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!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 159: Little By Little

We first heard about Little By Little in one of our monthly issues of Your Big Backyard.  I knew it was about a little otter learning to swim, so when this summer rolled around, I decided to track this book down at one of our local libraries.  I'll admit that the first few times I read it, I thought it was very cute, but nothing particularly special.  My son, however, really loves this book, and the more we read it together, the more I appreciate the way it resonates with him.  He finds it silly and fun, but most importantly, really seems to have taken its message to heart.  Otto can do lots of things -- forward roly-poly, make sandcastles, be kind to frogs -- but there is one big thing he can't do:  swim.  He dreams of the day when he will be able to jump off the Highest-Ever Rock into the Deepest-Ever Pond like his friends.  Seeing his disappointment, his sister encourages him to start small and take things one step at a time.  Little by little, Otto learns to swim... starting small and finishing big!  We have been working on teaching our kids to swim this summer, and the last time we were at the beach, my son kept talking about this book while he was practicing in the water.  He'd put his hands down on the sand in the shallow water and kick his feet behind him saying, "I'm learning to swim like Otto!"  Its message that big things can be accomplished by taking one small step at a time certainly makes this charming story worth reading to any child, particularly one who is learning to swim.  My little ones haven't mastered swimming just yet, but little by little, they know they'll get there!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Let the summer reading begin!

Summer is officially here, and libraries and bookstores everywhere are excited to share their summer reading programs with you!  The official summer reading theme for public libraries is Dream Big - Read!  If you and your child haven't yet visited your local library to sign up, now is the time!  Registration is open and signing up together is a great way to get your child excited about summer reading. My son loved keeping track of all of the books we read last summer, and couldn't wait to turn in his list and pick out a free book!

I came across a fantastic list of dream and night related titles for the Dream Big theme here, which even includes some fun songs and activities for various topics, too.  Check it out!

Several book stores (and other companies) offer summer reading programs and incentives, as well.  For details and more information about each one, click the links below.  An even bigger list can be found at the Kimble Krew's blog here.

Feeling left out and thinking that kids get all the fun? Teenagers and adults can join in the summer reading fun, too.  Their themes for this summer are:

Teens --  Own the Night
Adults -- Between the Covers

Happy reading!!

~ Lauren

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 158: Stuck

The very first time that I read Stuck, I knew I needed to share it with everyone here on this blog.  My son starts giggling on page three, and by the time we are half way through the story he is laughing so hard he can barely stop.  "It all began when Floyd's kite became stuck in a tree.  He tried pulling and swinging, but wouldn't come unstuck.  The trouble REALLY began when he threw his favorite shoe to knock the kite loose... and that got stuck too!" Floyd proceeds to throw all kinds of things up in the tree hoping to get his kite down -- his cat, a ladder, a duck, his friend's bicycle, even our favorite, an orangutan! -- all to no avail.  You can see why it is so silly and fun to read already, right?  My son thinks it is hysterical that even the firemen who come to help get thrown up in the tree, too.  This is a fabulous book that we all love reading together, which is good because he usually asks us to read it no fewer than three times in a row.  He even read it to my friend's 4 month old daughter the other day (which completely melted my heart.  So cute!)  My only big issue with this book is the font of the text.  It's kind of artsy and looks like scrawled handwriting, which makes it very difficult for young readers to interpret.  Given that this story is certainly geared toward preschoolers and elementary aged children, I'm surprised that isn't presented in a way that is more accessible to them.  Font aside, though, I adore this book and highly recommend it.  I have a feeling this is another book that we'll borrow from the library time and again until we manage to get our own copy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 157: Alphabet (and other fun books by Matthew Van Fleet)

We recently discovered Matthew Van Fleet's fabulous series of interactive books at my good friend Katie's house and my kids couldn't get enough of them.  Fortunately, our local library has several of his titles, so we decided to bring Alphabet home with us last week.  Believe me when I tell you that this book is full of flap-lifting, texture-feeling, scratch-n-sniffing, tab-pulling fun!  In fact, I can't even keep the book near me while I write this because my son keeps wanting to read it and explore each page!  Alphabet brings us from A to Z with an array of creatures and plants along the way, including several species that were completely new to us (such as uacaris, xenops, and zorillas. My son just came flapping over to me pretending to be an Io moth.  I love it!)  The back of the book features a list of extras to go back and find once you're done, as well, including 3 other creatures and one plant that begin with each letter of the alphabet.  The playful rhymes make it fun to read -- "Striped iguanas climb, spotted jaguars pounce.  Playful baby kangaroos -- bounce, bounce, bounce!" -- but most of all, kids will love all of the tactile components of the book.  My son's favorite is the sticky octopus.  The book is rather sturdy, but with so many flaps to lift and tabs to pull, you should probably expect to have to mend it from time to time.  Don't let that deter you from getting it, though.  The amount of fun your child will have with this book makes it too great to pass up.  I also love that Alphabet comes with an amazing fold-out lift-the-flaps poster (seen above) that my children absolutely love!  As with some of our other favorite books, this is one that grows along with your child and is appealing to a wide age range.  Babies will love feeling all of the fluffy tails, fuzzy coats, and bumpy scales, and older children will love learning about and looking for all of the animals and plants.  I can't wait to get this book someday, as it really is a must-have for our collection.  Be sure to check out some of Van Fleet's other titles, too, which are equally fun and fabulous:  Heads, Tails, Dog, and Cat, to name a few.  We hope you love them as much as we do!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Our Summery Summer Reading List

As summer approaches and people begin dreaming about their summer reading lists, I thought I'd offer one of our own.  These are some of our favorite summertime books, in no particular order.  Happy reading!

Summertime Fun:

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey:  A classic tale by a classic author that is not to be missed.  I can't wait for freshly picked blueberries and blueberry pie!

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris van Dusen:  Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee are at it again.   What is your favorite way to camp?  Under the stars, cozy in a tent, or in a hotel?

Little Cloud by Eric Carle:  What is more summery than lying in the grass watching the clouds go by?

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey:  I love this timeless story about coastal life in a day gone by.  I can almost smell the sea just reading it... and clam chowder for lunch!

Henry and Mudge in the Green Time by Cynthia Rylant:  Henry and Mudge are two of our favorite literary characters. The last chapter, "The Green Time," is one of my favorites of the entire Henry and Mudge series.

The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle:  Few things signal the arrival of summer more than watching fireflies flicker around the yard!

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems:  The Pigeon is back and we couldn't love this book more.  What child can't relate? As we like to say here in our house, if you don't need a bath every night in the summer, you haven't been playing hard enough.

Andrew Henry's Meadow:  What child doesn't dream of building a secret fort or house in a world of his own?  Love, love, love this book.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney:  One of my favorite books of all time.  Gorgeous story, beautiful illustrations, and an even lovelier message.

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies: Kick off summer reading season with a trip to your local library, and while you're there, look for this fabulous book!

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen:  An entertaining story full of adventure, excitement, and fun sound effects.  May it inspire you to go on many adventures of your own this summer!

Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel:  One of my favorite stories from my childhood.  All of Frog and Toad's adventures are wonderful to read at any time of year, and make a great introduction to chapter books for younger readers.

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray:  This is a beautiful book that always makes me want to head outside in my pajamas to do a little stargazing.  Bring your little ones with you and then snuggle up in bed with this book.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown: "A magical story about a boy's dream and how the efforts on one call person can help change the world."  

My Garden by Kevin Henkes:  We just love this delightful story about a little girl's magical garden, complete with jelly bean bushes, seashells, glowing strawberries, chocolate rabbits, and flowers that grow back as soon as you pick them.  What would you grow in your garden?

At the beach:

Over in the Ocean by Maryanne Berkes:  A fabulously fun sing-along with brilliant illustrations.  My kids can't get enough of this book!

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle:  Hunting for crabs is one of our favorite seaside activities, and we love to read this great story after a day of exploring "crab kingdom."

Stella, Star of the Sea by Marie Louise Gay:  Join Stella and her brother Sam as they spend a day at the seashore.  I just love Stella's carefree nature and her charming answers to Sam's endless questions.

Flotsam by David Weisner:  A brilliantly creative wordless picture book that is bound to be loved by children of all ages.

The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen:  Always a favorite here in our house, the Pout Pout Fish reminds us that sometimes a kiss is all we need to turn our frowns upside down.

Be sure to check out The Pout-Pout Fish and the Big-Big Dark too!

Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea by Cynthia Rylant:  Join Henry and Mudge as they spend the day seaside and then treat yourself to a cherry sno cone (or two!)

Bring on vacation!

Pictures from Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins:  A fabulous story that reminds us that the time we spend doing things together is the most memorable thing of all.
Penguin On Vacation by Salina Yoon:  A sweet story about friendship that is one of our summertime favorites.

Goodnight Our World series:  These books are a great way to introduce your child to a new place before you go there, or to remind you of that special place once you've gone back home.

Travel the World:

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman: A fabulous book that takes us around the world to acquire all the fixings for an apple pie.  Gather your cinnamon from the bark of Sri Lanka's kurundu trees, elegant eggs from France, sugar cane from Jamaica, and more!

We All Went On Safari by Laurie Krebs:  If you're looking for an amazing book about Africa or Maasai culture, look no further.  This book is bursting with information and is incredibly fun to read.  Be sure to check out all of the educational extras at the end!

Toot and Puddle by Hollie Hobbie:  Follow Toot on his journey around the world to Egypt, Paris, the Alps, Antarctica, and other exotic places, then read the postcards he sends to his best friend Puddle about his amazing adventures.

My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone:  It's never too early to introduce children to other countries and cultures.  Fly around the world with Granny on her magic carpet, stopping to buy all kinds of fun things from different countries along the way.

Imagine by Alison Lester:  If your child loves animals, he will adore this book.  It is full of gorgeous illustrations of animals from all around the globe.  But don't worry -- there is a key of each picture and its species at the back of the book.

What is your favorite summer reading book?  Please share in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 156: The Quiet Book

Deborah Underwood's The Quiet Book is a fabulous bedtime (or anytime) read.  This lovely picture book creatively explores the many types of quiet that can be had in a day.  There's "first one awake quiet" (though I have to say, the first ones awake in my house are typically quite the opposite!), "Don't scare the robin quiet," and "Swimming underwater quiet."  My other personal favorites are, "First snowfall quiet," "Best friends don't need to talk quiet," and of course, "Story time quiet."  The examples are ones to which both children and parents can easily relate, which is what makes the book so sweet and fun to read.      Renata Liwska's pencil illustrations of adorable woodland animals are the perfect complement to the story, as well, with soft tones and subtle colors that make the book even more soothing.  We borrowed The Quiet Book and its sequel, The Loud Book, from the library at the same time, and my children just love both (though guess which one they request more often?  You got it -- The Loud Book.  No surprise there!)    Both stories are equally delightful, so please consider this a recommendation for both!

For even more fun, try making your own list after you've finished reading the story.  What types of quiet and loud do you experience, know, or love?   Here are some examples my son and I came up with.  Can you tell how much he loves animals and dinosaurs?  Feel free to share yours in the comments below!

Firefly quiet
Listening for Santa quiet
About to pounce like a tiger quiet
Prowling jaguar quiet
Don't go near a T Rex quiet
Sleeping sister quiet
Getting into trouble quiet
Lapping waves quiet

Fire truck siren loud
T Rex loud
Leopard roaring loud
Velociraptors loud
The Pigeon loud ("Let me drive the bus!!")
Dump truck loud
Train loud
Silly sister loud
Tickles loud