Nothing But the Tooth

Because what better day to write about teeth than on Halloween, the Scourge of Dentists?

Also, because my kid had extensive dental work done yesterday. Poor little muffin. She was really anxious and scared beforehand, and then the appointment took over an hour; the dentist discovered an unexpected cavity as well as the other hole we’d already known about. He also “shaved” some other teeth that are getting in each other’s way (ow!) and pulled out one stubborn long-rooted baby tooth.

I wasn’t terribly surprised about that extra cavity. My girl has quite the sweet tooth, and dental care, especially tooth brushing, is a constant struggle in our house. We’ve tried nagging, sticker rewards, sparkly pink toothpaste …and still she weeps and stalls and carries on as if we’ve demanded that she stick needles in her mouth, not a fancy motorized Hello Kitty toothbrush.

Finally, earlier this fall, I gave bibliotherapy a shot, and brought home a few tooth-related books from the library. She brushed aside the factual and didactic titles, but glommed onto Open Wide: Tooth School Inside by the inimitable Laurie Keller. Not only is it packed with fascinating (really!) tidbits about teeth, but also with sly and silly jokes, puns, and sarcastic asides. For several days I was able to convince her to brush her teeth just by promising to sing the Tooth School anthem (“We are the teeth, we do the chewin’…” sung to the tune of “We Are the World”) while she brushed.

Another story that tickles the funny bone is Sweet Tooth, by Margie Palatini, wherein Stewart’s tooth tries to take over his life, demanding cake and candy at every turn, until he fights back with (argghh!) crunchy vegetables. Palatini has a light touch and is good with the funny stuff, but it’s Jack Davis’s illustrations that take the cake: his goofy, slapstick riffs on proportion and perspective are almost surrealistic, as befits the whole concept of a obnoxious, bullying tooth.

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World, by Selby Beeler, is one of my favorite tooth books. Dozens of kids from all over the globe briefly explain what they do when their baby teeth fall out. The Tooth Fairy doesn’t fly everywhere, it emerges (though sometimes a mouse or another spirit might be involved in tooth pickup) and teeth don’t always go under a pillow; they’re just as likely to be thrown on the roof, buried in the ground, or even fed to a dog! This book would make a perfect nonfiction companion to Penda Diakite’s I Lost My Tooth in Africa, in which the African tooth fairy visits Anima while she’s visiting her family in Mali and leaves her two hens!

No hens were left at our house last night, but we did awake this morning to the cry of a jubilant—if still swollen-lipped—girl. Let’s just say the Tooth Fairy is very generous in compensation for surgically extracted teeth.

Wishing everyone a sweet and happy Halloween…and don’t forget to brush!

October 31, 2008

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Cybils Nominees, Part I: A Smattering of Picture Books

If you're looking for a list of great new poetry books, science fiction and fantasy, graphic novels, or just about any kind of book for kids, check out the Cybils website. Nominations for the 2008 Cybils are now posted for all ten categories (from Easy Readers to Young Adult Novels, with lots of good stuff in between).

Some categories have a mere few dozen nominated titles, while others (hellooo, Middle Grade Fiction!) clock in at a hundred or more. And every single one of them is a book that, in at least one person's opinion, deserves a "Best of 2008" award in its category. Now the hard-reading panelists get to narrow each category down to a list of finalists by the end of the year. I'm not sure whether to envy them or feel sorry for them—a little bit of both, I guess!

Some of the nominees for younger kids that caught my eye:

Fiction Picture Books:

Chester's Back! by Melanie Watts.
The first book in this series, Chester, was pressed it into my hands a few months ago by a fellow-librarian who insisted that I read it. It's just that good, and that funny. Can't wait to see the sequel.

Ladybug Girl, by Jacky Davis; illustrated by David Soman.
The story of a girl with imagination!

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.
I paged through this collaboration between two picture-book greats at a baby shower last week, and you've never seen such cooing and ooh-ing as when this book was passed around a room full of library workers. Awww! So cute!

A Visitor for Bear, by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Katy Denton.
A perfect story-time read-aloud about a mouse who won't take "no" for an answer.

Non-fiction Picture Books:

Trout Are Made of Trees, by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Kate Endle.
I really want to see this one—it makes environmentalism look so interesting!

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, by Dr. Christine King Harris, illustrated by London Ladd.
What I wouldn't have given to be there on the Washington Mall that day. As it is, I'm itching to get my hands on the book.

Underwear: What We Wear Under There, by Ruth Freeman Swain, illustrated by John O'Brien.
And from the sublime to…well, to underwear. Who doesn't like a good book about underwear?

I was going to go through all the categories, but there's just too much! So, selected nominees for older readers will follow in the next post. Until then, enjoy the lists!

P. S. Lest I forget about Halloween…(and how could I, with candy and costumes everywhere): here's a list of scary-but-not-too-scary chapter books that are perfect for the season.

October 24, 2008

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Sisters and Brothers

Sisters and Brothers

There's a song on the album "Free to Be You and Me" (I'm middle-aged, so I can still call it an album) called "Sisters and Brothers" about how everyone in the world is brothers and sisters and we can all look out for one another. My little brother and I used to belt it out in merry unison…when we weren't bickering or tattling on each other.

In reality, the relationship between brothers and sisters—as my brother and I both knew quite well—is more complicated. My daughter's an only child, without either the stresses or the comforts of having a sibling, but she's getting a small taste of the experience this week, with my no-longer-so-little brother, sister-in-law, and 4-year-old niece in town.

Mostly, she's reacting pretty well to being upstaged by a charming and verbal preschooler; she even shared her brand-new circus Playmobil set (a gift from them) without (much) balking. She and her cousin are both pretty set in their ways, though, and after their week together I bet they'll both have a new appreciation for these books about life with a sibling:

Picture Books:

  • 101 Things to Do with a Baby, by Jan Ormerod
  • A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell and Lilian Hoban
  • Big Sister, Little Sister, by LeUyen Pham
  • Do Like Kyla, by Angela Johnson
  • How to Be a Baby (By Me, the Big Sister) by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap
  • Julius the Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes
  • My Mei Mei, by Ed Young
  • My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, by Patricia Polacco
  • No More Kissing! By Emma Chichester Clark [out of print]
  • On Mother's Lap, by Ann Herbert Scott
  • Titch, by Pat Hutchins
  • Zelda and Ivy, by Laura McGee Kvasnosky (oooh, that tricky Zelda!)

..and a Few Chapter Books:

  • Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary
  • George Speaks, by Dick King-Smith
  • Snarf Attack and the Secret of Life, by Mary Amato
  • The Stories Julian Tells, by Ann Cameron (I especially like the chapter where Julian tries to fool Huey about the meaning of the word "Catalog" and Huey waits in vain for the Catalog Cats to arrive)

There's also Mail Harry to the Moon!, which I haven't yet gotten my hands on in person but which is reviewed most recently at Charlotte's Library. As a big sister, I can sympathize with the narrator (Sorry, bro)...though, like him, I wouldn't really want my little brother on the moon; it's too much fun having him (and his family) here on Earth.

October 20,2008

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Rhyme Time: Going Bananas!

Rhyme Time: Going Bananas!

One of the best things about being a children's librarian is that you can spend a few hours in a room with a couple dozen other adults, all of you jumping up and down and making total fools of yourselves, and call it professional development.

See, most story times in libraries don't just consist of stories: to keep things lively, and because singing and rhyming and having fun with words are all amazingly good for building literacy skills, the books and puppets and flannel board stories are interspersed with rhymes, songs, fingerplays, and sometimes even dancing. Most librarians have a tried and true repertoire of favorite rhymes. But your favorites can get stale after a while.

To keep the kids, not to mention the librarians, interested and energized, it's good to learn new stuff. There are great resources out there for parents and teachers looking for rhymes, like Jane Cobb's What'll I Do with the Baby-O, or Mother Goose's Storytime Nursery Rhymes, but nothing beats learning in person from someone who loves what they're doing.

So this week I went to a "rhyme time" workshop sponsored by a local librarians' organization. Like most workshops, it was in a windowless, carpeted room, with presenters and hosts and handouts and rows of chairs and a table with coffee and muffins over on the side.

Unlike most other workshops, as soon as the introductions were over we moved the chairs out into one big circle and immediately commenced to sing and jump up and down.

The structure of the workshop was simple: each participant presented and demonstrated the two rhymes, songs, or fingerplays they'd sent in ahead of time, we all repeated them a couple of times to make sure we had the motions and/or the tune, and then we moved on to the next person. A few people brought props—flannel pieces, puppets, a guitar and even a ukulele—but mostly it was just people in a room. At the end of three hours I left with a 35-page packet of material that was mostly new to me, and a head stuffed with music and rhythm.

Here's the first rhyme we started out with—which incidentally was one of my favorites; I'm eager to try it out on actual kids at the family story time I'll be leading next week:

  • First we pick, bananas
  • Pick, pick, bananas
  • Pick, bananas
  • Pick, pick, bananas [picking invisible bananas off trees]
  • Then we peel, bananas
  • Peel, peel, bananas
  • Peel, bananas
  • Peel, peel, bananas [hold up one finger and "peel" it with the other hand]
  • Then we eat! Bananas!
  • Eat, eat! Bananas!
  • Eat! Bananas!
  • Eat, eat! Bananas! [tossing invisible bananas into mouth]
  • Then we GO! BANANAS!
  • GO, GO! BANANAS! [self-explanatory…]

P.S. Don't forget to nominate your favorite 2008 kids' books for the Cybils—nominations close on Wednesday the 15th! (And if you're looking for suggestions for terrific books, check out the list of nominees; there's some great stuff up there.)

October 12, 2008

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The Cybils are coming! The Cybils are coming!

The Cybils are coming! The Cybils are coming!

CybilslogoYes, it’s time for the Third Annual Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards—the only blogger-run book award in the world, as far as we can tell. This year, I finally got up the courage to volunteer, and now, along with some other splendiferous folks, I get to be one of the judges for the brand-new Easy Reader category! I am pretty excited and am looking forward to the discussions and debates that will ensue in January.

Nominations for all categories open on October 1st (that’s TOMORROW) and close on October 15th. It’s easy to nominate a book: just go to the nomination post for that category on the Cybils website and post a comment with the title and author of the title you want to nominate. Panelists will read and consider all the nominees, and choose five to seven finalists in each category. Then the judges (like me!) will confer and debate and choose the winner for each category from among the finalists. Finalists will be announced January 1, and winners announced February 14. 

Here are a few tips if you want to nominate a title:

  1. All titles must be published in 2008. So your childhood favorites, alas, are not eligible (unless you are a child right now).
  2. Each person is only allowed to nominate one title in each genre. So if there are, say, three picture books published in 2008 that you absolutely love, you may want to be strategic and wait a few days to see if someone else nominates one or two of your favorites; then you can nominate the title that no one else has chosen, to make sure it gets some attention.
  3. Multiple nominations don’t increase a book’s chances of winning; all nominees are considered equally. If someone else has already nominated one of your favorite books, don’t waste your vote: nominate a different title for that category if there’s another one you like enough.
  4. Pay attention to the category in which you’re nominating a book. There are nine categories: Easy Readers, Fantasy &  Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels. It can get tricky, but basically genre trumps age level: if you want to nominate a graphic novel or fantasy novel that’s aimed at a teen audience, nominate it under Graphic Novels, or Fantasy/Science Fiction, not Young Adult.
  5. Most importantly: Anyone can nominate! No special qualifications, degrees, or permissions are necessary.

Here’s the link to the website again, just to make it easier still ;-) And here’s the FAQ page, in case you have more questions—it’s from last year, but if you mentally substitute “2008” wherever it says “2007” everything will make perfect sense. 

Now, go thou and nominate!

September 30, 2008

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