Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books

Fairy Fiction: Friday Favorites, Ed. 11

Time for another Friday Favorites post! The blog features our favorite children’s books of the week on Fridays. See past Friday Favorites here.
book fairy
Illustration by Chicche di Emy

In the past year there has been a gradual shift in our house from princess craze to fairy fascination. I’ve noticed the same trend in other girls my oldest daughter’s age, and now I’m wondering if maybe it’s all a Disney marketing ploy…but it’s definitely real life in my world. Ella (age 6) is crazy about fairies right now. (Confession: I have no problem feeding the fairy fun around here. I may be a grown, semi-intelligent woman, but I think fairies are delightful). As a book loving mom, I usually try to tie together her current interests with books we find at the library. During Fairy Tale Frenzy, it was pretty easy to find princess related books. I was a little less certain that fairy books would be so numerous. But I shouldn’t have worried! There is a wealth of Fairy Fiction out there. Here’s the best and worst of fairy books we’ve found in Fairy Fiction so far this summer.

The Worst

Pia the Penguin Fairy (Rainbow Magic: Ocean Fairies, #3)Let’s start with the worst. Daisy Meadows has written about 4,391 formulaic books about Rainbow fairies, pet fairies, jewel fairies, and on and on. When first introduced to them, I thought, “Oh, cute, some fairy books to get Ella interested in listening to chapter books.” The perks of these books is that there are illustrations on every page so children just getting into chapter books have something to look at, and the books are not too long to read in one 30-minute sitting. But now that we have been through The Rainbow Fairies and the Jewel Fairies and The Weather Fairies (I kid you not), the cons outweigh the perks. I am pretty much searching for any way to avoid reading another one of these books because they are all the same. The characters are never developed, the setting barely changes, and the outcome is as predictable as the sky is blue. They’ve served their purpose and I’m grateful, but I’m ready to move on.

The Very Fairy PrincessAnother fairy book we actually like but would put it as one of the worst in the fairy category is The Very Fairy Princess. Lovely book, but has absolutely nothing to do with fairies. Definitely read it and the others in the series if you have a girl who likes Fancy Nancy books, but your serious fairy lover will find it lacking.

And then there’s Alice The Fairy by David Shannon. Cute book in itself, if you like illustrations of children who look like Darla in Finding Nemo, but to put this in the Fairy Book Category it’s an affront to fairies everywhere. (Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. Maybe I’m discovering an unhealthy reverence for fairies here…)

Some Runners Up

There are some beautiful fairy picture books out there, as you can imagine.  Lavender’s Lavender's Midsummer Mix-UpMidsummer Mix-Up is a short chapter book perfect for 1st-3rd grade girls whose mothers are fond of Kate Greenaway (ahem…me).  The story line is light and quick, so it feels more like a long-ish picture book instead of a chapter book. The author, Cicely Mary Barker, lived from 1895-1973 and created a whole illustrated world called Faeryopolis. Her website is jam packed so be sure to check that out on some rainy day.

A few we are searching for next time we go to the library are:

Lily and The Fairy House – I think I’ll be drinking in the illustrations of this one.

The Teeny Ween Walking Stick – It has a boy for a main character, so maybe Isaac will get some relief from all the girlish books. He doesn’t seem to mind, and we pick out plenty of boyish books for him, too, but since Ella isn’t an independent reader yet, he hears a lot of fairy chapter books. He’s a trooper, though! (i.e. he likes them and he is not ashamed to admit it!).

The Tangle Fairy – We are always looking for lighthearted ways to deal with tangly hair, and books are no exception . It is an emotional mother-daughter problem at our house and probably will be until Ella can brush her own hair. (You can recommend awesome homemade de-tanglers to me all day, but it’s not the actual hair that’s the problem. It’s practically smooth as silk. It’s just one of those epic battles right now…)

And now…

The Best

Shockingly enough, the best fairy fiction we’ve found this summer has been the Tales of Pixie Hollow series.  Yes, this is about the Disney Fairies. But hear me out! We discovered The Trouble The Trouble With Tink (Tales of Pixie Hollow, #1)With Tink by Kiki Thorpe on CD at the library as we were frantically searching the shelves for books to take on a 4-hour car ride. I thought, “well, we’ll try it since I’ll be able to listen along and make sure it’s appropriate.” I now have to admit: I really love these books. The audiobooks are especially good. The characters are more detailed and fully developed than in the movies and there is so much more background information about fairies and their land. Of course the plot is still very fanciful, we’re talking about fairies here, but the adventures are less “We have to save the whole world!!!” and more about each character’s personal failing and how they learn to overcome it. All kinds of great discussion can come out of it. I highly recommend them for 1st-4th grade and beyond! The audiobooks have been lifesavers during 100+ degree days this summer.

Kiki Thorpe has also written a series we’re just starting called The Never Girls. It’s also pretty good, though I don’t like these as much as The Tales of Pixie Hollow so far. We’re only getting started with them, though.

So, may this post arm you with many fairy books to keep your fairy lovers happy this summer! Or maybe it whet your appetite to try fairy fiction out for yourself? Let me know what you find!

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books, Parenting

The Girl Who Would Not Brush Her Hair: Friday Favorites, Ed. 10

Oh, I’ve been looking for this book for a long time. Since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of hair brushes, mother’s have fought the battle of hair brushing with their small daughters. I sympathize with both parties. It’s amazing how one run through with a brush can get rid of one tangle and create ten more. But it’s also amazing how sensitive a little kid’s head can be. Sometimes I have flashbacks of the tough mother love described in Snow Flower and The Secret Fan when I’m telling Ella she needs toughen up about the whole hair brushing thing.  I salute mothers who cut their daughters’ hair short. Regrettably, something indefinable holds me back from giving my five-year-old’s long, honey-colored locks the chop, but it probably goes back to how Disney princesses have ruined my generation’s beliefs about beauty. But that’s not what this post is about! It’s about the book I’ve finally found to end all our hair brushing woes!

The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her HairThe Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer is an imaginative account of what would really happen to a little girl who decided to not brush hair. It involves a horde of mice taking up residence on top of her head. If you’re thinking “Great, that’s not realistic enough to be useful in my battle for hair brushing,” you’re probably right…but the pictures are the convincing part of the book! The girl is happy and bright at the beginning of the book, but as her hair gets messier and so does she, she looks tireder and sadder. At the end of the book, (picture book spoiler alert!), when the girl decides to evict the mice and brush her hair after a nice, hot bath, she looks refreshed and pleased with life. Her braided pony tails become the envy of her disheveled classmates, and the mice probably went off to live in the room of The Girl Who Would Not Clean Off Her Bed. That girl was my sister twenty years ago, and I distinctly remember my mom telling her a mouse could be living at the end of her bed and she would never know it.  Oh, I can see a whole series coming out of this. The Boy Who Would Not Wash His Face, The Girl Who Would Not Change Her Dress…endless possibilities.

But the proof is in the pudding. The day after reading this book, my daughter asked for braided pigtails. Success! Mothers of daughters, dash out and get a copy of this book right now.

More of our favorite children’s books of the week can be found here. Happy Friday!

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The “No” Week: Saying No In Order to Say Yes

When I wrote about a need for blank space at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t exactly referring to blanks space here on the blog…but my blank space got misplaced. Chaos is a tough adversary. It wreaks havoc in our minds and our relationships and it hates smooth, clean surfaces and lovely, empty calendars.

At the end of last week I realized just how ‘off’ I had gotten from the course I set for the year. There had been some clues before, like my desk turning into one giant pile, and my e-mail inbox ever lengthening. I hadn’t read a book in over a week. (This is an eternity for me). A more painful clue was the resentment towards me steaming off my five-year-old’s head. I couldn’t understand why until I realized how many times I had said “no” to her when she asked me to make or do something with her. And how many times had I snapped at my son for “being too loud” because the baby had to have nap because she missed her earlier one while we were out doing such and such? Too many times.

IMG_3357So this week I said “no” to everything outside our home so I could say “yes” to the people living inside. And it has been an awesome week. We’ve made bead necklaces and played dolls, raced Matchbox cars, swung high on our swing-set, eaten lunches on the back porch, and just taken time to dwell together. Almost as an unintentional result, I’ve stopped carrying my phone with me all over the house. The kids haven’t watched much TV. My desk is even clean.

I have absolutely loved our “No Week.” It can’t be our norm because we care about people outside our little family circle and we also need them ourselves! But this short time of focusing on just the people in my house has re-centered me in the best possible way. It won’t always be this easy to carve a quiet week out…when the children get older there will be music lessons, soccer practice, meetings, or any number of things like that. Still, I can’t recommend it more. A week to stop worrying about perfectly cooked dinners (or cooked dinners at all–frozen pizza eaten occasionally never killed anyone), a week to stay home from book group, or whatever it is that is stressing your schedule, is the best gift you can give yourself and your family.

Another great side effect of “No Week” is my writing brain is slowly starting to work again. The writing well had run pretty dry in the last few weeks of winter, but the blog will actually have some new content starting in the next few days.

As a side note, here are some quick updates of stuff started and not finished on the blog lately:

31 Days to Clean – This blog follow along didn’t end up working out for me because–and this is kind of hard to admit–it was too slow. It started in January and it is still going. I got the e-book and read through it, which was a good boost, but I abandoned the schedule and just cleaned what I thought needed cleaning. It’s worked out okay. I just felt like I had to let you know I finished but I didn’t finish, you know?

Happier In Winter Project – I went back to this list a lot in January and most of February, but by the end of the winter, I had surrendered to the winter blues. We hit up #22 way too often (movie day). I am ecstatic that warm weather is here, and hopeful that next winter I can add to my Happier in Winter project and make it a bigger success.

Friday Favorites – Still ongoing! I post about our favorite children’s books of the week as often as we find good ones.

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books

Friday Favorites, Black Friday Edition

Have you had enough holiday advertising yet? I have, and it’s not even December. I feel sad for our American children. It’s so easy for them to be the richest in the world in possessions and the poorest in gratitude. I want my children to know it isn’t the stuff that truly makes us rich. Gratitude is what truly enriches. And it’s an uphill climb to helping our children understand how to be grateful, even though gratitude is pretty simple at a young age: realizing we have good things and thanking God for them.

Elizabeti's DollIf you feel this way, too, check out Elizabeti’s Doll. It’s a story of a little girl somewhere in Africa who doesn’t have a doll. Her mama has a new baby, and she wants a baby to care for, too. She gets creative, and shows that love and imagination can transform anything. The illustrations are lovely and calming, the story is sweet, and the opportunities to discuss another culture are plentiful. If you had the privilege of participating in Operation Christmas Child this year, you can use this book to help your children understand how excited the child who receives the shoe box you filled might be. “How excited do you think Elizabeti would be if she got the box we packed for a little girl?”

This book and the book called Ida’s Doll I read as a girl, combined with how much I loved my dolls, has me always making sure to include a doll in any shoe box we pack for a girl.

What books do you love to read with your children when you want to remind them how much they have to be grateful for?

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books

Friday Favorites, Edition 3

It’s been a bit of a rough week on the home front, so we had to shed some tears and drop all our library books into the book drop without going in. My kids (and I) hate doing that. But there’s good that comes of it. We actually read our own books!

The Courage of Sarah NobleThere are some gems on our own shelves that I’ve collected at library books sales over the years. I’ve been looking forward to reading The Courage of Sarah Noblwith Ella (5), but I had no idea that Isaac (3) would also be enraptured by the story. They both sat completely still and listened to the tale of the eight-year-old Sarah who went on the long journey into Connecticut with her father to build a new farm there. Children love heroes, especially ones close to their own age. I’m searching for another chapter book they’ll both like now. I am totally enamored by the joy of that time when we’re all sitting together, taking in a story that is both beautifully told and meaningful for character building. Give me all your suggestions!

For more Friday Favorites, go here.

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