Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

BOOK REVIEW: Peek-a-boo, I Love You by Sandra Magsamen


The newest offering in Little, Brown Kids’ “Snuggle-Me Stories” series is Peek-a-Boo, I Love You by Sandra Magsamen. Featuring Magsamen’s distinctive illustrative style and handwritten text, this 10 page board book invites young children to participate in a game of peek-a-boo.

Each of the five spreads poses a question and invites children to guess which animal is hiding under the flap, which reveals a small amount of the hidden animal. Once the child lifts the flap, the answer, written to rhyme with the question, is revealed.

“Who’s that snug as a little bug?


A kitty cat snoozing on a rug.”

Board books that provide methods for toddlers to participate are a perennial favourite. Peek-a-Boo, I Love You features a stuffed heart on the cover, which toddlers will poke and squish with delight. The flaps, initially a bit stiff, become easy lifting for little fingers. The most delightful aspect of this book however is the final question, the answer to which is a heart-shaped mirror shows your child his or her own face.

The “Snuggle-Me Stories” series is recommended for children 3 + but I test read Peek-a-Boo, I Love You with my 2 year old nephew and it quickly became one of his favourites.

ISBN10: 0316003891
ISBN13: 9780316003896

Board Book
10 Pages
Publisher: LB Kids
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Night’s Nice by Barbara and Ed Emberley


And yellow-eyed cats
All think night’s nice
And of course
So do bats.

In 1962 Caldecott Award-winners Barbara and Ed Emberley released Night’s Nice, a bedtime book that quickly became a classic. Now reissued in a deluxe gift edition, the Emberley’s delightful tale will introduce a new generation of children to the wonders of nightime.

Night’s Nice features lilting rhymes that mimic a rocking motion, perfect for lulling a reluctant toddler to sleep. Ed Emberley’s detailed nightscapes will engage children and present night as an unthreatening time. Animals, kings and children are shown sleeping while night creatures prowl and play. The final spread invites children to crawl into their own bed and join the story…

So hop into bed,
Turn over thrice,
And whisper this softly:
Night’s nice, night’s nice, night’s nice.
Good Night.

ISBN10: 0316066230
ISBN13: 9780316066235

32 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Publication Date: November 1, 2008


BOOK REVIEW: Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter


“The earth was naked. For me the mission was to try to cover it with green.” – Wangari Maathai

Growing up in the shadow of Mount Kenya in Africa, Wangari is surrounded by an umbrella of green trees. The trees protect the birds, provide firewood to the women of the village and help keep the soil rich for the sweet potatoes, sugarcane and maize Wangari helps to harvest.

Wangari travels to America for school but when she returns six years later the trees are gone. No crops grow, the birds are gone and the women have to travel far distances to find firewood. On World Environment Day in 1977, Wangari plants nine seedlings in her backyard and begins the Green Belt Movement which, over the next 27 years, plants thirty million trees across Africa.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: a true story from Africa is the story of one woman’s effort to return green to Africa. Told in Jeanette Winter’s simple language and blocky, colourful illustrations, Wangari’s Trees of Peace is wonderful means to introduce 3 to 7 year olds to environmentalism, the interconnected nature of ecosystems and political activitism. It also introduces some difficult subjects that may make some children and parents uncomfortable: prejudice (“Women can’t do this”), violence (“Wangari blocks their way, so they hit her with clubs”) and imprisonment (“They call her a troublemaker and put her in jail”).

While Winter’s tale simplifies Wangari’s story to a basic level, it carries within it an important message, that one person can make a difference. Wangari’s simple act of planting a tree translates to an important environmental movement and the Nobel Peace Prize. Children are innate idealists and it is never too early to foster their belief that they can achieve anything.

In keeping with the environmental nature of Wangari’s Trees of Peace, the book is printed on 100% recycled paper with 50% postconsumer waste.

ISBN10: 0152065458
ISBN13: 9780152065454

32 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: September 21, 2008


BOOK REVIEW: Sergio Makes A Splash! by Edel Rodriguez


Sergio loves water but not the deep kind. “When he’s around water, Sergio can be: relaxed, happy, funny, playful and silly.” Which makes sense because Sergio is a penguin from Argentina, down near the South Pole. His three favourite things are soccer, fish and water – especially water – but when his class goes swimming Sergio is scared because he can’t swim.

Sergio’s friends quickly hop in but Sergio holds back, despite having on his floaties. Finally Sergio jumps in “but his aim is a bit off.” He bumps and rolls into the ocean and disappears. Mrs. Waddle and his friends wait and finally Sergio pops to the surface. Sergio discovers loves the ocean and can’t wait to come back. “That was better than the rain, puddles, and a cold bath all put together,” says Sergio.

Edel Rodriguez wonderful illustrations work brilliantly with the charming text of Sergio Makes a Splash!. The illustrations, created with oil-based woodblock ink, are printed in three colours – aqua, yellow and black – ensuring the colours pop and attract children’s attention. The first illustration diagramming “Sergio” is especially captivating, pointing out his height (1 foot), weight (1 pound), his curious smile and perky “wings.” The text is printed in large letters and some are included in the illustrations as dialogue bubbles.

Sergio Makes a Splash! is perfect for children worried about trying something new, especially swimming. As Sergio says on the back cover, “This is a great book! It’s all about me!” Children are sure to agree.

ISBN10: 0316066168
ISBN13: 9780316066167

40 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 1, 2008

Author website:
Sergio’s website:


BOOK REVIEW: Miss Bea’s Seaside by Louisa Harding


Miss Bea and her friends visit the seaside to play in the sand and waves in the sixth book in the delightful Miss Bea series. The simple storyline, large photos and colourful illustrations will engage children aged 1-4 in exploring the beach or enjoying an ice-cream along with Miss Bea.

Adults will enjoy knitting the 10 projects worn by the children in Miss Bea’s Seaside. Each of these garments is designed for Rowan Denim yarn and most are unisex. The designs come in three sizes for 1 to 4 year olds, include charts and written instructions, and learn to knit instructions are included at the beginning of the pattern section. The written instructions are colour-coded to correspond to specific size information (instructions for size 1-2 years are green, 2-3 years are red, and 3-4 years are blue).

The simple garments include three cardigans, five pullovers, one vest and one sundress. One pullover includes a basic cable, one cardigan has some lace and several garments have stripes or other colourwork, making these great patterns for the beginning knitter looking for timeless designs that will wear well for active toddlers. The denim cotton yarn will age and soften like a pair of favourite blue jeans. Any worsted weight cotton yarn can be substituted for the recommended yarn, useful for those who may wish to knit in colours other than indigo blue or cream.

ISBN10: 1904485138
ISBN13: 9781904485131

48 Pages
Trade Paperback
Publisher: C & T Publishing
Publication Date: July 1, 2004
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Hondo & Fabian, written and illustrated by Peter McCarty


This beautifully illustrated day-in-the-life tale focuses on the parallel stories of a dog and cat set in the 1930s or ‘40s. Hondo the dog goes off to spend the day at the beach with a canine pal. Fabian the cat stays at home with “the baby.” Each has adventures and readers are invited to decide which pet has more fun.

The language in Hondo & Fabian is spare, featuring parallel narratives using similar words and sentence structure.

“Hondo is going to the beach to meet his friend Fred.

Fabian is going to the living room to play with the baby.”

Hondo gets hungry after diving in the waves and “wishes he could eat the fish.” Fabian gets hungry after playing with the toilet roll and “wishes he could eat the turkey sandwich.”

The basic language allows children to elaborate on the story from their own experience and imagination. The large type size means this book will function well as a transitional book as your child starts to recognize words and practices reading.

Parents will enjoy the vintage feel of Peter McCarty’s exquisite pencil illustrations while children will respond to the loveable animals. As he states in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, he loves the “pure visual shape of things from that era” and it is a period which features in many of his books.

Children who enjoy the adventures of Hondo & Fabian will want to read Fabian Escapes, the sequel in which Fabian explores the world while Hondo stays home with the baby. Hondo & Fabian was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2003 for Peter McCarty’s outstanding illustrations.

ISBN10: 0312367473
ISBN13: 9780312367473

Trade Paperback
32 Pages
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: May 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Imagine Harry by Kate Klise


Little Rabbit’s best friend Harry is very special. They play in the snow, swim in the summer months and watch out for each other. Little Rabbit is always looking out for Harry’s interests, ensuring his mother brings Harry a glass of lemonade and his share of the cookies – and make sure she doesn’t sit on him. Little Rabbit’s other friends call his best friend “Imagine Harry” but that’s only because they can’t see him.

When it’s time for Little Rabbit to start school, his mother tells him Harry can go with him but only if he sits quietly and is very good. As Little Rabbit becomes more involved with school life and his new friends, Harry slips into the background until the day it is revealed that he has “moved away.”

Sisters Kate and M. Sarah Klise’s newest collaboration, Imagine Harry, is a poignant story of friendship, whether real or imagined. The beauty of this simple tale is the understanding with which Little Rabbit’s mother treats Harry. There is no condescension, only the same acceptance shown to his “real” friends.

Many children have a period of their life shared with imaginary friends and Imagine Harry is a respectful way to help young ones understand that such friendships fade with time. At the beginning, Sarah’s soft illustrations contain empty spaces symbolizing Harry and, as the story progresses, the empty spaces become smaller.

Young children will find much to identify with in this gentle story. Starting school, and the need to make new friends, can be a scary experience for many children. Imagine Harry may help make this transition an easier one for families.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0152057048
ISBN13: 9780152057046

32 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: What Time is it, Mr. Crocodile? by Judy Sierra


Mr. Crocodile has carefully planned out his day – he even wrote out a schedule – but everything goes awry when the mischievous monkeys arrive. Everywhere he goes, the monkeys follow and all Mr. Crocodile wants is to rid himself of the annoying creatures. That is, until he has a change of heart, decides to make friends and enjoy all their antics.

What Time is it, Mr. Crocodile? is the perfect volume to introduce young children to the concept of time. Each spread begins with the line “What Time is it, Mr. Crocodile?” (a line children will quickly begin shouting for you) and the artwork features a large, clear image of the clock with the time corresponding to Mr. Crocodile’s schedule.

Children will delight in the impish monkeys and the trouble they find while adults will enjoy the pacing on the answers and will quickly adopt a sing-songy tone:

“Time to capture my meal
as I sit at the wheel
of my marvelous
monkey-collecting mobile.”

Doug Cushman has hidden treats for adults in his illustrations; a copy of “Newton and the Law of Gravity” being dropped on the crocodile’s head and images which conjure memories of the rhyme “Five little monkeys bouncing on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head.”

The most delightful aspect of What Time is it, Mr. Crocodile? is Cushman’s illustrations. His vivid images bring the impish monkeys and grumpy crocodile to life and their vitality almost leaps off the page. Don’t be surprised if your little ones respond by wiggling and bouncing along with the monkeys.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0152058508
ISBN13: 9780152058500

32 Pages
Publisher: Voyager Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: Balloons Balloons Balloons by Dee Lillegard


One morning, a mysterious rabbit floats over town in a hot-air balloon, releasing thousands of balloons on the unsuspecting population below. The adults are confused and frustrated at the mess the balloons make but the children are delighted, quickly choosing their favourite colours. At the end of the day, the balloonist sails on, leaving behind a colourful gift to mark his passage.

Dee Lillegard’s rhyming, yet simple prose is sure to delight children. The rhyming stanzas lend themselves to being memorized.

“Selena gets a pink one
A squiddy-black-ink one
A white as a sink one
Balloons Balloons Balloons”

The repetitive nature and minimal vocabulary of Lillegard’s tale makes it perfect for beginning readers.

All the necessary ingredients are present in Bernadette Pons’ captivating illustrations for Balloons Balloons Balloons. Bright colours and lots of small details fill these spreads, providing endless fodder for the game of “can you find the…” Children will giggle with delight at the disruption the balloons cause adults; glasses get knocked off their faces, cereal is spilled, and a game of tennis is interrupted.

Help the child in your life determine their favourite colour and then help them learn to count as you hunt for all the balloons of that colour in Balloons Balloons Balloons.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0525459405
ISBN13: 9780525459408

32 Pages
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books
Publication Date: February 6, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illus. by Pierr Morgan


After their teacher reads them a book about dragons, Mei Lin’s classmates decide the perfect way to decorate for her birthday is by creating a birthday dragon. Everyone has something to add from “boink-boink” eyes to “fa-foom!” a dragon-fire nose until the sparkle-head dragon leads the children off on a magical dancing journey through Asian looking landscapes – that is until their teacher calls them back for a snack.

Dragon Dancing, the newest collaboration between Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan, once again focuses on imaginative play. Schaefer uses language to create a feeling of motion and sound within the story, with these lines often printed in bold or in a wave reminiscent of a dragon’s tail. This is a story which parents and children will enjoy reading together. Children will have sound effects to make with their feet “Then all of us – in a long dragon line – go stomp, bomp-tromping away…” and parents can have fun with volume and onomatopoeic words featured throughout.

Snip, twirl, flip.

“Look at me!” Mei Lin shouts.

“I’m Birthday Dragon!”

Morgan’s line drawings of the dragon capture the energy and excitement of a preschool class. Her art takes on a decided Asian influence to capture and differentiate the imagination sections of the book. The children in the classroom reflect a great diversity, ensuring all children should find someone to identify with in the pictures.

Dragon Dancing is a wonderful way to introduce children to Chinese culture and Chinese New Year.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0670060844
ISBN13: 9780670060849

40 Pages
Publisher: Viking Children’s Books
Publication Date: January 2, 2007
Author’s Website:
Illustrator’s Website:


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