Monday, April 23, 2018

The RAHM Report for 4/23/18

What My Kids Are Reading

In this week's Read-at-Home Kids Report: The Happy Hollisters, Mr. Gumpy, and the toddler poetry collection I'm getting tired of reading aloud.

What I Finished Reading

  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
    I finished this just in time for book club on Thursday. My review on Goodreads explains why I gave it five stars.
  • Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin
    This was a really sweet vintage tale about four girls who are given a playhouse to furnish and use as their own in exchange for weeding the dandelions from the property. I was thrilled to learn there are multiple sequels available from Project Gutenberg.
  • Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman, audiobook read by Kathleen McInerney and Nicole Poole
    This audiobook really hit the spot for me this week, and I'm planning to read more by the author (and more by these narrators as well.) My four-star review is on Goodreads.
  • The Happy Hollisters on a River Trip by Jerry West
    I read this aloud to my four-year-old. It was a bit predictable, but I enjoyed the old-fashioned feel, and it's funny to see my daughter beginning to understand suspense and cliff-hangers.

What I'm Currently Reading

  • Running Through Sprinklers by Michelle Kim (ARC)
    This book came out this past week, so I'm a bit late getting to my ARC, but it's a friendship story set in Canada in the 1990s, and I'm really enjoying it so far. I hope to finish it in the next day or two.
  • Stiffs and Swine by Ellery Adams (ARC)
    This ARC expires on Tuesday, so I am also hurrying to get the book finished. I've read four chapters so far, and it's another quick installment in this series, so I should be able to get it done by the end of tomorrow.
  • Al(exandra) the Great! by Constance C. Greene
    I'm jumping back into this series after a few weeks off. I've only just borrowed it from Open Library and skimmed the first couple of pages, but it already seems as good as the previous volumes.
  • Death's Door by Betsy Byars
    I need to get going on reading more Betsy Byars books for the Author Love challenge. This is book four in the Herculeah Jones series. I'm planning to finish reading the series ASAP so I can post about the whole thing and then move onto her other books. 
  • Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman, audiobook read by Deborah Hazlett
    This is my next audiobook. I've listened to about 20 minutes, and I like the main character and the audiobook narrator so far. 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The RAHK Report for 4/22/18

We've been potty training Little Bo Peep (2.5 years) this week, so we've stuck close to home and read a ton of books. Here are the highlights:

  • The Bull Beneath the Walnut Tree and other stories by Anita Hewett, illustrated by Imero Gorbato
    Miss Muffet has been enjoying reading stories from this collection after nap time (which, for her, is more like quiet time these days). I have not read any yet myself, but my husband has, and he asks her questions at the dinner table that confirm that is comprehending what she reads.
  • Busy Water by Irma Simonton Black, pictures by Jane Castle
    When Miss Muffet asked about evaporation this week, we read this basic introduction to the water cycle. It's more about the way water flows from smaller brooks, to larger rivers and oceans, but it does talk a little bit about water returning to the clouds and then brought down again as rain. It does not mention the word "evaporation," however, so we'll be consulting a science book or two to get a little more detail.
  • The Happy Hollisters on a River Trip by Jerry West
    This second book of the series is on OpenLibrary, so I decided to read it aloud since Miss Muffet enjoyed the first one so much. One day this week, Bo Peep smacked Miss Muffet with a large wooden block and bruised her finger. While she was upset about this, I took Miss Muffet to my bed and tucked her in for a bit, and we ended up finishing the book! I am probably going to go ahead and buy book 3 for the Kindle app on my phone so we can continue reading in order.
  • History Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf
    Miss Muffet has been reading this on and off for months. It was both a good challenge for her reading skills and an appropriately basic introduction to the history of the world. It seems her favorite topics were the Roman Empire and barbarians, as she keeps telling people, including her grandmother, that "Some people who came before us were barbarians!"

  • Good for You! Toddler Rhymes for Toddler Times by Stephanie Calmenson
    I have to admit that I don't like this poetry collection that much now that Bo Peep is asking to hear the entire book multiple times a week. I used to like some of the poems for toddler story time, but the more I read them aloud, the more I realize how off the rhythm is in each poem, and how many rhymes just don't quite fit. But it does cover some good concepts - colors, manners, numbers, letters, parts of the body, etc. - and she is picking up new information, so I can probably stand it a bit longer.
  • Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
    I presented this to Bo Peep as an alternative to Good For You! and she took to it pretty well. I read it with her and Jumping Joan, and she kept snatching at the illustrations saying she was catching the babies in the pictures. She especially took a liking to the little girl on the swing in the image that accompanies "The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson and the little curly-haired girl snuggling her cat alongside "Cat Kisses" by Bobbi Katz.
  • Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car by John Burningham
    This book falls in and out of favor around here, but Bo Peep was interested in it this week, especially after we realized we have finger puppets to match all of the animals in the story. We stuck them and a few peg dolls in our little wooden bus and acted out the story, which Bo Peep thought was a very fun idea.
  • What a Wonderful World, illustrated by Tim Hopgood
    This book was given to Jumping Joan, and she enjoys it, but Bo Peep has been the one to learn the song and start singing it to herself. There is something very sweet about her little voice singing out, "And I think to myself, what a wonderful world." It's also funny how she imitates every nuance of my singing.
  • Black Bird Yellow Sun by Steve Light
    Jumping Joan spent a lot of time pawing at this book during tummy time this week. She seems to be drawn to the bold colors of the illustrations, and I'm sure the corners of the front cover are tasty too. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Poetry Picnic: April 12, 2018

The tradition continues! This week, we finally got some warm spring weather, meaning we were able to head to the park for a poetry picnic on Thursday. I brought sandwiches, apples, brownies, and milk for the big girls, a bottle for the baby, and four books. We spread out a blanket, and the girls ate while I read aloud. Here's what they heard:

  • "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer from Great Story Poems edited by Theodoric Jones, illustrated by Frank Bolle
    I've been wanting to read this poem to Miss Muffet (age 4 years, 4 months) because even though I knew she wouldn't understand the whole thing, I thought she would love the way it sounds. I was right. This book also has line drawing illustrations to accompany each poem, so those helped contextualize what was happening. It occurred to me when I was reading it that, despite having gone to see the Durham Bulls every summer since birth, she doesn't know the concept of "three strikes and you're out." We'll have to work on that when we go to a game this summer, and then we can read the poem again.
  • Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Paul Galdone
    Miss Muffet has a developing interest in the Revolutionary War, so that prompted me to choose this picture book. The illustrations are great - even Bo Peep (age 2.5) enjoyed them - and the rhythm of the poem appealed to all three girls, including Jumping Joan (6 mos.)
  • All That Sunlight by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Walter Stein
    Miss Muffet received this book as a gift from my mom for Easter. The poems are very short, so we read the entire collection. Poems include child-friendly meditations on colors, friendship, flowers, and weather. A few were familiar to me, but many others were new. This is also a book Miss Muffet is able to read independently, so I may invite her to read to us from it again on a future picnic.
  • If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ted Rand
    This collection of haiku about animals was the hit of the picnic. Miss Muffet and Bo Peep loved calling out the name of each animal as its poem was read, and the illustrations were very engaging for them as well. 
The girls are all at great ages for poetry picnics this year. The older two are great at sitting and listening and the baby isn't big enough yet to get into much trouble. So I am hoping we'll be able to do this twice a month or even weekly as we get into the summer. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Reading Through History: Story of the Presidents of the United States of America by Maud and Miska Petersham (1953)

Published in 1953, this nonfiction book written at the middle grade level presents short biographies of every president from Washington to Eisenhower. Each short essay is between 1 and 3 pages long and tells where the presidents were born, how they came to be elected president, what happened during their presidencies, and, where applicable (at the time), how they died. The illustrations are pen-and-ink renderings of the presidents themselves, along with other scenery related to the time period in which they served.

I started reading this book to my four-year-old on Presidents Day because she was curious about the day and we didn't have a lot of other books on the subject. I initially thought we would read just the first two or three chapters, but we were both enjoying it so much, we wound up reading the whole book over the course of a couple of weeks. While much of the information did go over her head, she loved all the little bits of trivia we uncovered, such as the fact that more presidents seem to have died in July than in any other month. She took an interest in some of the vocabulary, soaking up words like term, campaign, assassination, and election. She also loved getting little glimpses into how life changed over nearly 200 years of our country's history.

The details about the issues of the day during each presidency are probably the strongest part of the book overall. I was never given such a thorough picture of the development of this country when I was a kid, and I learned many new bits of information as I was reading. I also appreciated the balance between interesting biographical facts that would be appealing to kids and information about the presidencies themselves. Each president came across as a real human being, and because I could relate to them as people I was more interested in their accomplishments (and failures) as presidents.

While this book's age prevents it from being a complete history resource unto itself, what is included in the book is perfect for beginning history students . The text also works really well as a read-aloud, both because the chapters are short and because the language is very pleasing to the ear. I will definitely plan to use this book more extensively when we begin studying history more seriously in a few years.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Some of My Favorite Picture Book Endpapers

One of my favorite things about picture books are their endpapers - the artwork that appears on the inside of the front and back covers of many titles. I like the way they can serve as a gateway into the story, dropping hints and clues about the book ahead before a single word of text has yet appeared and setting a specific mood and tone, or the way they can bring a book full circle even after the story seems to have ended. For a while, there was a wonderful account on Instagram that featured beautiful and interesting endpapers, and I got into the  habit of sharing the endpapers from some of the books I was reading. That account hasn't been updated in nearly a year, but I still find myself collecting images of my favorite endpapers every now and then. Today, in response to Blog All About It's April topic, Art, and as my post for Top Ten Tuesday's freebie topic for this week, I want to share those images here.

This sweet and simple endpaper is the first illustration that appears in Aliki's picture book adaptation of an old folk song, Go Tell Aunt Rhody. The song is about a group of children having to tell their aunt that the goose she has been saving to make a feather bed has died in the millpond, leaving behind her children. This quilt foretells the ending of the book, where Aunt Rhody snuggles down in her new warm bed after plucking the goose's feathers.

These endpapers appear in Poppleton in Winter by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Mark Teague. As with all the books in the series, these endpapers are in the form of a map which not only reflects the season in which the story is set, but also shows some of the characters taking part in events from the story. In the lower left-hand corner of this image, Poppleton himself (who is a pig) can be seen wearing a brown coat and building a snowman, while his best friend, a llama named Cherry Sue, is shown cross-country skiing in the upper left.

These endpapers come from an edition of The House at Pooh Corner, and they show a playful parade of all the beloved characters from the Hundred Acre Wood in silhouette, with their signatures scrawled beneath them. There is something so sweet and nostalgic about this image, and the movement of their characters and the way their names are written provide subtle insight into the characters' personalities and quirks.

These endpapers come from the front (top) and back (bottom) of a newer picture book, Hey Coach! by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Kim Smith, which was published in 2016. The story follows a team of first-time soccer players through their very first season with their understanding and patient coach. The endpapers show the changes in the team and in the coach from the beginning of the story to the end by illustrating what appears on the coach's bulletin board before and after soccer season.

This map, showing the homes of a variety of animals, serves as the endpaper for the classic children's novel Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, which won the Newbery Medal in 1945. Especially noteworthy, in my opinion, is the statue of St. Francis that appears in the garden. It looks unassuming upon first glance that you might not even really notice it, but once you've read the book, you realize how significant this statue is to the main theme of the story, and how much the endpapers really reveal about the book overall.

This compilation of original sketches by Maurice Sendak appears as the endpaper of Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation by Gregory Maguire. I like these images for the same reason I like the book: they highlight Sendak's amazing range as an illustrator. He captured such beauty, humor, and personality in each of his drawings, and there has never been an artist quite like him before or since.

These images, done by John Rocco in the style of Virginia Lee Burton come from Sherri Duskey Rinker's picture book biography. Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton. This is one of the best picture book biographies I have ever read. It tells only the facts that are of interest to kids, and that pertain to Burton's work (writing and illustrating children's books about machines), and Rocco's illustrations are a beautiful homage to Burton's artistic style that manage to pay tribute to her artwork without flat-out copying it. Fans of Burton's work can find all their favorite characters from her books right here on the endpapers, which can only inspire them to want to read the text too.

Endpapers in nonfiction books often have lots of great trivia and details that are not included in the text proper, but which enrich the reading experience. This is the case in Peter Spier's picture book adaptation of The Star-Spangled Banner. This photograph shows just one snippet of these intricate endpapers, which include the different versions of the U.S. Flag shown here, as well as the flags of the branches and officers of the military, the president and vice president, the secretaries of defense, state, and agriculture and a diagram of the standard proportions of the US flag.

Finally, this endpaper appears in a 1953 book by Maud and Miska Petersham called Story of the Presidents of the United States. It features short biographies of all the presidents from Washington to Eisenhower, and the endpapers show the signature of each president. As someone whose favorite memorial in Washington DC is The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence, which displays each man's signature, I was instantly drawn to these endpapers and enjoyed comparing each president's handwriting to that of those before and after him.

Which of these endpapers do you like best? Are there other picture book endpapers you love? 

Monday, April 16, 2018

The RAHM Report for 4/16/18

What My Kids Are Reading

This week's Read-at-Home Kids Report includes picture books by Ezra Jack Keats, Anne Rockwell, and Margot Zemach.

What I Finished Reading


  • Color Me Murder by Krista Davis, audiobook read by
    I borrowed this book in audio format via Hoopla, and zipped right through it. I especially liked the setting (Georgetown in Washington, DC) and the interesting cast of characters. Though I am not into adult coloring books, I did like the way they were incorporated into the main character's life and into her brainstorming about who may have committed the murder. I'm looking forward to the second book of the series.
  • 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
    This was one of the best books of this series. The writing is excellent, and the tension between Tempe and Ryan is at its best. I read about a third of the book, and then listened to the rest, and I really enjoyed the audiobook narration, and the fact that I didn't have to try to pronounce all the French words! 
  • A Minute On the Lips by Cheryl Harper
    It took me forever to read this ebook, which I also borrowed via Hoopla, and it wasn't even that good. I liked a lot of the elements of the story - the mystery, the fact that the heroine is running for reelection as sheriff, and the tension between law enforcement and the press that is brought out by her relationship with a newspaper reporter - but I didn't feel like this story put them together in a very interesting way. I probably should have DNFed this one, and I will be more diligent about choosing Harlequin Heartwarming titles in the future.

What I'm Currently Reading


  • Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
    I like so much of what Chesterton has to say about life, and society, and the cosmos. So much of it is as relevant to our times as it was to his. Book club meets on Thursday, so I need to pick up the pace, but I've been enjoying slowly digesting each chapter.
  • Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin
    So far, I'm enjoying this old-fashioned tale of four girls who fix up an abandoned cottage to be like a real house. It has a Betsy-Tacy vibe to it that especially appeals to me. 
  • Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman, audiobook read by Kathleen McInerney and Nicole Poole
    After much searching for another audiobook to follow the two I finished this week, I decided to try a stand-alone novel by an author I'd never read before. I'm still settling into the fact that there are two narrators - one for the main character's first-person reflections on her childhood, and the other for the limited third-person narration of present-day events in her career as a state's attorney - but otherwise, I am totally hooked on this book. It has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and recommended as a good book for teens, and both of those factors add to its appeal for me. 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The RAHK Report for 4/15/18

When the girls get restless in the afternoons while waiting for my husband to get home, we've started grabbing a stack of picture books and gathering on the big bed to read them together. Here are some of the highlights from the books we read this week:

  • Big Bug, Little Bug by Paul Stickland
    This is the current favorite book of Little Bo Peep (age 2.5), solely because of the big pop-up on the last page. Bo Peep and Miss Muffet (4 years, 4 months) both like to  read this aloud to Jumping Joan (6 mos.)
  • Just Right by Lilian Moore, illustrated by Aldren A. Watson
    This picture book is about a farmer who wants to sell the family farm, but can't find someone who appreciates it the way he does. Miss Muffet had already the book and kept calling out spoilers to the rest of us, but even so, the pleasant ending was very satisfying, at least for me. 
  • Here I Come - Ready or Not! by Jean Merrill, illustrated by Frances Gruse Scott
    Bo Peep really latched onto this book, which describes a simple game of hide-and-seek played by a boy and a girl on a farm. Bo Peep loved looking for the hiding child on each page, and she could be heard playing with her own toys later on, calling out, "Ready or not, here I come!" 
  • Night Noises by Laverne Johnson, illustrated by Martha Alexander
    This gentle book is about a little boy falling asleep listening to the sounds of his house, family, and neighborhood. Bo Peep and Miss Muffet both listened with rapt attention. Something about the quiet text and gentle illustrations seemed to put them in a bit of a trance.

  • Our Yard is Full of Birds by Anne Rockwell
    Miss Muffet, who often includes "bird expert" on her list of things she will be when she grows up, loved this book. It introduces common species of birds within the context of a story in which a child watches birds outside the window. She knew most of the birds and excitedly pointed out which ones can be seen near our house.
  • Mommy, Buy Me a China Doll by Margot Zemach
    The girls thought this book, in which a little girl begs her mother for a doll and makes silly suggestions about how her family could manage it, was really funny. I thought it was a sweet testament to imagination and the ending was very cozy. 
  • Maggie and the Pirate by Ezra Jack Keats
    This is one of Keats's lesser known and more unusual books, but it went over well with Little Miss Muffet especially. The main character's beloved cricket is stolen and later dies, which I'd forgotten, but Miss Muffet isn't a particularly sensitive kid, so this didn't bother her very much. 
  • My Red Umbrella by Robert Bright
    This is a very small book with a straightforward but fanciful story about how a little girl shares her umbrella with a menagerie of animals during a sudden rainstorm. Bo Peep liked this one a lot and asked to look at it on her own after we read it together.
  • The Happy Hollisters on a River Trip by Jerry West
    I found this on Open Library, and I'm reading it aloud only to Miss Muffet, and she is loving it. The cliffhanger chapter endings mean that I sometimes have to read four at a go, but the series is charming enough that I'm not really bothered by that.