Archive for the ‘Reading My Library’ 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.)

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.

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.

    12 years: a reading progress report

    September 5th, 2018

    It’s been 12 years now since I began my epic project to read every book in my local branch library. 12 years, three cities, six homes, one husband, three biological children, and two foster children later… I’m still reading.

    TOTALS as of Sept 5, 2018 (12 years or 4383 days)

    Category Items this year Total Items Total Categories Closed
    Juvenile Picture 165 1657 472
    Juvenile, Board Books 365 512 268
    Juvenile, First Readers 9 75 3
    Juvenile, Chapter 0 92 7
    Juvenile Fiction 6 320 25
    Juvenile Nonfiction 19 280 1
    Teen Fiction 1 49 4
    Teen Nonfiction 0 5 0
    Adult Fiction 3 468 71
    Adult Nonfiction 34 953 44
    Audio CD 238 933 14
    Juvenile DVD 4 53 0
    Adult Fiction DVD 8 107 7
    Adult Nonfiction DVD 3 45 1
    Periodicals 5 94 0
    Total 860 items 5643 items
    2.36 items/day 1.21 items/day

    This year’s biggest reading accomplishment was getting serious about closing categories. The children and I read everything our library owns by 222 different board book authors. We have 8 more board books to read before we can say that we’ve read every board book in Wichita’s Advanced Learning Library!

    Next up? We’re going to be hitting the picture books hard.

    Reading picture books for preschoolers from 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey

    April 11th, 2017

    Silvey’s collection of 100 Best Books for Children is organized into six categories: Board Books (Birth to age 2), Picture Books (Ages 2-8), Books for Beginning Readers (Ages 5-7), Books for Young Readers (Ages 7-9), Books for Middle Readers (Ages 8-11), and Books for Older Readers (Ages 11-12). The widest range by far is the picture book section, which covers a whopping 6 years (7 inclusive). In the introduction to each book, Silvey gives an “at a glance” which includes the title, author, illustrator, date of publication, publisher, age range, and length of the book. This is wonderful. But as I went through the picture book section, I noticed that the age ranges were always either “ages 2-5” or “ages 5-8”. Which frustrated me. I understand jumbling all the age ranges for picture books together if some books are best categorized as “ages 2-5” while others are “ages 3-7” and other “ages 5-8” – but if there are really two distinct categories of picture books, one for younger and one for older children, why not give those separate sections in the book?

    I checked all of the picture books out of the library and read them, but I’ve chosen to separate them here into age ranges – because I wish that’s what Silvey had done for me. Below are the first five picture books geared toward preschoolers (ages 2-5) – the ones that fit my Tirzah Mae’s demographic.

    Madeline written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans

    Me: “What do you think about Madeline? Is it a good book?”
    Tirzah Mae: “Yeah.”
    Me: “What do you think about Madeline? Is it a bad book?”
    Tirzah Mae: “Yeah.”
    Me (thinking): “That was helpful.”
    Me (speaking now): “Is Madeline a good book or a bad book?”
    Tirzah Mae: “A good book.”
    And she brought it to me for re-reads.

    My thoughts? If it weren’t already considered a classic, I’d have probably complained about the rather forced rhyme scheme.

    Cover art for "The Snowman"

    The Snowman illustrated by Raymond Briggs

    Remember how I don’t like wordless books? I really need to revise that statement now that I’ve found Baby Animal Spots and Stripes, Suzie Lee’s Wave, and The White Book by Elisabetta Pica and Lorenzo Clerici. The Snowman also joins the ranks of spectacular wordless books. Illustrated with multiple cells per page, like a cartoon strip, The Snowman tells the story of a snowman who takes the little boy who created him on a spectacular adventure. There’s enough detail here that you don’t have to stretch to tell a slightly different tale each time – and there’s plenty for a child to look at to help them tell the story themselves.

    Tirzah Mae reads "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel"

    Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton

    I remember this book fondly from my childhood, remembering Mike and Mary Anne digging faster and faster but failing to give themselves an escape route. And I remember the solution: turning Mary Anne into the furnace for the new town hall. I don’t remember that the context was the obsolescence of the steam shovel (which was replaced by “gasoline diggers and electric diggers and diesel diggers”) or that the newly-hired City Hall janitor Mike Mulligan apparently only sits in the basement in a rocking chair telling stories. I suppose that’s for the best. I take heart from my own experience that children can enjoy stories, even ones that might have some political under- or over-tones, without internalizing all the issues they bring up. So I’ll keep reading this one to Tirzah Mae (and probably Louis too when he’s a bit older), although I might not make a priority of acquiring it for our home library.

    Cover art for "Millions of Cats"

    Millions of Cats written and illustrated by Wanda Gág

    A very old man and a very old woman were lonely, so the very old man sets off at his wife’s behest to find them a cat to keep them company. He finds “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats”, but can’t decide which to bring home. So, of course, he brings them all home. This is a great story, with just the right amount of repetition, a little bit of violence (’cause children’s books need a little violence here and there), and an understated moral. The black and white illustrations are a refreshing change from the bright modern cartoons currently so favored in children’s picture books.

    From the inside of "Millions of Cats"

    The Snowy Day written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

    It was sunny and bright with leaves on the trees and green grass covering the rain-slogged land when Tirzah Mae and I read Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day. I didn’t expect this story to resonate much with Tirzah Mae, since her only experience with snow was at Grandma and Grandpa’s when she was one. But resonate it did. Tirzah Mae was delighted to point out Peter on every page as he enjoyed the eponymous snowy day in the city. When we finished, she begged me to read it again and again. Finally, I left her to narrate the story herself, which she did with surprising detail, talking about Peter’s bath and how his mom took off his socks and “about the snowy day”. This was a definite hit – one I think I might check out next winter near when we travel north again (just in case we can catch a bit of snow ourselves!)

    Louis reads "Snowy Day"

    All in all, I’m glad we’re reading through these books together. While I’m not enamored with all of them, they are introducing me to books I have never read, some of which that are quite good. I’ll probably have another couple posts on these preschooler picture books (there are nine more) – and haven’t decided whether I’m going to write about the books for 5-8 year olds or not – maybe I should wait until I’m reading those with the kids?

    Books of Action Rhymes

    February 8th, 2017

    Maybe some people grew up knowing dozens of little hand plays – they learned them in preschool or at library story time or whatever.

    I am not one of those people.

    Furthermore, since my preemies aren’t supposed to spend time with other kids until they’re older, I can’t take my toddler to story time (lest my infant be exposed to kids). So I am stuck with books to learn those action rhymes – which is fine with me. Books are my preferred way of learning anyway.

    I’ve checked out a few books of action rhymes, mostly as they come up in my reading of the “nursery rhyme” section – juvenile nonfiction Dewey Decimal 398.8, and am attempting to learn a few to share with Tirzah Mae.

    Knock at the Door by Kay Chorao

    Knock at the Door

    A collection of 20 finger-plays conveniently organized with one or two per double-page spread. Each line of the finger-play is preceded by a small box illustrating the appropriate action. The illustrations are generally clear (or at least I was able to do something with them – whether or not it is correct is another story.) Best of all, the book also includes large illustrations of each rhyme – which means it’ll keep a child’s interest even if mama chooses not to do the finger-play (Guilty as charged – I’m working on it.)

    Inside 'Knock at the Door'

    Clap Your Hands: Finger Rhymes selected by Sarah Hayes, illustrated by Toni Goffe
    A little over 20 finger-rhymes accompanied by illustrations of children performing the finger rhymes. Some of the illustrations make the actions perfectly clear, while others are decidedly less so. There are multiple rhymes to a page, making this less of a favorite for me than Chorao’s Knock at the Door.

    Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes
    Twenty finger plays and other action rhymes accompanied by small-box illustrations of each action and large illustrations depicting the content of the rhyme. While I detest Brown’s Arthur books, his illustrations in these classic rhymes are just fine. Some of these rhymes are more involved than others – but that’s okay. Each rhyme has its own double-page spread, which makes it easy to open up and just do one rhyme (not that I ever want to limit us to just one rhyme. *sarcasm*)

    Playtime Rhymes for Little People by Clare Beaton

    Playtime Rhymes for Little People

    About 40 rhymes including familiar action rhymes (“Incy Wincy Spider” and “Head and Shoulders”) and unfamiliar ones, familiar songs (“The Wheels on the Bus” and “Here we Go round the mulberry bush”) and less familiar ones, and a range of “counting out” songs for selecting who’s “it” during playtime. Unlike several of the other collections I read, this does NOT include figures for how to “act out” the rhyme. Instead, instructions are given in italicized print at the bottom of the page. But, as with other Beaton titles, to focus on the text misses the highest point: Beaton’s lovely applique and embroidery illustrations. Oh how I long to make a collection of pieces in her style for our nursery! (But, time.)

    Inside 'Playtime Rhymes for Little People'

    Of the four collections reviewed here, I recommend either Knock at the Door or Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes for the mom seeking to learn new finger plays – and Playtime Rhymes for Little People for people who are interested in beautiful fabric art :-)

    Animal Books: Farmyard Sounds

    August 2nd, 2016

    Since moving to Prairie Elms, Tirzah Mae has been enamored with our neighbors’ animals. First it was the dogs (Woof, woof!) belonging to our neighbor to the south. Then it was the chickens (Cluck, cluck!) belonging to our neighbor to the north.

    Not one to waste an opportunity to check books out of the library, I rushed off to find as many farm animal books as I could – a great many of which were centered around the sounds farm animals make.

    Tirzah Mae chases the chickens

    This is a record of what we read, and what we thought of what we read, ordered from favorite to least favorite (give or take.)

    Does a Cow Say Boo? by Judy Hindley
    Tirzah Mae didn’t really know her animal sounds yet, so I figured the silliness of this book – asking if a variety of farmyard animals say “Boo” – would be over her head. Just goes to show that mama ISN’T always right. While she may not know ALL the animals sounds, she DOES know that neither a cow nor a pigeon nor a goat says “Boo”. The rollicking rhyme scheme and continued questioning is just exactly what it takes to keep Tirzah Mae engaged for the entire book. And when we get to the end, when Tirzah Mae covers her face with her hands and lets out her own “Boo!”? It’s perfect. We highly recommend this book!

    This Little Chick by John Lawrence
    A little chick goes to visit a variety of different animals – and what do they hear her say? Not “cheep, cheep” as I might have expected. Instead, she speaks to each group of animals in their own language. But when she gets home to her mama at night, she’s full of all sorts of cheeps and oinks and quacks and moos – telling her mama all about her day. I thought this book was just darling.

    Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
    This one isn’t entirely animal sounds, since it includes “Pigs in the wallow. Muck, muck, muck.” – but it’s no less delightful for the occasional non-sound inclusion. The text follows the basic formula seen above (“[Animal] in the [location]. [Sound], [sound], [sound].”) with rhyming pairs of sounds (“muck” rhymed with “cluck”). Fleming’s illustrations are handmade paper poured into molds in the shapes of the animals (I want to try that!) Children will enjoy finding the goose hidden in each double-page spread.

    All Kinds of Kisses by Nancy Tafuri
    In this board book, a selection of baby animals feel that their mothers’ kisses are the best: “Little Piglet loves Oink kisses. Little Lamb loves Baaa kisses.” Not all the animals are farmyard animals, but most of the farmyard ones are represented. This is also a good book for learning the names of the “baby versions” of animals – ducklings, chicks, kids, etc. In a day and age where cartoonish illustrations are all the rage, the more careful but not quite photo-realistic illustrations are a real plus for me.

    Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! by Petr Horacek
    A board book with very simple text beginning with “Hee-Haw, Hee-Haw says the donkey.” Each physical page of the book is shorter than the one before, and the left-hand side of each spread ends up forming the figure of a cow on the very last page. It’s a clever little illustrative technique, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Bob by Tracey Campbell Pearson
    Bob, the rooster, only clucks until the coop cat (since when does a chicken coop have a cat?) informs him that he needs to learn how to crow so he can wake the girls up in the morning. Bob sets out to find another rooster to teach him to crow, but finds plenty of other animals along the way, each of whom teach him their own sounds. The additional sounds come in handy when a fox tries to get into the henhouse! I’d really like to like this story. The plot is fun, as are the illustrations. But I have a very hard time getting over the initial technical error: Pearson has the cat tell Bob that he isn’t a chicken, he’s a rooster – which is why he should crow instead of cluck. Did you catch that? Roosters are chickens. A male chicken is a rooster, a female chicken a hen. Bob oughtn’t cluck like a hen. I rather hate that this is a deal-breaker for me, but it is.

    Pete the Cat: Old MacDonald Had a Farm by James Dean
    The lyrics to “Old MacDonald had a Farm”, sung by Pete the Cat himself (apparently he’s a thing?) Complete with really hokey illustrations. I’ll pass.

    Everywhere a Moo, Moo, a Scholastic “Rookie Toddler” book
    Abbreviated lyrics to “Old MacDonald had a Farm” (sans the “E-I-E-I-O” and the titular preamble) superimposed over photographs of various farm animals. Except that the farm animals are photoshopped onto the same unrealistically green field below the same generic sky with an equally photoshopped barn or farmhouse on the horizon. This could have been a book with really nice photos of animals IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT, but it isn’t.

    Brown Books

    April 4th, 2016

    Now that I’m FINALLY done with Marc Brown’s awful “Arthur” books in the picture book section at my library, I’m getting on to some other “Brown” authors.

    Secrets of the Apple Tree by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner

    A delightful nonfiction picture book about the ecosystem of an apple tree. This is a “shine-a-light” book, which means the right hand page has a full-color illustration with a blank space somewhere. When you hold the page up to a light or shine a flashlight from behind it, you can see the outline of the black and white illustration on the next (left-hand) page. For instance, you might see a lizard that has scurried behind a stone at the apple tree’s base. I enjoyed this informative and non-preachy look at nature.

    Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure by Don Brown

    Another nonfiction tale, this book tells the story of the first woman to drive a motorcar across the US. It took Alice Ramsey fifty-nine days in 1909, but she made it! Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure is relatively text-heavy, but the watercolor illustrations are lovely and the story gives a great look at what the US (and transportation) looked like early in the 20th century. With Alice Ramsey being a woman and all, this might be an opportunity for feminist grandstanding – but Brown does a wonderful job of telling the story and letting parents come up with how to interpret it.

    Darth Vader and Friends and Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown

    For this Star Wars no-nothing, these comic-book style picture books were absolutely incomprehensible. Daniel read one and I guess there are lots of illusions to the Star Wars stories and characters but relatively little plot of their own.

    Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

    This retelling of the classic story was a Caldecott Honor book in 1948 – and well deserves it. The retelling itself is relatively involved, with enough text per page that I abbreviated the story for Tirzah Mae’s consumption; but the illustrations, done in shades of gray and red, are magnificent (and enough to keep Tirzah Mae turning the pages for several days.)

    Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood
    A little girl is the littlest in her village and always gets made fun of. But she dreams of reaching the moon, and practices until she
    can, despite the naysayers. People who are into feel-good, if-you-can-dream-it-you-can-do-it stuff might like this story – but I’m not one of those people. I’m all about encouraging dreams and working towards dreams – but dream or not, no little girl can jump into the moon. Fairy tales about jumping to the moon are fine, but this stuff? This is silliness.

    Arthur’s Mean [Fill-in-the-blank]

    July 17th, 2015

    “Oh, I love the Arthur books,” the new check-out girl at the library raved. “They’re such fun!”

    I smiled politely and remained silent as she checked out my monthly half-dozen children’s picture books.

    I am at that point in my read-every-book challenge where I’m yet again reading a massive children’s picture book series that I don’t particularly like.

    This time, it’s Marc Brown’s Arthur.

    Apart from the fact that it’s a massive series and that it’s repetitive and that the stories aren’t particularly interesting, what bugs me about Marc Brown’s Arthur series is how many meanies there are.

    Almost every book includes some form of sibling rivalry, classroom taunting, or other mild bullying (although I fear to use that word, given the current anti-bullying craze.)

    I understand the point. Teasing happens. Bullying happens. Brown wants to portray child life as it is, give children something to identify with. Furthermore, he probably wants kids to develop empathy with Arthur (frequently the recipient of the teasing) and hopefully to learn that it isn’t nice to bully and taunt. All understandable and noble goals.

    But, while I can’t remember exactly where I read it (maybe Nurture Shock?), I remember reading that such attempts generally backfire. Rather than producing empathy and encouraging children to avoid taunting, hearing stories about children being teased only adds to a child’s arsenal of ways to pick on other children. Children don’t come up with “four-eyes” on their own – they hear it on a television show or read about it in Arthur’s Eyes. And when they hear about it, they don’t file it away as “something I wouldn’t like to be called” – they file it away as “something to throw at my glasses-wearing-classmate next time I feel like being superior.”

    So what kind of stories would I prefer?

    I’d prefer stories that focus on kids banding together to overcome obstacles and fight real bad guys – bad guys so scary they’d never want to be them. I prefer the fairy tale version of life, where children must be smart and slay dragons instead of each other.

    What do you think of Arthur? Do you have any favorite children’s picture book series?

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