Tag Archives: kids books

Let’s Talk About Banned Books

It is banned books week and that got me thinking about Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics. This book has never been on the banned book list, but it is a great way to get kids to understand the concept and to start up a conversation about banned books.


J and I eagerly read Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics as soon as it came out. We actually had to buy 2 copies because she took it to school and someone snagged it from her! But the book was great, so I’m okay supporting the cause.

61nmnjejmjl-_sx336_bo1204203200_For those unaware of this series by Chris Grabenstein, the first book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, is about a group of kids who find themselves locked in a brand-new, state of the art library designed by a famous game maker. One of the main characters is a reluctant reader, but there is a little bit of something for everyone in this book. Those who remain locked in the library for the game must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. It is a great book about the library system and books in general.

lemoncello-olympics-200Book 2 found us returning to the library but with teams from all across America to compete in the first-ever Library Olympics. But something suspicious is going on . . . books are missing from Mr. Lemoncello’s library. Is someone trying to censor what the kids are reading?! Now it’s not just a game—can Mr. Lemoncello find the real defenders of books and champions of libraries? In between figuring out mind-boggling challenges, the kids will have to band together to get to the bottom of this mystery.

So what was the mystery? Banned books. J didn’t fully understand the concept of banned books, but this story really got us talking about it. What exactly are banned books? As per wikipedia, “Banned books are books or other printed works such as essays or plays which are prohibited by law or to which free access is not permitted by other means. The practice of banning books is a form of censorship, from political, legal, religious, moral, or (less often) commercial motives.”e5db5a80-f003-0132-f0cc-0ed54733f8f5

Mr. Lemoncello gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss banned books. Books are banned or challenged for a variety of reasons. Many times it is because they tackle topics that are uncomfortable for us to deal with or because people have differing opinions. But as I’ve mentioned before, we learn so many things about our society and ourselves from books, sometimes it is important to challenge traditional ways of thinking or doing things.bannedbooks I remember when we were reading Mr. Lemoncello’s Olympics we talked about the fact that the Harry Potter series is the most challenged book for the past decade. Given J’s love with all things HP she couldn’t comprehend that, but I tried to explain how the notion of magic and wizardry as taboo for some people and went against their religious values. Judy Blume, who J hasn’t read much of yet, is also one of the most challenged authors because of her frank take on puberty and sexuality.

There are times when I am just sad that books wind up on the challenged list. For example, there is a wonderful picture book called And Tango Makes Three. 81saez2go5lThis book is number 4 on the 100 most banned list. Why? Apparently people think that it is anti-family, promotes homosexuality, has a political viewpoint, has a religious viewpoint, and is generally unsuited for age group. Really? This is the product description on Amazon:

And Tango Makes Three is the bestselling, heartwarming true story of two penguins who create a nontraditional family. At the penguin house at the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo were a little bit different from the others. But their desire for a family was the same. And with the help of a kindly zookeeper, Roy and Silo get the chance to welcome a baby penguin of their very own.

I get that if a book doesn’t make you comfortable and doesn’t suit your family’s core belief system, then you shouldn’t read it. But to ban a book from a library goes against other people’s rights to make their own decisions about what they want to read. So go out today and read a banned book!




Adventures in Summer Reading

summer readingSummer is upon us and that means that it is time to find ways to keep kids engaged with their books and reading. Getting J to read isn’t a problem, but I would like to find ways to spice it up for the summer. I also really want to encourage her to keep writing about what she reads. She loves a good challenge and she also loves this blog, so my mind has started to churn.

One big way to make summer reading fun is to make sure that all of her friends are reading and perhaps even taking some cues from the books that she loves. J always enjoys sharing her books with her friends, although her reading level can at times make this challenging. J often talks about being a teacher, so we will be working on our summer reading list for her friends. I’m hoping to get her to write a line or two about each book and why she liked it.

There are a slew of summer reading challenges out there. One big thing that tends to get focused on is reading for a certain amount of time each day. As I said, this is not an issue for us, since I often have to tell her to stop reading and go outside, but I thought it would be fun to join in. Our local library has a wonderful program that encourages reading and coming to great programs at the library. I tried doing the program last year, but struggled with recording the minutes that she read. I just signed her up (locals go to http://tinyurl.com/spplsrp to sign up!) with a goal of 1500 minutes. I have no idea if that is high or low. I figured that it is 13 weeks and it seemed like a nice round number. We also joined Scholastic’s reading program which has a reading timer app that I installed on J’s iPad. The program at our library allows kids to earn “book bucks” as they read and the more they read, the bigger the prizes they can receive at the end of summer. We will get additional bucks for coming to some awesome programs that the library is having over the summer kicking off with a Mad Scientist Lab. It’s already on my calendar!Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 10.54.12 AMJ is super excited for some books that we are going to be reading this summer. Until we get our book list going, here is her list of summer reads….

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I’ve made her wait months before she could move on to book 5 in this series. Given that this book is 870 pages, it might actually take us a little time to get through it!

2. Wednesdays at the Tower (Castle Glower #2) – we both loved Tuesdays at the Castle. This series features an incredibly strong female lead and her siblings who are sworn to protect the castle that they live in. The castle just happens to also be alive and adds something to the building every Tuesday. The first book finds them fighting against an outside presence that wants to take over the castle. In the second book, the castle is hiding some new secret.

3. A Grimm Warning (The Land of Stories #3) – This series by Chris Colfer has become one of our definite favorites that we recommend to EVERYONE! Seriously, girl or boy, adult or child, this is a great series. Who knows what new test the Bailey twins will come up against in this installment.

4. Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot – A friend recommended this book series so I went ahead and bought the boxed set of the first 4 books. The series looks sweet and I think J will enjoy it.

5. Rosemary in Paris (The Hourglass Adventures #2) – We just finished book #1 in this series where a 10 year old girl travels back in time and meets a 10 year old relative. The books are a nice melding of adventure, travel and brain teasers as Rosemary Rita solves various problems and puzzles.

That’s our jumping off point. What summer books are you planning on reading?


Roar Like a Lion – a fun yoga book

You know that a book is a hit when your child asks you to immediately read it again. There is also the sense of success when it also immediately turns itself into playtime. Today that book was You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses  by Taeeun Yoo.

lion cover

I picked up this book at the library because J had really enjoyed doing the poses in our copy of The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids. There was a period when she would do every pose over and over in alphabetical order. Her uncle is a big fan of yoga and she would manage to trip him up a bit since the order didn’t make sense from a yoga stand-point and some of the names were different, but she was having fun and doing yoga at the same time. This afternoon E and I read You are a Lion! and then spent a good 15 minutes pretending that we were butterflies flying and jumping around the room. It was great to practice the poses with her and made me think about how great it would be if there was a mommy and me yoga around here. (sorry for the not so great photos, still working on how to get these right)

yoga butterfly

The book is meant to introduce children to the joys of yoga by teaching them 7 fun poses – lion, butterfly, dog, snake (cobra), frog , cat and mountain.

yoga snake pose

yoga snake image

This is great active picture book and a good way to have fun with your kid.


Picture Book Challenge Week #2

We are finished with week #2 of the picture book challenge hosted by Child-Led Chaos. While we read a ton of books, I’m finding the process a tad challenging because my 6 year old is going through a phase where she refuses to read or listen to picture books. She only wants to read Land of Stories or Harry Potter. She doesn’t even want me reading to her at bedtime right now because we have book 2 of Land of Stories on audiobooks. My 3 year old more than makes up for it, but there was a day of a pile of board books, which I’m somewhat torn about posting.

The whole thing pains me because I have found some absolutely fabulous picture books lately at the library. I’m going to have to go against my general notion of what I planned for this blog to be and write about a few of those during this period of her reading such long books. There are just so many outstanding books out there!

Anyway, back to the challenge. We are at 45 books read. I have a feeling we will be climbing higher than 300. My younger daughter and I went to a bookstore this week and she handed me book after book to read. This is a section of what we read this week:
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Highlights from what we read…..

The Three Cabritos by Eric Kimmell is a retelling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff set in Texas where the three goats must cross a bridge over the Rio Grande in order to get into Mexico for a party. We have a soft spot for Eric Kimmell and this story didn’t disappoint.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter was a wonderful book that we read as part of our challenge to read more non-fiction picture books. I wrote more about it last week at this post.

Dancing With Degas by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober- This is one of my favorite board books. You get placed into Degas’ world of ballerinas with simple poetry and those stunning paintings. It is a great way to bring in the beauty of ballet to your child as well as introducing them to one of the great artists.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson – I went looking for Monkey Puzzle after reading Claire’s post from last week’s link-up. I did find a copy at my local library, although it is called Where’s My Mom? in America. While there, I looked through her other books for ones we hadn’t read yet and found Stick Man. The Goodreads synopsis reads “Stick Man lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three. But it’s dangerous being a Stick Man. A dog wants to play with him, a swan builds her nest with him. He even ends up on a fire! Join Stick Man on his troublesome journey back to the family tree.” It was a cute story, though I wouldn’t say it was my favorite of hers (loved A Gold Star for Zog).

goldilocks dinosaursGoldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems – Loved this book. If you missed it, I wrote about it here.

Surprise in the Kitchen by Mary Lee – We downloaded this for free on the Kindle at some point in the past and my three year old loves it. It is a sweet story about a little girl named Mia who loves it when her  mom cooks for her and wants to show her mom how much she loves her by making her breakfast in bed. Unfortunately, Mia does not like to cook and is too small to reach some items in the kitchen. She winds up making more of a mess than anything else, but sometimes it is truly the thought that counts.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs #3: Planet of the Pies by Judi Barrett – I don’t generally write negative reviews if I can help it, but I did not like this book. I think it was a tie in with the 2nd movie and in my mind they should have left it at that. The first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of my all time favorites and the sequel to that was decent. Don’t let this book color your judgement on a classic tale.

Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman – This is such a fun book to read with a small child. Each animal daddy kisses his child in various places – on the nose, the neck, the paw…And then my daddy kisses me all over. Even as a mom reading it to her child, it is so fun to shower your child with kisses all over at the end of the story and it is a great way to have really little ones learn various body parts.

a tribute to the trees

The Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat is coming up next week. Tu B’Shevat is the New Year or birthday of the trees and historically has to do with when you could eat the fruit off of a tree. In Israel, schoolchildren take to the hills and valleys and plant trees “as a response to and celebration of the critical role trees play in our environment and for life itself.”  There are not a huge amount of great books specifically aimed at the holiday itself, but there are some really wonderful books about the trees – what they give us and how we can give back to them and the environment as a whole.


Happy Birthday, Tree by Madelyn Rosenberg
This is a special book about appreciating nature and how it is our job to take care of the nature around us. The story is of a young girl who has a favorite climbing tree in her front yard. When Tu B’Shevat comes around, she wants to help her tree celebrate its birthday. She and her friend find lots of ways to honor the tree and realize that the best thing to do is to plant another tree so that it has a companion. The fact that they give the tree a companion shows how we need to remember that nature is alive and we need to love it just as much as the people around us. There are also notes at the end of the book on various ways for us to help the earth.

It’s Tu B’Shevat by Edie Stoltz Zolkower
This is a great board book for younger kids to understand the holiday. One of the big themes of the holiday is to plant trees.  This book focuses on that aspect at the beginning and then highlighting all of the wonderful things that we get from trees – fruit, shade, clean air, a place to swing…This is a great book for young Jewish learners.

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udrytreeisnice8
This beautiful picture book is simple and speaks in a language that children truly understand. “Trees are nice. They fill up the sky. They make everything beautiful.” We play in their leaves, we swing from their branches. We pick apples (and other fruit). They are homes to animals. They give us shade. They help keep our homes cooler in the summer and protect us from weather in the winter. A tree is nice – so go plant one. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book when we first received it years ago, but it has completely grown on me and now looking at it in comparison to other books out there, I appreciate the beauty in this book and understand the reason it won the Caldecott in 1957.

The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
A very sweet book with outstanding illustrations about some of the jobs that trees do – from feeding and sheltering animals, providing oxygen and being a place for children to play. Short and poetic, but great for explaining the role of trees to a young child.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter (#nfpb2014)from Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter p 2
This is the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and later won the Nobel Peace Prize. After Kenya gained their independence in the ’60s, commercial farming took root but devastated local farming. Life became incredibly difficult when women had to walk miles to get the wood necessary to cook their food and heat their homes. Wangari planted seedlings and then had village women plant the trees and take care of them. These were “seeds of hope.” Women all over Africa began to plant trees. This book is accessible for young readers and especially powerful after having the more detailed, but less accessible Planting the Trees of Kenya (a great book, but better for older kids).

The Inside Tree by Linda Smith
This is a very silly story about a man who winds up with a tree inside his house. I wouldn’t say that it is exactly “about” trees, but it is a funny look at how you can’t keep them contained.

***********************Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge*************************

I also wanted to note that Wangari’s Trees of Peace is the first of our books that we are counting towards our 50 non-fiction picture books. We are participating in the awesome challenge created by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy. Alyson has listed some awesome books coming out in January and February that I will definitely have to add to my “to read” list.

Generally, I will devote a full post to my non-fiction Wednesday selections, but I wanted to get a few in for the holiday. All of our non-fiction picture books that we read this year will be kept in a bookshelf on Goodreads. Make sure you stop over at Kid Lit Frenzy to see all the other nonfiction picture books showcased by other bloggers.

Picture Book Challenge Week #1

So we are done with week #1 of our 300 picture books in 2014 challenge hosted by Child Led Chaos. This week was pretty easy since all books read were considered “new,” at least the first time we read them this week.  I’m only counting them if I’ve actually read them to one of the girls, and this week I’ve read 15. That’s a pretty decent number, especially considering that these days J is usually reading to me from one of her longer books. I enjoyed keeping track of what we were reading on Goodreads.

Looking at the books now, it really is a random smattering of books – some pulled from our shelves, some library. As they get older, there really does seem to be a desire to only read new picture books, so  most of J’s books are ones we picked from the library and E is pulling randomly from her bookshelf at bedtime. Some of these books I love and some I dread when I see them for the umpteenth time.  I’m not going to go into great depth on all of them, but I will say a few words about some.

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Corduroy is always a favorite. Classic, timeless and always wonderful.

Isabella: Star of the Story is a fun book that I talked about on a previous post. Every time we go to the library, E pulls this one off of the shelf. It is currently still in the “new” section so it is really easy to find, but she just loves it. The pictures are bright and colorful and it takes us into so many stories that we already love.

Fairy Houses is was a wonderfully sweet book. A little girl goes on vacation with her family and her parents tell her there will be a special treat waiting for her. The treat is that people have built fairy houses and that people are encouraged to build more houses as long as they adhere to the rules of not using pieces that are alive or artificial. The girl, Kristen, starts to build a house and each day she adds to her creation. Each day, she also comes back and finds animals enjoying the pieces that she has put onto her fairy house. It is wonderful reminder to be kind to nature and to find joy in outdoor activities

Bear Snores On is the first in a series that a close friend gave us. This is my favorite of all of those books and incredibly fun to read. A cast of animals comes into a hibernating bear’s cave and have a party while he sleeps. When he wakes up unexpectedly, he is very upset to have been left out of the fun. It has great rhythm and places to use voices. A great winter-time book.

The Mitten is also a great classic tale that is winter appropriate. A little boy asks his grandmother to knit him a pair of white mittens and when he loses one in the snow, a number of animals find their way into it, stretching it way past capacity. It is fun to look through the pictures and see what other items you can see and to watch the little boy in the side images, completely unaware of the home his mitten has become. I love that at the end he gives his grandmother both mittens – one completely stretched out and one normal.

Sunshine Makes the Seasons, Mary Walker Wears the Pants, I Want to Go to the Moon and Manfish are non-fiction picture books that I will be talking about on a slower basis for my non-fiction picture book challenge. We got a lot of really great books at the library to end our winter vacation and will continue to have great fun with this challenge.

To see more of the week 1 linked blogs, click here.

Cinderella – The tale told around the world

You didn’t think I could stop with Little Red Riding Hood, did you? When I was finding those books in the library, various Cinderella tales attracted my attention as well. In fact, I almost find Cinderella more amazing because it truly is a multicultural phenomenon. Every country seems to have its own take on the story and it is an amazing way to see how similar we all are throughout our differences.

cinderella collage

Walt Disney’s Cinderella
disneyI know it seems crazy to start with this, but those of us with children know this story the best. My 3 year old listened to some of the other Cinderella stories below and would make comments about how she liked the Cinderella with the yellow hair better. In this version, Cinderella is friends with the animals, the mice talk, and the fairy godmother makes everything possible for our heroine. It is a prettified version of the Brothers Grimm version, but loved by children around the world.

mcclintockBarbara McClintock’s version of Cinderella is based on the French telling of the story, complete with stately French dresses. The illustrations in this version are what make it stunning and it most closely mirrors the story that most of us think of when we envision Cinderella. In this tale, as in the original, Cinderella is a very kind soul even when confronted with the cruelty of her step-sisters. She offers them oranges at the ball and yearns for their friendship. In the end, she forgives them their cruelty and finds husbands for both of her sisters.

Bigfoot Cinderrrrrella
This is an incredibly fun take on the Cinderella story. The Bigfoot prince is a nature lover looking for a bride. All of the female bigfoots want to win his love, but it is Rrrrella, with her big feet, ability to knock him off a log, and hatred of wearing flowers that wins his love. A completely unexpected twist on the old classic.

Adelita – A Mexian Cinderella Story
adelita spreadTomie dePaola’s imaginative retelling is absolutely beautiful. No princesses, no fairies, no magic other than love. In this tale, Adelita’s mother dies early on, but her nanny Esperenza helps raise her. Her father remarries a cold woman who of course gets worse after Adelita’s father dies. Adelita spends her time in the kitchen to be near Esperenza and bask in her love, until Doña Micaela sends Esperenza away. When the family is invited to a party and Adelita is left home, Esperenza swoops in like the fairy godmother. When Adelita goes to the party, she asks to be called Cinderella. The young man of course falls in love with her and the book ends with a happy ending. The magic to me was how real the story felt. The splashes of Spanish and the sheer simplicity in the story are charming. My 6 year old also loved it, even though my 3 year old still prefers the Disney version.

The Orphan – A Cinderella story from Greece
orphan insideThis is not the Greek version, per se. The author’s note says that it is inspired by 2 Greek versions. In this tale, they are paying homage to the original notion of Cinderella going to a second ball and losing her glass slipper there, however, instead of a ball, everyone tries to gain the prince’s favor at a church service. The authors also note that they had their Cinderella “step out of the traditional role in which she waits patiently for her prince.” Rather than wait in the cinders, she heeds the words of her dead mother and gets herself to the church to meet the prince. An interesting take on the classic tale and a nice look at Greek culture.

Gospel Cinderella
Joyce Carol Thomas creates a completely different take on the classic tale in this version. Here, Cinderella is separated from her mother, Queen Mother Rhythm, after a hurricane and is taken in by the mean Crooked Foster Mother who wants a kitchen hand. Years later, the Great Gospel Choir is looking for a new lead singer. Cinderella has her mother’s voice, but of course is not allowed to audition. She is drawn to the gospel convention anyway and wows everyone, then disappears. In the end, she is found and reunited with her mother. A beautiful story that portrays the importance of gospel and music in the African American community.

Ella’s Big Chance
ella spreadShirley Hughes transforms the Cinderella story with the glamour of the jazz age. Ella Cinders is a top-notch dress maker in her father’s shop. Her father remarries a woman who changes everything at the shop making Ella’s life much harder. The only source of happiness in her life is her friendship with Buttons, the loyal delivery boy at the shop, who would sing songs and dance with Ella to remind them of happier times. Ella manages to go to a special party where she meets the Duke and he falls in love with her. The awesome twist is that Ella realizes that she doesn’t love the fancy Duke, but rather, her heart belongs to Buttons, her long-time friend and confidant. There is something completely charming about the fact that Ella doesn’t feel the need to run away with the prince/duke. Life isn’t about riches but instead about finding true happiness.

Yeh-Shen – A Cinderella story from China
This Chinese version of Cinderella pre-dates the European version we are so familiar with by about 1000 years. In this story, Yeh-Shen’s father had two wives who each bore a daughter, but Yeh-Shen’s mother dies when she is very young. The only friend that Yeh-Shen has is a fish that she caught and raised. Her step-mother kills the fish and cooks it for dinner. A spirit tells Yeh-Shen that there is power in the bones of the fish and it helps to keep her alive. When the spring festival comes, where Chinese go in hopes to find a husband or wife, Yeh-Shen is not allowed to go, but she asks the bones to help her borrow clothes fit to wear to the feast. She is given a beautiful dress and woven shoes and told not to lose the shoes. As she is leaving the party, since her sister found her familiar looking, she accidentally loses a slipper. The King gets hold of her second shoe and looks for its owner. Yeh-Shen gets the shoe back late at night when no one can see her and the King is entranced by her beauty. When she put both shoes on, she was once again transformed into the outfit she wore to the party. The King falls in love and they are married. It is very interesting to read a story so similar to our traditional Cinderella story.

Kongi and Potgi – A Cinderella story from Korea
kongi insideOki Han tells the story of Cinderella as her father told her as a child in Seoul, Korea. In this story, Kongi and Potgi are step-sisters. Kongi is treated poorly and made to do harder work while Potgi gets the soft bed and simpler tasks. Even though Kongi has to do more work, she never has a bad word to say about her step-mother or sister and when it seems a task is insurmountable, the animals always seem to lend her a hand. When a party was to be held for the prince to find a bride, Kongi’s step-mother tried to give her a task that could never be done in time. Thanks to birds who came to help and angels who gave her beautiful clothes, Kongi was able to go. The story ends with Kongi becoming Queen and even her step-mother and step-sister changing their ways and helping others. Both J and I really enjoyed this story. She liked the notion of it being similar to the original story but Kongi only having one sister. I like the fact that it is Kongi’s kindness that brings out the kindness in the animals. This is also one of the rare stories that doesn’t have both of Cinderella’s parents die. The illustrations and depictions of the Korean way of life are also wonderful.

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal – A Worldwide Cinderella
world singleThis book is amazing and the inside front cover puts it perfectly – “Once upon a time in Mexico…in Iran…in Ireland…in Zimbabwe…There lived a girl who worked all day in the rice fields…cooked in the royal kitchen…tended the cattle…then spent the night by the hearth, sleeping among the cinders. Her story has spanned centuries and continents, changing to match its surrounds.” This book manages to tell the Cinderella story from a variety of perspectives, each page showing what country the story is from, some pages going back and forth between different countries to show how the same story changes slightly from place to place – “And on the girl’s feet appeared a pair of glass slippers (France)…diamond anklets (India)…sandals of gold (Iraq).” This is a must read for all lovers of the Cinderella story.

worldwide spread

The Fourth Pig

Do you have books that you just love to read to your kids? Every once in a while I get to actually pick the book at night and tonight I picked out The Fourth Pig by Teresa Celsi. No matter how many times I read this, it always makes me smile.

4th pig

This is a great story that follows-up with the three little pigs after they have managed to get rid of the wolf. Rather than being proud of tricking the wolf and saving themselves, the pigs are afraid of their own shadows and have locked themselves in the third pig’s home made of bricks. Their sister, the fourth pig, shows up one day and berates them for not going out and enjoying the world.

319_The-Fourth-PigThe fourth pig is an adventurous go-getter. She has traveled the world and wants her brothers to get out and do the same. When they refuse to budge, she takes matters into her own hands – by blowing down their house from the inside! The brothers finally see that there are no wolves waiting outside for them and that they have locked themselves up for no reason.

I love this book because the fourth pig is strong. I love it because she encourages her brothers to explore the world and face their fears. I’ll admit, I love it that she is a girl. But in the end, I love it because this book always puts a smile on my face.



Fascinated with Frozen

Both of my girls are obsessed with Frozen. We saw the movie over Thanksgiving weekend and it has been three weeks of non-stop Frozen in this house since then. I know this doesn’t seem like something to discuss on a blog about books, but go with me on this.

The story, if you somehow missed it, is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen.  The official synopsis says “When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.”

By now, everyone is talking about the movie, so I shouldn’t be giving anything away when I say that it is a change for Disney to have made a movie that focuses on the power of the love of two sisters. So as a mom of two girls, I love to see my girls so infatuated with this movie and sharing the experience with each other. We have the full CD and it gets played over and over and over again – actually, they each have a copy burned and it is what is listened to every night at bedtime.  This past weekend found the two of them “rehearsing” the story and then acting it out with costumes and everything. In the same way that the sisters Anna and Elsa are kept apart from each other at the beginning of the movie, Frozen has in some ways brought my girls even closer together.

It doesn’t surprise me that my book obsessed girls are also obsessed with the books that go along with Frozen. E got a copy of the story with CD for Hanukkah and it is a great option, especially for little ones who enjoy listening to their stories on CD, which is her current favorite thing. We have also purchased the large Golden Book, which is miles better than the small Golden book and completely worth the $9. It tells the whole story rather than a very condensed version.

While those are the only books we currently own, we have  spent enough time in the local bookstores reading all of the other books that I feel pretty comfortable highlighting a few of those as well. There is a book that is  “2 books in 1” – each book goes until the center staple and it comes with stickers. The stories are incredibly shortened and told from the point of view of each girl, but it completely captivates E and I am asked to read it whenever she can get her hands on it.

There are a ton of step into reading books and a junior novelization to encourage readers to pick up a book on a familiar topic. We don’t need to buy any of those since J isn’t a reluctant reader, but they are a great thing to have and marvelous for emerging readers. We might find ourselves purchasing the Essential Guide put out by DK as we have enjoyed other versions of those in the past.

Finally, what is interesting about a story like this is that it can also encourage kids to read the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale which inspired not only Frozen, but The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the more recent story Breadcrumbs, and countless others. We have a book of Hans Christian Anderson stories as they were originally written, but this particular story is the longest that he wrote and very hard to follow in the original version. We came home from the movie and immediately looked at it, but there was no way for my 6 year old to grasp it.

That doesn’t mean that reading the original is out of the question.  In looking around, there seems to be a beautiful version by Barefoot Books that comes with a CD or as a paperback confident reader.

It is wonderful when a modern take on a story can help encourage a child to go back to the original and the fairy tales that have served as inspiration for so many years are always worth revisiting.

The Various Tales of Little Red Riding Hood

We all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. A little girl is sent to deliver food to her sick grandma with the stern warning to stay on her path and not talk to strangers. On her way she meets a wolf who rushes to grandma’s house, eats her, then tricks and eats Little Red. In the end, the huntsman comes and miraculously saves them by cutting open the wolf.

But the amazing thing about classic fairy tales is that they have been told and retold by countless generations. J is currently in a production of Red Riding Hood and the kids are getting to help write their own version. That plus the fact that I was at the library the other day and randomly found the book Little Red Hot meant that this post was born – a fun look at adaptions at Little Red Riding Hood.

little red

One thing that I’ve noticed is that current tellings of the story often shy away from the violence of the wolf eating grandma or Little Red. Fairy tales were told to teach lessons to children and at times intended to scare them away from bad behaviors. In our world of highly protective parenting, we don’t seem to want to show them the scary consequences that can occur when they go and talk to strangers, which is the main point of Little Red. As awful as it might seem, kids still need to learn to stay away from the Big Bad Wolf.

photo 1Little Red Riding Hood – Adapted from the Brothers Grimm by Gennady Spirin
Of all of the versions that I could get my hands on, this one stays truest to the original Grimm version, down to her red cap rather than cloak. Little Red’s mother sends her off with the reminder to “mind your manners and do not leave the path for any reason.” The wolf is larger than life, fancily dressed. and he fiercely attacks Little Red’s grandmother. Upon hearing the wolf’s loud snores after his grand meal, the hunters manage to save Little Red and her grandmother and Little Red learns to never speak to strangers and always listen to her mother.

Little Red Riding Hood – The Brother’s Grimm, Illustrated by Bernadette Watts
This is the version the Brother’s Grimm wrote down that most of us know, complete with the red cap and the wolf being stuffed with stones at the end. The only reason that this one doesn’t resonate as much with me quite as much as the Gennady Spirin version is that the illustrations are too beautiful. The wolf is just a large dog and you never see him gobble anyone up. It is a lovely version, but less exciting and visually gripping for a young child.

photo 2Red Riding Hood – James Marshall
The James Marshall version is a well loved version that stays true to the original while being zany enough to capture a child’s attention. Marshall’s illustrations are a more modern, fun take on Little Red. The wolf in this tale was not vicious, instead he tricks her by being charming and well-mannered and, once he realizes that he can eat both of them, he offers to escort her to grandma’s. While she stops to pick flowers, he runs ahead and gobbles up granny. Another neighbor hears his post-feast snoring and comes to save the day. Red ends the story telling that she will never speak to strangers, “charming manners or not.”

The Wolf’s Story – Toby Forward
Since we all think we know what really happened that day in the woods, Toby Forward offers up the wolf’s side of the story. According to this story, the wolf was a health nut who did odd jobs for granny. Red had met him many times, but never really liked him. When granny accidentally knocks her head in the closet, the wolf panicked and tried to pretend he was granny.  He didn’t want to eat Little Red, but she tried to pop a sticky toffee in his mouth and he was jumping away from her. At that moment the huntsman came in and wolfy ran away. He’s looking for a new job now, so if you know anyone…It’s a cute looking at the fact that there is always another side of the story.

Little Red Hot – Eric Kimmel
Eric Kimmel takes us to Texas to meet Little Red Hot, a girl who loves to eat hot peppers…on everything. When granny gets ill, her mom asks her to stop by and Little Red Hot decides to make her a hot pepper pie to knock the cold germs out. On her way to granny’s, all of the cowboys warn her that Señor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf, is out prowling. Señor Lobo tries to trick her that he is just a coyote who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Of course, he runs to grandma’s but she jumps out the window and runs away. The wolf pretends to be grandma and engages in the traditional “what big eyes” conversation with Little Red. However, when it gets to teeth, Little Red knows what they are for – “They’re for eatin’ this hot pepper pie” which she shoves into his mouth. Her hot pepper pie blows Señor Lobo through the roof and he’ll never be hurting her again. It doesn’t really teach the “don’t talk to strangers” lesson, but it is a very fun retelling of a classic tale.

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood – Mike Artellpetite rouge inside
Rather than visiting Texas, Mike Artell takes us to Cajun country in this rendition which features a brave little duck dressed in red who had to bring some gumbo to her ailing grand-mére. What makes this story go over the top is that it is told in hilarious rhyme with Cajun flair – this is one that must be read aloud. Instead of a wolf, Petite Rouge is stopped by Claude the Crocodile who would like Petite Rouge to share some of her tasty goods with him. He can’t sneak up on Granny due to his size, so she runs next door. But Petite Rouge knows something is up with Claude’s green bumpy skin and her trusty cat TeJean soaks the boudin (sausage) that Claude wants with hot sauce. Grand-mére, Petite Rouge and TeJean all laugh themselves silly at ol’ Claude who thinks that he ate Petite Rouge and now thinks people are too hot for him. Definitely misses out on the “don’t talk to strangers” message, but stands firmly in the stick up for yourself and think on your feet boat.

salma insidePretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa – Niki Daly
This was a very different retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood Story that I’m not a huge fan of, but J really enjoys it and I do enjoy letting her see a culture that we don’t get in a lot of our books. The story is transported to West Africa where little Salma is sent to the market by her grandmother. She is told to go straight there and back without talking to strangers. After picking up all of her goods, Salma decides to take a short-cut home through the wild side of town. She sings her favorite song along the way and Mr. Dog, a very strange looking creature, offers to help her carry her basket. He slowly tricks her into giving him all of her clothing and told her that he wouldn’t give them back until she taught him her favorite song, so he could use it to trick her grandma. Salma starts to get frightened by him and he turns on her. She runs away and finds her grandfather dressed in his Anansi costume, telling stories. Grandfather doesn’t think the story has such a happy ending, so off they go to save Grandma. Grandma must be partially blind as she doesn’t seem to notice that Mr. Dog is not Salma until he takes a bath and she notices that he has a tail. Granny hides from the mean Mr. Dog in her cooking pot (?!?) and gets frightened away when Salma and Grandpa come to the door in their masks. “The next day, Granny sent Salma to market to buy new clothes. Salma went straight there and back. And she never talked to strangers again.”

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China – Ed Young
A friend whose daughter is also in our production of Little Red Riding Hood loaned us this version of the tale. In the Chinese take on the story, rather than the mom sending the little girl off to granny’s house, mom goes to visit grandma on her birthday leaving her three daughters at home. After mother has gone, the wolf comes to their door pretending to be their Po Po. The children realize that something is off and find a way to trick the wolf and keep themselves safe. This is a much darker story with dark illustrations. It is a very interesting take on the story and shows a cleverness in the girls, but is more appropriate for older children.