Monday, August 13, 2007

ABC, 123; it's as easy as it can be

In about 24 hours, I'm going to be leaving bloggyland for just over two weeks. Westward ho to see family and to binge on theatre. Promise me you won't write anything interesting while I'm gone, 'kay?

To keep you occupied in the meantime, here is my list of 26-ish (ok, 32) great alphabet books and 10-ish (19, actually) fun counting books. I'll put a link to this post up on my sidebar along with Miss M's two top 100 book lists so that you can easily find them all on your next trip to the library. I had planned to annotate these lists but, duh, I'm traveling half-way cross-country in 24 hours with 1 two year old, 1 frazzled director/husband, 6 actors, 1 car seat, many snacks and various set pieces. Strategic luggage planning NOT critical annotation is my current top priority. And now, the lists:

ABeCedaria should be a magic word

The Adventures of an Apple Pie who was Cut to Pieces and Eaten by Twenty Six Young Ladies and Gentlemen with whom all little people ought to be acquainted. Dover, 1973. Facsimile ed of that published by George Burgess, New York: 1835

Anno, Mitsumasa. Anno's Alphabet: An Adventure in Imagination. Harper: 1975

Azarian, Mary. A Farmer's Alphabet. Godine: 1981

Blake, Quentin. Quentin Blake's ABC. Knopf: 1989

Coletta, Hallie and Irene. From A to Z. Prentice-Hall: 1979

Coudrille, Jonathon. A Beastly Collection. Frederick Warne: 1974

Edens, Cooper. The Glorious ABC. Atheneum: 1990

Edwards, Wallace. Alphabeasts. Kids Can: 2002

Eichenberg, Fritz. Ape in a Cape: An Alphabet of Odd Animals. Harcourt: 1952

Falls, C. B. ABC Book. Doubleday: 1923

Fleming, Denise. Alphabet Under Construction. Holt: 2002

Greenaway, Kate. A Apple Pie. Castle: 1979 (1886)

Grover, Max. The Accidental Zucchini: An Unexpected Alphabet. Harcourt: 1993

Harrison, Ted. A Northern Alphabet. Tundra. 1982

Johnson, Philip and David Peacock. The Great Canadian Alphabet. Hounslow: 1983

Johnson, Stephen T. Alphabet City. Penguin: 1995

Kipling, John Lockwood. A Kipling ABC. Macmillan: 1979 (1902)

Lalicki, Barbara and Margot Tomes. If there were Dreams to Sell. Lothrop: 1984

Lear, Edward. A Nonsense Alphabet. Bloomsbury: 1988 (1862)

Major, Kevin. Eh? To Zed: A Canadian Abecedarium. Red Deer Press: 2000 (read it out loud; the fun is in the words on the tongue.)

McDonnell, Flora. Flora McDonnell's ABC. Candlewick: 1997

Moore, Yvette and Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet. A Prairie Alphabet. Tundra: 1992

Nicholson, William. An Alphabet. William Heinemann: 1975 (1898)

Roache, Gordon. A Halifax ABC. Tundra: 1987

Rubin, Cynthia Elyce. ABC Americana from the National Gallery of Art. Harcourt: 1989

Tallon, Robet. Rotten Kidphabets. Holt, Rhinehart & Winston: 1975

Tarlow, Nora. An Easter Alphabet. Putnam: 1991

Thornhill, Jan. A Wildlife ABC: A Nature Alphabet. Greey de Pencier: 1988

Van Allsburg, Chris. The Z was Zapped. Houghton Mifflin: 1987

Wormell, Christopher. An Alphabet of Animals. Collins: 1990

AND if you don't know about Dutch's alphabet books over at Sweet Juniper, get your mouse hand in gear and check them out. I was hoping to get them both printed up as books for Miss M for Christmas but I don't know if Dutch still has the high-end files available to allow this to happen. I'll have to look into this all when I get back from vacation and when I start thinking forward to Christmas.

One, two, three four, can I have a little more?

Anno, Mitsumasa. Anno’s Counting Book. Crowell: 1975

Argent, Rod Trince and Kerry. One Woolly Wombat. Omnibus: 1982

Bang, Molly. Ten, Nine, Eight. Greenwillow: 1983

Burmingham, John. Just Cats. Viking Press: 1983

Burton, Katherine. One Gray Mouse. Kids Can: 1995.

Crossley Holland, Kevin. Under the Sun and Over the Moon. Orchard: 1989

Ehlert, Lois. Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On. Harcourt: 1990

Friskey, Margaret. Chicken Little: Count-to-ten. Children’s Press: 1946

Gregoire, Caroline. Counting with Apollo. Kane Miller: 2004

Hepworth, Cathy. Antics! Putnam: 1992

Heyboer O’Keefe, Susan. One Hungry Monster. Little Brown, 1989

Lofgren, Ulf. One-Two-Three. Addison-Wesley: 1973. Originally published in Stockholm, 1970

MacCarthy, Patricia. Ocean Parade. Dial: 1990

McGuire, Richard. The Orange Book. Rizzoli: 1992

Morales, Yuyi. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book. Raincoast: 2003

Moss, Lloyd. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin. Simon and Schuster: 1995

Radunsky, Vladimir. 10 (ten). Viking: 2002. (ok, so it's not really a counting book but it is just plain fun.)

Sendak, Maurice. One Was Johnny: A Counting Book. Harper and Row: 1962

Sis, Peter. Going Up! Greenwillow: 1989

There you have it. The age ranges for these books vary quite a bit and some of them are quite old. I just happen to like them all. As always, if you want to add to the list of recommendations, feel free to fill the comments section. Oh, and if you are going to put up your kitsch photos, make sure I know about that too so I can add the links when I get back.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Cue silence.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer reading

Miss M here. Did you know that I am 2 and 1/2 today? Mom's gift to me was the chance to guest post. I thought that some of the other 2 and 3 -year-olds out there just might be interested in what I've been reading since I turned two.* In fact, the Mayor recently emailed me wonderin' what books were in my beach bag. Besides, with all those Moms and Dads holed up with Harry Potter, a kid's gotta have something to while away the time. Without further ado, I give you:

The 100 Best Books I Read in the Last Six Months: 2-2.5
* Canadian
+ poetry collection
bold my top 20

  1. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelans
  2. Madeline's Rescue by Ludwig Bemelans
  3. Birthday Monsters by Sandra Boynton
  4. The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
  5. Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown
  6. Hand Rhymes by collected and illustrated by Marc Brown +
  7. Silly Billy by Anthony Browne
  8. --a good book if you're an anxious or even fearful child like me
  9. One Gray Mouse by Katherine Burton *
  10. --a lovely little counting book with clay illustrations
  11. Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
  12. Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill
  13. --what's not to love about a wombat?
  14. Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper
    --little Miss Smartie Pants Mommy keeps meaning to write a review of this book and Cooper's other book, Pumpkin Soup that made my toddler list. Can I just say that I want Helen Cooper to adopt me? That's how much I loved these books. The cadence of the prose, the illustrations, the subtle humour... ah! perfection. Mom is always grouching about how we need more Cooper at the library and then sighing heavily each time she gets her Visa statement.
  15. Mrs. Wishy Washy by Joy Cowley
  16. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin
  17. Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin
  18. --Mom sometimes groans that these books are written for adults not children. Too much winking to the adult sensibility but I just don't get it. I love Spider just as much as I loved Worm back when I read his diary just before I was two.
  19. The Little Dog Laughed and other Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Lucy Cousins
  20. Ella the Elephant by Carmela and Stephen D'Amico
  21. The Classic Treasury of Best-Loved Children's Poems illustrated by Penny Dann +
  22. A Child's Treasury of Nursery Rhymes compiled and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton * +
  23. Mud Muddelicious Mud: Verse for the Very Young by Shirley Downie * +
  24. Olivia by Ian Falconer
  25. Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer
  26. Olivia forms a Band by Ian Falconer
  27. Bee Gets a Sweater by Keith Faulkener
  28. Tap, Tap, Tap: What can it be? by Keith Faulkener
  29. A-tisket, a-tasket by Ella Fitzgerald; illustrated by Ora Eitan
  30. Beast Feast by Douglas Florian
  31. A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman
  32. Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French
  33. --as I was saying, "what's not to love about a Wombat?"
  34. The Three Little Pigs illustrated by Marie Louise Gay
  35. Grandma and the Pirates by Phoebe Gilman *
  36. Jillian Jiggs and the Secret Surprise by Phoebe Gilman *
  37. The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman *
  38. Jillian Jiggs to the Rescue by Phoebe Gilman *
  39. Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman *
  40. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
  41. Jessica by Kevin Henkes
  42. Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
  43. -- I think I'm in love with Mr. Slinger
  44. Lily's Big Day by Kevin Henkes
  45. Once Around the Block by Kevin Henkes
  46. Owen by Kevin Henkes
  47. Shiela Rae the Brave by Kevin Henkes
  48. Corduroy Lost and Found by B. Hennessy based on the Freeman books
  49. Sea, Sand, Me by Patricia Hubbell
  50. Hiding by Shirley Hughes
  51. Colours by Shirley Hughes +
  52. Songs for Annie Rose by Shirley Hughes +
  53. Toot and Puddle: Charming Opal by Hollie Hobbie
  54. The Llama Who had No Pajama by Maryann Hoberman +
  55. --OMG, I love this collection!
  56. Our Day at the Seashore by Amy and Richard Hutchings
  57. --my Nan gave me this and a few other beach books to take along on my recent trip to PEI. Now I know what a quohog is.
  58. Katie's Babbling Brother by Hazel Hutchins *
  59. Rollie Pollie Ollie by William Joyce
  60. Take Me Out to the Ball Game by MaryAnn Kovalski *
  61. Lavender's Blue: A Book of nursery Rhymes compiled by Kathleen Lines +
  62. --a reprint of the 1954 classic. Watch out! A few of the rhymes are from a more savage time: sometimes scary, sometimes deliciously dark.
  63. Yummer's Too: the Second Course by James Marshall
  64. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  65. --loved the book but loved the Scholastic video even more. It's too cool for school.
  66. Chicka Chicka 123 by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  67. Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin Jr.
  68. Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin Jr.
  69. Piggy and Dad Go Fishing by David Martin
  70. Dahlia by Barbara McClintock
  71. The Oxford 123 Book of Number Rhymes by Robert McGough +
  72. The Real Mother Goose Book of Christmas Carols
  73. --ya, so, it's true that I made my mom sing every single one of these far into March. Hey! I wonder just where that book got to anyway?
  74. All in One Piece by Jill Murphy
  75. Peg and the Yeti by Kenneth Oppel *
  76. The Oxenbury Nursery Story Book compiled and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury +
  77. --so far I'm only into the verse section. I hope to start reading the fairy tales this fall
  78. A Bit of Dancing by Helen Oxenbury
  79. The Ocean Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallota
  80. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  81. --Mom thinks this book will help me make the transition to day care in the fall. Boy, does she have another thing coming
  82. A day of rhymes compiled by Sarah Pooley +
  83. Beneath a Blue Umbrella by Jack Prelutsky +
  84. --a great book of poems for all you kids, state-side. Mom has promised to find me a Canadian equivalent and then she said something about a Kevin Major alphabet book and told me to stay tuned.
  85. For Laughing Out Loud: Poems to Tickle Your Funny Bone selected by Jack Prelutsky +
  86. 10 Minutes 'Til Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
  87. The Gift by Barbara Reid *
  88. My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
  89. Beach Day by Karen Roosa
  90. Tales from Parc La Fontaine by Roslyn Schwartz *
  91. --the Complete Adventures of the Mole Sisters was on my toddler list. I'm still lovin' it too
  92. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  93. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  94. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  95. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
  96. Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
  97. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  98. Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer
  99. Mama Loves Me by Mara Van Fleet
  100. --IMHO, the elephant is the most noble and loving creature on the planet.
  101. So Say the Little Monkeys by Nancy Van Laan
  102. --this book is like candy on the tongue: "they sing jibba, jibba, jabba as they jump and run. Jump jabba jabba. Run jabba jabba. Tiny, tiny monkeys having fun."
  103. Frog in Love by Max Velthius
  104. Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest by Judith Viorst
  105. Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell
  106. --too good for words: "How goes the work? Quack!"
  107. Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
  108. I Spy Little Christmas by Walter Wick
  109. "More more more" said the baby : 3 love stories by Vera B. Williams
  110. The King of Capri by Jeanette Winterson
  111. --this book has laxative properties. My all-time favourite potty book. It's just so long.
  112. The Napping House by Don and Audrey Wood
  113. Piggies by Audrey and Don Wood
  114. Here's a Little Poem edited by Jane Yolen +
  115. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen
  116. any one of a number of cheap peg puzzle board books
  117. any one of a number of Thomas the Tank Engine cheapo board books
  118. any one of a number of magnetic counting, alphabet, or rudimentary spelling books
  119. --no, I don't spell and I don't pretend to. I just like to play with the letters.
  120. any one of a number of cheapo electronic music, sing-a-long books

*And ya, some of these books are meant for 4 and 5-year olds. It's also true that I still read baby books. Why must they put such limited age ranges on children's books. It's soooo totally oppressive.

I hope you like my list. You know what, though?. My silly mother decided to re-read all the Harry Potter books before finishing off the series. She made this decision in June. Like, duh! This means that she is only finishing up #5 now. Please help me! Can you ask your pre-schoolers to recommend some good books to tide me over until Mom is done? Thanks. I knew I could count on you.


A note from the editor, compiler and chief amanuesnis aka Mad: Miss M puts quite a bit of work into drawing up these lists. She does it because she hopes that they will make helpful library cheat sheets for all her sphere-y friends. Please feel free to tell as many people as you like about them so that her work won't be in vain.

Oh and Miss M insists on writing these posts herself because she doesn't trust my adult editorializing. Not that I would ever do that. She really wants you to know about the books SHE loves regardless of whether her children's lit crit and librarian mother agrees. Little does she know that her mother plans revenge by posting a list of 26 wonderful alphabet books and 10 counting books without consulting her daughter whatsoever. Soon. I promise.

OK, I'm off now to help Miss M put links to this list and to her toddler list on the sidebar. Miss M finds Blogger a bother sometimes. I can't imagine why.


Because I'm not posting as much these days, I thought I would give you all an early heads up about the upcoming Just Posts. You know the drill: if you have read or written a post or posts dealing with social justice in the month of July, drop me or Jen a line. You've got until August 7th. We'll put the linky love list up on Aug 10th. I'm madhattermommyAThotmailDOTcom.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The local chapter

A Perfect Post – May 2007 May07ROFLaward

I'm back on the Monday Mission band wagon. This week's challenge is to write a blog post in the format of meeting minutes.

Union of Story Book Characters
Local 520
Minutes of the 2007 AGM

Meeting date: May 21, 2007
Meeting time: after bedtime
In attendance: Jillian Jiggs, Mouse-A-Cookie, Spot, Corduroy, Ruby, Max, Bear Hunt Family, Duck, Sophie, Caterpillar, Harold, Mr. Brice, misc baby faces and flaps.

Regrets: The Runaway Bunny, the Owl, and the Pussycat

Minutes recorded by union secretary, Harold

1. Welcome
2. Equity
3. Narration
4. Replacement workers
5. Job security
6. Extended health plan
7. Report of the New Technology Committee
8. Any other business

1. Welcome
Union foreman, Spot, welcomed everyone to the meeting. Attendees were invited to help themselves to cookies with candy sprinkles and cake with butter-cream roses made by Ruby and to all nine kinds of pie drawn up by Harold.

2. Equity
After working his way through a variety of snacks and while munching on a nice green leaf, the Very Hungry Caterpillar raised the issue that books in the living room are being read in far greater number and with more frequency than books in the family room or the bedroom. This situation has created an inequitable work load for union members. Discussion ensued. It was decided that in the next round of contract negotiations, union members would demand either a) equitable hours of work in all three household reading locales or b) routine redistribution of books throughout the house to ensure employment equity.

"Strike!" said Max.

3. Narration
Jillian Jiggs brought a motion to the membership:

"I'm Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs
Please don't make my story be read out by pigs.
I really don't want to be read by that Dad
Who stops to point out every single doo-dad
'Vocab building', he calls it, oh please!
I just get going and he makes me freeze
Only Mom is the greatest, only Mom, it is true

Can read in a cadence that carries me through."

Ms. Jiggs backed up her motion by presenting a letter of support from the splinter union, the International Brotherhood of Boynton Hippopotamuses.

Sophie got angry, really, really angry. She reminded the membership that this union also represents the numerous wordless picture books in the house and that while they may not have a voice at this meeting, Carl would not take kindly to any decision to ban the observational narrative style of the MadDad. Sophie then presented supporting documentation that illustrated the concerns of Carl, Gorilla and other representatives of the wordless picture book working group.

Spot motioned that the union take no further action with respect to demanding narrative change in the household. Ruby seconded. The vote passed with only one dissenting voice. "Strike!" said Max.

4. Replacement workers
The Bear Hunt Family noted that a large proportion of the books entering the house come from the library where Mad Hatter works. "Oh-oh, scabs! Free-to-borrow scabs! Can't go over them. Can't go under them. Oh no. Got to go through them." Discussion ensued. The membership shared a unanimous concern about the unfair competition faced by the library replacement workers but, given management's pro-library stance, it was agreed that no effective action could be taken at this time to remedy the situation.

"Strike!" said Max.

5. Job Security
Smiling all the while, a representative of the baby-face and lift-the-flap working group expressed concern about job security. The fear was that their positions in the organization had been designed with built-in obsolescence and that they would soon be laid off permanently. Spot assured the babies and flaps that he had been cozying up to management and learned that a close personal friend would be opening up a branch plant in October. He had been given assurances that all the employees whose jobs were in danger would find work at the new plant.

"Strike!" said Max.

6. Extended health care
Mr. Brice led the discussion. "My mice are nice," said Mr. Brice, "but Miss M is a health hazard not just for them but for all the pop-up and moveable characters in the union. We demand a supplementary health-care package in the next round of contract negotiations." Discussion ensued. Condolences were offered to Peter Mouse and Sally Mouse, both of whom had suffered a brutal attack at the hands of Miss M. Mouse-a-cookie mentioned that "if you give Miss M a pop-up book, she's going to want scotch tape to go with it. If you give her the scotch tape, she's going to want to tear you to shreds..."

Ruby remarked that ever since the "Jack and Jill" litigation of a few years back, management has been quite amenable to all health-care requests made on behalf of union members. Duck added that rumours of an impending bird flu pandemic were making both management and union members uneasy. He claimed to speak for all the ducks, chickens and geese within the greater membership.

It was decided to approach management for more comprehensive extended health coverage on behalf of all union members. Duck being a neutral party was asked to carry the ultimatum to Miss M(anagement).

"Strike!" said Max.

7. Report of the New Technology Committee
As Committee Chair, Ruby reported that there was great potential for union members wishing to branch out into television and DVD work. The committee as a whole, though, felt that a goodly amount of the integrity of each union member was at risk in this experimentation with new technology. Corduroy corroborated. "I'm a simplistic Treehouse character. I never wanted to be a simplistic Treehouse character." He then muttered something about missing Lisa before falling asleep. There was a general consensus that the members had a greater chance at longevity in their careers if they focused primarily on their work in print.

Spot thanked the committee for its report.

"Strike!" said Max.

8. Any Other Business
Spot mentioned that the newly appointed Mediator in the region was none other than Mother Goose. Concerns were expressed over her ability to remain neutral during labour negotiations given that she is the CEO of the largest story-book conglomerate in history. Harold offered reassurances that despite her current corporate profile, Mother Goose, in her early days, mentored some of the all-time greats in the story-book labour movement: Mary, Mary Quite Contrary (Landscapers United); Wee Willie Winkie (Curfew Teamsters); and Bobby Shaftoe (The Brotherhood of the May-Be-Married Mariners).

The membership, by and large, agreed that this development had an uncertain outcome and that the union's best strategy was to avoid a breakdown in negotiations for the forseeable future. There was one lone dissenting voice. "Strike!" said Max.

The meeting adjourned just before dawn.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Generation Logo

Consider this post part 4 in my How Capitalism Keeps on Winning Series. In this series I examine how parenthood has forced me deeper into consumer culture than I have ever felt comfortable being. I'm not concerned with sweet, Lucy-with-a-lemonade-stand, happy-go-lucky free enterprise, here. No, what I'm talkin' about is LUCY-WANTING-A-CHRISTMAS-TREE-THAT'S-PINK-AND-SHINY capitalism and its ever increasing bullying tactics that push us all towards conspicuous consumption despite our better judgment.

The topic on my plate today:

the corporate branding of babies
(awww, isn't he sweet?)

But first an image from simpler times:

In the mid-1990s, when I first heard about the Munchkin baby bottles that sported the Pepsi logo, I was decidedly ill at ease. Why, on God's green earth, would anyone ever think it a good idea to market bottles for babies with soft drink logos on them? Then I learned that not only did these bottles sell well but also that infants were four times more likely to drink pop from one of these bottles than from a non-branded baby bottle. Given the price of pop relative to milk, it was hardly surprising that some families turned to soda here and there as a substitute for proper nutrition.

Ah, but those were the good ole 1990s. Public outcry forced the manufacturers to stop making the bottles and, now, you're hard pressed to find even an internet image of the wretched things to plop into a blog post.

Oh halcyon days of innocence, how I mourn your passing.

Special Sauce

Flash forward a decade and we are so bloody immersed in consumer culture that we don't even notice its increasing march towards our children. I offer examples:

Exhibit A: My daughter's toothbrushes
Last Christmas, I put a toothbrush in my daughter's stocking. It was an Oral B, Stage 1 toddler toothbrush in a lovely yellow and pink colour scheme. This was her first toothbrush. She was about to embark on an activity that she will perform daily for the rest of her life. In case you haven't noticed already, I'm really big on object symbolism, so this whole toothbrush-in-the-stocking ritual gave me no end of warm fuzzies.

Two months later when I returned to the toothbrush aisle to replace it, everything had changed. Oral B has signed a deal with Disney and all their toddler toothbrushes are now plastered with product placement: Baby Einstein on the brushes for the under 2's and Winnie the Pooh for the 2-4 yr-old set. Because nowhere else in town stocks any alternative to this product, I suck it up every 2-3 months and buy the bloody things. Each night, now, I have to repeatedly tell my daughter to stick the wretched thing back in her mouth and BRUSH HER TEETH WITH IT. As far as she is concerned, the toothbrush is nothing more than a toy. As far as Disney is concerned, it's nothing more than cheap advertising to its most valued demographic.

Exhibit B: My daughter's diapers
The seed for this post was planted back in November. That's when the diaper brand that I had been using suddenly changed. The diapers used to have Snoopy across the top--a recognizable icon, for sure, but not one that is hip with the toddlers of today. In the switch from old to new market ethics, though, this diaper brand replaced Snoopy with some more sinister "Genius Baby" icons. And as if that wasn't bad enough, in their move towards progress the company also turned the world's most perfect disposable diaper into a crap rag that leaked every two hours AND they discontinued selling the diapers in the mega-box size, a size that minimized price and excess packaging. To sum it up, the diapers became more expensive per unit, far worse at doing their job and more insidious when it came to branding my child. I stopped buying them immediately.

But what then were my options? I had already tried and had a terrible experience with cloth diapers when Miss M was younger. The cloth leaked several times a day making the laundry levels (diapers, her clothes, my clothes) unbearable. Sure I could've bought better cloth diapers but I had already invested $150 on the only (and sadly ineffectual) cloth diapers sold locally. To branch out I would've needed to order online, experimenting with different brands and, frankly, with a then five-month-old, I opted for convenience.

Fast forward a year and a half and there I was in a disposable diaper pickle. The only other options available to me at the grocery store were Huggies and Pampers. Yup, that's more branding than you can shake a stick at. Elmo to the left of me, Grover to the right of me, Pooh up the rear. The result? My daughter now knows the names of all the Sesame Street characters and she has never once seen Sesame Street. It sometimes takes three times as long to change her diaper because she wants to play with Grover first OR she wants to wear Ernie when I've already scooped a Cookie Monster from the top of the pile. When we go to Toys'r'Us she points out all the Elmo products by name and loiters around them in a most unnerving way.

But there is hope on the horizon. It won't be long before potty training begins chez Hat. Today I was out and about and noticed a bunch of size two, girl underwear in a discount bin. Calvin Klein underwear. For two year olds. And you know what? I scooped up as much of it as I could. Why? Because aside from the "CK" discretely written across the waistband, these underwear are plain: blue, pink, red and pretty patterned cherries. You see, I'll be damned if I will let Disney or whatever-the-hell-else company hawk its toys on my daughter's crotch. That's my line in the sand, Dora; that's my line in the sand.

Yes, yes, I hear your gentle scolding voices, oh wise mothers of the blogosphere. I hear the accepting mockery of "I told you so" that I know I am sure to hear next fall when I will no doubt confess to you all that "since starting day care my daughter demands Dora on her heiny" and if my daughter wants it loud enough or persistently enough, I will cave faster than the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man when the streams are crossed.

Exhibit C: My daughter's birthday presents
I recently bought two significant birthday presents for my daughter: a doll house and a table and chairs set. After all my moaning about the Christmas kitchen, I vowed I would stick to wooden toys for her birthday. Phhhft! No one in town carries wooden doll houses (or hardly any other wooden toys whatsoever for that matter). The independent toy store doesn't carry a single doll house. The Toys'r'Us at the mall stocks only two: the Barbie house and the Bratz house. Muttering something about a cold day in hell, I hit the internet and found the perfect (expensive, made with responsible labour practices and constructed of non-toxic materials) wooden doll house online. I ordered it.

I did manage to find one wooden table and chair set in town that wasn't Dora or Thomas branded. When I say one, I mean one. I bought the very last one in the city--and this was a product that wasn't even stocked in the store two weeks earlier. All of which brings me to the cranky conclusion that if I want to walk the straight and narrow as a consumer anxious to protect the environment and keep my child from being branded, I need to order all my products off the internet. In other words, I am forced to sacrifice my equal desire to keep my local economy vibrant.

Rock. [ME] Hard place.

It all makes me so freakin' cranky. Why, oh why, must it be so hard to raise a child without branding her in the process? Why does my desire to do so and to speak about it feel like an act of radicalism when, to me, it just seems like plain, old-fashioned common sense?

The branding of the toys, I can almost live with but marketing toys on diapers and toothbrushes--on the very products she MUST use--should not be legal, IMHO. Given the way things are progressing I can't help but ask, "What's next?" Her food? Will Elmo logos be mini-stickered onto all her fruits and vegetables? Heck why waste money on stickers? Why not just do what the ranchers do and burn or bruise the logo right into the flesh? I realize this sounds ridiculous. It is, but not for the reasons we all think it is. After all, the mega-corps don't really want us eating produce anyway, do they? Nope, they'd rather see us eating refined packaged goods that have a more stable price-point and that mess with our blood sugar levels thus making us always want more, more, more.

The other day a saw a child beat his mother down in the granola bar aisle, insisting on the sugary Tweety Bird granola bars over the cheaper, more nutritional package. And the cereal aisle? It's nothing but a minefield for intrepid toddler-cart pushing parents. So far infant formula and baby food jars are free from Dora's, Elmo's and any Disneyfied Einstein icon but how much longer can this last before there are no more people left who care enough to question it?

And what of our children? Will they grow up to think this kind of branding is nothing but the natural state of things? I want my daughter's first memories of her time on this earth to be of family hugs and story times; of snowmen and imaginative play. I don't want her memories to revolve around which muppet was her preferred piss receptacle.

Please come to mama. Please?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bored? No Board

Um, hi everyone. Miss M here. Listen, I was doing a bit of web surfing the other day, trying to find pictures of frogs and toads and the like when I stumbled upon Beck's blog. Anyway, I noticed in the comments that my mother (such an embarrassment) brazenly stated that she could likely recommend 100 good toddler books. Personally, I think it high time that someone took that "I'm a children's literature librarian" smug look off her face. C'mon, without me she wouldn't have a blessed clue about books for the under three set. Nope, she'd likely have her nose in some YA piece of crap or a Nancy Farmer fantasy or, most likely, she'd be watching yet another Mandy Moore, coming-of-age tear-jerker on DVD. You know and I know that she'd be nothing without me.

So, for those of you who are interested, I'd like to share my list of the 100 best books I read in my second year of life. Heck, my mom doesn't even like them all but let me assure you, I have read each of them at least 100 times and can offer nothing but a whole-hearted endorsement. To make it easier for you the next time you're headed to the library, I have listed the books in rough order of my liking them. At the top of the list you'll find all titles I loved when I was a newly minted toddler. If you want to know what I read now that I am older and wiser(23 1/2 months) , move toward the bottom of the list.

Miss M's Guide to Toddler Books
1. Anyone of a dozen books with pictures of babies or toddlers getting up to crazy antics. I could not get enough of that stuff. Might I recommend Baby Talk! or What Do You Do With an Orange?
2. Goodness, how I loved my vocabulary books. Bright Baby published some of my favs but, really, if the book had a single picture matched with a single word on each page, I was lovin’ every minute of it.
3. Did someone say lift-the-flap? Did someone say peek-a-boo? I have some very, very fond memories that I won’t bother sharing with you right now. Let’s just say, “the classics never get old.”
4. Listen, I didn’t care what the books were called but if they had photos of puppies, kittens or farm animals my heart melted. Ooooo the wittle animals were sooo cute. I remember a book called Busy Kitties and another called Puppy Love. The rest is a blur.
5. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
6. Time for Bed by Mem Fox
7. Yo Baby! by Roslyn Schwartz *
8. Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (laugh? I thought I’d die.)
9. I Can, I See, I Hear and I Touch all by Helen Oxenbury
10. One Gorgeous Baby by Martine Oborne
11. Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
12. Moo, Baa, La la la by Sandra Boynton
13. Blue Hat Green Hat by Sandra Boynton
14. The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
15. But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
16. Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton (you’ll notice that I take an academic interest in the oevre of certain author/illustrators.)
17. The Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton
18. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss (I had the tubby book version)
19. Hand, Hand Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins
20. Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee; illustrated by Nora Hilb *
21. Willoughby Wallaby Woo by Dennis Lee; illustrated by Nora Hilb *
22. Silvery, Silvery/Good Night by Dennis Lee; illustrated by Nora Hilb *
23. Jelly Belly by Dennis Lee; illustrated by Nora Hilb *
24. Carry Me by Rosemary Wells
25. My First Mother Goose compiled by Iona Opie; illustrated by Rosemary Wells
26. Here Comes Mother Goose compiled by Iona Opie; illustrated by Rosemary Wells
27. Read to your Bunny boxed set with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Old MacDonald, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, and The Itsy Bitsy Spider
28. Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
29. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
30. The Day the Babies Crawled Away by Peggy Rathmann
31. No David! By David Shannon
32. Little Gorilla by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
33. Little Quack by Lauren Thompson
34. Little Quack’s Bedtime by Lauren Thompson
35. Food For Thought by Saxton Freymann (now this is what I call ART)
36. Baby Food by Saxton Freymann
37. Dog Food by Saxton Freymann
38. How Are you Peeling? by Saxton Freymann
39. Goodnight Country by Susan Verlander
40. Good Morning City by Susan Verlander
41. The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Edward Lear (I had the one illustrated by Jan Brett. Pure delight.)
42. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
43. Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too? by Eric Carle
44. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See? by Bill Martin Jr. Illustrated by Eric Carle
45. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. Illustrated by Eric Carle
46. Love and Kisses by Sarah Wilson
47. Kiss, Kiss by Margaret Wild
48. Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day
49. Carl Goes Shopping by Alexandra Day
50. Carl’s Afternoon in the Park by Alexandra Day
51. Carl Makes a Scrapbook by Alexandra Day
52. Baby Beluga (whoa cool it’s like my favourite Raffi song as a book! Can life get better?) *
53. The Wheels on the Bus (ohhhh yesssss, more Raffi in print) *
54. Maisy’s Best Friends by Lucy Cousins
55. Maisy’s Snowy Christmas Eve by Lucy Cousins
56. Max and Ruby’s Snowy Day by Rosemary Wells
57. Max’s Christmas by Rosemary Wells
58. Max and the Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells
59. Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
60. The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
61. Jamberry by Bruce Degan
62. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen; illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
63. 10 Minutes ‘til Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
64. Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
65. Eloise’s What I Absolutely Love, Love, Love by Kay Thomspson
66. Bud the Spud (yup. That’d be the Stompin’ Tom classic--illustrated. Oh and can you believe this? My sitter had NEVER even heard the song before. Shame.) *
67. Corduroy by Don Freeman
68. Corduroy’s Street (a cheap knock off but frankly I was a sucker for it)
69. Corduroy’s Busy Day (ditto)
70. How to be a Cow by Bo Vine (seriously, that’s what it says on the title page. It also says that the illustrations are by Shelly Meredith. Mom and I found it in a discount bin at the grocery store)
71. I love you because you’re you by Liza Baker
72. My Dad by Charles Fuge
73. Click, Clack, Splish, Splash by Doreen Cronin
74. Red is Best by Cathy Stinson *
75. Oh! by Kevin Henkes
76. Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
77. The Pop-up Mice of Mr Brice by Theo. LeSieg
78. My Nest is Best by P. D. Eastman
79. If you give a mouse a cookie by Laura J. Numeroff; illustrated by Felicia Bond
80. If you give a pig a pancake by Laura J. Numeroff; illustrated by Felicia Bond
81. If you give a moose a muffin by Laura J. Numeroff; illustrated by Felicia Bond
82. Mole’s Hill by Lois Ehlert
83. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
84. Simon and the Snowflakes by Gilles Tibo *
85. Simon and the Wind by Gilles Tibo *
86. Simon in Summer by Gilles Tibo *
87. Simon and his Boxes by Gilles Tibo *
88. Tales from Parc La Fontaine by Roslyn Schwartz *
89. The Complete Adventures of the Mole Sisters by Roslyn Schwartz *
90. Stella, Star of the Sea by Marie Louise Gay *
91. Stella Fairy of the Forest by Marie Louise Gay *
92. Stella Princess of the Sky by Marie Louise Gay *
93. Good Night Sam by Marie Louise Gay *
94. Good Morning Sam by Marie Louise Gay *
95. Ella Takes the Cake by Carmela D’Amico
96. Colours by Shirley Hughes
97. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (vroom vroom, vroomy vroom, vroom)
98. Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman *
99. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
100. Frozen Noses by Jan Carr
101. Elliot Gets Stuck by Andrea Beck *
102. Elliot Digs for Treasure by Andrea Beck *
103. Elliot’s Noisy Night by Andrea Beck *
104. Elliot Takes a Bath by Andrea Beck *
105. Spot’s Giant Treasury by Eric Hill

Criminey, I somehow made it to 105. The problem is I'm getting sick of all these books now. Mom keeps going on about how there are plenty more by these authors. She also sometimes gets all feverish and starts speaking in tongues: Burmingham, Wadell, Browne, Weisner, Lunn, Reid, Van Allsburg, Alborough,Yolen, Wood, Steig... She goes on and on and it scares me.

The thing is, I don't always like what she brings home. I don't suppose you moms and dads could do me a favour? Could you ask your toddlers for suggestions and then report back here and let me know. Once I have a list, I'll try to subtly bring up names the next time we're at the library. Knowing ole mommy smarty pants, she'll likely think the ideas were all hers in the first place. She's that way.

* BTW, I'm a cultural nationalist in training. The ones with the star are Canadian.