Archive for Reading

Mo Willems and a Seriously Silly Exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum

Mo Willems has reached celebrity status in our house.

This is Mo.

Haven’t heard of him?  Rest assured your kids have.  Mo lives in Brooklyn.  He created Knuffle Bunny…and the Pigeon who wants to drive the bus…and Elephant and Piggie…  Yeah that Mo Willems.  He’s a genius.

Bean will even correct grown-ups who call him Mo Williams.  We had to have a conversation about correcting grown-ups after she pulled that one with the parent of a classmate.

So up in Amherst, Massachusetts (coincidentally where I went to college), there is a museum dedicated to the brilliant children’s book writer Eric Carle called the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  Once upon a time on this blog I made a video about Eric Carle.  Remember when I used to make videos with my very compliant baby?  Me too.

We visited this museum with family  when Bean was teeny, and we were blown away.  It is light and airy and inspiring and beautiful.  There are activities and displays and to quote my favorite book as a child… there’s infinite “scope for imagination.”  And right now, on display, there is a wonderful new exhibit all about Mo Willems called Seriously Silly: A Decade of Art and Whimsy by Mo Willems.

According to the museum, the exhibition, curated by The Carle’s chief curator, Nick Clark, will show preliminary drawings that give viewers a glimpse of Willems’ process, as well as other finished illustrations that fully reveal his comedic genius and the influence of his early work as an animator for Sesame Street. Willems’ own work is accompanied by a selection of work from his private collection by the comic book artists and cartoonists who have inspired him most, including Charles M. Schulz, William Steig, and Saul Steinberg. Like the masters who came before him, Willems makes a powerful message look simple. “Writing, especially funny stuff, involves touching your own heart,” says Willems. “But to get there you have to rip open the rib cage and squeeze past the lungs. It can’t help but be messy, shocking, and painful.”

I have a friend who uses the Elephant and Piggie books as scripts for his Intro to Acting classes.  I think this says something rather profound about the books and about Mo Willems as a writer.  The stories are active.  They get at something essential about relationships–about conflict and action and reaction and resolution.  They open the rib cage, squeeze past the lungs, and touch the heart which is pretty much mandatory for actors.  And they are wonderfully open to dramatic interpretation.  My new reader is never more expressive vocally than when she is reading an Elephant and Piggie book aloud.

So in these dog days of summer, if you are looking for a fabulous adventure with your children, and you are within striking distance of Amherst, Massachusetts, by all means, GO!  Walk the campus of beautiful Amherst College and take in dinosaur bones at the Beneski Museum of Natural History.  Get a chocolate croissant at The Black Sheep.  Check out the Ko Theater Festival. Piggie out on a pizza from Antonio’s.  And of course, spend many hours at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  You’ll be so glad you did.

Seriously Silly is on view now through February 23, 2014.  Thank you to the Eric Carle Museum for sending us four passes to visit!  Hope we can use them very very soon!

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Mike the Knight – A Great Book Hero

Looking for a great book series for your preschool boy? Kristin and her sons received the new Mike the Knight series from Simon & Schuster to check out…here’s her review! Thanks Mike!

Have you dreamt of being a knight or a lady, living in a castle, casting magic spells, and playing with dragons?  Have you had visions of long flowing dresses, and men on horseback?  My son CW frequently pretends he has his own pet dragon…that is when he’s not being a pirate.

Right on cue, the brand new Mike the Knight books and coloring book arrived at our house!  In a period of time where my just-turned-five-year-old boy is excited about dragons and pirates, knights and trolls, this book series could not have arrived soon enough!  CW was ecstatic when he saw what was in the box.  And, he has been “reading” the books to himself ever since.  We read them together, our babysitter read them to him, his grandparents read them to him, and now he sits and “reads” them every morning.  I call that a win!


The books highlight Mike’s good deeds (like in “Mike the Knight and the Good Deed”), which has CW looking for ways to be a good knight too.  This means he attempts to make his bed, carry his plate to the sink, and be nice to his brother.  There is even a great board book for his little brother, “Mike and the Dragons” which introduces Mike, Squirt, and Sparkie.

“Mike and Trollee in Trouble” (a Level 1 Reader perfect for my new reader) teaches the importance of friendship and teamwork.  Mike and his dragons, Sparkie and Squirt, work together to get Mike’s friend Trollee out of trouble.

 The coloring book went with us to the doctor this past week, and kept both boys happy for our 45-minute wait and appointment.  The app is now loaded and ready to go on the iPad, and we may even buy some of the Mike the Knight figures with our birthday gift cards!  You can even buy a mini set of the books here for $6.29!

When your child is begging you to read, “reading” to himself, and playing knight, you will be so happy you picked up some of these amazing books!  And if you want some great computer activities, check out Mike the Knight online!  At $3-$7, you can’t go wrong with a few Mike the Knight books for birthday gifts or “just because!”


photo10 150x150 A Glowing Review for the Global GlowballKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and little brother MD.

Babies Gotta Have It received these books for purposes of review.  As always, all opinions are Kristin and her boys and weren’t influenced by anyone.  Babies Gotta Have It is an Amazon affiliate.

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Disney Storytime Apps – A Library of Fun!

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Disney Story apps.  I love the Disney Classics Storybook apps for the extended playtime and quiet storytelling.  Well, we recently had a chance to review the new Disney Storytime app, and it is a great addition to the Disney apps collection.

The Disney Storytime app is a virtual bookshelf of Disney picture books for your child containing the largest collection of Disney stories to date.  And a neat function allows your child to choose the books you purchase to add to your collection.  So how does it work?  When you buy the app ($1.99 on iTunes, for iPhone and iPad) you receive three stories: Toy Story: Starry Night, Tangled: Rapuzel’s Story and  Monsters, Inc.: Always Time for a Laugh.  Once it has downloaded, Mom and Dad can go into the app and purchase credits which kids can use to add more stories to the bookshelf.  Two stories for $2.99, 5 stories for $4.99, or the remaining 17 stories for $8.99.  Your kids can then choose books they’d like and download them for the credits you have purchased.  Pretty cool!

The stories themselves are pretty good, and range from retellings of the movies to simple tales containing those movie characters you know and love.  The art is lovely, of course.  Each page will play a sound effect when you tap on the picture–the qualities of those range from really neat to a little baffling.  And as in all of the Disney story apps, your child can choose to have the story read to her, or to read it herself.  And of course my favorite feature…have you always dreamed of recording audio books?  Well, with these apps, you can record your own voice reading the whole book.  Really fun for you, and especially neat for your kid if you’re away on business or out of town for the weekend.  Or maybe even have Grandma record a few when she’s in town for a neat surprise.

The new Disney Storytime app–a nice addition to the Disney apps collection, and a must have if your little one is a diehard Disney fan.

Thanks to Disney for providing us with this app to review.  As always, all opinions are my own and my child’s and you better believe weren’t influenced by anyone.

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Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe and Hero’s Duty Take Apps to a New Level

At Babies Gotta Have It we think that a little screen time is a-ok in moderation.  Here, Kristin gives her review of the new Disney Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe and Hero’s Duty Interactive Comic apps!  Enjoy!

It may seem from my reviews here on Babies Gotta Have It that my son is on the iPad every five seconds!  But before you go questioning my parenting choices, you need to know that CW has an allotted amount of time on the iPad per day.  It is not a ton of time.  Usually it is the amount of time it takes me to put MD down for a nap.  I make sure that the educational apps are peppered in there, but I do not have to guide him too much.  He loves to do the interactive books, especially the Disney Storybook Deluxe versions of Cars, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo.


If you are new to the Storybook Deluxe versions, you are in luck!  There is a new version!  In preparation for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ newest 3-D animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph, Disney released two new apps — Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe and Hero’s Duty Interactive Comic.  Now, CW was a little scared of the Wreck-It Ralph story…we just skipped some of it and went to the games.  Later, I went back through and read along with the story – it includes cy-bugs that attack, which is what scared my four year old.  I would say you just have to know your child.  The app is rated for ages four and up by iTunes. My nephew was watching Star Wars and Transformers at this same age with no problems.  He would love this app.

 The app takes you through the story of Wreck-It Ralph, which may be a helpful tool prior to seeing the movie!  It is interactive, and your child can click on the page in various places.  But, CW’s favorite part occurs during the story when his face shows up in the screen (your camera captures him) in the video game with Ralph.  At this point in the story, Ralph is encountering the cy-bugs as part of a video game called “Hero’s Duty.”

If you have an older child, it would be best to start with the Hero’s Duty Interactive Comic (rated for ages 9 and up).  It is mentioned in the Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe story, and is helpful to understand the whole story.  I chose not to allow CW to look at the comic, as there are weapons (used to kill the cy-bugs) and I do not want him to be exposed to that yet.  The comic (a prequel to the Wreck-It Ralph story) includes interactive comic pages with original artwork, and two reading modes.  At $1.99, it is great to have for older kids who want a little higher-level reading, or who really enjoy comics.


Although the Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe story did not capture CW’s rapt attention (mainly because he was a bit scared), the interactive game certainly did.  In the games, CW can customize his own candy go-kart and race the kart in “Sugar Rush!” As you can imagine, CW loves the designing and racing aspects of this game.  I particularly loved that multiple reading levels can read the story or children can choose word-by-word narration (with the original character voices from the movie).  Plus, the fact that the child will see himself appear on the screen at key points of the story throughout the app is completely enjoyable for kids!

At $6.99, I highly recommend that you try the app before seeing the movie.  Your kids will love Sugar Rush (the interactive game within the app), and meet all of the characters of Wreck-It Ralph so they won’t have to ask you a billion questions when you actually see the movie!

photo10 150x150 Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case: Protection from Our Hurricane Kristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and little brother MD.

Kristin and her boys received Wreck-It Ralph and Hero’s Duty Apps free for purposes of review.  As always, all opinions are Kristin’s and her boys’ and were not influenced by anyone.

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Last Minute Gift for Geek Moms

I’m a geek.

A huge, nerdy, bespectacled, geek.

And now, a Geek Mom. So how excited was I to receive a copy of “Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families?”

Heh. Snort. (Pushes glasses back on nose). Super excited.

Natania Barron, Kathy Ceceri, Corrina Lawson and Jenny Williams, the editors of the wildly popular GeekMom Blog have written an engaging, funny, practical and crazy geeky book for all of us out there who want to get our geek on with our kids.  If you didn’t know that “The Hobbit” opened last Friday, this may not be the book for you.  If you got advanced tickets, suffice it to say that this book boasts a section entitled “Throwing a Hobbit Feast.”  Under selecting the menu: “Three to five good cheeses…Enough boiled eggs for one person at least…Pickled things…Meaty things…Bread.”  Are you asking yourself, “what about second breakfast and elevenses” yet?

And from Corrina Lawson in her post Geek Mom: What the book means to me:”

“I’m incredibly proud of  the whole book, though I’m especially fond of my Teaching History Through Superheroes project. I love Natania Barron‘s advice on creating a steampunk costume by thrift store shopping, and Jenny Williams’ ode to Ada Lovelace and Kathy Ceceri’s cool project on creating sparks in the microwave. Yes, you can try this at home.”

By now you should be getting a really good indication if this book is for you, Mama.

But seriously, Geek Mom offers far more than a chance for Mama to simply get her nerd on.  It is full of projects and advice, home-science experiments and superheroes, games and tips.  And even if you’ve never cracked a Sci-Fi book or seen an episode of “Battlestar Gallactica”, if you’re a creative, clever, thought-ful parent, you’ll dig this book.

“Being geeky is all about exploring the world with endless curiosity.  Geek Mom is your invitation to introducing the same sense of wonder and imagination to the next generation.”

So.  If you’re looking for a last minute gift for that mom in your life who loves to get her geek on, and by that, the editors of this book mean that gal who when she gets involved in something, gets really involved in it…pick up a copy of Geek Mom.  Christmas is just a few days away, so here’s where you geeks may need to take a step back.  Sure you could probably get it really fast from our affiliate Amazon or even gift the kindle edition, but hey.  Why not put on a coat, grab a cup of coffee, and head down to your local bookstore and pick one up in real life.  While you’re at it, you can geek out over all of the other real live, hard copy books in front of you.  Sure your glasses might fog up when you come in from the cold.

But trust me.  It will be worth it.

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Let Me Count the Ways…

I spotted Little Master Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet at an awesome independent bookstore upstate in New Paltz last weekend and had a brief moment of not-so-forbidden love right then and there.

“Romeo & Juliet, a Counting Primer” is a  brightly colored board book for toddlers, a counting book for Shakespeare nerds and literary geeks, and the first taste of the Bard for their babies. Shakespeare geeks like me.  1 Balcony….2 Loves…

Bean is almost five.  She is too old for this book.

Dang it.  So who can I buy it for…

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Eat Your Vegetabibbles

I had the pleasure of reviewing “Vegetabibbles” written and illustrated by Kathryn Warren.  With impressive rhymes and adorable characters, Warren has created the perfect children’s book about eating vegetables!  And if your children are like my four year old, then this may be the catalyst you need for getting them to try new things!  Reminiscent of Veggie Tales, you meet Bob the corn on the Cob who “runs around with Broccoli Rob.”  CW’s favorite is the russet potato that “fancied a roma tomato” (they met in a stew).  At their wedding the black eyed peas get into a little trouble, which makes CW laugh every time.  Personally, I liked the zucchini in a bikini!


With colorful illustrations and funny quips, your children will be talking about “Vegetabibbles” all the time.  And, maybe that will translate into some more eating at the table!  Now instead of asking CW to eat his zucchini, I say, “Eat your vegetabibbles” and he giggles.  Next thing I know, the zucchini has disappeared!  The best part is that “Vegetabibbles” introduces your children to new kinds of vegetables from edamame to kale, while enhancing their vocabulary with great words like bravado (rhymes with avocado) and merit (you guessed it, to rhyme with carrot)!

Incredibly creative, pick up a copy of “Vegetabibbles” today!

photo10 150x150 An In Tents Circus of SoundsKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and new baby brother MD.

Thanks to “Vegetabibbles”  for the chance to review their new book! As always, all opinions are Kristin’s and her boys’ and were not influenced by anyone.

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“Where in the World is Away?” – a Thought-Provoking Book About Recycling

It’s a rare treat for this English major to review a children’s book that teaches such a lasting lesson.  With fresh rhymes, colorful illustrations, and important lessons, you cannot go wrong with “Where in the World is Away?” by author, musician, filmmaker, and humanitarian Michael Franti.  The book is a thought-provoking journey that makes children responsible for the planet on which we live.


CW, with his perpetual fascination of vehicles, is a bit obsessed with garbage and recycling trucks as you can imagine.  “Where in the World is Away?” follows a recycled bottle to the recycling plant where it is turned into “goo” and then into something else again.  It reminds children (and parents) to reduce, reuse, and recycle, because although you may throw that bottle “away,” it is really just “somewhere else.”  Lee and Lou and Mo the Crow show the reader how trash is affecting the plants and animals around us, and increasing our own footprints on the Earth.  Teaching the benefits of recycling, “Where in the World is Away?” is my new favorite book about the impact of garbage on the things around us.


The book even comes with a CD for a musical “read-along,” which CW immediately asked if we could “do that again!”  And although I didn’t think it was possible, the book gets better!  It is printed and manufactured in the United States; printed with environmentally friendly soy ink; and printed on elemental chlorine-free (ECF), sustainably harvested, recycled stock!  So, if the prospect of a recycling-focused children’s book with catchy rhythm and cute characters isn’t enough for you, hopefully you will be impressed by such an environmentally friendly process to create the book!  Get your copy here.  Your child and the Earth will thank you!

photo10 150x150 Alison Faith Levy Opens Up a “World of Wonder”Kristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and new baby brother MD.


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Are You Ready For “The Question?”

We Made You Out of Love

Cate likes to hear stories about the time when she was “in Mama’s tummy.”  I show her pictures and tell her how we called her “the squiggler” because she was always squiggling around in there.  So naturally, and yet still somehow unexpectedly, the day came last year when, in the midst of such reminiscing, her little face screwed up into a puzzled twist and she said “How did I get out of your tummy?”

She was three.  I said “the doctor helped.”  And again, not surprisingly and yet still somehow unexpectedly that question was followed by “Well, how did I get in your tummy?”  I had a less satisfying answer for this question.

I have every intention of demystifying the reproductive process for my wee one.  Her Daddy is, after all, a doctor.  And, of course, I want her to feel that she can talk to me about anything.  However. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that at three, there’s just no way pulling out the anatomical diagrams is gonna be remotely useful.

How happy I was to discover “We Made You Out of Love”!  Aptly subtitled: “The Answer To The Number One Question on Every Child’s Mind: “Where Did I Come From?”  Co-authored by a pediatrician and a writer, this terrific picture book for kids ages 5 and up (but I really think it would have been perfect for my inquisitive three-year-old) introduces us to Jeffrey who is on his quest to solve the mystery of his own birth.  The book fancifully and colorfully follows Jeffery as he asks his parents questions like “Was I hatched from a giant egg?” and “Did Daddy build me?” and “Did you win me at the carnival?”  The answer, as the title suggests, is ultimately “We made you out of love.”  It’s offered with a gentle, non-sexual explanation that I think satisfies little ones and can provide a bridge to a longer discussion with older children.  The book is sensitive and thoughtful and a great resource to any parent with a seriously precocious preschooler.  Got anyone like that in your house?

Call me crazy, but I think this is a book to have on hand starting when your kid is a toddler, so you can be ready to pull out when the question is asked.  And trust me, it inevitably will be asked.  And it will take you off guard.  I did eventually expand a bit upon how the Bean got out of my tummy.  She hadn’t really asked again about how she got in there to begin with, but we read this book together when it arrived (thanks so much to the authors for sending it to us to review) and seemed totally satisfied.

A ready answer to a really tough question.  That’s something Mamas and Babies definitely gotta have.

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Amp Up Your Apps: Part 2

Resident tech adviser Kristin is here to review two more great apps for parents and kids!

*Learn Chinese: Toy Story 3 ($4.99 on iPad)

Learn Chinese Toy Story 3 App on iTunes

You’ve seen the research that says that children can learn languages much more quickly than adults.  Well now your kids can learn to speak and read Chinese with Woody and Buzz Lightyear, all while they think they’re playing a game!  The story is presented in five levels, the first is all in English, and each subsequent level adds more Chinese words, until the fifth level is all in Chinese.  CW loves level 2 and repeating the random words that are written in Chinese.

CW learns Chinese with the Toy Story 3 App

Learn Chinese: Toy Story 3 is read aloud to your child with fun graphics and sound effects.  Your child can learn about the tonal marks, hear phrases and words in context (and out of context as well), record themselves, and receive stickers for meeting certain goals!  And if your child is not quite ready for reading, they will enjoy having the story read aloud to them (you can do it, or it can be done automatically).  CW begs to use the iPad for this game, and I figure that it certainly cannot hurt!  And, if he learns a few Chinese words, then it’s worth every penny!

Thanks to Disney Language Learning for allowing me to try this amazing App.

*Safety 1st Baby Book App: free

Safety 1st Baby Book App

With this Baby Book app, you can digitize your entire life, including those precious baby memories.  While, I still like the hard copy baby book, the Safety 1st Baby Book app does make my life easier.  I capture the moments on my phone, and then I can transfer them later into the baby book, without the fear of forgetting those important dates and milestones.  Plus, I can use my phone pictures to customize each milestone!

The Safety 1st Baby Book app is simple to use, and is also a helpful resource for tips and articles about your baby’s development.  Although I think it would be great if the app had a place to document immunizations, milestones, and other important developments with prompts and sections like a regular baby book (you can do so in the Notes section, but it does not prompt you for specific information), it is still a great resource and place to keep information all in one place.  And, the price is right.

Kristin with CW and MDKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and new baby brother MD.

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