Category Archives: Children’s Books

Starting Classics Early: BabyLit Board Books

As a lifelong lover of books, it has always been a priority for me to share books and literature with my future (now present) children.  Little did I know, however, that I would have the opportunity to share some of my classical favorites with him or her in infancy.  BabyLit offers a series of baby board books teaching colors, weather, counting, etc. via classics such as Wuthering Heights, Dracula, and Pride and Prejudice.

drac

Currently, we only own Dracula, which teaches counting (get in? get it? huh?).  A little macabre, yes, but very entertaining for this mom and the colors keep my son’s attention for as long as any one thing can hold his attention at this point.  I won’t feel completely content, however, until I obtain Wuthering Heights A BabyLit Weather Primer.

wh

Which classical title would you most want to have as a board book for any little ones in your life?

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Collections

Remembering Maurice Sendak

If your childhood (or were involved in anyone else’s childhood) at any time over the past 45 years, you know who Maurice Sendak is.  Chances are his stories and illustrations have inspired your dreams, leant expression to your hopes and fears, or, at the very least, provided you with a very entertaining story to grow with and share.

Sendak passed away at age 83 after suffering a stroke.  Today is a sad day in the world of books, so in honor of his memory, I am compiling a list of some of the stories, obituaries, and opinion pieces from the web today.  His stories will definitely carry on and, without a doubt, our great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will all still know his name.

Oh, please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2012, Children's Books, Maurice Sendak

Favorite Christmas books


Christmas is coming.  We’re only days away and, whether you’re prepared or not, it’s gonna happen.  But what’s a holiday without some good holiday-appropriate books?  Sadly (?), while I had a whole list for Halloween, I’m struggling to remember all of the Christmas books that I read as a child.  The only one that really sticks out is The Night Before Christmas.  The above isn’t a picture of the version that I owned, which is unfortunate, because what I loved most about this story were the pictures.  I also like mice.  And poems.  I guess that I’ve always liked poems.

In celebration of the holiday, please enjoy ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore.  And please do share some of your favorite Christmas tales – whether they’re meant for children, adults, or everyone!

 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

 

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

 

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

 

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

 

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

 

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Children's Books, Holidays, Poetry

John Lithgow and his children books


John Lithgow is a fairly well-known actor, who has starred in both film and television from the 70s.  You can check out the extensive list on his IMDB page (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001475/) and see how many of these you’ve actually seen, which could possibly be a fun to-do.  Personally, I knew him best from the television show, 3rd Rock from the Sun and my husband is most in love with his character on the current hit show, Dexter.

But!  Perhaps you did not know that John Lithgow also writes very cute, very catchy children’s books!  A few years ago, my mother, my aunt, and I hauled ourselves over to one of the local Borders stores in order to see him read and, hopefully, meet him.  A lot of locals had the same idea – it’s not every day that one gets to toy with the idea of meeting such a prolific artist – especially not in central Massachusetts in the 2000s.  Due to the vast number of people who showed up, everyone picked a color coded ticket and, in waves, we made our way up to his table after the book reading.

I probably sufficiently embarrassed myself, but he was sweet and he humored me.  And now I have a memory, a signed copy of Micawber (an artistically included squirrel living in Central Park) and a picture of me looking like a complete creep behind him while he sits, totally unaware, signing books.  Win!

Below please find a select list of his amazingly fun children’s books!  Each one comes with a CD featuring John Lithgow reading the entire story.  Definitely a must!  Each story is very sing song-y and loads of fun.

The CD is a must!

 On Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Micawber-John-Lithgow/dp/0689835426/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_7

On Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Im-Manatee-Book-John-Lithgow/dp/0689854528/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4

On Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Got-Two-Dogs-Book-CD/dp/1416958819/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3

On Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Marsupial-Sue-John-Lithgow/dp/1416996141/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_9

View the complete list of John Lithgow’s books on Amazon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Books, John Lithgow

Poems by Shel Silverstein

I decided that I was going to stick me unintentional theme of kids-related “stuff” this week and post some poems featured in A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.  As a kid, I loved reading his work.  Always silly, funny, and accompanied by silly drawings that always went perfectly with the poems that they were paired with.  If the Berenstain Bears were the books that most excited me about reading as a child, it was Shel Silverstein who got me excited about poetry as a child.

Spelling Bee

I got stung by a bee
I won’t tell you where.
I got stung by a bee
I was just lyin’ there,
And it tattooed a message
I can’t tell you where
That spells out
Hello… you’ve been stung by a bee

I always loved this next poem probably because of the picture accompanying it.  A man with a fleshy face and skeletal body sits, sweating, on a chair with a fan (apparently not turned on) in front of him.  How odd.

It’s Hot!

It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade.
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

Poemsicle

Id you add sicle to your pop,
Would he become a Popsicle?
Would a mop become a mopsicle?
Would a cop become a copsicle?
Would a chop become a chopsicle?
Would a drop become a dropsicle?
Would a hop become a hopsicle?
I guess it’s time to stopsicle,
Or is it timesicle to stopsicle?
Heysicle, I can’t stopsicle?
Heysicle, I can’t stopsicle.
Ohsicle mysicle willsicle Isicle
Havesicle tosicle talksicle
Likesicle thissicle foreversicle-
Huhsicle?

What were your favorite poems as a kid?

Buy A Light in the Attic on Amazon

3 Comments

Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Poetry, Shel Silverstein

Books for Halloween!

I won’t go so far as to say that Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I certainly do enjoy it!  As a kid, I always looked forward to the excuse to dress up in costume and eating copious amounts of candy – no matter the time or day of week – because it was “special”.  This was all harmless fun, of course, until our Miniature Schnauzer, Hilda, started sneaking into my room and chewing up my stash.  Yup, she devoured everything from my Butterfingers to bubblegum.  She did not discriminate. When you have to worry about your dog eating your treats, for a kid, this adds a whole world of stress that just doesn’t need to ever be associated with Halloween.

Anyway.  My thieving dog didn’t totally destroy my love of this spooky day.  The most powerful reason as to why Halloween is so wonderful, in my opinion, is that it lands smack dab in the middle of Autumn, which is my favorite season.  The air is crisp, the trees are changing color, hay rides, pumpkins, and apple cider are in season.  What is there not to love?

Also, as with any holiday, there are special books!  For kids, it appears as though all favorite characters get their own Halloween special.  Here are some of my favorites:


Clifford’s First Halloween by Norman Bridwell
Find on Amazon. 

There’s really not much to say about this one.  Baby Clifford is ADORABLE.  And watching his Halloween antics unfold before your eyes is ADORABLE.


Berentain Bears – Trick or Treat by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Find on Amazon. 

In addition to the fact that my family read to me regularly when I was a child, I would have to say that I thank the Berenstain Bears for my love of reading.  I adore this series – the characters, the stories, and the illustrations.  Everything about these books is perfect and I look forward to sharing these stories with my kids someday.


Little Critter:  Happy Halloween, Little Critter! by Mercer Mayer
Find on Amazon. 

Little Critter was another favorite series of mine from childhood.  And this Halloween special includes lift-the-flap surprises!  How spooky!
And for the pre-teens and teens, we have R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear St.  Perfectly scary reads for the Halloween season — or all year round, if you’re into creeping yourself out and/or a freak and totally into the macabre like me.

Find R. L. Stine on Amazon.
So, Halloween isn’t only an excellent excuse to eat all of the candy that you want (no matter how guilty you might feel afterward), but also a good excuse to enjoy some fun, spooky, and, sometimes scary, books!  What scary books do you like to read around this time of year?

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Children's Books, Holidays

The Babysitters Club, another childhood favorite

The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin Photo Source: http://chillpillbox.com/?p=3427

We all had our favorite books as kids and thanks to my volunteering with Everybody Wins! I have been thinking about some of the books that I read as a tween.  One of the ice breaker questions during my first week volunteering was, quite obviously, What is/was your favorite book? I have a laundry list of titles to choose from for this, but the first book that popped in to my mind is a book that I recall as being able to most vividly visualize the scenes and characters while reading.


I am, of course, talking about The Babysitters Club.  Specifically, Super Special #5: California Girls!  By the time that I read this book, I was familiar with the characters, had chosen my favorite, and had possibly devoured both the television series and movie.  I fancied myself a little bit of a tomboy, so I gravitated to Kristy.  I also took to Claudia, though, as I was drawn to her funky, individualistic, artistic style.

What I loved about this book, though, was that, while reading it, I could feel the plane take off.  I shared their excitement, enjoyed the sun, smelt the sunscreen as they lolled on the beach.  I loved it because their experience was unlike anything that I knew from reality.

A blurb about the story:

Who would believe it-the Baby-sitters have won the lottery! And with their winning money, the girls are all going with Dawn to… California! — What adventures they have. Jessi lands a (tiny) part in a TV show, Kristy gets into a kind-of fight with Dawn’s We Love Kids Club, and Stacey turns into a surfer girl! And in between all that excitement, they still have time for baby-sitting, sight-seeing, and the beach.

How could a girl NOT be totally jazzed to dive into that book?

I don’t know when The Babysitters Club stopped being a popular series, but the child that I’m reading to had no idea what I was talking about.  Well, it was nice to reminisce anyway.

Relive the magic – buy The Babysitters Club on Amazon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Books, Favorites, Series

Volunteering: Everybody Wins! Metro Boston

A few years ago, a co-worker of mine brought my attention to the local Everybody Wins! program.  A few people in the office volunteered on a weekly basis to visit a local school and spend a lunch hour reading to a child.  The idea of this was very appealing to me because I had done similar volunteering in the past.  Additionally, I value the importance of being read to.  I was lucky as a child and had a family ready to read to me at any time, but not everyone is so lucky.

Now I’m starting my third year in the program and cannot say enough good things about it.  This organization has really figured out a way to make it easy for local professionals to get out into the community and to make a difference.  The kids look forward to it, the volunteers look forward to it, and every week happens smoothly, which is impressive in and of itself.

Some statistics that I found on their Boston Metro site (http://www.ewmb.org/subpage.htm?provenresults.htm) further drive home the importance of this program:

  • The National Institute of Education’s Commission on Reading identified in its report Becoming a Nation of Readers that “The single most important activity for building knowledge required for the eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” The study found conclusive evidence to support its use not only in the home but also in the classroom and declared it to be “a practice that should continue throughout the grades”. (1)
  • A 2002 report revealed that children who are read to at least three times a week are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading than children who are  read to less than 3 times a week. (2)
  • Children from low-income families are at a disadvantage. In 2002, it was determined that 62% of parents with a high socioeconomic status read to their children every day, compared to 36% of parents with a low socioeconomic status. (3)
  • Children who are enthusiastic about books and reading are likely to be better readers. A recent study showed that students who talked about reading with family and friends, however frequently, had higher average scores than students who never or hardly ever talk about reading. Students who talked about reading once or twice a week performed the highest. (4)

On top of how beneficial this is for the children, volunteers benefit quite a bit, as well.  It’s something that I look forward to every week, you get to explore exciting children’s’ literature, and, sometimes, you even learn quite a bit yourself!

Everybody Wins! is present in multiple communities across the country.  You can visit the main website for the Everybody Wins! USA program here: http://everybodywins.org/


(1) Trelease, J. The New Read-Aloud Handbook, Penguin Group, New York, NY, 1989

(2) Denton, Kristen and Gerry West, Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade, U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002

(3) Coley, Richard J., An Uneven Start: Indicators of Inequality in School Readiness, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ, 2002

(4) Donahue, P. L., A. D. Finnegan, and N. L. Lutkus, The Nation’s Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2001, U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC 2001


1 Comment

Filed under Books, Children's Books, Literacy, Volunteering

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Title:  Little Women
Author:  Louisa May Alcott
Length: 388 pages
Classic Favorite!

As a girl growing up in Massachusetts, of course I have read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I first read this book in 5th grade and revisited the tale many times throughout my life.  What is there not to love?  A family of sisters, growing up, discovering themselves, and discovering life.  As a ten year-old, I was fascinated to read about these girls beginning to like boys, struggling to fit in with girls of more affluent backgrounds, and how they enjoyed life, being each others’ best friends.

I don’t have a sister, but I’ve always had at least one close girl friend that I’ve always considered a sister of sorts.  And while the “sister” has changed depending on my age, school, or location, there has always been a part of me that thinks back to the March sisters putting on plays in their attic or singing songs together around the piano.  And while my friends and I haven’t done anything quite like that since I was about ten years-old, it’s the spirit, the love, and the comfort with each other that I treasure and can still liken to the sisters in the novel.

In addition to this being a great novel, it was also one of my favorite films growing up.  I wanted to be Jo (Winona Ryder) and had a huge crush on Laurie (Christian Bale).  I watched this movie over and over again, constantly yearning to go back in time and to live in this time period (only a few years after falling in love with Little Women, both the novel and film, I fell in love with Sense and Sensibility).  For me, this film is a childhood classic and one that I periodically revisit.  And each time that I do, I automatically experience the same excitement that I felt when I first saw it.

Soooo dreamy!

Additionally, growing up in Massachusetts, I am extremely lucky to live so close to Concord and Harvard, Massachusetts – two towns that are important for any Louisa May Alcott fan to visit.  In Concord, you can visit Orchard House – the house that the Alcott sisters grew up in.  I have been here about two to three times with plans to go back within the next month or so (weather permitting).  When you visit Orchard House, you get a tour – a very informative tour.  The guide walks you through the entire house, sharing tidbits about the personal lives of the family that lived there as well as pointing out parallels to scenes from the novels.

Orchard House - Concord, MA

In Harvard, you can visit the Fruitlands Museum, which is a beautiful stretch of land housing multiple points of interest – an Art Museum, a museum on Native American culture, a museum on Shaker culture, and another Alcott homestead , which is where the family lived during a brief period of time when Bronson Alcott brought the family to live in an experimental Utopian society.  It is actually at this house where the girls played in the attic and actually visiting here in person was like taking a walk into my childhood imagination.  It was wonderful.  While at the Fruitlands Museum, you will not only learn a lot, but you will be able to enjoy some really stunning views that are a good reminder of why Massachusetts is such a wonderful state.

Fruitlands Farm House - Learn more

If I read Little Women as a child, why write about it now?  Well, a friend of mine (who didn’t grow up in Massachusetts) just read this book for the first time and enjoyed it very much.  It’s always exciting for me when someone reads, and falls in love with, a book that I’ve also read and loved, no matter how far in my past it was that I first read it.  Or, perhaps, I’m just a big ol’ goober.  Entirely possible.

And, as an aside, I am a huge fan of homesteads!  I will visit any homestead out there, but it is definitely much more exciting when there is a literary tie-in, of course.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Children's Books, Classics, Favorites, Louisa May Alcott

A Classic Favorite: Puss in Boots

Last weekend while my husband and I were at the movies, we were fortunate enough to catch a preview for the new Puss in Boots movie that is coming out this fall.  I’ll admit it – I squealed. I clapped.  I was thoroughly delighted, just like when the character was first introduced into the Shrek films.  This may or may not have been embarrassing for my husband, but what you need to know, and what he already is well aware of, to understand my reaction is quite simple:

  1. I love cats.
  2. As a young girl, loving both cats and books equally, Puss in Boots was one of my favorite fairy tales.
  3. I love cats.  And books.

Given all of the above, how can I not be unabashedly enthusiastic about this upcoming release?  My one hope is that people seek out the tale and gain an appreciation for the tale that existed long before Antonio Banderas gave his voice over to an adorable animated, orange cat.  What is best about this cat, and perhaps I’m taking this all a little too far, is that the cat (Puss) possesses and displays great loyalty to his human companion.  Little Puss, the booted cat, uses his feline cunning to acquire all of the things that a young lad in 17th century France could ever want – wealth, respect, and love.

I’m positive that I don’t have to share too many details about the film (but please enjoy the trailer below!), but here are the details on the book, which is definitely worth checking out, no matter what your age and even if you’re not nearly as fond of cats as I am.

Title:  Puss in Boots
Author:  Charles Perrault
Amazon.com link to my favorite version:  http://www.amazon.com/Puss-Boots-Caldecott-Honor-Book/dp/0374361606 

Official Dreamworks Trailer (prepare for adorable OVERLOAD):

Photo Source:  Édition Curmer (1843) – Le Chat botté, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Édition_Curmer_(1843)_-_Le_Chat_botté_-_1.png 

2 Comments

Filed under Books, Cats, Children's Books, Favorites, Movies/Books