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, August 30, 2013

Day 214: Long Night Moon

Cynthia Rylant has long been one of my favorite children's authors.  Her work never ceases to amaze me, mostly because it always feels so personal in a way I have trouble describing.  So touching.  So real.  I routinely look for her books when we are at our various local libraries, and was thrilled to bring this one home the other week.  I had never seen this book before, but was instantly drawn to its cover illustration.  As I opened it up and read the description on the jacket cover, I just knew I would love it.

Have you ever stopped to consider what might be revealed in one spot over one year by twelve unique and exquisite full moons?

My kids and I love observing the moon, especially on clear, summer nights.  As the moon followed us home from New Hampshire last week, my son barraged us with questions.  Why can we sometimes see the moon and sometimes we can't?  Why do we sometimes see just part of the moon and other times we can see all of it?  If the moon is made of rock, why does it glow?  There's a lot to be learned about the magical moon, and I love the way this book encourages children to enjoy and appreciate the light of night in a new and different way.

Long Night Moon is the type of book that I love a little more each time I read it.  At first glance, I was captivated by the artwork.  If you've ever tried to paint or draw moonlight, you know how difficult it is.  Mark Siegel's illustrations capture the feel and presence of moonlight magnificently.

A second reading found us exploring the meaning behind the names of the moons each month.  As Rylant explains at the outset, "Native Americans gave names to the full moons they watched throughout the year.  Each month had a moon.  And each moon had its name..." While the monthly names in this story aren't all the same as others that I've researched, I love the way each one captures the essence of the season and gets us thinking about the changes in nature at the time.  "In March a Sap Moon rises over melting ponds, sleepy bears, small green trees.  It tells a promise and a hope... In July the Thunder Moon trembles, shudders, and disappears in a thick black sky.  It listens to the clouds beat their drums."  The book is more poetry than story, but combined with Siegel's artwork, it tells a beautiful story.  Its pace is calming and slow, making it especially lovely to read at bedtime, but it's well worth a read at any time of day.

Be sure to read the note from the illustrator at the end of the book, too.  In it, Siegel describes how he took many long, moonlit walks to help inspire his art and find the perfect medium for this book. "In my busy, crowded life, I'd never given so much attention to moonlight:  What is it like?  How does it feel? What makes it so special?"  He also explains how Rylant "captured not just one, but many moods of night" throughout the book, and that these "distinct atmospheres seemed best explored in one continuous 360-degree panorama over the course of a year."  This artistic technique can only really be noticed if you slow down and pause before turning the page, allowing time to soak in the whole scene before moving on.  Reading this background made the book all the more impressive for me.  I'll include my favorite part below, for it paints a far better picture of the wonder of this story than I ever could.

"I realize now how tempting it is to think that nature closes up shop after sunset, but this isn't so.  When the sun goes down, nature doesn't disappear.  She shows us another face, one that is just as complex and astonishing as the face she wears during the day.  When we are young children, night sometimes has a forbidding, or even forbidden quality -- it is, after all, time for bed.  But its attraction is no less powerful.  May the words and images of Long Night Moon offer a safe invitation to savor the night and celebrate its otherwise hidden wonders." ~M.S.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Day 213: Where Fish Go in Winter

A few years ago, my mom gave me a big bin of books that she had saved from my (and my brothers') childhood.  Some of them were classics that we already knew and loved, but others, like this gem here, we had never read or heard of before.  The very first time I read this book, I knew I had to feature it on this blog.  My son fell in love with it the first time we read it, too, and it's truly a wonderful book.  It was first published over 25 years ago in 1987, so the hardcover copy that I have seems rather hard to find now.  
Fortunately, however, an easy reader paperback version was published in 2002 -- that's the one shown at the very beginning of this post -- which, as far as I can tell, has the same text as the original but with different illustrations.  Plus, it's only $3.99!  Can't beat that!

If you can ever get your hands on a copy of this book either at the library or your local bookstore, please do.  It's a fabulous collection of questions and answers that inquiring minds everywhere will love.  I smiled as I read through the questions that are the topics of each page, all of which are the very types of questions my curious, nature-loving son loves to ask (often at the most surprising of times.)  Where do fish go in winter?  How do birds fly?  Why do leaves change colors?  What is the sound in a seashell?  How do seeds know which was is up?  How do cats purr?  How does popcorn pop?  Why do snakes shed their skin?  Do islands float?

The answers are given in rolling, rhyming reply in a way that explains why scientifically, yet simply.  I definitely learned a few things reading this book, too, which I always love.  Did you know that not all of the strands in a spider's web are sticky, or that the noise we hear when we hold a shell up to our ear is caused not only by the sound of blood rushing through our ear, but also by both air molecules bouncing around?  I'll share an example so you can get a taste of just how informative and lovely this book really is.

What do clouds feel like?
Would clouds feel fluffy, 
Soft and grand,
If I could touch them
With my hand?

To clutch a cloud
Inside your fist
Would be like holding
Morning mist.

Clouds are not
The way they seem.
They weigh no more
Than fog or steam.

They're made of tiny
Water drops,
So light they float
Above rooftops.

I'd say this book is best suited for preschoolers and elementary students, but would make a fabulous addition to any child's library.  It's a must for any classroom, too.  As I mentioned earlier, the easy reader version (Level 3) seems easier to come by, but there are a bunch of the original hardcover versions available used on Amazon starting at only $0.01 (plus shipping.)  However you track down a copy of this book, I hope you love it as much as we do.

Easy reader paperback:     Hardcover (original version):