And here I have yet another recommendation for a horse book! Of course, the problem with reading all these books with my daughter is that she keeps begging for her own horse. (No.)
We really like this new series by Jessie Haas--Bramble and Maggie. So far there are just two titles, but hopefully there will be more. In Horse Meets Girl, Maggie is looking for her own horse. At the same time Bramble’s owner is looking for a new home for him. Presently he is expected to just walk in circles giving kids riding lessons and he is very bored and acts out. His owner knows he needs to find the right person. A few girls try him out, but Bramble knows they are not right. When Maggie arrives and tries him out they work together and find out they suit each other.
In Give and Take Maggie and Bramble are still getting used to each other. Though Maggie’s parents make brief appearances in the books, the action is squarely on Maggie, who very independently cares for Bramble, including taking him out riding by herself. This story has a very funny part about a naughty chicken next door that keeps getting out.
These are short chapter easy readers that are perfect for sharing together. They reminded us a lot of the Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa books (which we love and wish there were more of) because of the tight bond between the girl and the horse, and the horse having a bit of a mischievous personality.
We’ve listened to two audiobooks featuring aliens and UFOs, each funny and with surprises.
The Get Rich Quick Club is by Dan Gutman, who is always good for a fast and funny story. In this case two friends hatch a plan to earn a million dollars one summer. It involves selling an alien sighting photo and story to a newspaper, but the problem is there are no real aliens, right? We listened to this quite a while ago and it has stuck in my head because of the very funny punch line to the whole book. I was so startled that I rewound it and made us listen to the ending twice!
More recently we listened to Aliens on Vacation by Clete Smith. (This was probably a bit old for my kindergartener, but she does a good job following the story and just ignores the parts she doesn’t get. She is actually the one who was able to accurately remember the title for this post! It’s probably a more ideal book for 3rd-5th grade.) David has to spend the summer with his grandmother in a small town in Washington (all the way across the country from his home in Florida.) He’s never really spent time with her and doesn’t know what to expect. He’s surprised to find she lives in and runs a bed and breakfast called The Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast. It’s a strange place and many of its guests seems particularly odd. There’s a girl who could become a friend for the summer, but she has this crazy idea that his grandmother’s guests are aliens and is determined to prove it. This was a very entertaining story with a wonderful ending.
Happy Read Across America Day, readers! Yesterday, March 2, was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, also known as National Read Across America Day. The day is celebrated in schools across the country today. Last year I made us green eggs and ham for breakfast, but think I’ll take a pass this year. This day has always been a lot of fun for me when I worked-Dr. Seuss storytimes, visits to classrooms to read aloud, and all kinds of special events. But really, all you need to do to celebrate, is take some time today to read aloud with your family. Grab a Dr. Seuss book and delight in the rhythm and rhyme of the language (Yertle the Turtle was my favorite story), help a new reader with a Piggie & Gerald book, or share a chapter of one of your own favorite childhood books–just find a book and get reading!
Here’s a suggestion for some classic family read aloud fun–Shel Silverstein. I can happily recall my dad reading aloud Shel Silverstein poems after dinner. When I went to find our copies of A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends they seemed to have gone missing. I bought a copy of each and wrapped them up for Christmas. It has been such a pleasure to pick up one of them and start reading aloud the poems. The kids love them and the poems are funny, familiar friends I’m happy to see again.
Here’s to happy reading!
I checked out Ant and Honey Bee: A Pair of Friends in Winter from the new book shelf and was excited to discover a new longer easy reader. After we read it and loved it I found two other titles to place on hold. Interestingly both turned out to be the same book. It seems the first Honey Bee and Ant book was published as a picture book way back in 2005, then repackaged as an easy reader five years later, and now there’s another one with the same format, so I’m sensing now a new series. That’s a long way of saying-there are only two Honey Bee and Ant books-don’t be fooled! But do indeed check them out.
Honey Bee and Ant are two pals who like to do everything together. Sadly for Ant, winter is not a time for two insect friends to be together. Before it gets too wintery out he wants to have one last get together with Honey Bee. He sends him a bee-mail and anxiously awaits a reply. The reply seems to take forever as Ant rapidly goes through all of his ideas for one-person fun. And when it arrives Honey Bee says he is alone, which means he wants to stay alone, but Ant takes as an invitation and promptly goes over to Honey Bee’s hive, where the bee is grouchy and determined to be by himself. This grouchy determination to keep a friend out and the cheerful determined nature of the other friend reminded us of A Visitor for Bear. (And together they remind me of another fantastic pair of easy reader friends-Frog and Toad.) It was hilarious how some actual facts are in there (as part of an admonition to not waste the honey–”I had to visit two million flowers!”). This was very funny and sweet and G. Brian Karas’s illustrations were just perfect. This is another one of those titles hitting the sweet spot for us of ”longer than a picture book, but we can still read it all at once.”
So, next we read Ant and Honey Bee: What a Pair OR, the new version is called Ant and Honey Bee: A Pair of Friends at Halloween, which is really the first book and introduces the characters, but it doesn’t matter what order you read them in. In this story you get to meet the other insect neighbors, as Ant and Honey Bee are getting ready to go to a Halloween costume party. They are tired of going as Pilgrims and try hard to think of another set of matching items they can go as [a trope I LOVE in books and movies, and side note: one of my favorite childhood books, and the one that got me hooked on boarding school fiction, was The Secret Language. In which the two girls go to a Halloween party dressed as ice cream cones.] They finally decide on a washer and dryer and make their costumes out of boxes. So clever! Unfortunately their costumes are not so obvious to the others, but then an unexpected event has a happy outcome.
I’m definitely looking forward to more of these, and see Ant and Honey Bee as two new great friends to keep your eye on.
You may recall from a past post that I get easily annoyed by people casually writing “lose” when the mean “loose” and vice versa, or writing “alot”, or misusing apostrophes. Therefore, I was completely thrilled by Greedy Apostrophe: A Cautionary Tale by Jan Carr, illustrated by Ethan Long. A very funny picture book that is not boringly didactic, or a boring punctuation lesson, but simply a funny story that will hopefully get into kids’ heads (you see how I used that apostrophe there?) and help them remember how to use apostrophes correctly. The story begins when punctuation marks go to the hiring hall to receive jobs. Commas, question marks, and exclamation points all get tasks. But then all that’s left is a job for a possessive. Everyone gets nervous because Greedy Apostrophe is well known as kind of a jerk who wants to insert himself all over the place. The Director sternly goes over the rules for his usage and off he goes. Greedy Apostrophe does exactly what he shouldn’t. At a toy store he puts himself into signs for Puppets, Marbles, Yo-Yos, and Kites turning them into Puppet’s, Marble’s, Yo-Yo’s, and Kite’s. He is naughty and terrible, but when he tries it in a school the class quickly sees the mistakes and tries to catch him. Even if I didn’t like the lesson of this story, I’d still think it was a fun read-aloud as I enjoy books like this where something unusual is animated (like the Scrambled States of America, crayons, or Chopsticks.)
What a sweet story! Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin is about Brimsby, a hat maker who leads a quiet routine life in his village. Every day he makes hats and drinks tea with his friend. But then his friend decides to follow his own dream of being a sea captain and leaves. Brimsby is very lonely and the changing view outside his window shows that quite a long time passes. Out for a walk one snowy day he comes across some birds who are having trouble in the snow. A clever and unexpected choice turns Brimsby’s life around as it brings him new friends, new happiness, and new adventures. If I was doing a storytime about hats this would be a new book to add to my hat collection.
Noah and the Space Ark by Laura Cecil, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark is an interesting story to me because of it simultaneously being a retelling of Noah’s Ark at the same time as a futuristic story with the message that we’d better take care of our earth. I guess I found it so interesting because she didn’t have to change that much of the original story to make it work for this modern message. I think my kids just thought it was a good story, liked the pictures, and could see the parallels to the original story. In the future the earth is very over-crowded and dirty. Noah and his family (who even retain the Biblical names Ham, Shem, and Japhet) run the only park left, which is a green sanctuary for the earth’s last birds, animals, trees, and flowers. As Earth heats up and the air worsens the plants struggle to grow and one day Noah finds a bird that is dying. He takes this as a sign that they must build a spaceship and find a new place to live. The cross view of the space ark is marvelous, showing how they all fit in. Two by two they board the space-ark and flee the new truly horrifying looking dark planet. 40 days and 40 nights pass before they find a new place, which looks like a beautiful Eden. They vow to care for this new planet. I happen to like Clark’s illustration style and found this a very heart-warming story.
Little Horse by Betsy Byars, illustrated by David McPhail is a charming little chapter book. It’s very short-perfect for a newly independent reader who is past the Easy Readers, but not ready for anything too difficult or long. In our case I read it aloud to my kindergartener in one sitting, and then my 3rd grader (and husband) read it on their own. (Very quickly-each chapter is basically 1 1/2 pages.) You see, there was one aspect of this story that so surprised us we couldn’t wait for the other people in the house to read it so we could ask them if they were surprised, too. (They were.) Little Horse lives in the valley with his mother, but one day while drinking from the stream he falls in and the current sweeps him away. It’s a sad adventure as nature takes him further and further away from home. I found the ending very bittersweet and was thrilled to find there was a sequel. So, after we’d all caught up I read aloud the sequel for all of us. Little Horse on His Own was somewhat less successful in charming us. Little Horse just encounters one obstacle after another as he tries to make his way home and it’s very plot advancement heavy. That said, we were all happy with the conclusion to this story. I feel like it’s hard to find good books that are this length, so I was really happy with this discovery.
Oversized and with lovely pictures Captain Cat written and illustrated by Inga Moore is a wonderfully original story. The kindergartener, third-grader, and adult reading this all loved it. Captain Cat is so called because he loves cats and has so many of them on his trading ship. In fact, he’s not a very good trader because he keeps trading things for cats, which is why people just call him Captain Cat. One day he decides to not go trading, but go exploring, which is really what he wants. He discovers a small isolated island where he is happily welcomed by the queen (a child!) The people on this island have never seen cats before and they are absolutely enchanted. And since they are overrun by pesky rats they are even more enamored when they find out that cats kill rats. The story does not end here, but takes a few more twists and turns, making a very satisfying story. I hope you’ll go check this one out of the library because it is a great story-not gimmicky or flashy-your family will enjoy.
On the other hand Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty by Lisa Pliscou, pictures by Tom Dunne is completely gimmicky and hilarious for parents. I’m not sure our kids got this very much because the joke is definitely for adults, but they liked it and I thought it was funny. Made to look and sound just like a Dick and Jane book (side note: we have a Dick and Jane collection, which I’d always dismissed as retro and funny, but my learning to read daughter recently picked it up and was thrilled with her ability to easily read a story in it. So maybe they were on to something.) in both writing and illustration, with the change that it has all surfer language. When the dog, Bud, eats Dude’s burrito at the taco stand it says, “Uh oh. Bud has chowed Dude’s burrito. Most heinous, Bud! Bud is harshing on Dude’s mellow. Wait! It’s cool! Betty shares her nachos. What a non-bogus babe Betty is.” Dude and Betty are pretty fun kids who just want to enjoy some tasty waves, and there’s a pretty funny ending to the simple story. Perhaps what tickled my husband and I most were the endorsement quotes on the back cover as they were all from people in surfing, including a “professor of surf culture and history.” Even land-locked kids can enjoy picking up some surf lingo from this.
Back to the more sensitive thoughtful stories with Clouds for Dinner, by Lynne Rae Perkins. My husband was reading this aloud and my attention was immediately captured because basically I want my family to be like the family in this story. And, we are a bit, but we’re also like the noisy family, too. Janet’s family lives in a house at the top of 87 steps. Her mother and father loves art, music, poetry, and are always observing the world around them and encouraging their children to do so too. They are an artsy dreamy family. Janet is excited to be invited to spend the night at her aunt Peppy and Uncle Tim’s house. Life there is very different-recliners in the tv room, big noisy family meals three times a day, car washes, soccer games, and more. Janet loves it! But when she wakes early in the morning and sees the beautiful dawn changing the colors of the sky she realizes that no one in this family appreciates that. Wearying of your own family until you experience another one is a pretty common theme both in real life and books, but this is an especially nice tale of it.