Whether you have a stack of books lined up that you haven’t quite gotten around to, or you are looking for a great new book to curl up with, why not join me in making a Spring Reading List? Katrina of Callapidder Days has begun the Spring Reading Thing 2009 – simply make a list of the books you would like to read between now and June 20th, write a blog post containing your list and link up at this post. I’ve had fun this morning reading other people’s lists, and even found a new book to add to my own (thanks, Holly!). As the mountains of books are consumed, folks will begin posting reviews here.
4. Murder in the Latin Quarter by Cara Black – Can I tell you how excited I am that a new Cara Black book is out? I am totally obsessed with this mystery series set in Paris and its hip heroine, Aimee Leduc.
Wintergirls hits bookstores tomorrow, and after reading this review, Jill at The Well-Read Child has me convinced that every teenager, teacher, parent of a teen, and therapist should read this book. Wintergirls, a young adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, is narrated by Lia, an anorexic teen whose ex-best friend Cassie was just found dead in a motel room. After Cassie’s death, Lia goes into a downward spiral, expertly hiding her relapse of anorexia from her family. Jill says of the novel,
There were times when I wanted to jump into the book and shake some sense into her and her father who seems to deal with conflict by ignoring what’s going on. Even her own mother who is a cardiologist cannot seem to help her daughter recover.
Frightening, intense, and haunting, but not preachy or fake, reading Wintergirls could potentially help convince troubled girls to seek help, and clue-in parents and teachers to warning signs that can be tragically easy to miss. Get it here.
This Friday is the first day of Spring at last! My choices for the March Book Basket celebrate the change in season with different perspectives – from the artfully scientific (Eggs) to the humorous and touching (The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring). As usual, I have used flip-books from Lookybook when available; just click on the book to turn the pages or click the orange googly eyes to see a larger version on the Lookybook website. Enjoy!
1.Eggs written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Emma Stevenson.
Eggs feels like a peek inside a very talented artist’s nature journal. This is an excellent resource for accurate information about eggs of all sorts – from ants, seahorses, and honeybees to penguins, snakes, frogs, fish, and more. Marilyn Singer explores how different species care for their eggs, how they grow inside the egg, and how the baby animals get out. But Emma Stevenson’s masterful illustrations are the icing on the cake. Stevenson’s artwork is highly realistic and scientifically accurate and at the same time manages to be evocative and sympathetic. This book is a real treasure.
Flip, Float, Fly! is a delightful introduction to the world of seeds, perfect for young children. Dandelion seeds float away on the breeze like tiny parachutes, while maple seeds flip and spin “like shiny green helicopters”. Tumbleweed plants roll across the prairie, sprinkling seeds along their path, and coconuts float in the ocean, drifting along to distant islands. This would be a lovely companion book to a little seed exploration with your child: collect seeds on a nature walk, from the grocery store, and from the garden. How many seeds can you find that are featured in the book? The illustrations are lighthearted and colorful while still being accurate, and the text is sprinkled with fun words like Pop! Fling! Wiggle! and Jump! that just beg to be acted out by an enthusiastic child.
Did you know that March is maple sugaring time? I admit I didn’t know that until I moved to the northeast. Maple Syrup Season tells the story of maple syrup all the way from tree to bottle to tummy. With charming, friendly illustrations, this is just the thing to read before a visit to a maple sugaring demonstration. But even if you don’t live anywhere near maple trees, this book can provide a nice connection to where that yummy maple syrup comes from. After reading this, you’ll be craving a stack of pancakes dripping with maple syrup or that classic Little House treat, maple syrup on snow.
Once upon a time there was a little boy named King Shabazz who didn’t believe in Spring. “No such thing!” he would whisper every time the teacher talked about Spring in school.
When I first read this book years ago, I could not stop laughing because it is so true. In school, no matter where you live, teachers usually talk about the seasons as if they were the same everywhere – which is ridiculous, because if you live in San Francisco you’ll never see snow, and if you live in a big city you will hardly be surrounded by the “crops coming up” that KingShabazz’s mother tells him is a sign of Spring. King Shabazz convinces his best friend Anthony Polito to go with him to look for Spring. The illustrations set just the right tone, depicting the bustling street scenes as the boys walk past a BBQ joint, and come to a busy intersection. They have never gone farther than this without their parents before, and it is a big moment for the two boys when they decide to cross the street and continue their hunt for Spring.
Soon after crossing the intersection the boys reach a vacant lot with a rusted out car in the center, overgrown with weeds. They hear a soft sound coming from the car, and they bravely creep towards it…on their path to the car, Tony stumbles and King exclaims “Man, I think you tripped on these crops!” There was a small patch of yellow flowers blooming right there in the lot – “They’re comin up,” Tony shouts. “Man, the crops are comin up!” The look on the boys’ faces is pure wonder when they peek inside the old car and find a beautiful nest filled with delicate little blue eggs. They had found Spring at last.
You can find all of my Book Basket picks in the Global Mama Shop. Happy Reading and Happy Spring!
Let me preface this by saying that I will be returning my library-copy of Jenna Woginrich’s new book, Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life, two weeks late – and not because I haven’t finished reading it. The thing is, it’s packed with so many book recommendations to make note of and web resources to bookmark, that whoever has a hold on the book next will just have to wait. Made from Scratch is the story of Jenna’s transformation from a typical modern person (buying everything from stores) to a modern-day homesteader keeping honeybees, chickens, angora rabbits and a vegetable garden, as well as teaching her two dogs to pull her on a sled (!) over the frozen Idaho winter landscape, while still holding down her 9-5 job.
Jenna with Jazz and Annie, photo courtesytimesunion
Jenna’s book will not teach you everything you need to know about homesteading skills, but what she does so brilliantly is give just enough information to get you fired up. After reading her book (and now her blog, as well), I am dying to raise sheep, build raised vegetable beds, and learn how to play the fiddle! If you think that’s strange, read the book and then tell me you aren’t itching to keep chickens in your backyard, plant tomatoes on your fire escape, or sew your own skirt. Jenna (who now lives in Vermont) makes it clear that anyone can start a backyard homestead and have fun doing it:
When you start producing your own food, even the simplest plot of potatoes, your life regains some of the authenticity we’ve all forgotten about. When you sit back against a tree with a mandolin on your lap instead of lying on the couch with three hundred channels of instantly recordable distraction, you gain a little more from your downtime. You’ll find yourself more humbled, satisfied, and grateful to have found a balance that simplifies your life with the skills of the people who came before you.
That’s what I love so much about Made from Scratch: it’s not just about doing something because it’s green or eco-friendly (though it is), it’s about gaining real satisfaction and pleasure out of life.
Jenna transporting sheep in her station wagon, photo courtesytimesunion
“Point is, it feels good to get dirty, work hard, and slow down.”
You can pick up a copy of the book here, and be sure to check out Jenna’s action-packed blog, Cold Antler Farm, to see what she’s been up to lately.
Can you just wake me up when winter is over? I don’t want to look at any more books with idyllic cabin scenes or pretty ponies trotting in the snow. I don’t know what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but around here it is freezing cold and windy and I’m sick of it! That’s why this month’s Book Basket is crammed full of silliness and adventure – these are books made for laughing your way out of the winter doldrums. All of the images are courtesy of Lookybook; just click on the book to flip the pages, and if it’s too small you can click on the orange googly-eyes to see a bigger version.
1.Lickety-Split, written by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Dusen Petricic
It’s a fact: kids love sound effects. That’s why I was so excited to discover Lickety-Split – it is chock full of fantastic sounds and dynamic illustrations. This is the kind of book that will keep the rapt attention even of the child who claims to hate books. It begs to be read with an enthusiastic voice and then read again, and again, and again.
2. Toilet Tales, written and illustrated by Andrea Wayne von Konigslow
Toilet Tales has us imagine what would happen if animals tried to use a toilet: A goat eats the toilet paper, a beaver builds a dam out of toothbrushes, and a chicken “would sit on it for three days waiting for something to hatch.” If humor is one of the best ways to get children to cooperate, this book should be in every parent’s potty training arsenal. What I want to know is, how is it that this book has been in print for over 20 years and I have only just heard about it?
3. Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice, written by Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley, illustrated by Claudia Mauner
I first heard about this book from soultravelers3, a family traveling around the world – their daughter loved it, and they actually planned their itinerary in Venice around the places visited in the story (read their post here). The narrator is a precocious nine year old New Yorker who embarks on a journey to Venice, Italy, to visit her great aunt Dorothy Pomander. The illustrations in Zoe Sophia are rich and evocative, and the text zips along as Zoe Sophia and Dorothy explore Venice: a visit to theAccademia, shopping on the Rialto, an opera in La Fenice and hot chocolate at Caffè Florian. Zoe and Dorothy are both equally colorful, vivacious characters with a real zest for living, and that is what makes this such an enjoyable read: you can’t help but let a bit of their enthusiasm rub off on you. The publisher recommends this book for ages 6 and up, but I feel sure that 4 year olds will love it as a read aloud, too.
4. Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter, written by Cindy Neuschwander and illustrated by Wayne Geehan
If you haven’t read anything by Cindy Neuschwander, you should do it now: she is the master of writing captivating tales that also just happen to teach essential mathematical concepts. In Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter, a young girl named Per learns to play a game called “Inners and Edges” while visiting relatives. Per makes a connection between the game and a mysterious castle nearby on the island of Immeter – to unlock the castle’s secrets, she has to use the skills she learned in the game. We learn how to calculate the area and perimeter of a circle and a rectangle, and thanks to Neuschwander’s effortless weaving of mathematics into the storyline, we are excited every step of the way. A friend of mine used many of Neuschwander’s books as teaching tools in her math class with great success, and they would make a great addition to a home school curriculum. Recommended for ages 8 – 11, and precocious 6-7 year olds.
5. Boy Soup, written by Loris Lesynski and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
This is the story of a giant with a very, very bad cold. The giant looks for advice in an outdated home medicine book for giants, and comes across a recipe for “Boy Soup” which, it claims, is sure to cure his cold. Well, when the giant goes to scoop up a handful of boys, he accidentaly grabs Kate, too. This is lucky for the boys, because Kate comes up with a plan to fool the giant into thinking that the recipe is actually a soup made by boys, not made of boys. The poetic language in the book makes it a perfect read aloud choice, and the Giant’s lines just beg to be read in a thundering voice.
There is just something about coloring books and a fresh pack of crayons that kids find irresistible. But aside from choosing which colors to use, they don’t leave much room for creativity…until now. There has been an explosion of creative coloring books in recent years that leave more of each page open to the child’s imagination. Susan Striker’s Anti-Coloring Book series was a pioneer in this new form of coloring book; the image above is a page from The First Anti-Coloring Book: Creative Activities for Ages 6 and Up. These open-ended coloring books are such a refreshing change from the typical Disney characters, don’t you think? Have a look at a few more:
Did you notice the worms on the dress in the second picture? In Rosie Flo’s Animals, all of the outfits have hidden creatures
I also love the series of “really giant” coloring books by Taro Gomi (beloved author of the eternal classic Everyone Poops), including Scribbles, Doodles, Squiggles, and Doodle All Year. The illustrations are friendly and simple, and each page encourages the child to add something to the picture. Check out this page from Doodles:
I am a big fan of craigslist and freecycle, but it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. Enter swaptree: a new site devoted to making it easy to trade books, music, movies, and video games with other swaptree members in the US. It just takes a few minutes to sign up, [...]
In Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne’s new craft book, Pet Projects: The Animal Knits Bible, the talented pair tackles the weirdly wonderful world of crafting for pets. Equally brilliant as a coffee table book or practical guide, Muir and Osborne unveil such radical inventions as the Puppy Papoose and Tortoise Hibernation Tent. In an interview [...]
This weekend, I was lucky enough to view an exhibition of the original artwork of children’s book author and illustrator David Macaulay at the RISD Museum in Providence, and I was blown away! I have always loved Macaulay’s books (he published his first in 1973, and has had a prolific career ever since), but it [...]
As a teacher, I have learned that certain subjects are irresistible to kids. Year after year, there were children in my classes obsessed with certain things: pirates, superheroes, worms, bears, space, etc. Sometimes one obsession would overtake the entire class at once and soon our classroom would be transformed into a secret pirate hideout, space [...]