Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Picture Book Highlights (Author CRO-CZE)

April 2nd, 2020

We read 74 children’s picture books in the month of March – which, given that we only visited the library once the whole month (and that only to pick up less than a dozen books on hold!) is quite a feat, I think.

Our physical libraries are closed at least through the middle of April, so I’m guessing my “read every book” goal is going to have to take a pause while we spend more time reading what we already have in our home collection.

The Really Groovy Story of the Tortoise and the Hare by Kristyn Crow, illustrated by Christina Forshay

The Really Groovy Story of the Tortoise and the Hare

A fun rhyming retelling of the classic story, set in modern day Chicago (I think) with a fast-moving city hare and a slow-and-steady country tortoise.

Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game by Chris Crowe, illustrated by Mike Benny

Just as Good

Homer, a young Cleveland boy, is ecstatic that Larry Doby has joined the Cleveland Indians. Here at last, is a chance to prove that Jackie Robinson is not just a fluke, that black folks can be just as good as white ones. Homer and his father eagerly listen to the fourth game of the World Series, rejoicing as Larry Doby makes a home run – one of the two scores to win the 2-1 game. In the morning, Homer and his dad see a picture of Doby and white teammate Steve Gromek hugging in the newspaper – and they feel that, at last, change is coming for black people.

Only You by Robin Cruise, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Only You

I’m a bit of a sucker for “precious” picture books with very few words and a general theme of “I love you”, clearly intended to be read to babies and young toddlers. This is a very nice example of the genre – sweet without being saccharine, expressing a parent’s delight in a child without romanticizing bad behavior (as some books of the type occasionally do.) I also appreciate how the illustrations show a diverse selection of children and parents – boys, girls, men, and women black, white, and brown.

Ten-Gallon Bart Beats the Heat by Susan Stevens Crummel, illustrated by Dorothy Donohue

Ten-Gallon Bart Beats the Heat

Texas is so hot that Ten-Gallon Bart (the dog) heads up to the Yukon to cool off (and maybe prospect for a bit of gold). When he gets buried in a crazy snowstorm, his friends head north to dig him out and bring him back home. This is not fine literature, but it’s fun. The children enjoyed the story, mama enjoyed the Texas drawlin’ and the fun cut paper illustrations. Crummel and Donohue also wrote two books about Ten-Gallon Bart before this (but that we read out of order): Ten-Gallon Bart and Ten Gallon Bart and the Wild West Show. We thoroughly enjoyed all three in this series.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

A man has the lonely job of uncorking ocean bottles and taking them to their recipient. He dreams of having a bottle addressed to him, but knows there is little chance since he has no friends. But, as Tirzah Mae pointed out: “Well, then, he should make some friends!” And so he does, with the help of an anonymous bottle. A sweet and lovely book.

The Cello of Mr. O by Jane Cutler, illustrated by Greg Couch

The Cello of Mr. O

A young girl grows up in a war zone. Wednesday afternoon relief trucks are the only thing she has to look forward. Until a bomb strikes the relief truck and their drop-off point is cancelled. But the neighbor, Mr. O brings out his cello and plays in the center of the empty war-ruined square, giving everyone hope. This is a weighty book, but a wonderful one.

The Little Fire Truck by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Bob Kolar

The Little Fire Truck

A relatively simple book with thick, tear-proof pages. Each page starts “I’m a little fire truck…” and can (generally) be sung to the tune of “I’m a little teapot.” Louis (who is obsessed with trucks) and Beth-Ellen (who is obsessed with singing) particularly enjoyed this title, requesting it over and over and over again until I had no voice to sing and had to refuse to read it again.

Reading My Library (13.5 years)

March 10th, 2020

March 5 just so happened to be the half-year mark on my “reading my library” challenge, which I began on September 5, 2006. So we’re about 13.5 years in. So far, it looks like this year will look relatively similar to last year – except that we’re reading a lot more juvenile picture books compared to other types of books/materials.

TOTALS as of March 10, 2019 (13 years and 187 days or 4935 days)

Category Items in past 6 months Items in 2018-2019 Total Items
Juvenile Picture 272 323 2252
Juvenile, Board Books 14 31 557
Juvenile, First Readers 1 2 78
Juvenile, Chapter 0 0 92
Juvenile Fiction 2 4 326
Juvenile Nonfiction 28 133 441
Teen Fiction 0 3 52
Teen Nonfiction 0 6 11
Adult Fiction 9 22 499
Adult Nonfiction 16 49 1018
Audio CD 142 488 1563
Juvenile DVD 6 8 67
Adult Fiction DVD 1 5 113
Adult Nonfiction DVD 1 18 64
Periodicals 2 33 129
Total 494 items 1125 items 7262 items
2.93 items/day 2.94 items/day 1.21 items/day

We are racing through the children’s picture books, having read 84% of last year’s total in just 6 months! I’m loving having found something that’s working for us for read-aloud time. Juvenile nonfiction intake, on the other hand, has plummeted (only 21% of last year’s total so far this year) as we’ve spent a lot more time in the car, which makes me less likely to want to go INTO the library (and therefore less likely to let the kids pick out their own favorites) – we’ve been doing a lot more just driving through the window to pick up our holds on the next picture books in line.

Grown-up reading seems a bit low so far, but it’s always a little hard to tell actual status on that, since I always have quite a few books going at any given time (I think I have about 10 going as we speak, give or take). Also, especially when it comes to fiction, I tend to go in spurts and fits. I’m guessing I’ll be doing lots more grown-up reading after the new baby comes when I’ll be breastfeeding all the time.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Challenge Wrap-Up

March 7th, 2020

On her Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah Mackenzie makes no bones about it. She does NOT think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books make a good first chapter-book read aloud.

They’re too boring, she says. Too much description, not enough action. You’ll lose interest, mom, she says. Listen to the audiobooks read by Cherry Jones, she says.

I’ve pooh-poohed Sarah’s advice regarding Laura since I first heard it. Laura, boring? I listened to my mother read them, then I read them myself over and over, then listened again as my older sister read them aloud to myself and my younger brothers and sister.

Two years ago, when Tirzah Mae was three, I read her Little House in the Big Woods. Last year, we read it again. Was it hard at times? Of course. I dare anyone with four children four and under to find reading chapter books aloud EASY. But it wasn’t because the Laura books are boring.

I still disagree with Mackenzie about reading the Little House books aloud. But I now completely AGREE with her about the magic of Cherry Jones’s narration.

You see, near the end of last year, we had some changes in our life that meant the kids and I were spending at least an extra two hours a week in the car. I know that for some of you, that doesn’t sound like much. But I’m a homebody and even the most extroverted mama is likely to be a bit overwhelmed by loading four children into carseats a minimum of six extra times a week.

I knew we needed something to help us manage that awful extra car time, something to help us escape. Honestly, I needed something to get me out of the pity-party-slash-anger-fest that I was simmering in every time I had to yet again disrupt my life and rush my kids through meals and pack them all in the car and waste all. that. time. in. the. car.

So I looked into audiobooks. I needed something that wasn’t too scary (since our Tirzah Mae is currently a sensitive soul), but that would interest both me AND the children. The Little House books it was.

And, oh. Oh. Oh! Cherry Jones’s narration is just wonderful. Listening to her is a delight (especially when she starts singing along to Pa’s fiddle!)

We listened to Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy in January. In February, in conjunction with Barbara’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, we hoped to listen to Litte House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek but fell just a little short of completing the latter (Praise God for several days where, for one reason or another, I was able to leave the kids home while I did the driving, minimizing the disruption to the whole family!)

As part of Barbara’s challenge, I also read Old Town in the Green Groves by Cynthia Rylant, a fictionalized account of the Ingalls family’s time between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By The Shores of Silver Lake. I am glad that I read it, but I am also glad that Laura chose to skip over that period of her early life in her Little House books. It was a hard, hard time that Rylant only partially succeeds at making seem less difficult. Barbara also read that book this year and reviewed it at her blog – my thoughts were pretty similar to Barbara’s.

Thank you, Barbara, for the past decade(?) hosting the Little House Challenge. I and my children have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to revisit Laura each year. We’ll miss the challenge next year; but I think, thanks to several years of participating (and thanks to discovering Cherry Jones’s wonderful audio narrations of the Little House books), we’re not likely to have seen the last of Laura in our household :-)

Picture Book Highlights (Author COO-CRO)

March 3rd, 2020

Despite being a shorter-than-average month (even with that leap day), February was a productive reading month. I read 83 children’s picture books with an author last name “C”. In large part, I think this was due to my decision to try to spend just a little bit of time with each child individually each day (usually right before their naps). I’ve mostly spent that time reading aloud (what else?) When I don’t have to wait for everyone to be ready to listen together, it makes reading aloud tons easier – and has allowed me to power through a lot more of our picture books. We have maybe 40 or 50 more books to go until we’re done with author last name C – we’ll likely finish those out in March!

Homer by Elisha Cooper

Homer

The dog, Homer, is offered lots of opportunities to go out and do all sorts of interesting things. He’d rather lie on the front porch and watch it all. He delights to hear everyone’s stories of all the exciting things they’ve done, but mostly, he likes to be at home with everyone he loves around him. I can identify. :-)

Petra by Marianna Coppo

Petra

A little rock has great dreams – but what will he become? A simple, short book that’s just right to keep the interest of all four of our little ones (5, 3, 2, and 19 months.)

Little Pig Joins the Band by David Costello

Little Pig Joins the Band

When all his big siblings make a brass band, Little Pig wants to join too, but none of the instruments fit him. He’s able to find his place, though – a much needed place – as band leader, getting them all to play together in time.

What Elephant? by Genevieve Cote

What Elephant?

A cute little story that helps to explain the saying “the elephant in the room.”

The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

The Road Home

More a poem than a story, with art that’s visual poetry. Animal mothers invite their children to join them in their tasks before ending with a refrain: “This road is hard, this road is long, this road that leads us home.” And then it ends, “This road is hard, this road is long, but we are not alone. For you are here, and I’m with you… and so this road is home.” Just lovely.

Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie by Judy Cox, illustrated by Joe Mathieu

Don't Be Silly Mrs. Millie!

This is not fine literature, but Mrs. Millie’s silly mis-speaks had my two oldest (5 and 3) roaring with laughter all the way through. Mrs. Millie instructs her students to “hang up your goats” at the beginning of the day and keeps making “mistakes” with rhyming words and sound-alikes all day long. “We have parrot sticks and quackers today!” Very fun.

The Paradox of Christ

February 7th, 2020

“Above all, he is unselfish. Perhaps nothing strikes us more than this. Although he clearly believed himself to be divine, he did not put on airs or stand on his dignity. He was never pompous. There was no touch of self-importance in Jesus. He was humble.

It is this paradox that is so amazing, this combination of the self-centeredness of his teaching and the unself-centeredness of his behavior. In thought he put himself first, in deed last. He exhibited both the greatest self-esteem and the greatest self-sacrifice. He knew himself to be the Lord of all, but he became their servant. He said that he would one day come to judge the world, but he washed the feet of his friends.”

~John Stott, Basic Christianity

Nothing struck me quite so strongly as I read Stott’s Basic Christianity as the bolded sentence above. As someone who has believed since she was a young child, I have never really considered the “self-centeredness” of Jesus’ teaching. Of course he was self-centered – he’s God. He ought to be talking about himself. But if he weren’t God, were simply styling himself as God, he would be quite pompous.

Yet his actions aren’t pompous at all. He cares for the poor and needy, embraces outcasts, visits sinners in their homes. He served.

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

This is the paradox of our faith – the God who is so High stooped down so low. He is indeed exactly what every person needs and does not shy away from proclaiming it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the living water.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” But, despite being God’s gift to man, he did not act as though he were.

Wow.

Picture Book Highlights (Author COL-CON)

February 3rd, 2020

The kids and I read right around 50 children’s picture books in January (in addition to some nonfiction, some board books, and listening to Cherry Jones narrate Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy.) These are some of the highlights from this month’s reading. We’re going to plug along with authors CON and on in February – but we’re also excited to continue our Laura journey with Little House on the Prairie and maybe On the Banks of Plum Creek as part of Barbara’s final Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

The Winter Wren by Brock Cole

"The Winter Wren"

We’ve read a couple of other whimsical folk-type tales by Brock Cole, but this was my favorite. In it, a boy goes off to wake up Spring, who is sleeping in Winter’s castle. Cole’s illustrations are just delightful and this story very fun.

Rachael Cole

Books by Rachel Cole

I was unfamiliar with Rachael Cole, but fell in love with her City Moon, in which a young child and his mother take a walk through the city at night, watching for the moon. The spare text does a good job of getting inside a child’s mind – and reflects the interactions between mother and child well.

Cole’s second book, Mousie, I will Read to You, illustrates the progression of a child’s reading and the wonder of introducing books to the next generation in a non-didactic way that both parents and children can enjoy (if myself and my children are any indication, that is.) This book lover teared up at the end – but don’t worry, this isn’t sentimental pablum. It’s just delightful.

So far, these are the only picture books Cole has written – but I’ll definitely be watching for more from her.

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins, illustrated by David Slonim

"The Deer Watch"

A boy wakes up early to get a chance to see deer with his father. Slonim’s thick oil (acrylic?) paintings give wonderful expression to the joy of experiencing nature at dawn. While we certainty don’t experience any scarcity of deer sightings her on the plains like the narrator does on the coasts, the experience of waiting silently for a reticent animal to show itself is certainly common to nature lovers everywhere.

So Close by Natalia Colombo

"So Close"

A couple of animals live next to each other, pass every day on their way to work and home from work. But then one day, someone ventures a “Hello” – and their whole lives change. A very simple, sweet book.

See You Soon Moon by Donna Conrad, illustrated by Don Carter

"See You Soon Moon"

A little boy packs up his belongings to go to visit his grandma. He says goodbye to what he leaves behind – but, to his surprise, the moon follows him all the way to Grandma’s house! My children enjoyed Carter’s thick paint on poster-board illustrations – they kept asking if they were birthday cakes (since they strongly resemble the cut-out cakes I make for the kids for their birthdays.)

The Most Important Gift of All by David Conway, illustrated by Karin Littlewood

"The Most Important Gift of All"

A little girl wants to give her baby brother a gift (like all the relatives are), but her grandma tells her that love is the most important gift of all. So the little girl sets off through the savannah to try to find love. A lovely story with lovely illustrations.

Tending my little farm

January 10th, 2020

Five years ago, as a newly minted mother of a 4-month-old baby, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy and reflected on the chapter “Springtime.”

Laura writes

“There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree are trying to take the fields. Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds quickly.

Almanzo was a little soldier in this great battle.”

I wrote:

“This year… this passage reminds me of [the] springtime of our lives and the great trust that parents are given of sowing seed and cultivating little hearts. It’s easy to be complacent, to assume that children will learn what we want them to learn, that they’ll establish good habits, that there’ll be plenty of time to teach them tomorrow. But the best time to plant a seed and kill a weed is springtime. And the best time to communicate the gospel and establish good habits is early in life.

Which is why I am resolving to be a little soldier in this great battle – and to establish my own habits now, while Tirzah Mae is tiny. Now is the perfect time to get into the habit of speaking the gospel to my daughter, the perfect time to steep us both in Scripture songs, the perfect time to live a visibly Christian life around my home.

Because the life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. And I want the life that grows in my daughter to be a good planting.”

Yesterday, I listened to Cherry Jones read this same chapter as we work our way through the audio versions of the classic “Little House” books on our way to and from various activities.

I reflected again on the metaphor of springtime and our young children. Now the mother of four (on the outside – plus one on the inside, one in heaven, and two reintegrated into their biological families), I see even more how tireless the springtime work must be – and how important.

This is springtime. Evil ideologies vie for my children’s minds as we peruse the picture books (in order by author last name) from the library. Corporate interests try to imprint their names and logos into my children’s imaginations, try to get my children to beg for their products, ensuring customers for life. My children’s sin natures spur them to do whatever they want, following the desires of their wicked hearts. Voices from all over encourage my children to follow their hearts.

Weeds, threatening to choke the good seed of the gospel. Weeds, desirous to take over any structure or order I might impose upon my children’s lives.

But this is springtime, and I would rather be fishing, like the naughty boy in Almanzo’s story – I would rather dump my seed in one corner of the field and head off to Facebook or Feedly or whatever my latest amusement might be. Yet I know what happens to that naughty boy’s field. It is overtaken by weeds.

So I must dry the dishwater off my hands and deal with the children who are bickering in the living room. I must drag myself off the couch to deal with the disobedient child (instead of endlessly repeating myself with escalating threats.) I must be a little soldier in this great battle.

God, grant me grace to tend my little farm well.

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.

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