Posts in the ‘Fun Books’ Category

Best Baby Book

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

One night last week I went to Swedish ‘girls night out’ in Palo Alto with some of my Swedish friends who are actually much more Swedish than I am.  Five of the women had started companies and were showing off their wares. It was a a festive evening and fun way to celebrate with delicious food, great friends, women doing cool things and of course to share pride in our Scandinavian heritage.


One of the products on display was far and away the cutest baby book I have ever seen, My Best Book About Me. The illustrations and colors are absolutely adorable. The pages are thick and as you turn the pages it has the feeling that each book is beautifully hand made. The book was originally written in Swedish but my friend Catrin translated it to English while she was living in London. It is translated into British English vs. US English, but with the Royal Wedding and all, we can all pretend to have a cool British accent while we flip the pages…


If you have not started a book for your own child, I can not recommend this one enough. Also, because this book works for both boys and girls it makes a great gift. If you are in one of those phases in your life when everyone around you seems to be pregnant – stock up now!

For US customers you can order from too. They have tons of other cute stuff too!


Table Manners for Teens

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010


With the holiday season in full swing, undoubtedly most of you will have dinner parties with your extended family and social gatherings galore filling up your calendar. If you are like me, when you go to an event with your child you just hold your breathe hoping that you will be spared one evening of being the mom to “that child” who unfortunately causes all of the other moms in the room to crane their necks and shiver. Dinner parties are the trickiest of all. You have to keep your little ones on their chairs and hope they are able to spare your mother-in-law’s antique Persian rug any of their leftovers. Last year my son’s friend jumped out of his chair on Christmas Eve and decided to wipe his gravy covered hands on his grandmother’s new silk drapes. That made for a lovely evening…

Needless to say, it is never too early to start teaching our kids about manners. We all begin with the basics of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but there is so much more for our kids to learn. My mother gave me a copy of Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers many years ago (long after I was a teenager) and I have to admit I still take a peek at it now and then when I am setting the table for guests and I can’t remember where the darn fork is supposed to go. I have found many more books on manners and etiquette for modern families that you might find useful too. Good luck!

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Elf on the Shelf

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

the elf on the shelf

Tuesday night I was at a cocktail party at a local toy store (FYI – a night full of yummy cheese, toffee and wine is a fabulous way to get moms to buy dump trucks,puzzles and race cars by the bag load…) and on the way out my friend Leslie spotted The Elf On The Shelf in the window display. I had never seen this elf before, but she told me the story of the family behind the product and how they had a long standing Christmas tradition about the elf. I have already started to lie to my son that “Santa was watching” and that he sent elves out to keep an eye on everyone. I know we shouldn’t lie to our children but….whatever…. This elf would be perfect for us. So today after lunch I popped over to Paper Source and picked one up. I was able to stick him way up high above the fire place before anyone got home. Tonight I called out for my son, “Hurry, hurry – what is that!?!?!”  He came running down the hall and spotted his new friend. He was totally into it. I had tucked the accompanying book in the fireplace for him to find and we read it together. We both loved it. And by the way, there is an very fun Elf on the Shelf website too so you and your kids can visit the North Pole.

This will be the start of a very fun new family tradition for us. Hurry up and pick up your own copy of The Elf On The Shelf for your whole family to enjoy.

Time Traveling Book for Kids

Saturday, October 30th, 2010


Susan has found a a great book for all of the kids out there ready for a little time traveling. Here is her latest book review:

A Street Through Time: A 12,000-Year Walk Through History, written by Dr. Anne Millard, illustrated by Steve Noon.

One of the toughest things to teach kids is the concept of time. I’m not talking about the desperate “five minutes, one minute, now, now, I really mean it, NOW!” to get your offspring out the door for school. I mean giving your children a sense of the past, the ability to understand that an awful lot happened in the world before they were born.

Just telling kids that a building is “even older than Granddad!” gets tired quickly, especially for Granddad. So it might be time to reach for A Street Through Time: A 12,000-Year Walk Through History.

Each page of the book shows the same “street” during a different era, from a small, stone-age farming settlement in 10,000 B.C. to a modern city. The colorful illustrations stretch across both oversized pages, and every inch is necessary – each tiny person, depicted in careful detail, is doing something interesting. Early farmers hunt with bows and arrows, while Victorian city-dwellers arrive at a train station and buy cloth in a store. Many of the buildings have the walls “cut away” so the interiors are visible. Each page gets more and more crowded as the bucolic landscape is edged out by factories and apartment buildings and the people multiply.

It’s possible to spend minutes or much, much longer on each page, depending on the age and attention span of your child. For younger children, this is definitely a “reach” book, although they might enjoy looking at the animals, boats, and trains. Older kids will love comparing the different houses, clothes, and technologies of each era. The toilets and bathrooms (or lack thereof) may be especially fascinating. It’s also fun to find Henry Hyde, a “time traveler” from a present day museum, on each page, à la Where’s Waldo?.

A Street Through Time, however, does contain some violent and unsavory elements, though fewer than most Where’s Waldo? books. Several of the streets are destroyed by wars, and one page depicts a plague. Hunters shoot animals, factories pollute the sky, and people are wounded. You’re the best judge of whether your child can handle a less-varnished view of history. If they – and you – can, the trip is worth it.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

Interior Decorating Books

Friday, October 29th, 2010


Do you ever look around your house with a desire to just start all over, liven things up, and create a fresh new environment for you and your family? All it takes is a little inspiration (and yes, a little money too…). I love interior decorating and design books. It is always a joy for me to get a sneak peek into other homes and rooms. Kind of like going to every open house in your neighborhood, without the hassle. It is also such a treat to see what these creative geniuses are doing. Kelly Wearstler is the ultimate modern mom and the author of HUE, pictured above. I must admit, I am more than a bit in awe of her and everything she does. Check out her gorgeous book and many others to help you get your creative juices flowing. Sometimes all you need is a fresh coat of paint, a new throw rug, and new window treatments to completely change the look of a room. Flipping through these books is a great way to get ideas about new color combinations too. Though I live in a very eclectic home, I always love finding new ways of combining objects new and old to create a really personal and colorful space. Now might be the perfect time to freshen up your living space, before all those relatives arrive for the holidays…

Sometimes You Just Want to Say “Aaargh!”

Saturday, October 9th, 2010


As a mother who has found herself standing up on couch (more than once I will admit), holding up my right arm and yelling “Aaargh” (the embarrassing things we do for our children…), I can certainly relate to Susan Fry’s latest installment. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

Why, oh, why, are children relentlessly drawn to pirates?

I’d like to think it’s the clothing – the dashing feathered hat, the billowing white shirt, and the rakish eye patch. I could even understand a fascination with romantically rustic ships. And ropes of pearls and emerald necklaces do have their appeal.

But, deep down, I know the truth. The kids want the violence, the thievery, and, above all, the freedom that comes with being a pirate. They want clashing swords, stolen loot, enemies walking the plank, and no mothers on board to tell them what to do.

Although my kids think the words “poop deck” are hilarious, I know they’d find bilge water – and most other aspects of an actual pirate’s life – much less amusing. That’s probably why many pirate books try to tread a fine line. They have to depict the violence and gore that kids find so fascinating, but still be suitable for children. Sadly, most books either wind up wallowing in blood, or else making the pirates “nice” at the end. Who wants to read about nice pirates? Not my boys.

So give these books a try. Sometimes an “Aarr!” can be more satisfying than an “Om.”

On a Pirate Ship, by Sarah Courtauld and Benji Davies. The book manages to keep the romance of a pirate’s life – wind puffing into enormous sails, twinkling stars, and a kindly pirate captain – while completely glossing over the less unsavory moments. During a storm and a battle, for example, no one gets hurt. The sailors on a conquered ship even choose to become pirates themselves. Grownups will get a kick out of jokes that will go over kids’ heads, like the party scene where the pirates celebrate with “hot, spicy drinks.”

How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon. A little boy becomes a pirate and revels in his new freedom – there’s no need to say “please” or brush his teeth. But he also sees what he’s missing – being tucked into bed and having someone care about him during a scary storm. While the pirates remain nasty and mean, the boy is able to see what appeals to him about their lifestyle, and what doesn’t. He actually makes a choice to go home for soccer practice.

Archie and the Pirates, by Marc Rosenthal. When Archie, a monkey, is shipwrecked on a desert island, he’s not discouraged. Instead, with MacGyver-like ingenuity, Archie manages to build a house even Martha Stewart might envy. I especially like the bed that converts to a breakfast table. Archie also makes friends with an ibis and a tiger, and everyone’s happy – until pirates arrive and capture the tiger. While most pirate battles are glossed over in kids’ books, Rosenthal goes into wonderful detail about the war the animals wage, from designing and building catapults to creating a fake monkey army out of coconuts. It’s refreshing to have a book in which the pirates are actually the enemy, and roundly defeated!

See Inside Pirate Ships, By Rob Lloyd Jones and Jörg Mühle. Designed by Stephen Wright. Expert Advice by Simon Stephens. Yes, it took a lot of people to create this book, and it shows – the level of detail is astounding. Lifting the seemingly-infinite flaps is satisfying and educational for adults and children alike. The book shows aspects of maritime life not often seen in children’s books, such as ships being raised off beaches with ropes and pirates of different eras and cultures. The book does warn the reader, however, that “Most of the pirates in this book are mean and nasty.” While the little cartoon figures look cute at first glance, this book definitely falls on the less savory side of the line I mentioned earlier. Guns are fired, people are wounded, and blood flows freely. You may want to offer this one only to older children.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

Super Siblings

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

This week’s installment from Susan is all about siblings – enjoy!

I’m an only child, so the whole brothers-and-sisters thing has always been a mystery to me. But now that I have two children, I’ve gotten a crash course in what it means to be a sibling. From hitting to hugging, every day is a tsunami of emotion.

To me, few author/illustrators have captured the ups and downs of sibling-hood as well as Mercer Mayer. Mayer is most well-known for his “Little Critter” series, which began in 1975 and now spans over two hundred books. Little Critter is a round little animal with spiky fur that needs a good combing, just like my own kids’ hair. He could be a hamster, he could be a guinea pig, who knows? Even Mayer won’t say.

Mayer doesn’t see the sibling relationship through rose-colored glasses. He knows that kids fight, resent each other, and sometimes want nothing more than to just get away. He even recognizes that kids may say one thing and do another. The disconnect between the words on Mayer’s pages and his illustrations can be hilarious. Little Critter announces, confidently, that he’ll share with his brother, but the picture shows them tussling over a baseball bat at Christmas. And although Little Critter claims he won’t mind if his brother finds all the Easter eggs, his frown says otherwise.

At the end of his books, however, Mayer shows that even children recognize the power of the sibling bond.

The New Baby, by Mercer Mayer. When Little Critter learns he’s going to have a new sister, he gets out all his toys to share. But the baby isn’t interested in books or jokes. Plus, she smells funny and cries a lot. Luckily, Little Critter’s mom shows him all the things he CAN do with a new baby, like cuddling and tickling. Humor might help reconcile an older sibling to a new arrival, such as watching Little Critter holding his nose as his sister waves and smiles on her way to the changing table.

Just Me and My Little Brother, by Mercer Mayer. Little Critter describes all the things he and his little brother will do together, from riding bikes to watching scary movies. But on the last page, Little Critter points to his brother – still a baby – and admits he may have to wait a little while for their adventures. The book is a good way to help older kids envision a fun future with a baby who may not seem so exciting in the present.

Me Too!, by Mercer Mayer. Little Critter is frustrated because he always has to include his little sister. Her constant cries of “Me too!” mean that Little Critter loses his paper airplane, carries her the whole time on a hike, and gives up half his cake. But just when he becomes overwhelmed, his sister gets a candy cane, and Little Critter discovers that “Me too!” means sharing can work both ways.

The Great Brain series, by John D. Fitzgerald, illustrated by Mercer Mayer. I’ve been rereading this series ever since second grade. Set in Utah at the end of the 19th century, the books follow the adventures of two children, John and his older brother Tom. Tom, “The Great Brain,” is a swindler extraordinaire. He steals money from everyone in town, even John, via elaborate and entertaining schemes. But John also sees that Tom can still be a good person and loving brother. Mercer’s illustrations bring the life of children during that era beautifully to life, as Tom and John fish at a watering hole or saddle up horses for a ride to town.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

Nowhere Hair

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Like millions people all over the world, my family has been devastated by cancer. My father is a two time survivor (go daddy!), but sadly I lost both of my grandmothers to the disease.  The thought of having to watch my son battle cancer is my worst nightmare, but it would be devastating to have him watch me suffer (and fight it) as well.

Nowhere Hair is an absolutely adorable new book from Sue Glader and illustrated by Edith Buenen. “The little girl in Nowhere Hair knows one thing: her mother’s hair is missing. In trying to solve that mystery, the story reveals that her mother, although going through cancer treatment, is still silly, attentive, fashionable, happy, and yes, sometimes very tired and cranky. Nowhere Hair helps prepare young ones for living with someone going through chemotherapy. It addresses a child’s guilt, fear, sadness and anxiety with a light touch. But it is a children’s book after all. It is silly and fun and upbeat and involves many crazy hats and a strikingly cool-looking bald woman. What elevates this from a book simply about cancer to something worthwhile for all children is the underlying and clear theme of being kind to those that might look different than you, and realizing that what is inside of us is far more important than how we look on the outside.”

If you know a chic modern mommy who is going through chemotherapy, particularly one with children aged 3-7, this is a perfect book to buy for her. Let’s all send our best wishes to Sue and all of the cancer survivors out there and to all of the children who have lost their parents to the disease.

Pregnancy & Maternity

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

So you just found out you are pregnant – now what? I am so excited to finally launch my new page completely dedicated to all things related to your pregnancy. From pregnancy websites, the best pregnancy books, journals and blogs to maternity clothes and chocolate cravings, I’ve got you covered.

By Fryd

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the most lovely online magazine and blog by Jeanette Lunde. Each and every photograph is utterly breathtaking. I can’t say enough good things about her work. Every page is the most perfect combination of colors, design and composition, and she just has the most wonderful eye for everything.  I could stare at her photographs all day long. I have never met Jeanette – only emailed her once asking if I could use an image from her site – but I want her to decorate my home and take me shopping and I want to see all of her other gorgeous creations (I am sure there are many!). Go check out her Fryd + Design blog and By Fryd, the beautiful magazine, to see what I am talking about. While you are at it go shop at her Epla shop too.