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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Easiest Bedtime Story Ever

So last night I was trying to think of a way to help Jubilee (almost two years old now) chill out. See, bedtime has been a little rough this last week (ever since she started consistently climbing out of bed).

Last night I put Jubilee in bed and she immediately swung her leg up to climb out. I knew if I turned around to get a book, she'd be dangling from the rail in no time.

"Hey, did I ever tell you the story of Spot??!?" I don't remember if this was exactly how I started the story, but it was something like this. Including my best ever attention-all-preschoolers voice.  The voice worked so well, in fact, that Levi (age 4) popped his head in the room.

As I started telling the story of one of her favorite board books, I could see she was loving it. She knew this one. Levi came and settled himself down in the room to listen.

Shortest bedtime story ever. Easiest story ever! Do you know how many times I have read her favorite books to her? I certainly don't.

Retelling a favorite book was such a hit that I went on to tell several more. Levi counted and told me that I did six in all. (The number of stories he gets at night is important to him.) I honestly don't remember! I was just looking at the bookshelf and picking favorites that I knew would work. I had to reject favorite concept books (a counting book is a little less exciting without the items to count) but I still had a good handful. Here are the ones I remember retelling: Where's Spot by Eric Hill, Rocket Town by Bob Logan, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

I didn't tell the stories word-for-word. I probably could have! Instead of aiming for accuracy, I was telling them quick and silly to distract Jubilee from her intention of climbing out of bed. I'm pretty sure my very hungry caterpillar ate some bananas, which is totally apocryphal.

Related: 5 Board Books that are Great for Groups also 6 Books to Give at Baby Showers

My storytelling was successful, and the baby-love soon settled down for the night. (After I kicked her brother out of the room, and sung a lot of favorite songs, and breathed calm breaths in hopes that she would be hypnotized by them). Let's not talk about how bedtime went tonight. Maybe I shoulda tried the same trick.

So, what do you think? Will you try this with your kids? Have you tried it already? Or maybe you've tried some other storytelling tricks? Leave a comment below.

Jacob says that he thinks this bedtime story hack would not have worked so well with Benjamin (age 6). I agree. He would have been very indignant and insisted on a REAL bedtime story. But for the preschool crowd? I highly recommend it!

Related: Benjamin helped me review Rocket Town when he was only three years old.

Also related: My e-book to help parents jump-start a storytelling habit with kids, Story Club, is undergoing another round of edits right now. So exciting! Visit the Story Club main page here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Design Mom Book: review and giveaway [closed]

Photo by Jacob Stewart for Everead
Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Stanley Blair

What a great book! I tagged its pages in three different categories throughout, as you can see. I'll tell you all about it! But let's begin at the beginning.

Reading this book was a lot of fun. I requested it from the publisher, Artisan, because I love reading Gabrielle Blair's blog: Design Mom. I would say if you like the blog, it is a safe bet you will like the book. The book isn't exactly like the blog. The book reminds me most of Design Mom posts like this one, about Christmas stockings.

But what if you don't already read Design Mom? Let me tell you more about the book.

It is very conversational in tone. It is a pleasure to read, and feels like a chat with a friend. The only problem with that is that it wasn't *actually* a conversation so I couldn't ask the author to tell me MORE! I mean, I could have read double as much. Wanting moremore stories, more detailswas my only complaint with the book. And that's not really a complaint, it's a compliment.

I loved the photos, all gorgeous and lovely, even when they didn't suit my personal design tastes. Some photos took up a whole two-page spread! A feast for the eyes. This reading nook looks so inviting . . .

This is the kind of lovely photography we are talking about.
Photo by Seth Smoot, styling by Kendra Smoot for Design Mom.
The book is all about designing your home to meet your family's needsassuming you have kids. That's cool because I have kids (currently ages six, four, and one). The Blair family has six children ranging in age from high school to preschool. (You may know them from my favorite online video series, Olive Us.) Because she has kids in a wide spread of ages, Gabrielle can share from experience needed contingencies for older kids, for younger kids, and for when older and younger kids need to work together in a space.

Each room detailed in the book is broken down into snippets of advicesometimes one page, sometimes a two-page spread. At times the advice is very concrete: "Let Your Coats Come Out of the Closet" is a snippet in the section of the book about the entryway. It makes a case for displaying your coats in your entryway, instead of keeping them in a closet. Other times, the advice Design Mom gives is quite abstract: "Aim for Function + Beauty" is a section dedicated to a formula for getting rid of clutter and surrounding yourself with items that will bring you joy and make your life easier.

Now, let me tell you about my sticky notes.

Thought about cropping this photo but then the dalmatian on the floor just matched so perfectly...

The purple notes mark pages I want to talk to my family about. Conversations to Have or Things To Do Immediately. They are things like "Choose Dinnerware that will Grow Up with Your Family"our dinnerware is definitely not coming with us when we move this summer, so I know replacing our dinnerware is an impending project. And I know I need to tell Jacob, so that he won't be surprised by that. Another example that I have tagged is a Do-It-Yourself project of making a "You are Special Today" plate. We had one of these when I was a kid, and it was the best! I definitely want to have one of these in my house, and don't want to shell out for a replica of the one I grew up with. I've looked into it, and . . . no. I'm not much of a DIYer but all the projects in this book are super simple and practical. I've already used tips from the "Foolproof Tricks for Styling Your Bookshelves" and "Simplify Your Bedding" sections.

The pink notes mark pages that I found myself thinking about when I wasn't reading the bookgreat ideas that I thought I could put into practice once we move to Connecticut, or just concepts I found myself mulling over while eating my morning bowl of cereal. For example, "Storing Artwork and Homework" is often on my mind at breakfast, because I sit and stare at the pile of stuff on top of our craft dresser as I munch. Gabrielle's advice from the section on task lighting came to mind when I was squinting over a project. And the Fabric-covered Bulletin Boards look so easy that I want to make several for our new place, once we get there. But I'm absolutely not hanging anything new on my walls nine weeks before we move.

The little mantra that this book gave me and which has been playing in my head ever since is, "Do what works now." It is reminding me to not tackle projects like the bulletin boards yet. It tells me not to give away the couch until we're a little closer to our moving date. And it is inspiring me to go whole hog for rearranging the furniture to shift where the library books belong, so that they belong right next to the couch where they always end up anyway.

The yellow notes represent times that I gave myself a pat on the back for already being awesome. By that I mean that these were the parts of the book where Gabrielle suggests doing something that I'm already doing. "Rotate the Toys" and "Don't Hide the Hamper" were sections I could have written myself, having learned those lessons from experience. "Play the House Librarian" is also marked in yellow because, well, that's pretty much my favorite thing to do. (You can find my posts about building a high quality home library for kids here.)

I'd say if the idea of Design Mom: How To Live With Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide intrigues you or appeals to you, go for it! It's $21 on Amazon right now. It's the same price at Barnes and Noble. (Yes, those are affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking them, I will earn a small commission from the bookseller.)

Good grief, I like it enough that I'm going to give a copy away!
(Not my copy. My beautiful annotated copy. It's miiiiiine.)

[This giveaway is now CLOSED, but you can still sign up here for future giveaways] If you would like to enter the giveaway, I'll need your email address before April 22, 2015 . It's infinitely easier to contact a winner when I've already got an email in hand. And the most private and convenient way for me to get that is for you to subscribe to my email list, below. I promise I won't bug ya. You can read more about my email list here. You can read the full giveaway policy here. Those who already subscribe are also eligible to win.

You should get a  confirmation email from me via MailChimp. Confirm your subscription and you know you are entered.

Now tell me your thoughts! What questions do you have? Leave a comment, below.

To be clear: I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher with the understanding that I would review it here. I am not being provided with a copy to give away.** I'm just going to buy a copy for someone who wants it. I'll probably use my own affiliate link. Ha!

**update: Artisan has graciously sent a copy for our winner. Congrats to Jenni Livingston! And many thanks to Artisan.

Monday, March 30, 2015

One of my favorite books is now a movie: HOME

... and I haven't seen it yet. Aargh!  Gotta get there. Has anybody seen it yet? They were running a good ad campaign last week, I have to say. I saw at least two or three advertisements for it -- one a clip of the trailer that played in between angry birds levels that Benjamin was playing.

Here's the trailer, in case you haven't seen it. The movie is not called The True Meaning of Smekday, which is the title of the book. Nor is the movie titled Happy Smekday, as I originally thought it would be. It is called Home. And I think it's super funny that the real J. Lo is part of the film. That's just so cool.

It looks like it will be different from the book (of course), but I'm still excited about it. I heard from Linda at Gallery Nucleus that Adam Rex had done some work on the movie. Some of his art is available for purchase through Gallery Nucleus, here. And, it looks like there is a book about the movie's art, called The Art of Home.

In preparation for the release of Home, Jacob began reading The True Meaning of Smekday to the kids at night. They're not quite finished with it yet, but Benjamin, who is only six years old, is excited enough about the book that he has read ahead a little bit.

So, are you going to see it? If you've already seen it, what did you think?

Previous Smekday love on Everead:
The True Meaning of Smekday book review
Fangirling over the Smekday movie announcement
Smekday featured on my "Good Books to Read Aloud" post
Smekday featured on "Books for a 13 year old boy: 10 exciting titles to keep him reading"
The first pick on my "Books for 14 year old boys?" post.

By the way, I'm dying to grubby hands on the sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday. It's titled Smek for President and features a trip to New Boovworld.
This post does not contain any affiliate links. Just good ol' fashioned fun!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Both Silly and Soulful: Hey Natalie Jean by Natalie Holbrook

photo by Jacob Stewart
This book has soul.

Some parts of it are silly and some are serious.

But when I think of it, I think, "That book's got soul."

Hey Natalie Jean: Advice, Musings, and Inspiration on Marriage, Motherhood, and Style 
by Natalie Holbrook

I've been following Natalie Holbrook's blog, Hey Natalie Jean, for a long time now. I started back when it was still called Nat the Fat Rat (because that name!) and stuck around because her son Huck was born right around the same time Levi was born, and she was talking about life with a newborn, which is what I was living.*

Anyway, Jacob asked me some questions about the book (which led to me turning the tables on him) and I thought you might like to listen in.

Jacob: What's it about?
Alysa: It is a series of essays about motherhood, being a woman, and living in New York City and . . .  taking yourself seriously.

Jacob: What do you mean by that?
Alysa: Well, the book encourages you to take yourself seriously. It's also kind of silly at times, but the best essays are the serious ones, in my opinion. For instance, she talks about trusting yourself as a mother, helping your husband get through a tough time, being happy and present in your life.

Jacob: Okay. What was your favorite essay?
Alysa: My favorite was the one where she talked about Brandon having a nervous breakdown. It's titled On Grooves and has a section called "How to Beat the Blahs." As you know, I experience The Blahs with some regularity. So does Natalie, but her husband Brandon doesn't. And . . . so he did, and it really threw him for a loop. And she's like, "Oh I know exactly what to do." It was a vulnerable essay, and it helped me step into her shoes and imagine what that would be like for me. It was great.

Jacob: "The Blahs" here being a euphemism for mild depression? Or no?
Alysa: Yeah.
Jacob: Chad Orzel did a post recently about how blogging has helped him past his mild depression. he linked to a blog post about having high functioning depression, where everyday tasks are a chore, but not impossible.
Alysa: That sounds really interesting. Alysa makes a mental note to find the link.

Alysa: Ok, so, let me tell you more about the book. There are pictures.
Jacob: They're all taken by Natalie, right?
Alysa: No.
Jacob: Oh! Who took the other ones then? I know she does like to take pictures right?
Alysa: Yes. She does; and she took a lot of the photos, but there are also photos by Lesley Uhruh, Emma Kepley and Justin Hackworth (whose Instagram I love).

Alysa: So, some of the stuff I had read before. Some of it is taken from posts on her blog.
Jacob: So you could link to some of those as examples of what the book is like. Some of your favorite ones.
Alysa: Yeah. On Being a Queen is my favorite essay in the book that's also on the blog. It is a little different in the book, but the main thrust of it is the same. It's the first essay in the book, and she uses it to introduce the whole work. I've found myself thinking of it, and using it. I even told the boys one day, "I am the Queen." [Our sons are six and four. Our daughter is one and thinks that she's the queen.]

Jacob: Why should someone read this book? I was going to say "Why should I read this book," but I've already read parts of it.

Alysa: What did you like about it?
Jacob: I read a few chapters . . . I liked just hearing, or, reading, a different perspective on life.
Alysa: She doesn't seem very much like you, to me.
Jacob: First of all she's a woman. Secondly she is living in New York City. She cares much more about interior design than I do, considering I care very, very little. And about clothes, same thing. But it was very well written, and interesting to read. I didn't feel like it was a waste of my time or anything.
Alysa: I agree. Once you start reading it, it's very easy to keep reading it. You know, there's nothing that throws you out --
Jacob: No typos or odd phrasing that throws you out of the groove.
Alysa: Right. And there is plenty of soul that draws you in.

Alysa: Did it make you laugh?
Jacob: Yeah parts of it definitely did.
Alysa: Me too.

Alysa: I think it's interesting to hear your take on it, because you DON'T read her blog.
Jacob: I'm not the target audience. In a deep voice I'm a man.

Jacob: Ok, so why should someone read this book?
Alysa: You should read this book if you want to see things from a new perspective, or if you want encouragement in motherhood. If you want some mom-spiration. Or, if you're thinking about writing a memoir or about your own life experience. She does a really good job of that.

So there you have it! I edited the transcript of our conversation lightly, in case you were wondering.
Hey Natalie Jean is available for purchase, and I'm glad I have a copy -- I requested one from the publisher and received it with the understanding that I would review it. (Of course I would!) Anyway here are affiliate links, in case you'd like to shop for it.  


*plus also because her voice reminded me of my sister, who I missed terribly because she was serving a mission in the Czech Republic at the time. AND because once I found out her maiden name was Lovin I discovered we had lived only a block or two apart, back in Mesa, and our moms had known each other. I even played at her house once. And I remember it was immaculate and that her mom made me "cheep like a birdie" for a treat -- which was totally humiliating at the time, but which torture I have since inflicted on many a young child. So fun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I'm a writer

Oh my garrrrrsh. Is it just me or is writing Story Club taking forever? It's been almost a year since I began this project. My first ebook.

Good news though! I'm making progress on it, and getting closer and closer to being ready to release it. I wrote the table of contents tonight. That's gettin' serious. Because you can't write the table of contents until you know what the contents really are.

I had an epiphany the other day. I'm a writer. I mean, I've identified as a blogger for some time now. But there's a difference in my mind between being a blogger and being a writer, I guess. I don't think of myself as an author, at this point. But writer? Yes.

Anyway, I like writing. I do it for fun. I do it for work. I do it for my personal therapy (I keep a nightly journal). And sometime after listening to Lisa Congdon talk a couple times, I realized that writing is kind of my art of choice.

So that's cool.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Expand Your Horizons: Read Books from Foreign Lands

Books published outside the US

My friend Rachel asked me for some of these because she has to read them for an assignment for her Writing for Children and Young Adults degree she is getting (Go Rachel! Go Rachel!) I came up with a few, then asked around on twitter and facebook as well.  By collecting and organizing responses, I've come up with a book list, an author list, and a link list. Have at it!

Book list:
Harry Potter series* by J. K. Rowling (UK)
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (France)
Hilda and the Midnight Giant series* by Luke Pearson (France)
Bad Machinery** series by John Allison (UK)
Hidden* by Loïc Dauvillier (France)
Neurocomic* by Farinella and Ros (UK)
Moonhead and the Music Machine* by Andrew Rae (UK)
Skellig* by David Almond (UK)
Kit's Wilderness by David Almond (UK)
The 13 Story Tree House by Andy Griffiths (Aus)
Saffy's Angel* series by Hilary McKay (UK)
Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman (UK)
When We Wake by Karen Healey (New Zealand)
The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper (Aus)
Happy as Larry by Scot Gardner (Aus)
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Aus)
Kaleidoscope anthology edited by Alisa Kranostein and Julia Rios (Aus)
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil (Aus)
The Protected by Claire Zorn (Aus)
At the Same Moment Around the World Clotilde Perrin (France)
Monster Blood Tattoo series by D. M. Cornish (Aus)
The Lost Conspiracy by Francis Hardinge (UK)
The Books of Pelinor series by Alison Croggon (Aus)
Ruby Red series by Kerstin Gier, translated by Anthea Bell (Germany)
Matilda* by Roald Dahl

Author list:
Melina Marchetta
Margo Lanagan
Sally Murphy (her verse novels especially recommended)
Juliet Marillier* (already a favorite of Rachel's, I know)
Ellie Marney
Margret Mahy
Dodie Smith (whose books 101 Dalmations and I Capture the Castle I want to read)
Astrid Lindgren*
Tove Jansson*

and authors listed in the book list, above:
J. K. Rowling*
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Like Pearson*
John Allison*
Loïc Dauvillier*
Andrew Rae*
David Almond**
Andy Griffiths
Hilary McKay**
Neil Gaiman*
Karen Healey
Michelle Cooper
Scot Gardner
Allyse Near
Melissa Keil
Claire Zorn
Clotilde Perrin
D. M. Cornish
Francis Hardinge
Hana Ros*
Matteo Farinella*
Kerstin Gier
Alison Croggon
Roald Dahl* (not all of his books qualify)

Link list:
At you can search books by country.
Check  the Children's Book Council of Australia's Book of the Year awards.
More than 800 Australian books listed by Tehani Wessely
A tag of Canadian books on Laina's blog
The Enchanted Lion publishing house reprints a lot of European books.

Thanks to the following for contributing to this list!
Ashley Bair
Amber Burge
Betsy Bird (@FuseEight)
Eric Davis (@EricinBoston)
Justine Larbalestier (@JustineLavaworm)
Kathryn Flaherty (@KathrynFlaherty)
Kayla Sorenson
Laina (@lainasparetime)
Leila Roy (@bkshlevesofdoom)
Lisa Brown (@lisabrowndraws)
Ransom Smith
Tehani Wessely (@editormum75)
Vlad Verano (@3rdplacepress)

What would YOU add to this list?

I hope this helps you get your degree, Rachel! Because I definitely want to read more of your writing. (I've read bits of Rachel's most excellent fantasy epic about a tattooed girl, and her redemption story about a  heroin addict. Am waiting not-so-patiently for more.)

All photos came from Rachel's breathtaking instagram feed. She's @rachelandcompany on instagram. You will be *shocked* to know that I post @everead on instagram, mostly pictures of my kiddos and my books.

*I have personally read this book or a work by this author.

**Link to an Everead post: Bad Machinery (John Allison) . My Dad's a Birdman (David Almond), Hidden (Loic Dauvillier), The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)Hilary McKay (who has enough posts on Everead to warrant her own tag), Shadowfell (Juliet Marillier), Moomin (Tove Jansson).

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sure to be an Adventure: Benjamin reviews Treasure Town

I've got something special for you today! Benjamin wants to tell you about a book he read this week.
What is the name of this book?
Treasure Town!

Who is it by?
Ummm. Doug . . . [Doug Wilhelm, and illustrated by Sarah-Lee Terrat]

How was it?
It was good.

Who would like it? 
Probably like, 5-, 6-, 7-year-old's or anybody who likes Magic Tree House. [The book is designed for grades 2 and 3.]

What was it about? It was about these four kids, no three kids, um, and they met they two guys named Bug and Yuke, and they were looking for treasure in Alaska, but they were down in Sandy Feet, Florida! And then the three kids told them about the treasure that was down here in Sandy Feet, Florida. And they all went hunting for it together. And Yuke was a really fat guy and he was strong, so one of the kids named Speedup was helping dig with him for the treasure; and the treasure was Jean Lafitte's treasure.

What did you learn from it?
That there are two girl pirates that were braver than boys! Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Was it funny? Why?
It was funny. Cuz one time, Yuke said "excuse me" when Speedup told him to get out . . .

Who are all the main characters?
Bug - He's an old fat guy looking for treasure
Yuke - Really good digger and Bug's partner
Speedup - Good digger, too, like Yuke. And he's a kid.
Luis - A kid who day dreams with Bug about treasure.
Hayley B. - A kid who has a strong intuition. She can tell when there is treasure or not! Only girl that's part of the main characters.

Tell me more about the pirates.
Jean Lafitte - If you had all of his gold, then you could build a bridge of gold across the Mississippi River!
Anne Bonny - Escaped from jail. We don't know what happened after she escaped from jail.
Mary Read - Sailor that got captured, but girls back then were not supposed to be sailors. Died from a fever in jail.

Here's the rest of the characters.
The townspeople - gathers around if a police car is on top of a geyser of the town's main water pipe!
Chief Gherkin - he doesn't like the beach.

Did you like the pictures? YES!

Would you say this is a good book for kids?
Yes. Ok, can I read you one chapter??

Haha! Oh man, I get a kick out of this kid. Doug Wilhelm, author of Treasure Town, sent me a copy of the book for review, on my request. I thought Benjamin might like it! He also sent a Classroom Guide to go along with it, if that's your thing. Treasure Town is available for pre-order and will release on April 20, 2015. I have posted affiliate links above, for your convenience.

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