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Pam: March 2010 Archives

Pam

Thursday Three: Easter

Posted by Pam on March 25, 2010 at 10:48 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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I'm approaching today's post on Easter books like a wedding tradition - with something old, something new, something borrowed, and something out-of-the-blue.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
by Dubose Heyward, illustrated by Marjorie Flack
The Country Bunny and the Little Gold ShoesA little girl bunny defies the odds to become an Easter Bunny, even though she isn't high-born or well, male. Her good upbringing, hard work, and perseverance take her beyond what others think a country bunny can do. You go, girl! I loved this book as a child, and it was one of very few books about Easter at the time. Of course, this was before every cartoon book and TV character got their own holiday story. Does this older tale still win over the young readers? With a wink, I have to say that it doesn't really matter. We parents have to reserve the right to share a few books just because they spoke to us as children, and I'll put this one top of my list for its great story, lovely illustrations, and classic classicness.

The Easter Egg
by Jan Brett
The Easter EggSeriously, I have to wonder what took Jan Brett so long to tackle an Easter story because this is a natural subject for her amazing artwork. Look at the possibilities in decorated eggs! And so she did, with this new book where a bunny finds that his real talent isn't in egg-decorating, but in something else altogether. It's a sweet story, and of course beautifully illustrated. If you like some behind-the-scenes, check out the short video where Jan Brett talks about her process - while holding a chicken. She also has a contest, coloring pages, and more fun at her website.

Junie B. First Grader: Dumb Bunny
by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus
Junie B. First Grader: Dumb BunnyHere's both the something borrowed (from my MotherReader site) and out-of-the-blue (if you were expecting another picture book). Junie B. and her class are invited to an egg hunt at richie Lucille's house. There's a special prize if you find the golden egg, and that lovely prize is a playdate with Lucille in her indoor pool and everyone wants to swim in that fancy, hot water pool. But things take an unfortunate turn for Junie B. - as they often do - putting the poor girl in a pink bunny suit. A fun book for Easter, or really any time you need a laugh. As a little bonus today, I'll share my favorite passage:

"I just don't get it," Lucille grouched. "How could anyone forget the Easter Bunny? The Easter Bunny brings candy right to your door."
Lennie did a frown at her.
"He doesn't bring candy to my door, Lucille," he said. "The Easter Bunny is a different religion than me. I'm Jewish."
Shirley nodded.
"I'm Jewish, too, Lucille," she said. "I've never even been to an Easter-egg hunt before. What do you wear to something like that, anyway?"
Lucille stood up and fluffed herself.
"Well -- since the Easter Bunny and I are the same religion -- I'm going to wear a fancy Easter dress, Shirley," she said.
Shirley though for a minute. Then she nodded.
"Hmm. Then I guess I will wear a fancy Jewish dress," she said.
Lennie's eyes lighted up.
"Really, Shirley? You mean we have our own clothing line?" he asked.
He smiled.
"Then I think I will wear some fancy Jewish pants," he said.

If you have a favorite Easter book, share it in the comments. And with both Passover and Easter coming up next week, enjoy your holiday - whether it involves an Easter dress or Jewish pants. (giggle, giggle)


Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.

Pam

Thursday Three: Thrifty Reading

Posted by Pam on March 18, 2010 at 8:55 AM in creative literacy
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I have discovered that the one advantage to losing your job is that you can close down pushy salesmen immediately. Apparently there is no answer in the sales patter that matches, "Now that I'm unemployed, I just can't spare the money."

Nobody is going to argue that we're in tough times and even if your finances haven't changed, you've probably become a bit more cautious and thrifty in response to the economic situation. Here I have another advantage, because I've always had a frugal streak and a nose for bargains. When I hear about kids in our country without books at home, I'm upset that these kids are missing this important literacy exposure, and I'm also frustrated knowing that it doesn't need to be expensive to have books.

Maybe feeling the pinch lately, you've cut restaurant outings or Starbucks grandes or - sigh - new, cute shoes. But you don't need to cut books, though you can change the way you get them.

1. The Library - Duh. You may roll your eyes at my noting the library as a place to get books, and that's okay. I can take it. Of course you know it exists, that it's there as a source of free books, but that doesn't mean you're taking full advantage of this generous resource. Yes, you can check out books. You can also take your kids to programs, including some for older children that might not require your actual presence in the room allowing you to skim the magazine section. When my kids were young, we sat and read some of the books there and then took a few of those home. It made reading time special to be doing it in the library, and offered a chance to try some new titles. Utilize the librarians to get suggestions on good books for the kids, instead of wasting money on something disappointing. And don't forget all of the resources in the library that can save you money by giving you information in the form of home repairs, craft projects, exercise programs, and financial planning.

2. Book Sales - There are many kind of book sales, and which works best depends your own needs and free time. Libraries often run book sales, either as an event or an ongoing sale. You can do extremely well here, picking up some great hardbacks for a buck or two while supporting the library. Win-win. Thrift stores also sell books, though the selection and quality varies from place to place. I find the special kid consignment stores rather pricey on books, but I do have to admit that they are generally better organized. When I feel like heading to the bookstore, I do so mostly to browse the bargain books and overstocks. I'll also use some mindless Internet time - maybe while supervising homework - to browse the bargain books section on Amazon. I've bought some amazing books this way, including standards that must be temporary overstocks or something. Otherwise I can't explain the continual appearance of titles by Mo Willems, Rick Riordan, and Neil Gaiman.

3. Book Exchanges - Some schools or community centers have a Leave-a-Book/Take-a-Book plan, but if not you can start your own. Set up a book exchange for your own school, preschool, playgroup, neighborhood, or workplace. Having a dedicated shelf for the book exchanges is a small way to start. You can set up systems of one-to-one exchanges or credits, or be more loose about it, hoping that books simply find a good home. You could arrange a larger scale trade at your child's school and donate the books that aren't chosen to a charity that can get them into the right hands.

What book ideas do you have for the frugal family?

Pam

Thursday Three: Classics

Posted by Pam on March 11, 2010 at 10:33 AM in ClassicsRecommendations
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I was actually going to write an entirely different post today, but then I chanced upon today's installment of the Top 100 Children's Novels and I had to go back to that topic. Last time I wrote about three (or four) books that I had suggested that had made it on the list so far. Now two (or three) more of my choices have come in the same batch, and they are all classics - which fits in with today's Share a Story -Shape a Future theme of Old Favorites, New Classics.

To explain, Share a Story -Shape a Future is a weeklong online event contributing ideas about ways to engage kids as readers. It's not an author or book tour, but instead a promotion of books, reading, literacy, and ideas. And it's fabulous. Tomorrow our own Jen Robinson hosts the theme of Reading for the Next Generation, and I'll be sharing my thoughts with "Reading is Boring (Sometimes)." Don't miss this wonderful resource of reading tips, suggestions, thoughts, and essays.

Coming back to today's post, I thought it was fate that it would be a classics theme on the same day that three of my favorite classics hit the list. It also figures into Jen's request for books for her baby (Congrats, Jen!), because these are the perfect read-aloud books for down the line. In fact, I'd argue that at least Winnie-the-Pooh is intended for reading to your child then waiting for her to be old enough to read it on her own.

Winnie-the-Pooh
by A.A. Milne
Winnie-the-PoohThe nostalgia factor is so high on this title, that I was surprised that it only came in at #30. Though perhaps the years of Disneyfication of Pooh have finally taken a toll on this impeccable, imaginative classic. After years of making the characters preschool fodder, the original stories have all been lost in the shuffle. Kids who are finally old enough to appreciate the sophisticated language and nuance, have tossed aside Pooh as baby books. It's a crying shame. The only advice I have for new parents (Jen), is to own the classic set and ban any and all Disneyfied versions with a fierceness usually reserved for smoking near the baby.

A Little Princess
by Francis Hodgson Burnett
A Little PrincessHitting the list at #28, is a book about triumphing in the face of adversity, and keeping a positive spirit and nature throughout tough times.When I was young, I read it, lost it, didn't remember what it was called, and for some reason didn't seem to ask anybody, but kept looking for the book for years. I remember the joy of finding it again, on the shelves of a bookstore, and going home to read it again and again. Sigh. This book was absolute magic to me in elementary school years, but when I read it again as an adult I couldn't capture that same feeling. That's okay though, because my childhood memories of the tale completely trump my adult sensibilities.

Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Alice in WonderlandI have to admit that I'm cheating by mentioning the book that is #27, because I didn't actually submit it as one of my choices. But it's so much a part of my own favorite books, that I had to go back to my original email to see that I didn't suggest it. I guess it slipped through the cracks - of my mind. Here's a book that is entirely about imagination, and by that I mean one that gives the reader's imagination a complete workout as she visualizes the worlds and events of the story. It's one of the reasons that I see the book as a perfect one to read aloud, because that frees the child from the work of reading the words, allowing her mind the space to imagine the scenes in this fantastic adventure.

You can read the extensive write-ups at Fuse#8 at School Library Journal, which include the variety of cover art and a few video clips as well, by clicking on the links above. You can add your own thoughts on these touchstone classics here in the comments below.


Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.

Pam

Thursday Three: From the Top 100 Children's Novels

Posted by Pam on March 4, 2010 at 10:42 AM in Chapter BooksMiddle Grade BooksRecommendations
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The countdown of the Top 100 Children's Novels is on hold as the amazing author of the list, Betsy Bird, gets Internet access at her new apartment, and I am on pins and needles waiting! I don't blame her as she's a nice person, good friend, and deserves some time off to move her earthly belongings from one place in New York City to another, but it's so hard to wait when the results have been so interesting. Sure, a few of my choices have made it on and I expect a few more will before this show is over, but the real fun is seeing what other people thought of as their favorite books. Fascinating.

As I've gone through the countdown, I've seen many other titles that I could have chosen, but here are three books that I listed that have made it so far. What do you think?

All-of-a-Kind-Family
by Sydney Taylor
All of a Kind FamilyAt #79 we find this classic about a poor, immigrant, Jewish family living in New York City in the early 1900's. The book is about the everyday - chores, market trips, make-believe games - mixed with a helpful and healthy dose of Jewish traditions. It's historical fiction at its finest, putting the reader in the world while celebrating the time period. As for why love this book, I must quote myself for what I wrote for the countdown: Because the joy that the girls had in choosing what to spend a nickel on outweighs most of the excitement I could imagine then or now. It made me crave a dill pickle from the barrel, for goodness sakes.

The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
The Bad BeginningComing in at #71 is the first book in this Series of Unfortunate Events. Here the Baudelaire children first become orphans and are placed with Count Olaf, who will soon become the villain in their long tale of woe. The wit and wordplay in the books bring in the fans, along with the ever-more-complicated mysteries that grow deeper with each title. What I still find interesting about this book over ten years, is that it tends to get a love it or hate it reaction. While the Amazon ratings for The All-of-a-Kind Family were overwhelmingly five stars with a handful of low ratings, the ones for The Bad Beginning come in at about a 6:1 ratio for the book. Unusual for a book of this caliber.

Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilders
Little House on the PrairieI'm actually surprised that this book is already making its appearance at #42, making me wonder if any other books in the series will show up later. While this title is not actually the first book in the series - that would be Little House in the Big Woods - this is the one that really kicks it off, letting the reader get to know Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa as they travel and set up a homestead on the prairie through difficult times. When I was a kid I loved the first books in the series, finding the other ones boring, but as an adult, I think that the later books are better written, with stronger characterization and plotting. I used The Long Winter in my mother/daughter bookclub and the girls there all thought the book was too slow, and most of them had given up on the series earlier because they were bored by the books with their extensive descriptions of scenery, food, and house-building. In fact, while my generation loved these books, personally I've yet to find a kid who also adores them - which may explain the lackluster place on the countdown.


If you click on the links in the reviews, you can read the extensive write-up done at Fuse#8 at School Library Journal. To be totally upfront, I also selected Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin which made the list at #81, but if I extol the virtues of that book one more time I going to be suspected of getting some kickbacks. Also, you might wonder where Harry Potter is, to which I guess Top Ten. Right?

Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.

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