Friday, February 26, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, February 2016

Cybils Winners Announced! 

The 2015 Cybils Awards were announced on Valentine's Day. In the easy reader category, the winner was Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly by Grace Lin. The chapter book winner was Dory and the Real True Friend by Abby Hanlon. Winning titles in all categories can be seen here.

Easy Readers

Kicking off the list of easy reader reviews this month is Round 2 Cybils Judge Amy Johnson, who weighed in on her experience as a first-time judge and provided quick reviews of each of the finalists at Sunlit Pages.

Katie Salo at Step Up Readers focused on award winners this month as well, with a post reviewing the 2016 Geisel winner, Don't Throw It To Mo!, and all of the 2016 Geisel honor books. Step Up Readers also featured reviews of Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather, Berkley, the Terrible Sleeper, Digger and Daisy Star in a Play, and I Really Like Slop.

Jennifer Wharton from Jean Little Library reviewed two non-fiction titles for beginning readers: Countries We Come From: El Salvador and See It Grow: Sunflowers. Jennifer also reviewed a few other titles this month at Flying Off My Bookshelf: Hot Rod Hamster and the Haunted Halloween Party, Ping Wants to Play, and Ed and Kip.

The Books for Kids Blog reviewed two easy readers from popular series: Splat the Cat: Blow, Snow, Blow! and Pete the Cat's Train Trip

Other easy readers reviewed this month are:

Chapter Books

There is a lot of buzz surrounding this month's release of the third Princess in Black book, The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde. There were reviews on five blogs: Good Reads with Ronna, Books 4 Your Kids, Becky's Book Reviews, Children's Book and Media Review and Everead.

Becky's Book Reviews had quite a few chapter book reviews, including three titles in the Zigzag Kids series: Number One Kid,  Flying Feet, and Big Whopper. Becky also reviewed Posy the Puppy and McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm.

Other chapter book reviews from February are below:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Moms Club Story Time, 2/25/16

This morning I did story time for my moms group at a fellow member's house. I approached this story time as less of a performance and more of a gathering with friends where I happened to be reading and singing. There were 7 moms in all, including me, and the kids ranged in age from 5 mos. (Little Bo Peep was the youngest) to age 3. It was a cozy and informal session, and we all had fun. Here is my set list:

Opening Song: Hello, How Are You?

Song: If You'd Like to Read a Book

Book: To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda, illustrated by Janet Stevens
I had the kids make some of the animal sounds as we read this book. They didn't seem that amused by the plot, but it's hard to tell sometimes.

Fingerplay: This Little Piggy

Book: Potato Joe by Keith Baker
I have yet to meet an adult who likes this book, but I do, and kids sort of do, so I continue to use it. It was not the hit of the session, but it was okay.

Action Rhyme: One Potato, Two Potato
I found this on YouTube, but apparently it's originally from Sesame Street. I modified the motions a little bit because I was sitting down, and the kids didn't really do the motions, but the moms all seemed into it.

Action Song: Go In and Out the Window
I think this is the one everyone participated in the most.

Book: The Missing Tarts by B.G. Hennessey, illustrated by Tracey Pearson Campbell
Apparently this book was mine as a kid, but I don't remember it. I like it because it is similar to Each Peach Pear Plum, but it does not require one-on-one interaction with the book for kids to get the full reading experience.

Songs with Ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep

Book: Mother Goose's Pajama Party by Danna Smith, illustrated by Virginia Allyn
This was the best book of the session. I did it last because it ends by saying goodnight, but it probably would have been a wiser choice to place it earlier in the line-up. Read my review of the book here.

Song: Moon Moon Moon
I did this song mainly for Little Miss Muffet who stood up and applauded and shouted, "Yay!" Totally worth it.

Goodbye Song: We Wave Goodbye Like This

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep, February 2016

This short month flew right by! Here are some notes on what Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep have been reading lately.

Making Sense of Bad Behavior 

As Miss Muffet struggles her way through the highs and lows of the terrible twos, she is really enjoying books about children who misbehave, but are loved and forgiven by their parents all the same. She requests multiple daily readings of Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox, a used copy of which we bought at a local book sale several months ago. Realizing how much she enjoyed that book, I grabbed a copy of No, David the next time we visited the library, and she quickly memorized the text of that as well. We have had the book almost three weeks now, and frequently she can be heard "reading" it aloud to her beloved baby doll. I think this is the first time I have really seen her connect with the emotional experience of a character in a book. Harriet and David clearly comfort her during the times when she is driving her parents wild - and we can also talk about her behavior in terms of what happens in those books. 


Miss Muffet is still really interested in singable books. We checked a few out of the library on our last trip, but by far, her favorite is Sing, Tom Lichtenheld's adaptation of the famous Sesame Street song by Joe Raposo. The early part of the story is wordless, which she likes because she can read it by herself, and then it goes through the song, a few words at a time as a guitar-playing boy helps a little bird gain the courage to sing its own tune. I was not crazy about this adaptation when it first came out because it didn't fit with my nostalgic feelings about the song, but after reading it dozens of times, I have to admit it is growing on me. 

Unrealistic Early Literacy Tips

Poor Little Bo Peep doesn't get nearly as much reading time as her big sister did at her age. I don't worry about it much, because even when we're not talking directly to her, she is still surrounded by all of us talking, reading, and singing all day long. Still, having a second child does make me realize how truly unrealistic many early literacy tips are for parents. I see these tips in many places around the web - blogs, library websites, emails from my library system, etc. - and I recognize the good intentions behind them, but many of them show a gross misunderstanding of what caring for small children is really like. For example, singing to a baby during every diaper change sounds like a lovely idea, but in practice, diaper changes are rarely these calm bonding moments. Rather, the baby's diapers are changed quickly before her big sister finds something to climb, break, or throw away. I wish libraries would stop trying to prove how important they are by always trying to come up with the next new clever literacy tip, and instead just focus on showing people how to have fun with books. Every family can find a way to do that, no matter how many children they have. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Read Around Town: Hair Salon

Read Around Town is a series where I highlight picture books that celebrate the people and places in a young child's immediate community. These would work well for preschool classes or homeschool groups taking tours of local businesses, or for any child interested in learning about his or her neighborhood. Today's post includes ten picture books about hair and hair salons.

Baghead by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
No one knows why Josh wants to wear a bag over his head until they see what happened to his hair! 

Mop Top by Don Freeman
A red-haired little boy does everything he can to put off his haircut in this vintage picture book by the creator of Corduroy.

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott
Every full moon, a young boy whose father is a barber cuts the hair of the neighborhood monsters, including Frankenstein's monster and Medusa.

Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom by John Rocco
Rocco is convinced that his super powers reside in his long red hair, which he is reluctant to cut.

Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg
Stanley is embarrassed when he gets all ready for crazy hair day only to find that he got it mixed up with school picture day!

Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean
A man explains to a little girl all the things that can be found inside his crazy hair.

I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
A young girl named Keyana doesn't like it when her mother tugs on her hair, but she finds a sense of pride in the many ways it can be styled.

Birdie’s Big-Girl Hair by Sujean Rim
When Birdie gets a fancy grown-up hairstyle, it becomes difficult for her to play and run around like she normally does.

Ruby’s Beauty Shop by Rosemary Wells
When Ruby and her friend Louise start a beauty shop, Max joins in, first as a customer, and then as a stylist with an interesting approach to beauty.

The Longest Hair in the World by Lois Duncan, illustrated by Jon McIntosh
When Emily makes a birthday wish for the longest hair in the world, she isn't quite prepared for the consequences.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Colors Board Books

Children may not learn the names of the colors until they are two or even three years old, but it is never too soon to begin talking about color vocabulary. These board books introduce the colors in baby and toddler-friendly ways.

Red Truck, Yellow Bus by Children's Press (ISBN: 9780531208526)
This Rookie Toddler title uses different vehicles to introduce each color of the rainbow. Since most toddlers are obsessed with cars and trucks, this is a perfect way to also get them excited about colors. 
Red, Blue, Yellow Shoe by Tana Hoban (ISBN: 9780688065638)In this vintage book originally published in the 1980s, photographer Tana Hoban introduces different everyday objects, each labeled with its proper color.

I Love Colors by Margaret Miller (ISBN: 9781416978886)
Each baby in this book has been photographed wearing a different-colored item. Little ones will love to look at the expressions on the babies' faces as you tell them which color each one is meant to represent. For more fun, you can sing about each item to the tune of "Mary Wore Her Red Dress."

Spot the Animals by American Museum of Natural History (ISBN: 9781402777233)
This lift-the-flap book is a color-themed guessing game which invites readers to find an animal hidden on each page. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can all enjoy this book together! 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

MOPS Story Time, 2/17/16

I've been saying that my last story time was six months ago, but it turns out that, before this morning, my last story time was actually July 10th, which was 7 months ago. I did have a ukulele sing-along at the end of July, but other than that, it has been a very story time free existence for me since the start of my third trimester with Little Bo Peep.  That's the longest story time break I think I have ever taken since leaving the library in 2013. I mention this because the story time I did yesterday morning for my local MOPS group (the same one I visited around Easter last year) felt very different than any I have ever done previously. It wasn't necessarily bad, but I was clearly very rusty, and I did not feel the usual rush I would normally have after doing a regular story time performance. Part of this is because it was a room full of strangers (I am only connected to the group through an acquaintance from MOMS Club), and part of it is that I tried to use new or unfamiliar materials, which is not usually wise, and part of it is that I haven't been feeling well, and was not at the top of my game. Still, it was strange to walk away from a story time without a strong feeling of either success or disappointment, which, in itself, is somewhat disappointing.

In any case, here is what I presented to yesterday's group. The theme was sounds.

Opening Song: Hello, How Are You?
If I ever have a regular story time gig again, I have got to let this hello song go. It's not as engaging as it once was, and it does not get people excited.

Song: If You'd Like to Read a Book
I got a lot of participation with this song - everybody caught on right away to the tune and they seemed to enjoy the hoorays.

Book: Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
I have absolutely no idea if the kids liked this book. There were babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in the room, all the way up to age 4, so it clearly did not appeal to every child. My own Little Miss Muffet (age 2) didn't even look at me during this story. She was watching the audience watch me instead.

Song: Let Everyone Whistle Like Me
This is a song I know because of Bob McGrath from Sesame Street and Pete Seeger, both of whom have recorded it as "Let Everyone Clap Hands Like Me." I changed the words to suit my noisy theme, so the verses were as follows:

Let everyone...

  • whistle
  • laugh
  • bark
  • cry
  • yawn
  • snore 

Book: The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
I asked everyone to say "ding-dong" every time the doorbell rang, and most of the moms did it.

Song: Hands Up High
Everyone liked this one.

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big

Book: Rain by Robert Kalan, illustrated by Donald Crews
This book was most appropriate for the babies and toddlers of the group, but it didn't engage the room as a whole. (Except my own kid, who said she loved it, and did actually turn around to face me and listen to it.)

Song: I Like to Hear the Raindrops Fall
This is normally a piggyback song about the five senses, but I made some alterations to have it focus just on hearing. We sang about hearing raindrops fall, thunder clap, puddles splash, and breezes blow.

Rhyme: Quiet Quiet said the Queen
I wrote this as a flannel board. I love it. I tried it as an action rhyme. I made them do it twice. Never have children looked at me with such confusion. I almost cut this from the plan, but thought I would regret not doing it. Now I regret doing it. It would have gone over fine with a different group, I'm sure (one little girl did the whole thing with me), but it will be a while before I have the guts to try again.

Book: Hush Little Baby by Margot Zemach
This was my weakest book choice, but it didn't seem to have any particular impact on the audience, for the positive or for the negative.

Songs: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep

Goodbye Song: We Wave Goodbye Like This

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Early Literacy Around the House: The Bedroom

For many families, bedtime is the traditional time of day for reading stories, singing songs, and engaging in other quiet early literacy activities together. Here are some suggestions to add to your own evening repertoire.
  • Have a special bedtime poem. When my daughter was still less than six months old, we borrowed Here's a Little Poem from the library. In it were several bedtime poems, and I read them to her every night before bed until the book went back to the library. When it was due, I made sure to memorize my favorite one of the poems - "Silverly" by Dennis Lee - so I could continue to share it with her every night. Not only is poetry a great way to introduce language to young babies, it is also a perfect way to signal that it's time to go to sleep. We have gotten out of the habit of saying the poem as regularly now, as toddler bedtime is so much more boisterous than baby bedtime, but when we do have a moment, we still share that poem. I hope to continue the same practice with baby #2!
  • Say prayers. As Little Miss Muffet has entered toddlerhood, we have started to include prayers as part of her bedtime routine every night. She has several board books (My First Prayers with Mary, My First Bedtime Prayers and A Small Child's Book of Prayers) which contain kid-friendly prayers accompanied by illustrations, and each night after her teeth are brushed, she has the opportunity to choose the one we will say. Like poems, prayers introduce rhythm, rhyme, and vocabulary, and, if you are hoping your child will eventually memorize certain prayers, saying them at bedtime also helps with that learning process. (For more Christian-themed early literacy activities, see my post about Church.)
  • Share a book with a stuffed animal. A stuffed monkey and a baby doll are Little Miss Muffet's two bedtime loveys. Sometimes, we will snuggle with them and read a favorite board book before bed. (For some kids, this activity might be too stimulating to settle them, in which case it is also fun to do first thing in the morning!) 
  • Review the day. As Little Miss Muffet gets ready for bed, I often review with her what she has done that day. I start with the morning, and just list a few of the highlights - where we went, who we played with, what toys we enjoyed, and what we did when Daddy got home. This gives her the language to hopefully express her own thoughts about the day as she becomes more verbal, and it also calms her down so that she is in the right frame of mind for drifting off to sleep.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Finger Puppet Board Books

This week's list of board books focuses on books where a finger puppet is part of the story.

In My… series by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich
This series publishes very short books for very young children featuring different animals snuggled up with their families in their various habitats. In each book, a finger puppet of the starring animal peeks out through a hole in the center of all the pages, so that the animal engages in a different action on each page. Animals represented in the series so far are: butterfly, owl, fish, bird, rabbit, bear, dolphin, monkey, mouse, deer, and horse.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Finger Puppet Book (ISBN: 9780448455976)In this simplified version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the caterpillar munches and counts his way through several pieces of fruit, then transforms into a beautiful butterfly.

My Little… holiday series by Sara Gillingham 
Each of the books in this series features a finger puppet of a baby's face, which peeks into various scenes to teach little ones about a given holiday. So far, this series includes books about Valentine's Day, Christmas, and Easter.

Little… series from Chronicle Books 
These very basic books each introduce a different animal, who is part of a simple story introducing his or her habits and habitat. There are more than 20 books in the series, included titles about a bunny, ladybug, bee, duck, and lion.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

9+ Kids' Books Illustrated by Julia Denos

Many of my favorite children's book covers have been illustrated by Julia Denos. Check out some of these titles below, then visit the sketchbook on her website for more beautiful artwork!


Lexie  by Audrey Couloumbis
Ten-year-old Lexie loves going to the shore on vacation every year with her parents, but she is resistant to the changes that come to her favorite trip after her parents divorce and her father decides to invite his girlfriend to tag along.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker 
In this middle grade novel by the author of the Clementine series, main character Stella has trouble getting along with her great aunt's new foster child, Angel, until a tragedy forces them to rely on each other. 
My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari 
Twelve-year-old June Farrell really wants to win a blue ribbon in the pie contest at the upcoming fair, but she is discouraged by her mother, a proponent of the disputed civil unions in the state of Vermont, who asks her to keep a low profile. 

Letters to Leo by Amy Hest
Annie writes letters to her dog, Leo, which confide her innermost feelings about her strict new teacher, her former beloved teacher, and her newfound interest in poetry. (This book is a sequel to Remembering Mrs. Rossi, but it can be read on its own.) 



Sleepover Squad by P.J. Denton
The covers of this paperback series for early elementary readers have been redone with new illustrations, but Julia Denos did the originals. The series follows a group of girls who love to have sleepovers, but run into various problems preventing them from running smoothly.

Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Readers follow Alice McKinley through middle school, high school and beyond in this beloved series which ran from 1985 to 2013. The earliest books of the series have been re-released with these beautiful covers which truly capture Alice's personality and frequent embarrassments.

Casson Family by Hilary McKay 
This British series follows the children of eccentric artists, all of whom are named for colors. I reviewed the first book, Saffy's Angel, in the very early days of this blog!

The Fairy Bell Sisters by Margaret McNamara
This beginning chapter book series by the author of the Robin Hill School easy readers focuses on the younger sisters of Tinkerbell: Clara Bell, Golden Bell, Rosy Bell, Sylva Bell, and baby Squeak. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Numbers Board Books

Today's board books are all about identifying numbers and learning to count.

Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton (ISBN: 9780689834349)
One lonely hippo makes a phone call, and suddenly, it's party time for him and all of his friends in this rhyming book.
One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jane Chapman (ISBN: 9780763603342)
When one duck gets stuck in the muck, groups of animals in increasing numbers try to rescue it.

Say and Play: Numbers by Sterling Publishing (ISBN: 9781402798917)
Clean and simple photographs illustrate each number from one to ten. 

Let’s Count to Ten by Richard Scarry (ISBN: 9781742118918)
With his detailed, busy illustrations of anthropomorphic animals eating breakfast, driving cars, and feeling grumpy, Richard Scarry helps the youngest readers understand the concept of counting.

1 2 3 by Simms Taback (ISBN: 9781934706893)
Simple bold illustrations make this small, short board book a perfect introduction to counting for the littlest babies! 

One Red Sun: A Counting Book by Ezra Jack Keats (ISBN: 9780670884780)
This wordless book shows a numeral and a corresponding group of items on each page, all created using Keats's distinctive illustration style. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Third Grade CCD 2015-2016: The Church Community, 2/1/16

This post has moved:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Read Around Town: The Dentist's Office

In my latest blog series, Read Around Town, I'm highlighting picture books that celebrate the people and places in a young child's immediate community. These would work well for preschool classes or homeschool groups taking tours of local businesses, or for any child interested in learning about his or her neighborhood. Today's post includes ten picture books about dentists and teeth.

The Tooth Book by Theo LeSieg
This Dr. Seuss title, which he wrote under a pseudonym, teaches which animals have teeth, and how we should take care of our own teeth.

Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Dr. De Soto, a mouse dentist, has a policy of not treating animals who might be dangerous to small rodents, but when a fox appears at his office, his kind heart can't bring himself to turn him away.

Never Take a Shark to the Dentist by Judi Barrett, illustrated by John Nickle
Sharks don't belong in the dentist's office, and there are lots of other animals who shouldn't go out in public, either.

The Dentist from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler, illustrated by Jared D. Lee
This story plays with some of the fears kids have about visiting the dentist, in the hopes of making the experience seem more positive and pleasant.

Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth by Lucy Bate, illustrated by Diane Degroat
Little Rabbit is excited to lose her first tooth, but she worries that the tooth fairy might forget to come. (This was one of my favorite books as a kid. The illustrator is better known these days for the Gilbert and Friends series.)

Open Wide: Tooth School Inside by Laurie Keller
This creative picture book provides information about teeth and dental care by re-imagining the inside of a mouth as a school, where each tooth is a member of the class.

Brush Brush Brush by Alicia Padron
This singable board book is perfect for toddlers (12-24 mos.) who are just learning to brush their teeth, as it simplifies the concept and makes it seem appealing.

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof by Selby Beeler, illustrated by  G. Brian Karas
This picture book describes traditions associated with losing teeth from different countries around the world.

Curious George Visits the Dentist by Margret and H.A. Rey
After an accident with a piece of wax fruit, the man in the yellow hat takes George to the dentist to have his wiggly tooth checked out.

The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi
In this story, the dentist, and the crocodile who visits him, are both terrified of each other.
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