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Written by Ruth Krauss
Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

In this marvelous new edition, Maurice Sendak has given Ruth Krauss a gift, a token for her years of support and guidance that began a half-century ago. The poem that makes up the text of this book, all 27 words of it, swings to a new tempo. The rhyming pattern of the words and phrases, “Bears, bears, bears...on the stairs...washing hairs...everywheres,” along with the playful and imaginative crayon illustrations combine to form an irresistible book every young child should own. You might also enjoy seeing a familiar boy in a wolf suit (Max from Where the Wild Things Are) and his dog romping through pages of bears, and children will clamor for you to read this one over and over again.

Potluck of Fun:
In addition to reading the book and re-reading it, pause a bit and see if your toddler can chime in on the rhymes, for example, repeating bears with you or waiting for an occasional rhyme like “chairs” or “hairs”. Also, as your child grows, try counting some of the bears together and explore the illustrations in depth – looking for Max and his dog and following their story within the story. You can even try extending the book by creating your own bear rhymes.

Check to see if your library has a copy of the first edition of Bears, published in 1948. Pick up this edition and read and compare both versions of this classic book, seeing how each edition integrates the pictures and enhances the story in different ways.

Ruth Krauss authored nearly 20 children’s books and is best known for The Carrot Seed (HarperTrophy). Her husband, Crockett Johnson, illustrated this book and is a prolific author himself. He created the protagonist Harold and wrote a series of books, beginning with Harold and the Purple Crayon (HarperCollins). Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson served as mentors to a young Maurice Sendak, giving him guidance and his first big break: illustrating A Hole Is to Dig (HarperCollins). Maurice Sendak went on to illustrate seven more of Ruth Krauss’s books.

Maurice Sendak has written and/or illustrated more than 80 books, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Where the Wild Things Are (HarperTrophy) as well as In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There (HarperCollins), both Caldecott Honor Books. In 1970 Maurice Sendak was the first American to be awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. He received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1983, and in 1996 President Clinton presented Maurice Sendak with a National Medal for the Arts.

Check out the multitude of titles from Maurice Sendak, Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson and find your own (and your children’s) favorites!

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If You’re Happy and You Know It!
Written and illustrated by Jane Cabrera
Holiday House

Come join a monkey, an elephant, a giraffe and more – all illustrated in bold, energetic colors – in singing this upbeat traditional song augmented with some new twists. Repetitive phrasings – “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands...nod your head...spin around” will hold your baby’s attention and invite your toddler to actively participate. There’s no sitting still when reading this book: the words beg you to act out each verse – stamping your feet, flapping your arms, jumping around and even roaring out loud. This interactive picture book will mesmerize even noisy little ones and will make this story-song a joyful part of your life.

Potluck of Fun:
Let yourself go and really get into reading (or singing) this book dynamically! Do the motions for your infant or guide your toddler to act them out herself. Even try adding your own new twists to the traditional song: “If you’re happy and you know it...,” wiggle your toes...swing your arms...bend your knees. You can also follow the book in a different way: look at each of the animals with your child and try imitating the sounds and actions typically associated with them.

Jane Cabrera’s artistic style in this book is child-like and full of life. For an art activity that little ones love, try making prints of your children’s hands and feet. Use paints that are non-toxic, washable and available in bright colors your child likes. Use a sponge paintbrush (you can typically find these for under a dollar at your local hardware or craft store) to spread some of the paint onto your child's foot or hand. Have the child step onto or press his hand onto a piece of paper, a paper plate or other surface. If doing a footprint, help your child roll his foot inward so his instep makes a mark. If you and your child want to, you can accent the print with some glitter while the paint is still wet. You can do multiple prints to share with family and friends. Always include your child’s name, age and the date of the print. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can do this activity with fabric paints to decorate hand towels, tote bags, t-shirts and more. Handprint and footprint crafts are a unique way to record of your child's growth and they make great gifts. For footprints, you could write in the line, “Thank you for helping me put my best foot forward!” For handprints, here is a sweet little poem you could include.

My Handprint
Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am so small
And always leave my fingerprints
On furniture and walls
But everyday I'm growing –
I’ll be grown someday
And all those tiny handprints
Will surely fade away
So here's a special handprint
Just so you can recall
Exactly how my fingers looked
When I was very small
                 – author unknown

Jane Cabrera tackles more familiar rhymes in her unique, spirited way in Over in the Meadow and Old Mother Hubbard (Holiday House). Check out these and more of her numerous books.


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A Mother for Choco
Written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza

When a little yellow and blue bird with chubby cheeks sets out to find a mother who looks just like him, we’re all in for a delightful surprise. Choco flits from creature to creature, identifying a common trait and wondering if maybe, just maybe, this one could be his mother. After several failed attempts, Choco finally encounters Mrs. Bear. He doesn’t even bother to ask her the fateful question, knowing she can’t possibly be his mother. But Mrs. Bear understands that being family has nothing to do with looking alike and she just might be able to convince Choco of this, too.

Potluck of Fun:
This book is perhaps the best-known children’s book dealing with adoption or foster care. Part of its strength is the subtlety of its telling and the normalcy afforded to this family of bears, birds and other animals. And while it is considered essential for adoptive and foster families, it is also a wonderful, tolerance-building book to share with any child.

Use this book as a springboard to talk about different types of families. As your children enter preschool and beyond, they will likely meet other kids who are adopted, in foster care, being raised by a grandmother or an uncle and so on. If your children already have positive associations and comfort with different family constellations, that will be of great benefit to them and to the other children. For other titles on the subject of adoption and foster care, see More Show 13 Related Books below.

Many people think adoption is a purely human phenomenon, but even in nature, animals have been known to “adopt” the young of other animals, sometimes crossing species lines. Go to and enter the phrase “Stoughton Pit Bull” in the Search News box. Then click on the headline Stoughton Pit Bull Becomes Mother to Kittens to read about this story and watch the original news video.

A similar but more elaborate story can be found at by typing the phrase“Owen and Mzee” in the Search box. For a child-friendly article, click on Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend in the search results. You and your child can read about how this unlikely pairing began and follow the link to Lafarge Eco Systems Web site to read the caretaker’s diary and find out about a nonfiction children’s book all about this relationship: Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship (Scholastic) by Craig Hatkoff. A more fictional account of this story is told in Mama by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt).

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Blueberries for the Queen
Written by John and Katherine Paterson
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

The Second World War is in full swing, and William Arnold is living with his family in a western Massachusetts town. Everyone – even William’s older brother – is working for the “war effort.” William wants to help, but he’s too little, so he finds some consolation in his dreams of being a knight, heroically fighting battle after battle. When Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands is forced to leave her country and rents an estate just down the road, William decides to visit her with a gift of fresh-picked blueberries. His brother laughs at him, saying he’ll never get past the guard at the gate, but when William arrives at the estate, he is whisked away to the queen to personally deliver his gift. She is gracious and grateful, making William feel important for doing “peace work” in this time of war. That night, he dreams he is a mighty knight whose brave acts finally end the war. The Queen congratulates him and asks for his help in continuing the vital work of peace.

Potluck of Fun:
Based on real events that happened to John Paterson in his youth, this story is both heartwarming and encouraging. It also becomes a visual feast in the hands of Caldecott Honor artist Susan Jeffers as she juxtaposes actual scenes with William’s imagined accounts. Be sure to share with your children the Historical Note at the close of the book so they know the basics of the real story and understand how a true story can inspire writing.

John and Katherine Paterson have co-written two other books together: Consider the Lilies and Images of God (Clarion Books). Both of these books are for readers ages 10 and up and have a religious focus, which is understandable considering John is a retired Presbyterian minister and both he and Katherine studied theology.

Katherine Paterson is an award-winning author of children’s picture books and young adult novels. Her numerous honors include two Newbery Medals (for Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia), seven ALA Notable Children’s Books and six School Library Journal Best Books. She was also awarded the prestigious international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for her body of work. You can read more about Katherine Paterson, her books and awards at

This book is perfect for planting the seeds of peace. In William’s final dream in the story, Queen Wilhelmina says to him, “... there is still a lot of peace work to be done. Can we count on you?” Today, we certainly have “a lot of peace work” to do. Can we be counted on? Can our children? With so many conflicts around the world, the goal of peace can seem overwhelming, but it truly begins with kindness between neighbors. So make the time with your children to do something special for your neighbors, especially for the elderly or for new parents. Bake some cookies or muffins to share. Encourage your children to volunteer to do yard work or make a card for a neighbor. These small acts of kindness promote good will, solidify friendships and set your children on a path of peace and compassion.

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Animal Faces
Written by Kyoko Toda
Photographs by Akira Satoh

There are 24 species of animals featured in this book – from polar bears to giraffes, kangaroos to monkeys. Each type of animal is introduced with a few facts and observations followed by 21 small photos. At first glance, all of the animals look alike, but as you look more carefully you’ll find each photo is actually a distinct animal with a unique personality. Is it the shape, the color, the markings or a unique expression that creates the differences?

Potluck of Fun:
Young children begin to observe details as they start to master the alphabet. They hear the sounds and learn the letters in their name. But it takes a keen eye and practice to distinguish between a “b” and a “d.” Exploring this book in detail can help to bolster and reinforce your child’s growing observational skills.

When reading this book with your child, take time for questions and conversation. Naming the different kinds of animals is fun, but longer study brings out the details and helps children to notice tiny differences. As the author and photographer advise, “It is up to you to look at seemingly identical faces and then to discover how they all differ from each other. This is the same as looking at a group of people who at first may look alike, but upon closer observation look very different...” What an important lesson for all of us!

For a straightforward picture book that explores the concept of things being different and the same all at once, check out Two Eggs, Please by Sarah Weeks (Atheneum). Reading this book can lead to more discussion about similarities and differences. Ask your child questions like, how are our dog and cat the same? How are they different? How are our two cats the same? How are they different? And so on. You can apply this type of questioning to just about anything from utensils to art to people, and everything in between.


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The Family Book
Written and illustrated by Todd Parr
Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Todd Parr’s child-like and comical illustrations in vivid, striking colors will immediately draw your attention. Once attracted, you will find a book that addresses what can be difficult subject matter in a straightforward, accessible and age-appropriate way. This book shows us a myriad of family constellations, traits, habits and living arrangements without judgment or bias. “Some families like to be clean. Some families like to be messy. Some families live in a house by themselves. Some families share a house with other families. All families can help each other be strong!” The basic underlying premise is, “There are lots of different ways to be a family. Your family is special no matter what kind it is.” This beautiful and timeless message of tolerance and pride should be shared with all children!

Potluck of Fun:
You and your child can find out more about Todd Parr at, including Todd’s Personal Site, Books and Fun (free online Activity Kit and Teacher’s Guides). In addition to his books, Todd created an animated children’s TV series: ToddWorld, which can be seen on TLC and Discovery Kids.

Talk with your children about the fact that every family is unique and deserves to be respected. Share your ideas about respect and courtesy in general. Reinforce these concepts with words – terms that indicate respect and courtesy like Please, Thank You, You’re Welcome, You’re Kind, That Was Thoughtful of You and You’re a Good Person. You and your children can make refrigerator magnets of such phrases by typing them up, printing them out and attaching them to magnetic tape, which you can typically find at craft, art supply or hobby stores. Put these magnets up on your refrigerator and talk about them in spare moments around the kitchen, noting how many times your children use the phrases and praising them for it. Talk about whom and what the phrases could refer to in the course of their day. Another idea is to create a respect and courtesy journal in which you regularly write down relevant incidents that reflect these ideals.

At the Adoption Clubhouse Web site (, a program of the National Adoption Center, you and your child will find plenty of information and activities that reinforce the beauty of adoption and help children feel a sense of belonging to a community. Check out Famous People for lists of celebrities, athletes and others who are adopted or are adoptive parents. In the Speak Out section, you can see and read other kids’ adoption-related artwork and stories, and your children can submit their own creations. In Adoption Talk, you’ll find information about adoption language, handling awkward questions and a moderated Message Board. Fun Stuff provides Puzzles, E-Cards and more.

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The Pea Blossom
Retold and illustrated by Amy Lowry Poole
Holiday House

Five peas grow in a pod, and four of them begin to dream of their future – flying to the sun, going to the moon or dining with the emperor. The fifth little pea is content to wait, saying, “I shall go wherever it is that I am meant to.” Suddenly one day, a boy grabs the pod, opens it and launches one pea after another from his peashooter. Some of the peas get closer to their dreams than others, while the fifth pea lands on a windowsill outside the room of a sick girl. All winter long the fifth pea sleeps under a cover of moss and leaves. When spring finally comes, what will happen to the little pea? And what will become of the sick girl?

This gentle story of fate, patience and love is complimented by exquisitely delicate paintings on rice paper. Amy Lowry Poole retells this Hans Christian Anderson tale originally published in Danish in 1853 and sets the story in Beijing, China. The Author’s Note at the end of the book explains why she felt inspired to adapt this tale and set it in China.

Potluck of Fun:
After you read this book with your child, go ahead and share the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Amy Lowry Poole relates information about Hans Christian Andersen, her personal connection to this tale and the story’s connections to Chinese mythology and symbolism.

Amy Lowry Poole has retold and illustrated two other tales for this age group. She transports an Aesop’s Fable to the summer palace of the Chinese Emperor in The Ant and the Grasshopper (Holiday House) and delves into western Chinese mythology with her version of How the Rooster Got His Crown (Holiday House).

Extend the story of The Pea Blossom by picking up some pea pods and shelling them with your kids. Before you shell the pods, have your children guess how many peas you will find inside. You could then create your own stories for each pea with your children. You can also have fun cooking up the pea pods together. You can find recipes by visiting or and searching for the phrase “pea pods.”

For more cooking fun, check out Spatulatta Cooking 4 Kids Online at You can watch a wide variety of video demonstrations in categories like Basic Skills, Recipe Box and Artist in the Kitchen. The best thing about this site is that the demonstrations are done by kids themselves, with adult supervision and guidance of course. The site was honored as the 2006 James Beard Foundation Winner in the Webcast Category. You can find out more about this award by clicking on the icon on the Spatulatta home page. You can also listen to an interview with two of the site’s featured kid chefs at Enter the phrase “James Beard Award” in the Search box, scroll through the results and click on Pre-Teens Win James Beard Award.


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The Shakespeare Stealer
Written by Gary Blackwood
Puffin Books

What an adventure! In this fast-moving novel of historical fiction, Widge is a poor 14-year-old orphan who’s been taught a cryptic system of shorthand by his master. A secretive traveler employs Widge’s services to effectively steal a copy of Hamlet for a competing theater company. Since no actual copies exist, the only way Widge can steal the play is by transcribing it. To achieve his mission, Widge gets a job at the Globe Theatre where he finds the troupe friendly and kind. He realizes that he doesn’t really know how to be a friend, though for the first time, he feels accepted. Widge is caught in a troubling dilemma, struggling with issues of ethics and morality he has never faced before. Should he go ahead with the plan to steal the play or should he abandon it and stay with this extended family of players? This novel provides countless twists and turns along with many details about the life and times of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period. A real page-turner, your child won’t be able to put it down!

Potluck of Fun:
Use this book to introduce your child to Shakespeare. It is less intimidating than diving straight into the actual texts of Shakespeare’s plays, but it still provides accurate historical information about the times, the theater and actors set in a fictional tale of intrigue, suspense and mystery. And it just might spark an interest in all things Shakespearean!

If your child enjoys this book, pick up the other books in this series by Gary Blackwood: Shakespeare’s Spy and Shakespeare’s Scribe (Puffin Books). These books have received a number of awards and honors, including an ALA Notable Book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

You and your child can explore a wealth of information about Shakespeare at the online Encyclopedia Britannica’s Guide to Shakespeare ( Learn about The Bard, The Plays, Elizabethan World, Elizabethan Theatre and more.

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Tales from Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer
Illustrated by Gail DeMarcken, Leo and Diane Dillon, Mary Grandpré,
P.J. Lynch, Barbara McClintock, Chelsey McLaren, Barry Moser,
Jon J. Muth, Kadir Nelson, David Shannon and Mark Teague

This special collection will spark your imagination and your child’s with retellings of 10 of Shakespeare’s most popular works, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and As You Like It. Illustrated by 12 different award-winning artists, these classic stories can fill family time with delightful read-aloud experiences. Acquaint your children with stories from Shakespeare and enjoy these moments together. An added treat is the elegant introduction to Shakespeare and his times at the beginning of the book, and each abridged play is preceded by a list of the main characters and the time and place in which the play is set.

Potluck of Fun:
Tina Packer is president and artistic director of the Shakespeare & Company, an award-winning theater and theater education group based in Lenox, Massachusetts. You can read more about this group at While most of the company’s productions take place in Lenox, they do take shows on the road throughout the Northeast: Check out Touring Productions of Shakespeare in the Education section of the site. Also in the Education section, you can find out about the company’s Youth Programs, Teacher Resources (including other book recommendations and Web sites) and Teacher Programs.

Nothing brings Shakespeare to life quite like actual performances of his works. If your child enjoys this book, look for performances in your area. Many schools, community theater groups and professional theater companies perform the plays of Shakespeare.

Ask your child which of the play retellings she really enjoyed and suggest that you delve into the actual plays together. At your library, you will find editions that include both the original text and a side-by-side modern translation. These books can be incredibly helpful in understanding the language of Shakespeare. As you read the plays together (which you can do in stages, not all at once), try acting them out with family members and friends taking on different roles. You could even select favorite passages to memorize and perform for each other. There is no end to the enjoyment you can share!

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Shakespeare: His Work and His World
Written by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Candlewick Press

Robert Ingpen, the Hans Christian Andersen international award recipient for his body of work in illustration, has joined Michael Rosen in giving us a treasure of a book. This glimpse into the life of Shakespeare and his times, his theater and his works, comes alive with magnificent illustrations and direct quotes from the plays. Enclosed is a fabulous timeline of his life, a well-documented bibliography and a very useful index. The book contains just enough information for this age group to make it enjoyable, but it is the exquisite design and magnificent illustrations that add to this enjoyment. This special book should be visited often and dipped into at various times. It is the perfect book for your home library.

Potluck of Fun:
Try this approach as you and your children share this book: tackle each section individually and use it as a springboard for more discussion, reading and research. As you do this, try to key into the information that seems to excite and interest your child most. Take cues from your children and from the text itself, which includes introspective questions that can prompt stimulating discussions. Here are a few examples of what you can do.

For the Extraordinary and Dangerous Times section, you can pick out different historical figures and events and read more about them by going to the library and searching for information online. Who was Mary, Queen of Scots? What role did religion play in Elizabethan times? Who were the explorers and discoverers of the times?

In the Shakespeare at Work and The Drama of Shakespeare sections, there are plot summaries for five of Shakespeare’s plays, each including quotations from the works. Read these summaries together and ask your child which ones intrigue them the most. Then go ahead and get the play texts and begin sharing them together. Identify and reread your favorite soliloquies, scenes and lines. Talk about why you enjoy these specific parts. Suggest that your child make a homemade book of his favorite scenes, quotations and/or expressions – typing up the actual text and writing in his own words why he selected them.

Use the detailed historical and Shakespearean Timeline to inspire your child to create her own timeline that highlights the plays she likes best. You can then research together the history of the times and settings of your child’s favorite works, including the importance of the storytelling and the arts, and incorporate this information.

Do take full advantage of the Bibliography to identify more Shakespeare-related books you and your child can enjoy together. And don’t forget about the illustrations. They are simply magnificent and contain countless details you can explore and discuss, including the artistic style itself, the colors, the layout and more.


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Kids Discover: Shakespeare
Edited by Stella Sands
Kids Discover

Kids Discover is an award-winning, advertisement-free, full-color magazine designed to quench children’s innate curiosity. Aimed at children in grades three through seven, this monthly magazine tackles countless topics – everything from Bones to Space Exploration, Ellis Island to the Underground Railroad. In the Shakespeare issue, you and your child can delve into articles about The Bard of Avon; Words, Words, Words and Elizabethan England – all complemented by engaging illustrations and photographs. You’ll also find activities like Dessert Fit for a Queen and Shakespeare Animal Search. For anyone who may feel intimidated by Shakespeare, this magazine shows just how delightful and exciting he can be!

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Read to Me 2000: Raising Kids Who Love to Read
Written by Bernice E. Cullinan

Bernice E. Cullinan is a highly-respected expert in reading and children’s literature and she pours her years of experience as a reading specialist and professor of early childhood and elementary education into the pages of this book. With chapter headings like Raising Readers, Why Reading to Your Child Matters,and Reading on the Run, along with chapters that focus on specific age groups (from infants to 12-year-olds), this is an in-depth, comprehensive book of guidance and advice that is a “must-read” for all parents.


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