Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters

It’s late, and the hardware store is closed for the night. Except for one… Frankie, the cat. At first, Frankie “does chores”, usually making more of a mess than he helps. Then Frankie spots an intruder – a mouse – and his real work begins!

So the story line isn’t scintillating. It’s funny enough for a kid. Better yet, the artwork is a mix of artwork and real-life photography, which my kids found very appealing. There’s a bit of counting 1-to-10, but it’s not integral to the text. All in all, a fun little story, one the kids asked for several times over the course of the week, but not exceptional.

Oh, and the intruder mouse? Safely chased out the back door. Nobody gets eaten in this story, for the sake of the tenderhearted.

Available on Amazon

Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Jennifer Taylor. Greenwillow Books, 2010.

If A Chicken Stayed For Supper by Carrie Weston

Mommy Fox kisses her five little foxes goodbye, promising to bring home chicken for supper. After a while, the kits get tired of waiting in the den and go outside to play in the dark. They run into a problem when one kit disappears, and after much wailing and crying are finally helped out by a kindly neighbor – Mother Hen. The kits talk her into taking them safely back to their den, where they find Mommy Fox waiting, and no chicken supper to eat. How will they repay Mother Hen’s kindness — by serving her up for supper?

If A Chicken Stayed For Supper surprises you with that little dilemma at the end. Up until that point, it’s simply a fun story of children who get into trouble and scare themselves when they disobey Mommy’s rules. The whole “missing kit” problem is an exercise in counting, and it’s fun to help a child figure out what they’re doing wrong. My kids certainly love it when they can “be smarter” than a story’s character. Eventually Mother Hen gets them all safely home, and suddenly there’s this new tension of a predator-prey encounter. In fact, I definitely recommend you make sure your child understands that when Mommy Fox promised to “bring home chicken for supper” that she’s going off to hunt — if a child doesn’t understand that part, the final resolution won’t be as understandable.

Can we draw from  the eventual dinner party — vegetable soup served to chickens and foxes alike — a message that vegetarianism is good? Perhaps, though I’d say that’s a stretch. A more accurate moral would be the innocence of children bringing fighting adults together, but even that exaggerates what the story actually says. There’s no indication that the meal is anything more than a temporary truce, a momentary accord. I actually appreciated that — it doesn’t go for the “easy answer”.

So, what did the kids think of it? Simple fun. It’s colorful, well paced, has a silly little puzzle to figure out, and a nice warm ending. They don’t need more than that to enjoy a story.

Available on Amazon

If A Chicken Stayed For Supper by Carrie Weston, illustrated by Sophie Fatus. Holiday House, 2007.

Have You Got My Purr? by Judy West

Kitten wakes up one morning and discovers her purr is missing. Mama tells to just wait, her purr will show up soon. However, Kitten can’t just wait, and she goes out to see which of the animals on the farm might have taken her purr.

Then follows a rather predictable sequence of visiting all the farm animals, good for practicing animal sounds with your child. A pleasant surprise is when Kitten visits Mouse, because she has to be extra careful to show Mouse that she’s hunting for her purr, not her dinner.

By the end of the day, Kitten is worn out, foot sore, and still purr-less. Owl suggests she go home to her mama, and Kitten can’t believe that Mama might have had her purr all along! Alas, it’s not so, but a bit of motherly advice and some warm, tender mama love helps Kitten discover that her purr has been with her all along.

In my opinion, the sweet, tender ending elevates Have You Got My Purr? above the usual farmyard animal stories. It leaves a warm, snuggly feeling, making this book especially suited for bedtime.  A nice book to return to frequently.

Available on Amazon

Have You Got My Purr? by Judy West, illustrated by Tim Warnes. Little Tiger Press, 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.

Drip, Drop! The Rain Won’t Stop! by Sheila Sweeny Higginson

Drip, Drop! The Rain Won’t Stop! is a “Your Turn, My Turn Reader” by Playskool. In other words, the idea is for parent and child to take turns reading – some pages have grown-up-level words, and others have early-reader text. This is a great idea if you have a child who can manage words like “falling” and “pitter patter”. If not, it’s still a very fun book. The text has lots of rhythm and rhyme, great rainy-day sound effects, and is generally fun to read aloud. If your child gets restless with the story, there are 10 rainbows hidden in the book, so you can go on a rainbow-hunt for a change of pace.

From a parent’s point of view, it’s a good story to read as well. Digger and his friend Go Go really, really want to build a sand castle, but they’re stuck inside by a never-ending rainstorm. Instead, they do a very good job of entertaining themselves by coming up with creative ways to build castles indoors. At the end, they finally get to go out and build their sand castle – a very muddy one!

Well worth the read.

Available on Amazon

Drip, Drop! The Rain Won’t Stop! by Sheila Sweeny Higginson, illustrated by Josie Yee.  Simon Spotlight, 2010.

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.

Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated by Florence Parry Heide

Princess Hyacinth has a problem – she floats. It’s not a problem indoors, because the adults can always use a ladder to get her down. However, if she wants to go outdoors, she must wear clothing that has been so weighted down that she can hardly move. Consequently, she stays inside a lot, and gets very bored. Until one day….

Yes, it’s a silly story, and appeals to kids in the way that silly stories do. What *would* it be like to float away free in the sky? And of course, the several references to Hyacinth’s Royal Underwear get giggles from readers of a certain age.

As a grown-up, I found it a nice enough story, with one nagging irritant. Why is Hyacinth’s eventual friend just named Boy? Every time I read that name it grates on me. Nomenclature aside, I was glad to see that Boy is willing to help Hyacinth with her problem with no expectation for himself. Yes, he does receive a bag of gold in reward at one point, but his friendship with Hyacinth appears to be genuine.

Overall, a book to read simply because the kids like it.

Available on Amazon

Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith. Schwartz and Wade, 2009.