Here are some of the things we're loving right now, Kiddo and I.
Frank Lloyd Wright Froebel Blocks: On a weekend trip to a beach cabin, Kiddo was asked to put what he wanted to bring into a big leather backpack. He began pouring our big basket of colored wooden blocks in. For some stupid, grown-up reason, I stopped him and suggested other toys. Well, lucky for us the place we stayed in had a set of these blocks, so tiny and just the right size for challenging the fine motor skills of young children. Kiddo played with the block set for 15-20 minutes at a time, sliding pieces down and playing with the construction of ramps. There are four sets; this links to one of them. This is definitely on the Christmas list for this year.
"I Am a Backhoe" by Anna Grosshinkle Hines. I am often a bit wary of more contemporary children's books; many seem to lack substance. This book has stand-out quality in both Hines poetry as she depicts a child interpreting the operation of heavy machinery, and in the lifelike illustrations. I think Dads especially will like this story. It's also a great suggestion for how to help children clear spaces and clean up their toys.
"The Little House"by Virginia Lee Burton. The author of "Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel" introduces us to The Little House, who watches the seasons pass and wonders what the big city must be like. All to soon, she finds out. Will she ever be happy and loved again? This is a must-read for children three and a half and older.
"Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloseky. It's just the season, and we've been tending our berry bushes in the backyard, which brings this book to mind. I love McCloseky's gently realistic illustrations, and the calm with which he resolves the story of Little Sal and Little Bear mixed up with each other's mothers on Blueberry Hill.
"Boats on the River" by Marjorie Flack. A tub submarine brought this book back to us after some time off. Once again, a book of great poetry, action and description. (I do substitute the word "Navy Ship" for "Great American Warship". The book was first published in 1946, so this language makes sense for the times.) Flack provides the text while her son provides the illustrations, which are so unique and unlike the slicker-but-less-sophisticated graphics we see so often now.
"The Elves and the Shoemaker" by Paul Galdone. A simple story by the Brothers Grimm becomes a children's classic, thanks to lively illustration and ingtriguing language. Galdone's books are the kind to read largely because they are fairy tales done in a more linguistically advanced way, the stories themselves help to teach more complex styles of speaking and new vocabulary words. That the story is a happy one is a plus.
"The Ant and the Grasshopper" by Amy Lowry Poole. Aesop's fable is brought to life in a contemporary story of a grasshopper who lounges in the court of the Imperial Chinese Emperor's Summer Palace. A family of ants work alongside him, never stopping to play, readying themselves for the winter. The artwork is both simple and beautiful, and the images of the ants carrying their loads, grain by grain, gives great juxtoposition to the quaint indulgence of the grasshopper.
"Noah's Ark" by Peter Spier. Aside from the poem "The Flood" by Jacobus Revius at the fore of the story--Which is worth a pre-read as the poem itself is a bit intense for younger children--Spier's book is one of pictures. He has a knack for telling stories without words, and I adore his depictions of Noah as a very real man, worried if he'll ever see land again, in charge of the keeping of a menagerie of fecund, smelly, and sometimes dangerous animals. Many pictures have humor, and this is a book to spend time on, pore over, and tell the story you find in the pictures.
Joe picked up a "Personal Mister" for Kiddo today at Portland Nursery. It's a stand-up plastic tube that emits a lovely cool spray. After dinner tonight, we hooked it up to the hose in the backyard and chilled out in the spray. Kiddo was absolutely dewy and we have now dubbed the curvy piece of plastic "The $14.95 Spa Treatment". Goes great with a cold beverage of your choice, ha ha.