Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes

Right before the holidays, I was fortunate enough to win a book giveaway from @readbrightly on Instagram. Christmas came early when the box arrived with seven holiday themed books, ranging from board books to chapter books. There was one that squeaked past the others as a favorite by the young people in my life, and I strongly recommend adding it to your holiday book list for next year.

“Little Baby Mouse and the Christmas Cupcakes” by Jennifer and Matt Holm, was an instant hit. After I read it to my daughter for the first time, she put it back in the pile of books we were reading so that we could read it again. The pictures are bright and colorful, and the graphic novel style helps to tell the story. I often find graphic novels difficult to follow, but my daughter and her two elementary-aged cousins loved it. Clearly the Holms know their target audience. Baby Mouse is an independent character that marches to the beat of her own drum, which is demonstrated by her actions throughout the story. The book celebrates her uniqueness and the story is easily relatable by children. It was a well-loved story that had the kids laughing and smiling.

I plan on adding this book to our collection of holiday books. And speaking of such, as the holidays came to a close, so did our book advent calendar. While my daughter is only three (almost four), I know I have done a good job so far when she got just as excited to open her wrapped book each night as she was her chocolate. This is the second year I’ve done the book advent, and will continue to do it for years to come. I’d love to think of another time or theme to do this at a different point in the year, and would welcome any suggestions!

A Child of Books

With a new baby comes a lot of quiet time at all hours of the night. It’s a time for me to think, a time to snuggle, a time to troll the internet, and a time for me to binge watch Netflix on my iPad. Sorry books, but I’ve fallen asleep on more than one occasion. When I’m not glued to watching the entire series of Gilmore girls, I’ll often peruse Facebook and Twitter, catching up on the latest scoop. The other night I saw a tweet by Candlewick Press, asking, “What made you a child of books?”. Where do I begin?

The question itself elicits so many thoughts in my head. I love the idea that my own children will be surround by and raised on books. I love it so much, I have a poster promoting Oliver Jeffers latest book, (signed by him and Sam Winston, which makes it even cooler) in my son’s room. My son doesn’t know it yet, but he too will be a child of books. My three year old is surrounded by stories, whether from books or simply ones from our imaginations. “Tell me a story”, she often says. And we abide. When she isn’t behaving, we threaten to take away a book before bed. We’ve only had to follow through once, and I’ve never seen her little heart so broken. When we go to a restaurant or a doctors appointment, there is always a book in the toy bag. My favorite is when she brings the Frozen chapter book that she took from my classroom over the summer, solely because Anna and Elsa were on the cover. She “reads” the book cover to cover, using intonation and voices for the characters, retelling the plot of the movie. It makes her teacher mama proud. We have books scattered around our house; they are in every room. My children are literally children of books.

Then I started thinking about myself as a reader. I don’t remember actually learning to read, it was just a natural hobby in our house. Growing up, my dad and my sister were wonderful role models of what voracious readers look like. Still to this day, there hasn’t been a single Christmas where books weren’t wrapped beneath the tree.

When I think back to what made me a child of books, it wasn’t just having good role models, or a mother that would take me to the library whenever she could, but it was the actual books themselves. I don’t remember how old I was, but one year for my birthday my aunt and uncle had bought me my first chapter book series, the original “The Kids of the Polk Street School.” I had crossed over from picture books and I was in the big league with my new chapter book series. They started my love affair with books, and to this day, they are proudly displayed on my bookshelf at home. There was something about these books that fulfilled my infatuation. They were a series, they were just right, they had actual plots and continuation, and they were sparkly and new. I was hooked. Other books have come and gone, other series became the “it” books of the time, and other favorites have emerged. But I’ll never forget those kids of The Polk Street School. They’re forever in my heart.

Recommended: “Book Scavenger” by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

I have to say, I genuinely enjoyed reading “Book Scavenger”. Typically with kid lit, I have my students’ reading interests in the back of my minbook-scavengerd, and I often read the story through the eyes of a third grader. Often I find both the characters and plot overly predictable. This was not the case in this debut novel by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. Instead, the characters were well developed and the plot was believable.

This novel follows the main character, Emily, as she recently moves to San Francisco and has to navigate not only a new town, but a new school and new peers, as well. She befriends James, the boy in the apartment upstairs, with a love of puzzles instantly bonding them. After discovering a book  that was left in the BART station, they soon learn that the book is in fact a puzzle left behind by the creator of the infamous Book Scavenger, Garrison Griswold. It’s then that their adventures begin. The strong continues as Emily and James try to piece together the clues, while also navigating the ups and downs of their personal lives.

“Book Scavenger” was a well-written adventure that kept me wanting to stay up late and read. I strongly recommend this book for intermediate classrooms, as it would appeal to a variety of readers. Just make sure you read it and enjoy it for yourself first!

 

A Return to the Land of Reading…

It had been a little while since I’d read kid lit.  It had actually be a long while since I had read much of anything.  Over the summer I was seven months pregnant, taking two classes for graduate credit, all while entertaining my third year old at the pool and around town. At the end of the day, I didn’t have energy for anything except brushing my teeth and going to bed, let alone reading a book.  I went for long stretches of the summer not having a book to read for pleasure.  My nightstand, which usually has stacks and stacks of books, was bare. Even my husband noticed and sounded the alarm. I didn’t have my nose stuck in a book. 

When school finally started up again in the fall and the draining heat of the summer began to subside, I scoured the shelves of my library and different websites, finding books that motivated me to rejoin the land of readers. All my reads happened to fall into the adult literature category, and even then, my reading was sparse.  That all changed early one Saturday morning when Kim and I were on FaceTime. Clad in our pjs, I introduced her to my newest addition, she showed me some new toys, and then we got on the subject of books. Surprise, surprise. “You loved the Westing Game, didn’t you?” That led us into our discussion on new books and her recommendation of Book Scavenger.  And now, thanks to Kim, I’m out of my rut and back on track. Happy reading, everyone!

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My Happy Place

Bookstores are my happy place. Always have been, always will be. I fantasize about opening my own little bookstore when I retire from teaching, hoping that by then, books will not be obsolete. That in itself is a whole other post. Have you ever seen the movie You’ve Got Mail ? It’s cheesy, yes, but the local bookstore? Oh, how I long to have a shop around the corner. My town is lacking in a bookstore, but I don’t think I can quite convince my husband that I should be the solution.

Bookstores have a smell. You all know that new book smell. The smell is still there when the Amazon box arrives with books for my classroom, but it’s not same. However, the joy of getting new crisps books will never go away. I recently had a baby and have been given many generous, generous gifts. My sister, who shares the same passion for reading and books, gave me an amazing “welcome to the world, baby” present. An Amazon box arrived with three books I’ve been wanting to read. I guess after 36 years, she knows me pretty well.

Hidden Gems

I cannot remember the last time I bought myself a new book, or even stood perusing the shelves at the library, looking for my next treasure. My trips to the library are now spent primarily in the children’s section, where we pick a handful of books, convincing my three year old that no, we are not getting a Barbie movie for movie night, and lastly running past the new fiction section where I grab three or four books that look interesting based on the blur of the cover as I chase after a toddler with a hungry baby. I’ll have time to read the flaps at home and see if any of them sound interesting. It’s like playing the book lottery, so far with minimal success. But despite my failed attempts, this works wonders in the children’s department, so I’m not ready to give up on my strategy just yet.

On most visits, I push the stroller into the mural-covered room with a general idea of what to get based on which author has a new book out, which title I read about, a book that was previewed at school, etc. But my daughter wants nothing to do with my input, no surprise there. Instead she randomly pulls books from the shelf, not even bothering to give the cover a look, and throws them in the bottom of our stroller. These are the books we are taking home no matter how much I pitch an alternative. And you know what? We have found some real gems this way. Don’t get me wrong, it has also led us to some utter fails, but it has also provided a variety that perhaps even my guidance wouldn’t have given her. This week alone I’ve become an expert on hayrides, autumn, and bats. And If I’ve learned a thing or two, you can imagine that the sponge that exists between her ears has, as well.

So the next time you are looking for a book, have a little faith, and approach it like a three year old. You might just be surprised with what you find.

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