Books for Children

Children's books, libraries, book stores, readings, and related events.

12 Days of Holiday Books: The Nutcracker

December 13, 2013

The NutcrackerTchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker and its music are now a holiday staples, as is the story of young Marie* and her adventures with the Nutcracker Prince. There are plenty of children's books out there that retell the magical story of the Nutcracker, but our favorite so far has to be writer/illustrator Susan Jeffers' version (40 pages, HarperCollins, 2007).

The book's text efficiently condenses the tale into a story suitable for younger children. Jeffers keeps the action moving but manages to leave in most of the relevant episodes from the ballet. Her watercolor illustrations are perhaps the loveliest thing about this book: colorful, vibrant, and full of action, they really help give the feeling of the ballet's movement and choreography.

It's a great introduction to The Nutcracker story and ballet, and definitely a must-read if you and your kids are planning on seeing a production of the ballet this holiday season. Find it at your local library, bookstore, or Amazon.com.

12 Days of Holiday Books: Too Many Tamales

December 9, 2013

Too Many TamalesMaria wants to act grown up and help her mother knead the masa for the traditional tamales for her Mexican-American family's Christmas feast. Poet and author Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales! (32 pages, Putnam Juvenile, 1996) tells the story of a Christmas Maria won't soon forget with charm and warmth, helped by the vivid illustrations of Ed Martinez.

Maria will feel really grown up if she wears her mother's sparkling diamond ring. Needless to say, mom's ring is at the center of why the book is titled Too Many Tamales!. We won't give anything away, but everything ends just fine as Aunt Rosa declares to a relieved Maria that the second batch of tamales always tastes better than the first!

Too Many Tamales is a fitting addition to your holiday read-aloud repertoire. It's got suspense, a happy ending, and joyful celebration of family and a delicious Mexican holiday tradition. Our kids love the story, and they're bugging us to make tamales this Christmas. I just hope my daughter doesn't try to wear my ring while she's mixing the masa…

Holiday Book Review and Giveaway: The Miracle of a Stormy Christmas

December 4, 2013

Ben & Elvis: The Miracle of a Stormy ChristmasLocal authors J. Page and S.T. Rainier have released Ben & Elvis: The Miracle of a Stormy Christmas (ELV Enterprises, 28 pages), the latest installment and the first holiday book in their Adventures of Ben & Elvis series of children's books. Illustrated by Rainier and J. Moyer, The Miracle of a Stormy Christmas continues the story of Ben and Elvis, two young mice who live in the country with their little sister and mother, as they excitedly await the arrival of their extended family on Christmas Eve. But a sudden winter storm puts plans in disarray—will the family unite for Christmas?

This colorfully illustrated and simply written book is great for kids ages 3–7, and a perfect read-aloud holiday book. My seven-year-old daughter has read our review copy several times, and loves the homey illustrations of Ben and Elvis' family preparing for Christmas.

The Miracle of a Stormy Christmas conveys messages of patience, expectations, family togetherness, and ultimately the notion that unexpected good things can definitely happen! The Miracle of a Stormy Christmas is available at local bookstores and online.

Thanksgivukkah

November 20, 2013

Gracie's NightMarin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin children's librarian Lisa Katz, who highlights some fantastic Hanukkah books for kids.

On November 28, for the first time ever (although there is some dispute over this and some say it won’t happen again until 2070), Jews around the world will celebrate the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together. Thus, Thanksgivukkah!! Have you heard of potato latkes with cranberry sauce and turkey? Or how about sweet potato latkes or cranberry applesauce?

Ok, let’s put food aside and talk some great books. There are some wonderful children books to help us celebrate the festival lights. Below is my list with some of my favorites as well as new books for this year. Those books with an asterisk are for families who celebrate both holidays.

Hanukkah Books in alphabetical order by author:

Our Candle by Eve Bunting
Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap by Deborah Cohen
Hanukkah Moon by Deborah da Costa
Papa’s Latkes by Michelle Edwards

Children's Book Review: New Beginnings for Rosh Hashanah

September 4, 2013

New Year at the PierMarin Mommies presents another guest article by Marin children's librarian Lisa Katz, who takes a look at books about Rosh Hashanah, which begins tonight.

Back-to-school is a time for new beginnings. For the Jewish community, it is also a time to start fresh with a new year in the Hebrew calendar called Rosh Hashanah (starting the evening of September 4). On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate the creation of the world while dipping apples in honey to represent a sweet year ahead. What better way to think about fresh starts then through some fabulous children’s books?

PJ Library® is a local program that sends free Jewish books and music to the homes of children in the Bay Area. Here are some PJ Library® favorites that teach children about the values and traditions of Rosh Hashanah through wonderful stories:

Apples and Honey by Joan Jolub and Illustrated by Cary Pillo (published 2003)
This sweet lift-the-flap book follows a family as they prepare for Rosh Hashanah. There is so much to do from making holiday cards, baking challah, eating apples and honey, and going to temple to hear the Shofar. Each page offers an interactive page for a young reader to enjoy. This story is a lovely introduction of the holiday for children, ages 2–6.

Book Review: That Is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

August 18, 2013

That Is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo WillemsOne of my daughter's favorite authors is Mo Willems, creator of classic children's books like the Knuffle Bunny series, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, and Golidlocks and the Three Dinosaurs. She always makes a point of picking out a Willems picture book or two when we visit the library, which led us to read Willems' latest: That Is NOT a Good Idea! (Balzer + Bray, 2013; 48 pages).

That Is NOT a Good Idea! pays homage to old-time silent movies, with colorful scenes intercut with dialogue on black-and-white title cards. The story is a variation on the typical fairy tale formula of Hungry Fox meets a Plump Goose "damsel in distress," while a chorus of baby geese cry out variations of the book's catch phrase "That is NOT a good idea!" as they watch the action unfold. Of course this being a Mo Willems book, there's a twist to the story—I'm not going to give it away, so you'll have to read it to find out what it is!

That Is NOT a Good Idea! really begs to be read aloud, and kids will enjoy responding with the baby geese each time the Plump Goose follows one of the fox's seemingly self-serving suggestions. Be prepared for multiple readings of this funny, suspensful, and charming book. Highly recommended for kids of all ages!

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical Opens Saturday at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley

April 9, 2013

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary MusicalOne of my kids' favorite books is Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. On Saturday, this hilarious Caldecott Honor book comes to life on stage in the Bay Area Children's Theatre production of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical.

In Knuffle Bunny, Dad learns that it can be tricky to do the laundry with toddler daughter Trixie and her beloved stuffed animal, the titular Knuffle Bunny. See washing machines burst into life and clothes dance up a whirlwind at the laundromat in this delightful production that's fun for the whole family.

We've seen several productions from Bay Area Children's Theatre, and they never disappoint! It's definitely worth the trip over to Berkeley, and the Freight & Salvage is a wonderful intimate venue in which to see a show like this.

The opening performance of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical takes place at the Freight & Salvage on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 2 pm. The show plays Saturdays at 2 pm and Sundays at 11 am and 2 pm through May 5.

Free Music and Storytelling Hours from Youth in Arts at Barnes & Noble Corte Madera

March 20, 2013

Youth in Arts story timeThis March, join local arts education group Youth in Arts at the Barnes & Noble store in Corte Madera for two free music and storytelling hours for preschoolers and early elementary school students.

Youth in Arts artists will be in the store at 11 am on Saturday, March 23, and Wednesday, March 27, to share music and stories from Youth in Arts productions based on beloved children's books. Enjoy excerpts from local author Elisa Kleven’s Paper Princess series and Hooray, a Piñata! and Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm’s Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth To Life. Sing along to songs in Spanish and English from Youth in Arts’ shows inspired by these wonderful books!

This program is perfect for children ages 3–6 and their families. Barnes & Noble is located at 313 Corte Madera Town Center.

Children's Book Review: Meet Bear

March 19, 2013

Thank You BearMarin Mommies presents another guest article by Marin children's librarian Lisa Katz, who takes a look at the Bear series of books by author and illustrator Greg Foley.

Greg Foley, a creative author and illustrator, has created a set of books about a little bear. In these four books, the author’s theme for his stories is about the importance of friendship. Since I’m a librarian, I don’t buy a lot of books. I check them out and read them over and over again. But if ever there were books to purchase, these would be the ones to have on your child’s bookshelf—all four of them in fact. This way they can be read over and over again.

Who is Greg Foley? He is a young guy who grew up in Austin Texas. He comes from a family of educators and is also one himself. His first picture book, Thank you Bear, won the prestigious Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. His background is art and his illustrations are done in line art, which are digitally rendered from pencil sketches. While they are so simple and there isn’t a lot on each page, they are very sweet and really tell the story.

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