'P Is for Pterodactyl' alphabet book teaches kids some anomalies of the English language

P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever is a fun new alphabet book written by rapper Lushlife that shows kids just how nutty the English language really is (rules schmules!):

Turning the traditional idea of an alphabet book on its head, P is for Pterodactyl is perfect for anyone who has ever been stumped by silent letters or confused by absurd homophones. This whimsical, unique book takes silent letter entries like “K is for Knight” a step further with “The noble knight’s knife nicked the knave’s knee.” Lively illustrations provide context clues, and alliterative words help readers navigate text like “a bright white gnat is gnawing on my gnocchi” with ease. Everyone from early learners to grown-up grammarians will love this wacky book where “A is for Aisle” but “Y is definitely not for Why.”

(Blame it on the Voices) Read the rest

Children’s books that parents won’t hate

YouTuber Louise Pentland of SprinkleOfGlitter shares the books she reads to her six-year-old daughter that don’t drive her crazy. Read the rest

If you ever want to bring an alligator to school, don't.

When my kiddo really likes a book, she’ll ask to read it again and again and again, and she’ll only tire of it if something new comes along to replace it. The fact that my daughter has asked to read this book every night for the past two weeks – and still cracks up at the funny parts – speaks volumes.

If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! is a wacky, colorful, and delightful tall tale for children ages 4-7. As Elise Parsley’s New York Times bestselling debut book, it tells the story of Magnolia, a unique girl who responds to her teacher’s request to “bring something from nature for show and tell” by – you guessed it – bringing an alligator to school. As one can guess, havoc ensues.

Magnolia tries to convince her teacher that alligators are “quiet and good” and that he “won’t eat anyone,” but then spends the rest of the story trying to avert certain disaster. The alligator draws funny pictures to make Magnolia laugh, creates paper-airplane origami that winds up in the teacher’s hair, almost eats a fellow student, gets chewing gum everywhere, and eats Magnolia’s lunch. In return, Magnolia gets her name written on the board, followed by several checkmarks and an underline, which guarantees a trip to the principal’s office after school.

If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! is a delightful and silly read, especially for preschool or primary school children who have already experienced show and tell. Read the rest

C Is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Book

Let Shub-Niggurath teach your child the alphabet with C Is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Book

I wish we had this book when my daughter was younger. Things would be much different!

C Is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Book via Amazon Read the rest

Why it's easy to admire Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I’m going to be upfront here: this book made me cry. As a woman, mother to a daughter, and formerly outspoken little girl in a time and place where “feminism” was was an anachronistic term for bra-burning rather than the badge of pride and call to action it is today, this book made me grateful and proud. I was already an RBG fan – it’s pretty hard not to be – but I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark hammered home all of the reasons why it’s easy to admire the influential Supreme Court Justice through a beautiful, illustrated biography that stresses the importance of standing up for what’s right.

Debbie Levy frames RBG’s story with objections, beginning with her mother, Celia Amster Bader, who sets the tone for the book and for her daughter’s trajectory by encouraging little Ruth to strive for more in life than finding a husband. “Ruth’s mother disagreed,” is the first of many hand-lettered, marquee-like pronouncements that tie together Levy’s text and Elizabeth Baddeley’s visual storytelling. This bold dissention (“Then she protested.” “She resisted. And persisted.” “Ruth really, really disagreed with this!”) in the face of prejudice and sexism allows readers to feel the weight of injustice and the power of speaking up as they straighten their shoulders, square their feet, and shout with Ruth, “I dissent!”

I learned a lot through this book. Who knew that RBG and Antonin Scalia were friends? Or that Justice Ginsburg’s mother was such a driving force in her life? Read the rest

Two turtles, one hat

It’s a classic problem: two turtles, one hat. Well, maybe not classic, but you get the idea. In the just-released and last book of his Hat series, Jon Klassen’s wit shines. Though his previous two Hat stories feature different characters, they both begin with a common problem – a stolen hat. We Found A Hat, however, is all about the moments before the grab.

There is so much brilliance in this book, and to be fully appreciated, it helps to know the series, as the pace and place of each differs subtly but smartly. In I Want My Hat Back, we clod through the forest with a bear, who slowly comes to the realization of who stole his hat at a pace not unlike that of one waking up from a long winter’s rest. In This Is Not My Hat, readers tail an underwater chase that is slow but necessarily suspenseful, with images and ending that, like vision under water, are clear enough, but not quite. We Found A Hat, perhaps fittingly for the last in the series, takes place in the desert. Who better than turtles to force the reader to slow down and savor the moral agony of friendship versus fashion? In this barren landscape, there are sounds in the pictures – the shape of the cacti echoes that of the newly found 10-gallon hat and the rocks echoes the turtles’ shells. The overall design of word and text calls back to each of the previous books. Read the rest

Smart About Sharks – Filled with fascinating bite-sized shark facts

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Smart About Sharks

by Owen Davey

Flying Eye Books

2016, 40 pages, 9.2 x 11.5 x 0.5 inches

$17 Buy a copy on Amazon

I love children’s books that are as delicious for kids as they are for adults, and Smart About Sharks is exactly that. With a sumptuous textured cloth cover, an appealing gray-tinted palette of earth tones playfully punctuated by pink, and a retro encyclopedic design, Smart is filled with fascinating bite-sized shark facts that were completely new to me. Examples: sharks were here on earth 200-million years before dinosaurs; there’s a shark called a megamouth that has a glow-in-the-dark mouth; some sharks grow only to the size of a pencil.

Smart About Sharks, just released today, is similar to illustrator Owen Davey’s other info-packed animal book, Mad About Monkeys, which came out almost exactly a year ago (363 days to be exact), and which I reviewed here on Wink. Everything from what sharks eat to their social life to their various shapes, sizes, and many different types (over 500 unique species in our oceans today!) is covered in this high-quality picture book. Rumor has it that this is the start of a series with Flying Eye Books. I hope the rumors are true! Read the rest

Wherever You Go – A poetic storyline about traveling and new experiences

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Wherever You Go

by Pat Zietlow Miller (author) and Eliza Wheeler (artist)

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

2015, 32 pages, 10.2 x 10.2 x 0.5 inches

$13 Buy a copy on Amazon

A hare packs its bags and takes a bicycle tour in this lovely rhyming picture book. Donning its jaunty chapeau and dapper pea coat, a hare cycles through forests and a covered bridge, past a paddlewheeled seaside inn, and into the evening lights of the big city. Exploring the neon-lit metropolis, it rides atop a trolley, pedals past a jolly carnival, and cruises over Seussian suspension bridges. Continuing on its way, it journeys through an arid desert, over indigo mountains, and back home again.

Utilizing pale yellows, greens, and pinks, and drawn with an incredibly thin line, Wherever You Go's deep focus art fills every page with an expansive landscape. Little eyes could get lost for hours searching out minute details. Owls ride in baskets, mice chug along on tugboats, and alligators fish near ponds, and lazy afternoons can be spent examining the intricate scenery. A liltingly poetic storyline about traveling and new experiences is a delightful metaphor for life's journey.

– S. Deathrage Read the rest

Rude Cakes - a book about a two-layer cake with an attitude

Rude Cakes

by Rowboat Watkins

Chronicle Books

2015, 40 pages, 9.4 x 9.4 x 0.5 inches

$13 Buy a copy on Amazon

Visual puns, illustrative foreshadowing, relatable characters, and second chances: these are the ingredients that make Rude Cakes such a treat. In a world where the background is fairly barren save for a few flowers that sprout side by side with candy canes and lollipops, Rowboat Watkins’s pouty pink pastry, a two-layer cake with an attitude, takes center stage and shows us how not to behave. Luckily, we also meet a giant cyclops who inadvertently sets the rude cake straight.

Rude Cakes is not only a fun read, it’s cathartic. Grown-ups reading this book aloud to their kids will laugh in commiseration with the pastry parents’ plight of reigning in their frosted tot. For kids, there’s plenty of opportunity for indignant head shaking at the cake’s social foibles, though it’s nearly impossible to do without cracking a smile. Afterall, not even a dessert can be sweet all of the time. And just when you think that cranky cake is going to get what’s coming to him, along comes the giant cyclops to lead by example, all the while making a mistake of his own that literally gives the cake a new outlook on what it feels like not to be heard. For a book without any people in it, every character and snippet of dialogue is truly and hilariously human.

On the surface, this is a funny little picture book about learning how to behave. Read the rest

Adventures with Barefoot Critters teaches ABCs with charming woodland flora and fauna

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

A is for adorable and that’s just the beginning of the attributes you’ll want to ascribe to this sweet account of anthropomorphic animals and the alphabet. Teagan White has created a charming book filled with colors awash in the glow of nostalgia, where forest critters romp across a scenic woodland, bundled in impossibly cute sweaters and tiny, striped scarves.

Adventures with Barefoot Creatures is characterized as an ABC book but its letter-themed, rhyming stanzas also follow the woodland flora and fauna through the seasons. A, B and C take place in deep winter as the critters clean out the attic and sniffle through colds. Spring arrives, with robin’s eggs and growing things twining their green vines and reaching across the pages in a riot of whimsy. Exuberant, the critters frolic in the summer’s sun, swimming in the lake and collecting ocean artifacts from the shores. As the end of the alphabet approaches, cable knit sweaters reappear and the illustrations become clotted with the changing colors of leaves and the warmth of campfires. Z arrives to find the barefoot critters snuggled together, exhausted from their delightful New Year’s festivities and tumbled together in a darling snoozefest on the couch.

ABC books are a well-explored subgenre that usually offers little in the way of novelty. Adventures with Barefoot Critters is a title that steps outside the clichéd with playful, quaint artwork that beguiles. If you enjoy the fascinating world of the quirky, imaginative Ms. White and her cast of cheery woodland companions, keep your eyes peeled for her latest book arriving in late summer, Counting with Barefoot Critters. Read the rest

Robo-Sauce is a brilliant twist on both storytelling and book design

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Robo-Sauce starts out as a mere picture book, then – with a few paper folds and a little imagination – transforms into a ROBOT picture book. The story starts out normally enough – when a boy can’t get enough of pretending to be a robot, he wishes for a potion that will actually turn him into one. And what do you know? The off-camera narrator happens to have the recipe for just such a potion. After dousing himself in the day-glo orange “robo-sauce,” the boy becomes a rather jerky and destructive robot – punching down a fruit stand with his robo-fist and blasting open a water tower with his laser eyes. When the startled narrator tries to offer the antidote to robo-sauce, the robo-boy promptly disintegrates it, then proceeds to slosh the noxious liquid all over his family, dog, friends, and pretty much anything else in sight. EVERYTHING transforms into a robot, and when the robo-sauce inevitably seeps over the words in the story, even the book turns into a robot. A page folds out, and instructs readers how to re-fold it to activate the robo-book. The larger fold-out page essentially turns into an alternate book jacket, and the last few pages in the story are full of beeps, boops, and, of course, robots. But one final page turn reveals that all the shenanigans were the result of one family’s afternoon of imaginative play.

Robo-Sauce is a brilliant twist on both storytelling and book design. Read the rest

What games must learn from children's books

A designer studies her favorite works of play and picture to explain what's missing from many modern video games