Tag Archives: children’s books

Mr. President Goes to School

Written by Rick Walton. Illustrated by Brad Sneed. Peachtree, 2010.

“Mr. President,” said Madam Secretary. “…It’s the Sticks and Stones issue again, sir. What should we do?”

Well, apparently the answer is don a disguise, get the heck out of the White House and hide out in elementary school, where even the nastiest problems can be solved with a snack and the hokey pokey. My kids cracked up at the stern-faced leaders of Bulrovia and Snortburg sitting criss-cross applesauce in the Oval Office. I loved the subtle reminder that grownups are at their best when we act like kids.

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The Bear With Sticky Paws

By Clara Vulliamy

Tiger Tales, 2007

There’s a girl named Lily and she’s being very grumpy, stamping her little feet and slamming the door. She says, “I DON’T WANT ALL THIS BREAKFAST!” and throws down her spoon.” “NO, I won’t wash my face. NO, I won’t brush my hair. NO, I won’t get dressed…” “NO! NO! NO!”

I could criticize many things about this odd little book, but the Lily in me says “NO!” The truth is, its luscious candy-colored illustrations and sparse,wackadoodle text tap into what all kids genuinely want: the love of their parent(s). Continue reading

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The Year at Maple Hill Farm


By Alice and Martin Provensen

Aladdin Paperbacks, 1978

In summer the fields are full of flowers. Goats and sheep like flowers. Bees like flowers. Everyone likes flowers…In summer the grass is hopping with fleas. No one likes fleas. They bite.

As the preface promises: This is a book about farm animals and what happens during one year on a farm. Alice Provensen and her late husband, Martin, took a steady look around their Straatsburg, NY farm, and chronicled what they saw each month. The illustrations — sometimes as many as seven on a page — have an intimate, unhurried feel to them, something you’d expect to find your art major college roommate doodling in a notebook when she should be taking notes.  And the text is full of joyful observations like so: Almost asleep in a puddle of dust, a dog will still wag his tail as you walk by. A bonus: you’ll learn how to pill a sheep.

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The Little Auto


By Lois Lenski

Random House, 1934

Mr. Small has a little Auto. It is red and shiny. He likes to look at it.

When my son was one, he asked me to read this book to him. Every. Single. Day. He loved everything about it, from the simple “Dick and Jane”-style text to Lenski’s trademark modest illustrations. On the surface, not much happens — basically, Mr. Small takes his car out of the little garage, drives to town, gets rained on, and returns home — but that’s the appeal of it. You feel dropped into Mr. Small’s calm, innocent world, where the worst thing that happens is a flat tire. (But it’s easily fixed and then the sun comes out.) If you need a book for a car-loving toddler, this is it. And check out the other fabulous books in the series — The Little Fire Engine, The Little Farm, Papa Small, and Policeman Small.  (He’s quite the Renaissance Man.) The only disappointment is The Little Airplane, which, quite honestly, reads like a pilot’s manual.

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Kate and the Beanstalk


By Mary Pope Osborne, Illustrated by Giselle Potter

Atheneum Books, 2000

Kate was a plucky girl who loved to help. “Don’t worry,” she said, giving her mother a hug. “I’ll take care of everything.” And she set out for market with their cow.

This magical retelling of  “Jack and the Beanstalk” comes courtesy of Mary Pope Osborne, the acclaimed author of the Magic Treehouse series. Instead of Jack buying magic beans and outwitting a foul-tempered giant, it’s brave Kate. Osborne’s rounded out the story with an exasperated giantess who must serve up wagonloads of bacon and mountains of hash every morning, and a benevolent Queen of the Fairies working behind the scenes. The Kahlo-ish illustrations have fun with the giant’s great size. (The gold coins he so lovingly counts are the size of chocolate chips.) My only complaint is the bizarre — and quite offensive — smell of… feet emanating from my library copy. Surely librarians are trained to notice and neutralize such odors?

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