Bouncing Back from a Bad Mood

Recently I picked up a cute little book called Badger’s Bad Mood at the local library. When I started to write about it for the blog, I realized that it might make more of an impact to be connected with other books about moods and how to deal with them, so a new trip to the library was hatched. Here are a few books that we have found that talk about depression, mood and emotions. What I find impressive is how the books talk about getting out of a funk. They try to point out that it is important to help those around you and to help yourself. Try as we might, there are days when we feel down. I know that my kids have learned from the new movie, Inside Out, that there is nothing wrong with sadness. As my daughters and I agreed, the best memories in the film were those that were created with a mix of sadness and joy.

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badger coverIn the book that started me on this thought process, Badger’s Bad Mood, poor Badger has got the blues and no one knows what to do about it. The animals in the forest depend on Badger and look to him as their rock, so they are at a loss when Badger can’t get out of his funk (somewhat like a parent).

Lucky for Badger, his friend Mole sticks it out and just is there for Badger hoping that time will make him feel more like his old self. When that doesn’t work, Mole comes up with another plan. Mole decides to throw an awards ceremony with music and food afterwards. Even Badger seems to come out of his stupor when Mole says, “You’ll have to come, of course. A little bird tells me you may be getting something.”

Mole goes back to his home and creates awards for all of the forest animals and a whole bunch for Badger. Badger makes it to the part and is honored with a wide variety of awards. Badger realizes that Mole thought up the whole thing and is incredibly appreciative. He thinks Mole deserves his own award because sometimes everyone needs to know how much they are loved and appreciated.

This is an important lesson for all of us, parents and children alike. Sometimes we all just need to hear that we are appreciated for what we do – cleaning up a bedroom when no one asked, bringing in your dinner dishes, making a special meal.

VirginiaWolf-Cover-250px1In the beautifully illustrated Virginia Wolf, by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault, the book shows both literal and metaphorical realities of depression. One day Vanessa’s sister woke up feeling wolfish. She didn’t want to be around anyone and was bothered by noises that her sister made. “The whole house sank. Up became down. Bright became dim. Glad became gloom.” The person who is depressed often doesn’t realize it, but one person’s depression can impact an entire house. Vanessa tried to cheer Virginia up in many ways. Finally, she was inspired to create a beautiful new world full of a lush magical garden and wide open spaces. Virginia finally started to come out of her shell and see the beauty in the world around her and her wolfish demeanor morphs back to reveal her normal girlish form. Adults know of the true Virginia Wolf who suffered so terribly from depression. This book can touch children and adults in a variety of ways showing the lightness and darkness that are inside of all of us.

pout poutThe Pout-Pout Fish is a well known book about a fish who believes that it is his destiny to spread the “dreary-wearies all over the place.” All of the other sea animals try to convince him to turn his frown upside down. They let him know that they don’t really like being greeted with scowls and would rather that he radiate a little joy and hope. He always responds that he has no choice because he is a pout-pout fish. One day a new fish swims in, plants a kiss on his face and swims away. Mr. Pout-pout realizes that he had it all wrong. He isn’t a pouting fish, but a kissing fish who spreads cheery-cheeries all over the place. The book is silly, but it gets the point across beautifully that no one really likes being around someone who is sad all the time and that we need to find the positives in the world around us and in ourselves.

bucketAnother book that is great for talking about how our actions impact those around us is the marvelous book, How Full is Your Bucket?  We first heard of this book when J entered kindergarten and her class had a bucket to fill instead of each child being somewhere on the red light/green light spectrum. This book explains that we all have invisible buckets of water over our heads. When people are mean to us, or when we are mean to others, our buckets can empty a little. But when we are kind to others or when others are kind to us, our buckets get filled. Young Felix learns about this from his grandfather when he is unkind to his little sister. He wakes up the next morning with an actual bucket over his head and sees how it gets filled and emptied throughout the day. This is a nicely illustrated way to show how your actions have a bigger impact then you might think and has been used wonderfully as a teaching tool for younger elementary school classes.

Alexander-and-the-Terrible-Horrible-No-Good-Very-Bad-DayYou can’t talk about bad moods without talking about the perennially classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. As the book starts out, “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”  This book might seem like a child whining and repeatedly threatening to move to Australia, but then again, it is and there is a time and a place for that. The book is written in a way that totally works for kids and many often clamor for it to be read over and over again. Everything is a run-on sentence and little issues feel more like huge events that will make this “the worst day of my entire life.” That’s a phrase that my kids like to say. We are constantly vacillating between the worst day and the best day, in a matter of 10 minutes! Everyone can commiserate with Alexander and realize that their problems aren’t so very bad after all and tomorrow is always another day.

yesterdayFinally, I came across the book Yesterday I had the Blues. Yesterday one boy had the blues and had them bad–not just the ordinary blues, the “deep down in my shoes” blues, the “go away Mr. Sun quit smilin’ at me” blues. But today he’s traded in those blues for greens, the “runnin’ my hands along the hedges” greens, the kind of greens that make him want to be Somebody. This book does a marvelous job looking at the emotions we face on a day to day basis and also highlights that our family members go through different emotions as well. His dad has they grays and his ballet happy sister has the pinks. Gram has the yellows, which seem like a golden ray of sunshine to me (especially when compared to Mama’s reds on the next page). There are a rainbow of emotions out there that we have to deal with on a daily basis and this book does a great job of showing a wide variety of them.

It is hard to teach children about emotions. I’ve loved being able to have conversations about them due to the movie Inside Out, but these books are another great resource for us.

Reading and re-reading The Land of Stories

A few years ago I started hearing about the book The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. The book sounded perfect for me – fairy tales, adventure, and strong young characters. I was quickly sucked into the story and when J heard me listening to the audiobook version of book 2, she heard the names of some princesses that she recognized and got curious. Since then, she has been sucked into the stories herself and has read and listened to them all. We also just received our copy of the 4th book in the series which came out this week, but she is rereading the first three before jumping into book 4.

book blog7Kids have a tendency to read books more than once and watch movies over and over. There is something comforting in repetition. I asked J about this once and here is what she said: “A good story never gets old, but the first time you read it is always the best. Why? Because when you read it for the first time it is so new. So many interesting facts pop up that you’ve never heard of before. Books should be interesting. BUT…a good story never gets old. I go back to some because they are so good.”

For us, The Land of Stories series is one of those series that we can read over and over again. Harry Potter is definitely another. For the Land of Stories it has to do with taking something that we are so familiar with (fairy tales) and looking at them in a different light, as if the fairy tale world was simply another dimension that keeps going on even after the stories that we know are over. I will admit that the writing isn’t perfect, but the stories are fun and it is entertaining to have adventures with characters you think you knew re-imagined. J and I think that the first two books have been the most compelling because the characters were on a quest, but book 3 being a bit slower hasn’t stopped us from being super excited about book 4.

Book 1 The Wishing Spell is a quest through the world of fairy tales.  Twins Alex and Connor Bailey had lost their father about a year before the story starts. On their 12th birthday their  grandmother gives them a treasured fairy-tale book. Soon they discover that the book is not your average book as it brings them into the realm of fairy tales. Alex and Conner soon discover that the stories they know so well haven’t ended in this magical land—Goldilocks is now a wanted fugitive, Red Riding Hood has her own kingdom, and Queen Cinderella is about to become a mother! To get home they have to complete the wishing spell which requires them to solve riddles to find objects in order to make a spell that will allow them to leave the Land of Stories. They meet favorite characters and have quite the adventure.

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In the following books, they continue to have adventures in and out of the fairy tale world, but I don’t want to give away any of the fun details. Book four will apparently lead us through Oz, Neverland, Camelot, Wonderland and Sherwood Forrest.

While these are not the most wonderfully written books, they are wonderfully enchanting and they have definitely captured our attention. J and I were talking about these books in the car the other morning and she said “the reason you love the Land of Stories books is because Chris Colfer comes up with reasons why everything in fairy tales that we know happens.” They are just possible explanations, but they start your mind thinking that there are more to these stories and characters then what we have been shown by Disney.

The books have a lexile level at around 720 and run over 400 pages a piece.

The Lemonade War – A subtle way to teach about conflicts, resolutions, math and business

As an adult who is obsessed with books, I don’t often pay that much attention to how books are categorized by the publishing companies. Young adult books have long been on my radar with no remorse. I will admit, however, that until recently, I hadn’t picked up a ton of middle-grade books and read them unless I was reading them aloud to my daughter or reading them before she had a chance to read them in order to make sure they were okay. When I went to go write this blog post, however, I realized that I couldn’t actually write an educated article without reading the book myself. I was pleasantly shocked at what a well written book it is and the multitude of levels it is written on.

The Lemonade War is the first in a series of books that was written in 2009 and has been highly popular for the upper elementary grades. The School Library Journal summarizes the book as follows: “Evan Treski and his younger sister, Jessie, get along well in many ways. They play together, and their natural talents are complementary. Jessie is a whiz in math and other school subjects, but feelings were her weakest subject. Evan is competent in the social arena, but he is not such a good student. Their relationship changes the summer between Evan’s third and fourth grades, when a letter arrives announcing what the boy sees as total disaster for him. He and his bright, skipping-third-grade sister will be in the same class. Thus begins the Lemonade War over which child can make the most money during the last week before school.”

J picked this book up one day after a long day at tennis camp and finished it in one afternoon. When I asked her specifics, I got some of the following details.

  • The war started because they wanted to decide who could get the most money. They were both going into the same grade because Jessie was skipping 3rd grade. So they are both trying to get $100 and they can get help, like asking friends to sell with them.
  • Jessie is book smart and Evan is people smart.
  • My favorite part was when Jessie saw that a piece of paper with Evan’s writing on it had Megan Moriarty and she realized that Evan liked her.
  • Jessie was going to donate her money to charity. Her friend Megan helped her and they made more than $200. She was going to donate the money to the animal rescue league, but didn’t get to because Evan’s friend Scott had stolen the money.
  • I would have donated to charity but I would also have used some of it to buy myself a book and puzzles.

I realize that these are pretty vague generalizations. J loves to read but she does not like to talk about the books, especially when someone actually asks her a question – unless we have a group of kids over and everyone is answering questions.  I think she is more forthcoming in school, but with me I get minimalistic answers. That was a big reason that I realized that I had to read the book. So here were some of the things that I found when reading the book.

  • The main conflict of the book comes from the fact that while Evan really likes his sister, when he finds that not only is she skipping third grade but that she will be in his class for fourth grade, he gets angry. Jessie is better in school than Evan and he doesn’t want his little sister showing him up in class. Evan doesn’t know how to explain this well to Jessie so instead he just ignores her. Normally the pair enjoy running a lemonade stand together, but because Evan wants to stay away from Jessie, they wind up running two separate stands.
  • The secondary conflict in this story has to do with miscommunications. Evan and Jessie are kids and they are having a hard time telling each other how they are feeling. Evan focuses on his anger about Jessie being in his class rather than admit his fears. Jessie keeps trying to get Evan to play with her and see how much fun she is, but he thinks that she is mocking him. If the two would just talk it out, they could have avoided the war in the first place.
  • Each chapter starts with a definition of a business term in words that make sense for younger kids. That term is also the main focus of that chapter, but it is a great way to teach some new vocabulary. Similarly, there are some great insights into running a business and dealing with people in general. Jessie collects these in her lock box for later use.IMG_9018
  • There are wonderful math problems throughout the book and interesting discussions about how to solve them. It even touches on the notion that different people approach math problems in different ways. It was nice to show kids how the topics that they are learning are relevant in everyday life. IMG_9016
  • Interesting approach to the fact that right around 2nd and 3rd grade there are a ton of social changes in kids. This was highlighted by the fact that Jessie is oblivious to social cues and needs direction from Evan. As much as we like to push our kids and see them excel, this is another reason that pushing gifted kids ahead a year can be detrimental. So much of what they learn in school is also about learning to deal with social situations. Some intellectually gifted children can need additional time developing social skills.

Both J and I really enjoyed this book. It has a lexile level of 630 and is aimed primarily at 2-5th graders. That seems pretty accurate to me. As seen from the different things that J and I took away from the book, kids in different grades will read it in different ways.

Author Jacqueline Davies also wrote a wonderful article for the International Literacy Association that you can read here. It includes some activities for teachers and homeschoolers or really amazing parents.

Regardless of any activities you do with this book, it is definitely one that you and your kids should read.

Opening yourself to new adventures – Because of Winn Dixie

In our attempt to broaden our reading horizons this summer, I have been encouraging J to read from the Battle of the Books list for the upcoming year. She is not allowed to participate yet, but the list of books is amazing and it definitely removes us from our normal comfort zone of witches, wizards, fairy tales and princesses. The first book that we managed to read off of the list was also one that we chose for our Book/Movie club and it was a rousing success.

Our school had already read Kate DiCamillo’s Edward Tulane as a part of the One School, One Book program, so we were accustomed to her writing style. That said, I don’t think either of us were prepared for how much we loved Because of Winn-Dixie.

winn-dixie coverIndia Opal Buloni is a lonely little girl who has just moved to Naomi, Florida with her father, the preacher. Her mother had left them years earlier and her father is often too busy in his role as preacher to perform his role of father. One day Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. This dog will manage to change her life.

In her loneliness, Opal opens up to Winn-Dixie and gathers up the courage to ask her father about her mother. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie also helps Opal make the friends that she so desperately craves. They are not exactly typical friends for a 10 year old girl, but each one helps her learn something about the world around her and about herself. First there is the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace and whose great-grandfather, Littmus W. Block, invented a candy makes you feel a touch sad. This is to help you understand about how to survive sorrow and the blending of sweetness and sadness in life (think Inside Out).  winn dixie quoteThen they meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and who helps Opal learn not to judge others by what she sees. Finally there is Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie, or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship—and forgiveness—can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

J and I first started reading this book together and it was the kind of book that you start and don’t want to put down. After the first three chapters I did make her go to bed and then the next day she picked the book back up without me and finished it on her own. I think I would have enjoyed this book even more if we had been able to read it together so that I could hear her thoughts as the book went along, but I was amazed by it all on my own. This is one of those magical books where you have no idea what to expect from the story and then it just completely touches your heart.

When I asked J about her favorite part, she told me that it was when they were having a party at the end of the book and Winn-Dixie went missing. She also simply loves using the word “pathological” now because she learned the Winn-Dixie had a pathological fear of thunder storms. I have to admit, the ending of the book when she believed Winn-Dixie was missing was one of my favorite parts as well, but probably because of how much I felt Opal had grown and how she was able to let go.

winn dixie quote 2We had the book/movie club meeting a few weeks ago and I was highly impressed by how well the book had captured everyone’s attention. They had really recalled a number of details and all seemed to enjoy the book. While I have read other books by Kate DiCamillo, this was the first one where I truly understood why people love her so much.

The lexile level for this book is 610 and is aimed at grades 3-5. This is one of those times where I think that the grade level is pretty accurate. Our group read it as they were all finishing 2nd grade. The biggest issue is less about whether they will actually be able to read the book on their own and more about if they are able to comprehend and appreciate the story. A great book of realistic fiction that kids really enjoy.

Separate is Never Equal

Most of us are well versed with the history of school segregation in the American South, but did you know that there was a massive issue in California as well? The issue in California was not with the segregation of African Americans, but rather, with the Hispanic community. When we found the book Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh at the library, it was eye-opening.

separate-is-never-equal-sylvia-mendez-and-her-familys-fight-for-desegragationAlmost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Instead, Sylvia and her siblings had to go to “the Mexican school.” Their school was a clapboard shack surrounded by a cow pasture. The kids had to eat outside, pestered by the flies from the cows, and there was no playground for them to use.

Her father’s initial course of action was to mobilize the other Hispanics in their community, but the other families didn’t want to rock the boat – they feared that they would lose their jobs if they supported his petition. A truck driver who had heard of their plight encouraged Mr. Mendez to file a lawsuit. Someone had recently done that in San Bernardino to help integrate the public swimming pools and won. Mr. Mendez hired the same lawyer who had won that case and they found other families dealing with segregation throughout Orange County, CA  who were willing to participate.Sylvia3

In 1945 the lawsuit went to court and the dialogue from the trial is horrifying. Duncan Tonatiuh actually interviewed Sylvia Mendez and took parts of the court scenes from actual transcripts of the trial. The superintendents at the time claimed that they were separating the Mexican children so that they could work on their English more, but they never tested their abilities. It was also claimed that they “need to learn cleanliness of mind, manner, and dress. They are not learning that at home.” The superintendent at the time honestly felt that white students were superior to Mexicans in personal hygiene, scholastic ability, economic outlook, clothing and ability to take part in the activities of the school. When children came forward to testify, they showed how senseless his comments had been.

RGB_SylviaMendez_INT_32largeIt took a year for the ruling, but the judge ruled in favor of the Mendez family. Of course, the School Board appealed, but since it had moved to state court, more organizations joined in the battle – the NAACP, Japanese Citizens League, American Jewish Congress and others. Sylvia’s mother puts it perfectly by saying, “when you fight for justice, others will follow.”

In April, 1947, the judges of the Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the Mendez family.

Sylvia found it difficult at the integrated school in Westminster, but she remembered how they fought to have her attend the school and to have equal opportunities. She ignored the whispers and pointed fingers and held her head high, “and by the end of the year, she had made many friends of different backgrounds.”

This book is so vitally important for children and adults and it is written in a truly accessible manner. Everyone needs to understand that when we talk about integration, it wasn’t just for African-Americans in the 1960s. The Mendez trial paved the way for the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Freedom is something that we will continue to fight for, be it religious, social, political, racial or gender (or many other things). It is due to the fights and struggles that so many people have gone through in years gone by that allow us to have the freedoms we take for granted today. This book is wonderfully written about a topic you simply don’t hear a lot about.

Seeing the World through the eyes of Humphrey

There are a ton of intermediate reader series out there these days, but finding one that holds your child’s attention and is at the right level can be truly daunting. That was actually the reason that I started this blog a few years ago. It becomes complicated to write about chapter books, but I am making it a mission to focus on that more, especially since we are finished with the full Harry Potter series and expanding our own horizons.

A few years ago a good friend suggested that we read the series The World According to Humphrey. For whatever reason, at the time J wanted nothing to do with it. Perhaps it was that she has always been more interested in books with princesses and fairies, and then when she moved from those, books had to have a strong female lead. A book with a hamster on the front cover did nothing for her. Fast forward to Christmas of this past year when her beloved second grade teacher gave her a copy of Winter According to Humphrey. I was shocked when I went into her room one night to find her eating it up.

Humphrey is a hamster. In the initial book of the series he is purchased as a class pet by a teacher. That teacher winds up moving to Brazil and leaving Humphrey behind with a new teacher who is not so thrilled by his existence. Ms. Mac, the first teacher, brings Humphrey in because “You can learn a lot about life by observing another species,” as well as by taking care of another species. Now most would think that this is a statement for the the children to learn by taking care of Humphrey, but Humphrey also learns a great deal about the children and adults who take care of him.

The fun thing about the Humphrey books is that they are told from Humphrey’s perspective. Since the new teacher, Ms. Brisbane, does not initially like Humphrey, he gets sent home with a different student each weekend (although his first weekend is with the Principal, Mr. Morales). The students are able to learn by taking care of this amazing hamster, but he also learns a great deal about them by observing them in their natural habitats.

A great example from the book has to do with a little girl named Sayeh. Ms. Brisbane has been trying to get her to participate in class more often. They make a deal that if Sayeh raises her hand at least one time during a given week, Ms. Brisbane won’t send a note home about her lack of participation. Sayeh does raise her hand to volunteer to take Humphrey home. When he goes home with her, he learns that English is not spoken in her home and that she is afraid that the other kids will make fun of her accent. While Humphrey is home with her, Sayeh gets the courage to tell her family that since he only understands English, they have to speak English that weekend. Humphrey gets a better understanding of who Sayeh is as a person and Sayeh believes in herself a bit more.

The series continues in a marvelous fashion and the books don’t need to be read in any specific order. Some of the themes that are covered are friendship, doing the right thing, racism, and cultural differences.  J likes to read the books and says “Even though all the humans hear is Squeak-Squeak-Squeak, Humphrey helps them solve their problems. He’s everyone’s favorite classroom pet!

The Humphrey books tend to have a Lexile level somewhere in the 600s or 700s. Typically that is the 3-6th grade level. That said, I believe that these books are more age appropriate for 6-9 year olds. At 8, they are sort of perfect for J even if they are super easy reads for her. A great read aloud for a 1st grader and perhaps something to encourage them to read more on their own.

The Lessons of Betty Bunny

The other day when my 4 year old and I were in the library, she picked out a book that I had never heard of – “Betty Bunny Wants Everything,” by Michael Kaplan. I had myself a good chuckle over this one as just the day before we had had a long conversation with her about the fact that you can’t purchase everything that you want and how shopping can become a dangerous addiction. So when she wanted to take this book home, of course I said yes.

betty bunnyWhat we learned in taking home this book was that not only was it fabulous, but there are other Betty Bunny Books! We managed to find 2 others in our local libraries and have been pleasantly surprised by the wonderful messages that the books aim to get across. The common theme through all of the books is that “Betty Bunny is a handful,” even if she has no idea what that means. She is just like the preschoolers that we have in our homes who want everything and they want it RIGHT NOW! She has problems with patience and perseverance. However, she has intelligent parents and 3 older siblings that try to help her figure out her way in the world. Both my 4 year old and my 8 year old enjoy reading these books and I love the little lessons that they impart.

Betty Bunny Wants Everything

betty bunny everythingWhile this isn’t the first book in the series, it was our initial introduction to Betty Bunny. Betty is a cute preschooler who wants every toy in the toy store. When her mother says that she and her siblings can each pick out one toy to take home, she picks a cute doll and then starts to grab at every other toy around her. She wants EVERYTHING, even if she doesn’t exactly know what the toy is or how to use it. Being unable to pick one, her mother carries her out of the store kicking and screaming and she cries the entire way home (sound familiar? I’ve had this experience a few too many times.).

Betty’s parents want her to understand that she can’t have everything. She doesn’t need them, she won’t actually play with them, and she has no room for them. Her siblings tell her not to be greedy, but she doesn’t yet understand that greed is a bad thing. I have been in her mother’s position where you want to explain to the child in the moment, but you can’t because a) you have other kids in tow, b) you are facing a massive melt-down in a public place and c) sometimes the lesson of leaving without anything is the best lesson of them all. That said, you want your child to understand WHY they can’t have everything. Back at home, Betty’s father comes up with a fabulous idea in an effort to get her to understand the value of money. He suggests that her mother take them back to the store, give Betty and her siblings actual cash to spend and then explain that when it runs out you don’t get anymore. “It will help you understand why you can’t have everything you want.”

Just as her father expected, she likes the dollar bills that she has and realizes that if she uses it to buy toys then she won’t have her money anymore. She makes the grown up decision to buy a small toy and save the rest.

This is a cute story about over-consumption and the childhood desire to have everything. Kids have a really hard time with the concept of money and not understanding that we can’t purchase everything that we see. This is a great introduction to moderation and I might be trying out the idea of cold hard cash and letting my 4 year old figure it out.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake

betty bunny cakeThis is the first book in the actual series where we are introduced to Betty and her family. In this, Betty tastes chocolate cake for the first time and decides that it is the yummiest thing in the world. Once she tastes cake she can think of nothing else and refuses to eat her standard fare of healthy food. Her mother explains that “sometimes you can’t have what you want right away, so you need to wait. And that’s called patience.”

But what 3-4 year old do you know who has mastered patience? Definitely not Betty Bunny. Mom had to suggest putting a piece aside for the next day when she eats a healthy meal because perhaps knowing that it is there waiting for her might make it easier to wait. The knowledge did help, although the next morning she decided to carry the cake with her as well and she had to learn that “putting a piece of cake in your pocket is not really the same as being patient.”

Both of my children really enjoyed this book. It is a very fun tale that imparts a wonderful lesson. I will say that from a parent’s perspective this was my least favorite book of the 3 we read, but I still enjoyed it.

Betty Bunny Wants A Goal

betty bunny goalBetty Bunny strikes again. In Betty Bunny Wants a Goal, this headstrong preschooler has started playing soccer and expects immediate success. She wants to be the star of the team and expects to score 10 goals in her first game. Unfortunately, she must learn patience and the importance of practice.

Poor Betty is jealous when her teammate scores the first goal in their game. Alyse was showered with attention and Betty was sad. She continues to struggle in her first game and when it is over she decides that she hates soccer and wants to quit. Her parents send her three siblings to get her to change her mind and the lure of a trophy at the end of the season makes her give it a second chance.

The second game isn’t much better. On the drive home, one of her brothers suggests that maybe she just isn’t that good. Their father agrees that he might have a point – “Trying is important, but if you want to get good at something, you also have to practice.”

With that, her older brother now has to help her practice every day after school. At the next soccer game, Betty Bunny manages to score her first goal. This book wonderfully imparts the lesson that “if you keep trying and you practice, there’s nothing that you can’t do.”

While these books have been out for years, they have only recently hit our small town and I couldn’t be more thrilled. They are a wonderful teaching tool and generally just fun to read. A great addition to your collection!

Gimme Mo (Willems)

Mo Willems is probably best known for his Knuffle Bunny books. We have never been huge fans of that series, but we have thoroughly enjoyed a ton of his other stories. While vacationing at my parents’ house, I always make a stop at the local library to keep my kids in books. I went looking for some Elephant and Piggie books for my 4 year old and  found some additional books that were new to us. Perhaps some of these will be new to you as well.

my new friendElephant and Piggie is a series about two friends and their comical adventures. The books are mainly written in comic book style with very few words on each page. Gerald the Elephant is an overly dramatic worrier and Piggie is his rock. E loves reading the book “We Are in a Book!” where the pair realize that they are in a book and then figure out how to get the reader to say certain things. When she sees the covers of these books she lights up and begs for me to read them. We had a lot of fun with “My New Friend is So Fun” as well.E+P.breakfast

dont-let-the-pigeon-drive-the-busThe Pigeon books are also quite hysterical. We first get introduced to Pigeon in “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” In that story a bus driver takes a break and tells the reader that he shouldn’t allow the pigeon drive the bus. It is a fun way to include the children in the story as they are expected to answer the pigeon back every time he asks a question. Most of the other books in this series also feature the pigeon wanting something and begging for it. From pigeon’s excitement in finding a hot dog to his outrage when Duckling gets a cookie (and he thinks he doesn’t), pigeons antics are sure to keep young children laughing. The image below is from Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!pigeon_late

Amanda-cover

In the adorable “Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!” Amanda’s stuffed alligator is full of life. Adults can imagine how kids envision their beloved friends and it is a great way to encourage children to truly make their stuffed animals good friends. Unfortunately, Alligator gets bored when Amanda isn’t around. Initially she is off at the library bringing home a bunch of books in her weekly trip (yay!) and Alligator hopes that she will have a surprise for him as he loves surprises. But Amanda doesn’t always want to play with Alligator, sometimes she just wants to read a book. When she brings home a new stuffed animal Alligator is concerned and then realizes that now he has a new friend to play with while Amanda is gone. A very cute story about friendship that both of my girls enjoyed.alligator surprisesGoldi hc c

This book isn’t new to us, but we loved Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs the first time we found it so I grabbed a copy for our vacation pile. This is a very funny take on the classic Goldilocks tale where instead of three bears, Goldilocks goes into the home of three dinosaurs. However, those dinosaurs know the three bears story pretty well and have their home set up to try and turn Goldie into a “chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon.” This book is always good for a laugh.

goldilocks insideedwinaWillems must enjoy drawing dinosaurs because we also found the cute book Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct. Edwina is the town dinosaur who is helpful and friendly and loves to bake chocolate chip cookies for everyone in town. Everyone likes her….everyone except Reginald Von Hoobie Doobie. Reginald is a know-it-all who likes to have people pay attention to him, but when he tries to tell the town that dinosaurs are extinct, no one will listen. Finally, Edwina listens to him but in the end she just doesn’t care. Now that someone has finally paid attention to him, Reginald doesn’t care anymore either. A cute story with fun illustrations.edwina-2We hope that you enjoy these as much as we have!

Diving into the Titanic

titanic

As I mentioned before, we are going through a period of loving to read about the Titanic. I am more than happy to search the library and bookstores for good books on the subject.

Discovering all of the information about the Titanic has really got J thinking. She is deeply saddened by the loss of life. She doesn’t understand how the Captain could make such bad decisions. In her words, “if you were sailing in the North Atlantic, would you put the ship on high speed?” She thinks that no ships should be allowed to sail in the North Atlantic during iceberg season. It really has been great for her to tackle a non-fiction subject like this, so I thought that I would share some of the fiction and non-fiction books that we have managed to find recently.

pig on the titanicBased on the true story of a music box owned by Edith Rosenbaum, A Pig on the Titanic is a beautiful picture book that helps bring the story of the titanic to life. Miss Edith takes Maxixe the music box pig with her all over the majestic ship, or at least the 1st class parts. Then tragedy strikes as they hit the iceberg. You can see the ear in the passengers eyes as families get separated and people flee the ship. The music from the pig helps entertain boys and girls in the lifeboat until at last a rescue ship comes for them. It doesn’t touch on a lot of the harder to comprehend aspects of that horrible day, but it is a picture book aimed at a younger audience, so the tone is spot on. A great starting point.

all stations distressMoving away from the picture book story format, we found the great book All Stations!  Distress! This is a non-fiction long format picture book by Illustrator Don Brown. It almost reads like a chapter book, but Brown has made the information very accessible for kids in the younger elementary grades. A wonderful addition to a collection and very informative.

on board the titanicTaking another step towards serious non-fiction, On Board the Titanic takes readers through the experience on the Titanic in narrative form through the eyes of two survivors. It is filled with illustrations and paintings from the actual ship. The illustrations of how the iceberg hit and how the compartments failed are especially useful to comprehending what happened.

magic tree house titanicOf course Mary Pope Osborn produced a wonderful fact tracker to go along with the Magic Tree House book Tonight on the Titanic. J hasn’t been excited by Magic Tree House in a long time, but she still knows that their fact trackers are impeccably written and fun to read. This book aims to answer many of the questions that children would have about the Titanic that get brought up in the fictionalized account. How many people were aboard the Titanic? Why weren’t there enough lifeboats for all the passengers? How did this “unsinkable” ship sink? Even if you are not reading the companion books  that the fact trackers go along with, these are definitely worth checking out.

can you survive the titanicWe happened to find the book Can You Survive the Titanic?: An Interactive Survival Adventure at the library and it quickly became one of J’s favorites. This is a “you choose” book which is like a choose your own adventure in a factual situation. It pairs fact based information with create story paths. Your choice in this book is to either follow a surgeon’s assistant, a governess to a first class family, or a 12 year old boy. Everyone starts out at the same point with excellent information to set the scene. The choices that you are asked to make are choices real people probably had to make as well and could mean the difference between life and death. For example, men that chose one side of the ship versus the other had different chances of survival based on the ship steward on either side and how strict they were about only allowing women and children on or allowing men to also flee the ship. It was a great way to really make you understand what happened on board the ship.

i survivedThe “I survived” series takes the most terrifying events in recent history and brings them to life in fictionalized stories. I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 was the first in this series and from J’s response, I have a feeling we will be reading many more of these in the future. This creates the story of a 10 year old boy and his little sister sailing on the Titanic. By utilizing historical fiction the author manages to make history more accessible to kids who prefer “stories” to “facts.”

 However you do it, getting kids excited about non-fiction subjects is a wonderful thing that opens up a new world of possibilities and thought. Now we have to find another subject to add to our list!

Dream Big Little Girl

As far as our society has come, it can still be challenging to find books that encourage little girls to consider anything and everything in terms of what they are capable of. We love finding good books that also reinforce the message that girls can do anything they want. In honor of women’s history month, here are a few of the newer books that we have discovered that fit this mold. For any other books in this category, you can also find books we have talked about by checking out the tag “a mighty girl.”

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when i was a girl i dreamedAuthors Margaret Baker and Justin Matott along with illustrator Mark Ludy have put together visually stunning book with the perfect message that little girls can dream big in When I Was a Girl I Dreamed. The book follows the memories of a grandmotherly woman saying all of the dreams that she had as a little girl – from being the lead in a ballet to exploring the seven wonders of the world in a hot air balloon, from being an artist in Paris to being a big time basketball player. Each page repeats the phrase that encourages little girls to follow their dreams. In the end, the woman turns out to have become an award winning writer and getting immense pleasure from hearing that people love her books, but it never says that she didn’t also pursue the amazing adventures that she dreamed about as a child. The wonderful part is that I know my 8 year old definitely got the message as when I asked her why she liked it she said “You can dream anything and you can be anything.” A wonderful book that we were lucky enough to receive as a gift with an autographed illustration by Mark Ludy. There is also a boy version although I haven’t actually seen it.

rosie revereRosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty is one of my favorite books and one that my 4 year old can listen to over and over. This is the story of Rosie Revere who dreamed of becoming a great engineer. “Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration.” Rosie loves to invent things, but after an uncle laughed at one of her inventions, she became afraid to show anyone anything. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions a life-long dream of flying, Rosie sets out to create a flying machine for her. It hovers for a moment and then crashes and Rosie again feels like a failure. Her aunt Rose, on the other hand, sees her invention as a marvelous success because you can only fail if you quit. This is a great book to encourage experimentation and to remember to believe in yourself.

most magnificent thingIn the same vein of creating new things, we also love The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is the story of a little girl and her dog who love to do things together. One day, she gets a marvelous idea to make the most magnificent thing. She knows just how it will work and starts drawing up plans and then she gets to work in front of her house and starts to build. She figures that building it will be easy-peasy, but it’s not. She tries over and over again and just can’t get it right. She gets frustrated and then even gets mad. Her dog convinces her to go for a walk and it manages to clear her head and by the time she gets back, she has figured out exactly how to build her project. This book is awesome in its display of perseverance and creativity.

stand tallFor a wonderful book both about believing in yourself as well as bullying, we recently purchased Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon, by Patty Lovell. Little Molly Lou Mellon is tiny, buck-toothed and clumsy but her grandmother has always taught her to believe in herself. When she moves to a new school the local bully taunts her in various ways but each time she just stands up for herself and turns whatever he has said to her around. If he makes fun of her buck teeth, she wows everyone by balancing pennies on them. She manages to put the bully in his place and gains many friends in the process. In the end, she calls her grandma to let her know that all of the thing she had taught her were true. Sometimes it is really hard to be different, but this book shows how believing in yourself allows your differences to shine.

graceIn a completely different vein, we have also enjoyed reading Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio. In this great book, Grace’s class is learning about American presidents when she learns that there has never been a female President of the United States. She sets out to change that by first running for class President in a mock election. The race is between Grace and a little boy and for the most part it becomes a boys vs girls election, but it also shows the boy making popular promises while Grace actually tries to figure out how to make change. While learning a great deal about elections and the electoral process this book shows you how hard work, determination and independent thought can help you move mountains. One voter makes all the difference when a little boy chooses Grace over the boy candidate because he thought that she would do a better job. A great book about elections and a great way to inspire our young girls to be interested in politics and to make changes in their world.

We love our mighty girl books which is why we are always looking for new ones. Here are some of our favorite resources:
A Mighty Girl
What Do We Do All Day?
Pragmatic Mom
No Time for Flash Cards
And other great lists that I find on Pinterest – here is my children’s book link

Let’s encourage our girls to go out and change the world!

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