Monday, December 19, 2011

Just a Second

I had never heard of Steve Jenkins until about a month ago, but it seems now I keep seeing more and more of his books.  It is fun to find a new author - especially when they aren't actually new so there are lots of books to choose from.  Just a Second actually is new - it was just published in October of this year.  This is a book that catalogs time.  It tells the different things that can happen in just one second: a hummingbird beats its wings 50 times, a bee 200 times, a black mamba slithers 24 feet and a human can blink 7 times.

The book continues to go through minutes, hours and more extended periods of time.  Each double page spread is filled with facts - and each fact is accompanied by a simple illustration.  This book is fascinating.  Any child who has ever asked, "How long until . . . "  or "How long does it take to . . . " will love this book.  This book is interesting for all ages and especially fun for those who are just beginning to grasp time and how it passes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Books

I love The Polar Express.  It is one of those books I distinctly remember experiencing as a child.  I remember sitting on the orange carpet of the school library with my moon boots tucked neatly underneath.  I remember Mrs. McGlaughlin sitting at the front of the room with The Polar Express in one hand reading to us.   And I remember it was magical.  Still when I read it I want to run my hands over the beautiful illustrations and taste the chocolate-bar-thick hot chocolate – it is a book to be experienced. 

Now I love reading it to my own kids and cupping my hands over my mouth for the conductor to yell Merry Christmas.  And I love seeing how it is just as magical for them now as it was for me so many years ago.  While The Polar Express is one of my clear favorites we have been unwrapping a Christmas/winter related book every night to read and there are a lot of fun ones.  Here are just a few of our favorites: 

The story of a grandfather and his granddaughter and their first trip to the Nutcracker in the big city.

A Christmas Classic

The story of Rose and the children in the orphanage receiving oranges as a coveted, and only, Christmas present.

Perfect for those with a "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree.

We checked a lot of books out from the library and wrapped some of our own as well.  I am especially excited to unwrap Snowflake Bentley and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - I have heard a lot about both but never read either.  

What are your favorites?

Monday, December 12, 2011


A friend of mine recently gave me a young adult novel to read - Matched by Ally Condie. I read it over the weekend and was quickly drawn into the plot and stayed up later than I should have reading it.

Matched tells the story of a dystopian society where everything is controlled for you under the guise that it makes life better.  You eat just enough to be healthy - no more,  your job is chosen based on attributes, you die peacefully when you are eighty-years-old and your spouse is perfectly matched for you.  The book starts with Cassia, recently turned 17, going to her match ceremony to find out who she will marry.  Typically your match will live in another city but Cassia is matched with Xander - her best friend and neighbor.  Xander and Cassia are very excited about this but when Cassia goes to put her match card in the computer it is not Xander's face that appears but rather another boy - Ky Markham - who also lives in her town and on her street.

This revelation causes Cassia to question her match - is Xander or Ky her perfect match?  And if her match is not perfect then is this society really perfect or simply controlling and taking away one's ability to choose?  As the book continues Cassia must decide who she loves and if she is willing to live in this society that restricts her ability to wonder.

Condie creates a very detailed and interesting dystopian society.  Her characters are compelling and bring the dilemma of choice or controlled happiness to the forefront.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I do take issue with part of the love triangle story but since this is the first book of a trilogy perhaps my issue will be resolved in a later book.

The second book - Crossed - was recently released in November and I am excited to read it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Family Storybook Treasury: Tales of Laughter Curiosity and Fun

I have mixed feelings about collections.  Part of me thinks, "Isn't that convenient - eight books in one?"  But there is another that wants to own each individual book.  I am usually a little torn.  But when I saw The Family Storybook Treasury, I was excited because of the fun variety of books that it includes:

Curious George and the Firefighters by Margret and H. A. Rey
Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh
Lyle Walks the Dogs by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Paulis Waber
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margo Apple
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
The Great Doughnut Parade by Rebecca Bond
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

This is a varied and fun collection of stories and even includes a poem from one of my all-time favorite books of poetry: Guyku.  The stories are great and are reason enough to buy this book, but we have also loved the CD that comes with it. 

I love audio books.  We listen to them in the car when we are driving to lessons, the store, or around the block if we are really into a book.  My kids love to listen to them and don't complain when we drive - a real win for me. We often seem to have books that are a little more geared to my 6 year old daughter, so it has been fun to have a CD with stories that appeal both to my daughter and four year-old son.  And the fun thing about this collection is that we can bring the book into the car and they can look at the pictures while listening to the book.  

Another plus for collections . . . eight stories and only one book to bring in the car!  This book and CD combo would make a great Christmas gift!  Anyone have any other suggestions for great audio books?  

I was given a review copy of this book - however, all opinions are my own.


Sunday, December 4, 2011


Neville, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, is delightfully funny.  The story begins with a mother giving a young boy a pep talk after having just moved.  You can do it!  Go make friends!  But this boy is not buying it.  He sulks out the front door, walks down the street and yells at the top of his lungs, "Neville!" He keeps on yelling "Neville" until a little boy comes out of his house to help, then a little girl starts coaching him on how to yell better, and louder and more in unison.  Pretty soon all of the neighborhood kids are out yelling and searching for Neville - but he is no where to be found.  

This book is a clever take on being the new kid.  It is well written and very humorous.  The illustrations fit the tone of the story perfectly.  I really enjoyed this book and think kids will love it too.  This is the perfect gift for a friend who is moving - but regardless of whether a child is recently moved or permanently placed - all will love Norton Juster's latest book.