Picture Books, Quick Lit, Reading, Reviews

July 2020 – Summer Reading So Far – New Releases, A Classic, Picture Books, and Read Alouds

So what have you been reading this summer? I’ve had a few ho-hum new release experiences so far, but my pursuit for a good summer read this year continues! Help me by telling me what you’ve been reading in the comments! Here are my quick lit reviews for this month. {Hint: Scroll down to see our favorite picture book finds and what we’re reading aloud as a family}

Literature

The Other Bennet Sister – This was a pleasant trip back into the setting of Pride and Prejudice. I like how this book is totally consistent with the time period and the settings of Austen’s other works. All the characters are believable, and even though Hadlow offers a more complex (and possibly complete) picture of who the characters in Pride and Prejudice truly were, they were not skewed in my mind from who they have always been. I highly recommend this over Longbourn or other Austen-inspired fiction. The only downside for me is the book is a bit too drawn out by the end, but still very readable. 3.75 stars

The Jane Austen Society – Though there were some compelling elements, this book ultimately fell flat. Comparisons to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are simply not fair. I enjoyed the village setting and some of the characters, but the Hollywood side of the plot only added a strange, icky tone to an otherwise pleasant book. 2.75 Stars

The Dutch House – Ooh boy, this was gloomy. The concept it explored was interesting: can you ever see history as it really was? Does who you are and your ever evolving experience and understanding change your perspective too much? And how much does where we live make us who we are? Fascinating ideas, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the book. 2.5 stars

The Yearling – An amazing setting and strong, vivid characters plus timeless themes of family and friendship are what makes a classic, and this book is certainly a classic. I wouldn’t put it on my favorite list, but the writing is stunning and the setting will stay with me forever (much like the setting in Where the Crawdads Sing). 4 stars. (I realize it’s not at all a new release, but won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939, but I’m including it in the literature category for simplicity’s sake.)

I’d Give Anything – Marisa de los Santos is one of my favorite current writers. I always read her newest books and will continue to do so. While the themes in this book were not my favorite, and the affectionate relationships between the characters felt a bit overdone, I liked the book pretty well and its theme of forgiveness and hating what someone has done without hating the whole person is always relevant and thought provoking.

This Tender Land – I’m about halfway through this highly acclaimed novel and I’m pleased to find it really is very good! I love how it’s making so many people want to read books like The Odyssey and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, two books that seem to be combined and retold in a 1930s setting on a river in Minnesota. So far, five stars.

DNF – The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Abandoned both about 30% in. Life is too short to read books you don’t like, especially if they’re just for you own enjoyment!

Picture Books

Chirri and Chirra – My 3-year-old and 5-year-old adored this whimsical story of two little girls and their visits in the forest. The colors are soothing and the animals included are very fetching. Apparently, there’s a whole Chirri and Chirra series, so hurrah! We’ll be checking more of these out. 5 stars.

Home in the Woods – I can hardly describe how much I love this book! From the illustrations to the character qualities it highlights in people who were both optimistic and hardworking, it’s a gem. 10 stars. ; )

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit – I learned a lot from this book about Beatrix Potter’s conservation efforts in the English countryside, and would like to think I would do the same if I were in her position. I hate seeing the forests I’ve driven by daily for years leveled for housing developments, but it happens frequently these days in my hometown. The story in this book is entertaining and the illustrations so cute. 4 stars.

The Storytelling Princess – This tale about a clever princess was longish, but held even our littlests’ interest. 4 stars.

Read Alouds

Matilda – Wow, was this book different from the movie I saw as a kid! The English village setting, the smart and kind main character who was not at all snarky, and the hilarious but terrible parents and school principle…plus the lovely Miss Honey…we all loved it. The kids thought the illustrations by Quentin Blake were awful, which made me laugh inside. They are not into impressionistic illustrations of people. But I like Blake’s illustrations every time, and we all loved Matilda! (Note: I did edit out some of the insults Matilda’s parents hurled at her when I read it aloud, which might be something to note if you have a younger audience and are considering an audiobook (remember, I have a 3-year-old in the mix!)). 5 stars.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh – We just finished chapter one of our next read aloud, but so far, so good! This is another book I saw a movie version of as a kid but never read the book for myself.

Swallows & Amazons – Again! Haha, this is the second time my husband has read this one aloud to the kids, but the older two had forgotten most of it and our five-year-old was enthralled for the first time. It’s definitely a favorite book of ours!

That’s it for this Quick Lit update! Head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy to see what other readers are liking (links in comments of main post) and don’t forget to let me know what gems you’ve found this summer!

Children's Books, Picture Books

Favorite Picture Books Summer 2019

Happy August 1st! I kind of wish I wasn’t saying that right now. If social media is any indicator, I think we all have a tendency to reach this date and either hold tightly onto summer and live in denial that the school year starts during this month for many of us, or throw our hands in the air and cry, “Great white sharks, we are so far from being able to survive our fall schedule right now!” … or both. What I would like to do on this August 1st is acknowledge what’s coming and hold on to what is. Because it is still summer, and we will still spend hours at the pool and watch TV in the late afternoon and all the other summer things. Still, I have to admit that, yes, it is a good idea to maybe start inching the bedtimes back towards the school year routine. The great thing about this time of year is it’s the perfect time to begin or reinstate reading before bed with your kids. (Or yourself. Great adult options here!) And picture books are a great place to start. While the land of chapter books is a wonderful place to plunge into with my kids, I am beyond glad to have a five-year-old and a two-year-old who keep me deep in picture books every day. If we’re honest, the older two read almost all of them with us, too. Here are our favorites lately!

What Do You Say, Dear? by Joslin Sesyle is hands down my favorite picture book discovery of the summer. This book on every day manners presents completely bizarre scenarios that will have you and your kids laughing and learning at the same time. Now, when I say, “What do you say, dear?” no one groans; instead, we all smile at the inside joke this book gives our family now and eases us into talking about manners. The illustrations by Maurice Sendak are priceless. If your kids don’t learn a thing, you will at least have a lot of fun reading it!

All of us enjoy Ella the Elegant Elephant and other books in the series. The warm colors are so friendly and the atmosphere of Elephant Island make these books perfect for summer reads. We took Ella Sets Sail with us to the beach this year. Warning: Ella’s mother is a baker and you might want a pineapple pie when you’re done reading this book!

Rapunzel by Sarah Gibb and Cinderella by Barbara McClintock – Both of these fairy tale books are beautifully illustrated. I love that the McClintock version of Cinderella is drawn in the style of the time period the story is set in. Neither of these books is very much like the Disney version of their stories at all, in case that is refreshing to you as it is to me sometimes. (Not knocking the Disney moves, I love them, but staying true to old texts is important, as well!)

The Kitchen Knight by Margaret Hodges- A longer picture book, for sure, but chock full of good talking points on winning a prize fairly and on your own merit. And it’s not just a morality tale–my eight-year-old son thinks this book is a keeper and when we were done reading it with just one of his sisters, he said, “We need to read this one with everyone!” His only complaint is that the Kitchen Knight looks too old, but I liked the illustrations just fine. =)

I can’t promise that these are any of our other favorite picture books (visit our children’s book category to find more!) will completely erase the chance of protests when you push those bedtimes back to sane fall hours. Push through that whining! Picture books are magic.

Hoping your last days of summer are as magical as humanly possible,

Mia/Alana (why two names? Answers here)

Parenting, Picture Books, Reading

Jesse Bear – Our Favorite Books for Preschoolers

Things are pretty busy around here, and I have some great new releases to review for you soon, but I wanted to do a quick post about our current favorite books for the preschool picture book crowd. Check these out if you have little people in your life!

If Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is the show parents want their preschoolers watching, the Jesse Bear books are the books all parents should want their preschoolers reading. I didn’t know about these books when my oldest two were ages 2-4, but my three-year-old and I have recently fallen in love with them. Each book in the series follows a lovable little bear who is experiencing life and the world around him with a cheerful expression and an enthusiastic eagerness to learn. There’s an enjoyment in every day, normal life that’s contagious in these books.

Our favorite is Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? Jesse gets up and dressed and ready for his day, with rhyming words and pleasant illustrations that take readers through a day with Jesse until it’s time to get back into his pajamas. A close second favorite is Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear, which shows Jesse Bear bursting with longing to get wet as he goes through a summer day helping his mom and dad around the house until he finally gets to splash in his very own pool. In Guess Who’s Coming, Jesse Bear, the little bear learns to deal with an older cousin who he isn’t excited to spend time with at first, but soon learns big cousin Sarah isn’t so bad after all.

Every Jesse Bear book is perfectly illustrated by Bruce Degan (Jamberry) and will make you want to go hug a teddy bear and a toddler at the same time. There’s a Jesse Bear book about waiting for Christmas and one about counting, and several more we haven’t read it in this ten-book series.  I hope you and your little people enjoy the Jesse Bear books as much as we do! We’ll be grabbing a few more of these (and the new Fancy Nancy book!) the next time we go to the library.

Happy reading!



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