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 28, 2014

Story-inspired decor: Using book jacket covers as art!

There's nothing like getting a new book.  The way the binding cracks a bit when you open it for the first time, the crispness of the pages, the excitement of a new story… I just love it!  My children are very fortunate to receive many books as gifts and never fail to light up when a new story is added to our collection. One of their uncles gives them fabulous new books regularly, and without fail, they excitedly rip open the package, take out the book, remove the jacket cover and toss it aside, and dive into the story.  It's wonderful.

But this brings me to my jacket cover dilemma.  Once we started reading hardcover books with our son, we quickly realized that jacket covers had to go.  They were always getting crumpled or taken off or bent or otherwise ruined, so it just seemed easier to remove them from the beginning.  Not knowing what to do with them, I kept them in a small stack on a closet shelf.  Should I just recycle them?  Keep them to put back on the book someday when the kids got a little older?  Many of the hand-me-down books we received from family members still had the covers on, which amazed me somewhat.  I kept them, thinking I'd put them back on the books someday, but then I had an idea for how to use some of them.

As our library of children's books has grown, we have developed many family favorites.  It has become clear that, while there are many books we love and enjoy, some stories will always hold a particularly special place in our hearts.  (Or maybe just my heart, I don't know.)  My children definitely have certain favorites that we've read countless times, and I know that twenty years from now, they will remember these stories fondly.  As I was thinking about how to create a little reading corner in my daughter's room one day, I thought, "Wouldn't it be cute if I could put some art up on the wall from her favorite stories?" Jacket covers would be the perfect thing!

It took me a while to find frames that I liked (and that weren't crazy expensive), but, as it so often does, Target came to the rescue.  I got several frames on sale for about $2 a piece and love them (especially because the piece on the back that can be used to stand the frame up rests inside the back of the frame, not on top of it.  This makes it hang on the wall so much better.)  I pulled out some of our favorite book covers and got to work.

Can you tell which of our favorite books are featured here, besides the Curious Garden?

I have several other story book covers that I'd like to frame, too, and think the wall would look even better that way.  A few of our favorite books are paperbacks so we don't have jacket covers to frame, but that's okay.  I think I'll just print some images from those books on our color printer and frame those, instead.  Hopefully Target will have more of these frames in stock the next time I go so I can stock up on a few more!  I'd love to hang some in my son's room, too.   I still have a big stack of jacket covers in a pile in the closet, but some of them, at least, have now been put to good use.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 228: The Pigeon Needs a Bath

We LOVE Mo Willems in our house, and we were thrilled to get a copy of his latest book last week. (Thanks, Uncle Jeff!)  Since then, we've read the book I don't even know how many times, shared it with my son's kindergarten class and my daughter's preschool class, and laughed our way through countless fits of giggles.  I'm pretty sure my daughter has memorized it already, as well, since when we were reading it at bedtime last night, she insisted on saying all of the Pigeon's lines herself.  I told myself that I would stop featuring Mo Willems' books on this blog because I've already written about so many of them, but when a book is this fun and silly and wonderful, it simply must be shared!

If you aren't familiar with the Pigeon series, you need to get yourself to the library right now and take out one of these books immediately! Seriously. Go now. Read the rest of this post later. You're missing out!!  These books are absolutely hilarious and my children and I can't help but smile and laugh out loud at the Pigeon's antics each time we read them.  The Pigeon Needs a Bath is the most recent in the series, and might just be one of my favorites yet.

The cover itself lets you know just where this story is headed.  The Pigeon is filthy and needs a bath, but he insists he does not.  After all, he just took a bath last month! "'Clean.' 'Dirty.' They're just words, right?" He feels clean! As for those flies that are swarming around him? "Purely coincidental."  In true Pigeon form, he finally agrees -- reluctantly, of course -- to get into the bath, but not without one of Mo's classic multi-framed page spreads of Pigeon banter.  "The water is too hot… Too cold… Too deep!  Not deep enough… Too lukewarm… Too cold… Too hot again!… Not enough toys… Too many toys… Still too hot…"  And once he finally gets in (as I have experienced with my own children time and again), he naturally changes his mind and doesn't want to get out!  Right. On. In every way. So fun!

I suppose really needn't say anything else, other than that I hope you are able to get your hands on a copy of this fabulous book as soon as possible! Mo Willems, thank you for creating so many fantastic stories that we will remember fondly for years to come.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 227: Not Your Typical Dragon

My son is still in a huge dragon phase, so naturally, I set out to see if I could find any good stories about his favorite creatures.  I came across this one while searching on Amazon, and was happy to be able to request it through our inter-library loan service.  Now that we've read it (many times), I think it should have a place in every library, everywhere!  What a cute story!

Crispin Blaze comes from a long line of fire-breathing dragons.  When he turns 7, he'll breathe fire, too!  Crispin can't wait to make his family proud.  "The little dragon imagined all the forests he would burn down.  He dreamed of all the castles he would destroy.  He also considered boiling water to make tea, but he didn't tell his father that."  When his birthday arrives, he takes a deep breath and prepares to light his candles, but all that comes out is whipped cream!  His father is shocked.  His mother worries what the neighbors will think (though his sister is excited to have whipped cream on the cake.)  Crispin's father rushes him to the doctor, but when he attempts to breathe fire again, Band-aids come out, instead!  He takes medicine, hoping it will help turn him into a real dragon, but when he attends his first fire-breathing practice at school, he breathes marshmallows, not fire!  Poor Crispin just doesn't fit in.  Worried that he'll disappoint his family and convinced he's not a real dragon, he decides to run away.   In a sweet and silly turn of events, Crispin and his family learn that his gifts are something to be celebrated, not ashamed of, and that the things that make us unique are the most special of all.

Not Your Typical Dragon is silly, sweet, and fun to read, with a simply fabulous message.  Be proud of who you are, embrace what makes you different, and appreciate the unique gifts that people have to share with the world.  After all, the world would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same!  My kids just can't get enough of this wonderful story, and I'm sure yours will love it, too.