Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Trains, Trains, Trains and more Trains

Trains are big business in our house. E pretty much woke up one morning and decided that trains were the center of his universe and there was no going back. I've embraced it for the most part and the result is a bumper selection of train books on his shelf. Here is a round up of four of our favorites (scroll down to see each title):

Trains by Byron Barton
This little board book is the ultimate starter train book and perhaps the very source of E's devotion to the rails.  The drawings are modern, simple and clear and the text is very short and precise.  'On the track' is the opening line and that's all it takes for E to be instantly hooked.  He's been looking at it since he was about 12 months old and still finds it interesting over a year later. Barton highlights a variety of trains doing all the wonderful things that trains do - going in and out of tunnels, stopping at stations, driving at night and ultimately speeding away.

The Little Red Caboose
The is one of my very favorite vintage children's books (first published in 1953). It tells the story of the little red caboose at the back of train who saves the day by keeping the giant steam train from sliding backwards down the mountain. Up until this point the caboose has spent its days unnoticed while the children lavish their attention on all the larger (read more important) cars at the front of the train.  Much like the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the caboose finds itself an instant hero and proves to everyone that it's deserving of their attention despite its size and despite coming last. We spend a lot of time talking about the 'boose' at our house and I still hold out hope that in time we can discuss the moral of the story. 

The Little Engine That Could
This is another classic train book that is a must for your little reader - train lover or not. It again tells the triumphant story of the underdog saving the day. A train full of toys and candy is stranded on the track and trying desperately to reach the anxious children on the other side of the mountain.  Various engines pass by but they're either too important, too busy or too feeble to help.  Finally a little blue engine appears and agrees to give it a try.  She's the most unlikely candidate to pull this big train but by believing in herself and repeating that legendary mantra, 'I think I can, I think I can', she manages the unthinkable and pulls the train safely over the mountain.

Riding the Rails from A to Z
This is a beautiful title from Chronicle Books and I was pleasantly surprised that E choose it. It's an ABC book that uses a combination of bright illustrations and archive photographs to teach the alphabet through train lingo and vocabulary.  A is for all aboard, E is for Engineer, U is for underground and so on. I've found it to be a great book for keeping the train obsession fed and E's interest piqued, while also challenging him to engage with different types of pictures and to learn new words and phrases. It's not a story book but it still manages get him talking and I've learned a few new facts as well.

Please leave me a comment if you have favorite train books to recommend!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Girl Who Loved Wellies by Zehra Hicks

It's been a flip flop and wellies sort of summer for E and me between the American heatwave and the sodden playgrounds of London.  With that in mind there was only ever going to be one book to talk about this week, The Girl Who Loved Wellies by Zehra Hicks (aka the wellie book).

True to the title, this story is about a girl named Molly who loves her wellies.  She loves them so much that she won't take them off for love nor money, and that includes wearing them to bed and to ballet class.  She gets away with it until she has an itch, an itch between her toes that just won't go away.  But there's just one problem - Molly's worn her wellies for so long that they're stuck to her feet! After a herculean effort by friends, family and dog the wellies finally come off and Molly is reunited with her toes.  It's after this 'a ha' moment that she decides she'll only wear flip flops ... even in the snow.

There's so much for kids to engage with in this book.  I've found it to be ideal for the 2-4 year old range.  It will appeal to kids who love wellies, kids who love jumping in puddles, kids who might enjoy being that little bit mischievous and kids with their own ideas.  That pretty much covers every kid I've ever met.

The illustrations give us a second chance to enjoy Hicks' line drawings and fun colours (she's also the author of The Boy Who Hated Toothbrushes). It takes a whole village to get Molly's wellies off her feet and there's a joyful two page spread where everyone pulls together in one long conga line to remove said wellies. E loves this moment and recites the line 'everybody pulled' over and over again.

He also loves the two page spread where Molly greets her toes.  He insists on taking off his socks at this moment and placing his feet over the brightly colored illustration of Molly's bare feet. It's a nightly ritual that we've all come to look forward to.

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about her debut book, The Boy Who Hated Toothbrushes.  If you liked Billy then I have a hunch you'll be fond of Molly too.  Zehra Hicks has a wonderful website http://www.zehrahicks.com/home. The Girl Who Loved Wellies is out now.