31 Days, Children's Books, Parenting

Grab Your Winter Coat Books

When I was eight years old, I was given a wool, London Fog, pea coat. I can’t remember who gave it to me now. It was black, with some dark magenta and teal threads woven through. My mom was very pleased that I received a Christmas gift that was so timely and well made. But I really hated that coat. It was heavy and bulky and too big. It was straight up and down with big buttons, and had no saving ruffles or frills. I wore it grudgingly for two winters. I felt it didn’t match anything and made me look like Randy in A Christmas Story It was not the red coat or a blue coat or a beautiful purple coat I envisioned myself in. My parents (and whoever bought it in the first place) were right, though; it was a quality coat. I think I and each of my two sisters wore it for two winters apiece. And my youngest sister really liked it! Last time I saw it, it still looked nearly new. It’s probably in my parents’ attic, waiting to pounce on my daughter.

When I think of my favorite  children’s books for winter, I realize that coats are a central theme. I start asking myself, “Why coats?”  Here’s what I’ve come up with: A coat is a piece of clothing you wear on the outside–there’s no hiding it. A coat is something that nurtures you and keeps you warm. It’s a necessity in most climates. But the central importance of a winter coat being one you like is this: you only get one. Even in our culture of excess, most people only have one true winter coat. When you’re eight, it’s important that it’s a coat you actually want to wear.

A New Coat for AnnaI’ve been reading A New Coat for Anna to my children lately. Set in post World War II Germany, Anna’s mother barters a few of her family treasures as she and Anna walk through each step of making a new coat, from the sheep to the tailor. While I am not sure how Anna’s mother managed to hold on to her heirlooms through the actual war, unless she started out pretty well off, I do love this book. I smile at hearing my children say to each other as they play, “I have no money, but I will give you this apple if…”. Bartering is still a useful skill, right?

The Purple CoatAnother great book centered on a girl and her coat is The Purple Coat. This may be the source of my purple coat envy. In this book, Gabrielle decides to buck her usual trend of blue winter coats and asks instead for a deep purple one. Her grandfather and mother are unsure about this decisions. With some creativity, what unfurls is the perfect coat, inside and out.

Changes for Kit: A Winter Story (American Girls: Kit, #6)I was about six when American Girl dolls and their books hit the market, I was bedazzled by all of it. I saved up money for months to buy Kirsten, although my favorite books were the Molly series. I was so vain–I wanted what I thought was the prettiest doll. In all of those books, the coat is a central piece. I was out of the American Girl stage by the time Kit came into the family of characters, but I read them all the same, under the guise of reading to my youngest sister. Changes for Kit tells of her mother’s resourcefulness and Kit’s generosity, and it’s all centered on a coat. It’s a great book for kids who are just getting ready to have parents read aloud to them out of chapter books, because it still has a good many pictures and it includes a great lesson.

So bring out your winter coats, gather some winter coat books, and if at all possible, get your child a coat she’ll really like to wear.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Picture Book Series. To see the posts in the series, go here

31 Days, Children's Books, Everyday Life

A Book to Banish My Sunday Pity Parties

Sunday. A day to rest.

At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

To me, Sunday seems like the busiest day of the week. From when we wake up until noon, we are getting ready for or attending church. In the afternoon, there’s usually an event or a family dinner or something fun that keeps us busy. It’s all good, meaningful bustling around and joyful gatherings, but it still ends up as feeling like busyness by the end of the day. It’s funny how Sundays can feel like my tiredest, worst days. The kind that makes me think of Alexander and The Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Day. That book has so many great lines that pop into my brain. “Tomorrow, I’ll be in Australia!”

The Twelve Dancing PrincessesBut I want Sundays to be beautiful. Like Love You Forever beautiful, or golden like the illustrations in The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  I’m still trying to figure this one out. I love going to church, worshiping, seeing friends and meeting people, serving in the children’s ministry, and gathering with friends and family later in the day on most Sunday afternoons. Still, Sundays get me stressed. As I stated in my post laying out my 7 Challenge, I’m planning to spend a whole month working on de-stressing by planning ahead and being more thankful. I think I’ll need to start this part of the challenge on a Sunday.

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African TaleFor now, I’m re-reading Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. If there’s a picture book to remind me that having a pity party is the fast track to spoiling any good in life, it’s this one. Yes, it’s a traditional Cinderella story set in Africa, but it’s more than that. It reminds me that Someone is truly watching my every day attitudes. It’s also a story of a girl who chose to see beauty in her surroundings, while her sister chose discontentment. It is a choice most days, isn’t it? A choice that we can make subconsciously if we’re not careful. So I’m trying to remember that Sundays are what I make of them, and that I want to make them beautiful.

What do you do to make Sundays a great day?

This post is part of the 31 Days of Picture Books Series. To read the rest of the posts, go here.

31 Days, Children's Books, Reading, Reviews

Saturday Picture Book Reading

Today was one of those days when the people in my home were a bit under the (gorgeous) weather, the weight of projects, or just the weight of a boring Saturday with no plans. Therefore, we read books. Here are the picture books we read throughout the day:

Jonathan and the Big Blue BoatJonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip C. Stead (We got this from the library two weeks ago and today I found my four-year-old “reading” it almost word for word to my two-year-old. It’s a favorite).

The Lady With the Ship on Her Head by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Ordinary Amos and The Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes (I never had a pet fish as a child and, thanks to this book, my children probably never will either)

Who Wants A Dragon? by James Mayhew and Lindsey Gardiner

DahliaThe Purple Coat by Amy Hest and Amy Schwartz (to be featured in another post)

Dora The Explorer: It’s Riddle Time (Note: I would be extremely pleased if my children saw a Dora the Explorer book or video at the library, turned to me and said, “Mommy, is it okay with you if we decide we actually don’t like that overly perky, condescending Dora? We much prefer reruns of The Reading Rainbow and books by Robert McCloskey. We hope you don’t mind?” But we are pretty far from that scenario at this point.

Dahlia by Barbara McClintock (I would like to live in the illustrations of this book)

Little Squirt The Fire Engine by Catherine Kenworthy

And on my own I read Wishing For Tomorrow: The Sequel to A Little Princess. It’s a fun read that dives a little deeper into the secondary characters of the original book. If it were by the original author, I’d love it. As it is, I like it pretty well. It has an interesting, 19th century girls-should-be-educated feminism slant. And it brings Miss Minchin out of the stark, a villain-is-a-villain day and age into our let’s-try-to-understand-everyone age. All that’s to say, it has a very different feel, but it’s imaginative and fun.

What did you read today?

This post is part of the 31 Days of Picture Books series. To see all the posts in the series, go here.

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31 Days, Children's Books

Our Friends Lily and Milo

Going to the Beach with Lily and MiloPauline Oud writes a series of children’s books about a little bunny named Lily and her mischievous mouse friend Milo. As soon as my daughter discovered these at our library, they became those books that she wants to pick out every time. For a while, she was upset when they were already checked out. There are six books in the series. Our favorite is Going to the Beach with Lily and Milo. What I love about these books is that they subtly teach a lesson about colors, or animals and their habitat, or something along those lines, while telling the story of these two characters whose personalities are very much like my own two children. I can totally see Ella trying to get everything together to go to the beach as Isaac unpacks it and pretends he’s already at the beach. But Isaac is two, so maybe that’s something he’ll grow out of. Or maybe Milo is really only two, as well. =) Anyway, I would be willing to bet your little ones will enjoy Lily and Milo as much as mine do. Isaac has been enjoying them from a very young age.

 

Isaac reading Lily and Milo at 8 months old

This post is part of the 31 Days of Picture Books series. For the rest of the posts in the series, go here.

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31 Days, Children's Books

Bing Bong Bang and Fiddle Dee Dee: A Wise Book

One of our family’s favorite quotes actually comes from a children’s picture book. And the picture book has a not so wise sounding name: Bing Bong Bang and Fiddle Dee Dee. But the quote can change your life:

“The morning is wiser than the evening.

And the light is better, too.”

Do you ever lie in bed at 3:00 a.m., worrying about something that you didn’t worry about during the day? Remind yourself that “the morning is wiser than the evening” and go to sleep. You can think about it better in the light.

Who knew children’s picture books are the best self help?

Do you have a favorite quote from a picture book? Share it in the comments!

31daysThis post is part of the 31 Days of Picture Books series. See the other posts in the series here.

And check out the other 31 Days bloggers at thenester.com.

31 Days, Children's Books

Books for Little Ballerinas

Day 2 of 31 Days of Picture Books is all about books for little ballerinas. (To read the other posts in the series, please go here.)

If you’ve been in the children’s section of a bookstore recently, you know it’s not hard to find books featuring fluffy tutus and the color pink. A current favorite with little girls is the Tallulah’s Tutu series. Then there’s the ever popular Angelina Ballerina (that little mouse has been blown way out of proportion). My four-year-old daughter Ella and I like those books, too. There are some others we love even more, though. I appreciate how most ballerina books teach an important lesson along with the tutus and toe shoes.

I had I Wear My Tutu EvI Wear My Tutu Everywhere!erywhere memorized when I was fourteen, thanks to a four-year-old sister who adored it. I re-memorized it when my daughter got her own copy at age 2. I have to admit, the words are pretty catchy. I now really appreciate the mental image it gives of a ripped tutu. When Ella asks if she can wear hers to the grocery store, I say “Remember what happened to Tilly’s tutu on the swing? Yours might rip on the shopping cart.” Works every time. However, we are not above wearing princess dresses to Publix. A few weeks ago, we did our shopping with a Disney Rapunzel riding in our race car shopping cart, replete with hair extensions (attached to a headband from The Dollar Store). I figure she’s only four once.

Harriet's RecitalMy great aunt gave me Harriet’s Recital for Christmas one year. I really related to the main character, a nervous bear-girl who is petrified of performing on stage. I especially identified with the way she said, “Oh, it was nothing” after the recital. I was just like that as a kid. Fortunately, I didn’t make any major mistakes in piano recitals until I was in high school. At that point, there was no use pretending anymore that I didn’t have a serious case of stage fright.

Susan Jeffers’s The Nutcracker is a beautiful book. I love the perspective from which she illustrates. However, I think The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet by Deborah Hautzig presents the story in an easy to understand yet more comprehensive way. The book is a great one to read before taking your little ones to see the ballet this Christmas.

Ella Bella Ballerina and CinderellaThe entire Ella Bella Ballerina series are our favorite ballerina books around here. James Mayhew does a great job of telling a story such as Cinderella from the ballet background. The illustrations combine pretty ballerinas with a very cute little girl. And Ella is such a perfect name. =)

Finally, if you as a grown up need a crash course in ballet plots, pick up Of Swans, Sugar Plums, and Satin Slippers. I wouldn’t recommend it to children under ten or twelve (most ballets are rather tragic), but it’s helped me have a fairly decent knowledge of the popular classical ballets, and the illustrations are lovely.

Do you have a ballerina book recommendation? My Little Ballerina is always eager for more, and I can’t deny that I quite enjoy all these ballerina books myself. It’s a stage in Ella’s life that I’m clutching onto while it lasts. =)

 

 

 

31 Days, Children's Books

Little Books, Lasting Memories

31daysWelcome to 31 Days of Picture Books!

I’m beginning the series with the two books that started our family’s house of books long before we were even a family. It should be no surprise that they are Little Golden Books. If you don’t have Little Golden Books from the 60s-80s in your home, get to the nearest second-hand bookstore you can find and load up. They are called golden for a reason. Although, they’re more a dull silver after 30 years…

The Store Bought Doll (Little Golden Book)When I was 1 one year old, my parents gave me The Store-Bought Doll for Christmas.  The book is by Lois Meyer and illustrated by Ruth Sanderson (famous for her version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses). It tells the story of Christina, a little girl (dressed in adorable calico) who lives on a farm with her parents and treasures her rag doll and best friend, Lucy. One day, she is given a china doll from the city. The doll is breathtakingly beautiful. Christina spends the day entranced by her new doll. But Christina soon learns that love is based on character qualities instead of appearance, even when it comes to dolls.

Looking back now, I can’t say for sure that this book is the source of my love for dolls, but I think it had something to do with my attachment to my too-many dolls from age 2 into my teens. Oh, who am I kidding, I still have most of them. How can I ever get rid of a doll after reading this book? Some of them my daughter (and son…he’s going to be a great dad one day) plays with now. However, there are two rag dolls in the attic that have been so well-loved, they are beyond playing with. One of them is named Lucy. But she’s not the only Lucy doll in our house. My daughter is 4 and she is a two-doll girl. She has others, but they are high on a closet shelf 95% of the time. However, Lucy and Christina are her constant companions. They play with her every day and sleep with her every night. And yes, she picked those names herself at age 2. Makes my heart sing.

The Boy With a DrumMy husband’s book foundation is a more well known book, The Boy With a Drum by David L. Harrison and Eloise Wilkin. It is a rhyming, sing song book of a little boy who marches off his porch one morning playing his drum. He is the Pied Piper of animals with that drum, collecting quite a parade that stretches from morning to moonlight. I’ve read this book a thousand times, and I’ve yet to read it to a child who didn’t want to read it again. That last image of the boy marching over a hill under the moon makes my mother-heart ache. It’s just a story, but I’d rest easier if that little boy ended up in his little, soft bed being tucked in by his mother.

I am becoming a collector of Eloise Wilkin books.  Her illustrations feel like home to me. My Nana and Grandaddy gave me My Goodnight Book when I was almost one, and my mom always wanted to read We Help Mommy or We Help Daddy (I wonder why? Just kidding. I encourage the reading of those books now, too!). When I see an Eloise Wilkin book in a bookstore for a good price, I snatch it up.

Which books did you read over and over as a child?

Related posts:

31 Days of Picture Books

Books for Little Boys

Camping with Kids

31 Days, Children's Books

31 Days of Picture Books

I’m not very good at home decor (understatement). However, there is a blog I have followed for years that is all about decorating. I started following Nesting Place because a friend/sister-in-law who knows what she’s talking about told me The Nester’s style is perfect. Well, yes, it is. And heaven knows, I need someone to tell me what looks good when it comes to my home. Still, what sticks with me the most from reading years of the amazing insight The Nester shares has touched more than just my home (though I do have to give her credit for helping me realize I love the colors white, blue, and grey). What sticks with me about The Nester is her motto:

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

I say that to myself all the time these days.

The Nester is one of my favorite bloggers, so I am thrilled to join in on her 31 days series this October. For 31 days, a bunch of blogs will pick one topic (any topic, doesn’t have to be about decorating) to focus on and blog about every day. Since I can’t tell you anything about color palettes, or how to unpack from a move a little each day, or how to save up for a European vacation, I’m sticking to something I can talk about to infinity and beyond: picture books.

I cherish the time I spend reading to my children. I treasure the memories of being read to as a child. When I see my parents reading to my children, there is a throb of rightness inside of me. I don’t know why reading to a child or being read to as a child is so significant, but I know it has always been part of my love language. Picture books tie me to my childhood like no other object. The pages of certain fairy tales make me feel as if I’m looking into a room that I’ve lived and breathed in. Yes, I had (have) an overactive imagination. But, as Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way no other reading in your whole life does.” Yes, it’s just a quote in a movie. But I think it’s true.

31 Days of Picture Books starts tomorrow. I am looking forward to sharing some of the books that shaped my childhood and the books that are favorites of my own children. My goal is to feature books that aren’t so popular, ones that you maybe haven’t heard of. This won’t be an attempt to create a list of the best children’s books of all time. My choices will be based on those books whose words, beauty, whimsy, imagination, or awesome-fun story have grabbed my family and stuck with us. I hope you’ll enjoy diving into the world of picture books with me for this month. If you’re not into children’s books, don’t abandon me for the month of October entirely — I’ll still be posting some adult book reviews, too.

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The 31 Days of Picture Books series is under way. Check out the posts so far, and feel free to tell me about the books that transport you back to your childhood, whether you read them as a child or are reading them to your children now. I’m embracing the child that has grown but is still in me. Here’s your invitation to do the same.

All the 31 days Posts:

Day 1: Little Books, Lasting Memories

Day 2: Books for Little Ballerinas

Day 3: Bing Bong Bang and Fiddle Dee Dee: A Wise Book

Day 4: Our Friends Lily and Milo

Day 5: Saturday Picture Book Reading

Day 6: A Book to Banish My Sunday Pity Parties

Day 7: Grab Your Winter Coat Books

Day 8: Introducing Young Children to Art Through Picture Books

Day 9: Rags

Day 10: Finding Balance in the Fairy Tale Frenzy

Day 11: Pilgrims or Indians?

Day 12: Saturday Cooking: Picture Book Edition

Day 13: Brain Fry

Day 14: Apple Picking and Books for Other Major Life Events

Day 15: Permanent Marker for the Brain, Or Poetry for Children

Day 16: My Favorite Children’s Books

Day 17: Surrounding Children with Books on a Budget

Day 18: Longer Books for Little Brains

Day 19: Must Love Dog Books

Day 20: Tootle, Choo Choo and Other Literary Trains

Day 21: Monday Quote

Day 22: A New Favorite Author – Barbara McClintock

Day 23: On Letting Children Choose Booksy

Day 24: Little Ones and Sick Days

Day 25: Pinkalicious or Pinkayuckious?

Day 26: On the 26th Day…

Day 27: Your Favorite Children’s Books

Day 28: The Crazy Cat Lady

Day 29: Books For Your Tiny Ones

Day 30: Because You Said So…

Day 31: Stretching 31 Days Into Forever

Related posts:

Books for Little Boys

Your Kids Have A Crush On You

The Library Is For Everyone

Children's Books, Reading, Top Ten Tuesday

Favorite Sequels: A Top Ten Tuesday Post

Today is a Top Ten Tuesday on the blog. The great bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish give book bloggers a topic to run wild with each Tuesday. I haven’t had any idea what to write on the last few topics, but I’m jumping back in with Top Ten Sequels. Actually, it will be Top 7 Sequels, because there just aren’t that many sequels worthy of the first book.You know who did not write sequels? Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Mark Twain, and the list goes on and on of the great writers of classics who knew that a great book is best when it has an ending that is perfect in itself.

There are a few great writers who found a way to write great sequels. Many sequels turn into Book 2 in series (especially these days), so those count as sequels in this list as long as there is a plot that begins and ends in Book #2.

1. The sequels to Little Women: Little Men and Jo’s Boys

There are some characters you consider friends and just want more of their stories. Lousia May Alcott created those characters.

Skylark (Sarah, Plain and Tall, #2)2. Sky Lark, the sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall

3. Prince Caspian, sequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

4. Belong to Me, the sequel to Love Walked In

These are books by Marisa de Los Santos I would put in the category of “Books I really liked for some reason I can’t entirely explain.” I wouldn’t expect most people to like them, but I really enjoyed the characters and the way they developed.

5. All sequels written by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Yes, I am an unabashed fan. If you’ve already read the Anne books, try Emily or Pat. Pat is a bit of a neurotic character, but I still love her.

6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I think the first three books in this series are marvelous. I like all of them, but the first three are the best. Also, I think they can stand alone as fun books without the rest of the series, though I wouldn’t recommend reading them that way.

7. The House at Pooh  Corner

That’s about all I can come up with! What are your favorite sequels?

Children's Books, Everyday Life, Parenting, Reading, Reviews

August Reading, Part 1

This is a two-part post because it’s looking like I’ll have to do two August reading posts. August has yielded a bumper crop of good books so far.

I’ll post full reviews of the books I’ve read in the next few days.

Read:

Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1)Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but with many additions and twists. I fully enjoyed how Marillier made the fairy tale into a completely developed plot full of lifelike characters, but kept the fanciful and enchanted feel of the story. There is so much more to this story than the original fairy tale. The princesses in the real story are middle class merchant daughters in this story, and there are only five of them. The enchanted place they go to is actually a parallel world. The secrets to their futures is entrenched in one tragic day from the past. The book takes readers into Transylvania of long ago, before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Marillier uses original folklore and Romanian language to enhance her tale. It’s got a lot going for it! This book is a gem of a novel masquerading as a run of the mill Young Adult book. I’d give it 4.5 stars and recommend it for anyone who likes a fun and imaginative tale.

 

IslandersI finally finished Islanders by Helen Hull this month! There are many themes one could discuss in Islanders; it’s kind of Edith Wharton meets Laura Ingalls meets Kate Chopin. I think I liked it. It certainly is the handiwork of a great author, whose characters are complex and honestly portrayed, so much so that one can’t actually love them whole-heartedly. The book was a survey of womanhood in the 1850s-1920s, told through the life of Ellen Dacey. The major theme is isolation and dependence. I didn’t like it as much as Heat Lightning, but I did enjoy its perspective. More to come in the full review!

 

The Weird SistersMy favorite book of the month was The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. I picked up this book off a random “to be shelved” cart near the children’s section at 2nd & Charles. While my children perused the Thomas and Friends and Curious George selection, I read the first chapter, and then reserved it at the library on my iPhone. It is a quirky story of three sisters. Their father is a somewhat eccentric Shakespeare professor at Barnwell College in Ohio. The sisters are different, but so very alike. The references to the reading culture of the entire family and the insights into a family of three girls sometimes made me smile. I am one of three sisters, and there are definitely similarities between the sisters in this book and my own sisters and I (however, my sisters are way more awesome than the younger two sisters in this book). If you are a hardcore Shakespeare scholar, you probably won’t like this book, but if you are a casual fan of Shakespeare and family life novels, you’ll like this one.

The nonfiction hanging out on my nightstand this month is Francis Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality. I am a painfully slow biography reader, but I thank my book group leader for picking out this book. It has challenged me, for sure.

And…drumroll…I started pre-K homeschooling with my 4-year-old, Ella, this week. We are doing some basic letter sounds and writing, and reading a book together.photo.JPG

Right now we’re reading The Boxcar Children. Any suggestions for chapter books for a little girl with a sharp mind and sensitive heart? I’d love to hear them!

What are you reading this month?