Two picture books in the past couple of years have explored the possible ways that humans first discovered music and drawing. These titles would make a great starting point for students studying early humans and their world or just a fun read aloud for families.
The First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein; Little, Brown; 17.00; Ages 3-7
Mordecai Gerstein sends the reader back in time with his first images and sentences in The First Drawing, about a boy living “…thirty thousand years ago.” In present tense sentences that give a sense of immediacy, Gerstein sketches the reader’s life back then: “You live in a cave with your parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers…and your wolf Shadow.” “You love to watch animals.” Illustrations with bright color and scratchy line quality show how the protagonist (you) looks at clouds and stones and sees animals there, that no one else in the family can see. After an encounter with a woolly mammoth, while sitting by the fire, the young artist finally finds a way to show the rest of the family these visions–in drawings on the cave wall. After initial panic (the father throws a spear at the wall, expecting the drawing of the mammoth to charge) everyone agrees that “It’s MAGIC!” which, of course it was. And still is. In his author’s note, Gerstein points out that children are much more likely to draw than adults…so it makes sense that the first person to invent drawing was probably a child. Read this book and then do some drawing, of woolly mammoths or whatever you like!
Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter; Random House; 16.99; Ages 3-7
Jeanette Winter imagines a somewhat similar tale about discovering music in Kali’s Song (complete with another woolly mammoth on the cover.) Kali is familiar with drawing, as his mother paints animals on their cave wall and tells him “soon you’ll hunt and kill animals like those.” Kali’s father gives him a bow so that he can practice shooting, but Kali soon discovers another use for the weapon: plucking the string to make music. As in Gerstein’s book, family members are astonished by this new idea and honor Kali for his talents. This book would be fun read aloud for young musicians, kids interested in history or anyone interested in wondering a little about the past.
Having hosted our Friday morning Wee Ones Storytime for the better part of five years, I can attest to the fact that toddlers don’t like to sit still. They really, really don’t. Really. Any time they can get on their feet and moving, they’re happy campers! And this book provides the perfect opportunity.
Tiptoe Joe greets his animal friends and urges them to follow him on tiptoe to see a fantastic surprise. Each animal has a signature sound (which can easily be accompanied by a simple movement of your choice) that is repeated through the story. All this action is punctuated by the refrain, “Tiptoe, tiptoe, quiet please. Tiptoe underneath the trees.” It’s an awesome way to get kids moving in a controlled (read: not flailing!) way.
Repetitive stories are so helpful for getting little children involved, and author Ginger Foglesong Gibson is clearly clued in to that!
Read on, readers!
Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, illus. by Laura Rankin; Greenwillow (HarperCollins); 17.99; Ages 2-6
Looking for a rhyming read-aloud book that your pre-schooler will love? Check out Pirates Love Underpants. I’ve had a lot of luck reading books about underpants to pre-schoolers, so I have no doubt that this one will be a hit! Join these pirates as they make their way through Big Knickers Bay, Three Pants Ridge, and the Long-John Bridge to search for the Pants of Gold.
And, if you enjoy this tale, you’ll have to check out Aliens in Underpants Save the World by the same duo.
Pirates Love Underpants by Claire Freedman, illus. by Ben Cort; Simon & Schuster; 15.99; Ages 3-6
Oliver is a little insecure about his first day of school, so he brings an alligator in for reinforcement. While the alligator takes care of one scary thing after another, Oliver starts to realize school might not be so bad. But he has to decide before everything is devoured!
Readers will identify with Oliver’s fears and eat up Paul Schmid’s adorable pastel illustrations.
Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid; Disney (Hyperion); 15.99; Ages 3-6
It goes without saying that this book grabbed my attention—just look at it! Peter Carnavas’ latest is an adorable little tale of two children who, as suggested by the title, love books. Their tiny house is full of them. Their family doesn’t have much, but with so many stacks of stories, it doesn’t seem to matter!
But one day the house can hold no more. Sadly, the little family decides they must get rid of their books. When all the piles are cleared, their house is emptier and lonelier than they could have imagined.
Later, though, a book falls out of young Lucy’s backpack. The family gathers around to read together, and once again they are smitten with the power of stories. They run out to their local bookstore (indie bookseller thumbs up!) and restock. Soon their home is full of joy and love and piles and piles of beautiful books! Hooray (for books)!
Read on, readers!
The Children Who Loved Books by Peter Carnavas; Kane/Miller; 11.99; Ages 2-6
There are so many counting and alphabet books out there, but a few new books went straight to my favorite list. The first two books are brand new, and the third was published a year and a half ago. All three are worth checking out.
Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett, illus. by Kevin Cornell; Disney Press; 16.99; Ages 3-6
Counting monkeys is fun and easy! Right? Not when a horde of wild animals and polite grandmothers enter the picture. Pack with Barnett’s signature humor, this book demands readers do more than count, they must act in order to find those mischievous monkeys!Barnett’s wit and Cornell’s brilliant illustrations bring this counting adventure roaring to life.
123 Versus ABC by Mike Boldt; HarperCollins; 17.99; Ages 3-6
It’s an alphabet book! No, it’s 1 book about numbers! So goes the battle between numbers and letters as an increasing ridiculous host of animals enters the book. By the time 13 monkeys wearing 14 neckties and juggling 15 oranges appear, the numbers and letters have decided to collaborate. Show-stopping illustrations make this book a delight, even for proficient counters and readers!
Z is for Moose by Kelly L. Bingham, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky; Greenwillow Books; 16.99; Ages 3-6
Of all the ABC books out there, Z is for Moose is my favorite. Z is obviously not for Moose, but he is too impatient to wait for his curtain call. After his interruptions disrupt the elephant and other animals, the director decides to go with Mouse for M. Children who already know their alphabet and are just learning to read will find this zany book hilarious.
Laura Murray does a fantastic job with reinventing “The Gingerbread Man” tale in her picture book The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck, illustrated by Mike Lowery.
The gingerbread man is joining a class on a field trip to the firehouse. Upon arrival the gingerbread man falls out of the safety of the backpack and right on the snout of the firehouse dalmatian. The gingerbread man will have to run as fast as he can to keep from becoming a tasty treat for this pup.
What makes this picture book stand out from other re-tellings of The Gingerbread Man tale is its educational aspect. Readers get to see all aspects of the firehouse as the gingerbread man hides in the firetruck cab, shimmies up the fire pole, and bounces over the beds where the firemen sleep. The gingerbread man gets an extra adventure when he winds up going along with the firefighters as they are called to put out a barn fire.
Mike Lowery’s illustrations are comic-panel style with clean lines and simple details. Murray’s text is a joy. Familiar Gingerbread Man rhymes that have been updated to suit the purpose of the book: “I’ll ride to the rescue as fast as I can. I want to help, too! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”
Great for any fire truck lover or those who enjoy classic/modernized folktales. As an added bonus, the book comes with a fire safety poster.
The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Firetruck by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery; Ages 3-6; G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin)