Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

It wouldn’t be October if I didn’t talk about Bunnicula. This was one of my favorites growing up, and I’ve passed the enjoyment down to my oldest. I’m looking forward to the day when my youngest reads them too.

Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery is an easy chapter book. It’s told from the point of view of Harold, a pet dog. He’s shaggy, lovable, and rather gullible. He lives with his family, the Monroes, and a well-read cat named Chester. One night the Monroes go to a late-night showing of Dracula and bring home a surprise: a rabbit they name Bunnicula. Chester is convinced that Bunnicula is a vampire, sucking the juice from vegetables, and that only he can save the world from the evil machinations of the vampire bunny.

This series, of which Bunnicula is the first, is very special to me. I read it with my sister when we were younger and it was a wonderful way for us to bond. We’re still very close to this day, and we talk about those Bunnicula books from time to time.

This book is hilarious. I have no idea how the authors managed to come up with so many funny situations, but it had me in stitches when I read it, and my son reacted the same way when he read it. He’s reread the entire series several times, and will probably read them again this month.

This book is perfect for reading aloud (maybe a chapter or two a day?), or for readers just gaining confidence in their skills. My oldest and I took turns reading pages aloud the first time he experienced Bunnicula. It is one of my favorite memories. There are illustrations every few pages, but they are few enough that children are required to paint the pictures in their minds. I highly recommend this book, and October is the perfect time for a not-spooky “spooky” read. Enjoy!

Timothy Mean and the Time Machine by William AE Ford, illustrated by Marcelo Simonetti

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Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available to buy now.

Little Timothy Mean (his name is well-deserved) gets bored one day and builds a time machine out of old boxes and some glue. It’s all very technical. What follows is a trip to a different time-with a different prank played- for each day of the week.

I read this book with both my kids (a toddler and an older elementary child), so I guess you can say that I was pretty thorough. All three of us loved it. It’s told in rhyme, but the cadence always works, and it never feels forced (a pet peeve of mine). The places and times Timothy Mean travels to are adorable. There’s the dinosaur time, of course, but he also visits vikings, and sees Neil Armstrong on the moon. It’s so clever! This book is a lot of fun to read, and perfect for ages three to five. My toddler happily followed along, and named all the background characters discussed and pictured (he loves King Joe and Queen Sally the most).

The illustrations are charming and add so much to the book. When it comes to children’s books, if the illustrations are lousy, I’m less likely to buy or read it to my kids. However, these were wonderful.

This imaginative book is a perfect one to read aloud, and I highly recommend it.

Simon, My Pet Dragon and Our Unusual Adventure: A Children’s Seek-N-Find Book by David D. Cree

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I was given this book by the author, in exchange for my honest opinion.

My toddler has very unique taste in literature. At this moment, he only likes adult history books about historical figures (try having a kid who isn’t toilet trained telling you the presidents in order: it’s mildly disturbing) and search-and-find books. He owns several Where’s Waldo books, and one Find the Sloth, so I had to read this to him and get his viewpoint.

He loved it. The dragon was challenging for him to find, but not impossible, and he happily paid attention to the story-line, which was very cute. It’ follows a timid dragon as he overcomes his fear and learns that trying new things can lead to many fun new experiences.

The illustrations were adorable, and the message was positive but not heavy-handed. I highly recommend picking this up for your young children.

Little Big Nate Draws a Blank by Lincoln Pierce- ARC Mini Review

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It’s available on September third.

My oldest loves the Big Nate books. He’s read all of them. So when I saw a little reader version, I just had to grab it to read to my Toddler Tornado.

This book is cute. It’s very simple: each page has an illustration of something little big Nate thinks to draw, but then changes his mind about, and the reason why (“A Penguin? Too chilly”). The pictures are fun and engaging. This is the sort of book that’s perfect for encouraging communication from your little one.

Short and fun, this would be perfect for one and two year olds. Pick it up, and while you’re at it,  grab one the older kid counterparts for big brother or sister.

Fairy Tales for Fearless Girls by Anita Ganeri- ARC Review

This inspiring collection of 15 stories from around the world showcases narratives that celebrate strong, independent women. These heroines aren’t reduced to being wives or witches! They run free and possess the qualities we would hope for in our daughters and friends: self-confidence, strength, wits, courage, fearlessness, and independence. They live freely, happily ever after, without restraint or narrowly defined roles. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

I adore fairy tales. I grew up on them, and firmly believe that you’re never to old for them. So, of course I was excited to read this collection. Some of the stories I already knew, such as Feng Mian, the Head of the Family, but many were new to me.

Alas, while I liked this book, I didn’t love it. I think the reason I enjoyed it but don’t feel the urge to gush is simply the arrangement of the stories in the book. The first two or three are incredibly similar, which diminished my enjoyment a bit. If they’d been spread out among other, different types of tales, I would have liked each one much better.

There were a few tales that I felt were much more interesting than others: Unanana and the Elephant being one. It follows a mom, first of all, and she’s both clever and determined. I could relate to her willingness to do anything to protect her kids. I also really liked Tatterhood and Dacia, which teaches a lesson about the importance of personality over looks.

Where this book really shines is in the gorgeous illustrations. After I finished the book, I went back through just to see them again. Khoa Le captured the feel of each story in a fascinating and original way.

Even though I didn’t love it, this book is still a worthy addition to any fairy tale collection.

The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson- ARC Review

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available July 9th, 2019.

So, why the manly moniker in tandem with the womanly name?

“The Firstborn Child of The Emperor-King Inherits the Ruling Crown, the Title of Emperor-King and All Powers Thereof.” (Item 37, The Royal Manual) 

Enter Lillian, the firstborn child of said Emperor-King. Cast out of her Kingdom by malevolent forces, mysteriously waylaid by Destiny, the spirited, self-reliant Lillian sets off on an exuberant journey to find her way home and claim her birthright. As she travels through marvelous and mystical lands in search of her origins, Lillian encounters and befriends a kaleidoscopic cast of characters. Most of the tale is told by Lillian herself, as she chronicles her extraordinary adventures. (taken from Amazon)

Simply put, this book was marvelous. I loved every single word.  It is told in Lillian’s own words, written in her Book (I capitalize it because she did in the story). It’s the hero’s journey, of course, but told in a new and original way.

Having grown up in the Forest of Forgetfulness, Lillian naturally remembers nothing about who she really is or where she came from. One day Destiny calls and Lillian answers, traveling into the wide Whirld to find answers. But Destiny is a funny thing, and she finds much, much more than she expected.

Lillian is the best protagonist I’ve read in a very long time. She’s spunky and has a habit of speaking her mind- whether she should or not. I love that sometimes it gets her in trouble, but in other times it’s just what’s needed. The language used in her narration is absolutely charming and natural-feeling.

Another wonderful thing about this book are the life lessons Lillian (and the reader) learn along the way. They’re beautifully disguised as different adventures, and not as heavy-handed as lessons are in a book like Little Women. For example, there’s the Narcissus, the vicious creature that attempts to defeat Lillian by telling her all her “many faults”. The way Lillian wins this encounter is nothing short of brilliant- and a perfect, subtle lesson about appearances and self-esteem.

This book is at once sweet, funny, and empowering, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s perfect for older kids navigating that hard time between childhood and everything else, fantasy lovers, or anyone who just wants a good book. I highly recommend this one.

Books for Littles #3: ABC’S and 1,2,3’s

As a parent to a learning little, I’ve read a lot of alphabet and counting books over the past year. While I’ll read anything that strikes my little one’s fancy, let’s face it: not all learning books are created equal. There are a few things that I look for when I’m picking special alphabet or counting books to read to my toddler:

1. Are the numbers/letters easily visible and recognizable? You’d think it would go without saying that letters shouldn’t be written in a fancy script or in cursive when in an alphabet book, but you’d be surprised how often I’ve seen letters that are indecipherable to a little learner.

2. Is the book engaging? It doesn’t matter how great I think a book is, if my toddler isn’t interested, that kind of defeats the purpose of reading it to him in the first place.

3. Can I handle re-reading this book over and over without wanting to pull my hair out? This last one is a bit selfish, but I try really hard to avoid books that irritate me. Of course, if the toddler loves it, I suck it up.

That being said, these are the recent alphabet winners in our house:

An Annoying ABC written by Barbara Bottner illustrated by Michael Emberly 

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My little one loves the funny pictures and the cute storyline. I love that the letters are highlighted and each sentence flows into the next. It’s super cute and not annoying at all. Double points for using X in a name (Xavier)!

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Agent A to Agent Z by Andy Rash

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This book is hilarious. It keeps both myself and my toddler giggling. I could easily read this multiple times in a row (and I have) without resorting to trying to sneak in a little variety.

Alphabears by Kathleen and Michael Hague 

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Admission: this one is more for me than my little, although he also enjoys it. I read this one was I was small, so it’s a very special reading session when he picks this one

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin JR and John Archambault illustrated by Lois Ehlert 

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It seems there’s a reason this book is such a popular choice. Not only is there a cadence to it, making it easy for little ones to “read” along, this book does something a lot of other alphabet books don’t: it shows lower case letters. I used this book to teach both my kids their lower case letters, and it was easy as…

1,2,3 Books that we love:

The 1, 2, 3s of D&D by Ivan Van Norman and Caleb Cleveland 

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Surprise! I’m a huge nerd. My little nerd-in-training loves this fantastic book as much as I do. What makes this one so special? The wonderful illustrations combine to create a mini-adventure in counting. Also- there’s a reference to Raistlin, my favorite fantasy mage, on one of the pages which is awesome. I may have squealed when I saw it.

Star Wars Obi- 1,2,3 by Calliope Glass and Caitlin Kennedy illustrated by Katie Cook 

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This book has a lot going for it: not only are the illustrations adorable, but the rhymes for each number are fantastic. My favorite thing about this book, however, is that it goes up to 20, instead of stopping at 10.

Marvel Mighty Numbers

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Like most other youngsters, my little guy is obsessed with super heroes. He loves this book; not only can he identify all the numbers, but he happily names all the superheroes too. I love that the numbers are bright and colorful, very easy to see.

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

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My little one loves the bright pictures, and the funny noises I make every time a monkey hits its head. I love that the cadence (again with the cadence) makes it easy for him to “read” along, and that it counts backwards.

And there you have it, the current counting and alphabet favorites. What are some of the winners in your home/classroom?

Books for Littles #2: Read about Reading

When I was younger, I used to watch Reading Rainbow. It was a great show, not because it taught children how to read, but because it showed that reading is fun. Books are magic and I feel that it’s important to teach kids to love books, not just to read the words. Here are a few great books about books.

The Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk: This is all about a mouse named Sam, who lives in a library and starts writing little books and leaving them out for people to read. Eventually, the librarian (who has no idea he’s a mouse) asks the author to come talk to the patrons. What will Sam do? How can a rodent give writing advice? The answer in this book is both sweet and inspiring. With cute illustrations, this is a great book to read to littles learning to write.

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I Can Read With My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss: I have to include the classic Dr. Seuss, of course! As with 99% of his books, this one is just fun!

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, illustrated by Joe Bluhm: This is a newer one for me. I finally read it for the first time the other day, after my husband had pointed it out (quite a while ago: the youngest was still in the board book phase at the time). While I was reading it to my toddler, I noticed my oldest (who has recently decided he’s too old to be read to), sneaking over to listen. This book is wonderful! All about the wonder of books, it had both kids riveted. The story had me a little choked up by the end, to be honest. Read it and you’ll see why.

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Dewey: There’s a Cat in the Library! by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter, illustrated by Steve James: This is based on Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Changed the World, an adult nonfiction book. It’s heartwarming and a great bedtime read.

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Born to Read by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown: This book reminds me so much of my oldest when he was young! He taught himself to read at a young age, and would read everything (I remember a certain afternoon where, as we drove in a rather derelict part of town, he suddenly asked, “Mom, what’s the ‘Bottomz Up Club’?” That’s an interesting conversation to have with a four year old). When I read this book to my toddler, I change the character’s name to that of my oldest. It’s super cute and has a cadence that keeps my little toddler tornado interested.

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Have you read any of these with your children? What books about books would you add?

Picture Books for Wiggly Kids: Books for Littles #1

Recently, I was asked to come up with a list of children’s books that are great for little wrigglers. I’m not in any way an expert, and can only go from my experience with my own kids, but I love children’s books and I’m happy to add my two cents.

First and foremost, I would like to say that each child is different. When my oldest was little, storytime had him sitting in my lap, pointing at the pictures and turning the pages. My youngest likes to run back and forth, sometimes even hanging over my shoulder to look at the pictures. And that’s okay. It’s about spending quality time with your child, sharing your love of books. If quality time looks like jumping up and down dancing to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, well, then, you’re getting exercise. If it looks like a quiet cuddle while reading Peter Rabbit, that’s great too.

But I digress. Here are some books that my wiggly child loves:

Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton: This one is great because it has a little song that can be sung and wriggled to while getting ready for bed. Plus, Sandra Boynton books are always so cute. Jamma, jamma, jamma, pj!

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That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems: You can’t go wrong with anything by this author,but this one is my little dude’s favorite. It’s a bit on the macabre side (Spoiler: the fox is outfoxed and the goose makes delicious soup!), but it’s written in a fun way and the dialogue is simple enough that kids with shorter attention spans don’t have time to get bored.

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Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Scott Nash: This is perfect for getting your child moving. If you’re like me and have zero compunction about looking silly, dance along.

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I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore: I have to include at least one “I love you” book, and this one is perfect. The hilarious dialogue, combined with the fun illustrations, keeps my little mover interested.

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Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles: a Sound Primer by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Allison Oliver: There are a bunch of board books in this series of “classics”. We love this one and Frankenstein (a body parts book, of course) the most, but they’re all great. This one is filled with fun sounds and cute pictures. It gets a little noisy with my toddler tornado, but it’s a blast.

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While this is in no way a complete list, these are some fun ones that my little wriggler loves to at least slow down for. Happy reading, dancing, singing, and cuddling!