Three colorful books to delight very young children

March 31, 2013 

  • About these books

    “A Bus for Us,” written and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom. The picture book story is only 100 words long, but the action in the colorful, watercolor illustrations will give parents and kids plenty to talk about.

    “Stripes of All Types,” written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale. This clever celebration of stripes in the natural world is also beautiful. A puzzle page asks readers to identify animals by their stripes alone.

    “Bring on the Birds,” written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale. From the toucan on the cover to the robins at the end, this is a super-appealing and colorful depiction of nature at its most various and charming.

“A Bus for Us,” written and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom, is the 2013 selection of the One Book, Every Young Child project.

Now in its eighth year, the Pennsylvania initiative promotes literacy by giving copies of a single title to preschools and childcare facilities, and by sponsoring author visits and other book-based events for children and parents throughout the commonwealth.

In “A Bus for Us,” it’s the first day of school and Tess, an energetic little girl with obstreperous, high-flying pigtails, is waiting for the school bus with older, wiser Gus. Various vehicles pass them by — a taxi, a garbage truck, a fire engine — and with each one, Tess asks, “Is this the bus for us, Gus?”

Gus, with varying degrees of patience, identifies each vehicle until — ta da! — the bus arrives and they climb on.

Repetitive, easy-to-read and all of 100 words long, “A Bus for Us” is great for encouraging children to read for themselves besides being a good read-aloud. As for kid appeal, waiting for the bus is a familiar situation for many children — and did I mention all the pretty, shiny vehicles?

On her website, Bloom writes that girls were not allowed to play with trucks or blocks at her elementary school in New York City. So she got her vehicle fix on her own time, building roads for her fleet with her brother and her friends.

Much later, first-grade teachers told her that lots of kids, especially boys, are obsessed with vehicles, and suggested she write a book incorporating them. Also, Bloom says, “As the mom of two boys, I know the attraction of things that go vroom.”

For the One Book program, which aims to encourage discussion of books as well as reading, “The Bus for Us” has a further advantage: eye-catching watercolor illustrations that tell stories beyond the story.

On the first page, only Tess and Gus are at the bus stop. But by the time the bus arrives, nine kids — apparently with myriad cultural backgrounds — are on hand. So are an escaping turtle, a hungry puppy and a scaredy cat, all of which add to the merriment. I can imagine children, parents and teachers having a great time with the Q and A.

Why is the black boy taking his turtle to school?

How come the boy in the backward ball cap didn’t tie his shoes?

And where does the girl with the violin shop? Her cowboy boots are to-die-for!

Two new books for young children, both about nature and both written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale, deserve mention as we finally head into spring.

The first is “Bring on the Birds,” now in board-book format for very young children. From the toucan on the cover to the nesting robins at the end, this is a super-appealing and colorful depiction of nature at its most various and charming.

Simple, rhyming text describes each image, and any toddler worth his salt will be chanting along after three or four readings.

Featuring skunks, zebras, tigers, jellyfish, garter snakes, and butterflies — among others — “Stripes of All Types” is a celebration of patterns in nature. Each page, or full-bleed spread, is devoted to a different animal, with emphasis on its graphic potential. In fact, the framed images reminded me of quilt squares. This is not only a good book for a budding naturalist but for a budding graphic artist. As with “Bring on the Birds,” the rhyming text is simple, effective and easy to memorize.

An afterword gives more information about each featured animal. A clever addition is a puzzle page that asks the reader to identify each animal by its stripes alone.

Martha Freeman is the author of the First Kids Mysteries, most recently “The Case of the Piggy Bank Thief.” She lives in State College.

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