Sunday, December 30, 2012

When to Read What

Annie of Annie and Aunt directed my attention to a discussion on the New York Times website about What Books Are 'Just Right' For the Young Reader.  I haven't read either Annie's post about it or the Times discussion because I wanted to write this without any preconceptions.

On the one hand, I don't have a problem with kids reading books that are "above" them, either emotionally or in terms of vocabulary or other difficulty.  In my experience, young readers often just pass over the subjects that are emotionally or contextually beyond them.  So I'm not worried about a young reader being traumatized or exposed to something too early.  And often readers come back to these books and glean more from them each time.  Just as adult readers do, in light of their own life experience.

My daughter still often asks me if I think a book would be right for her, or if it would be too hard or too scary, and then I give my honest opinion.  She recently picked out The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman, the story of a young girl during the California gold rush.  I knew that it would be beyond her but she insisted she wanted me to read it to her.  As I noticed her attention waning each evening, I asked her if she was sure we should continue and she replied in the affirmative.  Finally, about halfway through the book she confessed to me, "It's kind of boring but I didn't know how to tell you.  I think it would be a good book when I 'm older, though."  Out of the mouths of babes.  (And I assured her that I did not take personal offense at her dislike of - or, more properly, lack of readiness for - the book!)

However, she may not pick it up again, and that's what I'm worried about.  I'm concerned that a young reader might miss out on a fantastic book because she picked it up too early, found it "boring" or confusing, and then never tried reading it again.  Although I don't censor my child's reading, I also don't go out of my way to introduce her to books that I think she's not ready for.  That's why I'm waiting to give her The Phantom TollboothAnne of Green GablesFrom the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and many, many others.  What a shame it would be if she missed out on any of those because she picked them up too early and was turned off of them forever!

And now I'm off to read all those other posts on the topic.  What do you think?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Library Loot #18, Part 3

For me:

Not pictured: Oddly Normal by John Schwartz, which I just picked up today.

What are you reading?

Picturing Pippi

I just finished reading Pippi Longstocking to my 7-year-old.  I had only vague recollections of the book but I do vividly recall making a book report cover using real yarn for Pippi's hair which I actually braided - a great accomplishment for this non-crafty girl and her equally non-crafty mother.

This time around, we just happened upon the edition illustrated by Lauren Child (at right).  While the book didn't thrill the adult me - its absurdist sense of humor and child's eye view of the world just aren't my style - my daughter was enthralled.  And I was captivated by the... well, the word "illustrations" doesn't do Child's work justice.  She doesn't just illustrate the book but, as in her Charlie and Lola books, plays with fonts and text placement.  This whimsical style works perfectly here, as when the sentence describing the ringmaster cracking his whip curves just like a whip and a birthday invitation is printed on what looks like a postcard:

Out of curiosity, I also checked out the edition illustrated by Louis S. Glanzman:  

My daughter pronounced both sets of illustrations (Child's in full color and Glanzman's in black-and-white) equally good, which surprised me, as I assumed that children would prefer the color illustrations.  I liked both, but I'd have to give Child the edge.  Of course, it's ultimately a matter of personal taste.  (The translations are different too, but I didn't have the time or patience to compare those!)

Finally, my younger daughter, who occasionally would listen to our reading, spied the illustrations and exclaimed, "This is the sister book to Charlie and Lola!"  What a lovely way to put it, don't you think?

Do you or your kids like Pippi?  Do you have a favorite edition?  And have you read the sequels, which I vaguely remember as disappointing?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Library Loot #18, Part 2

Chapter books we have out from the library right now.  Most of these were chosen by my 7-year-old, but I admit to holding on to a few to fill in some of my kidlit gaps.

Due to technical difficulties, the photography leaves a lot to be desired.  But you can still see what we're reading!



As you can see, she is still heavily into series: Katie Kazoo Switcheroo, the Weird School books, the Humphrey books, the , those fairy books, the Amazing Days of Abby Hayes series, the Piper Reed series and the American Girl books.

What is your chapter-book-reader reading?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

She Can Read!

I've been pointing to words as I read to my almost-five-year-old, asking her to sound them out.  At first she was very resistant, so I didn't push it.  If she wanted to try, great, if not, not.  But lately she has become more receptive, even volunteering to read and I've noticed that she was able to sound out more and more words with more ease as well as read some words by sight.

However, I have found it hard to find books for the very earliest of readers.  Either they are too hard or have so little content that they are deathly boring.

So last night I wrote two very short "stories" on our whiteboard.  They weren't too thrilling either but this way I could come up with a mix of words I knew she knew by sight, words I knew she could sound out, and words that would be a little challenging.  My funny husband added his own unique touch at the bottom. 

And she did it!  She can read!

Do you have any book recommendations for the just-barely-starting-to-read reader?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wishing She Could Go To School

Most kids wish they didn't have to go to school.  But Ruby, of Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges, wishes that she could.  This stunning, lyrical book about how the author's grandmother became one of the first women to attend university in China is a must-read.  Ruby is torn between her ambition and sense of justice  (she writes a poem about how boys are treated better than girls, which my almost-five-year-old cannot stop reciting: "Alas, bad luck to be born a girl;worse luck to be born into this house where only boys are cared for.") and her adherence to tradition and the traditional Chinese value of respect (she tries to avoid explaining to her grandfather what she meant by the poem and she stays up late to finish her feminine duties like embroidery).  Luckily, her grandfather is ahead of his time and rewards her hard work.  The writing is lovely and the illustrations by Sophie Blackall are beautiful, realistic, and complement the text perfectly.  At the end, a photograph of the author's grandmother brings home the fact that Ruby was and is a real person.

The book is a perfect jumping-off point to a discussion of women's rights and women's education, in China, here, or elsewhere.  My girls were stunned to learn that neither my high school nor college accepted women until the early 1970s!  As girls around the world are still deprived of an education, this book is especially important and yet introduces the subject with a light touch perfect for younger readers.

Bridges has also written a series of picture book biographies of real-life princesses, The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses, as well as The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames (what a great name!!) - of the sort who used their power, not of the sort who wore pretty dresses while they awaited their princes. I was only able to obtain one from the library (Nur Jahan of India) and found it written for a much older audience and a bit confusing.  But Ruby's Wish is perfect  - for children of all ages.  

Do you have a favorite picture book about women's rights?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Library Loot #18, Part 1

With the kids on break, we had to make sure they - and I-  had enough reading material.  We have so many books our from the library right now that I decided to split this post up into three parts - picture books, chapter books, and books for me. 

Picture books:

Up close:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


You may have noticed I haven't posted in a while.  Between leaving my job, weathering the hurricane, coordinating a move (of only 12 blocks!) and fighting with the NYC Department of Education, I haven't had a spare moment to post.  But I have been reading - as have my daughters.  I hope to fill you in on the goodies we've found soon! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Almost-Orphans, Crazy Father Figures, and Medieval Castles

I just finished reading A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper, a historical novel about young royal cousins on an fictional island nation on the cusp of World War II.  I was immediately struck by its similarities to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, a YA classic that I had missed and recently read on my quest to fill in some of my children's literature gaps.  I wasn't the only one - one of the blurbs in my paperback edition made the connection too.  The similarities are so numerous and specific that I made a list:

  • Orphans or de facto orphans who have to largely fend for themselves, check.
  • Said almost-orphans live in genteel poverty, check.
  • Mentally ill father or father figure, check.
  • Isolated medieval castle, check.
  • 1930s setting, check.
  • Teenage narrator who narrates by writing in her journal, check.
  • "Plain" narrator and more beautiful older sister/cousin, check.  
  • Love interest named Simon, check.

There are, of course, some differences, the major one being that A Brief History of Montmaray addresses politics and the impending world war whereas those go unmentioned in I Capture the CastleA Brief History of Montmaray is also the first book in a trilogy. 

Can you think of any other two books with so many similarities?  I wrote about others that came to mind here, particularly Roald Dahl's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wendy Mass's recent book, The Candymakers and here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

That First Chapter Book Read-Aloud

I just finished reading my younger daughter her first chapter book!  It was Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, the very same first chapter book I read to my older daughter.  It was a hit both times.  I picked it because Beverly Cleary gets real kids so right (Ramona thinks growing up goes so slowly, Beezus confronts the fact that while she loves Ramona, she doesn't always like her), it is funny (I mean, really, what is better than a kid who takes one bite out of every apple or bakes her doll inside her sister's birthday cake because she is pretending to be Gretel), and it is timeless (the lack of computers, cellphones and other gadgets just doesn't matter).  And of course, there is what it is not: scary, boring, or sad.

What's the first chapter book you read to your children?  Why did you choose it?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Library Round-up #7

More mini-reviews of our recent borrowings.

Picture Books

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as retold by Mo Willems.  As soon as I got home with this book I handed it to, nope, not my kids, but my husband.  I knew he'd appreciate the parodic, absurdist, sarcastic humor.  And he did.  A few days later I read it to my girls and, not surprisingly, they didn't really get it.  It went over my 4-year-old's head completely.  My seven-year-old got that there were jokes and got that the sarcastic parts meant exactly their opposites, but didn't understand why that should be funny.  This is, in my opinion, one of those picture books that is really meant for grown-ups or older children, both because of the humor and because of the fact that it refers to other literature.  Willems has the luxury of being so popular that parents are going to buy this either not realizing that it's not meant for (young) kids or not caring.  It is, however, perfect for an older class's unit on fairy tales.

Woof Meow Tweet-Tweet by Cecile Boyer.  Another picture book for grown-ups, this time for those interested in design.  In each place where you would expect to find a picture of an animal, you find the word that represents the sound the animal makes.  The book is beautiful but has no plot, being called halfway through (and rightfully so from a story-oriented perspective) by my 4-year-old, "boring."

Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum.  This book about a boy's first day of kindergarten is really about the truth that the parents are often more anxious about this big day than the new student.  But while the concept is sweet, the execution, starting with the title, lacks any subtlety.  A nice but not necessary addition to the first-day-of-kindergarten canon.

 The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer.  This book is just impossible to read.  With words and letters that fly in all directions over the page it was very frustrating to read; so much so, in fact, that there is actually a guide at the end of the books, which reprints the text of each page in usual left-to-right fashion.  Of course, flipping to the back after each page is not practical.  Finally, I found the blunt message about the power of words to bring peace, love and understanding sappy as well.  Tangent: The format made me think of the new Haggadah edited by Jonathan Safran Foer, which I was excited to check out and then so disappointed with - with footnotes and commentary placed perpendicular to the main text, the book is unwieldy under even the best of circumstances, which being at a table full of nice china and ritual items certainly is not.

Middle Grade Fiction

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead.  Less intricately plotted than her amazing When You Reach Me, Liar and Spy is still a fun, enjoyable read with a believable narrator in Georges (the "s" is silent).  I guessed one of the twists but not the other.  A city child myself, I especially like Ms. Stead's depictions of city life in both books.  And as a parent, I appreciate the good relationships her protagonists have with theirs.  A water tower on top of the building would have made the great cover perfect.

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman.  Another middle-grade book about identity and fitting in, popular themes for this age group.  Gabe, desperate to impress his about-to-be-stepbrother Zach, tries to keep the true nature of his summer camp (it's a gifted enrichment program) a secret.  The format, in which lists Gabe makes are interspersed throughout the narrative, is funny and appealing.  One side itemizes the cool, non-nerdy things Gabe does (e.g. karaoke); the other lists the nerdy aspects of each (e.g. the song Gabe sang was a list of the countries of the world... in alphabetical order!).  Although the themes are addressed overtly, I'm starting to realize that the middle-grade audience may not be quite ready for subtlety... or at least that books which address these themes overtly have a place.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.  A spunky heroine, quirky Southerners, a small town - this sounds like books you've read before, right?  Here the ingredients add up... if not to something new exactly, to something very enjoyable. The lesson that your family is comprised of those you love you, and whom you love, is a nice one.  Some heavier themes, including domestic abuse, not to mention kidnapping and murder, make this a book for the older end of the middle-grade audience.

What books have you checked out from the library recently?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Searching by Illustrator

I came to children's books because of the stories, but I stayed because of the pictures.  As I've become more interested in the world of children's literature, I've discovered more and more illustrators whose art is just... beautiful, unique and compelling.

We all know that fiction books are organized by the last name of the author, which leads us to search for books that way.  My 7-year-old is frequently writes on her reading responses to books "I would like to read another book by this author." or something else along those lines, but she never mentions the illustrator, despite her interest in art.  Luckily, it is easy to search for books by illustrator these days (sadly, I can't remember if you could do so with the card catalogs of yore). 

I've taken to searching for books by illustrator.  Admittedly, the results are mixed when you judge the books in their entirety.  But it's worth it to see more work by some of my favorite illustrators.

Here are a few:

Tom Slaughter.  I discovered him in Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan Shea and immediately recognized his primary-colored, strong artwork when I saw it again.  Unfortunately for us, most of us his books (generally collaborations with Marthe Jocelyn) are truly "baby" concept books (numbers, over/under, animals, etc.), for which his illustrations are well-suited, but they are far too young for my daughters.  However, we were able to make a game out of Same Same with my not-quite-reading 4-year-old guessing what the items on each page had in common. 

Christine Davenier.  The first book we read illustrated by Davenier was Samantha on a Roll by Linda Ashman.  It prompted me to look up books by both of them, individually, as I haven't seen any other collaborations by this pair.  This one is still my favorite of both of theirs, but I also have a soft spot for Leon and Albertine, a funny barnyard romance illustrated and written by Davenier.  Although the text in other books she's illustrated is weaker, I still love her artwork.  Her style is warm, exuberant, joyous, and realistic and makes drawing look easy.

 Jan Ormerod.  Ms. Ormerod's wordless books, Sunshine and Moonlight, are two of my favorite wordless picture books.  Actually, they are two of my favorite picture books, with words or without, ever.  Her art in her other books never disappoints.  And strangely enough, she also illustrated a book by Linda Ashman, Mama's Day, a sweet tribute to the loving work mothers do every day.

Brian Wildsmith.  I had never heard of Brian Wildsmith until I began my search for different illustrated versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses (more on that... someday!).  My 7-year-old and I were both captivated by his vibrant, modern style, which stood out especially among the more traditional art that usually accompanied these classic poems.  He is also the author-illustrator of several stories perhaps best described as modern animal fables as well as an assortment of concept books (alphabet, animal, counting), and has illustrated several other works.  Again, these are not my favorites in terms of the stories, but the art is consistently stunning.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Final Tally

So my daughter diligently kept a reading log throughout the summer, in order to be inducted into her school's Reading Hall of Fame.  While I am opposed to reading logs, this one was merely a list of every book she read - she didn't have to count pages or minutes - and it is kind of nice to see what books she read this summer.  I have been keeping a similar list for myself using the NYPL's "completed" shelf feature.  In any case, the final tally, after 75 days of vacation is..............(drum roll)............. 85 books!  They vary widely in terms of length and difficulty but still, what a difference a year makes!  I'm kvelling.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Books for a Seven-Year-Old

My daughter has been happily devouring books, sometimes even turning down activities like playing with her sister and baking with me in order to read!  She's been zigzagging back and forth between the series I mentioned here, as well as adding some new favorites to her list.  Here they are:

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty McDonald.  My daughter loved this one and we're going to look for the others in the series.  I haven't read it and now it's on MY reading list now, since in each chapter Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle provides a "cure" for a different childhood misbehavior: picky eating, messy rooms, "answering back."  I could use the help!

The American Girl books.  These books are several series, actually, each about a different girl and each set during a different time (and place) in American history.  They are related to the extravagantly expensive American Girl dolls, with the girl on the cover of each book made to look like the corresponding doll, but the books make no explicit reference to the dolls, not even at the end of the books or on the back cover!  There are no product tie-ins at all!  So if your child doesn't already know of the existence of the dolls, these books won't clue her in.  The books are short but the vocabulary is not easy, and some of the concepts introduced are difficult or may be new to your child.  Mine exclaimed in confusion and frustration when reading about the selling of slaves, "But how could people be sold?  What does that even mean?!?"  At the end of each book is a short (5 pages or so) non-fiction description of the historical era in which each book is set.  A nice introduction to historical fiction.

The Year of the ... books by Grace Lin.  This well-known semi-autobiographical series by Grace Lin, with the first two books named for a year in the Chinese zodiac, follow Pacy Lin as she struggles with the normal difficulties of growing up and being different.  The third (and so far, last) book in the series doesn't follow the naming convention and is Dumpling Days.  All three are wonderful.

The Dessert books by Hallie Durand. 

The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case: A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers by Alexander McCall Smith.  The author of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency books has gone back in time and written about his protagonist as a child.  This is a gentle, non-scary mystery with an exotic (to us) setting in Africa.  So far this is the only book for children but I suspect this prolific author will not stop here!

Stand-alone books that she's read include:

The Pepins and their Problems by Polly Horvath.

A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken.

What has your child been reading?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

When the Character Ages Faster Than the Reader

A friend recently mentioned that she and her daughter stopped reading the Anne of Green Gables books because her 7-year-old was not interested in Anne's courtship by Gilbert, her career, marriage, or motherhood.  That comment got me thinking about series that follow a character from early childhood through to adulthood.  In addition to Anne, Betsy-Tacy and the Little House books came immediately to mind.  While, Type-A personality that I am,  I am a big believer in reading a series start to finish, it is hard when the character ages faster than the reader!  We are reading Little Town on the Prairie right now, in which Laura is 15, just meeting her future husband, and planning for her career as a teacher (which back then could start at age 16!).  So far my daughter still seems interested, but I wonder if and when that interest will wane.

Did you/your child read these series straight through or return to them later?  Can you think of any other series that present the same issue?

Friday, July 20, 2012


This picture was originally posted by the Grand Forks Public Library on Facebook and it was too good not to share.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Truly Neighborhood Libraries

The Little Free Library has come to Brooklyn!  Somehow I imagine it would be a more uphill fight to establish one of these libraries - which consist of a small structure which holds donated books available for lending - in Manhattan, although I'd be happy to be proved wrong.  Read all about it here

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Non-scary Realistic Fiction for a Seven-Year-Old

The title of this post is cumbersome but accurate.  My 7-year-old loves reading books about kids like herself, realistic books that are not scary at all.  Here is a list of the series that she's been enjoying this summer.  Some I had heard of; some we just found at the library.  The difficulty level varies quite a bit - some of the books are easier, or shorter, or both - but I don't believe in restricting her only to books that are at her level.  These are in addition, of course, to those I've read to her and mentioned elsewhere: the Ramona series, the Betsy-Tacy books, the Fudge books, and the Little House books.  Without further ado:

The Dyamonde Daniel books by Nikki Grimes

The Amber Brown books by Paula Danziger

The Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows

The Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker

The Weird School series by Dan Gutman

The Wayside School series by Louis Sachar

The Zigzag Kids books by Patricia Reilly Giff

The Ready, Freddy! books by Abby Klein

The Sophie books by Lara Bergen

The Humphrey the Hamster series by Betty G. Birney (okay, this one may be slightly less realistic)

The Nikki and Deja books by Karen English

The Frankly, Frannie books by A.J. Stern

The Anna Hibiscus series by Atinuke

The Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald

The Simply Sarah series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The Piper Reed books by Kimberly Willis Holt

Do you have any other realistic fiction series to recommend to her?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading for Pleasure As an End in Itself

Every student, teacher, and parent should read this letter to the New York Times about the importance of reading for pleasure. Reading isn't always - or even often - a means to an end.  It often IS the end.   And that is just as it should be.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Am I Missing?

I just finished reading Stuart Little aloud to my 7-year-old and it left both of us a little perplexed.  First of all, I'm not sure I ever read it in its entirety as a child.  I have memories of the Central Park boat scene, but whether those are from actually reading the book (or part of it) or from some general source of cultural literacy, I'm not sure.  I had no recollection of the search for Margalo or the fact that the books ends (spoiler alert!) without her being found, which my daughter and I found very unsatisfying.  I also found Stuart's character inconsistent.  His can-do attitude during his search for Margalo and his substitute-teaching stint seemed to be directly at odds with his despair when his boating plan with Harriet doesn't work out.  Although the language and writing were enjoyable and the plot sometimes delightfully absurd, in the end I didn't see what all the fuss was about. 

Does anyone who loves it care to enlighten me?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Library Round-Up #6

Brief reviews of some of the poetry and picture books we have out from the library right now. My 7-year-old is whipping through chapter books so quickly I can't keep up but maybe soon she'll write her own reviews!

Press Here by Herve Tullet.  Worthy of all the buzz it's been getting, this interactive book has readers press and rub dots on the page, shake the book, and perform other acts in order to get the dots to move, multiply, or change in other ways on each successive page.  My 4-year-old loved being in on the joke: "You don't really have to press.  There's already more dots on the next page but I still like doing it." 

Sunflakes: Poems for Children edited by Lillian Moore and illustrated by Jan Ormerod.  I picked up this poetry anthology after having read and loved the title poem in a different anthology.  I didn't even realize at first that the illustrations are by one of my favorite children's book illustrators!  While the title poem, about building sunmen out of sunflakes and other such reversals, by Frank Asch, is probably still my favorite, this compilation captures the essence of childhood and is definitely worth a look, if not a purchase. 

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco.  Another sophisticated autobiographical winner by Patricia Polacco.  Perfect for the aspiring artist and the teachers in your life.

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino.  A lovely story about immigrants, tradition and family and the power of things to convey memories and values.

How Much Is A Million? by David Schwartz.  Similar in concept to How Many Jelly Beans? this book explains big numbers by showing how high a tower of a million, billion or trillion children would be, how large a bowl would be needed to hold a million, billion, or trillion goldfish and, perhaps most amusing, how long it would take to count to each number (and which of the counters would be dead, shown by gravestones, by the time the count was complete!).  Unlike How Many Jelly Beans? this book doesn't actually show a million, billion or trillion of anything, although it does show 100,000 tiny stars.  My 4-year-old is obsessed with both of these big-number books but I prefer this one.

Chloe, Instead by Micah Player.  My expectations for this one were so high they were bound to be disappointed and they were.  I love the cartoon-y, big-eyed children and the brightly colored illustrations but Chloe turns out to be a rather typical mischievous younger sibling who eats crayons and the like.  But the demonstration of how the underlying sibling relationship is a loving one is very sweet. 

The Mitten by Jan Brett.  A classic retelling of a Ukranian folktale.  My girls recognized that it was by the same author-illustrator as that of The Hat right away.

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi.  Award-winning, yet it didn't grab our attention and I found myself tripping over the words as I read it aloud.

Follow the Line Around the World by Laura Ljungkvist.  Not my favorite of the Follow the Line books in terms of the illustrations, but it held my 7-year-old's interest, rare for non-fiction for her.

I Feel Better With A Frog In My Throat: History's Strangest Cures by Carlyn Beccia.  After renewing this one from the library 5 or 6 times, I thought we'd never read it.  But then my 7-year-old picked it up the other day and was fascinated and loved the multiple choice format.  Another non-fiction winner.

My No, No, No Day! by Rebecca Patterson.  Adored by my younger daughter, I can't help but think of this as a pale imitation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day (which is actually one of the results retrieved when you search for the Patterson book on Amazon).  However, it has its place as it is definitely geared toward a younger audience than that classic.

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine.  The second book of poems we've read inspired by the famous William Carlos Williams poem, This Is Just to Say.  This one struck me as repetitive and required a good deal of background knowledge to get all the allusions.  However, I loved the first one we read, This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness  by Joyce Sidman, fictional apology poems and responses to them.

Don't Want to Go! by Shirley Hughes.  Ms. Hughes always captures the daily minutiae of childhood so perfectly and this book is no different.  A young child who doesn't want to go to a family friend's house while her mom has the flu ends the day by not wanting to leave the friend's house.  This one doesn't have any of the familiar Hughes characters like Alfie and isn't my absolute favorite of her books (that would be Dogger) but it's still a lovely, relatable story with Ms. Hughes trademark warm, realistic illustrations.  I had no idea she was still writing until we found this 2010 work at the library! 

What have you been reading from the library?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I was so looking forward to sharing Charlotte's Web with my daughter.  But before we did, she read this book, which gave the ending away! 


Of course, there are many reasons to read it besides the ending and we will do so anyway, but still...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lunch at the Library

Today I met my husband for a brief date and we had lunch at the library, both figuratively and literally.  First we checked out the NYPL's exhibit about lunch in New York.  I loved it!  From pushcarts to a re-created (but sadly not operational) Automat, from delis to pretzels, from pizza to Chinese take-out, from the power lunch to school lunch, the exhibit was fascinating.  Somehow we missed the part about that quintessential New York lunch, the hot dog, but this review assures me it's there.  To top it all off, a different food truck will be serving lunch every weekday on the south side of the library through Labor Day.  I lucked out today with the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck. 

We also visited the famed Reading Room, which embarassingly I think I had never been to before.  It has an amazing view of the Empire State Building, among other charms, of course.  And I discovered that tours of the Schwartzman Building (aka the "main library") are given twice daily on weekdays and once a day on Saturdays. 

Do you plan to go to the lunch exhibit or tour the Schwartzman building?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Books for a Seventh Birthday

Usually, I have great ideas for birthday gifts for my older daughter.  By great I don't mean fancy or expensive - just things I'm 99% sure she'll love.  But this year, I was pretty stumped.  Her only request was for books, especially poetry books.  I wanted to give her at least one or two poetry books, one or two chapter books she could read to herself, a book or two that was meaningful to her and/or me, and at least one read-aloud.  As much as possible, they also had to be purchase-worthy, not just library-worthy.  After much agonizing, here's what I finally settled on.

From me and her dad:

Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan.  Two amazing feminist role models, a great story, beautiful illustrations by Brian Selznick.  The birthday girl loved it when we had it out from the library, so it should be a sure bet.

Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O'Connell George.  Another winner when we had it out from the library, it seemed appropriate for a big sister.  I'm just worried the little sis will be jealous.  It fills both the "meaningful" slot and the poetry slot!

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.  This one is to fulfill the poetry request.  We already have A Light in the Attic.

Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn.  For me to read to her.  I'm excited to try something different, since we've mostly been reading about kids her own age (Ramona, Betsy-Tacy, Little House, Fudge).  Animal protagonists (here, mice) will be a nice change, I hope.  The birthday girl was eager to read it but we decided it was more prudent to read The Long Winter first, since that one's a library book.  I'm kind of regretting that decision as The Long Winter may take as long to read as the winter actually lasted. 

"From" her sister:

The Elevator Family by Douglas Evans.  Not pictured as it is the birthday girl's backpack for reading during downtime at school.

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey.  Did you know he wrote chapter books?  I didn't.

Both recommended by our local independent bookstore staff (and yes, purchased there), the latter because of the birthday girl's love of Ramona.

"From" our babysitter:

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.  Another mouse book.  I'm thinking Stuart Little will be next.

 I chose both of these with the idea of "If she loves Ramona she'll love..." in mind, too.

And I'm expecting she'll receive The Random House Book of Poetry for Children this weekend at her party (hint, hint!).

So, how'd I do?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Vintage Discovery

Oh, if only this discovery were mine!  A friend of mine found a complete set of red-bound books for children in the trash.  Yes, the trash.  They didn't even bother to recycle!

But lucky for her that they didn't, as what she has is a set of books called The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls.  Some quick Internet research turned up a site called Big Red Toy Box: The Vintage Toy Encyclopedia which has a nice entry on these books.  They contain stories, history, excerpts from classic novels (I am not a fan of excerpts but still...), folk tales, fairy tales, "stories form other lands," books on nature and science, art and music, instructions for making things and all sorts of ephemera.  Apparently the sets were reissued every decade or so starting in 1920.  They are utterly fascinating.  I didn't get nearly enough time to take a look at them but we borrowed Volume 5: Things to Make and Things to Do for my crafty almost-7-year-old.  I would especially love to get a look at Volume 10: The Manual for Child Development and see how thinking on that front has changed. 

I may have to purchase one or two for myself, since it is unlikely that someone else will be discarding a complete set right where I can find it!

I didn't read these books as a child, though.  Did you?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Library Loot #17

As you can see, these days we're reading lots of poetry and old favorites, catching up on classics we (I) missed, reading a few new books and reading lots of series.

For the kids: Now that my first grader's reading has really taken off, I had to subdivide these into categories. 

To read to both kids:



The one you can't see second from the top is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.  Notice three editions of the same book?  Expect to see a post on that sometime soon.

Not pictured: More by I.C. Springman, Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts and More by Lee Bennett Hopkin.

For the first-grader to read to herself:

The one on top that you can't see is Put Your Eyes Up Here: And Other School Poems by Kalli Dakos.

 And one that didn't make it into the photo since it was in use at the time:

Not pictured: More Junie B. Jones books than you can shake a stick at, Ruby Lu, Star of the Show by Lenore Look.

To read to the first grader (possibly):

For the first grader's research project (more on that soon):

For me:

Not pictured: Wonder by R.J. Palaccio and A Patent Lie by Paul Goldstein (a legal thriller involving patent law originally checked out by my patent lawyer husband and read by both of us.  I think I enjoyed it more!) and Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field.

What do you have checked out from the library?