Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Books for New Babies and Parents, too!

The birth of a baby is such magic. This is my precious Emmy just a day old. What I remember most is the warmth - her body and my body so close that we were magically one in the same. I thought this feeling would be lost when she entered the world, but instead it only intensified. This post is to celebrate the birth of our babies... yesterday, today and tomorrow!

Let's begin our celebration by acknowledging the first nine months with a delightful book titled Ma! There's Nothing to Do Here: A Word From Your Baby-in-Waiting written by Barbara Park (of Junie B.Jones fame) and illustrated by Viviana Garofoli. If a baby in utero were to write a letter to his "Ma," he might say something like this:

"There's nothing to see here! Not one scrawny tree here! No puppies. N0 toys. No girls and zero boys. Not a sandbox or swings. Or those monkey bar things. Not a park or a zoo. Ma! There's nothing to do here!"

Ms. Park came up with the idea for this book when her daughter-in-law invited her to her first sonogram (sonograms were not used at the time of Barbara's pregnancies). As she watched the baby on the screen, she realized that the baby wasn't doing much. Perhaps he had nothing to do in there! This sparked Barbara to write a poem, cleverly narrated in the voice of the unborn child, to give to her daughter-in-law and later made into a book.

This sweet story would be the perfect gift for expectant mothers and the perfect read aloud at a baby shower with the guests then writing their own "notes from utero" to be collected and presented to the Mommy to be!

My favorite book to welcome a new baby is On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier.

On the day you were born the Earth turned, the Moon pulled, the Sun flared, and, then, with a push, you slipped out of the dark quiet where suddenly you could hear...a circle of people singing with voices familiar and clear.

In Debra's words, "I have always liked to write letters, and people often would say to me, 'Why don't you write books?' My first one, On the Day You Were Born, came unexpectedly as the result of a difficult pregnancy with our only child, Calla. Early in the pregnancy, when things were at their darkest, I asked a nurse at the hospital to bring me some paper so I could write down all the things on earth that would welcome my daughter, if she would just get here. Later, after her safe arrival, I took this jumble of words and scribbled drawings and began to turn them into the book that became On the Day You Were Born."

As has become a tradition in our family, a book is presented to Emmy on each of her birthdays with a special letter written on the first page. The book On the Day You Were Born was given to Emmy on her second birthday with the following note,

"Happy Second Birthday Emerson. We are celebrating the day you were born. The day a circle of people sang with voices familiar and clear. 'Welcome to the spinning world. Welcome to the green Earth. We are so glad you've come!' We are forever grateful for your birth and your life with us. We love you forever and ever. Love, Mommy and Daddy."

Another favorite book to present to a newborn baby is On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.

Ms. Tillman created this book to convey to children at an early and impressionable age that they are "the one and only ever you." According to Nancy, "Too many children are unaware of their innate, immeasurable value. It is my dearest hope that this book will help give children a deep sense of their personal worth."

This enchanting tale begins,

On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, "Life will never be the same." Because there had never been anyone like you...ever in the world.

Next on my list of favorite new baby books is Happy Birthday to Whooo? A Baby Animal Riddle Book

by Doris Fisher and illustrated by Lisa Downey. In baby announcement style, this book gives the reader riddles to solve through informative facts and clues in the partially hidden illustrations. Such as:

The Latest Word In Our Herd! Born September 23 and tipping the scale at 250 pounds, my baby stands 3 feet high at the shoulders. New Mother: Ms. Ivor E. Tusks

Included at the end of the book are Animal Fun Fact pages and a numbers game as well as a creative writing page where a child could create a birth announcement for himself or a baby brother or sister. Of all the books mentioned in this post, this is Emmy's favorite.

Another favorite book to present to a new baby is If You Were Born a Kitten by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by JoEllen McAllister Stammen. It is the sweetest story showing, through pictures and rhyme, twelve different types of animal babies
entering the world including a human baby.

If you were born a kitten, you'd slip into the world in a silvery sac, and your mother would lick, lick, lick you free.

And another wonderful book for a newborn is Fiddle-I-Fee by Will Hillenbrand. This is a delightful story based on the folk song titled 'Bought Me a Cat.'
Hillebrand's illustrations cleverly show a farmer and his wife preparing for a new baby as their animals secretly meet at night to plan a surprise of their own. The sheet music is included at the beginning of the book, but if you're anything like me, you might like to hear the tune so click here to listen.

And finally...on the day Emmy was born we gave her the book Before You Were Born retold by Howard Schwartz and illustrated by Kristina Swarner. This book retells
a folktale where the indentation that everyone has on their upper lip is explained.

But the moment you were born, Lailah put her finger to your lips, reminding you to keep everything that she had taught you a secret. That is how you got the indentation on your upper lip. It is your reminder of all that Lailah taught you before you were born...and all that you have forgotten.

Lailah, according to Jewish legend, is the angel of conception who brings together the soul and the seed in the womb and stays with the unborn infant sharing the mysteries of heaven and all the secrets of the world. The instant the child emerges, the angel lightly places its finger to the child's lip, as if to say "Shh," which causes the child to forget everything learned in the womb and places an indentation above the upper lip. The story implies that the knowledge is present just merely forgotten and the child has the rest of her life to learn all of the wondrous secrets again.

As a mom, I can think of no better gift for a newborn baby and his or her parents than the gift of a book. I hope these recommendations are helpful to you as you think of your own home library or that of a friend's or relative's.


You are the poem
I dreamed of writing
the masterpiece
I longed to paint.
You are the shining star
I reached for In my
ever hopeful quest
for life fulfilled..
You are my child.
Now with all things
I am blessed.

~Author Unknown~

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our Favorite Christmas Books

I began this post about our favorite Christmas books on December 4th. It is now December 15th - 10 days before Christmas! This time of year always goes by so very fast even with efforts to SLOW THINGS DOWN!

What's wonderful about this year's holiday season is that Emmy really gets it. She is full of anticipation and talks non stop about Santa Claus and his upcoming arrival. With our move to Massachusetts, we are both hoping for a white Christmas this year.

Part of our holiday decorating this year has been putting our Christmas books into beautiful baskets. We have a rather large selection and Emmy and I wanted to be sure to share with you our favorite Christmas books before the season is over!

First on our list is Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.
This book was written in 1963 and is one of my all time favorite
Christmas stories. It begins with wealthy, old Mr. Willowby's too tall Christmas tree and trickles down to the smallest mouse in the house.

Then Mistletoe Mouse just happened to see that tiny tip of a Christmas tree. He pulled it through the snow and
ice...up some stairs...he fell down twice! At last he reached his cozy house. "It's just the right size!" said Mrs. Mouse. Then at the top, if you please, they put a star made out of cheese.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree was also produced as a television Christmas special in 1995 starring Robert Downey, Jr. and The Muppets. Here's a clip of the opening song which was nominated for an Emmy.

I would love to show this to Emmy in its entirety, but can't find it! Come on TV stations, bring back Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree to the holiday lineup!

Second on our list of favorites is Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present by John
Burningham. As Santa is retiring for the evening, he notices one present left in his sack. With the reindeer exhausted, Santa enlists the help of several people, from an airplane pilot to a mountain climber, in order to deliver the present to Harvey Slumfenburger before Christmas morning. Emmy loves to say the following words along with me:

My name is Santa Claus. I still have one present left in my sack, which is for Harvery Slumfenburger, the little boy who lives in a hut at the top of the Roly Poly Mountain, which is far, far away.
And it will soon be Christmas Day.

John Burningham's illustrations are exquisite. Emmy's favorite picture is the one of Santa Claus finally arriving at Harvey's hut.

"Mommy look how beautiful the sky looks. I think the sun is coming up. Santa just made it!"

Third on our list is Redbird at Rockefeller Center by Peter Mahoney and Felicia Zekauskas.
Told in a rhyme reminiscent of Dr. Seuss this book tells the story of a giant spruce found in the yard of Kate and her mom.

There once was a tree of a height to astound that people could see for
miles around. It towered above the house of a lady who found it too tall and overly shady.

With a phone call from the mother, the tree becomes the famous Christmas tree towering above the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. Only Kate knows that hidden among the branches is a redbird and is heartbroken that the tree has been cut down. Luckily the holiday season is a time of magic and miracles, and with the help of the tree's ornaments (redbirds - of course), the lonely redbird and the tall spruce make their way back home again. The illustrations humorously show the hustle and bustle of New York City during the holiday season. Emmy's favorite drawing is of the mother. She just cracks up at her hairdo - a rather tall beehive!

Last on our list is Who'll Pull Santa's Sleigh Tonight? by Laura Rader. This is a sequel to
Santa's New Suit, which is also a great holiday read. When the reindeer all come down with colds, Santa needs a back up plan and quick. He decides to hold auditions in order to find stand ins. A large crowd gathers to try out including ducks, rabbits, monkeys and an elephant, but none was right for the job. Next, Santa tries his own invention, but that doesn't work out either. When Mrs. Claus suggests bringing him a cup of hot cocoa to make him feel better, they both know just what to do. HOT COCOA! After the reindeer drink Mrs. Claus' hot cocoa, they stop sniffling and sneezing and are ready to fly!

Hot cocoa for all and to all a good night!

Emmy just laughs and laughs at the antics of the characters in this story and wants me to read the "talking bubbles" over and over again. Included is the recipe for Mrs. Claus' hot cocoa! We are looking forward to reading the next book in the series...When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho!

Emmy and I hope that this holiday season brings you joy, love and laughter.