Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons

Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator Jane Dyer
Vocabulary, manners, and smiles are wrapped into this treasure recommended by fellow bibliophile, Antje. Each page of Cookies introduces a new word and defines it in terms of cookies. For example, a sheep in a purple sweater tells readers: “HONEST means, I have to tell you something. The butterfly didn’t really take the cookie–I took the cookie.” As a cookie fanatic, the definition that resonates most with me is: “REGRET means, I really wish I didn’t eat so many cookies.” Other important words we want our children to understand like envy, loyal, open-minded, content, wise, pessimistic and optimistic are all defined in terms of cookies. Jane Dyer’s watercolors add meaning and depth to Rosenthal’s brilliant words as a diverse cast of children and animals demonstrate meanings by cooperating, sharing, lamenting, and consuming cookies. There are also several instances of contrasting words: Greedy/Generous, Pessimistic/Optimistic, Fair/Unfair: defining opposites side by side helps kids to develop deeper understanding of words by seeing what they are not.

Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal has written two other Cookies books. Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love and Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons are on my list to check out soon.

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons is short, sweet, and ends on a thoughtful note; just right for a bedtime story.

Big Words:
cooperate
patient
proud
modest
respect
trustworthy
compassionate
greedy
generous
pessimistic
optimistic
honest
courageous
envy
loyal
open-minded
regret
content
wise

The Falling Raindrop

by Neil Johnson and Joel Chin
The Falling Raindrop is deceptively simple. It has few words per page and is a quick read with simple illustrations. Despite its simplicity, its themes are numerous and important: the water cycle; phase change; enjoy the moment; change is inevitable and can be good; life goes on. Read it to your toddler to teach new vocabulary and the concept of the water cycle. Read it to your older kids for the vocabulary layers and to teach them to conquer fears and enjoy the ride. Thanks to Elizabeth for the recommendation.

 

Big Words:
gathered
howled
flashed
boomed
rumbled
vanished
skimming
roaring
wisp
steam
airy

 

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster

Author and illustrator Debra Frasier
If you’re in search of books on a specific topic, ask a librarian!  The lovely children’s librarians in my home town had the perfect suggestion for my BigWords Books list.  Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster is funny and empowering.  In this book, the ten-year-old who narrates the story is the wordsmith.  She uses great vocabulary to tell the story of a mistake and her glorious recovery.  She defines words within the text, and shares her extra credit vocabulary sentences along the edges of the illustrations.  To further empower and connect with kids, author/illustrator Debra Frasier ingeniously uses simple lined paper and markers to create fifth-grade-style drawings.  Miss Alaineus might be a little long for toddler listeners.  Set aside 15 minutes to read it to a relatively quiet, engaged listener.  5-year-olds enjoy much of this book, and older kids will relate to the social faux pas and word play.  Definitely check Miss Alaineus out!

Big Words:

obliterate
oblivion
pathetic
precious
capable
apprehend
certainty
undertook
unforgettable
restraint
precipitation
astonishment
investigator
mysterious
zest
glee
strands
gruesome
inevitable
improve
insanity
knowledge
pronounce
museum
exhibiting
prehistoric
extinct
sage
mournful
miscellaneous
humbled
devastated
hypothesis
croak
catastrophe
definitions
unduly
transport
consisting
defective
dwindle
delirious
swollen
pasteurization
endure
extraordinary
ancestor
ancient
ailment
agony
thicket
luminous
celestial
berserk
bacteria
constrictor
reptile
herpetologist
fossil
carnivore
herbivore
species
theory

WORK: An Occupational ABC

Author and Illustrator Kellen Hatanaka

My mother-in-law sent me this BigWords book. It is fabulous! Each letter of the alphabet is associated with a career. These are not your everyday teachers and firefighters. “WORK” gives kids images of unusual occupations: Horticulturist, Naval Architect, and Xenologist. Where else in children’s literature will you find Xenologist?! The illustrations are simple, graphic representations incorporating letters as career props. Kids love finding and labeling surprise actions and characters while learning about unusual job options.  Parents enjoy bringing new words and employment opportunities to kids. Everyone giggles at the punny Want Ads listed at the back of the book.  This is a great one for every bookshelf.

Big Words:

Aviator
Cyclist
Detective
Explorer
Forest Ranger
Grocer
Horticulturist
Vendor
Lumberjack
Mountaineer
Architect
Oceanographer
Umpire
Vibraphonist
Xenologist
Yogi

Why Big Words?

24,000 Words

That’s how many words kindergartners should understand.

To achieve that incredible number, children must learn 13 words a day before age five!

To learn a new word, a child needs to hear it as many as 12 times, but adult conversations only use about 3,000 words. Reading aloud is the best way to expose children to new words!

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse

Author Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator Hadley Hooper
Big Words:
iridescence
dreary
arrange

The Iridescence of Birds is a quick, thoughtful read. It is written as a series of questions guiding listeners and their readers to feel Henri Matisse’s world. As a back-of-the-book bonus, author and illustrator provide descriptions of their processes in creating this gem. Read the bonus paragraphs when you want to extend the story; skip them when it’s time to get little people in bed.

‘Iridescence’ is a rare word in conversation and picture books. The simplicity of this book gives kids a chance to absorb the meaning without other vocabulary challenges. Parents can capitalize on this new word by finding, pointing out, and using ‘iridescence’ to describe a sink full of soap bubbles or a parking lot puddle of oil….”like Matisse’s birds”. Or, more deliberately, pull out all the iridescent crayons, and draw an iridescent picture. Soon your kids will be pointing out ‘iridescence’ to you.

Insectlopedia

Author and Illustrator Douglas Florian
We are weevils.
We are evil.
We’ve aggrieved
Since time primeval.

Our whiny, evil voices chorus this verse from Florian’s ‘The Weevils’ every time a weevil is spotted or mentioned. It sticks with us as only poetry can. 

As read-alouders, we can maximize poem power by playing with voices, emphasizing rhythm and rhyme, rise and fall, and inviting our listeners to echo or chant along.  Rhyming is a vital skill for pre-readers. Immersing kids in frequent songs and books filled with poetry prepares a foundation for pattern recognition.

insectlopedia (published as lower-case ‘i’), is our family’s favorite Florian.  I wonder if the author shares our love of insects, as his poems and watercolors on paper bags seem especially creative here. In addition to using vocabulary to keep parents on tiptoes, Florian feeds us insect facts and word-play: words-within-words, homonyms, and shape poetry to appeal to visual memory for new words.

Big Words:

pupa
demon
behold
enormous
terrorize
seize
mere
stroll
thickets
wend
religiously
dainty
venom
denim
mammoth
disguise
ward
aggrieved
primeval
bore
boll
gore
ruinous
medieval
weevil
evil
walkingstick
disappearing
pulpy
lunge
plunge
lurch
lope
monarch
migrations
wince
duke
lug
termites
immense
defense
superior
underground
shields
droughts
guarantees
architectural
design
suits
locusts
swarm
disappear
gigantic
romantic
artistic
majestic
magnetic
aesthetic
strictly
parasitic

 

 

The Water Hole

Author and Illustrator Graeme Base

Big Words:

drought
united
delectable
gracious
lapping
toucans
squawking
gazing
leopards
wallowing
floundering
sipping
insist
conclusion
 

lumbering
propose
establish
sub-committee
crisis
fiscal
tortoises

Graeme Base is a masterful artist and author.  My children have spent hours with his puzzle books over the years.  Intricate illustrations are filled with riddles and surprises calling readers back for repeated discovery. The Water Hole is a quick, thought-provoking book with breath-taking illustrations.  It evokes fascination, despair, joy, and gratitude in a countdown from 10.  Readers tour ten countries and are introduced to the water-seeking wildlife in each, while immersing ourselves in vocabulary to spur kids to ask, “What does that mean?” The best question a vocabulary-building parent can hear!

The Impudent Rooster

Story by Ion Creanga
Adapted by Sabina I. Rascol
Illustrator Holly Berry
Folktales from foreign countries are useful tools in our quest to teach cultural sensitivity and respect. The Impudent Rooster is adapted from a tale popularized by the ‘Homer of Romania’. Twenty-eight pages hold a few sentences each and are dominated by colorful, bold illustrations complex enough to tempt readers back for repeated inspections. Rascol is fearless in employing the English language, and we benefit from her liberal use of powerful words. This story, like many folk stories, is a bit on the violent side for the youngest of listeners. The rooster is thrown into perilous settings repeatedly. But older kids will understand and enjoy the metaphorical dangers. Parents may even see a chance to teach about styles of government as the rooster takes from the greedy rich man to redistribute wealth through the benevolent poor man. Read-alouders will enjoy the humor, hyperbole, repetition and dramatic rise in the story. Wait until your kids pass toddlerhood, then buy this one to add to your vocabulary-building toolbox.

Big Words:

tumbledown
ramshackle
advised
smoothed
humiliated
lurched
crowed
homeward
envy
amassed
wronging
enormous
dismayed
newfound
impudence
spied
impudent
plunged
floundering
singed
spouted
grating
steward
amidst
barred
pestering
herdsman
gore
aghast
utter
pondered
delightedly
estate
guinea
overflowed
extraordinary
procession
embraced
recognized
multitude
forgiveness
ill-tempered
gnashing
kerchief
honeyed
prospering
mistreat
accompanied

Mystery At Club Sandwich

Author and Illustrator Doug Cushman

Big words:

detective
ostrich
spied
boa

Mystery at the Club Sandwich is a tongue-in-cheek Bogart-style mystery. It’s not a ‘Big Words’ book, but it is filled with figurative phrases like, “I work for peanuts”, “She looked like trouble”, “tough nut to crack”, and “lost her marbles”. The author also has fun inventing nauseating peanut-filled recipes for the elephant investigator. They make read-alouders and their listeners grimace and laugh. Kids have fun following the clues and solving the crime. Club Sandwich is long and effortful as a bedtime story. It’s a good book for kids to read to themselves or to a parent who is cooking or folding laundry.