Category: Books for Kids

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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Get a green start to your Earth Day

This year for Earth Day, instead of confusing my four year-old son with talk of his “carbon footprint,” I plan to mark the day by sharing the four age-appropriate “Green Start” board books from Innovative Kids. The adorable soy-based ink illustrations seem to pop off the thick brown pages that are made almost entirely from recycled materials. I love the smooth, substantial feel of these board books, which will withstand a toddlers’ rough handling and a baby’s tendency to turn everything into a teething toy. Each Green Start kids’ book covers a different topic, like One Tree, which teaches...

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B is for Blondie

I completely understand that repetition breeds learning, but seriously, can someone come up with something other than the extremely original A is for Alligator and B is for Bumblebee? Well leave it to the Aussies to shake things up with Never Mind Your Ps and Qs: Here’s the Punk Alphabet the much anticipated sequel to M is for Metal. Definitely not for the easily offended, this book takes you from A to Z, punk rock style. Your kids will be schooled in the likes of Sid Vicious and Iggy Pop, all through bold and bright illustrations and hilarious rhyming...

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The incredible, edible, obedient egg

Raising two voracious but sometimes picky readers, I’ve learned that there are a few factors that go into a guaranteed successful kids’ board book: Simple concepts, not too many words on each page, and ideally, anything a kid can touch/move/smell/poke/feel or otherwise interact with. Well hooray for Barney Saltzberg (yes, that Barney Saltzberg) who nailed them all with his lovely new interactive board book, Good Egg. Toddlers will have a blast declaring “Good egg!” each time that they lift a flap or pull a tab to make the hero egg of the story sit, roll over, and even speak....

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Hip Hop Speaks to Children (and their parents)

I thought I knew what hip hop was, but after picking up the kids’ CD-and-book set Hip Hop Speaks to Children, I have a whole new appreciation for this diverse and often moving art form of “poetry with a beat.” Edited by poet, writer and activist Nikki Giovanni, this children’s book gave my decidedly white family a glimpse of what it means to grow up black in America–not in some dry, textbooky way, but through incredibly creative poetry and a toe-tapping beat. With fifty poems from the likes of Maya Angelou and Ja Jahanes on colorful, full-page illustrations, my...

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Keeping them in the tub without having to sing

I don’t know about you, but I can only reprise the entire Annie soundtrack for so long without wishing for amazing tricks to keep my daughter motivated to scrub. And now, I can. By whipping up amazing dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs) with Jurassic Towel Origami by Alison Jenkins.  The author of the original Little Book of Towel Origami expands her focus to plesiosaurs, pteranodons and saber-toothed tigers in this step-by-step instruction book complete with helpful photos and educational little factoids about each prehistoric creature. All you need is milk cartons, buttons, and you know — towels. – Rita Find Alison...

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Double-dare you not to love this book

When The Daring Book for Girls came out, I bought copies not just for my own girls, but for their friends.  If I could have afforded it, I would have gone around handing out the book like a missionary. Authors Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz are back starting today with a new compilation of how-to and how-come tidbits that every girl ought to know.  From inspirational stories about daring women throughout history to step-by-step directions for classic games and cool tricks, The Double-Daring Book for Girls takes the daring phenomenon to the next level for our female future leaders....

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Francophiles rejoice, for Nicholas is here. And he speaks English too.

Every kid needs a Nicholas in his life. That is, the endearing French storybook by René Gosciny (of Asterix and Obelix fame) with charming illustrations by the beloved New Yorker cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé. The series was an instant hit from its first publication back in 1959, and after a few decades of mega-popularity around the world, it’s finally been translated into English (thanks Phaidon!) and bound in a beautiful, cloth-covered volume that chronicles 19 of Nicholas’s misadventures. Early grade-schoolers will love getting to know the precocious Nicolas, his croissant-eating best friend Alec, the soccer-playing tomboy crush Louise, and the...

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Neil Gaiman turns his attention towards children again and with that we rejoice

If you’re a fan of graphic-novel superstar Neil Gaiman, then you’ll be doubly excited that he’s teamed up with mixed-media god Dave McKeen in the children’s book, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. But even if you’ve never heard either of those names, you (and of course the kids) will love this story of a sarcastic brother/sister duo who tromp all over town to find their father. Honestly, I can’t decide which part of this book is better: the story or the illustrations. McKean’s whimsical drawings and vibrant photography render this book worthy of front-facing shelf...

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A St Patrick’s Day book for kids that’s entirely free of green sparkles

This St. Patrick’s Day, instead of wearing the green plastic crap my quarter-Irish mother insists on sending us in the mail every year, we’re celebrating by hauling out the wonderful children’s book, Fiona’s Luck. The story by Teresa Bateman with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, centers on Fiona, who tricked the leprechauns of Ireland by pretending to be luckier than she really was– an excellent lesson in my fake-it-till-you-make-it themed world. I imagine we’ll be reading this book again and again well after the green beer and bagels are a distant memory.– Rita Find Fiona’s Luck in time for St....

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Everybody farts

We made a trip to the emergency room recently with the wee one (everything is fine).  She was scared, we were scared, and only maudlin humor would do. Fortunately, we had along Fiona Bayrock’s Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, an entire nonfiction children’s book about bubbles and their extreme usefulness to marine creatures.  Illustrated by the talented Carolyn Conahan, this highly educational book finally explained to me how sea otters stay warm (bubbles) and how herrings talk (farting bubbles!). Are farts funny? Totally. Are farts funny to kids? Without a doubt. Did our extreme fit of giggles let all...

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Books for boys, beyond baseball

When I go to teacher conferences, the thing I hear the most about my son– always said with great reverence– is, Wow, he sure likes to read! I come from an entire family of readers, so this doesn’t seem odd to me… but it is odd, because boys trail girls in literacy, and often it takes extra effort to get them into a book when there are video games to be played. One mother decided to take matters into her own hands, and that’s when Book Club 4 Boys was born. Not only does her blog make recommendations on...

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Crackity SNAPPITY POPPITY Pop!

I’m a woman without singing ability. Also, my sense of rhythm is limited to 4/4 time. But when my daughter developed an interest in scat after hearing about it on a kids’ television show, it was time for some musical research. No need for my kid to be stunted by anything other than genes, after all. When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat, a children’s book written by former elementary school teacher Muriel Harris Weinstein and illustrated by three-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award R. Gregory Christie, is a tribute to rhythm and the great man himself. Momma...

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The 2009 ALA award winners are announced and with that, we go book shopping

We admit it, we’re a sucker for the annual American Library Association awards which help us navigate the thousands of virtual bookstore shelves when picking out great reads for our kids. Last week the 2009 ALA winners were announced and we’re excited to check out the big winners. John Newbery Medal: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (ages 9-12). And right on the heels of his first film, Coraline, too. I can’t wait til my kids are old enough for this one – I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan for ages. Randolph Caldecott Medal: The House in the Night...

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I’ve smelled red and it’s absolutely delicious

Kids and dogs go together like red and Valentines Day, which is why I think the story book Mo Smells Red is such a cute gift for your little sweetheart. Not only will preschoolers love hearing about the adventures of Mo, a real life rescued stray, they’ll get a kick out of the “Press 2 Smell” feature which makes regular old scratch-and-sniff look passe. Author Margaret Hyde and illustrator Amanda Giacomini had the good sense to make the things Mo sniffs delicious and yummy like roses and strawberries. (No, no raw liver or dried blood.) To release the smell of...

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Girls just want to draw fun

My daughters draw the cutest things: Stick-figure women in triangle dresses, bulgy-eyed cats and larger-than-life flowers. Nothing could improve on what they dream up which is why I love artist Carla Sonheim’s new coloring book simply called, girls. Instead of trying to reign kids in by asking them to stay within the lines, this drawing and coloring book challenges them to stretch their imagination with whimsical illustrations of girls, fairies, animals and mermaids all surrounded by plenty of white space where anything goes. Older girls can write stories beneath the pictures, turning a charming coloring book into their own...

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A Book for Those Days When Nothing Will Get Your Kid to School. Or Gymnastics. Or a Playdate.

I picked out Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson from the library after my daughter started complaining she didn’t want to go to school again. She missed us during the day. She wasn’t sure about the bigger kids. Her teacher was on vacation. So we set out on a mission to the kids’ books section to find a good buddy story for the four-year-old set. Something about the huge bear’s terrified expression in Jane Chapman’s illustrations melted my bear-loving heart, and Karma Wilson’s rolling prose begs to be set to music. I found myself singing the story — and...

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Olivia the Pig has got nothing on Olivia the Ox

As you’re looking for an inexpensive one-size-fits-all baby gift for all those friends of yours having kids this year, consider The Year of the Ox, the fourth children’s book in the wonderful Tales from the Chinese Zodiac series by Oliver Chin. Since my husband was born in the year of the ox (1973 and also 2009, for those keeping score at home), I’m familiar with the sometimes-stubborn-yet-hardworking-and-admirable quality of little Olivia the Ox. She makes a mess of everything until she saves the village from a flood with her little purple tail. It’s a fun story, but the best...

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Adventure, True Love and Seafood

We hosted 16 relatives (seven in our house) over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  My job, besides cooking some stuff, was to read to the four little children in my daughter’s room each night before bed. And each night we read The Sign of the Seahorse:  A Tale of Greed and High Adventure in Two Acts. By request. Begging, and requests. And more begging. Graeme Base had me at Animalia, but this Aussie children’s book writer and illustrator just keeps getting better. Base shows his lyrical side with the writing of this tome, which is epic and rhythmic and descriptive...

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A Very Merry Pop-Up Christmas

With my husband-the-pilot’s schedule always up in the air (literally) I’m often RSVPing to our neighborhood parties and kid’s gatherings at the last minute. Still, I don’t want to show up empty-handed. So when I find a great holiday gift that can work for almost any kid in a pinch, like the  Christmas pop-up book from our friends at Handsome Devil Press, I always snatch a few up. This fun, festive 8-page holiday book tells an adorable adapted version of “The Night Before Christmas” about Christmas at the zoo with all the animals preparing for Santa’s arrival. My kids are...

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A Fairy for all Seasons

It’s always nice cracking open some children’s books to get your kids into the spirit of the holidays, but not every parent is looking to do it through biblical tales or the Santa story. A cool alternative: Positive Spin Press offers three fairy tales–literally–from author Lisa Sferiazza Johsnon that do a lovely job of exploring the season without favoring any one religion over another. Each one features the beautifully drawn Eve from illustrator Tucker Johnson, along with her fairy pals as they all celebrate Halloween, Christmas and other winter holidays, some of which I’d never even heard of before....

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Good news for the immature among us (ahem)

While I submit that no one in their right mind gives a kid a harmonica–even with a how-to book–I got the chance to poke around the Klutz site recently and there are definitely some cool new options from one of my favorite childhood mainstays. My favorite is easily The Encyclopedia of Immaturity, which actually may be a little more fun for me than for the kids. Where else can you get bad jokes plus directions on how to make shrunken heads all in the same volume? That’s my kind of gift. Oh, and my kids’....

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The only thing cooler than giving kids books for Christmas – giving kids personalized books

As I read my own childhood picture books to my daughter, I also read the handwritten dedication penned on the first page of most of them. To Rita, on her third birthday, from Mommy and Daddy. To Rita, from Grandma and Grandpa. But of course that was long before computers. And Photoshop. Now dedications are taken to the next level with the The Kids Personalized Book Store. The first pages of dozens of books from The Pokey Pup to Little Women can be printed with your own dedication, and what’s really cool, a photo too. Kids will flip when...

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BookSwim – Like Netflix for books

I used to collect books the way other people collect whatever it is they collect, but since having kids, my book-buying budget has been re-allocated to board books, and a trip to the library means sitting in a circle for story time. Then I found BookSwim, and I cursed myself for having not found it sooner. It’s like Netflix, except for books. Add titles to your pool in the order you’d like to receive them, then keep them as long as you like. If you can’t bear to part with a title, you can even buy it. You’ll find...

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Jamie Lee Curtis’s children’s books give me another reason to be jealous of her

Like it’s not cool enough that she’s married to Christopher Guest and has started in A Fish Called Wanda, and exemplifies the phrase “hot mama”–now Jamie Lee Curtis has an entire children’s book library to her name, and they’re all terrific. (Okay, yes so I totally have a girl crush on JLC. Guilty.) Her recent release, Big Words for Little People once again incorporates Laura Cornell’s engaging illustration style that keeps my daughter ogling all the fun little stuff on the page long after I’m ready to turn. But the content itself is really the star–a series of big...

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To the moon, little adventurers

It’s really nice to see a different kind of illustrator lend her talents to childrens clothes–one that seems more suited to a Caldecott winning book than a local flea market with the table between the funnel cakes and the guy with the batteries in the Spanish packaging. The 100% cotton clothes from designer/artist Kimberly Owen of the new label Moonfly Kids are whimsical, charming, and made for exploring, with a comfy fit, ample pockets, and imagery that helps tell the story of adventurer Owen and his friend Chimley the monkey who capture the moon and turn it into a...

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Definitely not your grandma’s book club

Giving the gift of bibliophilia just became effortless–certainly more effortless than spelling bibliophilia. Left to my own devices, I’d pick an assortment of books for a kid and wrap it up and call it good. GiftLit definitely makes it stupendous with gift series that keep on giving. Choose 3, 6 or 12 months worth of book gifts, targeted by very specific age, gender, and even genre, all of which are recommended by a very impressive panel of selection experts. You’ll find series about animals or things that go for little ones, young adult classics, and even several series of...

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Read A Book, Set A Record

Do you really need an excuse to read a great book to your kid? Probably not, but here’s a fabulous one, anyway: On October 2nd, in association with Jumpstart’s Read for the Record program, the children’s classic favorite Corduroy will be read aloud on The Today Show. At the same time, a bunch of other folk around the world–including you?–will be reading the same book to set a new world’s record. My kids are a bit beyond Corduroy, but I’m going to dust off our copy and participate, anyway — because Jumpstart isn’t just setting a record, they’re working...

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You’re never too little to be a bibliophile. Only to know how to spell it.

Like tons of practical moms like me, my favorite gift to give or to get is a book. And if you want to get fancy about it, check out Bookworm Baskets, where the great book is just the beginning of a fantastic gift. It starts with a fabulous read like The Giving Tree, Olivia, or baby faves like Ten Little Rubber Ducks and  includes other eco-friendly, educational items all themed around it. Even the packaging is eco-friendly. But what’s really special about the service is that your book comes with an Eco-Libris sticker to show that a tree was...

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