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These chalkbooks are brilliant! We only have the Animal Friends but can only guess that the Numbers, Colors and Opposites editions are probably as charming.

My daughter was only about two when I got this for her and she’s as interested in it two years later. It’s educational, tactile and fun — and most importantly, doesn’t make a big mess the way chalk activities usually do.

In our version, each page features a different animal. On the left hand page, your child can draw free hand, perfect for little ones. On the right side, she can practice her letters.

At $12.95 a book, it’s another smart toy that’s durable and will last a long time! Click here to buy.

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Releasing today is Julia Gran’s Big Bug Surprise from Scholastic. Ms. Gran had last made an appearance as the illustrator of Princess Penelope in 2003 and Princess Penelope Takes Charge in 2006, and is definitely one of the wittiest children’s artists of all time. The Big Bug Surprise is her writing debut.

I have a girly girl in my house who loves all things princesses and has never, ever showed any interest in things of nature. Currently, she refuses to wear pants, likes to wear her very long hair “long,” and definitely doesn’t want to get her brand new black patent leather Mary Janes dirty in any way.

Somehow, the Big Bug Surprise was a big hit as soon as I brought it home.

This is the story of Prunella who wears pigtails and loves to talk about bugs. Although throughout the book adults keep protesting “Not now, Prunella,” she doesn’t give up. She knows so much about bugs and ends up saving the day when the time comes thanks to her bug knowledge. The last page of the book is a mini-glossary for inquiring minds: insects, dragonflies, honeybees, dung beetles and spiders are all given a chance to shine in this star-studded bug story.

I can’t tell you how, but thanks to this book, princesses and bugs now share Maya’s fascination Richter. Join in the fun: as always, you can buy it at a discount on Amazon.

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She says pajama, I say pyjama. Whatever you call it, did you know pajamas originated in the Far East? I had no idea! I do know however that we’re definitely starting our annual new pajamas and underwear to celebrate the New Year tradition tonight.

The book that will accompany this new tradition is one of our all time favorites, Sandra Boynton’s Pajama Time!

Whether you read it a bit squarish or jam to it with a jazzy tune, this colorful tribute to pajamas and bedtime routines is another toddler classic that will bring on the smiles.

If you are a Sandra Boynton fan already, make sure to visit the official Sandra Boynton web site for a full listing of silly favorites and “nifty music.”

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“Does everybody dream?” asks a little boy in a studio interview.  “We all dream, every night, even though you may not remember it. But, hey, I mean, like, dreams are very important,” answers another one.

My question is, “How does HBO know kids so well?!”

This charming DVD has been one my Maya’s favorites this past year so we decided to gift all her little friends for the holidays.

I had originally recorded the half hour special from HBO. Around the time we ran out of space on our DVR, I realized I could buy the DVD from Amazon.

In its core, the performances bring together childhood classics like Goodnight Moon and There’s a Nightmare in My Closet with Hollywood stars like Susan Sarandon and Billy Crystal. You’ll also hear Tony Bennett, Aaron Neville and Lauryn Hill singing.

What makes the DVD so special for everyone, parents and kids, are the studio interviews with children peppered throughout the program. These kids are so smart, so perceptive, so special — like most kids are! Their interpretations of life lessons are charming, laughter-inducing, truly magical. We never tire of watching this! It is the perfect end to many a busy day.

You can now buy it on Amazon for an unbeliavable $6.47. Money well spent!

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“Where do balloons go when you let them go free? It can happen by accident. It happened to me.” This is how this Jamie Lee Curtis classic starts. I’m calling it a classic because it was released in 2000 and has been a favorite of preschool teachers since.

In fact, even though Maya and I discovered “Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery” completely by accident, even before the book became a classroom project, it was pretty clear that the story’s beautiful melody and unique mystery would make it a bedtime favorite. For both of us!

You may have heard about this book already: it’s a fun little ditty about what could balloons possibly be doing when they float free in the sky. Speculation abounds as soon as you turn the first page: “do they catch a cold? …. do they get married and make balloon heirs?…. do they tango with airplanes or cha cha with birds?” The rhymes are entertaining for most three and four year olds and the accompanying removable stickers allow them to engage in a quiet activity before bedtime making up colorful balloon faces.

What fascinates me about the book though is the last spread. It features the illustration of a warm, genuine hug between the parent and child, and reads “Where do balloons go? It’s a mystery, I know. So just hold on tight till you have to let go.”

I might be reading too much into it but I have to admit that I get teary eyed every time I read these last words. It reminds me of how fleeting time with our children is and suddenly the balloon becomes a metaphor for Maya as I feel the tears welling up.

So in short, I’m as addicted to this book as little Maya and it definitely makes it on Our Favorite Books list. Now available in hardcover on Amazon for only $11.55.

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One of my favorite things about this book is that it takes place in Brooklyn where I used to live. Of course, that was before I got married and had my daughter. However I remember the torturous trips to the laundromat like they were yesterday. Lugging the overstuffed laundry duffel four flights of stairs down a wal-up brownstone and then dragging it four blocks through the park was so unbearable that I only did laundry every two weeks, which of course made the whole experience even worse.

Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny is about a trip to the laundromat with Trixie, the charming toddler. The illustrations of the characters are set against black and white photography of actual places in Brooklyn, which brings a level of reality to the drama that ensues. The book is the perfect length for adults to read without falling asleep and keeps babies, toddlers and preschoolers alike entertained. You will definitely get repeated requests for it. 


I am convinced that the first word Maya clearly spoke was “book.” My husband claims it was “baba,” the Turkish word for daddy. Of course!

Maya loved books as an infant, especially to chew them. With my personal fascination with the written word, I wasn’t surprised. Eric Carle, Karen Katz and Sandra Boynton were our favorite authors the first two years. When she started preschool at two and a half, we began ordering from the Scholastic catalogs she would bring home. Our library opened up to new authors, picture books, rhyming books, poems and even books on tape.

One of these great finds is called Wild About Books. Written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown (of Arthur the Aardvark fame), Wild About Books is the story of Molly McGrew who by mistake drives a bookmobile into a zoo. The accomplished librarian that she is, Molly ends up finding the perfect book for all the animals.

This book has won numerous awards in the past three years but don’t be fooled with age suggestions of seven and up. Although I’m sure her understanding of the hidden humor will grow as she gets older, Maya has been able to appreciate this beautifully illustrated book and its rhyming story since she turned three. At the very least, it’s a great excuse to learn a few exotic animal names!