Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 231: Sophie Scott Goes South

We discovered this lovely gem at our library a few weeks ago, and with two fresh hardcovers side by side on the library shelf, I had a good feeling about it.  (I don't know if that's really a sign that a book is great, but I figure if a librarian orders more than one copy of a brand new book, it must be worth reading.)  We have long loved Alison Lester's Imagine and have enjoyed several of her other geography-minded books, as well, so were eager to get home and read about Sophie Scott's adventures in Antarctica.

Sophie Scott Goes South tells the story of a 9 year old girl's journey to Antarctica on the Aurora Australis, an ice breaker captained by her father.  Over the course of her month-long trip, Sophie keeps a diary and takes pictures of her adventures, from being stranded in a blizzard and enduring rough seas on the ship to seeing penguins, whales, icebergs, and even the southern lights after which their ship was named.  The story is based on Lester's own journey to Antarctica as an Antarctic Arts Fellow, so it's no wonder that her descriptions are so wonderfully vivid and informative.  The scientific, historical, and geographic facts scattered throughout the story are fascinating, and the combination of actual photos, diagrams, maps, and drawings are bound to appeal to curious readers.  My 6 year old son loves this book (and is now ready to head off to Antarctica!), though it is a bit lengthy to hold the full attention of my 3 year old daughter (though she does love all of the pictures of the animals and reads alongside of us for most of the time.)  I love this book, too, especially Lester's little details that paint a picture of what such a journey is really like.  I'll include a few at the end of this post so you can see what I mean.

If your child loves learning about new places or is the adventurous, explorer type, this is one book you won't want to miss.

"Last night, the ship was rocking and rolling like crazy.  Anything that's not tied down goes flying and I have to hold on al the time. Sometimes a wave bashes the ship so hard that it feels as though we've hit a rock. The dining room portholes go underwater every time the ship does a big roll. It's like we're eating inside a washing machine."

"She welcomed everybody and told us the station rules, then we helped put away supplies.  There were huge boxes of toothpaste, toilet paper, coal and shampoo, and massive amounts of food, like 5400 eggs and 165 tubs of ice cream!" 

"The ground was rough and rocky, with patches of snow. Thick ropes linked all the buildings and Sarah told me this is to stop you from getting lost in a blizzard."

"Before we got out, we hooked spiky chains under our boots because the ice was as slippery as glass."

"The ice has been so thick it's taken us three days to get this far. This morning at sunrise we saw some killer whales beside the ship. Their shiny black bodies stood out against the golden seas.  Some were putting their heads right out of the water as we went past. This is called spy-hopping."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A very Happy Father's Day post

Life has been crazy here lately as we near the end of the school year, but I'd like to take a moment to send love and gratitude to all of the wonderful dads, grandfathers, and father figures out there.  I'd like to wish an especially happy Father's Day to my amazing husband, for there is no one else with whom I'd rather be on this crazy, love-filled journey called parenthood.  And of course, we're also sending some Father's Day love out to my dad (Grandpa), Pops, and Grampy.  My kids are lucky to have so much love in their lives!

I realize in looking at my featured books that I don't have many daddy books on my list.  (I'll have to get on the ball for my next Father's Day post!)  Until then, though, and in honor of this Father's Day, I'm happy to feature a recommendation from my first guest blogger, Angela from Kidsbook Friends!  Angela featured A Perfect Father's Day, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh, on her blog this past week, and I'm looking forward to finding it at an upcoming library visit.

Thanks Angela, and enjoy, everyone!

~ Lauren

Our Featured Friend: A Perfect Father’s Day
Written by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
With Father’s Day coming on Sunday, you may be in the midst of planning what to do for dad. This cute book puts a twist on the selection of events for the day. Another fitting title for this book may be, “Daughter’s Day Out on Father’s Day”! The story captures the special relationship that can exist between Fathers and their children, and how a Dad’s attention, perspective and love make all the difference.
Introducing Susie and Dad and their “Perfect Father’s Day:
Father’s Day Morning: Susie, Daddy’s little girl, sneaks up on him while he’s resting in his chair after reading his morning paper. She has a day planned out for dad, beginning with lunch . . . at her favorite place.
” ‘This is your favorite food, isn’t it, Dad?’ she asked.
‘Sure is,’ Dad said. ‘May I pay?’
‘Certainly,’ Susie said.”
Next she takes him to the duck pond, where dad buys Susie food for the ducks.
Then off to the park, where dad pushes her on the swings, climbs the monkey bars, and pays for her to ride the merry-go-round. Susie suggests a red balloon for a gift, so dad buys two, one for Susie and one to take home to mom.
” ‘Are you having a good Father’s Day, so far?’ Susie asked.
Dad smiled. ‘Perfect’.”
They make it home for dinner with Mom, and enjoy her homemade Father’s Day cake with four candles on it, one for each year he has been Susie’s Dad.
Susie is quite proud to tell her mom all about their day out doing  all of Dad’s favorite things and going to Dad’s favorite places“! Dad closes the day with a hug.
Inviting You To Become Friends with “A Perfect Father’s Day”
Feel, RelateImagineExploreNavigateDevelopShare
From the 7 suggestions, select the ones that will help your kids decide what their dad, grandfather, or the “father-figure” in their lives will enjoy this Father’s Day.
F- What will make your dad feel loved and special this Father’s Day?
R- Which activity from this story can you most relate to doing with your dad?
I- Imagine that you could plan a day for Dad doing anything you wanted to do with him. What would you plan?
E- Explore some cool cards to make for dad: (Featured on Happy Hooligans)
N- Navigate your Father’s Day plans for Dad by making a map of where you are going to take him or by creating a treasure map with clues leading to his gift.
D- Develop another page in the book by adding an activity for Susie and her Dad to do together.
S- Share the greatest gift with you dad on Father’s Day, LOVE.
*Eve Bunting also wrote The Mother’s Day Mice that I featured for Mother’s Day. Her 2 books are a great pair to buy to celebrate these 2 special days!
Susie & Dad On Their Day Out:
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2014-06-11 11.05.18

2014-06-11 11.03.22

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 230: Hug

My son found this book when we were at the library last week and both of my children fell in love with it instantly.  It reminds me of another one of my childrens' favorite board books, Goodnight Gorilla, in that it contains only a few words (hug, Bobo, and Mommy) but still tells a sweet, charming story that even the youngest readers are bound to love.

Young Bobo the chimp is wandering through the jungle, admiring the various ways that his animal friends and their parents give each other hugs.  At first, he happily calls out, "Hug!," but it doesn't take long for Bobo to long for a hug of his own.  A pair of elephants set out to help him find his mommy, and along the way, we see even more cute creature parents and their young embracing each other.  Just when Bobo thinks all hope is lost, his Mommy calls out, "Bobo!", and all is right with his world.  Alborough's illustrations are wonderfully expressive, and I love the way the changing emotions of the story can be expressed with the same word.  We have yet to read this book fewer than three times in a sitting, and my 3 year old daughter loves that she can read it herself. (She even changes her voice accordingly to reflect the joy or sadness of little Bobo's refrain. It's adorable.)  It's also a story to which all children can easily relate, for sometimes we all just need a hug.

We found this story in a large board book format, though I think it comes in a smaller board book format, too.  Published by Candlewick Press (one of my favorite publishers), Hug has won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award, as well as a Parenting Reading Magic Award.  I wish we had discovered this book when my kids were babies, since I know it would have been one of their favorites all along.  I'd recommend this story for newborns on up, especially when accompanied by a big, loving hug.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer Reading Resources

We're still a few weeks away from summer vacation, but are already thinking about our summer reading!  Schools, libraries, and book stores offer all kinds of programs and incentives to make reading a fun and important part of your child's summer.  Check them out and get started today!

Summer Reading Book Lists and Activity Ideas

This year, the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) has selected the science-inspired reading theme, "Fizz, Boom, Read!"  (Teens' theme this year is "Spark a Reaction!")  You can click here to check out some suggested titles and resources from, or visit your local library to learn more.

You can find more great book lists for grades K-8 from the American Library Association here.  

Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge is a "free online program designed to motivate and excite kids around reading this summer.  Kids can log the minutes they spend reading, earn virtual rewards and prizes, and enter sweepstakes, all in an effort to set a new reading world record for summer 2014." 

If you don't want to bother signing up for the challenge but are looking for some great book lists, you can check out Scholastic's Summer Reading Resource page.  Their booklists are convenient to print and bring to the library!  You can easily find them by clicking the link above, but I'll  include the individual pages by age range here, too:

The New York Libraries have a fantastic website full of summer reading resources, including book lists for all ages, coloring pages, word games and puzzles, and more.  

Calling all fellow Pinterest lovers! There is a Summer Reading Board for the science-themed Fizz, Boom, Read!  Follow along to see what great activities people are doing to accompany their favorite books.  

Incentive Programs
Earn free stuff just for reading?  Sign us up!!

Earn a FREE BOOK from Barnes and Noble!  Here's all you need to do:

  • Step 1:  Read any 8 books and record them in B&N's Reading Journal (PDF)
  • Step 2:  Bring the completed Reading Journal to your local B&N store
  • Step 3:  Choose a FREE BOOK from their selection on the Reading Journal list at the store.  How great is that?!

Showcase Cinemas Bookworm Wednesdays:  Bring a book report with you to the select Bookworm Wednesdays movie and that's your price of admission!  Showcase Cinemas will be playing these feature films every Wednesday at 10:00am from July 9th to August 13th. 

TD Bank's Summer Reading Program rewards young readers in grades K-5 by contributing $10 into their Young Saver account just for reading 10 books!  Click here to learn more.

Pottery Barn Kids' Summer Reading Challenge offers kids another way to earn a free book. Going on now through August 26.  

Don't forget to see what reading programs are going on at your local library, too!

I'll keep looking to see what other great reading resources I can find and update this page along the way.  Feel free to share any of your suggestions with me in the comments.  Thanks and happy reading!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Day 229: The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark

The original Pout-Pout Fish was one of the very first books I featured on this blog, and my kids and I love it just as much now as we did then.  I've given copies to several friends over the years, and just gave a copy to my son's teacher to add to the classroom library.  It's just such a fun, wonderful story!  Somehow, even though we got the sequel shortly thereafter, I haven't written about it until now. I mistakenly assumed that I had, so without further ado, here you go!

The Pout-Pout Fish and the Big-Big Dark is back on heavy rotation here in our house, and for good reason.  It's silly, sweet, and an all-around great read!  In this charming sequel, Mr. Pout sets out to help his friend Ms. Clam retrieve her lost pearl.  As we follow him in his quest, we learn that although he has many talents that will help him succeed, there is one problem. "I'm fast as a sailfish, I'm strong as a shark, I'm smart as a dolphin… But I'm scared of the dark!"  He grows increasingly more nervous as he swims deeper, but is cheered on by a sweet, hidden voice that encourages him along the way.  When it finally gets too dark and he decides to turn back, Miss Shimmer reveals herself and joins him so that they may continue on together.  "Two are faster than a sailfish, two are stronger than a shark, two are smarter than a dolphin, two are BIGGER than the dark!"  With the help of Mr. Lantern, the pair finds the pearl, happily returning it to their friend.

Deborah Diesen's rhymes make the story easy and fun to read aloud, and Dan Hanna's illustrations are simply fantastic!  We just love his subtle humor and clever drawings, so be sure to look closely as you read.  You might even find a lantern fish reading a copy of The Pout-Pout Fish!  We especially love the drawings that accompany Mr. Pout's refrain, as well as the silly signs hanging on the angler fish on the page below.  My son always stops and grabs the book out of my hand to read these closely each time, giggling as he reads: "Fun and games in here!  Famous cave of mystery!  Suckers here!" So fun!

The message of the story is wonderful, too, of course, for aren't we all a little stronger and braver sometimes thanks to the support and encouragement of our friends?

When I gave this book to my son for his fourth birthday, he tore off the wrapping paper and we had to stop and read it right then and there, even with a bigger present waiting to be opened right next to him.  My husband snapped a picture of us reading it together, and I shared it on this blog's facebook page.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw that both Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna had seen and liked the picture!  I hadn't even mentioned the title in the photo -- only the back cover was visible -- but I hope that they see this post, as well, and know just how much we love their stories.  Word has it that another Pout-Pout story is coming out in June:  The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School.  You can bet we'll be looking out for it when it is released.  In the meantime, if you haven't yet discovered these stories, look for them the next time you visit your library.  Hopefully, you and your children will enjoy them as much as we do.  Keep up the great work, Deborah and Dan!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Story-inspired decor: Using book jacket covers as art!

There's nothing like getting a new book.  The way the binding cracks a bit when you open it for the first time, the crispness of the pages, the excitement of a new story… I just love it!  My children are very fortunate to receive many books as gifts and never fail to light up when a new story is added to our collection. One of their uncles gives them fabulous new books regularly, and without fail, they excitedly rip open the package, take out the book, remove the jacket cover and toss it aside, and dive into the story.  It's wonderful.

But this brings me to my jacket cover dilemma.  Once we started reading hardcover books with our son, we quickly realized that jacket covers had to go.  They were always getting crumpled or taken off or bent or otherwise ruined, so it just seemed easier to remove them from the beginning.  Not knowing what to do with them, I kept them in a small stack on a closet shelf.  Should I just recycle them?  Keep them to put back on the book someday when the kids got a little older?  Many of the hand-me-down books we received from family members still had the covers on, which amazed me somewhat.  I kept them, thinking I'd put them back on the books someday, but then I had an idea for how to use some of them.

As our library of children's books has grown, we have developed many family favorites.  It has become clear that, while there are many books we love and enjoy, some stories will always hold a particularly special place in our hearts.  (Or maybe just my heart, I don't know.)  My children definitely have certain favorites that we've read countless times, and I know that twenty years from now, they will remember these stories fondly.  As I was thinking about how to create a little reading corner in my daughter's room one day, I thought, "Wouldn't it be cute if I could put some art up on the wall from her favorite stories?" Jacket covers would be the perfect thing!

It took me a while to find frames that I liked (and that weren't crazy expensive), but, as it so often does, Target came to the rescue.  I got several frames on sale for about $2 a piece and love them (especially because the piece on the back that can be used to stand the frame up rests inside the back of the frame, not on top of it.  This makes it hang on the wall so much better.)  I pulled out some of our favorite book covers and got to work.

Can you tell which of our favorite books are featured here, besides the Curious Garden?

I have several other story book covers that I'd like to frame, too, and think the wall would look even better that way.  A few of our favorite books are paperbacks so we don't have jacket covers to frame, but that's okay.  I think I'll just print some images from those books on our color printer and frame those, instead.  Hopefully Target will have more of these frames in stock the next time I go so I can stock up on a few more!  I'd love to hang some in my son's room, too.   I still have a big stack of jacket covers in a pile in the closet, but some of them, at least, have now been put to good use.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 228: The Pigeon Needs a Bath

We LOVE Mo Willems in our house, and we were thrilled to get a copy of his latest book last week. (Thanks, Uncle Jeff!)  Since then, we've read the book I don't even know how many times, shared it with my son's kindergarten class and my daughter's preschool class, and laughed our way through countless fits of giggles.  I'm pretty sure my daughter has memorized it already, as well, since when we were reading it at bedtime last night, she insisted on saying all of the Pigeon's lines herself.  I told myself that I would stop featuring Mo Willems' books on this blog because I've already written about so many of them, but when a book is this fun and silly and wonderful, it simply must be shared!

If you aren't familiar with the Pigeon series, you need to get yourself to the library right now and take out one of these books immediately! Seriously. Go now. Read the rest of this post later. You're missing out!!  These books are absolutely hilarious and my children and I can't help but smile and laugh out loud at the Pigeon's antics each time we read them.  The Pigeon Needs a Bath is the most recent in the series, and might just be one of my favorites yet.

The cover itself lets you know just where this story is headed.  The Pigeon is filthy and needs a bath, but he insists he does not.  After all, he just took a bath last month! "'Clean.' 'Dirty.' They're just words, right?" He feels clean! As for those flies that are swarming around him? "Purely coincidental."  In true Pigeon form, he finally agrees -- reluctantly, of course -- to get into the bath, but not without one of Mo's classic multi-framed page spreads of Pigeon banter.  "The water is too hot… Too cold… Too deep!  Not deep enough… Too lukewarm… Too cold… Too hot again!… Not enough toys… Too many toys… Still too hot…"  And once he finally gets in (as I have experienced with my own children time and again), he naturally changes his mind and doesn't want to get out!  Right. On. In every way. So fun!

I suppose really needn't say anything else, other than that I hope you are able to get your hands on a copy of this fabulous book as soon as possible! Mo Willems, thank you for creating so many fantastic stories that we will remember fondly for years to come.