Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: We're Going on a Bear Hunt Snow Globe Edition (2017), Make & Play: Nativity (2017), and Press Out & Color: Christmas Decorations (2017)

With a new baby in the house, it can sometimes be difficult to keep my older girls, Miss Muffet (age four) and Bo Peep (age two) entertained during times when my attention has to be on their new sister. That's why I was so thankful to receive review copies of new novelty and activity books from Candlewick Press/Nosy Crow.

The video of Michael Rosen performing We're Going on a Bear Hunt that Walker Books put out for the book's 25th anniversary has been a huge favorite of both Miss Muffet and Bo Peep. Bo Peep, especially, has taken a real liking to it, and she has learned to recite and move along with the video each time it plays. She was thrilled, therefore, to receive the snowglobe edition of the book for her birthday a few weeks ago. This is a pop-up edition of the original book, with full-color illustrations and a fun plastic snowglobe on the front cover. Bo Peep is rough on her books, but for a pop-up book, this one is surprisingly sturdy, and so far only one pop-up has been bent out of shape. Because she already knows the story, she can entertain herself without adult involvement by retelling each page from memory. She also loves to follow along with the video with the book in her lap. Even if you already have a copy of the original book, it's worth introducing this special edition into your collection, especially if it's a long-time favorite and you'd prefer not to let your toddler tear up a hardcover.

Miss Muffet gets bored more easily than her sister, so for her, I like to have some easy hands-on activities available to bring out when she needs something to do. Nosy Crow's new Christmas-themed gift books have been great for this so far this Advent season. For her birthday, I wrapped up the Make & Play Nativity by Joey Chou. Similar to the Busy Builders sets I reviewed on Tuesday, this book includes a set of punch-out pieces that can be assembled to form the key figures and props of a nativity scene. Our family nativity scene is too fragile to be handled by little hands, so this set was instantly appealing, as it makes it possible for Miss Muffet to act out the story without worrying about anything getting broken. There are 20 pieces in all, including Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus in the manger, shepherds, sheep, a donkey, an angel, and the three kings. We're going to see a living nativity in a couple of weeks, so this set is also a great way to prepare her for what she will see then.

After the section of the book containing the punch-outs there is also a section of Christmas activities and songs. The activities are pretty basic and unlikely to be new to a seasoned parent, and the songs, too, are easily found in almost any Christmas songbook. It is handy to have the songs right there to sing as we play with the pieces, but I doubt we will try any of the suggested crafts. I typically find more interesting ideas just scrolling Instagram or Pinterest. Overall, though, I was pleased with the quality of the cardboard pieces and the ease with which they can be put together. Miss Muffet had a little trouble getting them on straight, and as a result, some of our pieces wouldn't stand at first, but this was easily fixed with a quick adjustment and removing and replacing the stands on the figures did not seem to damage them at all.

The other Nosy Crow activity book we have been eager to begin using is Press Out & Color: Christmas Decorations by Kate McLelland. This is a set of 20 sparkly Christmas ornaments, embellished with gold accents, which kids can color and assemble. Though some of these ornaments are three dimensional when they are completed, others can lie flat, and I am planning to have Miss Muffet paint or color those and then mail them to relatives as gifts. The others I think we will hang on our own tree.

I like these ornaments because the cardboard is not too glossy to use with crayons, and because the designs are basic enough that painting over them with watercolor paint isn't likely to ruin them or distort them, even if the painting itself is a little messy. They make it possible for a preschooler to give a homemade gift that the recipient might actually want to save as a keepsake instead of an unidentifiable craft that can't really be used. (I'm all for process art, but sometimes you just want to give Grandma a gift that looks like what it's meant to be!) This book also works well across multiple age groups and abilities, as the ornaments are basically blank canvases to which kids can add their own personal creative touches.

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