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.”


Why Picture Books are Important

PictureBook Ambassador

Today, a friend alerted me to a post called Why Picture Books are Important by Sophie Blackall at  Who knew November was Picture Book Month?

Each day, the site shares a post “from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important.” I haven’t had a chance to read all the posts; but two have jumped out already.  Sophie Blackall’s post brought me to tears.  ML and I are fortunate to have access to so many picture books.  Not everyone does.  Ame Dyckman’s post eloquently explains why I think you should keep reading picture books to your child even after they can read.

Picture books transcend time and place.  If I were a famous picture book author/illustrator asked to write about why picture books are important, the following story would be included.

One day, while working at the library, a woman in her sixties approached me.  She asked for picture books to read to her eighty-five-year old mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her mother was no longer able to communicate verbally.  The daughter explained, “I read her one of the books she read to me as a child recently.  Mom hung on every word and poured over the pictures.”  I hope ML and I are never in this situation.  If we are, I hope she continues our tradition of reading picture books.  Eight years so far; and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Why are picture books important?  Five words… picture books help people connect.


The Great Thanksgiving Escape – ML’s Favorite Picture Book of 2014

Great Thanksgiving Escape

I know there are seven more weeks of 2014; but I am certain ML has already picked her favorite picture book of 2014.  I don’t think any book released in the next few weeks can knock The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing off the pedestal.

Last night, ML wrote about it for her Book Review homework.  (All grammar, punctuation and spelling is typed as it was written.)

Title:  The Thanksgiving askape

Author: Mark fearing

Summary:  This story was about two cusons that are trying to get out of the house.  But there a few difficulties on the way to the swingset.  But when they got there it started to rain and they said “who cares.

Recommendation:  My favorit book Me and my mom have read together that she got from the library.

A few thoughts from me (ML’s mom)  Most Thanksgiving books are either boring, preachy or about a turkey trying to avoid being eaten.  This is the first authentic book about modern day Thanksgiving celebrations of which I am aware.  And I’m pretty in the know.  I anticipate this book will become a Thanksgiving classic.

Happy Birthday to Me – Great Books About Cakes and Cupcakes

Little ElliotCake GirlCupcakeBirthday for Cow

Today’s my birthday; but my party was last night.   I requested a low key pizza party with a rollicking game of Apples to Apples Junior. A friend assisted ML and her friend in pulling it off.  Plus some unexpected roses and a huge cupcake.

Today my preschool story time friends serenaded me with a jolly rendition of “Happy Birthday” after I read them books about cake and cupcakes.

Little Elliot Big City by Mike Curato – I love this book!  As in, if you want to buy it for my birthday, I won’t regift it.  Released in August, it’s the sweetest book I’ve read all year.

Cake Girl by David Lucas –  With a birthday so close to Halloween, this book really appeals to me.  A witch “bakes” a cake girl and plans to eat her.  With love and kindness, Cake Girl saves herself while helping the witch learn how to be a friend.

Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper – It’s hard being a plain old vanilla cupcake with plain old icing.  Until, you meet a plain old green candle who also has flashy siblings… number candle, stripy candle, super-long candle.  Suddenly, plain old green candle realizes a topping is all cupcake needs to go from ordinary to spectacular.  Will he be able to find the perfect topping?  Spaghetti, stinky cheese, a squirrel.  It’s not looking promising.  Or is it?

A Birthday for Cow! by Jan Thomas – Pig and Mouse are making a birthday cake for Cow.  Duck is determined cow needs a turnip.  Guess what cow thinks?

El Deafo by CeCe Bell

El Deafo

I stole most of the text for today’s post from a friend’s Facebook page.  Thank you Janice for writing so eloquently how I feel about El Deafo by Cece Bell and color by David Lasky.

“I still read to my kids and, since they love graphic novels, I am reading them this book. They l-o-v-e it. I mean obsessed, chasing me around the house begging me to read more. I have actually hidden it so they can’t read it without me.”

PS – Curious about what “color by David Lasky” means?  Cece Bell explains it in her post El Deafo Honors David Lasky, Colorist Extraordinaire.

PSS – I made an important decision two seconds ago.  This will be the next title read by ML’s Book Club.


Candy Experiments

Candy Experiments

Don’t know what to do with the Halloween candy other than your children being on a sugar high for weeks; or eating the candy yourself?  I have the solution.

Last July, I checked out Candy Experiments by Loralee Leavitt and started a post about it.  Then, realized I needed to wait until after Halloween when the supplies for the experiments are plentiful at everyone’s home.

I’ve scanned the book and evaluated ML’s loot from Halloween.  Of the seventy or so experiments, we have supplies to complete at least sixty of them without a visit to the store.

Lifesavers, candy canes and conversation hearts are the only ingredients we don’t currently possess.  However, Christmas is around the corner and Santa always puts Lifesavers and candy canes in our stockings.  Also, oranges to add a healthy choice.  As for the conversation hearts, I am certain the day after Christmas Valentine’s Day candy will magically appear at the store.

ML’s at her dad’s house tonight.  I’m going to stockpile some candy for when she and her friends ask to do science experiments.  Last time, I let them use ginger ale and baking soda.  Never again!

Below are some experiments in the book, which appear to result in limited mess.

Skin the Candy p.13 – Candy Corn, Jelly Beans, Dots, Nerds or Tootsie Rolls

Clamshell Skittles p. 99 – Skittles

Race To Dissolve (Big vs Small) p. 112 – Two identical pieces of colored candy, such as Jolly Ranchers, Tic-Tacs, Pez or conversation hearts.

Race To Dissolve (Hot vs Cold) p. 114 – Two identical pieces of candy, such as Skittles, Jolly Ranchers, Starbursts, Tootsie Rolls, lollipops, small chocolate, or chocolate bars.



1st Grade Boy – Loves Superheroes… Doesn’t Like to Read (Part 1)

A friend requested book ideas for her first grade grandson who loves superheros; but doesn’t like to read.  I get it.  Many kids don’t like to read.  Or they do like to read; but we adults don’t like what they want to read.

I’m creating two posts for this request.  In this first post, I’m highlighting picture books.  First graders still love being read to.  After an exhausting day at school, reading a book out loud to a parent can be frustrating.  Teachers ask students to read at least twenty minutes at home each night.  And parents, myself included, feel guilty if we’re not having our child be the reader.

After many nights trying to get ML to read out loud to me and the tears which accompanied it,  I found a solution.  I read a page.  Then, she read a page.  Sometimes halfway through, she melted down and didn’t want to read out loud anymore.  I didn’t force it and read the rest of the book aloud to her.  I attribute ML’s high reading comprehension skills to this approach.

Below are superhero titles and a list of books I’ve blogged about before which I think Anne’s grandson may like.  And if you make it to the end of the post, you’ll read a confession about me during the preschool years.

Superhero Underpants

Charlies’ Superhero Underpants by Paul Bright and illustrated by Lee Wildish – With the words superhero and underwear in the title, it’s sure to be a hit.


Kapow! by George O’Connor – This book provides a fun way to practice sounding out words.  With words like KAPOW!  FWOOSH! ROAR!  BWAHAHAHA! KER-RASH!  THOOM THOOM THOOM!

Superhero ABC

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod –  Superheroes are created for every letter of the alphabet.  I feel certain the entry for U “Upside-Down Man” will appeal to this reluctant reader.

Superhero Joe

Superhero Joe and The Creature Next Door by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and drawn by Ron Barrett – A funny story about neighbors moving away and a “creature” moving next door. Extra points to the person who can name the book the picture showing the movers from Break-It Brothers Moving picture alludes to.

Traction Man

Traction Man – A series of books by Mini Grey.  These books Traction Man is Here, Traction Man Meets Turbodog and Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey are action packed.


Three Little Aliens and The Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by Mark Fearing


Doodleday by Ross Collins


If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen


Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri


Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSieg


The Case of the Missing Donut by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Isabel Roxas


Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElliogott


Open Very Carefully by

Robot Zombie Frankenstein
Robot Zombie Frankenstein by Annette Simon


Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown


Eleven Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter



The Gruffaloe by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler


The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems


A confession for those of you who read to the end of this post.  I would have made recommendations no matter what.  But I went above and beyond because I had a crush on her son when I was a preschooler.  I kept he and the other John’s valentine taped to my dresser mirror for until the next Valentine’s Day.  Can you guess which ones are named John in the picture below? What about which girl is me?  I’ll give you a hint.  I’m not wearing a long dress.