A Few Blooms for Your Spring Collection

A couple of weeks ago, Preschooler and I planted flowers in our porch flowerpots.  This has led to an interest in all things flower-related, and the reading of several books about flowers and spring. Just in case you’re doing the same at your house, here are a couple worth checking out.

For the tiny sprouts:

Maggie’s Colorful Garden by Salina Yoon

Yoon’s simple but brightly illustrated board books are perfect for small hands.  In Maggie’s Colorful Garden, readers discover green cabbage, purple eggplant, blue berries, and a whole wheelbarrow full of fruits and veggies.  Piggy Toes Press (2008).



For the blossoming middles:

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Henkes is perhaps best known for his famous mice.  In this whimsical story a young girl’s imaginary garden comes to life on the pages.  It’s a place where seashells grow and chocolate bunnies abound, where flowers come in all shapes and colors, even patterns.  Preschooler, who insists on planting rocks in our front yard so that she can grow more rocks, wants to hear this repeatedly.  And the illustrations?  GORGEOUS.  Beautiful pastel colors that I wish would leap out of the page and into my own garden attempts.  Greenwillow Books (2010)

For the flourishing flowers:

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

I first read this book about 8 years ago, and it has never let me go.  Set during the Great Depression, the story revolves around Lydia Grace Finch, a young girl who has been sent to live with a cranky relative in the big city.  How she cheers up her new home and friends is somewhat predictable, and yet still touching without feeling cliche.  Small’s illustrations, which won him a Caldecott Award in 1998, make the story complete. Macmillan (1997).

Can you add to my list?  Any books for the sprouts or the flourishers that you’re reading in your house?


Under Construction (Soon)

Over the next week or so, I’m hoping to do a little blog construction.  Suey at It’s All About Books and Danielle at There’s a Book are hosting Bloggiesta, an opportunity to participate in some challenges, discover new friends, and basically do some cleaning up.

I went round and round about participating.  This little venture is maintained during my free time (also known as “naptime”).  The rest of the time I’m controlling the chaos that Preschooler and Baby bring to the household.  I don’t typically blog on weekends, and this weekend in particular we have an Easter egg hunt to attend and the celebration of my very soon 30th birthday.  So I won’t be around much during the day, but it seems as if there is so much knowledge out there and I’m up for getting a little more of that.

All this to say, I’m going to do my best, and if I’m a little late and playing catch up on some things, you all will understand, right?

With that said, here are a few of my personal goals:

  • Change the look a little.  My web design knowledge is pretty limited, but I’m a quick learner and open to suggestions.
  • Develop a rating system for the books I discuss.  Almost all of them are on my Goodreads list, but not everyone hops on over there, ya know?
  • Create a blogroll with some of my favorite book pages (both old and new!)
  • Update my About page
  • Revamp/improve sidebar
  • Meet new friends!
  • ???  Let’s just see where this takes us, shall we?

So I’m in.  If you’re stopping by for the first time, please let me know you were here!  And if you’re a regular, pardon the dust.  Hopefully I won’t break anything permanently.

An Alternative to Toddler Tunes

We are a busy family.  Even during the week, I try to line up some activity every morning, whether it’s a trip to the playground, a visit to animals at the farm, a weekly library trip, or a playdate.  My kids and I are both happier if we have an “outside the house” activity.

Which means that we often spend short amounts of time in the car, traveling from one place to another.  Does this ring a bell with anyone?

I’ve long since given up trying to listen to “my” music when Preschooler is in the car.  She prefers rockin’ to her own toddler tunes, and I prefer a happy passenger.  It’s just not a battle worth fighting.  Besides, like many mothers, I’m used to tuning out the background noise.  If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day.

My husband, though, has a more difficult time tuning out the excess.  And he can’t stand listening to the same nursery rhyme cd for the tenth time in a row.  Trying to find a balance that would keep everybody happy, I tried something new…and had great success.

A trip to the library shelves revealed that there are, in fact, audiobooks for the preschool/early elementary age group.  For the last couple days, we have been listening to audiobooks in the car, and you know what?  Preschooler loves it!  We’re currently listening to a series of Bernstein Bear stories, and I also have a couple of early reader books, and one classic picture book.  Wouldn’t it be nice, as she got older, if we could dive into chapter books that we could listen to together?

I also want to pull together a couple of the audio-with-book kits, so that she can “read” along with the cd. Add that to the to-do list.

This doesn’t mean that the music cds are gone for good.  I’m sure we’ll be back to those again in a little while.  But in the meantime, this is a nice alternative, and she’s getting to hear a few stories while I drive in peace.

Which means I might actually get to have a thought of my own.

Who knows what I can accomplish now!

All the World’s a Stage…Er… Classroom

A few days ago, I introduced you to Preschooler and asked for some helpwith letter and number recognition.  I got advice from a few sources, all of which pretty  much said the same thing.  Just keep at it.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.  So we are.

Then, over the last couple days, I discovered two new teaching aids in unusual places:

Parking garages

On a weekend errand, we parked at the far end of the underground parking garage, and as we were walking toward the entrance, Preschooler points to the column at the end of the row, and announces, “Look, Mama!  That’s an ‘M'”  And thus began the game.  We identified the letters on each row that we passed.  She was so excited by this, that we enthusiastically played it again after completing our time in the store.

The lottery

Preschooler watches Clifford on PBS every afternoon before naptime.  Immediately after the cartoon ends, the midday lottery comes on.  You know, the one where the balls pop around in the machine and then fly up the tubes to be announced by a lottery “official”?  You see where I’m going with this, right?  A few days ago, I realized this could work in our favor.  I mute the television (so that the answers aren’t given away, and she has some think time), and then we identify the numbers on the ball as they pop up.  Once again, she is ridiculously excited about this “game” and it takes an extra 2 minutes out of my day.

And you know what?  I think the kid is holding out on me.  She knows alot more than I thought she did.  She just likes to learn and share in her own way.

There’s a lesson for me there, too.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Joining up with Jen from Teacher Mentor Texts to share what we’ve been reading in our household this past week.

Mom is reading:

I finished reading The Lions of Little Rock.  I’d read several rave reviews and wasn’t disappointed.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to teach a whole classroom full of Marlees?

The book is set in Little Rock in 1959, at a time when young girls of different races could not be friends, and ignoring that rule was dangerous for everyone.  It’s a quick read, but a good one.

Next up is an adult novel, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.  I haven’t even cracked this one yet.  Hoping to get it read over the next two weeks, but we’ve got two birthdays, Easter, and a baptism on the horizon, so that may be too optimistic.

Kiddo is reading:

Reading to Peanut by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Amanda Haley

This book had the potential to be really cute.  The story follows a girl’s quest to “learn to read and write” for a very special purpose revealed at the end.  Throughout the book, the little girl and her family members write/spell out words on signs and place them all throughout the house on the corresponding items (a great strategy, by the way).  Despite the cheerful illustrations and positive lesson about learning to read, this just didn’t keep our interest.  A swing and miss at our house.

 Silly Baby by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

I’m recommending this one for preparing very young children for the arrival of a new sibling.  I didn’t think the “silly baby” phrase repeated throughout the book quite corresponded with the examples (even though I understand what the author was trying to do), but the story does give a clear, concise understanding of what it means to have a new baby in the house.

Thump, Quack, Moo: A Whacky Adventure by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

 This is the same team that brought us Click, Clack, Moo
(my personal favorite), Duck for President, and Giggle, Giggle, Quackamong so many others.  This was not my favorite read, especially by this author/illustrator team, but there’s nothing wrong with the story, either.  Just not my personal preference.

Mo’s Stinky Sweater by David Bedford, illustrated by Edward Eaves

Saving the best for last!  This book made it into our library bag because my daughter loves monkeys, and the cover grabbed her right away.  The bright illustrations continue throughout the pages, and any parent with a child who has become obsessed with wearing the same item of clothing day after day after day will appreciate the predicament Mo’s mother finds herself in. Consider this my “get thee this book” recommendation for the week.

That’s been our week. What are you reading?  Anything we should add to our library list for our next visit?

Friday Confession: Some Help, Please?

Let me introduce you to Preschooler.

She is my first-born.  And fits the first child descriptionperfectly.  She is extremely loving, empathetic, and protective.  She is also stubborn, headstrong, and fiercely independent.

She is a learner.  Her naturally inquisitive nature means that we are talking/learning/exploring all the time.  She will start preschool in the fall and has been talking about it for a year already.  The former teacher in me notices that she has a strong auditory learning style.  Especially if what she is learning is set to music.  So here’s where I’m hoping somebody out there will have some ideas.  I confess:

Early childhood education is NOT my forte.

Elementary?  I know how to teach those kids. Preschool?  Eh. I just can’t get in their little heads.

And yet, I have this 3 year old who shows a definite interest in learning her numbers and letters.  She can count almost to 20 (she has a few random number skips), can recite/sing the alphabet, and can correctly identify a handful of numbers and letters.  She would like to know more, and I’d like to be able to help her out, but she’s not a visual kid and so many of the tactics I’ve seen are not sticking.  Any thoughts on how to teach an auditory learner avisual skill?  More particularly, a 3 year old auditory learner?

I should add that I’m not in any huge hurry, and I realize that she’s still very young.  But recognizing numbers and letters aren’t beyond the realm of possibility, especially since she’s showing the interest, right?

And it would really help the dinner-making process if she was not systematically pulling each and every  letter magnet out if it’s orderly row (that she created) on the fridge and demanding, “Mommy, what this one?!”

Thoughts?  Ideas?  Links?  Blogs?  I’ll take ’em all!

Spotlight: Henri, Egg Artiste

Every once in awhile, I stumble upon a book that’s just unique or particularly worth mentioning.  It’s not always the newest or best-reviewed title, but one that just somehow caught my attention and is worth sharing.  Today’s spotlight is on:

Henri, Egg Artiste

written by Marcus Pfister, translated by J. Alison James

NorthSouth Books (2005)

The Preschooler is a Rainbow Fish fan.  So we’re well-familiar with Mr. Pfister.  And not just with the Rainbow Fish character.  We’ve expanded beyond that most famous fish to enjoy other Marcus Pfister works as well.

However, when we came upon this book at the library, it was new to me.  Preschooler had expressed a desire to find an Easter book with “bunnies and eggs”, and this one fit the bill.  Plus, it was by an author we were familiar with and had enjoyed in the past, so I slipped it into the library bag without reading or even skimming through the pages.  We finished our visit and went on home.

When she pulled it from the library bag and brought it to me later, I settled in for a story about Easter, and friendship, and making good decisions (a common theme among Pfister stories).  This one, however was a little different.

In this tale, egg painter Henri has grown tired of painting the “same old painted eggs, year after year.”  But Henri is famous for his eggs and knows that the children will expect to find painted eggs in their yards come Easter morning.  In a moment of inspiration, Henri begins painting designs like he’s never painted before.  His friends and family worry that the children will be disappointed, but Henri sticks with his plan.  Come Easter morning, the eggs are prominently displayed throughout the yard, just waiting for the children to wake and come upon them.

So a fairly typical Easter story, right?  What was it that caught my attention?

The designs that Henri “creates” are replicas of famous paintings throughout history.  16 different artists and styles are represented, from Dali, to Matisse, to Warhol, to Munch.  A blurb at the back of the book then identifies each painting represented throughout the story, as well as information on the artist.

Now, my 3yo was a little young to truly appreciate the artwork.  She doesn’t recognize it as anything other than illustrations in the story.  But for older readers, this would be a fantastic opportunity to combine a seasonal story with a little learning.  Some of the images, such as Munch’s The Scream, or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa may already be familiar.  But other images, such as Rothko’s modern Orange and Yellow or de Saint Phalle’s Nana may be entirely new.

A quick look online showed that this book is no longer in print.  However, there are still copies available in libraries, and through secondhand resources.  It’s worth digging around for.

Got a story that deserves a place in the spotlight?  Let me know!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

(Okay, okay, it’s actually Tuesday. Shh!! Don’t tell!)

Joining up with Jen from Teacher Mentor Texts to share what we’ve been reading in our household this past week.

Mom is reading:

I finally finished reading The Book Thief.  Amazing.  Powerful.  I’ll be thinking about that one for awhile.

In the meantime, I’m moving on to The Lions of Little Rock by Kristen Levine.  I haven’t gotten far enough into this to have anything to say about it yet, but I have high hopes!


Kiddo is reading:

I’ve Got an Elephant by Anne Ginkel, illustrated by Janie Bynum.

This fun, rhyming, counting book was a hit at our house.  In fact, we read it several times in a row (as in, I closed the cover, and Preschooler announced, “Again, please!”).  The text has a pattern that allows children to participate in the story by predicting the next scene.  We also took the time to count the elephants on each page. This one is Preschooler approved!

 Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray

The classically styled illustrations and simple color scheme in this book are visually appealing.  The writing is creative, weaving a story as you progress through the alphabet.  Some of the vocabulary was a little advanced for my 3yo, but still a wonderful example of an alphabet book.

Bedtime for Bear by Brett Helquist

Bear is ready to settle down for a long winter sleep, but his friends want him to come out and play just one. more. time.  Fun story, and could be a jumping off point for a conversation about hibernation.

The Very Fairy Princessby Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Yes, THAT Julie Andrews.  Fans of Pinkalicious or Fancy Nancy might like this alternative series.  Some of the text is overdone, but the message of every little girl having her own “sparkle” inside is a good one.

Love, Mouserella  by David Ezra Stein

I enjoyed Mouserella’s voice in this one.  The plot isn’t captivating, but it’s cute and might inspire your child to letter-writing.  The book was recommended by Danielle at There’s A Book.  You can read her thoughts here.


Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff

My favorite part of this book are the illustrations, but the text is wonderful, too.  Baby Bear wakes up from hibernation and as he begins to explore the world outside, he is introduced to all the brilliant colors of spring.  Preschooler  caught on to the story’s pattern quickly and was soon “reading” along with me. This book was recommended to me by Susan at The Book Maven’s Haven.

That’s been our week. What are you reading?  Anything we should add to our library list for our next visit?