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!


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.



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.



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?

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.

31 Days, Children's Books, Parenting

On Letting Children Choose Their Books

I read myself hoarse today. I found myself saying, “Okay, I have to stop reading now. Mommies have other things to do, too.” I do not usually say things like that when reading.

Yesterday we went to the library and I let my two-year-old and four-year-old children pick pretty much all of the books. I usually pick about half to three-quarters of the books we take home. Yesterday, I picked two out of seventeen. I didn’t realize how delighted Ella and Isaac would be to come home and read all of the books they picked out themselves. Every time I had that panicked mom-thought, “It’s too quiet in here…,” they weren’t getting into mischief, they were actually looking at books! Crazy.

So here’s what they picked out:

  1. Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous ChristmasFancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas, by Jane O’Connor
  2. Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet
  3. Fancy Nancy and The Late, Late Night (It’s a good thing I really enjoy Fancy Nancy -she’s endearing in her own right and a bit like my own little girl)
  4. A Tree for Emmy by Mary Ann Rodman
  5. Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town (one Richard Scarry book alone could make a reader hoarse)
  6. Chomp! by Heather Brown
  7. Five Trucks by Brian Floca
  8. Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis
  9. The Trucker by Barbara Samuels
  10. Moose Tracks by Karma Wilson
  11. Chomp!The Crunching, Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain
  12. The Great Truck Rescue by Jon Sciezka
  13. My Book of Trucks  by Heidi Leigh Johansen (Have I mentioned that Isaac likes trucks a lot?)
  14. The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
  15. No Cookies? (My kids loooove this Cookie Monster Book.)

Chocolate FeverAnd I picked out Imogene’s Antlers  and Pippi Longstocking. I’m hoping Ella will like Pippi. She just finished Chocolate Fever with Daddy and is hankering for another chapter book.

Over all, the library trip with little parental interference turned out quite well. I certainly wouldn’t have picked out Princess Super Kitty, but it turned out not to be so bad. I usually go to the library with at least a few kids’ books on a list to find, but after seeing how invested my children are in picking out and reading books of their own choosing, I think I’ll give them a little more free reign. I do think the outcome was a result of guiding them in their choices early on, and I still plan to do plenty of guiding. Still, I love seeing their tastes displayed in the books they pick. As long as they don’t pick too many Dora books. 😉

How do you approach library outings with your children?

This is Day 23 of the 31 Days of Picture Book Series. To see the rest of the series, click on over here.


31 Days, Children's Books

A New Favorite Author – Barbara McClintock

We have discovered a new favorite children’s book author. When Ella pulled Dahlia off the shelf at the library a few months ago, we hadn’t read anything by Barbara McClintock before then. We all loved the illustrations, the characters, and the story. Ella spent a few days doing her best to dress like Charlotte, the main character in the story. The next time we went to the library, we picked up two more books by McClintock.

Adèle and SimonAdele & Simon is such a fun book about a brother and sister who live in Paris in 1907. Adele picks Simon up from school and warns him not to lose any of the many things he is carrying: hat, gloves, coat, books, etc. As the children enjoy the afternoon in Paris, Simon steadily loses his things at each (gorgeous!) stop. My children had such fun trying to find Simon’s missing belonging on each page, and looking at the map at the end of the book. The book is beautiful, educational, and a good conversation starter about how brothers and sisters relate. And it’s just fun.

Molly and the Magic WishboneMolly and the Magic Wishbone is another gem by McClintock. This time, the main characters are all cats dressed in Dickensian clothing. Based on a short story by Dickens, Molly is the oldest sister of a family of cats who depend on her to take care of them when her mother is sick. She has the good fortune of meeting her fairy godmother on the streets of London on her way back from the fish market. Her fairy godmother tells her she will find a magic wishbone in her fish that night, and that she should take care of it as it will grant her one wish. Molly’s choice of wish and relationship with her siblings is heart warming. Once again, the illustrations are whimsical and detailed. My son especially loved the pictures that included all kinds of animals wearing suits and dresses. It sounds absurd, but McClintock makes it look almost normal.

Now we’re looking forward to reading Adele & Simon in America and The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle.

I highly recommend Barbara McClintock’s books, especially if you have a little girl. Or even if you have no children at all. I would read them to myself just to look at the pictures.

This is Day 22 of 31 Days of Picture BooksTo see the other posts in the series, go here

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