Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Reading My Library (13 Years)

September 23rd, 2019

I briefly resurfaced from under the dark waves to discover that I’d missed an important anniversary – the 13th anniversary of my massive project to read every book in my local library. So, instead of giving my totals as of September 5, I’ve got totals as of September 23 – when I realized I’d forgotten to write an update.

TOTALS as of Sept 23, 2019 (13 years and 18 days or 4766 days)

Category Items this year Total Items Total Categories Closed
Juvenile Picture 323 1980 611
Juvenile, Board Books 31 543 285
Juvenile, First Readers 2 77 3
Juvenile, Chapter 0 92 7
Juvenile Fiction 4 324 25
Juvenile Nonfiction 133 413 14
Teen Fiction 3 52 5
Teen Nonfiction 6 11 0
Adult Fiction 22 490 78
Adult Nonfiction 49 1002 52
Audio CD 488 1421 116
Juvenile DVD 8 61 2
Adult Fiction DVD 5 112 9
Adult Nonfiction DVD 18 63 2
Periodicals 33 127 2
Total 1125 items 6786 items
2.94 items/day 1.21 items/day

We made two big gains in the past year, closing the board books entirely per challenge rules (543 total books by 285 different authors) and closing the picture books by author last name B (979 total books by 335 different authors).

I’ve also made significant headway with the audio CDs, trying to listen to one CD from each Library of Congress classification. I’ve “cheated” a bit with these, though, listening to albums that are available on Spotify that way and (mostly) only checking out stuff that isn’t available on Spotify. That way, I’m listening at home in addition to in the car. I have not, however, been faithful with recording what we’ve listened to on Spotify – which means I likely have an additional couple dozen albums that haven’t been logged.

I was hoping to get picture book authors “C” read in 2019, but it’s looking like that might be a bit of a challenge since the kids have decided that nonfiction is really where it’s at. We have read just about every book the library owns about new babies and about construction vehicles, as well as a fair bit about tools and floods. And then, of course, there are giraffes and states and butterflies and “black knights”. The children almost always tell me as we’re walking in to the library what topic they’re interested in researching this visit.

I’m a little surprised to find that I read a little over 80 books for myself (not counting re-reads). I really thought my personal book consumption had slowed almost to a halt over the past year, but apparently not!

Picture Book Reading Report (April 2019)

May 14th, 2019

Sometimes, you’ve just got to press publish on the post you’ve been building over the course of a month – even if you haven’t got time to edit it. So, please forgive any roughness – and enjoy this peek into our month of reading.


Asterisks represent books I recommend (3 stars or above).

Written by Dori Chaconas

  • Don’t Slam the Door, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
    Don’t slam the door, because if you do…it’ll wake the cat, who’ll set off a string of far-reaching implications. (Of course, someone slams the door!)
  • Mousie Love illustrated by Josee Masse
    A mouse falls desperately in love and keeps asking his love to marry him (only to interrupt her answer with something else he thinks he should do to be worthy of her. I thought this was terribly fun, but it was really over the kids’ heads.
  • *On a Wintry Morning illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson
    A sweet little daddy/child song that goes through a winter’s days activities. I sang the book to the tune of “Polly put the kettle on” and it worked quite nicely.
  • *Virginnie’s Hat illustrated by Holly Meade
    When Virginnie’s hat flies off into the swamp she just about encounters all sorts of scary animals. This is a fun look at perceived dangers versus real ones.

Written by Authors Last Name CHAL-CHAP

  • Mr. Frog Went A-Courting, written and illustrated by Gary Chalk
    Based on an old song (that I am unfamiliar with), the story of Mr. Frog is full of all the ridiculous twists and turns often found in folktales. Careful observation of the illustrations reveals a “hidden story”.
  • Pick a Pup, written by Marsha Wilson Chall, illustrated by Jed Henry
    How will Sam know which pup to pick? (Spoiler alert: Maybe it’s the pup who’ll pick him.)
  • Mario Chalmers’ ABCs of Basketball by Mario Chalmers and Almarie Chalmers, illustrated by Emmanuel Everett
    Part informational, part motivational – I just can’t get into the “believe in yourself and you can do anything” stuff (some kids, however hard they believe and even how hard they practice, will never play in the NBA.)
  • The Library Book by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark, illustrated by Chuck Groenink
    This was the lyrics to a song, rather a fun one, but one whose tune I don’t know. I tried singing it unsuccessfully. Perhaps if I could have seen the endpapers and tried picking it out on the piano… (Or, you know, I could have looked on Spotify – why didn’t I think of that until after I was returning it?

  • This was the lyrics to a song, rather a fun one, but one whose tune I don’t know. I tried singing it unsuccessfully. Perhaps if I could have seen the endpapers and tried picking it out on the piano… (Or, you know, I could have looked on Spotify – why didn’t I think of that until after I was returning it?
  • Me Too, Grandma written and illustrated by Jane Chapman
    A “jealous of the new baby” book except that little owl is jealous of how her baby cousin is taking Grandma’s attention. Cute illustrations, not my favorite genre.

Written and illustrated by Jared Chapman

  • Pirate, Viking, And Scientist
    A scientist is friends with a pirate and a viking – but when both come to his birthday party he discovers they’re NOT friends with each other. Time to experiment to see if he can get them to be friends with each other. Not bad.
  • T.Rex Time Machine
  • Ugly juvenile illustrations. Hard to read out loud. Not a fan.

Written by Authors Last Name CHAR-CHE?

  • The Selfish Crocodile, written by Faustin Charles and illustrated by Michael Terry
    The crocodile is selfish until he finds himself in terrible pain and someone helps him. Then it’s all sunshine and roses. A little too convenient an ending, I thought.
  • *Alphaboat written and illustrated by Michael Chesworth
    A rather silly, but very fun romp off to C, packed full of word play using the names of the letters of the alphabet. A sample: “f we go here, what will v z? Atop this hill – a lonely tree where blue J’s flutter up to rest upon their X, safe in the nest.”

Written and illustrated by Remy Charlip

  • Fortunately
    Very strange things keep happening to Ned, but fortunately… something stranger happens to save him from whatever disaster seemed so certain. This sounds like the sort of story an imaginative three year old might tell (rambling plot, no sense whatsoever, random strangeness everywhere…) I can’t like it.
  • Little Old Big Beard and Big Young Little Beard
    The eponymous characters are cowboys and best friends and lovers of beans. But then they lose their cow. This is an almost plotless book.
  • *A Perfect Day
    A simple book about what a perfect day might be – spending time together.
  • *Sleepytime Rhyme
    A mama sings how she loves everything about her baby. The rhyme can be a bit awkward in places, but it’s nice overall.

Books out of order

  • *Maisy Learns to Swim by Lucy Cousins
  • Simple description of beginner swimming lessons (which don’t involve any actual swimming). These “Maisy First Experiences Books” are a very nice way to introduce kids to common childhood experiences that might seem a little scary if they don’t know what to expect.

Books about Construction

  • *Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney
    Does this sound familiar? Yes, yes. I’ve only read it to Louis fifteen thousand times by now. Although really, if you have to read a book fifteen thousand times, this is a good choice.
  • *Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    Of course we read this again (and again and again). And then I returned it (because I have SO many other books to read.)

Children’s Nonfiction Reading Report (March 2019)

April 10th, 2019

Fiction isn’t the only thing we consume here at Prairie Elms – in fact, if anything, my kids are more avid consumers of nonfiction than anything else. I force them to read my fiction picture books while they clamor to read more about whatever their current topics of choice are. When we go to the library, the kids overwhelm me for requests for “another baby book”, “another truck book”, whatever.


Baby Books:

Tirzah Mae’s obsession with pregnancy and birth continues unabated.

  • Before You Were Born by Ann Douglas, illustrations by Eugenie Fernandes, photographs by Gilbert Duclos
    "Before You Were Born"
    Written in second person (as in the title), this describes what a baby does inside the womb – and includes little “experiments” for children to do to get a feel for what life was like in the womb. The photographs are pretty 90s (this was published in 2000), but the information is solid. Good for someone who wants to discuss what’s happening during pregnancy without getting into the mechanics of reproduction or anything to sciencey (like many of the other books that discuss fetal development do). Warning: the cover of this is terrible.
  • Twin Tales: The Magic and the Mystery of Multiple Birth by Donna M. Jackson
    "Twin Tales"
    An interesting book about multiples, featuring lots of profiles of multiples. This is not an early reader’s book. You’ll want to read it in sections if you’re reading to younger children.
  • Welcome with Love by Jenni Overend, illustrated by Julie Vivas
    "Welcome with Love"
    A little boy narrates what’s happening as his mother gives birth to his baby brother at their home in Australia. This features homebirth, children present at birth, and cosleeping. The illustrations are well-done – but they do depict a woman giving birth (baby emerging from between legs, bare breasts, baby’s penis, etc.) Really a lovely book – but some may find it a bit much.
  • Drugs and Birth Defects by Nancy Shniderman and Sue Hurwitz
    "Drugs and Birth Defects"
    Ugh, ugh, ugh. Scare tactics galore. Dated photos and language. Very “just say no”. But Tirzah Mae is all about fetal alcohol syndrome after Daniel and I did a series of webinars on it for continuing education for our foster home. And this is what the library has on the topic. So I read it and reread it and reread it again.
  • Baby on the Way by William Sears, Martha Sears, and Christie Watts Kelly, illustrated by Renee Andriani
    "Baby on the Way"
    A “what to expect when mama’s pregnant” book that (thankfully) doesn’t focus on jealousy. This is a little more comprehensive than most of this genre since it explains what to expect both before, during, and after the baby comes (mama may be extra tired during pregnancy, her belly will get bigger and her lap smaller, she’ll probably go to the hospital to have the baby, she’ll breastfeed and you might be able to hold the baby, etc.)

Giraffe Books:

Louis’s current favorite animal is (without a doubt) the giraffe – so we picked up some books about them (of course!)

    Giraffe Books

  • Giraffe by Anders Hanson
    Very simple and straightforward – just a couple of sentences per page.
  • Giraffes and Their Babies by Marianne Johnston
    "Giraffes and Their Babies"
    Straightforward picture book nonfiction – double-page spreads that could stand on their own (but at 24 pages, the book is short enough to be read aloud easily in one sitting), full-page photographs, and a glossary and index in the back. Unlike many nonfiction books of this type, this is graphically uniform and not unpleasant to look at.
  • Giraffes by Patricia Kendell
    "Giraffes"
    Similar to Giraffes and Their Babies except even fewer words per page. The graphics are a bit busier but not at all nightmarish.
  • Giraffes by Emily U. Lephthien
    Slightly longer chapters than the rest of the books in this category. The graphics are also slightly more busy than all the rest.

Health Books:

  • Let’s Talk about Down Syndrome by Melanie Apel Gordon
    "Let's Talk about Down Syndrome"
    There are ten photos in this book. Of those, only three depict a child with Down Syndrome. Instead they show a stock photo of ordinary kids with captions like “The doctor listens to this girl’s heart just the way he listens to the heart of a child with Down syndrome”. Seriously?

Truck Books:

  • I Drive a Dump Truck by Sara Bridges, illustrated by Derrick Alderman and Denise Shea
    "I Drive a Dump Truck"
    Large text gives a narrative (“Henry” describes his truck and what he does with it) while smaller text in call-out boxes give additional information related to the narrative. The illustrations are simple, pleasant, and engaging. I could see this being classified either as nonfiction (as in my library) or in the general picture books section.

Picture Book Reading Report (March 2019)

April 4th, 2019

I fell short of my goal of 45 picture books author last name “C” this month – we only got in 37. The children have really started to love nonfiction and re-reading, both of which cut down on my ability to quickly work my way through this section of the library. Altogether, we’ve read 108 “C” books here in the first three months of the year, which is 19% of the approximately 560 I estimate that are in this section. So I definitely need to step on it if I’m going to get it done this year!


Asterisks represent books I recommend (3 stars or above).

Authors Last Name CAR

  • Henry and the Bully, written and illustrated by Nancy Carlson
    I’m not a big fan of Carlson’s illustrations – and even less a fan of books about bullying (which I tend to see as giving kids instructions on how to bully rather than being particularly helpful at avoiding or managing bullying.)
  • *Melanie, written by Carol Carrick, illustrated by Alisher Dianov
    We read several of Carrick’s other books in February and I held off reading this one because it was longer than the rest. I totally shouldn’t have waited. This is a lovely fairy tale story that was a true delight to read.
  • "Alice in Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole"

  • Alice and Wonderland Down the Rabbit Hole by Lewis Carroll, retold by Joe Rhatigan and Charles Nurnber, and illustrated by Eric Puybaret
    A very nice abbreviated introduction to the classic story.

Written by Mary Casanova and Illustrated by Ard Hoyt

Books by Mary Casanova

  • One-Dog Sleigh
    One animal after another joins in to ride in the “one-dog sleigh”. Okay.
  • Some Cat!
    A rescued cat and her new owners’ dogs make peace with one another. I’m not a cat person, or a dog person really, so this didn’t really float my boat. Your results may vary.
  • *Utterly Otterly Day and *Utterly Otterly Night
    A truly delightful couple of tales. They tell of the adventures of a young otter in a sing-song rhyme. In one tale, otter thinks he’s a big boy and doesn’t need to obey (with predictable results). In the other, otter senses something amiss and does as he ought to save the family. I will definitely read these again.

Written and illustrated by Judith Casely

"Field Day Friday"

  • Field Day Friday
    Two friends compete on the same team for their school’s field day – but only one wins the single foot race.
  • Mama, Coming and Going
    After mama has a new baby, she can’t tell whether she’s coming and going – and she gets into all sorts of absent-minded scrapes.
  • On the Town
    A little boy explores his community as part of a school assignment
  • Sisters
    Melissa’s family adopts a girl from somewhere overseas – and the two girls must learn what it means to be sisters

Authors Last Name CAS

Books by Authors CAS

  • A Lullaby for Little One by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Charles Fuge
    A gentle little story of a little rabbit and his big daddy rabbit.
  • The Cat in the Rhinestone Suit by John Carter Cash, illustrated by Scott Nash
    A showdown of sorts with plenty of wild west imagery. Not my thing.
  • Kibby the Space Dog? by Andrea Cassel, illustrated by Melanie Regier
    A first person story about a dog who had to wear a cone of shame. The dog is both overly self-aware and overly didactic: “I was being rejected because people thought I was now different. My life was not the same anymore. I lost my fun, playful spirit.”
  • Kazaak! written and illustrated by Sean Cassidy
    A moderately fun story about a couple of porcupines, one of whom is afraid of bears, the other who is full of bravado thanks to his quills. Turns out, Mr. Fearful has to save Mr. Bravado :-)
  • Sterling, Best Dog Ever

  • Sterling, Best Dog Ever written and illustrated by Aidan Cassie
    Sterling is delivered with a shipment of silver and tries to be good cutlery – but he soon learns that his family loves him for who he really is. Eh.
  • "Beach House"

  • *Beach House written by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates
    Caswell tells the story of a family traveling to the beach in short sentences of sweet poetry. Bates’s illustrations are just right. Lovely.

Written and Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Books by Lauren Castillo

  • Nana in the City
    A little boy is scared about his grandma living in the city – but she teaches him that the city is a wonderful place to live. Okay, but not particularly applicable to us.
  • The Troublemaker
    Someone is taking off with a little boy’s precious belongings – but who can it be? A cute little story.

Written and Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto

Books by Peter Catalanotto

  • Ivan the Terrier
    The title character keeps interrupting the author’s attempts at retelling fairy tales. Silly.
  • *Kitten, red, yellow blue
    How does a woman keep track of the sixteen calico cats her cat gave birth to? Using colors, of course! A fun little book.
  • Matthew A.B.C

  • Matthew A.B.C
    Mrs. Tuttle’s kindergarten class has 25 students, all named Matthew. How on earth does she tell them apart? Easy, actually. And the 26th student fills the gap nicely.
  • More books by Peter Catalanotto

  • The Newbies
    When Luke’s parents seem to be too busy preparing for the birth of the new baby, he imagines himself some new parents (only to find out the old ones are better after all.
  • Question Boy Meets Little Miss Know-It-All
    What if everyone was a superhero in costume – and the child who always has a question meets the child who always knows the answers? I enjoyed the story of their little show-down – and so did Tirzah Mae (probably because Little Miss Know-It-All wears a tiara!)

Authors Last Name CAT-CAZ

The Magic Rabbit

  • The Magic Rabbit written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate
    When a boy magician and his rabbit get separated, will the rabbit find his way back to his friend?
  • Treasure Hunt written and illustrated by Lorinda Bryan Cauley
    Let your kids go on a treasure hunt along with the characters of this book – all the way to a picnic in a clearing in the woods. The clues and illustrations were just the right difficulty for my two preschoolers (4.5 and almost 3).
  • Books by Author CAU-CAZ

  • *Nothing at All written and illustrated by Denys Cazet
    Various members of the farmyard do all sorts of things – but what does the scarecrow do? I enjoyed the surprise ending.

Written and Illustrated by Randy Cecil

Books by Randy Cecil

  • Gator
    When an amusement park shuts down, the gator from the carousel goes out to explore the world. Eh.
  • One Dark and Dreadful Night
    A director keeps trying to put on a dreadful play – but his young actors keep turning them into ridiculous fairy tales. Double eh.

Written by Melanie Cecka and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

"Violet" books by Melanie Cecka

  • Violet Comes to Stay
    Cecka channels Cynthia Coppersmith or Jan Karon’s Mitford series – to present a story of Violet the white cat. It was okay but not amazing.
  • Viiolet Goes to the Country
    Ditto the above.

Authors Last Name CE-CL

"Elbow Grease"

  • Elbow Grease by John Cena, illustrated by Howard McWilliam
    A book about gumption – not giving up, whether you win or lose. Monster Truck “Elbow Grease” isn’t as tough or fast or smart or brave as his brothers – but he has gumption enough to finish the Grand Prix despite the odds. Good point but the story isn’t really my thing (but it might be yours or your child’s).
  • Swing

  • The Swing written and illustrated by Joe Cepeda
    A very surreal story about a family who always loses things and a (magic?) swing that retrieves the lost things.
  • One Little Mouse

  • *One Little Mouse by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
    A lovely, lyrical little counting book. A little mouse tries to find a new home – and, after trying on other people’s homes, discovers that his own is best after all!
  • The Backwards Birthday Party

  • The Backwards Birthday Party by Tom Chapin and John Forster, illustrated by Chuck Groenink
    A very, very silly birthday party. The endpapers include music to go along with the words, but alas, the library’s cover hides half the notes so I didn’t sing it to my kids.
  • Marco Goes to School

  • Marco Goes to School written and illustrated by Roz Chast
    Fairly run-of-the-mill story of going to school and making a new friend.
  • *Tiger Days: A Book of Feelings by M.H. Clark, illustrated by Anna Hurley
    A very nice book about emotions – how we can feel different things at different times and still be the same person. We’re working on managing emotions at home – and I picked this up ahead of schedule after I read Dawn’s review at 5 Minutes for Books. Very good.

Books about Construction

  • Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney
    A sweet story of a little excavator who tries to do everything that the big trucks do, with little success. But when a certain task needs done, Little E is the kid for the job.
  • Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    A sequel (or maybe prequel?) to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, this favorite describes how different construction vehicles must work together to get a job done. Very well done.

They Want to Do What They’ve Read

March 20th, 2019

I believe I’ve mentioned how much it thrills my heart that my children want to do the things they’ve read about in books – especially in the Little House books.

And it does, honestly.

Even if I have to remind myself how thrilling it is when they’ve just strewn the floor with straw from the bale outside because “that’s what Mother did before they stretched the carpets in Farmer Boy.”

Picture Book Reading Report (February 2019)

March 16th, 2019

I’ve been struggling to figure out how to report on the picture books we’ve read. My goal is to finish my library’s collection of picture books with an author last name starting with C this year – which means I’m reading A LOT of picture books – many of which aren’t worth re-reading. But there are a few that are quite good. For now, I’m going to try separating out picture books into a post of their own and report briefly on each book. Titles with an *asterisk* are ones I think are worth re-reading (3 stars or above).

Authors Last Name “CAN”

Picture Book Authors CAM-CAN

  • *Pinduli by Janell Cannon
    I did not at all expect to enjoy this story of a hyena who gets made fun of – but enjoy it I did. It’s all about how our words impact others. Quite good.
  • *Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
    A young bat falls into a bird’s nest – and discovers that though he and the birds are different, they can still be friends. Very nice.
  • Bonjour Camille by Felipe Cano, illustrations by Laia Aguilar
    I don’t know what to think about this exactly, except that I don’t think it’s worthwhile enough to spend too much time figuring out what I think about it.
  • A Friend for Einstein by Charlie Cantrell and Dr. Rachel Wagner
    A tiny, tiny miniature horse is lonely. Who will be a friend for Einstein? Okay, not amazing.

Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

  • 5-Minute Biscuit Stories illustrated by Pat Schories
    Gentle stories of ordinary adventures children will likely be able to identify with. This anthology is a nice one if you happen to like the “Biscuit” books.
  • Biscuit Visits the Doctor
    Half of the text is “woof”. No thank you.
  • "5 Minute Biscuit Stories" by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

  • Hannah is a Big Sister illustrated by Dorothy Stott
    As usual, this “new baby” focuses on an older sibling’s frustration – until she discovers she can soothe the baby. Eh
  • *I will Love You illustrated by Lisa Anchin
    Pretty pictures, pretty rhyme, great for reading to a little-little one.
  • Books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

  • *Mighty Tug illustrated by David Mottram
    A sweet rhyming story about the small but mighty tugboat (and all the things he can do).
  • Not This Bear illustrated by Lorna Hussey
    A little bear on his first day of school disagrees whenever his teacher says that “all the bears enjoy…” – but he finds that his first day of school isn’t so bad after all.
  • The Potty Book for Boys illustrated by Dorothy Stott
    A rather standard “I’m a big boy” type book
  • Tulip and Rex Books

  • Tulip loves Rex
    and Tulip and Rex Write a Story illustrated by Sarah Massini

    A girl and a dog are friends. They like to dance. They write a story. Meh.

Authors Last Name “CAPO” to “CARL”

  • Monster Know Shapes by Lori Capote, illustrated by Chip Wass
    A rather generic shape book with rather dull cartoon illustrations.
  • "Monster Knows Shapes" and "Cinderella's Stepsister and the Big Bad Wolf"

  • *Heroes of the Surf by Elisa Carbone, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
    Interesting story of a beleaguered ship and the people who came to its rescue – based on a true story from 1882.
  • **47 Strings: Tessa’s Special Code by Becky Carey, illustrated by Bonnie Leick
    A lovely letter written to a big brother about his little sister, who has Down Syndrome.
  • Books by authors CAN-CAR

  • Cinderella’s Stepsister and the Big Bad Wolf by Lorraine Carey, illustrated by Migy Blanco
    A fun fractured, multi-fairy-tale mashup. Cinderella’s hard-working and kind step-sister doesn’t live up to the ugly name, so her mother sends her off to learn how to be evil from all the best (worst?) fairy tale villains.
  • **The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
    We’ve read all of Carle’s books before – but Louis pulled this one off the shelf at home and OF COURSE I’m willing to read it to him!
  • A World of Your Own by Laura Carlin
    All about drawing your own imaginary world – with lots of ideas for doing so. I found it to be just, meh.

Written by Nancy Carlson

I am not much of a fan of Carlson’s illustration style – or of most of her subject matter. Meh.

  • Harriet and the Roller Coaster
    Henry’s bravado turns out for naught when Harriet discovers that she actually enjoys the roller coaster – while Henry discovers that it isn’t really for him.
  • Henry’s 100 Days of Kindergarten
    I wasn’t a fan of the illustrations and I think I might be something of a Scrooge when it comes to depictions of classroom life…so this book was not for me.
  • Books by Nancy Carlson

  • Loudmouth George Earns His Allowance
    George discovers that forcing his little siblings to do his chores doesn’t exactly save him time or energy.
  • Sometimes You Barf
    I understand the idea, trying to make barfing less scary. But I just can’t enjoy this book.
  • There’s a Big, Beautiful World Out There!
    There are lots of things to be afraid of – but even more to be glad to explore. Made all the more poignant when you learn at the end that the book was written on Sep 12, 2001.

Written by Nancy White Carlstrom

  • Before You Were Born illustrated by Linda Saport
    This opens and closes with that “before you were born, God wrote your days in a book”, but the middle was enigmatic. I’m not sure whether I like it.
  • *Mama, Will It Snow Tonight? illustrated by Paul Tong
    Three different mother/child pairs ask and answer “Mama, will it snow tonight?” Sweet.
  • "Jesse Bear" books

  • Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear
    Guess Who’s Coming, Jesse Bear?
    Happy Birthday, Jesse Bear and
    *Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? illustrated by Bruce Degan

    A rhyming series of inconsistent quality. I enjoyed What Will You Wear quite a bit – but found the others either too preachy or too repetitive to be truly enjoyable.
  • Books by Nancy White Carlstrom

  • *The Way to Wyatt’s House illustrated by Mary Morgan
    A lovely transition from quiet to loud and back again. Fun.
  • What Does the Sky Say? illustrated by Tim Ladwig
    Beautifully poetic, lovely word pictures of the sky speaking – but a bit hard to interpret. This has Psalm 19 at the end of it “The heavens declare the glory of God…” but the message of the book doesn’t really have the sky speaking the glory of God.
  • Authors Last Name “CAR” to “CAS”

    • I’m 3! Look What I Can Do by Maria Carluccio
      I’m surprised this wasn’t a board book. It’s very, very simple. Simple enough to be boring to my two-year-old (who listens with half an ear as if to say, “well, duh, I can do most of those things. What of it?”)
    • *A Circle of Friends by Giora Carmi
      A little boy changes his neighborhood when he gives a roll to a homeless man sleeping on the bench below his apartment. A lovely wordless book.
    • The Children Who Loved Books by Peter Carnavas
      A book against Marie Kondo-ing your book collection :-)
    • Books by authors CAP-CAR

    • Haunted Houses Handbook by Monica Carretero
      Nothing terribly objectionable, but really not my thing.
    • How Roland Rolls by Jim Carrey, illustrated by Rob Nason
      Groan.
    • Papa’s Backpack by James Christopher Carroll
      A child wishes he could go along “in papa’s backpack” when his father is deployed. I wanted to like this, but it just didn’t do it for me.
    • Books by Authors CAR

    • Spiders Dance by Maureen Carroll, illustrated by Bobbie Powell
      A spider wants to dance – but has to learn his own way of dancing. The author made asides to the reader at the end of every page, which might have spoiled the story for me.
    • *Under a Prairie Sky by Anne Laurel Carter, illustrated by Alan and Lea Daniel
      A boy dreams of becoming a Mountie – and pretends that he already is one.
    • *Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Bob Shea
      A cute book of haiku about different animals – offering the reader an opportunity to guess which animal.

    Written by Jan Carr

    • *Dappled Apples and
      *Frozen Noses illustrated by Dorothy Donohue

      Poetic tributes to autumn and winter (respectively), filled with scenes from each season. Delightful – engaging enough for a four-year-old, a two-year-old, a one-year-old, and their mama.
    • Books by Jan Carr

    • Toe Shoe Mouse illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
      A mouse finds a home in a toe shoe – and a friend in the toe shoe’s owner Celeste.

    Written by Carol Carrick

    • Lost in the Storm illustrated by Donald Carrick
      Realistic fiction about a dog who got lost in a storm (and is found).
    • Books by Carol Carrick

    • Mothers are Like That illustrated by Paul Carrick
      Simple and sweet, about how mothers love their children.

    Other Picture Books

    • Papa’s Gift by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Guy Porfirio
      A rather saccharine tale checked out from the church library. One reading was plenty enough.

    Wrapping up our Laura Challenge

    March 5th, 2019

    I set an ambitious course for this year’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. I would read Little House in the Big Woods and either Farmer Boy or Little House on the Prairie aloud to my children. I would read Little House, Long Shadow myself. And, by the fifth of the month, my children and I had already read Laura’s collection of fairy poems.

    Alas, I completed only two of the intended books: the aforementioned collection of fairy poems and Little House in the Big Woods.

    Three "Little House" Books

    I found that while I spend plenty of time reading aloud to my children, it’s hard for me to direct that reading time. Unless I get out our chapter book first thing, I’ll have filled all the available time with reading Louis’s construction books and Tirzah Mae’s medical books, leaving little time for Laura.

    Perhaps I need to tie chapter books to some other portion of our day, rather than doing it before naps. Maybe if we have it as the first part of our “school” day? Hmmm…

    Our sad, soft molasses candy

    At any rate, this was Tirzah Mae’s second time through Little House in the Big Woods and Louis’s first. Both were clearly engaged in the story and frequently begged to act out the things they had heard in the book.

    Our pretty butter

    This, of course, delighted my homeschooling heart – and I was pleased to indulge them (or maybe myself?) by making molasses candy and homemade butter. We also made Lincoln log houses, made “pictures” in the snow, pretended to play fiddles, and made pancake men.

    We did not make cheese or braid straw hats, despite Tirzah Mae’s begging. Maybe next year :-)

    Pancake man with blueberries

    I am thinking that we will still attempt to read Farmer Boy, even though we’re no longer in the challenge month – Louis was engaged with Big Woods, but I think he’ll enjoy Farmer Boy even more – and I’d love to introduce him to new possible obsessions now that we’ve almost exhausted our library’s entire collection of construction books. Farming would be a delightful obsession, in this mother’s opinion (which, of course, means that he is unlikely to choose it!)

    Laura Ingalls Wilder's Fairy Poems

    As far as the collection of fairy poems goes, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The poems are whimsical and I enjoyed the introduction to “Drop O’Dew” and “Ray O’Sunshine”. The children enjoyed the illustrations, even if I didn’t really care for the style. But, as with many things, I only care for the words and can take or leave the illustrations.

    We enjoyed participating in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Challenge again this year and are so grateful to Barbara for hosting it year after year.

    Making Butter

    February 20th, 2019

    Laura Ingalls Wilder describes the buttermaking process in detail in her Little House in the Big Woods.

    Ma Ingalls grated carrot and heated it with a little milk to dye the cream. Then she churned the cream in a big dash church. The cream grew thick and then little bits of butter would slosh through the cover on the churn. Ma had to rinse the butter over and over in cold water. Then she put it into a pretty butter mold and turned the pats out onto a plate. The young Laura and Mary drank the buttermilk when Ma was all done.

    We don’t have a dash churn, so we followed the instructions in A Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker to make butter in a quart jar.

    Let me tell you, a quart jar with a little over three cups of liquid in it is much too full to effectively make butter. We shook that thing off and on all day long to no avail. I put it in the cup holder of my car and we shook it when stopped at stoplights. We shook it here, we shook it there, we shook it everywhere.

    Not butter yet

    It whipped up and thickened but would not turn to butter until I opened it up (whipped cream everywhere!) and poured half into a second quart jar.

    And we have butter!

    Then I shook for a couple of minutes. Yellow grains of butter appeared. I was surprised when three more shakes gave me a solid mass of butter.

    Rinsing the butter

    I rinsed in ice water and gave the children their begged-for tastes of buttermilk.

    Our (mostly) rinsed butter

    Then to find the mold from my wedding mints to use for fancy “butter pats”.

    Our pretty butter

    We’re still eating our butter, but the kids are eager to make more so that they can drink more buttermilk.

    Tirzah Mae drinking the buttermilk

    For my part, I’m glad we did it but I’m also thinking we’ll hold off on doing it again until the kids are capable of shaking their own jars. My arms got TIRED!

    Being Believed is Important

    February 12th, 2019

    Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s Three Little Words evoked not a few complicated thoughts, but that wasn’t all I got from it as I read.

    I also learned.

    I learned, for one, that being believed is important.

    Ashley writes of how her little brother would crawl into bed with her and pee the bed. Her foster parents would not believe it wasn’t Ashley who had been peeing the bed. On another occasion, Ashley slipped on the poop another foster child had smeared about – but her foster parents wouldn’t believe that she wasn’t the smear-er. Later, more seriously, she attempted to tell people of the abuse she and other children were experiencing and people didn’t take her seriously.

    Now, Ashley writes of the times when she was in the right, when she was telling the truth and wasn’t believed. If she’s like any child, she told her share of lies as well.

    But Ashley’s story brought home the importance of believing our children – or, even if we don’t believe them, of taking them seriously and avoiding shaming or punishing when we don’t know the whole story.

    Does it matter whether the bed-pee-er was Ashley or her little brother? Only inasmuch as it might indicate that Ashley needed some help (it could have indicated a urinary tract infection, for example, if she had previously been dry consistently.) The foster parents could have said, in a neutral voice: “Looks like your bed is wet this morning. Let’s get it cleaned up.” They might ask, “Are you having a hard time staying dry overnight? Sometimes that means that you’re sick and don’t realize it.” And when Ashley says that no, it was her little brother who got into bed with her, they could have responded “Okay. Well, if you ever do find yourself having a hard time holding it overnight, just let us know and maybe we could talk to a doctor about getting help.” And then they could try to pay attention to see if her brother is indeed crawling into bed with her overnight and wetting the bed.

    Our older children have started lying.

    I know this because I watch them do something and then tell me that they didn’t do it.

    Because I’ve seen their lying in action, it’s tempting to think they’re lying every time one child comes running to tell me that “so-and-so hurt themselves” (with the unspoken being “I didn’t do it!”)

    But Ashley’s story has encouraged me to rethink my approach to this.

    When I know that something is a lie because I have seen otherwise, I call out the lie.

    But when I don’t know what actually happened? I try to be more circumspect.

    I ask myself, is it important for me to ascertain who did what in this circumstance?

    In a lot of cases, it isn’t really important. Do I need to know who spilled the water on the floor? No. I just need to clean it up – and it’s not going to hurt my children to clean it up together. Do I need to know who had the toy first? No, not really. I can just put the toy in time out since it wasn’t playing nicely.

    In most cases, even when my children are fighting with each other, I don’t need to arbitrate. We talk about how we ought to behave toward one another (regardless of who started the current fight). I may have to find a task for each of the children to work on with me or they might need to play in the same room as me for the next while until their current squabble has cooled down. But I don’t need to know “who did it”.

    If possible, I can create an environment that disincentivizes lying – without making it my default to visibly disbelieve my children.

    Because being believed is important.

    Complicated thoughts

    February 11th, 2019

    There’s no such thing as uncomplicated foster care.

    Children don’t go into foster care unless something complicated has happened to them. They’ve been neglected or abused. They’ve been exposed to drugs, in utero or out. They’ve lived in squalor. They have scars. Physical scars, emotional scars, developmental scars.

    Foster children behave in complicated ways. They’ve learned to “overreact” or to not react. They’ve learned to cope however they can. Many times, they’ve been exposed to things their young brains cannot process.

    And foster families? Well, we can be complicated too. We get tired and frustrated and angry. We get confused. Sometimes we have no idea what to do. We do what seemed to work for our biological kids and it completely backfires on us. We try to do that thing we read about in a book and we can’t figure out whether it isn’t working because we haven’t been doing it long enough – or if we just need to give up on it because it’s never going to work.

    The foster families I know try. We want to what’s best by our foster children. We don’t always know what that looks like, though.

    Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s Three Little Words, written after she’d been adopted out of foster care, illustrates the complicated-ness of foster care – and induces complicated thoughts and emotions in this particular foster parent.

    Ashley was taken into foster care at age three and was passed around from home to home – 14 total homes before she went into a “children’s home” (aka orphanage) and was finally adopted as a preteen.

    Many of Ashley’s placements were well-meaning folks, although ones that seemed overwhelmed with greater-than-capacity children. Further, it seemed few of them were aware of the difficulties surrounding raising a child with a background of trauma. Foster parents overreacted when Ashley peed the bed or described sex as she’d seen it. I wondered as I read if this sort of thing is why the new “TIPS-MAPP” classes were put into place: “Trauma Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence – Model approach to Partnerships in Parenting.” That’s what we took when we were preparing to become foster parents. We learned about the effects trauma has on kids, about the role of attachment in fostering, about how our own emotions and thoughts and experiences interact with the pressure-cooker environment of parenting kids from trauma. Maybe I am able to be better than these parents Ashley had because I took that class. But I still know that if either my biological children or my foster children were to write a book, they could certainly isolate the times when I lost my cool, when I overreacted, when I snapped at the kids or blamed or shamed them. By the grace of God, I’m growing in patience and gentleness as a mother – but there’s still plenty of growth needed.

    Then Ashley had some truly terrible placements – one with a child molester (who fortunately was not able to get to her before she was pulled from the home) and one with a sadistic child-abuser who mistreated her and other foster children for years. It’s tough reading, but surprisingly not as tough for me as the not-so-bad homes were. These folks were monsters I could not identify with – I would not do those things to a child.

    But the “normal” homes, they fill me with self-doubt. Maybe fostering requires one-on-one attention. Maybe being a part of a big family is fine and good for kids who’ve known my love from day one, but maybe it’s impossible to love a child from hard places amidst the pressures of leading a large family. Maybe I’m still not patient enough. Maybe my distaste for buying stuff communicates lack of care to the foster children in my care – after all, if I loved them, wouldn’t I be buying them new toys and clothes all the time?

    I read this book after our most recent foster daughter was placed in a kinship home. We didn’t get any calls with potential placements for over a month. And then when we did get a call? I read the paperwork and stuttered. I’m afraid. Ashley Rhodes-Courter has made me afraid.

    It’s a very complicated book about which I’m having some very complicated emotions.

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