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.

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.

Resources:

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.

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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.

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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!