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!

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. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Day 240: Beautiful Oops!

Beautiful Oops! has been on my library list for probably a good two years now, as it has been incredibly hard to find for some reason.  Either it is always out (and reasonably so), or not every library has it in its collection (which, now that I have read and LOVED it, I can say would be a travesty.) My kids and I absolutely love the creative message of Peter H. Reynolds' Ish and The Dot, and Beautiful Oops! delivers an equally inspiring message about creativity, perseverance, and finding beauty in unlikely places.

Both of my children love creating art, though it wasn't always that way. My son, who is very much a self-imposed perfectionist, resisted drawing for the longest time. I think this was mostly because he had an image in his mind of what he wanted his drawing to look like, but knew that he would be unable to make it look that way. Although we would encourage him to draw anyway and not worry about making mistakes or being perfect, he would scribble a few lines on the page and then say he was done. Eventually, though, he turned the corner and became less concerned about making mistakes. He started creating more and becoming frustrated less, and now I can say that drawing is one of his favorite things to do. Of course, he is still a perfectionist about all kinds of other things, so we are still working on that whole embracing mistakes thing...

But therein lies the beauty of Barney Saltzberg's Beautiful Oops! Its encouraging message to see mistakes as opportunities makes it a perfect book for any little one (or anyone, for that matter.) A torn page? No problem! It can easily become an alligator's mouth. A spill or a smudge? A fold or a crumple? No worries! Turn it into something fun, silly, or beautiful! I absolutely love the way this book encourages us to think positively and creatively while appreciating the fact that things need not be perfect to be beautiful.

So, if you can manage to get your hands on a copy of this fabulous book, please do! We promise you won't be disappointed. Happy reading (and creating!)


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Day 239: All By Myself

Recently, we have been revisiting some of our favorite classics. My daughter, now four and a half, is old enough to enjoy most of the books my son (7) loves to read. While this has always been true to an extent, there have been times where the level of books my kids wanted to read varied such that it was difficult for me to read them the same book at the same time. Once my daughter had the attention span to read longer stories, however, this got easier. As a result, though, I found that I had inadvertently neglected to read her some of the stories that were my son's favorites at that age. It wasn't that he didn't like those stories anymore, but rather, they often were overlooked in favor of other stories. (The fact that those thin little paperbacks are so easily lost on the shelf or in the bottom of the book bin doesn't help, either.) Fortunately, my daughter recently found our collection of Mercer Mayer's Little Critter stories, and she has been hooked ever since.

I wrote about my favorite, Just Go To Bed, way back on Day 32. I can say with 100% certainty that anyone who has ever tried to rein an energetic little one into bed will both adore and relate to this story (perhaps all too well!) As you can probably guess by the picture above, All By Myself rings equally true to parents and children, alike. Little Critter can do so many things by himself: get dressed, brush his fur, tie his shoes, color a picture. And of course, there are some things he says he can do which could really use a little more practice. There is one thing, though, that he can't do on his own -- and that is go to sleep without a story. Sweet and fun, this is one of my daughter's new favorites, and I was surprised to realize that I had not yet featured it here on this blog. If you have a preschooler and have not yet discovered these gems, we highly recommend them! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Day 238: The Going to Bed Book

My daughter and I have been revisiting a lot of our old bedtime favorites these past few weeks, and I have realized that some of these gems have not yet been featured here on the blog. How I managed to overlook these, I don't know, but they certainly deserve a spot on our list of best books!

The Going to Bed Book is one of the first books we ever had in our children's library collection. It was a gift from one of my husband's high school students when we were expecting our son way back in 2007. Sandra Boynton books are well-known classics in the kids' lit world, and rightfully so. Those little board books are fun to read with their lively rhymes, colorful, short (perfect for the attention spans of the littlest readers), sturdy, and, if our copies are to be believed, great for chewing. While my kids have loved many of her books and several have been featured on here already, this is one of our favorites. My kids love seeing the classic Boynton animals get ready for bed, and my four year old daughter has decided that this is the book she likes to read to ME at bedtime.  I love it.

I loved these books when my children were babies, and they did, too. At the time, though, I underestimated these stories, thinking that they would be some of the first books my children would outgrow because were so short and simple. I have been so delighted to find that they continue to be favorites, but wonderful literacy resources, as well! These were some of the first books that my son read aloud on his own (he loved reading to his baby sister), and they are the first books with which my daughter has shown some of those important early literacy skills (such as pointing out words across the page from left to right as she "reads.") If you have fallen in love with these books when your little ones are babies, hang on to them. You just might find that they become your child's favorite bedtime stories to read to you one day. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day 237: The Book With No Pictures

A few weeks ago, we saw a video clip of B.J. Novak reading his new book to a class of elementary students.  It only took about 30 seconds of listening to him read to know that was a book we needed -- just needed! -- to get our hands on. Last weekend, we were lucky enough to get our very own copy, and the laughs and giggles haven't stopped since!

Obviously, if you read this blog, you share my belief that reading with our kids is important. (Really, really important! And fun!) And if you follow this blog, you also know that while I think reading anything with our children is valuable, reading high quality books makes it even more so.  

Let's be honest. There are a lot of mediocre (and sometimes downright bad) children's books out there. We have all read them, right? Fortunately, there are a lot of gems out there, too -- and those are the books I am eager to share with you here.  Books that draw us in, make us fall in love with their characters, teach us new things, and leave us wanting more. What we read is so influential in fostering a love of reading and learning. That is true for our kids and it is true for us as adults, too. But when it comes to children's books, I am also of the belief that how we read those books is equally important. Be loud and animated and excited. Change your voice, tone, and inflection. Give pause. Give characters different voices. Read with emotion, whatever it might be in the story. It makes the book more fun for our kids and infinitely more fun for us as the readers. Yes, reading any book to our children is valuable. But reading a great book in a great voice? Nothing beats that.

It is this very idea of how we read that makes The Book With No Pictures so brilliant.  After all, when it comes to books, the person reading the book has to say whatever the words say. No matter what! "That's the deal. That's the rule. So that means... Even if the words say... BLORK!" or Bluurf! We have to say them. This story is silly and fun and destined to bring fits of laughter to any child that reads it. I guarantee it. Watch the video clip below to see what I mean!

Thank you, Mr. Novak, for providing us with such a fabulously fun book. My kids have been singing, "glug, glug, glug, my face is a bug... I eat ants for breakfast right off the ruuuuuuuuuuug!" all morning long. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Day 236: Fancy Nancy

I was never a fancy girl.  (I'm still not.) My mom fondly remembers me proudly dressing myself in purple sweatpants and a Gonzo football sweatshirt. I was one of those children for whom it was strikingly obvious that I had dressed myself -- and fancy, frilly things were never a part of my attire.  My daughter is much like I was in some ways -- fiercely independent, outgoing, silly and fun -- but unlike me, she has a fancy side, too.  She loves to dress up in her princess costumes or the tutus at her school, though sometimes she wears those along with her Patriots jersey, or while working at the tool bench, or while playing outside in the mud.  Love that girl! I had heard of the Fancy Nancy books but had never managed to remember to look them up while at the library until recently.  This one is such fun!

Nancy just LOVES being fancy. Her room is fancy. Her clothes are fancy. She even loves to use fancy words! The problem is, her family isn't fancy at all. They don't even like sprinkles on their ice cream! They just don't seem to understand that lace-trimmed socks do make Nancy play soccer better, and sandwiches definitely taste better with frilly toothpicks in them!  One day, Nancy decides to offer her family fancy lessons, and to her delight, they are eager to attend. She dresses them up in -- "what's that fancy word? Oh yes, accessories!" -- and they head out to a fancy dinner at their favorite restaurant. Her dad acts as the chauffeur -- "that's a fancy work for driver" -- and everyone else at the restaurant must think they are movie stars!  A little misshap with their dessert parfaits leaves Nancy feeling rather unfancy, but it's no matter.  She is thrilled to have had a fancy night out with her family and goes to bed knowing just how much she is loved.

Both of my kids adore this story, and while my daughter has requested it at bedtime each night for over a week now, my son finds it very silly and fun, as well.  It would certainly be a hit with all of the "fancy Nancies" of the world, but I highly recommend it even if you don't have fancy types in your family.  The illustrations are delightful and the "fancy" vocabulary used within the book is excellent, too!  The whole story is charming and sweet, but most of all, I love the message that it's important to love and embrace our children's personalities and passions, even (and especially) if they differ from our own.