Not Your Average Bears

goldiWe like all sorts of Goldilocks variations, and Leigh Hodgkinson’s Goldilocks and Just One Bear is an especially delightful twist on the classic.  The bear suddenly finds himself in an overwhelming city, dazed and confused and lost.  He seeks refuge in the penthouse of Snooty Towers and enters a vacant and lovely apartment.  In a familiar turn events he tries out food, seating, and finally a bed. The human mom, dad, and little girl arrive home to find the disarray, which seems somewhat familiar to the mom. The startling twist made us laugh and also provided a charming and sweet ending.


winterWhen I saw the title and cover of The Winter Visitors by Karel Hayes, I immediately thought, “It’s like the Fourteen Bears in Winter!” And while it’s not exactly, there is a similarity in one aspect.  As the book opens you see a family packing up their summer cabin-sheets cover furniture, belongings are packed, things are tidied, and a boy’s red cap blows out into the lake.  As they drive away you see a bear family watching their departure. And then, the bears move in.  All through the fall and early winter you see them enjoying the cabin and all it has to offer. There are fun connections to the human family, such as going fishing and catching the red cap.  Eventually they begin their winter nap, snug in the cabin, and when spring arrives they clean up and move out just in time for the return of the people. There are lots of fun details and parallels to look for in this, as well as being an enjoyable take on the familiar concept of “what happens when we’re not there.”

A Sweet Life

cupcakwA pair of sweet books for today! What’s sweeter than a delicious cupcake? Not much. Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper does one of my favorite things and personifies food (like in Arnie the Talking Doughnut or Stop That Pickle!) A vanilla cupcake with creamy white vanilla frosting is very happy on a plate with other cupcakes, all of which are very colorful and festive. She begins to feel a bit plain, especially when they are all chosen and she is left behind. Along comes a candle who is also feeling plain and mopey, especially when compared to all the other fancy candles that are around.  He suggests that Cupcake would feel better if she just had something decorative on top of her. He comes up with all kinds of crazy ideas (pancakes, a squirrel) and of course it’s very clear that the best decoration of all that would solve both their problems would be for the candle to be atop her. Simple and enjoyable, and it reminded me of Spoon and Chopstick.

thisplusThis Plus That: Life’s Little Equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a lovely book that shows the special equations that make up life. For example, laughter + keeping secrets + sharing=best friend.  Cupcake up above could use this lesson: anything + sprinkles=better.  And my husband read this page three times loudly: chores ÷ everyone=family. Charming illustrations by Jen Corace show cheerful rosy cheeked children acting out the lesson. A sweet book.




Reading Together

readtoI’ve been aware of You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley, for a long time, but somehow never read it with my son.  My daughter’s learning to read experience seems to be very different than his and she seeks out the chance to read to me more than he did.  You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You has been perfect.

Each double page spread is one story.  The words in one color are for the grownup to read, while the child reads the other sentences.  Rhyming makes the pace move along and help with figuring out words.  The vocabulary is just right for a beginning reader-some words are a challenge but you’re right there to help out.   And with each story being just two pages long the beginning reader doesn’t get too worn out and has the satisfaction of a complete story. Read as many at a time as you want! We’re really enjoying sharing these stories together and they definitely help with reading aloud confidence.  We’ve also got out You Read To Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Scary Stories to Read Together.  There are several other titles (fairy tales, fables, and more) that we’ll have to get from the library.  If you have a new reader in the house I definitely recommend these books for reading together. It’s cozy, the stories are fun, it’s a way to read together, and it helps your new reader.

Punished with Puns

Numbed! and Punished!, both by David Lubar, are funny books with a clever slant.  My husband brought them home for our 3rd grader, who quickly read them and liked them, and I zipped through Punished! to see what it was all about. Both are short chapter books, very easy to read, and each with a hefty dose of math or English.

punIn Punished! you meet Logan and Benedict, best friends and the latter is always getting in trouble.  At the library they are racing around in the restricted basement when Logan smashes into an old man, who then decrees that Logan must be punished and blows old book dust on him.  Soon Logan is constantly speaking in puns, making everyone around him groan.  He returns to the library and the old man gives him three challenges to complete before the spell can be lifted. The challenges involve learning what oxymorons, palindromes, and anagrams are and finding examples of them.  While the examples are not particularly advanced (palindromes like mom and dad) I think they are just right for an introduction.


umbedIn Numbed! the kids run into trouble at the math museum after they insult a robot who zaps them, making them unable to do even the simplest math.  Again, they have challenges that test their wits, show clever ways to use math, and get their knowledge restored. Both books abound with details that tie-in to the subject, such as Dr. Thagoras at the math museum, and Wordsmith at the library.  I think these would be good for kids who like the Time Warp Trio.

Listen up!

We’ve been on an audiobook kick again.  I really find these can be challenging to just find while browsing at the library.  At any given time so many our checked out that it’s hard to find one on the shelves that is just right for all of us that we haven’t listened to before. That said, we picked up all of these from browsing a couple weeks ago.

moodyJudy Moody: Around the World in 8 1/2 Days by Megan McDonald.  In this Judy Moody installment Judy is initially put out when a new girl in school also has a rhyming name-Amy Namy.  But soon the two are so tight that Judy is overlooking her other friends.  Meanwhile, inspired by Nelly Bly, the class is doing presentations on different countries as they “go around the world.”  Funny and light, nothing ground breaking, but a good listen for younger readers.



clementineThe Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker Sometimes when we were listening to this I thought we were still listening to Judy Moody as Clementine is about the same age (3rd grade), and a similar type of girl.  We were all fascinated because the plot of this book was basically the same plot as that of a picture book we had recently read! Clementine’s class is putting on a talent show but Clementine believes she has no talent to offer.  Clementine’s indecisiveness cracked us up because it reminded us of a certain family member of our own and was hilariously portrayed by the narrator. We all liked this and have checked out the third Clementine book.



sarahSarah, Plain and Tall/Skylark/Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan.  Sarah Plain and Tall was the winner of the Newbery Award and is a beautifully written historical story.  It’s fairly short and I thought that it might be fine for the 3rd grader.  The premise of the story is that two children and their father live on a prairie. He advertises for a wife and Sarah, in Maine, responds. They write letters back and forth and then she comes for a visit and they get to know each other. It’s a gentle story, but not without deep emotions, including sadness and homesickness. Glenn Close is the much lauded narrator of the books and she is good, though I found the volume of the voices to vary so much between them (Caleb is a shouter) that we were always adjusting the volume.  This is packaged along with the two follow up books (1 disc each) so we kept going with Skylark and Caleb’s Story.  In the first there is a terrible drought and the children and Sarah return to Maine, and in the second a mysterious man brings anger and strife to their farm with his reveal of family secrets.  Although we really liked the first book listening to all three at once was a bit much for us.  Very sad and depressing and my son requested could our next audio book be something “like what Dad and I like, something fun.”  And with that, we are currently listening to Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, narrated by Eric Idle.

Operation Bunny

bunnyOperation Bunny by Sally Gardner is the first in a new series called Wings & Co. I heard about it in the fall and was bummed to find out it was only in the UK. But, hurrah! It’s now out in the U.S. and we were able to read it. This reminded me so much of a Roald Dahl book, I loved it (and yes, the kids did too.)  Emily Vole is an abandoned baby adopted by the most awful greedy people ever. As soon as they are able to have their own babies (triplets Petal, Peach, and Plum) they make Emily be their unpaid servant. It’s a miserable life straight out of Matilda.  Emily’s good fortune comes from the next door neighbor, Mrs. String.  It turns out she’s somewhat magical, which Emily realizes when she falls through the hedge and meets both Mrs. String and her 6 foot tall talking cat. It’s all quite marvelous as of course Emily is destined to play a role in a battle between an evil person (who, fantastically, has chicken legs) and the fairies (who all gave up their wings ages ago.) This first book is satisfying, but it’s very much the set up for the series, so now we can’t wait for book number 2 (out in September, I hear) in which Wings & Co. will be fairy detectives on a case.

Fraidy Zoo

fraidyFraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder.  This might be my new favorite picture book.  And it’s not just me-we read it last night and my daughter requested it twice this morning.  It’s a great day to go to the zoo and the older sister couldn’t be more excited and ready.  Younger sister, Little T, is apprehensive, though.  She’s afraid of something, but not sure what. Her family assures her that they won’t go until they’ve figured out what she’s afraid of. And then (improbably) spend literally the entire day trying to figure it out. It’s how they try to figure it out though that is so spectacularly entertaining. Mom, Dad, and older sister create imaginative costumes and props to make an animal for every letter of the alphabet.  We loved how creative they were, using household objects to make these instantly recognizable things.  And while it’s unlikely anyone could make 26 of these in a day, and make them so awesomely, they are realistic, which is so nice. For example, one of my favorites that I immediately wanted to make for Halloween was for J.  An umbrella held high is covered in bubble wrap and streamers, and held by the girl dressed in goggles and a swimsuit. Jellyfish! The author bio says that Heder likes to make elaborate Halloween costumes and boy would I love to see them if they are anything like these pictures.

The ending is surprising and wonderful, making us shriek with laughter. So clever and fun-do check it out!


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