The Week of the Young Child

The Week of the Young Child, running now through Saturday, celebrates wee ones as well as their parents and caregivers.  Hats off to all the child care providers, nursery school teachers, parents and grandparents who nurture and educate our youngest citizens!

 

 

What better way to celebrate than to read aloud to children?  My newest favorite for toddlers is “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes” by Mem Fox. The cover shows a gleeful baby perched in a swing, coming straight at the viewer, hands open and bare toes wiggling.  Open the book to see babies from all over the world that, “as everyone knows, have ten little fingers and ten little toes.”  Mem Fox’s gentle, rhythmic text with just a few words on each page leaves lots of room for Helen Oxenbury’s engaging watercolor illustrations.

          Oxenbury has always depicted young children in motion with startling accuracy, from the way they sit or stand, to the way they laugh, smile, play and cry.  Wide white pages give her room to show babies from all over the world – born in a town, in the mountains, on the ice, or in a tent – showing off their plump little toes and dimpled fingers.  Some sport topknots, others have drippy noses, some are crawling, some are hugging.  Babies love nothing more than looking at other babies, and this book will keep them entranced during reading after reading.

          Little children also love animals of all kinds, so Kevin Henkes’ new picture book, “Birds,” is sure to spark their interest.  A little girl tells about all the birds she sees, their colors, shapes and, most interesting of all, their behavior.

"Once I saw seven birds on the telephone wire. They didn't move and they didn't move and they didn't move. I looked away for just a second…." Turn the page and “They were gone!” Two pages showing the telephone wire as a thick black line decorated with seven brown birds against a stark white page is followed by a dramatic double page spread with nothing but the empty telephone wire intersecting the pages.

          Illustrator Laura Dronzek does some of her finest work in this book.  Silhouettes of black crows against blocks of color, swirling lines of color tracing bird flight across the sky, and the title page decorated with colorful birds perched among apple blossoms are simple enough for the youngest to follow.  But it takes a sure sense of design and color to bring such a simple book to life. 

          “Posy” is a kitten striped in yellow, black and brown, characterized as a "whiskers wiper/ crayon swiper” in Linda Newbery’s new picture book of the same name.  Spare text and impressionistic drawings show Posy behaving like a typical frisky kitten, playing with autumn leaves and tangled in yarn.  There’s not much of a story here, but young cat-lovers will delight in every page. 

“A bunny’s a delightful habit,/ No home’s complete without a rabbit,” says author-illustrator Clare Turlay Newberry in her classic picture book,  “Marshmallow.” This is a true story about a tabby cat named Oliver whose peaceful world is turned upside down when a baby rabbit joins the family.  All Marshmallow wants is a mother, and Oliver is soft and furry – will he oblige? Older preschoolers will love the soft pencil drawings drawn from life that depict each animal in loving detail. 

 Published in the 4/21/09 Free Lance-Star newspaper.