The Green Ember Book Party

We recently listened to the audiobook version of The Green Ember by SD Smith. We loved it. This well-written story follows two rabbits, Heather and her brother Picket, from their ordaniary and safe home life to an unexpected wild and dangerous lifestyle. In the story, Heather and Pickett watch as their home is destroyed, their family disappears, their loyalty is tested, their courage is developed, and their spirit of adventure is pushed beyond limits. They fight off wolf enemies, learn about their family history, and meet new friends along the way. SD Smith uses the hashtag, #rabbitswithswords on social media and that is an appropriate and shortened explanation of The Green Ember. This books feels old; the language and story feels like you threw rabbits into a Peter Pan/Swiss Family Robinson/Robinson Cruscoe story. But it is so riveting and exciting.

We loved listening to this book as a family. My kids, who are 5 years old and younger loved The Green Ember. I’m sure this has a LOT to do with the superb narration of Joel Clarkson. Joel did a phenomenal job of creating distinct voices for EACH character and maintaining their voices throughout the audiobook. Honestly, we couldn’t get enough of this story.

After we finished listening to it, I could think of no better way to bring The Green Ember to life than a hike. I wanted our children to experience The Green Ember in the woods. We choose a path at our local nature center that boasted of a suspension bridge and access to a creek. I bought rabbit ears from Target, the kids grabbed our collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle swords, and we packed provisions (sandwiches, carrots, apples, cookies, and a lot of water). Then, we were off.

The day was overcast and cool. As we hiked, we collected treasures of pinecones and sticks. We inspected trees that might have an opening like Heather and Pickett’s home. We kept an eye out on Red Eye Garlickson’s evil wolves (we also talked about how we leave our scent behind).

At the creek, my kids splashed and played in the cool water. Once thoroughly soaked, we continued on with our hike.

This “party” was unconventional for sure, but Heather and Picket’s adventure was unconventional from the life they had known. Watching my kids pretend to be Heather and Picket as they dodged wolves in the middle of the woods was magical.

As we finished our hike, and climbed into our vehicle to go home, my son asked, “Hey! Let’s go home to watch The Green Ember movie!”. Maybe one day The Green Ember movie will be come reality. That would be amazing!

I cannot recommend The Green Ember books enough. It is a fantastic series to listen to or read aloud for the entire family.


Our Favorite Kid Books on Manners

Manners matter, right? As a mom, I spend half my day (it seems) asking my children to say, “Please” or “Thank you”. We’ve recently started working on table manners – specifically, chewing with your mouth closed, etc. Honestly, it can be exhausting. However, we have found some really great books that talk about manners. What sets apart the books I’ve highlighted from a boring how-to list of manners is that these books ARE FUN. They create great conversation to have with your children. I like to ask things like, “What do you think of [insert character’s name]?” Or “Was that kind?”.

Let’s start off with, the books below:


  • Give Please A Chance by James Patterson and Bill O’Reilly: This is a beautifully illustrated book. Using a variety of illustrators, you get many a wide array of exposure to art. It’s wonderful. Aside from the illustrations, each spread provides children with scenarios in which they give please a chance. My kids LOVE reading this book.
  • How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? By Jane Yolen and Mark Teague: This book is brilliantly written. The moms and dads in the story are humans, but their children….well, they are dinosaurs. It’s so witty, parents will LOVE reading this book (and the rest of the books in the How Do Dinosaurs series). Kids ALSO love this book because: 1) Kids LOVE Dinosaurs and 2) The text is hilarious, so they stay very engaged.
  • Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony: It’s no a secret around BookReviewMama.com, that THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS EVER. Yes, my kids love it too! Mr. Panda has doughnuts to give out, but he is having a difficult time finding a polite friend. Ya’ll. This will be a book that you will be delighted to read and re-read AGAIN. It’s amazing.
  • The Pigeon See A Hotdog by Mo Willems. The Pigeon is back! Be prepared to roar with laughter with your kids as the Pigeon wrestles with a decision: to share or not to share?

 


5. No Tooting At Tea by : This book isn’t out yet, but I’m SO EXCITED about a book that is based around a tea party and discusses manners…specifically, “tooting”.

6. Bernstein Bears Forgot Their Manners: This is a classic book all about manners! It’s a throwback to my childhood for sure, but the topics covered in this book are ageless.

7. Tea Rex by Molly Idle: I LOVE Molly Idle. I think her books are so fun. Tea Rex is all about a wonderful tea party that is planned, but there are rules to be followed….but what happens when the guest of honor is a little jurassic?

8. Manners by Margaret Wise Brown: I love Margaret Wise Brown’s work. She’s not afraid to tackle difficult topics (remember, Dead Bird?). Manners is another topic Margaret Wise Brown takes on with beautiful illustrations!

 

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Reader Recommendations: Audiobooks for Kids

Last week, I talked about our favorite audiobooks. This week, I wanted to share the audiobooks YOU, my readers, recommended. My list of books to listen to added up quickly because of your recommendations! Thank you so much!

While this post does contain affiliate links, but it doesn’t charge you! Thank you for supporting my blog!

Some of the links below include the kindle book. Make sure you select Kindle AND the Audible Add On for the audiobook option.

Mouse and The Motorcycle: This book was recommended by several readers. I immediately got it for my kids. We listened to it in just a few days. My kids loved it! I can’t wait to get the other Mouse and The Motoycycle books for them! My kids gave it 5 STARS!

Magic Treehouse Books: my son loves Magic Treehouse books, but I loved the suggestion of listening to them. (If you aren’t familiar with Magic Treehouse books, they follow the adventures of a brother-sister duo. I especially love the sibling relationship!)

Stuart Little: Who can say no to E.B. White? I know I can’t!

Henry Higgins: another Beverly Cleary book! We tried reading Henry Huggins aloud and my kids didn’t seem interested. I’m excited to try the audiobook!

Ramona Books: I have a feeling the sassy adventures of Ramona keep kids interested!

Nate the Great: I wasn’t familiar with Nate The Great, but the reviews on Amazon + the book descriptions confirmed that my kids would LOVE Nate the Great!

Nancy Drew: Another series I had never considered to listen to, but I can imagine Nancy Drew is a super fun listen!

Junie B. Jones: This is a true classic! We also listened to the first book in the series this week. My kids loved it. They gave it 5 Stars! I will say that, Junie B. Does use the word “stupid” or “dumb” a lot, but we used this as an opportunity to talk about whether or not that is kind verbiage.

So many good books! Keeping reading (and listening!)!


Book Review: If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me!

What is it about dinosaurs that kids love so much? It never ceases to amaze me how much they love those HUGE creatures. Several weeks ago, I connected with author Corey Egbert on Instagram. As soon as I saw the dinosaur on the cover of his book, I knew my kids would love this dinosaur book.

I was right. The second I opened the package, my kids grabbed Corey’s book. We immediately read it cover to cover twice. Then, they promptly took the book to my husband to read. Yes, they had us read it to them three times in a row within minutes of opening the package. Anytime my kids insist that we read a book multiple times in a row, I know we’ve hit literary gold. These are the moments I live for; when they say, “READ IT AGAIN!”. That’s perfection. Not surprisingly, after we read Corey’s book multiple times in a row, it inspired an entire morning of fun. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about Corey’s book.

If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me by Corey Egbert is about a young boy named Ben. (Side note: my husband’s name is Ben, so my children roared with laughter that we were reading a story about a KID named Ben!) Ben is adventurous, artistic, and loves to read. Ben is also shy. Very shy. He wants to make friends, but he is more comfortable drawing dinosaurs. However, when he meets Sophie, he realizes they have a lot in common. Ben isn’t sure how he will make friends with Sophie if he is too nervous to talk to her. This book has a delightful ending, which I won’t give away! But, I will tell you this: it’s SO FUN!

Corey’s illustrations are dynamic. He uses 2 main colors in his illustrations, blue and red, as a way to create emphasis in the story. It works! Even my children picked up on the two tone art palette. Once we finished reading If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me for the third time, my children grabbed their art journals, along with red and blue crayons, and began to draw dinosaurs. I love when a book inspires my children’s imaginations. I also LOVE that my children immediately wanted to imitate Corey’s art work. That speaks highly of Corey’s ability to create a story line and artwork that urges children to mimic the story.

If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me is the perfect book for kids who are shy or for kids who struggle making friends. It reminds them to never stop trying to make friends. It also reminds them to stay true to who they are. Both are good reminders for all kids – whether they are shy or not. It’s also perfect for your resident dino lover and/or artist!

Be sure to connect with Corey on his website! Also be sure to check out   The Publisher for If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me, Cedar Fort Publishing. They graciously sent me a copy of If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me.

*Contains affiliate links*

Our Favorite Audiobooks

As much as we love picture books, but I also want my kids enjoy chapter books. One way we do this is with audiobooks. The thing about audiobooks is that when you have a good narrator, the book can feel like it comes alive. My three children are under five years old. I don’t expect them grasp everything in the books we listen to, but I do hope they enjoy the books we listen together.

We have listened to a LOT of books on Librovox using the Podcast App on my iPhone. That has been a great way to listen to fabulous classic literature. We recently started buying audiobooks by adding the audible option to kindle books on Amazon. You can go the traditional route to purchase or borrow audiobook CDs from the library. A lot of libraries also have the option of an app where you can electronically borrow the audiobook. All libraries are different, so be sure to check with your local library.

We have listened to many amazing books, I thought I would share the books we’ve listened to AND what my kids thought. I rated my kids’ reaction based on 5 stars.

1 Star – awful…5 Stars – BEST EVER.

Sherlock Holmes: 3 Stars

My kids: 2 stars. (This probably has to do with their ages. I loved it, but they never asked to listen to it)

Alice in Wonderland: 4 Stars.

(My kids really enjoyed listening to this book. We have the BabyLit Alice in Wonderland board book, so they were familiar with the characters.)

Peter Pan : 5 STARS.

(They LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Peter Pan. It’s almost been a year since we’ve listened to it, and they still ask for it. We will be listening to it again VERY soon)

Mary Poppins : 3 Stars

(They were indifferent to Mary Poppins. I think they would have connected with it better if we had watched the Classic Disney movie Mary Poppins first).

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling : 4 Stars

(They really got a kick out of the stories and characters in Just So Stories. It’s all about talking animals, and they loved that.)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz : 4 Stars

(My kids really loved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We usually listen to audiobooks in the car, but we actually listened to this book at the table during breakfast. They would ask for it with their breakfast.)

The Wind in the Willows : 2 Stars

(This really surprised me, but my kids weren’t big fans of The Wind in the Willows. This surprised me because it’s about talking animals and their adventures. But, I think the storyline was a little slow for their ages. I loved it and finished it without them!)

We are currently listening to The Railway Children. I can’t give any feedback because we just started it.

Do you listen to audiobooks with your family? Share your favorites!

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Preparing for Lent: Looking Towards The Cross

I went to a Christian college where a lot of the students observed Lent. I never really understood how you observed Lent. This has always been a source of frustration for me – because while I understand this is the 40 days leading up to Easter, I didn’t understand how to make it a practical study. Let’s not even talk about how to teach my kids. I felt inadequate to share with my kids something that I felt was important to my faith, but didn’t understand. Until now.

Leighann Marquiss has created a Lent study for families called Looking Towards The Cross. This amazing study is forty days long. For each day, it incorporates a simple craft and Scripture. Leighann has thought of everything in this study. The supplies for crafts needed are listed in Day order. The study is organized to be a 6 day a week study. Each Day builds upon one another. This may seem like a no brainer, but seeing how each day is connect to the day before and the day after, really helped.

For the first time, I felt like I could celebrate and observe Lent. Further more, I feel like I can involve my children in the observation of Lent. I think this will be a great way to begin to prepare my (and my chilfren’s!) heart for Easter.

Ash Wednesday is March 1, so you have time to grab your copy of Looking Towards The Cross to share with your family!

2017 Reading Goals

I started 2016 with one goal: read more. This was for myself. I read to my kids all the time. I love to read. However, I was struggling with finding the time to read. I found myself in the following cycle, read a lot, go months without reading anything, read a lot again. I was tired of that. I wanted to break that cycle and make reading for myself a more consistent presence in my life. So, when I made this goal of “read more”. It meant that I created a GoodReads account, joined their 2016 Reading Challenge (this is all free), and decided I would aim to read 16 books. I estimated I had read no more than 12 books in 2015, I thought that 16 was a manageable goal. Maybe, I thought, if I was lucky, I would even get to 20 books for the year. Instead, I read 75!!!!! books for 2016. Talk about smashing a goal! I did a combination of print books, ebooks, and audiobooks. I definitely counted any chapter book I read aloud to my kids as a book I read too!

As the year progressed, I made little add-on reading goals to my primary “read more” goal. Those goals were:

  • Finish books I had started, but not finished.
  • Read MORE Classics
  • Read a biography on each US President

Having those little add-on goals really helped me when I felt I was in a book rut and I needed help finding my next read.

I truly believe that part of raising readers is letting them see parents/adults read for FUN. It is not unusual for me to take a book outside while my kids are playing or to listen to an audiobook in the car or simply read a chapter or two while they play together inside. I heard Anne Bogel (www.modernmrsdarcy.com) say once that to make room for reading, you have to be read to open a book in those spare moments. So, Anne mentioned carrying a book in her bag or having an audiobook on her phone ready for those little moments she has available throughout her day. That idea of embracing those little moments to read inspired me to be more intentional.

For 2017,  I’m making a reading goal of 80 books! With the following add on goals:

I’m excited for this next year in reading. I think it is going to be a fabulous year! Have you made your reading goals? I would love to know what you plan to read or how many books you are wanting to read in 2017!

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2016: Our Year of Books

fullsizerender1As we are nearing the end of 2016, I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking over the last year. This was the first year, I kept a record of the books I read aloud to my children. It was never about achieving a certain number of books read per month, as much as I was curious to see how many books we actually consumed in a month’s time. Because it wasn’t about reach a number, but more about surrounding ourselves with great works of literature, some months we read just over 20 books, and other months we soared past 100 books in a month’s time.

fullsizerender2I kept track of the books in a simple spiral bound notebook. I leave it on the kitchen counter open so I can quickly jot down the books we read. If we are in the middle of a book marathon (where we are reading book after book at one time), I simply set the book aside and jot it down later. I had one rule, though, even if we read aloud a particular book OVER AND OVER again during the month, we only counted it in the notebook once a month. So, there are a list of books we’ve read multiple times that I only counted once.

Raising readers is such a JOY for me. The ability to spend time with my kids as we read aloud is something I cherish every single day. It’s not always cozy and picturesque on the couch, often times, I’m reading while they are running around or playing with toys. The latter does not discourage me because I know they are listening when I catch them quietly looking at the book long after I’ve finished reading it aloud.

image1For 2016, I am astonished and excited to say that we read over 800 books! This was a healthy mix of picture books, early readers, chapter books, and audio books. We’ve read some incredible books this year. We made many trips to the library (and paid many late book fees). We repaired many books. We’ve rummaged the shelves at thrift stores for “new” books and bought new books from the actual bookstore. We’ve delighted over books as gifts. It has been such a rich journey! I am really excited for 2017. I anticipate we will be reading more amazing books. I have this secret goal of reading every single book in the children’s section of our local library. I know that is a far reaching goal, but it is fun to think about actually running out of options!

In case you are wondering, I thought I would mention some beloved favorites of my kids. A few of the the books they ask to read again and again: Dragons Love Tacos, Where’s Walrus And Penguin?, Ada Twist, Scientist, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, The Bear At Your Sandwich, I Don’t Want To Be A Frog, Please, Mr. Panda. Their favorite audiobook was Peter Pan by JM Barrie. We love The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne. Our 800th book for 2016 was The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson (she truly has captured the spirit of Beatrix Potter).

What were your kids’ favorite books they read this year? Share in the comments! I would love to know!

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The Story Shop

For 2017, one of my blog goals is to visit more independent bookstores. So once a month, I will be visiting a independent bookstore and sharing with my readers what makes them so incredibly special. Even though it isn’t 2017 YET, I couldn’t wait.  I had to jump-start this project to bring you The Story Shop.

img_0848Nestled in the beautiful downtown of Monroe, Georgia, you will find The Story Shop. This independent bookstore specializes in children’s books. It’s not just a bookstore loaded from floor to ceiling with books. The Story Shop is an experience that is enchanting. When my friend first told me about The Story Shop it sounded too perfect. img_0829Too good to be true. But it is perfect and it is true. It took a couple of weeks to be able to go, but it was so worth the one hour drive to see this bookstore for myself. And I fell in love! The message of The Story Shop is simple: make books fun for kids. (I LOVE THIS.) The Story Shop has done this in beautifully creative ways.

From the moment you walk in, you are greeted by subtle nods to classic books. Beloved characters and favorite scenes from favorite books come alive. There is Peter Pan’s shadow dancing across the wall (just above the teepee), there is a ship wheel and billowing sails inviting children to sail away to find Moby Dick.

If your child fancies herself to be from a lineage of royalty, don’t worry, The Story Shop has a delightful bed where mattresses topple over each other beckoning princesses to confirm what they know: they are royal. Oh, but I would be so remiss if I didn’t mention the Hobbit Hole and the Wardrobe. img_0825The Hobbit Hole has a door in a lush green color. The Hobbit Hole welcome sign quotes JRR Tolkien and promises children that Hobbit Holes equal comfort.

As you make your way to the Wardrobe, you will cross over the yellow brick road. The Wardrobe takes you to story time. YES! To go to story time, you must go through the wardrobe.  We went during story time. My kids (despite being active and engaged readers at home) did not sit well during story time. But the owner’s daughter did not seem phased as two out of my three children walked out while she read. She was expressive, kind and welcoming to the children during story time.

img_0838I LOVE how The Story Shop welcomes children. On the counter, there is an enormous jar labeled bookworms. It is full of gummy worms. And, if your child gets permission from their parent, they can get a bookworm snack. There are dragon tails to play with and the teepee is full of pillows to curl up and read. There are engaging Melissa & Doug toys available for sale.

Let’s NOT forget to talk about the books. The Story Shop has tables and bookshelves of books available for sale. It is so evident they carefully curate beautifully illustrated, modern and classic children’s books. There is a healthy balance of picture books, board books, pop-up books, and chapter books. There is a lovely display of BabyLit Books which made me SO, SO HAPPY!

Follow The Story Shop on social media on Facebook and Instagram. Of course, it goes without say,  make a trip to visit them. The Story Shop is doing some really special things to make incredible literature come to life in a way that is breathtaking.

 

A Gift Guide for Book Lovers

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Tis the Season!! Well, it’s almost the season of gift buying for your favorite reader. I’ve created a list of Books and Book related items that would be so awesome to give as gifts. For this year’s Gift Guide, I chose books I have loved reading. The books I haven’t been able to stop talking about.  I chose books my kids have LOVED. Books we enjoy reading aloud together: books that are FUN to read aloud and to listen as it’s being read aloud. I also selected books we have read over and over again. Lastly, I chose book or reading themed items.

Books:

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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Selection Series (YA Lit)

Dishonor

Silent Night Shadows

Soul H2O

 

Children’s Books:image Photo Jun 22, 9 22 16 AM

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Are We There Yet?

Please, Mr. Panda
Dragons Love Tacos
Flora and the Peacocks
Muddle & Match Series

Baby Lit Books

Shine A Light books

The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers

Robo-Sauce

Aree Chung’s Ninja and Ninja! Attack of the Clam books

 

Literary Items:

Book Shirt

Book Bag

Alice in Wonderland Mug

Repurposed Vintage Book Journal

Wooden Book-Ends

Book Lover Magnets

Personal Book Stamp

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