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I grew up surrounded by books. It was not unusual for me to receive several books for Christmas and to spend the rest of the day curled somewhere, reading. So it should really be no surprise that I ended up falling hard for books and majoring in English in college.
Reading is magical to me, and I want my children to feel the same way. To that end, we have a good number of books, but still not as many as I’d like! Here are some of our favorites:
Books for Babies:
We received our first Indestructibles books when I was expecting Nathan. They are like regular paper books, but do not rip, are safe to chew on, washable, and are composed of beautiful pictures (no words). We love all touch and feel books, but particularly Usborn’s “That’s Not My…” books. These are some of the earliest books my kids have really engaged with and kept their interest.
Karen Katz’s lift-the-flap books are hands-down my favorite in this category. They have nice, big flaps that can be glued back on if they fall off due to use or overzealous pulling. We also really like Little People lift-the-flaps, but the flaps don’t old up quite as well.
Colton is nuts for all things vehicle, so we have tons of books about trains, cars, machines, and anything else you can think of. Our favorite among them is probably, “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.” The words are lyrical, rhyming, and soothing, and the illustrations are beautiful and full of construction equipment. “Little Blue Truck” is similar, and also covers animal noises, while “Tractors” and “My First 100 Machines” are mostly pictures, so they can be enjoyed independently.
Our lift-the-flap Bible still gets a lot of traction with Colton. He likes that he can read through the whole thing with us, he knows a lot of the stories, and flaps are always fun! I was surprised by how much he enjoys the 5-Minute Devotions; they are short stories with a prayer and a few questions for your child. We sometimes read one a night or we sit and read half of the book! The baby bible is also great; short stories with instructions for fun motions to keep your toddler engaged, and a short prayer. I used this for “Bible Time” with Colton when he was a new two-year old and it was perfect for us. The “Alice in Bibleland” books I think are out of print, but you can still find them via ebay and Amazon. There are tons, and the rhyming words really do keep kids engaged; my favorite part is the airmail bird who says in every book, “reading is the magic key to take you where you want to be.”
Colton also loves animals. We check out lots of books about various animals from the library, but these are three we own that are perennial favorites. “Animal Encyclopedia” was a gift from my brother a few years ago. I really enjoy having a reference book to read more about certain animals or look up the answer to a question like, “how many eyes does an octopus have?” (two). We do consult Google a ton, but I want my kids to learn that answers can be found in books, not just on the internet.
These are books that were around when I was a kid, or earlier. Not pictured are “Pat the Bunny” (our copy is torn to shreds and missing a few pages), and “Tootle,” which is a train book that annoys me, but C loves (no idea where it is, and I don’t mind!). We love all Bernstein Bear books, but these are C’s particular favorites.
Current, Semi-Random Favorites:
Cat in the Hat currently reigns supreme in our house because “The Cat is funny and I am funny, Mommy.” Colton is also all about butterflies these days, so “My, Oh My, A Butterfly” is a double win. The rhyming nature of the Cat in the Hat’s “about” books holds my boy’s interest and we’ve both learned something new from them!
Books I’d Like to Own:
The Polar Express, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Blueberries for Sal, Jamberry, Pride and Prejudice Counting Primer, The Very Busy Spider, and any Bernstein Bears books. I’d also like to start reading more chapter books with Colton, but I need to look more into which book would be a good place to start.
I’ve been flying through books recently, thanks to some Christmas gifts and car trips (the perfect time for hours of reading). Here’s what I’ve read in January:
Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant: I had previously read the first two books in this trilogy, but since I received them all for Christmas, I decided to re-read them. These books are the story of Tris, a 16-year old girl living in dystopian Chicago. In Tris’ society, there are factions, the Dauntless, the Erudite, the Abnegation, the Candor, and the Amnity. At 16, Tris has to choose which faction she will pledge to join for the rest of her life. There’s a great mix of mystery, love, friendship, and general coming of age in each of these books. My favorite part about Allegiant was that Veronica Roth develops her all of her characters, even secondary ones, fully and makes them stay true to the character we have seen, even when many readers weren’t so happy with the outcome. Re-reading the first two books was like visiting old friends. I highly recommend this series!
Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, Farewell to the East End: I read Call the Midwife originally years ago (pre-children!) and enjoyed it. Then, the PBS program of the same name came out, and I was hooked. I’d been wanting to re-read the book and the two that accompany it, but my library system only had one. Hooray for Christmas presents! Jennifer Worth’s writing style is personal and engaging and I highly enjoyed these books because of it. I found it was wonderful to read these after watching the show, because I could hear the different characters’ voices, and made reading these stories much more real. I do find the show quite stressful, and the books, thankfully, aren’t nearly as stressful. However, many of the stories in the book that are also in the show are sadder, especially in the second two books. Still, I think these are a wonderful read, particularly if you are interested in midwifery, women’s health, history, or just realizing what a blessing modern medicine is to our society.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery: This novel, by Susan Ella McNeil, is set in early 1940’s London. There is war between England and Germany, but the bombings of the Blitz have just begun. Maggie Hope, a highly gifted mathematician, raised in American but British by birth, finds herself working as one of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s secretaries after the mysterious murder of her predecessor. Also tied up in the mystery of the book is a secret from her own past. While you have to suspend some sense of realism for the mystery, I found myself really enjoying the characters, particularly Maggie, but the various mysteries she uncovers. And seriously, this book has everything. Spies! Codes! Codebrakers! Rapists! Murders! The IRA! Ballet! Rationing! Bombings! It’s impossible not to get caught up in the action. And, I found the mysteries to be pleasantly not-obvious but still believable; there was one particular revelation that made me gasp audibly. The novel is peppered with complex characters and relationships, which make it all the more engaging. If you like historical, face-paced novels, you are sure to enjoy this one!
Cinder: This novel, the first of four from Marissa Meyer, is a little hard to explain. Its sort of like a futuristic re-telling of Cinderella, but sort of not. Here’s what the publisher says: “Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.” Yet another book I really enjoyed, though parts are strange. Moon people? Ooookay. But there’s a nice feeling of history meets future meets strange new world that is strangely appealing. This is due to the phenomenal world-building Meyer does. These worlds are built mostly through showing, not telling, and there are hints of a rich history in both earth and Luna that give them a sense of realism. While the love-interest take a leading role in this story, I like that its a-typical in that Cinder quickly realizes that she does have feelings for Kai she works very hard to pretend she doesn’t. I feel like most YA novels of this type are either instant love between both parties, or unrequited love, so this was a nice change of pace. There’s also an element of mystery here, but once the facts are presented, it is very easy for the reader to figure out. All-in-all, I really enjoyed this book, though I think the characters are a little more one-dimensional than some of the other books I’ve read lately. I am excited to read the next book though and see how/if the characters develop more and what happens with the story-line. I recommend this if you like YA dystopian and/or fantasy, but if you don’t, it might not be for you.
What about you? Read anything wonderful lately?
From the back of the book: “Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend the court as ambassadors and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reasons to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a memeber of the royal family is murdered in a suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift — one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.”
I stumbled on this book when I was browsing Barnes and Noble; it sounded incredibly interesting, and I immediately logged on to my library’s website and requested it.
And it was soo good.
I’m a fan of YA books, complex characters, fantasy, coming-of-age, and world-building stories. This novel has all of these elements, and is not missing the most important: gorgeous writing.
Seraphina’s character was wonderfully written and developed. She is sixteen, but her voice is strong, rich, complex and lacks the teenage angst and “woe is me” feel so many teenagers in YA books can have, at least at points. There’s one particular scene where Seraphina’s disgust of who she is has overwhelmed her; while she is angry, her ability to work through her emotions and come to a semblance of self-acceptance in the scene is wonderfully touching. There were many times throughout the novel that I forgot she was sixteen; this maturity I think will make the novel appeal to people who aren’t typically YA fans.
So much of what makes this book wonderful is the writing. Every character we meet is well written and fleshed out; you can feel that each person has a back-story and opinions of their own. Rachel Hartman does a wonderful job at world building; there is a rich and bloody history between humans and dragons, and she captured all of the nuances of what life is like for both dragons and humans in this world. Best of all, she doesn’t spend time explaining the minutia of these worlds, but allows us to experience first-hand what life is like for both humans and dragons, which I think shows much more than mere description would.
Is the plot pretty predictable? Yes. I’d say I easily figured out 98% of what was going to happen. But the book was so wonderfully written I really didn’t care. I found myself identifying with Seraphina, caring for her, and also loving those who were dear to her.
All-in-all, I would recommend this as a solid, fun, and touching read.
Colton is a busy, busy boy. That means he’d much rather be collecting rocks (seriously, I have a small waterning can outside that is now filled with rocks) than reading books. Still, we’ve found quite a few that he loves to look at alone and have read to him time and time again.
Lift the flap books are fantastic, and Colton really loves My Little People Farm Lift the Flap. It’s loaded with flaps, which are a little hard to open to for a younger baby but should be fine for a one year old, and has lots and lots of animals to look at. Colton hasn’t managed to rip any of the flaps off yet either, which makes it a winner in my books.
Speaking of lift the flaps, anything by Karen Katz is fantastic. We started with Where is Baby’s Belly Button and also really like <a href=”Daddy and Me“>Daddy and Me. These have great, big flaps, one to a page, and tell a story. The flaps are sturdy and reattach wonderfully with plain ol’ Elmer’s.
We recently checked out The More We Get Together from our local library, and since it wasn’t lift the flap or touch and feel I wasn’t sure how it would go, but Colton is in love with this one. I sing the words on each page, which I think makes it more interesting for him, but the illustrations are simple, cute and all about the adorable kids.
The trifecta of awesome toddler books, is, in mine and Colton’s opinions, Good Morning, Good Night. This fabulous book has large, fold out pages and animals with large touch and feel areas. This is a great book for babies, who have a hard time touching smaller areas in some kid’s books, and toddlers, who want to do it themselves.
Colton loves My Big Animal Book, which has real pictures of all kinds of animals, rather than illustrations. This is one of the books I catch him “reading” on his own most often.
You can never go wrong with a classic like Pat the Bunny. This was one of my favorites, so I’m glad Colton likes it as well. He did, however go through a phase after learning all of the actions for each page where he simply licked everything. Strange kid. But now he’s back to enjoying peek-a-boo and smelling flowers.
We just got our copy of Lift the Flap Bible today, but Colton and I both really like it. The flaps are similar to those in the Little People books, the illustrations are lush and engaging, and each page comes with a short Bible story.
Here a few highlights, and one low-light, of books I read last month.
This is the third book in a series of Christian fantasy novels. Even though I’ve read all three, this isn’t my favorite series. The previous two books focused on Kale, a young servant girl who has an uncanny ability to find dragon eggs. This book, however, focuses on Bardon, a young man trying to decide if he wants to join Paladin, the spiritual leader of his country, in service to Wulder as a knight. Surprisingly, I didn’t really miss the focus on Kale. I found Bardon to be a more mature, relatable character for me, and really enjoyed seeing things from his point of view. As a result, this is my favorite of the three books I’ve read so far. While I do enjoy seeing how Paul brings Christian themes into a fantasy setting, this just isn’t my favorite series, and I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to read the fourth book.
This historical fiction focuses on the life of Juana La Loca (Juana the Mad) of Spain, in the 1490’s and early 1500’s. I had mixed feelings about reading this before I started, but by page 25, I was hooked. I loved Juana’s strong character, and how Gortner developed her as a character. Just about every single character in this novel makes a choice that seems pretty horrible, heartless or cold. Yet, Gortner has the ability to make these characters seem sympathetic, particularly Juana. I think a large reason I was able to see Juana as a sympathetic character was how Gortner allowed us to see her grown from a headstrong teenager into an adult, but also how he slowly revealed how ill-prepared she was for life she was eventually expected to lead. I really didn’t know anything about Juana la Loca before reading this novel, but I had heard of, and knew a few things about, many of the peripheral characters, which only served to make this novel richer. Of all the books I read last month, this was my favorite, and one I would definitely recommend!
I purchased this novel at a book fair almost two years ago, and just got around to reading it! This novel is the story of an ambitious courtier is Hungry, eager to impress his Empress with his ability to make an automaton who can play chess. And not just play, but win every game. Yet his mechanical wonder holds a secret — it is operated by a chess-genius dwarf, Tibor. While I don’t know the first thing about chess, I still throughly enjoyed this one. Lohr really doesn’t make any effort to cast the character’s actions in a sympathetic light, and yet I still found myself wanting everything to work out for each of the characters. The prose in this book is wonderful, and most of the scenes of chess games are described as analogies, so even if you have no chess background, you won’t wonder what happened during them. The one thing I found difficult in reading this novel is that, especially in the begining, the timeline jumps around quite a bit. Also, one of the characters goes by two different names in the two different times the novel focuses on, which made following the first four or five chapters more difficult for me. Overall, this was another one of the novels I really enjoyed this month, but I didn’t love it.
Thanks for all your comments on yesterday’s post! I’ve decided to try to contain all pregnancy related things to a post on Friday, so if you’re interested in how things are going, check back then. If you aren’t interested, just skip Fridays!