Posts Tagged ‘families’
Posted in fiction, picture books, wordless books, tagged book reviews, children's literature, families, grandmothers, love, parents and children, picture books, Valentine's Day on February 13, 2017| Leave a Comment »
This is My Home, This is My School, written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean
published in 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Okay. This is a book I’ve been waiting for.
Jonathan Bean has delivered an authentic, marvelously-chaotic, loving glimpse of a homeschooling family who charge into the juiciness of life, explore and experiment with abandon, make messes, cultivate curiosity, and embrace the world as their classroom.
Relying on his own experience growing up in this environment, Bean is able to capture — finally! — that mixture of mayhem and creativity and mom, energy and inventiveness and freedom; the seamless intermingling of learning, living, playing, and working; the feast of ideas spread everywhere and responded to by various ones in their various ways.
This is how our homeschool looked, too, and it is a curious joy, and somehow a validating experience, to see it presented so positively, so artistically, with such verve and good humor.
If you’ve read Bean’s earlier book, Building Our House (and if you haven’t — you should) you will easily recognize the setting — that homey house set among Pennsylvania’s rolling, wooded hills — and family. The children are older now, though, and their independent, high-spirited lives are portrayed in much more rambunctious line and color than previously. There’s a grand lot to take in, in every scene.
Homeschooling is an unfamiliar world to most families, and its portrayal in children’s literature is, understandably, scant. A character might be homeschooled out of some sort of dire necessity, but soon enough they return to “real” school. (Surviving the Applewhites is a delightful exception.) I applaud Farrar Straus Giroux and Jonathan Bean for publishing a new viewpoint of this odd lifestyle some of us have adopted. Thank you.
Certainly homeschooling is not a practical choice, nor the best choice, for most families. I hope that if you’re part of the vast majority of the population who aren’t home educators, you’ll still treat yourself to this book. The delights of living and learning together belong to all of us, to cultivate all our lives. For that reason, I think you’ll come away from this brief tour of one boy’s homeschool encouraged to, as Bean says, scavenge for something to learn in every moment.
Ages 3 and up. And P.S. — There’s a swell scrapbook of vintage Bean family photographs in the end pages. Too fun.
Posted in fiction, picture books, wordless books, tagged beach vacations, beachcombing, book reviews, books for toddlers, children's literature, families, grandmothers, humorous stories, picnics, picture books, summer, summer holidays, wordless books on July 27, 2015| 2 Comments »
This week — ten gracefully-aging books celebrating summer at the beach.
a beloved Frank Asch favorite
Sand Cake, written and illustrated by Frank Asch
originally published in 1978; this edition 2015 by Aladdin
One of my favorites from when my kids were small, this story shines with imagination and warmth.
Baby Bear and Papa Bear concoct one clever, make-believe Sand Cake, while Mama Bear provides a scrumptious alternative. Soooo imaginative and affectionate. A bunch of Frank Asch’s old titles are being republished. My advice: Scoop them up! Ages 2 and up.
a pleasant Swedish beach story
Will Goes to the Beach, by Olof and Lena Landström
originally published in Sweden in 1992; English edition 1995 by R&S Books
Will and Mama are heading to the beach in this carefree, comfortable tale from the team giving us the Pim stories.
After a long bike ride, they finally arrive just in time for the rain to start. But does that stop Will and Mama? Not a bit! A briefly told, calm & happy story of seashores and swimming and picnics. Ages 2 and up.
heading down under for an Aussie holiday
Greetings from Sandy Beach, written and illustrated by Bob Graham
published in Australia in 1990; first U.S. edition 1992 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Quintessential Bob Graham goodness here, with this marvelously-average family jaunting off to the beach for a couple of days.
Carsickness. A motorcycle gang. A busload of schoolkids. Difficulties with tent set-up. Graham excels at making the mundane feel as endearing as it truly is. Enjoy this sweet, funny glimpse of real family life, with ages 4 and up.
off to the Oregon coast with Grandma
Grandma Summer, written and illustrated by Harley Jessup
published in 1999 by Viking
Young Ben is being whisked off to spend time with his grandma at her old cottage on the shore. Ben is not a fan of this plan.
It doesn’t take long, though, for the simplicity and beauty of this place, and the moxie and joy of his most excellent grandma, to capture Ben’s heart. A delightful, warm, and refreshing read for ages 4 and up.
British beach superheroes, up next
Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey, written and illustrated by Mini Grey
published in the UK in 2011; first U.S. edition 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf
If you haven’t met Traction Man yet, you’ll want to make his acquaintance. He’s a small action figure whose best pal is his pet Scrubbing Brush. Together, these two have some mighty adventures.
This time it’s off for a holiday at the beach where they encounter underwater creatures, accidentally wash out to sea, and meet some dollies named Beach-Time Brenda! Funny and action-packed, with a bit of a Toy Story feel, for ages 5 and up.
a tender toddler tale from Helen Oxenbury
Tom and Pippo on the Beach, written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
published in the UK in 1992; first U.S. edition 1993 by Candlewick Press
Tom and Pippo are some of Helen Oxenbury’s most enduring and endearing characters. If you have toddlers, you should seek out some of these little books; they’ll be loved to death.
In this episode, Tom and Pippo (his snuggly monkey) spend a day with Dad at the beach and have some interesting encounters with hats. Extremely simple and simply perfect, for ages 1 and up.
sheer craziness, along the coast of Maine
Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
published in 2000 by Chronicle Books
Chris Van Dusen’s electric-bright illustrations, bursting with vigor, sunshine, and pandemonium will draw anyone into this wild tale.
Magee and his faithful dog Dee are heading out to sea for a pleasure ride when they run amok with a pod of whales and Whoa Nellie! — does the day ever turn out unexpectedly! A blast of crazy adventure and humor, for ages 4 and up.
one helpful chicken at the beach
Lottie’s New Beach Towel, written and illustrated by Petra Mathers
first published 1998; this edition 2001 by Aladdin Paperbacks
Lottie the chicken receives a cheerful new beach towel — cherry red with white polka-dots — just in time for her beach picnic with her pal, Herbie.
And what a handy towel it turns out to be! Find out all its fortuitous uses including saving the day for a beach wedding, in this perky little story, for ages 2 and up.
town mouse and the country mouse — the beach sequel
Charlie and Tyler at the Seashore, written and illustrated by Helen Craig
published in 1995 by Candlewick Press
From the illustrator of the darling Angelina Ballerina books comes this second episode in the lives of Charlie, the country mouse and his cousin, Tyler, the town mouse.
This time they’re off to the beach and what a lot of adventures await them! Far too many for Charlie’s tastes. Boat rides, toy theaters, and a peckish spell in a seagull nest! Home sweet home never felt so good. Ages 4 and up.
an epic adventure for some kittens, courtesy of John Goodall
The Surprise Picnic, a wordless book by John Goodall
published in 1977 by Atheneum
No one does wordless quite like John Goodall. With his half-page turns that change the scene and advance the story, and his adorable small creatures in their charming English environs. Fantastic.
It’s a beautiful day and Mama Cat is taking her kittens on a picnic. Off they row across the bay to a secluded beach where they spread out the tea and tarts. That’s when the surprises begin however, as the most extraordinary sequence of adventures unfolds! Will this trio ever return to their comfy home? A treat for ages 2 and up.
More beach and summer titles are listed in the Subject Index under Seasons — Summer.
Why not beat the heat with some lemonade and a good book!
Posted in fiction, tagged abandonment, belonging, book reviews, children's literature, china, families, foster children, middle grade novels, novels in verse, orphans, special needs on March 24, 2015| Leave a Comment »
Red Butterfly, by A.L. Sonnichsen, illustrated by Amy June Bates
published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Such a yearning in the human heart — to belong someplace. To belong to someone — a family; a group. Someone.
Once I wrote the word “belonging” here, I began to wonder: What is the origin of this word? What does it mean, to belong?
Apparently it comes from Middle English. It means “to be appropriately assigned to.” Here — Here is where you can thrive.
The “long” part carries the sense of being together-with. There is a sense of a rightness about the place and company you find yourself together with. It’s where you fit. It’s the just right spot where we feel settled and at peace, in the company of people who know and love us.
Red Butterfly is a poignant story of one girl’s hunger for belonging in the midst of a tumult of displacement. It’s a riveting, emotional novel-in-verse, and I highly recommend it for middle-grade readers through adults.
Kara is Chinese by birth, abandoned as an infant, and raised in China by an American woman. Her upbringing has been peculiar. Chinese on the outside; American on the inside. Her mother cloisters herself in their apartment and cautions Kara against over-mingling with others.
We are as much in the dark as Kara about the strangeness of this life. Why is this devoted mother so secretive? Why is an American woman staying locked away in China while her husband and grown daughter live in Montana? Why must Kara remain so isolated?
With the answers comes a monumental upheaval in Kara’s life. A tearing away that is bewildering, frightening, and searing to her very core.
In one terrible flash, strangers, it seems, have more of a say in where Kara belongs than she does. Who decides who we are and where we belong? How do we face separation from the people we love and places where we feel at home? Can we be separated from our true self and how do we right that? How do we adjust to new spaces of belonging?
The book employs a metaphor of metamorphosis, with sections titled Crawl, Dissolve, and Fly. Kara is an immensely compelling character and we feel, viscerally, the huge, raw emotions of her journey. It’s an amazingly honest, unflinching story, borne out of the author’s experience and others’ experiences. Small, whispery, illustrations in black-and-white complement the mood of the text.
Although I believe throngs of people will love this book, let me recommend it especially to a few groups of people:
Third-culture-kids and their families.
Foster families and fostered children ages 11 and up.
Those with a heart for orphans and adoption, especially international or special needs adoptions.
Posted in early readers, fiction, picture books, poetry, tagged babies, book reviews, children's literature, children's poetry, families, parenting, siblings, Tanzania on January 28, 2015| 3 Comments »
I am sure many of them hit the sweet spot, but honestly, in our household the new babies were warmly welcomed, kissed, doted on, sung to…most of the time, at least.
When my kids were small, I always looked for stories that were realistic, yet mainly poured the love on the newest members of the family. Here are five that do just that:
This little squirt, Oscar, is six month’s old.
It’s not nearly time for his full-blown, one-year-old, birthday party. But…
“The truth is, no one can wait for his whole birthday.”
Big sister Millie thinks he is SO CUTE. So do Dad and Mom.
So this awesome family is just going ahead with it and celebrating at the halfway point. Why not?! It’s a perfect day for it.
Grab a picnic lunch and a chocolate birthday cake. Pop Oscar in the stroller and hike it on over to Bellevue Hill. Listen to all the adoring comments about the little podger as everyone nearby stops to greet him and sing the birthday song. Millie and Oscar even soak in a candlelit bath at day’s end — one last flare of half-birthday magic.
I always say this, but…I love Bob Graham’s work. This endearing book makes the commonplace, extraordinary. It makes family love feel as warm as a sunny picnic and as approachable as a tuna sandwich. Amazing, beautifully-human, pen and watercolor illustrations pull us right into the events and emotions of the day. A lovely read for ages 4 and up.
A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
published in 1964 by HarperCollins
All the Frances stories are gems which I hope you’ve already discovered.
If by any chance you’ve missed them, A Baby Sister for Frances is a fine place to start.
Frances’ family has just welcomed new baby Gloria into their home and Frances is finding it a mite hard. Mother hasn’t had time to iron her favorite blue dress so she has to wear the yellow one. Frances prefers raisins on her oatmeal but Mother hasn’t quite got the shopping done so it’s bananas.
She packs her tiny special blanket, her alligator doll, a box of prunes, and five chocolate sandwich cookies, announces her departure, and runs…under the dining-room table.
From this cozy spot, Frances eavesdrops on her parents — two of the cleverest parents on the planet — and what she overhears convinces her that a) Gloria needs her and b) so do her parents. It’s a happy reunion — complete with chocolate cake.
Funny, warmhearted, true-to-life, the Frances stories are oft-quoted in our family even decades after reading them. They work as early-readers and are terrific read-alouds. If you get the audio version narrated by Glynis Johns, you will adore her marvelous, raspy voice and cheery versions of Frances’ songs.
Ages 3 and up.
Elizabeti’s Doll, by Stephanie Stuve Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale
published in 1998 by Lee & Low Books
On the dry savannahs under the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Elizabeti lives with her mama and new baby brother, Obedi.
Elizabeti is utterly smitten with Obedi.
She wants so much to have her own baby to care for. So she looks for one and finds the perfect thing: a rock. Just the right heft and size and smoothness. She names it Eva.
As Mama goes through the day caring for Obedi, Elizabeti does the same with Eva, bathing, feeding, burping, changing, toting.
But when she has to leave her rock-baby for a moment to fetch water, Eva goes missing. There’s a bit of panic and sadness until Elizabeti finally finds that missing baby of hers, just in time to sing her a lullaby and fall asleep.
Of course, I dearly love the East African setting of this story, beautifully brought to us through Christy Hale’s illustrations. The acacia trees, kangas, metal basins, corrugated metal roofs as well as the vast plains and handsome people plant this story firmly in Tanzania.
The story itself is so sweet and universal. Perfect story for big sisters, ages 3 and up.
Katie is a dandy preschooler and Olly is her baby brother.
The poems and ramblings in this collection by Shirley Hughes are all written in Katie’s voice as she narrates their lovely, ordinary days together.
Snuggling in bed. Walking in a frosty winter park. Ballet class. Dad’s pancakes. This is Katie’s and Olly’s world.
Unlike the other stories on today’s list, Olly plays a decided backseat role in Katie’s activities. She, after all, is the big sister, and Olly is too little to dance properly, to venture out after dark to see fireworks, to understand about birthdays.
Yet he’s there, a wriggly, busy, beaming part of her world. Sometimes a tish cranky. Mostly a fine companion.
As always, Shirley’s inimitable paintings portray the comfy, loving, gladsome world of sturdy preschoolers, mussy homes, shaggy dogs, English parks with such grace, you feel at home right in the pages. Lots of outdoor time and creative play. Perfect for ages 2 and up.
This semi-autobiographical account is charming and sweet, with a dash of Italian spice!
Tommy comes from a large extended family. Apparently he has learned over the years just what he likes in a baby.
So when his mother tells him that she is going to have a new baby, Tommy promptly asks if it can please be a baby sister “with a red ribbon in her hair.”
His mother replies in Secret Parent Language: “We’ll see.”
There’s lots of work to be done, getting ready for this baby, but finally Tommy’s Italian grandmother arrives to care for him while mother and father are at the hospital. She’s the spicy part of the story!
Tommy does get a baby sister, but sadly, he isn’t allowed to visit her in the hospital because of a chicken pox epidemic. He has to wait, and wait, and wait, until mother and baby Maureen come home.
And then!! What a surprise awaits Tommy!
Warm as toast, with Tomie’s signature figures and faces that have such tremendous child-appeal. Ages 3 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, tagged book reviews, children's literature, clean water, education, equality, families, humanitarian issues, microfinance, multicultural kids lit, poverty, public health, refugees, revolving loans, UN Rights of the Child, war, world citizens on March 3, 2014| 3 Comments »