I had the honor of being a finals judge for the Cybils Awards again this year for both board books and picture books. The five of us exchanged a flurry of emails after we’d read these 7 finalist board books and chose a winner…
🎉Big Bear, Little Bear by Marine Schneider was universally loved and a perfect book to read and reread with your wee babes. Simple and sweet with touches of humor, it has a nostalgic feel that’s sure to please. 🎉
The other finalists were also fantastic and I can easily recommend all of them for the 0-3 crowd. ❤️ Comparrotives by Janik Coat (I was so charmed by this parrot!) ❤️ Circle Under Berry by Carter Higgins was Gage’s favorite. ❤️ Animals Go Vroom by Abi Cushman had a fun animal story with peekaboo pages. ❤️This is Still Not a Book by Jean Jullian was full of whimsy with funny pictures and pull up pages. ❤️Turn Seek Find Habitats by Ben Newman is a new take on hidden picture fun with the turn of a wheel changing what you seek every time through. ❤️ Caution! Road Signs Ahead by Toni Buzzeo and Chi Birmingham is an easy choice for your car loving toddlers with big road signs and what they mean.
For the Picture Books category we had 7 fabulous choices and between the 5 of us finalist judges we chose…
🎉 Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin 🎉 This has won many awards this past year for good reason. A quiet story with heart and an important message. Eat weeds for dinner that your family picked on the side of the road? That’s a tough sell for any kid. This was my and our favorite.
Other finalists ❤️ Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler and Loren Long ❤️ I loved this one almost as much but for different reasons. Want to teach your kid to celebrate everyone who contributes to building bridges or rides or parks? This is your book! ❤️ Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder❤️. Every child needs to spend some time with this book. Seriously. This book celebrates every body type you can imagine. I can’t recommend this one enough for body diversity awareness. And it’s really fun too! ❤️ The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer and Mariachiara Di Giorgio❤️ This story of animals taking over the fair at night has no words and doesn’t need them. Loved it. ❤️ Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long. Beautifully celebrates the difference one child can make in the world. ❤️Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale and Leiden Pham. Cat or unicorn lovers will want this one. ❤️ Arlo Draws An Octopus by Lori Mortensen and Rob Sayegh Jr, is perfect for any budding artists out there.
It’s been another great week for picture books! I’ll list them in the order I liked them best and give you a few thoughts. In the morning as we start our day I read a picture book (I sometimes make him read, but the morning goes a lot better for everyone if I don’t make him ‘work’ first thing, lol). Sometimes we just talk about the story or the time in history and sometimes we explore more with writing or videos. He always has to sum it up or include important points in his journal. All in all, most days it takes 10-25 minutes.
I love this writing/illustrating duo. Their books are timeless even if they seem like a quaint story of a time gone by. Clover is told that she has to stay on her side of the fence because white people lived on the other side and blacks stayed on their side. But one summer she always saw a girl sitting ON the fence and in time made her way to the top of the fence too. I adored this book and the hope it gives for the children of today paving the way to a better future.
It didn’t take us long to realize that this book overlapped with The 5 O’Clock Band that we read last year. This was more about a moment with Bo Diddley that Andrews had when he was just a young boy with a beat up trombone he found on the street. Gage loved this true moment in time and we had fun with the photos in the back. Loved it. As always, Collier sparkles as an illustrator.
This eye-catching book is a great starting point for a discussion about race. It starts with the story everyone has and how it’s impossible to know the whole of anyone if we just look at the outside. He uses the example of shedding our skin as we move through life and how preferable that would be. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Unfortunately, that isn’t the world we live in so a real conversation must happen after the book is done. But it was visually appealing and a conversation starter.
Ellen’s parents and others celebrate when it becomes legal for them to be married in the eyes of the government. Until then, jumping the broom was the way slaves married. I loved the celebration of new beginnings and progress being made. It didn’t have as much detail about the tradition as I would have liked, but it was a good starting point and I loved the illustrations.
This inspiring story of a boy finding the courage to do something unexpected is gorgeously illustrated. Langston was good at basketball, but he ADORED dancing. A sweet story sure to appeal to younger kids.
I liked the idea of this book based on the few details about the man that we know. Stephen was of several slaves who gave tours of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. The cave is the biggest in the world and he made a few discoveries during his 20 years. The story was a little to little for me to really love it, but the history at the back was interesting.
The first black woman to get her pilot’s license in 1921 had to go to France to learn to fly. I loved the additional pages with timelines and photos in the back It was also fun to read about this period because of how it relates to Jason’s great grandfather who learned to fly in this era.
Our road trip to Maine, with overnight stops in New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts was a huge success. I posted in Instagram daily so you can click on over if you want to see more, but these were my top 5 favorite moments…
Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts
Rachel Carson Refuge, Kennybunkport, Maine
So many beaches, so little time
I considered putting my book-a-day challenge on hiatus when we went on our 9 day road trip, but decided to honor the challenge with books I had on our homeschool reading shelf.
I liked How Wolves Came From Dogs by Jack Myers, illustrated by John Rice. There were 12 articles about different animals, all taken and updated from past Highlights Magazine articles. Fun to read and discuss with Gage. We were most interested in how they populated two islands in Maine with Puffins.
The idea is that I post this list on Saturdays, but yesterday I spent all day sorting, moving, selling (online), organizing, and then stacking 30 boxes of books for our Friends group. I. was. beat. It was a good workout day though 🙂
Here’s what I read this week in the order that I enjoyed them. Pictures and thoughts taken from my Instagram.
Lots of picture books, 2 audio books, on e-book, and two actual paper books (my favorite). Three mysteries, and 4 non-fiction kids books (one adult too).
We used this book for poetry reading and cursive practice for the last week. We read a few poems a day, so we were able to stretch the 23 poems out.
I adored the fun poems and the beautiful illustrations. It’s nice when a kid can see the joy and even laughs a poem can bring when the words and pictures were so cleverly put together. This books is for the younger child about the excitement reading can bring. We read the companion, and just as wonderful, Write! Write! Write! last fall.
Jill of Rhapsody in Books sent Gage this gorgeous Brian Wildsmith book. It was so much fun to read together and definitely a keeper because of animal illustrations. Thank you Jill!
I also finished the audio The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas, the third in the Lady Sherlock series. I’ve loved this series from the start and this book brings the wide range of characters together for a very personal investigation as Charlotte dons a Mr. Sherlock disguise to help save Lord Ingram from conviction. So many moving parts from one book to the next that I sometimes have a hard time keeping up, but do enjoy these characters so much.
I really enjoyed this cozy mystery set in WWI England.
Fiona Figg is still struggling to get over her ex-husband’s betrayal when she is given the unexpected opportunity to become a spy, at least for a short time. The only catch is that she must pretend to be a man. Obvious and not so obvious difficulties ensue. There is a murder and some suspect her, er, him.
The end has a bit of a cliffhanger and I’ve already downloaded the next Fiona Figg book!
We read 3 lovely picture books during our South Carolina studies. I’m starting with the one I think all parents should check out for their child, especially if you’re going to talk about Black History Month in February. The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out Of Slavery by Jehan Jones-Radgowski and illustrated by Poppy Kang was a great story. It’s a wordy but thrilling book about Robert’s almost fantastical escape from slavery during the Civil War. How could I never have heard this story before? Amazing man and an edge of your seat escape that will amaze your kids (and you!). He saved himself, his family and his small crew and their families. He went on to become the first black captain of a US military ship and later a US Congressman.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’s Fleet-Of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid, illustrated by Laura Freeman would also fit into Black History Month studies. Althea became the first African American person to win a tennis Grand Slam and then went on to keep winning them during a time when most things were still segregated, even tennis clubs. An easier read than the first and and important story too.
And who doesn’t live an elepephant? Bubbles:An Elephant’s Story by Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle about the Myrtle Beach Safari was so sweet and fun. The pictures of Bubbles and his friends were fun reading, even/especially for the younger set. Gage and I both fell in love with animal ambassador and so will you. The picture are swoon worthy.
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a great little read. At only 144 pages it can be read during one sitting and it still manages to pack a punch.
Written in 5 sections, each one from a different point of view (mother, daughter, son, family, father) it tells of the treatment of Japanese Americans from right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the years of internment after. It’s both a little boring and heartbreaking (imagine being a kid being transported across country by train when you had to pull down the blinds as you went through towns). I found the most powerful section when they returned home after 3 years and 5 months. It would be over 4 years before the father was released from a different camp and by then he had gone a little mad.
An important read about a dark time in our nation’s history.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley was a Reece’s Book Club selection and the 2020 Goodreads Best Mystery & Thriller winner. It’s set in Ireland, a win for me, and since I listened I was able to enjoy the multitude of accents by the narrators, another win. It’s setting on a remote island only accessible by boat had the feel of having been done before, but it still worked.
The story is told in alternating voices. There’s the bride, the groom, the best man, the bridesmaid, the plus one, and the wedding planner. There are lots of reveals and twists with some going back and forth between past and present and it made a compelling thriller. The tension built the way a good thriller should, but for me, it fell a little bit flat in the end. I still liked it well enough to recommend to mystery lovers, especially those who embrace unlikeable characters.
I had set aside this 65 page travel memoir for a day when I didn’t have a lot of time to spare. I’m happy to report that Diana Athill’s A Florence Diary was a delightful little transport back in time. Italy was our first overseas trip and I still remember our 3 days in Florence almost 12 years later. This book was just as much about Athill’s journey with her cousin from England to Italy as it was their time spent there. Learning about the 1947 boat and train experience and the people they met along the way was half the fun.
This was a charming little read if you want to travel to Florence and see it through the eyes of someone who experienced it over 70 years ago. There were some black and white photos mixed in with her thoughts. A nice little read to end the day.
Yes, this the mug I brought home from Italy and I use it all the time ☕️
Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality by James Buckley Jr. and Youneek Studios is a graphic novel that taught me a few things. It’s for kids and it’s ‘narrated’ by a young Lady Liberty and a young Uncle Sam. I found their narration a little off putting, but probably necessary for the younger set. I liked that they used different color balloons to differentiate between story and actual quotes. There were lots of quotes from his speeches and parts of his letters were included.
I learned a few things or maybe I had just forgotten that he was ‘little Mikey’ at birth until his father changed both of their names. I don’t remember learning that he skipped three grades. I was reading this in the family room and sharing interesting facts and when I got to that point Gage emphatically told me that he wasn’t interested in skipping to 7th grade.
He was a man who rose to meet the challenges of the day and we are all better off, even if we as a country tend to take two steps forward and one step back. “The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
May we always strive to work toward equality. May we always strive for non-violence. May we always strive to put more love into the world so that it overpowers the hate.
Gage’s favorite was Seeds by Ken Robbins and I highly recommend it as beautifully done introduction to seeds for kids.
This book is about all kinds if seeds. I liked the interesting facts about seeds because I love nature. I never heard about sticktight seeds and they are sticky. Maple tree seed wings are called samaras. The photos are incredible. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in seeds or great photos.
Geronimo Stilton (author) is the pseudonym for Elisabetta Dami from Italy
The book is fiction since Geronimo is a mouse.
This is book #46 out of 65.
Geronimo goes to a ceremony at the castle but he doesn’t know what it was. Two mice fall in love and more. I really liked the Stingysnouts, Geronimo’s family because they were crazy. I liked the part where Geronimo figures out that the ceremony is fake. I like the end where Geronimo faints. I would recommend this book to kids who like mouse stories.
Mom’s honorable mention…
Explorers: Ancient Egypt by Jinny Johnson. This was a nice precursor to our Ancient Egypt studies. Heavy on the photos and text in small, easy to read bites. This is not comprehensive in any way but a starting place to generate interest.
Bunnicula. Written by Deborah and James Howe and illustrated byAlan Daniel. Finished 8-7-20, 5/5 stars, children’s literature, 144 pages, pub. 1979
Oh, how I loved Harold and Chester. And the Monroes. And everything else. This book is a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. There was humor and intelligence for both you and a child. I appreciated some of the humor more than Gage did, but Chester’s antics had him laughing. A children’s book not to be missed.
Bunnicula was a bunny found at the Dracula movie by the Monroes. Chester (the talking cat) thought he was a vampire because he was turning vegetables white, was out of his cage at night, and slept all day. Chester tried starving him, putting a steak (instead of a stake, lol) on his chest. and doused him with water. Chester was right, but not in the way you think. Harold (the talking dog) tells the story.
Gage successfully completed the book-a-day challenge in September. Woohoo! I found it increasingly difficult to keep up here and on IG near the end, but we made it. I do plan on having Gage pick a few favorite books of the week and review them here on Fridays. I think we can both manage that.
Thank you all for reading and commenting. It has meant a lot to Gage 🙂
To save time and aggravation I’m posting our last Instagram posts with the book pics.
I adored this book. A love letter to African American boys about everything good they are and all of the great things they will become. It did not specifically name a race, but all of the gorgeous illustrations were of black boys. I read this story to Gage twice telling him that it was the way I felt about him and he felt that. A nice thing to pick up when your boy is having a bad day.
What do you think sums up this book?
“I am not what they might call me, and I will not answer to any name that isn’t my own. I am what I say I am.” (a quote from the book)
Emmanuel was born in Ghana, West Africa with only one good leg, but he didn’t let that stop him. Forced to support his mom and siblings at a young age, he did all he could until his mom passed. Then he decided to raise awareness for people with disabilities by biking across Ghana. This is an inspirational story about a man still living and fighting the good fight.
Somehow I have misplaced Gage’s notes on this. If I find them I’ll come back and ad them.
This book could go deeper of course, I believe it is a story about climate change?, but I think it’s a cute picture book for younger kids about the power of working together. We did tie this to our earlier book of Why We March.
My favorite person is number 673 Red-Hooded spectacled female (juvenile). There was a bird who liked to go people watching. Fog comes and the bird can’t see people. The person sees the girl and they sent out boats asking Do you see the fog? They floated it out to sea and they waited for a reply but none arrived. They finally get replies and goes away.
Gage loves Monopoly. I did when I was a kid, too, although I have less patience for it now. He did like learning about the real story, although I don’t think he was all that terrible interested and zoned out. I liked the story more than he did 🙂 A woman makes the most popular game in the world and made men rich.
I asked him what new things he learned.
Lizzie Magie made the first Monopoly game. The longest Monopoly game was 1,680 hours.
The man had the name Rich Uncle Pennybags until 1999.
The boat, thimble, and a wheelbarrow were the first pieces. Then they added a penguin, rubber ducky, and t.rex.
This story of Gino Bartali, two-time Tour de France champion is for the older elementary child. There is a lot of story, each page having a paragraph or more, but it takes it’s time with the fun stuff first to draw the reader in. From his childhood working to save money for a bike to his heroic efforts to save Jewish Italians during WWII, this was an inspiring story. We both loved it and Gage did share parts of the story with his dad, but because it was so long and at the end of a Friday afternoon of school, I only made him write one sentence about it.
Gino Bartoli helped save Jewish lives by delivering fake IDs on his bike.
“It takes Courage to Grow up & become Who you Really are.”
EE stands for Edward Estlin. He writes poetry. His first poem at age 3 was, “Oh my little birdie, Oh with his little toe, toe, toe.” He liked to make new words and squished others together. When he was 11 a teacher noticed how good he was. He started Harvard when he was 16 years old. After he moved to New York City we entered World War I and he became an ambulance driver (in the war). His first book was The Enormous Room. He didn’t follow writing rules.
Most reviews we might work on together, some are based on a series of questions he writes the answers to and some, like this, are what he comes up with himself. Can you tell he hates to write? We paired this book with this video of the author.
His dad knock knocked on his door and came onto the bed and sat down and the boy jumped in is arms. One day his dad didn’t knock and he was sad. A letter was on his desk and it said, dear son I will not knock knock on your door so you have to knock for yourself.
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, art by Hatem Aly, 36 pages, published 2019.
This is a Wonderbook that first reads the story aloud and then asks questions at the end. Gage’s review is the answers to those questions. I think this is a good book for the younger set. It’s an introduction to the hajib.
What did you like best about the book? the illustrations
Who was your favorite character and why? Asiya because she is strong when people make fun of her.
What was your favorite picture and why? I liked the cover page because of the detail.
This Caldecott Medal Winner was a hit with both of us. Gage still loves stories told from the animals point of view and this one was fun. Until the death, that hit me hard! For the record, mosquitoes love Gage and each bite swells up terribly. We went to the botanical garden this week and he came home with about a dozen bites all over. It was after we read this book and he’s made jokes about the mosquitoes since.
The iguana puts sticks in his ears because a mosquito was talking about nonsense, so he doesn’t answer the python. The python gets scared and hides in the rabbit hole. Mother Owl was sad because her owlet died and she wouldn’t wake the sun. King Lion called a meeting of the animals.
We spent about a week reading this one. The book itself with the abundance of gorgeous illustrations is one worth buying for the bookshelves. We both loved it. And it’s a great introduction to Thor, Loki and Odin for newbies.
Odd is a boy who ran away from his family. He went to his dad’s cabin. A fox led him to a bear that was trapped. The bear, an eagle and the fox went back to his cabin. He discovered they were gods when they started talking. They needed to go to Asgard because Thor’s hammer was stolen. Odd beat the Frost Giant so they were allowed in Asgard.
So, we’re not exactly horror experts here, but I liked the shortness of the stories so we read this over a few weeks, culminating with Gage writing his own scary story on the last day. The stories themselves were hit or miss for both of us and some of them were brutal. I had him choose his two favorites and he chose one in which the heads were chopped of two dead men and exchanged for the funeral, and the other was about a butcher who ground up people as the special ingredient in his sausage. Yeah. A good read for October if your older kid can handle it.
So, so behind here. The good news is that I finally got Gage a reading and writing teacher for 4 hours a week (with the option to do more if it works out), so that means that I not only get 4 hours of my own time, but also the planning time for at least those 4 hours 🙂 The tutor is covered by an Ohio scholarship.
Let’s catch you up with some of our fun books this week.
The Amazon rain forest is a hot place. The canopy is the sunny place that touches the sky. The understory is the dark place. A man went into the rain forest and hit the giant kapok tree with his axe. He fell asleep and a snake came to him. Then the bee whispered in his ear. “all living things depend on one another.” Then a troupe of monkeys and three birds. According to the frog a ruined rain forest means ruined lives. The jaguar didn’t want him to cut down the trees because then he wouldn’t get his dinner. Humans need trees for air. Several ant-eaters, sloths, and finally a child from the Yanomama tribe came to the man and he woke up.
Does the man cut down the tree?
Vermeer by Nicole K. Orr, 32 pages, published 2017
A snapshot into Vermeer’s life via a fictional boy. There was enough of a story for interest, but also had lots of details too, including information about the paintings that were included in the book. This was a nice introductions for kids and Gage liked it. It led us easily to another book I purchased for this school year…
I love this coloring book and Gage has had fun with it too (you can see one of his ‘masterpieces’ in the next photo. There’s a story for each painting that talk about the painting and the artist and then the other page is for the kids to recreate the picture. Highly recommend when you want to introduce some of the big names in art. I think they could have done a bit better with the selection of artists (many artists had more than one painting) but I still love it. You don’t even have to be a kid to love it 🙂
You can see that we used the Start Exploring Masterpieces book from yesterday. The Scream was the only one that was included in Anna at the Art Museum. The book was a little young for Gage, but I did like the artwork on each page and how there was info on all of the included art in the back.
At first Anna didn’t like the art museum. She got into trouble. She saw herself in the paintings and then she liked the art museum.
(This is very simplistic, but true. Worth a look before a museum visit)
We both loved this book. It told the story of the sphinx from why it got built, all of the people needed to get it built, and then how many and what people were involved to get it into the museum to be viewed by us.
This is about all that the Sphinx went through just to get to the museum. My favorite part was that every page added another person who got it to the museum. It was repetitive and fun to read.
After our visit with the Sphinx we looked through this book that gave step-by-step instructions on how to draw things from ancient Egypt. Gage drew both an anubis and pyramid and had a lot of fun doing it.
Kudos to both of these author/illustrators because they both commented on our Instagram post and thrilled the boy.
We started reading this book at the beginning of the month and it’s everything I hoped it would be. Information about mindfulness, a picture book portion for kids to better explain, the ten movements themselves, and then a bio on Thich Nhat Hanh. We will be doing the movements at the beginning of our school day for the rest of the month. The DVD was fantastic, even having Thich Nhat Hanh himself showing the movements.
His friends call Thich Nhat Hanh “Thay”. He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. Thay talked with the US government to stop the Vietnam War. Vietnam wouldn’t let him come home. One way people can develop peace in themselves is by just sitting quietly and breathing. This is called meditation. I’d recommend this to people who like yoga.
I loved this book so much and so did Gage. We enjoyed finding some YouTube videos of Barnes and his gallery work. I’m a fan of his and want to buy one of his prints. Gage’s thoughts, while incomplete, give you the idea 🙂
There was a boy who liked to make art. His mom forced him onto a football team. Twenty-six college teams wanted him. He loved art so he paid his coach money. He became a football painter and got the salary of a football player.
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler, 32 pages, published 1991.
Although dated, especially since it takes place in a 1990s airport, this is still worth a read with your kid. The realities of being homeless will encourage conversation, understanding, and empathy. We spend the better part of an hour on this and surrounding research.
It wouldn’t feel good to be homeless. It’s sad. I don’t know what I can do to help the homeless. Maybe we (the country) could give people money or make houses cheaper. I think Andrew and his father will get their own place someday because they both save money.