Review: Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure

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Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure

Written by: Linda Ashman

Illustrated by: Kim Smith

Sterling Children’s Books, 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 4-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Family, Holidays, Celebration

How We Discovered This Book: We found this book in the holiday books bin at the library.

Summary: Multiple parts of an extended family are invited to Grandma’s (and Grandpa’s) for the holidays. All of the families make their way there through different forms of transportation. All with pies for Grandma!

What the Kids Liked About This Book: Elizabeth liked seeing all of the different families and what they do on Christmas. Plus she will take any excuse to make me sing along with a book.


If you’re a teacher and are looking for some classroom activities that involve the traditional lyrics in text, check out Scholastic’s site.

Where do you go for the holidays? Do you go to Grandma’s house? Or does she come to you? Brainstorm the different ways that you could travel…. both the traditional (by car, bus, train, etc.), and the slightly silly (by snail, in a handstand, on a cat doing a split)!

Take a walk in a park or woods near you… what is it like to go over the river and through the woods? What do you notice along the way?

Max is back with his review of Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure. Max would love to hear your suggestions on picture books he should review. Please share your suggestions in the comments!

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

An Update

Hello All! Some of you are probably wondering… where the heck has she been? I haven’t been blogging for a while. Not by design, but due to the realities of life. I am in an interesting stage of my life where my career, my children, and my relationships with family and friends take most of my attention. That leaves just a little left over for writing, blogging, puppeteering, reading, etc. And while I would love to have more time for everything that I enjoy, there are only so many hours in the day. And I think that my focus at this moment is right where it needs to be.

Unfortunately, that means I will not be blogging for a while. I don’t know how long my hiatus will be, but I didn’t want to just disappear without acknowledging where I’m going.

When I return, I hope to have more stories to share, more great books to talk about, and more reviews by Max. Until then, best wishes to all of you… wherever your journey is taking you.

Review: They All Saw a Cat/ Max’s Review

They All Saw a Cat

Written and Illustrated by: Brendan Wenzel

Chronicle Books, 2016, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 4-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Perspective, curiosity, looking at the world differently

How We Discovered This Book: This is an ALA Award winner of the Caldecott Award in 2017. Congratulations! Whenever I need some new quality books to read, I check out the ALA Award winners. There is a high probability that I will like the books they select.

Summary: A cat explores the world and encounters a child, other animals, and bugs. The author/illustrator then shows us what each of them see when they see the cat. He uses mixed medium to show a different view of the cat each time. While it’s very enjoyable for a child visually and audibly (spare, lovely prose), adults will be interested in the underlying thoughts, perspectives, and assumptions that go into each view.

What the Kids Liked About This Book: Both of my kids enjoyed the contrasts in images, words, and ideas. It caused some interesting discussion between them after reading.



Grab a group of friends or family and make your own paintings or drawings of what you see around you (preferably outdoors after a walk/hike!). Hang up your pictures gallery style, and compare and contrast what you each saw.

Talk about how animals might see us. Watch this video on How Animals See the World.

Here are some activities and coloring pages from the publisher. Enjoy!


Max is back with his review of They All Saw a Cat. Max would love to hear your suggestions on picture books he should review. Please share your suggestions in the comments!

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

Fresh air, the farm, and family

My kids and I packed up our favorite books and some clothes, and flew to North Carolina this morning to visit my brother. He owns a goat farm, and my mother is wintering with him this year in a cozy little house on his property.

There is always something going on at the farm. Eight baby goats were born earlier this week, and they each need milk, love, and attention. And truth be told, they nearly baaa out for snuggling. But maybe I’m projecting. Mama goats need hay, chickens need feed, cats need food, and goat cheese needs to be readied for the Saturday market.

But it was as I sat at the edge of the lake watching my kids skip rocks and float bark boats, did I realize how much I needed this time. To clear my mind of all competing priorities and just sit. Sit and watch the water ripple as each new rock “kerplunks” (my son invented a new verb). Listen to the ducks whose quacks sound like laughs. And stretching out a chat at the dinner table, enjoying dessert made from these goats’ milk and my brother’s own skilled hands.

What a gift to experience this beautiful and serene place where activity happens all around you, but it is somehow less frantic, less intense, and less serious than my regular world. I vow to make the most of my days here, so I can bring a little back with me into my daily life. I hope to keep the farm in my heart as I meet my work and home commitments in a purposeful way. 

Who knew a farm could hold such magic?

Max Looks Ahead to 2017

Happy New Year! Max stopped by to give us a preview into some picture books being published in 2017. Enjoy!

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


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Our busy, topsy turvy year is coming to a close. There is still time to reflect on the year behind us – the things I am proud of, the things I learned, and the things I have yet to accomplish. As the new year begins, I will lay out my goals and plans for 2017 – personally, professionally, with the blog, and with my writing. 

But for this week, this day, and this moment, I will open my heart to my myriad blessings. I will love my family with all my heart. And I will forgive myself for the places where I failed this year.

Best wishes to all of you during this joyous holiday season. Whatever your situation, I hope you can find some joy and peace. 

More to come in the new year!

The Benefits of Critique

Last weekend I drove 2-1/2 hours to participate in a Agent/Editor Day with my New England SCBWI chapter. The day was focused on middle grade and young adult manuscripts, and we had the opportunity to share the first chapter of our novel with 2 different agents or editors. We received feedback from two agents/editors, as well as the other participants.

I had participated in SCBWI conferences before, but this was my first Agent/Editor Day. I shared the first chapter of the novel I am currently working on, called Modern Girls. I was nervous going into the day, a range of thoughts swirling through my head from “What if they hate it?” to “I hope they like the characters as much as I do.”

I was pleasantly surprised, and thoroughly enjoyed the insight of the two editors, Monica Perez from Charlesbridge and Stephanie Kasheta from Merit Press. They each asked different questions and challenged me in different areas. I felt buoyed by the positive reinforcement on my character development, learned what areas hold more opportunity for exploration, and what questions I still need to ask myself about my characters and their relationships. In addition, I enjoyed listening to all of the other stories shared – fantasy, science fiction, adventure, mystery, and animal stories. Such creativity all in one room!

I do know the power of critique- it’s one of the reasons I joined a critique group many years ago and still benefit from their wisdom (besides the best part – they are wonderful women and writers!). My critique group keeps me focused, encourages me to keep going through the hard work of writing and revising, and are partners with me on my journey to become a better writer. Joanna and Anne are invaluable to me, and I hope I am able to provide them with an ounce of the honest and beneficial feedback they give me every month.

What I learned last weekend was that we must always be searching for how to write more concisely, look at our characters a different way, and better express those ideas in our heads. We must steel ourselves to truly hear the feedback, digest it, and decide how (or not) to incorporate it into our work.

My critique partner Joanna introduced us to Lisa Crohn’s Story Genius, and I applied what I learned from it to completely rewrite the first chapter of my novel. It is that rewrite that I took to my critique group, and that rewrite that I took to the Agent/Editor Day. Being open to the feedback, whether it be from trusted critique partners, craft books, or industry strangers, will hopefully help me to write my best novel yet.

It’s Fall Already!

The last few weeks (and months, if I’m honest) have just whipped by. I enjoy returning to the structure of the school year, but then I remember how busy our weeks get when they are filled with extra curricular activities, school events, birthday parties, and family time.

So here I am on the edge of November, realizing I have not posted in weeks. Better late than never??

Here in the Northeast, we are fully into Fall. The leaves are beautiful shades of red, yellow, and orange. There is a crispness in the air. Halloween costumes are almost ready, and plans are underway for my son’s 10th birthday in November. My mother just asked for the kids’ wish lists for Christmas. This is the time of year where I need to remind myself to enjoy the beauty, coziness, and child-like joy before it is all lost in the realities of daily life.

Are you ready for fall? Perhaps you need a fall book to get you in the mood. Check out one of our previous posts on our favorite fall books:

We just took our favorite fall book out of the library this week – Dinosaurs’ Halloween by Liza Donnelly. It cracks us up every time, and I am totally bummed that it is out of print. Looks like Amazon has a Kindle version – I may need to download it before we completely wear out our library copy.

Best wishes for your own lovely fall day soon! I am currently working on revising the beginning of one of my middle grade novels in preparation for a workshop in a few weeks. Wish me luck!


Author Profile: Andrea Beaty

Today, we are taking a deeper dive into the world of author Andrea Beaty. Andrea writes board books, picture books, and middle grade novels and you may know her from some of her most famous books, Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect. She partnered with illustrator David Roberts on those two books, as well as a new book coming out (tomorrow!) called Ada Twist, Scientist.

Andrea’s books all feature characters with their own dreams, passions, and ideas. They see opportunities in the world around them, and it is fun to watch them express themselves. In several of her books, she uses rhyming prose with a dash of whimsy in order to make the flow work while playing with the details (my kids and I love that Madame Chapeau goes to Chez Snooty-Patoot every year for her birthday). In the other books where rhyming is not used, the prose still flows and is a joy to read out loud. My son said that When Giants Come to Play was like a poem.

Our favorite Andrea Beaty books are:
Rose Revere, EngineerHappy Birthday Madame Chapeau Iggy Peck, ArchitectWhen Giants Come to Play
Rosie Revere, Engineer is a part of our home library, and it is on frequent rotation. I enjoy the models Ms. Beaty’s story children provide for developing young minds – that even though you may be misunderstood or challenged in your ideas, you should stay true to who you are and be perserverant in your goals.

We had just finished reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG in our house when we read When Giants Come to Play, and it was a nice counterpoint to some of the hideous giants featured in The BFG.

Some other books from this author that I have not yet read: Dorko the Magnificient, Hide and Sheep, Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies, and Secrets of the Cicada Summer. We’ll be adding them to our library queue soon!

What is your favorite Andrea Beaty book? Please share in the comments!

Author Profile: Salina Yoon

We love, love, love author/illustrator Salina Yoon in our house. She writes engaging and visually charming stories for young children, primarily in board and picture books. Her books are all sweet, while the illustrations are simple and cute.

Her books range from interactive board books for toddlers (Kaleidoscope and Pinwheel) to picture books for the 3-8 year old range. She has several character book series starring Penguin (from Penguin and Pinecone and other stories) and Bear (from Found and other stories).

We discovered Ms. Yoon’s books through my daughter’s preschool teacher. Miss Lisa loves penguins, and she read several of the Penguin books to the students. We secretly think Miss Lisa feels a close connection to Penguin (they are both sweet and love to knit!). We began taking out Salina Yoon books from the library on our own and have enjoyed them all, including:

Found is our favorite, and we bought it for our home library so we would stop wearing out the library copy. Read my previous review here. In preparing this list, I found that Bear’s Big Day came out in June. We’ll be on the lookout for it!

What is your favorite Salina Yoon book? Please share in the comments!