The KnowHow Book of Spycraft

Cover page of The KnowHow Book of SpycraftDo you know that warm feeling of fondly remembering a book you adored while you were a kid?

But now ... you simply do not know where it ended up?

That is exactly what I felt every time when my mind wandered back to one of my childhood favorites - The KnowHow Book of Spycraft.

It was one of those books that one knew was a keeper, even as a child.

Alas, I "lost it" (polite way of saying that my parents probably got rid of it).

Fortunately, I stumbled upon The KnowHow Book of Spycraft recently after I was able to piece two and two together and remember its name.

Looking at it again, from a distance of several decades, I could not believe it was still around, but also how interesting and relevant it remained for modern kids.

I could see that the publisher simply had to publish it again in 2013 on the book's 40th anniversary, as it remained unsurpassed even for kids of the new millennial generation.

I predict it will be around for a long time.

The Wretched Stone

Children's books are often hailed for the quality of their stories or images.

But we will not talk merely about stories or images now.

In fact, there is a special category of books that I want to recommend.

Books that are exceptional - not because they are the brainchild of a phenomenal author and illustrator of children's books.

The author of this book undoubtedly shares great images and great stories - but he has even better ideas.



Yet, as quirky as his books are, they are also so very realistic.

They will make you shiver a bit inside.

No, its not fright. Its your imagination giving you the shivers.

This children's book author always add an unexpected twist to an already strange and puzzling situation.

Yes, you guessed it my friends.

I am talking about Chris Van Allsburg.

One of America's most innovative children's book authors and illustrators.

This picture book - The Wretched Stone may not be his most famous, but it is very special for the message that it conveys and because it is a perfect example of the Van Allsburg allure.

The Wretched Stone contains a lesson that we often try to teach our kids, but we repeatedly fail in our warnings.

Chris Van Allsburg manages to do it - by not even mentioning the topic.

It is a testament to Chris Van Allsburg's massive talent.

But what is this lesson, you ask?

What To Do When Bad Habits Take Hold

Everyone has bad habits.

Even Read Aloud Dad! (Hush, don't tell my kids!)

But, how do you help a child that becomes a prisoner of his/her bad habits?

Preaching isn't the solution, although it is the obvious route that parents select.

Wouldn't you just wish for a world in which you tell your child to stop talking with their mouth full ... and they do it!

Or you beg your child to stop sucking their thumbs ... and they magically fulfill your wish!

Bad habits range from the "not-so-helpful" ones to those habits that are painful and can be damaging in the long term.

After knocking my head against the wall trying to figure out how to help my kids one day when the first bad habits emerge ... I hit the nail on the head.

I was browsing books online when I came across a book with a title that immediately caught my eye - What to do When Bad Habits Take Hold - A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Nail Biting and More.

OK, OK, I admit, there are probably hundreds of apparently similar "self-help" books or books with recipes for resolving problems.

We are bombarded with them constantly in the press, online, in supermarkets, everywhere. And these books that we see all around us have sooooooooo catchy titles (I'm inventing some titles of my own below):

"Eight steps to happiness".

Or "What do Successful Kids do"

"The Perfect Kid in just 15 Minutes a Day"...

So I completely understand that you may think that this one is probably just another dud.

I may have had my suspicions too.

But then I looked at the back cover.

Ish - Phenomenal Picture Books

Few things are as heart-wrenching as seeing your child demoralized and disheartened.

Ish book cover
I still remember the time when my twins were babies ... I used to worry how would I help them when they lose their self-confidence one day.

Small kids are like super-heroes before self-doubt creeps into their lives!

For them everything is possible.

But one day, reality smashes through the fragile glass dome of childhood uninvited.

Self-doubt in youngsters can be dangerous - as it feeds itself.

Lack of confidence can paralyze a child and force it to retreat in a virtual shell of safety, by giving up on activities in which it does not feel confident.

Every human being can feel untalented in any field.

I knew we had to have the right antidote in our home library.

And I found the best antidote to 'loss of confidence' in the form of this little bijou.

A veritable gem of a picture book.

The Wind in the Willows - The Best Illustrated Children's Edition

The mission statement was clear:
The Inga Moore-illustrated classic
The Wind in the Willows, published by Candlewick 

Find the best illustrated hardcover edition of Kenneth Graham's masterpiece The Wind in the Willows for my twins.

I also had to make sure the book was an unabridged version very suitable for read-alouds that can entrance my listeners on the force of its illustrations alone.

Simple, I thought.

Before you read any further I must admit that I failed in part of my "mission" - at the end I opted for a very carefully abridged version of The Wind in the Willow, on the strength of illustrations alone.

Yes, for fans of unabridged editions - hereby I admit I have sinned.

But in my defense I must say that I did it purely for the sake of the enjoyment of my twins - who adore lavishly illustrated books.

It is such a beauty that I am simply enthralled with it.

The book I've chosen is a version of The Wind in the Willows illustrated by ...

The Wayside School Collection Book Set

Every kid loves to giggle.
Image of three-book collection set about the Wayside School by Louis Sachar

You know they do - their chuckling even gets on your nerves, especially when you hear those muffled little snickers at the wrong time.

I won't blame you if you try to forget those days when the little chortles get on your nerves.

But do remember how much they enjoy laughing, when your are choosing read-aloud material.

It's THE key to their undivided attention.

So, if your reading aloud sessions are becoming too boring - not only to your child, but to you too - turn to laughter.

It never fails.

If you only focus on reading masterpieces of children's literature to your kids - without leaving some space for pure, mindless fun - reading might become too much of a chore for all involved.

I always make sure that we are reading at least one lighthearted and funny book, concurrently with the more heavy-handed Narnias, or The Secret Gardens, or the Little Histories Of The World (links to my reviews)...

We need to ensure that reading aloud is not equated in the young mind only with drop-dead serious books that can overwhelm the listener.

Sometimes kids want to relax, laugh and enjoy a book for its comical power.

They want to giggle, while sitting upside-down on the sofa.

Yet, comedy is a noble teacher too. It helps us learn that life is best enjoyed with a smile on our faces and that we are all human, after all.