Introduce your preschooler to punctuation!


Sometimes, I underestimate a book.

My superhero-obsessed preschooler received a copy of Max the Brave as a Christmas gift this year and our family immediately fell in love with the fearless kitten and his creator, Ed Vere.

After Christmas break ended all too soon, I immediately set about trying to borrow a copy of each of this British author/illustrator’s picture books.  The first of Ed Vere’s masterpieces to arrive at my school library was Banana!

Upon first reading, this book appeared far too simplistic for my four-year-old twin sons.  Described best as “nearly wordless,” this book relies heavily on the facial expressions of its primate characters and the two words contained within its pages to tell the story of two monkeys learning how to share.

Cute story, great lesson, but it should be in board book format, right?

In short, perhaps yes, perhaps no…

Yes, this would make a fantastic board book.  It meets all the criteria for a book for young toddlers: there are few words per page; the characters are familiar animals; the illustrations are brightly-colored and engaging illustrations; the author tells a simple story.

I must admit, however, that I also underestimated the power of Banana! by Ed Vere as a picture book.

Banana! is a fantastic book for preschoolers for several reasons:

It’s hilarious!

Anything that causes my sons to belly-laugh is worth reading aloud over and over again in our house.

It’s perfect for non-readers to “read”.

Because this book has so few words, it is easy for preschool-aged children to memorize and “read” it aloud to themselves.

It’s a great book to teach preschoolers about punctuation.

Even though Banana! only contains the words “banana” and “please,” Ed Vere uses those words very economically.  Each is used, in conjunction with varying punctuation marks and facial expressions, to demonstrate a variety of emotions: intense desire, confusion, disbelief, frustration, joy.

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Leading preschoolers through a careful examination of those punctuation marks becomes a natural, rather than forced, conversation.  After helping my children recognize that the word that appeared on nearly every page, “banana,” was recurring, were able to focus on the differences in punctuation marks in combination with the characters’ facial expressions, body positions, and the color of the background.  nan


“Banana!” is read with an excited voice to show the strong feelings felt by the character.


“Banana?” is read with a questioning voice.

I love it when I prove myself wrong and am able to think about something in a new way.  Because the illustrations and storyline in Banana! are so simplistic, preschool-aged children are able to think critically about basic conventions of the English language while still enjoying the book.

Can you think of any other simplistic picture books that are great for the dual purpose of entertaining and educating?




Teachable moooo-ment!

As last we left our blogger…

I had connected.  With an actual author.  I had squee-ed!!!  Now what?

The fangirl exited, and Mommy returned.

Teachable moment!  (Or, in this case “Teachable mooo-ment!”)

I had sought out Nina Laden on Facebook because my boys were currently loving her book,

Image courtesy of

I first discovered this literary treasure on Storyline Online as read by Eric Close.

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In case you’re not familiar, Storyline Online, a website sponsored by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, “records well-known actors reading children’s books and makes graphically dynamic videos so that children around the world can be read to with just the click of a Storyline Online video book image”.

While, of course, this multimedia presentation will not and should not replace the magical moment that occurs when a child cuddles up to an adult to share a story,  Storyline Online is a wonderful literary resource for anyone interested in biblio|parenting.

Watching and listening to a talented actor portray the characters in a story provides children with yet another way to connect.

My budding artist, Noah, loved this tail/tale of friendship between “a painterly pig and an artsy cow”.  I loved that it exposed him to an important theme, respecting individual differences, and the work of renowned artists.  So much so, in fact, that I interlibrary-loaned (borrowed from another school library) a print copy.

After reading this with both boys several times and closely examining the styles of both Picasso and Matisse, I hit Pinterest for ideas on taking this to the next level.

Luckily, Katie Morris was there to help me take this book to the next level with her blog, Adventures of an Art Teacher.

Though I am not an art teacher, as a school librarian, I certainly appreciate a well-constructed lesson plan.  Katie’s lesson plan inspired me to guide the boys in creating their own Pigassos.

We began by looking carefully at Nina Laden’s illustrations of Pigasso, as well as some of Pablo Picasso’s paintings from his Cubist period.  We discussed how the famous artist Picasso, and the character Pigasso, had “interesting” faces.  The parts of the face — the eyes, the nose (or, in Pigasso’s case, snout), the mouth — were not always in the right places.  They were silly!  In order to paint our own Pigassos, we decided, we would need to make them silly.

Next, we headed to the art studio (otherwise known as the kitchen).  I used a Sharpie marker to draw circles on two pieces of Crayola watercolor paper — one for each artist, of course.

Although I could have had the boys draw their own eyes, snout, and mouth (or cut them out of magazines), I opted to let them direct me instead because I really liked the way that the Sharpie marker would stand out in contrast to the watercolor paint.  The boys are not quite responsible enough to use Sharpies yet and while crayons could have done the job, Magic markers would have smeared and run when the boys began painting.

After each of the artists directed me as to where to draw eyes, snout, and mouth to their circles, I added a jaunty beret and curly tail outside of each circle.

Before freeing the artists to paint their Pigasso’s, I took Katie Morris’ advice and spent a few minutes exploring the concepts of warm colors and cool colors.  One of her stated objectives was:

The students will apply knowledge of warm and cool colors in the creation of their drawings.

After looking carefully at our Crayola Washable Watercolor palettes, we were able to identify the warm colors and the cool colors.  Noah decided to paint his Pigasso in warm colors and his background in cool colors.  In typical twin fashion, Ryan decided on the reverse — a cool Pigasso with a warm background.

Armed with their Take & Toss Toddler Bowls of water, their watercolor paints, brushes, and a paper towel each, the artists set to work at their Crayola Magnetic double-sided easel — a chance garage sale find for this frugal mom.

The results?  Priceless!

Of course, I made sure to connect again with Nina Laden to let her know that we continued to be inspired by her work.

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And, just like that, connecting on Facebook to author crushes became biblio|parenting.