Look at this Book – ‘Shrek!’

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

 Shrek 1

Today’s great book:  Shrek! by William Steig (1990, The Trumpet Club)

Time to Read: short and funny; another great bedtime or anytime story

Summary:  School Library Journal wrote of the book, “(PreSchool-Grade 3) When a horrid ogre ventures out into the world, he encounters a nasty witch, a knight in armor, a dragon and true love with a princess who’s even uglier than he is in this tale by William Steig.”

Best Quote:  “Shrek snapped at her nose.  She nipped at his ear.  They clawed their way into each other’s arms.  Like fire and smoke, these two belonged together.”

Our View:  Has there ever been a more devoted storybook character to bring understanding to the old cliche, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?”  Though most every reader and parent will recall the great trilogy of movies by the same name, few realize that they were born in this very children’s book!  When I read it to my college students a few weeks ago, they were stunned that no one had ever told them one of their favorite movie characters was first a great big green mess of a giant named Shrek!  Known for his wonderfully creative children’s books like Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and Doctor De Soto, author William Steig (1907-2003) brilliantly captures the gross and the beautiful, all in one fair book.  My daughters laughed and laughed at the colorful illustrations and hilarious poetry.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Gooeys” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

‘My Monster Mama Loves Me So’ – Look at this Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

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Today’s great book:  My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck with illustrations by Mark Buehner (1999, HarperTrophy)

Time to Read: short and funny; bedtime or anytime

Summary:  from the back cover…”At once tender and funny, this monster bedtime story is guaranteed to generate giggles, tickles, and plenty of monster hugs.”

Best Quote:  “And when the moon sets in the sky, she sings a monster lullaby of things that shriek and moan and creep – soothing things to help me sleep.”

Our View:  The wonderfully intricate illustrations filled with detail and color and coupled with the rhythmic, sing-song style of the text really do make this a special “monster” style book for children and their families.  When I first used it in my student teaching work with kindergartners, it helped diminish the scary mystery that simply comes from that word – monster – and helped them find some commonalities among themselves and this sweet monster child (who is even scared of human children!) in this story.  This week, when I asked my own daughters which Halloween book we should review and create a recipe for, they immediately remembered this book, which we had not read in several years – so it must have made an impression on them and will make a great one on you and your kids, too.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Monster Mama” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

5 Great Kids Reads for Halloween

Halloween books

Thirteen years ago I was assigned to a student teaching position in Kindergarten at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Putnam City, a suburb of Oklahoma City.  It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, but one of the moments that stands out to me was the day my assigned classroom’s wonderful veteran teacher told me what she wanted me to use as my theme to teach when my professor came to evaluate me as I taught that roomful of 20 young children in late October.  She said one word – ‘monsters.’

She had always used that as her theme for this particular week and so that was the theme she wanted me to use, as well.  I was crushed.  As a boy, I was scared to death of monsters and spent many creepy nights sleeping outside my parent’s bedroom in my Battlestar Galactica sleeping bag.

Now here I was faced with having to create a five-day curriculum for little girls and boys about the one thing that surely sent them fleeing on most nights – monsters!  To make a long story short, it went wonderfully well (this was one great teacher and I trusted her) and I had the time of my life.  We used the puppets of Where the Wild Things Are and learned Monster tunes for Kids that my daughters and I made up at night and I taught to the children the next morning in circle time.  We completed math lessons with monsters and wrote stories and talked about scary monsters and funny monsters and fears and worries and everything in between.  The whole room was a monster wonderland!  I also collected quite a variety of great children’s books with monster themes during that semester of my life.  Here are a few of our favorite short read-alouds to celebrate some reading time with your little ones during this especially monstrous week of the year:

1.  Ten Creepy Monsters by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (Harry N. Abrams, 2012) – Julie Roach and School Library Journal reviewed the book for Preschool to Grade 2 and wrote, “When ten creepy monsters meet beneath a pine tree, they get into all sorts of trouble that helps readers count backward from ten to one…After the second to last monster-a vampire-rushes off in the sunrise, readers are left with one monster hurrying home. An abandoned mask, strewn candy, and a sleeping boy tell the rest of the story. Fun for Halloween or for counting anytime.”

2.  Monster Mischief by Pamela Jane (2001, Scholastic) – This is a wonderfully inventive book of creative monsters visiting a monster home to trick or treat for Halloween.  This quote from the book sums up the fun, “On Halloween, for trick or treat, five monsters mixed a stew to eat of which they never ate a bite, because their stew ran off that night.  A few, I know, are glad of that – spider, lizard, frog and bat!”

3.  Haunted Halloween:  A Choose Your Own Adventure Book #37 by Susan Sanders (1986, Bantam-Skylark) –  If you grew up in the 1980’s in America, this was the hottest series on the bookshelf.  It is still around and still exciting and interesting and interactive.  If you don’t remember how it works, the reader reads a few pages and then at a key point in the story there are two questions at the bottom of the page.  You must choose your own adventure at this point, sometimes for good and sometimes for not!  These are so much fun and your kids need to be reading them – there are many choices so I was happy that we had this one for Halloween week here at Father Knows Books!  In this book, “it is halloween night and you’ve been invited to a costume party at an old, spooky mansion.”

4.  Monster Pops Counting 123:  How Many Monsters Can You See by Gill Davies (2002, Parragon Publishing) – “Discover a pop-up surprise on each page as you enjoy a monstrously good counting rhyme.”  This book is super for preschool and Kindergartners, as well…and who doesn’t love a pop-up book!

5.  The Teeny Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters (1997, Scholastic) – a wonderful children’s picture book with a great read-aloud style and wonderful illustrations by Lynn Munsinger.  It is the story of a “timid teeny tiny ghost.  He lived in a teeny tiny house with two teeny tiny black cats.”  He is scared of scary stories and hides when he hears himself say “boo!”  When his friends come for a surprise costume party, things indeed take a turn for the better.

Look at this Book! ‘Where the Wild Things Are’

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

 Wild Things

Today’s great book: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963, Harper and Row).

Time to Read: short and sweet; bedtime; when your child has been difficult or wants to run away

Summary:  Max is the little boy who decides to make a mess of his home before his parents discipline him by sending him to his room without any supper.  As Max grows frustrated, his room transforms itself into a jungle and small sailing boat appears at the magical shoreline.  He sails away to a land of giant monster-like creatures called Wild Things, whom Max intimidates so well that he is made their king.  Max finally decides to return to his real home, where a hot supper awaits him.

Best Quote:  “And an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max.  And he sailed off through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year to where the wild things are.”

Our View:  I have loved this book since I was a child and it later played an important role in helping me master my student teaching semester with 25 kindergartners over a decade ago.  I must have read it a hundred times when I was a child, but when I was introduced to it again after I found it in a storage box in my attic not long after I became a father, it held a new magic over me.  I have enjoyed reading it to all three of my daughters and reminiscing with them about how much I loved it when I was a boy.  I simply wanted to be Max and I wanted a small sailing boat just like the one in the book.  Mary Pols of Time magazine wrote that “[w]hat makes Sendak’s book so compelling is its grounding effect: Max has a tantrum and in a flight of fancy visits his wild side, but he is pulled back by a belief in parental love to a supper ‘still hot,’ balancing the seesaw of fear and comfort.”  Another wrote that Sendak alluded to his books as describing “how children master various feelings – danger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy – and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives.”  Where the Wild Things Are, at only a little more than 300 words, does just that!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “What the Wild Things Eat” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.