Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chinese Movie Night

Our family has a tradition each Friday. Chinese Movie Night.
We order take out from a local Chinese restaurant and set up tray tables or choose picnic style in front of the television for a family friendly movie.
It's not the most exciting thing we ever do or the most educational, but it's something special to us.
We look forward to Fridays because it's our time to be together as a family.

Big Jimmy's Kum Kau Chinese Take Out by Ted Lewin is the story of a young boy who helps out at his family's restaurant.

It begins with the early morning deliveries and follows the hectic pace of the kitchen as meals are prepared and sent home with customers. The young boy narrates the day with great enthusiasm and pride, not only in his own work, but that of his extended family working together.

I love that about the book, the pride in a job well done. Isn't that a lesson we want to teach every child?

I'm a big fan of watercolor. I adore the amazing illustrations by Mr. Lewin.
They've been called photo-realistic and it's the perfect description. I also agree with luminous, gorgeous, or anything else that sings their beauty. The cleverly designed end papers are menu reproductions from the Kam Kau restaurant.
In addition to all that, there's a bit of a surprise at the end of the book when the narrator shares his favorite food. What could it be?  Ask your child to guess before you turn the page.

Whether you enjoy Chinese food or not, you're sure to delight in this tasty treat of a book for read aloud.

Cooking Extension Idea:
Provide dry rice for exploration in the sand table for a day. Measure and weigh amounts of rice during play. Discuss texture and size.
Cook rice in a steamer (no stove top necessary) and discuss how different the rice looks and feels once it has cooked. Show the difference between a cup of uncooked rice and how much rice results from cooking that cupful. What happens to make the rice "grow"?
Enjoy rice for snack!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maurice Sendak

A well-known figure of the children's book world passed away Tuesday.
Maurice Sendak was 83 years old. He said that he never meant to write for children. He just wrote.

Of all his books, my favorite is Outside Over There.

While I love this story, it is a somewhat frightening tale. Dark and guilt ridden (if only Ida had been watching the baby, the goblins wouldn't have kidnapped her!), it may be too much for young listeners. 

All is set right in the end. Ida rescues her baby sister and they return safely to the mother who's waiting, with the promise of the father's return from sea.

The illustrations are haunting and beautiful. The babies are my favorites.  I love the attention  given to the hands and feet of the characters. Gorgeous.

There are layers of things going on in each painting, matching the tone of the story perfectly. Even the font used for the text is an elegant, calligraphy style.

Thank you Mr. Sendak for your amazing contribution to the world of children's literature.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Yesterday was Derby Day in Kentucky and I was there, hat and all! While it was fun to people-watch, the horses were the real stars.

Most children have some real life experience with horses. From pony rides at birthday parties, to field trips on a farm, we can see and touch them.

There is something romantic about them too. Maybe it's the princess mode of transportation thing, or their big, big eyes.

As beloved as they are, it's not an easy task to find a picture book that features both a wonderful horse character and beautiful illustrations of those. Here's one that hits the mark.

Everything but the Horse by Holly Hobbie is a story from the author's own life. Like many little girls, she longs for a horse to call her own. Her family says no, but Holly can't believe it, especially with her birthday right around the corner.

The illustrations are true to her style, one that I find endearing. The pen and ink and watercolor paintings are as gentle as the story, and fit the rural setting beautifully.

There is a surprise at the end of the story. Some folks find it disappointing, but I disagree. It is both fitting and a good thing to share with children. I believe the sense of gratitude at the conclusion of the book is the best part!

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Tracing Horseshoes
Materials needed: paper, pencils or markers, scissors, and horseshoes (we used real ones, but if they're not readily available in your area, you could cut stencils from heavy paper stock)
Procedure: Set out supplies and allow children time to practice tracing around the horseshoes, color them in with markers, and cut them out
The weight of the horseshoes helps to keep them in place.
It takes concentration to work around the curved shape when tracing and again when cutting. Eye-hand coordination and pencil grasp are both practiced in this activity.