Tag Archives: Sprout

Board Book of the Week: Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton

Books can be hard to talk about. And children’s books — especially ones with less than 20 pages — can be particularly tough, at least for me, so far. But I think I found a way to make this work.

I finally started taking A to the library. And when you go once, there’s a pretty strong pull to go back — the books have to be returned at some point, and the drive through drop box seems almost cruel when there’s so much fun to be had inside (there’s some seriously great play areas set up, let alone all the books).

I brought home a stack of books this week, as you do. Seven books last time, nine this time. Most I considered quickly but somewhat carefully, and a few I added to the pile after A pulled them off the shelves.

Some books I like, but he either doesn’t get or doesn’t have the patience for, or something. And others he insistently brings me over and over, but they make me want to gouge my eyes out. You know how it is.

This post highlights A’s hand’s down favorite, which is one I really appreciate, too. (Which is not to say *I’m* saying “again, again,” once he tires of it, but still.)

red truck

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (2008, Viking Penguin, board book) is a delightful book.

A likes:
• Pointing at all the trucks and making truck sounds.
• Also the “Vrooom,” “Sploosh,” and “Zoom” exclamations usually elicit big smiles.

Mama likes:
• The writing is clear and engaging, the perfect balance of fun and educational, no wording is awkward or annoying. There are rhymes, but it’s not over the top. There are just the right amount of words, too. I never have to read/recite at break-neck speeds to get all the words in before he turns the page.
• The illustrations are whimsical and clear, cheerful. The background recedes and yet remains fun. The colors are bright and mostly primary without being overtly so. The tow truck driver looks enough like a cross between Mario and Luigi to make me smile but still unique enough to be his own character.
• I like the text treatment, too. Colors and sizes vary some, but it’s still completely legible. And it’s not all caps. Also, there aren’t exclamation points on every. single. page. (Ahem.)

Maybe it’s just the perfect timing in terms of his attention span and vehicle fascination, but this book certainly hits the spot. I’ve enjoyed Hamilton’s YA books in the past (Tyger Tyger (my review) and In the Forests of the Night — ooh, looks like book 3 of that Goblin Wars series is out this week: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears) and I’ll definitely be looking for more of her children’s books now too.

For more on children’s books this week, check out Booking Mama’s Kid Konnection.

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15 months

In the tunnel

In the tunnel

His hair is the color of corn silk. So soft and shiny, and with colors ranging from white to gold to strawberry. And he has a lot of it. It’s getting long in back, but it’s still not nearly covering his forehead. He has his daddy’s widow’s peak.

He understands so much of what we say! It’s awesome watching him act on what I’ve said and begin to communicate in ways I can understand, too.

He says Dad, dog, water, food, yeah, and book (and also the EC form of pee/potty), and there/that/this (and maybe Up?). He signs all of those (except potty) plus please, cat, milk, all done, and bed / lay down. He also waves goodbye.

When asked for a kiss, he’ll lean in to *be kissed* on the forehead. He also leans in to be hugged.

Looking in the toy box

Looking in the toy box

He gets very excited when he sees an animal (including a high-pitched squeal), but he often signs the wrong cat/dog for what he’s seeing (sometimes he even signs cat for Maisie) and basically every kind of animal will be in one of these categories (the bear in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is usually a dog, for example, and a gosling in some other book was a cat, I believe, as was the daddy long legs in The Fathers Are Coming Home).

He’s started to act out the books as I read them to him, sometimes — in Old Bear he did the climbing on each other and the jumping on the bed. In Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop he’s done several of the actions (clap, thump (which is really stomp), stretch, and he mimes jumping).


When I say it’s time to change his diaper, he usually heads to the nursery to get it done, and he’ll go to his high chair when he’s hungry or when I tell him it’s time for lunch.

For the past few weeks he’s been insisting on being read to CONSTANTLY. The same book over and over, but also tons of different books. Even with a trip to the library and a few newly purchased books, I feel like my brain is melting. And not just from all the repetitious reading, but also because this means he’s requiring my attention basically ALL DAY, rather than happily playing by himself for quite a chunk of the day. He especially wants to be read to while nursing. And I’ve spent 20 minutes of him on the potty chair reading. He does pretty good with book handling these days — at least he’s not chewing on them or ripping the pages. We still mostly read board books, though. He does still get them bent backward at the spine or creased in cover or page.

He has successfully told me he needed to use the potty chair *and then actually gone* twice, once #2 and once #1. He asks other times, but we’re not catching anything those times (either we’re too slow or he’s telling us after he’s already gone or asking is just a ploy to get more concentrated reading time).

He was diagnosed with seasonal allergies last week. And he’s been working on his 2-year molars for more than a month now — although they’re still a long ways from coming in, as far as I can tell. Otherwise, he’s only lacking one eye tooth.

He still nurses at lot, although we’ve night weaned (so he doesn’t breastfeed once we’ve gone to sleep until ~6 a.m.).

He opened the lever door at the chiropractor’s office (handle there lower than the one at home). When he has keys, he uses them at a closed door to try to open it (doesn’t get it in the keyhole yet).

He’s definitely begun asserting his independence/will and will shove things/people out of his way and scream (to the extent of folded in half, face on the floor) when he doesn’t get his way.

He’s discovered a love for dipping his food.

He usually cries when Daddy leaves for work.

He loves being outside.

He has a few different car/truck noises, including vvvvvvvvvvv and ththththththththththththth. I’m pretty sure he also has some kind of barking noise, but it’s not completely clear yet.

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Today in bookish thoughts

I finished my first Henning Mankell book a day or two ago (A Treacherous Paradise), and I’m still not sure what I think or feel about it. Has anyone else read it (and/or other work of his)? I’d love to chat about it!

I might be starting a book club soon. Where do I start? I’ve never done this before, so any and all help is greatly appreciated.

A is lately ignoring his toys all day every day (with very few exceptions) and instead insisting on being read to NONSTOP. We bought some more books, we went to the library and borrowed some new books, and the variety is a small improvement, but … my brain feels like it is melting. I don’t think it’s completely true that, at least in this situation, having good, new books will cure my read-aloud woes, as Julie Danielson claims at Kirkus. But, if you have some recommendations for me, I’ll take ’em. (He’s 15 months. We regularly make it all the way through We’re Going on a Bear Hunt — sometimes even 10 times in a row — but Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is usually too long, although he does like it.) Is he too young to appreciate I Spy books?

Some day I really do think I’ll get around to writing and posting reviews, or at least mini reviews or thoughts of some kind on the books I’ve been reading. But that day is apparently not today.

Happy Sunday!

A very dot-ty party

The birthday I’d been looking forward to and planning for months has come and gone! My little boy is 1. I planned his birthday party around the idea of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings, although it probably just looked like it was polka-dot themed.

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 11.23.57 AM

The invitations: Hand-drawn and hand-cut (with details printed inside), each one unique.

The decorations: We got a huge pack of scrapbook paper (but 8.5×11, since we’re cutting it all), in all the colors of the rainbow, and a circle cutter. I started with the curtain. A had seen strings of circles sparkling as they swung and twirled on the air currents in one of our rare trips to the mall, and he’d been mesmerized. We cut 2-inch circles then spaced them about 1 or 1-1/2″ (I just eyeballed it) apart, applied rubber cement, placed sewing thread on the first circle, and pressed a matching circle into place, sandwiching the string between, then continuing up the thread.

Eleven circles got me about 3 feet in length. My strings are all between 3 and 4 feet long. When I finished constructing each thread of circles, I cut the end, leaving a tail of maybe 18 inches, which I used to tie it on to the curtain rod. It’s not the sturdiest decoration, but it worked for the party. 🙂 All you sewists (is that the term we’re going with these days?) could also make it by stitching through a single circle, leaving space, then the next, etc.

Then we also cut circles of various sizes and used them to create both the birthday banner and various spots (heh) of interest throughout the house, including a “table runner” (tablecloths and 1 year olds don’t mix) and something on the front door to draw guests in.

The cake: Three layers of gluten-free chocolate cake (from the best cake mix ever), plus cupcakes. Frosted with 7-minute frosting. (I got pasteurized egg whites so I didn’t have to worry since this recipe doesn’t require the hand-held mixer over the double boiler bit, so the eggs are never on the stove. So much easier this way!)

And then the dots. Instead of starting with melted sugar syrup on the stove (or Instamelt, which I discovered too late since I can’t get it locally), I was inspired by stained-glass cookies to try just melting candy in the oven — stained-glass cookies without the cookie, essentially. I bought a mixed bag of Jolly Ranchers and one of LifeSavers. Between the two, I had a good range of colors (just no yellow). After some experimentation, I ended up melting the LifeSavers in my mini-muffin pan and the somewhat larger Jolly Ranchers in regular-sized silicone muffin cups.

With the oven at 350°, making sure each piece of candy was centered in its place, I let them melt and puddle. I started at 5-7 minutes, and then I was watching them very closely. If they go too long, they start bubbling and that’s kind of a mess to deal with. If you need to tip the tray a bit to get complete circles, do that as you remove them from the oven. Let them cool and them pop them out onto parchment, then apply to cake. The ones in silicone were a cinch to remove, compared to the ones in just the nonstick pan, but I couldn’t find silicone mini-muffin cups, so hey. [They get sticky relatively quickly, especially in high humidity. And they don’t last forever.]

The fruit: I made a fruit salad to match the circular theme, using the melon baller on watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and papaya, and added pineapple chunks and halved grapes.

The event: He had a great time pulling on curly ribbons and letting them spring back. He liked unwrapping presents, until the pile of paper and tissue became more interesting than unwrapping for the moment. He quite enjoyed his first taste of refined sugar — he took teeny tiny pinches of frosting until he’d eaten nearly all of it — but he didn’t really care for the cake (I don’t think he even tried it, even when I placed a small bit in his mouth).

Happy birthday, baby!

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How do you read aloud?

What does reading to a baby/todder look like? Or what should it look like? Usually when I read to my son, it consists of me reading (or reciting) the words on the pages. Sometimes I turn the pages, sometimes he turns the pages. But I really don’t explain the pictures that accompany the words (I don’t have much use for wordless books; kind of hard to read them.) I still appreciate books with good illustration, but for me, they’re not much part of the actual reading-to. He’s not able to read the words yet, but he can look at the pictures, which is what you do with them.

This is basically completely opposite the way my mom reads to them. She loves the wordless books, and she kind of makes up her own narration as she goes, pointing at each picture, naming the animal/object, and explaining the sound it makes or the function it serves. She clears up any fallacies, too: If the book has bunnies with eggs, she’ll explain that bunnies don’t lay eggs, chickens lay eggs. Silly book.

Is there a right and a wrong way? Should I be spending more time on each page, pointing and naming, explaining? Even if there isn’t a right or wrong approach, how do you read to a little one?

(This blog post brought to you by rocking a fussy baby to sleep.)

11 months

My baby is 11 months old. Not a baby much longer. His nose has changed a bit, it’s no longer the baby nose. We’re planning a birthday party. (Need to get those invitations done!)


He claps, he waves, he climbs stairs unaided. He’s very interested in being walked around (hanging on to your fingers). He dances (happy tummy dance, to music, to the music in his head). He initiates games (peek-a-boo, row your boat, a bouncing game). He’s started trying to play tug with Maisie (she’s still a bit strong for him).

He signed his first word yesterday: More. He says Mama and Dada, and a couple other words we haven’t figured out the meaning of yet. His babbling is starting to sound more and more like real words and even short sentences. He’s starting to communicate — to be understood, even, and that’s thrilling to me.

He has eight teeth and is very close to having two more.

He has a lot of hair. It’s not long, but it has definite volume.

He’s starting to transition (or maybe already has and I’m just still in denial) to only one nap each day. He often needs more, but sleep is hard for him.

He’s very adventurous, but he likes to know Mama is near, especially in new social situations. He only just started to cry when I leave him.

Note: I wrote the following two paragraphs when he was just over 8 months, intending to add to it, polish it, and post it at 9 months. Oops.

He’s always pushing the boundaries. I’m not talking about obedience. Before he could really stand, he was trying to pivot. Before he could solidly support himself, he was attempting to crouch down and pick something up off the floor, while standing. Before he could stand unsupported, he was placing one of his hands on a door knob and opening, closing, opening, while still trying to balance, with only support from the other hand.

And while it’s exasperating and sometimes scary to watch, at least for this parent, it’s also inspiring and thrilling. He’s constantly growing and pushing himself. Reaching new heights (literally and figuratively). Learning new skills and tackling challenging feats.

Swap hat received!

I talked previously about the hat swap I participated in with my due date group on Ravelry.

Well, the hat for A arrived this week, all the way from Germany! 😀


I love it, it’s perfect. It’s soooo soft, the color is perfect, the buttons add the very best touch of whimsy. She (karulin on Rav) used the Woolly Wormhead Bubbles pattern.

Wanna see it modeled? Well, OK. If you insist.




Oh, and the chocolate? Perfectly dark, with the greatest taste of orange. (And I don’t even usually like fruit in my chocolate.) I loved doing this swap.

I can haz books?


Yes, the little guy is in full pull-books-off-the-shelves mode, and I’m at a loss as to what to do! I’d cleared the bottom shelf, but now he can reach the next one (and not just on this bookcase). This seems like an unsustainable precedent.

Side note: I haven’t reviewed any of those books, although I’ve read them, so if you’ve been pining to hear me talk about something in particular? Ask, and I’ll see what I can do. 🙂