Month: November 2014

Christmas is Coming – What Should You Expect?


A Confession
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I did something I’m against.  We purchased and decorated our Christmas tree.  Looking at ML’s days in December with me, it was the best time to trim our tree without having to rush or stay up late on a school night.

I could have waited until Black Friday; but I’m against purchasing anything on the day after Thanksgiving.  Too many years spent working in the retail world.

ML, her friend and I found the perfect tree to fit inside a 957 square foot house.  With the help of a neighbor, it’s secure and straight.  As I fought with the tree, I remembered the guy next door said if I ever needed help with anything to ask.  It only took 3 minutes to accomplish what I spent the previous hour trying to do.  Next year, I won’t be as stubborn.  Four hands are better than two to achieve a straight, topple-proof tree.  ML and her friend decorated the tree beautifully.

What will I do with the blog at this busy time of year?
With many great picture books published this year, I haven’t shared all the books on the blog I intended. Starting December 1st, I’ll countdown to Christmas by highlighting 24 picture books published in 2014.  The descriptions will be quotes from the publisher’s website.  Then, two to three sentences on why you should read the book.

Also, a few parents and grandparents requested customized reading lists particularly for boys who don’t like to read.  I’m in the process of creating these.  It will only include descriptions of the books from publishers websites.  No added commentary from me.  So you’ll see posts twice a day a few times this December.

The book pictured above.
I couldn’t write a post without sharing a book.  My favorite Christmas book was given to me by my aunt and uncle when I was five years old… Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry   It was the Weekly Reader version and I still have it.  The illustrations are black and white.  Released again in 2000 with color added to the illustrations. I couldn’t resist another copy.  ML prefers the newer copy, but I’m attached to my childhood version.

Looking for Christmas picture books to read?
Read my post from last year… Christmas Books – One to Twenty-four.


Pirate, Viking & Scientist and The Science Fair

Pirate Viking

This morning, ML’s teacher left a message on my voicemail, “The form to describe science fair projects was due today.  ML really wants to do it.”  I called the school.  Thankfully, her school is flexible.  Ms Reid said ML can return it Monday.  ML and her Dad work on her science fair project each year.  They’ll have a chance to choose and write about her project this weekend.

In the meantime, the perfect picture book arrived this week for us to read to learn more about the scientific method.  Pirate, Viking & Scientist by Jared Chapman is entertaining, educational and includes some gut busting illustrations.

Pirate is friends with Scientist.
Scientist is friends with Viking.
Pirate and Viking are NOT Friends.

Scientist forms a HYPOTHESIS,
Conducts an EXPERIMENT
Observes his RESULTS
and TESTS his subjects over and over…
until he DISCOVERS
the perfect FORMULA for friendship!

Calvin, Look Out! A Bookworm Birdie Gets Glass vs Online Dating Sites


If you’ve read my blog consistently, you know I’m a single mom.  It’s been 10 years since I’ve been on a date.  Based on feedback from others, the best way to meet someone is through an online dating site.  I’ll get to that soon, but first I want to tell you about one of my favorite books of the year.  Believe it or not this all works into what I think is a cohesive essay.

When I saw the title Calvin, Look Out!  A Bookworm Birdie Gets Glasses by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Keith Bendis, I immediately knew ML would love it.  Her friend she met when she was two is named Calvin.  For a bit in preschool they agreed they would marry each other.  Based on what I’ve seen online, I’m going to hold her to marrying Calvin.

In the book, Calvin the bookwormish bird visits the library.  All the books are blurry.  He mistakes a chicken for a yellow dinosaur.  The librarian recommends a visit to the eye doctor, Dr. Seewell.  Calvin’s excited about his spectacles “as he preferred to call them.”  Back at the tree, the others birds laughed at him, but Calvin didn’t let it bother him too much.  Instead, he took a nature walk and enjoyed viewing all the things he couldn’t see before.  Suddenly, he trips in the forest into a perilous situation.  His glasses save the day.

Now for the online dating bit.  It appears bookworms who like to garden, wear glasses, and are single moms in their forties aren’t in high demand.  The men in their forties state on their profile they are looking for women 35-whatever age they are.  But I’m pretty certain they aren’t paying any attention to the women in their forties.  Instead, they are trying to make themselves look less discriminatory.  The ones in their fifties aren’t interested in single moms in their forties.  They’ve raised their kids and are ready to travel the world.  Why can’t Calvin the bird be a man in his forties?  We have so much in common.  We both love books, nature and wear glasses.  It’s sad when you’re more interested in a bird in a children’s book than the thousands of profiles out there.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • Lots of men post pictures of themselves with dead fish.
  • Many men put their favorite sports team as part of their user id.
  • No one can possibly do all the things they say they do in a years time unless they are independently wealthy and don’t have a job.
  • The percentage of single men in their forties and fifties claiming to do triathlons is much greater online than in the real world.
  • Most single dads post pictures of them with their children. (Pretty sure their ex wives wouldn’t like this.)
  • There’s lots of pictures of their pets and toys (motorcycles, boats, cars)

With user names like Scarface, Justtooling, TheMidniteThud, native_fishr, (yes he has pictures with a fish) showing interest in you, it’s a hard choice.  And many I can’t bring myself to even type.

Should I spend my limited time writing about children’s books or trying the dating thing?  I’m thinking books.  But I’ll keep my online account for comic relief.


A Good Yarn


We all know people with the gift of storytelling.  But finding someone who can write a good yarn and illustrate the story is harder to discover.  We opened two books last week which fit this bill.

In Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead, Sebastian gathers all the things he may need.  Then, boards a hot air balloon he built using his Grandma’s quilts and afghans.  Along his journey, he meets new friends.  Through a series of funny events, these friends work together to create an even more impressive ride.  Philip Stead’s illustrations always enchant.  This time he uses pastels, oil paint and pressed charcoal to create an exciting and loopy ride.

You are lucky, because I am not going to tell you anything about Lucky by David Mackintosh.  It’s best read without preconceived notions.  Plus, it’s too hard to describe the illustrations.  ML and I poured over each page several times discovering something new every time.

If you’re tired of the same old plots and illustrations,  these books should not be missed.  Fresh stories.  Excellent illustrations.

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau

Madame Chapeau

Last night we enjoyed the book Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau words by Andrea Beaty and pictures by David Roberts.  We loved the rollicking rhyme of the story; and the stunning illustrations.

Pay special attention on the page where a Scotsman, a jockey, a mime, a spy and more are offering hats to Madame Chapeau.  Ml pointed out something amusing about each character’s hair.  Without her amazing eye, I would have missed the artist’s exquisite attention to detail.


A Belated Veteran’s Day Post – The Poppy Lady

The Poppy Lady

I wrote this post several months ago, with the intention of posting it on Veteran’s Day.  But my computer died; and the only place I know where you can access free computers was closed.

With a history buff of a brother, I visited many historic sites in Georgia.  I think we visited every battlefield in the state.  Also, whenever we traveled our family stopped and read most historical markers on the side of highways when traveling the state. I am embarrassed to say I never heard of a fellow Georgian named  Moina Belle Michael  until my friend asked if I could get a copy of a book called The Poppy Lady:  Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans written by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh and illustrated by Layne Johnson.  Her son is a history buff too.   (For all my Georgia friends who travel Hwy. 78 the section of road between Athens and Monroe is named after her.)

Last year, while walking in a Christmas parade, ML and I received poppies on American Flags .  I tried to explain the significance of the poppy; but it didn’t seem to sink in.  Six months later we read this beautifully illustrated book.

My library doesn’t own the book.  I requested it via Interlibrary Loan; but forgot to write a synopsis before returning it.  Here’s Amazon’s… “When American soldiers entered World War I, Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, knew she had to act. Some of the soldiers were her students and friends. Almost single-handedly, Moina worked to establish the red poppy as the symbol to honor and remember soldiers. And she devoted the rest of her life to making sure the symbol would last forever. Thanks to her hard work, that symbol remains strong today. Author Barbara Elizabeth Walsh and artist Layne Johnson worked with experts, primary documents, and Moina’s great-nieces to better understand Moina’s determination to honor the war veterans.”

I’m a firm believer beautifully illustrated and meticulously researched picture books are one of the most effective ways to teach history.  I know I am a little biased; but here’s my proof.  At the end of the book, ML said “Wait a minute.”  She ran into her room.  Immediately I knew what she was searching for… the flag with the poppy.

On Veteran’s Day, ML and I remembered the veterans we know.  One is our neighbor across the street, a World War II vet.  Recently, he told us an amazing story about capturing fourteen Germans by himself.  It wasn’t through violence.  Instead, his quick thinking helped him pull of this amazing feat.  Another is our favorite employee at Whole Foods who is retired from the navy.  It didn’t seem fair I wished him Happy Veteran’s Day while I was buying french toast and a tea.  I had the day off.  He didn’t.

Grandmother’s with Alzheimers: A Middle Grade Novel and A Picture Book

Forget Me Not


Yesterday, I wrote about a woman reading picture books to her mother suffering Alzheimer’s Disease.  Today, I’m highlighting two books about grandmother’s suffering this horrible disease. It’s a sensitive subject for me.  My grandmother went from a vibrant lady tending her garden and orchard, making homemade preserves and cooking the best country fried steak in the world to not recognizing her children or grandchildren.

Months ago Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin arrived at the library.  I read it to ML.  Then, told her about my grandmother.  How she would make sweet tea, then forget she had added sugar.  So she added more which made it too sweet to drink.

I told her about the time Grandmommy was visiting for Christmas.  On Christmas Eve, my family attended the candlelight service at our church.  Grandmommy and I didn’t; because I was sick with the flu.  She wanted to stay home and care for me.  Every few minutes she’d pop in my room asking, “Do you need anything?” She didn’t remember she had just checked on me. It’s heartwarming to think of her concern today; but as a feverish, aching teenager I didn’t appreciate it.  When my family returned, I told them in no circumstances should Grandmommy be allowed to check on me again.  I share stories like this with ML because it’s important to talk about hard things before she experiences them.  The likelihood someone she loves will experience dementia is high.

I’ve read other picture books about grandparents with Alzheimers Disease.  Forget Me Not is the best.  In a comforting narrative it shares the realities of the disease, the fears of a child as her grandmother starts forgetting things, and how that child copes.  The pencil and ink washed illustrations evoke a feeling of love and security.


Half a Chance

I didn’t devour Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord; instead I kept coming back to it over the course of a month.  Every few weeks, I go through the library books at home and decide which ones I know I’ll never get to or finish.  Every time I saw this book in the pile, I couldn’t bring myself to return it.  It’s a beautiful story about tween friendships, family dynamics, a grandmother in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and new beginnings.  It includes one of the most important quotes I’ve read in a children’s novel.

“Oh, people will think what they think!” Grandma Lilah said.  “Don’t ever choose the people who don’t matter over the ones who do.”