This week, I want to focus on another of Bitsy’s favorite picture books for Picture Book Month. Eating the Alphabet (shown above in board book form, but also available in other formats at this link), like a lot of alphabet books, is one in which the illustrations are the real star of the show. There is a good variety of vocabulary to found be in this book, too (Kumquat! Kohlrabi! Xigua!).
I think this book is a really fun one for little ones who are discovering new foods. Because it’s a quick read, it’s a really good one for the short attention span of an active toddler. Bitsy brings this one to me frequently, we read it, then she wanders off to play some more. Reading then feels fun, not forced. A learning activity I’d like to do with her soon, but haven’t tried yet, is to take this book with us next time we go grocery shopping and search for each of the fruits and vegetables in Eating the Alphabet. When I do that, I’ll let you know how it goes!
November is Picture Book Month, a time to celebrate picture books for their importance in developing literacy, and the joy they bring us as readers. Bitsy and I enjoy picture books together every day. In celebration of Picture Book Month, I plan to do some extra posts about the children’s books we read. This week we read a book that is an excellent example of the great work that can be done by authors and illustrators in this format: Rooster’s Off to See the World, by Eric Carle.
This story is one adults can enjoy as much as children. Bitsy loves the different voices I do for all of the animal characters. The colorful illustrations are so appealing to little ones, and I love Eric Carle’s distinctive collage style.
The story is so clever. A rooster awakes one morning and forms the notion he would like to travel. “So, right then and there, he set out to see the world.” As he walks along on his journey, the rooster meets other animals who accept his invitation to travel the world. Cats, frogs, turtles, and even fish swimming in a brook form the travel party.
Cocksure as one would expect a rooster to be, he made no plans or preparations for his bold endeavor at world travel. The animals soon feel the deprivations of an ill-prepared trip, and one by one each group of animals abandons the trip and returns home. The rooster ends up alone again, finds himself hungry and homesick, and returns to the comforts of home as well. In the end, he falls asleep and has “a wonderful happy dream–all about a trip around the world!” This is a good place to ask your little one what you think the rooster will do next: will he be satisfied with dreaming about seeing the world, or will he make real travel plans and try again?
While the book is good for teaching counting, addition, and subtraction, it does so in a very subtle way–the main focus is the story. The illustrations include a visual in the top corners showing the growing, then declining number of animals on the trip as each group of animals joins or leaves the party.
One rooster is joined by two cats, then three frogs, four turtles, and five fish. The fish, then the turtles, followed by the frogs, and finally the cats take their leave of the rooster, until there is just one animal present again. The way this is done through illustrations shows just how important picture books are to early learning.
As you can see in several otherpostshere, Bitsy and I love Eric Carle books. This is one of my favorites, though. I like the distinct personalities of the different animal characters, and the humorous tale. The rooster, with all of his colorful feathers, must have been a particularly fun animal for Carle to illustrate, and stands out to me as one of the most beautiful of his illustrations. I highly recommend this one for your child’s collection.
Bitsy seems really drawn to this cute illustration of little Ella Fitzgerald, and often carries this book around with her and brings it to me to read to her. At this toddler stage, sitting still for a whole book can be difficult. If a toddler is having trouble sitting still for an entire story, that’s okay. It better to skip some sentences or whole pages, or let them run around while you read, than to make them sit still until you finish the book. You want to help them develop a love of reading, not make it a chore. I do sometimes miss the days when I could read her books with longer, more complex stories than the ones in her board books, whenever I wanted. For whatever reason, Bitsy seems to stay pretty engaged with this book, though. I think she likes Ella’s friendly face and the colorful illustrations.
This one is fun for adults, too. There are little references for us to enjoy, like Ella’s mother reading Mrs. Dalloway. It gives us a lot of music to explore. At the beginning, we see a musically-precocious little Ella Fitzgerald listening to the Boswell sisters on vinyl. This group was a new discovery for me, and fortunately you can find their collections on Youtube, including what fans in the comments say are pretty rare, deep cuts.
We also learn about Ella Fitzgerald’s collaborations, band, and solo work, including illustrations of her album covers. What a great way introduce one of America’s greatest singers to children! Bitsy is so drawn to music, and this book has prompted me to play some of Ella Fitzgerald’s music for her.
The story is a very positive one about overcoming adversity and following your dreams. It does briefly touch on some difficult events in Ella’s life–her mother’s death, skipping school, being sent away to “a strict school as punishment,” and running away from home. It doesn’t dwell too much on these events and topics, and tells about them in a way that I believe children can handle.
This series features the stories of women who have achieved great things. It follows their stories from childhood, showing little ones that we all start small, but can accomplish a lot if we dream big and follow those dreams. The books are written for young children, but are enjoyable for all ages. According to this interview, the author was inspired to write books about female heroes to fill a gap she discovered when looking for books to read to her nieces. There just weren’t as many books about real-life, strong, courageous women as she’d found about men. The books aren’t just for girls. They are about dreamers, and intended for all children.
Vergara writes all the books in the series, but works with different illustrators. I loved all the illustrations in the book about Ella Fitzgerald. One page really stood out for me for the way Alca illustrates Vergara’s figurative language. Ella Fitzgerald’s “velvety voice wrapped around the audience like a blanket.”
I am so excited to keep sharing stories in this series about the lives of great women with Bitsy. I think the next Little People, Big Dreams we’ll read will be Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, and Jane Austen. There are many from which to choose in this series, and you can probably find the stories of some of your heroes to share with your children.
This post contains some links to Amazon listings for the books discussed. As an associate, I earn from qualified purchases.
I’m someone who’s been reading about child development since I was a child. I’ve always been interested in the subject intellectually , and knew I wanted to be a parent. I believe in preparing. When I found out I was having Bitsy, I started seriously researching the best baby products right away. My husband and I spent two weekends in Birthing From Within classes (a class and book that I highly recommend–It helped me advocate for the kind of birth I wanted, while also accepting that the birth didn’t happen according to my plan). I believe in doing all of these things, while also accepting that as parents, there’s so much that we learn by doing.
When I created my baby registries, I did not include a shopping cart cover. It just seemed so unnecessary. I’m not fussy about germs and public spaces. I thought I was too smart and cool to fall for the marketing of another new purported necessity. My child could handle sitting in the shopping cart like all the children of yesteryear. My child need not be afraid of the world.
That was before I had a wiggly toddler.
A scary experience I had today showed me how wrong I was. I was grocery shopping with Bitsy today. She loves shopping with her Mama, looking around at all the colors, the people, the stuff on the shelves that must seem so amazing to someone for whom everything is so brand new. I was walking along, happy to find really great items in the clearance section, sales on items we needed, rebates on Ibotta, and beautiful fresh flowers to take home and arrange. I talked to Bitsy about everything we saw, and narrated what I was doing. All was well.
Then we approached the checkout line. She’s been a bit wiggly in the baby seat of the shopping cart, but I’d watched her and turned her back around when she twisted to look in the direction we were going. Just as we were getting in line, she got very fussy. I unbuckled the seat belt and tried to lift her, but somehow she had gotten her leg stuck between the bars of the cart. I tried but couldn’t get her leg out of there. She got scared and cried louder. I got scared, too. I told myself, okay if her leg would fit in here, we must be able to get it out, right? Some ladies saw our predicament and came over and tried to help. I started to freak out. What if her leg gets broken?! What if she loses her leg?! I had tried to keep calm for my daughter, but now I was crying. There were some paramedics in the store, and one of them came over to help. He had a little trouble at first, but finally we got her positioned just right, and he was able to carefully slide her leg out of there. I was so happy to have her out of the cart and hold her close. It all happened in a matter of minutes, but those minutes of fear and pain felt so long.
As we raise children, parents will find over and over again that we were wrong about some of our ideas and expectations. We have to be willing to learn. We also can’t let it hurt our egos. It doesn’t bother me that I learned I really need a product that I thought was a little silly and fussy not so long ago. We don’t know it all, and that doesn’t make us bad parents. I’m just glad that everything turned out okay today, and that there’s an easy solution to prevent it happening again. As a mama, I’m going to keep reading child development literature, keep preparing, but remain flexible enough to keep learning as I go.