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Helen Oxenbury’s Little Baby Books Boxed Set
Written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Candlewick Press


This series of four books comes as a miniature boxed set intended for children ages 10 months to 2 years. The books are sized ideally for tiny hands to hold. They are a lovely introduction to all of the things that babies can do as they explore their world. Each page has a single word with a bold illustration representing the word. These little books are also published individually as regular-sized board books.

I Touch
A baby strokes a beard, pats a cat and snuggles with a blanket. Illustrations demonstrate how a child interacts with a variety of objects through touch.


I Hear
A baby listens to a bird sing, a dog bark and a watch tick, introducing children to the sense of hearing and a range of different sounds.


I See
A baby watches a frog leap and gazes at the moon. This book shows how some objects can be played with, while others can only be admired from afar.


I Can
A baby originates his own world of wonder as he crawls, dances and stretches. With a single verb on each page, the associated illustration shows a baby performing the action, introducing children to dexterity and movement.


Potluck of Fun:
Generally, board books contain very few pages and are made of hard cardboard, so they are easier for little hands to turn and will stand up to plenty of wear and tear, including gnawing and chewing. Small-sized board books can be tucked easily into a car seat or baby bag to take along for reading while in the car, while waiting for appointments or on a plane trip.


Helen Oxenbury has many other titles for very young children, including Big Baby Book (Candlewick Press), Clap Hands and Tickle, Tickle (Little Simon), which are all available in the board book format.


For a list of suggested board books, check out Picks for Young Children – Board Books at The site also mentions that babies up to 3 months old see black and white images best, and that some board books are actually made of cloth and others of vinyl for bathtub use. Some have puzzle pieces, while others are built for teething.


To find out more about what types of books infants to five-year-olds find appealing, as well as some quick tips on reading aloud, visit the Reach Out and Read Web site ( Under About Us, click on Literacy Resources to find the link for Tips on Reading and Choosing Books. You can then view or download one-page sheets on Reading Tips and What Children Like in Books.

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Written and illustrated by Denise Fleming
Henry Holt

A hungry mouse nibbles and munches his way through this book, enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables and revealing each of the different foods and their distinct colors. The text is rich with adjectives describing different tastes and textures. Denise Fleming’s unique and vibrant pulp painting technique creates a visual feast for the eyes. Every right-hand page provides hints about the next food the mouse will devour, perfectly setting up a guessing or prediction game that can be played as you and your children read along.

Potluck of Fun:
In the Small, Small Pond (Henry Holt), another Denise Fleming picture book for this age group, was named a Caldecott Honor Book. Her book In the Tall, Tall Grass (Henry Holt) was named a Boston Globe – Horn Book Award Honor Book.

At, you can read about this author/illustrator in the Interview and About Me sections, as well as learn more about her Books with quotes from reviews as well as award, format and availability information. You can also find out about Appearances by Denise Fleming, her Papermaking and “pulp painting,” Sneak Peeks at future books and more.

Have your child try to identify foods by taste and/or smell. Cover pieces of food with aluminum foil or paper towels and have your child close her eyes while tasting or smelling. This can be fun and exciting and, depending on the guesses, also quite amusing.

For valuable information and tips on healthy eating, including Family Cooking Recipes and Snack Smart choices, go to, click on the Parents link and check out Family Eating, Healthy Kitchen and other sections of this site. You can also find child-friendly recipes, food and nutrition-related games and links to other fun nutrition resources by clicking on the Rocket to Our Kids Site! graphic on the Nutrition Explorations home page.


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The Moon in My Room
Written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A young boy revels in his own private sun, moon and stars, along with a garden and many friends, all in his little room. In his imagination, his room contains a whole world, but his most precious friend is missing. Where is Prince Bear? The little boy’s world cannot be complete until he finds his friend. Will he find Prince Bear? And how can he show his love if he does?

Potluck of Fun:
The major theme of this book is generating play through imagination. While this little boy uses his toys to create his own fantasy world, different inspiration is found in the books: A Quiet Place by Douglas Wood (Simon & Schuster) and What Shall We Play? by Sue Heap, (Candlewick Press). Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station (Fireside) employs drawing as a tool for using and exploring one’s imagination. Idea Games stimulate creativity, and the book includes a guide for parents.

Under Hot Topics in the Parent Center section of, you will find valuable and informative articles about imagination and childhood by clicking on the link for Imagination: At Risk?.

At the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Web site, you and your children will find numerous interactive games and activities in addition to terrific information for you. Go to, hover your mouse over an arrow to spin the program wheel and click on the photograph of Fred Rogers. The Parents & Teachers section provides a guide to wonderful ideas for imagination-fueled activities, as well as advice on how to handle challenging issues that children face. Read the About this Web Site section to help you navigate the site overall and to link directly to the Activity Guide. By visiting the Mister Rogers’ House and Neighborhood of Make-Believe sections (links on the home page), you and your kids can click on interactive picture elements that lead to such features as Show and Tell projects and online stories. The Song List provides lyrics and links to listen to and download sheet music for songs from the show.

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Market Day: A Story Told with Folk Art
Written and designed by Lois Ehlert

With excitement and anticipation, a farming family packs up the vegetables and goods they hope to sell at the open-air market. The rhyming text describes the family’s trip to the market, what they see along the way and what they encounter once they arrive. All of the images are created from handmade folk art objects and textiles. A two-page reference guide at the back of the book reveals what each object is made of as well as its cultural origin. The artwork is intriguing, stunning and colorful, enchanting readers’ and demanding further examination.

Potluck of Fun:
The reference guide provides a great springboard for hands-on activities. One idea for a craft activity is to make vegetables out of papier-mâché and paint them like the ones in the guide.

An open-air market is generally defined as a public marketplace where food and merchandise is sold. Extend the book by taking your children to a local open-air market (sometimes called a public market, farmers’ market or street market). Observe and discuss how it operates. Delight in the myriad of smells, sights and sounds you encounter. Look for crafts that may resemble those in the reference guide at the back of the book. Find vegetables mentioned in the story and other food items that you don’t typically cook at home. Consider asking a vendor for recommended recipes using persimmons, mustard greens, guava, banana leaves or yuca root, just to name a few. Then make the cooking of these new and exciting ingredients a family project.

To see more works of folk art that might inspire activity and field trip or outing ideas, check out the Folk Art & Craft Exchange Web site at This site organizes folk art by Classification (clay, masks, textiles) and geographical and cultural Source (Africa, Europe, Mexico) and provides photographs and related links. You can also visit the Collections section of the Museum of International Folk Art Web site ( for photographs and descriptions of folk art from around the world.

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¡Pío Peep! Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes
Selected by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy
English adaptations by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Vivi Escrivá


Here are nearly 30 bilingual rhymes that have been passed down for generations to celebrate childhood and the rich oral traditions of Latin America and the American Southwest. One page contains the text in Spanish, while the facing page has a poetic re-creation (not a translation) in English. Oral folklore can serve as a child’s first encounter with literature, and these rhymes contain fragments of medieval ballads, old harvest songs, lullabies and fingerplays. The watercolor and colored pencil illustrations feature brilliant hues and lovely details that will fascinate and captivate your child.


Potluck of Fun:
As you read aloud the nursery rhymes in this book – whether in English, Spanish or both – try creating and engaging your child in fingerplays that express the rhymes.


Alma Flor Ada is the director of the Center for Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults and a professor of multicultural education at the University of San Francisco. She is a prolific internationally-published children’s book author who has received several prestigious honors. Read about Alma Flor Ada, her books and more at


Alice Schertle is has written more than 40 children’s books. Check your local library for her poetry books for children in this age group, such as Keepers (HarperColllins) and How Now, Brown Cow? (Voyager) as well as her bedtime poem picture book When the Moon Is High (HarperColllins).


Another wonderful book of Hispanic and Latino nursery rhymes is Grandmother’s Nursery Rhymes/Las Nanas de Abuelita by Nelly Palacio Jaramillo (Henry Holt). These lullabies, tongue twisters and riddles from South America take advantage of wordplay in both Spanish and English, making it perfect for bilingual families.


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Cooper’s Lesson
Written by Sun Yung Shin
Illustrated by Kim Cogan
Children’s Book Press

This book explores the issues of cultural identity and language. How does a person figure out where he fits in when he is biracial or bicultural? Does he have to learn both languages? And what does it mean to be biracial, bicultural and bilingual? These and other contemporary matters are gently approached in this story (told both in English and Korean) as Cooper grows to appreciate his multicultural heritage by spending time in Mr. Lee’s grocery store. Ultimately, Cooper learns that who we are is never simple, no matter what race we are or what language we speak.

Potluck of Fun:
Additional titles about multiracial Asian American families for this age group include: How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman (Houghton Mifflin), Two Mrs. Gibsons by Toyomi Igus (Children’s Book Press) and My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

Learning more about family history can be an exciting and enjoyable venture for adults and children to share. Go to and search for the phrase “family history.” This will return a few pages of related links. Check out Activities: Celebrate Your Family History for six related activities from Recording Family Stories to A Family Tree Mobile to A Family Cookbook. You’ll also find Genealogy Resources, including books for adults and kids and Web site links. Also from your initial search results, look for Family History Map and click on that link to bring history to life with a project tracing your family’s migration to the United States.

If you plan to do family history or genealogy projects with groups of children either in your home or classroom, it’s important to remember that many children live in nontraditional family settings (foster care, adoption, single-parent household, etc.). These children often have family stories that don’t conform to typical family history projects, or they may not have access to the people and/or information that is usually required. Still, the projects themselves can teach and reinforce valuable skills, like research and organization. Before presenting an activity to a group or class, know your audience and your options. You can find some solid advice for handling projects involving nontraditional families on the Web. At, enter the phrase “family trees” in the Teachnet Search box and click on resulting link for Family Trees Lesson Plan. Also, go to, click on Search in the main menu bar. In the Site Search area, enter the phrase “Family History in the Classroom” and click on the resulting link of the same name.

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Written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora

Max is an avid and talented baseball player. He’s a triple threat on the
diamond – adept at hitting, running and fielding. Every week he walks his sister to ballet class on the way to his baseball games. One day Max and his sister arrive at the dance studio too early for Max to head off to his game, so the ballet teacher asks Max if he’d like to join the class. He decides to give it a whirl and finds it challenging, but ultimately fun. Much to his surprise, Max soon discovers that ballet isn’t just for girls and, in fact, it’s great preparation for baseball!

Potluck of Fun:
Rachel Isadora began dancing at eight years of age, studied at the School of American Ballet in New York and danced professionally with the Boston Ballet Company until a foot injury brought her career to an early halt. She has been writing and illustrating children’s books since 1976. Many of her books deal with theatre and dance, including Ben’s Trumpet (HarperTrophy), which was named a Caldecott Honor Book. Read more about her and her writing/
illustrating process at Enter the Kids area, click on Authors & Illustrators and then on See All Authors. Select her name from the alphabetical list.

For other stories about characters who stand up against gender stereotypes, pick up: for children ages 0-3, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (Grosset & Dunlap) and for children ages 4-8, Oliver Button Is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola (Voyager) and Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt by Lisa Campbell Ernst (HarperTrophy).

Is there a science to successful hitting in baseball? Actually, there are several scientific factors that effect hitting. Learn more at the Web site of the San Francisco Exploratorium ( Click on Explore, select Sport Science and then Science of Baseball. How Far Can You Hit One? explains how wind, atmospheric density and viscosity and more impact hitting. And see what make a home run when you click on Scientific Slugger.

To read about the importance of warm-ups and other exercise-related tips, check out the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
at and search for the phrase “Exercise: The Key to the
Good Life

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Not Just Tutus
Written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora

This book is comprised of two sections of short and humorous poems about ballet. Selections in Dreams and Practice describe children hard at work perfecting their dance steps and facing the challenges of learning routines and dealing with aching feet and sore backs. The poems in Makeup and Lights unveil the backstage preparations for performances and all of the things that can go wrong, like costume problems and stage fright. With a message about perseverance, this book attests to the fact that most dancers feel that the magic and joy of performance is worth all of the hard work it takes to get there.

Potluck of Fun:
For a book that relates stories upon which some well-known ballets are based in the language of dance itself, read Dance Me a Story: Twelve Tales from the Classic Ballets by Jane Rosenberg (Thames & Hudson). And if a ballet spoof sounds appealing, try Swine Lake by James Marshall (HarperCollins).

Visit the Web site of the San Francisco Ballet ( and select First Time at the Ballet under the Performances & Tickets menu for links to a Brief History, Terms & Positions and Common Questions.

At select For Researchers. This leads you to the Ballet Notes section of the site, which provides in-depth information on specific ballets, including history, choreographers and composers. Familiar titles, like Beauty and the Beast, Dracula or Heidi, might entice children and will lead them not just to information about how these stories became ballets and the related music, but also the history of the stories themselves.

And don’t be afraid to crank up the music with your children and dance just for fun in the comfort (and privacy) of your own home!


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Written by Jane Wagner
Illustrated by Gordon Parks Jr.

J.T. Gamble, a 10-year-old boy, is headed for a lot of trouble – lying, stealing and cutting school. When he meets an injured, one-eyed alley cat, J.T. begins to change and realizes he’d rather care for the cat than listen to a stolen transistor radio. Sadly, the neighborhood bullies cause the cat’s accidental death, but the local grocery store owner’s gift of a kitten helps J.T. to understand the power of giving and of healing. While his choices are not always good, J.T. starts to see how he can improve his decision making and appreciate the kindness of others in his life.

Potluck of Fun:
There are many wonderful books for this age group that address how powerfully animals can impact our lives. Cynthia Rylant’s book, Every Living Thing (Aladdin) contains 12 short stories that reveal how people’s lives are changed by their interactions with animals. In It’s Like this, Cat (HarperTrophy), Emily Cheney Neville shows how rescuing a stray tomcat brings new adventures and new friends into the life of a teenaged boy. Also, Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick Press), by Kate DiCamillo, tells the story of a 10-year-old girl named Opal and her newly-adopted dog, Winn-Dixie. This lovely tale shows how a pet can give its owner courage, strength and even humor.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Web site ( offers advice on choosing and caring for pets, as well as dealing with the death of a pet. In the left-hand side menu, click on Facts for Families. Then search for the keyword “pets.” Read the articles titled Pets and Children and When a Pet Dies.

For articles and links to information on what pet ownership does for children, go to and search for the phrase “pets teach.” Click on the link for A Living Education: Five Things Pets Teach Children (close/ignore the registration pop-up window).

While most people readily understand that children can learn such important life lessons as responsibility, ... from having a pet dog, would you believe that dogs can help kids learn to read? Well, it’s true! Click on R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) at to find out more. You can also read an article and see video about this program on CBS’s The Early Show if you go to and enter the phrase “teaching aide” in the Search Stories box. Click on the resulting link, Unlikely Reading Teaching Aide: Dogs.

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Esperanza Rising
Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Illustrated by Joe Cepeda

Set during the Great Depression, this story touches upon issues of life and death, a woman’s worth and rights and economic and class struggles. Esperanza Ortega and her parents possess all the riches anyone could wish for, but the death of her father forces Esperanza and her mother to leave behind their fancy dresses, servants and beautiful home in Mexico. With no money and in order to survive, they emigrate to America and go to work at a migrant farm camp in Southern California. Esperanza and Mama must face the challenges of strenuous work, acceptance within their ethnic community and serious financial struggles. In Spanish, Esperanza means hope, and that is exactly what the characters hold on to in overcoming the hardships they encounter.

Potluck of Fun:
For three language arts activities related to this book, go to Gail Desler’s Homepage at Enter the site and click on Esparanza Rising. The activities are part of a larger lesson plan, which includes links to other Web sites about the History of Mexico, The Great Depression and Migrant Labor.

For more books about migrant farming struggles and successes, check your library for The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child (University of New Mexico Press) and the sequel Breaking Through (Houghton Mifflin) by Francisco Jimenez, Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories (Little, Brown) by S. Beth Atkin and Cesar Chavez: A Hero for Everyone (Aladdin Paperbacks) by Gary Soto.

You’ll find more suggestions for children’s books about migrant farming, labor movement leaders, child labor and other related topics at Click on Holidays and scroll through the resulting page to find Labor Day Books. Most of these titles are intended for readers ages seven and up, with a few selections for younger children.

For parents of Latino or Hispanic children from infancy to age 12, Raising Nuestros Ninos: Bring Up Latino Children in a Bicultural World (Fireside Books) by Gloria Rodriguez can be a terrific resource for helping children achieve success in a fast-moving and often homogeneous world while maintaining familial and cultural heritage. It features Spanish songs, rhymes, recipes and celebrations.


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Gifted Hands
Written by Ben Carson, M.D. with Cecil Murphey

This autobiography shows just how important a role parents can play in helping children reach their full potential. Imagine what it must take for a mother with only a third grade education to raise a son who grows up to attend Yale and John Hopkins University, ultimately becoming one of the leading pediatric neurosurgeons in the world. In this book, Dr. Ben Carson tells how his mother did just that. A single mom, Sonya Carson recognized the need to inspire her son who was struggling in school and had little motivation to improve. By restricting his exposure to television and setting goals for reading and writing, Sonya put her son on a path to lifetime success. Dr. Carson also describes how he overcame peer pressure, prejudice and school and hospital politics. This is a truly inspirational story for all parents!

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100 Best Books for Children
Written by Anita Silvey
Houghton Mifflin

Many of the books we hear and read as children stay with us throughout our lives – these are timeless tales that are rich in content, presentation and diversity. In this compelling guide for parents and educators, you’ll learn more about what makes certain children’s books stand out from the rest. Keeping the age range and plot of each book in mind, Anita Silvey relates the story behind the story of her selections, utilizing knowledge and expertise gleaned from 35 years in children’s book publishing. She highlights books that meet special needs and interests, as well as classics selected by age from infancy to near teens. This book is not only informative, but also enjoyable to read.


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Carol Schneider-Sereda reads to her dance students the stories upon which ballets are based, such as:


As told by Margot Fonteyn
Paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Gulliver Books

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ESL/ELL parents in the Intergenerational Literacy Project read from the following picture books:



Time to Sleep
Written and illustrated by Denise Fleming
Henry Holt & Co.

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Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow

Clarion Books





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Follow the Polar Bears
Written by Sonia Black
Illustrated by Turi MacCombie

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Dr. Barbara Krol-Sinclair recommends sharing bilingual books, like the English-Russian book:


Here Comes the Cat
Written and illustrated by Frank Asch and Vladimir Vagin


© 2006 Words That Cook   All rights reserved  Box 411, Natick, MA  01760  USA

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