Review: Earmuffs for Everyone!

Earmuffs for Everyone CoverEarmuffs for Everyone!

Written and Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy

Simon & Schuster Books of Young Readers; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Creativity, Inventions

How We Discovered This Book: My daughter picked up this book from the new books bin at our library. Our librarians save the day yet again!

Summary: A young man in Maine in the late 1800s named Chester Greenwood wanted a better solution for warming his ears during the cold winter. He improved on the idea of basic ear covers and patented his idea when he was 19. His version is what we recognize as earmuffs today. The author adds into the story information about patents and some other famous inventions in order to help children understand what Chester really accomplished.

What I Liked: In general, I’m not a big fan of non-fiction books. However, I do have a big appreciation for non-fiction books that incorporate more traditional storytelling techniques to make the concepts more interesting. In this case, my kids finished the book with a basic understanding of patents and how valuable improvements can be in the invention process. (Does anyone really remember those people who first invented the light bulb? And no, it wasn’t Thomas Edison!)

What Did My Kids Think? My kids found it a whimsical story, especially how Chester’s hometown still celebrates him with a parade every year. Their father holds 7 patents in the medical device field, so this really hit home for them. They had a lot of follow up questions afterwards. After all, that’s what a non-fiction book should do, right?

Resources:

 

Interested in more information on the creation of the book? Check out the author’s introduction and backstory here.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has a special website set up with games for kids, to help them understand the patent and trademark processes.

The Kids Discover website outlines a classroom project for kids to create something and then prepare to patent it.

Review: Finding Winnie

Finding WinnieFinding Winnie

Written by Lindsay Mattick

Illustrated by: Sophie Blackall

Little, Brown, and Company; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Storytelling, Families, Friendship

How We Discovered This Book: Finding Winnie recently won the Caldecott Award, and I was thrilled to see it in the new book bin at our library.

Summary: The great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn (Lindsay Mattick) wrote this story about how her great grandfather adopted a bear during his deployment to World War I. He named the sweet bear Winnipeg (Winnie) after his home town. After Harry gave her to the London Zoo when he was shipped off to France, Winnie became friends with a young Christopher Robin Milne and became the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.

What I Liked: The story is framed as Lindsay (the author) tells her son a bedtime story. He asks for a true story, and she tells him the story of Harry and Winnie while interweaving interesting details that put you right into the story. The last several pages of the book are actual photos of Harry, his regiment, Winnie, and Christopher Robin. The photographs add another level to the story, and remind the reader of the reality of the story.

What Did My Kids Think? In the first week we had this book in our home, my kids requested it for bedtime reading every night. We were amazed at all the things that had to happen for Winnie the Pooh to be named – Harry happened to meet and buy Winnie, his regiment allowed Winnie to be adopted as their mascot, the London Zoo took Winnie in, and Christopher Robin became friends with her (after he was allowed to play in her enclosure!). My son still wonders where the “Pooh” part came from, but I guess that’s another story for another time.

Resources:

The DIY Homeschooler has printables, activities, and more history about the origins of Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Choose a favorite stuffed animal or doll from the classroom or your child’s bedroom, and develop some creative stories about where their name might have come from.

Getting Ready for Spring with Some Favorite Picture Books

This week in the Northeast US, we have had multiple days of above average temperatures, including one day in the high 70’s. We were able to get outside, play, complete some yard work, and generally enjoy pretending that Spring was already here. Even after a relatively mild winter here, we are ready for the flowers to begin blooming, the grass to peek up, and to wear much thinner coats.

So in preparation for actual Spring (in just 10 days!), today I am sharing some of our favorite books inspired by and about Spring. These books feature gardens, the sun, the outdoors, rain showers, rainbows, and Spring sports.

Grandpa GreenGrandpa Green- Lane Smith

A sweet tale of a man’s life told through the eyes of his great grandson throughout his lush and creative topiary garden. Check out our author profile of Lane Smith.

 

My GardenMy Garden – Kevin Henkes

A girl grows all kinds of unusual things in her garden.

 

 

 

Gossie

Gossie (and the other books in the Gossie series) – Oliver Dunrea

A totally adorable gosling has adventures (and sloshes around in his rain boots) with the other animals in his barnyard.

 

 

The Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

This classic reminds us each Spring of the miracle of metamorphosis.

 

Hooray for Spring!Hurray for Spring! – Patricia Hubbell

A fun rhyming book about Spring.

 

 

 

Where Butterflies GrowWhere Butterflies Grow – Joanne Ryder

This beautifully illustrated book gives you a bugs-eye view into a garden where butterflies grow. Interested in more books about nature? Check out our previous blog post with other nature favorites.

 

Joy in MudvilleJoy in Mudville – Bob Raczyka

We learn what might have happened after the Mighty Casey struck out, and a unique girl named Joy is put in to pitch and save the day. We reviewed this book previously.

 

Some other Spring books we are looking forward to reading: Maple Syrup Season by Ann Purmell; Mud by Mary Lyn Ray and Lauren Stringer; and Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and James Endicott.

What other Spring books are your favorites? Please share in the comments.

Author Profile: Lane Smith

Today, we are taking a deeper dive into the world of author and illustrator, Lane Smith. He has won the Caldecott Award for Grandpa Green and The Stinky Cheese Man. Several of his books have won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award.

You may know Mr. Lane from his frequent collaboration with Jon Scieszka. I am also proud to say he lives in my lovely state of Connecticut.

His picture book illustrations have a distinct style, ranging from cute to creepy to inspired. His illustrations are often rich, and reward the careful reader with creative details. Each time my kids and I re-read his illustrated books, we discover new details. He seems to be able to really capture the essence of the text he is illustrating, whether it be for Jon Scieszka’s twisted humor or Bob Shea’s purity of story. He also brings a combination of beautiful illustrations and simple text to the books he both authors and illustrates.

Our favorite Lane Smith books are:
Grandpa GreenScience VerseThe Stinky Cheese ManSquids Will Be SquidsThe True Story of the Three Little Pigs

Our family reads Mr. Smith’s books over and over, and we each have a favorite. My son loves the humor of Science Verse, and how it creatively describes science concepts. My daughter enjoys The Stinky Cheese Man (it cracks both my kids up every time), and I am drawn to the sweetness of Grandpa Green.

Some other books from this author that I have not yet read: The Big Elephant in the Room, Math Verse, Princess Hyacinth, and John, Paul, George, and Ben. We’ll be adding them to our library queue soon!

What is your favorite Lane Smith book? Please share in the comments!

Review: The Book With No Pictures/ Max’s Review

The Book With No PicturesThe Book With No Pictures

Written by: B. J. Novak

Dial Books, 2014, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 4-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Reading out loud, humor, silliness

How We Discovered This Book: My daughter’s teacher read this book to her class, and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since.

Summary: From the beginning: “You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except… here’s how books work.” The book continues with the reader having to read all kinds of silly things aloud.

What I Liked: It’s a creative approach, and the silliness makes it fun to read multiple times. And the children will want you to read it again. And again.

What Did My Daughter Think? This books makes my daughter laugh EVERY time. I think each time we read it she laughs harder, anticipating what is coming next. She’s even made up a tune to go with the words.

Resources:

Make your own book with no pictures. What are the funniest words you can think of to read aloud? (Thanks for ArtsyMomma for the idea)

Look for other books that are especially fun to read aloud. Try We Are in a Book by Mo Willems or  Press Here by Hervé Tullet.

Watch author B.J. Novak read the book aloud to a group of kids.

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Max is back with his review of The Book with No Pictures. 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.

Our Favorite Books of Winter/ ALA Awards

Happy winter day! Here in the Northeast US, this winter has been a mix of sun, wind, and more temperate days. We finally got enough snow to play in last week, so we’ve been in the mood for some picture books about winter and snow. Since winter has come around every year since the beginning of time, it makes sense that we enjoy both classic and contemporary snow/winter books.  Here are some of our favorites:

  • The Mitten, Jan Brett
  • Katy and the Big Snow, Virginia Lee Burton
  • Snowmen at Night, Caralyn Buehner
  • The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
  • Owl Moon, Jane Yolen
  • Snowballs, Lois Ehlert
  • The Snow Cat, Dayal Kaur Khalsa
  • Bear Snores On, Karma Wilson
  • Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin
  • Penguin and Pinecone, Salina Yoon
  • Jack Frost, William Joyce

What are your favorite winter picture books? Do you love a book that’s not on this list?

The other great thing about this time of year is the announcement of the American Library Association (ALA) Book and Media Awards. You can find the complete list on their website, but I wanted to highlight a few of the awards here. This was an unusual year for the John Newbery Medal, which frequently goes to a middle grade or young adult novel. This year it went to a picture book, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. This story about a boy riding the bus with his grandma not only won the 2016 Newbery Medal, it also earned a 2016 Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for Christian Robinson. Congratulations to Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson, and all the other award winners!

Have you read Last Stop on Market Street? Did you enjoy it? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments!

Renewing in the New Year

Happy 2016 everyone! We are now halfway into January. Whether you have made resolutions, decided on a word to characterize your year, or skipped it all and are just trying to regroup from the holidays, each new year gives us reason to pause. 

2015 was a challenging year for me both personally and professionally. So my approach to 2016 will need a little extra effort to get things back on track. And I will need to give myself the time required for positive change to happen.

So this year, I’ve decided to combine the fresh start of a new year with the renewal that comes with Spring. I will take everything I have – a strong body and mind, wonderful supportive friends, and the unconditional love of my family – and build on that. I will need to add a good dose of patience and a sprinkling of hope.

By combining the new year and Spring, I give myself permission to meet my goals slowly and deliberately. I allow myself to take a breath sometimes while still keeping my eyes on where I am trying to go.

I’ll let you know where this approach takes me once we reach Spring. I hope each of you have a positive year planned, full of growth and moving towards where you want to be. Whether you want to improve your writing, read more books, have more adventures, or be a better friend, I hope the next few months are fruitful.

Merry Christmas!

Yes, it really is only more week until Christmas! In our house, this last week is full of book club get togethers, gingerbread house building, parties, cookie baking, Christmas movie watching, and yes… plenty of Christmas books! Before the fun escalates to a truly crazy level, I thought I would take a moment to wish you a Merry Christmas. Each year I seek the true wonder of the Christmas season, and my wish for you is to experience all of the wonder, peace, and love that this time of year can bring. Some years it is harder to find, but it is still there if you look.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season however you celebrate it. May joy and happiness fill your heart. If you are as lucky as I am to have friends and family who love you, give them a big hug and tell them you love them too.

As a special treat this Christmas, Max stopped by to read you his favorite book. Cuddle up and hear Max’s special reading of Clement Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Christmas decorations

For those reading this post through email, please click on the post title to go to our website and view Max’s video.

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:

SPARKLE AND SHINE

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.