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When it comes to the story of the Gingerbread Man, there are many variations, but my personal favorite is the one adapted by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Published in 1998, Aylesworth’s The Gingerbread Man is fun to read out loud—he’s got the rhythm down just right. And the illustrations by McClintock are gorgeous—they’re filled with old-fashioned charm and feature expressive, lively characters, especially the delectable-looking Gingerbread Man. So imagine my surprise when I read this book to my preschooler and she seemed a little disturbed by the ending.

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Tale of Two Mittens

Categories: picture book

My first introduction to the classic Ukrainian folktale about a boy who loses his mitten and the animals that pile into it for warmth was the version adapted and illustrated by Jan Brett. First published in 1989, Brett’s The Mitten is beloved by many and is probably the best-known version of the tale. Recently, however, I’ve discovered another lovely version of the tale, adapted by Alvin Tresselt and illustrated by Yaroslava. Originally published in 1964, Tresselt’s The Mitten is still in print today.

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December 21 marks the first day of winter, and I’m reminded of Lois Ehlert’s brilliant cut-paper collages. That’s because so many of her books celebrate the wonders of nature and the changing of the seasons. One of my favorites is Leaf Man, a simple tale about a man made of leaves, who blows away in the wind. And now that winter is approaching, I’m reminded of yet another favorite, Snowballs.

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I kept putting off looking at President Barack Obama’s recently published children’s book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, because—truth be told—I didn’t have high expectations for it. Even though President Obama has a proven track record in the publishing world—he’s the author of two bestselling books for adults—I’m generally skeptical of children’s books written by politicians, fearing that they’ll be too didactic or self-serving. But this past weekend, I finally sat down with Of Thee I Sing and was pleasantly surprised by what I found inside the handsome cover (superbly illustrated by Loren Long).

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Munro Leaf (Wilnerd Monroe Leaf) was born on December 5, 1905. He wrote and illustrated numerous children’s books—some of them, like How to Behave and Why and Manners Can Be Fun, are still in print today. But Leaf is best known for writing The Story of Ferdinand (about a gentle bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in a bullring). Legend has it that Leaf wrote this story in less than an hour for his friend, the illustrator Robert Lawson (who would go on to write his own children’s stories and become the first person to be awarded both the Caldecott Medal for They Were Strong and Good in 1941 and the Newbery Medal for Rabbit Hill in 1945). Is it just me or does it seem like many classics have had similar speedy births? I guess when inspiration strikes, it strikes quickly.

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Mud Pie, Anyone?

Categories: picture book

You may still be recovering from all the turkey and trimmings of Thanksgiving dinner—but might I interest you in another feast? Though Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow, with charming pen-and-ink illustrations by Erik Blegvad, was originally published in the 60s, this unique little book has never lost its appeal. In fact, it’s been recently reprinted, yet again, by the New York Review of Books.

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Anthony Browne, the acclaimed British author-illustrator and Hans Christian Andersen Medalist, and I have something in common: We’re both fascinated by monkeys—especially, gorillas. For me, there’s something melancholy and mesmerizing about their near human faces; I can’t help but wonder what is going on behind those sad brown eyes. So it’s no wonder that I’m a great admirer of Browne’s picture books, many of which feature gorillas and chimps.

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Thanksgiving Treats

Categories: picture book

At home, my children and I are cuddling up with Thanksgiving books that don’t mention Pilgrims or Native Americans. These picture books prepare little kids by focusing more on the feeling thankful aspect of the holiday.

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I just came across an adorable little book and wanted to share it with you. Make no mistake about it: Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg will make you smile with delight. When they finish exploring this clever, imaginative book, kids will be inspired to turn their own “oops” into something unexpectedly delightful. And hopefully, they’ll get the hint that mistakes aren’t something to be afraid or ashamed of.

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TGI Bunny Days!

Categories: picture book

I can never resist cute little bunnies—and the cuddly mishap-prone bunnies in Tao Nyeu’s Bunny Days are awfully darn cute. This whimsical, gently humorous picture book is actually a series of three short stories featuring six adorable bunnies, a goat farmer and his wife, and a resourceful bear who first appeared in Wonder Bear (Nyeu’s delightful 2008 debut book).

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