Books for Children, Books for Parents

Spend a Fantastic Year with Frog and Toad at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage

March 28, 2011

Bird from A Year with Frog and ToadFans of Arnold Lobel's classic series of Frog and Toad books will be charmed and entranced by Bay Area Children's Theatre's production of A Year with Frog and Toad. Even if you're not familiar with the adventures of the titular amphibian duo, you'll still enjoy this fun-filled live musical that chronicles the adventures of the best friends Frog and Toad.

A Year with Frog and Toad plays on weekends at 2 pm through April 17 at the Freight and Salvage coffeehouse on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley, and it's well worth the short drive from Marin. Our family took in a performance on opening weekend, and had one of our best children's theater experiences ever!

Charlie Cromer and William O'Neill are a delight in the roles of Frog and Toad, respectively, and the cast of supporting characters is expertly handled by Elana Cowen, Rebecca Pingree, and Reggie White, all of whom tackle the multiple roles of birds, moles, a turtle, a mouse, and more. White, in particular, just about steals the show as the enthusiastic but slow-moving snail who gives a literal read on the term "snail mail".

A Year with Frog and Toad Opens Saturday at Freight & Salvage

March 23, 2011

A Year with Frog and ToadSome of our favorite children's books are those in the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel. You and your children can see Lobel's beloved amphibian characters brought to life starting this Saturday, March 26, when the Bay Area Children's Theatre opens its song-filled production of A Year with Frog and Toad at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley.

Share in the adventures of the outgoing Frog and his more reserved friend Toad as they awake from their winter hibernation, welcome spring, plant a garden, discover that "Toad looks funny in a bathing suit", rake autumn leaves, and take a scary winter sled ride. Along the way they learn about friendship, patience, compassion, loyalty, and love. This musical is suitable for all ages.

A Year with Frog and Toad, with music by Robert Reale and book and lyrics by Willie Reale, made its debut in children's theater before moving on to Broadway, where it was nominated for three Tony awards, including best musical. The Bay Area Children's Theatre production is directed by Mina Morita and stars Charlie Cromer as Frog and William O'Neill as Toad.

Book of the Week: Night Flight

March 7, 2011

Night FlightShare in the drama and danger of Amelia Earhart's groundbreaking solo transatlantic flight in Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic (40 pages, Paula Wiseman Books, 2011), written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor. This book presents a easily accessible but surprisingly detailed version of the story of Earhart's 1932 flight from Newfoundland to Ireland that made her the first woman (and only the second person) to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Burleigh's eloquent text describes the loneliness, difficulty, and joy of the 15-hour journey in economical but descriptive verse, and Minor's colorful and detailed paintings capture the feelings and sights of the trip, from close-ups of the Lockheed Vega's cockpit and instrument panel to breathtaking panoramas.

Youth in Arts Presents The Paper Princess and the Piñata

January 31, 2011

The Paper Princess and the PiñataThe Paper Princess and the Piñata, a new musical theater production for children created by Youth in Arts and based on the popular Paper Princess books by Bay Area artist/illustrator Elisa Kleven, comes to the Marin Center Showcase Theater in San Rafael on Saturday, February 5, 2011. With performances at 2 and 4 pm, the show is intended for children ages 3 to 10 and their families. General admission tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children. Order tickets through the Marin Center Box Office online or by calling (415) 499-6800.

Kleven’s Paper Princess picture books are gentle adventure tales, illustrated in the artist’s unique collage and watercolor style. The Paper Princess, created by a Little Girl, is carried away on the wind to explore her world. The new play was written by Youth in Arts Director Miko Lee, adapted from three Paper Princess books and a fourth Kleven title, Hooray, a Piñata!

The production captures the bright imagery of Kleven’s books using digital projections and original props and scenery recreated in three dimensions by Youth in Arts' professional visual artists. The Princess and her friends will be brought to life via live action and puppetry, with bilingual songs in Spanish and English highlighting themes of creativity, color, shapes, counting and friendship.

Book of the Week: My First Chinese New Year

January 26, 2011

My First Chinese New YearA Pacific Rim location and sizeable population with Asian heritage means that Chinese New Year is a significant holiday in the San Francisco Bay Area. A perfect book for young children to learn about the holiday and its many colorful traditions is Karen Katz's My First Chinese New Year (32 pages, Henry Holt and Company, 2004).

My First Chinese New Year follows the celebration of Chinese New Year as experienced by a young girl and her family. We see the preparations for the holiday, the New Year's Even banquet, and finally the exciting Chinese New Year parade, complete with traditional drummers, lion dancers, and a spectacular dragon.

Katz's illustrations are bright and colorful, and work with the simple text to convey some of the key customs and meanings of Chinese New Year, including the profusion of the color red; symbolic foods like tangerines, whole fish, and dumplings; and an altar to honor the family's ancestors. It's a fun overview of the holiday for children from preschool through first grade.

Book Review: The Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik

January 24, 2011

The Philosophical BabyMarin Mommies is happy to present the first in a series of book reviews by guest contributor Todd Pratum, literacy expert and founder of the the Pratum Children's Library in Ross.

Could it be, that in certain fundamental ways, ways heretofore never imagined by modern thinkers—but well imagined and known in times past, especially in pre-medieval and indigenous cultures—that babies and young infants are more loving, more sensitive, more altruistic than adults? That they are, in the words of author and psychologist Alison Gopnik in The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life (288 pages, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2009), “smarter, more conscious, more thoughtful than adults.”

Impossible? Preposterous? Delusional? Scientifically proven? This reminds of a famous line from Wordsworth, “The child is the father of the man.” While there are clunky dry passages where Gopnik is necessarily forced to present some particularly pedantic—but key experimental results, the bulk of this revolutionary book is wonderfully written, unveiling the most recent results of experimental child physiology, neurology and psychology, experiments most of which have only been conceived of in the last five years.

Open House This Weekend at the Pratum Children's Library

January 21, 2011

The Pratum Children's Library at Marin Art and Garden CenterStop by the Pratum Children's Library in Ross this weekend as it holds its introductory open house on January 22 and 23, 2011. Come visit the library, located on the expansive ground of the Marin Art and Garden Center, from 10 am to 6 pm Saturday and Sunday and browse their shelves, which contain everything from board books for babies to the complete Oxford English Dictionary to the very best books on education, parenting, and childhood.

Todd Pratum, proprieter and book and literacy expert, will give introductory talks at noon and 3 pm on both days. He'll also personally lead tours of this very special collection. Bring the children to come read some books, discover new ideas, and have fun exploring the eleven magical acres of the Marin Art and Garden Center. The library is located adjacent to the rose garden and directly across from the octagon house.

Book of the Week: Stretch

January 6, 2011

StretchIt's often fun to incorporate some movement into reading time, and Doreen Cronin and Scott Menchin's Stretch (40 pages, Atheneum, 2009) makes it easy to do just that! Join the yoga-minded dog and his animal friends as they encourage little ones to not only stretch their bodies, but to explore the definition of the word "stretch" itself. Cronin's rhyming text is clever and fun, and Menchin's simple, appealing illustrations that make use of both drawing and photo-collage.

Stretch is great for beginning readers and even better as a read-aloud book. If you like it, check out its companion books featuring the same active dog: Wiggle and Bounce. Doreen Cronin is also the author of the hilarious series of picture books involving the mischievous Duck and other subversive farmyard denizens, including Giggle, Giggle, Quack; Duck for President; and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type.

Fantastically Fancy Nancy Giveaway and Photo Contest!

December 17, 2010

Fancy NancyIs your child fantastically fantastic? Then chances are, she's a fan of Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy series of books about the little girl with the fancy vocabulary and fantastic fashion sense! She can show the world how fancy she can be by entering the Fancy Nancy Fantastic Fan Contest. (We're also giving away an awesome Fancy Nancy prize, so read on to the end of the article for details!)

Have your little Fancy Nancy Fan aged 3 to 8 dress up in her most spectacular outfit and accessories, and submit it online at The most magnifique fan photo will be illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser in an upcoming Fancy Nancy book. The winner will also win a signed copy of the newest Fancy Nancy title, Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique!

Check out their website for rules and more information, as well as to take a look at the other entries, and vote on those that you think are the most fabulous. You can also sign up for Fancy Nancy email alerts and find Fancy Nancy activities, recipes, a fan club kit, and more. You have until January 31, 2011 to submit your entry.

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