Thursday, October 6, 2022

Five New Halloween Board Books

My twins, who are my youngest, are two-and-a-half now, so our board book days are dwindling, but I couldn't resist requesting these festive fall titles before our family leaves this stage of reading behind us. These are five brand-new board books perfect for celebrating Halloween with little ones under three. 

I'm a Little Pumpkin, written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Anna Daviscourt, is a pumpkin-themed take on the classic children's song, I'm a Little Teapot. Following the rhythm of that song, a series of cartoonish pumpkins in different shapes and colors introduce themselves and show how they greet the autumn season. The illustrations use vibrant shades of yellow, orange, red, and green to depict foliage, vines, and a barnyard setting. The text uses a couple of slanted rhymes ("am" and stem;" "striped" and "types") but it can be sung to the original tune without difficulty, which is a big plus for anyone wanting to share this book with a group.  This book doesn't directly reference Halloween, so it can be read all fall long, and it's also suitable for families who choose not to celebrate Halloween.

The text of The Monsters on the Broom, written by Annemarie Riley Guertin and illustrated by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn, is another piggyback song, this time based on The Wheels on the Bus. A group of little monsters travels down the street on Halloween night, and each one makes a signature soumd as they try out the witch's broom. This is a fun one to do in a group setting, too, because of the opportunities to make lots of fun noises. The pictures use lots of black and purple to suggest a nighttime setting, and hints of orange and gold, as well as blue, give the book just a hint of spooky Halloween flavor.  I like this one because it makes some of the spooky characters associated with Halloween look a bit silly, which helps dispel any fears little ones might have. 

Truck or Treat written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Jen Taylor, is a lift-the-flap book as well as a guessing game. Each truck at a construction site is dressed in costume. Using visual and textual clues, readers are invited to guess the identity of each one. The writing in some sections of this book feels a little clunky because there are too many syllables in some of the lines, but the concept is great, and even the costume ideas for the different trucks are appealing to little guys who love vehicles. Reading this book is also a fun way to introduce the names of some of the diggers kids love if they don't know them already.

Monsters Play... Peekaboo, written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago, is another lift-the-flap book with a guessing game format. In this one, every character, from a werewolf to a banshee, is dressed as a ghost, and readers are invited to guess, again using textual clues as well as some visual hints, who is hidden beneath each white sheet.  The refrain of "eek-a-peek-a-peekaboo" is really fun to say, and kids will enjoy repeating it. Some of the monsters have fairly common children's first names as their names, too, which means reading this in a group setting might make some fun personal connections. My daughters were tickled that my son's name in appears in the book.  The ending also has a hint of a humorous surprise which I really enjoyed.

Flavia Z. Drago is also the author and illustrator of Monsters Play... Counting. In this one, readers are invited to act like various monsters,  eating, swinging, reading, fluttering, and even brushing teeth as they do. These monsters also have ordinary first names. The rhyming text is very well done, and it's pretty obvious from each illustration which number is the focus of each spread. These monsters also aren't scary, which is great for timid little ones. 

Thanks to Candlewick for review copies of the Monsters Play... books and to Little Simon for review copies of the other titles mentioned in this post. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Homeschool Update: September 2022

It's a new school year! We started back up again with our full schedule of subjects the day after Labor Day. I have two official students this year. M (almost 9) is in 3rd grade according to the state and 4th for our purposes and C. (7) is technically in 1st grade, but 2nd for our purposes. E. (almost 5)  misses the kindergarten cut-off by just a few weeks, so we are doing kindergarten this year even though she's not officially of school age until next school year.

Group Activities

We are doing as many things as a family as possible. Each morning, we begin with a chapter from an audiobook. In September, we listened to The Gammage Cup and most of The Lion of St. Mark by G.A. Henty. After that, we go over some memory work: poems, geography, books of the Bible, our address and phone number, the planets, etc. (E.'s poem is "The Goat and the Three Red Shirts." C. is learning "Barbara Frietchie" and M. is learning "The Cremation of Sam McGee.") 

Then we read something about the faith. Right now, we're working our way through the Catholic Children's Treasure Box series. The girls also pray a Rosary together each morning using the "pray-along" videos from The Little Rose Shop

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I read aloud a chapter from A Child's History of Art by V.M. Hillyer and we look at the art pieces featured in the chapter. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my husband does music appreciation. This month he read aloud Adventures of Richard Wagner by Opal Wheeler, followed by the Metropolitan Opera Guild's four picture books of the Ring of the Nibelung. On Fridays, we read from a book in the Poetry for Young People series. This month, we read the Robert Frost volume edited by Gary Schmidt. 

On Monday and Friday afternoons, my husband leads the girls in singing. They are singing "Sing, Sing Together" and "Chairs to Mend." The girls each practice piano on their own, and the older two girls do recorder as well. 


For kindergarten history, E. is learning about the history of her family, and using that to begin to understand what history is. We read the intrductory sections in What's Your Name?: A Book of First Names and What They Mean by Beth Goodman and Nancy Krulik and looked up the meanings of first and last names in our family. Then we read about timelines in My Backyard History Book and E. made a timeline of her life, which she is slowly working on illustrating. We also started looking up the front page of newspapers from the birth dates of different people in our family. She enjoyed seeing the Polaroid camera ad in the New York Times from the day I was born. We are also working on learning the meanings of words like uncle, aunt, nephew, cousin, brother-in-law, etc. 

C. is in year two of the grammar stage, which covers from 600 to 1600 AD. We are using A Picturesque Tale of Progress as our spine, and so far we have read about the Byzantine Empire, Mohammad, and the Franks. She ended the month partway through reading Our Little Frankish Cousin of Long Ago. 

M. is in year four of the grammar stage, which is basically the 20th century. (She covered the Civil War over the summer). Her main spine is The Century by Peter Jennings, but with many other books to supplement. Highlights so far have included the Chicago Fire, the sinking of the Titanic, the Wright brothers, the San Francisco Earthquake,  and World War I, for which her spine is The Story of World War I.  She is still working on narrations that she started over the summer. (My husband does history with her.)


This year, M. is doing the Middle School Chemistry curriculum from the American Chemical Society. So far, we have completed three demonstrations of how molecules move in water at different temperatures, and she has drawn a molecular model and completed a short lab report for each one. So far, this feels like just the right pace for her. We are also slowly reading The Romance of Chemistry together and discussing one small section at a time. (Reading a chapter at a time proved to be too burdensome.)

C. and E. are doing volume 1 of BSFU together using some materials created by a mom and shared online. Each lesson has an accompanying worksheet, which is challenging for E. but so far she is keeping up. So far, we have covered sorting objects into categories, how to distinguish between solids, liquids, and gases, and how to change from one state of matter to another. We also discussed the difference between living and non-living things and watched a SciShow kids video about them. 


Math is just continuing on from where they left off in summer. M. is doing Challenging Word Problems 3, along with the review sections in Singapore Primary Mathematics 4B. C. is still working on Singapore Primary Mathematics  2B. E. is counting by ones, twos, and fives on the soroban and using the rods to do simple addition. 

On Wednesdays, M. and C. do a chapter from Life of Fred. C. is in Dogs and M. is in Mineshaft. 

Language Arts 

Two days a week, M. diagrams a sentence from Rex Barks. Each morning, C. is given a sentence and she identifies all the parts of speech. Both girls have been doing quite a bit of creative writing in emails back and forth to each other, emails to me, and in stories they type up in Google Documents. Their formal writing is mainly emails to their aunt, thank you notes, and narrations about science and history.

M. is reading a lot of historical fiction to accompany her history studies. C. has been reading some longer books: Tumtum and Nutmeg and Mossflower. E. is on a Carolyn Haywood kick, and she also read Meet Thomas Jefferson and Little House in the Big Woods. In the evenings I read aloud Attaboy Sam by Lois Lowry to E. and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to C. 

Physical Education

The main source of exercise has been walks to the playground and bike rides in the neighborhood. M. and C. are working on learning to pump on swings. E. learned to ride her bike with pedals. 


M. continues to learn about teeth as her time wearing braces is most likely coming to an end soon. 

Read-at-Home Mom Report: September 2022 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

This month, in addition to my ongoing challenges, I participated in Series September hosted by Sarah's Nightstand and Krista's Books and Jams on YouTube. In total, I  read 17 series books and 11 stand-alone books. 


Until Friday Night
by Abbi Glines (3 stars)
Under the Lights by Abbi Glines (3 stars)
After the Game by Abbi Glines  (3 stars)

This series is directed at teens, but the content is very adult. Like the characters on a TV teen drama, the kids in these books deal with alcohol abuse, the death of parents, teen pregnancy, rape, parental infidelity, and more. The publisher sent me the 6th book so I've been reading the whole series so I won't be lost when I read that one. I'm learning some things about structuring a novel from reading these, so I do plan to read to the end, but I don't consider them remotely appropriate for kids. 

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (5 stars)
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (4 stars)
The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson (4 stars)

My writing friends on Instagram kept talking about this series, and I decided it was time to check it out. I really like the writing and the author's narration of the audiobooks. I plan to finish the last book in October. 

Worst Neighbor Ever by Rachel John (4 stars)
Carpool Crush by Rachel John (3 stars)

I read the most recently published book in this series back in March and then went back for the prequel and book one this month. The stories are all enemies-to-lovers romances, and the writing is quick and concise. A new book comes out at the end of October, and I will try to read that one too. 

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris (2 stars)
Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris (2 stars)
One of the prompts for Series September was to finish a series, so I bit the bullet and listened to the last two Aurora Teagarden books. The writing was pretty poor, but it's nice to have finished.

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (4 stars)
A friend of mine was reading this author's books on Kindle Unlimited, and she said they were good, so I decided to try this one. I listened to the audio and I really enjoyed it. The type of magic in this story - paper-folding - is unique and interesting 

The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell (3 stars)
I had grand plans at the start of this year to possibly finish this series in 2022, but this is only the fourth one I've gotten to, and there are 5 (soon to be 6) more to go. I might get to a couple more, but I doubt I will finish. This one was a perfectly fine installment, but not earth-shattering. 

A Better Man by Louise Penny (4 stars)
This is another series I thought I might finish in 2022, and it's still possible. I only have 3 left including the new book that comes out in November. This was a good one. I always love visiting Three Pines.  

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (5 stars)
Yet another series I'd hoped to finish in 2022, but this is the first one I've read all year. I still have four to go, and I do like reading these in fall, so there is probably still a chance. This installment was one of my very favorites of the entire series. I loved exploring Father Tim's past. 

Attaboy, Sam! by Lois Lowry (4 stars)
I had read this before, but this month I read it aloud to my 4-year-old daughter. She loved reading about Sam's problems creating a perfume for his mother's birthday. 

Ensign Carey by Ronald Welch (2 stars)
My husband and our friend and I are getting closer to finishing this series. We have three left, so we should finish in December. I really liked the beginning of this one, but the second half of the book felt like a totally different story. 

Morse's Greatest Mystery and Other Stories by Colin Dexter (3 stars)
Most, but not all, of the stories in this collection are about Inspector Morse. We've been watching the TV adaptations of some of the books, but this was my first time reading a Morse book. I mostly enjoyed it. 


The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (4 stars)
I first read part of this in high school, and I believe I read it again in college. I got it free on Audible with a Prime trial as part of my 40 Rereads Before 40 project. While I don't love the content, the writing is beautiful. It was definitely worth revisiting.  

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (5 stars)
This was my favorite book that I read during the early days of Covid. Two-plus years later, I still love the characters and it still made me laugh.  

The Stand by Stephen King (5 stars)
My husband and I watched the 90s TV miniseries based on this book during Covid, and I had been wanting to read the book ever since. The September theme for #WorldFullofBooks was big books so I decided now was the time. It took me two weeks to finish, switching between paperback and audiobook, and part of me finished feeling like I could have read 200 more pages about these characters. 

Trouble Brewing by Suzanne Baltsar (3 stars) 
I found this romance on Scribd. It had more suggestive language in it than I prefer, but I did like the unique brewery setting. 

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr (5 stars)
I chose this as a travel book for the September prompt of the Goldberry Reading Challenge. Anthony Doerr's lyrical writing is beautiful, and I loved all the details about life with infant twins. 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (5 stars)
I read this with my daughter who just turned 7 after my sister mentioned she was in Sleepy Hollow, NY recently. I don't think she grasped everything, but she did enjoy the story, with some extra explanation from me about what was going on. 

The Charmed List by Julie Abe (3 stars)
I'm beginning to realize that I like fantasy, but it's hard for me to find the kind of fantasy books I like. This one was promising, but the world-biilding ending up being kind of weak. 

The Star That Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson (4 stars)
I have had a digital ARC of this book for months, but as soon as I found the audiobook on Hoopla, I got to it right away. I loved the writing and the characters, but had some issues with the way Catholicism was portrayed. My full review is here on the blog.

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City by Kallie George (3 stars)
I received a review copy of this from the publisher. I love most Kallie George books, and this isn't her strongest, but it's still a fun Halloween read, and after previewing the content, I gave my kids the greenlight to read it. 

There's a Girl in My Hammerlock by Jerry Spinelli (3 stars)
I picked this out on Hoopla to be a quick re-read for my 40 Rereads project only to realize after I finished that I had already re-read it and reviewed it on the blog in 2013. But it's been 9 years so  I decided it still counts. 

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass (3 stars)
I remember really loving this middle grade novel when I first read it, but it was just okay the second time. I bought it for my kids before re-reading, and now I'm not sure they need to bother with it. 

As for the rest of the family's reading...

A (girl, 2.5 years)

  • More More More said the Baby by Peggy Rathmann
  • Red Car, Green Car by Roger Priddy

R (boy, 2.5 years)
  • The Three Bears by Byron Barton 
  • Eloise Wilkin Stories 
  • 10 Reasons to Love a Bear by Catherine Barr
  • Master Salt the Sailor's Son by Allan Ahlberg 

E. (girl, 4 years, 11 months)
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder 
  • Eddie and the Fire Engine by Carolyn Haywood 
  • Eddie the Dog Holder by Carolyn Haywood
  • Meet Thomas Jefferson by Marvin Barrett
  • Here Comes the Bus by Carolyn Haywood

C. (girl, 7 years)

  • Tum Tum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn
  • Mossflower by Brian Jacques (still in progress)
  • Our Little Frankish Cousin of Long Ago by Evaleen Stein (still in progress)
  • Crimson Twill: Witch in the City by Kallie George 

M (girl 8 years, 10 months) 

  • Courage At Sea by Marguerite Vance
  • All stations! Distress! by Don Brown
  • On Board the Titanic by Shelley Tanaka
  • The Titanic by Deborah Kent
  • Titanic Voyage from Drumshee by Cora Harrison
  • August the Fourth by Penelope Farmer
  • The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston 
  • Thunder in the Sky by K. M. Peyton
  • War Horse by Michael Morpergo
  • Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators in the Mystery of the Green Ghost by Robert Arthur
  • The Good Master by Kate Seredy
  • Gay-Neck by Dhan Gopal Mukerji
  • The Honest Dollar by Dorothy Simpson
  • Simpson and His Donkey by Mark Greenwood
  • Captain by Sam Angus 

My husband

  • The Weathermonger by Peter Dickinson
  • A Grenville Goes To Sea by Hester Burton
  • The Impossible Journey by Gloria Whelan
  • Last Look by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Ensign Carey by Ronald Welch
  • The Hill Road by William Mayne 

Up Next For Me 

In October, I'm planning to read some thrillers, as well as The Secret History, Great Expectations, some fairy tale retellings by Rachel Kovaciny, and a bunch of Netgalley ARCs.

I'm adding this post to the link-up for An Open Book at