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

Welcome to Friday Favorites!

Welcome to the first edition of Friday Favorites! In this series, the blog will feature our favorite children’s books from the week. If you’re looking for more great children’s books, check out the 31 Days of Picture Books series, or click on the category for children’s books on the left of your screen.

And now, let’s jump right in!

Rosie's Magic HorseOur favorite books this week are by different authors and illustrators, but have a similar look and feel. The first is Rosie’s Magic Horse. It is by the famous writer Russell Hoban of the Frances books, and illustrated by Quentin Blake, better known for his collaboration with Roald Dahl. Rosie’s Magic Horse is the fanciful tale of a girl named Rosie and a box of popsicle sticks with ambition. Yes, it sounds totally strange, but it’s just plain fun. After reading it about ten times, my five-year-old daughter decided to make a “cigar box” by taping together pieces of cardboard and decorating it. It’s currently full of about 15 popsicle sticks. She keeps it by her bed. I have no idea why it’s so special to her, but it makes me smile. Maybe she’s dreaming those popsicle sticks are turning into all kinds of things while she sleeps.

4215399Apparently we’re into magic books this week, because my three-year-old son Isaac’s favorite is The Magic Bedby John Burningham. I have mixed feelings about this book, because I can’t figure the family structure and the adults in it are rather lame. Being an adult myself, I prefer not to be painted in such a light, but I don’t think Isaac is too concerned about it at this point. He just likes the adventure of getting into a bed, figuring out a magic word, and soaring off to fight pirates and rescue lost baby tigers.

Both of our favorite books of this week are on the zany, fantastical side, but my children sure do love them and we will definitely balance them out with books more rooted in reality as we go along.

We sure do enjoy children’s books around here. Stay tuned for more as Friday Favorites continues each week!

Children's Books, Reading, Reviews

What The Kids Are Reading These Days

As I sat in my MOPS group this morning listening to a Children’s Librarian speak on early childhood literacy, I realized that it’s been a while since I posted about children’s books we’re enjoying. My oldest daughter is 5 and my son is 3 and we have had a lot of fun reading over the summer. We were kind of slackers on actually going into the library and getting our Summer Reading prizes, but we did manage to finish two days before the deadline. Newborns and libraries are sometimes a great combination…and sometimes not. But our two-month-old Violet is a little more predictable now, so we’re trying to get back in the swing of weekly library trips.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to let my kids pick some of their own books out. Here are their favorites out of what they chose:

The Princess and the Dragon, by Audrey Wood: A fun story about a princess who is dragonly and a dragon who is princessly. Isaac always picks books with dragons if he can find them. He wants to be a knight when he grows up.

The Princess and the Dragon

A World of Food: Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat!, by Carl Warner: This book is so gorgeously fun. My artistic 5-year-old loves it. I like that it introduces new foods we can try, too, and that the poem that goes along with the pictures is actually quite lyrical.

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What I picked out:

Amber on the Mountain, by Tony Johnston: a beautiful book with a sweet and sometimes sad story about an Appalachian girl and her longing for friendship and learning. I’ve been dabbling in the Five in a Row curriculum, a literature based unit study for young children. This book was a fun way to talk about geography near us and some more serious topics like friends moving away. I’ve already said something along the lines of “You need to practice writing so you can write letters like Amber!”

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Jam and Jelly by Holly and Nelly, by Gloria Whelan: Poetic and pretty, this book tells the story of a girl and her mother living in rural Michigan. Holly’s mother Nellie is set on Holly not missing school on account of no coat or boats for cold days. She and Holly spend the summer gathering berries, and Holly finds out how hard work can turn into something valuable. I think it’s great that Holly ends the story by saying her summer memories are what keep her warmest, showing that there was value in the work itself, too. And I love how my daughter says, “A red pepper ant stuck his needle in me” when she gets an ant bite now. The imagery in this book is vivid and nostalgic for anyone who has spent a summer day outdoors in the woods.

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I could write all day about children’s books, but I’ll leave it at four for today. I’m thinking of starting a Favorite Friday series, in which the blog will feature our favorite children’s books of the week. Also, October is coming up, and last year that meant a 31 Days of Children’s Book Series. I won’t be committing to blog every day for a month this year because I can hardly post once a week right now! But if you want to re-read some posts, click here.

Nonfiction, Reading

Fall 2014 Reading List

My Fall Reading List is formed! I’ve tried to supplement my summer reading with some weightier books. Chances are good I will add to this list as the weeks go by, but these are the books I would really like to read.

Fiction

Gilead, Marilyn Robinson

Lilith, George MacDonald

Long Man, Amy Greene

Rosie, Ann Lamott

Peace Like A River, Lief Enger

The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

No Name, Wilkie Collins

Nonfiction

For The Sake of The Children, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Bringing Up Boys, Dobson

Shepherding A Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp

The Fitting Room, Kelly Minter

To Persia, With Love, Doreen Corley

Beyond Ourselves, Catherine Marshall

Educating the Wholehearted Child, Clay Clarkson

As always, this list is subject to change. In fact, I guarantee it will change.  Unless I know it’s important that I read a certain book, I am not afraid to call a book not worth the time and quit in the middle. I realize some folks can’t handle abandoning a book, but I need that freedom or else I wouldn’t even try half the books I actually come to like.

So what’s on your list this Fall?

Grammar note: I realize you’re not technically supposed to capitalize the names of seasons. I just can’t help it. 

Reading, Reviews

The Long Awakening Review

And now I get to review my favorite book of the Summer!

The Long Awakening, a memoirThe Long Awakening, by Lindsey O’Connor, is so, so good. I saw my friend Lael Arrington post about this book on Facebook earlier this year. I read the synopsis and then decided that, though I wanted to read it, I’d save it for after the birth of my third child. If you’re the type who can imagine herself into a state of paranoid worry (like me), I’d recommend any other pregnant women do the same! But a few weeks after the birth of my third child, I picked up The Long Awakening and drank in this beautifully written book.

The memoir tells O’Connor’s experience of near death and recovery from a 47-day coma immediately after her fifth child’s birth. O’Connor’s descriptions are entrancing. She has the ability to bring you into a hospital room with her, and then right into her head as she describes what coming out of a coma is really like. The narration isn’t chronological, but the back and forth nature of it is perfect for really relating to the story. The reader learns what happened during three different time periods that are like different lifetimes to O’Connor: before the coma, during the coma, and after the coma. Somehow she manages to jump back and forth while creating a complete and easy to follow timeline, filling in gaps here and there. The effect is that the reader better understands what her recovery was like–a lot of gaps that needed to be filled in for her to feel fully conscious and alive.

Beyond the writing, I was fascinated by how O’Connor, a woman of strong faith, wrestles with the darkness of her experience. This is not your typical “Heaven is for Real” or “90 Minutes in Heaven” story. There was no flash of light and warm cocoon sensation for O’Connor. As O’Connor recovers and wrestles with her experience of near death as a Christian, I appreciated her stark honesty and her realizations that came in their own time.

Violet - 8-18-14-30On a personal note, this book put my own blessings in perspective. As I read it sometimes in the middle of the night while holding my tiny newborn, warm and rosy in my arms, I wanted to soak in the experience more than I ever. The ability to care for my baby from the minute she is born until she’s grown is something I’ve taken for granted. The Long Awakening changed my attitude towards the exhaustion that comes with a newborn. Though there were some wee hours when I thought I could do with a small coma…you know just 24 hours or so…

Definitely check out The Long Awakening next time you’re looking for a riveting, exquisite, and thought provoking read.

See what else I read this Summer, or find my list of favorites.

Photo cred: Wenzel Photography

Reading, Reviews

Summer Reading Snippet Reviews

Well. It has been a coon’s age since I wrote a review. People tell me all the time, “I used to enjoy reading, but then I had kids.”

To which I say, “Whatever.”

Okay, okay, yes, it gets harder to read for fun when you have kids. I agree, and I’m not judging you.

Still, I find that this newborn stage is when I get more reading done than any other time in my life (besides the knee surgery time). What else am I going to do during those 3 o’clock/every other o’clock feedings? So while there hasn’t been much activity on the blog, I have been reading. Reading with a book in one hand and a baby in the other is much easier than typing a review for the blog with one hand. In short, I have been reading a lot and reviewing nothing. In an effort to catch up, this is a quick list and some snippet reviews of what I’ve read in the last two months.

A Long Time GoneA Long Time Gone, by Karen White

Karen White is a great writer. I don’t enjoy her earlier works because of the ghostliness (just not my thing), but she is so good at making her settings come to life. This is the second book I’ve read by her and it’s my favorite so far. The main characters are memorable and real. There are just certain phrases that take on their own meaning and are so right in the plot. “Yet here you are,” will never mean the same thing to me. You have to read it to know what I mean. White always has a dark element to her works, but this one has a good side of redemption, too. I enjoyed it.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, by Mindy Kaling

It’s kind of weird that I read this book at all, because I don’t watch The Office or The Mindy Project. A few bloggers whose work I enjoy mentioned it was funny, so I checked it out. It was funny. And that’s all I have to say about that.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, by Sophie Hudson

This book is made of vignettes about the author’s family and their Southern traditions and funny stories. It was fun to read, but not all that relatable for me. I’m Southern, but I’m not that Southern. =) Still, a nice, enjoyable, light read.

The Girl on the Cliff, by Lucinda Riley.

Status: abandoned. There was no redeeming value in this book and I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I got about 1/3 of the way through.

The Aviator's WifeThe Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin

This is a popular pick for book clubs right now, but I couldn’t figure it out. It was all about a very unhappy marriage to a famous guy. I guess that’s just not my type of book. Also abandoned 1/3 of the way, through. Apparently my theory is if you can’t find any reason to keep going after 1/3 of the book, you’re well entitled to pitch it. (I mean return it to the library, of course; don’t actually throw the book away).

The Glory Cloak, Patricia O’Brien

I discovered that Kate Alcott is actually a pen name for the author Patricia O’Brien. Since I’ve really enjoyed the two books by “Kate Alcott,” I was excited to read work by Patricia O’Brien. Unfortunately, O’Brien does the whole “I love this literary character so I’m going to imagine a plot about her and write some fiction.” The Glory Cloak is about Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton, and their imagined friendship. It sounded intriguing, but yet again, I found myself abandoning a book. O’Brien painted Louisa in a harsh, overbearing way. I’m sorry, but I can’t believe she was actually like that and wrote the things she did. The last thing I need is a fictional account of someone to ruin their good reputation in my mind. That’s just silliness.

Morning Glory and Goodnight June, by Sarah Jio

Goodnight JuneSarah Jio has been my favorite summer read author this summer. Her plot lines can get a little predictable, though. By the time I got to Morning Glory, the fourth book I’ve read by her, the mystery element of it was not quite so fun and the characters from other books were starting to mesh together in my mind. Jio’s books are probably all enjoyable in their own right if you don’t read them back to back to back. Then I read Goodnight June, Jio’s most recent book, which really didn’t have the artistry that Jio usually puts into a book. Still, if you like literary fiction and you like the children’s book Goodnight Moon, it was a fun trip into an imagined history of the book. As I mentioned earlier, imagined histories of literary figures kind of bother me, but I was able to suspend belief for this book and I wasn’t too attached to Margaret Wise Brown to begin with. Besides, she is quite endearing in this fictional account of her. And I actually didn’t see the twist at the end coming, so it wasn’t all that bad. I just missed the descriptiveness and felt the character and plot development was very rushed. Some events transpire too suddenly and neatly to be believable.

There’s one other book I’ve read and loooved, but I will write a separate post reviewing that one, so stay tuned!

I’ll also be posting my Fall reading list soon. I had fun reading this Summer, but my reading list was sorely lacking of classics and deeper works of fiction or nonfiction. When I’m in this sleepless, hormonal stage of late pregnancy and newborn mothering, it’s crucial for me to keep the mood light in my reading. Plus, my brain is just so tired. But my baby slept for six straight hours two nights in a row, so maybe the exhausted-beyond-belief stage is easing up. My Fall list will include more non-fiction and some classics I’ve been meaning to read for a while. So look for my Fall reading list here soon!