Tag Archives: 2 years and up

Embracing and celebrating diversity

The best books are sometimes the most simple and there are two that I really want to share with you today. My Nose, your Nose by Melanie Walsh, and Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly by Sue Heap and Nick Sharratt are great books for toddlers, but they also work well with children who are starting to decode and read as I discovered with my four year old son. They could also be great prompts to start discussing diversity, stereotypes, and peer pressure.

I have been thinking about the post I wrote on diversity in children’s books, I have read other bloggers‘s posts on the subject, and I also looked at many of the comments and conversations on the Guardian’s website. This is encouraging but what I would like these diverse books to be above all is great books, fun books, books that my children and I will want to read again, and again, and again. This is why these two books are so dear to me.

I could write a whole series of posts on Nick Sharratt’s work, and maybe I will at some point. His sense of humour and fun characters almost feel like they are part of our family.

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I will be honest though, there has been a few times when I wish we’d lost You Choose, since it probably is the book we’ve read the most in the last 7 years! But I still feel a bit sad that we do not live closer to Sheffield because there is a great looking show devoted to Sharratt’s work on tour from October to next summer.

In Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly, Sue and Nick are friends and they’re also two different ‘characters’ (although one may wonder whether they are characters or alter egos). NickSharratCrazyHairThe text accompanying the illustrations could not be simpler as it alternates between descriptions of what Sue and Nick like. For instance, Nick likes yellow socks, Sue likes yellow ducks. Nick likes red apples, Sue likes green pears.

One thing I like in particular is that contrary to gender stereotypes, Sue likes everything blue, while Nick likes pink and orange dinosaurs. When my son comes home and tells me that he has been told off by girls in his class because he wanted to play hairdresser with them, of course I’ll explain that he can play or like anything he wants, regardless of what others say. But what’s the voice of a mother when facing those of peers?

Finally what I value in Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly is the fact that it concludes on the absolute non judgmental: Sue likes Nick, Nick likes Sue, thus showing that you are worthy of both consideration and affection whatever you like and whatever you wear.

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Now My nose, your Nose also works on juxtapositions. Its clear simple text matches its bold and bright images. While Daisy’s skin is brown, Agnes’s is white but they both have cheeky pink tongues!

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The book goes on comparing  these children’s hair, their eye colours, and their legs among other things.

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There is something of the simplicity of Dick Bruna’s work in My Nose, your Nose, and I love this, certainly because it reminds me of my childhood.

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But among all these comparisons, Walsh keeps coming to a common ground whether it is their love for chocolate cake, their energy, or the daily rituals that they experience.

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I wish I had known about this book earlier since we only bought it a couple of years ago. I can see how it would be a great baby book, one that a child can grow with, and appreciate year after year. We regularly go back to Walsh’s ‘lift the flap’ books and we’ve had them for years in French. Like My Nose, Your Nose, they are simple, colourful, and fun.

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Additional ideas:

Now if you want to do more than just reading these two books, how about a game of colour match or colour hunt as suggested in the lovely blog It’s All About Stories?

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You could also try to make a batch of coloured rice! Jackie’s recipe from Happy Holligans is foolproof and you can be sure your children will have a ton of fun.

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Additional readings;

As for other reads, how about challenging gender stereotypes a bit more? Rosie is a brilliant and inspirational girl engineer, read about her in this review, isn’t she irresistible?

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And finally here’s Raffi, a boy who’s a little bit different, who loves knitting, and who after a while finds people who recognize his talents. See it reviewed here.

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Need some sleep? You’re not the only one!

Sleep, that magic five letter word that parents and carers miss dearly in the first few weeks/months/years (choose the right answer) of their children’s life. Before I start this post proper, let me say first that it won’t contain any magic formula to make your little one sleep. It will however suggest a few  books you could read together before bedtime which are by their topic and nature excellent incentives to go to sleep and stop fighting about bedtime! No heavy preaching I promise, but gorgeous and inviting works to show your little ones how delightful sleeping can and should be.

We got Ill Sung Na‘s A Book of Sleep back in 2007 and it’s had a place by my kids’ bedside ever since. It is a charming and beautiful book describing how all animals  sleep at night, all but a little starring owl, who observes the sleepers, that is until the end of the book of course.

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Whether they sleep in peace and quiet like koalas against a tree, huddled close like penguins, or noisily like elephants, all seem so peaceful and happy once the sun comes up that ,after reading this book, no kid can possibly doubt the benefits of a good night sleep.

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The background is often a magnificent dark blue, the details on the pages like the fur, feathers, or skin of the various  animals are gorgeous, and the book is now available in a smaller and more study format so that the younger readers can handle it on their own with no risk of tearing a page. If your library does not own a copy, go on, give them a nudge and suggest they buy one.

Now Good Night Me, a collaboration between Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay, also focuses on one animal, a baby orangutan who, lying in bed, slowly but surely says good night  to his feet, his legs, his knees, etc, and thanks them for all the fun they provided during the day.

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This lovely routine and the little monkey’s monologue like ‘Shhh, mouth, no more questions. Just say goodnight’ perfectly match Quay’s tender illustrations. This is a wonderful celebration of this special moment when you tuck your child in bed and kiss them good night. If your child does not find Quay’s purple and blue pastels soothing, he will no doubt  relate to the typical childish poses adopted by this cheeky little monkey, like sucking his thumb and hiding under his sheets.

In brief, this is a perfect book  to learn how to relax before bedtime or to read curled up in bed together.

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The final book I want to present Susan Gal’s Night Lights is a also a visual treat! Written from the perspective of a little girl coming home from a bike ride with her mother, it describes her evening with one word per page, from their barbecue by the ‘firelight’ to the celebratory ‘candlelight’ of the dog’s birthday cake. The usual suspects are here again, like the ‘reading light’ and ‘night-light’ before the final starlight and moonlight shining over her bed.

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I love the 1950s retro vibe of Gal’s illustrations, and the fun and tender depiction of her adventures with her furry companion. My son loves the fact that with its one word per page (or double page) it takes no time to read, so I cannot use the excuse that it is too late to read. During the day, he loves making assumptions about the events and asking questions about the other creatures in the book including the raccoons and fireflies. It can trigger long conversations, believe me, so it’s better to read it a few times during the day before making it part of your evening selection! But give it a go, it is a lovely debut book and you can have a look by following this link if you want to.

If the science of sleep is something you’re interested in, I cannot recommend enough this brilliant post in Brain pickings and Rosie Blau’s article in Intelligent Life. Good night folks!

 

Les sanglots longs du violon de Carotte, or how a carrot learns that the violin is really not for her

Si on en croit le dicton français ‘la musique adoucit les moeurs’ mais la pauvre carotte, héroine de cette collaboration entre Isabelle Jacqué et Jacques Leroy, a bien du mal à voir les fruits de son labeur refléter cet adage.

Tous les mercredis, elle prend des leçons et une fois rentrée chez elle, elle pratique religieusement mais rien n’y fait, quoi qu’elle fasse, son violon ne produit que le même grincement affreux. Triste et à bout d’idées, Carotte tombe un jour sur Petit Pois qui lui aussi ne tire que des sons affreux de sa clarinette. C’est alors que Petit pois curieux suggère un échange et qu’un miracle survient. Je ne vous en dit pas plus, si ce n’est que cet album se termine en fanfare et sur une fin heureuse.

Ce livre de petit format est parfait pour les petites mains dés 2 ans. Il est très résistant, et l’histoire n’est ni trop longue, ni trop courte avec juste une à deux phrases par page. Le jeune lecteur a amplement le temps de profiter des jolies illustrations colorées et de rire des mésaventures de ces deux musiciens en herbe.

Si votre petit bout aime bien cette histoire de couacs et les personnages de Carotte et Petit Pois, il peut les retrouver dans d’autres titres de la série intitulée Tomate, Cerise et Companie qui se passe au pays de Fruigume. La maman de Julie et Laura propose sur son blog un résumé enthousiaste de Framboise fait sa princesse. Nous ne l’avons pas lu mais aimons bien les soeurs jumelles Cerisette et Cerisa qui apprennent dans Les cerises veulent tout faire ensemble à profiter de leurs expérience en solo.

Envie de prolonger le plaisir? Une superbe idée de peinture sur cailloux, adaptable à tous les ages, vous attend par ici!

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Today, my objective is not to discuss the reasons why French children supposedly don’t throw food, this polemic is old news and anyway not that interesting. What I’d like to do however is to show you how vegetables can be really cute characters in children’s  books.

In this short and sweet little book, Carotte  attends music lessons every single week. She also practices the violin regularly in a desperate attempt to make music. But her determination is useless, and it is only after meeting Petit Pois that she realises that maybe she’s just chosen the wrong instrument. Thanks to his simple suggestion to switch instruments, Carotte discovers that she is a talented oboe player! What a surprise! The end is, as you would expect, a joyful symphony and the cacophony preceding this happy ending is guarantee to make your kids laugh.

We’ve only read three books out of this short series but they’re all very colourful and full of funny rhymes or lines. This is a nice alternative if you are looking for books in which animals are not protagonists. And who knows, they might subtly turn your picky eater into a little foodie? One can always dream, right?!

Finally, if you’re looking for a crafty activity that can easily be adapted to all ages, I cannot recommend enough Liska’s idea in this post and her excellent blog. Go and have a look!