I decided to try out Billy Collins after I enjoyed one of his poems in Good Poems for Hard Times. I wish my poetry journey had started here, I reallyI decided to try out Billy Collins after I enjoyed one of his poems in Good Poems for Hard Times. I wish my poetry journey had started here, I really do. Why do teachers make young learners struggle with John Donne and George Herbert when there is something accessible and relatable right here? It's like starting kids off with The Metamorphosis instead of The Cat in the Hat and then being surprised you don't have lifelong readers.
Ranting aside, I found Collins' poetry to be in very accessible language while still managing to be very moving. This is a thing that still startles me about poetry, the abrupt evocation of feelings. In just a few lines Collins can express a feeling you've struggled to pin down for years.
Some of the light-hearted poems got a genuine laugh out of me (The Hunt, The Discovery of Scat), and one even squeezed some tears out of something I thought I was ok with (The Wires of the Night). Another had me eagerly googling self-portraits of dead European painters (Candle Hat). All this variety from one volume. I loved it.
My other favorites: First Reader Forgetfulness Mappamundi The Afterlife Purity Memento Mori Weighing the Dog...more
When it came out that my son didn't know Row Row Row Your Boat, I realized there were a few holes in his knowledge and did an impulse checkout of thisWhen it came out that my son didn't know Row Row Row Your Boat, I realized there were a few holes in his knowledge and did an impulse checkout of this title at the library. We are not homeschoolers and I'm not using this as any kind of formal curriculum so I can't review based on that, but I have renewed it three times so that's my ringing endorsement.
It's broken into sections: poems, songs, stories, history, science, and art, and each section has its own color on the upper right so it's easy to flip through. This is handy because my 4 year old can sit down and find the songs section on his own before making a request. I think that's what we both really enjoy about this book: it's highly browsable and so large and varied that we sit down for just a song or two and end up going through two stories, 5 poems, 3 songs and a history lesson. It feels very natural and unscripted which is the level of engagement I think he needs right now. I like that there's lots of notes to parents suggesting questions they can pose to help everyone engage a little more deeply with the text. I also appreciate the mini explanations on the art pages that my son is inexplicably drawn to, because there's no other way I'm going to be able to interpret a modern painting with him.
This is one that we are both enjoying so much I may end up purchasing a copy when I can no longer renew it....more
I picked up this book for the swimming theme as my son was approaching his first swimming lessons, but it ended up being a great book for him due to iI picked up this book for the swimming theme as my son was approaching his first swimming lessons, but it ended up being a great book for him due to its discussion of courage. He's been having a hard time with some things lately, and this showed that it's ok to feel the fear and that being brave isn't about losing the fear, it's about doing it anyway. I liked that the little girl's family didn't push her to swim out further than she was ready and just let her come to things on her own terms, and I think it was helpful for him to see that it took a few tries and her own internal motivation before she was able to overcome things.
This was a title he really gravitated to and wanted to make sure both me and my husband had chances to read it with him. It gave us all some vocabulary and context for him to explore his own feelings of fear without making the discussion so directly and obviously about him....more
This was a great preparation book for my 4 year old's first swimming lessons. He's always very tentative about new things and has never felt good abouThis was a great preparation book for my 4 year old's first swimming lessons. He's always very tentative about new things and has never felt good about the water, so we approached the swimming class with trepidation on all parts. This book narrates all the things you might experience in a swimming lesson, from kicking and paddling to getting your face wet. Like you'd expect from DK books, there's a lot of new vocabulary listed so there's a picture word glossary at the very end.
Probably my favorite thing about this book is that it's a father/son combo taking the swimming lesson, and I still find it hard to find a lot of good books featuring fathers doing everyday activities. This worked out really well for us, since my son was taking the lesson with his dad. Very recommended for any budding swimmers....more
I was a little skeptical of this title, because I found What to Expect When You're Expecting to be a bit alarmist at times. I definitely didn't want tI was a little skeptical of this title, because I found What to Expect When You're Expecting to be a bit alarmist at times. I definitely didn't want that approach for my 4 year old who was already very alarmed about the dentist. However, this turned out to be just the right level of detail for a kid that really really likes to know what to expect, without the worst-case-scenario details that bothered me about the pregnancy books.
With blocks of text, pictures, and lots of "call-outs" and dialog bubbles this is a book that is suitable for a range of ages. It starts with the whys of visiting the dentist, followed by details about what the office looks like, what the tools are used for, and the big question: does it hurt?
While it still wasn't a successful visit for us (maybe he'll let them brush his teeth next time), it was miles better than the first one (where we left with him crying and me wanting to) and I think a great deal of that was because of the preparation from this book....more
This book features daring feats, crazy acrobatics, and a police arrest. Obviously it was an immediate hit with my 4 year old. It tells the true storyThis book features daring feats, crazy acrobatics, and a police arrest. Obviously it was an immediate hit with my 4 year old. It tells the true story of Philippe Petit, who managed to sneak into the under construction World Trade Center and tightrope walk between the towers. Most interesting to me was the part about how he got the wire in place, most interesting to my son was how he managed to spend hours going back and forth on the wire before he decided to climb off for his arrest.
MINUS ONE BIG HUGE HONKING STAR for the second to last page, which shows a skyline with a faint outline where the towers used to be, and notes that although the towers are gone they and the walk can live on in our memory. Now, I'm not about withholding info from my kid and a have a "you're old enough to ask, you're old enough to get a straight answer" policy on questions. But I was not prepared for that page or the questions that ensued, and it was a little annoying because this book was about an amazing caper pulled off in a time when capers could still happen, not about a terrorist attack. I'd argue that the eventual fate of the towers was completely irrelevant to the story. If it had been a friend telling me about how her dad put a climbing wall in her basement when she was little and they spent every weekend hanging upside, and then ended it with "and then my house burned down 37 years later but gosh do I still remember that climbing wall" I'd think she was being a bit of a drama llama. Just saying. It wasn't pertinent. ...more
Superb. Great story in which an inborn love of music clearly comes through, great illustrations in black-and-white, art deco style.
Ben doesn't have aSuperb. Great story in which an inborn love of music clearly comes through, great illustrations in black-and-white, art deco style.
Ben doesn't have a trumpet himself, but that doesn't stop him from playing his imaginary trumpet while admiring the musicians at the local club from afar. When Ben is caught playing his "trumpet" by some local kids, the mockery leaves him embarrassed and he puts up his trumpet for good. At the end, the trumpeter from the club invites Ben in to try playing the real thing.
My 4 year old loves to pretend he's playing various instruments, or is the dance star of some show or another. At the same time, he's recently begun learning about teasing and what happens when kids are different. I appreciate that this title celebrates and enforces his love of music, while also giving us a chance to talk about how Ben felt when the other kids made fun of him, and why he should play anyway....more
This is one of those picture books that can be enjoyed on multiple levels, so my 4 year old likes it as much as I do, albeit for different reasons. MuThis is one of those picture books that can be enjoyed on multiple levels, so my 4 year old likes it as much as I do, albeit for different reasons. Muth uses Haiku to explore the 4 seasons with accompanying illustrations that really enhance the narration. As the parent I'm enjoying each Haiku as a standalone poem, and have found myself startled at how evocative of a feeling or time some of them could be for me. My child enjoys the illustrations and descriptions of seasons as we move through the year, and continues to request this book daily....more
This is one of our favorite books of late. It's a reverse counting book, and it's the best kind of counting book because neither parent nor child realThis is one of our favorite books of late. It's a reverse counting book, and it's the best kind of counting book because neither parent nor child really notices the counting. The book begins at dawn, and page by page all the birds wake up and make their bird noises (10 woodpecker taps, 9 dove coos, etc). The cut paper illustrations are beautiful and very accurate: my 4 year old delights in recognizing birds outside that he's seen in the book. We also have a great time making the bird sounds together which, thank goodness, are phonetic. A white gull goes "eeyah!" and the hummingbird does a high pitched "tzik." Belly laughs at the end when the mockingbird makes all the sounds and we go crazy trying to outdo each other. Thumbs up!...more
I picked this one up to prepare my 4 year old for his first visit to the aquarium. I'm not sure that either of us would be as into it if we didn't havI picked this one up to prepare my 4 year old for his first visit to the aquarium. I'm not sure that either of us would be as into it if we didn't have the trip coming up, but we do so he's currently a fan.
The book shows all the things you might see in an aquarium, like the kelp forest and a place where you can touch bat rays, while also including informational tidbits like the difference between saltwater and freshwater tanks. The illustrations are big and beautiful, and many of the full fish pages have labels of the fish which I very much appreciate when my kid is demanding to know the name of each one.
I think it's a little dry for a standard picture book, but very informative for an upcoming trip and what to expect of it....more
I like the idea of this book much more than I like the book. I like the idea of exposing my 4 year old to all forms of love so he knows that all formsI like the idea of this book much more than I like the book. I like the idea of exposing my 4 year old to all forms of love so he knows that all forms are ok, but if I'm honest with myself it's not a book I would read to him if it were starring a traditional heterosexual couple. He's just not interested in the love story yet and I'm certainly in no hurry to rush that, not while he's still so into worms.
Basically the prince's mother decides he needs to get married and parades a bunch of princesses in front of him so he can select a spouse. The prince eventually falls for the brother of one of the princesses, and they marry and live happily ever after.
Really, what I'd prefer is a book about fall, or a book about bicycling, or making mistakes, that happens to feature two same-sex parents, rather than a book about love and marriage. I'd like to show him it's so normal it's not worth commenting on, it's just background of the story.
The final nail in the coffin: my kid doesn't really like reading this one either....more
This has been a longtime favorite for my 4 year old; I think we're almost to the max renewals the library allows. It's a great story to help him underThis has been a longtime favorite for my 4 year old; I think we're almost to the max renewals the library allows. It's a great story to help him understand why the adults in his life (great-grandparents, grandparents, and frequently his parents!) can't do all the things that he can do. Old Badger and Little Badger are out on a walk, and as Little Badger shows off his somersaults down the path or how fast he can climb a tree, he wonders why Old Badger can't join him. The book gently shows that Old Badger has many other things he can still do and show to Little Badger, and ends with the message that someday Little Badger will teach all these things to his own grandchildren. My son really likes that ending, and likes to imagine what kind of daddy he'll be and all the things he'll teach to his children.
I like that it's showing him that there's value to aging, and that even if some abilities are lost along the way there's always another skill to replace them....more
I've decided anthologies are the way to go for now while I'm still exploring poetry and it still feels more like homework than desire. No guilt if I dI've decided anthologies are the way to go for now while I'm still exploring poetry and it still feels more like homework than desire. No guilt if I don't enjoy a poet, just move on to the next one. No pages and pages of universally acknowledged brilliance that I just don't get (looking at you, e.e. cummings), just turn the page to something new if it's not working for me.
On the flip side, it's got a bit of that one night stand feeling you get from short stories. Just when I'm intrigued and want to know more, it's on to the next poet. It's given me a list of poets to try though, and my favorite poems and authors are listed here so I can reference the next time I'm ready to pick up a volume:
"Happiness" by Raymond Carver "A Poem for Emily" by Miller Williams "For My Daughter in Reply to a Question" by David Ignatow "For a Five-Year-Old" by Fleur Adcock "Day Bath" by Debra Spencer "At the Arraignment" by Debra Spencer "Passengers" by Billy Collins "To David, About His Education" by Howard Nemerov "Toast" by Leonard Nathan "What's in My Journal" by William Stafford "Ode to My 1977 Toyota" by Barbara Hamby "To a Frustrated Poet" by R.J. Ellmann "Riveted" by Robyn Sarah "For My Sister, Emigrating" by Wendy Cope "Since You Asked" by Lawrence Raab "Death Mask" by Edward Field "A Man in Maine" by Philip Booth "In the Middle" by Barbara Crooker "In Praise of My Bed" by Meredith Holmes
I read this as a well-loved library copy and enjoyed seeing all the dog-eared pages of favorite verses, even though they didn't usually coincide with my favorites. Alas, another area of life in which I appear to have no taste. Final comment: I thought the title was off. It just seemed like a collection of poems that someone liked, not necessarily poems that are going to get you through tough times....more
I mean this in the least insulting way possible, but I was surprised at what a good book this was. I picked it up because the topic (a boy realizing aI mean this in the least insulting way possible, but I was surprised at what a good book this was. I picked it up because the topic (a boy realizing and then acknowledging that he is a girl in a boy's body) is one that I'm unfamiliar with, and because I am trying to read more GLBTQ literature when I can get my hands on it. I didn't put it down again because it was just great.
The surprise for me was that this is a good book that happens to feature transgender themes, rather than a book that is TRANSGENDER, which is what I thought I was picking up. Grayson is facing the transgender issue, but also the other standard growing-up struggles that kids face. Grayson's narration is what you would expect of a 6th grader including the requisite confusion and misunderstanding of cues. That made the tone so much more relatable than a more adult-sounding narrator would have.
One of the things that I most liked was that I kept waiting for the Hollywood treatment where some adult in Grayson's life would realize the struggle she was experiencing and be a kind of "spiritual guide." That never happened, and how things played out is I suspect a lot more true to real life scenarios. I especially appreciated that realism in a young audience title, since this is one of a handful of books on the topic.
I highly recommend this and can't wait to see more from this author.
**I received a free copy of this book for review via NetGalley. The opinions are my own....more
The simple, generic language of this made it applicable to almost any situation. Regardless of how the family came together, the book applies. Great fThe simple, generic language of this made it applicable to almost any situation. Regardless of how the family came together, the book applies. Great for temporary (foster) situations or adoption, or even growth of a family by adding a grandparent to the home....more