Posts in October, 2011

Funny Monster Books

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Funny Monsters by Susan Fry

Humor is often the best way to combat fear. So if your children are a little overwhelmed during Halloween — or any other time of the year — by monsters and creatures that go bump in the night, a dose of the giggles might help them sleep soundly. And that means more sleep for mommy, too!


Even Monsters Need Haircuts, by Matthew McElligott. On nights with a full moon, the son of a barber takes over his dad’s shop – not to fight monsters, but to cut their hair! Mummies, dragons, and vampires who can’t come out during the day soon fill the waiting room. The hilarious drawings, in the muted colors of nighttime, show the little boy trimming a monster made entirely of fur and snipping a single hair from the head of a Cyclops. But when an ordinary-looking man walks in, all the monsters scurry to hide. Kids will enjoy finding them all under the chairs, behind paintings, and under a lampshade. And, just like the monsters, they’ll laugh when the “man” asks, “Can you take a little off the top?” and removes his head! When the sun comes up, the boy and his customers remove all evidence of their night, at least they think so . . . . Though friendly enough for even younger children, the book is also filled with more sophisticated jokes for older kids and grownups. The names of the products the boy uses, for example, include Hair Die and Spoiling Spray.

Mostly Monsterly, by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Scott Magoon. A little girl monster, Bernadette, learns how she can make friends at monster school while still being herself. “On the outside Bernadette was mostly monsterly,” lurching, growling, and causing mayhem like all the other students. But on the inside? Bernadette likes to pick flowers and pet kittens. Her other classmates don’t take kindly to her group hugs and cupcakes with sprinkles. What’s a monster to do? Bernadette finds a compromise: she makes cards for each student – monsterly cards! Kids will howl over greetings such as “roses are red, violets are blue. in this card i went ACHOO!”

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems. Little Leonardo is indeed a terrible monster – he can’t seem to scare anyone. He’s not big or weird like his other monster friends, and he “didn’t have 1,642 teeth, like Tony.” Finally, Leonardo finds a boy, Sam, who looks easy to scare. But when Sam cries, it turns out to be for a host of other reasons, beautifully expressed in enormous type and a page-long run-on sentence that will sound very familiar to kids and parents alike. In the face of genuine misery, “Leonardo made a very big decision. Instead of being a terrible monster, he would become a wonderful friend.” On the last pages, the boy and the monster take turns scaring each other. Willems’ ink drawings strike exactly the right balance between cute and a little creepy.

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.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Zebra Print Shoes

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Like mother, like daughter….It is never to early to start a love affair with animal print accents in your daily wardrobe. One of my favorites has always been zebra print. I adore these Zoe Zebra Booties from the Baby Bella Collection available at one of my favorite online shopping destinations, Layla Grace.

And you can buy your matching zebra print Desiree shoes over at Kate Spade. I have to admit, a photo of mother and daughter in their zebra print shoes would be so so fabulous for a holiday card. I love it! I only wish they made zebra print shoes for my 4 year old son so I could do that…

Seam Collection

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

This weekend I discovered Seam Collection – gorgeous clothes for little girls that are totally practical too. I was instantly drawn to the unique designs, fabulous colors and vibrant mix of prints. If only I had a little girl to buy them for!

The clothes are absolutely wonderful – chic and modern, yet young and playful and totally unique with a one-of-a-kind feel. They are designed by a mom with a great sense of style. Here is a little note from the designer, “As a mother I was interested in making clothes appropriate to their stage of development. For little ones, I made pants and tunic tops so they wouldn’t trip as they learned to stand. As they grew, I made pieces they could put on without my help…nurturing independence. The older girls need a more streamlined silhouette to fit their changing bodies. This was the evolution of Seam.”


Check out the exquisite mix of fabrics and patterns at Seam. I know you won’t be dissappointed. By the way – these outfits would be really cute in holiday pictures!

Halloween Books for Kids

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Halloween Book Reviews by Susan Fry

Here are three Halloween treats your kids won’t have to trick you into reading.


Spooky Hour, by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. Younger children will relish this counting book, which gives just enough Halloween flavor without being too scary. The watercolor illustrations are darkly colored, with deep purple night skies and black shadows. But the skeletons, witches, and other “midnight spooks” look downright friendly. They’re drawn dancing and waving, with fuzzy fur and gleeful grins. Kids can help count down from eleven witches stirring their spells, to six tromping trolls, then all the way to “One Gigantic Pumpkin Pie!” The story ends with all the creatures eating the pie with “some scary party fun!”


The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda D. Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd. This folktale-ish and empowering story never mentions the word “Halloween.” But dark colors, spooky apparitions, and a giant pumpkin make it perfect for the season. A feisty old lady walking through the woods meets shoes, pants, a shirt, gloves, a hat, and, finally, a “very huge, very orange, very scary pumpkin head.” Each time, she says, bravely, “Get out of my way . . . . I’m not afraid of you!” Readers may notice, however, that she walks a little faster each time, until she finally races home. Part of the book’s magic lies in the repetition of sounds: kids can shout, clap, and wiggle as the “Two shoes go CLOMP, CLOMP,/One pair of pants go WIGGLE, WIGGLE,/One shirt go SHAKE, SHAKE,/Two gloves go CLAP, CLAP,/One hat go NOD, NOD,/And one scary pumpkin head go BOO, BOO!” As with most bullies, the pumpkin doesn’t know what to do with himself when the old lady isn’t frightened. So she finds a use for him . . . as a scarecrow!


Ghoul School, illustrations by David Roberts, paper-engineering by Corina Fletcher. This pop-up book will have older children shivering and laughing at the same time, though ghoulish graveyards and grisly ghosts could scare younger kids.

Readers can pull tabs, lift flaps, and turn wheels to discover just how Ms. Vampira teaches her students “a full range of haunting techniques, from basic wailing and groaning to walking through walls.” No child will complain about dinner after seeing Mrs. Snotte’s “classic school lunches,” and grown-ups will enjoy jokes such as Shake, Rattle, and Moan as a library book title. The watercolor-and-ink drawings are in muted browns and grays, with quavering lines and a grotesque, Edwardian sensibility that recalls the work of Edward Gorey. The final triumph? A pull-out report card that praises students for skills such as “an unhealthy obsession with reptiles.”

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.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Halloween Greeting Cards

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Looking for a way to spread a little Halloween cheer that does not involve cavity inducing candy? Send Halloween greeting cards to your favorite friends and family. Take a cute picture of your kids in their costume and slip it in the envelope too. Tiny Prints has quite a few cute Halloween greeting cards to choose from, like the Halloween Mosaic card above, that will work for kids, adults and families too. It looks like they are all 50% off too between now and the 25th. Love a deal!!

In case your kids still  need a costume – here are some fun Halloween costumes to choose from, and some Halloween videos too…

Tory Burch Flats Benefitting Breast Cancer Research

Monday, October 17th, 2011


As you all know, during the month of October many companies are selling specially designed products where a percentage of proceeds benefit Breast Cancer awareness. There are tons of great items available from a wide array of companies. I think it is amazing that every year more and more companies get on board. Every one likes to shop for a good cause.

Looking for a super chic, comfortable and versatile way to show your support? Check out Tory Burch’s specially-designed limited edition pink patent Eddie ballet flat, benefiting The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®?  Tory Burch is donating 15% of this purchase to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation® up to a maximum donation of $15,000. BCRF is dedicated to preventing breast cancer and finding a cure in our lifetime by funding clinical and translational research worldwide. For more information about BCRF, visit


Halloween Books for Kids

Saturday, October 15th, 2011


For parents with younger children, Halloween is a fine balancing act. How do you find skeleton costumes that are spooky without being too scary? How do you plan ghostly party games that will make your kids shriek with laughter, not with fear? And how can you make sure the gigantic, glowing, inflatable witch on your neighbors’ lawn will make them giggle instead of scream all night?

Here are some books that walk (and even fly) the line perfectly.

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara. When a little girl goes to live in an old house, she discovers that it’s haunted. Luckily, “the girl [isn’t] just a girl. She [is] a witch!” In no time, she has the ghosts exactly where she wants them: in the washing machine. Soon, she makes the frowning ghosts into happily smiling curtains and tablecloths. And when the witch gets tired, she curls up under a ghost blanket. Kohara’s strikingly attractive design hits exactly the right note. While the orange and black pages signal a spooky subject, the blocky, cheerful outlines and smiling heroine reassure both parents and children that nothing too scary will happen. Kohara’s true masterpieces are the flowing white, nearly transparent ghosts with the texture of tissue paper.

Only a Witch Can Fly, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. It’s easy to forget one of the most wonderful things about witches: they can fly. The elegant, unusual, breathless rhymes capture a girl’s longing to soar through the sky, and her joy when she finally manages it. Pages colored brown, black, and olive green evoke a moonlit night in the countryside as the little girl in a witch’s costume attempts, and fails, to fly her broomstick. With the help of her pajama-clad brother, however, she tries again and succeeds. “Who could have known it was such a big sky?/ Bat and Owl below wave Bye, Bye/ and Cat calls a velvet song to the moon./ And you? You have flown . . . /you have flown!”

Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman, illustrated by S. D. Schindler. A witch finds herself with a problem: she wants to make pumpkin pie, but her pumpkin is so big she can’t move it herself. When a ghost, a vampire, a mummy, and a little bat offer to help, she hesitates. “It’s big and it’s mine, but it’s stuck on the vine, and Halloween is just hours away!” she cries. Only the thought of pumpkin pie overcomes her selfish desire to keep the pumpkin all to herself. But even the ghouls can’t move the giant pumpkin, until the little bat points out they have to work together. The book manages to offer many wonderful life lessons in its funny, rollicking rhymes. After they all eat the pumpkin pie, for example, the witch is already planning another pumpkin party for the next year. The humor of the brightly colored illustrations – the witch has a green face and a nose like a pickle – make the book friendly for even younger 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.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Enjoy 15% off Minted holiday cards with code EARLYBIRD15

Somaly Mam Fundraiser

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

somaly_mam foundation
Somaly Mam is an incredibly inspiring women. I heard her speak at Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference a few years back and she brought me to tears. She was full of grace, determination and heart. She has done so much to help women and girls all over the world so that they do not have to suffer and endure the pain that she did as a young girl.

Somaly Mam travels all over to share her personal story of sexual slavery, and to raise awareness of human trafficking. Her foundation, The Somaly Mam Foundation works around the world to provide direct services for victims, advocacy, and outreach.


For those of you who live in or around New York City – please consider attending the Somaly Mam Foundation Fundraiser Gala on Thursday, October 20th. Help spread the word if you know friends who might want to go too.

If you aren’t in NYC, you can still help. Please visit to learn more.



Tuesday, October 11th, 2011


I can’t tell you how many articles of baby and children’s clothing my son outgrew before he ever got a chance to wear them. And some of them were really really cute! And don’t get me started about the very expensive stroller that rarely left the garage, or the little blue bouncy chair that never got a chance to bounce. Sound familiar?

Instead of tossing or giving away all of your gently used (or even brand new) gear for kids, why don’t you sell it and make a little extra money just in time for holiday shopping? Sounds like a fabulous plan to me.

I am here to help spread the word about StorkBrokers – a website dedicated to helping moms like us find new value in our kids’ old things. It is totally free to join and to list items for sale. It’s different from a lot of classified listings and large auction sites because it is a parent-run business focused on building a community of moms and encouraging them to help one another. StorkBorkers can help you de-clutter your house, find amazing deals, and yes, earn a little extra money to help you fill those stocking. Here are just a few fantastic items that were recently listed for sale:

storkbrokers Interlocking Foam Tiles     StorkBroker-Stroller    storkbroker Bedding

Best part of all – in addition to having categories for all of the things your kids will ever need, they haven’t forgotten about us moms. There are also listings for some cute shoes and handbags too. Gotta’ love that! Check out StorkBrokers today.

Note: This is a sponsored post.

Leonardo’s Monster

Friday, October 7th, 2011


Leonardo’s Monster, by Jane Sutcliffe

Reviewed by Susan Fry

Introducing kids to historical figures can be tricky. Far too many biographies can be dry or preachy. The events that grownups find interesting, such as revolutions, political reformations and . . . yaaaaaaawn! Oh, sorry! I guess those can bore even grownups. Plus, many high achievers accomplish their greatest feats as adults. Adults,honestly, just aren’t as interesting to kids as, well, other kids.

Leonardo da Vinci is one of history’s most fascinating people. But summarizing his life in a children’s book, especially one for younger children, seems impossible.

Luckily, in Leonardo’s Monster, Jane Sutcliffe brilliantly decides to focus on one small episode from da Vinci’s childhood.

According to legend, the young da Vinci was asked to decorate a shield. He painted it with a monster so frightening and lifelike that his own father fled in fear. “Flames darted from its eyes like lightning bolts. Smoke curled from its nostrils, and the very air around it seemed to be on fire.” The shield was later sold to a duke, and then it disappeared. “But who knows? Perhaps somewhere the shield is waiting to be found.”

It’s a simple story. But the simplicity gives Sutcliffe the space to explore da Vinci’s personality. She offers a likeable portrait that may help kids think of da Vinci as a person as well as a genius. “For a start, he was the kind of boy who was good at everything . . . . Being so good at so much and not being a show-off about it is pretty unusual.” Sutcliffe’s informal language and humorous asides make the era and da Vinci himself feel approachable.

Kids will adore the fact that da Vinci is smarter and more talented than all the grownups around him. His own teacher even stops painting because da Vinci is better.

My boys begged me to re-read the page on how da Vinci created his monster. Sutcliffe shows the boy collecting all the disgusting animals he can find, such as lizards, newts, and bats, and then drawing all their scariest parts. Grownups, of course, can use this to introduce the concept of the scientific method.

Da Vinci’s hard work and determination – drawing and re-drawing so many times that he doesn’t even notice when the animals start to stink – can be an inspiration for adults as well.

Well, maybe without the stinky part.

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.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.