Paris dans mon cœur

How do adults address this weekend’s carnage in Paris? (Do we?) How much information have our youngest ones already heard, and how much of it do they actually understand? Forbes magazine, France 24, and plenty of other outlets are devoting columns to the topic, where the general consensus among psychologists is not to discuss it (or any other such atrocities) with children under age six. Children attending elementary school will likely hear rumors on the playground or teachers discussing it in class, and parents should prepare for a conversation. In light of media over-saturation, parents will find themselves decoding and filtering information, and should avoid projecting their own anxieties and fears. Easier said than done, but providing reassurance is crucial. It is so easy for a child to see traumatizing images without context, and the images coming out of Paris are frightening–places children visit, like soccer stadiums and restaurants, have been turned into scenes of devastation and death. Parents and educators must be willing to “prendre la relève” or take up the burden, of providing strength and love in such uncertain times.

But for the littlest ones, why not spark a lifelong love for this beautiful city and its people by offering them The Story of Diva and Flea, by power-duo Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi (Hyperion Press; $14.99, October 2015). It’s a story about an unexpected friendship, but at it’s core, this is a love song to Paris. Willems realized a lifelong dream of living in the city while writing the book, and DiTerlizzi’s illustrations remind us that the people, places, and creatures of Paris are beautiful, strong, and resilient. Vive Paris. 

Late Summer Dances

Yes, it’s August, whether we like it or not, and in these dog days, let’s remember to relish this time before young ones return to school and life resumes its daily rhythm. With the summer’s ease in mind, the following two books are wonderful reminders that this is the season for fun, whimsy, and cultivating friendships.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea (Disney-Hyperion, $9.99 ages 5-8) appeared on many summer-reading lists, and for good reason: Shea  cornered the market with his brand of bold, slightly retro art and snappy writing. In this early reader, we meet energetic Ballet Cat and her best friend Sparkles the Pony. The pair are having trouble figuring out what to play, and even though they decide on a dance party, Sparkles moves are less than inspired, and Ballet Cat can’t figure out what’s wrong. Yes, there is a secret, but Sparkles is scared about sharing this one – what if it ruins their friendship? Parents will find the pace similar to Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie early readers, and kids will happily read this one aloud, on their own or with adults. Looking forward to further installments in the series.

Marilyn Singer has written over 100 books for children, and her Tallulah books are particularly beloved. In Tallulah’s Tap Shoes (Clarion Books, $16.99, ages 5-8) the budding ballerina and her younger brother Beckett sign up for summer dance camp, and this is the first time our heroine tries tap. Tallulah’s confidence plummets in tap class, while another camper named Kacie excels. Both girls eventually learn that patience and hard work bring rewards, and that no one is the best at everything – themes that will certainly resonate with young perfectionists.  Alexandra Boiger’s watercolors evoke all the sparkles and glitter a tiny dancer could ever hope for, while also capturing the subtle struggle of self-acceptance and and self-discovery. Every page is a treat, right down to the endpapers where Kacie demonstrates a tap shuffle.

I Will Take A Nap! by Mo Willems; Hyperion Books, $9.99, 64 pages, ages 6-8.

Gerald and Piggie are back in their 23rd adventure of hijinks and adventure. This time, Gerald is cranky and wants to nap, but can’t seem to shake Piggie from his mind. Will he ever catch his forty winks, or will Piggie’s presence distract him? Mo Willems’ award winning early reader series has captivated young readers since 2007, and it’s easy to see why; the books are written comic-book style, with color-coded speech bubbles for each character, and there’s plenty of word repetition for children to practice. Where Elephant and Piggie departs from the Dick and Jane model is word choice – snore and cranky are prominent in this book – and there’s plenty of action to keep readers engaged.

While there are many early readers to choose from, there’s no reason to settle for boring or overtly didactic when writers like Willems are crafting great books like those in this series. I Will Take A Nap! is available everywhere today, June 2.

Nicole Claire reviews 2 chapter books and 2 picture books for your reading pleasure:
DEAD TO ME by Mary McCoy (Hyperion, $17.99);
MY LIFE IN DIORAMAS, by Tara Altabrando, illus. by T.L. Bonadido (Running Press Kids, $14.95);
MR. HAPPY AND MISSS GRIMM by Antonie Schneider and Susanne Strasser (Holiday House, $16.95);
WONTON AND CHOPSTICK: A TALE TOLD IN HAIKU, by Lee Wardlaw, illus. by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt & Co. $17.99)

New Books for Spring

Out at Home, by Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kevin Cowherd; Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 202 pages ages 8-12.

Out at Homeis the fifth novel in the All-Stars baseball series penned by baseball legend Cal Ripken and sports writer Kevin Cowherd. Here, two rivals must work together in order to win the championships. Mickey Labriogla is the dedicated catcher for the Dulaney Orioles, whose position on the team is suddenly jeopardized by the arrival of Zoom, an arrogant newcomer with undeniable talent. Eventually, the Orioles make it to the “Super Regionals” where they will have to face the indomitable Laurel Yankees, (Zoom’s former team) and the boys must set aside their differences if their team is to have any chance of winning. Ripken and Cowherd combine their prolific understanding of the game to craft an engaging story about overcoming adversity through teamwork. 

Lullaby & Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby, by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Alyssa Nassner; Abrams Appleseed, $15.95, 44 pages, ages 0-3.

Babies love being read to, and they will adore listening to this lyrical collection of original poetry curated by poet Lee Bennett Hopkins. The anthology’s thirty selections are divided into five topics, ranging from food to bedtime. Parents will notice some A-list authors among the group, including Marilyn Singer, (the Tallulah series) Jane Yolen (How Do Dinosaurs….? series) and J. Patrick Lewis (World Rat Day: Poems About Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of.). The sturdy, casebound board book is perfect for exploring little hands, and artist Alyssa Nassner’s bright and engaging illustrations make this a delightful introduction to all the sensory joys of poetry.

Wish, by Matthew Cordell; Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 48 pages, ages 3-6.

Sometimes parents wait a long time before children come along. They plan, live, cope with disappointment, until one day their wish comes true. Matthew Cordell’s charming elephant couple explores what it means to begin a family, and how adults deal with unexpected challenges. “We listen…. And we wait… but you never come. And everything stops.” will no doubt resonate with some families more than others. One day, while the patient pachyderms stroll along the beach, a crack of lightning splits the ocean apart, and a baby arrives on a small sailboat. There’s nothing preachy or overly saccharine here – Wish is a wonderful, simple and totally heartfelt way for parents to remind their children how much they are loved.