31 Days, Children's Books, Nonfiction, Reading

Stretching 31 Days Into Forever

Our 31 Days of Picture Books have come to an end. Honestly, I thought posting every day would be more of a challenge, but this topic has been one that I live in every day. While there have been some days when I felt like I didn’t have time to write, it turns out I did have time to write at least something. I hope you’ve been able to add some good books to your reading lists for young children, and maybe even add to your knowledge of the value of reading with children.

Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through StoriesThere are some great resources written by actual experts (not just some blogger like me). My current favorite is Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories, by William Kilpatrick and Gregory and Suzanna M. Wolfe. While this title may sound a bit preachy, it’s actually a great place to find books for young people of any stage. It has a list of picture books for young readers and then lists of different genres that are divided by reading level. Every time I look at this book to find good picture books for my family, I find myself turning to the older readers section and adding new books to my own reading list. I highly recommend this book.

Honey for a Child's Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family LifeHoney for A Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life by Gladys Hunt is on my to-read list. It focuses on books for children 0-12. I’ve only skimmed it, but I can tell you that there are many illustrations and that Hunt’s reading tastes are broader than Kilpatrick, et al’s. Hunt includes classics as well as more modern books on her reading lists. As I haven’t read over the lists in detail, I can’t tell you if I agree with them as much as I do with the lists in Books That Build Character. I will still be giving these books a try, and hoping some of them are short enough for very young listeners. Many of the books listed in Books That Build Character are more for ages five and up.

And since I’m planning on homeschooling my children when they reach school age, I’ll definitely be Books to Build On: A Grade-By-Grade Resource Guide for Parents and Teachersreading Books to Build On: A Grade By Grade Resource Guide For Parents and Teachers. I don’t buy into the core curriculum idea–that every child should be taught the same thing decided by the government–but the idea for core knowledge stems from a sensible thought that there are just some things everyone needs to know. One of the reasons we choose to start out homeschooling is because we know all children are different: some children will enjoy math, some children will want to spend lots of time on music, and we will have the freedom to develop their areas of interest and talents. We will still want to make sure their minds are grasping concepts in all areas of education, and I think this book will help me think of ways to focus on subjects that aren’t my children’s favorite (or maybe not my favorite, either! I’m looking at you, Math.).

These are some books I plan to use as tools now and in the coming years, but mostly, I’m going to keep letting my children pick out some of their own books and indulging their developing tastes and interests. Reading is pure fun right now, and I want to keep the fun in it for our whole lives. I’ve seen parent-directed reading bring joy and build relationships, and I’ve seen it squash any interest in books. I’m hoping my style of reading with my children brings joy.

Thanks for joining me for 31 Days of Picture Books. I plan to continue reviewing picture books and mixing them in with my regular reviews on this blog. The words and the images of picture books have taught me so much over the years. It took this 31 Days topic to make me fully realize how much impact reading in the early years had on my mind. I’m encouraged to keep reading, and I hope you are, too.

31 Days, Children's Books

Because You Said So…

 

 

photo (2)

 

Thanks to your great suggestions, these are the books we picked up from the holds desk at the library today. All of us, adults and children, think they’re great fun.

31daysYou know what else has been fun? Immersing myself in writing every day about the books I read to my children. I have loved sharing books and ideas that make reading to our children more enjoyable and meaningful. Tomorrow is the last day of the 31 Days of Picture Books series. I’ll be sharing some resources to further what we have started here on our quest to explore the world of children’s books. I hope you’ve enjoyed this month as much as I have!

-Mia

Books featured in photo:

Red is Best  by Kathy Stinson

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

31 Days, Children's Books

Books for Your Tiny Ones

Without getting all scientific on you, I’d like to start off today’s post by stating that there is no better way to launch babies into their intellectual development than by reading to them.  I started reading to my kids before they were born. That may be quite unnecessary, but it’s what I did. I’m not going to bring in scientific data, there are plenty of websites for that. I’m just sharing my personal experience in this. The more we read and the earlier we read in our kids’ lives, the better their vocabulary and logic skills are as toddlers. Reading with your babies molds these little people into children who are actually fun to be around!

If you’ve had a baby, you probably already own one or more copies of Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Those books are classic and wonderful, but what I want to share is the lesser known books my own children loved before age one. 

The first three are from the First Golden Book series. They’re so sturdy–my little boy is rough and tumble and loves these books, but they’ve shown no wear.

What Does Baby Hear? by Kathy Cruickshank

Goodnight Baby by Barbara Lanza

This Little Piggy by Kate Gleeson

 

I Am a BunnyI Am A Bunny by Richard Ole

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Trains by Byron Barton

Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz

A Night Night Prayer by Amy Parker

My Goodnight Book (Golden Sturdy Shape Book)My Goodnight Book by Eloise Wilkin

Cleo’s Color Book by Caroline Mockford

Of course, my children loved some of the more popular books by Eric Carle and others. There were days when I wanted to throw Brown Bear, Brown Bear out of a three story window. I mean, it’s a great book, but after three readings, it gets seriously old. Anyway, my hope for today’s post is not that you think “Yes, that’s a list of the top ten best books for babies.” No, what I hope is that you read my list and think “I haven’t heard of some of these but I’m going to check them out!” While you’re at it, try to read to your babies a good supply of books that actually make sense to you, or explain something about their world, or tell a story. Not too much Moo, Baa, La La La, although certainly read that, too, if your children like it and you can stand it. =)

This is Day 29 of the 31 Days of Picture Books Series. Read the rest of this series here.

31 Days, Children's Books

The Crazy Cat Lady

I already made the shocking confession that I am not a dog person. Today is the day when I tell you that I am a cat person. That’s right, go ahead and make fun of the lady who has ten cats and can’t stop taking pictures of Fluffy in her Halloween outfit and posting them on Facebook. Go ahead, because that lady is not me. I love cats, but I actually don’t have one right now. It’s the first time since age four, other than the first two years of being married, that I’ve been without a cat. The stray cat we dubbed “Mama Cat” who adopted the crawl space under our house as a her birthing place for kittens when I was a little girl had a big impact on my formative years. For two or three years of my childhood, there were two kittens every spring and two kittens every fall. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on those feral kittens and tame them into respectably friendly domestic felines. Actually, my younger sisters did a lot of the taming by carrying them around by the neck and putting them in doll clothes. The last of Mama Cat’s kittens died this summer at the ripe old cat age of eighteen(ish). Though I don’t have a cat right now, I still have a sense that my home is not home without a grey or orange cat curled up in some corner or nook.

So yes, I really like cats. It follows that many of the children’s books I like are about cats. Even if you’re not a cat lover, I think you’ll end up admitting that these books are pretty swell.

PeppermintPeppermint is my all-time favorite cat book. Published in 1960, it’s the story of a little kitten born in a candy store who longs for a real home. Each of her brothers and sisters have exciting names like Lollipop and Chocolate Drop. Peppermint, however, is accidentally dropped in a tub of bluing and none of the children want her when they come to look at the other kittens. The story has a happy ending of course, once a lonely little girl accepts that a blue kitten is a cute kitten. Her acceptance of the blue one pays off in the end. I love the illustrations. I wish this book weren’t out of print, because it is in high demand — a used copy will run you about $40.

2117230Though it does not cause the same debilitating nostalgia as PeppermintDuncan and Dolores is my next favorite cat book. Dolores is the little girl created by author and illustrator Barbara Samuels who manages to drive her sister and her cat crazy, depending on the book she’s in. Duncan is the cat that is loved but misunderstood. Faye tries to coach Dolores in how to relate to her newly adopted cat, but Dolores thinks Faye has it all wrong. I’d say Dolores is a dog person who wants to be a cat person. You know how you watch those really fun adults try to relate to really shy small children? Imagine that scenario, but in a permanent way. Dolores learns as she goes, but the book is mostly just plain entertaining and funny.

The Christmas Day KittenI pull The Christmas Day Kitten out every Christmas. It’s more of a decoration than a reading tradition at this point, because the book is lengthy and the ending rather sad. I don’t think my two-year-old and four-year-old will appreciate it for many years, but I love the warmth of the illustrations and the familiar story-telling style of James Herriot. Ditto for Moses The Kitten.

A few other books featuring cats we enjoy:

The Trucker by Barbara Samuels

Cleo The Cat by Caroline Mockford

Just as I am quite enamored with a few of the dogs in children’s books, I’m absolutely sure you will like these books, even if you’re not planning on becoming a cat person any time soon.

This is Day 28 of the 31 Days of Picture Books Series. See all the posts in the series here.

 

 

Nonfiction, Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

October Reading

Apparently, I haven’t taken my own good advice lately, because what I’ve read in the past month has equaled not much. My blogging time has been taken up with the 31 Days of Picture Books and I’ve had a blast with it. I have managed to squeeze in a few adult reads, though.

The Silver StarAt the beginning of the month I  read The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls. This novel was an interesting combination of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Glass Castle, Walls’s first book, a bestselling memoir. Here’s the plot summary of The Silver Star from goodreads.com:

It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.

An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town—a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister—inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz.

Jeannette Walls, supremely alert to abuse of adult power, has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.

The Silver Star reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird because of two child characters, Bean and her cousin, and because of the unfairness of the small town’s judicial system. Though the issues brought up don’t have much to do with race, they have a lot to do with gender and social status equality. I enjoyed the characters, though I thought them a bit to reminiscent of the main characters in The Glass Castle. The book also had that run down mill town feel that is so poignantly portrayed in Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. It’s as if you get a peek into what Empire Falls looked like before everything shut down. Walls does a good job of drawing a reader into her writing by putting flesh on her characters. However, this book was my least favorite of hers because the plot was a tad too predictable. Still, I read it cover to cover in three days and I think most people who like Walls’s work will enjoy The Silver Star.

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and RedemptionI also read Kisses From Katie as part of my 7 Challenge to learn more about poverty stricken countries. Katie Davis writes about her experiences as a very young woman who goes to Uganda for a few months after graduating from high school and cannot see herself staying away ever again. The book is both heartbreaking and heart-swelling. It’s heartbreaking to not just suspect or vaguely hear about Ugandans’ hardships but to really know what life is like for them. It’s important to know, but it’s heartbreaking.  It is heart-swelling to see that one young woman can make so much of a difference if she will stop saying “someone else” and start saying “Me. I will love one person and one more person and bandage one person and one more person and do what I can. Even if it’s never enough, I will do what I can because that’s all I can do and that’s what I must do.” (paraphrase). You must read it, not as a fine piece of literature, but as a bolster for your belief in what one person (read: you) can change if you try. I am so challenged and changed by this book.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Finally, I just finished the Young Adult favorite, Alanna: The First AdventureThis book was written in 1983 by Tamora Pierce, but somehow it didn’t show up on my wide book radar until I started this blog and saw it on so many Top Ten Tuesday lists. I quickly learned that Alanna is a favorite heroine of many book loving girls. And since my real life name is only one letter away from Alanna, I had to read it for myself. (If your curious about why I go by Mia on this blog, check out the About Me page). I put it on my to-read list and then October came. October is historically a month when I crave a good fantasy adventure book. Last October, I discovered The Hero and The Crown and thoroughly enjoyed it. The year before that, it was Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I think I can trace this feeling that Fall means fantasy adventure books back to when I read the Lord of The Rings trilogy in the fall lo those many years ago. But that would be way to nerdy to admit. Anyway, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t love Alanna. I liked it okay, but I’m afraid I missed the boat when I was twelve or thirteen that would have sailed me into Tamora Pierce fandom. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be reading the rest of the series! Because it’s October, and adventurous fantasy stories are akin to October (write that down).

Now I’m reading Rump: The True Story of RumpelstiltskinSo far, it’s much grimmer than I thought it would be. We all know how the fairy tale ends, so I’m hoping there’s some kind of twist that will make this poor boy Rump into a hero after all. Rumpelstiltskin as a character has always unnerved me. I think the writing style of Liesl Shurtlief is very similar to Shannon Hale’s–pointed and carries the story along at a good pace–but I wish it were a wee bit more descriptive. I’m interested to see how the author weaves the brief mentions of other fairy tales into Rumpelstiltskin’s story. Expect a full review soon.

How’s your October reading going?

31 Days, Children's Books

Your Favorites Children’s Books

Thanks for your responses to my last post, both on the blog and by email. Here are some of your favorite children’s books:

304845Noah’s Ark and other books by Peter Spier

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston

A Little Old Man by Natalie Norton

Little Mommy by Sharon Kane and Eloise Wilkin

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arthur Lobel

Feel free to add your favorite book in this post’s comment section if you missed the last one.

More about picture books to come in the last four days of 31 Days of Picture Books. Stay tuned!

 

 

31 Days, Children's Books

On the 26th Day, She Rested

We’re almost done with the 31 Days of Picture Book series, but I have to take a too-busy/have-a-cold day. So it’s your turn. Tell me about your favorite picture book in the comments and I’ll update and repost this day’s post later with a list of your favorites. Yep, here’s your chance to hijack my blog and talk about a book you like. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

-Mia

20131026-213609.jpg

31 Days, Children's Books

Pinkalicious or Pinkayuckious?

Yes, I’m making up words today. Don’t even try to say them aloud.

So far in the 31 Days of Picture Books series I’ve been sharing children’s books I enjoy. Today, I’m sharing about some I don’t.

PinkaliciousIf you have a little girl, you’ve probably seen the Pinkalicious books written and illustrated by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. The first book is a cute, fun story about a little girl who is a bit too gaga for pink. But after you read it the third or fourth time, you begin to notice how demanding the main character is, how she throws tantrums, how she wants what she wants what she wants, etc. That’s when I start thinking, “I don’t really want to read this book to my children anymore.” I have similar opinions of the other three books I’ve read in the series. They all try to meet typical life situations, (peer pressure, teasing) but the result is usually a resolution of the situation instead of a conquering of the problem. And I guess I just don’t enjoy the writing. Giving a children’s book a bad review is like saying you don’t like Christmas, but my thumbs are down on Pinkalicious and her books.

What are your thoughts on Pinkalicious?

7 Challenge

A Sea of Fabric

I’m into Month 2 of the 7 Challenge. Yesterday I dove right into what I thought was a small collection but has clearly swelled into an ocean of clothes. I pulled out absolutely all the clothes I have and put them in one place to get an accurate idea of the real amount I hide away in drawers, closets, and storage bins.

No judging the surroundings! My house is not exactly a pottery barn house. But feel free to judge the sheer amount of fabric in this picture, because that’s kind of the point.

All My Clothing

 

And that does not include the large bin of maternity clothes I’m keeping in the attic should they ever be needed again. Just the fact that I have a completely different wardrobe for a few short months in my life would confound so many people around the world.

I am so blessed.

My criteria for winnowing my closet had three rules.

  1. If it doesn’t fit: get rid of it!
  2. If it doesn’t match anything else: get rid of it!
  3. If you’re sick of it: get rid of it!

So here’s what’s going:

Clothes to Go

 

 

(Please don’t hate me if you see something I’m giving away that you gave me. Rest assured, all of it has been worn and appreciated!)

What I’m most excited about in this picture are those two pink and purple princess dresses at the very top. My four-year-old daughter decided to get rid of these because she never wears them. She pulled them out of her dress up bag and never looked back. Probably because she has at least ten others. But it’s a start! I have to admit, those were her first two princess dresses and I get mentally weepy thinking of her two-year-old self wearing them on Christmas morning. We’re banishing that materialistic thinking, though! Photos and memories are enough.

So off to Sharing God’s Love we go. I am not against Goodwill, but I feel better about giving clothes to an organization that turns around and gives them away to people who need them.

I’m probably giving away some items of clothing that I’ll wish I had back in the next few months. That’s okay with me, though. As Eloisa James says in her memoir, Paris in Love, “Outfits are like casseroles — you only need to know how to make a couple.”  Now, I just need to figure out how to make outfits. I think that’s at the root of many women’s wardrobe problems — we buy a cute top there or a fun looking pair of shoes here, but nothing really goes together. At least that’s my problem. I don’t make a study of fashion, but I do want to look presentable. I’m not buying anything for myself until mid-December, but when I do, I’ll follow two rules: (1) Shop with a list and (2) Buy with a complete ensemble in mind.

Honestly, I wish it didn’t matter so much if I look well put together or not. Part of me wants to look nice and part of me thinks of children with no shoes and yells “I don’t care if I look frumpy!” The yelling part wins often. I have always hated going into the mall, but I usually play the complacent window shopper well. In the past few weeks, I’m scared to go near the mall because I’m this close to picketing entrances with pictures of Indian orphans and yelling obscenities like “You don’t need a new leather jacket!” Yes, that’s an obscenity where I’m from. But I know I need to find a balance between blessing my husband/children/self/anyone else who has to stand the sight of me and blessing the least of these.

If you have any insight into this dilemma, please share. And share your photos if you’re joining me in this part of my 7 Challenge! It’s actually quite freeing. At the very least, you’ll have a cleaner closet when you’re done. I’m praying for more than a clean closet, though. I’m praying for change.

 

31 Days, Children's Books, Parenting

Little Ones And Sick Days

In case you haven’t been hit in the head with this brick-ish truth yet, it’s officially cold season. Yes, you lovers of hot chocolate, fuzzy sweaters, and fireside evenings, your beloved chilly weather comes with some not so lovely side effects.

Okay, okay, so most people get colds all throughout the year and the cold season is a bit of a myth, especially when you have young children. I think colds happen year round but they are exacerbated by heating our houses and schools, etc. I am a fan of being warm in winter, but central heat sure does dry your nasal passages out. Anyway! When your family is under the weather, it’s hard to explain to little ones that everyone is sick sometimes and sick people have to rest and get lots of good care to get better.

Explaining becomes easier with a picture book.

121463The Sick Day by Patricia MacLachlan is an adorable book about Emily, who wakes up one morning sick and has to stay home with Daddy. She is so typically five years old, with her strange requests and boredom mixed with excitement at being in bed all day. MacLachlan knows how children talk: “My toe hurts where I stubbed it last year,” Emily says. “It hurts on and off. The ons are long.” The illustrations are soft and cozy. Of course, this picture book makes a sick day with a young child look way easier and more heart touching than it usually is for me, although there have been some beautiful moments. But at least Daddy ends up sick the next day!

This is Day 24 of the 31 Days of Picture Books series. To see more, go here.