Tag Archives: Children’s books

WWW Wednesdays – March 19, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

Since I used my last WWW Wednesdays update to share the books I recently read, I thought I’d use this update to catch up on some of the books my kids have been reading and enjoying. Some children’s books make a more lasting impression than others. Below is a small selection of books that we really enjoyed, made us laugh or made us think in the past couple of months. If you’re looking for some children’s book ideas, I hope these are helpful.

By the way, one of my most favorite books, The Giver by Lois Lowry, is finally going to be a movie, 20 years after being published. Gosh, I hope the movie doesn’t disappoint. It has a lot to live up to.

Books we really enjoyed

Journey by Aaron BeckerJourney by Aaron Becker. I’m disappointed this book didn’t win the 2014 Caldecott Medal, as I think its illustrations were mind blowing and highly imaginative compared to the winner Locomotive (that book is still OK, by the way, but way too long to read out loud). In Journey, using a red marker (remember Harold and the Purple Crayon, except this book is wordless), a young girl draws a door on her bedroom wall and enters another world. There she experiences many adventures, including being captured by an evil emperor. The denouement reveals who comes to her rescue, making young readers understand that with a little imagination, anything is possible. By far one of the best books we’ve read in the past few months.

Mr. Wuffles! by David WiesnerMr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner. Poor Mr. Wuffles seems very uninspired by his many cat toys, except for one single toy, which happens to be a spaceship belonging to tiny aliens the size of ants. After Mr Wuffles damages their spaceship, the aliens must venture in the human and cat world to find a way to repair their aircraft so they can go back to their world. Except for a few speech bubbles featuring alien talk (and you can figure out what the hieroglyphics text actually says if you’re smart!), this book is mostly wordless, in a comic book format. There’s so much to look at on each page, this book will entertain curious kids for hours.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. We enjoy reading Mac Barnett’s books and this is one of our favorite. Annabelle finds a box containing yarn and starts knitting for everyone in the town, somehow her yarn supply never running out. That’s until a greedy archduke decides to get the extra yarn for himself. My kids love the ending of this book, which clearly shows that mean people don’t get zilch by being nasty.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. This book is magic for all readers, as it invites you to tap, rub, touch, and wiggle the lovely illustrations to make an apple tree bloom, produce fruit, and lose its leaves. What a smart and cute way to display a tree’s yearly cycle!

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy CookeA Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke. This is one of the CUTEST animal books I’ve ever read. And after reading this book, I dare you not to like sloths. Featuring many photos of baby (and adult) sloths, this book educates you about their fascinating world. It contains tons of facts my kids and I didn’t know, and it even inspired my son to write a non-fiction story about sloths for his writing period at school. Animal books can’t get any better than this one.

Books that made us laugh

Open Very Carefully by Nick Bromley. Imagine reading a quiet storybook when suddenly, a crocodile appears and wreaks havoc on the characters. Will you close the book shut, or take a peek inside to see what happens next? My kids and I love interactive books and this is a great one.

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam LehrhauptWarning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt. This is another interactive book where the narrator warns you not to open it. And if you do, watch out for the many monkeys, toucans, and even alligators you release and the mayhem that follows. Er, how do you get them back inside?

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds. It’s tough being a meat eater when you try to make friends with plant eaters but you feel misunderstood. Is it your fault that your diet includes the critters you’re trying to blend in with? This book is not for the squeamish (no blood, I promise) but it’s very funny!

The hiccupotamus by Aaron ZenzThe Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz. I haven’t had this much fun reading a book out loud for a long time, and it gets funnier every time. I mean, the whole book is like this:
There was a hippopotamus
who hiccupped quite-a-lotamus.
And every time he got’emus . . .
he’d fall upon his bottomus!
So what do you do to help a hippo who has the hiccups? You’ll have to read the storytamus to find the answeramus…

Books that made us think

Back Of The Bus by Aaron Reynolds. Rosa Parks’ defiance and arrest is shown from the eyes of an African American child sitting at the back of the bus with his mom. The child wonders why the bus doesn’t move when Rosa Parks stays in her seat at the front of the bus, and he hears his mom worry, “There you go, Rosa Parks, stirrin’ up a nest of hornets.” But both mother and child slowly realize that this time may be different. My kids both were studying the civil rights movement when we read this book, and it was a wonderful way to give them a child’s perspective.

Unspoken : A Story From The Underground Railroad by Henry ColeUnspoken : A Story From The Underground Railroad by Henry Cole. Unspoken is absolutely brilliant: just like its title, it doesn’t feature a single word, making its story even more powerful. A Southern farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him by feeding him on his journey. No a single word is spoken between the two, and the girl keeps his presence a secret from everyone, even when the confederate soldiers offer a reward. Even if you don’t read children’s books, you should grab a copy of Unspoken and find out how a picture really can be worth a thousand words.

On A Beam Of Light : A Story Of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. This is a great book that Einstein’s life from his earlier years, showing how he always questioned the world and universe surrounding him, and how he never stopped imagining, which led him to make groundbreaking discoveries.

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Book review: Baby Penguins Everywhere and Baby Penguins Love Their Mama

A couple of months ago, I participated in the month-long PiBoIdMo challenge, where you had to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. If you read the daily posts and commented on them, you also had a chance to win some cool prizes. Well, I didn’t win anything but I still got lucky. One of the guest bloggers for the event was children’s book author and illustrator Melissa Guion, and she contacted me after I commented on her post, asking me if I would be interested in reviewing her two picture books, Baby Penguins Everywhere and Baby Penguins Love Their Mama. She thought it’d be a good idea of gather the perspective of a single mom (me), who also happens to be the main character in her book. Well, in the form of a penguin…

I want to apologize to Melissa Guion for taking so long to write and post my reviews of her books. I read them with my kids as soon as we received them. We really enjoyed them and read them a few times each. I just got wrapped up in the holiday frenzy and then my kids were off school for two and a half weeks, and then a new year started… You get the idea. So today I’m finally catching up and sharing these books with you.

First in the series, Baby Penguins Everywhere tells the story of a penguin all alone on the ice, feeling lonely. Until one day, when she sees a hat floating by in the water. Out of the hat popped a little penguin. And another. And another. And another. And many more! The hat looks like one of those magician’s hats where the guy can pull out 10 rabbits in a row.

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

So now, the penguin isn’t lonely anymore. In fact, she’s very, very busy. My kids had fun counting how many penguins she’s actually taking care of. I believe there are 29 little penguins in this book. Wow, I feel tired just looking at them waddling around. I just hope for Mama Penguin they’re not all boys…

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

You can imagine that after a while, Mama Penguin is a tiny bit tired, physically and mentally, so she needs to take a moment for herself before she goes back and enjoys her little penguins’ company. I love the message that moms need a break throughout the day when dealing with little ones. My kids did notice she was doing all of this alone and didn’t get any help. I personally feel for her. Obviously penguin moms have a lot more energy than human ones.

In Baby Penguins Love Their Mama, Mama Penguin has started educating her little penguins with different activities every day, which include swimming lessons, sliding lessons, and waddling lessons. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the squawking lessons. Have mercy…

Baby Penguins Love Their Mama by Melissa Guion

Baby Penguins Love Their Mama by Melissa Guion

By the time Sunday arrives, Mama Penguin needs a nap. I wonder how long her little ones let her sleep but probably long enough because she looks refreshed after that. And then Mama Penguin asks her penguins what she’d become once they were all big penguins, a question most of us moms wonder. The answer? Their mama, of course!

Overall my boys and I found these two books very cute, and very funny. We enjoyed the soft watercolors and the simple way the penguins were drawn without getting in the way of the story. Next time my kids bug me when I’m trying to take a 5-minute break, I’ll tell them I’m Mama Penguin. And if that still doesn’t work, I’ll have to use the big guns and read Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy to them again.

A big thank you to Melissa Guion for sharing her books with me and my kids!

WWW Wednesdays – January 15, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

Wow, my last WWW Wednesdays post was two months ago… What can I say? The good new is, I read 61 books in 2013, not including the children’s books I read with my kids. I did read a lot of books in November and December, but somehow never got to write about them here. So I guess this is a catch-up post, for adult and children’s books, or at least a listing of our favorites in the past few months. I also want to put a list of my favorite books in 2013 very soon, and I hope you get to add to the list.

My bookshelf

– What I’m currently reading 
The Shining by Stephen KingThe Shining by Stephen King. I’ve read a lot of King’s books but I don’t think I ever read this one. Terrible choice for bedtime reading, especially on those nights I need the sleep. Oh well…
Goals! How To Get Everything You Want by Brian Tracy. As I’m still working on listing and organizing my many, many goals for 2014, I’m looking for ways to lay them out so they’ll be easier to achieve step-by-step. Quite a challenge.

– What I recently finished reading 
No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy. If you’ve never read any of Brian Tracy’s books, this is a good one to start with. Full of quotes you might find insightful (or annoying if you’re not a fan of quotes), this book shows you how to implement self-discipline throughout the various areas of your life, including personal success, work, finances, health and relationships. Tracy makes it very clear that self-discipline is one character trait that differentiates the more successful people from the others. You can make small changes in your life to be more disciplined to get what you want.  Most women with children will want to take some of Tracy’s advice with a grain of salt or adapt it to their individual lifestyle.

Remarkable by Lizzie K FoleyRemarkable by Lizzie K. Foley. This first young adult novel was entertaining and easy to read. I enjoyed the variety of characters and how each of them played a role in the development of the story. I think many kids can identify with Jane Doe, who feels she’s nothing special among all these extremely talented people living in her town. She’s considered not as smart and gifted as the other kids, and yet, she’s the one who solves many problems and puzzles by the end of the book. A nice lesson for kids illustrating that when you’re too wrapped up in yourself, you miss out on the world around you. I just wish the pace had been a little more energetic in delivering the story.

Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinski. If you’re looking for a book full of insightful data on the life skills a child needs to develop, this is probably it. If you’re looking for a book that gives you a lot of practical advice on help your child develop those skills past the preschool years, this is not. Although I found the research interesting and valuable, I realized that the majority of this book is more theoretical than practical, and mostly focuses on infants up to preschoolers.

Eat Move Sleep by Tom RathEat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath. If you’re looking for a miracle diet or type of exercise to help you lose weight, this isn’t the book for you. Tom Rath provides nothing earth-shattering or a deep secret only a few know about. Instead, he lists the many, many small choices we can make in our daily life to improve our health. Most importantly, he explains why you can’t just eat right, or move more, or sleep better, but rather you have to make changes to ALL three, as they work in unison to keep you healthy. For example, if you don’t sleep enough, you may overeat as well as feel too tired to exercise. If you don’t eat the right foods, you may not have the energy to work out but feel to stimulated to sleep well. I recommend you sign up for  a 30-day personalized challenge, which gives you specific recommendations for your diet, sleep and exercise habits depending on the answers you provide for the initial quiz.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. This is another young adult fun adventure by Kate DiCamillo, this time featuring a squirrel that somehow acquires super powers, as well as intelligence and a gift for poetry writing, after being sucked up a vacuum. DiCamillo is a brilliant storyteller and you can’t help but root for her main character, Flora, who’s in desperate need of love, comfort and friendship after her parents divorce. And she will find all three in the several people she runs into, who all have their own story to tell. I love how DiCamillo shows that friendship and support can be found across generations – a great example of how much life can bring, if we care to look around. The hilarious illustrations are a wonderful addition to this fun story.

The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. This book was such a slow read, I almost put it down after reading a third of it. Instead I decided to scheme through it so I could reach the end. I liked the premise of the story: a young girl witnessing a murder at her house, and fifty years later she tries to make sense of it all, going back in time all the way to World War II in England. The delivery of this story is painful: so many dialogs that seem to repeat themselves and go nowhere, so many words to describe the scenes, even when not much happens, so little character development. It’s as if the author was given a number of words to write and she had a hard time filling every page. Also, why do so many books today have to switch back between past and present storytelling??? Really, it’s getting old, especially when it adds nothing to the story. Oh, and the “twist” at the end of the book is nothing you can’t guess on your own halfway through the book. Unless you’re a big fan of Kate Morton, you may be disappointed with this book’s pace and style.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. This is a very interesting collection of essays on a number of life subjects. I read the 15th anniversary edition, so the author updated it with new essays and removed outdated ones. He also added some comments here and then that added to the original story. All essays were drawn from his personal life and experience and most of them rang a bell. It is indeed true that everything you need to know about life, you learned it in kindergarten, including share, clean up your mess, say you’re sorry, don’t take what’s not yours, play fair, and my favorite one, wonder.

100 Secrets of Happy Families by David Niven. This book is a good reminder off what really matters to make your family relationships the best they can be. A few of my favorites are:
– Dedication matters more than occupation (deciding how your occupation fits within your family life and not the other way around is what matters most).
– Let your goals live with you (even if you can’t work on your goals at specific times, there’s no reason to abandon them; let them adapt to the life you live).
– You define a child every day (did you know a child’s feelings about his family relationship does more to define that child’s outlook and self-image than anything else?).
– Cherish traditions (hey, at our house we celebrate Christmas twice a year, in December and in July!)
– See the big picture (don’t see your life as tiny pieces but as a whole, to get a broader perspective and not let small frustrations overwhelm you).

100 Secrets of Healthy People by David Niven. This book is full of simple tips to live a healthier lifestyle, most of which you already know, while others are interesting to discover or remember. My favorite health tips? “Healthy living is an attitude” (seeing your health in a positive light helps you maintain healthy habits), “breathe right” (it’s amazing what proper breathing can do to you), “laughter really is medicine” (it reduces anxiety and pain), and “hug for health” (hugs relieve stress and provide comfort).

1984 by George Orwell1984 by George Orwell. This is the second time I’ve read this book (I was in high school the first time) and I’ve found it just as terrifying today. Orwell wrote this book in 1948, right at the end of the second world war, establishing England and its allies as Oceania, a land in state of constant war against changing enemies. The main character, Winston Smith, works at the Ministry of Truth, where every day he has to “rewrite” newspaper articles and books to change the news according to the latesst events, therefore rewriting history, even deleting the very existence of some public officials once in a while. A lot more goes on after that and I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read the book. The policy held by Big Brother’s party against the middle class and the lower class is chilling, and somehow not so far off from our world today, in many ways. A definite read.

The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People by David Niven. By “successful”, Niven doesn’t mean “rich”, but rather people who are satisfied with their career, enjoy what they do and are growing. Here are just a few secrets that spoke directly to me: “boredom is the enemy” (you need to find something you enjoy or your persistence and interest will quickly diminish), “don’t want everything” (choose what you really want out of your career and focus on that, rather than look at what others have and want the same), and “it starts and ends with you” (access personal responsibility for your decisions and be open to new opportunities). If you’re looking for some inspiration in the workplace, this is a great little book.

– What I think I’ll read next 
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. I also requested more books on goal setting, procrastination and children’s book writing from the library. This is going to be a busy reading year.

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
National Geographic Angry Birds: AnimalsMy youngest is really into Angry Birds and I discovered there are many, many books with those little pesky guys. Some of the books are for early readers and discuss Angry Birds Star Wars theme (Angry Birds Star Wars: Angry Birds Star Wars: Lard Vader’s Villains, and Angry Birds Star Wars: Darth Swindle’s Secret). They sure are a great way to motivate a young reader! Other books were made in collaboration with National Geographic. We’ve been reading National Geographic Angry Birds: Animals, which goes all around the globe to introduce some animals and their habitat. On each page, the birds talk to each other, while they’re looking for their eggs. Again, a great way to motivate a young reader to read all of the speech bubbles on each page. I’ve requested more books in the series from the library and I hope they’re as much fun.

My oldest recently discovered Calvin & Hobbes and he’s been reading and rereading the Calvin & Hobbes complete collection. This is a great way to keep a reader interested, but definitely not a quiet way. Lots of giggling and laughing out loud going around.

– What they recently finished reading
Down To The Sea with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
We’ve been reading so many books in the past couple of months, I’ll just list some of our favorite. We LOVE Chris Van Dusen’s gouache illustrations (they’re so precise and detailed, they look like they were made on a computer) and although he’s illustrated a lot of children’s books for other authors, including Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series, Van Dusen is quite a talented writer too, opting for rhyme for his very funny books, including Down To The Sea with Mr. Magee, The Circus Ship (we really, really liked this story), If I Built A House, and If I Built A Car.

We’ve also read some very funny books by Aaron Reynolds (most recently the author of Creepy Carrots), including:
Buffalo Wings by Aaron ReynoldsBuffalo Wings: farm chickens want to make them as a snack. While most of them take care of the sauce, one of them goes search for the main ingredient. That’s until the buffaloes tell him how buffalo wings are really made…
Chicks and salsa: chickens are tired of chicken feed and decide to try some Southwestern cuisine instead.
Pirates vs. Cowboys: what happens when pirates and cowboys speak two different languages and suffer from miscommunication?

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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WWW Wednesdays – November 20, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

Remember that my 2014 nature photography calendars are available for sale on my online Zazzle store.  All calendars are made to order in the USA so you support the US economy with your purchase, and a starving artist at the same time (me!). I appreciate all referrals through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and of course your blog or website. Save 10% off my 2014 photo calendars (choose between five different themes) and up to 60% off on other products. Enter code HOLIDAYCOUNT at checkout; code valid until November 21, 2013, midnight.

My bookshelf

1984 by George Orwell– What I’m currently reading 
I’m reading two books at the same time (this is not the most efficient way to read for me, but one of them is a fast read):
1984 by George Orwell. Last time I read it was in high school, so it will be interesting to see what I get out of it as an adult.
The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People by David Niven. I enjoyed reading his book The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People a few months ago (you can read my review here) so I thought I’d go ahead and read the other books in the series.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov– What I recently finished reading
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I’ve wanted to read this book for a very long time and finally got to do it for my upcoming book club meeting. I think everyone will have a different opinion about this book depending on their gender and their age when they get to read this story. As a woman reading this book in my 40s, I’m fascinated by Humbert’s twisted mind and the many ways he justifies his thoughts and actions. He goes at lengths to explain why what he does is perfectly OK, and that gives me an idea of what goes through a child predator or a sex pervert’s mind. As for Lolita/Dolores, wow… First portrayed as an innocent pubescent child, you come to realize she’s got a much mature mindset and attitude than her age indicates. Overall I liked this book but I thought Part 2 dragged up for a little too long. The two-year long trip around the US bored me a bit and I found myself scheming that part of the book. The end is fascinating though. This is definitely one of those books you need to read in your lifetime.

The Optimistic Child by Martin Selingman. This book may not be so helpful if you have very young children but is definitely worth the read if you have tweens or teens. Seligman clearly marks the differences between seeing the glass half empty and the one half full. This book not only contains a lot of research data but also a ton of valuable concrete examples of what children can go through and how they handle it. Seligman shows what a parent should or shouldn’t say in some situations to be supportive, and he provides a lot of tools to help children become more optimistic than pessimistic. His 5-step problem solving process works for adults too, clearly explaining how to identify a bad event as temporary rather than permanent, take a fresh perspective, set new goals and a plan of action for the future. I definitely recommend this book if you’re interested in the subject for yourself or your kids.

– What I think I’ll read next
Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes” by Madeleine Levine. Several people I know have read this book, so I thought, why not? I’m interested in coping skills for children, so hopefully I can find some good advice in this book.

My kids’ bookshelf

The Ninja Meerkats series by Gareth Jones and Luke FinlaysonWhat they’re currently reading
The Ninja Meerkats series by Gareth Jones and Luke Finlayson. I have not read these books yet but I have flipped through the pages. More importantly I’ve watched my seven-year old devour ALL 6 books in the series, and go back to reading them again and again. And I have seen my 5-year old flip through the books too, asking his brother to tell him what happens in each chapter and read him the story. Just check out the characters’ names: Jet Flashfeet, Chuck Cobracrusher, Donnie Dragonjab, and Bruce Willowhammer. Ninja Meerkats with super cool names? Can it get any better??? Hi-yah!

The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew DaywaltThe Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. This is the second time we’ve borrowed this book from the library because we like it so much. A boy’s crayons each write him a letter to tell him why they’re upset in the way he uses each color. Having boys, I know too well that red (and black) is indeed the pencil that gets used all the time, and I have plenty of unused pink pencils. Oliver Jeffers drew the illustrations for this book, with crayons, of course, and they are brilliant.

– What they recently finished reading
This Plus That: Life's Little Equations by Amy Krouse RosenthalThis Plus That: Life’s Little Equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. My kids and I really, really like this book. We read it several times and never got tired of it, seeing each equation in a different light. This books sums up (pun intended) the little joys (and sorrows) of life in simple, yet smart equations, such as “wishes + frosting = birthday”. We’re big fans of Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Exclamation Mark!) and this book doesn’t disappoint. This is one of my favorite pages in the book:

This plus that

This plus that

The Purple Kangaroo by Michael Ian BlackThe Purple Kangaroo by Michael Ian Black. Comedian Michael Ian Black can be funny on TV but he’s also hilarious as a children’s book author. This isn’t the first book of his we’ve read but my boys really enjoyed this one, especially because Peter Brown’s illustrations go so well with the text. The narrator monkey bets that he can read your mind. How can this be? He bets that you’re thinking… about… a purple kangaroo! No, you weren’t thinking about a purple kangaroo? Are you sure you weren’t thinking about a purple kangaroo on roller skates… the story goes on, adding on to the ridiculous concept until the very end, where the monkey knows that you’re thinking about a purple kangaroo now! This is one of those books my kids ask me to read again as soon as I’m done, to see if it’s just as good as the first time. It is.

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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