Friday, June 04, 2010

Bed, Beach and Beyond


It's hard to believe summer is nearly upon us.

I mention this because summer and reading go together like peanut butter and chocolate, yet I am STILL trying to get through Augusten Burroughs' Christmas-themed book of essays, "You Better Not Cry." This inability to finish the volume should in no way reflect on the man's talents. He's brilliant. I have the attention span of a gnat.

Which is probably why the books I've been reading at bedtime reflect my children's tastes. It is after all, their bedtime.

So ... without further ado, here are some of our picks for summer:


"Atlantic," is a beautifully made picture book written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (G.P Putnam's Sons, Penguin Group, 2002. $16.) is a poetic description of the sea by the sea itself. His words roll off the tongue with the same calming lull of quiet waves. His illustrations, in fleshed out in various media, are charmingly childlike, yet give the overall impression of an effortless sophistication. It's the perfect book to gear up for your seaside escape this summer.

"Wave," by Korean-born author/illustrator Suzy Lee (Chronical Books, 2008. $16) wordlessly personifies the sea and our relationship with the natural world. The story takes readers on an afternoon outing with a curious girl and a playful wave to witness a universal tale. Like the sea, "Wave" is magnificant in its simple grace.


For most of us, reaching an ocean isn't a simple journey. It often requires some forethought as to timing, travel routes and accommodations. For parents of younger children, this usually means managing multiple distractions. When I was a kid, managing distraction was synonymous with getting hollered at for punching my sister in the arm every time I noticed a Volkswagon Beetle (usually when I hadn't). Today's parent, however, has it easier. They only need to juggle a DVD library and dole out snacks on regular intervals.

Unless their kids are weird (like mine are) and tire of the movie before the battery power plummets.

For us, I'm happy to say, there is hope ... sticky, sticky hope.

"Stickers!," "Incredible Stickers!" "Holes!" and "Squiggles!" activity books (published by Seven Footer Kids, $8) are the perfect companion books for carseat travelers. Although the activities are somewhat scripted (In the sticker books kids dress up birthday cakes with sticker candles or turn photographs of bread slices into apartment houses with sticker windows) the activities also encourage creative improvisation. The books are clever, well made and take time and thought to complete.

Although not an activity book, "My Heart is Like a Zoo" by Michael Hall (Harper Collins, 2010. $17) is just few sheets of construction paper and scissor slices away. A stunningly elegant concept, all the zoo animals in this book are made with hearts. Once you're done visiting the animals in the story, you can use the book as reference for drawing or creating your own heart-shaped friends.


I was recently introduced to Suzy Lee's work (above) by a publishing friend who gifted me "Mirror" (Seven Footer Kids, 2003. $16), a wordless story about a girl playing with her reflection in a mirror. More art book that story book, "Mirror" is atypical of most children's literature in that its story, while not macabre, doesn't end with mirth and joy. Its theme - that every action has a consequence - is emotional, psychological, frightening and hopeful, just not always in that order. The illustrations - charcoal drawings - perfectly match the story as they alternate between wisp and weight. "Mirror" is well worth owning, even if your child has to grow into adulthood to appreciate it.

One might think ABCs are purely elementary, but as artful elements they can literally stand out. Two recent alaphabet books have captured our fancy for this reason. The first is "LMNO Peas" by Keith Baker (Simon and Schuster, 2010. $17). It's a playfully charming book for preschoolers and begining readers that features the the roly-poly legumes exploring letters and the words they make. I love this book, in part, because it doesn't concern itself with the simple words or sounds, but opens the door to more complicated concepts that parents can discuss.

Romero Britto's "My Alphabet Playbook," (Simon and Schuster, 2010. $13) is perhaps the most amazing book with the least impressive title. Britto, a young Brazilian pop artist, has created a book that plays hide and seek and turns into sculpture as well as helping youngsters master letter sounds. It's truly a remarkable book that promises hours of fun.

No comments: