World Day of the Snowman

Today, 18th of January, we celebrate something so ephemere and yet so beautiful, a snowman.

The first World Day of the Snowman was celebrated on 2011. Why 18? Because the snowman represent the 8 and the stick that is his arm, the 1. And January because it is cold enough in most of the planet to build a snowman.

We were lucky enough to build a little snowman this winter, so today we celebrated all the snowmen in the world by reading a delightful book.

“Snow friends” by Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton is a delicate, gentle book for young readers, 2-3 years or more. The illustrations are beautiful and bright and the glittering snowball adds a little glamour to the book.

Snow friends by M Christina Butler

This is a story about snowman, friendship, team work, emphaty, working hard to achieve your goal. All of these so necessary for the little preschoolers learning their ways into the world. Where the power of two or three is greater than the power of one. Where to give someone a hand in need is so much better than to just do nothing. Where they have to adapt to so much so soon. And, in order to be winners, they have to form alliances and real friendships.

It is also a book about beauty. The beauty of the white, frosty winter landscape. Of the stars and moon, on a winter night. Of the sunset. The feeling one could have after a day of hard work, when even if tired and exausted, can admire the result of his work.

But enough said. I leave you to enjoy a few of the books illustrations.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I didn’t knew exactly what the Twelve Days of Christmas are until a few years ago, when my daughter listened to a LionGuard version of the song. She asks me why there are twelve days of Christmas and not only one, so I did my research and found out the story behind them.

They start in the first day of Christmas ( December 25th), as the song begins, and they end on January the 6th, that is called The Epiphany. A religious celebration in the Western Christianity, the day the 3 kings visit baby Jesus. In the Orthodox religion January 6th is called the Baptism of Jesus, that was performed by John the Baptiser in the Jordan river. It is one of the most important religious celebrations of the Orthodox year and it is said to be a very cold day of the winter. After this day we can take out all Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree, sign that the Christmas is really over.

The song, that it is said to be originated in France, somewhere between 1500-1800, was first mentioned in a book in 1780s, as a memory game for children. The first child sang the first verse, the second child had to repeat the first verse and to add the second one and so on until the twelve verse. The child who would forget one or more verses would lose and be out of the game.

And because my daughter learned all the twelve verses of the LionGuard version, I though she has to at least listen to the original song too. Because, if not for other reasons, a partridge in a pear tree is more likely to be received than a rhino in a baobab tree. And legal, I believe…

So I bought her a very, very beautiful illustrated book, by Gennady Spirin, a russian painter and children’s book illustrator, bestknown for his depiction of the Nutcracker, The Velveteen rabbit or Little Red Riding Hood. He has a very unique way of painting and illustrating, using watercolors and colored pencil.

The book, called The Twelve Days of Christmas, was published in 2009 by Marshall Cavendish Corporation. The illustrations are so beautiful, is like looking at a paiting on each of the book’s page. The details, fine lines and colors are so lively and so gorgeous that it was a feast for the eye and soul to read this book.

We are still working on learning the verses, hope we will master them until the last day of Christmas.

Enjoy!

The twelve days of Christmas, Gennady Spirin

Welcome, 2021!

Yesterday we said goodbye to 2020, the only pandemic year in my life so far. And I really hope it was the last.

Today we welcome 2021, another unique year: it will be the only year in my life formed by two consecutive numbers, 20 and 21. The last year with the same characteristics was 1920 and the next will be 2122. As for 2122, I have no clue what will bring for the humankind. Or if humans will still live on this planet.

As for 1920, well, 1920 was the year in wich the League of Nations was created. And was also the year all the American women gained their right to vote. And what we know as mass-media was established in America, where two radio stations begun broadcasting.

In medicine, it was the year Band-aids appeared and the Spanish Flu pandemic ended.

In literature, is the year James Joyce mets Ezra Pound, the writter who was said to be a fascist. Fascist or not, his influence was so big with so many writters of that time, maybe this could be the only fact to remember him for.

In children literature, 1920 was the year when “Gilda of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, the creator of the Wizard of Oz, was published. Is the last Oz book that Baum had written and published.

It is also the year the firs Doctor Dolittle book appeared, based on the character Hugh Lofting invented and wrote about it between 1914-1918, while being in the trenches fighting for the British army. After being injured on the front, Lofting moved in the U.S. and start working on publishinf a book based on the Doctor Dolittle character, the famous doctor who could speak to the animals.

In 1920 was born Christopher Robert Milne, the main character in A.A. Milne’s book, “Winnie the Pooh”.

Winnie the Pooh is one’s of my daughter favourite character, we had read all of Milne’s books, minus “ Now we are six”, that we are saving for when… she will be six, of course! Meaning this special new year, 2021!

Until we will finish reading it, I leave you with a few of Winnie the Pooh special words about life, friends, love and of course, honey!

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever!”

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day!”

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart”

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes”

“When life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles”

“Some people care too much. I think it’s called love”

“A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside”

“Could be worse. Not sure know, but it could be”

“A hug is always the right size”

“ Isn’t funny how a bear likes honey?”

Winnie the Pooh books from our collection

Room for a little one

When I was verry little, my mother used to recite to me a beautiful poem, composed by George Cosbuc, one of Romania’s well known poets. It was called “ In the Christmas evening”. And the verses I loved the most and I used to repeat a lot around Christmas time were something like that:

“The bed is made. But who wants to sleep

When mother tells in her sweet voice about Jesus Christ?

How he was born in the poor cold stables

And the Ox blows upon him to warm him.”

And that image, of a little boy being born in poverty and cold, always made me very sad.

When my own daughter asked me about Jesus and how he was born in Christmas day I told her everything I knew about it.

This year I wanted to put a book and an image to the story. And I wanted it to be a story and not a religious book. So I found this book, “Room for a little one”, by Martin Wadell.

We first encounter Martin Wadell’s sweet writting in “Can’t you sleep little bear?”.

Then we red “Owl babies”, another favourite from my daughter’s early childhood.

“Room for a little one” is a sweet picture book for young children about the night when Jesus came to world. With his mother Maria and his father Joseph by his side. And all the animals in the stable also.

The illustrations are very gentle and looks as they are photos of actual animals.

And the kindness and love you feel on every page is so warming that, after 40 years, the image of the Little boy being born in the cold stables, didn’t make me sad anymore. I was glad that he had the Kind Ox by him side, and the dog, stray cat and the little mouse too. And his parents, of course.

And the most warming of all was my daughter reaction to the book: she said to me “Mama, look!There is always room for a little one, mama!”

So, we wish you a Merry Christmas and to always try to find room for a little one in your heart!

Room for a little one, Martin Wadell

Christmas picture books

This Christmas we will read some books, make some gingerbread cookies, sing caroles and enjoy time with our family.

Some of these books had became part of our home, we have them for some years now and we still like to read them in the winter.

Christmas picture books
Christmas picture books
Christmas picture books

Goodreads Choice Awards 2020 – Picture books category

Two days ago Goodreads announced the winners of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2020. For whose of you who don’t know this, Goodreads is the world’s largest site for book readers and reccomendations. It’s ok if you haven’t heard of it by now, until 5 or 6 years ago I didn’t knew either.

In the “Picture book” category the winner was Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, author who also won the Nonfiction category this year. The illustration is signed by Ashley Lukashevsky. The book is said to introduce young readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concepts of power, just society and antiracism. I didn’t bought the book, nor read it. But not because I think racism is not a very toxic poison of our modern society. It is a very toxic one, along with etnic and territorial discrimination, emigration status or disregard of everyone who is not “like us” or within our “class”.

I find the times we live in, most alarmant the life our kids live in, very racist and mean and disrespectful. And, it is in our power, as parents, educators, leaders of all sorts to try and change that. Little by little, action by action and more important, reaction by reaction. If we are with our kids and someone does something innapropriate or disrespectful or mean, we should say or do something. Or at least take our kids aside or later, at home, and explain them what was wrong and how to protect themselves in the future or not tolerate that sort of behaviour. And most important, not imitate it. Because a bully is not born a bully and an aggressor is not born one either. They became like that by repeat exposure to those behaviors.

But let’s get back to our awards…

What I found very interesting among this category nominees was the number of public figures and celebrities who had wrote picture books that were published this year: the Dalai Lama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dan Brown, Jimmy Kimmel, Kristen Bell, Guns N’Roses. Guns N’Roses guys? Comme on! I really should buy this book because I don’t know if I would ever be able to get to one of their concerts. And also to have a book to present my daughter along with all the Rock and Roll music they wrote over the years. I will also like to read “Grandma’s Garden” by Hillary Rodham Clinton to my daughter, as sort of generational bond between the girls in my family and their gardens: my grandma’s, my mother’s garden and perhaps, someday, my daughter’s garden. Well, she has one already, but is a small indoor one and I don’t think it’s count for a real one…

And, of course, the Dalai Lama book, “The seed of compasion”, it would be an honour to read the teaching of his Holiness.

Until these books will arrived, I bought and read the “Wild symphony” by Dan Brown, with illustration by Susan Batori, the book that came last in the top, with the fewest number of votes. Since The Da Vinci Code was so famous years ago, it was only natural that Dan Brown’s first book for children would be very soon noticed and well promoted. I found the version that was translated in Romanian, our native tongue, so I cannot speak about the quality of the original text. That is all in lyrics, written and recorded on a tape called Synthanimals in 1989 by Brown himself. The book comes along with an app that you can install and listen to the “music” of each animal. The music from the book, that you can hear on the app wildsymphony.com , was interpretated by Zagreb Festival Orchestra.

The author himself was introduced at an early age to the beauty of music, both his parents being musicians and teachers. And he says that a story can have it’s own music and if you close your eyes you can hear it. And the book and all the animals in it are a sort of a code to help us make the connection between the two arts: words and music. And that maybe, at the end of the book, the kids will be able to hear and noticed the “music” of each animal. And also, every animal in the book has a “secret” wisdom to tell the kids and they try to get them to always look at the things from a different perspective. Because, even in the darkest, scariest place there is a beauty to be found.

In my opinion is a gentile book, with lyrics well written. The illustrations are very nice and the design, made in a Disney’s Lion King type, was realised on Photoshop.

The book leaves you with a sense of joy and brightness after you turn the last page. And the music segments are also remarkable and is a very original idea to actualy “hear” a book in the same time you read it’s words.

I really don’t know why it got so few votes, to me it seems a very good choice to read with the kids, age 3+ ( in my opinion).

If you have read other nominated books, I would be very happy to hear your opion on them.

Wild Symphony, illustrations by Susan Batori
Wild Symphony, illustrations by Susan Batori

Povestea Sfantului Nicolae de Quentin Greban – recenzie de carte

Povestea scrisa si ilustrata in 2015 de Quentin Greban a aparut anul acesta si la editura Nomina. Pentru noi s-a vrut o continuare a lecturilor delicate, dupa intalnirea cu Mama, gargarita Suzette sau Oscar, micul urs ce dorea sa devina pompier. Ma asteptam la o istorioara la fel de delicata si frumos ilustrata, cu un batranel simpatic ce aduce daruri copiilor in dimineata zilei de 6 decembrie. Pentru ca, in ignoranta si putina mea stiinta despre Mos Nicolae sau legendele ce au tot circulat, el asta face: aduce dulciuri copiilor cuminti si nuieluse celor mai putin cuminti.

Insa lucrurile nu au stat chiar asa.

Voi incepe cu inceputul: am vazut aceasta carte chiar pe pagina de Facebook a autorului. Si am aflat, citind declaratiile sale, ca el recomanda cartea pentru 3+ citita de un adult, 5+ pentru copiii care o citesc singuri. Mie imi este putin teama sa o citesc unui copil de 6 ani, deja trecut prin experienta basmelor si povestilor clasice cu iz traumatizant: Capra cu trei iezi, Pinnochio, Alba ca Zapada, Craiasa Zapezii, Hansel si Gretel, Ratusca cea urata, Harap Alb, Scufita Rosie. La piesa de teatru pentru copii pe care a vizionat-o cand era la grupa mica, avea 2 ani si 8 luni atunci, au aparut pe scena actori imbracati in doctori care il “operau” pe lup in vederea extragerii bunicii si nepoticii inghitite in actul anterior.

Despre Mos Nicolae am aflat abia de curand ca este in fapt un sfant, ocrotitor al celor sarmani, femeilor nemaritate si al copiilor. Ca exista legende potrivit carora ar fi salvat oameni de la moarte, tinere fete de la o viata promiscua, datorita faptului ca nu aveau zestrea care sa le asigure un maritis onorabil. Si ca, in timpul unei foamete cumplite, ar fi reinviat 3 frati ce fusesera pusi in saramura de catre un macelar ticalos. Acesti frati sunt si eroii povestii lui Greban. Rataciti prin padure, similar pataniei lui Hansel si Gretel, ajung la casa acestui macelar nemilos care, dupa ce le da sa manance, ii trimite in pod sa “doarma”. Iar mai apoi ii inchide intr-un butoi. Peste putin timp insa Sfantul Nicolae trece pe acolo, ii gaseste pe copiii inchisi in butoi si ii readuce la viata cu o rugaciune. Legenda a fost mai nemiloasa, copiii ar fi stat trei ani inchisi in acel butoi.

In afara de aspectul neprietenos al macelarului, firesc de altfel sa fie asa avand in vedere gravitatea faptelor savarsite de dumnealui, si de sorturile murdare pe care le poarta, pe care copiii le pot ovedea bine merci oricand, in orice hipermarket sau hala pentru produse din carne, nu gasesc nimic eminamente traumatizant povestii lui Greban. Asadar de ce clasificarea eu in categoria povestilor de “groaza”?

Copiii nostri dragi sunt expusi inca de la gradinita la traditionalele povesti si basme. Ii lasam sa se uite la tot felul de desene animate cu supereroi violenti si agresivi si la filme cu actiune violenta, agresiva si cu multe, tare multe batai.

Le vorbim urat, ii certam, uneori ii agresam verbal sau fizic. Uneori folosim cuvinte urate in preajma lor sau la adresa lor si ajung astfel si in vocabularul lor. Barfim si criticam in prezenta lor persoane care nu se afla acolo pentru a se apara. Si toate astea sunt deja intrate intr-un normal contemporan, fara ca nimeni sa poata face o schimbare majora a acestor cutume.

Ei, dar iata ca apare o carte sau o alta opera de arta, eventual a unui autor deja controversat, care prezinta lumea intr-o maniera deloc minunata, cu roz si unicorni! Nu este bine deloc, traumatizam copiii! Sa returnam cartea, sa primim banii inapoi pe ea, este o “mizerie”!

Consider ca lumea are multe culori si ca in niciun caz, cu atat mai mult acum, in contextul actualei pandemii, nu ne putem permite sa ne crestem copiii intr-un glob perfect din sticla. Frumosul si uratul fac parte din viata, au facut mereu si vor face parte si din viata lor. Copilul meu nu este acum, 2-3 ani mai tarziu, traumatizat de balena uriasa ce l-a inghitit pe Pinnochio si nici de lupul care le-a mancat pe Scufita Rosie si pe bunicuta ei. E infricosata de musculite si furnici si alte insecte mici. De care eu musai trebuie sa o protejez, toata viata! Asta este intelegerea noastra actuala.

Asadar, abia astept sa ii prezint cartea, sa vedem si reactia unui copil la auzul acestei Povesti a Sfantului Nicolae. Imi va spune desigur ca dupa ce i-a trezit pe copii le-a dat si dulciuri.

Ilustratii de Quentin Greban
Ilustratii de Quentin Greban

Christmas home made decorations

Christmas is my daughter favourite holiday and this year she made it even more magic. She wrote to Santa and told him that she wants a surprise gift this year. He has to surprise her with a magic and secret gift! Well, I can only hope that Santa has a very big imagination and can also read kids minds, because she didn’t told us either what she wants.

Waiting for him, she begun decorating the house. She painted globes and made felt trees and stars. I helped, of course, as much as she needed me to help.

So that is our work so far. Enjoy!

Our Christmas trees
Our stars
Globes
Painted globes

First snow

Here where we live, today came the first snow. To celebrate Saint Andrew day and the begining of the winter season. I took out all our books about snow and winter. Dear books, that we collected for the last 6 years .

So, until we will decorate the Christmas tree, I decorated my daughter library with these precious ornaments.

Enjoy!

Baby first library: board books for children 0-3 years and more

Baby board books

As a first time parent, all around you is new, happing very fast and overwhelming. You grow as parent at the same pace as your baby grows, but you are the one responsable for him, so the pressure is really big. And you try to go with your instincts, but sometimes it is not enough. Adding the society induced guilt or the feeling you constant have that you are doing it all wrong, it’s not an easy job. The grandmas who did it their way and “look, you are fine!” don’t help much either. Or the others mums who put pressure or begin every unasked advice with “But listen, why don’t you do….?”

So, after a little sobbing, you put yourself together and start looking for solutions. And you read all it interest you and take online courses and watch youtube presentations and reviews and all the “best of the best” tops you can find.

But lots of them are a little too official or too impersonal. The lady presenting the magic diapers doesn’t have a single child. Or the parenting guru with 3 children raised by nannies or grandmas, is she the best to tell you, a fulltime mama, what is the best approch to everything? Maybe yes or maybe not.

When all of this is not helping either, you look for a more tailored solution. A experienced story from someone who actually lived it before you; or a product tried by a person you know or at least had the same journey you had. And if this won’t help, at least you have a someone to point your dissapointment at.

I will begin this series of tailored experiences with the begging: baby first books. I read to my daughter everything, since she was in my womb. They, I researched a lot and start making list and wishlist and top best books of all time. And now, at almost 6yo, she has hundreds of books, from ones of the best authors and illustrators of all times. Some are in English and some in Romanian, our mother tongue language. We still have 90% of them, because she likes to read them from time to time.

All the experts say that at first, a baby sees the world around him in black and white. At first only shadows and contours, then he is able to see the entire object or person in front of him. So, natural and adapted to their development, the first books that we should introduce to them, are in the same chromatic and form: black and white, with clear and simple contours of object, people and animals. And then we can move to sensorial books, with lift the flap options, for the little hands to explore and discover. Books with sound (but attention, not too loud or scary sound, you risk traumatizing your child!). Books with rimes and repetitive words and sounds.

Board books are a great choice because they are sturdy and the child can chew on them without the risk of choking or shallowing paper or cardboard. And the endurance factor is a key one, since they are not so easily to break or bent.

Our selection of board baby books is not the largest one, but it can be a starting point for your baby first library.

I will start with (who else could I start with?) … the one and only Eric Carle!

Eric Carle was born in 1929 in Syracuse, New York, and for the last 45 years has written and illustrated tens of books for young children. He is best known for one’s of his first books, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. It is a beautiful book about nature, transformation, friendship, counting, learning numbers and also fruits and food.

Eric Carle The very hungry caterpillar

The first renewed book he ever illustrated was “Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?” with lyrics by Bill Martin jr.

From his work we also have “The Grounchy Ladybug”, a book that teaches young children about kindness and giving and the power of friendship. Also it teaches them time and different animals.

Eric Carle The Grounchy Ladybug

Another great book that he wrote is called “Dream Snow”. Is about an old man who loves his animals very much. And in the evening before Christmas he prepares a gift for every one of them and goes out and puts ornament in the only tree he has and leaves the presents for the 5 animals under the tree.

Eric Carle The Dream Snow

“Papa, please get the moon for me” is a gentle book about a father’s love for his daughter. Who will do anything for her, even bring her the big old moon. And there are many more other great titles by Eric Carle to choose from for you to read with your baby.

The next remarcable author to choose from as a first reading to your baby it could be David A. Carter. He has a lot of funny pop-up books, “Yellow square” is the most famous. In the same tehnique is the seasons series that contains “Spring”, “Summer”, “Autumn” and “ Winter”. His books are very attractive for the young readers. And are also very interactive, quality that makes them a favourite in any little child library.

B is for Box The Happy Little Yellow Box A Pop -up book by David A. Carter

I will mention then the book by P.D.Eastman “Go, dog, go!”. I had it on the wishlist for so long, that when time came to actually buy it for my daughter, she was a little too big for it. But she can read it all by herself, so it was a win after all. And, at one page we can also see the little bird from “Are you my mother?”, another lovely book by P.D. Eastman that we still read at almost 6 yo.

P.D. Eastman Go, dog, go!

Christie Matheson has another beautiful board books series about action and effect, seasons, nature, the changes in nature as the times passes. Is the “Tap the magic tree” book and the “Touch the brightest star” we have by this author. At every page the child is encouraged to do something ( clap his hands, blow, touch an element) and on the nect page he can see the change, the effect of his action.

Christie Matheson Tap the magic tree

I think that the next author, Maurice Sendak, needs no introduction. Renewed author and prize winner, his book “Where the wild things are” is an all time bestselling book for children. “Chicken soup with rice” is a lovely calendar book in rimes for smaller babies, each month is depicted in simple and yet expressive rimes, that the little readers will love to hear over and over again. And, of course, he will learn that the chicken soup with rice is a must in every month of the year.

Maurice Sendak Chicken soup with rice

Ladybird publishing house has a lot of wonderful titles for children of all ages. We have a Ladybug with Peppa pig, that was one’s of my daughter favorite’s character for years.

At last I want to talk about Usborne publishing. Their collection of books is the most impressive: activity books, baby books, sensorial books, books with sound or wind toys, puzzle books, art books. For ages between 0 to young adult, so you have a very wide range to choose from. Which can be overwhelming, I know, for a first time parent. I bought the first book with sound from Usborne when I was pregnant with my daughter. It had 4 sturdy cardbord pages, each with a different sound from an animal or object ( monkey, duck, car, sheep). My daughter was terrified by all the noise, but loved the images. I took out the batteries and she “read” the book daily for an year or so. But she had a more bigger problem with loud sounds at that age, so I wouldn’t blame Usborne for her being scare of the sounds. Then, at 2-3 yo, she asks us to put the batteries back on so she can listen to the sounds. She also received a very nice sensory book from Usborne, but now, if she were a baby again, I wouldn’t invest much in sensory books. You can offer your baby a lot of sensory stimulation from getting in contact with different materials and textures: wool, felt, fur, wood, grass, moss, beads, rice, flour, etc. Which I totaly recommend, since I saw children age 1-3 with a lot sensory issues.

Here, my daughter is helping me presenting “Night time” a peep-inside book from Usborne.

Night time A peep-inside Usborne book

We also have in our board books collection two books for older kids. One is “The night before Christmas”, by Clement C. Moore and illustration by Roger Duvoisin, the “father” of Petunia, the lovely goose all children loves. The text is a bit too long for a toddler patience, but you can at first show them the picture and talk a little about some of the ideas in the book.

Clement C. Moore and Roger Duvoisin The night before Christmas

The second one is “Leaf Jumpers” by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Leslie Evans. Is a funny book about autumn and all the sorts and shapes of leaves. And the fun the little ones have jumping in leaves piles…

Carole Gerber and Leslie Evans Leaf Jumpers

As a conclusion to a long and comprehensive text: read to your baby anything, anytime, any book. He would love the sound of your voice and the intimacy between you two. For baby books, the board boks are more likely to resist and not to hurm the baby ( cuts in the paper, chewing on it, etc).

You don’t have to invest a lot at first. Buy a small selection at first and see his reaction. You can also buy them preowned, are easily to desinfect since the cardboard is sturdy and not affected if you weap it clean with an antibacterial napkin. When the baby is older and doesn’t show interest in the books, you can give them to other babies ( wich we did) or sell them to buy books for older children.

Enjoy!