While Angels Watch by Marni McGee

Long ago, the angels had work to do in this world, choosing the colors of the dawn and showing spiders how to spin. Where are they now? Where did they go? Then one by one the animals recount times when they think they’ve seen an angel working in secret. One tells of angels’ light announcing a newborn baby’s birth, another spotted angels playing with the fox and deer. In the end, the Cat testifies the angels watch over children as they sleep and play.

While Angels Watch is a touchingly sweet book, almost overly so. The artwork emphasizes this, right down to the sparkly silver inlay used to illustrate the angels’ light on each page. The overall effect is warm and cozy and reassuring, making it a good choice for bedtime.

Obviously, you have to be comfortable with reading to your children about guardian angels, and this is where I stumbled with this book. It just doesn’t quite line up with my personal theology, and so we put it back on the shelf. If that part works for you, though, While Angels Watch is a lovely read.

Available on Amazon

While Angels Watch by Marni McGee, illustrated by Tina Macnaughton. Good Books, 2006.


Kitten’s Spring by Eugenie Fernandes

Kitten’s Spring is a wonderful book to just sit and enjoy with your littlest ones. The text isn’t scintillating – “Chicken clucks, chick scratches” says one page – but pleasantly charming. The artwork is what makes the book, though. Done in a 3-dimensional multi-media format, it’s attractive and engaging and just right for the 1-to-3 year old crowd.

Available on Amazon

Kitten’s Spring by Eugenie Fernandes. Kids Can Press, 2010.

Sleep, Baby, Sleep by Teri Weidner

Sleep, Baby, Sleep claims to be a “classic lullaby”. Maybe it is, but I certainly don’t recall it. Even so, this is a sweet bedtime book for the youngest kids, with cozy illustrations in gentle colors. I actually found it more difficult to read to older kids, who kept asking questions about unfamiliar vocabulary (woodbines? vale?)

I can see this becoming a good book-of-routine, one you read “every single night” just as you tuck a little one in to bed. It conveys a strong sense of security, and is well suited to a calm, slow pace.

Available on Amazon

Sleep, Baby, Sleep, illustrated by Teri Weidner. Tiger Tales, 2009.

Me Baby, You Baby by Ashley Wolff

Me Baby, You Baby is a charming book for a child at that age where they’re just starting to understand words spoken to them. It’s not so much a story as page after page of moments in a baby’s day. It starts with getting dressed in the morning, moves through a trip to the zoo to see the animals, and wraps up with a bedtime routine. Each page has a simple little rhyme describing what’s happening in the picture. The rhymes are gently paced, making this a good book for a quiet time.

The illustrations are nicely done, if slightly romanticized. I appreciated the fact that there are two families shown, one Caucasian, one African American (and the moms are obviously friends). It might bother some readers that the moms are obviously the stay-at-home variety, and the daddies only appear to tuck the baby in to bed at night.

Overall, a sweet book to share, but unlikely to be a child’s favorite.

Available on Amazon

Me Baby, You Baby by Ashley Wolff. Dutton Children’s Books, 2004.

Who’s In The Garden? by Phillis Gershator

I’m approaching my review of Who’s In The Garden? with a bit of trepidation, because I’m not quite sure I can do this book justice. Still, it would be a shame if I never told you about it at all, so here we go.

Who’s In The Garden? is a simple picture book, suitable for the youngest readers, featuring windows through each page to “peek” through (and poke fingers through!) The text is simple as well, with pairs of pages asking “Who’s coming to see how my garden grows?” and then featuring a garden animal. This is not scintillating literature, but it’s easily readable.

The treasure of this book is it’s illustration. Done in a mixed-media style, it’s bright, colorful, and very, very appealing. You can linger over each page, soaking in the art and playing “I Spy” with the charming details. Likewise, it’s a book you can return to many times, to savor the illustrations.

The most exciting thing about Who’s In The Garden? may be the fact that it’s one of many titles from the publisher, Barefoot Books. I’m not familiar with them, but their catalog is quite tantalizing, and it appears that there is a definite vision for the books they choose. Here, I’ll quote from their website:

Explore. Imagine. Create. Connect. Give Back. That’s what Barefoot Books is all about. It’s exploring other cultures, our planet, ourselves. It’s making time for make-believe and letting imaginations run wild and free. Most of all, it’s about using the power of stories to nourish the creative spark in everyone and strengthen connections with family, the global community, and the earth.

Barefoot Books began with two mothers who wanted their children to have books that would feed the imagination, while instilling a respect for diversity and a love of the planet. Today, we are a world-wide community of writers, artists, storytellers, musicians, and others who are committed to providing timeless stories and captivating art that can help children become happy, engaged members of a global society.

My library doesn’t offer a way for me to search by publisher, so I’m going to have to ask the library staff to see what else is in their holdings. I’m quite eager to see more examples of this caliber of work. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Who’s In the Garden? as much as my kids and I did.

Available on Amazon

Who’s In The Garden? by Phillis Gershator, ill. by Jill McDonald. Barefoot Books, 2010.

Ready For Summer by Marthe Jocelyn

Ready for Summer is a cute board book showcasing things to do and clothes to wear in the summertime. Illustrations are made of fabric cutouts, which increase touch-and-feel appeal for young readers. However, the last page shows a child playing in the sprinkler “sans apparel”. Does anyone still let their child outside unclothed? I certainly didn’t need anyone to give my child the idea!

Ready for Summer is one of a series of four (covering Spring, Fall, and Winter as well). The set could make a nice gift for a child’s birthday.

Available on Amazon

Ready for Summer by Marthe Jocelyn. Tundra Books, 2008.

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How Many Fish? by Caron Lee Cohen

I found this book shelved with the counting books, and I suppose you could call it that, if you don’t mind the fact that the only numbers mentioned are one, two, and six. Just don’t stop there, because there is a lot more to this small book than first appears.

Looking at the cover, you’ll see the “My First I Can Read Book” logo. This is a good thing. We have liked a lot of the I Can Read Books; for limited-vocabulary books they’ve usually got a pretty good story line. How Many Fish?, being in the “My First” line, is targeted at the earliest readers and has the simplest vocabulary. I think I counted only 28 unique words in the whole book. The rhymes are nicely made, and the illustrations are quite lovely.

It’s only on actually reading the book that it’s true value becomes clear. The story is simple – six little fish in the bay get scared away by three children wading, except one little fish gets trapped by a dropped toy for a moment and then freed to happily rejoin his friends. However, How Many Fish? poses a lot of questions to the reader as to what the fish and the children are doing, and why. This is a wonderful book to encourage kids to think about what it happening on the page, and speculate on what might happen next. It’s an important set of reading skills, and easily missed in a child’s hurry to finish a story.

How Many Fish? is a book to read several times (I found my kids were more willing to consider “why” and “maybe” on repeated readings) and linger over. There’s lots of fodder for extending the story into discussions, which is nice to find in an early reader. I think this book will appeal to a wide age range – my not-quite-two-year-old likes the pictures, my toddler enjoyed the counting and the “suspense”, and my preschooler liked that she could read it herself and then make up her own explanations.

Available on Amazon

How Many Fish? by Caron Lee Cohen, illustrated by S.D. Schindler. HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

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