Friday, December 29, 2017

December Link-Up: Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge (Winter Stories)

I reviewed 3 books for the challenge this month:
Which winter stories did you read this month? Share in comments!

The Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge is happening again in 2018 with some changes (no more monthly themes!) Learn more here!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Book Review: Far Out the Long Canal by Meindert DeJong (1964)

There hasn't been ice on the canal in four years. For nine-year-old Moonta, who was sick that last icy winter, it has been four long years of waiting to learn to skate. When the canal finally freezes over, Moonta is eager to make up for lost time. As he tries to catch up to his classmates, however, Moonta's desire to become a great skater overnight begins to cloud his judgment and he finds himself in a number of difficult and increasingly dangerous situations.

This book is both an engaging portrayal of the culture of a specific place and a universal tale about patience, humility, and persistence. Moonta's predicament of not learning to skate with his peers immediately establishes him as a sympathetic character, and the understanding that the ice may be short-lived, or might not come again in the near future, gives the events of the story a strong sense of urgency. The weather, too, is described so well that the reader truly understands how cold it is on the canal, and how the ice feels beneath Moonta's skates and the little red chair he uses to help him balance.

Though the story is told from Moonta's perspective, there are a lot of wonderful supporting characters whose own flaws and personalities also come across very strongly. Particularly appealing are Moonta's headmaster who is stern in school but childlike on skates, Moonta's mother and father, the champion skaters of his village, Moonta's grandfather, who has been waiting these past four years for what is likely to be his last skating adventure, and Aunt Cora, who never learned to skate at all.  The way these characters react to the arrival of ice on the canal after such a long time contribute to the reader's understanding of how joyous an occasion this is for this community. Because the adult characters also love to skate (or regret not learning how), it is also easier to forgive them when they are hard on Moonta, because the reader can see that, deep down, they truly do understand his desire to get four years of skating into just a day or two.

Far Out the Long Canal is a great winter read. I enjoyed it even more than DeJong's The Wheel on the School and found it just as quick and cozy a read as A Day on Skates by Hilda van Stockum, which is similar in content, but different enough that reading both books does not feel tedious. Suggest this book to readers - especially boys - who like non-fantasy adventure stories and winter sports.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Tough Winter by Robert Lawson (1954)

In this sequel to Rabbit Hill, gloomy rabbit Uncle Analdas and all the other animals on the Hill are dreading a tough winter. The Folks have gone to the Bluegrass country to weather the colder months, and they have left a Caretaker and his mean dog to look after their property. The Caretaker doesn't put out any garbage worth eating, and once the snow begins to fall, food becomes more and more scarce. When some of the animals are forced to leave the Hill in search of food, Uncle Analdas decides he's had enough, and he sets out to find the Folks and bring them home again.

Though its text and illustrations are quite good, The Tough Winter is just not as distinctive as Rabbit Hill. In Rabbit Hill, details were revealed in such a way that the reader had a clear motivation to keep reading: to find out what sort of people the Folks would turn out to be. Because the characters were uncertain about the Folks, the ending, in which their kindness toward animals was revealed, was an emotional moment and a satisfying one. By contrast, The Tough Winter lacks an overarching conflict to carry the story. Yes, the animals are faced with surviving a difficult winter, but the reader doesn't really doubt that they will survive it. The animals miss the Folks, but there is also no question that they will eventually return. There is a bit of tension surrounding the question of whether Porkey the groundhog will see his shadow, but even this loses its gravity because the reader knows groundhogs don't actually predict the weather. This lack of suspense undoubtedly appeals to a certain type of child reader (I was such a reader as a kid), but it was frustrating for me as an adult.

It also bothers me to be asked to believe that the Folks, who take such good care of the animals the rest of the year, would be so lackadaisical about who looks after their home and property during their winter vacation. In some ways, it felt like their behavior in this book negated the message of Rabbit Hill. Surely such a generous animal-loving family would be at least mildly concerned about what happens to their animal neighbors during bad weather.

Overall, The Tough Winter is definitely well-written and it was fun to revisit these characters and their different quirks. While Rabbit Hill is clearly the superior book, this is still worth reading, especially for kids who love animal stories and enjoy reading seasonal tales during the holidays.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My Most Anticipated 2018 Books

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is the books bloggers are looking forward to reading in the new year. Here are the titles to be released in 2018 that I am eagerly anticipating!

  • The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (1/30/18)
    Curtis is an author whose books I will always read. There are a couple I haven't gotten to yet, but every one I have read has been a well-written story with a balance of humor and heartache. I'm so glad he has something new coming out! I have an ARC from Edelweiss, so I'll be reading and reviewing this one soon. 
  • Hooper by Geoff Herbach (2/20/18)
    Geoff Herbach is one of my favorite YA writers of all time, and I will pretty much read anything he writes. Like Stupid Fast and its sequels, this is a sports story, which I love, as well as a story about family problems. I have a digital ARC of this as well, and plan to read it ASAP. 
  • Sunny by Jason Reynolds (4/10/18)
    Ghost and Patina were both so well-written that I'm dying to read book three of the series. Jason Reynolds has such a great ear for character voices, and I can't want to get to know Sunny.
  • One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler (5/1/18)
    I loved Jennifer Fulwiler's first book, Something Other than God, which is about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. I've been hoping she'd write another book, and this one, about her family life with six kids, sounds like it will be a great read! 
  • The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall (5/15/18)
    This book was on my list last year because it was rumored that the book would be out in 2017. This time, though, there is a title and pub date, so I think it's safe to assume it's really coming out this coming year! Though the latter books of this series have been hit or miss for me, I am still excited to finally see how the books end. I'm a little disappointed that Lydia is the protagonist of this book, but that's not enough to keep me from reading. 
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang (5/29/18)
    I am including this book on my list mostly because I love the brightly colored cover, and because I have an ARC from Edelweiss. I am also a sucker for a story set in a hotel, and this book sounds like a cross between Depend on Katie John by Mary Calhoun and At Your Service by Jen Malone, both of which I loved.
  • Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay (9/4/18)
    This is the ninth book in my favorite cozy mystery series: the Library Lover's mysteries. It sounds like the plot of this one is directly related to Lindsey's role as a librarian, so it should be a good read.  
  • The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser (9/25/18)
    The first book about the Vanderbeekers was a refreshing contemporary story with an old-fashioned sensibility. I'm excited to go another adventure (or two!) with these characters.
  • Successful Summer Reading Programs for All Ages: A Practical Guide for Librarians by Me! (4/1/18)
    Last, but not least, my second book will be out this spring! It's a little bit bittersweet because this is probably my last professional activity as a librarian for the foreseeable future, but I will also be glad to finally see it in print. 
What are you looking forward to reading in 2018?

Friday, December 22, 2017

The RAHK Report for 12/22/17

Family Read-Alouds

After finishing A Bear Called Paddington, we haven't picked up another chapter book yet. Instead, we've been reading Christmas books. This week, it was The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden (which only Miss Muffet really listened to, as it took us several days to get through and Bo Peep doesn't have patience for that just yet) and The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot. The Herriot book was also pretty long for a two-year-old, but Bo Peep likes animals so she mostly paid attention. An animal dies in the story, which I thought might bother Miss Muffet, but instead, she simply asked if the cat in the final illustration of the book was alive or dead. The way her mind works never ceases to amaze me. We also read Christmas by Barbara Cooney to help Miss Muffet understand the origins of various Christmas customs.

Little Miss Muffet (4 years)


On her own, Miss Muffet has been reading more Oliver and Amanda Pig books: Oliver and Amanda's Christmas, Amanda Pig On Her Own, and Oliver and Amanda and the Big Snow. She's also read a bunch of other easy readers, including Aunt Eater's Mystery Christmas and Bony-Legs.

With me, this week she has read The Twenty Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L'Engle, which appealed to her mainly because the family in the story is waiting for the birth of a new sibling, and Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, which she loved because it's by Russell and Lillian Hoban . We also re-read a favorite we discovered last year, Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray and Barry Root. It was every bit as good as I remembered, and Miss Muffet seemed to like it even more this year.

Little Bo Peep (2 years, 2 months)

We borrowed a big stack of picture books from the library last weekend, but so far Little Bo Peep only has eyes for The Giant Jumperee. She likes to make believe about giants as it is, and this book just ramped up her interest. We have read it at least ten times already and we still have the book for two more weeks.

She also continues to be drawn to singable Christmas picture books. The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola is on loan from the library, and I also brought out our copy of The Huron Carol illustrated by Ian Wallace. I didn't know either of these carols too well, but have now learned them practically by heart. When we run out of anything else to sing, we just open Take Joy! by Tasha Tudor and sing the carols in there.

Little Jumping Joan (2 months)

Jumping Joan is a frequent passive observer during lunch-time read-alouds and Christmas sing-alongs, but I also like to carve out a little reading time just for her as well. A couple nights ago, I read her Moonlight by Helen V. Griffith and Laura Dronzek and If All the Seas Were One Sea by Janina Domanska while she had some tummy time on the floor. Not long afterward, she rolled over for the first time! I figure I'd better read to her as much as possible now while she's still a captive audience. A few months from now, she'll be just as busy as her older sister!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Reading and Blogging in Review

I have officially read over 800 books this year, which completes my Goodreads challenge. (I'm technically still reading, but I probably won't read too many more over the holidays, and I wanted to get this up before Christmas.) This pie chart shows the break-down of the different types of books included in that number:

I'm most surprised by how many adult books I wound up reading and how few middle grade compared to past years. I also posted 87 reviews to this blog, some of which were reviews of multiple books, as well as dozens more reviews on Goodreads.

In addition to my Goodreads challenge goal of reading 800 books, I also set out to complete five reading and blogging goals this year. Here's a look at how I did:
  1. Host a successful reading challenge.Considering how few people participated in the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge after the first couple of months, I'm not certain I feel that this was a success. Still, I think it's a good idea for a challenge and it's not available anywhere else, so I'm offering it again in 2018. I'm hoping that the elimination of monthly categories will make it easier for people to participate.
  2. Connect more with the book blogging community.I didn't do as much networking with other book bloggers as I wanted this year. Participating in It's Monday! What Are You Reading? has helped, but I think I was actually more involved in the #bookstagram community and on Goodreads than I was with other bloggers. This is still something I want to get better at, and I have some things planned for 2018 that will hopefully help.
  3. Write more reflection posts.When I wrote this goal I envisioned myself posting one or two little essays or articles each month. It didn't quite turn out that way. Part of that was a time issue- I was writing a book this year and then I had a baby - but it was just as much a problem of not knowing what to write about. Still, I was really pleased with my post about seeking authentic value in children's books and my post about writing critical reviews and I really do want to write more like these.
  4. Complete my reading challenges.I participated in six challenges and did fairly well. Here is a quick summary of my overall progress for each one: 
    • Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge, hosted by Andi's ABCs
      I read 13 books but never linked up my titles. I got discouraged early on by all the explicit sex in so many books in this genre and wasn't sure I would actually find any I would willingly read, and by the time I did start reading them, I had fallen way behind in the link-ups. So I did the reading, but did not formally finish the challenge.
    • Craving for Cozies 2017, hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book
      I really enjoyed this challenge and kept up with it all year in the Facebook group. I read more than twice as many books as I had planned (more than 25 in all!) and enjoyed discovering new authors and series outside of the kidlit world. I plan to participate again in 2018.
    • Newbery Through the Decades, hosted by Hope is the Word
      I would have stuck with this one, but a few months in, the host apparently decided not to continue with it, and I wasn't as motivated to keep up with it without a monthly link-up to join. 
    • Newbery Reading Challenge 2017, hosted by Smiling Shelves
      There were no monthly link-ups with this challenge so I lost track of it during the year, especially once Newbery Through the Decades came to a sudden halt. Still, I read four Newbery Medal winners and four Newbery Honor books, which adds up to 20 points. I was aiming for 30, so I didn't quite make it, but that's pretty good for not really trying to complete the challenge. I'm not doing this one next year, though - I've read a ton of Newbery books already and don't want to be tied down to that list.
    • 2017 Picture Book Reading Challenge, hosted by Becky's Book Reviews
      My goal with this challenge was to finish as much of the checklist as possible, and I did pretty well. There were 102 categories on the list, and there were only 10 that I didn't cross off. 
    • Deal Me In Short Story Challenge hosted by Bibliophilica
      I started this a little late (February) and by June, I was so far behind I realized I could never catch up. Because it was so hard for me to keep up, I have decided not to do this one in 2018, even though I think it's a great idea for a challenge.
    • Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge, hosted by me
      I read the most books for my own challenge - over 50 in all. 

  5. Read only the books I want to readFor years, I read to keep up professionally and therefore felt obligated to read as many new children's books as I possibly could even if I would have liked to read other things. This year, I stopped requesting so many ARCs and borrowing so many new library books and just read whatever interested me. The result was a much more well-rounded reading experience and a lot less reading-related stress. 
I don't feel quite as accomplished blogging-wise at the end of this year as I have in the past, but now that I'm done writing librarian textbooks for the time being, I should hopefully have more creative energy to put toward blogging in the new year.  I'll have my new list of goals and challenges for 2018 ready to share next week.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reading Through History: Prairie School by Lois Lenski (1951)

On the South Dakota prairie, Delores and Darrell and the other kids who attend their schoolhouse are used to braving rough weather conditions during the winter months. When a record-breaking blizzard hits, however, and Delores and Darrell become stranded at the schoolhouse with their teacher Miss Martin, they may not be quite prepared for the unusual difficulties they will face before the storm ends.

Prairie School is part survival story, part educational text about the lives of prairie farmers in the late 1940s. Though the characters are fairly well-described and have individual personalities, the setting itself is really the main character of the book. Through the eyes of Delores and Darrell, the reader experiences the daily and yearly rhythms of farm life, with its associated difficulties and dangers. There are lots of great details about kids walking miles to and from school in the snow, helping to round up wayward cattle, recognizing signs of bad weather, worrying about whether the schoolhouse has enough coal, and generally experiencing a much less sheltered way of life than exists today. The characters are appealing, but it is the way they live that drives the story and makes it so interesting.

The illustrations by the author are just as well-done as the text. They are charming pictures, depicting in detail key scenes from the story and showing how the characters dress and what their school and homes look like. Though there are only two or three illustrations per chapter, some of them occupy full pages, and they really help develop the visual elements of a time and place most readers can only imagine.

Prairie School may not be as distinctive and memorable as Strawberry Girl, Lenski's Newbery winning title,  but it was an engaging and quick read in its own right. I am always fascinated by stories involving schoolhouse so that was an enjoyable aspect for me, as was the suspense at the height of the story when Delores's health is in danger and it is unclear how she will receive treatment. Reading this book has made me want to explore Lenski's other regional stories -if they're all as good as this one, I have many treats in store in the coming months!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The RAHM Report for 12/18/17

What My Kids Are Reading

Friday's Read-at-Home Kids Report lists all the books we've been reading to prepare for Christmas, including Christmas in Noisy Village and several singable picture books.

What I Finished Reading


  • I'll Have What She's Having : How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson
    I really enjoyed this one. My four-star review is on Goodreads.
  • Father's Arcane Daughter by E.L. Konigsburg
    I read and reviewed this several years ago, but my husband just read it and then we watched Caroline?, the TV movie adaptation. I wanted to compare the book and movie so I quickly re-read it. I still love the book, but the movie was not great. 
  • The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
    I really enjoyed this one. If more "chick lit" books were like this, I would read a lot more in this genre! I hope this author publishes more in the future because she is my kind of writer.  My review is on Goodreads.
  • Sprout Street Neighbors: Bon Voyage by Anna Alter
    I didn't like this as much as the earlier volumes. A lot of the charm of this series is the setting, so when the characters are removed from that to take a trip to France, some of the appeal is lost. 
  • Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog! by Hilde Lysiak with Matthew Lysiak
    I borrowed this from the library because it's a Branches book and it's been a while since I've read one. I didn't realize this was written by the young girl who is the book's main character. It was fine, but I would put it in the category of books written by celebrities and probably will not seek out the sequels.

What I'm Currently Reading


  • Winter Stroll by Elin HilderbrandI'm more than halfway through this book and hope to finish it ASAP, possibly even by the time this post goes live. The writing is not great, but with This is Us on hiatus for a few weeks, this series is giving me my daily dose of family drama along with a bit of holiday festivity. 
  • Far Out the Long Canal by Meindert DeJong
    I'm also more than halfway through this book, and I'm loving it. When I'm finished, I'll be reviewing it before the end of this month. 
  • Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris
    I haven't fully gotten into this one yet, but I have it checked out from my library via Hoopla and read a few pages. I plan to finish it before the year ends.

Library Haul


  • Waylon: Even More Awesome by Sara PennypackerI enjoyed the first Waylon book, so I've been wanting to try this one. I hope it's as good as the first one!  
  • The Greatest Gift by Kallie George
    I love the cover of this book, and I love Kallie George, so even though I probably don't need to read the second book of a series like this, I'm doing it anyway. 
  • Absolutely Alfie and the Furry, Purry Secret by Sally Warner and Absolutely Alfie and the First Week Friends by Sally WarnerThese two books are the first two titles in a spin-off series about Alvin Jakes's little sister. I typically enjoy Sally Warner and I'm hoping these will be as good as the titles in the original series.
  • A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
    I've taken a few weeks off from Three Pines, and I'm ready to go back. The other titles I've read have all been ebooks from Overdrive and this is a paperback, so I'm excited to actually hold a Gamache book in my hands this time around.
  • Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney
    I have seen a lot of people talking about this book in cozy mystery groups on Facebook, but none of my local libraries had it. I finally had to request it on inter-library loan. I'm hoping it was worth the wait! 
  • The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis I borrowed this during my last library visit and renewed it because I need to read it for my book club and haven't gotten to it yet. We're not meeting until mid-January so I still have plenty of time, and I'll probably wait until it gets closer to the end of the loan period to start it.
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Friday, December 15, 2017

The RAHK Report for 12/15/17

Family Read-Alouds

  • A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
    Miss Muffet really enjoyed this book, so I was happy to read it for her (and for Bo Peep, who only listened sporadically), but I was also glad to see it end. Paddington just causes mess after mess in each chapter and after about three such episodes the gimmick got old for me. I will not be in a hurry to read this again to the little girls.
  • Once in Royal David's City by Kathleen Lines and Harold Jones
    We're planning to go to a Living Nativity at a local shrine this weekend, and last year, the text they used was nearly identical  to what is in this book. I read the story aloud and the girls acted it out using the punch-outs from Make & Play: Nativity. (Lines and Jones also collaborated on Lavender's Blue, my all-time favorite nursery rhyme collection.)
  • The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia Scarry
    My husband I had vastly different tastes in books as kids, but we have this book in common. We bought a new copy for the girls when Miss Muffet was a baby and we read it every year. Bo Peep has a cold and kept insisting she couldn't smell anything during our two readings of the story, but she did seem to enjoy scratching and sniffing anyway. 
  • Hanna's Christmas by Melissa Peterson, illustrated by Melissa Iwai
    Wednesday was the feast of St. Lucy (aka Santa Lucia) so we made crowns and read this sweet story about a girl who moves from Sweden to the US and worries that her family won't celebrate St. Lucia day anymore. We also discovered that the author, better known to most as Melissa Wiley, made a YouTube video of herself reading the book. Since copies of the book are rare and expensive, this is a great way to enjoy the book if you can't own it yourself.
  • "Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus" from A Classic Christmas
    My husband read this aloud to the big girls after dinner one night, and it was a big hit. They both love Laura and Mary. I'm excited for them to enjoy all the books of the Little House series as they get older.

Little Miss Muffet (age 4)

  • The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
    I'm slowly reading this aloud to Miss Muffet on her own, since Bo Peep isn't ready for such a long story yet. There are actually quite a few characters, and I find that we need to recap them each time we return to the book so she can keep track of who is who. We're not even a quarter of the way through the story yet, but we have until the end of the Christmas season so there is no rush. 
  • Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren and Ilon Wikland
    Of the dozen or so Christmas picture books I took out for the girls this week, this is the one Miss Muffet keeps asking me to read. She also loved it last year, though I don't think she remembers that. I really enjoy it as well, and I'm hoping to read The Children of Noisy Village in the coming year.
In addition to these read-alouds with me, Miss Muffet is reading tons of books on her own. I frequently see her reading picture books and easy readers to her little sisters as well. Jumping Joan is a slightly better audience than busy Bo Peep, but they both enjoying having a big sister who can share stories with them.

Another fun thing I observed this week was Miss Muffet using the words of a picture book character to describe her own feelings. She was upset with Bo Peep for not being scolded for something and she said, "When she does something wrong it was always last year." She was paraphrasing what Frances says about Gloria in A Birthday for Frances when Frances is upset that Gloria stole her shovel and pail and her mother points out that this happened a long time ago. I loved that in her anger she used a literary reference to make her feelings known.

Little Bo Peep (age 2 years, 2 months)

  • Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella by Adrienne Adams
    Little Bo Peep loves this book both because it can be sung and because it contains two illustrations of Baby Jesus. I've had to limit her access to the book a little bit because she gets very upset when she can't find the pages that have Baby Jesus, and there have been several tantrums. But she loves the book and I've probably read it once a day this week. 
  • Deck the Halls by Veronica Vasylenko
    This is another singable book, which Bo Peep has requested several times. She's slowly learning to sing along with it. 
  • My First Prayers for Christmas by Maite Roche
    We have all four of the board books in this series, and we only bring this one out during Advent and Christmas. Bo Peep has taken a real liking to it. One night, I read it as her bedtime "story" and another day she took it to bed with her for her nap. 
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Snow Globe Edition by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
    After a short break from this book, Bo Peep has a renewed interest in it. I think it helped that we had a little snowstorm this week. 

Jumping Joan (age 8 weeks)

Jumping Joan has started smiling more regularly so now we can tell when she's enjoying a story. Here are the books she heard this week: 

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle
  • Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle
  • Mrs. Wishy Washy by Joy Cowley

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Trouble with Jenny's Ear by Oliver Butterworth (1960)

Jenny's older brothers are very interested in telecommunications. Their uncle, who shares their fascination, regularly brings them radios, speakers, microphones, television screens, and other equipment so that they can experiment with new technology and maybe even come up with ways to make their lives easier. As her brothers find ways to revolutionize everything from schoolwork to waking the household up in the morning, Jenny finds that she has developed an even more efficient way to receive messages from those around her. Jenny's ear is able to hear what people are thinking. When her brothers learn of this exciting new ability, they immediately look for ways to use it to make money, taking their sister to the local spelling bee, and later, to nationally televised quiz shows, where she can't be beat - at least, not until her unique ability begins to fade away.

As he did in The Enormous Egg, here Oliver Butterworth tells a fantastical story that almost feels plausible. In many fantasy novels, characters who develop strange abilities panic about them and go to great lengths to keep them a secret. In this book, though, Jenny's family learns of her newfound sensitive hearing and begin to fold this new information into their lives as though it is no big deal. They do keep it a secret from the quiz show hosts and such, at least at first, but the book is less about hiding a magic power and more about exploring the ethical and practical implications of being able to spy on the thoughts of others without even really trying.

The Trouble with Jenny's Ear is a light, humorous story which explores serious subjects in a whimsical way. The focus on quiz shows and the novelty of television and other electronics decidedly dates the book to the '50s or '60s, but that just makes it more charming and fun to read. This would be a fun family read-aloud, even for kids as young as 5 or 6, and a good independent read for ages 8 and up.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Read-at-Home Mom's Favorite Books of 2017

As 2017 winds down, it is time to name my favorites of the books I read this year. I have divided my list into three categories: new children's books published in 2017, "old school" children's books published in the 1980s or before, and adult books new and old.


Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca
Read 3/1/17; reviewed 4/27/17.
Why I loved it: appealing illustrations, faithful to the conventions of the fairy tale genre, clever writing with many laugh-out-loud funny moments

Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Read 8/21/17; reviewed on Goodreads.
Why I loved it: great characterization (especially of the difficult-to-love protagonist), funny quotable lines, perfect marriage of text and illustrations 

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Read 8/25/17; reviewed 10/5/17.
Why I loved it: traditional feel, strong sibling relationships, heartwarming ending 

Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Read 9/2/17; reviewed 11/15/17.
Why I loved it: festive winter mood, unpredictable plot, wonderful sense of setting 

Slider by Pete Hautman
Read 10/22/17; reviewed on Goodreads.
Why I loved it: great voice, unique subject matter, well-developed supporting character with autism

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
Read 12/2/17; reviewed 12/6/17.
Why I loved it: unique and compelling historical setting, buoyant and resourceful main character, believable conflicts and resolutions


When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
Read 4/12/17; reviewed 4/24/17.
Why I loved it: beautifully descriptive writing, straightforward storytelling style, intriguing and unpredictable plot

Those Miller Girls! by Alberta Wilson Constant
Read 7/21/17; reviewed 7/28/17.
Why I loved it: clever dialogue filled with literary allusions and Latin phrases, details about early 20th century daily living, heartwarming family relationships

The Haunting by Margaret Mahy
Read 9/10/17; reviewed 11/8/17.
Why I loved it: fascinating family secrets, interesting mix of characters, fantasy elements rooted in psychology rather than magic

The Crow and the Castle by Keith Robertson
Read 9/28/17; reviewed 10/17/17.
Why I loved it: mischievous and boyish sense of humor, lots of details about the game of chess, far-fetched yet grounded in reality

Where the Lilies Bloom by Vera and Bill Cleaver
Read 9/27/17; reviewed 11/22/17.
Why I loved it: engaging and meaningful descriptions, compelling characters, unusual and interesting setting


Gates of Excellence by Katherine Paterson
Read 8/17/17; reviewed 9/8/17.
Why I loved it: insights into Katherine Paterson's writing process, reviews of obscure books, wonderful essay about faith and children's literature

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Read 8/22/17; reviewed on Goodreads.
Why I loved it: great concept, good mix of genres and types of books, laugh-out-loud funny commentary

Still Life by Louise Penny
Read 9/22/17; reviewed on Goodreads.
Why I loved it: strong sense of place, believable quirky characters, effective use of shifting points of view

Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
Read 10/4/17; reviewed on Goodreads.
Why I loved it: uses many literary allusions to bolster arguments, calm and rational arguments regarding complex and emotional issues, excellent and persuasive writing

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
Read 11/3/17; reviewed on Goodreads.
Why I loved it: unique plot for a cozy mystery, quirky small-town setting, flawed and funny main character

The Deep End by Julie Mulhern
Read 11/4/17; reviewed on Goodreads.
Why I loved it: ironic tone, 1970s pop culture references, well-structured plot

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Read 12/2/17.
Why I loved it: wealth of information about veterinary techniques, comedy of errors in Herriot's courtship of his wife, descriptions of the quirks of various English farmers

I'm linking up today with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday, where this week's theme is Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The RAHM Report for 12/11/17

What I Finished Reading

  • Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
    I had never read anything by Hilderbrand, and this was an enjoyable first experience with her books. It ended on a cliffhanger so I immediately had to start the second book. 
  • Prairie School by Lois Lenski
    This was not as wonderful as Strawberry Girl, but it was still quite good. I enjoyed the illustrations as well as the story. 
  • Snowbound Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner
    The Boxcar Children books really do not hold up that well. I loved these as a kid, but found this one tedious to read as an adult. The mystery was barely a mystery, and the four kids' personalities are too similar. I was going to review this for Old School Kidlit, but may end up skipping it. 
  • Betsy's Winterhouse by Carolyn Haywood
    Another charming and nostalgic read from this series. It wasn't quite as wintry as I was expecting, but it did include Christmas and lots of fun ideas for playing indoors when the weather is too cold to go out.
  • The Tough Winter by Robert Lawson
    This is the sequel to Rabbit Hill. It's good, but not great. Review coming at the end of the month. 

What I'm Currently Reading

  • I'll Have What She's Having : How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson
    I'm almost done with this one, and I have really enjoyed it. It's interesting to hear the background behind a lot of the decisions that were made during the filming of the three movies referenced in the title. I really want to see the movies again now!
  • Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand
    I'm only a few pages into this one, but it seems comparable to the first book of the series so far. I want to try to finish the series before the new year - I usually don't want to read these holiday-themed family stories anymore once the Christmas season passes.
  • Far Out the Long Canal by Meindert DeJong
    I haven't started this one just yet, but it was my original pick for a winter story for Old School Kidlit. I still plan to read and review it even though I have already read several winter titles.

I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: We're Going on a Bear Hunt Snow Globe Edition (2017), Make & Play: Nativity (2017), and Press Out & Color: Christmas Decorations (2017)

With a new baby in the house, it can sometimes be difficult to keep my older girls, Miss Muffet (age four) and Bo Peep (age two) entertained during times when my attention has to be on their new sister. That's why I was so thankful to receive review copies of new novelty and activity books from Candlewick Press/Nosy Crow.

The video of Michael Rosen performing We're Going on a Bear Hunt that Walker Books put out for the book's 25th anniversary has been a huge favorite of both Miss Muffet and Bo Peep. Bo Peep, especially, has taken a real liking to it, and she has learned to recite and move along with the video each time it plays. She was thrilled, therefore, to receive the snowglobe edition of the book for her birthday a few weeks ago. This is a pop-up edition of the original book, with full-color illustrations and a fun plastic snowglobe on the front cover. Bo Peep is rough on her books, but for a pop-up book, this one is surprisingly sturdy, and so far only one pop-up has been bent out of shape. Because she already knows the story, she can entertain herself without adult involvement by retelling each page from memory. She also loves to follow along with the video with the book in her lap. Even if you already have a copy of the original book, it's worth introducing this special edition into your collection, especially if it's a long-time favorite and you'd prefer not to let your toddler tear up a hardcover.

Miss Muffet gets bored more easily than her sister, so for her, I like to have some easy hands-on activities available to bring out when she needs something to do. Nosy Crow's new Christmas-themed gift books have been great for this so far this Advent season. For her birthday, I wrapped up the Make & Play Nativity by Joey Chou. Similar to the Busy Builders sets I reviewed on Tuesday, this book includes a set of punch-out pieces that can be assembled to form the key figures and props of a nativity scene. Our family nativity scene is too fragile to be handled by little hands, so this set was instantly appealing, as it makes it possible for Miss Muffet to act out the story without worrying about anything getting broken. There are 20 pieces in all, including Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus in the manger, shepherds, sheep, a donkey, an angel, and the three kings. We're going to see a living nativity in a couple of weeks, so this set is also a great way to prepare her for what she will see then.

After the section of the book containing the punch-outs there is also a section of Christmas activities and songs. The activities are pretty basic and unlikely to be new to a seasoned parent, and the songs, too, are easily found in almost any Christmas songbook. It is handy to have the songs right there to sing as we play with the pieces, but I doubt we will try any of the suggested crafts. I typically find more interesting ideas just scrolling Instagram or Pinterest. Overall, though, I was pleased with the quality of the cardboard pieces and the ease with which they can be put together. Miss Muffet had a little trouble getting them on straight, and as a result, some of our pieces wouldn't stand at first, but this was easily fixed with a quick adjustment and removing and replacing the stands on the figures did not seem to damage them at all.

The other Nosy Crow activity book we have been eager to begin using is Press Out & Color: Christmas Decorations by Kate McLelland. This is a set of 20 sparkly Christmas ornaments, embellished with gold accents, which kids can color and assemble. Though some of these ornaments are three dimensional when they are completed, others can lie flat, and I am planning to have Miss Muffet paint or color those and then mail them to relatives as gifts. The others I think we will hang on our own tree.

I like these ornaments because the cardboard is not too glossy to use with crayons, and because the designs are basic enough that painting over them with watercolor paint isn't likely to ruin them or distort them, even if the painting itself is a little messy. They make it possible for a preschooler to give a homemade gift that the recipient might actually want to save as a keepsake instead of an unidentifiable craft that can't really be used. (I'm all for process art, but sometimes you just want to give Grandma a gift that looks like what it's meant to be!) This book also works well across multiple age groups and abilities, as the ornaments are basically blank canvases to which kids can add their own personal creative touches.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Reading Through History: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (2017)

Once an infant in a skiff washed up on the shore of a tiny piece of land among the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. Osh, the only man who lived there, found the baby, named her Crow, and began to care for her with the help of Miss Maggie, his neighbor on the nearby island of Cuttyhunk. Now it is 1925, and twelve-year-old Crow is happy with her little family, but she wishes she knew more about where she came from. The Cuttyhunk locals are convinced she came from Penikese, an island which previously housed a leper colony, and they are wary of her, refusing to make physical contact with her, to handle objects which she has touched, or to allow her to attend school for fear of contracting leprosy. When a scientist comes to Penikese to study birds, Crow notices his fire burning across the water one night, and she feels a sudden urge to also visit the island to seek clues about her origin. From here, Crow sets into motion a series of surprising events that lead to the truth about her identity, both in the past, as a newborn baby and now, as a young girl.

Lauren Wolk's sophomore children's novel, published on the heels of her Newbery Honor book, Wolf Hollow, is another piece of truly excellent writing. Unlike Wolf Hollow, which was initially written for adults, Beyond the Bright Sea was written with a child audience in mind, and it perfectly captures everything I think about when I imagine the quintessential middle grade novel. Everything about this book feels real and true: the insular setting, the quirky and unusual characters, the historical details about leprosy, and, most of all, the character of Crow. Akin to someone like Bo from Bo at Ballard Creek or Omakayas from The Birchbark House, she is an appealing optimist, equally loving toward her found family and curious about the one she lost, respectful of the adults who care for her, but also stubborn in her desire to know the truth at any cost. Osh, the wary and private older man who has become her adoptive father is her perfect foil: pessimistic where she is positive and uncertain where she is completely sure and secure. Osh and Miss Maggie are also the kind of adults lacking in the lives of most middle grade protagonists. The fact that they take Crow seriously and give her the latitude to explore the questions that concern her make them feel like real-life parents who truly love their child. These three characters form a wonderfully complex family unit that stirs up strong emotions in the reader.

But why, you ask, would a middle grade reader want to read historical fiction about a leper colony in the first place? Well, because this is not really a book about leper colonies, or even about the 1920s. Wolk uses these historical elements to tell a story that deals with universal questions and concerns. All kids, even those who have always known their parents, are curious about the way they were as young children, and about incorporating facts about their pasts into their images of themselves in the present. All kids, too, enjoy reading about characters who feel believable and whose success matters to them. Crow doesn't come across as someone living nearly 100 years ago. Instead, she is presented as a spirited girl with an appealing personality and a strong sense of determination that today's kids can easily appreciate and love. Sure, if you try to sell this to a middle school kid by telling her it's a historical fiction novel about lepers, you're not going to get far. But if you introduce a reader to Crow, I'm convinced that reader will follow her wherever she leads because she is compelling, and everything else in the book - from lepers to orphanages - becomes interesting because the story is hers.

In the old days, before politics overtook the ALA Youth Media Awards, I would have stated with complete confidence that this book would be the clear Newbery winner this winter. As things stand now, with committees yearly trying to push the envelope of what is Newbery-worthy, however, I will tentatively predict another honor and just keep my fingers crossed in case there is any chance of more. Truly, though, Beyond the Bright Sea is the best book I read in 2017. It was fast-paced, suspenseful, realistic, and emotional, with a very satisfying conclusion. I recommend it very highly and I look forward to more from the amazing Lauren Wolk.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Review: Busy Builders Books and Playsets: Construction Site (2013), Fire Station (2016), and Airport (2016)

Over the summer, I received review copies of three Busy Builders sets from Silver Dolphin Books: Construction Site, Fire Station, and Airport. Miss Muffet and I had a lot of fun building and playing with each one, and I shared photos on Instagram, but now, with holiday gift-giving on the horizon, I'm finally getting around to writing a proper review.


Each of these sets is contained in a box which opens up, with a flap on either side, to become the central building of each playset: the firehouse, the airport, and a school for the construction workers to build. Puzzle pieces snap onto the flaps to make a road going around each building, and there are various other cardboard pieces which punch out and are used to build vehicles, people, etc. A book is also part of each set. These colorfully illustrated volumes provide lots of facts and vocabulary associated with each setting, as well as the instructions for putting together all of the models.

Because my daughter has only just turned four, she couldn't do much of the actual building herself. She was able to put the stands on the people, and to put together small accessories like fire hydrants and traffic cones, but the larger tasks of putting together the firetruck, airplanes, and diggers were left to me. If she were six or seven years old, however, I think she could have put together everything herself, as all of the instructions are clearly illustrated and all that is required is snapping cardboard pieces together in the correct order.

The books are surprisingly full of information, despite being only 32 pages, a good chunk of which is devoted to building instructions. There isn't much of a narrative to any of them; rather, they illustrate the vehicles, equipment, and buildings pertaining to the fire station, airport, and construction site, label each item and provide short blurbs to explain how they are used by the various workers. Miss Muffet was not yet reading when we first received these, but she still spent a good long time poring over each book and even making up stories about the characters in each illustration. The books also helped inform her play, as she had very little knowledge of construction, firefighting, or airports prior to playing with these sets.

Unfortunately, as much as these kits really enriched Miss Muffet's first lesson about community helpers, there were some problems with the playsets. For one thing, the boxes which serve as the buildings for each set are weakly attached to the flaps that fold out from them, which makes it easy for them to come apart. One of our sets arrived with the box already completely detached, and I had to glue it back together. This was easily accomplished with plain Elmer's white glue, and the set was still perfectly usable after the fact, but it was disappointing to start out with a broken set.

The puzzle pieces that make up the roads also don't fit together perfectly, especially on a carpeted floor, so that was frustrating for both me and my daughter, as pieces kept popping out of place whenever we pretended to drive a vehicle over them. This problem seemed to be most pronounced in the fire station set and least troublesome in the airport, but none of the three had pieces that were a perfect fit. We ran into similar difficulties with some of the stands for the people and with certain pieces of the airport aircraft and the fire station's helicopter. In cases where a piece was too loose, it would fall off whenever the model was moved. In other cases, the pieces were such a tight fit that they wound up bending or tearing slightly on their edges when I tried to put them in place. Again, these were not problems that interfered heavily with our enjoyment of the sets, but it was frustrating to continually have to pick up wheels or a tail from the floor every time Miss Muffet pretended to fly a plane across the sky.

The final problem I encountered was with storage. While the sets are self-contained and all of the pieces can be stored in the buildings/boxes, this is only the case if you take each set entirely apart between uses. I was not prepared to reassemble every single model every time my daughter wanted to play with them. Instead, I wound up storing all of the assembled vehicles in a wooden tray which I could take down from a shelf upon request. For an older child, though, it might be appealing to build the sets over and over again, in which case storage would be very easy, as the boxes with everything tucked inside can fit easily onto a bookshelf.

Though these kits are not likely to last as long as something made of plastic or wood, they are a nice inexpensive way to engage kids who are interested in cars and trucks, community helpers, model-building, and who are desperate to know every little detail about how people do their work, and the tools they use to do it. While my daughter was able to enjoy these as a preschooler with plenty of adult supervision, they would probably be best for a slightly older child who could work on them independently and feel a sense of pride in having built the models himself, and who can be careful enough with the delicate cardboard to help the sets last a while. Though my favorite of the three is the fire station - it was the easiest to assemble, and had a good mix of people and vehicles - any of these would make a great gift for an elementary-aged child, and Miss Muffet and I recommend them.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The RAHM Report for 12/4/17

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018

I have decided to host Old School Kidlit again this year, with some modifications. Click here for instructions for signing up and guidelines for participating.

What My Kids Are Reading

Check out Friday's RAHK Report for news on my older girls' favorites from our recent library haul, Miss Muffet's fourth birthday presents, and Little Jumping Joan's first picture book read-aloud!

What I Finished Reading

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
    I really enjoyed this, and I'm hoping to eventually see both the new film adaptation and the one from 1974. I also want to read some more Agatha Christie. The only other book of hers that I've read is And Then There Were None.
  • Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
    This story has a lot in common with the plot of You've Got Mail, but that was fine with me. I think it was better than Macomber's Christmas title from last year, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
  • Dangerous Curves Ahead by Sugar Jamison
    This book was really too long and had way too much descriptive sex in it for my taste. Even though it was well-written and the characters were sympathetic, I found it difficult to get through the last 100 pages. I'll probably skip the sequels.
  • Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay
    Another great addition to the series. My review is on Goodreads.
  • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
    I loved this book so much. I will review it here on the blog soon. 

  • All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
    This book felt much more substantial than a lot of the other graphic novels I have read, and it actually took me two nights to read. The Renaissance Faire setting was well-developed and I liked the parallels between training to be a squire and navigating middle school. Review to come on Goodreads.
  • A True Home by Kallie George
    Kallie George writes so well for the beginning chapter book audience. This was an adorable animal story set in a woodland hotel, starring an orphaned homeless mouse in need of a true home. I didn't like Graegin's black and white drawings as much as her color illustrations, but they match the sweet tone of the story nicely.  I will happily read the rest of the series.
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
    This was beautifully written and completely engrossing. Possibly my favorite book of the year. Review coming soon. 

What I'm Currently Reading

  • I'll Have What She's Having : How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson
    I'm one chapter into this book, and so far I really like the writing style. It's a perfect mix of academic and conversational, with lots of information about Nora Ephron herself, as well as the actors featured in her films. I'm excited to get further into it this week. 
  • Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
    I was craving a Christmas-themed family story and decided to give this author a try. The writing in this book is better than in most of the romance novels I've been reading, and I like the alternating points of view. 
  • Prairie School by Lois Lenski
    I'm starting my reading for the final month of my Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge, for which the focus is winter stories, with this Lois Lenski book. I love stories set in schoolhouses, and after one chapter, I can already tell this is going to be a quick and enjoyable read.

I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018

I am once again hosting the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge in 2018!

Here is how to participate this year:
  1. Set a goal for the number of "old school" children's books you want to read in 2018.
  2. Comment to this post with your goal number and a link to wherever you will post about the books you read (your blog, a Goodreads shelf, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
  3. Check in at the end of each month with a list of what you've read and links to any reviews you have posted.
  • A book is considered "old school" if it was published in the decade of your birth or before. 
  • There are no monthly themes this year - read whatever you like! 
  • You can join the challenge at any time during the year. 
  • When you post on social media, tag your posts with #OldSchoolKidlit2018
  • Help promote the challenge by sharing it with your friends!  
Monthly Link-ups:

Friday, December 1, 2017

The RAHK Report for 12/1/17

Family Read-Alouds

  • The Read-To-Me Storybook illustrated by Lois Lenski
    We finally finished this over Thanksgiving weekend. It was really not my favorite. The stories are very repetitive and it seemed like they had been written to a particular formula. The highlight for me was really the poems, but the girls seemed to like everything, even if the stories didn't make as strong an impression as other read-alouds.
  • Happy Birthday from Carolyn Haywood by Carolyn Haywood
    Miss Muffet turned four this week, so we read this book as part of her celebration. We started kind of late, so we read three chapters a day for three days. Miss Muffet loved that Betsy appeared in multiple stories and she even survived the trauma of reading "Jennifer's Birthday," (which is actually really sad and always made me cry as a kid) without shedding a tear.
  • A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
    I have never read this and only vaguely know the character from watching Disney's Lunch Box as a kid, but I have heard it recommended fairly often as a good read-aloud for preschoolers. We've read just one chapter so far, and it is a great read-aloud. I think only Miss Muffet is following the storyline, but Bo Peep was quiet and seemed to be listening, so she might be getting more out of it than I realize.

Library Books

After a few months out of the habit, we borrowed library books this week. I had 23 in my stack, and at least half were picture books, but not all of them ended up being appropriate for the girls at their current ages. These are a few of the titles they wound up reading:

  • Go Sleep In Your Own Bed! by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Lori Nichols
    This is a fun story with a repetitive structure, funny animal sounds, and a subject - sleeping arrangements  - that appeal perfectly to preschoolers. Miss Muffet and Bo Peep have been heard all week telling each other to go sleep in their own beds. This is also the book they most frequently fight over. 
  • Littles and How They Grow by Kelly diPucchio, illustrated by AG Ford
    The appeal of this book is really the illustrations, which feature cute babies doing a variety of baby things. I was not crazy about the text but the girls enjoyed oohing and aahing over the babies, probably because they remind them of their own baby sister. Personally, I thought this was more of a book for parents, since it emphasizes the "it all goes by so fast" cliche but I'm fine with them enjoying it until it goes back to the library. (Note: There is an illustration depicting a same-sex couple cuddling their baby. My girls didn't notice, and I didn't comment. I did, however, decide not to share Alyssa Satin Capucilli's Blanket of Love with them because almost every family in the book was "non-traditional" and promoting such things seemed like more of a focal point.)
  • Time Now to Dream by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
    This book was a disappointment to me, mainly because it tries to domesticate an animal that is traditionally seen as a villain, using its role as a nurturing mother to negate its wildness. I did like the relationship between the brother and sister main characters, and Bo Peep, in particular, had a strong reaction to the story's sense of suspense, but it was just not great, and I wanted it to be. 
  • Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis
    This festive rhyming book about selecting a Christmas tree is the closest my kids will get to having a real tree. (We always had one when I was a kid, and I was always sick with allergies on Christmas!) The illustrations are the best part of the book; the rhythm and rhyme of the text could be a little less clunky in some places. Overall, though, it was a good first holiday book to read to kick off the season.  
  • In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
    Kevin Henkes seems to be losing his touch. This book is very generic compared to the other books he has collaborated on with his wife, and just felt forgettable. Miss Muffet has been reading it aloud to herself and Bo Peep, but no one has asked me to read it a second time. 

Little Miss Muffet (Age 4)

In addition to the library books, Miss Muffet has also been enjoying the books she received for her birthday: 

  • The Jolly Postman, or Other People's Letters by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
    We bought this book new to ensure it would have all of its pieces, and she has loved opening all the letters and piecing the story together. We have The Jolly Christmas Postman all set to give her for Christmas.
  • The Human Body by by Carron Brown and Rachael Saunders
    We enjoy the Shine-a-Light books, and this one is especially great because the flashlight makes each page look like an X-ray. My mom sent this to her, along with Melissa and Doug's human body magnet play set, and Miss Muffet is enjoying learning what the different parts of her body do. 
  • George Balanchine's The Nutcracker 
    We bought this book at a used book sale and it was one of a few ballet-themed presents Miss Muffet received. It has photos from the film version of The Nutcracker (including pictures of a young Macaulay Culkin, much to my amusement) and Miss Muffet has enjoyed looking it while listening to music from the ballet.

Little Bo Peep (2 years, 2 months)

The library books have been Bo Peep's main interest this week. She is still really into her interactive books, Pancakes and Pizza, and strangely she's been talking about The Witch Who Lives Down the Hall, letting me know that it's scary and has too many shadows. Otherwise, there haven't been any real standout favorites for her this week.

Little Jumping Joan (1 month) 

At six weeks old, Jumping Joan finally has enough time during the day where she is awake and calm and can enjoy a few picture books. Here are the very first ones I read to her:

  • Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker
  • A Good Day by Kevin Henkes
  • My Lucky Little Dragon by Joyce Wan
  • Jane Foster's Black and White 

She didn't really react much to any of them except A Good Day. When she saw the squirrel in that book, she gave it a crooked little smile.