Saturday, December 19, 2015

Littlest Monster Turns Two!

Two years ago today, as I was being prepped for my third C-section, for the baby who was not due for another two weeks, I started having contractions.

That was a warning. Shane Michael is quite sure that he is in charge of the world, and it just goes better for everyone else if they fall into step and obey his commands. This one will never suffer from insecurity.

In true baby-of-the-family fashion, he is confident, tough, and spoiled rotten. He is adorable and he knows it. He gets away with way more than he should (see previous statement.) He makes me laugh every day, and he can throw a temper fit worthy of any little prince.

He gives awesome kisses and hugs, says "I wub you!" to strangers in Walmart, then turns around and yells "MEAT!" and stabs Grandma with a fork. He's my lovable little devil, and I wouldn't trade him for the world! Happy Birthday, Littlest Guy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Library Family Christmas 2015

Last night was one of my favorite nights of the year, the library's Family Christmas Party. We spent a couple days decorating the stage,

If you can't move the TV, hide it under wrapping paper!
and setting up craft stations,

Clearing off the discard shelves!

and games

Pin (tape) the Heart on the Grinch.
 Our general format is to read a few stories and sing a few songs, then Santa appears. Kids can do the crafts or play the game while waiting their turn to see the Big Guy.

P. was one of the first kids here, ready to show her appreciation!

These are the stories I picked this year - Emma's Christmas is one of my favorites, and I have read it before, but this year it seemed a bit wordy for antsy kids. I may have to save it for field trips next year. 

 I let the kids pick songs in between stories, and told them they had to sing loud enough to drown me out!

There were about 65 people at the start here, but more trickled in. Since our official room capacity is 75, we'll say it capped off at that, okay?

Santa came in as we sang Jingle Bells (tradition), and boy what a Santa he is! He stays as long as there are kids, and engages with each one, letting parents take as many pictures as they would like.

Of course, some of the littler ones weren't entirely impressed,

but several bigger ones decided to make sure all their bases were covered.

I'll bet Santa is feeling a bit down in the knees this morning.

The crafts kept everyone busy while they waited.

I love when kids think outside the box. I noticed the broken pieces here and knew I had to check back later for the finished product:

That is going to look great when it catches the light!

More visits with Santa...

 some serious,

 some goofy,

and some brown-nosing. She used her craft time to make a present for Santa!

and then little brother had to follow suit.

Big brother is almost as big as those teenagers were,

while little brother preferred Daddy's lap (he'll take the candy, though!)

Some last - minute poses with friends,

while Moms enjoy some craft time of their own,

then Santa and everyone else headed back off into the night. 

Thank-you to everyone who came, have a fantastic holiday season!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: Christmas to Color by Mary Tanada (Adult Coloring Book)

I have often said that adults should have some sort of craft time built into the day. A time where we can do something simple but constructive, so we can point to SOMETHING we accomplished. "Okay, so I totally botched that heart surgery, but look how nicely I colored in the lines!"

I suppose the adult coloring fad should have come as no surprise. I felt no need to join in - possibly because I get my 'fix' preparing crafts for the kids every week - until this gem arrived from HarperCollins:

Christmas to Color

At first I thought, "meh", and planned to toss it in the prize box. Then I flipped through it.

Ooh, pretty!


(I have saved that photo in every way possible, and Blogger still insists on turning it sideways. I give up.)

My pictures of the pictures really don't do them justice - and, while Christmasy and intricate, neither does the picture chosen for the cover. Tanana notes that she is drawn to the folk art of Ukraine, Russia, Hungary and Poland, and that is abundantly evident in these beautiful illustrations (yes, there is a matryoshka doll in there!). I cannot begin to imagine how much time each one took her. This book is worth owning for the artwork alone, but much better would be to tuck it in a gift basket - can you just see it nestled in red and green tissue? - with some high quality, fine tipped markers. Then leave your giftee alone for a bit, so they can enjoy themselves!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Gifting: Newer Picture Books

Okay, so let's say your giftee has all the old classics and series already. What is hot and new this year?

I ran a report of books we added this year, published in 2014 or 2015, and sorted by number of check-outs per month. The following titles checked out an average of more than once a month - which is pretty good, since they can theoretically be out for three weeks at a time!

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

The cute cover makes it easy to see why this one is snatched off the shelf. Our narrator explains how a bear might, in a string of increasingly improbable events, have ended up in the park where the reader's lunchbox happened to be sitting. The fact that the narrator is revealed to be the reader's dog should, of course, in no way cast doubts upon his reliability. This could lead to some fun exercises in fantastical story telling ("how do you suppose that shoe ended up on the side of the road?")

The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School

Mr. Fish is nervously awaiting his first day of school, and he frets about not knowing how to write his name, how to draw shapes, and how to do math—until he's reassured that school is the perfect place to learn how to master all of these new skills.

I will happily admit we were one of those check-outs. Sheridan came to me in TEARS last month, because she isn't at ALL ready for second grade, AND she doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up! This is the child who is finishing her first semester of Kinder. I assure you, neither her teacher nor her parents are putting undo pressure on her, this is all her. She got a kick out of all Mr. Fish's grumps and moans, and by the second reading most of my kids were joining in on the 'refrain'. A great gift for a little one who may be starting school next year - perhaps with a backpack, or school supplies to practice with, or even a miniature fish to keep in his pocket to remind him he doesn't have to know it all right away!

I did a quick review of this series a couple months ago:

Maple & Willow Apart

and it is still hugely popular. The set of three (so far) would be a perfect gift for a pair of sisters! Maybe even gift with the promise of planting a tree for each in the Spring.

Are owls still big in decor, or did I miss that boat?

Little Owl's Day

Either way, I think I want this cover stenciled on a nursery wall somewhere. A companion to Little Owl's Night (2011), this beautiful story of a baby owl finding himself awake during the day, introduces little ones to differences they might not have been aware of. Pair both titles with a promise to go on a nighttime walk together, and see how things are the same or different around your home.

Other 2015 titles that have been popular:
The Moon is Going to Addy's House by Ida Pearle
15 Things Not to Do with a Baby by Margaret McAllister
Otter in Space by Sam Garton
A Crow of His Own by Megan Lambert
One Thousand Things by Anna Kovecses
Winnie and Waldorf by Kati Hites
Janine by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry

2014 Titles:
The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood
Fix This Mess by Tedd Arnold
Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein
Found by Salina Yoon
Duck, Duck, Moose! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Thong
My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Review: A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, by Lisa Papademetriou

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila's copy on the other side of the planet. Kai's words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

This is exactly the kind of book I would have fallen in love with around middle school. So much in this lovely (when you are talking about forgotten romances and bioluminescent moths, you have to use words like 'lovely') book. The many characters couldn't be more different, but they are all tied together - implying that we all are (the author's note is a must-read!). Stories of the past and present weave in and around each other until everyone is tightly meshed. Older readers will see the connections well before the characters do, but they won't care.

Other themes include the different types of magic in the world, the power of music, and the things that really matter. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and a must for every library.

In keeping with the gifting theme, there are many avenues to go down. The Celestial Moth (not real as far as I can find) figures prominently - perhaps a pretty glass paperweight with a blue moth or butterfly in it (not real! Doodle would kill you!) Leila is visiting family in Pakistan, and food is mentioned frequently - a Pakistani cookbook would be a lot of fun. Kipling's novel Kim, as well as parts of his life, weave in - a biography of Kipling would be a great extension, finding out which parts of the story match up. A book of magic tricks. A glass vial like the one Ralph has. Last but not least, your very own copies of The Exquisite Corpse - any blank book you can pass back and forth, continuing a story together (this might be especially fun if you live apart!)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Gifting: Classic Picture Books

Two days ago I posted that the Curious George series not only took the top three slots in highest circulating picture books, it held ten of the top 40 spots. Many of the most popular series were old classics, and that is true of many of the individual titles as well. It may be, partly, that parents and grandparents are checking out the titles they are familiar with from their own childhood, but I do also see little ones selecting these for themselves.

#4 on the list, right after our naughty little monkey, was one I read a million times when I was young:


Remember Whose Mouse are You? And Leo the Late Bloomer? Definite nostalgia kick here! Kraus's sweet stories and Aruego's soft but expressive illustrations are a timeless combination. Gift any of these with a set of watercolors and colored pencils.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

This one surprised me, because it seems to me more like the kind of book you buy your high school graduate. Turns out, it's a favorite for the younger set as well. Other Seuss favorites in the top 100 are The Lorax, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hatches the Egg, and Happy Birthday to You. Gift a set of Seuss books with a Cat in the Hat hat!

Sheridan will be happy to see this one on the list:

Goodnight Moon

Available in a multitude of formats and languages, I don't know that there is a single adult who doesn't recognize it immediately. Sheridan and Daddy used to read this one together every night at bedtime, looking for the mouse in all the colored pictures, changing the words to "the quiet old lady whispering BE QUIET!!!!!", because...well, our kids are weird. There is a Goodnight Moon matching game available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble that might go well - I haven't seen it myself to know whether to recommend it. You can also find stuffed bunnies like the little one in the story.

And, here's one for Christopher:

David Goes to School

He LOVED the David books when he was younger, and he is obviously not alone. Like Curious George, David just can't help getting into trouble, and all he ever hears is "NO!" The childlike illustrations are a perfect match. At the end of this one, David receives a big gold star for a job well done: you might include a pack of star stickers with the book, and encourage your young trouble maker reader to give them to people he sees doing a super duper job at anything.

The Very Busy Spider

NOT The Very Hungry Caterpillar, can you believe it? I'm am willing to bet that is only because all our copies somehow got lost partway through the year, and the newer copies haven't had as much time to amass check-outs. The Very Quiet Cricket is also up there, so why not give all three together? (There is also The Very Lonely Firefly, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, and my personal favorite, The Grouchy Ladybug.) Then head over to Amazon and spend a couple hours exploring all the cool toys and games that can go with them!

Finally, the first book Christopher ever 'read' to me:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Martin's similar titles are not far behind it, including Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? and the lesser-known Adam, Adam, What Do You See? There's a cute puppet and props set here, but it might be just as fun (not to mention cheaper) to make your own set together with construction paper and popsicle sticks.

Next up, some of the newer titles that have been a big hit already!