Book of the month: Escargot

I love to share what brings me great joy and delight.  As an avid reader of picture books (it comes with the parenting territory), I occasionally find a great one I want to shout about from the rooftops.  So this year, I’m going to bring you a picture book review each month of something that I (as a parent, former Montessori preschool teacher and aspiring picture book author) truly recommend.  So here is my first review/recommendation for 2020.

As winter blues, cold and flu kick into high gear, a little way to combat these downers is a natural pick-me-up: laughter.  It is an antidote to stress and discomfort. Tastes in humor vary widely, so I can’t guarantee my recommendations will align with yours, but I have recently encountered what I consider to be an absolute gem in the picture book world.  

escargotEscargot (2017), written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Sydney Hanson, makes adults laugh as much if not more than children.  And even if it doesn’t entice laughter, it will leave you speaking a little French  “Ooh la la”  and probably craving salad.

Written in the speak-to-the-audience style popularized by the Pigeon books by Mo Willems, Escargot is the story of a self-loving, carrot-loathing snail en route to enjoying a salad.  The audience/reader is invited to interact, from making fierce faces to answering Escargot’s handful of questions (is your favorite animal the earwig or wildebeest?).  This androgynous main character is engaging for girls and boys. Modeling healthy social skills such as good sportsmanship, self-confidence, interest in others and even some vulnerability, the reasons to love this book are vast.   For as masterfully as Slater’s writing is, Hanson’s illustrations are equally delightful. Her colorful renderings take the reader on a mouth-watering tour across a picnic table filled with olives, cheeses, and of course, salad. Making a snail lovable in text and picture is no small feat.

This book begs to be read with a French accent, the worse the accent, the more you will laugh at yourself or whoever is reading, so don’t be shy, give it your best effort.  Targeted for the 4-8 year old audience, my 2 year old daughter and 44 year old husband love this book; it truly speaks to all ages. It engages the older reader with its francophilial flare and absurdity, the young audience with opportunities to interact with the “beautiful’’ and charming Escargot.

Next time you are looking for a good bedtime story, need a gift for a young child, or just want a light-hearted escape from a dreary day, you need look no further than Escargot.

 

Seasonal Shifts with My Favorite Picture Books for Fall

Each year as summer heads towards a close, when I’m not sure I’m ready to put away the comfy shorts and lake gear summer affords, I start to see changing leaves, watch kids head back to school, and can’t help but feel the excitement of fall setting in. Fall always gets me excited.  I take in the crisp smell of leaves letting go. I watch pumpkins plumpness pop in gardens, store fronts and porches. Cozy soups and comfy sweaters call to me and I head to my bookshelf to reread a few perennial favorites. This year, I add a new one to the list I just discovered with my daughter: Leaves by David Ezra Stein.  

 

These books deal with fun and rather mundane turned to challenges and fear-facing.  They open doors of new understanding and self-confidence, modeling for children how to draw on creativity to overcome new challenges in a variety of ways.  Several always leave me headed to the kitchen- be it alone, with my own child, students or friends…I mean who doesn’t want popcorn, a soup-making party and pumpkin muffins or pie to share with neighbors?

  1. Popcorn by Frank Asch (1979)                     fall2019popcornI have yet to find a story more delightful to a group of 3-5 year old children than this!  In Frank Asch’s Popcorn, bear pops popcorn -gifts from each of his Halloween party guests.  There is so much popcorn that the whole house gradually fills up with it and the party guests have to help their host eat everything up to remove all evidence of the party before his parents return.  Lesson learned -perhaps- and certainly exciting to watch the rooms pile up with popcorn. Somehow it still makes me want to pop it (in moderation) with each read.

 

  1. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd (1986) fall2019littleoldladyA terrifically fun sequencing book with a spooky spin and sound effects that invite the reader/listener to physically play along (e.g. “two shoes go clomp, clomp”), this story is a must to read with your 4-7 year old.  One little side lesson here: it definitely opens the door for a safety lesson with your child-talk about the importance of always hiking with a companion you know and trust.

 

  1. Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd (1996) fall2019toomanypumpkinsAnother story wonderfully highlighted by Megan Lloyd’s talent for bringing female protagonists and their pumpkin-filled dramas to life, Too Many Pumpkins is a creative solution to a real-life dilemma experienced by the author’s aunt.  Fed up with pumpkins after depending on them as a child, the main character avoids them at all cost-until they completely fill her front yard and she has to face her fear!  A change of heart comes with hard work and an effort to be a good neighbor- along with a delicious ending that just may leave you in the mood for baking. With a little more text than some of the others, this story is terrific for ages 4-8.

 

  1. Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper (1998) fall2019pumpkinsoupWith Cat and Squirrel stuck in their ways, Duck’s curiosity is unwelcome and turns into a squabble that leaves everyone needing a break from each other.  With Duck gone longer than anticipated, his friends worry and set out to bring him home. A good reminder to try doing things differently on occasion, have patience with less-skilled practitioners, and the joys of cooking with loved-ones, this tale is terrific for 3-7 year olds.

 

  1. Leaves by David Ezra Stein (2007)    fall2019leaves

This simple and sweet story is a great introductory lesson on seasonal changes. David Ezra Stein blends his classic style of gentle humor and perfect understanding of child development, this takes its reader through the seasons, starting and ending with fall.  Perfect for toddlers, this story is geared for children ages 0-3.

And while you consider all you may love about the change of seasons, perhaps you’ve noticed new challenges standing out like the fire-toned leaves  in your own life? Maybe one of these books will inspire you to get creative as you work through those new hurdles- like the protagonists, young and old, in these stories.  Happy Autumn!