“All about cats” by Monika Filipina

Besides reading, there is one big passion in our family: Cats. Currently, there is just one feline living with us: Fleckli is part of our family for over 12 years now. She moved in as a frightened shelter-kitten when Immo and I were still studying. She and her friend Sakura, a stray from Austria, relocated to the US with us. Unfortunately, we had to let Sakura go shortly after Finja was born… By now, Fleckli is a healthy, confident cat lady. She’s definitely the head of the household – at least in her opinion… 🙂

Cats also are my professional passion. I’m founder and former chief editor of Germany’s first independent magazine for cats, Pfotenhieb, and work for a charity pet food line. As an avid reader, my biggest dream came true when a German publisher asked me to write a few books about cat care, cat health and cat nutrition…

So, it’s no surprise, that “All About Cats” from Monika Filipina immediately caught our eye! Another reason: The beautiful, funny book cover with multiple Felines peeking at us.IMG_9065

Finja and I couldn’t wait to start reading (and reviewing) the book!

Turning the first page, you see multiple cats looking at you through windows: Feeding cats, dreaming cats, angry cats, tranquil cats, sleeping cats, lurking cats and cat families. They are relaxing, waiting for their humans to return – or aren’t they? When you live with cats you probably know that the myth of cats sleeping the whole day is just that: A myth. But what exactly are cats up to as soon as we leave the house?

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Monika Filipina has some ideas… Do cats play, maybe even Tennis? Do they read? Do they bake? Or do they just curl up and sleep – just to wake up and make a big mess? Every page teems with wild, colorful cats doing “their” thing. Cupcake anyone? At least that would explain why the kitchen looks like a tornado just went through it after the cat’s “wild five minutes”. And what did the cat do with the wool – trying to knit a cozy sweater for the cold season? Every page causes chuckles. Finja loved to tell me what cats do and what they don’t – or do they? We burst out laughing a couple of times.

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Not all of the author’s suggestions might be serious. They show that cats are up to more than sleeping though! I lived and worked with cats long enough to know: No cat is like the other. Monika Filipina did a wonderful job giving each of her four-legged heroes a real personality: With just a few pencil strokes she captured proud black cats, tinkerer cats exploring any nook, long-haired beauties and calmer cat characters. Her colorful illustrations also show, that cats need more than a cozy pillow for a nap. What about a scratching post, so the angry black feline doesn’t need to rasp her claws over the bookshelf? What about hide treats through the house, so your cat can go searching for her personal pirate treasure while you are at school or work?

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“All about cats” is a fun, colorful book for preschool aged children and their parents. Child’s Play, a small independent publisher, did a great job bringing out this exciting book with extraordinary illustrations and an unconventional look at cat behavior! Open-ended questions provide lots of room for conversations. And the illustrations by the London based artist are just magical… I wish the publisher would offer art prints of these Felines:

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A guaranteed hit at story time!

More information:
“All about Cats”
written and illustrated by Monika Filipina
Grade Level: Preschool – 2
Publisher: Child’s Play International
ISBN-13: 978-1846439339

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“Dragonfly Song” by Wendy Orr

From the first glimpse of the magnificent cover I knew that „Dragonfly Song“ would be a glorious read. A fantasy story embedded in history? A strong heroine? Sign me up!

Long story short: “Dragonfly Song” was all what I expected it to be – and, at the same time, completely different. Is that a good thing? Definitely! “Dragonfly Song” is a magnificent, magical book for teens and young adults. During a sleepless night, I couldn’t put the book down. I suffered, laughed and, yes, cried. And although I live and die with books, I don’t cry often 🙂

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But let’s start at the beginning.

Crete, Bronze Age. When Aissa is born with two additional thumbs, her mother, the oracle of Crete, casts her out. Aissa is lucky: The servant entrusted with taking her away suspects that there’s more to the girl. Instead of death, Aissa earns a second chance with a farmer’s family. When raiders kill her adoptive parents and Aissa is the lone survivor, she finds herself on her own again… In a town where the mute girl is denounced as a demon, Aissa has to find her own way to survive and escape her miserable existence. Might the yearly lottery for bull-riders, who will be send as tribute to the bull king’s island, her chance?

I expected fast action when I turned the first page of “Dragonfly Song”. Instead, I found a slow revealing, deep, thoughtful and almost philosophical tale of an abandoned girl and her fight for a better existence. “Dragonfly Song” is more than just a good read. It’s a saga, not just a retelling of the legend of the Minotaur, but a tale of fighting for one’s identity. It’s the story of a strong girl taking her life in her own hands, finding her way against all odds.

We take part in Aissa’s thoughts, dreams and hopes and live with her through highs and lows. As a mother, it pained me to see the girl suffer, living from scrapes on a good day, going hungry for bad days. The townspeople’s treatment of a child left me angry. Then I was at the verge of crying happy tears when Aissa found a special friend in the oracle’s cat and when a bed from seaweed gave her the first good night sleep in years. I might not be the author’s anticipated target audience – but I’m a really critical reader and Wendy Orr’s ability to let me hurt like this speaks for her storytelling!

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Wendy Orr slows down significantly. She incorporates rhyme, which makes “Dragonfly Song” lyrical and interesting to read. Orr’s poetry might be challenging for the average midgrade reader. The sections are not bothersome, though. Embedded in Aissa’s story, at the right time and in the right place, they intensify the feeling of “Dragonfly Song” being a saga. Orr’s writing makes the book really special and a wonderful read – even for mid-graders!

Dragonfly Song” – an outstanding book for young (and old 🙂 ) adults! Read it! Now!

More information:
“Dragonfly Song”
by Wendy Orr
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Publisher: Pajama Press (October 27, 2017)
ISBN-13: 978-1772780376

“The Sports Timeline Posterbook” by “What on Earth?”

A few months fly by quickly… And suddenly you realize you have not posted in a while… Hopefully your summer was filled with lots of fun, sun and good books!

We developed a new ritual: Finja “reads” a book to me every night after we are done with our story time. At first, I was astonished how good she memorized books we didn’t read for a while. Sometimes she was able to reconstruct stories word for word! One of her favorites right now: “Leah’s mustache party” by Nadia Mike, a book we reviewed in July 2016. Can you guess why?

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We also discovered the biggest book we ever read: The “The What on Earth? Sports Timeline Posterbook”. The unassuming cover of the fold-out-book hides a 2-meter-long laminated timeline with more than 1,000 pictures of more than 100 different sports from the early Olympics to horseback riding, climbing and world records. The big format might not be handy for reading in bed, but it’s perfect to discover different sports and their history on a rainy afternoon!

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Recommended for children 7 to 14, the posterbook packs lots of knowledge for adults, too. Our preschooler immediately begun discovering the different sports and started her own “search, find and explain” game: “Mom, where is the person without a head. And why is he bleeding?” Luckily, we spend some time with explaining the different disciplines of horseback riding after that…

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The “What on Earth? Sports Timeline Posterbook” makes a stunning wall display and is perfect for (pre-)schools, playrooms and children’s rooms. The publisher “What on Earth?” offers different wall books, poster books and even sticker books about the history of nature, science, big history and Shakespeare. Unusual books and a perfect gift for curious minds every age!

More information:
The Sports Timeline Posterbook
by What on Earth?
ISBN: 978-0-9954820-7-4

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“Getting ready”, illustrated by Cocoretto

Sometimes it feels like getting an almost-five-year old ready in the morning takes more time and patience than simply putting clothes on a newborn… Selecting “the right dress” and discussing about wearing or not wearing a rain jacket takes ages each morning!

The board book “Getting ready”, published by Child’s Play, was perfect for Finja’s current phase! It might be recommended for younger children, but is a wonderful book for independent little readers who want to discover a book without mom’s or dad’s help. Finja loved it so much that she decided to review it herself 🙂

Child’s Play is an independent publisher specialized in whole child development, focused play, life skills and values. “Getting ready” indeed is a fun little book for all ages! The author/illustrator team behind “Cocoretto” created a wonderful board book. Finja especially loved the tactile elements, which enabled her to discover and read it herself.

More information:
“Getting ready”, illustrated by Cocoretto
Age Range: 2 – 5 years
Series: Tactile Books
Board book: 12 pages
Publisher: Child’s Play International
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1846438868

“Will you help Doug find his dog” by Jane Caston

I really must apologize for being offline for such a long time. Our move into a bigger home didn’t go as planned and we are still battling with a huge water damage. But: The books are safe and I can’t wait to get started on some new reviews!

The last three weeks were a little crazy for Finja. Reading helped her to keep her schedule and calm down after another exciting (and loud – think about fans, de-humidifier and air filter…) day. Look at this picture – do I need to tell more?

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One of the books she’s totally into is “Will you help Doug find his dog?” from one of my favorite publishers, Barefoot Books. “Will you help Doug find his dog” is a little different from the Barefoot books I selected so far. It’s not about diversity, it’s not about cultural literacy, but it’s about sharing the love of reading with your child and offering them a book they can discover by themselves.

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The story: Doug is devastated, he lost his dog… Luckily, Doug can count on the help of the young reader enjoying his story at this very moment. Together with Doug kids can sort through all the different dogs on the pages of the lovingly illustrated volume. Is Doug’s dog scruffy? Can you give all spotted dogs a pat? And tickle all small dogs? Finally, there is Doug’s dog!

“Will you help Doug find his dog” combines the idea of a search-and-find-book with interactive, sensory books like “Tickle my ears”. Lots of things are happening on the colorful pages, sorting and counting keeps children entertained and helps them to rediscover the story every time they pull “Will you help Doug find his dog” out of the bookshelf.

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The book from Jane Caston was illustrated by Carmen Saldana and is one of the books that keeps kids smiling and motivates them to “read” a book all by themselves. The publisher recommends “Will you help Doug find his dog?” for children between 1 and 5 years of age. Helping Doug find his dog is a fun way for preschoolers to practice early math skills, sort and spot similarities and differences! With lot of action on every page it’s a page turner for younger children as well.

“Will you help Doug find his dog?”
written by Jane Caston
illustrated by Carmen Saldana
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782853206

„Gus’s garage“ by Leo Timmers

There are some books we don’t read once or twice, but three of four times – per evening. „Gus’s garage” by Leo Timmers is one of them.

Guss-Garage-cover-LROne of the reasons: Main character Gus is instantly likeable. The friends pig stores lots of curious things in his garage. Curious children will discover metal bins, an old fridge, a goldfish glass, a bathtub, some old piping, an old grandpa chair. What will he use them for? The next page brings the answer: Rhino Rico is complaining about the too small seat of his scooter. Gus has the answer: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Soon a happy Rhino leaves Gus’s garage on a completely remodeled scooter, sitting comfortable on his newly designed grandpa-chair-seat.

Will Gus find a way to help his other customers? Giraffe Gina is freezing her long neck off in the chilly air, while penguin Mrs. P “needs refrigeration”. Walrus Walter on the other hand is suffering what is, in his opinion, a too dry car… When the last customer of the day, rabbit Henry, is speeding away in his newly tuned up car, there is nothing more to do for Gus. Except: Inventing something for his own comfort…

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Leo Timmer’s story about going out of your way to help others features friendly Gus, who creates unique gismos to help his customers. Gus uses old garbage to invent something new, tailored to his friends’ needs. The colorful pictures by the author show how the pile of square parts in front of Gus’s garage slowly shrinks with each customer. Curious children will re-discover the abandoned parts in the newly renovated cars of Gus’s friends! The rhyming text is catching and Finja loved to read it with me: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Although the book is recommended for children age 5 to 7, it is a fun read for younger children, too.

Leo Timmers is one of Belgium’s most popular children books authors and we are glad Gecko Press brought „Gus’s garage“ to the US!

More information:
“Gus’s garage”
written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN-13: 978-1776570928

“Bear’s house of books” by Poppy Bishop

You probably already saw a picture of Finja’s bookshelves on this blog. I’m really jealous of her, because I don’t have a bookshelf anymore since my office was turned into Finja’s room in 2012… Well, we are trying to change that and in the process of cleaning and staging our home so we can finally move into a bigger home and the days of working on the dining room table are over. Yeah! Moving always means throwing away and donating lots of stuff. It’s always hard to prioritize, I even recycled my old diaries… There is one thing that we won’t throw away though: Our books. Finja always enjoys when we bring some copies to one of our local “Little Free Library”, but in general her bookshelf keeps growing and growing…

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It’s kind of interesting how real life and the books you are reading sometimes come together. The reality of how much work staging a home has just sunk in and I started dreaming of an office with a huge bookshelf when we received “Bear’s house of books” as a review copy. And bear has exactly what lots of us book lovers are dreaming of… But let’s start at the beginning.

Not everyone can enjoy a huge library of hundreds of books like Finja. Fox, rabbit, mouse and hedgehog are good friends and as they all enjoy stories they read the same worn-out storybook repeatedly. It’s they favorite book, although the pages are a bit sticky after years of reading. The friends would like some new books to enjoy. But where do you find new books? Do they grow on trees or do they fall from the sky like shooting stars? Do you dig them out like potatoes? So fox, mouse, rabbit and hedgehog set out on a book hunt. Heavily armed with sandwiches and the eagerness to discover new stories they start their adventure and search the woods high and low. Just before they are ready to give up they find – a book! The fantastic story catches they attention right away, but the book belongs to someone else: A label on the first page says that their new favorite book belongs to bear, who lives at the other side of the woods… Although the friends would love to keep the book a little longer they start their way to bear’s home. After a long hike, they finally arrive – and discover a wonderful library in bear’s abandoned home… A book lovers dream! The friends start reading right away, until bear arrives back home.

“Who left sticky paw prints on this cover?” “And a sandwich in the middle!” “Who’s been reading my books?”

These quotes may remind you of the story of snow-white and the seven dwarfs – and just like in this fairytale bear and fox, mouse, hedgehog and rabbit become good friends after discovering their shared love for books. After bear learns that the friends just have one book to read at home he allows them to read one more book – and soon the animals are cuddled together, enjoying one story after another. And they have a wonderful idea about how to share the love of books with other animals in the woods!

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“Bear’s house of books” by Poppy Bishop is a great book about sharing the love of reading. The board book features a friendly fox, rabbit, mouse and hedgehog and makes it easy for preschoolers to identify themselves with the protagonists. Even the grumpy bear comes over as extremely likable and his decision to open a library for other animals sends an important message about sharing. After all, a library is wonderful – but isn’t it even better to spread the joy of reading and discovering new stories? Another great read by “Tiger Tales”!

“Bear’s house of books”
written by Poppy Bishop
illustrated by Alison Edgson
Publisher: Tiger Tales
ISBN-13: 978-1680100389

„Things that grow“ by Libby Walden

The older Finja gets (or maybe, the older I get 😀 ) the more we enjoy exploring nonfiction-books. Finja is a curious child and there probably wasn’t a day without at least two-hundred-forty-five “whys” in months. She wants to know everything and sometimes comes up with really weird questions: How do the bones get into a body? Are stuffed animals born from other stuffed animals? Which part of an animal does meat come from? Why do plants need sunlight? When she’s not satisfied with my answer she’s searching for one herself, which sometimes can be a little confusing. Did you know that this little girl is convinced her favorite mac and cheese with a bunny on the package are made from bunny meat? Yes, I know…

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Maybe you remember me mentioning the German “Wieso? Weshalb? Warum” book series from Ravensburger. By now Finja has almost every book out of this series and she still enjoys reading it again and again. Anyway, every book is made in a similar matter so I was searching for other science books for kids. There is not a lot of educational material for preschool age children on the market, especially when it comes to more abstract topics like genetics or the cycle of life. I still have some books from university at home, but there are hardly appropriate for a four-year-old…

My question was answered when we received a review copy of “Things that grow” from Libby Walden, published by 360 Degrees. 360 Degrees is a new imprint of Little Tiger Group. The description of 360 Degrees is more than promising: “360 Degrees illuminates a multitude of curiosities, from the inner workings of a spacesuit to the physiology of a penguin, and from the life-cycle of lemmings to the intricacies of Chinese characters.” So, exactly what we were searching for!

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The format of “Things that grow” is unusual for a biology book for children. The rather small volume fits in the hand of preschoolers and elementary school children. The accurate, but still artistic illustrations by Becca Stadtlander made our daughter curious for more. That is, more information about basically everything in our world…

“Things that grow” describes the world around us from a seed to a tree, the development of the animal kingdom including the “missing link” and the evolution of man and finishes with a quick description of our universe, including the “big bang” and the ever-changing surface of our planet earth. The book offers a lot, from facts to little crafts like growing cress in an egg shell.

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The language is not too bloomy, but matter-of-fact and accurately. Finja might not have been able to grasp the meaning of each chapter without additional explanations. For us this was not a problem at all, as we enjoyed the journey together – “Things that grow” had something for both of us. I still would recommend “Things that grow” more for elementary school children than preschoolers – the recommended age range according to the publisher is 7 to 10.

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

Author Libby Walden is an editor at Caterpillar Books. You can find more information about her on her blog “Through the wardrobe”, which is partly inspired by one of her favorite children’s books, “the supremely brilliant The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”.

More information:
“Things that grow”
written by Libby Walden
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Hardcover: 62 pages
Publisher: 360 Degrees
ISBN: 978-1944530051

„Sophie Sue – Book 1: Robbie the Rhino“ by Stef Albert

We always had pets as part of our family and I can just imagine how author and illustrator Stef Albert felt after passing of his beloved Dachshund “Sophie Sue” … Stef Albert set pen to paper and created “The Magical Adventures of Sophie Sue” as an educational and inspirational adventure series for children and a way for Sophie Sue’s legacy to live on. “Sophie Sue travelled the world, sailed the seven seas and lived in a variety of countries. Always ready for the next adventure and loved by all who knew her, Sophie Sue touched the hearts of many.” Stef Albert’s mission: Through magical rescue missions, Sophie Sue and her animal friends teach children love towards pets and animals, awareness on endangered species, international travel, countries, flags, cultures and even a few foreign words in each story.

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Dogs and world cultures – doesn’t that sound great? We were thrilled when Stef Albert contacted us about writing a review of the first part of the Sophie Sue series! „Sophie Sue – Book 1: Robbie the Rhino“ arrived just in time for Christmas with free stickers of Sophie’s animal friends and a bookmark. To be honest: I let Finja browse through the first adventure of Sophie Sue alone before I had a peek. Funny enough our four-year-old understood most of the story without even being able to read. And she had lots of questions right away: “Are these the Rhino’s parents?” “Why are they in a cage?” “Are these bad men?”

We read the book together a few days later. The story: Sophie Sue is a friendly Wiener dog with lots of friends. And Sophie Sue has lots of magic, too: Her magic ball tells her whenever an animal around the world needs help and she’s able to turn into a special Wiener-Copter to start a rescue mission with all her friends. Today Rhino Robby from South Africa needs Sophie Sue’s help. On the way to the country on the South tip of the African continent giraffe Larry Long tells his friend about South Africa and its inhabitants, its flag and spoken languages. Within “Sophie-seconds” the copter arrives in the bush of South Africa; the animals can spot Robbie Rhino right away. Poachers have kidnapped his parents and Robbie tries to keep up with the fast driving truck who will take his parents away… Sophie and her friends arrived just in time – but will they be able to rescue the Rhinos and bring the family back together?

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“Robbie Rhino” teaches children about language, nature and culture of South Africa.

I loved that Steph Albert teaches a lot about the destination country, in this case South Africa. Basics like the flag, language or characteristics of a certain culture will stick with the young readers. In this book of the series children learn to say “Thank you” and “Goodbye” in Afrikaans. He also educates about conservation and nature protection. The important of these topics shouldn’t be underestimated in today’s world! I want our daughter to be raised with the awareness of other cultures and the need to protect nature and wild animals. And as I spend some month in Namibia during High School I loved to hear some Afrikaans words again!

Finja loved the colorful, almost cartoon-like illustrations by the author. Sophie Sue and her friends show lots of expression; the thieves seem like caricatures. She also caught on to the moral of the story pretty quick, even without me reading the whole book right away!

Sophie Sue’s magic makes rescue missions over continents possible and although a dog turning into a helicopter being a little much for me (especially after Sophie’s house falls away when she turned fist, but is whole again when the animals arrive back after they adventure) it seems to spark children’s imagination and may be one of the reasons why younger kids love Sophie Sue. I read Fantasy novels as well, so it’s absolutely understandable!

Robbie the Rhino” is just the first of eight Sophie Sue adventures. The curious Wiener will travel to India to rescue an elephant, will visit Croatia, Frankfurt and other places of the world. Most of the books will be released in 2017 and are available for pre-order on the Sophie Sue homepage. Until then young fans of can find a free holiday video about Radkus Reindeer in Russia, a short ‘Meet the Characters‘, screensaver and more online.

Radkus Reindeer in Russia by Stef Albert from Sophie Sue on Vimeo.

Stef Albert donates a large portion of proceeds from The Magical Adventures of Sophie Sue to animal and children organizations.

More information:
„Sophie Sue – Book 1: Robbie the Rhino“
written and illustrated by Stef Albert
available online

“Clive and his hats” by Jessica Spanyol

I’m not a friend of gender neutral education. Because, let’s face it: Girls and boys just are different. That doesn’t mean that there is any justification for gender stereotypes though. Although boys and girls are different, learn differently and have different interest, girls play with fire trucks, too. And boys like to play kitchen. Or to dress up.

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Clive, the hero of the board book “Clive and his hats” by Jessica Spanyol, is a boy with a vivid imagination. He likes to build castles out of sand and jump into puddles. He loves to play in his little pool and to pretend he’s a cowboy. But he also likes to dress up, play peek-a-boo and wearing his own creation during a visit in the art gallery. Clive has lots of hats – and bunny ears are just part of his inventory as a fireman hat and a wooly hat for cold days. Because “Clive likes lots and lots of hats!”

“Clive and his hats” by Jessica Spanyol is a book for children age 1 to 3. The board book convinces with sturdy pages, that are easy to grasp for early readers. We loved the colorful illustrations by the author – Finja especially likes Clive’s black Moshi cat and it’s mischieveos smile… Jessica Spanyol doesn’t just write to challenge gender stereotypes, her illustrations embrace diversity: Clive’s friends are from all parts of the world. This is one of the best parts of this book in my opinion – because is there a better way to show our children how diverse and colorful the world is? Or, as another children’s book publisher stated: “Books are for ALL children”. You want your child to find themselves or their friends in the book they read. You want them to become tolerant and aware that there is no “average” kid. Because there are girls playing with cars – and boys playing with dolls, there are children from Asia and with lighter or darker skin color than yours!

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This book is part of the “All about Clive” book series about Clive and his everyday life. Jessica Spanyol created books about “Clive and his babies”, “Clive and his art” and “Clive and his bags”. We didn’t read the other parts of the series, but the titles promise more diverse books who defy gender stereotypes. And we definitely need more diverse books to make the world a little more colorful for toddlers and preschoolers!

The “All about Clive” series was created by Child’s Play International. According to the publisher, Child’s play “is more than just a publishing program, it is a philosophy.” As children learn most about the world around them in their early years, the publisher wants to expose children to diverse, quality books “to develop an enquiring mind and a lifelong love of reading.”

More information:
“Clive and his hats”
written and illustrated by Jessica Spanyol
Age Range: 1 – 3 years
Grade Level: Preschool and up
Series: All about Clive
Board book: 12 pages
Publisher: Child’s Play International; Brdbk edition (July 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1846438851