange, large, round, gray, top hat-wearing Chaff pal and escort Moskivvy, the lost Australian mosquito, while meeting monks and...

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Rabbit season. Duck season. Rabbit season. Duck season.

The wonderful Duck! Rabbit! is the newest book from the prolific Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who you might know for children’s books like Little Pea or even her wonderful adult book, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. In this title, she’s teamed up with pirates-and-monsters artist Tom Lichtenheld to breathe new life into the classic duck/rabbit optical illusion. Are those phalanges a duck’s bill or a rabbit’s ears? Is the eye facing left or right? The (heated) discussion continues between two unseen narrators on every page. Though she has no opinion regarding whether it’s a DUCK! or RABBIT! my daughter likes it best when I change up...

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Art + poetry = more than just another alphabet book

I recently got a look at Alphabetica: Odes to the Alphabet,  Diana Spieker and Krista Skehan’s mind-blowing alphabet book filled with multisyllabic metaphors and modern, deep-inked illustrations. This book bursts with detail. Each page contains more than twenty individual pictures, and the poet in me appreciates the meter and complexity of each stand-alone verse. You could easily pull out any page and frame it. Alphabetica started as a collection of whimsical poems written by Spieker for her baby son. Spieker thought maybe she’d taken the collection down to the local copy shop and have them bound up as a...

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Read only the best, seriously.

I bet you’ve wondered how we find the great children’s books we review here at Cool Mom Picks. Well, we will share one hot tip: Bookmark sites like the brand new One Potato. This children’s book site is like literary nirvana for book-loving parents. Jay Bushara, a Columbia-educated SAHD features up to ten forgotten or stand-out kids’ books a week, and I find they are always worth reading.  It’s a great way to bring back truly worthy kids’ books and avoid a sea of badly rhymed grocery store endcaps. (My daughter loves those, too.) And of course, you can...

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Oh, this old thing? It’s just my impossibly fashionable Sudoku book.

Whether you need a last-minute Mother’s Day gift or just want to appear more stylish than everyone else while waiting for the pediatrician, I love the Posh Puzzle books by The Puzzle Society. These are the people who bring you nationally syndicated crosswords and jumbles in papers like the Washington Post and the L.A. Times, so you know the puzzles inside aren’t an afterthought to the chic covers outside. What’s different from your run-of-the-mill Sudoku book you grab in the airport gift shop? For one thing, Posh Sudoku looks and feels good, with a black-and-white flocked cover and elegant...

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When you need your own personal children’s librarian

What happens when you need to find a book on heroes the night before your kid needs it for kindergarten? After you’ve exhausted our favorite children’s books, you can do what I did and check out the selections in What to Read When, by LitLife founder Pam Allyn. This meta-book about books is divided into 50 themes, from bullying to spirituality to a bad day. Find your category, read the summaries and pick your winner. From Allyn’s words to my library hold — it sure beats prying the trashy cartoon books out of my daughter’s hands at 6 PM....

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