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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Building your library: Board Books that are good for a group!

So my mom and I were talking yesterday -- we're both sorting through books right now.

I'm going through my library and pulling anything that I don't want to move across the country. (That's right folks, Jacob got his dream job! In Connecticut!) In fact, since we plan to rent at first, I've got to figure out which books are good enough that I want to move them twice. Pack, haul, unpack. Repeat: pack, haul, unpack. Only the best of the best are coming with us. (The point that I'm trying to make here is that if you're local, you should definitely come to my book sale. Date TBA.)

First box of books is packed! Keep them safe, Anna and Elsa.
(Little did Jubilee know, that was her last day with the pacifier.)

My mom, on the other hand, is going through her own library and the library of the church nursery. She is now a teacher in the children's class for 1- 2- and 3-year-olds, and their story time selections need an overhaul.

So she asked me to recommend some board books that were a) bigger b) had a little more story to them and c) could handle the harsh treatment of a childcare situation.

Accordingly, you will NOT find on this list some of my favorite board books that are small, that are mainly concept books, or that have flaps (bound to get ripped off) and textures (bound to be grabbed and fought over).*

Anyway, let's get to the list!

5 Board Books to Please a Crowd

Rocket Town by Bob Logan -- I've mentioned this book before and Ashley's family loves it, too. In fact, we've loved our copy to death, but we're not ready to let it go -- we've put it on life support. The story is pretty basic: rockets go up, they go down, they're big, small, fast and slow. But the connecting thread on all these pages is the man and his dog driving a pickup truck. And when they finally blast off? What a stellar ending. (Pun intended.) Haven't met a preschooler who didn't like this book. The double-page spreads make the pictures bigger, for when you're reading to a group, and the book size is larger than your typical Sandra Boynton.

Speaking of Sandra Boynton, she's pretty much board book royalty. I highly recommend a copy of Barnyard Dance, even though it's not large, because I can see that leading to an excellent hoe-down. "Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a barnyard dance!" I always make a few fiddle noises there, as I turn the page.

I Kissed the Baby by Mary Murphy -- This one, too, is typical board book size, but I just have to pull it in over here (I first featured it on my post Books to Give at Baby Showers). The bold, black on white illustrations are going to make seeing the pictures easy, even in a big group. And the sweet actions described in the book could lead to some excellent pretend play -- holding the baby, feeding the baby, tickling the baby, etc. This book is super sweet for a one-on-one read aloud, but I think it's going to hold up fantastically with a big crowd.

The Wheels on the Bus by Raffi, illustrated by Silvie Wickstrom -- Found this one at Home Goods today,** and of course it's a classic. I'm sure that reading this one to a group would turn into singing, complete with hand motions. But I picked this one for the list (and passed on this one) because of the superior illustrations. Bold colors and broad outlines, but lots of details for the little one who wants to look closely at it later. (See?)

Last but not least, I pick Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. I found this one at Home Goods just before Christmas. Though I've never read it to the kids, I was with my friend Nicole at the time, and she said it is the #1 favorite of her 3 year old right now. Even better, she said she doesn't mind reading it to him. Haha! I read it in the store and it's got a nice rhythm. I wish now that I had taken a picture of it in my hand (though at the time that would have been a very odd thing to do, since I wasn't planning this post) but it IS larger than usual. You can probably guess from the cover that Little Blue goes around collecting farm animals, and each makes his noise in turn.

Ok, there you have it! A handful of great board books that will both please a hoard of toddlers AND last long enough to please their younger siblings, too. Cover images above are affiliate links to Amazon, because my mom requested them. (If you purchase books through these links, I make a small commission. Thanks, mom!)

Share this post with all your friends who are in the market for board books. They'll thank you.

*Count! by Denise Fleming, Where's Spot? by Eric Hill and Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt for instance. Great books.

**My favorite place to buy board books is at Home Goods. At least in my town, they've always got a good sized collection of them over with the toys. And the prices are just unbeatable, for a new book! The photo above was taken today, at Home Goods, because once I thought of going there I couldn't help myself. :D (Unfortunately had to leave a cute flower arrangement, several awesome toys, and all the rest of the merchandise in the store, le sigh.)

More board books I recommend, here!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Did I ever tell you the story about . . .

Working on Story Club tonight!

And I just had to share with you this gem I found on the internet. 21 Surprising Parenting Tips. Especially because I tried this little bit of advice:
3. If you want their attention at the dinner table, or anywhere else, start a sentence with "Did I ever tell you the story about..." 
And it worked amazingly well on five 3- and 4-year-olds who were not listening to me.

See, we got an electric keyboard from some friends who upgraded theirs, and it's power cord is a bit finicky (thanks to the fact that we tried to jam one of the wrong size on there, shortly after getting it). Anyway, the aforementioned preschool group kept bumping the piano, which would make it turn off, which would cause them to shout at each other for turning it off.

"Did I ever tell you the story . . . about how this piano needs to be treated gently?"

It was magic.

While we're on the subject, I would love to hear your best parenting tips! Share them with me in comments. I'll put some of my own down there, too.

Here's one!
Double the fun of getting a package in the mail
by giving the kids markers and letting them draw all over the box
before you recycle it (or save it for your upcoming move).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Great graphic novels!

Ok, I'm back with the second half of the Cybils Finalist list, as promised. These are graphic novels I highly recommend, published in 2014, nominated in the Elementary/Middle Grade category, and agreed upon by my fellow panelists and I as the best of the bunch in terms of kid-appeal and literary merit.

2014's Best Graphic Novels for Younger Readers (Part 2):

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier I just recommended this book to a friend whose eighth grade daughter is studying WWII. Though I think this book would be fine for some 3rd graders, I think it's poignant enough that it can interest older audiences as well. It is a relatively mild story from the holocaust which details one girl's experience fleeing the city and hiding in the country. It does an excellent job of conveying the confusion, disgust, and sadness that affected her for years.

The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley is autobiographical. This is the story of how Jimmy Gownley published his first comic, about him and his friends. It features middle school antics and teaching nuns. Anyway, I found it to be both more interesting and more enjoyable than Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, another strong contender in the realistic genre.

Ballad by Blexbolex I've written about Ballad before. Did you know that in its original language it is titled Romance? I can see why they changed the title -- there is nothing "romantic" about it but this story of a child going home from school goes from simple to incredibly complex and is full of interesting things. Read more about it in my full review.

Remember, you can catch Part 1 of this list right here. Happy reading!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year! Cybils lists are up!

Hello! Wow, the holidays, eh? And the post-holidays. Every day it feels like I should have taken my Christmas tree down already, or posted on my blog. Well, the tree will have to wait for now, because

The Cybils shortlists have been announced!

And I want to talk about them.

Since I was a round one panelist for Graphic Novels this year, and since the GN category isn't split into older and younger subcategories, I got to help decide two shortlists this year. Let me tell you about them. Affiliate links, ahoy!

2014's Best Graphic Novels For Younger Readers (and up):

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Good Boy by  John Allison -- I wrote the official summary for this one, because YES. Where have you been all my life?  I confess that I have stayed up past midnight more than one night this week, reading the archives of this most excellent webcomic. (Start here, if you so choose.) But get this: The book is even better! So better! Extra pages!

And I will tell you what I felt didn't really fit into the neat-n-tidy Cybils summary. That is that this series is my new Calvin and Hobbes.  The six mystery-solving English middle schoolers who star are not actually much like Calvin, but all the essential elements are there: Either funny or interesting every time? Check. Larger, overarching story? Check. A little bit of the imaginary, made real? (Not a talking tiger toy, but still) Check. Occasional witty perspectives from adults? Check.

Bird and Squirrel on Ice by James Burks -- So much good clean fun! Bird and Squirrel are a best friends. They begin this book (I haven't read the first volume, yet) by crash landing near a penguin village. They end it by subverting gender stereotypes and avoiding the Trinity Syndrome. Wahoo! I do not even know how many times Levi made me read this book to him. A lot. And it's not short. But we had so much fun! Enjoy.

El Deafo by Cece Bell -- I have given this one the full-review already. Most excellent. I feel like reading this book has made me a kinder, more sensitive person. Just weeks after reading this I made a friend who is deaf. Thanks for the tips, Ms. Bell!

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War -- I wanted to like this one more than I actually did. But my fellow panelists made up for my lack of enthusiasm. What can I say? I was a little frustrated with our protagonist's deep desire to fit in. The story is about a half-white, half-Japanese young man who is required to report to the Internment Camps the U.S. government instituted during WWII. His Japanese father is away, and even though his mother is Irish and not required to "go to camp" she accompanies her son. I'd love to read this story from the mother's perspective. It was very well done.

Ok guys, that's NOT ALL. But that's it for me tonight. That's only four of the seven books on this shortlist though! I will return and tell you more about the remaining titles on the younger readers list, and all about the YA list, too. Mark my words.

In the meantime, I promise not to mind if you peek at the rest of the lists. These are some of the best graphic novels published in 2014, as decided by us die-hards who love kidlit graphic novels so much that we blog about them.

Tell me, which of these four titles sparks your interest most?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas book giveaway [CLOSED]! And a favorite Christmas book tradition.

Yes, I hung the dough ornament of Yoda
that Levi made at preschool.
It seems like people turn to books more often at Christmastime than at any other time of the year. Am I right? I know my own holiday book collection features more Christmas and Winter titles than all the other holidays combined.

I'll tell you what I like to do with our Christmas books (and I'll shamelessly admit that I stole this tradition from my Everead co-blogger Ashley -- learn from the best!): Every year we wrap the Christmas books up like presents (even though they're mostly the same ones). Then we get to unwrap one each day and read! It's so super fun. Also it has the added advantage of staving off the children's pleas to open "just one present."

I confess, I haven't wrapped them up yet this year, but "yet" is the right word there. I fully intend to wrap up some of our favorites --The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Jan Brett, Barbara McClintock's The Gingerbread Man, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. And I'm definitely going to wrap up The Night Before The Night Before Christmas by Jay Dee and Darren Geers -- since it's our newest. I've successfully kept it hidden from the kids, and I look forward to their surprise.

When the author of The Night Before The Night Before Christmas, Jay Dee, asked if I'd like to do a review and giveaway, my first thought was, "Too busy!" But my second thought came after I saw the cover image by Darren Geers.

When saw the cover, I thought, "This book has potential!" I was right. The interior illustrations are every bit as lovely as the cover -- my fave was probably the exterior of Santa's cabin, which you can peek at in the Amazon preview. I'm reasonably certain that the art was rendered digitally, and it does a great job of capturing texture and detail without feeling busy. The pages are laid out very well -- I didn't even notice how effortless reading this book was until I was looking consciously, for this review. There's great depth in the art, you'll notice. Even just on the cover you see the train in the foreground, Our protagonist Elfie is the star of the show, and behind him, who is that? Ah, St. Nick himself.

Anyway, let me tell you about the story. Elfie is a detail-oriented little guy and has spent quite a long time working on the little train you see before you. Too long, if you ask his elf supervisor. Tension builds as we fear a reprimand from Santa himself, but it turns out that Elfie's insistence on perfection was exactly what Santa was after. This is a special train, to be given to a special baby, Jesus.

I was initially put off by this anachronism -- toy trains were not a big thing when Baby Jesus was born. I'm pretty sure they came later. Very sure. But then I considered the overall message of the book, the respectful way Christ was brought into a secular story, the positive way I expect my children to receive the plot (despite it's incongruity to me, as an adult) and the fact that Christ has said "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto . . . my brethren, ye have done it unto me."   After these deliberations, I decided I could go with it.

The pacing of the book is on point, and the characters are endearing (with the exception of the two-dimensional demanding supervisor elf), and the text and picture pairing is seamless.

Overall I'd say this will make a charming addition to our collection of Christmas books.

I would love to know what book-related traditions you have around this holiday season, and what your favorite Christmas books are. I've got my eye on The Christmas Quiet Book
, yes I do.

Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway! For an extra entry, tweet about the giveaway and tag me, @everead. Contest closes December 22, 2014. (Give Everead's Giveaway Policy the once-over if you haven't seen it yet.)

p.s. The links in this post are affiliate links, and here is one for Barnes and Noble, too, just in case! The Night Before The Night Before Christmas Merry Christmas!

Congratulations to our winner, Amy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Start talking about your roots with The Tiny Portrait

Tiny Portrait Heidi Carla
Review by Ashley

I was sent this lovely children's book in the mail recently. I haven't accepted a lot of review copies lately---life is busy, and I'm not always interested in the book. This one caught my attention though. It's a children's book about family history! This is a subject that's near and dear to me, and I thought, what a brilliant idea, to write a children's book that might inspire young readers to learn a little bit about their own past.

The Tiny Portrait, by Heidi Carla, tells about two modern siblings, Tess and Toby, who find a small portrait of an unknown woman in a box of family heirlooms, dated 1890. Tess thinks she might see a resemblance between herself and the picture. The next day, Tess and Toby think they see the woman, real and alive, in their garden. They run outside to find her, and instead they find a rhyming clue written on a rolled-up piece of paper. They follow the instructions and are soon racing through their town on a treasure hunt, led by the distant image of the woman in the portrait, who is always just out of reach. She leads them to historic places, like the town library, an antique shop, and the railroad station---each a place that teaches them a little more about history and genealogy.

I liked the black-and-white photo art in this book, done by Karla Cinquanta. It was a clever way to illustrate a story about family history. Overall, a sweet little book, and a great way to start a dialogue with your own children about the interesting stories your own ancestors have to tell.
Notes from Alysa

It's so lovely when a publisher offers you a review copy of a book that really interests you! (Happened to me recently, too!) The Tiny Portrait sparked my interest, as well, but I had too much on my plate. I'm glad Ashley "took one for the team" hehe.  I do have a review like this coming up -- look for my review *and* giveaway of The Night Before the Night Before Christmas later this week!

Just for fun, here is a picture of my great-grandparents. My aunt shared it recently and I had never seen it before:
Maud and George Burton
In the meantime, if you want to buy The Tiny Portrait, here are the Everead affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking through these, I earn a small commission. 'Tis the season to be jolly!

buy at Amazon
buy at B&N

Friday, November 28, 2014

Classic Bedtime Stories: a perfect book for families, an illustrated collection

Hello there! I thought I'd take a break from the Cybils reviews for a moment to tell you about a book I'm enchanted by.

I've been thinking a lot about bedtime stories, as I've been working on Story Club, so when I was contacted about this book I couldn't resist it. I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Classic Bedtime Stories
Scott Gustafson

So here is my honest review: I loved this book!

1. The illustrations are gorgeous. I think they fit right in with the "golden age of illustrating" that is mentioned on the back flap. Scott Gustafson's art reminds me of some of my favorite picture books from when I was a child. It is fully painted, with deep colors and intricate details. The art isn't paneled, sometimes it's on the same page as the text and sometimes it takes up the whole glorious page. (See below.)

Levi shows off his favorite page in the book.
Check out all those pancakes!
2. The stories vary widely in length, which surprised me at first, but I like it! Some of them only take up a two page spread, and others go on for a while. You know sometimes you go to do a bedtime story and you're like, "Let's make this quick." Other times you're like, "If I try to turn out the lights right now, they're just going to be hopping out of bed before I can even shut the door. Let's take our time with the stories tonight." That flexibility was great.

3. I loved the stories that were chosen. Little Sambha and the Tigers was included! Grandpa Craig is always making up variations on this story and so it was cool to have an illustrated version to read to the kids. In the endnotes, Scott Gustafson explains whe he chose to include the story, and how he did so thoughtfully.

The Bremen Town Musicians was also included and Benjamin did his 1st grade program around that story just last week. So it was cool to be able to read the story beforehand. Because you know on the actual night we were mostly just laughing at the kids who were misbehaving.

What stories are included in Classic Bedtime Stories?
  • The Country Mouse and the City Mouse
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Tortoise and the Hare 
  • The Story of Little Sambha and the Tigers 
  • The Bremen Town Musicians
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • The Lion and the Mouse
  • Jack and the Beanstalk

So here's the final word: 

I'm thrilled to have this book in our collection. So thrilled that I'm going to be giving it to some of the cousins for Christmas this year. (Shh! Maybe they won't read this review.)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this big gorgeous book is reasonably priced -- under $20. And I feel like it is the sort of gift that the whole family can enjoy. I don't feel like I'll be disappointing anybody, any age, with this book. Solid.

shop @ Amazon
shop @ Barnes and Noble
If you decide to shop through these affiliate links, I can earn a small commission. And hey, Black Friday and thereabouts is a great time to do that sort of thing. 

Which of these stories would you be most excited to read? Or, which one do you *wish* was in the collection?
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