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!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 225: Whoever You Are

The last time we went to the library, I thought it would be fun to find a book that would tie in nicely to the Olympics.  I didn't have anything particular in mind and I certainly wasn't expecting to find an Olympic type book when I went to see what Mem Fox books were on the shelf, but as soon as I saw this story, I knew this would be just the thing.  The Olympics are inspiring in so many ways, but the thing I love most about them is the way they unite people from all over the world.  It's awesome, isn't it?  As a geography teacher, I was always hoping to instill in my students an appreciation and respect for other cultures and people. As a parent, I do the same, hoping that my children will always know that we have far more in common as humankind than we might always be able to see.  Although we might seem very different from other people around the world, deep down, we are the same. 

In this sweet, simple story, beloved Australian author Mem Fox celebrates the diversity of our beautiful planet, reminding young readers that every day, all over the world, children are smiling, playing, laughing, crying, and learning, just like them.  "Their schools may be different from yours, and their lands may be different from yours.  Their lives may be different than yours, and their words may be very different from yours.  But inside, their hearts are just like yours, whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world." Leslie Staub's colorful illustrations and Fox's gentle, repetitive verse make this story perfect for even the youngest readers, though its message is an important one for readers of all ages.  No matter how different we might seem on the outside, the things that unite us will always be far greater than those that divide us.  

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Curious George birthday party!

One of my dearest friends just threw a Curious George themed party for her son's 3rd birthday.  Actually, it was a Curious George the Fireman birthday party, since the birthday boy couldn't quite decide on one theme or the other.  (Fortunately, the two were easy to combine!)  As we were driving home from the party today, I started thinking about how some picture book characters like Curious George are just so lovable and have such staying power among children throughout the years.  Granted, Curious George now has a show on PBS and I'm sure that has a lot to do with his current popularity among the preschool demographic, but his books are awfully popular, too.  After all, his mischievous ways have been entertaining kids since Margret and H.A. Rey published the first book back in 1941.  Still, I just love a character-themed birthday party!

Cake I made for the birthday boy :)

I was also inspired to write a quick post about this after seeing our fabulous party favors:  paperback copies of Curious George and the Firefighters and Curious George and the Birthday Surprise!  How cool is that?  My kids also came home with plastic fire chief's hats and chocolate fire trucks, but I just love the idea of giving each child a book as a party favor.  Fantastic!
Books for party favors!  Brilliant!

Have you ever been to a book or character themed party?  If so, I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks for a super fun day, Wong family!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Day 224: Pictures From Our Vacation

It's February:  that ironic month in New England that seems oh-so-long, despite being the year's shortest.  Naturally, given the weeks of sub-freezing temperatures and sicknesses that always grace our household at this time of year, I'm dreaming of summer.  Sweet, sweet summer, with days spent playing on the beach and swimming in the lake and hiking in the mountains of New Hampshire.  Ahhh….. Alas, warm weather is still a few months away, so I'll have to settle for looking at pictures of sunny places, dreaming about vacation, and drinking coconut coffee.

When we went to the library last week and my children happily picked random books from the shelves, I turned to my trusty list of books to find, hoping to bring home a few new titles I've been wanting to read for a while.  Pictures From Our Vacation was one such title on that list, having been recommended by my fabulous friend Melinda, children's librarian extraordinaire, who hailed it as one of her kids' favorite books last summer.  I was thrilled to find that our library had it available and added it to our pile, eager to bring it home.  Thanks, as always, Melinda, for the fabulous recommendation!

I absolutely love this story! I've never read anything by Lynne Rae Perkins before, but there are many Cynthia-Ryland-esque qualities about this book that I just love.  It's a wonderfully sweet story about a family's vacation to visit relatives and the memories they make along the way.  At the start of the trip, the mother gives each of the children a Polaroid camera and a scrapbook in which to place their pictures so that they can have a nice souvenirs from their vacation.  The kids snap pictures along the way -- of hillsides, the sky, the back of their dad's head as he drives -- but as they are returning home, they realize that the photographs hardly remind them of their vacation at all.  Rather, it's the time spent with family, the laughter, the stories, the cool feel of the water in the lake -- all of the things that they couldn't capture on film -- that were the most memorable. The snapshots, images, and maps with which Perkins illustrates the book are perfect, and I couldn't love the message of this story any more.  This will definitely be a book that we add to our summer vacation collection.

I'll end this post with my favorite excerpt from the book. While I will always take pictures to capture the moments that we spend together as a family, I hope that my children will believe, as I do, that it is the time we spend doing those things together that is the most wonderful of all.

"I looked out the window.  There were big electrical towers alongside the highway.  I took a picture of them.  In my mind they looked like giant robots marching across the earth, carrying the electricity along in their hands.  It's probably hard to take a picture that shows that, even with a really good camera. And it's hard to take a picture of a story someone tells, or what it feels like when you're rolling down a hill or falling asleep in a house full of cousins and uncles and aunts.  There are a lot of things like that.  But those kinds of pictures I can keep in my mind."