Archive for the ‘What’s on Your Nightstand?’ Category

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.

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.

    Children’s Reading Report (January 2019)

    February 2nd, 2019

    After who-knows-how-many-years of work, I have finally completed author last name “B” at my local library. I’m hoping to pick up the pace a bit and complete all the picture books by author last name “C” this year!

    *An asterisk denotes a book that I wouldn’t mind re-reading.


    Board Books

    Since I’ve already read all the board books at our library (except the ones they’ve acquired since I finished my challenge), I’m reading these simply for pleasure – or ’cause the little ones pick them up when we’re at the library.

    "Anne's Colors"

    • Look at Me: I Love My Family
      Pictures of little ones playing with their family along with very spare text. I won’t be getting it again.
    • *Rrralph! by Lois Ehlert
      “Did you know my dog can talk?” the narrator asks. We learn just how in this delightful tale (Ralph says “Ralph”, “Roof”, “Wolf”, “Bark”, and more.) We get this from the library, but I’d love to own a copy – it’s a fun, fun book and Beth-Ellen’s current favorite.
    • Newtonian Physics for Babies by Chris Ferrie
      Not particularly straightforward and the illustrations look like they were made using Microsoft Word’s graphic editor. Not worth it.
    • Anne’s Colors and Anne’s Numbers by Kelly Hill
      Lovely little books illustrating scenes from Anne of Green Gables. See my review for more details (and photos!l)
    • Blankie by Leslie Patricelli
      Patricelli’s little character really, really loves his (her?) blankie.

    Picture Books

    A typical library return stack

    Author Last Name “B”

    I had just a few of these sitting around waiting to be read before we could close off the “B”s

    • *Banjo Granny by Sarah Martin Busse and Jacqueline Briggs Martin
      A delightful story about a granny who travels the nation with her banjo to play with her dancing grandbaby.
    • My Bibi Always Remembers by Toni Buzzeo
      A fun little story about a distractable elephant baby and his (or her?) wise grandmother.
    • One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo
      In which a boy steals a penguin, just like his father stole a turtle. Weird.
    • R is for Research by Toni Buzzeo
      A big-kid alphabet book centered around a research project. Eh.
    • *The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo
      Based on a Maine legend, this tells the story of a baby washed ashore near a lighthouse after a shipwreck. Very sweet.
    • The Power of Henry’s Imagination by Skye Byrne
      New-Agey “imagine it and it will be”. Ick.
    • Dream Friends by You Byum
      A dream friend helps a little girl make a new real friend. I can’t decide whether I’d be willing to reread this or not.

    Author Last Name “C”

    An informal count says there are about 560 picture books with an author last name “C”. That means I need to read almost 50 a month to get it done in a year – so I need to double this month’s rate for the rest of the year.

    • Bertie and Small and the Brave Sea Journey and
      Bertie and Small and the Fast Bike Ride by Vanessa Cabban

      Gentle stories about a little boy and his stuffed rabbit.
    • Roonie B. Moonie Lost and Alone by Janan Cain
      I’m not a big fan of “stories” that are really just lessons in disguise. This one is about how to manage being lost.
    • *By the Light of the Moon by Sheridan Cain
      A sweet little story in which a mama mouse puts her baby mouse safely to sleep.
    • *Lena’s Shoes are Nervous by Keith Calabrese and Juana Medina
      Lena isn’t nervous about her first day of school – but her shoes are. Clever and cute.
    • *Flood by Mary Calhoun
      A fictionalized retelling of the 1993 flooding along the Mississippi. I remember that rainy, rainy season (although we didn’t experience devastating flooding in Lincoln like those along the Missouri and the Mississippi did.)
    • Hot-Air Henry by Mary Calhoun
      I enjoyed learning how a hot-air balloon works in this story of a Siamese Cat who accidentally takes a solo balloon trip.
    • The Enemy: A Book about Peace by Davide Cali
      I am profoundly ambivalent towards this book. It has some good points: “the enemy” is generally not a monster but another person fighting for what they believe is right. But Cali seems to discount the idea of a just war.
    • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School by Davide Cali
      Trippy.
    • Good Morning, Neighbor by Davide Cali
      A group of neighbors pools their resources to make a cake – and then has to decide how to divide it equitably. The best of the books by Cali, but still not amazing.
    • Great Dog by Davide Cali
      It was funny, until we got to the end and it took a desperate twist into “you can be anything you want to be” even if that means being a dog when you were born a cat. No thank you – I’d rather encourage my kids to be what God created them to be.
    • Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs by Davide Cali
      Caring for 77 dwarfs is hard work! Snow White is going to take her chances with the witch’s poison apple (maybe then she can at last get some sleep!) This really isn’t a children’s book as much as it is an illustrated book for complaining mothers.
    • *Jazzmatazz by Stephanie Calmenson
      A rolicking good time ensues when a baby and a variety of animals start a jazz band.
    • Ollie’s Class Trip and
      Ollie’s School Day by Stephanie Calmenson

      These books pose all sorts of ridiculous hypotheticals that children will love saying “No, silly” at. That said, I was glad to take them back to the library.
    • The Teeny Tiny Teacher by Stephanie Calmenson
      How many times can you read the words “teeny tiny” before you pull your hair out? Stephanie Calmenson approaches that number in this book (which is quite clever apart from the exhausting use of “teeny tiny”.)
    • Queenie Farmer Had Fifteen Daughters by Ann-Jeanette Campbell
      This was just weird.
    • I Get So Hungry by Bebe Campbell
      How do you address emotional eating and obesity and weight loss with children? Campbell doesn’t do a bad job per se, but the whole topic makes me queasy given how individualized circumstances are (childhood obesity is a real thing, but so are eating disorders.)
    • *Stompin’ at the Savoy by Bebe Campbell
      A fun little book about a girl who is afraid of dancing at her jazz recital – until she has a crazy dream of dancing at the Savoy!
    • Franklin’s Flying Bookshop and
      Franklin and Luna Go to the Moon by Jen Campbell

      Franklin is a dragon who loves to read and to share books with others – but all the people are afraid of him until he meets a fellow book lover (who also happens to love dragons.) In the sequel, the dragon and his friend go searching for Franklin’s family.
    • *The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell
      Little Minnow is the only unexceptional daughter from among King Tritan’s many exceptional daughters. But then she finds a shoe and goes exploring to find out what it is – and learns that she is exceptional too. I enjoyed this story quite a bit – it’s not simply an “everyone is special” book, but an “everyone is special in different ways” book.
    • Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horseby Marcy Campbell
      Adrian has an imaginary horse and the protagonist must learn to not be so mean about it. Eh. (Lovely illustrations, though, by Corinna Luyken.)
    • Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
      Does the hug machine ever run out of hugs? Okay, but not great

    Other picture books:

    • *Yummy by Lucy Cousins
      A fun collection of folk tales loosely themed around food.
    • *The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers
      A neighborhood is astonished to wake up every morning to a new topiary along their sleep. Fun.
    • *My Love Will Be With You by Laura Krauss Melmed
      A precious, simple father/child book. I especially liked Henri Sorensen’s beautiful (acrylic? oil?) paintings of different animal father/child combos.
    • *Good Night, Good Night Construction Site Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
      As good as promised. My truck-loving Louis wanted to take this to bed with him most nights (and for a majority of naps as well.)

    Holiday Books

    A typical library checkout

    Christmas

    Christmas lasts until January 6 and I’m pleased to keep reading Christmas books right up until then :-)

    • *Just Right For Christmas by Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
      A Christmas book I’ll be checking out again and again – a king buys a bolt of fabric to make his daughter a gift for Christmas, and then a whole set of people and animals use the scraps to make a “just right” gift for their own loved ones.
    • The Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett
      Brett is always a delight. The animals speculate about Santa’s identity – and discover who he is thanks to the ingenuity of a skeptical little one.
    • *The Nutcracker by Valeria DoCampo
      A very nice retelling of the ballet.
    • *The Twelve Days of Christmas in Washington D.C. by Candice Ransom
      A little one (I forget whether it was a girl or a boy) visits his cousin in D.C. and writes letters home to his parents about all the things his cousin showed him in D.C. It’s great fun hearing my kids mash up the traditional version and this version of the song. Tirzah Mae sings “And a partridge in a scarlet oak tree” and Louis loves to sing “Five… doll-ar rings!”
    • *Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
      Tirzah Mae wanted to get a jump start on Barbara’s Laura Ingalls Wilder reading challenge with this “My First Little House Book”. Of course I let her :-)

    Marting Luther King, Jr. Day

    I greatly enjoyed learning more about Martin Luther King, Jr. this year

    • Martin Luther King Jr. Day by R.J Bailey
      A very simple book that focuses on kids doing community service vs. on Dr. King’s life or the Civil Rights movement. Not a fan.
    • *Martin Luther King Day by Linda Lowery
      A good review of Dr. King’s life and of how MLK Jr. Day became a national holiday.
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by Dianne M. MacMillan
      A simple chapter book that is nevertheless quite informative.
    • *Martin Luther King Day by Janet McDonnell
      A grandfather tells his granddaughter about the civil rights movement. Very nice.

    Groundhog Day

    Our library has LOTS of books for Groundhog Day, but very few of them are any good.

    • *A Garden for a Groundhog by Lorna Balian
      Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary are a wee bit frustrated with how the groundhog keeps eating their garden – so they devise a plan. Any vegetable gardener will identify with the O’Leary’s in this clever little book.
    • Go to Sleep, Groundhog! by Judy Cox
      The groundhog can’t fall asleep, so he keeps taking walks only to get trundled back to bed by a holiday figure who rocks him, tells him a story, and gives him food. He finally falls asleep just in time for his alarm to go off for Groundhog Day. He pops out of his hole, sees his shadow, and runs back inside for six more weeks of sleep.
    • Groundhog Stays Up Late by Margery Cuyler
      Foolhardy Groundhog stays up playing instead of preparing for winter – which means he gets awfully hungry. So he plays a trick on his friends to get some of their stored food. But the other animals have the last laugh when they trick him on February second. Eh.
    • Groundhog Day! by Gail Gibbons
      Fairly informative, if somewhat disjointed discussion of Groundhog Day and groundhogs themselves.
    • It’s Groundhog Day! by Steven Kroll
      Roland Raccon wants winter to continue so he can make more money off his ski resort – so he attempts to kidnap Godfrey Groundhog so he can’t predict spring. Eh.
    • Who Will See Their Shadows This Year? by Jerry Pallotta and David Biedrzycki
      All sorts of animals try their shadows, hoping to encourage spring to come early. But they only manage to set off all sorts of weird weather phenomenon.

    Nonfiction Books

    This week's return pile

    Pregnancy and Babies

    Tirzah Mae has been pretty obsessed with pregnancy since I was pregnant with Beth-Ellen – and now that we’ve read everything the library has (for children) on the topic, we’re moving along to babies after birth.

    • *9 Months by Courtney Adamo
      A look at what is happening inside (and outside) a woman during her nine months of pregnancy. The best children’s book on the topic that I’ve seen so far (and I’ve read them all, given that I have a pregnancy obsessed little girl.)
    • My Mommy’s Having a Baby by Dori Hillestad Butler
      Fairly informative – but I’m not a fan of the illustrations and there were a couple pages on sex that I wasn’t terribly comfortable with (then again, my four-year-old is probably a bit younger than the target audience).
    • Our Brother Has Down Syndrome by Shelley Cairo (and daughters?)
      A basic introduction to Down Syndrome with lots of pictures of the authoresses and their brother. The main message is that those with Down Syndrome are unique people, just like all of us.
    • The Obstetrician by Lee Jacobs
      What does an obstetrician do? This was a simple, repetitive book that seemed geared toward early independent readers. Daniel thought it terribly boring; I thought it a bit too pro-medicalized birth; Tirzah Mae was heartbroken when I returned it to the library.
    • Multiple Births by Elaine Landau
      Informative book about multiples (focused mostly on quads and quints!) – but tragic throughout. The first chapter details the terribly sad story of a set of Canadian quints in the early 20th century who were taken from their parents and basically turned into zoo animals. The third chapter is all about the trials and risks of higher order multiples and why selective reduction (more accurately called “killing some babies in the womb while leaving some of their siblings alive”) is recommended. I cried many, many times as I read this.
    • Drugs and Birth Defects by Nancy Schniderman and Sue Hurwitz
      Written for teens and clearly designed to scare them away from doing drugs during pregnancy. Definitely from the early nineties (as evidenced by the dated photos, the hardcore scare tactics, and the absence of mention of methamphetamine.)
    • That New Baby by Sara Bonnett Stein
      This book contains large print to read out loud to your children and smaller print to read yourself. It’s intended to open a conversation with kids about a new baby in the home. Like many books about the coming of a new baby, it’s focused on how the older child is going to feel jealous and left out and angry. I’m not a fan of such things (and, from my experience bringing both new babies and older children into our home, I don’t think jealousy and anger has to be a universal.)

    Tools and Trucks

    These are for Louis, who would sleep with his mallet and his dump truck every night if I’d let him. Instead, he takes the library books to bed with him :-)

    • The Saw and
      The Screwdriver by David and Patricia Armentrout

      Very simple and well-suited for reading to a two-year-old.
    • Concrete Mixers and
      Dump Trucks by Jean Eick

      Terribly boring for me. Terribly interesting for Louis. I’ll survive the toil of reading them for the joy of watching my son delight in reading them :-)
    • *Tools by Taro Miura
      A very simple labeling book, but with beautiful graphics.
    • Does a Woodpecker Use a Hammer? by Harriet Ziefert
      Talking about the “tools” different animals use – and how humans are different from animals because they use complex engineered tools

    Other Nonfiction

    • FlyGuy Presents: Castles by Ted Arnold
      FlyGuy, a cartoon fly, gives a tour of castles. Louis liked it. Daniel liked it. I did not.
    • *Who Was Mother Teresa? by Jim Gigliotti
      Informative look at Mother Teresa – I like the “Who Was…” series. I am interested to learn more about Mother Teresa – I hadn’t know that she was a universalist (kinda thought that was incompatible with Catholicism).

    Magazines

    • BabyBug: September 2018
    • BabyBug: January 2019
    • Highlights Hello: October 2018
    • Highlights Hello: November 2018
      I enjoy these very simple little magazines for babies and toddlers – this issue was about shapes. These are sturdy little booklets, although easy to lose since they’re so small.
    • Disney Princesses Official Magazine #47
      Gag me with a spoon. But Tirzah Mae ate it up – and now I can mark it read :-)

    Our library includes a running tally of our savings from using the library – and it’s always fun to see how quickly these children’s books add up. We’ve saved $2,845.47 so far this year!

    Our January library savings

    Grown-Up Reading Report (January 2019)

    January 31st, 2019

    I’m sad that Five Minutes for Books is no longer hosting the monthly “What’s on Your Nightstand?” roundup – but I completely understand, especially given how my own participation has waned in the past several years.

    Nevertheless, I have valued these monthly reminders of what I’ve read – and hope to continue them.


    Books for Loving:

    Our Triune God by Philip Ryken and Michael LeFebvre
    Our Triune God by Ryken and LeFabvre
    When I determined that I would study the Trinity this year for my own personal spiritual formation, I was a little worried that it would be mostly an academic pursuit and that I would have to work hard to find cause for worship in the doctrine of the Trinity. Ryken and LeFebvre’s little book (114 pages long) was the perfect start to my project, helping me to clearly see the glorious truth of the Trinity and to worship God as a result. Rather than setting out to give some sort of comprehensive analysis of the Trinity, or a historical background on the doctrine, the authors take a main text for each of their four chapters. They exposit each of those texts to help their readers understand the work of the Trinity in salvation, the mysterious doctine of the Trinity, the activity of the Trinity in sanctification, and the work of the Trinity in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I heartily recommend this book as an introduction to the doctrine and worship of the Triune God.


    Books for Growing:

    I chose Matt Perman’s Do More Better as my first book for growing this year – but it’s too long to fit into one month. So I read just the first 13 chapters this month and will be finishing up next month.


    Books for Knowing:

    The Why Axis by Uri Gneezy and John A. List
    The Why Axis by Uri Gneezy and John A. List
    Why do we do what we do? Plenty of economists try to answer the question – but generally their observational methodology means they can only observe correlations, not causation. Gneezy and List are pioneers in the use of “field experiments” randomized experiments on the unknowing public that attempt to tease out causation. The Why Axis describes several of their experiments into discrimination, the gender gap, getting kids from hard places to graduate high school, raising money for charity, and more. I found this a fascinating book, although perhaps not quite as fascinating as say, Freakanomics (although that may well be because Freakanomics was one of the first “economics for the public” books I ever read.)


    Books for Seeing:

    Utopia by Thomas More
    Utopia by Thomas More
    More is clearly an intelligent and witty man – and I enjoyed reading his little fiction. Utopia is made up of four parts – an introductory letter (full of witicisms), a first part that describes the author’s first acquaintance with the man who told him about Utopia, a second part that describes Utopia, and a final letter. I enjoyed the letters best, the first part next, and the actual description of Utopia least. The island of Utopia is a little too… utopian… for my tastes. For a Catholic saint, More shows little awareness of the doctrine of original sin.


    Books for Enjoying:

    A Common Life by Jan Karon
    A Common Life by Jan Karon
    I’ve been making slow but delighted progress through Karon’s Mitford books. They are exactly the sort of books suited for a mother (who wants something to read but still needs to sleep at night.) This book goes back in time a bit to learn more about the lead-in to Father Tim and Cynthia’s wedding.

    Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden and illustrated by Brenna Thummler
    "Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel"
    I enjoyed this much more than expected. Follow the title link for my review.

    Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
    Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
    It’s been far too long since I last read this. It was like visiting an old friend, grown more mature by life’s passage but just as sweet as ever.


    Nightstand (January 2018)

    January 31st, 2018

    I’m late to the party for this month’s nightstand – and nearly all my books were actual read LAST MONTH. I’d checked them out of the library thinking I might have time to read while breastfeeding, but then I ended up reading them during that interminably long 2 week period between Beth-Ellen’s due date and when she actually showed up. Breastfeeding time has indeed ended up being quite fruitful on the reading front, but the reading has been almost entirely picture books. Tirzah Mae and Louis and I snuggle up and read five or ten or twenty picture books each day while I breastfeed Beth-Ellen (which is wonderful, but not so impressive for my nightstands :-P)

    Books for Growing

    • Honey for a Woman’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
      It’s hard to categorize a book on books, but I’m going to call this one a book for growing. Hunt gives an apologetic for reading (and reading a variety of genres), but the real strength of this book is the mini-reviews on every page. I added quite a few books to my TBR list, particularly in the “Books for Seeing” (the world clearly) and “Books for Enjoying” categories – two categories that I often find myself struggling in (because I either get lost in fiction and feel it not particularly worth the time once I’m done or I get slogged down in “literary” reading that doesn’t fit well with my stage of life as a mother of very young children.)

    Books for Knowing

    • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
      A fascinating look at the massive secret city built practically from scratch to enrich uranium for the original atomic bomb. As the title suggests, this is primarily a look at the women who traveled from near and far to live in and staff this giant government undertaking. I put this on my “To Be Read” list way back in 2015 after reading Susan’s review – but once I started it, I just devoured it. It’s an excellent story, well-told. Take a look at Barbara H’s review for a more fleshed-out description of the story.

    Books for Enjoying

    • Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway
      I read this based on Barbara H’s review and was so glad I did. Ms. Hathaway manages to avoid the twin pitfalls adaptations of great literature often fall into: either slavishly following the original story such that the adaptation adds nothing or taking such liberties with the storyline and characters that one can only wonder whether the author of the adaptation cares anything for the original work. Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits pays clear homage to Jane Austen’s work while managing to be unique. I also appreciated how the author has the main character, Shelby, (who is a Christian) act Christianly. Shelby prays for wisdom (or, just as often, for forgiveness when she acts unwisely), relates her life circumstances to things she’s reading in the Bible, and wonders about God’s purpose in things. The characterization was authentic without being preachy, something I don’t often see. I am greatly looking forward to reading more of Ms. Hathaway’s Austen adaptations.

    Other

    • All Natural by Nathanael Johnson
      I couldn’t figure out how to categorize this book. The subtitle “A skeptic’s quest to discover if the natural approach to diet, childbirth, healing, and the environment really keeps us healthier and happier” made me think this would fit my “books for knowing” category. But, given that this was published by Rodale, I should perhaps have had a clue that the author is less skeptical than the cover would suggest – and that the content would be less science-based than I’d have liked. It was enjoyable to read about Johnson’s exploration of the “natural” arguments and the “technological” arguments on a variety of issues, but the book was long on feelings and short on evidence.

    Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

    What's on Your Nightstand?

    Nightstand (October 2017)

    October 31st, 2017

    3 years (and 3 days) ago, I wrote my Nightstand post from a hospital bed while trying to stay pregnant as long as possible.

    Today, I write celebrating Tirzah Mae’s third birthday – and our longest healthy pregnancy yet.

    My reading life has undergone some pretty significant changes in the past three years – but I’m still reading (even if it’s mostly picture books that aren’t listed here!)

    Books for Growing:

    • Learning to Talk by James Christopher Law
      Part of the “Johnson’s Everyday Babycare” series by Dorling Kindersley, this short glossy book describes normal speech development in infants and children and how parents can facilitate healthy language development. Nothing groundbreaking, but I think it’s still a helpful resource for parents who are wondering “is my child normal?” and “am I doing what I should do?”
    • Free to Learn by Lynne Oldfield
      An introduction to the Steiner Waldorf model of early childhood education – a model that focuses on free play (without trying to force “education”), encounters with nature,
      and regular rhythms of life. I found Steiner’s discussion of rhythms to be particularly helpful in organizing my family’s daily routines. This book by Oldfield is a nice introduction to the method.

    Books for Knowing:

    • North America’s Favorite Butterflies: A Pictorial Guide by Patti and Milt Putnam
      We picked this up while I was browsing the adult nonfiction stacks because it fits Tirzah Mae’s exacting criterion for titles meant for grown-ups: it is small and it has an orange cover. But unlike the many such books we have brought home from the library, this one managed to sustain both Tirzah Mae AND her mother’s attention throughout the entire 3 month checkout period. We’ve spent many an afternoon poring over the full-color photographs of butterflies and reading the accompanying text describing a bit of the behavior or habitat or habits of that butterfly.

    Books for Enjoying:

    • Big Appetites by Christopher Boffoli
      Another book that fit Tirzah Mae’s criteria for checking out, this particular title is a series of photos of tiny toy people set amongst larger-than-life food. Each photo is accompanied by a title and a wry subtitle. So a picture of tiny men pushing around cherries and pitting them is titled “Cherry Pitters”, with the subtitle “The team was driven by their desire to negate years of PR damage from cherry-flavored medicines.” Moderately amusing.

    Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

    What's on Your Nightstand?

    Nightstand (September 2017)

    September 25th, 2017

    My busy summer is apparently not quite over – at least not as far as reading goes. Between starting “school” with Tirzah Mae (which means LOTS of picture books, but not a whole lot of grown-up reading), trying to put extra meals in the freezer (at least a couple a week), weeding the gravel driveway (possibly a fool’s errand, but we’d rather not spray more than we need to), canning applesauce, and attempting to get that porch railing done before the baby comes… Well, I haven’t finished much reading this month. In fact, I’ve only finished TWO books!

    Finished this month:

    • The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
      I checked this memoir out of the library because it was in the pregnancy/birth section and I’ve read all the clinical and “how-to” stuff in that section. I figured since I haven’t done any pregnancy reading this pregnancy, maybe I’d glean something from the birth stories within. Turns out that wasn’t to be – there’s not near as much about pregnancy and birth as you’d expect from a book called The Midwife. But, this was a fascinating story nonetheless – a coming-of-age and coming-to-faith story of sorts. I enjoyed it greatly.
    • Keys to Toilet Training by Meg Zweiback
      At the point I checked this out of the library, I was starting to wonder if my “wait until she’s obviously ready” strategy for toilet training Tirzah Mae was going to backfire. Maybe I needed to step things up and get her trained before the baby comes. Turns out, the author of the “keys” is pretty into relaxed potty training herself – and I was about two chapters in when Tirzah Mae up and trained herself, with only minimal input from me. I finished the book, which I thought gave generally good advice (mostly consisting of “relax, give it time, keep at the gentle process”). Tirzah Mae asked me once what the book was about and I told her – and periodically since, she’s been asking if she could read “Keys to Potty Training” (of course, I let her!)

    Tirzah Mae reading "Keys to Toilet Training"

    Actively in Progress:

    • Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley
    • For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope
    • The Weekend Homesteader by Anna Hess

    Passively in Progress:

    • Free to Learn by Lynne Oldfield
    • HypnoBirthing by Marie F. Mongan
    • Learning to Talk by James Christopher Law

    Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

    What's on Your Nightstand?


    Postscript: For those wondering about my pregnancy – thank you so much for praying! We had a doctor’s appointment today and all is well so far. My blood pressure remains low, my weight gain is appropriate, and there’s no protein in my urine. Baby is quite active, with a good heartbeat and good uterine growth. Praise God! Please continue praying for health, yes, but also that we would have grace to trust God with the uncertainty that comes along with the last trimester for us.

    Nightstand (June 2017)

    June 27th, 2017

    This month turned out to be a good month for reading, probably because I was exhausted enough that I let everything go to seed while I read (I did stop to change diapers and to heat up leftovers for the kids for lunch). I’m expecting that, as my energy returns (we’re definitely in the second trimester now, so any day now?), my reading will decrease but maybe my house will get a bit cleaner and my husband will be able to relax when he comes home from work instead of having to pitch in to clean the house, make dinner, etc. etc. Fingers crossed.

    Fiction Read:

    • The Secret Warning by Franklin W. Dixon
      I picked up the 17th volume of the “Hardy Boys” series after a long break from the series (I read #11 in 2013). Fast-paced, formulaic, and a blast straight from my childhood :-)
    • The Tournament at Gorlan and
      The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan

      I thought about resisting the siren call of Flanagan’s prequel series to “The Ranger’s Apprentice” – and then succumbed. I was not disappointed with the first two books of this series.
    • The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
      Unlike many of Heyer’s novels, this book is not set in the Regency period. Rather, it is set around the time of the Jacobite rebellions in the 18th century. A brother and sister pair travel to London, intending to lie low as they await their father’s arrival. All three had participated in one of the recent rebellions (at the behest of the rather flamboyant father), and the young people are eager for respectability and to escape notice. To this end, they each masquerade as the opposite sex, the son being rather excepionally short and the daughter rather exceptionally tall. But their goal of respectability and escaping notice is rather quickly thrown to the side as they get embroiled in London society and each their own little love affair. An enjoyable read, although not my favorite Heyer title.
    • Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
      Orphaned young people head off to London to live, intending to set up a place for themselves despite their elderly guardian’s apparent distaste for the scheme (he’d told them by letter to stay put in the country.) But they’re in for a shock when they discover that their guardian is actually quite a bit younger than expected. As is often the case with Georgette Heyer’s novels, I enjoyed this romp through Regency high society.
    • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
      Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
      Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
      Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
      Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
      Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
      Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

      I came down with a case of what I’m guessing was food poisoning that left me horizontal for several days, long enough to run out of library novels to read – so I started reading from my own collection. And, just like when I first read these books, I could barely put them down. This time, reading as a mother, I am absolutely baffled as to when I will think it’s appropriate to let my children read these (mostly given the moral ambiguity throughout – I may change my mind later but I’m less worried about the “tense scenes”.) I’d love to hear thoughts from moms who are ahead of me in the process :-)

    Nonfiction Read:

    • Prenatal Tests: The Facts by Lachlan De Crespigny and Frank A. Chervenak
      This was the most difficult book I’ve read in a long time. de Crespigny and Chervenak take a highly clinical tone as they describe the various prenatal tests offered women. They discuss what each procedure is like, what the procedure tests for, risks and benefits of one test over another, and who is generally offered each test. That’s tough reading because of the tone, but what really makes this book difficult is the basic assumption behind the whole thing. The same calculus is offered on every page, for every test: what test should be done and when in order to ensure that you can kill the baby you don’t want without harming the baby should you decide you do want him. It’s tragic. I cried. A lot. I cry just thinking about it now.
    • The Complete Organic Pregnancy by Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu
      Are you terrified by potential toxins lurking everywhere? Are you convinced that pregnancy means you should quit absolutely everything and move to an organic cotton yurt in the middle of an organic pasture where you spend your day drinking filtered water and doing yoga (but not on one of those yucky plastic yoga mats)? Then this is the book for you. It’s a primer in just how dangerous absolutely everything on the face of the earth is. Really, it’s safer to just not get pregnant than to try to deal with all the potential dangers lurking in your office chair, your water bottle, your cosmetics, your local park, everywhere, really. (In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I think this particular book is worthless. Also, while I don’t necessarily think “natural” birth is for everyone – I’ve ended up with two c-sections with spinals despite hoping for a natural birth – I do find it interesting that a book that tells women to avoid absolutely everything during pregnancy due to the potential for minute amounts of chemicals to leach into the mother’s body and then make it to the baby suddenly switches gears when asked about, say, narcotic painkillers during delivery – we wouldn’t DREAM of telling you what to do, that’s a personal decision!)
    • The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
      A history of the London cholera outbreak of 1854 – and how a moonlighting epidemiologist and a curious curate tracked down the source of the spread: the Broad Street pump. Daniel and I listened to this in the car and enjoyed the history of the epidemic and of the two main characters. What we didn’t enjoy were the lengthy, repetitive monologues about the wonders of cities and the metropolitan world. We’re guessing that we might not have minded so much if we were reading silently, since we could have skimmed through the monotony of those passages. We also wished that the author could have chosen some word other than “sh*t” to indicate human excrement. Have mercy on us audiobook listeners who happen to listen with our children in tow! Thankfully, while the word appears several dozen times, it’s pretty much confined to the first chapter – so, if you plan on listening to this one, listen alone for that section!
    • Parkinson’s Disease and the Family by Nutan Sharma and Elaine Richman
      This “Harvard University Press Family Health Guide” is a general introduction to the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease, how disease progression is assessed, various treatments for Parkinson’s and issues affected individuals and their families experience. At just over 200 pages, this is not too long for the less-avid reader. As a health professional, I am ill-equipped to evaluate the readability of this book for a general audience; but I found it to be understandable and informative (as well as generally free of the “woo” that way too many “health” books for a general audience are prone to.) Recommended.
    • Stokes Bird Gardening Book: The Complete Guide to Creating a Bird-Friendly Habitat in Your Backyard by Donald and Lillian Stokes
      Helpful ideas for creating a bird garden. Based on the information from this book, I feel that I have a good idea of how to move forward in creating a bird-friendly habitat in our yard. My one complaint was that little information was given about areas of the country, growing zones, etc.

    Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

    What's on Your Nightstand?

    Reading Report (April and May)

    June 1st, 2017

    I haven’t been keeping my Nightstand posts up-to-date (or more, haven’t been posting them when it’s time), but I want to end April and May on a clean slate so that maybe I can pick things up again for June (hope springs eternal!)

    So here’s [a little of] what I’ve read in April and May:

    Gardening Books:

    • Starting from Seed by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
      This book focuses on the environmental impact of monocultures and sees starting from seed as a way of maintaining genetic diversity in the garden (and in our world.) As such, it spends a lot of time talking about how to obtain heirloom seeds, how to protect against unwanted hybridization, and how to collect your own seeds.
    • Seeds: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Successfully From Seed by Jekka McVicar
      The subtitle should be “the ultimate guide to successfully starting seeds”. This book has instructions for starting virtually any seed you can imagine for your garden or yard – but it doesn’t have much information on how to go about transplanting those seeds into their final locations, which I think is kinda important.
    • The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto
      A readable, if somewhat dated (published in 1993), introduction to growing fruit trees. The general growing and pruning instructions are applicable, but there are TONS more varieties and rootstocks available now than there were then.
    • The Gardener’s Peony by Martin Page
      Until I read this book, I had no idea that peonies were a collector’s item, something people get excited about like they do about roses or orchids. But there are hundreds of different cultivars of peonies and people do indeed go crazy over them. This book gives something of the history of peonies and has what seems like endless pages describing the history of various cultivars and their characteristics. In the last chapters, Page gives some advice on raising peonies and on selecting cultivars (which was really what I was looking for.) I think this is probably more a reference work for the serious gardener and enthusiast, not necessarily for a dabbler like me – but it was fun to go down the rabbit hole for a little while :-)

    Relationship Books (Marriage, Parenting, etc):

    • Everyday Creative Play by Lisa R. Church
      Lots of the activities seem either seem “duh” obvious or overly didactic. But sometimes a reminder of those “duh” activities is worthwhile, so it wasn’t time completely wasted.
    • 150+ Screen-Free Activities For Kids by Asia Citro
      Lots of sensory activities – doughs and clays and oobleks and the like. Tirzah Mae had fun with whipped shampoo (colored baby shampoo whipped just like whipped cream or egg whites.) I’ll be checking this book out again sometime when I’m not in my first trimester of pregnancy and therefore have a little more energy for making sensory activities (for now, the kids are making do with playdough, baths, the sandbox, and the garden :-P)
    • Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower
      A fantastic book about sharing the gospel with children. Klumpenhower writes as a Bible teacher, but gives plenty of suggestions for parents and others who work with children. I reviewed this book here.
    • Success as a Foster Parent by the National Foster Parent Association with Rachel Greene Baldino
      I’ve finished this at last and consider it to be a great introduction to the process for someone who’s interested in fostering but who wants to learn a little about it before they start juggling schedules to actually get certified.
    • Your Time-Starved Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott
      A short, quick read about making time to invest in your marriage. I think if I’d read this six months ago, it would have been helpful; but we’d already started implementing many of the suggestions they made by the time I got around to reading this. I would recommend this, though, for couples who are feeling the crunch of busyness and who don’t really know what to do about it. Like I said, it’s a quick read and has some helpful suggestions.
    • The RoMANtic’s Guide by Michael Webb
      The “World’s Most Romantic Man” gives lots of romantic ideas. I thought it would be fun to get some ideas for how I can show Daniel love. Unfortunately, pretty much all the ideas involve ridiculous public displays of affection or spending money on trinkets and food. We are NOT trinket people. And heaven knows we don’t need more food. Basically, we’re just not the romantic types.

    Miscellaneous Nonfiction:

    • The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth
      Part-journalism, part-memoir, this book tells the story of the Nordic (or Scandinavian, depending on how you decide to tell it) countries that so often lead those “quality of life” measures. Booth travels through each country one by one, telling personal stories, bits of history, and describing interviews with economists and politicians and the like. I found this an interesting read and fairly informative (according to Booth, the hygge everyone is talking about this year? it’s actually a stifling set of social conventions that forces one to avoid talking about anything controversial or unpleasant.) For the most part, I found each nation intriguing and different – until I got to Sweden, the most perfect of all the places. There the house of cards crashed. Booth describes a society where all one needs is to declare something modern for it to be accepted, a nation where government care frees one from dependence on anyone else (dependence upon a spouse, a parent, a child). He acts as though this is a utopia,
      but it sounds to me like the worst dystopia I can dream of. Some of the highest divorce rates in the world. The most senior adults (actually, most people altogether) living alone in the world. Eighty-two percent of children in full-time daycare by 6 months of age. Eugenics practiced unquestioningly until the 1970s. If this is happiness,
      I’ll opt for the less-happy (by whoever determines that) but more relational world I inhabit.
    • Some of My Best Friends Are Black by Tanner Colby
      The story of the origins and continued existence of segregation in four spheres of American life: schools, neighborhoods, the advertising/marketing industry, and churches.
      This has been on my TBR list forever based on Lisa’s recommendation and I’m SO glad I read it.
    • The Gluten Lie by Alan Levinovitz
      A look at the sociology of how diet fads, following a variety of fads through time. This was enlightening, interesting, and so good.
    • The Prairie Girl’s Guide to Life by Jennifer Worick
      Instructions for fifty “Little House”-inspired activities, most of which turned out to be… beauty potions (okay, lavender spritzer for your ironing, soap, face cream,
      etc) or terribly ordinary recipes (cherries canned in syrup, rhubarb pie, dandelion greens.) I would have rather learned to make my own sausage and cheese like ma did,
      or to braid a hat out of straw, or… well, any of those things Ma and Pa (or Mother and Father or Laura herself) did in the books. So I was a bit disappointed with this.
      Of the projects listed, I’d either already done them (pretty much all the cooking stuff, embroidery, crochet, quilting, etc.) or have little desire to do them since they aren’t really prairie skills anyway.

    Miscellaneous Fiction:

    • The Lost Stories by John Flanagan
      A series of short stories (3-5 short chapters each) detailing some of the things that happened concurrent to or in between the previous books in the “Rangers Apprentice”
      series. I wish there were more of these because I found the short story aspect helpful in allowing me to enjoy fiction without neglecting my home and family.
    • The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
      I truly thought I was done with this series – but then the girls who babysat our kids during our foster care class told me that no, there really was a twelfth book. And,
      yes, there is indeed. This was a nice cap to the series, taking place a good fifteen or so years after the books before. I’m debating whether I want to read some of the related series’ (in order to close out this author before he writes too much more!) or if I want to take a break and focus on something else fiction-wise (it’s been a long time since I read any elementary or middle-grade fiction…)
    • Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer
      I always enjoy Heyer’s lighthearted Regency romances. And the “spinster takes on a runaway” plotline is rather a favorite of mine, so this was perfect for an escape when things got overwhelming (right after I wrote about how I’d found my rhythm – hah!)
    • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
      I read this 6-chapter-long novella after Amy wrote about it at Hope is the Word. She wrote that “it deals with the big questions of life in a way that is thought-provoking and sophisticated.” And, boy, does it ever. She forgot to mention that it’s also gut-wrenching. I should NOT have read the last chapter right before bed :-)

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