Valentine’s Day with Snowman Paul by Yossi Lapid

Sooooo, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day. Are you ready? Do you celebrate with hearts and roses or, perhaps, you do the “galentine” thing with your friends? Me? Nothing. For nearly 50 years I have despised this day, this month, like a curse on my existence. Name something horrific that can happen to someone and I can assure you that it has happened to me on this day. HOWEVER – that is a really huge HOWEVER – this year a dear author and someone I’ve come to call friend sent me a book all about this day that I despise and it has changed my entire week, my month and, dare I say, outlook? Valentine’s Day with Snowman Paul is a simple and yet profound look at the true meaning of love. What is love asks a snowman who believes he has no feelings…. As Paul discovers, love is so many different things to each and every one of us. It can be family, it can be someone special, it can our love of SNOW, most importantly it can be our friends who come along just when we need them the most.

This is, as always, a marvelously written children’s story and the children in my life (including myself) loved it. We have read and reread it multiple times. Joanna Pasek has created beautiful illustrations that capture the imagination of all who look upon them and lend so much enrichment to the book. I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough to any and all who have young children or to those who may need a bit of a lift this holiday.

Yossi, thank you for your gift of friendship. Your love continues to make this world a better place for us all.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

You know that if there is a circus in town, I’ll be there and if there is a circus book to be read, then it will be in my pile. Imagine my delight when I discovered this amazingly wonderful book, Circus Mirandus, that is filled from cover to cover with wonder, awe and magic.

Micah’s grandfather has told him tales about Circus Mirandus all of his life. Part of the telling is that eventually the Circus will provide a much needed miracle. When the need and time for that miracle arrives, Micah, a pet parrot and his very pragmatic friend set off on their adventure. Part magical, part realism and all of the beauty of true fantasy that younger readers love so much, the author has provided a perfect balance between the fatastical and the miraculas where love and magic blends and balances together perfectly through this tale. Meant for “middle grades,” I have no idea what that really means since this very mature adult loved the book, a good starting age might be around nine years old. There is a tad bit of darkness in parts of the book but what is a good book without both light and dark? If you don’t select any other book for your tween this year, make sure that the one you do get is Circus Mirandus.

Banned Book Week Day Three – Children’s Books

When I began researching for Banned Book Week I naturally assumed that the majority of the banned or challenged books would those that many adults find “subversive.” You know, Mein Kampf, The Anarchist Cookbook, even some of the existential writings of Satre or Camus. I was so wrong. The MOST OFTEN challenged and banned books in the US are children’s books and the most challenged of all writers is be the beloved Judy Blume. WTH!? I had to read further to understand because clearly I was a “bad” parent. My kids read ALL of the books – LOL! Below are a few of the books that have been banned by certain school libraries in the US:

In 1986, the West Allis Milwaukee School District banned this particular poetry collection because of “drug reference, suicide, death and a disrespect for truth and authority.” Shortly after, a school district in Pennsylvania did the same.
Harriet, it seems, was too smart for her own good. This book was banned because parents were concerned it was teaching kids to “lie, spy, talk back and curse.”  I have news for you – kids are learning to lie, back talk and curse from their parents, peers and president, not from Harriet the Spy
The addition of this book to the list breaks my heart. Have you ever read a more wonderful story or seen more beautifully illustrated pages? A favorite of children all over the world, this book was banned by many southern states for depicting child abuse (the no-go supper for Max), it’s also been challenged for being “too dark” and showing supernatural elements. Hey, I was raised in the south. Going without supper was the least abusive form of child abuse I encountered!

However, the most challenged author of all, including “adult books” is Judy Blume, the author of “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” I’m not sure I would have made it through the tween/early teen years with this book. My parents were of the ultra conservative bordering on cult religion and we did not speak of anything remotely dealing with our bodies. Nope. Books like this were a resource for me more than just enjoyable reading. But let’s look at another of Blume’s banned books: Blubber. Have you or kids read Blubber?

Blubber is about bullying – really serious bullying. It revolves around a group of girls who bully another group, then that group gets more girls together and they torture the original group of girls who re-groups with different girls and torture the second group and on and on and on. You know, real life stuff here. Seriously! The reason the book was banned was because parents didn’t agree with the fact that none of the girls were punished. HELLO!?! Bullies seldom are punished – in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our politics or in our presidency!! I was 4 foot 11 inches tall. To say that I got bullied is an understatement. Add to that the aforementioned religious aspect and I was tortured. No one ever got punished – EXCEPT FOR ME!! Geesh. Do parents live in some kind or drug induced bubble that they do not realize this!?! (sigh) I could rant on for ages but I think Judy Blume, herself, explains this perfectly:

“When I started to write, it was the ’70s, and throughout that decade, we didn’t have any problems with book challenges or censorship. It all started really in a big way in 1980 … It came with the election, the presidential election of 1980, and the next day, I’ve been told, the censors were crawling out of the woodwork and challenging, like, ‘It’s our turn now, and we’re going to say what we don’t want our children to read.,” Blume says. “”But I think it’s more than that. It’s what we don’t want our children to know, what we don’t want to talk to our children about; and if they read it, they’ll know it, or they’ll question it.”

Well. Isn’t that the purpose behind ALL bannings and censorship: We don’t want you to know because then you’ll know and you will question it.

READ BANNED BOOKS!!! Be the one who knows!

The Bees (Down in the Garden, book 1) by DC Swain

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Good Sunday Morning! I hope this finds all of you doing well! I know many parents of young children are struggling to find interesting and hopefully educational activities to keep them occupied so today I’m sharing a book for Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers that is FREE at Amazon!

41k786BlKgLThe Bees is a darling, rhyming book that describes in both verse and gorgeous illustrations about the day in the life of the bee. From gathering pollen to drinking nectar, children will see how busy these little bees work and also, hopefully, see that there is no reason to fear them. The Bees is a short tale that is fun to read aloud and, best of all, free. If you have young children, I’m sure this is something you both will enjoy reading.

Look Before You Leap, Rabbit by by BRS Bankphee, Arunodoy Biswas (Illustrator)

A sneeze. A chase. A flying elephant. And Squeeky Wailer! How will it all end?

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Look Before You Leap, Rabbit is a precious, FUN, children’s book with a little lesson for all of us. When the author’s daughter wanted a bedtime story, the Bankphee told her a story that she would never forget. Now you, too, can enjoy this delightful story with your own children.

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Everyone is outside playing on the beautiful spring day when Rabbit decides that he can run faster and jump higher than anyone. As Rabbit jumps to catch a butterfly flitting by, his landing launched Phoebe the Elephant way up into the sky. It is there that she meets an array of imaginative characters who will try to get Phoebe back on the ground again.

With beautiful illustrations and a story that is simply too much fun, kids will be overjoyed to read this engaging tale. You can find it now at AMAZON.

I am very grateful to Mr. Bankphee for my copy of Look Before You Leap, Rabbit. The children who visit our library were thrilled with the story!

The Little Engine That Could – NINETIETH Anniversary Edition

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Seriously! How is it possible that this delightful, inspirational tale is NINETY years old!?! Well, it is and to celebrate there is a brand new edition just waiting to be read and added to your library!

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Everyone knows the story of the little engine, right? I think I can…. I think I can…. and soon she absolutely could! By far this was my favorite story as a child. I was small and so often there were things I was told I was “too little” to do. This engine became my hero, her mantra became mine. When I was a Weight Watchers group leader the members in my group used it as their mantra as well. If you think you can, you will do!

The text in this updated version is the same heart felt prose we always adored but the illustrations are new and absolutely gorgeous. They will make you fall in love with them! Just look at the colors in this one:

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This anniversary edition features the original text, all-new re-imagined artwork and an introduction from Caldecott Medal-winner Dan Santat and a special letter from Dolly Parton, award-winning singer-songwriter and founder of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Every child and adult alike should have a copy of this inspiring tale on their shelves to read when self-doubt rears its head. It’s perfection.

 

(Thank you to #Edelweiss, #PenguinPublishingGroup, #Grossett&Dunlap for my copy of The Little Engine That Could)

Sunday Morning for Kids featuring: The Hat Who Was Left Behind, Billie Jean and Marie Montessori

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The Hat Who Left Behind is such a beautiful book for young readers. The prose is brilliant and written in a flowing verse with which children will be enraptured  It is the illustrations, however, that captured my attention.

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Each of these gorgeous watercolours tell a story in themselves. They invite the reader to use their own imagination to describe what is happening within them. The language is simple enough that whoever is reading, adult or child, can elaborate on commentary and that is very important for young readers especially.

The theme is one of purpose: can we or an inanimate object be more than what we think we can be. Can a hat, whose purpose was beauty for a small child, be more than just a hat. Think about that and you will find that the philosophy behind this one can be as deep as you want it to be. Again, this is a skill I highly encouraged my own children to develop and the author and artist have done an exquisite job illustrating this. The Hat Who was Left Behind is a perfectly marvelous book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Meet the Author and Illustrator:

Céline Lamour-Crochet was born in Brittany, France and is a well known children’s author whose titles are available worldwide. This is her first book for minedition. Feridun Oral was born in 1961 in Kirikkale, Turkey and graduated from Marmara University. He has illustrated his own children’s books as well as those of other authors. He is the recipient of many awards including an award from UNESCO in Japan. His books with minedition include The Message of the Birds, A Red Apple, A Whisper In the Snow, and A Warm Winter.
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On a different note and in the genre of children’s non-fiction, there were two incredible books that I added to our library: Billie Jean and Maria Montessori.
I think there are few women who are not familiar with Billie Jean King and the accomplishments she achieved for all women. A tennis star in the latter part of the 20th century (that looks strange, doesn’t it?) Billie Jean King played tennis against Bobby Riggs in a match entitled “The Battle of the Sexes.” Billie Jean won the match and went on to open new paths for women of all ages.
She didn’t start out as champion, however. At one point she was a little girl who was considered overweight and wore “coke bottle” glasses. To overcome the stigma, she began playing tennis where is steadfastly prevailed. She is a role model for all children on perseverance, overcoming bullying and what we all can achieve when we work hard. Billie Jean, by Mara Rockliff,  is a well told story of an amazing woman whose legacy should be known by children everywhere.
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Oh wow. I probably could write my own book about Maria Montessori who is and has been my own role model and hero. Few have influenced my life and that of my children as much as Maria Montessori!
Maria Montessori, by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, is part of the Little People, Big Dreams series for children. The books are basically biographies written on child’s level about people who not born into greatness but, instead, lived to achieve their dreams. Montessori is best known for her unique method of educating children that was and still is practiced in many countries through schools founded on her philosophy and by many homeschool families who appreciate the child centered approach to learning. The book often points out, rightly so, that Maria received her education, in science, medicine and more, at a time when girls were not encouraged to do so. She overcame the odds to become an expert in childhood education.
My one drawback to this book is that the author describes Montessori’s method as education through play. While playing in an important part of learning for us all, that is not the foundation of Montessori’s teachings. Learning is everywhere – play, cooking, building, every day skills that we must achieve. Giving the child access to multiple areas in which to learn – including play – is essential to their growth. My son was cooking Mac and Cheese from scratch when he was five years old because he was never told that he couldn’t. All of my kids stayed well above the “normal” achievements of others because they were never held back from learning new skills. Freedom to learn everywhere, that is the beauty of Montessori’s method.
Maria Montessori is marvelous addition to this incredible series and one that I hope parents and teachers alike will utilize to their fullest extent.
If you read these book, or have already, let me know what you think. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to do so regardless of your age. You will learn something new, guaranteed.

Sunday Morning for the Kids! Featuring King of the Tightrope by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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Good morning! I love Sunday mornings because I adore reviewing Children’s books. I always manage to learn something new and different when I read this genre. Does that mean I’m still a child? Hopefully, it means you are  never too old to learn!

KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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I love all things related to the circus and being a mom of a circus performer, I have heard a lot about the kings of the tightrope – those daring men, and a few women, who boldly did (do) what others could not or will not do. Blondin is one of the most famous of these dare-devils because he was the first in many areas, particularly the first to actually walk on a rope across Niagara Falls, a feat that many considered his death sentence. They were wrong. Not only did he do it, he went on to even greater stunts. But how does a young boy decide this is what he will do when he is older? That is the story given to us here with Bowman’s wonderfully written, beautifully illustrated book: King of the Tightrope.

This is the story of how a boy who was born into a performing family – as many are – became bored with the acts he was doing and began challenging himself to do bigger, greater, more daring acts that he and others never had done before. What is so fascinating about this is that he had to use physics and mathematics to figure out how to accomplish these feats without falling. It is both an art and science to all of these types of performances. Kids reading this book are subtly made aware of how important being knowledgeable and well rounded is for success.  In addition, the illustrations are marvelous! Using bold, bright colors, the illustrator creates images that stimulate the child’s imagination, as well as those of an adult. This is a book that opens up new possibilities for kids of all ages. My own son had a such an “aha moment” experience when he was quite young and it led him to be a circus performer for the largest circus in the world – Cirque du Soleil. You never know what being introduced to magical performances will bring.

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My son, Toby, during a recent performance of the “O” show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

King of the Tightrope is the perfect book for children ages 6-11ish. I hope they will love it as much as I did!

 

 

 

Sunday Morning For the Kids #AWarmFriendship #TempleGrandin

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Good Morning! Each Sunday Morning, okay some Sunday mornings, I like to share with you some wonderful kids’ books that I’ve read the previous weeks. These are books that meet my very high standards. Naaahh, I like books with pretty pictures, that teach a lesson or don’t put me to sleep. I share them with a kid or two and if they agree then I share them with you. I don’t get overly picky because kids aren’t – or shouldn’t be – overly picky about what makes them happy.

A WARM FRIENDSHIP – by EllenDeLange, Illustrations by Jacqueline Molnar

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The creatures in the forest have made a friend with Mr. Snowman but he is very cold and shivering. They decide to bring him scarves to keep him warm but, of course, soon he is too warm and begins to melt. The animals are so sad that that they have lost their friend but they are reminded that they always will have the joy and memory of their friend with them forever.

This is a very short story, brilliantly illustrated and beautifully written about friendship, caring, empathy and, ultimately, loss. These are emotions that young children often struggle with understanding and to see it illustrated in this book so basically is just wonderful. I shared it with two children who were 5 years old and it was perfect for them. They easily grasped the concept of losing a loved one but holding on the joy you are left with. I think this book is perfect for a family bookshelf.

TEMPLE GRANDIN by Rachel Castro

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This is part of a new series of STEM Superstars. Hopefully you are aware that the STEM program is one that is in the US public schools to encourage Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The fact that they began the series with one of the greatest human minds in recent history is amazing – Temple Grandin. You see, Grandin is profoundly autistic. Her mother never gave up hope that her child could learn, was brilliant and would be able to contribute to society and, wow, was she ever correct! Temple Grandin revolutionized the way in which modern agriculture operated. She now is a THE leading spokesperson on Autism, teaching children with Autism, and an expert on all that we now refer to as “the spectrum.” As a mother of an adult son who is on the spectrum who is a leading performer with Cirque du Soleil, Temple Grandin is my hero!

Yes, as critics have pointed out, there are other books that offer more information about Temple Grandin, including her own. This book is for younger students, most likely Middle School students, who are interested in the STEM program. Hopefully it will interest students who are on the spectrum themselves and GIRLS who will be interested in the STEM program. Sadly my town’s STEM program is all male – not what it was meant to be.

If you have a younger, middle school aged child or are the parent of a child who has been diagnosed on the spectrum, I highly recommend this book. If you are a teacher in these fields or a homeschool teacher, please get this STEM series in the hands of your students.

 

The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor #AmyAlznauer, #PingZhu – illustrator #SundayMorningforKids

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Oh wow! As a life long fan of Flannery O’Connor and her brilliant and, yes, odd work, I had to read this book!

“I intend to stand firm and let the peacocks multiply, for I am sure that, in the end, the last word will be theirs.” —Flannery O’Connor

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The story itself is based on O’Connor’s fascination/obsession with the odd bird or two or ten. Featured in many of her writings, peacocks, chickens who performed tricks and many more, were an important part of her life and actually led to her interest in writing as well, particularly about those who might seem different to most readers.

This is for young readers so the writing is simple but not silly. The illustrations are absolutely stunning and what an marvelous introduction for children to one of the best writers the US has known. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Amy Alznauer lives in Chicago with her husband, two children, a dog, a parakeet, sometimes chicks, and a part-time fish, but, as of today, no elephants or peacocks.

Ping Zhu is a freelance illustrator who has worked with clients big and small, won some awards based on the work she did for aforementioned clients, attracted new clients with shiny awards, and is hoping to maintain her livelihood in Brooklyn by repeating that cycle.

Thank you to #Edelweiss the author and illustrator and to #EnchantedLionBooks for my copy of this incredible book!