Books Make Great Gifts

A few weeks ago, I shared John Levy’s, of Mastermind Toys, suggestions for the perfect gift this holiday season. Last week, the moms group that I belong to had the good fortune of hosting Eleanor LeFavre of Mable’s Fables bookstore.

Mable’s Fables is the quintessential children’s bookstore. It reminds me of the shop that Meg Ryan’s character owns in the movie You’ve Got Mail. Eleanor’s bookstore is a warm and inviting place that easily lends itself to lulling away hours on a rainy afternoon. The selection of books is well edited to include only the best and the young adult section housed on the second floor is unparalleled to any bookstore that I have visited.

Eleanor shared with our group some of her favourite books to give as gifts this holiday and if you can’t get down to Mable’s Fables to support this incredible independent treasure, visit them on-line.

A must add to the holiday book line-up:

A Porcupine in a Pine Tree by Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmermann

For Babies:

Mother Goose Remembers by Clare Beaton

That’s Not My . . . (series) by Fiona Watt

Bright Baby (series) by Roger Priddy

Board books with black and white illustrations

for example: Daddies and Their Babies (series) by Guidio van Genechten

Classic Alphabet books (and their selection is so inspiring!)

A to Z by Sandra Boynton

For Younger Children:

No Two Alike by Keith Baker

(a great choice for celebrating differences)

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow by Susan Shea

(I bought this one and the illustrations are beautiful!)

Tilly (series) by Polly Dunbar

Knuffle Bunny (three in the series) by Mo Willems

(a favourite in our house too!)

Baby Come Away by Victoria Adler

The Adventures of Taxi Dog (series) by Debra and Sal Barracca

One Smart Cookie: Bite-size Lessons for the School Years and Beyond

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (this is a fantastic book!!)

Little Beaver and The Echo by Amy MacDonald

My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

The Big Snuggle Up by Brian Patten and Nicola Bayley

Burton and Isabelle Pipistrelle: Out of the Bat Cave by Denise Dias

Bear In Underwear (series) by Todd H. Doodler

Stories From Around The World For Little Children by Usborne

(the illustrations are stunning!)

For Early Readers:

Key Words with Jane and Peter by Ladybird

Runaway Duckling by Francesca Simon

Mish Mash Hash by Francesca Simon

Sleeping Beauty by Sally Gardner

The Amazing Adventures of Bumble Bee Boy

by David Soman and Jacky Davis

Jack and the Flum Flum Tree by Julia Donaldson

Dr. Xargles Book of Earthlets by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Big Bad Bruce by Bill Peet

Ella Bella Ballerina and The Sleeping Beauty by James Mayhew

The Jewel Fish of Karnak by Graeme Base

Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki

There’s A Princess In The Palace by Zoe B. Alley

For Independent Readers:

Book of Why by Kath Grimshaw and Jo Connor

First Nature Encylopedia by Dorling Kindersley

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

The Clumsies (series) by Sorrel Anderson

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo

Honey and Bear (series) by Ursula Duborarsky

Whether you plan on giving a book this holiday season or just adding to your home library, I hope that these suggestions serve you well.

What are some of your favourite children’s books?


Holiday Gift Ideas for the Kids on Your List

This week I had the fortunate experience of listening to John Levy, C.E.O. and head toy buyer for Mastermind Toys talk about toys. This guy is passionate about toys – think, Tom Hanks in Big. He gets as excited as a schoolboy about a battery operated remote control balloon but extols the educational virtues of good toys (versus bad toys) with the finesse of a true expert.

If your house is anything like mine it’s cluttered with toys. Junky toys, defunct toys with missing parts, battery dead toys, and my most dreaded, toys with a million pieces that seem to take over the house.

That said, I am quick to purge the toy room and I have been known to be ruthless. But I am hesitant to replenish the stash of toys. I rarely buy toys for our boys. They usually make their way into our home via a gift bag and a flurry of wrapping paper.

My thinking is simple: I don’t want to replace crap with more crap.

For the past few years, I have followed the suggestions of John Levy. After all he’s not only a toy guru but a parent. He gets that kids like toys that continue to captivate long after the initial rush of playing with something new. He understands that parents want value for their dollar and that poor quality and hazardess materials need not apply. Most importantly, he knows what is not crap.

This year I have John’s top new picks for toys for the holiday season and because I am nice person (not because I am getting paid or getting anything for free), I wanted to share with our readers and perhaps make this holiday shopping season stress-free.

Age 0-18 months

cloud.b Twilight Turtle, $39.95

Edushape, Magna Giraffe, $24.95

Vtech, Explore and Learn Helicopter, $29.95

Age 2

educo, Creative Peg Puzzle, $19.95

WOW, Coastguard Carl, $39.95

Kid Galaxy, My First RC, $24.95

Age 3

Alex, 3-D Zoo Puzzles, $14.95

Vtech, Kidizoom Camera, $49.95

Kidoozie, I Can Learn Spelling, $24.95

Age 4

Breyer, My Dream Horse, $19.95

Creativity for Kids, Puppy Spa, $19.95

Scientific Explorer, My First Science Kit, $24.95

Age 5

Melissa and Doug, Sticker By Number, $14.95

Laser Peg, Laser Peg Bot, $23.95

Thinkway Toys, Lazer Stunt Chaser, $49.95

Age 6

Folkmanis, Crocodile Stage Puppet, $24.95

Uncle Milton, Fireworks Light Show, $34.95

WMC, Remote Control Flying Shark, $39.95

Fun with Face Painting

I’ve recently emerged from my older son’s 5th birthday celebrations.  I try to keep things on the simple side, so we invited several children (with siblings and parents) to our place for a house party.  The machinations were few, featuring mostly a caterpillar cake I made and a homemade pinata.

The one thing I threw in at the last minute was face painting.  I had bought a basic set of face paints a few months ago and had used them exactly once before the party.   With a certain reckless abandon, I decided to offer this service to the little guests, and all but the one year old took me up on it.

Necessary point of departure:  I have no visually artistic tendencies.  I don’t draw well naturally and have never learned how to improve.   There is no false modesty here.  I’m not a bad dancer; I can carry a tune.  But my freehand pictures are two-dimensional and blobby.

Before the guests arrived, I had reassured myself thinking that at the worst I could at least paint a star on a cheek or something.  I thought the kids would be easy to please.  And they were, kind of, but kind of not too.  I was not prepared for the requests that came in, including Batman, Ironman (who?), a panda bear, a dinosaur, a dog, and a butterfly.  I did, however, have the sense to set up the paints in front of the computer (yes, the computer), where I googled images of every single request.  Then I looked for the simplest image that also satisfied the model.

Then I copied.

I’ve asked no one at the party for permission to feature their kindie beloveds for this blog post, so I won’t show the pics, but they’re not bad. As with just about anything, it’s possible to get very fancy with facepainting, but even my amateur version was a hit.

Given how easy it was, I’m here to sing its praises to anyone who is looking for a fun activity with the kids.  Because while it’s an obvious bonus, you don’t really need to know how to draw, just to copy.  Basically, if I can get away with facepainting/facecopying, you can too.

I bought Snazaroo face paints (something like this (but not a gendered version) at Mastermind Toys), as this brand was recommended to me by a couple of face painters I’d met at local festivals and parties.  They’re non-toxic, no one who had used them ever had a kid react to the paint, and being water-based they rub off easily with a wet cloth.  Some people like paint pencils, but the palette I bought is so simple to apply, I can’t really imagine anything easier.  At about $20 for a basic set, which will paint many, many faces, they’re an inexpensive way to have a lot of creative fun.

And of course our children can wield the brush too…