Children's Book Reviews

OWTK Bi-Monthly Book Suggestions – October/November 2006

Out With The Kids proudly presents our bi-monthly book suggestions for October/November. To refresh your memory, every two months OWTK recommends six (or so) fine pieces of literary joy suitable for families with children of most any age.

Curious what we suggested last time around? Read about those books here.

It being the middle of the finest season, Autumn, we have selected four of our favorite seasonal books and paired them with a jazz tale and a new one just acquired inside the Louvre in Paris – reading that has quickly become a nighttime ritual.

Hip Cat
by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Woodleigh Hubbard
Published by Chronicle Books

Continuing my girl’s education in Jazz/Be-Bop music and culture, Hip Cat is a fantastic tale of a saxophone playing feline looking for steady work in the big city. The story follows the hip cat as he struggles to make a living playing his sax. He is finally encourages to express his feeling and “tell” his personal tale to the world with his instrument and when he does he wins over the audiences and triumphs. As a bonus – “Peanuts” is mentioned as the only form of payment coming from one jazz establishment. As discussed in the music article last week, Dizzy’s “Salt Peanuts” is heard often inside our house. This makes that page one of my daughter’s favorites.
London uses a rhythmic text, much like another OWTK fav – “Charlie Parker Played Be Bop” – to create a captivating and enticing book.

Pumpkin Soup
by Helen Cooper

An all time OWTK classic. This book, which focuses on the lessons of sharing, stars three soup-making animal friends – a cat, a squirrel, and a duck. Every day they make their pumpkin soup and play music together. Each has their own role and responsibility. One day the duck decides he wants to try the squirrel’s job – stirring the soup. His wishes are met with opposition and he flees the house. This wonderfully illustrated and narrated book tells the tale of sharing, frustration, and change management in a way that kids of all ages will be able to comprehend and absorb.

Katie and the Mona Lisa
by James Mayhew
Published by Orchard Picturebooks

This was purchased in the Louvre bookstore during our recent vacation in France. Katie and the Mona Lisa tells the tale of a young girl who is paying a visit to a gallery (because the Mona Lisa is in the title, one would assume that the Louvre is the setting. That is not the case. The other paintings used in the book are located in other galleries around the world – so one “super” galley is created to tell Katie’s tale) with her grandmother. She encounters the famous lady with her world-reknowned smile and discovers that despite her painted happiness she has a less-than-sunny demeanor. Turns out Ms. Lisa is lonely and bored inside her frame. Katie invites her on a wild adventure in and out of a handful of other paintings. Along the way you and your child will see and learn a bit about works by da Vinci, Raphael and Botticelli. In the back of the book are short, kid-friendly biographies of the three artists whose work is at the center of Katie and the Mona Lisa. We recommend reading this detail to your kids. Katie has a few other adventures as well, in the books Katie’s Picture Show, Katie Meets the Impressionists and Katie and the Dinosaurs.

Mouses’ First Halloween
by Lauren Thompson
Illustrated by Buket Erdogan
Published by Little Simon (Simon & Schuster)

This thick boardbook (also available as paperwork) along with Autumn Walk (next one down) are ideal for the infant/young-toddler set. Both the clear and dramatic pictures and economy of words used make these two pieces of children’s literature must have’s in your collection. OWTK came upon these two before our daughter’s first Autumn season and Halloween holiday (a distant three years ago now!) and even though she has moved on to much longer and more complex stories, we still dust off these editions each September. She still enjoys hearing and seeing Mouse be frightened by every little sound he hears only to discover that the source of the noises is “not so scary after all”. We would swear that tackling such “scared” issues early and often have helped our daughter be scared of very little, when it comes to noises, shadows, etc. After all, if a little mouse can overcome his fear of rustling leaves, howling wind, and pitter patter of feet in the night – so can our kids! Our girl selected this one to bring in to school today for Show-n-Tell!
Mouse’s first Christmas is also celebrated in book form, but is not nearly as charming or witty as the Halloween version.

Autumn Walk
by Ann Burg
Illustrated by Kelly Asbury

Now, this one is as simple as it gets (ok, not as basic as the ‘baby’s first’ type of books, but not that much more advances), which means you can start reading this one to a baby inside or just out of the womb! The simplicity does not interfere with the crafting of a great little story. This boardbook is cleverly shaped like a fallen Autumn leaf and is a celebration of the season through the colors (“street is ablaze in crimson and brown…”) and smells (A whiff of apples and cinnamon toast…”) and animal activity (squirrels racing to find acorns, birds in search of twigs for their nests, etc.) taking place outdoors nearing the end of a Fall day. This is one of Mrs. OWTK’s favorites, specifically for the beautifully writing. Autumn Walk is much closer to poetry than prose, and is simply lovely.

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin
by Joe Troiano
Illustrated by Susan Banta
Published by Barnes & Noble Books

An all time winner in our household! We even own a little plush Spookley. Spookley is square and as one could imagine is not the most popular of pumpkins in a patch filled with the traditional round variety. That all changed one blustery evening when the squared one steps up to the plate and saves many of his orange patch-mates. He becomes a hero which prompts the farmer to honor him by turning the patch into a colorful mix of odd shaped pumpkins. A story of diversity, tolerance, effort, and perseverance – this one belongs in every child’s bookshelf.

To purchase any of the books suggested on OWTK please visit your local independent book seller should one remain in your area. You could also, if you prefer, make an online purchase from or and in doing so, support Out With The Kids. Our Amazon and Powells links are located o
n the right hand side of the page and with a click and a purchase you can keep OWTK chugging along – and enjoy some great children’s book in the process.

Thanks in advance for the love and happy reading!


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