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.

Children's Books, Parenting, Reading

I Need A Hero(ine)

As my daughters grow up, I remain concerned about what values I’m promoting amidst the fairy tale frenzy they live in. I love fairy tales as much as the next little girl at heart, but I have concerns about flooding our children’s minds with glittery dresses and happily ever afters that usually involve castles and servants. Real life has more grit to it, which is why it’s harder to expose our children to it. We don’t really want them to have to deal with real life just yet, and that’s understandable. But I want my little girls to value hard work, bravery, and honesty. I want them to see beyond beauty on the outside and care deeply about the inside of a person. So when we browse the shelves at the library or bookstore, it can be disheartening to see how the sparkly pink book bindings and the elegant gowns draw my five-year-old daughter in like a hummingbird to a red flower. Pink, sparkly books abound in the picture book genre (not so much for girls in the chapter book age, I’ve noticed), but there are some gems out there we’re slowly discovering. These books don’t feature princesses at all; just real life young girls who became heroines by bravely facing the hard tasks before them.

KeeKeep the Lights Burning, Abbie (On My Own History)p the Lights Burning Abbie is a book my mom read to us when we were little. I loved it then, and I still love reading it now.When Abbie’s father leaves the lighthouse in the hands of his daughter, he doesn’t know what a test she is facing. Abbie and her sisters prove their bravery as they care for the lights and each other. I get a lump in my throat on the last line every single time — not a “that’s so sad I can’t take it lump” but that kind of lump you get when you watch someone win an Olympic gold medal. The Reading Rainbow episode that goes with this book is also one of my favorites.

 

Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express (On My Own History)If I could have picked a story to star in when I was about eight years old, it would have been a story like Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express. Kate sees a problem, knows that people will die if she doesn’t do something about it, and does the hard work of stopping an engine full of people from plummeting into a river. Now that is some serious girl power. Did I mention the illustrations are riveting? And that Kate crawls across a train trestle over a raging river in the dark? I never did anything that brave, but it seems important that every girl aspire to heroic bravery at some point in their young lives.

Brave Irene (Sunburst Books)Brave Irene  by Kevin Stieg isn’t based on a true story as the other books in this post, but that’s alright with me. Irene doesn’t save lives like Abbie or Kate, but she does display the kind of character traits I would love to see in my daughters. When her mother, a dressmaker, becomes ill right at the moment when she needs to deliver a dress to the Duchess for the ball that night, Irene puts her mother to bed and delivers the dress herself, despite a raging snow storm. Irene is caring and compassionate and, obviously, brave. She is also not above getting discouraged on her journey–I appreciate that kind of honesty in a book about a wonder girl.

I wish I had more Picture Book Heroines to add to this list, but I’m still on this search. If you have any suggestions, chime in!

P.S. My kids are crazy about Mulan right now. Just this morning I had to explain to Ella that Mulan is not actually a princess, but she’s really cool and important; this conversation further confirmed that we have some work to do on the princess mindset. It’d be nice if Disney put out a movie about a lovely girl who lived happily ever after and washed dishes at the same time, but it looks like that lesson is all on me. Come on, Disney.

Children's Books

Mice and Rats We Actually Like- Rodent Children’s Books

You know what grown ups don’t like? Mice and rats. You know what children love to read about? Mice and rats. There’s a definite disconnect there, but we just ignore it as much as possible. The hugely popular If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is proof of that.

One of these rodent books is actually treasured in my family. In fact, it has recently been read aloud at a family gathering, to a 883055group of adults, just to make sure the whole family and all its additions appreciate its greatness. Yes, that’s the kind of awesome family I married into. =) And when we borrowed the treasured book and it met with an accident and some Scotch tape, we called and apologized because it is that beloved. Hooway for Wodney Wat is a book about a pitiful little rodent who can’t say his ‘r’s. As a result, he is shy and hides in his jacket as often as possible. He deals with some mild teasing and it looks like he’s doomed to be at the bottom of the rodent chain forever. But when a new bully comes to class who makes everyone miserable, Rodney’s stutter takes a turn from curse to blessing. Read it to your kids and cheer for the underdog…err, rat, and make sure to talk about how it feels to both be bullied and be the bully.

The kids and I stumbled upon the sequel to Hooway for Wodney Wat last week at the library. We had no Wodney Wat's Wobotidea it existed and I can’t tell you how excited my children were to show their daddy. The story line in Wodney Wat’s Wobot is pretty similar to the first book, but it goes a step further in the bullying theme to address how changing whatever it is about yourself that people like to make fun doesn’t really fix any problems. Wodney’s Wobot is supposed to allow him to say his ‘rs without any trouble, but it’s when it stops working that Wodney becomes a hero again.

1997712We’ve also been reading lots of Angelina Ballerina, specifically Angelina’s BirthdayThe original books illustrated by Helen Craig are beautiful. I have to say, Angelina ends up in tears a little more often than I enjoy, but thanks to my own five-year-old daughter, I’m beginning to understand that tears are more of a daily thing than I anticipated when I started mothering a girl. But that’s a whole new post for another day. What I love most about Angelina is that she always figures things out in the end and the illustrations are so detailed. In Angelina’s Birthday, there is a two-page illustration of Mrs. Thimble’s General Store that has so many details, it’s mesmerizing to me. Interestingly enough, my 3-year-old son appreciates Angelina Ballerina as well. Life with sisters, I guess. =)

Those are our favorite mice and rat books these days. Do you or your children have any rodent reads they love?

Children's Books

At The Beach Library

photo (13)Last week we spent seven days at a gorgeous North Carolina beach. We had great weather for most of the week. Then Thursday came. My kids (and I) are so gung-ho for the beach, we splashed in the waves for a good hour in the morning, but the rain and chilly weather kept us indoors for the rest of the day. My usually cable deprived children discovered a deep love for Looney Tunes, but by lunch time we were all stir crazy. But because we prefer remote, quiet beaches, we were at least an hour away from the closest indoor playground or museum. So where did we go? The local library, of course! We spent two hours reading books and playing with the toys in one of the best children’s rooms I’ve seen in a library. Who would have thought it of a tiny beach library in an old brick house? Here are some fun books we discovered:

A Bad Case of StripesA Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon featured bright, imaginative illustrations and a story about a girl who develops a rare condition all because she won’t admit she really loves lima beans. It’s quirky and fun and has a pretty deep meaning. This one is for children ages five and up. There are some words that throw younger children off track of the plot, such as “specialists.” If you have a little one starting school or some other new adventure and he or she is feeling the pressure to conform and fit in, this is a great book to open up conversations on identity. I liked it, though I couldn’t stop being reminded of Amy Bender’s work, which makes me depressed. But this book will not depress you or your children.

I’m Dirty560016 by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan is just one in a great series of books about trucks that my little boy loves. In I’m Dirty, a backhoe loader narrates in first person a day of work as he cleans up and flattens a dirty lot. He is very enthusiastic about his job. My children’s favorite book in this series is I’m Mighty, a fun book about a tug boat.

And did you know that the first book about Curious George is not a Curious George book? H. A. Rey Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeysfirst introduced that now famous little monkey to the world in a book about a giraffe named Cecily G. In Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys, a homeless giraffe is befriended by a family of monkeys, and antics ensue. Some of their antics are a little too much for me, but it is a fun book and interesting to see the beginnings of our beloved George. Actually, I’m not sure that my kids love George–sometimes I get the feeling they’re kind of annoyed by his constant troubles–but I love him. =)

Also, this particular library had two copies of Ruth Sawyer’s Roller Skates. Why does my library not have even one copy? That is one of my favorite books ever. I should do the smart thing and just buy it. When the kids stopped asking me to read books and played with the cars and trucks on the car mat, I read that. Even Mr. Mia found something to read, a fascinating book about the history of the atomic bomb. Children’s history books are really the best.

Now we’re back to our normal lives, gearing up for a great summer and a new baby. Look for my summer reading list post in a few days!

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