Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep, April 2016

The Influence of Books

Miss Muffet has always loved books, but lately I am seeing their influence in her daily activities more than ever. For example, earlier this month, she was playing with the sock baby doll I made her for Christmas and we had the following exchange:

Me: Is your baby a boy or a girl?
Miss Muffet: A boy.
Me: What's his name?
Miss Muffet: Maurice Sendak!

The only Sendak book she really knows so far is Alligators All Around, but she also heard my husband and me discussing the illustrations in The Wheel on the School, and apparently his name made quite an impression. And of course, now that she has seen that hearing her call the baby Maurice Sendak amuses me, she does it all the time. She is also quite fond of John Burningham, and attributes every book we read to either him or Bill Martin, Jr.

Another interesting habit she has picked up because of a book is calling me "Pa." This started happening after we read and/or watched the Weston Woods adaptation of Owl Moon every day for a week. I have told her that I prefer to be called "Mama" and that "Pa" would be a better name for her father, but she gets such a kick out of saying, "Hi, Pa!" that I secretly kind of enjoy it. I'm also so, so thrilled that she likes that book. I hesitated about sharing it with her when she is still so young, but she is so fascinated by owls that I'm glad I didn't wait.

Listening to Books and Magazines

Another new introduction to Miss Muffet's life this month has been audiobooks. Now that she has mostly stopped napping, she often needs something to do to make "quiet time" last long enough to be worthwhile, so I decided to give audiobooks a shot. We started with Penny and Her Song, which I downloaded from the library through Overdrive, and then moved on to The Adventures of Johnny Chuck from Librivox. These were okay, but I'm finding that what really works well for her is the audio version of her Highlights High Five magazine. An audio edition of each issue of the magazine is available for download or streaming on the Highlights website, and the recordings all have signals to indicate when page turns occur. I loved "read-along" books like this as a kid, so it's great to see her enjoying the same experience. It also saves me having to read the magazine cover to cover ten times a day, and it has fostered a great love for the magazine's recurring characters, Tex (whom she calls "Tag") and Indi. My husband also raided the audiobook section at the public library this past weekend and checked out a bunch of read-along versions of favorite picture books, so I'm looking forward to seeing her interact with those in the coming weeks.

A Book for Baby

On a recent trip to the used bookstore, Miss Muffet was pulling books off the shelf in typical toddler fashion when she happened upon Jeanne Titherington's Baby's Boat, which is an illustrated version of a lullaby we have been singing to Bo Peep for the past few months. I'm not entirely sure Miss Muffet understood what she had found, but once I told her it was a book version of her sister's favorite song, she was very excited to sing it with her, and we decided to purchase the book.  Though we have many baby-friendly books around the house for Bo Peep to explore, this is the first one we bought for her because of her own interests. We have only read it a few times, but she absolutely loves the baby in the pictures, and Miss Muffet pointed out that the baby even looks a little bit like Bo Peep. I probably would not have chosen this book for either of my children on my own, but I'm so pleased to finally have something in our collection that represents Bo Peep's budding personality.

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz, illustrated by A.G. Ford (Picture Book Biographies from A to Z - Letter X)

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X 
by Ilyasah Shabazz
illustrated by A.G. Ford 
2014. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.


Malcolm X (1925-1965) was a human rights activist.


This book, written by his daughter, relate the childhood of Malcolm Little, the boy who grows up to be Malcolm X. There is a ton of information - much of it unnecessarily detailed - crammed into every page. The book ends with Malcolm being elected class president and does not come close to even mentioning what Malcolm X is known for.

About the Illustrations

The pictures have a very contemporary look, and there isn't much in them to suggest history. Many of the images have strange perspectives, where small items like ladybugs look overly large, and they also have an oddly cheery mood that does not really match the serious-sounding text. There are also glaring errors in the pictures, such as "the evergreen tree" mentioned in the text which appears with green leaves inside the book, and with leaves changing color on the front cover. The illustrations really make the book feel hastily put together and poorly produced.

Author's Note

The author's note is a lengthy personal reflection on Malcolm X's life which is as long-winded and overly romanticized as the text proper.

Additional Comments 

This book reads like a school report written by a child in the target age range. The writing is dry and not very accessible, especially if the reader doesn't yet know anything about Malcolm X. Phrases like "person of color" and "African-American" also sound out of place as they would not have been used in the time period during which the book takes place. Because the book focuses only on Malcolm's childhood, it also doesn't really teach anything significant. Only someone who is already knowledgeable about Malcolm X and interested in knowing more would be truly interested in reading this - and that's not most elementary students.

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