31 Days, Children's Books

My Favorite Children’s Books

Today is the halfway point in the 31 Days of Picture Books Series. I think it’s high time to share my absolute most favorite picture books from my early memories.

25940451. Nora’s Castle — Satomi Ichikawa — I always dreamed of finding my own castle, and this book fueled my imagination.

2.  Keep the Lights Burning, Abby —  Peter Roop — I wanted to be a heroine like Abby!

3. Bread and Jam for Frances — Lillian Hoban — Even as a little child, when I was supposed to be relating to Frances as a peer, I thought she was so cute.

4. The Twelve Dancing Princesses — I can’t find my childhood version anywhere! But I oohed and ahhed and declared “that one’s mine” over the Princess’s dresses every time I read it.

Christina Katerina & the Box5. Christina Katerina and the Box — Patricia Lee Gauch — Give your kids a big box and childhood ecstasy is born.

This is a genre I love and I am finding (and remembering!) favorites all the time with my children, but those five are the ones I remember loving most as a little girl. Each of them had something that captured my imagination or inspired me in some way. Even Frances inspired me, because I wanted to be able to make up little ditties like her.

I’d love to know which books you still treasure from your childhood.

31 Days, Children's Books

Permanent Marker For The Brain, Or Poetry for Children

I am a reluctant poetry fan. I have favorite poems and poets, and I am glad to have poetry included in the literature I’ve studied. Tennyson, Rosetti, Frost, and so many other wonderful wordsmiths have enriched my thoughts through their works. However, I sometimes doubt that I ever would have read a poem on my own if it hadn’t been for my schooling. I’m not naturally drawn to it, even though I remember it’s an amazing art form once I start reading. There’s something about a poem that can lodge itself in your consciousness for life. “There was a girl who had a curl…” etc. My mom let us choose the poems we wanted to memorize for school, but memorize them we had to. I can’t say I remember an entire poem besides one or two of Emily Dickinson’s, but bits and pieces of many different poems pop into my head at random throughout life.

389956Poems can stay with you for a long time, but a poem with a picture to go with it is like a permanent marker for the brain. I was probably eight or nine (or maybe older?) when my mom got Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems by Mary Ann HobermanI loved those poems so much, I memorized them for fun. My favorite one was called “Vacation”:

In my head I hear a humming:
Summer, summer summer’s coming.
Soon we’re going on vacation
But there is a complication:
Day by day the problem’s growing-
We don’t know yet where we’re going!

Mother likes the country best;
That’s so she can read and rest.
Dad thinks resting is a bore;
He’s for fishing at the shore.
Sailing is my brother’s pick;
Sailing makes my sister sick;
She says swimming’s much more cool,
Swimming in a swimming pool.
As for me, why, I don’t care,
I’d be happy anywhere!

In my head I hear a humming:
Summer, summer, summer’s coming.
Soon we’re going on vacation
But we have a complication:
Day by day the problem’s growing-
Where oh where will we be going?

The illustrations by Marylin Hafner make the poems in the book come alive. I highly recommend it. And I highly recommend any book by Mary Ann Hoberman. The Seven Silly Eaters is particularly awesome.

Where the Sidewalk EndsAnd let’s not forget the classic triple threat of Shel Silverstein, who wrote poems, illustrated the poems, and recorded the poems (and won a Grammy for it). I loved listening to “Peanut Butter Sandwich” and my mom called me “Peggy Ann McKay” from the poem “Saturday” so many times! I wasn’t quite that level of a hypochondriac, but it always made me smile. Or at least want to smile. Yes, Shel Silverstein’s poems are a little weird. I can’t defend the man, but I’ll defend his poems (albeit weakly–how can you defend nonsense?) forever.

There are so many wonderful poetry books for little ones. Clearly, I prefer the ones on the sillier side. Or at least those are the ones that have stuck with me. I’m ashamed to say that not one verse from Robert Lewis Stevenson’s famed A Child’s Garden of Verses remains in my memory. Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” however…well, that just proves my point–my poetry taste is ridiculously unsophisticated. Maybe if I really think about it, the more wholesome and elegant poems will come to mind for a Part 2 of Poetry for Children.

This is Day 15 of  the series 31 Days of Picture Books. Catch up on the other posts in the series here.

31 Days, Children's Books, Parenting

Apple Picking and Books for Other Major Life Events

For some of you, there are apples all over the place where you live and apple picking is not that much of a to-do. That’s not the case for me. I climbed up and picked the very first apple I’ve ever picked in my life today. My children and mom and I went to an apple farm about two hours away from our house and spent the day being touristy apple pickers. Despite the misty weather, it was delightful.

Apple Picking in Hendersonville!

1012082But here’s where reading a book about an experience before-hand is maybe not such a good idea. We read Apples and Pumpkins by Anne F. Rockwell last week before heading to the mountain orchard. I was glad to have found it at our library because it got the kids excited about the experience. However, two-year-old Isaac was extremely disappointed that there was no real pumpkin patch at the orchard we went to. I guess I didn’t explain very well to him that we were going to an apple farm, and not all apple farms also grow pumpkins. Or maybe I didn’t actually realize that myself…

591295That’s the risk you take when you try to prepare children for experience through books. And I’m okay with that. Sometimes, there are some differences between the book’s portrayal and what actually happens, but it seldom really bothers anyone. I try to find books for many different “firsts” in my children’s lives. For example, before Ella went to the dentist we read lots of going to the dentist books. Our favorites were Just Going to the Dentist and Vera Goes to the Dentist.  Most parents are familiar with the many books introducing children to the ideas of becoming an older sibling or starting to potty train. There are books about moving to a “big boy bed,” books about the first day of school, books about family members with illnesses, books about losing teeth, and on and on. I think if chosen wisely, books about new experiences are great starting points for preparing children for what’s ahead. In my experience, children become panicked when they realize they’re in a totally unfamiliar situation. Once they reach that stage, there’s little chance they’ll be interested in your explaining or using logic to help them cope. Even though you may arouse some fears before hand, I’d rather take that chance and have the opportunity to deal with the fears before the panic and feeling that they’ve been betrayed by those whom they trusts somehow sets in. So far, this has worked well for me, but all children are different.

What’s your take on books and life changes? Do you use books to help navigate new experiences with your children? Share your thoughts in the comments!

This is Day 14 in the 31 Days of Picture Book Series. To see the rest of the series, go here.

31 Days, Children's Books, Parenting, Reading

Brain Fry

You know those nights when you’re not sure if you actually got into a deep sleep at all? When you slept the whole night with one ear open because your kids are sick or because they suddenly develop the tendency to walk around in the middle of the night, or maybe it’s just a classic case of stupid insomnia? Well, we’ve had a couple of those nights lately. For some reason, when I’m in that state of mental exhaustion and my son brings me those sound effects kind of books that are full of “vroom vroom, choo choo, etc.” and other kinds of sounds I wouldn’t naturally make, I start feeling like I must really be insane. Why are these words coming out of my mouth? Why are these non-words in a book? Is it bedtime yet?

I'm a Truck DriverI recently was reading I’m A Truck Driver by Jonathan London to my children and noticing how the little girl character in the book talks in rhyming, descriptive words and the little boy character talks mostly in equally descriptive car and truck sounds. I noticed that and thought, “Spot on.” My little boy is actually quite a talker, but his innate ability to mimic sounds without thinking impresses me over and over again. I have no idea how to make car and truck sounds. I’m sure some girls do, but I wonder how many who don’t have brothers? I don’t know.

All that’s to say, I’m too tired for onomatopoeia. I’m avoiding those books that make me feel like a crazy person today. I need words and a story line to keep me awake. Maybe tomorrow, son, if you let me get some sleep, we’ll read a vroom vroom book.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a more informative post to continue the 31 Days of Picture Books series. If you’ve missed some posts, you can catch up here.


31 Days, Children's Books, Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking: Picture Book Edition

2013iPhonephotos 008My children love to help me in the kitchen. I am usually willing to have one of them help me, but now that the two-year-old boy wants to be involved in everything, it gets messier and more time consuming and just generally harder to be excited about cooking with kids. But in the spirit of doing the hard things so the hard things get easier, I’m resolved to bake a lot with them this fall season. They love to bake, they love to do what I’m doing, and it’s a valuable skill to have. Plus, it’s like built in obedience school for toddlers–bonus!

Since we love to read even more than we love food itself (okay, maybe that’s just me), some of the recipes I plan to make this Fall are found in books.

Cranberry ThanksgivingThe first is one I baked with my mom and sisters as part of our homeschool curriculum. It’s called Grandmother’s Cranberry Bread from the book Cranberry Thanksgiving. The book is pretty good, but the recipe is mostly what I remember. For someone who isn’t crazy about all things pumpkin (you can keep your pumpkin spice latte, thankyouverymuch), cranberry is the flavor of Fall. I recommend the book, but if you’re not in a picture book stage of life (whatever that means!) you can view the whole recipe on the Amazon website.

We’re also going to try Fairy Tale FeastsI doubt we’ll be finding any stellar recipes, as they all look pretty basic, but I think the kids will really have fun with it. They are especially fascinated by Jack and the Beanstalk, so I foresee some beans in our menu future.

And though The Little House books aren’t technically picture books, we’ve already read two of them and we’re definitely try out the The Little House CookbookI’ve always wanted to make the molasses snow candy they make in Little House and the Big Woods, but the snow is a little sparse in the deep south. Another recipe book I want to try is The Louisa May Alcott Cookbook. The Honey Pumpkin Pie with Gingerbread Crust looks especially fall-ish and delicious.

So that’s what is on our fall baking list, along with this non-bookish recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. What’s on your list?



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