Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books

Happy World Read Aloud Day…One Day Late

Image result for world read-aloud day

It was World Read Aloud Day yesterday and I totally meant to celebrate here on the blog by posting about our favorite picture books of late, but life got a little busy with nesting and seeing friends…and now we get to keep on celebrating! Kind of like when you get sick on your actual birthday so you get another birthday day…ok, whatever, I’m late, but I’m still excited to tell you about our favorite read alouds of January/February!

Bartholomew The Bossy, Marjorie Weinman Sharmat – Have a kid who tends to be bossy? This would be a great book to read together. Having a story as a frame of reference for a problem is invaluable for children, and saves a lot of explaining for parents. I may have said, “Don’t be Bartholomew” a few times today….It’s a bit wordy for very young kids, but great for ages 4 and up.

The Flying Dragon Room, Audrey Wood – My two younger children (ages 2 and 5) ask for this book every single day. It’s a very imaginative story about an underground series of rooms invented by a young boy and filled with fantastic things to see or do. For example, I think I might like a “jumping room” somewhere in my house.

Sidney and Norman, Phil Vischer – We read this for the first time on Valentine’s Day. My 7-year-old daughter read it aloud to me and my five-year-old son and it’s a good thing she was the one reading because I was the one crying. I’m not even sure how to describe the story. Yes, it’s about two pigs who live next door and the different ways they have experienced life, up until their own private meetings with God. Seeing my son’s eyes light up at one part and marvel at how much God loved one of the characters was too precious for words. If you’re a Veggie Tales fan, it’s a must read. If you’re not a Veggie Tales fan but you would love to bring God’s love into real life for your kids, it’s also a must read. It’s a bit lengthy, so probably best for ages 5-10.

Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 – We are zipping through Beverly Cleary’s books this year. The Ramona books are so great as audio books! Channing Stockard narrates them and does so much better of a job than I would! I’ve read Henry Huggins and The Mouse and the Motorcycle to the kids myself, and they were both well liked. The chapters are way too long, though!

Where’s My Teddy? and Little Baby Buttercup are our for the two-year-old crowd picks of the week. Violet loves these books to pieces. I think the illustrations for Little Baby Buttercup are adorable. They make me wistful for the time when I had just one little toddler and was so engaged and cheerful all the time…now I’m pretty much a grumpy nag all day every day. But I digress. Either of these books is a fun read for tiny tots.

So, enjoy the day after World Read Aloud Day and keep reading with your kids going all year long!

Children's Books, Quick Lit, Reading, Reviews

February Reads – A Quick Lit Update

February is sweeping by me. Our fourth child is due on the last day of this month, and I think it’s fair to say the nesting instinct has kicked in pretty hard in the last week. I can’t stop thinking that everything has to be cleaned/painted/de-cluttered now, “just in case” the baby comes early. I’ve never had a baby early, so this sort of thinking is probably unwarranted. Still, I’ve managed to sit still long enough to read some pretty great books in the last month. Today, I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy and friends again for Quick Lit, a feature that gives us a chance to catch each other up on what we’ve been reading in the past month.

(Psst…check back for some kids’ book reviews coming this Thursday!)

Fiction

The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill – Have you heard about this book yet? It’s a storyteller’s treat that whisked me into another world every time I cracked open the book. I loved the characters, the setting, the lyrical prose…pretty much everything about it. It’s completely worth all the publicity and fan love it’s getting. If you’re considering giving this to your grade school aged child, I might suggest reading it for yourself first. It’s very emotionally tense at times. Though quite unique, it did remind me of Shannon Hale’s Book of A Thousand Days or Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood DancingI highly recommend it to anyone. 4.5/5 stars (Also, this book is this year’s Newberry Award Winner, so it’s actually possible I’m not the only one raving about this book).

The One-In-A-Million Boy, Monica Wood – A story about an unlikely friendship between a young boy and a very old woman, this story was sometimes sweet and sad, often awkward, almost charming, and mostly hopeful about how friendships with all sorts of people – young, old, poor, rich, religious, successful…all sorts – keep a person fully human and alive. Wood does an amazing job of describing characters who become very, very real as you read. Some parts of the plot seem fairly unrealistic, but hey, if you want all your books to read like real life, maybe just stick to real life. I don’t mind a book veering off into unlikely circumstances, as long as it flows with the rest of the story. It wasn’t perfectly constructed, but it was still a good read. 3/5 stars

I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh – Though this was a well written crime novel with a huge plot twist that you can’t even guess though you’re thinking the whole time, “I heard there is a huge plot twist,” I wasn’t a big fan of this book because of very vivid descriptions of domestic violence and a good bit of language. Mackintosh writes from her professional life experience as a former police officer. She speaks to an all-too-true issue in our world. If you’re a fan of The Girl on the Train (the book), you’ll probably like this one, too. I’m beginning to understand I’m simply not a crime novel fan, so I should probably stop trying. 2.5/5 stars.

non-fiction

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets, Dana White – White is the author of the blog and podcast A Slob Comes Clean, and she knows of what she speaks. (She’s also pretty funny). If you’ve read all manner of “get your house in shape” books and never once really hit on anything that worked for you, this might be your book. It’s for those of us have what Dana calls “slob vision” or basically blindness to messes until they get really bad. Like, blind to a sink full of dishes until you have no plates to eat off of. If you consider yourself a person who likes projects instead of a person who manages everyday details, this book will definitely give you some ideas on how to be a good home manager without making you feel like you have to change your entire personality to do so. I’ve learned that personality-wise I’m more on the naturally tidy side of the spectrum of home managers. Not that I am on top of everything all the time (um…no), but I’m more likely to walk through a room and take a few things that are out of place with me to put away as I go about other tasks than to ignore a mess until it becomes a project. I still enjoyed White’s perspective and it was illuminating reading a little about how peoples’ personalities make them approach maintaining a home differently. The power of habits plays a large role in White’s approach, and habits are always a fascinating study in my book. (Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before is an awesome book on the topic of habits, as well).

And now it’s your turn to let me know what you’re reading! February is a great month to hit the books, wouldn’t you say?

Everyday Life

The Things That Are Saving My Life This Winter – A Favorite Things Redemption Story

Have you ever been to a favorite things party? I’ve been to just one. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a party where each guest brings a certain number of one of their favorite things. This is usually just a $5 item or less, like a favorite candy bar or gift card to a great coffee shop. Then everyone swaps with other guests, and you leave with five or so of your friends’ favorite things. Last spring I went to this party, and I sat enthralled as each of the women in that living room went around and explained what favorite thing they brought and why she liked it so much. Each item was a tiny window into that person’s personality and life. People brought everything from dry shampoo to cups full of limeade (yesss) to a sweet syrup brought all the way from Germany. It was fun, but I was sad. Why? Because I had no ideas about what to bring to that party. How sad that I couldn’t think of any small thing I really liked! What was wrong with me?

Since that night, when I brought an assortment of not-very-special notecards from the dollar bin at Michael’s to a favorite things party, I’ve been keeping tiny lists around me–in journals, on my phone–of my current favorite things. Because if it’s the little things in life that mean so much, I should probably be aware of those little things. I’m happy to tell you, I recently got to ten items on that favorite things list! Success! That’s when I saw that Modern Mrs. Darcy is hosting a Things That Are Saving My Life blog post link up related to all the things that are getting us through this winter. The timing…wow. Plus, I royally hate winter. Now is the time I can finally share those things on my list! And they are absolutely all saving my life this winter.

  1. Method Grapefruit All Purpose Cleaner – My favorite all purpose cleaner ever. I discovered it when we were cleaning the house we are currently living in after buying it in sad shape. We’re talking pets-gone-wild sad shape, with a side of wild-animal-infestation to boot. Everything that didn’t get ripped out of the house got a coat of new paint or got sprayed with this. It smells so good and cleans/de-greases quite nicely. I am both happy and sad to report that I still use it daily. Happy, because I really do love it. Sad, because it means the potty training of our youngest isn’t going quite as smoothly as we would like…
  2. Mary Kay Shea Butter Satin Lips Balm + Blistex Orange Mango Blast – I just discovered the shea butter balm four days ago, and it is awesome. I put it on in the morning, and don’t feel the need to apply any kind of lip balm ’til the evening. Yes, it lasts that long. However! I couldn’t give up the citrus smell of the Blistex Orange Mango Blas. The citrus smell of this chapstick right under my nose eases pregnancy-related nausea a good bit. That nausea has kicked in again even though I’m in my third trimester because of heavy doses of iron supplements and prenatal vitamins. So this is my one-two chapped lips + nausea punch. If that doesn’t make sense, just go for the shea butter. It really is lovely.
  3. Neutrogena Grapefruit Cleanser – Are you sensing a theme here? I promise, not all of my favorite things are citrus related. I’ve been using this cleanser for about 10 months and it’s awesome for my skin, which is neither oily nor dry but prone to break outs. I don’t use it as directed, though. Instead of wetting my face first, I rub a dime size blob onto my dry face, brush my teeth, and then wet my face and scrub it around a little bit before washing it off. (I learned to do this and why in the very informative book The Acne Cure.) While I still have a blemish or two occasionally, I do not get “breakouts” or dry skin. And this cleanser does smell nice.
  4. The Bunny Clock”  – This gadget has been saving my life for the last three years. You could take all of the other items on this list from me, but not this one. I would weep. When our second born was almost two, he would get out of bed as early as 5:30 in the morning, and be up for the day. As Dame Judi Dench announces in Pride and Prejudice, “This is not to be borne!” So we found this thing (I can’t remember how), ordered it off of Amazon even though it was a whopping $50 at the time, and never regretted it one iota. It is worth its weight in platinum. If you have a small child that you’re struggling to teach to stay in bed until a decent hour in the morning, I cannot recommend this clock more.
  5. Blendtec Classic 570 – I’ve never had a blender before that costs more than $40. When our third cheapo one in ten years died, I decided it was time to do some research. My husband and I found reviews stating that Blendtec blenders work very well, almost comparably to a Vitamix or one of those $400-600 ones, but for about half the price. Then my very savvy husband also found a thread on slickdeals.net informing shoppers that TJ Maxx had recently been selling them for $150, brand new. Hello, bright red Blendtec on my counter, and thank you very much TJ Maxx! The smoothies I’ve been making since getting this blender are ten times better than any I’ve made before, which of course means I’m gulping down more fruits and veggies than ever before. If that isn’t a good winter blues beater, I don’t know what is! And my favorite smoothie recipes can be found on Monica Swanson’s site. They are delicious.
  6. Rooibos Tea – Two months ago, I would have told you I hate to drink tea. Unless my throat felt like it had been rubbed with rough grade sand paper. Then I might force myself to drink some lemon tea or something herbal and fruity like that. Then my sister brought a friend home from South Africa over Christmas who told us about Rooibos Tea. I found some at World Market and promptly fell in love. It is so delicious. Apparently there are a zillion-and-one health benefits, too, but I don’t even care. I “take my tea” with a bit of honey and a splash of milk. It’s like warm, liquid silk. I drink a cup or two on cold days. (Hey, it’s caffeine free and good for me!)(P.S. Thanks, Anika!)

    The little ones using my beloved throw early one morning.
  7. Sunbeam electric throw – My very thoughtful husband bought this for me for Christmas. I loooove it. It gets me out of bed early in the morning and onto the couch with my coffee, my journal, Bible, and notebook. Which brings me to number 8…
  8. Spiral Notebooks – I adore spiral notebooks. I have been scribbling in them for over fifteen years. I write to-do lists, schedules, project plans, reminders, blog ideas…everything. Yes, I know there’s an app for that. But I am a pen to paper girl, despite writing a blog, and I can’t do without the process of putting my thoughts through my pen with my own hand. It transfers them from obscure to concrete.
  9. Image result for i love my treadmillMy Treadmill (which is no longer in production) – Got my treadmill eleven years ago with my first paycheck after college. Loved it. Left it. Or, I should say, had to give it away because we downsized homes five years ago. As blessed providence would have it, right when we were moving into a larger house, our friends we gave it to were downsizing themselves. It is mine again! I know it may seem fake to say you love your treadmill (Hey, you’re being unreal! No one loves a treadmill!), but I really do. I love walking or running (when I’m not pregnant) on it and listening to audio books on Overdrive or podcasts on Stitcher. I love feeling my body working hard. I love that I can use it at night after the kids are in bed. Do I prefer the outdoors? Most days, yes. But being able to take a good, uphill walk without leaving the house is invaluable at this stage of life. I am a much happier mother and wife when I am getting exercise. I guess you could say this thing is saving my whole family’s life this winter.
  10. The Book Depository – You knew I couldn’t stay away from being bookish for long! Books absolutely keep me sane during the winter, and especially older books. A friend told me about this site a long time ago, but I totally forgot to check it out, and then another friend told me about it again, so I finally pulled it up on my computer and my bank account has been suffering ever since. Just kidding, I only bought two books (The Baker’s Daughter and The Blue Castle) but I don’t see my relationship with The Book Depository ending any time soon. Free shipping and old books! Winter is redeemed. (Also, if I hadn’t been so out of touch with my favorite things last spring, everyone would have received a copy of The Blue Castle at that party.)

Of course, there are three “things” always saving my life that I felt too obvious to name: coffee, library, husband. And it doesn’t hurt that we’ve had a slew of 70-degree days this past month. (Now’s the time when readers everywhere say, “You have no right to hate winter! No right!”). But 50-degree highs and rain are coming back this weekend, and I will be relying on all these things to see me through February.

What’s on your lifesaving list this winter?

Everyday Life, Reading, Reviews

Late January Decluttering Encouragement – More Wisdom from Books

A Gentleman in MoscowI mentioned in my quick-lit reviews that I was loving the book A Gentleman in Moscow but wasn’t finished with it yet. Well, I am finished, and I wholeheartedly endorse it as a great novel. It’s so much better than Rules of Civility by the same author. I couldn’t stop highlighting parts on my kindle; there were so many great quotes. One, in particular, struck me as just perfect for this time of year when everyone wants to declutter but may have lost some steam along the way, so I thought I’d share it with you today.

For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity–all the while, allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance. This armoire, we are prone to recall, is the very one in which we hid as a boy; and it was these silver candalabra that lined our table on Christmas Eve; and it was with this handkerchief that she once dried her tears, et cetera, et cetera. Until we imagine that these carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion.

But, of course, a thing is just a thing.

-Armor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

Yes, things are just things. So if you started out with a passion for decluttering this New Year that eventually waned, may this propel you forward to further  minimalist greatness. Or, simply ease our guilt about not dusting enough. Those things are just things, right?

Want more wisdom from novels? Check this post out

Children's Books, Everyday Life

A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool Family

I don’t write about our homeschooling journey very much. There are so many homeschool blogs available out there, who needs one more? But I have had several different friends and blogging buddies ask me about how we do homeschooling, and I always find it impossible to put it into words at the moment when I’m asked. Our philosophy and curriculum choice is a mishmash of Charlotte Mason ideas and traditional curriculum. The overarching idea is that we want our children to learn how to cultivate their skills in the things they’re good at and discipline themselves in the things they’re not. When it is all said and done, we want them to love to learn and know how to keep on learning when their school days are over. We also want to set their eyes on things that are beautiful and worthy of our attention. But how does that translate into every day life and curriculum choices, how much time we do or don’t spend on work books, what subjects we do or don’t do?

I firmly believe schooling in the early years should be simple. “Those things you learn without joy you will easily forget,” is a big part of my homeschooling philosophy. What it all boils down to in the day to day is really very simple, but I have a hard time telling people about it. So maybe I can just show you? With that hope, here is a day in the life of our homeschooling family.

 

Our Homeschool Day in 2nd Grade, Kindergarten, and Toddlerhood

6:00 – I get up to have some coffee and some quiet time. I love this morning time alone, but it will probably disappear in the next few months when Baby #4 arrives and I clutch every minute of sleep I can get. And please, do not let my early starting ways turn you off to homeschooling! This is just how I do things in this season of life. Lots of homeschool parents start their days later and it works just fine for them.

7:00 – The kids get up, we all eat breakfast, get dressed, do a few small chores like gathering dirty clothes and making beds.

8:00 – We start math. My husband’s work schedule allows him to be our math teacher about three days a week, which saves my life and the life of my children. That’s the main reason we start with math every day, not because I am a stickler for math before other subjects. We have used Horizons math curriculum from K-2nd grade. Our oldest two have done very well with it so far.

Break – After math, everyone takes a little break. I run a load of laundry, and do the breakfast dishes if I wasn’t able to do them earlier.

9:00 – Reading/Writing/Grammar/Spelling is all bound up in our Sing, Spell, Read and Write curriculum. It also includes handwriting. I love this program. Next year we’ll have to switch to something else with Ella (2nd grade) as it only goes through 2nd grade.

Break – Time to play a little, give Violet (age 2) some attention, switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, etc.

10:00 – We all sit down at the kitchen table with a snack and I read aloud. If you are familiar with the morning time concept, this is where it fits in with us. And this is also the area of our schooling where the mishmash comes in. We always have Abeka history and science books going (I read from the 2nd grade level for both these subjects to Ella and Isaac(who is in kindergarten)), but we also have a natural science book (like this or this) and a read aloud based on the historical time period we are in. We also have a chapter book that I read aloud for literature, usually based on the wonderful Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast. We alternate science and history each day. Some days we will just read the Abeka book and do the craft or experiment that goes with it, some days we’ll only read our natural science book and do some sketching or artwork along with it, or some days we’ll just do our history read-aloud. Example: We just finished the Colonial Period in our Abeka history book and we read Felicity Learns A Lesson along with it. Now we are entering The Pioneers section and we are reading aloud The Cabin Faced West. When Ella was in first grade, we read The Story of the World instead of an Abeka history book, and both kids enjoyed that, too.

11:00 – Play time. I believe so strongly that playing imaginatively is equally, if not more, important than work books and curricula in the early years. My children need to move their bodies and engage their imaginations throughout the day. There’s nothing that will set them up for success in life like a cultivated imagination, and nothing that will take away their joy more than a lost imagination. As you can see, we work in a lot of breaks. While the kids play, I do some housework, check email, maybe prep dinner if I’m really on top of things.

12:00 – Lunch, then outside time if it’s a nice day. A few times a week, I’ll read to the kids from our literature book while we eat lunch. (See list of read alouds we’ve done below!) We may have to do an errand or two on some days in this time slot, and once a week we have gymnastics at noon. In the spring, we’ll get involved in t-ball/softball again.

1:00 – Rest time – Our toddler naps and the bigger kids stay quiet in the schoolroom for an hour on their own. Ella does unfinished math or writing from the morning during this time, or reads her own book to herself. Isaac almost always plays with Legos, colors, or looks at books.

2:00 – The older two are headed outside again! If the weather is bad, they’ll usually watch a short video.

3:00 – Snack time and literature read-aloud time if we haven’t worked it in earlier.

Our school day is over!

There are a few subjects I would like to put in to our days more often, like music or art or foreign language. Right now, though, a simple approach is all we need and it’s working well for us. I know my world is about to get rocked adding a newborn in the middle of the spring semester! Our schedule will definitely change, but I’m glad we have some sort of structure in place. Maybe (fingers crossed!) it will help my children know what’s expected of them when I can’t be as present for every single part of their school day.

I’m still figuring this homeschooling life out and will probably be doing so forever, but if you do have any questions you’d like to ask me, feel free to in the comments! I’ll do my best to answer them.

Below is a list of some of the read-aloud chapter books we’ve done since starting homeschooling. They would be great fun for any family, whether you homeschool or not! We also do lots of picture books.

  1. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  2. B is for Betsy
  3. The Boxcar Children
  4. The Courage of Sarah Noble
  5. The Bears of Hemlock Hill
  6. Little House in the Big Woods
  7. Little House on the Prairie
  8. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
  9. Beezus and Ramona
  10. The Little Riders
  11. The Children of Noisy Village
  12. Kirsten’s Surprise
  13. Homer Price
  14. The Saturdays
  15. Phoebe The Spy
  16. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
  17. The Five Little Peppers
  18. Lady Lollipop
  19. The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook
Reading, Reviews

January Quick Lit- Winter Reading Update

It has been so long since I posted a book review! I’m excited to get back into some quick-lit reviews, and I’m linking up with many other reviewers at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

I read slowly through the month of December, distracted by Christmas movies and holiday goings-on. I don’t know that we’ll ever have a more beautiful Christmas season. It was purposeful and planned out in ways that gave us white space to be sporadic. We saw all of our family at one point or another throughout the month, and saw lots of each other, too. And I have to admit, it was so much fun to decorate our fixer upper. We didn’t do a whole lot, but a white house just lends itself well to my Christmas nostalgia. Even so, January came with a sigh of relief and putting away all the Christmas decor felt like giving myself permission to truly rest in this season. I got an electric blanket for Christmas and a huge box of tea from Amazon and now winter is the time for reading.

The Snow Child – If you are a lover of fairy tales written for grown ups, you’ll like this book. And I’m not talking about fairy tales written for the Young Adult audience, such as Cinder or Beauty. Eowyn Ivey writes about a couple who are older, beyond their child-bearing years, but still long for a child. I don’t think I would have appreciated this book at a younger age, but the tender aching nature of the main characters combined with their will to survive and love no matter what touched me deeply. Ivey masterfully writes about her home state and its beauty and pain. I enjoyed this book even more than To The Bright Edge of the World, and that’s saying something.

The Broken Way – Ann Voskamp’s deep thoughts and way with words demands a slow, thoughtful reading pace. This one took me about two months, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still feel like I need to read it again. Voskamp moves further into her ideas of communion with God through gratitude that she presented in One Thousand Gifts and explores the truth that suffering and brokenness is a path that everyone walks at some point, but that God can use to bring us to deeper beauty and oneness with other people and Him than we could imagine. Any description I write of this book will barely scratch the surface – it’s a must read.

The Baker’s Daughter – There’s got to be some D.E. Stevenson in my reading list every winter. This book was my cozy, post-holiday party pick. The plot is fairly simple – a wealthy but unhappy young lady (whom the rest of her acquaintance considers verging on being an old maid) becomes a housekeeper for an artist. She wants to escape the drudgery of life in her father’s and stepmother’s home. Of course, she does in some ways and doesn’t in others.  As usual, Stevenson’s character driven novels set in Scottish villages draw me into the lives she describes in her book. I always, always think of L.M. Montgomery’s characters when I read D.E. Stevenson. Their vim and vigor and no-nonsense approach to life combined with kindness and a thirst for more in life makes them pretty much my favorite type of characters. (Important: this book is not to be confused with The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy. Completely different books!)

A Gentleman in Moscow – I’m still in the middle of this one, and loving it so much more than Amor Towles’s first book, Rules of Civility. Count Rostov is the main character, and his life in the grand Metropol Hotel in Moscow on house arrest starting in the 1920s is the surprisingly compelling setting. Philosophical yet humorous, the small setting does not limit the epic Russian nature of this novel. I am learning all kinds of things about Russsian’s evolution in the 20th century. If you have an e-reader, I highly recommend reading this book on it because being able to highlight and look up people and terms I am unfamiliar with has definitely enriched my understanding of this book and of Russia. I can’t help but compare this book with The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but with much more likable characters and sweeping scope. The characters who populate the Metropol are so real to me as I get close to the end of this book. I suppose I can’t truly recommend it until I read the end, but so far, it’s wonderful.

Up next is a huge stack of holds from the library that all came in at one time. I love/hate it when that happens. But at least it means lots of new reviews will be going up soon! Until then, I hope you enjoy some winter reading and tell me all about the good books you discover.

Children's Books, Three Book Thursday

Children’s Books We Love – January 2017

Hello, readers ! It has been too long! As so many people say, I didn’t mean to take such a long holiday break…but I did. The good news is I have lots of books to share about in the upcoming months and a new look to reveal on the blog soon (as in, the blog is getting a new look…not the blogger, unfortunately). Today, let’s talk about some fun books my kids are into.

Picture Books

Noodle

Um, how has this book escaped my attention my whole life? It’s written by none other than Munro Leaf, the author of Ferdinand, and illustrated by…drumroll please…Ludwig Bemelmans (yes, the creator of Madeline). Talk about a dynamic duo. It’s a warm and fun, somewhat offbeat, story about a Daschund named Noodle who is given the opportunity to change his shape into whatever he’d like. He looks long and hard for a new shape, but no one seems to understand what he wants a new shape for: to dig better holes. Obviously, this hasn’t made the classics list of children’s books despite its author/illustrator combo, so lower your expectations a bit from the greatness of The Story of Ferdinand, but it is still well worth reading and enjoying.

Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon

Molly Lou Melon is a tiny girl with a cheerful determination to have fun her grandmother’s way. When her grandmother says classic grandmotherly things like, “When we were your age, we didn’t have TV; we watched the clouds,” Molly Lou Melon does, too. She takes all her grandma’s recommendations to the furthest degree and brings a friend along on the old-fashioned fun way. The illustrations are really what make the book. A bit outlandish and Dr. Seuss-ly, they are the kind that strike you as simple until your five-year-old-son says, “Look at how this cloud looks like…” and then you realize this book is so perfect for children. We were introduced to it on Christmas by an aunt with great book taste, and promptly found its companion, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon at the library the next week. We highly recommend both!

Motor Dog

Product DetailsFive-year-old Isaac picked this library find out and I have since read about a million times. A little boy orders a robot dog off the internet (by himself! what in the world), and finds it too be way too fancy after a near death experience involving a helicopter back pack. Yes, it’s pretty obvious why a little boy would think this book is the best. It’s one of those books I include on my lists because of the vast love my children have for it, not due to any fondness I have for it. Sometimes, whatever books get your children glued to reading is whatever you’ll read (within reason).

Chapter Books

The Kingdom of Wrenly Series

Seven-year-old Ella is currently devouring this early reader series. She can make it through one book in a day or two. Featuring a prince named Lucas and his best friend Clare, and set in a medieval make-believe world, the books are full of adventures with dragons, giants, and other page-turning fun. I read through the first one, but can’t keep up with Ella’s pace! These books remind me of the TV series Sofia The First in their content and setting, but are definitely geared more evenly to both boys and girls. Thanks to www.maybematilda.com for the recommendation!

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg (Fairy Dust Trilogy Book, A) by [Levine, Gail Carson]Yes, we’re still reading lots of fairy books here. Our latest favorite is one of the earliest in the Disney Fairy expansion. I continue to be impressed with the quality of these fairy books, and shake off any book snobishness when it comes to Tink and her pals. Gail Carson Levine is the author of this particular book (famed for Ella Enchanted), but it’s written for a younger audience than her other books and features many adorable illustrations of little-girlish fairies.

That’s about it from us this week! What great books for kids have you found?

Thanks for joining us for Three Book Thursday! This blog feature is all about our favorite children’s books of the week, and celebrating those moments when we can say, ‘Yes, we’ll read just one more book.’ See all the posts in the category here. And check out our other series about children’s book’s, Friday Favorites, here

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Everyday Life

Light Has Come – Why Winter Can Be Bearable

Welcome to the 2016 Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. We in the Northern Hemisphere are tilted as far away from the sun today as we ever get. In the past, I have dreaded this time of year, the dreary days of winter. Last winter was especially dreary. My husband and I spent all of our time from December to February in a drafty, smelly fixer upper, cold and cheerless. This year, we live in that fixer upper. It’s not drafty or smelly anymore–in fact, we feel it’s quite homey now–but as our first Christmas season in it approached, my feelings about it were kind of dim. After Thanksgiving, I started to look at this big white box of a house and think, “It’s so drab. How can we make look like Christmas?” I didn’t know where to start. We began our advent calendar tradition and pulled all our decorations down from the attic. Boxes of forlorn Christmas garlands and wrinkled red bows spilled over the living room and dining room, but none of it looked merry or bright. It all looked like an uninspired jumble.

The first few days of December came and went like that. The neighbors’ houses were
decorated, the pictures of friends’ beautiful holiday houses on social media flooded my news feed, the weather was cold, and I was a holiday sloth. “Maybe I’ll just hang a wreath and call it done.” I couldn’t find our wreath. But then we put up our Christmas tree. We found a beautiful one at the un-cool location of Home Depot and when we put it up, the lights shining through the deep green branches shed clarity on it all. Light.

We put lights up at Christmas because our souls need light in the winter darkness. 

Two trips to Hobby Lobby later, our front porches had garlands laced with lights and new red, cheerful bows on them. A few days and ten extension cords later, our windows had candles in them to light the night, and sometimes the rainy days. Our advent calendar ornament for that night, when all the lighting up of the house was done, was a candle.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

This is why stringing up all these unruly strands of lights is worth it and why  lights brighten our holiday spirits without fail- The Light of the World came into the darkness. And he stayed and dwelt among us. Christmas lights will come and go, but The Light in the dark days of winter remains.

"It will all shake out, meanwhile I'm putting up more twinkle lights." You've Got Mail Quotes: Am I excited about winter now? Not at all. I hate winter. But I’m pulling out all the candles in the candle box I seldom open, and throwing wide curtains on sunny days. As Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail, “It will all shake out. Meanwhile, I am putting up more twinkle lights.” Her friend Birdie calls that “a fine idea,” and it is. Candles, twinkle lights, lamps in every corner, whatever it takes, we will have light this winter. Light will remind us that the deep darkness in our souls is no more, that The Light has come and He has stayed.

May your Christmas and your winter be merry and bright, full of lights and flooded by The Light.

Children's Books, Reading

A Slew of New Autumn Picture Books We Love

There’s something about this time of year that makes all the children’s books feel full of warmth and rightness. Maybe it’s because the thought of little furry, woodland creatures scurrying around to prepare for winter makes us think cozy, happy thoughts next to warmly colored pictures. I don’t know, but I can tell you that we raked in a bunch of books that were perfect for the 2-5 age range at our last library trip. Not all of them are necessarily fall-themed, but most of them feature small, furry creatures  (and one tiny bear) and I guarantee you will not mind if your preschoolers ask to read them again and again. The last book in the list is a Thanksgiving themed one, so be sure to check that out, too!

2130219Whose Shoes? Anne Grossnickle Hines/ LeUyen Pham

A joyful little mouse-girl goes from room to room in her family’s house, trying on shoes. She has lots of fun being silly and so will your little ones when they read this book. Every other page has a lift-the-flap illustration. LeUyen Pham is one of my favorite illustrators, and she’s written some gems herself, too. I was quite pleased to stumble upon this one in our local library display.

Otto the Book Bear, Kate Cleminson

Otto the Book BearOtto is a tiny bear who lives in a book, but pops out on occasion to explore. When his book leaves him behind, he goes on an adventure to find a new home, and ends up finding something even better. The illustrations are soft and inviting, each page has just a few words that poignantly describe what Otto is doing and how he feels about it, and there’s just something about this book that makes you want to go live in a library for a few hours. It’s a perfect rainy day read-aloud, but any day will do. Plus, it’s so cute to hear my two-year-old ask for “Otto.” Thanks to Jansen at Everyday Reading for featuring this one in an Instagram post! We are in love with it.

Kitten's First Full MoonKitten’s First Full Moon, Kevin Henkes

Black and white, but not boring, Kitten’s First Full Moon is about a little kitten in who has to figure out that the full moon isn’t actually a bowl of milk to drink. She’s such a petulant little kitten, it’s hard not to wish that the moon would just become a bowl of milk. This book won a Caldecott in 2005, but we just recently started noticing the board book version popping up everywhere. It’s perfect to check out at the library or give away at baby showers.

Such a Little MouseSuch A Little Mouse, Alice Schertle/ Stephanie Yue

Alice Schertle is famous for Little Blue Truck, a favorite around here, and her latest children’s book about a little mouse exploring the world and storing up food during each season of the year does not dissapoint. The little mouse lives in a sunny field and meets many woodland creatures through the year, but the best part to me is the cozy drawings of his home under the dandelion clump.

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving StorySharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story, Pat Zitlow Miller/ Jill McElmurry

All ages can appreciate this lyrical book with bright and warm illustrations that show a big family coming together to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it might be a far cry from what mine or your Thanksgiving looks like now, but it’s fun to see the work that went into a meal at the turn of the 20th century, and the warmth of family gathered and a meal shared glows on each page. Thanks to Sarah McKenzie at Read Aloud Revival for sharing this book!

Those are the picture books we’re enjoying this month! I hope you have a great week celebrating Thanksgiving with your friends and family and in your own heart.

Reading, Reviews

Books To Read This Winter – There’s Something For Everyone!

Winter is simply the best time to read. I mean, I love stretching out on a deck chair on a sunny June day with a book, but there are lots of other things I love in June, too… picking berries, swimming, planting things that probably won’t grow, going on long walks at sunrise, washing stuff…I really like June. But if I’m next to a roaring fire on a cold December day, my hands are aching to have a book in them. All is wrong with the world if I’m without something to read in wintertime. Lucky for you, I started my winter reading early this year! I’ve read a little bit of everything lately, and so I’m putting together a little guide for what to pick up this winter, gathered from several different genres.

Literary Fiction

To The Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey

To The Bright Edge of the WorldThis is my favorite book of 2016. It combines adventure with history in a completely new way, and is one of those books that is so interesting and well written, it will appeal to men and women of any age. Set in the frontier of Alaska at the end of the 19th century, this novel is based on the real historical figures of Colonel Allen Forrester and his wife Sophie. Colonel Forrester is given the task of mapping an unexplored area of Alaska, and the fictionalized accounts of his trip with his small group of men are enthralling and make me want to know much more than I do about Alaskan history and all the mysticism explorers encountered. While Colonel Forrester is away, Sophie pursues her own love of nature through the newly invented camera. I found both of their narratives to be equally absorbing. This is the kind of book that you put down and you can’t wait to pick up again, and when it’s over you long to start another one just like it. I haven’t read Ivey’s first novel The Snow Child, but it is on the bedside table stack and will surely be one of my Winter 2016 reads.

Historical Fiction 

Amy Snow, Tracy Rees

Amy SnowIf you like historical fiction about women in the 1800s, this book is your cup of tea. It follows the life of the title character Amy Snow, who was found as an abandoned newborn by a young heiress and raised in a confusing and unconventional way. After the heiress dies at a very young age, Amy must follow a trail left for her to discover the truth about who she is and who her benefactress was, as well. I would say that Jane Eyre heavily influenced Tracy Rees; Amy’s character is very similar in tone and personality to Jane. This is the winter equivalent to a light, well-written beach read, with a huge plus that it is fairly clean/non-smutty, though it deals with some adult themes.

Memoir

 The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines

As a fan of Fixer Upper, I knew I would be reading this as soon as I heard they were The Magnolia Storyreleasing it. I tried to go into it with low expectations…after all, they’re TV personalities, not writers. I was pleasantly surprised, though, because what I found in the pages of The Magnolia Story was not a story about TV personalities…it was a story about real people, with real faith and normal struggles. Sometimes it seems like a memoir has to feature a tragedy to get published, but this one was hopeful and inspiring. I garnered some real perspective on thriving when you’re not in the middle of what you would consider success, and on building a strong marriage by sticking close together in life, pursuing similar dreams.  As a book, it’s not a Pulitzer Prize winner or anything, but a tiny taste of what it would be like to sit around a dinner table for a few hours with Chip and Joanna Gaines and laugh and talk with them about life.

Mystery or Crime Novel

Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2)The sequel to Girl Waits With A Gun does not disappoint. Constance Kopp is back as one of the first lady cops in America. She is trying to work her way into the well-deserved role of deputy sheriff, but a German con-man is besting her and everyone else on the police force. Just as I did in the first installment of The Kopps Sisters series, I thoroughly enjoyed the history and real-life people woven into this page-turner. Amy Stewart always features a plot-line straight from the newspapers of the early 1900s. Definitely start with the first book, but don’t wait too long to get into this series if you’re a fan of Maisie Dobbs or historical crime fiction in general. On a clean-read note, this is a very non-graphic crime novel, for those of you concerned with being able to sleep at night (that would be me).

Faith-Based

The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant LifeI’m slowly and carefully soaking up the words of this book on chilly Autumn mornings before my children wake up. So far, it is everything you would expect from Ann Voskamp – a constant fluctuation between despair and bright hope, earthly circumstances and heavenly perspective, fear and awe-inspiring love. I would venture to predict that this second book of Voskamp’s won’t be the raging success her first one was, mostly because it isn’t as much of a self-help book on finding joy. Joy is still a theme, yes, but Voskamp is exploring a tougher path this time to true, complete joy in giving.  This one isn’t going to get you keeping a list of things to be grateful for. It will get you thinking more on what’s been given up for you and how you can give more up for others. As I keep on reading it, I’ll give a fuller review. I’ve read enough to say you should definitely join me in reading it!

Fantasy or YA

Nothing new to report here, but I’d strongly recommend Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and many of her other books. Clearly, I need some recommendations in this genre.

Those are my top picks for Winter reads in 2016! Tell me what yours are, pretty please? I’m always looking for a good book this time of year.

And if you’d like to follow me on goodreads.com, here’s the link to do that. It’s so fun to be Goodreads Friends and see one another’s reviews about all sorts of books, and I guarantee you’ll find a plethora of good reads. It’s better than Pinterest for book lovers (and maybe more dangerously time consuming…but check it out anyway!). Happy Reading!

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