Butterfly Butterfly

June 15, 2012

We found Butterfly Butterfly at our local library last month and Astrid loved it. It’s your classic love story – girl plays with butterfly, loses butterfly, finds a bunch of other bugs, car chase, locates butterfly, happy ending. OK, not the car chase, but the rest of it is true.

There’s no particular moral of the story, except that the backyard is cool, which is fine with me: Astrid is two, so complicated stories aren’t a big draw. Colorful pictures are though, as is some limited pop-up action, both of which Butterfly Butterfly has. The illustrations are truly gorgeous and there are little tiny things for her to find in the pictures and remember for next time. Perfect for 1-2 year olds and butterfly/bug fans.

Butterfly Butterfly, $13 at Amazon

Lift the Flap Books

March 8, 2012

Why am I a big pop-up book fan? Because they’re awesome, that’s why. Awesome for me, that is. Not so awesome for curious small children. Correction: awesome for them too, but not for the book itself, which might last one session in the hands of a curious toddler.

Much better – and fantastic for travel and self-serve entertainment – are lift-the-flap books. I either didn’t know about this genre or had forgotten about it in the glare of my pop-up-book enthusiasm but am so glad I ran across a tip to get them for Astrid to entertain her on plane trips. Excellent, tried and true idea.

They’ve also served us well in the mornings: I put a few books at one end of A’s crib at night and she “reads” them for half an hour on her own while we get some sleep. The lift-the-flap ones are her favorites, which is understandable since, even after the surprise factor has worn off, they have moving parts.

There are basically two categories. The first is board books for littler kids where the whole page is a flap. (You’ll still end up mending these when you leave them with little Harrington on his own, but he won’t completely destroy them.) The other is for older kids (2+) who have more self-control re: tearing off the exciting flaps: the flaps are little windows within the page. (You can get these for littler ones too, but save them for reading time together.)

In a pre-flight panic last summer, I ran out to a local bookstore to find some of these and was glad I did the shopping in person. Some of the lift-the-flap books, especially for babies, are a little bit lame: not very dynamic or dense illustrations, which you’ll want, since there aren’t really story lines to follow. In San Francisco, the Books, Inc. branch in Laurel Village has a fantastic selection of books for kids, including these. Don’t worry about paying more for shopping off-line – the prices on Amazon for these board books are the same list prices as in stores + you’ll be supporting your local business and getting ones you like better anyway.

Our favorites so far for the two and under crowd: DK Publishing’s Baby Loves Peekaboo and Flaptastic Animals, about $7 on- and off-line.

For older little ones, Gossie and Friends First Flap Book, about $10 on Amazon, is adorable and accessible. 

Cookbook Round-Up

January 11, 2012

I posted a little while ago about how much I liked Top 100 Baby Purees when Astrid started solids, and I’ve got a couple more things to say on the subject of cookbooks, so here goes.

After the holiday crash of eating on the fly amidst the wrapping paper and consuming too much sugar, I decided we needed to get back on the bandwagon of a healthy eating. Well, regular eating really. Healthy would be nice too! So I pulled out my stack of kid cookbooks and realized again how crap I think a couple of them are. I know, I know: it’s not nice to be negative. But really, honestly, I’m just trying to help: I researched and bought a couple that just have never worked for me, and I want to save you the trouble. So that’s good new year positivity, right?

First up on the no-go list is the Organic Baby & Toddler Cookbook by Lizzie Vann. I so wanted to like this one because, in general, I love DK Publishing. They have fantastic pictures in all their books (travel guides and kids’ books too) and a British tone of moderation I really like. Sadly, though, I haven’t liked any of the recipes in this cookbook. When I made the first few and they tasted bland and weirdly unbalanced (too much of some ingredients, too little of others), I thought it must be something I did wrong because I’m not really a cook. After a while though, I realized that it’s because I just don’t really like the recipes. They’re not particularly flavorful and they’re not particularly easy to make (number of steps and number of ingredients). So I’m calling it quits. Annabel Karmel’s recipes are just better and easier.

The other cookbook I want to un-recommend is Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes. I know cooking for a baby can be daunting for a new mom or a new chef, but really? A recipe for “Baby’s Beef” that has one ingredient? “Lean ground beef, 1/2 lb,” + instructions on how to fry half a pound of ground beef. Really? REALLY? Of course there are other more complex recipes, but I have yet to find any of them appealing, even on the page. Plus: very few pictures. Which is probably understandable, given that half a pound of ground beef just isn’t that photogenic all on its own. The most useful part – the reason I bought it – were the tips pages, like how to make food fun. My first tip? Buy a different cookbook with better recipes.

If you’re looking for a baby/kid cookbook that will cover you for a few years, try Annabel Karmel’s First Meals, which incorporates some of the baby purees from Top 100 Baby Purees plus at least a dozen recipes for each stage after that up to preschool. They all taste good and if one looks too complicated, just skip ahead to the next one.

Bon appetit!

The Gruffalo: The Movie

January 2, 2012

We received The Gruffalo as a gift from a lovely neighbor when Astrid was about one. She was too little to stick with the story and it’s only now that she’s almost two that she’s not a little put off by the Gruffalo’s knobbly knees and pointy claws, but it is a great book if your kiddo is either a.) two and up, or b.) a little more aggressive than our Astrid. The rhymes are excellent (which, sadly, isn’t always a given in rhyming childrens’ books), and the lesson that a little mouse can be tricksy enough to be strong and fearsome is great for the little short people who can be intimidated by the world around them.

Over the holiday, some British friends made us aware of the movie that was made by the BBC from the book a couple of years ago. If you love the book, don’t worry: the half hour film is both new and faithful to the original. The Gruffalo’s Child was just released on Christmas this year, so keep an eye out for that stateside soon as well!

The Gruffalo (the book), $7 on Amazon

The Gruffalo (the movie on DVD), $7.49 at Amazon

Books: First 100 Words

December 1, 2011

There are so many board books for little kids purporting to introduce colors, numbers, letters, animals and on and on and on. As usual, the ones I thought would be of interest to Astrid mostly weren’t. Or were, but only for a couple of days. Curiously, those include all the ones with textures – like a bit of silk on the picture of the purple butterfly, or fuzziness on the sheep. She was interested in those briefly, but what she’s gone for consistently are books with lots of details and a lot going on visually.

Of that group, Priddy’s First 100 Words is her favorite identification book. It’s big, so each page has sixteen square pictures (sorted roughly by theme) and the pictures and labels aren’t going for multiples, which seems appropriate for her age. An apple is an apple, not a “green apple,” for instance.

All kiddies have different preferences, I know, but for what it’s worth, this was $8 well-spent!

First 100 Words, Bright Baby Books, by Roger Priddy, on Amazon from $8.99 or on B&N.com for $8.05

Best Books: My Friends

August 30, 2011

I came across the board book of My Friends in the play area at the California Academy of Sciences and loved it. The pictures have little details for little eyes and there are plenty of pages (an oddity in board books) to keep Astrid entertained for a little while. I’m not in the camp of pushing lots of learning early – babies are learning all the time for Pete’s sake! – but it’s a bonus that the animals and verbs line right up with what she’s sorting out in her puzzles and at the zoo. I leave the book in her crib at night and it keeps her entertained in the mornings so we can get another ten minutes of sleep!

My Friends, by Taro Gomi, $7 at Amazon

One of the things I got a little obsessive about while I was pregnant was finding the right infant medical resource book to have at home. Here’s what I wanted:

First, for emergency situations, provide triage guidelines until I could get to a hospital or an ambulance could get to us.

Second, for non-emergency situations (fever, cuts, sunburn, etc.), provide sound advice in a reasonable tone for how to handle a baby’s medical needs, assuming some of that would be different from what I’d do for myself or another adult + provide clear lists of symptoms and decision points on when to call our pediatrician.

After having read through site after site of  alarmist “information” on the internet about everything that could go wrong during my pregnancy (note to self: avoid the comments section), I wasn’t going to rely on Google to help me out if Astrid appeared to be sick or was hurt.

There are some great general books out there that provide an overview of childhood development and illnesses (see below for a list), but it was harder to find a book that I could use quickly, in a panic in the middle of the night when I didn’t have the time or patience to separate long-winded all-points-of-the-argument overviews from actual advice or search through a 20-page index of small print.

In the end, I settled on two different books.

For emergencies, First Aid for Babies & Children Fast is fantastic. With large photographs of what to do, clear instructions, and an index on the back cover, it’s everything I was looking for to help us through any God-forbid situations.

For general reference on everything from breastfeeding dos and don’ts to, “What fever requires a doctor’s visit?” a friend steered me to Baby 411. Be warned: the cover illustration is awful, but don’t judge the contents by the cover. It’s a great, comprehensive reference for new parents. Answers to common questions and sensible advice arranged in clearly marked sections.

First Aid for Babies & Children Fast $10.40 at Amazon

Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year $10.04 at Amazon