Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! by Steve Patschke

Available on Amazon

Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! is perhaps the most fun book I’ve read in a quite some time. It’s full of suspense, and silly giggles, and play-acting, and all sorts of fun. My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The premise is simple. Four friends find a strange black box with strange, cryptic warnings on it – “Don’t Look At It, Don’t Touch It, Don’t Open It!”. Of course, their curiosity insists they must look at it, must touch it, must open it, whereupon they discover a mysterious item and more cryptic warnings. This happens over and over again (there’s that repetition that small kids love) until at the last….

No, I’m not going to tell you the ending. Suffice it to say that it’s a happy one, suitable for children.

This is a great book for giving kids a bit of experience with suspense. It could be a bit spooky — in fact, my daughter got surprised by just how spooky. She’d had great fun with the book when mama read it, so she settled down to read it again herself just before bed. Without mama there to make it fun, she got a little freaked out and ended up having a hard time getting to sleep that night. Lesson learned – this is a book best read in the daylight.

So have fun with reading it out loud. Do your best creepy-scary voice, and make it comical. Show your kids that it’s fun sometimes to get just a little scared, because that makes the “boo!” all the more exciting.

Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! by Steve Patschke, illustrated by Julie Durrell. Troll Communications, 1999.

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Sarah Jane Hartwell does NOT want to get up for the first day at her new school. She wants to stay home, safely in her bed, but her dad insists she go. On the way, Sarah is very nervous; in fact, she starts to feel sick. Her dad lovingly pushes her out of the car, and the school principal is there to show her to her room. The dreaded moment comes at last, the principal introduces her to her class…. Sarah Jane is the new teacher!

I loved this book from start. It’s so cleverly done, my kids never guessed that Sarah Jane was a grownup. They were simply tickled by the idea that a grownup could be nervous about meeting THEM! I can easily see this as a jumping-off point for helping a child who is fearful of starting school — what better way to conquer your nerves than by helping someone else with theirs?

As far as readability, First Day Jitters sits squarely in the middle of the bookshelf. The book is aimed at slightly older children, so it has no infectious rhyme or meter. Perhaps the best aspect of the text is the complete familiarity of Sarah Jane’s excuses and complaints — and of course, her dad’s predictable response to them! The illustrations are attractively done, but very chaotic-feeling. They suit the mood of the story well, but can be a bit overwhelming.

A book well-suited to a nervous or uncertain child; a nice change from the common “everything will be okay and you’ll make lots of friends” type of first-day-of-school book.

Available on Amazon

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000.

Froggy’s Day With Dad by Jonathan London

My oldest found this book before I got to it, and from the giggles I knew it was going to be a good one. We were both pleased to find out it was even more fun to read together, because there’s lots of sound effects to narrate. Zat! Thunk! Plop! Wheeee! And lots of Oops! It’s good fun.

Froggy has Father’s Day all planned out. First he’ll cook breakfast for his dad (with the predictable mistakes and disasters) then he’ll take Daddy golfing. Dad suggests they try out miniature golf, and it turns out Froggy’s pretty good at it. Still, there’s a trail of mishaps that follows them all over the course to add to the fun.

Bright cartoonish artwork rounds out a delightful text. Good fun for all.

Available on Amazon

Froggy’s Day With Dad by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Puffin, 2006.

The Berenstain Bears and the Mama’s Day Surprise by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Some mama bears are so all-seeing and wise, when Mother’s Day comes they’re hard to surprise.

So says the title page of the book, and it pretty well sums up the storyline. Mama Bear can see that her loving family is cooking up something big for Mother’s Day, so she does a lot of little things to make it easier on them – things like buying the ingredients for her own breakfast-in-bed. Through it all, she’s secretly dreading the mess she’s going to have to clean up after their surprise (and isn’t that a common theme in a lot of books on the holiday?!). Still, because she loves them and wants to have the thrill of  “surprising” her, she keeps her mouth shut and plays right along…. right until the very end, when she discovers they’ve managed to pull off a surprise she NEVER saw coming!

I have to say, this is not a book I’d recommend for the youngest listeners. I don’t *want* my kids to know I’m onto their surprises, any more than I want them to know that the “bootiful fowers” they bring me on Thursday are the same weeds their Daddy tries to kill on Saturday.

For an older child, one who’s beginning to ask “Were you REALLY surprised, Mama?”, this could be a worthwhile book. I think it’s good to explicitly show kids what good, loving parenting looks like. The effort Mama Bear goes through to help her cubs pull off their surprise – even pretending to sleep through the crashes and bangs as they make a mess of her kitchen – is beautifully explained. I can see this story being especially helpful for a child with a younger sibling, who doesn’t quite get why everyone makes such a fuss over the baby’s efforts, praising scribbles as pretty pictures and such.

(There’s a wonderful demonstration of Papa’s love for Mama implicit, too, but for some reason the Berenstains skipped right over it.)

Worth reading with the right child.

Available on Amazon

The Berenstain Bears and the Mama’s Day Surprise by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Random House 2004.

The Mother’s Day Mice by Eve Bunting

Three little mice creep out early Mother’s Day morning to pick their gifts for their Mother. Along the way, they brave many dangers from animals that would like to eat little mice. Biggest Mouse and Middle Mouse find their gifts with no trouble, but the gift that Little Mouse has chosen is guarded by a big, black cat who just won’t go away! He’ll have to think of another plan…

The Mother’s Day Mice is a lovely tale that illustrates for kids that gifts don’t always need to be something wrapped up with a bow. I’ve read many books on the holiday recently, and many of them *try* to get that message across, but this book is one of the most tastefully done.

The artwork is done by the prolific Jan Brett, and is prettily done. It is somewhat sophisticated art, or at least more adult than many children’s books. A preschooler may enjoy lingering on a page to absorb it, but I found it was a little too advanced for my toddler. Still, it was pleasant to *my* eyes.

My favorite part? Middle Mouse picks a dandelion fluff ball, calling it a “Wish Flower”. A bit of whimsy that I enjoyed, and I think it’ll linger with my kids, as well.

Well worth reading.

Available on Amazon

The Mother’s Day Mice by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jan Brett. Clarion Books, 1986.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican Hat Dance by F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican Hat Dance is really two books in one, which may account for the fact it has two authors and two illustrators (and two translators!).

The first half is a simple story of a class of schoolkids learning the Mexican Hat Dance and preparing for a big party and show for their parents. It’s a fun read, with some repeated lines for your child to shout along with, always a hit at our house. The illustrations are colorful and cheerful; for some reason the color scheme was particularly appealing to me, bt I don’t think my kids noticed anything special about it.

The second half of the book is a non-fiction sort of book about the holiday. It primarily uses photographs, but the children from the earlier story do show up as accents. I found this portion nicely accessible to my kids; many of the strictly nonfiction books I tried did not catch their interest at all.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican Hat Dance is one of a series of books called “Stories to Celebrate”, which includes holidays from many ethnic traditions, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Chinese New Year, and the Fourth of July.

Available on Amazon

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican Hat Dance by F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Marcela Gomez and David Silva. Alfaguara, 2006.

Dora Celebrates Earth Day by Emily Sollinger

I wish we could wind up this series on Earth Day books with a bang, with a really amazing book, but the fact is I gave you all the good titles early so you wouldn’t miss them. Dora Celebrates Earth Day isn’t *bad*, it’s just not particularly *good*.

Essentially, Dora goes around her neighborhood and asks her friends what they do to help the environment. Most are simple things, well within the grasp of a preschooler (though I still don’t know why “playing outdoors” saves energy?) There’s no guilt trip involved, no making the children responsible for the state of the planet, just small things they can do to help, which I appreciate.

Overall, it’s a book aimed at your average Dora-obsessed child. If you have one of those, this book will go over well. If your child is more neutral toward the character, there are more interesting books available.

Available on Amazon

Dora Celebrates Earth Day by Emily Sollinger, ill. by Dave Aikins. Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon, 2009.