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, December 17, 2012

The Christmas Wish

Like so many people, I am devastated by the Sandy Hook tragedy last week.  I can't seem to stop hugging my kids a little tighter and feeling truly blessed for having them with me, safe and sound, each minute that they are with me.  Yesterday, my son turned 5.  There was much to celebrate, and although he doesn't know it, I was even more emotional inside than I usually am on his birthday.  He knows nothing about the Newtown atrocity, and I hope he never has to know the fear, unanswerable questions, and indescribable sadness that so many children and families are experiencing right now.  Yesterday, we celebrated, sang, played, laughed, and loved as hard as we knew how.  It was perfect.

Today, I tried not to think about it all as my husband went off to his school to teach and I dropped my son off at preschool.  Not in a disrespectful way, of course -- my thoughts and love continuously go out the families of Newtown -- but in a "I have to hold myself together for my kids' sake" kind of way.  I did read the text from the President's address last night, and hid my tears from my daughter as she sat playing next to me.  I was, not surprisingly, very moved by his words, and felt the excerpt below was worth sharing:

Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child's very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won't — that we can't always be there for them. They'll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.
And we know we can't do this by ourselves. It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can't do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we're counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we're all parents; that they're all our children.
This is our first task — caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right...
There's only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have — for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child's embrace — that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger — we know that's what matters. We know we're always doing right when we're taking care of them, when we're teaching them well, when we're showing acts of kindness. We don't go wrong when we do that.
So true, isn't it?
There is so much I could write or say this week, but it all feels a bit too deep and heavy for me to share on here.  Instead, I keep coming back to the message expressed in one of my favorite Christmas songs, "The Christmas Wish," from John Denver and the Muppets album, A Christmas Together.  It was one of my favorite albums as a child, and is usually the first Christmas music my kids and I listen to each year.  As a child, I always just enjoyed this song and thought it was pretty, but as an adult, in never fails to make me cry when I really stop and listen to the words.  I often sing it to my daughter at bedtime, and she affectionately calls it "the Kermit Christmas song."  Now, I really can't sing or listen to it without crying.  If you've never heard it, I encourage you to take a listen or read the lyrics below.
Wishing everyone, everywhere, a season filled with peace and love.

The Christmas Wish

From John Denver and the Muppets A Christmas Together
Words & Music by Dan Wheetman

I don't know if you believe in Christmas,
or if you have presents underneath a Christmas tree.
But if you believe in love,
that will be more than enough
for you to come and celebrate with me.
For I have held the precious gift that love brings,
even though I never saw a Christmas star.
I know there is a light,
I have felt it burn inside,
and I have seen it shining from afar.

Christmas is the time to come together,
a time to put all differences aside.
And I reach out my hand to the family of man
to share the joy I feel at Christmas time.

For the truth that binds us all together
I would like to say a simple prayer
that at this special time you will have true peace of mind
and love to last throughout the coming year.

And if you believe in love 
that will be more than enough
for peace to last throughout the coming year.
And peace on earth will last throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs with Big Ideas!

Originally posted on my "New to Review" page:  I've had this book for a few months now, but with the craziness that is life around here, it took me a while to get to reading it.  When I finally got a chance to pick it up and read it the other week, I was very impressed!  In Kidpreneurs, brothers Adam and Matthew Toren offer an excellent introduction to starting one's own business.  I had several front yard business ventures as a kid -- mainly selling lemonade and original artwork -- and for living on a dead-end street of only 10 houses, I did okay. (Or I just had really nice, sympathetic neighbors... which was probably the case.)  Still, if I had had this book, I might have really made a name for myself!  The Torens present aspiring Kidpreneurs with a thorough, thoughtful, comprehensive approach to starting their own business.  Best of all, their advice throughout is practical and realistic:  Start small but dream big.  Make a plan that you can stick to.  Ask your parents for help.  Advertise.  Create a budget and learn to manage your money well.  Don't promise more than you can deliver.  Learn from your mistakes.  Don't take rejections personally.  Take your business seriously, but always remember to have fun!  After all, that's what it is all about!

Kidpreneurs' first few chapters are dedicated to learning about business in general, how grown-ups earn money, and how to get started.  I love that there is an entire chapter featuring sample businesses such as babysitting, lawn care, and dog-walking so that readers can get ideas and see what that kind of business plan might entail.  Other chapters address how to make money on the internet (with the strong recommendation that this be done with parental assistance) or create a website, as well as how to have a green, eco-friendly business.  I especially love the short chapter dedicated to giving back to one's community.  The Torens include helpful websites along the way, too, setting kidpreneurs up with all kinds of resources that can help them launch a successful business.  They even provide a blank business plan at the end of the book so that kids can get started right away!  After reading this book, any aspiring entrepreneur will feel well-informed, inspired, and ready to get planning.  If you know a child who is serious about starting his or her own business, I highly recommend this book.

Interested in learning more or ordering a copy?  Visit

Friday, December 7, 2012


As you know, the purpose of my blog is to share awesome books with anyone who reads with children.  On my page entitled "Book Reviews," I invite new or aspiring authors to share their work with me with the hope that it might help them generate more of an audience for their work.  I make no guarantees that these books will make my list of "365," but I do promise to provide an honest review.  I know it is quite difficult to break into the world of publishing, so if I can help a worthy author spread the word about their book, I'm more than happy to help.

A few months back, I was contacted by M. J. Bronstein, author of Fotoplay!, who asked me if I might like to receive a copy of her book for review.  I checked out her website and was rather intrigued, so excitedly replied that I would.  Within a few days, her book arrived in my mailbox, and my son loved it from the start.  Fotoplay! not a story, but a book filled with 50 fun photo-based prompts that invite children to channel their inner artists and create fabulous works of art!  Each page contains different photographs and quirky prompts for inspiration -- cats who need hats, meerkats who need fancy outfits, an empty art gallery that needs filling, a tunnel that leads to a field full of butterflies.  Some of my son's creations appear here:

I love the way Fotoplay! invites children to use their imaginations and create fun works of art without the pressure of trying to figure out where to start.  My son is what I would call a reluctant artist.  He likes to draw -- sometimes -- but usually his art involves a few quick lines and scribbles and he is done.  If an artistic activity holds his attention for more than 5 minutes, I'm impressed.  When he first opened this book, he sat down with it for almost an hour, filling in the first half of the book in one sitting!  (I actually had to cut him off so that he didn't go through the whole thing in the first day he had it.)  Granted, his drawing still consisted of a lot of scribbles, but he was excited about doing it and loved the art he was creating.  And isn't that the whole point?  Fotoplay! got him excited about art in a wonderful way, and I just loved watching him create with this book.  I mean, doesn't this picture just explain it all?
If you're looking for a fun, interactive, creative book to share with an artist of any age, I encourage you to check out Fotoplay!  It's the kind of book I would have loved as a child, and I'm definitely going to have to get another copy for my daughter at some point. To read more about M.J. Bronstein's book and work, you can visit her website at  She also has some free printables available on her site here, which I might just have to print out for myself to do sometime alongside my kids.  If you are interested in purchasing Fotoplay!, you can buy it on Amazon or by clicking the picture here:  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Advent Calendar

I've seen this idea floating around the Pinteresphere, and just knew I had to do this with my kiddos this year.  I loved the few years where we had an advent calendar as a kid.  Usually, it was just one of the simple little cardboard ones with little chocolates inside for each day, but there was something so exciting about opening up that little door to see what tiny treat and picture lay inside.  I've thought about  how to make some kind of advent calendar for my own children, and this one seemed just perfect.

The idea is simple (and only slightly time-consuming, especially if you don't like wrapping presents):  Wrap up 25 books and place them in a pile.  Open up one "present" from the stack each day, and choose a special place to read it together.  They don't need to be new books, although they obviously can be.  I've decided to wrap 25 of our favorite Christmas and winter stories that we already have here in the house, along with a few that we recently got out of the library.  (I'm just making sure that the library books are some of the earlier ones we open.)   I am also including a few books that aren't seasonal in any way that I got at our last library book sale for $.25 a piece.  I figured I'd put a few of these in the pile, too, just to mix it up and so that we have a few new stories to open up and read.  I'm putting our favorite seasonal books towards the beginning of the calendar, and some I can't wrap up at all because my kids already insist on reading them daily.  (I've read the Grinch to my daughter at naptime and bedtime every day for almost a week now!)  There are so many ways this could be done, but since we're getting our tree today, I'm hoping to start our tradition by opening up a new book each night before bed and reading it snuggled up by the tree.  Here is a picture of our finished "calendar", along with some of the titles that we will be opening together over the next 25 days:

The Mitten by Jan Brett
Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! by Don and Audrey Wood
Henry and Mudge and the Sparkle Days by Cynthia Rylant
The Night Before Christmas Lift-the-Flap Storybook based on the tale by Clement C. Moore
Spot's First Christmas by Eric Hill
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
The Polar Bear Son by Lydia Dabcovich
Winter's Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
Merry Christmas, Curious George by H.A. Rey
Toot & Puddle Let It Snow by Hollie Hobbie
Toot & Puddle I'll Be Home for Christmas by Hollie Hobbie
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
Santa Mouse by Michael Brown
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss