Best Books, Lately (Part 2)

it aint so awful

The very best book I read this summer was It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas. It’s a semi-autobiographical, but fictional story about a preteen Iranian girl in the late ’70s. Zomorod (her name) has moved with her family to Newport Beach, CA, from Iran, for her father’s work. They actually had lived in the US briefly once before, and this time Zomorod has decided she will make friends and be “normal”–as normal as she can be with whom she thinks are two of the strangest people for parents (everyone can relate to that, right??). Zomorod goes through normal growing up and friendship difficulties, but eventually lands with a group of sweet, intelligent friends. Things are good! But how long will it last, as Iran starts popping up all over the news with protests, revolution and then the taking of American hostages? This books is so relevant in our world today, and I loved the message Dumas allows to shine through: that a few kind people can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially when times get tough. For this book, Amazon says grades 5-7. I really think this is one of those books that reads so smart, it would still hold appeal through high school (and adults!). Continue reading

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Books We Enjoyed This Summer

I have read quite a bit this summer and will share my favorites in a couple posts, along with age groups they are intended for. Picture books and easier chapter books in this first post.

cinders

So, I am a little behind on this one, but maybe others are too. I like Jan Brett a lot–Gingerbread Baby, The Mitten, The Three Snow Bears, Annie and the Wild Animals, many others–all cute. But when I met Cinders, I was completely and totally charmed. If I was crazy and kept chickens in my backyard like some of my friends, I would be even more crazy over this one than I am. Seriously, y’all. Cinderella with chicken characters. Enough said. My new favorite Jan Brett book. Continue reading

Let Them Listen

When was the last time you chose to do something you’re not good at and that makes you feel dumb? (If you can’t think of anything that makes you feel dumb and crummy when you try it, maybe you haven’t tried anything new in awhile.)

It’s humbling to remember what that feels like, and then to connect that to how our children may feel in certain situations, whether it’s trying a new sport, starting a new school year with harder classes, or picking up a book to read.

I’ve talked with a lot of parents lately who are concerned about their children’s reading habits. The problem I hear most often is the child is struggling, maybe behind, and therefore doesn’t enjoy reading. It makes perfect sense when you think about that feeling. Do you ever choose to do something you stink at? Maybe grudgingly, maybe only when forced. Continue reading

Being a Miss Agnes: Writing for Our Kids

There’s a sweet little book called The Year of Miss Agnes, by Kirkpatrick Hill, about a teacher who moves to a remote part of Alaska to teach in a one-room schoolhouse (back in the late 1940’s). The families in the area rely on the fishing industry, and previous teachers were annoyed by the constant smell of fish on the children and their inability to relate to simple American reading primers like Dick and Jane. The children are far behind in their academic skills and have little hope that a new teacher will be different.

miss agnes

But Miss Agnes is different. She embraces the culture and the children from the get-go, hanging their artwork on the walls, reading them stories they’ve never heard before like Robin Hood, and best of all, she writes them stories they can relate to–stories about the children themselves and their families! Continue reading

Read Across America Day: Making It Fun AND Worthwhile

Here I am again! I have been reading middle grade and YA fiction like crazy and have some to share soon. But right now, my life is overtaken by my son’s school’s Read Across America event. This is my second year to help with it, and while it can be stressful to organize, I’m proud we put on an event that’s both fun and worthwhile for the kids.

Here are the touchstones of our celebration at Holcomb Elementary in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

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Happy New Reading!

I’ve read a few really good new middle grade and YA books and wanted to take a moment to share.

I love when an author tricks me into reading science fiction. (Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me also did this to me–I was hooked before I realized it was sci fi.) I just don’t prefer sci fi, but I will try most any mystery.

fuzzy

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A Free & Easy Christmas Book Countdown Idea

Hello friends! You may remember the last time I posted was Halloween, but this time I have the best excuse ever.

sweet smile (2)

Yes, we have a sweet new baby boy, born November 5. Joseph is the best baby ever, and we are all in love!

I want to share a great idea from a friend here. I’ve never done a Christmas countdown because I can’t stand the thought of adding more little trinkets, toys or books to our ever-growing supply (now all three of my children have birthdays from Nov.-Jan. too, so this time of year they “get” plenty). My friend had the brilliant idea to wrap Christmas books and other favorites that her child ALREADY OWNS.

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Part 3: Halloween Chapter Books, Excerpts and Short Stories

There are so many possibilities here that we’re just going to scratch the surface. I want to share a few of my family’s favorites to read at Halloween. Books listed here can stretch from elementary school up through adult.

Often reading aloud a great excerpt from a chapter book can help interest the child in reading the entire book. Several of the Ramona books make great read-alouds in their entirety (like the two I list below); some, I think are better read independently because they move more slowly. If you’re not familiar with Ramona, she is the original Junie B. Jones; check her out! (And by the way, she appeals to both boys and girls, in my experience, like Junie B.)

ramona the pest

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Halloween Poems (and How They Can Inspire Your Child’s Creativity)

Certain Halloween poetry takes me right back to childhood.

 Three little ghostesses,                                                                                                              

Sitting on postesses,                                                                                                                

Eating buttered toastesses.                                                                                                  

Greasing their fistesses,                                                                                                                  

Up to their wristesses,                                                                                                                        

Oh! What beastesses,                                                                                                                      

To make such feastesses! 

I always preferred fun rhythmic, rhyming poetry, and throwing in a little nonsense made it even better. I still prefer this style of poetry above all others, as do most of our children.

If children read poetry they truly enjoy, it will inspire many of them to create their own poetry.

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A Few Favorites for Halloween: Picture Books

I’m back to the blog for my favorite time of year–fall. Halloween and Christmas probably tie for my favorite holiday, and since Halloween is nearer, it’s my current favorite. My memories of Halloween involve costumes specially made by my mom, the excitement of my dad taking me trick-or-treating round the neighborhood, and of course, the deliciously spooky Halloween books we would check out from the library.

Here I am in my homemade bunny costume. Thanks, Mom!
Here I am in my homemade bunny costume. Thanks, Mom!

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