Friday, December 9, 2011

In a continued effort to honor my commitment to simplicity (see last week) I am not going to stress myself out by composing a post in an already too full week. I am also honoring my commitment to spend more time visiting and promoting those who are committed to my link up, so if you didn't link last week, I'm adding a week to the linky. Go HERE and link to your book review - then go make some new friends!


Feed Me Books Friday: The Book I Needed to Read

Friday, December 2, 2011

Giving, Gratitude, and Moderation
Ever have the feeling that a particular book has made its way to your nightstand, shelf, shopping cart, or library tote for a reason? I NEEDED to read Just Enough and Not Too Much this week, and I should renew it from the library up to my renewal limit and reread it several times. I would probably purchase it, but that would undermine the lesson of the book. During the holiday season, we endeavor to focus on gratitude, appreciation, and selflessness, but the temptation to get wrapped (literally) up in consumerism, bargain-hunting, and over-indulgence is hard to avoid.
My Shop-aholic, Pack-rat Tendancies
I do not consider myself truly addicted to shopping, nor do I believe I collect things to the point of hoarding. However, I am well-aware that I get a rush from finding a bargain and I save and pack away more than is necessary and sometimes reasonable. What do these confessions have to do with children’s books, you’re wondering? Kaethe Zemach’s Just Enough andNot Too Much found its way into my library stack purely by chance as I browsed the shelves without intention. It was just before Thanksgiving and the title piqued my interest. I hoped for a “count your blessings” kind of moral to guide my discussions of gratitude with B and counter some of the “gimme” behaviors ramping up with the holiday store displays and toy catalogs arriving daily. Little did I know it would speak to me as well.
Do You Need It?
Just Enough and Not Too Much is the story of Simon the Fiddler, who lives a contented life until he decides that the things he has make him so happy that he should get even more so he can be happier. So he gets more stuffed animals, more chairs, more of everything that makes him happy, only to find that his crowded house no longer makes him happy, it makes him uncomfortable. He invites all his friends over for a fun party, and then literally shares his happiness when he sends them home with all his extra items. He finds that sharing makes him happier than all the things he had filled his home with, and he goes back to his contented, simple life. There are so many lessons in this book for both children and adults: being content with what we have, the joy of sharing, the value of simplicity, which could all  be adjusted to fit the needs of your own family situation. I’m focusing less on surrounding my Christmas tree with gifts and more on sharing the experiences of the season with my children and my family. I am prone to over-do the joy of sharing with my kids to the point of fearing we spoil them sometimes, so I’m also focusing on simplicity for both me and them.

Appropriate for: toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades, everyone!
How do you stay focused on "Just Enough?"


Feed Me Books Friday: Changing the Bedtime Routine, Again

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Make room!
My husband and I were marveling the other night at the 180 degree shift T has made in his attitude toward books. Where we once couldn’t pin him down long enough to get through a wordless board book, we now have to set a limit on stories before he pulls every title off the bookshelf (and not just for the fun of the mess). It gives me great joy to say T has become a book lover. I even had to have J bring half a dozen books from home for T’s recentstay at the hospital. We read them so many times I think I’ll have to hide them for the next couple of months just to give myself a break! With T’s growing interest in books, we’ve made an adjustment to the bedtime routine, namely, making room in B’s bed for T to listen to books, too. Now, each boy gets to choose a book for Daddy to read. T usually insists on positioning himself in the middle rather than letting J hold the book between the boys – which is odd – I guess he likes the cuddle factor as much as he enjoys the stories. 
Sibling Sweetness
The combination of my existing fondness for warm andfuzzy bedtime books and the glow I’m basking in thanks to T’s newfound love of reading led to a special affinity for Goodnight Me, Goodnight You, by TonyMitton. I stumbled upon this gem at the library, but I’ve already put it on my Amazon wishlist because I found the soothing text and vibrant but still mellow illustrations so pleasant that I’m sure we’ll need (and enjoy) repeated readings. The story, written in rhyming couplets, follows the bedtime routine of a sister and brother as they bid goodnight to their day, their surroundings, and the world. It concludes with the siblings telling one another goodnight and settling into bed. While T and B are certainly not going to put each other to bed, it is a treasured feeling to see them cuddling up together to foster literacy as well as emotional bonds.
Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.


Feed Me Books Friday: The Cupboard Was Bare

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sunday morning, T woke up with a congested nose and a cough. This afternoon his pediatrician said his cough will probably linger and I should use a saline rinse in his nose, but he's otherwise just fine. In the three-and-a-half days in between, we had two trips to urgent care, an ambulance ride to the ER, diagnoses of respiratory distress and pneumonia, two nights in the hospital, seemingly countless nebulizer treatments, and some major disruptions to our household. We are grateful to be on the recovering end of this little curve-ball life threw at us, but I can't say we are quite back to normal. 
I am behind on visiting the friendly and talented folks who link their posts and leave comments here. I have no review prepared for this week, and while I could stay up tonight and write something, I'm going to trust that my readers will afford me the luxury of catching up on sleep now, and catching up on blogging later. I do have a request of you though: B has been coming home from kindergarten reciting nursery rhymes (Three Little Kittens, Jack and Jill, etc) and I'd love to encourage his interest. There are any number of collections and anthologies of nursery rhymes, but I'm wondering if anyone has a favorite? Best collection? Best illustrations? Some other intriguing reason? 
For those who loyally visit and link up every week, I am including a link tool in this post, and I hope you'll visit one another until I can get caught up and make the rounds. 
Counting my blessings and soon some zzzz's.



Friday, October 28, 2011

As I promised last week, I have a selection of Halloween “treats” to share this week. B has (thankfully) not found the allure of gruesome decorations or jump out of your skin scary movies. We put a decorative metal pumpkin with tiny cut-out swirls and a little flickering tea light on his dresser and he is thoroughly pleased with the degree of “spooky-ness.”  I am elated that he has no desire to dress up as some blood-oozing monster. He’ll be outfitted as an astronaut and enjoying Halloween in the way I’ve always found it most appealing: an opportunity to try on a new persona for an evening (and indulge in way too much chocolate)!
Silly, Not Scary
Both of my choices this week turn what might normally be scary characters and contexts into humorous and innocuous entertainment. Allison McGhee’s A Very Brave Witch takes the line of reasoning that witches might very well be afraid of humans! Told by a first-person narrator witch through the use of dialogue bubbles, the story begins by asserting that witches find humans terrifying. Our narrator, a curious young witch herself, decides to find out what exactly is so scary. After a flying mishap, she is assisted by some very helpful (and non-scary) trick-or-treaters. Their friendly exchange convinces her there is nothing to worry about, and she even takes one reader on a ride on her broom.
Iza Trapani uses a similar turn-the-tables approach in her counting book, Haunted Party. A ghost is the host at this party, which begins by counting up a parade of creepy creature guests: mummies, gobblins, werewolves, etc. Number ten is represented by trick-or-treaters at the door, which sends the creatures into a frightened fit. Count back from ten to one as the creatures take off and escape. After one last “Boo,” the final illustration shows the ghost relaxing on the porch littered with candy wrappers and trick-or-treat bags. While it is implied that the ghost scared away the trick-or-treaters, it isn’t explicitly stated, which makes it easy to select your degree of fright.
Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary.
B and T both get to have Halloween/Harvest celebrations at school on Monday, and I’m taking goodies for each to share – the non-sugary variety. So far my plan is tiny Halloween notepads from Joann’s with Halloween pencils for B, and stickers and spider rings for T’s younger group. Any other creative and brilliant suggestions?


Feed Me Books Friday: Up Close and Personal

Friday, October 21, 2011

Most children’s books would be incomplete if not useless without their illustrations. Yet most books I review catch my attention for their story line or moral, and the pictures are secondary.  Recently we borrowed A Closer Look, by Mary McCarthy, from the library and the pictures as well as the concept have me wanting to go explore the world in a new way. The paper collage illustrations look at several objects from a series of perspectives: ultra-close-up, close, and complete object. Children are challenged to guess what they are looking at before the complete object is revealed. Likely to incite some creative discussion as well as some giggles. For a more realistic approach, check out any of Tana Hoban’s Look books, or Shelly Rotner’s Close, Closer, Closest. We’ve enjoyed more that one of Hoban’s adventures in the zoom lens thanks to our library – they make me want to explore some creative photography of my own. We have not read Rotner’s book, but found it associated with my other choices on Amazon and I’ll now be on the look-out for it!

Appropriate for toddlers, preschool, primary grades.
Any of these titles could be inspiration for some artwork – collage or photographic – of your own.  B enjoys the mystery pictures and guessing their identity, I’m not confident he has the cognitive development to generate multiple perspectives on the same picture without a model. I’m thinking we could go on a photography adventure together, then use photographs at various stages of zoom to replicate in another medium. Artistic and crafty readers: help me flesh out this idea! Photography buffs: ever attempted something like this?
Looking for good reads for Halloween? You can check out my Halloween suggestions from last year for now, and I’ll be adding my favorites for this year next week. I invite you to share your Halloween choices next week too, though of course any book links are always welcome!

eye photo courtesy Look Into My Eyes on flickr


Feed Me Books Friday: Velcro?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Independence versus Skills
My son’s teacher has a shoe-tying policy. I haven’t decided if I find it funny or disturbing. I’m navigating this new world of not knowing EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of what goes on in the classroom, and I’m trying not to rush to judgment. She mentioned her policy at back to school night. Children who have not learned to tie their shoes by Halloween should wear Velcro because she will not be tying them in November. In some ways, this is a very logical, common sense position: 64 untied shoelaces could take up the bulk of her just-over-3-hour session. At the same time, isn’t there a difference between the child who is chronically dragging his untied shoelaces along behind him and the one who is struggling with the dexterity and has an occasional moment of frustration? (Even writing this, I’m feeling like an enabler…)
Make it IM-personal
B has started to practice shoe-tying. He WANTS to be able to do it. He tied his own shoes every day of our recent trip (even though I sometimes had to re-tie later) and even tied his brother’s (which is no easy task on a squirmy 2 year old). But this week he’s back to wanting me to do it, which I believe is thanks to a combination of morning sluggishness and a lack of confidence in his (often loose) tying abilities. He is concerned they’ll come undone at school and he’ll either have to take the time to fix them or ask for help. Some of the best advice I’ve read about teaching  to tie shoes is to remove the pressure of getting ready and make it more maneuverable at the same time by having them practice on someone else’s (often larger) shoe whether or not it is currently on a foot. So when I saw Don’t Lose Your Shoes in the scholastic book order from B’s preschool teacher last spring, I thought it would be a great practice tool! The book has a three part cover. A laced-up “shoe” panel folds open next to the pages bound between the front and back so that children can practice the actions along with the story. The text tells the plight of Eric, a monkey who is plagued by untied shoes tripping him up at the playground. With the help of some animal friends, Eric learns to lace and tie his shoes. Each page of the book illustrates a different step in the process as Eric learns it. Children can follow along on the shoelace panel. The inside cover also has a visual reminder of the steps for practice. Following the steps in the story produces a double-loop or “bunny ear” style knot and bow. If intend to teach your child a different tactic, this story won’t be much good to you. Otherwise, the story is engaging, the tool is useful, and the connection of a narrative to the manipulation of the laces might just be the bridge between cognitive and physical development that your child needs.
Appropriate for preschoolers, (and primary students still practicing).
So help me out, do you think the teacher is using humor to encourage parents to work on this skill at home, or do you think she’s a burned-out shoe-tier? Should I be pushing the practice with laces or shopping for Velcro and cinch-ups? Is one tying method superior to another? Should I teach more than one to see if it comes easier or will that just confuse him? Hope you’ll help me out! (and share what you’re reading, too!)

photo courtesy kasahara on flickr


Feed Me Books Friday: Have You Been Counted?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

We Read for the Record, Did You?
<Jumpstart's Read for the RecordOctober 6 marks Jumpstart's annual Read for the Record campaign to end the early education achievement gap. Even if you didn't pledge to read in advance, you can be counted for your efforts up until October 14. 
In Print or Virtual, a Soothing Choice

This year's book choice was Llama, Llama, Red Pajama. Already a favorite in our house, Anna  Dewdney's Llama series is always a combination of giggles and warm fuzzies. Even though Baby Llama has trouble going to bed and Mama Llama ends up a little frazzled by Baby's drama, Mama calmly delivers the reassuring message all little ones need to hear in their emotional development: "Mama Llama's always near, even if she's not right HERE." Even if you don't own a copy of this book, you can enjoy it online, with lovely narration, by viewing it at It's far from the only great book on the site, and you'll get double the warm fuzzies by sharing books with your kids and counting your efforts toward a worthy literacy cause at the same time. If you're not already a member at we give books, do it today, even if you're not counting toward the record. 
Appropriate for, toddlers, preschoolers.
Did you read for the record? Do you use we give books? Please let me know in the comments!


Feed Me Books Friday Fun You Can “Count” On

Friday, September 30, 2011

If You Don’t Fall Out of the Apple Tree!
Our kindergarten newsletter this week suggested reading books related to numerals 1 through 5 and counting. We’ve got plenty of counting books, but too often I find them unengaging – more like an album of number representations than a story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against counting books. We love Hippos Go Berserk, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Overin the Meadow, among others. I’m just saying I’m picky. So as I went piling through B’s bookshelf looking for a counting book, I wanted to be sure it would be fun.
Tree Climbing + Rhymes = FUN
If you’ve enjoyed Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom, but not Chicka Chicka, 1,2,3, you are in for a treat. All the qualities that make Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom a classic (like catchy repetition, funny rhymes, and clever illustrations) return for a repeat performance in Bill Martin’s ChickaChicka, 1,2,3. This time, instead of the lower case and upper case letters, numbers 0 through 100 attempt to climb into the apple tree. The refrain is adjusted from “Will there be enough room?” to “Will there be a place for me?” The use of the word place is most easily understood to mean a space in the tree to sit, but could also be discussed in terms of numerical place values. By “reading” the illustrations and quickly catching the refrain, children will be able to read along and predict text, furthering the cognitive and language development. Pair a reading of this story with some number writing practice for some fine motor development as well. I mentioned as the summer wound down that I discovered I had not prepared B as thoroughly in math as I did in language skills. I appealed to his fondness for music and rhyme by working on forming numerals based on the directions in short poems. There are many versions out there, but I’ve linked to the one closest to what we use. Now that he’s had a little practice with single digits, B asks me to give him a “hard” number to write, so I’ve been putting together strings like our street address, our phone numbers, birthdays, and holiday dates. Maybe writing them as a unit will help him memorize some important personal data!
Do you have a favorite counting book? Or some tricks for number writing success? Hope you’ll share!


Happy Birthday Johnny

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Can You Put Candles in a Pie?

Monday is the birthday of John Chapman, known in American folklore as Johnny Appleseed for his efforts to propagate apple orchards across the country. Tonight the boys and I attended a Johnny Appleseed celebration hosted by our school district, where we got to measure, sort, wash, peel, eat, and paint with apples! 
An Apple a Day...
Is apparently what I should have been having. Tonight I am kicking myself for not having a "rainy day" review post ready to publish like a good blogger should. Am I alone in this? At any rate, I'm fighting some back-to-school bug and lack-luster in the energy department, so this will be a short and sweet post.
Birthday Suggestions
If you're going to celebrate Johnny Appleseed day, you might enjoy Steven Kellogg's version of the tall tale, Johnny Appleseed. The text is a pretty standard re-telling, but Kellogg's illustrations are (as usual) so detailed, vivid, and unique, that they invite further discussion and are a feast for the eyes. A recent library choice that turned out to be nice timing is The Apple Pie that Papa Baked, by Lauren Thompson. It tells the story of a pie's creation and baking from the daughter's perspective in the familiar cumulative style of "The house that Jack built."
I'm off to bed, but I do hope you'll share your own reviews and choices for the week. I'm resolved to catch up on my Feed Me Books link comments this weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting back to the sites of some friends I've missed!



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Each One is Vital
Physical – Virtual – Emotional – Spiritual – whatever form they come in, our connections are what make us who we are. Something as simple as saying goodbye at the kindergarten gate and something as profound as the loss of a beloved friend are both an influence on and a product of our connections.

Make Your Own
My book choice this week has been and appropriate lens for a wide variety of recent experiences; I’m sure if you’re familiar or if you pick up a copy of The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst, you’ll find it applicable to your life as well as the emotional development of your little ones. Karst’s story begins with the premise that two children are scared by the sounds of a storm and want to stay with their mother rather than going back to bed. Their mother explains the connection of the “invisible string” as a way to assure them that they are loved and cared for no matter where they are who might be with them. She explains that an invisible string connects the hearts of all the people we love and who love us, and that there is no limit to its length. The children question this assertion with challenges like whether it would reach to the bottom of the ocean, to outer space, or to those loved ones who have passed away. Mom assures them that the invisible string will reach in any scenario. This would make a great read for a child reluctant to go to school or daycare, someone missing a distant relative, or someone who has experienced a recent loss.
Appropriate for preschool, primary grades
Image courtesy b_d_solis, flickr


Feed Me Books Friday: On Importance

Friday, September 9, 2011

Big Day, Big Things Ahead
This week we met B’s kindergarten teacher at a “meet and greet” and he officially started school the next day. On the wings of blog-reading inspiration we started a tradition last year of presenting B’s teacher with a book that serves as both back-to-school gift and introduction. The book we chose has a dual value: it creatively demonstrates some of the cognitive skills developed in kindergarten while showcasing a universal moral truth. My own classroom experience convinced me that the first day of school would be too harried for thoughtful gift-giving, so we chose to deliver it at the “meet and greet” activity.
Getting Acquainted
I am so grateful that our district continues to preserve the day-early meet and greet for the sake of 5 year-old social emotional development (and 30 something year old social emotional health). Visiting the classroom, exploring on our own terms, and having a quick conversation with the teacher made both of us rest easier the night before the official start. In addition to exploring the room, each child colored his or her own birthday candle and chose a car or shoe to color and represent their chosen method of transportation. Each child was able to pick a few books from the bin of gently used books the teacher had decided to thin from her shelves. After B showed her the books he chose, he handed her the book we brought as a gift.
Building Blocks of Reading
The Alphabet Tree (Dragonfly Books)A little blog/wishlist/review browsing led me to discover Leo Lionni’s The Alphabet Tree. Like many of Lionni’s books, the illustrations are whimsical and the morals are evident without being heavy handed. The story opens by explaining that some letters who enjoyed sitting among the outer leaves of a tree are blown away when the wind is strong. With the help of a word bug and a very intelligent caterpillar, the letters learn to make words, and to make meaning from the words by arranging sentences. B has enjoyed a lot of alphabet play and practice this summer, so he was excited to share some of his knowledge with his teacher. She was surprised and gracious, and B swelled with pride when she chose to read it aloud to the class on their first official day!
Appropriate for preschool, primary grades


Top Ten Picture Books for Starting School - Volume II

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's Labor Day weekend, do you know where your backpack is?

While many of the families we know (and many children of my lovely readers) are already back to school,  it's labor day weekend that traditionally marks the end of summer. For us, that means the start of school is right around the corner. B is so excited to be a kindergartner! He'll be starting a half-day kindergarten program this year, and T will be starting to get a little classroom experience under his belt with a Mommy&Me class once per week. 
Too Many Choices
There is really an abundance of great choices for books about school experiences and preparations, but I began my efforts to thin the pack last year when B started preschool with my Top Ten Starting School Picture Books post. My veteran readers will recognize many on this list from last year - I'm not so fickle that I'd start from scratch. But I have, with much difficulty, made room for a few recent discoveries by letting a few less favorites drop off the list. Doesn't mean I don't still love them - go check out last year's list to see the difference. 
Now... for the 2011 list:
After 18 years as a student, 8 years as a classroom teacher, and my first second year as the mom of a school-age child, here are my picks for The Top Ten Picture Books for Starting School:
(In No Particular Order)

10. Going to School: An Usborne First Experiences Book
Going To School (Usborne First Experiences)
Very straightforward, with the facts and details little ones need to feel prepared for a new environment, new routines, and new people.

9. Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten (Miss Bindergarten Books)

I only left this one off my list last year because I was saving it for when B was really ready for kindergarten. All of the Miss Bindergarten books are fun to read, and this one is especially valuable as it prepares kids for kindergarten and delivers a handy alphabet review!

8. The Twelve Days of Kindergarten
The Twelve Days of Kindergarten: A Counting Book
Even if your little one (like mine) isn’t ready for kindergarten just yet, this makes a nice introduction to the concept of school and some of the fun learning activities that take place there.

7. If You Take a Mouse to School
If You Take a Mouse to School
Again, not so much realism but a lot of fun, this addition to Numeroff’s series features realistic school activities paired with silly mouse antics always good for a laugh.

6. Off to Kindergarten
Off To Kindergarten
A boy after B's own heart, the kindergartner in this story plans to take ALL the things he might need while he's at school, and the packing list becomes not only cumbersome but outrageous. Children will enjoy the humor and then discover the message that the young boy really demonstrates his readiness by heading off to school WITHOUT all his gear. 

5. I Love You All Day Long
I Love You All Day Long
This is a sweet story to remind children that they are loved no matter where they are or what they (or their parents) are doing.

4. On the Way to Kindergarten
On the Way to Kindergarten

Each page spread in this book highlights a year in the life of the kindergartner, beginning with life as a newborn. Rhyming couplets help the story bounce along, while common milestones and 3rd person narration make it feel very personal. 

3. What Did You Do Today?
What Did You Do Today?: The First Day of School
This book follows the activities of both parent and child during the day, a pleasant and comforting read for children curious about what Mommy or Daddy might be doing while they’re gone.

2. A Bad Case of Stripes
Un Caso Grave de Rayas (A Bad Case or Stripes) (Spanish Edition)
Especially suited to slightly older children, (more of a back-to-school suggestion) this is a story of a little girl’s struggle with being preoccupied about what others will think of her, and it teaches a valuable lesson about being true to yourself.

1. The Kissing Hand (This really is my #1 pick!)
The Kissing Hand
A classic comforting tale of Chester the raccoon and his mother preparing for Chester’s day away at school. She assures him her love will always be there when he needs it by placing a kiss in his hand; a tradition sure to start in many families who share this book.

Ready, Set, Preschool!: Stories, Poems and Picture Games with an Educational Guide for ParentsAn honorable mention, since I don't have a preschooler this year but would have loved this book last year, is Ready, Set, Preschooll, recently reviewed by JDaniel4's mom

Any other great suggestions for starting school? I've got a couple days left to get them here if they happen to be on the shelf at our library or if they're avaialbe with Amazon Prime... Leave a suggestion comment or link up a review if you have one.

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