Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hooray for Elephants and Friendship!

Elephants can be great friends! Here are some delightful, American picture books about friendship – all featuring elephants. Two of the books – “Little Elliot, Big City” and “Hooray for Hat!” – are from newcomers and one – “There is a Bird on Your Head!” – is from an author who is already a household name in America. Without further ado:

Little Elliot, Big City

“Little Elliot, Big City” by Mike Curato

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Age: 2-6+ years

Available in English only

This is one of the rare books that I ordered as it rolled off the presses in America. Published in August 2014, Mr. Curato's debut book took the children’s book world in America by storm. For our little family living in the suburbs of the big city of Tel Aviv, this book has lived up to all its good press. It delivers – and with sprinkles on top!

With gorgeous, realist illustrations that evoke the works of American painter Edward Hopper, Mr. Curato presents a slice of American life in 1940s era New York City. Polka-dotted Elliot the Elephant lives in his own flat, takes the subway, and walks through Central Park. He enjoys the simple pleasures of life: smelling flowers sprouting through the concrete sidewalks, collecting marbles and other tchotchkes, and, above all, eating cupcakes from the neighborhood bakery. Unfortunately, as a small elephant, he often has trouble getting noticed at the bakery’s counter. His luck changes when he befriends a small mouse who has an even bigger problem. Together, Elephant and Mouse navigate big city life, learn the value of friendship, and share one scrumptious cupcake.

The book’s message about friendship is timeless and the illustrations will charm any Tel Avivian / city dweller / lover of New York. As the book was just published last year, it is only available in English. However, as the word “cupcake” was just officially added to the Hebrew language, let’s hope that we will see it soon in Hebrew! The English version of the book can be easily ordered online and delivered to Israel.

Hooray for Hat!

“Hooray for Hat!” by Brian Won

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Age: 2-4+ years

Available in English only

This brightly illustrated gem is one of the little guy’s and my husband’s all-time favorites. In Mr. Won’s 2014 debut work, a very grumpy Elephant and his equally grumpy pals, Zebra, Turtle, Owl, and Lion, cheer each other up and their friend, Giraffe, through sharing some very outrageous hats. The book is a lot of fun to read aloud and the illustrations are absolutely adorable. I was very fortunate to find this book in one of the major bookstore chains in Tel Aviv. If you do happen to find it in Israel, grab it! We have read it over and over and over again! It can also be ordered online and shipped to Israel.

There is a Bird on Your Head!

“There is a Bird on Your Head!” by Mo Willems

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Age: 2-5+ years

Available in English only

A former award-winning writer and illustrator for American Sesame Street, Mr. Willems is the author of many books that have captured the hearts – and, just as importantly, the humor – of American children. Mr. Willems’ “Elephant and Piggie” series follows the adventures of its namesakes in a sparse, comic book style. In this particular tale from the series, Piggie tries to explain to his perplexed buddy Elephant that some unwelcome visitors have come to roost on top of Elephant’s head. Although many of Mr. Willems’ books can be found in the major bookstores in Tel Aviv, I ordered this particular “Elephant and Piggie” book online.

Bilingual Resources

Children's books available in both English and Hebrew

Finding English language books in Israel for toddlers

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Monkey Puzzle (לקוף יש בעיה)

by Julia Donaldson (ג'וליה דונלדסון)

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Age: 2-6+ years

Available in English and Hebrew

In this favorite from the author of The Gruffalo, a butterfly helps a lost monkey to find his mother. The butterfly misinterprets the monkey’s description of his mother and leads the monkey to several other animals before finally locating his mother. In both the English and Hebrew versions, the language rhymes well and has the repetitiveness that preschoolers enjoy. The story also hits the mark with preschool humor: our lil guy thinks that it is hysterical that the butterfly keeps getting it wrong and leading the poor monkey to animals that are clearly not his mother. For those who like stories with some cleverness, there is a very valid reason for the well-meaning butterfly’s mistakes. Both the English and Hebrew versions of this book are readily available in Israel and online.

Other Books Available in English and Hebrew by Julia Donaldson

Many of Ms. Donaldson's works have been translated from English into Hebrew. Here are a sampling of some of these books:

Follow Liane's board Books by Julia Donaldson (ג'וליה דונלדסון) on Pinterest.

Bilingual Resources

Children's books available in both English and Hebrew

Finding English language books in Israel for toddlers

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Curious George (ג'ורג' הסקרן)

“This is George. George was a good little monkey and always very curious.” This is the opening line for every Curious George book ever written. George is a very curious, affectionate, and energetic monkey whose intentions are always good. However, sometimes when he “sees something to climb, he can’t help himself. He has to climb it.” Does this sound like your child?

The Curious George books perfectly capture the natural, positive curiosity of childhood. With his guardian/parent, “The Man in the Yellow Hat,” always by his side, George learns about life through new experiences, adventures, and many, many mishaps. When he learns to ride a bike and make pancakes, he does so with the adorable messiness of a rambunctious, curious child. He is, in Israeli terms, שובב (“playfully mischievous” with a positive connotation - see explanation below).

The original books were written and illustrated by Margret and H.A. Rey (מרגרט וה"א ריי) who, on the eve of the Nazi invasion, fled Paris on bicycles with the original Curious George manuscript. Today, there are a number of newer books authored by others based upon the original characters. These new books are just as good as the originals. Two of the anthologies of the newer stories are also available in Hebrew.

A Treasury of Curious George (אוצר הסיפורים של ג'ורג' הסקרן)

Available in English and Hebrew - see images above

In this anthology of the new stories, George jumps into exploring life in a way only a curious monkey – or child – can. He makes a mess in the kitchen trying to frost a cake, rearranges the books in a library, accidentally operates a dump truck, and delights in riding for the first time the subway in New York City. It is a wonderful collection filled with fun and adventure. Both the English and Hebrew versions are available in the major bookstores in Israel and online.

The New Adventures of Curious George (הרפתקאותיו החדשות של ג'ורג' הסקרן)

Available in English and Hebrew

In this follow-up anthology to “A Treasury of Curious George,” George “helps” out in a chocolate factory à la Lucille Ball, locates a lost puppy, makes pancakes at a fair, visits the zoo, goes to a movie, rides a hot air balloon, learns to ski, and dreams about life being as big as King Kong. My son can recite the hot air balloon story verbatim. This anthology never fails to delight. Both the English and Hebrew versions are available in the major bookstores in Israel and online.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George

Available in English only

This anthology features the original seven stories written by Margret and H.A. Rey, in which George learns to ride a bike, fly a kite, fish, and explore his new life in America. Unlike the newer stories, the original seven contain themes and events that require explanation from parents and are more appropriate for older children. For example, these stories tell how George was snatched from Africa and taken to America. While I found this anthology in Tzomet Sfarim in Tel Aviv, it does not appear to be widely available in Israel. It can be ordered online.

Other Curious George Books

Available as individual books in English only

In addition to the anthologies, many of the individual Curious George books are widely available in Israel. The individual books are only available in English, although many of the stories are available in Hebrew in the anthologies. Every bookstore in Israel seems to have English language copies of “Curious George and the Birthday Surprise,” “Curious George and the Dump Truck,” and “Curious George Takes a Train,” (which are all also featured in the Hebrew version of the anthology, “A Treasury of Curious George”).

Curious George Learns the Alphabet

Available in English only

This story is one of the original ones by Margret and H.A. Rey. It is featured in “The Complete Adventures of Curious George” and is also available as a stand-alone. In this book, the Man in the Yellow Hat teaches George the uppercase and lowercase letters of the English alphabet. The illustrations are adorable and, as always, George makes a mess. I ordered this book online.

The History of Curious George

You can learn more about the history of Curious George and Margret and H.A. Rey here in English and here in Hebrew. Excerpts from the original manuscript can also be viewed here. In addition, you can read Margret’s description of George’s birth, including the bicycle ride that saved him and his creators, in “The Complete Adventures of Curious George” and “The New Adventures of Curious George.”

Curious George Cartoons

While this is a blog about books, I cannot help myself in recommending the English language Curious George animated television series that is currently broadcast on PBS in the United States and available on DVD. The cartoons, which illustrate and explain concepts in math and science, are funny, adorable, smart, and well-written.

A Note on Being שובב

Israelis value children who are שובב (pronounced “shovav”). Shovav is “mischievous” with a positive connotation. A shovav child is one filled with curiosity and playfulness who cannot help himself if he sees something to climb: he has to climb it to learn what is up at the top, even if he does not mean to upset his parents, make a mess, or otherwise cause בלגן (pronounced “balagan”…ah…another great word in modern Hebrew…). My son adores George precisely because he is shovav just like him.

Bilingual Resources

Children's books available in both English and Hebrew

Finding English language books in Israel for toddlers

More Curious George Activities

Curious George reading lists, coloring pages, and other activities

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Toddler Spring Time Picks

To welcome the flowers blooming in Israel this year, we added two Hebrew language books to our library:

“Six in a Little Bag” (ששה בשקיק אחד) by Levin Kipnis (לוין קיפניס) and “Hannan the Gardner” (חנן הגנן) by Rinat Hoffer (רינת הופר).

Six in a Little Bag (ששה בשקיק אחד)

ששה בשקיק אחד by Levin Kipnis (לוין קיפניס)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Kipnis was a highly prolific Israeli children’s author and “Six in a Little Bag” is the classic Israeli children’s book for Tu Bishvat / Tu B’Shevat (טו בשבט), the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year for trees. The book begins with a boy, Gili, losing his bag as it blows out the window of his home. Unbeknownst to Gili, various anthropomorphized nuts and fruit that are commonly eaten in Israel for Tu Bishvat climb into the bag. The next day, Gili is delighted to recover his bag and discover that it is filled with these Tu Bishvat treats. The book uses repetition, rhyme, and nonsense words to introduce each nut and fruit (almond, date palm, carob, fig, banana, and orange). The pictures are painted in a mid-20th century style of Israeli illustration. The illustrations of Gili’s clothing and house also charmingly reflect the way of life in the early establishment of Israel.

Hannan the Gardner (חנן הגנן)

חנן הגנן by Rinat Hoffer (רינת הופר)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ms. Hoffer is a modern Israeli author and illustrator. With repetition and rhyme, the book follows Hannan the Gardner as he sells fruit to children, promising that each fruit contains a “treasure.” The children are surprised to discover that the “treasures” are heart-shaped seeds. Hanan and the children then plant the seeds, which grow into heart-shaped trees of many colors brimming with fruit. Ms. Hoffer’s pictures are brightly-colored and modern and reflect the high level of illustration currently being produced in Israel.

Bilingual Benefit

Both books are highly repetitive and, thus, perfect for a toddler. Our toddler lil guy enjoys helping us to narrate both books and he especially enjoys the use of rhyming, nonsense adjectives to describe each nut and fruit in “Six in a Bag.” “Six in a Bag” is perfect for toddlers (ages 2 to 3), while “Hannan the Gardner” can also be appreciated by older kids (ages 2 to 5). Due to the repetitiveness in both books, I would rate the Hebrew as easy to follow for a non-native Hebrew speaker parent with at least an introductory ulpan level Hebrew (i.e., some knowledge of modern Hebrew beyond the Bar/Bat Mitzvah). The only caveat to this assessment is that “Six in a Bag” does have some words that are not currently used that often in Hebrew in Israel.

Availability in Israel and Abroad

Both books, which are widely read in homes and preschools in Israel, can be found easily here in the major and independent bookstores. Unfortunately, neither book seems to be readily available abroad. I am also not aware of any translations of the books into English.

See all my reviews of books available in Hebrew and in Israel.

Follow Liane's board Books by Rinat Hoffer (רינת הופר) on Pinterest.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Children's Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

A Children's Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Linda Bleck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Category: Hardcover

Age: 1-6+ years

Synopsis: This collection of nursery rhymes includes English language classics, such as “Hey Diddle Diddle,” “Little Miss Muffet,” and “Humpty Dumpty,” and features beautiful, colorful illustrations in a sturdy hardcover book. The pages are thick and the illustrations are raised/textured, adding tactile fun for preschoolers. (A full list of the book’s nursery rhymes can be found below.)

Bilingual benefit: As I believe that nursery rhymes inspire creativity and imagination and foster a love of the English language, I spent a good deal of time researching which nursery rhyme book to purchase for my toddler. This one received many good reviews everywhere that I looked and it delivers. It features classic nursery rhymes appropriate for the under 3 crowd; there are no “scary” nursery rhymes. In addition to being raised to the touch, the illustrations are imaginative and cheerful, featuring people and animals. My lil guy enjoys completing the nursery rhymes as I read them and often requests a recitation of the rhymes when we do not have the book with us.

Availability in Israel: Unfortunately, I have not come across this book in Israel. However, it can be ordered online.

Previewing the book: The book can be previewed online at Amazon.

Lil guy: Loves it. He cannot get enough of several of the rhymes. My lil guy even decided to start using – on his own – the expression “one shoe off, one shoe on” because of the book.

Mama: Highly recommended. Nursery rhymes are a must for bilingual kiddies and this book is a wonderful introduction to that world for toddlers.

Additional information: The book features the following nursery rhymes: “Hey Diddle Diddle,” “Little Boy Blue,” “Little Bo Peep,” “Georgie Porgie,” “Diddle, Diddle Dumpling,” “Jack and Jill,” “Little Miss Muffet,” “Hickory, Dickory, Dock,” “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” “Old King Cole,” “The Queen of Hearts,” “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” “Humpty Dumpty,” “Jack Sprat,” “Pease Porridge Hot,” “Jack, Be Nimble,” “Old Mother Hubbard,” “Little Jack Horner,” “This Little Piggy,” “There was an Old Lady who Lived in a Shoe,” “Rub-a-Dub-Dub,” and “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.”

See all my reviews of books that received 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Lion Who Loved Strawberries (האריה שאהב תות)

האריה שאהב רק תות by Tirtza Atar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Hardcover (available in Hebrew only)

Hebrew Title: האריה שאהב תות

Author’s Name in Hebrew: תרצה אתר

Age: 2-6+ years

Synopsis: A lion with finicky eating habits experiences the ups and downs of eating too many strawberries.

Bilingual benefit: This humorous Hebrew language picture book, which is a top read in preschools and homes in Israel, encourages picky eaters to explore new foods. The story features popular Israeli food items, such as kebab (קבב) and artik (ארטיק), as well as the Hebrew version of “yucky” - “fooyah” (פויה).

Availability in Israel: As this Hebrew language book is very popular in Israel, you can easily find it in the major chains in Israel, Steimatzky and Tzomet Sfarim.

Previewing the book: A Google search of the Hebrew title of this book will yield many excerpts, including videos of people reading it out loud.

Lil guy: A lion that exclaims “fooyah”! Hysterical. A regular read in general and one of the most frequently requested Hebrew books.

Mama: Highly recommended. As a non-native Hebrew speaker, the first time that I read this book out loud, I misread “fooyah” as “pooyah,” which my son found just as funny. Due to this delightful book, we have added “fooyah” and its newly invented cousin, “pooyah,” to our family’s lexicon.

See all my reviews of books available in Hebrew and in Israel. For those who are crafty and able to read Hebrew, check out this site to learn how to create your own "The Lion Who Loved Strawberries" puppets.

Bilingual Resources

Children's books available in both English and Hebrew

Finding English language books in Israel for toddlers

Arts and Crafts

How to make a "Lion Who Loved Strawberries" Puppet

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (הזחל הרעב)

by Eric Carle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Boardbook (available in English and Hebrew)

Hebrew Title: הזחל הרעב

Author’s Name in Hebrew: אריק קרל

Age: 1-3+ years

Synopsis: In this classic book from Eric Carle, a ravenous caterpillar eats, eats, and eats until he turns into a beautiful butterfly.

Bilingual benefit: Both the English and Hebrew versions introduce counting and the days of the week. In addition, the board book version is fun for little fingers with its different sized pages and holes in the food items that the caterpillar has eaten. Non-native or new Hebrew-speaking children might enjoy reading the Hebrew version in conjunction with the classic English version.

Availability in Israel: The English and Hebrew versions are both available in the major chains in Israel, Steimatzky and Tzomet Sfarim. In addition, the English version can be purchased online on Amazon USA.

Previewing the book: The English version is available for preview on Amazon USA. In addition, you can find a video of the Hebrew version being read out loud on YouTube by googling the Hebrew title (הזחל הרעב). (last checked 10/12/2014)

Lil guy: An occasional read with Mama. More often “reads” it to himself.

Mama: Although I enjoyed this book as a child, it did not speak to me as an adult. However, my son enjoys it and my hubby, who is a native Hebrew-speaker and did not grow up with the book, often refers to it when commenting on our toddler’s eating habits. As it is readily available in English and Hebrew in Israel, it may be worthwhile to add it to your personal library or to borrow a copy from the public library, the preschool (גן), or a friend.

Bilingual Resources

Children's books available in both English and Hebrew

Finding English language books in Israel for toddlers