Best Christmas Picture Books Published in 2016

A few years ago, I highlighted 24 of our favorite picture books in the post Christmas Books – One to Twenty Four.  I need to add two books to this list.  The best Christmas books published in 2016 are The Christmas Boot and Stowaway In A Sleigh.  ML’s reached the age where she doesn’t want to cuddle in my bed reading picture books.  However, she agreed to join me for a reading of The Christmas Boot.  Tonight, I’ll try for Stowaway in a Sleigh.

 

christmas-boot

The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

 

stowaway

Stowaway in a Sleigh by C. Roger Mader

Books Are Best – A Holiday Shopping List – Picture Books for K-5th Graders

Picture boos aren’t just for preschoolers.  Here’s a list of some of my favorites this year.

 

Kindergarten – Second Graders

wise-pig

Is That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas

Hare Tortoise

Hare and Tortoise by Alison Murray

 

Woodpecker Waffle

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle by Steve Breen

 

88-instruments

88 Instruments by Chris Barton and illustrated by Louis Thomas

sergio-saves-game

Sergio Saves the Game by Edel Rodriguez

 

Third – Fifth Graders

bloom

Bloom by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by David Small

 

saving-pepette

Painting Peppette by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Claire Fletcher

 

water-princess

Water Princess by Susan Verde and  illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

 

hat-goldman

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman:  A Story about Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

Books Are Best – A Holiday Shopping List – Preschool Edition

I’ve been slack in writing for the blog this year; but I’m a firm believer every child should receive at least one book under the tree.  Below of are some of my favorites published this year which preschoolers will enjoy.

bear-on-chair

There’s a Bear On my Chair by Ross Collins

bossier-baby

The Bossier Baby by Marla Frazee

panda-pants

Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies and illustrated by Sydney Hanson

dylan-villian

Dylan the Villain by K.G Campbell

seen-elephant

Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow

horrible-bear

Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora

The Goblin’s Puzzle – Mock Newbery 2017

goblins-puzzle

My dear friend and mother of ML’s best friend recently asked for ideas for potential 2017 Newbery Winners.  Begrudgingly, I am making recommendations.  They moved a few weeks before school started.  ML and I were both heartbroken; but I can never resist giving book recommendations.  The fact that ML and SJ will be together next weekend is making this post easier.  A week from tomorrow… not some much.  It will be the day they have to part again.

There are plenty of Mock Newbery Lists out there.  I’ve yet to see the The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew Chilton on any list; but it should be.  The only books I include on my list are ones I finish.  I devoured this one.  My friend is a lawyer so the logical thinking this book encourages will make her happy.  Her son is into millitary history; so the  battles will make him happy.  The two Alice’s in the book are feisty, independent girls; just like ML and SJ.

Here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

THE BOY is a nameless slave on a mission to uncover his true destiny.
THE GOBLIN holds all the answers, but he’s too tricky to be trusted.
PLAIN ALICE is a bookish peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon.
And PRINCESS ALICE is the lucky girl who wasn’t kidnapped.

All four are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage, and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.

Don’t believe me that it’s worthy of a look?  School Library gave it a starred review.

“Brimming with sarcastic, cheeky, laugh-out-loud humor, this is a smart, original, and completely engaging adventure.” —School Library Journal, starred review

Toy Inventors

Lego InventorWhoosh

Do you have a child who loves Lego, but doesn’t like to read?  I found the perfect book for them.  Awesome Minds:  The Inventors of Lego Toys by Erin Hagar and art by Paige Garrison.  Have a child who doesn’t like to read but loves Super Soakers?  Try Whoosh!  Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate.  Both these books have engaging text and illustrations.  No boring biographies here.  An added bonus is both books show how perseverance pays off.

What I Do When There Are No Diary of a Wimpy Kid Books on the Shelf?

Actually, they rarely make it to the shelf.  I make certain to check the carts ready to be shelved.  If there aren’t any copies on the shelving carts, I offer to put the book on request.  I don’t want children leaving the library without a book;  so I try to sell them another series.  Big Nate was once my got to series; but they are usually checked out these days too.

This blog post has been in draft for over a year.  Yesterday, I realized summer is approaching quickly.  I needed to complete this post so I could access it all summer.  Even though I hadn’t finished the post, I used it last night.  A mom asked me, “Where are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?”  I explained the author’s last name was Kinney; but there probably wouldn’t be any on the shelf.  Then, added I had suggestions for similar books.  Here’s my recommendations for people who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate books.

Terrible Two

The Terrible Two  by Mac Barnett and Jory John and illustrated by Kevin Cornell

 

CluelessMcGee

Clueless McGee by Jeff Mack 

 

Julius Zebra

Julius Zebra by Gary Northfield

 

CharlieJoe

CharlieJoe Jackson by Tommy Greenwald and illustrated by JP Coovert

 

Qwikpick Papers

The Qwikpick Papers by Tom Angleberger

 

frank einstein

Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Brian Biggs

 

Tapper Twins

The Tapper Twins by Geoff Rodkey

 

Stick Dog

Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog:  Another Really GOOD story with kind of BAD drawings by Tom Watson

 

Vordak

Vordak the Incomprehensible by Scott Seegert and illustrated by John Martin

 

Thirteenth Story Tree House

The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and illustrated by Terry Denton

 

Just Jake

Just Jake by Jake Marcionette

The Classroom

The Classroom by Robin Mellom and illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

 

Shredderman

Shredderman by Wendelin Van Draanen

 

Frankie Pickle

Frankie Pickle by Eric Wight

 

Billy Sure

Billy Sure Kid Entrepeneur invented by Luke Sharpe and drawings by Graham Ross

Teddy Mars

Teddy Mars by Molly B. Burnham and illustrated by Trevor Spencer

 

Alvin Ho

Alvin Ho by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

 

Melonhead

Melonhead by Katy Kelly and illustrated by Gillian Johnson

 

Spaceheadz

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka, made extra-strength by Francesco Sedita and illustrated by Shane Prigmore

 

Timmy Failure

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephen Pastis 

 

Desmond Pucket

Desmond Pucket by Mark Tatulli

 

Justin Case

Justin Case   by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

New Picture Books for the Newly Renovated Library

There are lots of pristine books at the renovated library.  Many of which I’ve read.  So I was excited when new picture books arrived at the library yesterday.  My favorites are below.

At the Farm

On the Farm, At the Market by G. Brian Karas – This book focuses on how a variety of things are grown or made for a farmer’s market. . . vegetables, mushrooms, cheese.  There’s a lot that goes into making a fresh meal.  This a fun story that shows the farm to market to restaurant concept with great illustrations.

Playtime

Playtime? by Jeff Mack – I love Jeff Mack’s book.  I once did a story time only using his books.  This one has great story time potential.  The last page will make you laugh out loud.

Sam and Jump

Sam and Jump by Jennifer K. Mann – “This one is for my sister, who took me back to the beach to look for my lost doll.  And for my dad, who made it possible to be at the beach in the first place.”  With a dedication like that, how can you resist reading the book?

More-Igami

More-igami by Dori Kleber and illustrated by G. Brian Karas – Finally, a book about the importance of practice that doesn’t feature sports.

 

 

Meet Cody

CodyFountainCodyUniverse

There’s a new girl in town for fans of Judy Moody and Clementine.  Two books about Cody have been published.  I hope the author, Tricia Springstubb and illustrator, Eliza Wheeler are working on a third book.

I’m glad I discovered Cody before the summer reading rush.  Parents are always seeking books that are appropriate for readers who are ready for the next step from Magic Tree House books; but they aren’t ready for a more mature plot.  Think avid kindergarten – second graders.

“So many things twang Cody’s heart: her genius big brother, her new friend Spencer, and an old cat named MewMew. For her, each day brims with surprises, so grab your hat and join the fun. First book in a brand new series!” (from author’s website)

Here’s a glimpse of the first few sentences from the first two books.

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness
“In this life many things are beautiful:
Marshmallows
100% on your spelling test
Turtles, with their cute thumb-shaped head
But if Cody had to name the most beautiful thing in the world, it would be. . .
The first day of summer vacation.”

Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe
“In this life, many things are hard to wait for:
Your turn
Your birthday
Being allowed to get a real tattoo
But if Cody had to name the hardest thing of all,  it would be waiting for her best friend, Spencer.”

I read 87 pages of the first book without stopping.  That’s unusual for me in a chapter book for the younger set.  I’m eager to get home, put on my jammies and continue to read about Cody’s adventures.

 

Renovated Library – First Book Checked Out by ML

Cake

For the past few months, the library I work at has been under renovation.  Our reopening is Saturday.  ML and I are out of town for the big event; so she did a walk through Monday night.  She gave the library two thumbs up.  Then, checked out her first book in the beautiful, new space.  She poured over Piece of Cake! by Dana Meachen Rau all the way home.  After lots of consideration, ML has decided the first cake she would like to make is the Pool Party Cake.  Hard to resist having a blue jello pool.  I’ve checked out three other books by Dana Meachen Rau for ML to fawn over during our 3 hour car trip.  What’s Up, Cupcake?, Smart Cookie, and Eye Candy.

Here’s a picture of my new home away from home.

New Library

 

 

Judy Freeman and I Agree – 10 of the Best Books Published in 2015

Recently I attended an excellent workshop by Judy Freeman called What’s New In Children’s Literature and Strategies for Using It in Your Program.  It includes a workbook with an list of the 150 Best Children’s Books published in 2015.  I was excited to see some of the books I featured on the blog on the list.  There were several that I started entries about last year; but wasn’t able to polish and publish the posts.  Truthfully, some of the posts just have a title and author.  Here are 10 books that Judy Freeman loved which I meant to share with you in 2015.

I love what Judy said on how to determine if a book is great.  “Did the book leave you Surprised? Startled? Satisfied?  Each of these books left me that way.

Mesmerized

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

Ketzel

Ketzel, the Cat who Composed by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Amy June Bates

lillians

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Mama Seeton

Mama Seeton’s Whistle by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated LeUyen Pham

mango]

Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez

three best friends

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Billys Boogers

Billy’s Booger: A Memoir by William Joyce

Stick and Stone

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and illustrated Tom Lichtenheld

Imagiinary Fred

Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The Nest

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Caldecott Medal 2016 – Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie

Two of ML’s friends chose Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall to win the Caldecott Medal.  It’s wasn’t ML’s first choice.  However, she was excited it won.  Especially, after we read it aloud again last night.

In the past few years, there’s been a surge in beautifully illustrated nonfiction titles and biographies in children’s publishing.  I’m glad to see one of these books chosen for the Caldecott.  I’ve been working on a post about illustrated biographies for awhile.  As two of the Caldecott Honor books were illustrated biographies, I need to get back to it.

Congratulations to Sophie Blackall.  And thank you to Lindsay Mattick for providing the story about Finding Winnie, a book that will stand the test of time.  ML’s favorite illustration was the family tree.

Newbery 2016: If Only I Could Have Been a Fly on the Wall

Last Stop on Market Street

I did not post my Mock Newbery choice this morning because I was conflicted.  Echo or The War That Saved My Life?  Echo I read last winter.  The War That Saved My Life, I started last night.  Read half of it and would have stayed up and read; but decided to be a responsible adult and go to bed.

This morning, we live streamed the awards ceremony at the library.  Two minutes after we opened, the Newbery Award was announced.  I was shocked.  Not because the book isn’t great;  but because it’s a picture book.  This year, the announcer seemed to emphasize what the Newbery award is  “to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”  When my top two were announced as Honor Books, I was perplexed what book would win.  Then, the announcement came.  The Last Stop on Market Street.  I wrote about this book last January…Two Books One Illustrator.  It was one of my Five Star Picture Books this year.  After reflection, I agree this is the most distinguished book to American literature for children this year.

Newbery Award winners stay in print.  I’m glad this book will be read by generations of children.

This book was also chosen as a Caldecott honor book.  Appropriately.  I don’t know if a book has ever received a Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor.  I’d use my super librarian skills to research the answer.  But I’m doing the responsible thing. . . presenting storytime.

It’s hard to be an adult sometimes.  Luckily, I can escape it from time to time by reading quaility books for children.

Mock Newbery Awards 2016

The lay people are speaking.  A few I know personally.  Mock Newbery Award winners have been announced all over the internet.  Tomorrow the official winners are announced.  In October, I posted a Mock Newbery invitation.  One family has taken the challenge very seriously.  Their winner’s are

Fifth Grade Boy

War That Saved My Life

Third Grade Girl

All the Answers

Mom in Her Early Forties

War That Saved My Life

ML’s Choice

Circus Mirandus

I had great intentions of reading all the books on my Mock Newbery List.  It didn’t happen.  Some of them I read a few chapters, decided they weren’t going to replace my current favorites so I moved onto another book on the list.  I’m on chapter two of The War That Saved My Life.  Based on the results above and what I’ve seen online, I need to read it quick.  I have a feeling people will be hearing about the book and start requesting it tomorrow.

Off to read.  I’ll post my choice in the morning.

We Met Cassie Beasley! I Know You’re Thinking… Who is That?

Circus Mirandus

I promise within the next year you will have heard of Cassie Beasely.  If you read the bestseller list of the New York Times Middle Grade Books, you already have.  A fellow Georgian, from Claxton, where the fruitcakes that permeated my childhood Christmas are made, visited Quail Ridge Books last night.  Circus Mirandus is her first book ever published.  It’s amazing!  Especially as a family read-aloud.  ML and I hadn’t quite finished the book before meeting her.  ML begged to finish it afterwards.  So we stayed up until 10 pm.  The last few chapters were both heartbreaking and encouraging.  Tears and laughter filled my bed as ML and I snuggled.  Then, a discussion on what should happen in a sequel.  ML had some really good ideas she plans to email the author.

At the event, ML asked the author, “What’s your favorite book?”  She responded, “That is an evil question because there are too many.”  Instead she shared her favorite books of 2015.

Picture Book
Dewey Bob by Judy Schachner

Dewey Bob

Middle Grades Fiction
Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

Map to Everywhere

Young Adult
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Amber

ML’s Favorite Book of 2015
I haven’t asked yet; but I’m certain Circus Mirandus will win hands down.

***A note to the author,  I spelled your name wrong in the first draft.  It’s not just you***

My Mock Newbery – Whose In?

After surfing the web and trolling the Mock Newbery websites, I’ve created my list.  The books on other lists I already read automatically made my list.  I added others trying to make certain it included a diverse range of genres and characters.  Seven books down, ten more to go.  Although, I doubt I’ll read all of the other ten.  If it doesn’t make me want to stay up later than 10 pm, I’ll move on to the next book.

The official winners are announced on January 11th.  I’ll announce my choice for the 2016 Newbery on the first day of the year.  Anyone want to join me?

BOOKS I’VE FINISHED

Echo

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Crenshaw

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

George

George by Alex Gino

Sunny Side

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

The Marvels

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Red Butterfly

Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen

Handful Stars

Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

 

BOOKS TO READ

War That Saved My Life

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Circus

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Stella Starlight

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Nightbird

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Ruby on Outside

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Goodbye Stranger

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Hired Girl

Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Roller Girl

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

It’s going to be interesting to see if any of these will replace my current front runner, Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Daddy’s Back-to-School Shopping Adventure

DaddysBacktoSchool

The PTA at ML’s school provided a new service this year.  You could order school supplies online in May; and they would be delivered to her classroom for the first day of school.  This is on the list of my TOP three things which happened this year.  No more looking for an 8 pack of crayons with basic colors.  Based on our experience last year, this staple from my childhood no longer exists, except with sparkles in them.

School Supplies

Today, Daddy’s Back-to-School Shopping Adventure by Alan Lawrence Sitomer and illustrated by Abby Carter arrived.  I immediately laughed because ML meets her teacher tomorrow and I’m certain there may be some additional school supplies to buy.  I work this weekend; so it’s up to ML and her Dad to fight the crowds.  I won’t miss the thirty minute decision making process ML has when choosing a binder.

My friend posted,  “Two stores, both of them mad houses, and $200 later, we have most of the school supplies. I still have to get a large broom head, 3 pool noodles, paint pens???, and a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil. Sigh.”  I had a sigh of relief.  I’m sure we will get request for some interesting items throughout the year.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to fight the crowds; nor will I have to lug several bags of school supplies on the first day.

Now back to the book.  I can relate to the dad’s nostalgia.  If I saw a Holly Hobbie lunchbox at the store, I wouldn’t be able to resist.

HollyHobbie

Julia’s Review: Paper Things

Paper Things

 

This spring, I posted about Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  Recently, my expert reviewer, Julia wrote the following review.  Julia is a rising seventh grader.

Three words:  heart-wrenching, horribly real, painful (not like it was a bad book, just Ari’s situation was painful)
The book made me feel. . .  sorry for Ari because she had lost so much and was very lost in the world. I was confused by why they had left home.
Favorite character:  Daniel. He was so funny and kind and made Ari feel much better.
Favorite part:  When they organized Crazy Hat Day and got the school traditions back.

Synopsis from Candlewick “When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been “couch surfing,” staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.”

Julia’s Review: Murder is Bad Manners

Murder is Bad Manners

Summer reading has started at the library, which  means all the books I’ve been meaning to write about will have to wait.  Thankfully, I have Julia to keep the blog going this summer.

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

Three words:  captivating, pageturner, complex and surprising

This book had me biting my nails nonstop- it was so interesting that I just couldn’t stop reading! I loved how surprising the ending was; most mysteries just have the detectives follow a hunch and then it turns out they’re right. This was very different in a good way.  My favorite character was Miss Griffin. She managed to fool everyone until Daisy accidentally ran into her!  My favorite part was when Daisy and Hazel found the diary and got chased by Miss Griffin. At first I was like “Uh-oh, she’s after them,” but then I realized that this wasn’t just their teacher, they were literally being chased by a serial killer!

PS- I don’t know why I’m so fond of smart villains, I’m just like that.

Synopsis from Simon and Schuster “Two friends form a detective agency—and must solve their first murder case—in this start to a middle grade mystery series at a 1930s boarding school.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are best friends at Deepdean School for Girls, and they both have a penchant for solving mysteries. In fact, outspoken Daisy is a self-described Sherlock Holmes, and she appoints wallflower Hazel as her own personal Watson when they form their own (secret!) detective agency. The only problem? They have nothing to investigate.

But that changes once Hazel discovers the body of their science teacher, Miss Bell—and the body subsequently disappears. She and Daisy are certain a murder must have taken place, and they can think of more than one person with a motive.

Determined to get to the bottom of the crime—and to prove that it happened—before the killer strikes again, Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects, and use all the cunning, scheming, and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?”

Super Fly: The World’s Smallest Superhero!

Super Fly

I read 5 pages of this 115 page illustrated, novel. . . Super Fly:  The World’s Smallest Superhero! by Todd H. Doddler.  That’s all it took to realize this book is going to be a hit.  Particularly with the Kindergarten through 3rd grade set obsessed with the word poop.  Notice I did not single out boys.  I’m amazed at how often the words poop and pee come out of ML and her friends’ mouths.  I do not remember having this fascination in elementary school.

Now for a synopsis from the publisher, Bloomsbury.  “From just a tiny larva in diapers to . . . SUPER FLY! This is the story of Eugene Flystein, a small and nerdy, mild-mannered housefly, who also happens to be the world’s smallest superhero and humanity’s greatest crime fighter.

SUPER FLY!: Able to stop tornadoes from destroying towns with just one breath.
Strong enough to push a ship away from a looming iceberg.
He’s even read every book in the library twice. Yes, twice!

Can this four-eyed little bugger, along with his trusty sidekick Fantastic Flea, take on Crazy Cockroach and his army of insect baddies? It’s housefly vs. cockroach in this epic battle of good vs. evil. Who will come out on top? Stay tuned!”

Confession Time

Motorcycle

So I’ve been a little slack on my writing; but not my reading.  I continue to read several picture books a day and first chapters of most of the books written for elementary school students.  My reason for my writing hiatus is exciting.  Tonight is my stage debut.  I’m reading a post about my online dating experience at Listen To Your Mother Raleigh Durham.  If you’re not familiar with LTYM, you need to be.

Below is the piece I’m reading interspersed with the comments and actions of  ML and friend during my “dress rehearsal.”

Apparently my daughter’s been telling her friends I’m in a show called “Listen to Your Mother.” A mom of her friend texted me “SJ wants to come to the show.” After mulling it over and a good night’s sleep, I decided to practice in front of the girls. Reading about online dating to 8-year-olds may be the funniest experience I’ve ever had.

After picking them up from school, I asked, “Would you like me to practice my piece in front of you?” While jumping up and down, they yelled “YES!” Then, asked a few questions. . . “Can we make suggestions for changes if we don’t like something? Can we make you start over if you’re not reading with ENTHUSIASM?”

Upon our arrival at home, these budding naturalists discovered our bluebirds hatched and the strawberries were ripe. A rush of serotonin was coursing through their bodies before my rehearsal. Resulting in an audience crazier than the toddlers I entertain at story time. After feeding the girls, I asked “Would like me to make it a true dress rehearsal wearing my polka dot dress, red shoes and makeup.” I heard a resounding, “yes.” Along with the question, “Can we wear makeup too?”

So the reading begins. I started with a quick confession of why I wanted to share the piece with ML.

Me: “You see I lied to you and I feel really guilty. (The girls looked up at me somberly) “Remember when I said I went to the zoo with a guy I met at the library?”

ML: No

Single Mom Online – The First Forty-Four Days

My ex-husband left a month after our daughter’s second birthday. During the six years since he moved out, friends, co-workers, my doctor, and even my dentist asked from time to time if I was dating.

ML: Are you dating?

Me: I’ve been on a few dates.

ML: (singsongy) You’re going on dates! You’re going on dates.

(followed by lots of giggling from two second grade girls)

As a single mom who worked full time and wanted to make the most of my time with my daughter, I wasn’t interested. Then, last November, my dad asked, “Have you been on a date since David left?” I realized it was time. It was a bold step. I hadn’t been on a first date since 2001.

SJ: How’s it going for ya?”

I set a goal to go on one date by the end of the year. Reluctantly, I joined an online dating site.

SJ and ML: (lots of giggling and repetition of the words) “online dating”

You see, meeting someone via friends is next to impossible. Most of my friends are married. Their friends are married. Their friends’ friends are married… Someone suggested I volunteer. I already volunteer with a non-profit providing support to moms suffering a postpartum mood disorder. I doubt I’ll meet a man via this avenue… Others suggested church. After being surrounded by people all week at work, I prefer to worship in my garden planting and weeding.

Quickly, I learned I wasn’t very marketable.

(quick explanation by me on what marketable means)

ML: You know why? Cause you don’t look good.

My profile wasn’t garnering a lot of interest. If I was going to reach my goal, I needed to be proactive.

Me: Do you know what proactive means?

ML: Look better.

(lots of giggling)

ML: Wear skinny jeans and a tank top.

I sent messages to fifteen men who seemed educated and interesting. I heard back from three. In my twenties, this would have devastated me.

ML: He’s in his twenties and he wants to go dating with you. This is a really dumb guy.

Two kindly responded they met someone and wished me luck. I knew they might be lying; but I appreciated the responses. They were kind and articulate. This left one guy. We messaged each other a few times, talked on the phone one evening and made a date.

SJ: Did he come to your house and did you kiss?

ML: What if you have another baby?

You know . . . The greatest fear for men is the woman will be fat. But like most women, my biggest fear was meeting a serial killer. We agreed to meet at the zoo.

ML: I wanna go. Do you have a picture of him?

I had a plan. If he ended up being creepy, I could lure him to the lions and throw him in their den.
It never occurred to me I might be recognized at the zoo. It’s an hour and a half from my house! Ten steps from the zoo exit, I saw a familiar looking boy and thought, “He looks like Orson.” A man waved. I recognized him immediately.

ML: Seth

It was Orson’s father. Then, I heard a little voice, “Hi Ms. Kerri. Where’s ML?” Busted! I wasn’t planning on telling my daughter I went on a date; especially one at the zoo.

I knew the first thing my daughter’s friend would say Monday morning at school “I saw your mom at the zoo.” ML needed to hear this from me. So I called and confessed my sin.

Me: Do you remember me calling you?

ML: No.

“Who was he?” Adam.

SJ: Is he hot?

“Where did you meet him?” I was anticipating this question; but I couldn’t tell the truth. Knowing her dad was buying her a tablet for Christmas,

(I had to adlib the sentences above. I couldn’t remember if Santa or her Dad gave her the tablet.)

I had started the online safety conversation days before. No chatting or playing games with people you don’t know. So I lied. . . “The library.” I work in one, so she didn’t consider the answer strange.

After a fun date at the zoo, I was excited and ready for another date.

ML: Did you go on another date with him? I want to meet him.

SJ: Did you kiss him?

At that time, I was also chatting with Ted, a second guy. After a few messages, Ted and I arranged to meet for coffee. It took three minutes to realize he was lying about a few things. I ignored his messages for a few days until he wrote, “I’m eagerly awaiting your post on singlemomonline.” Before we met in person, I had explained I was writing a blog about my experience with online dating. Finally, I was ready to confront him. I replied:

I haven’t written my post about our meeting up for coffee. However, it will include my theory you are lying about your age. I did the math. If you are 46 years old, worked at SAS for 30 years, you would have started at age 16.

ML: How old was he?

SJ: Yeah, how old was he really?

Me: 53

ML and SJ: Wow

While chatting online you said you were hired directly after college. It doesn’t add up. . . unless you’re a child prodigy. I thought it was only women who lied about their age. What else did you lie about? Are you really separated or as my friend says are you one of those who are “separated in their mind?

He responded, “Well, it’s a long story.”

ML: Did you tell his wife?

Me: No, I don’t know his wife. What he did was wrong.

ML and SJ: Liar, liar, liar. He’s a liar

ML (leaves the couch, stands up) “This is what I would do to him.” She demonstrated some fancy karate moves.

After that experience, I was disenchanted.

Me: Do you know what disenchanted means?

(I wish I had a picture of their faces. Perfect examples of disenchantment)

Then, I recognized a profile picture. It was my mortgage broker! I sent a message.
Hey! It’s Kerri. I just ventured into the online dating world. Dating is very different these days. I’ve learned single moms in their forties aren’t in high demand. Fifty percent of the men I’ve met in person are married.

ML: (begins karate moves again) Mommy, Pretend you’re the married guy. (she proceeds to kick my butt)

Granted it’s only been two guys. I hope this isn’t reality. Would you like to get together sometime so I can change the percentage to 33? You’re welcome to stop by to see the house anytime.

My friend’s daughter saw him as he left the house. I found out later that she asked her mom if he was the maid. I love knowing I am raising my daughter in a time when a second grade girl sees a middle-aged man leaving my house and thinks he is the maid.

ML and SJ: Are you getting married? When are you getting married? You should get married on the third date.

ML: I want a stepdad. Actually, I want a collection of stepmoms and stepdads.

In the first forty-four days online, I learned a few things. Online dating is hard work,

ML: Because people lie.

a time suck and not very fun.

ML: If you get married will we move. I think we’d need a bigger house.

SJ: Especially if he’s fat and can’t fit through the door.

The most positive part of my experience is the realization I need a non-kid related social life.

So on January 1st I made a new goal. My New Year’s resolution: carve out an hour or more each week to catch up with a friend in person without our kids hovering.

ML: You mean me.

As for online dating, my profile is active.

SJ: How’s it going for you?

However, it’s not like the first twenty days when I was obsessed.

Now, I go days without viewing profiles. Instead, I’m focusing on my New Year’s resolution. During the first twelve days of January, I went for a walk, saw a movie, and went out for lunch and breakfast with a variety of friends.

Each time I went out with these ladies, I felt at ease and connected. This hasn’t happened via the online dating world. However, those first forty-four days did help me. I’ve learned what’s been missing these past few years: uninterrupted time with friends.

And sex. . .

but that’s a different story.

SJ: Why would you want to do that? It’s disgusting. Did you do that?

Me: Do you know what sex means?

SJ: Yes. A man and a woman take off their clothes, get all kissy, jump in the bed and make a baby.

The girls started bouncing all over the room yelling “You’re going on dates. You’re going on dates! You’re going on dates!!!

Me: What do you think about that ML?

ML: Yes! That means I get to spend more time with friends.

ML: Can I meet the guy you went to the zoo with? Are you going to marry him?

Me: Just because you go on a date with someone doesn’t mean you will marry them. In high school, you’ll probably have dates to dances.

ML: Yeah, prom. Duh!

Me: I didn’t marry the guy I went to prom with.

SJ: My mom didn’t either; but she got all smoochy with him.

(lots of kissy noises)

I showed the girls a picture of me on a motorcycle and told them that’s what I did on my latest date and I never want to ride one again. Then, I explained when we stopped for gas it was evident I was not having a good time. The man offered for me to stay at the gas station while he rode home for his truck. Then, I wouldn’t have to get back on the motorcycle.

ML: That’s very nice. At least you’re going to marry someone nice.

Me: Girls, just because you go on a date with someone doesn’t mean you’re getting married.

ML: Do you have a picture of him?

Me: No.

ML: Well, at least I can see his finger.

As you can see above, his finger is covering a portion of the picture.

Me: Do you want to go to the show?

ML: No, boring.

It ends with the girls running off yelling, “I’m getting your computer.” Until. . . they get sidetracked with the idea of asking for dessert.

I’m no longer nervous about Thursday and Friday night. Second grade girls are a tough audience. Heckling like I haven’t witnessed in all my days. Even scarier than riding a motorcycle.

 

So what exactly is Listen To Your Mother?

“The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER aims to support motherhood creatively through artistic expression, and also financially–through contributions to non-profit organizations supporting families in need. Each LTYM show donates a minimum of 10% of ticket proceeds to a local cause, as well as providing the cause awareness/fund-raising opportunities.”

Check out their website to learn more http://listentoyourmothershow.com

In Memory of my Grandma – Irene’s Wish

Irenes Wish

ML and I read Irene’s Wish by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by A G Ford this past October.  We both loved it.  I decided to wait for a special day to share the book.  That day has arrived.  My grandma, named Irene, was born 105 years ago.

In this story “A young girl wants her father to be home more, but her wish takes an unexpected turn.”  Reading this book reminded me of the advice my grandma often told my dad, “Stop and smell the roses.”  In my bedroom, there is a framed picture of grandma and myself (at age 2) in front of her roses.

I wish ML could have met her.  She was amazing.  Going to work at the shirt factory to pay off the farm when my grandfather died suddenly in his fifties. . . taking care of her cows. . . waking to her singing hymns and the smell of bacon frying anytime I spent the night. . . driving her John Deere riding lawn mower into her late eighties.

The dazzling acrylic and oil paints used in this book remind me of the brightness of her little yellow house and the crisp green of the fields, vegetable garden, fig tree, pecan tree, dahlias, irises and roses surrounding her house.  A few years ago, I dug up some of her irises and moved them to my home two states away.  Below is a picture of the first bloom from last spring.

Iris

 

 

 

Supertruck by Stephen Savage

Supertruck

Supertruck by Stephen Savage – “When the city is hit by a colossal snowstorm, only one superhero can save the day. But who is this mysterious hero, and why does he disappear once his job is done? Find out in this snowy tale about a little truck with a very big job.” (Synopsis from MacMillan Publishers website)

Why should you read this book?
Today, I’m sharing my expert opinion.  ML has yet to read this book.  However, I know during her preschool years she would have insisted we read it over and over.  Then, again and again.  At that age, she was fascinated by garbage trucks.  Anytime we saw one, she insisted we follow it.

A book about trucks and snow… a dream combination for the preschool set.  Any guesses on what the garbage truck transforms into?

The Blog – A Few Changes in 2015

ML doesn’t know about the blog.  She’s reaching the age if she finds out I consistently write about the funny things she does and says, she’s likely to be mad.  Therefore,  I’m changing the blog a bit for 2015.

Picture Books –  They were my first love and still are.  It makes me happy ML still enjoys them.  In most of my posts, I’ve tried to tell a story about ML’s life which relates to the book.  I’ll continue to do it from time to time.  However, the format I’ve used this December will be used for a majority of the posts.  I’ll quote a synopsis from the publishers page.  Then, provide commentary on “Why Should You Read This Book?”

Chapter Books –  My job responsibilities are changing January, 2016.  My main focus will be elementary-aged children.  In preparation, I need to read more chapter books.  I hope to write about at least one chapter book a month.

Nonfiction Books – When one arrives which is excellent, I will write a post in similar structure to the picture books.

Young Adult Books – I plan to read two.  The one which wins the 2015 Printz award and one that grabs my eye when it arrives.

Guest Posts – I am going to recruit my coworkers, their children and ML’s bookclub to write about their favorite books.  I’ll provide a form similar to the book review ML’s teacher sends home.  Then, I will type the featured reader’s response.  Grammar and spelling will not be changed.

Happy New Year!

Before After

Before After

Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Aregui is a distinctive picture book.  Most picture books are 32 pages and include text.  This book is 176 pages  of illustrations featuring no text.

“Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever, visually enchanting volume, it’s also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in a jungle may become an urban King Kong. Just as day turns into night and back again, a many-tiered cake is both created and eaten down to a single piece.”

Why should you read this book?
It’s a springboard for conversations.  Cautionary – the slingshot illustration followed by a broken window.  Historical – the candle, followed by the gas lamp, followed by the electric lamp.  Environmental – Instead of always having pristine art materials… opening a fresh box of colored pencils and using them until they are nubs.

The Numbers Never Lie

WordPress sent me an “Annual Report” about my blogging in 2014.  I’m amazed.  Barring technical difficulties, my goal of 200 posts will be reached tomorrow before midnight.  So far there have been 11,414 page views from readers in 97 different  countries.  How does this compare to 2013?  Last year I was humbled by 7977 views in 42 different countries.

The most popular post this year was In Memory of a Courageous Athlete.  I’ve copied the text below.  On New Year’s Eve, remember all those who have lost someone this year.  I think of Keaton’s family everyday. My favorite day of 2014?  ML and I meeting up with Keaton’s entire family… parents, grandparents, brothers, sister-in-law, aunts, uncles and cousins for lunch.  They were visiting Keaton’s brother who plays football for UNC and wasn’t able to visit his family in Georgia for the holidays.  I didn’t know Keaton; but I felt the spirit of he and my mother looking down on our visit with smiles.

Keaton

My heart is breaking at the death of a young man I never met.  Over forty-five years ago, my parents were newlyweds living in a small town in south Georgia.  They met lifelong friends who had two small children.  When my parents moved three hours away, the friendship continued.  Doris and my mom wrote letters to each other back when that still happened.  Their family visited our family.  We visited them.  Braves games and Six Flags and just hanging out are some of the memories I have. Since my mother passed away, Doris has continued this lifelong friendship.  Reaching out and supporting me through both happy and difficult times.

The grandson of this wonderful family passed away yesterday.  When he was a junior in high school, Keaton was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Even through his treatment, which included surgeries and chemotherapy, he played football.  For the past two years, I’ve been following his story on Facebook via his mom and grandmother.  Watching with amazement at this courageous young man who didn’t let brain cancer keep him from enjoying high school to the fullest.  Football games, homework, high school dances.  He did it all.

Since learning of his death, I’ve been searching for the perfect picture book to honor him.  I thought maybe a story about football.  But I couldn’t find one I liked.  Through a web search using the words picture books and courage, I found one.

WilmaUnlimited

Wilma, Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became The World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Diaz – A biography of the African-American woman who overcame crippling polio to become the first woman to win three gold medals in track in a single Olympics.

Just like Wilma Rudolph, Keaton plowed through showing others what one can do with determination and pure grit.  A few weeks ago he was chosen as Georgia’s Male Positive Athlete of The Year.  No one deserves this honor more.