Saturday, August 31, 2013

Island of the Blue Dolphins

"Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell is a Newberry Award Winning Book from 1961.

This is one of my favorite books because the main character Karana is a strong, resourceful, and hopeful female based on a real life woman named Juana Maria. She captivated me from beginning to end, and then I had to research more information about the real Juana Maria.

Karana becomes stranded on an island for eighteen years all alone!

A book that many boys enjoy called Hatchet by Gary Paulson is a similar heroic survival story about a young boy who survives a plane crash and has to wait to be rescued. He too uses his resourcefulness, strength and hope to survive. 

Both Island of the Blue Dolphins and Hatchet could be enjoyed by both girls and boys because they are suspenseful and intriguing. An important note to mention though is that Hatchet is at a higher reading level (Grade 5-8) where Island of the Blue Dolphins is more Grade 3-6. So use caution if your child is on the younger end. Certainly anyone older than Grade 3-6 would still love reading Island of the Blue Dolphins. I enjoy it, and I am in my thirties!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Minerva Louise and the Red Truck

"Minerva Louise and the Red Truck" by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Minerva Louise liked to play in the farmer's red truck. She found things like tools and pots. One day when Minerva Louise was in the truck, the farmer started to drive away! Minerva Louise had a lot of fun as she looked out at the things they drove past.

"A beautiful lake (a swimming pool), hard at work in the fields (golfers)...and a silly barn wearing a hat!" (church with a steeple)

Read this book to find out what else Minerva Louise sees while riding in the red truck.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Top 10 Christmas Picture Books

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Top 10 Christmas Picture Books about JESUS

1. "Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift" by          Jeannine Q. Norris
2. "The Legend of the Candy Cane" by Lori Walburg
3. "The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado
4. "Elizabeth's Christmas Story" Arch Book
5. "Baby Jesus is Born" Arch Book by Truitt Gloria
6. "The Animals' Christmas Eve" (a Little Golden Book) by Gale       Wiersum
7. "Joseph's Christmas Story" Arch Book by Nicole E. Dreyer
8. "Mary's Christmas Story" Arch Book by Teresa Olive
9.  "Who is Coming to Our House" by Joseph Slate
10. "The Very First Christmas" by Paul L. Maier

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Goodnight Moon

"Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown is a beloved, classic picture book that has been around for over 60 years.

I was always fond of this book, and then I had a child. This book became one of my child's favorite books. My husband and I have read this book probably close to a hundred times by now. He and I both are not only fond of the book, but now it has become part of our some of our permanent memories of early learning with our firstborn. It holds a much deeper meaning.

In addition to reading this book, my husband found a YouTube video of one of his favorite composer's Eric Whitacre who put this book to music. His wife sings the words so very soothingly. My husband watches this and listens to it with our son, and they just melt together in the chair listening so intently.

We also found a link to an animated version of this storybook on YouTube. The voice telling the story is Susan Sarandon, and it is perfect for this story. The combination of music and Sarandon's voice is mesmerizing and reminds me of the magic of stories and movies I watched as a young child. You really should watch this if you are a fan of the book. The music and words will take you back to your child-like way of thinking and looking at life. Perhaps you'll get a taste of a time when the world seemed much simpler and smaller.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cobble Street Cousins

The Cobble Street Cousins is a six book series by one of my favorite authors Cynthia Rylant. These are early chapter books but are easily enjoyable by children who are past the early chapter book phase.

The Cobble Street Cousins are three nine-year old girls who spend a year in their Aunt Lucy's attic because their parents are ballet dancers on a world tour for a year. All three girls have different interests and personalities. Tess is a natural performer and dreams of being on Broadway. Rosie is quiet and likes to spend quality time at home. Lily wants to be a writer when she grows up.

One of the first things I noticed about this series is that it features three young girls and it IS NOT about them fighting or scheming like so many other chapter books out there for little girls. It is exactly what I think of when I think of appropriate material for young girls to be reading about. Typically the girls are "planning" something like baking cookies for people, throwing a party, learning to sew, and writing a newspaper called The Cobble Street Courier.

Here are the titles in sequential order:

In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen
A Little Shopping
Special Gifts
Some Good News
Summer Party
Wedding Flowers

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Kissing Hand

"The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn

Chester Raccoon was afraid to go to school. He wanted to stay with his mother and friends and play. His mother said, "Sometimes we all have to do things we don't want to do." she told him gently. "Even if they seem strange and scary at first. But you will love school once you start."

Then Mrs. Raccoon shared with him a SECRET...The Kissing Hand. She kissed his hand and told him "whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek, and think, "Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.' And that very kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warm thoughts."

Chester did the same thing back to his mother. Parents and teachers all over the country use this book to help children with separation anxiety because it's just that good.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mama, is it Summer Yet?

Mama, Is it Summer Yet? By Nikki McClure, 2010

This is a great introductory book to summertime. This inquisitive story about a boy and his mama will remind your child about what happens in nature to prepare for summer.

“Mama, is it summer yet? Not yet, my little one. But the buds are swelling. Soon new leaves will unfold. Mama, is it summer yet? Not yet, my little one. But the squirrel is building her nest. Soon her babies will be born.”

“Mama, is it summer now? Yes! Oh yes, my little one! The honeybees are in the flowers. The sun is warm on your round belly. The berries are juicy and sweet. My little one, it is summer now!”

Nikki McClure’s books and illustrations are beautiful and unique. Read about another book she has illustrated here.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

"A Sick Day for Amos McGee" by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Amos McGee is a zookeeper who has a lot of responsibilities but makes sure to pay special attention to his animal friends. He plays chess with the elephant, runs races with the tortoise, sits quietly with the penguin and lends his handkerchief to the rhino with the runny nose.

One day Amos was sick and could not go to the zoo.

"Meanwhile at the zoo. The animals waited for their friend. The elephant arranged his pawns and polished his castles. The tortoise stretched his legs and limbered up...'Where is Amos?' the animals wondered."

And his animal friends hopped on a bus and came to take care of him!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Meet Our Flag, Old Glory

"Meet Our Flag, Old Glory" by April Jones Prince

This book is for preschoolers with very simple language about the American flag.

"Meet our flag, Old Glory. She's red and blue and white. Her stripes are like a peppermint's; Her stars are big and bright. Old Glory is America-She belongs to me and you. She waves above this wondrous land singing, "Make your dreams come true!"

It described the pledge of allegiance, how we see the flag at ball games, at cemetaries, at parades, front porches, on the moon, In the back is a long descriptive explanation of the history of our flag.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Theme: All About Me

One of the most common beginning-of-the-year themes for preschool and kindergarten is an All About Me theme. It makes sense. In order to get children excited about learning, reinforce what makes each child special.

Here are 10 picture books great for an All About Me theme. Click on the links to continue to previous posts about some of the books:

1. I Can Be Anything by Jerry Spinelli
2. The Wonderful Happens by Cynthia Rylant
3. The Shape of Me and Other Stuff by Dr. Seuss
4. Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes
5. All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang
6. My Book About Me by Dr. Seuss
7. God Knows All About Me by Kate Toms
8. All By Myself by Mercer Mayer
9. Thank You For Me by Marion Dane
10. Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Skip Through the Seasons

"Skip Through the Seasons" by Stella Blackstone

This interactive picture book explores common thematic items associated with each month of the year. There is a two-page spread for each month and a strip of words along the bottom with various words. The reader is prompted to locate the words in the illustrations.

"Splash into April, come along with me! The first spring rains are sweet and warm--what can you see?" 

The words provided at the bottom are: "rubber boots, puddles, umbrellas, fountain, puppy, sidewalk, rain hats, steps, drainpipe, paper boat, gate, and daffodils."

Probably the best aspect I like is that it is NOT overly busy. I don't think kids need to search like they are looking for "needles in a haystack". The simplicity helps maintain the focus of each seasonal theme.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Nose Book

"The Nose Book" by Al Perkins is a Bright and Early Book for Beginning Beginners.

"Everybody grows a nose. I see a nose on every face. I see noses every place! A nose between a pair of eyes. Noses! Noses! Every size. They grow on every kind of head. They come in blue...and pink...and red."

The focus of this book is primarily on ANIMAL noses. It is a good beginner reader, as well as interesting and fun. Like many early reader books, they can be enjoyable read-alouds for preschoolers too.

Similar books are The Nose Book, The Eye Book, The Foot Book, and The Tooth Book

Saturday, August 10, 2013

25 Best Picture Books to Pass Down to Your Kids

When I think about passing books down to children, I think about the story itself, the illustrations, and the characters and story lines that have become ingrained in our minds over the years.  Examples that come to mind are "I think I can, I think I can" from The Little Engine that Could, that beloved curious monkey from the Curious George series, and America's favorite Pooh bear.

It all started when I received an email from with an article entitled The Best Books to Pass Down to Your Kids. Of course I clicked on it to find out what made their list and was so disappointed that it was a random and LAME compilation of books chosen by random people. I disagreed with more than half of the books on the list. I decided that I needed to compile my own list of books, but I have to break them into two parts - picture books and chapter books (which will be in a separate post.)

I also wanted to LIMIT this list to those books from MY childhood and before, so my cutoff date is 1990. I also want to explain that I left out the amazing and wonderful fairy tales and nursery rhymes we all know to be fabulous like Cinderella, Snow White, Peter Pan, The Story of the Three Bears, even 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, etc. There are so many versions of each one, it would be difficult to choose.

These are in no particular order:

  1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, 1947
  2. Curious George by H.A. Ray, 1941
  3. Stone Soup by Marcia Brown, 1947
  4. The Mitten by Jan Brett, 1989
  5. The Cat and the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957
  6. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, 1928
  7. The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, 1930
  8. The Berenstain Bears Series by Stan and Jan Berenstain, 1962 and on
  9. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beattrix Potter, 1902
10. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, 1939
11. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939
12. The Story of Ferdinand by Robert Lawson, 1936
13. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, 1985
14. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, 1941
15. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963
16. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, 1970
17. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, 1963
18. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, 1960
19. Brown, Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr., 1967
20. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, 1972
21. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, 1957
22. Little Bear's Friend by Elsie Holmelund Minarik, 1984
23. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson, 1955
24. Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell, 1963
25. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, 1926

Friday, August 9, 2013

Big Book of Science and Nature

"The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature" by Stan and Jan Berenstain was published in 2013.

This book is a compilation of three prior published books that I think are out-of-print individually.

The Berenstain Bears' Almanac: A Year in Bear Country reviews the four seasons, the months of the year, facts about weather and major holidays.

"How will you know it's summer? There's no more school. Papa's in the swimming pool. Mama's making lemonade. Granny's sitting in the shade. Mosquitos bite. You go to bed when it's still light. Everybody's very lazy...except for plants. They grow like crazy. The red in the thermometer shoots up tall. There's hardly any room at all. Phew! It's summer!"

The Berenstain Bears' Nature Guide reviews plants, mammals, amphibians, fish, birds, senses, and more.

"Feel the hush of a woodland glade, the sudden cool of woodland shade. After the sunlight it's hard to see the moss..the vines..the twisty old tree all reflected in a woodland pool. Everything is peaceful and cool." 

The Berenstain Bear's Science Fair reviews machines (levers, wedges and wheels), matter (solids, liquids, gases), and energy (food, fuel, wind and water).

"How Our Bodies Turn Food into Energy"
"Teeth chew food into small pieces. It travels to the stomach, where it is dissolved by stomach juices. Dissolved food passes into the bloodstream. It is now ready to be used as energy. If we eat more than we need it is stored in the body as fat!"

Be sure to see if this is available at your library or look for it on Amazon. It would make a great resource for preschool age and young elementary age children.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll

"Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll" by Franklyn M. Branley is a Let's Read-and-Find-Out Science Stage 2 picture book all about thunder and lightening.

All children are curious about thunder and lightening because of how loud and scary it can be. Even as an adult, when lightening strikes, I find myself leaping towards the window to watch the bright lights flash across the sky. It can be magnificent to look at.

During the elementary years, you can take away some of that mystery and maybe some of the fear by explaining the science behind it all. This book is a perfect tool to get you started.

"Thunder comes after the lightening. The lightening is very hot. It heats the air. The hot air expands very fast. It makes sound waves all along the streak of lightening. The sound waves reach you at different times. When the first one reaches your ears, there may be a loud crash. As more and more sound waves reach you, the thunder rumbles and rolls."

There are also some safety tips near the end of the book such as "If you are swimming, get out of the water", "Stay away from the stove and other big metal things", and "If you are outside, go inside."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Minerva Louise at the Fair

"Minerva Louise at the Fair" by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Minerva Louise was surprised when she heard the fireworks at the fair because she didn't know what they were.

"She stared up at the stars and listened to the crickets long after everyone else was asleep. BOOM! That's not a cricket. BOOM! What is it? BOOM! It'd better go see what's happening. Look at that! The stars are coming down from the sky!"

She didn't understand the stuffed rooster prizes hanging above a game booth or the ferris wheel or the merry-go-round.