Wednesday, April 25, 2012


First I want to say that I did not pick this book.

No.  The fancy lovin' child picked it out.

And I was quite skeptical!

So take note:  Shoe-la-la! (c. 2011) by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by LeUyen Pham made it to Read Me A Story!

Let me tell you why . . .
. . . the-child-who-picked-it sat down and read it to the youngest as soon as we got home.

To any ordinary blog reader, this is of little consequence.  However, I had to "beg, borrow, and steal" to hear my child read.  So when the-child-who-would-not-read was transported into the-child-that-actually-can-read through proof of this book . . . well I knew it was a keeper.

Think of Dr. Seussish rhyming rhythms:

Shoes with zippers,
Shoes with straps,
Shoes with buckles,
Shoes with taps.

 collaborated with a love for all that's fancy and frilly:

It's difficult to see here, but the street-post reads Hightop and Oxford.

and you have Shoe-la-la!  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Pocket Naturalist:

Our bird feeder has been especially busy this spring!  Between migration and babies being born then learning to fend for themselves, you'd think it was Grand Central Station.

I'm stepping out on a limb today to recommend a pamphlet -- South Carolina Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species (State Nature Guides) [Pamphlet] by James Kavanagh copyright 2002 -- that received terrible customer reviews on  Why did it receive terrible reviews?  And why in the world am I recommending it?   

Why bad customer reviews?  Well, I'll tell you: it seems that the folks who bought it missed that Amazon clearly (I might add) advertises it as a pamphlet (as the Mr. says, "You'd think that before people bought something, they'd read up on what they were getting!").  They thought they were getting a book, and a book with specific descriptions, habits, and growth of each bird at that.  Yes, I agree, it's a tad bit overpriced for a pamphlet (it would be an amazing price for a book).  But I guess the author and  publishers have to pay themselves, regardless how little, for their effort.  Take note: these pamphlets are available at our local library.

This is why we like it around here: the kids LOVE this pamphlet (enough said, right)!  They eat, literally, with it by their side.  They sleep, literally sleep with it on their bed.  Because they rationalize, if they have it with them at all times, then they can identify the birds as they see them.  Makes sense to me!

Why does it work?  You see, the pamphlet folds out into six (6) panels, allowing kids to see all the different species of birds at once.  Therefore, they're able to quickly identify the bird they're observing without flipping through the overwhelming volume of hundreds of pages in more descriptive books (which, by that time the dear birds have flown away, and they still haven't found "their" bird, ending in frustration)! 

Why is bird, plant, bug, animal, wildlife identification important?  It's a way to connect with nature.  As Richard Louv points out in his book Last Child in the Woods (c. 2008), like most things, we cannot appreciate, preserve, and connect with that which we do not know.

So our experience has been that the Pocket Naturalist pamphlets are GREAT tools for kids to identify the birds (etc.) they see.  The proof is in the evidence: my kids have never before been so excited about bird identification (and butterfly identification) as they are now.  And why? because these tools have allowed them the time to be successful at their own identification!

I also think this would be a great resource for hiking.  I mean who wants to lug several books on the trail?  (They publish butterfly, flower, wildlife, etc. pamphlets for your specific region or state.)  So you have your nifty, little, lightweight pamphlet for identification purposes.  And then you can come home to the descriptive books (and for those I recommend the National Audubon Society's field guides published by Knopf) to read more about what you've identified.

Well, it just makes sense to me.   But it took the kids to show me that!

COUNTING is for the Birds

One of our favorite things to do during the year is to watch the birds come to our feeder.  Meanwhile, the children have picked up on a few varieties of species, their favorite is the cardinal.

COUNTING is for the Birds by Frank Mazzola, Jr. (c. 1997) covers several developmental skills all at once.  While teaching your child to count to twenty, Mazzola introduces rhyme, bird facts, number recognition, bird species identification, all while weaving together a hidden plotline.  So take a look at Scholastic's COUNTING is for the Birds the next time you visit your local library.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius is hands-down our favorite book by the beloved Barbara Cooney (c. 1982).  Oh, the illustrations are simply enchanting.

Whether you're drawn to Miss Rumphius' tales of adventure or your drawn to her love of lupines (those beautiful flowers you see on the cover), you're bound to find something appealing in this story:

Great-aunt Alice was once a little girl who loved the sea, 

longed to visit faraway places, 

and wished to do something to make the world more beautiful (publishers).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Secret Lives of Backyard BUGS

It's spring, and we've been spending most of our time outside.  The kids have been chasing butterflies, climbing trees, and playing with bugs!  Thanks to our friend Caleb, we've enjoyed seeing baby Praying Mantis that had just hatched out of a pod-like house.  Now they watch three caterpillars (that Momma has been keeping alive for several weeks!) in hopes to see evolve from chrysalis to butterfly (fingers crossed).

Needless to say they've all been quite keen on identifying these various creatures.  So we've needed a little help (to say the least) from written sources.

So I dedicate this post to all my "bug" lovin' young friends.  Here's the book that the kids have monopolized for the past few days.  I recommend The Secret Lives of Backyard BUGS by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards to friends of all ages.  The photos are phenomenal!  The explanations are just long enough to inform and just short enough to keep a child's attention span. 

The Secret Lives of Backyard BUGS explores insects of all varieties, from beetles to wasps and icky stink bugs to beautiful butterflies.  Including life cycles and quick guides while identifying host plants, this book presents it all in a simple, easy-to-read format (I know that sounds like a contradiction, but you'll have to trust me!).  Each page has just enough information and pictures to inform without overwhelming the reader's senses.

And I've learned quite a bit along the way too!  I thought all dragonflies were alike.  Au contraire my friends, enter the damselfly.  If you'd like to know the difference, be sure to check out The Secret Lives of Backyard BUGS.  Your kids will thank me!

Update: we watched two of our caterpillars make cocoons!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Home for a Bunny

My youngest absolutely LOVES this book!  In fact, it's a favorite among children in the 3-5 years, especially at this time of year.  Home for a Bunny (c. 1956) a golden book by the beloved Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon) and illustrated by one of our favorites Garth Williams (Little House on the Prairie series) remains a precious, spring story.

The rhyming and repetition in the text attracts kids' attention so much so that they end up memorizing it to "read" to their parents:

"Spring, Spring, Spring!" sang the frog.
"Spring!" said the groundhog. . . 

In the Spring a bunny came down the road.
He was going to find a home of his own.
A home for a bunny,
A home of his own,
Under a rock,
Under a stone,
Under a log,
Or under the ground.
Where would a bunny find a home?

The bunny then proceeds to look for a home, questioning a variety of species if he can join their home.

So if your weary from reading Goodnight Moon, try Home for a Bunny.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seven Little Rabbits

I think we're permanently "borrowing" this darling little book from Uncle Steven.  Seven Little Rabbits by John Becker and illustrated by another of our favorites Barbara Cooney remains a uniquely special book to us because Grandma gifted it to Uncle Steven shortly after it's publication date (c. 1973).  Our edition shows gentle signs of love, both from the previous generation and now the present one.  Don't you just love that?!

I especially appreciate that the publishers have realized this title needed an updated printing.  So, if you end up on a waiting list trying to check Seven Little Rabbits out of your local library, you also have the option of purchasing it, which I would highly recommend too. The publisher says it best:

Over half a million children have counted their way to sleep with these beloved seven little rabbits.  Available in its original hardcover format for the first time in twenty years, this delightful first counting book, chock full of gloriously endearing illustrations and humorous asides by two-time Caldecott-Medal-winner Barbara Cooney, is sure to be a bedtime favorite for a new generation of bunny lovers.  Just the right size for little hands, the repetition and rhyme invite reader participation--right up until the moment it lulls its unsuspecting audience into slumberland.

So if you're looking for a new story to lull the little ones to sleep, try Seven Little Rabbits.  And don't miss Cooney's lovely detailing framing each versed page.

Monday, April 9, 2012

When Marian Sang

It was her range of notes
that caused all the commotion.
With one breath she sounded like rain,
sprinkling high notes in the morning sun.
And with the next she was thunder,
resounding the deep in a dark sky. (Ryan) 

As this Lenten Season comes to a close, I recommend the moving bio of Marian Anderson called When Marian Sang written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznnick (c. 2002).  Our library includes the audio recording, making it a spellbinding experience to hear Anderson as she sings in that majestic contralto voice . . . her voice was distinct -- strong and velvety and able to climb more than twenty-four notes (Ryan).

Listen to one of America's greatest singers; listen and be moved by the story of Marian Anderson, accompanied by her remarkable voice singing songs ranging from spirituals to opera.

Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939