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  • Children's book reviews by Jennifer Sykes

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Swimming to the Moon by Jeff McMahon

moonPoetry is a form of literature that we often forget about, but it’s one of the most adaptable and enjoyable varieties to read with kids.  It’s also a form of reading that isn’t too intimidating to young readers — stanzas are less overwhelming that paragraphs.  And it inspires young writers in a way that doesn’t have to come with strict rules about punctuation and form.

So it was with great pleasure that I read Swimming to the Moon by Jeff McMahon.  He brings silliness and wit to poems about kid-familiar subjects like elevator rides, friendly dares, wearing clothes in funny ways, and playing outside.  These are poems that range from whimsical to slapstick goofy, and they are sure to delight a broad range of personalities.

The poems are full of rhyme — kids love rhyme — and are very fun to read aloud.  My daughter and I took turns reading to one another, and she quickly would dissolve into giggles. There are over 100 poems in this text, so there are plenty of turns to be had and plenty of silly  sessions to spread over many days.

The charming illustrations by Jessica Warrick offer great snapshots of some of the best moments in the poetry.  Swimming to the Moon is a bit like Shel Silverstein’s volumes of poetry, and it will offer pleasant re-readability for years to come in much the same ways.

While the sub-title of the book is A Collection of Rhymes Without Reason, I say there is definitely a reason for reading this book — it’s fun!  Your kids will broaden their literary horizons and giggle all the way through it.  I know my daughter has big plans to lie under a tree and read these poems in the summer sun… and maybe she’ll even be inspired to pick up a pen and write some of her own.

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.

pete_at_the_beach

 

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.

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