Posted in Toddler Reads

Blog Tour and Author Interview: The Lovely Haze of Baby Days!

The Lovely Haze of Baby Days, by Lindsay Kellar-Madsen/Illustrated by Mie Frey Damgaard, (Jan. 2021, Little Otter Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-87-972507-0-9

Ages Birth-3

This lovely board book is a tribute to those heady, often hazy days that moms and caregivers often experience when babies enter their lives. Rhyming verse embraces both the wonderful and the challenging moments of parenthood, from the sheer awe (“I’ll forfeit sleep to watch you breathing”) to the wonderful forgetfulness our babies’ incredible cuteness instills in us (“Drooling, spit-up, purèed fruit, but oh my goodness, aren’t you cute?”). Lindsay Kellar-Madsen speaks from her heart to parents everywhere when she writes about the isolation; the time simultaneously crawling and flying by; unwanted advice from seemingly everyone one encounters, and the life-saving power of mom friends. Mie Frey Damgaard’s gentle artwork communicates the intensity of Ms. Kellar-Madsen’s emotions through gentle, loving illustrations of mothers and babies. A touching story of motherhood that lets moms know we’re not alone. The Lovely Haze of Baby Days was a successful Kickstarter and is available on the author’s website, along with free downloadable resources for new parents, including a nap scheduler.

Lindsay Keller-Madsen was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about her new book: read on!

MomReadIt: Were you inspired by your own motherhood journey to write The Lovely Haze of Baby Days?

Lindsay Kellar-Madsen: I wrote the first draft of this book about 5 months postpartum after the birth of my twin girls. I was overwhelmed, and hearing stories of my friends who had struggled too. I found myself searching for a way to be honest about what life with babies really looks like, and to support the women I cared about.

As I spent time sitting on the floor reading with my little ones, I started wondering if there was a way through children’s literature to playfully depict our everyday life for little ones, while also sending an important message to mothers.Rhyme is such a fun and dynamic way to communicate, it’s also a great way to teach the rhythm of words and sentences to little ones. I had a lot of fun showcasing everyday moments of mothers with babies in a way that would support early language development!

As the words came together, I could feel that I wanted to savor what my life looked like right then – The mess, the intimate love, the exhaustion, all of it. It also felt so important to remind mothers reading The Lovely Haze of Baby Days that we aren’t alone in all of that.

MRI: There are such relatable moments throughout the book, but I really appreciate your honesty about the rough times and yet, finding a kernel of joy in most of them, as with your phrase, “The longest days, the shortest years’ ‘. Were you able to see those moments at the time, or did you need some distance and reflection to realize them?

LKM: As a first time mom, I don’t think I realized how fast the moments disappear, and how quickly babies grow. There are certainly sleep-deprived times remind myself to cherish these days, but overall I find myself clinging desperately to these sweet little humans who charge around my house!

All of that said, I do think it’s important to preserve some space for yourself. At least for me, I am a more enthusiastic and dedicated parent if I schedule in time for my own interests or just a bit of time to be ALONE each week, and don’t spend every minute in mom-mode.

MRI: Thanks for including mom friendships in your book! I loved that you “thanked goodness” for other mamas, too. Did you find friendships with other moms helped you through some of the rough times of those early baby days/weeks/months?

LKM: My friendships with other moms have been a saving grace. Life with a baby can feel so lonely and isolated, and having women you can connect with any morning (or night!)  is an enormous sense of support.

I am eternally grateful for the women in my life who have supported me in my transition to motherhood, and every day since. While this book has focused on the women who are in the trenches wandering through early motherhood alongside us, my gratitude also runs deeply for my own mom, and the women who have wandered through motherhood before.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Santa Baby: Ho, Ho, WHOA

Santa Baby, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Heather Fox, (Sept. 2020, Henry Holt & Company), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250255617

Ages 4-8

Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox make magic together. The Llama books are some of my favorite picture books ever. Don’t Feed the Coos is hilarious. And now, Santa Baby, gives us a laugh-out loud look at a Christmas wish gone terribly, hilariously, wrong. Santa is tired, folks. He’s feeling every bit of his hundreds and hundreds of years old, and he just doesn’t have the Christmas spirit these days.

We can totally get on board with this, right, grownups? If we’re all feeling 2020, imagine what it’s like to be SANTA. No pressure.

So Santa decides, for once, to make a Christmas wish for himself: He wants to be young again. But, like most wishes, you have to really be specific, or the Powers That Be are going to mess with you. Sure enough, Santa progresses back through time, ending up as a baby. Elves freak out, but Santa, at first, is just fine. But when he tries to communicate this to the elves, all he can blabber is baby talk! He’s a baby, he’s eating the Naughty and Nice list, and the elves are stressed. Santa Baby pulls it together enough to brainstorm a grand plan with the elves to save Christmas, but when Santa falls stumbles down a chimney and falls on that diapered behind, he almost loses it: until Christmas magic shows up, in the most magical of moments, to save the night. A story about the true magic of the season – connection and empathy – makes this a readaloud you’ll want to return to again and again. Jonathan Stutzman’s prose is witty and silly, with a gentle final scene that makes the laughs and stumbles all worth it. Heather Fox’s artwork is a joy, from the stinky Santa diaper to Santa’s regression from old guy, to shirtless lumberjack, to disaffected youth. Illuminated letters add that whimsical holiday wink to the story. Last minute shopping? Put this in your basket, and visit the author and illustrator’s website to download free printable goodies.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#BooksfromQuarantine: Baby Clown and Follow Me, Flo!

Baby Clown, by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Matthew Cordell, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763697433

Ages 3-7

Parents and littles alike will love this book. Frieda and Boffo are two circus clowns who’ve just had a baby clown! Everyone is thrilled for them, especially the Big Boss, Mr. Dingling, who swears the new baby is going to be a star. There’s one eensy problem, though… Baby Clown cries all the time! Boffo can’t calm him down, Frieda can’t calm him down, and Mr. Dingling is getting frustrated. There’s no crying at the circus! Each member of the circus tries to lend a hand, but neither the trapeze artists, the animals, nor the wire walker are successful. Will Baby Clown calm down in time for his Big Top debut?

This book is SO RELATABLE. Who hasn’t tried to calm a baby who will not be soothed? The baby’s dry, not hungry, not sleepy, just cranky, and amount of juggling, antics, or soothing voices will do a darned thing. The artwork from Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell brings the story to life with his colorful inks and watercolors, giving us a baby who becomes, as Geisel Honor Winner Kara LaReau writes, “a big, wide, loud, mouth” in full meltdown mode. The characters take on frantic, manic expressions as the baby continues to scream; one of my favorite illustrations has poor Mom Frieda curled up in a fetal position next to the screaming baby, as Dad Boffo, kneeling, pleads for peace. Does Baby Clown get it together? Heck, you need to see for yourself, but I promise you: you’ll recognize yourself in this one right away if you’ve ever been around young children. Inspired by Kara LaReau’s own experience with colic, Baby Clown is a must for storytime.

 

Follow Me, Flo!, by Jarvis, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212709

Ages 3-7

Another book that is SO relatable to kids and grownups, Flo is a young duckling who loves to do her own thing, much to her father’s chagrin. When they go visit Aunt Jenna’s new nest, though, Daddy Duck lays it all out for Flo: she MUST follow him or she’ll get lost. He even makes up a song with directions for the trip, but Flo – you guessed it! – decides that she’s bored and decides to take a little side trip of her own. But when she finds herself in big trouble, Daddy’s directions will save the day!

Kids will immediately love Flo, an adorably bright, yellow duckling with some sass. She doesn’t want to follow Daddy’s boring instructions; he doesn’t even sing loud like she does! But, as we parents and caregivers know, when she strays off that path, things may look fun at first, but there’s always a moment when things aren’t quite so fun any more. After a brush with stranger danger, Flo quickly discovers that her dad’s directions are there for a reason, and thankfully, easy enough to remember! The pencil, chalk, and painted artwork is cheery and fun, and both Flo and Dad’s faces are expressive, communicating both the seriousness of Dad’s discussion with Flo, and Flo’s increasing impatience with him as they head out on their trip. Will Flo stick to the straight and narrow? In the short run, sure… but maybe, just maybe, Flo will be back with a new adventure? Follow Me, Flo! is a fun story for readalouds and a no-pressure way to broach the concept of stranger danger.

Follow Me, Flo! has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Jimmy Fallon’s This is Baby is adorable!

This is Baby, by Jimmy Fallon/Illustrated by Miguel Ordóñez, (Oct. 2019, Feiwel & Friends), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250245601

Ages 0-3

This is Baby is Jimmy Fallon’s third children’s book, and gets down to the business of naming all the important parts of a baby: eyes, nose, fingers, and toes are all accounted for, as are other baby parts, along with the biggest, most important part of baby. It’s the sweetest, most fun type of concept book, showcasing a variety of cartoony, big-eyed babies and animal counterparts, showing off heads, hair, tummies, and bottoms, and the rhyming text makes this a storytime favorite that you’ll come back to again and again. All of baby’s parts are extra-bold and in word balloons, so invite your readers to shout out the names as you point them out on yourself or the story as you read.

Jimmy Fallon’s books are made for reading out loud, and give the grownups as much fun as the kids. Your First Word Will Be Dada and Everything is Mama are all about how our kids view us (through our own eyes, of course). This is Baby is a fun spin on concept books that teach children about their bodies, and I love it. (I’m also the one that bought the Frankenstein board book to teach my kid about names for his body parts, so…) Make sure you have plenty of fun lapsit songs to accompany this book; Storytime Katie has a great collection of them. Hand out coloring pages from This is Baby and Everything is Mama afterwards!

Posted in picture books, Toddler Reads

Cuddle Time Reading: Upsy-Daisy, Baby!

Upsy-Daisy, Baby! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones, by Susan Hughes/Illustrated by Ashley Barron, (Sept. 2019, OwlKids), $9.95, ISBN: 9781771473873

Ages 0-3

Originally released in 2017 as Up!, Upsy-Daisy, Baby! is the board book release for this adorable story of how cultures all over the world carry their babies. Cut-paper collages illustrate families from 10 locations around the world, from Afghanistan to Peru, from Canada to West Africa. Family members all care for the little ones in their lives: grandparents, cousins, siblings, moms, and dads alike. The illustrations are eye-catching, with bold, primary colors and bold fonts. Perfect for cuddle time storytime and lapsits. Pair this with Star Bright’s board book, Llévame, which uses photos of multicultural babies to communicate the same snuggly message.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

When Mom and Dad say no, Baby takes matters into his own hands… Baby’s First Bank Heist

Baby’s First Bank Heist, by Jim Whalley/Illustrated by Stephen Collins, (March 2019, Bloomsbury), $17.99, ISBN: 9781547600625

Ages 3-7

Baby Frank is a cute little baby who loves animals and would love to have a pet, but Mom and Dad each say no. This doesn’t sit well with Baby Frank, who devises his own moneymaking scheme: he’s going to rob a bank. Hey, he’s already rocking black and white striped pajamas! He’s little, so he can crawl his way through laser beam alarm systems and past dozing guards. One Frank starts raking in the cash, he amasses quite the animal collection – but how much longer can he hide things from his parents? Frank’s cover is blown, and his parents devise a suitably adorable plan to repay the banks and put Frank to work.

Originally published in the UK, Baby’s First Bank Heist is a cute rhyming story that preschoolers and kindergartners will enjoy; they’ll appreciate Frank’s taking matters into his own hands, and they’ll get a laugh out of the different ways he tries to hide his growing menagerie from his parents. Cartoony gouache, ink, and Photoshop artwork is appealing, and makes for a fun pet storytime. Put some stuffed animals around the room and let the kids gather a few wild pets of their own.

YouthLitReviews, Imagination Soup, and Pre-Kinders all have really good pet picture book lists – add some to your pet storytime! Boss Baby is a good readalike, for stories about babies who are more than meets the eye. I also like Crackerjack Jack for a fun rhyming story about a robber waylaid by his duck. Hey… he kinda looks like Frank, come to think of it…

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

B is for… Beautiful Baby Book!

B is for Baby, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201666

Ages 0-5

An adorable baby gives her grandfather and older brother a surprise visit in this adorable book of words, all featuring the letter B. Baby climbs into a basket full of bananas for a little nibble, but big brother puts the basket on his bicycle and goes on a bumpy trip to their Baba’s. Brother rides across the African landscape, where readers can see baobab trees, birds and butterflies, bougainvillea flowers, and buses and bridges, until they reach Baba’s home. When Baby pops out of the basket, it’s a happy surprise! Baba brings his grandchildren inside for some biscuits and cuddling, and Brother rides home and returns Baby to Mama’s arms.

I love Atinuke’s Anna Hisbicus books and her wonderful stories about African daily life. B is for Baby is another glimpse at family life, this time, aimed at younger children and early readers. Angela Brooksbank, who worked with Atinuke on Baby Goes To Market, introducing readers to a West African market. The mixed media artwork is sweet, loaded with hugs and cuddles, and lovely nature landscapes. What a fun way to introduce new readers to the letter B!

B is for Baby has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The newest Board Books for little learners are GREAT!

I have a special place in my heart for a good board book. They’re so little, and durable, and take the biggest ideas in the world and make them perfect for little eyes, fingers, and minds (and yes, mouths) to enjoy. I  love everything about board books, so I’m always on the lookout for good ones to read to my toddlers and babies. Here are the latest ones that you can expect to show up in storytimes.

8 Little Planets, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Lizzie Doyle, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492671244

Ages 2-5

How adorable is this book?! Put a cute little face on a planet or two, and I will buy it. It’s a weakness. Chris Ferrie, whose praises I sing pretty regularly here at MomReadIt, shifts his focus from the sciences to this sweet rhyming story about the planets. Counting down from 8 to 1, readers learn a couple of facts about each planet, from Neptune to Mercury, in an upbeat rhyming pattern that kids and caregivers will easily clap along with. Each planet is unique in its own way: Uranus spins on one side; Mars has the tallest mountain in the solar system. The collage artwork adds fun texture; there are corrugated planets and waffle-patterned moons, comets that combine textures, and happy stars and constellations abound. The happy-faced planets are going to delight any reader that comes across the book.

This is a perfect flannel board read. I’m going to have to get some flannel planets underway. Pair this with They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” to get the little ones up and dancing. For some more nonfiction-y board books, you can’t go wrong with ABC Universe, from the American Museum of Natural History (nice and big, for a larger storytime), and Our Solar System, also from the American Museum of Natural History, complete with graduated flaps that make turning pages a little easier for itty bitty fingers.

Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck, by Asia Citro/Illustrated by Troy Cummings, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781943147434

Ages 0-4

A garbage truck wakes up and starts its day in this fun board book. Creaks and clangs, rumbles and bangs, and naturally, vroom-a-vroom vrooms abound as the garbage truck trundles through the city, picking up the trash and keeping its headlights open for crossing ducks and slowing down for a grateful early riser who forgot to put out his trash the night before. After a trip to the dump to lighten its load, Garbage Truck heads back to the garage for a good night’s sleep, with a shush, a sigh, and a click.

Told using only sound effects, this is a great story for infant and toddler storytime! There are so many fun sounds to make, and inviting caregivers to rumble and gently bounce little ones on their laps adds to the fun. Bold, black lines, bold, large text, and bright colors will keep little eyes engaged and active. There are oodles of great transportation board books out there to make for a fun storytime, especially anything by Byron Barton. If you want to go with a city-inspired storytime, you can’t go wrong with Christopher Franceschelli’s CityBlock. Songs and fingerplays abound, too. Add some plastic cars and trucks to your playtime and let the toddlers vroom along!

 

You Can Be, by Elise Gravel, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-943147-40-3

Ages 3-5

A sight familiar to any kid or caregiver, You Can Be starts readers off with a carefree kid, clad only in underwear, running across the cover. And you know this is going to be a kid-friendly book about being a carefree, happy kiddo. Elise Gravel starts off by telling readers, “There are many ways to be a kid. You can be…” and proceeds to bring readers through weird and wonderful ways of being a kid: funny and sensitive; noisy and artsy; grumpy and smelly (sometimes… complete with toot cloud!). Kids are diverse and the drawings are bold and bright, each adjective large, bold, colorful, and fun. The message here? You can be angry, you can be smelly, you can be funny, or quiet… there’s no wrong way to be a kid. After all, as Elise Gravel says, “you can feel “almost any way you feel like being. (Except mean or rude, of course.)” I love that gender doesn’t define anyone’s mood here: girls are smelly, boys are artsy; kids are kids. It’s a great message to readers about self-acceptance and self-awareness.

Invite your readers to act out different moods! Let them be as silly or serious as they want to be. I love all things Elise Gravel, so this one will be on my shelves, no question. Pair this one with any Todd Parr book for a feel good, I Love Me! storytime. Check out Elise’s website for a free downloadable book, Artsy Boys and Smelly Girls, and other fun downloadables!

 

Autumn Babies and Winter Babies, by Kathryn O. Galbraith/Illustrated by Adela Pons, (Sept. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $6.95, ISBN: 9781682630662 (Autumn) and 9781682630679 (Winter)

The first in a new series, Babies in the Park, Autumn Babies and Winter Babies star a group of multicultural babies who discover the joy in each season as they play in the park. Composed of two- and three-word sentences, each book takes readers through a park as it goes through the season. The four babies ( Sai, Simón, Jayden, and Emma) are dressed for the season and stomp, romp, and roll through the Fall, throwing sticks for pups to fetch, flying kites, and throwing leaves.

They bundle up for their winter playdate, sporting boots, hats, scarves, and warm coats. Snow plops, and babies catch snowflakes on their tongues, run, glide, and ride through the snow. Each book begins with a simple statement of the season: “It’s autumn in the park.” “It’s winter in the park”, establishing the season, and ends with a closeup of one a baby, with a joyful exclamation of the season: “It’s Autumn!” “It’s Winter!”

These books are such fun ways to greet the seasons, and the Babies in the Park idea is adorable. Give parents and caregivers ideas about activities – Peachtree has done the work for you and made up an activity companion sheet to the books! There are great extension activities to engage the kids during storytime: show different shapes (circle trees, diamond kites, triangle roofs), talk about different colors that you see. There are so many seasonal songs and fingerplays to be found on the Web: TeachingMama, one of my favorite blogs, always has adorable printables that you can give out to your families to sing along; let them bring the sheets home to keep the kids singing along after storytime.

If you want to read a little more about the series, Peachtree has an article on their website. Spring Babies and Summer Babies will be out early next year, so completionists like me can breathe a sigh of relief.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

In First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, a family waits…

First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (Aug. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580897945

Ages 5-8

A Navajo family waits for baby’s first laugh. Who will be the first to hear it? Will nima-sami (grandmother) hear it, as she tucks Baby in for a nap? Will it be big sister (nadi), who cooks Baby a tasty meal? Maybe it will be nima (mama), who sits weaving while Baby rests in a papoose. Or will it be cheii (grandpa), who splashes Baby with water? Everyone in the family is waiting, kissing, tickling, hugging, and singing, as Baby squirms, yawns, frowns, until… suddenly… a smile! Let the First Laugh celebration begin!

First Laugh Welcome, Baby is a beautiful look at a Navajo tradition; the First Laugh Celebration is a child’s first formal welcome into a family and clans. The lyrical story is filled with Navajo words and glimpses of Navajo life, woven into a story about the joy of a baby’s first laugh and the celebration it brings to families and communities. Jonathan Nelson’s pencil, acrylic, and Photoshop artwork create a loving portrait of a family that spends time together both in the city and on a Navajo reservation; they eat together, enjoy nature together, and socialize together in settings primarily illustrated with earthy tones and bold lines.

Back matter includes author’s notes from the late Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, and an illustrator’s note from Jonathan Nelson; a note about the First Laugh Celebration, and ceremonies in other cultures, including Muslim, Nigerian, and Jewish families.

Nancy Bo Flood’s Soldier Sister, Fly Home is a powerful middle grade story about a Navajo family; First Laugh is a wonderful picture book that introduces younger readers to First Nation families. Please, please, please, put these and other books by indigenous authors and illustrators in your bookshelves and in front of your readers.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Get your cute on with Animal Babies!

Animal Babies, by Charles Fuge, (March 2018, MoonDance Press), $8.95, ISBN: 9781633225480

Recommended for readers 0-3

This adorable board book features squeal-worthy menagerie of baby animals, including ducklings, platypuses, koals, sloths, and meerkats. Rhyming text provides some factual info about the animals: baby ducks following the first thing they see; father seahorses having babies, and a perplexed snake, surrounded by playful meerkats who aren’t the slightest bit afraid of it. The illustrations are adorably realistic, and the text is just right for babies and toddler storytimes.

I’m always on the lookout for board books that give me a little something more than the basics, to use in my storytimes; Animal Babies will fit in nicely, letting me add some interactivity, like animal sounds, movements, and some teaching moments, while giving kids a nice cadence to follow along, thanks to rhyme. Too much cuteness! Pair with animal board books with animal sounds (I like this list from Inspiration Laboratories), and make it fun by adding some Sandra Boynton; I love Moo, Baa, La La La.  I also really enjoy Douglas Florian and Barbara Bakos’s Animals Play board book series, including Once I Was a Polliwog, Flamingos Fly, Leap, Frog, Leap, and Bears are Big.