Super cold days like today make me think about comforting things - a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and Ballet Shoes.
Wait. WHAT was that last thing?
Ballet Shoes - A book by Noel Streatfeild I read over and over again as a kid, and still read at least once a year. You know those books - the ones that, even though you've read them a gazillion times, you still pick them up from time to time because that familiarity is a comforting feeling. Ballet Shoes, the story of Pauline (the acting prodigy), Posy (ballet dancer-to-be), and Petrova (who really just wants to fly aeroplanes, thankyouverymuch), and their struggle to survive in 40's London with their guardian, Sylvia, is one of my comfort books.
Another one is Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game. While I know whodunit, I still revisit this puzzle mystery regularly in order to spend time with Turtle and the rest of the quirky Sunset Towers residents. I like to follow along as they try to figure out how Sam Westing died, and if one of them is responsible. It's a mystery unlike any other I have ever read - and it should come as no surprise that it won the Newbery Medal in 1979.
I also pick up John D. Fitzgerald's The Great Brain every now and then. Fitzgerald's semi-autobiographical story of his life growing up in turn-of-the-century Utah focuses on his brother, Tom, aka "The Great Brain." Tom's really good at problem solving, but unfortunately, uses his skill primarily to swindle friends and neighbors out of money. I especially like the chapter in The Return of the Great Brain when his family gets the town's first indoor plumbing (which everyone is convinced will stink up the house) and Tom decides to charge the local kids to come in and take a look. In fact, I loved these books so much that in grade school I won a contest to create a slogan for the school library (nerd alert!) with a drawing that included these two titles. My slogan? "A book a day keeps the lazies away." Winner!
I think I'll go home tonight and grab one of these comfort books off my shelf (I still have all my original tattered copies), fix myself a cup of hot chocolate, and warm up with some comfort reading.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I hope everyone has a wonderful day filled with family, friends, fun, and, of course....FOOD! I've got a quick post for you today, as I've got a pie to finish. But I was thinking about how my sister and I, when we were younger, were able to help out with the festivities. Sure, there's the food preparation, and kids can certainly help out with some of that, but what I remember most from my youth was setting the table. This was our very important job - making the table pretty and special in honor of a special day. The centerpiece was always the most important part, and we used leaves, candles, nuts, fruit, and a variety of other objects to fancy things up.
I took a look on pinterest (oh, how I love Pinterest!) and found some kid-friendly, easy-peasy centerpiece ideas that involve items that I think most folks would have on hand at home (because I know we'd all rather avoid the store today if at all possible!). Check 'em out, and set your young ones to work!
- Thankful tree - branches in a jar with paper leaves on which everyone can write what they're thankful for!
- Pear and clove centerpiece - send a message with lovely-smelling fruit and spice!
- Paper roll turkey (picture only) - write what you're thankful for on the feathers!
- Fall trees - more ideas on this blog!
- Turkey vase (from a soda bottle) - this one's a little more labor intensive, but oh-so-cute!
Enjoy! We're thankful for you!
[Picture via San Jose Library]
Are you piling the clan into the family truckster for the Thanksgiving holiday? Why not make the trip more enjoyable by listening to an audio book? To help you avoid more fighting from the backseat (or front seat), below is my list of audiobooks the whole family can enjoy. These audiobooks are not only great stories that will captivate a variety of ages, but the talented narrators on these recordings have created some tasty ear candy as well.
If you like happy stories filled with good things, then this series is unfortunately not for you. But if you like darkly hilarious adventures and wildly bizarre characters, then you will unfortunately find yourself driving extra miles to listen to more of The Series of Unfortunate Events. I can't think of a better actor than Tim Curry to vocalize the side splitting humor of Daniel Handler, I mean Lemony Snicket. Available for checkout or download.
Want something that will transport your family to a magical land full of adventure and away from that sweaty sock smell coming from the back seat? A who's who of English actors came forward to be readers for the classic series The Chronicles of Narnia and used their talents to the max. Follow Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund through the wardrobe and into the captivating world of Narnia.
Dead End in Norvelt will have you rolling with laughter by the time you are over the river and through the woods. This semi-autobiographical tale connects with kids and the kid in all of us. Jackie is grounded for the summer and as further punishment he is sentenced to help Miss Volker with her job of writing obituaries for the town newspaper and with things around the house like dipping her hands in hot wax to help her arthritis. This is definitely not how he planned is summer to go. Together they get themselves into several ridiculously funny situations. In my opinion, Jack Gantos is one of the few authors who does his writing justice by reading it himself.
This fuzzy headed blast from the past was king of the rock parody with hits like, "Another one Rides the Bus" and "I love Rocky Road." You may recall his video of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" entitled "Eat It." I had a teen one time who came to the library to request all the Weird Al CD's he could get. I guess he learned about him when his Dad had turned him on to Dr. Demento. Most people don't know, however, that a couple of years ago Al Yankovic charted new territory as a children's book author.
When I Grow Up is a perfect read aloud for the older elementary school kids. Billy's teacher asks the class to answer the perennial question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Billy's answer goes on for 22 pages of fun filled, fast paced comedy. I have shared this book with kids up to sixth grade and gotten laughs. Who doesn't want to be a "gorilla masseuse or an artist who sculpts out of chocolate mousse." Some of us grown-ups are probably still contemplating what we want to be when we grow up. What do you want to be?
PS: Look for Billy's next adventure, My New Teacher and Me, coming soon to a library near you!
Books are magic - in the sense that they ignite a love of the printed word, stories, and imagination like nothing else. But sometimes, to a small child, books seem like magic. As in, there's actual magic happening inside the book.
Case in point: Hervé Tullet's Press Here (Presiona aquí en español). In this interactive story, the reader is invited to press, shake, and tap various colored dots that appear on the page and, after turning the page, find that the dots have changed. When I read this to a group of preschoolers, they could not figure out how the changes were happening. In their minds, when I pressed on the one yellow dot and two appeared on the next page, I was performing magic.
Press Here is such a wonderful book that it was chosen by Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy as one of their CLEL Silver Bells - books that especially exemplify early literacy skills learning. Playing is one important way in which children develop the skills they need to become readers, and Press Here is certainly a book that invites play. CLEL has also provided an activity sheet with ideas for how to extend play after reading the book - and build even stronger pre-reading skills!
As Thanksgiving draws near, many families are planning their menus and activities for the day. Parents, why not include a read aloud or two (or six) in your holiday planning? I know that I've subjected my family to storytime at the Thanksgiving dinner table (and they're all adults) and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it. I recall reading Thank You Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson - a picture book that describes how Sarah Hale, a magazine editor, convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
While this blog post from the Association for Library Service to Children is meant for librarians planning storytimes, there are great suggestions for read aloud books and holiday-themed activities that families can use too! Of the books shared, I especially love I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie and All for Pie, Pie for All (not specifically about Thanksgiving, but c'mon, PIE!). For books NOT about food, and more about giving thanks, I love Bear Says Thanks and Thanks for Thanksgiving.
Now, I know that Thanksgiving is a little less than 2 weeks away, but the Thanksgiving books are going fast! So get your holds in now! If the one you want isn't available, ask your local children's staff person for a recommendation. We've got LOTS of great stories to add to your holiday celebration!
Did you know that every four-year-old child in the state of Colorado can get a free book next spring?
One Book 4 Colorado is a collaboration between Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, public libraries, and several nonprofit organizations all interested in getting books into the hands of four-year-old children. Why four-year-olds? The powerful combination of access to books and adults who will read to them, greatly increases a four-year-old child's chances of being ready to read when they reach kindergarten.
Which book they will receive depends on which title gets the most votes. Voting has started at One Book 4 Colorado and ends November 30th. The list has been narrowed down to three choices for you to vote on. Not sure which one to pick? Watch local celebrities read the books in English and in Spanish. You can also check out all three finalists from your local library. Free books will be available April 7-21, 2014, so don't forget to stop in to your library and pick up a free book for the four-year-old in your life.
Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors by Jane Yolen
Pigsty by Mark Teague
The "magic" of reading begins with a lot of hard and sometimes frustrating work.
Those first books that a child reads independently should be a taste of the fun and adventure that they now have available to them through books. In our beginning reader section of the library we have many selections that will keep boredom at bay. A librarian can help you navigate the different levels and point you toward a book that is just right for your child. Your new reader will see many of their favorite characters such as Fancy Nancy, Thomas, Barbie and Scooby Doo in our early reader collection. They might make new friends as well, reading the adventures of Henry and Mudge or the mysteries of Cam Jansen or Nate the Great. Here are a few of my favorite series for beginning readers:
Fly Guy makes you laugh out loud in this level 1 series.
Strawberry Shortcake is as sweet as ever in this level 2 series.
Have a little LEGO fan who is beginning to read? We have over a dozen different LEGO readers!
Stop in to your local library today or reserve some of these great titles from home. There is no reason for you or your little reader to ever be bored again.
When I was born, my parents named me Katie. Well, okay, technically they named me Mary (that’s what’s on my birth certificate) but always intended to call me Katie. That was back in the days when lots of girls were named Mary Chris, Mary Pat, Mary This, Mary That… but weren’t actually called Mary. So, until I was 5, everyone called me Katie.
Then Kindergarten happened. And my 5-year-old self informed the teacher that my name was Mary and I was to be called that. I then proceeded to make everyone else I knew call me Mary instead of Katie. Why did I decide to change my name? I have no idea what was going on in my young brain, but as an adult I’ve speculated that it’s because we’d recently moved to Denver and lived almost next door to a family with two twin girls – one of whom was named Katie. Strangely enough, her real name was also Mary Something.
I’ve been Mary ever since. Kudos to my family for going along with my self-inflicted name change.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because it kind of relates to why one of my favorite books growing up was Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Oh, how I loved the story of Katy, the bulldozer/snow plow who did her work in the City of Geopolis and saved the day one particularly snowy winter. I adored the detailed illustrations with maps of the town so that I could follow Katy’s route as she made it safe for the mail carrier to continue his route and the doctor to get his patient to the hospital. But most of all, I loved that Katy and I shared the same name (albeit a slightly different spelling).
Finding yourself (or even just your name) in a children’s book is a powerful thing. Each year, I am fortunate enough to be able to gift each child whom I visit in my preschool outreach a brand new book. As the kids in one class were making their selections, one young lady saw Anna Quinn’s Lola at the Library. The book features an adorable, smiling African-American child as she makes her regular visit to the library. The young lady pointed at the book, eyes wide, and said “I want THAT one.” What made this encounter so powerful? The girl who chose the book looked EXACTLY like Lola in the story. Right down to the pigtails.
Children need to feel like they are important and have worth, and seeing yourself and your story reflected in a book provides some measure of that. Just as I was proud to share a name with hero snowplow Katy, my young book selector probably was proud to see that she, or a child that looked like her, could be the star of her own story.
What story are YOU the star of? Are there any books that made you think “hey, that’s me!”?
Have you ever met someone that you just can't stand? That's what happens when Cousin Irv comes to town. Teddy's mother tells Teddy to be nice to Cousin Irv, but it's so hard! Cousin Irv listens to terrible music, snores loudly at night and eats way too much.
However, as author Bruce Caplan observes, "If you only see what you don't like about someone, you never see what you do like about them."
Is there hope for Teddy and Cousin Irv? Will they ever get along? Check out Cousin Irv from Mars by Bruce Kaplan and find out!