Happy Thanksgiving!

Best wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving to all our readers! I hope your day is full of things that make you happy. It certainly is the time to pause and be grateful for what we have – and I am overflowing with blessings and gifts in my life.

In addition to my strong mind and body, my two beautiful children and loving family, and caring friends, I have the freedom to enjoy things that feed my soul – writing, running, reading, and crafting. My wish for each of you during this holiday season is to pause among the festivities and craziness, and feed your own soul.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you all have a great Halloween weekend – our days are filled with trick or treating, and a costume birthday party for a certain boy turning 9 years old (yikes!).

Over on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, she’s sponsoring her annual Halloweensie contest. We are challenged to write a 100-word Halloween story for children using the words costume, dark and, haunt.

Every year I find the 100-word limit VERY challenging, and some years I feel particularly uninspired (like this year), but here goes:


Winnie knew her costume was a mistake. Inside, her sparkles had shined in all the right places. But outside in the dark night, everything was gray.

A haunted ghost passed her. She should have dressed scary.

Her sister Jean walked up dressed in a fluffy tutu. “I know what you’re missing,” Jean said.

She pointed her flashlight at Winnie. Colored reflections circled everywhere.

“Now lead the way,” Jean said.

Winnie raised her chin and proudly led them through the neighborhood. She returned home with a grin on her face, candy in her tummy, and big plans for next year’s costume.


Head over to Susanna’s site and check out all the great entries!

On a side note, for the next few months I will be posting to the blog less frequently. Please stick around – hopefully you’ll find the quality more valuable than the quantity.

Review: Sophie’s Squash/ Max’s Review

Sophie's Squash cover Sophie’s Squash

Written by: Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by: Anne Wilsdorf

Schwartz and Wade Books, 2013, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Friendship, Hope, Creative Thinking

How We Discovered This Book: We found this one in the new books bin at our library. The cover and illustrations pulled me right in. It has received 4 starred reviews, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor.

Summary: Sophie finds a lovely squash at the farmer’s market, and draws a face on it. She names it Bernice, and it becomes her best friend until her family and friends becomes concerned that Bernice is…. well… rotting. When Sophie finally does what’s best for Bernice, she is rewarded for her dedication.

What I Liked: How Sophie adopts a squash and makes it into a friend is totally something my daughter would do. I love Sophie’s spirit, and how she has her own mind about things.

What Did My Kids Think? They liked the dialogue, and how Sophie handled the questions from her friends and family. Aidan’s favorite part was when Sophie’s mom suggested that Bernice would be tasty with marshmallows, and Sophie responded, “Don’t listen Bernice!” Sophie also says that the blotches that Bernice gets are really freckles.


Random House has a few activities, including how to host a Sophie’s Squash story time, and how to make your own fall friend!

Make your own friend from a fruit or vegetable. Get creative- all you need is a Sharpie and your favorite friend.

Penny Klosterman reviewed this book back in 2013 on her blog– check out her review and her activity ideas.


Max has his own thoughts about Sophie’s Squash, and what makes the best fall friend. Check out his review below, and the rest of his reviews at Puppets Love Children’s Books.

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.

Books About Autumn

Fall is now in full color here in the Northeast US, and the leaves are slowly working their way towards peak colors. So many oranges, brown, red, and yellows! It’s amazing that trees know how to do this beautiful show each fall.

So in the spirit of fall, I’m sharing some of our favorite picture books about autumn. Since Halloween is technically a part of autumn, there are few Halloween selections in here.


Our favorite autumn books that we get out year after year:

  • Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson (check out my previous review here)
  • Dinosaurs’ Halloween by Liza Donnelly
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (as well as Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf)
  • We Gather Together, Now Please Get Lost! by Diane deGroat
  • Happy Halloween, Curious George! 
  • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson (review here)
  • Mouse and Mole, A Perfect Halloween by Wong Herbert Yee (see Joanna’s review here)
  • Various Books about Johnny Appleseed

We recently discovered another autumn book to add to our collection that I will review next week, Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller. My daughter also insisted that we included Fancy Nancy: Halloween or Bust by Jane O’Connor.

So grab a few of these books, warm up a mug of apple cider, and settle in under a blanket. Enjoy!

What other autumn favorites do you enjoy? Please share in the comments!

Graphic Novels

I admit, I wasn’t always in favor of graphic novels for my son. I thought of them as glorified comic books- with not as much value as chapter books or novels.

But my son really seemed to enjoy them, and insisted on reading them multiple times among other (more traditional) reading. So I looked a little closer, and discovered that just like with any other type of book, the quality is more important than the genre.

For Aidan, graphic novels have provided a bridge between picture books and novels. He enjoys illustrations, and going abruptly to a book with no pictures was disappointing.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was managing this transition himself. He started with Geronimo Stilton books which are not graphic novels, but use colored text and intermittent illustrations that ease the reader towards more complex books. Aidan tried the BabyMouse series and Squish series by Jennifer Holm, the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosocszka, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, and the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce. He then moved on to more sophisticated graphic novels such as The Origin Story of Batman and Redwall. I even introduced him to intelligent comic strips along the way (Calvin and Hobbes!), which he loved.

Contrary to my fears, he still reads regular novels, and he still loves reading. When we run errands or travel, his companion of choice is a book. So I’m glad I’ve learned to expand my perspective on graphic novels. Just in time for my next emerging reader.

Author Profile: Jon Scieszka

Today, I am featuring Jon Scieszka, an author who started his career as a teacher before finding success with his own unique sense of humor. He has written a wide range of books, from the Trucktown preschool series to multiple fractured fairy tales. You probably know him best for his frequent collaborations with illustrator Lane Smith, with whom he worked on The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The Time Warp Trio Series, Science Verse, Squids Will Be Squids, Cowboy and Octopus, and others.

Mr. Scieszka has a very unique sense of humor that is silly and multilevel. Both parents and children will enjoy different things about his books, and parents might even enjoy the repeated readings (gasp!). For his fairy tale-based books, he takes a slightly different perspective on what we think we know about characters and their stories. I can almost hear him starting a book writing session by saying, “What if?…”

He has won a long list of awards for his books, including the Caldecott Honor for The Stinky Cheese Man, the Golden Duck Award for Excellence in Children’s Science Fiction Literature (Science Verse), and multiple citations by the ALA, New York Times, and National Education Association. Mr. Scieszka previously served as as the US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and is dedicated to increasing literacy and making reading fun.

Our favorite Jon Scieszka books are:
The Stinky Cheese Man(see my previous review here)The True Story of the Three Little PigsScience Verse

All of the above books have so much humor and interesting text packed into them. We own the Stinky Cheese Man and have read it so many times the pages are worn. I will soon be buying Science Verse, as it has been read no less that a dozen times since we brought it home from the library. Science Verse not only introduces scientific concepts, but because the text is based on classic poems or songs, it has also generates an interest in the original material. Way to get kids interested in science, literature, and the arts all at once!

Some other books from this author that we have not yet read: The Time Warp Trio Series; the Frank Einstein series; Honestly, Red Riding Hood was Rotten! The Story of Red Riding Hood as Told by The Wolf; or the Guys Read series. We didn’t care for the Trucktown series, but once we discovered it my son was too old for it.

What is your favorite Jon Scieszka book? Please share in the comments!

Review: The New Small Person/ Max’s Review

The New Small Person coverThe New Small Person

Written and Illustrated by: The New Small Person

Candlewick Press, 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Families, Siblings

How We Discovered This Book: We found this one in the new books bin at our library.

Summary: Elmore’s life is perfect- he puts his toys where he wants, and he’s in sole control of his jelly beans. Then his new brother comes along. And he is no fun at all. Maybe.

What I Liked: Besides the totally charming illustrations (similar to Ms. Child’s Charlie and Lola characters), this is an interesting take on the changes that first borns have to deal with when a new sibling is born.

What Did My Kids Think? They love Charlie and Lola, so they liked this book right from the cover. Aidan said he didn’t feel this way when his sister came along, but he was very eager to play with her.


Check out Creative with Kids for playtime activities for babies and older siblings.

Interested in checking out Charlie and Lola? They have a website with activities and more information about the books. They even have a TV show on PBS.


Hello from Max! Max really liked this book too – see what he has to say.

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.

Follow Up on Our Summer Reading Challenge

Now that school is back in full swing, I am looking back on the summer reading challenge we gave ourselves and reviewing how we did. Aidan and I challenged ourselves to read 20 books over the summer, and we had shared our list of planned books with you.

So how did we do? For quantity, Aidan completed his 20 books and a few more. For me, I read closer to 10 novels (several over 700 pages each), but over 50 picture books with Elizabeth.

We met our number goal, but how was the quality? Even though we didn’t necessarily stick to the list we had planned (Aidan in particular), overall we read good quality books. Aidan began his summer devouring Calvin and Hobbes collections (which is technically reading, but not what I had in mind), and then reading some good novels including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He re-read some favorites including some Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, sprinkled in with a bunch of graphic novels from our library. He finished up the summer with a keen interest in non-fiction books about animals and geography (go figure). We are still planning to finish Shiloh together, which we got about halfway through.

For all of us, we read some good books and some not so good books. That is to be expected. I will still encourage Aidan to supplement his graphic novel/comics interests with meatier novels. However, the most important thing I saw this summer was my kids reading. Not “Mom made me sit down and be quiet” reading. Book-loving reading – fully engrossed, bring a book everywhere, “Mom, can I bring the book in the store?” kind of reading. Perhaps that is the best measure of our summer reading challenge, which I declare a success.

What did you read this summer? Any good finds?

Back to School!

This week, the school year began anew in my town. My children counted down the days with a mixture of anticipation and nervousness. Once the day finally came, it was bittersweet for me – after a summer packed with fun and togetherness, it was time for all of us to transition to our next path.

My kids each begin this year in a new environment – my daughter begins Kindergarten, and my son moves up to a new school for 4th grade. So far, they are excited and happy with these new adventures.

I, on the other hand, am a bit melancholy. As I watched my youngest get on the bus, my heart seized. How were both my kids ready to go out into the world? When did they grow into such independent children with strong, humorous, and energetic personalities? While I recognize that it was my job to prepare them to do just that – take on the world with a bounce in their step – it doesn’t make it any less bittersweet.

So I will take a lesson from my own children. I will accept whatever comes of this new phase of my life with enthusiasm and excitement. And just a little bit of tears.

Author Profile: Bill Martin, Jr.

Today, I am featuring Bill Martin, Jr., an author who wrote for almost 60 years and was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame by the International Literacy Association. After a career in education, he began writing books and several are still being published since his death in 2004.

If you live in the Texas area, you might be able to make a visit to his library on the campus of Texas A&M University in Commerce. According to his website, his many awards, manuscripts, and personal letters are on display there.

Most of Bill Martin’s books that you would be familiar with are picture books, with some illustrated by Eric Carle. Many of his books have a lovely lyrical rhythm to them, which may be why they are some of my daughter’s favorites. Our favorite Bill Martin, Jr. books include:

Brown Bear, Bown BearChicka Chicka Boom BoomChicka Chicka 123Sounds of the Storyteller
My daughter’s favorite of the four is Chicka Chicka 1-2-3. When we read that book together, she demands that we return to the beginning and immediately read it again. The last book may be unfamiliar to you. It is a student storybook collection published in 1966 that was used in my elementary school. I still have my copy among my favorite books that I have kept from my childhood.

If you like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  there are several others in the series with the same cadence and illustrator.

Bill Martin, Jr. wrote over 300 books for children, so this is an author I need to do some more exploring with. Some other books he wrote that are at the top of my list to read: Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are you Waking Up?; Barn Dance; Knots on a Counting Rope; and The Turning of the Year.

What is your favorite Bill Martin Jr. book? Please share in the comments!