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  • Children's book reviews by Jennifer Sykes

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The Foodie Club by Dani Shear

foodieclubPicky eaters.  We all know some, and many of us have one (or two or three).  Parents bang their heads against the wall trying to help kids expand their food palates beyond “kid food.”  This fun, kid-friendly book by Dani Shear just might help.
We meet Syd, a big sister who will try anything you put in front of her.  And we meet little Sunny, who seems to be your typical shortstuff picky eater.  Mom is weary of the food fight, and she comes up with a plan to get Sunny interested in trying some new things.  Big sister helps out, and Sunny gets inspired to try something that would strike fear in the heart of many food-challenged kids — a big green smoothie full of kale, spinach, and dates. Gulp!

As intimidating as that sounds, Sunny gets brave and not only tries the smoothie, she likes it.  And she and Syd start a Foodie Club and even set up a green smoothie stand to sell the healthy treat to their friends and neighbors.   We’ll call that a success!

Shear uses rhyme to make the story interesting and enjoyable for kids, and the illustrations by Holly Weinstein are adorable.  This is a bright, fun book to look at and to read.  The book goes beyond a simple, charming story and helps establish some goals for picky eaters who might just be reading along.   Shear’s characters motivate kids to try new things, and the book includes a Foodie Club pledge and a cool sticker chart and instructions for earning Foodie Club badges.  Of course, the recipe for Syd & Sunny’s Green Shake is included, too.

The Foodie Club is a cool twist on using books to inspire children.  The story doesn’t end with Sunny trying something and liking it; these bonus pages of Foodie Club fun will give picky eaters something to think about… and hopefully taste!

Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach by James Dean

Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach is a delightful escape for many of us caught in this particularly horrible winter.   My preschooler was drawn to a new book in a favorite series, and I was drawn to anything involving sun, sand, and some faint memory of what life is like when not buried under snow.



Fans of James Dean’s Pete already know he’s a charming and funky lil cat.  Readers of this book will learn that he’s a bit of a ‘fraidy cat, as well.  Pete and his family are hanging out at the beach.  Big brother Bob is out catching waves and asks Pete repeatedly to join him, but Pete finds many ways to avoid going in the water. He’s already done everything he can think of on the shore.  Bob keeps inviting him to come out.  His mother keeps encouraging him to play in the water.  But Pete says at every mention, “Maybe later.”  While he never outright says that he’s afraid of the ocean, even young readers figure out what’s going on.   Pete eventually and gradually gets more comfortable in the water, and he ends up having a blast surfing with Bob.

Pete at the Beach is not the involved, longer story you will find in most other Pete the Cat books.  It’s part of the I Can Read! collection of stories, so the text is meant to be read with or by a beginning reader.  But even though it’s not as complex as other Pete books, it’s still got our familiar feline protagonist to keep new readers invested and a fun rhythm to keep them interested.  My daughter read it cover to cover all by herself several times, and she was giggling all the way through.

If you have an emerging reader who happens to love Pete, or if you have a little one who might be a little bit nervous around water, this is an enjoyable and sweet family read.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Last year, I was volunteering in my daughter’s first grade class when a little boy told me a knock-knock joke.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Interrupting Cow!
Interrupting Cow, wh–

This was cute  — the first 32 times, at least — so when I saw Interrupting Chicken on the shelf at our library, I thought of that joke and how much fun it was for the miniature comedian.  This book is just as fun.

This 40-page picture book features a father chicken and his daughter reading bedtime stories.  Papa reminds the little chicken before he begins reading that she should not interrupt the story.  And, yet, as the title suggests, she just cannot help herself.   She should really come with a spoiler alert, since she not only interrupts, she interrupts with a way for the story characters to save themselves or solve their problems.  Papa tries a few different classic stories, but the anticipation and knowing the ending proves too much for her.  She interrupts each time!   He finally gives up and asks the little chicken to tell him a bedtime story of her own creation.

Author and illustrator David Ezra Stein has created a colorful and humorous story that is likely quite familiar to many families.  Interrupting Chicken is a 2011 Caldecott Honor Book, and it’s no wonder why.  It’s enjoyable for adults and kids alike, and it gives parents a great springboard to talk about social skills and turn-taking.

Give it a whirl at bedtime and see if your little chickens can guess the ending — mine didn’t!

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