A Reel Cool Summer is a Really Cool Book for Kids

Several weeks ago, I connected online with another author, Martha Rodriguez. 

We realized we were on the same page about many things…have 3 children (2 boys and a girl), love our families, have a passion for picture books, recently had our first books published…the list could go on and on.  Martha and I exchanged books and she’s already written a review of my book: http://bit.ly/peQ3mt

So now it my turn to tell you all about her book, A Reel Cool Summer.


As parents, we all know how difficult it can be to keep children entertained and busy…especially during the long hot summer.  The story opens with three siblings, Joey, Jacqui and Danny, complaining about how there is NOTHING to do.  After bantering back and forth, the three kids decide that what they need is a pool for their backyard so that they can cool off.  While the two younger children go to ask their mother if they can buy a pool, Joey, the oldest, goes to get the mail. 

After pleading with their mother to no avail, Joey takes his brother and sister aside and tells them about a contest that the library is holding.  All they have to do is make a movie…and the winner will receive $100…enough to buy the pool that they all want.   The entire family works together to build the props and make the costumes and Danny, Jacqui and Joey finish the movie and hand it in to the library with just moments to spare.  Will they win the first place prize of $100 and be able to buy the pool that they want?  Will they win the third place prize of the mystery box that contains who knows what?  You’ll have to buy a copy of this lovely book to find out.  You can visit the author’s website and purchase a copy at: http://www.readtomepublishingllc.com/Book.html

She also has a blog: http://areelcoolsummer.blogspot.com/

And you can contact her: info@readtomepublishingllc.com

One of the coolest things about this book is that kids love it.  I brought it along with me on my recent trip to Chicago and read it to my 8-year old great-niece and 6-year old great-nephew.  They absolutely LOVED it and listened intently to the story.  They took turns reading some of the pages and were engaged with the colorful illustrations…which were done by the author’s now-adult son, Joey.


Ms. Rodriguez is to be commended on her first book for children. ..kids obviously love it.  As soon as we turned the last page, my niece and nephew jumped up and ran into the house clamoring, “Can we go in the pool?”  They were also anxious to hear it another time, so later we sat under the shade of a big tree and read the book again.

I’m sure that the author has more stories about Joey and Jacqui and Danny that she will share with us in future books…I know my niece and nephew and all kids ages 5 to 9 will be ready to listen.

Top Ten Children’s Picture Books for 2010


Every year, thousands of new picture books are published.  Many are excellent.  Some are outstanding.  And a few are in a category all their own…to be read and savored, over and over again, by adults and children alike.  These are the books that will be the classics in the decades to come.  These ten books are my choices for the must-read children’s picture books published in 2010.

1.     SHARK VS. TRAIN written by Chris Burton and illustrated by Tom Lichtenhedd

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – ISBN9780316

           A boy with a toy shark faces off against his companion who is holding a toy train.  Awesome cartoon illustrations depict the distinct personalities of the two competitors and will have young children cheering from both sides.  In some of the battles, the shark has the upper hand and in others, the train.  And neither is very good at keeping quiet in the library.

2.     THE QUIET BOOK written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska

Houghton Mifflin Books for Young Children – ISBN9780547215679

               Exploring the many different kinds of quiet with understated text and subtle yet engaging illustrations, this book will soon become a favorite with little ones.  Various young animals – bears, rabbits, mice, owls and others – are placed in situations that will strike a chord of recognition with young children.  In the “first one awake quiet” a young rabbit is doing his morning stretches.  In “right before you yell, ‘Surprise’, quiet”, three animals hide behind a couch.  This is a book that will rank right beside GOODNIGHT MOON as a perfect book to read before bedtime.

3.     CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Jon Muth

Hyperion Books for Children – ISBN9781423103004

               This beautiful book is a journey through the seasons and through the natural cycle of the emotions of a friendship.  When City Dog ventures into the country one spring, he meets Country Frog who teaches him “jumping and splashing and croaking”.  Summer finds the two companions together with Frog learning “sniffing, fetching and barking”.  In the fall, because Frog is tired, they play remembering games, recalling all the things they did in the spring and summer.  When winter arrives, City Dog goes looking for Country Frog, but cannot find him.  When spring returns, City Dog meets a chipmunk who asks him the same question he had asked Frog – “What are you doing?”  And City Dog gives the same answer Frog had given him, “Waiting for a friend…but you’ll do.”

4.     ART AND MAX written and illustrated by David Wiesner

Clarion Books – ISBN9780618756636

               Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting.  Although Arthur (Art) is an experienced painter, Max is just a beginner and his first attempt at painting has unexpected results.  This is a wonderful book for all young children who may question their ability as they grow up to master certain tasks and skills.

5.     THERE’S GOING TO BE A BABY written by John Burningham and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Candlewick Press – ISBN9780763649074

               A young boy learns that he will soon have a new brother or sister.  Young children will identify with his conflicting emotions over the next several months as he and his mother talk about the new baby while walking in the park, visiting the zoo and going to the bank.  The author and the illustrator are husband and wife in real life and have created a wonderful book for siblings-to-be.

6.     LITTLE  PINK PUP written by Johanna Kerby

G.P. Putnam’s Sons – ISBN9780399254352

               This is touching and true story of Pink, the runt of his litter and Tink, a new dachshund mom who adopts him as one of her pups and nurses him back to health.  Simple text and full-color photos will make this book a favorite with very young children.

7.     FARM written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper

Orchard Books – ISBN9780545070751

               The author brings a farm to life with lyrical writing and beautiful illustrations.  The book takes readers through a year of farm life with planting, chores and good and bad weather.  Young children will enjoy the involvement of the farm children in their daily tasks and perhaps gain an appreciation for the hard work that results in the food we eat every day.

8.     THE CHICKEN THIEF written and illustrated by Beatrice Rodriguez

Enchanted Lion Books – ISBN978159700929

               When a fox runs off with one of the hens, bear and rabbit interrupt their peaceful lunch in the garden to join rooster in his chase to recover hen.  The fox seems always to be a step ahead, tenderly clutching the pretty white hen.  Is the fox intending to eat the hen or does he have something else in mind?  This wordless book will be enjoyed by children and adults alike, especially the surprise ending.

9.     OLIVIA GOES TO VENICE written and illustrated by Ian Falconer

Atheneum Books for Young Readers – 9781416996743

               Olivia is back – on a trip to Venice.  She has to dodge pigeons in the Piazza San Marco and barely stays afloat on a gondola ride.  Full of curiosity, Olivia appeals to the very young, but even parents will appreciate the comic ending when Olivia finds the perfect souvenir – a stone – and a bell tower collapses.

10.    BIBIOBURRO: A TRUE STORY FROM COLUMBIA written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

Beach Lane Books – ISBN9781416997788

               Luis, a schoolteacher with a passion for reading, shares his over-abundance of books with the children in the remote villages of Columbia.  With two burros, he makes the trek across mountainous terrain and perseveres, even when challenged by bandits along the way.  Spreading literacy one child at a time, Luis reminds all of us of the pleasures books bring and the difference one individual can make.

Do you agree?  Any favorites from 2010 that I missed?  As soon as I can, I’ll post my choices for the top ten all-time favorite children’s picture books.  What would be your top choice…the book you loved as a child and want to read to your children and grandchildren?

Avoiding holiday shopping temper tantrums

We’ll all be shopping more in the next few weeks.  If we take our preschoolers, there is always a possibility of a temper tantrum.  WHAT!  NOT MY CHILD!  NO, NO, NOT EVER!…STAMPING MY FEET WITH STEAM COMING OUT OF MY EARS 🙂

Realistically speaking though, here are three easy discipline tricks that really work.

  1. Make a game out of what must be done: Sing a silly song, make funny faces, say the ABC’s in a high/low voice.  This works for things like buckling up the seat belt of the car seat (don’t all children hate that), leaving the toy store, putting on a jacket or hat.
  2. Be matter-of-fact: Don’t ask, “Do you want to put on your jacket?” or “Shall we put that toy down because we are ready to leave?”  Just say, “We are ready to leave and we are putting on our jackets.” (and maybe start singing a song about now we are putting our jackets on, jackets on, jackets on, etc.)  Or, “It’s time to leave the store and put the toy back…which shelf are we putting it back on, the top shelf or the bottom shelf?” (always make sure that when you give your child a choice, BOTH choices will lead to the goal YOU have in mind)
  3. Warn, distract, and then proceed with what needs to be done: Children like to know what the plan is…and they need to realize that what you say goes and that there is no discussion or negotiation.  It helps, if possible, to give a warning.  For example, when you need to leave the store, give your child a warning in a friendly upbeat tone of voice, “One more hug for mister bear and then we will put him back on his shelf and go and get a drink at the water fountain on our way to the car.”  After the hug, help your child put the bear back, scoop him up, head towards the water fountain, singing a song about bears or water or whatever.  Or, if you are at the library, you might say, “You can turn two more pages and then we will take our books to the librarian to check out so we can go home and read one of them.  Again, scoop up your child (if there is any question he disagrees about your plan to leave), and head towards the library checkout.  Let your child know you understand how he is feeling, “I bet you wish you could stay in the library all day, but it’s time to check out.  You can hold the library card and give it to the librarian.”

One of the hardest things about dealing with preschoolers is that they are easily distracted and often cannot stick with one thing for very long.  This distractibility is a blessing in disguise, however.  No matter what they are involved in: looking at a book, playing with a toy, having a temper tantrum…they can almost always be distracted from it if your are able to turn their attention to something else.  I am not really a very good singer, but when my children where little, I sang ALL the time…when I buttoned up their jackets, put them in the stroller, washed their hair.  Silly songs, happy songs, high songs, low songs…it really worked!   I can remember only one temper tantrum…one of my children (I won’t say which one) wanted a candy bar as we were checking out at the grocery store (don’t you LOVE how they put all those tempting sweets right at child-level?) and, being busy putting up the food on the counter and trying to watch the register read-out as the items were being scanned, I “ignored” my child’s rising whine of “I want a candy” and soon I had a 2 year old laying flat on the floor, kicking his feet.  Had I been paying attention and intervened at the start of this candy demand, I think I could have distracted him and avoided the temper tantrum altogether.

For more parenting help during the holidays, you can check out Katherine Lewis’ blog carnival:

Do’s and Dont’s: Holiday Shopping with Preschoolers

Although we’d all probably like to leave our young children at home when we go shopping, this is not always possible.  So what can we do to make sure our holiday shopping trips with preschoolers go as smoothly and safely as possible.  Many of the following tips are from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and they are valuable to remember all year-long, not just during the holiday season.


  • Do keep children with you at all times.
  • Do accompany and supervise children in public restrooms.
  • Do have a plan in case you become separated…just like a fire safety plan which should be discussed at home and practiced routinely.
  • Do teach your child to look for people who can help…a uniformed security officer, salesperson with a name badge or another mother with children.
  • Do remind children to remain in the area where they became separated…there is a wonderful picture book story that addresses this issue…DON’T WORRY, I’LL FIND YOU by Anna Grossnickle Hines.  When Sarah and her mother go the mall to buy Sarah some clothes, Sarah insists on taking her doll.  When Sarah realizes she has left her doll at one of the stores, she runs to find it.  Now, however, she doesn’t know where her mother is.  Sarah remembers her mother’s instructions to “stay put” and so she remains  at the toy store and soon mother and child are reunited.  Read this story with your preschooler before your shopping trip and discuss the plan of action in case you become separated.


  • Don’t dress children in clothing that displays their first or last name…this may give strangers an opportunity to start a conversation with your child.
  • Don’t leave children in the toy area of a store expecting store personnel to supervise your child while you shop in another area of the store.
  • Don’t allow young children to shop on their own to purchase gifts for friends or family members.
  • Don’t shop with your child if you feel you will be distracted.  Try to make other childcare arrangements…perhaps you and a friend who also has young children can take turns watching the children while the other goes shopping for a morning or afternoon.
  • Don’t allow children to push the shopping cart if there is a younger sibling in it…and don’t allow children to hang on the cart, even if it is empty…too many accidents occur when shopping carts tip over.

For busy parents, online shopping can be wonderful option this holiday season.  You can do it in the evening when the children are sleeping and avoid the crowds and parking hassles.  If you do go out shopping with your children, keep these tips in mind.  You’ll be glad you did!  If you need a gift for a parent, grandparent, teacher or babysitter of a preschooler, I’d like to suggest my newly published book, SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SLEF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING.  This great resource pinpoints 100 picture books every young child should hear and provides a story summary, parenting tip, eco-friendly craft project and child-friendly healthful cooking activity for each recommended title.   If you are looking for fun-filled, educational, self-esteem building activities, check it out. http://amzn.to/9taz9u

6 Tips for Safe Toy Selection This Holiday Season

With holiday toy shopping just getting underway, here are six tips that remind gift-givers to keep safety in mind when selecting toys for preschoolers.  Many of these tips come from the American Academy of Ophthalmology www.eyenet.org

  1. Select only toys and gifts that are appropriate for the child’s age and maturity level.  Check the packaging for age recommendations.
  2. Avoid toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts.
  3. Check labels for the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) approval to be sure toys meet national safety standards.
  4. BB, paint or pellet guns and airpower rifles are classified as firearms and make dangerous gifts in homes where there are preschoolers, even if the gift is intended for an older child.  Similarly, darts and bows and arrows are also dangerous when they fall into the hands of a young child.
  5. Younger children are now participating in sports such as baseball, football, hockey and soccer.  If you are giving sports equipment, make sure to include the appropriate protective headgear such as helmets and facemasks or goggles with polycarbonate lenses.
  6. A picture book, whether an older classic or one of the newer additions to bookstore shelves, is always a safe and welcome gift.  Reading the story to the child will add so much value to the gift…it costs you nothing, but means the world to the listener.  Choosing which book can be a daunting task.  There are several sources you can consult.  THE READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK by Jim Trelease is an excellent guide.   You can also check out The New York Times Parents Guide to the Best Books for Children and quite a few other resources for choosing books for children at LibraryThing http://www.librarything.com/work/273100    For a list of 100 picture books every preschooler needs to hear, find a copy of SHOW ME HOW!  BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING.  This ultimate resource for parents and teachers of preschoolers also provides a story summary, parenting note, eco-friendly craft project and child-friendly healthful cooking activity for each recommended title. http://www.amazon.com/Self-Esteem-Through-Reading-Crafting-Cooking/dp/0967014751/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289532916&sr=1-1

Cooking With Preschoolers

Cooking is one of the best activities for preschoolers.  It builds their self-esteem as they master tasks and skills, mixing and measuring the ingredients.  It teaches them about the foods they eat so they can make better food choices as they grow up.  It encourages them to try new foods as they prepare various recipes, expanding their food horizons.  Most importantly, they love to do it and cooking with your preschooler helps create a life-long parent-child bond.

Cooking with preschoolers is a passion of mine which is why my  new parenting book provides 100 child-friendly healthful recipes and 100 age-appropriate, eco-friendly craft projects, in addition to pinpointing 100 picture books every young child should hear.  The cooking experience is crucial because with each recipe your preschooler helps prepare, he gains confidence and competence and his sense of self-worth grows. 

What ingredients should we use?  The best that we can, of course!  If you are able to purchase organic, locally grown, in-season produce…I’d encourage you to do that…I believe such ingredients will add immense benefits to your entire family while creating a less damaging impact on our planet.   Organic or not, just make sure everything is fresh (check dates on dairy and other items…sometimes stores miss removing out-of-date stuff) and whether it is a snack or a meal, we want to provide low-fat, low sugar and high fiber combinations that are packed with nutrition.  It’s important that they taste good also.  However, taste is learned and we need to be careful of what we say and of our facial expressions when we are eating…many children develop food dislikes when they see a parent shunning a particular food. 

Cooking with preschoolers is a great time to teach proper hand washing procedures.  Make sure hands are washed before and during the food preparation process, especially if hands have touched raw meat or poultry.  And definitely exercise caution during the cooking experience…preschoolers should be pouring and mixing the ingredients in the bowls, not stirring the pot on the stove.  Any cutting with sharp knives needs to be done by the parent or other responsible adult.

I just came back from a wonderful week in New Hampshire…the New England fall foliage was at its peak…but the best part of the trip was the four days I spent with my two-year old grandson, Jeremy.  We walked down to the pond every day to see the ducks, skip pebbles over the surface of the water, and collect leaves of scarlet, gold, green and brown to use in craft projects.  He loved cooking in the kitchen…I’ve included one of the recipes below, along with the craft activity we did and the title of the story we read. If you’d like more story/craft/cooking ideas, you can go to the activities page of my website: http://www.positiveparentalparticipation.com/News.php 


You will need: 3 lbs tart cooking apples (peeled, cored and quartered), 1 Tb honey, 3/4 cup water, 1 pinch cinnamon or nutmeg, and a large saucepan with a lid.

  1. Combine the apples, water and honey in the pan, cover and bring to a boil. 
  2. Lower the heat and simmer till very soft and mushy, about 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon or nutmeg and serve hot or cold.
  4. Store in covered container in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Makes about 4-6 servings.

The story suggestion for the above recipe is THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD.  This classic tale of a little engine with a positive attitude helps preschoolers believe in themselves and encourages them to keep trying, even if they don’t succeed at first.  Jeremy loved the story…he is excited about all trains right now…when I finished, he said, “More book, Nanu!”

A container train with moving wheels is a craft project will enable your child to have a whole fleet of trains…if you both have the time and patience.   For each train car you will need: 1 clean quart-sized cardboard milk or juice container, construction paper, paste, scissors, markers and metal paper fasteners.  When we finished the train, two-year old Jeremy exclaimed, “My train, my train!”

  1. Depending on which train car your preschooler wants to make, cut the container appropriately (for example, for a coal car  – lay the container on its side and cut off the top).
  2. Cut a piece of construction paper to fit over the outside of the container and paste it in place.
  3. Cut out 4 wheels from another piece of construction paper and attach to the container with paper fasteners.  The wheels will be able to turn!
  4. Ask your child what the name of his train is (for example: Jeremy’s Express), and write the name on the side of the train.  Use the markers to add details to the train.

 For more cooking with kids in the kitchen ideas, check out http://kidsparties.about.com where Megan Cooley, kids’ parties and celebrations guide for about.com is hosting a blog carnival for the month of November.

Halloween memories

I’ve been looking back at my memories of past Halloweens.  As a young child, I lived in an apartment house with 104 units…a Halloween paradise…and you didn’t even have to go outside!  Of course, that was over 50 years ago, when there was less of a concern about knocking on a door of someone you didn’t know.  My 8-year old sister, Rho, was put in charge of me and my two best friends, Jane and Marilyn.  We were all of 5-years old and so excited about the candy we would receive…rainbow dots stuck on the white strip of paper, Bazooka bubblegum, Tootsie rolls…just what you’d find if you went to a vintage candy store.  I don’t remember what characters we portrayed, but I know that the costumes were always homemade by our mothers.

My next memories are of Halloweens we celebrated when our children were growing up.  In the beginning, we went trick or treating in the neighborhood of the small Connecticut town where we lived…where almost everyone on the street knows your name.  However, one year, on the morning of Halloween, there were broadcasts on TV and radio about some tainted candy that had been given to children.  I was just finishing tying the ribbons on colorfully wrapped portions of homemade rice krispie treats that were to be given out to the neighborhood trick or treaters.  Of course, there was no way I could give those out…I’m sure parents would examine their children’s goodie bags and throw out anything that wasn’t store-bought and factory-sealed.  That was the last time our children went trick or treating…from then on, we opted to have Halloween parties at our home…inviting friends of our children to share a safer Halloween.

It’s too bad those Halloween trick or treaters didn’t get to enjoy the rice krispie treats, but you can!  Here is the recipe I used:


You will need:  3TB butter or margarine, 1 package (10 oz) fresh marshmallows, 1/2 cup almond butter, 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal, 1 cup organic mini chocolate chips, large microwave-safe bowl, and a 13x9x2-inch casserole pan. 

  1. In microwave-safe bowl, heat butter or margarine and marshmallows on High for 2 minutes.  Stir and heat 1 more minute.  Stir until smooth.
  2. Add almond butter and stir well.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Add the cereal and stir until well-coated.
  5. Spray the 13x9x2-inch pan with canola oil and press the mixture into the pan with a buttered or oiled spatula.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap. Cool and then cut into squares.
  7. Best eaten within 24 hours…I don’t think they will last that long.