We Are Both Right

Encylopedia Brown: More than a Mystery?

Cuddling up with my seven-year old, lights out and flashlight in hand, we readied ourselves to dive into his first-ever detective mystery novel. He was excited about the flashlight. I was excited about passing on the joy of reading books filled with adventure and intrigue.

The book I selected to deliver on such high expectations was Encyclopedia Brown. Earlier in the day, my husband and I had picked this book while browsing the shelves at the local B&N. He spotted the Encyclopedia Brown series and recalled liking them as a child. I remembered Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys fondly. I had never heard of this series or character.

This being my first exposure to Encyclopedia Brown, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Luckily, it became apparent after the initial well-constructed and neatly wrapped-up chapter that facts are presented, clues are given, and the reader is left to use their own deductive reasoning skills to sort out the mystery. Helpful answers are provided at the end of the chapter to help the novice detective along.

Beginning with chapter 2, my son and I were ready to do some sleuthing of our own. We could solve these mysteries with a bit of research.  Who won the battle of Waterloo?  No problem.  Then, I glanced over at my son and realized he hadn’t a clue as to how to find the answers.

An image of my childhood collection of Encyclopedia Britannica sitting on the top shelf of my closet, quietly awaiting the next social studies report sprung immediately to mind.  What to do? We have no such printed reference materials in our household today. We have the internet. We have…WIKIPEDIA!

The rest of our reading time was spent discussing technology and its impact on information. I explained to my son that today information is stored, shared and updated constantly on the world wide web. It is no longer the static, outdated facts on a printed page that I had as a child.

Coincidentally, I recently read an announcement that Encyclopedia Britannica will stop printing books. Turns out that the 2010, 32-volume set will be the last of its kind as the company focuses on digital.  They are betting that consumers will see the value and pay for vetted, expert information vs. Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

So as new technology forces the old to adapt and compete, will Encyclopedia Brown be  renamed Wikipedia Brown? Which will resonate more with my son? What an unexpected twist to our evening. Thank you, Encyclopedia Brown!

tracey

Best of: Books for Toddlers

You might have to spend a few extra minutes at bedtime saying good night to the walls and such, but this classic children's book is well worth the read. ©HarperCollins Publishers

There’s something about those first books you read with your toddler that sticks with you for a very long time. (And not just because you have been reading the same two books every night for the last three weeks and can all but recite them in your sleep.)

The titles will come to you in an instant when you are asked to bring your favorite children’s book to a baby shower years from now.

They will still have a place on your child’s bookshelf, long after he develops an affinity for chapter books with underpants in the title and toilet plungers on the cover.

You might even find yourself waxing poetic about these beloved children’s stories someday, only to realize that you can’t recall the character out of the book you will be discussing that evening at book club.

So while they are still fresh in our minds, we figured we would share our favorite books for toddlers with you:

SUZANNE’S PICKS

Barnyard Boogie by Jim and Janet Post: My husband had this routine of bringing L. to Barnes & Noble once a week, buying himself a coffee and reading to our son in his stroller. When he came home with Barnyard Boogie, a puppet book that has inserts for your hand into the lips of an oversized felt mouth, I couldn’t wait to hear his narration and see the baby’s reaction. Every page gives you an opportunity to act out another animal voice as you move the hand puppet in tune, with verses like “I’m a linky-slinky jazz cat, I sing meow, meow, meow. Linky-slinky me, Linky-slinky, ow. I’m a linky-slinky jazz cat, meow, meow, meow.” And the kicker — the Barnyard Boogie song that begs to be belted out in your best farmer voice on the last page. I have to admit that I still take this book out when I want to give the kids a good laugh.

I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas: This book is about Owen, a sweet little pig who doesn’t want to leave his mommy to go to school. I found it in a desperate search online right around the time my son’s separation anxiety reached its peak at 18 months old and it came in handy again when S. went through the same thing at day care. Taking you through Owen’s day at school, from coloring a picture for his mom to spilling juice on his snack and braving the slide, the illustrations show a range of emotions that are backed up by his mom’s words: I love you all day long… when you share your favorite purple crayon… or when someone takes your toy. I love you when I’m with you and I love you when we’re apart.

No Hitting! by Karen Katz: Have you ever seen the Yo Gabba Gabba promo where the dad is talking about the show’s messages resonating with his son, how he hears them sing “Don’t bite your friends” and he gets it? That’s what this book did for us. As the story takes you through all the impulsive things a toddler might do, like sticking out his tongue at mommy, each no-no (“I’m mad! I want to squeeze the cat.”) is paired with a alternative action on the flip up portion of the page (“That’s not okay, but I can squeeze some clay.”) My daughter took this as her opportunity to break out her morals and say, “Noooo, we don’t do that.” While it didn’t ward off temper tantrums altogether, reading this book did help.

AMANDA’S PICKS

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle: Such a simple story, but my toddlers have always loved it. I don’t know if it’s the familiar cadence of the words or the bright, colorful pictures that are found on every page, but I suspect it’s a combination of both. Our youngest S. is especially a fan, asking to read it not only a few times a day, but more than once in each sitting. He’s always been particularly taken with the second-to-last-page (in our board book version anyway) that reads “Children, children, what do you see?” and shows assorted kids of all shapes, sizes and colors. I’m not sure what draws him to this exactly, but he will spend minutes (remember, this is a toddler we are talking about), staring at the page and tracing the different faces with his fingers.

Pete’s Potty (Begin Smart Books): This is a new-to-us title, one of hundreds I would imagine that tackles potty training for toddlers. My little guy has been interested in it for about six months now. At first, I took his attentiveness to the book as a good sign that maybe he’d want to try it himself, but alas, any movement I make with him towards the bathroom results in him yelling a lot. Still, he’ll bring me this at least once a day, happily looking for Pete’s missing potty (it’s not in the kitchen or the garden by the way). He’s especially taken with the mom in the book who doesn’t wear glasses (I do) and makes cookies, and the father who not only wears glasses, but has hair (my husband is lacking both). “Daddy glasses?” S. will inquire, pointing at the page. “No!,” he’ll laugh, shaking his head. “Daddy hair? No!” Good times for everyone!

Baby at the Farm and Where is Baby’s Birthday Cake? both by Karen Katz: I’m including both of these titles by the same author because by far, these are my toddler’s favorite books. Collectively, I think I’ve read both of these stories to him as many times as I’ve read books period. Simple lift-the-flap books with cheerful illustrations starring an adorable baby, S. loves looking for the rouge birthday cake and seems surprised every time we find it. And the trip to the farm is always fun, especially because some of the pages offer a chance to touch the mane of a horse and feel the eggs of a chicken. Plus, we get to make lots of animal noises, always a fun expenditure.

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When your toddler settles into your lap for a snuggle and a read, what book can you count on him to bring with him?