Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The powerful beauty of story

It is been ages since my last post. A new job and older, busier kids has pushed my blogging to the back burner for a while, but rest assured, we are all still reading together. I hope you have been, too! Allow me to share a short story about the powerful beauty of reading great books, for it is something for which I have been feeling incredibly grateful lately.

My son (age 9) and I have been reading the Harry Potter series together over the past few years. We read books 1-3 over the summer before second grade. He was instantly obsessed and begged me to keep reading. As anyone who has read the series can attest, book 4 starts to get a bit dark and heavy, so we made him wait to read The Goblet of Fire.

This past summer, we re-read books 1-3 aloud together and then moved on to book 4. He continued to eat these stories up. Not a single chapter ended without him pleading, "Keep reading!" I was worried that the end of that story would be upsetting or too scary, but interestingly, he thought the The Prisoner of Azkaban was more intense. We read book 5, and no sooner had we read the last page and closed the book than he was pulling book 6 off the shelf.

Last night, we finished The Half-Blood Prince. Those last few chapters are so emotional, and he watched me read on, tears streaming down my face at times. I watched him, too, wondering how he would react to what was happening to these characters we have come to love and consider friends. (For the record, I cried in books 4 and 5, too.) While he is old enough to love the adventure and incredible stories in these books, he is obviously still far too young to appreciate some of the other elements that make these stories so brilliant. Some people might argue that he is too young to read this series, but as with so many great books, he will read them again as he grows older and will appreciate them in a different way each time.

Now, I have read this series several times before on my own, well before I having children of my own. As I read them now, I obviously know the truth about these characters and what lies ahead. I recognize the moments that upon first read, seem insignificant, but in reality, have a far deeper meaning that cannot be understood until much later in the series. Rowling weaves these characters and stories together in a way that is positively brilliant. I know the answers to all of the questions my son has been wondering all along, just as I did when I was reading these books for the first time. (Whose side is Snape really on, anyway?) It is such an amazing experience to read these stories, armed with this knowledge, alongside someone who is experiencing it all for the first time. How wonderful, too, to read stories that inspire such imagination, compassion, and emotion! To laugh and cry with the characters and experience the world from their perspectives. To get so drawn into a story that reality fades away temporarily while you are completely immersed in another world. This is the magic of story. To experience this while snuggled up with my (not so) little one makes it even better. Reading is such a beautiful gift!

As I already mentioned, the end of book 6 gets me right in the feels, but when we read the last page and turned out the light last night, I was overcome by even more emotion. There was my sweet boy, to whom I have read every day since he was born, snuggled up beside me, taking up almost an entire twin bed now. He could certainly be reading these books on his own, but loves reading them aloud with me as much as I love reading them with him. I know the many moments we have spent reading these books together will remain among my most cherished memories of his childhood. I have a feeling he will remember them just as fondly. I'll admit that my sappy self is also a bit sad that there is only one book left. Fortunately, right about the time we finish The Deathly Hallows, my daughter will be eager and ready to read them all with us, as well. And so the magic will continue...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Day 245: The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich.
But you may not know how it happened. 
So let me tell you.
It all started with the bear... 

Hooray for random books picked off the shelf at the library that turn out to be awesome! I love it when this happens! We are not familiar with this author, but are thrilled to complement her on such a fun, clever story! We brought this book home from the library a few weeks back and it quickly became bedtime favorite. My kids love the story of this hungry bear who wakes up in the city after a post-berry-binging nap in the back of a pickup truck.

This new forest is obviously unlike anything he has seen before, but it still has good trees for scratching (telephone poles), interesting smells (trash cans), and plenty of places to explore. The bear makes his way to the park, and that is where he sees it: the sandwich! 

The ending of this story is so cute, and my kids were delighted to discover the identity of the narrator. My son picked up on it right away, but it took my daughter a minute or two to figure out what really happened. Her reaction when she did was priceless (and resulted in a giggling request to read it again!)  I do not want to give anything away, but this clever, convincing storytelling is bound to make you smile. The cute illustrations add so much to the story, so be sure not to turn the pages too quickly! 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Celebrate World Teachers' Day on October 5th!

We LOVE our teachers! Please consider writing a note of thanks to a teacher you appreciate in honor of World Teachers Day this October 5th. Even a short note can make a teacher's day! 

Thanks to Grammarly for the infographic below.

World Teacher Day

Day 244: Tippy, Tippy, Tippy Splash!

Sadly, summer has come and gone, but that has not stopped us from enjoying this cute story and reliving our fun days at the beach! Mr. McGreely and his mischievous bunnies are back in this fun, silly tale that little readers are sure to enjoy. Just as in Muncha, Muncha, Muncha!

Mr. McGreely had bunny problems.

He had bunnies in his garden.
Bunnies in his shed.
Bunnies in his cupboard.
Bunnies in his…BED!

He decides to escape from those pesky pufftails by spending a fun, relaxing day at the beach, but little does he know that the bunnies are going to come along, too! Mr. McGreely is determined to have fun collecting shells, flying his kite, surfing, and building sandcastles, and he tries his best... but not only do the bunnies do everything he does, they do it better! Just when Mr. McGreely thinks his day is ruined, the bunnies save the day, and the sweet ending is sure to bring a smile to your child's face. My daughter, 5, gets such a kick out of this story and especially loves the beach bunny in the sunglasses.  We hope you enjoy these silly stories as much as we do!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day 243: The Day the Crayons Came Home

Oh my goodness gracious, Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers have done it again! I hope by now that you are familiar with the pure awesome that is The Day the Crayons Quit.  It is brilliant, I tell you. Brilliant! The follow-up story of The Day the Crayons Came Home is equally fabulous. So great, in fact, that I had to go out and buy it even though there was no particular occasion for doing so (unless, of course, you count simply NEEDING to own this book. You fellow book lovers know what I mean.)  

This time, Duncans crayons are sending him postcards from the places he has left them behind: the couch cushion, the basement, the hotel pool from summer vacation. Pea Green crayon declares he is sick of being a color no one loves and is off to see the world under his new and improved name, Estaban the Magnificent! Neon Red crayon is sick of waiting for Duncan to come back and get him and decides to walk home, sending hilarious updates along the way. This story is so much fun!  I challenge anyone to read this book and not laugh out loud. It is best enjoyed read aloud in your silliest, most expressive voice. Caution: might cause fits of giggles at bedtime.  

Now go! Read this book! And share a laugh or two with your favorite little one. Or just go read it to yourself. I certainly will not judge.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 242: Found

Salina Yoon is another recent favorite of ours, thanks to her sweet, charming stories and simple yet wonderfully expressive illustrations. We first discovered her work when we read Penguin on Vacation, and have loved the Penguin series ever since.  Found is another of my daughter's new library favorites, and has been on heavy rotation at bedtime for the past few weeks.

In Found, Bear comes across a toy bunny in the forest. Right away, he thinks it is the most special thing he has ever seen, but he knows that a toy this special must belong to someone else. He sets out to help the bunny find its owner, posting flyers on every tree in the forest.

Try as he might, Bear cannot find the owner. All the while, of course, Bear is loving the bunny more and more and wishing it could be his forever. He takes care of it, plays with it, and even makes the bunny a comfy bed next to his. One day, as Bear and the bunny are out riding on Bear's bike, bunny's owner appears. In his heart, Bear knows what he must do. He tearfully returns the bunny and sets off on his way. In a sweet, touching ending, however, Bear and his beloved bunny are reunited and able to return home together, safe and found! (Warning: if the ending of Toy Story 3 made you tear up, this book might, too.) 

I love so many things about this adorable book: the touching story line, Yoon's fabulous illustrations, and the message about the importance of doing the right thing even when it is hard. I especially love the collection of "Lost" posters on the inside covers -- they are clever and fabulous and not to be missed! Most importantly, though, this is a sweet story about love, kindness, and the bonds of friendship. What's not to love about that?

Day 241: Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed?

Navigating the library can sometimes feel overwhelming. I have written before about how we make the most of our library visits, but referring to my list of favorite authors is always one of my most helpful and reliable strategies. As fabulous as they are, let's face it: library visits with young children aren't always conducive to leisurely book browsing! Having a list of go-to authors, then, gives me a place to start (or fall back on) while keeping an eye on kids and looking for great new reads. After recently falling in love with Beautiful Oops, we decided to check out a few other Barney Saltzburg stories at our last library visit. Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed? is my daughter's latest favorite.

If your house is like mine, the half an hour before bedtime can be one of the most hectic and trying times of the entire day. If you can relate (and I'm sure you can), you will certainly get a kick out of this charming little story. Mama Pig is trying to get young Cornelius ready for bed, asking him all of the usual questions:  Have you put your toys away? Have you used the bathroom? Have you brushed your teeth? Have you put on your pajamas? Each time, Cornelius gives a resounding YES!, though his actual antics suggest something different. My daughter loves to read the part of Cornelius, and is always delighted by the illustrations. (We especially enjoy Cornelius' pajamas, complete with a snorkel mask, bat wings, and dragon inner tube! Be sure to check out the clever titles that make up his bedtime story selections, too.) Of course, at the end, he really is ready for bed... but not before he gets a great, big goodnight hug. 

The bright illustrations and large text make the story engaging for little readers, and the relatively short length of the story itself makes it a great book for toddlers or young ones who prefer stories that are paced to keep up with their frequent page turning. (It makes for a great "just one more story?" read, too.) If your child loves this book as much as mine does, you might just find this sweet, silly bedtime tale in your nightly reading pile.