Give your little one “unfurled” as a beautiful new Big Word! while enjoying the fun rhyme and trip through the solar system! This one is a gem!
Books empower, save lives, bring solace to hopeless situations and enrich joyful ones. Such power deserves to be illustrated and celebrated. “The War That Saved My Life” is subtle in its fanfare. The protagonists are initially fearful of words and disdainful of people who use rich vocabulary. But their loving adoptive caretaker is gentle and steadfast in her own use of enticing language. She shelters the two abused war refugees with earnest compassion, which allows them to overcome their negative attitudes then grow as logophiles themselves.
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has crafted an engaging and beautiful illustration of how giving children tools for discovery, then exposing them to challenging words, empowers them to understand new words better than any vocabulary workbook ever could. We Jamie is first introduced to the word ‘bank’ and deduces its meaning through observation: ‘money store’! Listeners experience word-learning alongside Ada as she puzzles through ‘mollified’, ‘resolved’, and more.
Unlike any of the books I’ve previously reviewed, “The War That Saved My Life” is not a picture book. It is not meant for toddlers. Readers tackle war relocation, verbally abusive adults and strategies for overcoming fear. Topics too weighty for kids under eight, but approachable for older kids through this happy-ending story. I’m including here for its incredible celebration of words and because I want all my friends to be listening to read-alouds LONG after they’ve learned to read themselves.
Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts on this lovely book.
September 24th, 2016, my cheeks nearly cracked from a day of joyous grinning! At The Princeton Children’s Book Festival , I met authors and illustrators of my favorite children’s books. I was surrounded by the greats, including David Ezra Stein, who was there with his son. He seemed surprised by my fan-girl thrill at meeting him and watching him autograph my book and said he was happy to know that it was proving to be such a valuable tool for me.
Interrupting Chicken, from Candlewick Press, is incredibly useful in both parenting and speech therapy! Interrupting is such a tricky topic, especially when you’re dealing with excited kids who want to share their ideas. This book provides a brilliant format for dealing with interrupting in a playful fashion. Adults are given the opportunity to express the frustration of interruption by voicing the father chicken as he struggles to be patient with he ebullient and creative daughter. I love using a growly, low and slow voice to contrast with the high-pitched energy I give the child. I love to pause and ask young listeners how they think the father chicken feels. They know what it’s like to be interrupted and can empathize with his irritation. We talk about it and come up with playful strategies for dealing with the issue, all in a playful, blame-free setting.
As an added bonus, Stein uses ‘involved’ and ‘stray’ in the short, simple text. These are two words that rarely enter my conversations with young children, so I know I’m getting a few extra ‘big words’ in their ears while I’m laughing and teaching about patience. Grab this one the next time you find yourself telling a kid to stop interrupting.
Author Deborah Diesen
Illustrator Dan Hanna
Children’s librarians are an asset to any book search. Amber, the outreach librarian at Sheppard Library, recommended The Pout-Pout Fish. I have to admit I would never have guessed, based on the title, that this book would meet my big-word and fun-to-read goals. But Amber knows good books.
Reading this book is so fun! The title character is that miserable, moaning person we all know. Giving voice to such challenging behavior through a cartoon fish allows mockery without meanness. Be careful, though, kids are perceptive and often know just the person you have in mind as you turn on your Pout-Pout voice. As the whiny fish swims through the ocean, spreading gloom, he meets cheerful sea creatures. Each well-described friend shows up for one page, so read-alouders can be flamboyantly playful with voices, knowing we don’t have to remember and replicate them for return appearances of the characters.
Thankfully, the helpless Pout-Pout fish finds reason to smile and abandon his petulance, providing parents talking points about resilience, resourcefulness, and purposefulness. It could be a useful tool when talking about whining.
In addition to rare words, fun reading, and meaningful message, The Pout-Pout Fish presents the figurative phrase, ‘pearl of advice’. Figurative language is the foundation of humor and is fun to explain and enjoy with kids. The rhyming text is repetitive, and the illustrations are bright and bold, so it’s good for all ages. Start early. Read often.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Author John Lithgow
Illustrator C.F. Payne
Fame teamed up to create this must-own, re-readable picture book. MAD Magazine readers will enjoy the influence of Alfred E. Neuman in C.F. Payne’s expressive, intimate illustrations. And John Lithgow brings his gifted use of language from the stage to children’s books. His love of language creates flowing, fun rhyme for read-alouders and listeners. Farkle and his family cycle through joy and disappointment with building anticipation that calls out for excited voices. Special center-opening pages reveal the grand, satisfying finale.
The Remarkable Farkle McBride provides an opportunity for the whole family to learn the lexicon surrounding the symphony. Fifty-seven words rarely used at home grace this joyful poem. One caveat: Farkle is violently adamant about his musical disappointments, and many instruments are harmed in the pages of this book. Anyone worried about children imitating such behavior might proactively delay reading this book until any risk of mimicry has passed. I give this book as a gift to musicians, music teachers and students. It’s a timeless and ageless treasure.