Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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

Easy Readers

A small,  but varied, selection of easy readers this month:

Guessing Geisel's guest contributors posted about Pug and Not Me.

Jean Little Library had three "Small Readers" reviews. Two were of nonfiction titles from Penguin Young Readers: Giraffes and Slow, Slow, Sloths, and the third was Duck, Duck, Porcupine.

Kids Book a Day reviewed Living In... Brazil.

Becky's Book Reviews reviewed The Thank You Book.

Mom Read It reviewed Benny and Penny Say Goodbye to a Friend.

Chapter Books

There were definitely some popular chapter books making the rounds this month!

The most popular was The Infamous Ratsos, which was reviewed by Books 4 Your Kids, Kids Book a Day, Librarian's Quest, Jean Little Library, and Charlotte's Library.

A close second was Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony, with reviews from Jen Robinson's Book Page, Books 4 Your Kids, Ms. Yingling Reads, and Waking Brain Cells.

There were also two reviews each of Inspector Flytrap (Books 4 Your Kids and Kids Book a Day) and Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig (Orange Marmalade and Becky's Book Reviews.)

Other chapter book reviews included:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Reading with Little Miss Muffet & Little Bo Peep: August 2016

It doesn't seem possible that September should start this week, but in fact, today is the first day of school for the county, and the end of summer is not far behind. We are finishing out the summer not having completed a single public library summer reading program, but having read dozens and dozens of picture books, nursery rhymes, and poems. Today's post highlights some observations I've made of both girls as they interacted with books during the month of August. 
  • Little Bo Peep has started having very specific preferences, not just for particular books, but for certain pages within those books. Her current favorites are the moment where the bear wakes up in Bear Snores On, the "brown" page in Little Owl's Colors, and the "yellow" page in the Alphaprints colors book, which shows a snake made from a Slinky. When she sees a page she likes, she leans over the book, almost as though she's going to climb in, and babbles at it very earnestly. If she is especially excited, she also slaps the pages repeatedly. 
  • Because Little Bo Peep is so enamored of books, it has become virtually impossible to read aloud to Miss Muffet with her nearby, as she immediately wants to either hold, rip, or slam the book shut. Miss Muffet is horrified by this every time it happens, and can often be heard shouting, "She has a paper book! Don't let her rip the paper book!" I try to distract her with board books she can abuse, but I have found it is easier to read our more fragile books to Miss Muffet during Bo Peep's naptime and stick to board books when we all read together. It also sometimes helps to read to Miss Muffet on the couch, with Bo Peep safely in her Pack n Play, where she can hear and see, but not touch. 
  • Little Miss Muffet has discovered her first real villain: Miss Viola Swamp, from Miss Nelson is Missing. She talks a lot about how mean Viola Swamp is, and how long her fingernails are, and whether she will ever show up at our house. ("Mama, Miss Swamp will never come here because you're going to teach me at home. Right?") She has not yet figured out the true identity of Miss Swamp despite multiple re-readings of the book, and a thorough discussion of the clues shown on the last page. I am not going to tell her, and I'm really looking forward to that future date when she finally realizes Miss Nelson's little secret. 
  • Thanks to a brief window of time during which a decent recording of Reading Rainbow's production of Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain was available on YouTube, Miss Muffet has discovered that story as well. This has prompted many questions about grass, and why it dies without rain, as well as speculation over whether the cows in the story are dead as well. (I see what she means; they look a bit frightening in the illustrations.) We have the book out of the library right now, but I'm hoping to come across a used copy on one of our many bookstore visits.
  • Finally, we received two new picture books for review this summer, which I'll briefly discuss: 
    • 123 Dream by Kim Krans (September 27th 2016; Random House Books for Young Readers; ISBN 0553539345) is a counting book with a bit of an I Spy twist. Each page shows a number and an accompanying illustration showing one owl, two turtles, three thistles, etc. At the end of the book, there is a list of further items to be hunted down in its pages. The illustrations are beautiful to look at, but still this book didn't really make a strong impression on me or Miss Muffet.  I think we have just seen so many counting books that it's hard for a new one to feel special. I do like that it goes up to 20, however, as Miss Muffet hits thirteen and then gets stuck on repeat ("twelve, thirteen, thirteen, thirteen") but I'm not sure we're going to add it to our permanent home library. 
    • Hey, Coach! by Linda Ashman and Kim Smith (August 9th 2016; Sterling Children's Books; ISBN 1454916079) is a rhyming story showing the highs and lows of a beginning soccer team's season. The lines of Ashman's text are written in different voices of players on the team, and Smith's illustrations faithfully bring out the personalities of these unnamed kids. Each two-page spread shows a score board in the upper corner which tells which game of the season was played, and what the score was, and the text and illustration tell the story of an important moment from the game. To my knowledge, there are no picture books that cover soccer in quite this way, so it is appealing for that reason alone, but even Miss Muffet who knew nothing about soccer found it highly interesting and asked many, many follow-up questions when the story was done. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

#BoutofBooks 17 - Day Seven

Bout of Books
Today was the last day of Bout of Books, and I only read one more title: Marian-Martha by Lucile F. Fargo. This brings my grand total for the entire week to 23. I'm pretty happy with that, even if it's not as many as I originally planned. I will definitely be back for Bout of Books 18 in January! 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

#BoutofBooks 17 - Day Six

Bout of Books

I started out this read-a-thon too fast and furious and now I'm burned out. I read a bit here and there today, but only finished one very short book, just so I'd have something to report. That was Belling the Tiger by Mary Stolz (the original edition). I am hoping to read a book or two tomorrow to finish out the week. Then I'll tally up the total for this bout!

Friday, August 26, 2016

#BoutofBooks 17 - Day Five

Bout of Books

I feel myself running out of steam with only two days left in the read-a-thon. Including the book that I had almost finished before I went to bed last night, I only read four books today:
I also read two chapters of Kat, Incorrigible.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

#BoutofBooks 17 - Day Four

Bout of Books
I lost some of my momentum today, but I did read a handful of books that I really enjoyed. I finished four books:

I also read more than half of Alex Ryan, Stop That! by Claudia Mills, but couldn't quite finish before midnight.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#BoutofBooks 17 - Day Three

Bout of Books

My reading for day 3 brings me to a total of 20 books for the week so far. Here are the six books I read today:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#BoutofBooks 17 - Day Two

Bout of Books
Today was fairly productive. I was up way too late last night so did not get up early for my walk, and therefore didn't continue with my audiobook. But I still ended up reading 7 books again:

I also did today's challenge, and posted it to Instagram.

More to come tomorrow!

Read Around Town: The Post 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 books are about post offices and the mail.  

The Jolly Postman, or Other People's Letters by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
As the Jolly Postman delivers letters to favorite fairy tale characters, the reader has chance to sneak inside the envelopes and read their correspondence!

Seven Little Postmen by Margaret Wise Brown
This rhyming book tells the story of how one little boy's letter makes it way through the postal system to its intended recipient.

Love, Mouserella by David Ezra Stein
After her grandmouse's visit, Mouserella misses her, so she writes a lengthy letter detailing a week's worth of her daily activities.

A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats
To make it special, Peter decides to send his birthday party invitation to Amy through the mail, but the surprise is nearly ruined when he runs into Amy herself on his way to the mailbox!

Dear Peter Rabbit by Alma Flor Ada
Fairy tale characters write letters to one another in this clever story which reimagines the well-known stories and connects them in new ways.

Good-bye Curtis by Kevin Henkes
On Curtis's last day as a mail carrier before his retirement, everyone in the neighborhood does something special to honor him.

Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett
A meerkat named Sunny sends letters back home as he explores different parts of the world before finally deciding home is the best place of all.

Mr. Griggs’ Work by Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Griggs loves his work at the post office so much that he hardly knows what to do with himself on the first sick day of his career.

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague
When Ike is sent to obedience school, the letters he sends home to his master, Mrs. LaRue, lament the terrible time he is having, but they may not be exactly honest.

Harvey Hare, Postman Extraordinaire by Bernadette Watts
To thank Harvey Hare for his dedication to delivering their mail no matter the weather, the forest animals come together to present him with a special gift.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#BoutofBooks 17 - Day One

Bout of Books

Today was the first day of Bout of Books 17! I started the day with a morning walk before my kids woke up, during which I listened to about 40 minutes of The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith. This is not really part of my Bout of Books goals, but I may finish it this week, depending on how many mornings I actually get up early.

After that I read 7 books:
Today's challenge, hosted by Writing My Own Fairytale, asked participants to share their favorite and least favorite book-to-movie adaptation.

My favorite, off the top of my head, is Because of Winn Dixie.

My least favorite, hands down, is The Secret of Moonacre, which is an absolutely atrocious adaptation of Elizabeth Goudge's wonderful novel, The Little White Horse.

Bout of Books continues all week! Check back tomorrow for day two's progress. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bout of Books Read-A-Thon, August 2016

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 22nd and runs through Sunday, August 28th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 17 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books 17 is just over a week away!

I've really gotten a lot of reading done with this read-a-thon the last two times I have participated, so I'll be joining in again the week of August 22-28. My goal this time is to read a bunch of the "Old School" titles that have been piling up on my coffee table, plus the handful of chapter book ARCs I've received for the Fall. There are 29 books on my tentative list, but a lot of them should be quick reads, so hopefully I'll be able to meet that goal without too much difficulty. 

Check back a week from Monday to follow my progress! 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Early Literacy Around the House: The Kitchen

Parents of small children spend a lot of time in the kitchen, often with kids at our heels fussing because the food isn't ready yet, or wanting to explore the garbage can, refrigerator, or hot oven. Add a little structure to these times of the day with some simple early literacy activities.
  • Read cereal boxes. Ever since I could read, I have always read the cereal box while I eat my cereal. Sometimes, they have puzzles and activities printed on the outside, which make them naturally appealing to kids, but even if they are just plain boxes, it is still fun to check out all the different fonts and styles of writing, as well as the interesting scientific words that appear in the ingredients. With pre-readers, the cereal box becomes an instant opportunity for a scavenger hunt. Assign each child a box and a letter of the alphabet, and see how long it takes them to find it somewhere on the box. With very young kids, take a moment to show them the letters of their name, or a letter they have just started being able to identify. 
  • Put on a cooking show. When a toddler is waiting impatiently for her breakfast, it can be fun to turn your preparation into a little cooking show where you are the star and your child is the viewer at home. Explain every step you take, no matter how small and then make a big show of completing each task. Your child will become so interested in learning the words for objects like "plate," "measuring cup" and "spoon" that she might forget to be upset that she has to wait two minutes to eat. 
  • Follow a recipe together. Kids who are more verbal and have decent motor skills can join you in your cooking adventures by helping you to follow a recipe. If you have time, this can be a more elaborate project - baking cookies or cake, marinating chicken, mixing up spaghetti sauce - but you can also create recipe cards for the simple everyday meals you make all the time, and allow your child to help identify each ingredient required. 
  • Take out interesting gadgets and teach your child their names. There are so many random gadgets in the kitchen, most of which we use without thinking much about their names. For young kids, though, these fun items - spatula, whisk, tongs, etc. - present opportunities for learning new vocabulary they will want to hear and repeat again and again. They also provide you with the chance to talk about other concepts, such as  sizes, colors, and shapes. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

25 Ways to Play with The Pea Patch Jig

The Pea Patch Jig by Thacher Hurd was one of my favorite books in childhood, and I have loved sharing it with Little Miss Muffet. The book includes three linked stories about a baby mouse, whose mischievous behavior almost spoils her family's Midsummer Party, until it unexpectedly saves the day at the last minute. Here are 25 activities to do with your kids to delve deeper into the story and its themes.

  1. Listen to the song. The Pea Patch Jig is the name of a folk song. On the final page of the book, along with the music to play the tune, the author recommends listening to the version by Vassar Clements, John Hartford, Dave Holland. Hear it on YouTube
  2. Make up some dance moves. Encourage your kids to come up with their own version of the pea patch jig to match the music.
  3. Make a salad. Farmer Clem nearly chops up Baby Mouse when she hides in a head of lettuce that he picks for his salad. Include lettuce and some other veggie favorites in your own salad. 
  4. Explore peas in a sensory bin. Fill a tub with peas and provide your child with cups and spoons to scoop and pour them. For added fun, hide letters or toys and have your child hunt for them. For inspiration, check out these posts from and Gift of Curiosity.
  5. Make a pea shooter. Your (older) kids can pretend to save the day just like Baby Mouse with a simple pea shooter of their own! Instructions are available from Acorn Pies and Le Maison de LouLou
  6. Plan a midsummer party. Invite some friends over to join you for late afternoon celebration of summer. Be sure to serve fresh veggies and consider reading the book aloud to your guests.
  7. Cook and serve a dish made with peas. Kid-friendly recipes can be found on the Food Network's website.
  8. Make vegetable costumes. Baby Mouse and her family dress up as vegetables and dance at their Midsummer Party. Make your own costumes using patterns like the ones from Want to keep it simple? Try these fruit and vegetable masks from
  9. Plant your own vegetable garden. If you're like me and can't garden outdoors due to lack of space, try a container garden. 
  10. Make garden markers. If you already have a garden, or have a close friend or relative who has one, make some garden markers to clearly label what has been planted. I especially like these painted stones from Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons.
  11. Learn the names and uses for gardening tools. Whether you have a garden or not, you can still teach your child all about the tools gardeners use. This garden clip art set from is a great teaching tool. 
  12. Try some new vegetables. Each time we go to our local market for produce, we try to expose Little Miss Muffet to some new vegetables. If your kids are adventurous eaters, consider bringing home something new and different to taste.
  13. Visit a farmer’s market. If you're not sure where to find one locally, fear not! There's an app for that, as well as a national directory of farmer's markets.
  14. Compare Baby Mouse to Peter Rabbit. Both characters make mischief in gardens that do not belong to them. Compare and contrast these two stories to find out how else their main characters might be the same or different. 
  15. Read Keith Baker’s peas books. Keep the pea theme going by enjoying some of these wonderful books by Keith Baker: LMNO Peas, 1-2-3 Peas, Little Green Peas.  
  16. Play fruit and vegetable bingo. Print out these cards from Mama's Learning Corner and play a game of bingo.  
  17. Play fruit and vegetable I Spy. The Pleasantest Thing has a perfect printable to print out for this game.
  18. Make a farmer’s hat. Use these templates from First Palette to construct a paper hat, so you can pretend to be Farmer Clem. 
  19. Take a moonlit walk. Experience the atmosphere of the Midsummer Party by taking a walk outside under a full moon. 
  20. Retell the story. Use clip art to make cards or flannel board pieces of a baby mouse and some vegetables, and use them to retell the story or write a new one of your own. has a mouse that would work well, as well as a set of vegetables.
  21. Do a pea-themed fingerplay. Five Fat Peas is a fun rhyme for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
  22. Sing Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow. The lyrics and tune can both be found here, as well as on Raffi's Baby Beluga album.
  23. Sing I Want to be a Farmer. This catchy folk song performed by Pete Seeger is fun to sing while acting out what a farmer might do. 
  24. Act out the African Planting Chant. This full-body action rhyme has a fun rhythm and a focus on planting seeds.
  25. Find out about foxes. Use a library book, database, or education video to learn more about the habits of foxes. 
For more ways to play with favorite children's books, check out my posts about Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Whistle for Willie 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Read Around Town: The Farm

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 books are all set on farms.

Stanley the Farmer by William Bee
Stanley the hamster uses many tools - and the help of his mole friends - to accomplish a good day's work on his farm.

My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor
A group of adorable baby animals invite the reader to visit them on the farm, where they provide interesting facts about their habits.

Hello, Day! by Anita Lobel
All the animals on the farm greet the day in their own voices. 

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type
by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Farmer Brown is enraged when the cows on his farm begin using typewriters to demand better working conditions in exchange for their milk.

Cows in the Kitchen by June Crebbin
While Tom Farmer sleeps, the animals take over the whole household.

Hurry, Hurry by Eve Bunting, illustrated Jeff Mack
When a new baby is born on the farm, all the animals go rushing off to meet the new arrival!

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
The other animals scoff when they see Duck riding a bike, until they have an opportunity to try it themselves. 

Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Jane Cabrera
Old MacDonald has a farm, and a wife, and some animals, and... a baby!

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Felicia Bond
This simple story tells of the activities from dawn to dusk of a group of animals living near a big red barn.

I Love Animals by Flora McDonnell
The little girl in this story loves her dog, Jock, as well as many other animals she meets on the farm.

Friday, August 5, 2016

September Story Time Themes

September marks the beginning of Fall, the start of a new school year, and in many places, the last few weeks of nice weather before the winter chill begins to set in. To help inspire you as you plan for next month, here are the story time themes I like to use during September.


Suggested Books: 

  • Ducking for Apples by Lynne Berry
  • The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
  • Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins
  • Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson
  • Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray
  • Apples by Inez Snyder

Extension Activities: 


Suggested Books: 

  • Animal Sounds by Aurelius Battaglia
  • Clare Beaton's Farmyard Rhymes by Clare Beaton
  • Stanley the Farmer by William Bee
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Jane Cabrera
  • Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin
  • Moo, Moo, Brown Cow! Have You Any Milk? by Phillis Gershator
  • My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor

Extension Activities: 




Suggested Books:
  • LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
  • Baby ABC by Deborah Donenfeld
  • The Racecar Alphabet by Brian Floca
  • Jane Foster's ABC by Jane Foster
  • On Market Street by Anita Lobel
  • Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak

Extension Activities: 


Suggested Books: 

  • My Bus by Byron Barton
  • The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera
  • Bus Stops by Taro Gomi
  • The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort
  • The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz
  • The Bus is for Us by Michael Rosen
  • Bus Stop by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Extension Activities: 

Grandparents' Day

(First Sunday after Labor Day)

Suggested Books:
  • Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney
  • The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
  • Hooray Parade by Barbara Joosse
  • Grandma Calls Me Gigglepie by J.D. Lester 
  • The Grandpa Book by Todd Parr
  • The Grandma Book by Todd Parr

Extension Activities: 

Check back on the first Friday of each month for more monthly story time themes! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Read Around Town: The Library

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 books are all about the public library.

I Took My Frog to the Library by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Blanche Sims
When animals come to the library, their wild behavior makes it difficult for other library users to enjoy themselves.

Quiet! There’s a Canary in the Library by Don Freeman
At the library, a girl's imagination runs away with her as she considers what it would be like if she were the librarian and animals were her patrons.

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris, illustrated by Brad Sneed
Every day after school Melvin visits the library, where the librarians help him find books on every subject that interests him. Even when Melvin goes off to college, he never forgets the librarians who influenced him during childhood.

Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson
Otto, a bear who lives inside a book, seeks refuge in a library after he loses his home.

D.W.’s Library Card by Marc Brown
When D.W. gets her own library card, she is frustrated by having to wait for the book she wants, and horrified by the thought of losing her card over a lost or damaged book.

Stella Louella’s Runaway Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst
Stella Louella's lost library book takes her on a wild goose chase all around town, where various helpers in the community give her clues as to where it went, while also revealing to the reader hints about which book Stella Louella borrowed.

Library Lily by Gillian Shields, illustrated by Francesca Chessa
Lily loves books, but her new friend, Millie, does not. In this story, the two girls learn from each other and have many adventures together.

Read It, Don’t Eat It by Ian Schoenherr
This book lists rules for the proper treatment of library books, accompanied by illustrations of animals acting out the wrong things to do.

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ruth Hearson
Every Wednesday, Leo goes to baby time at the library, where he sings and plays with all his friends.

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
After the library is closed, the bats swoop in through an open window to have their own night of literary fun.
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