My new found love!

Over the past several weeks, I have really begun to have an interest in cultivating a morning time with my little man. Like most of us, I set out to find a podcast to listen to and discovered Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket podcast. I, of course, begin to binge listen. In episode 20, she introduces Bonnie Ward Simon, founder or Maestro Classics. I was enthralled by what Bonnie was doing. Setting children’s books to classical music? Sign me up! (Did I mention my son is pretty musical and I have also been wanting to find ways to introduce him to that too? Match made in heaven!)

I went to Maestro Classic’s website* a few weeks back to find that Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel was not only one of their books, but also on sale! Double YES! I purchased it and while I waited for it to come it, I moseyed on over to the public library catalog and put Big Machines and Mike Mulligan on hold. By the time the CD arrived, we had been reading these books for several days. My little guy was so in love with the CD the first time he listened. Every day after that, when I picked him up he’d ask if I could play the CD. WIN!

Currently, they are having an Easter sale and I have my eye on a few things. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out their website. As well as Pam’s podcast!

*Affiliate link

The Apostles’ Creed For All God’s Children

The Apostles’ Creed for All God’s Children is an illustrated picture book of the Apostles’ Creed. The text breaks down the creed line by line. Then it adds some Biblical truths to that portion of the creed. The additions are written in different ways. Some pages include basic information about what that line means to us and others add some question answer format similar to the Catechism.

The book was published this past February. Check it out anywhere books are sold.

I liked this book for its simplicity. It easily helps to explain the basic principals of the Christian faith. I liked it, too, because it included a few of the catechism questions we are working on with my son. I think, overall, this is a great addition to the family library.

Just a caution, the crucifixion illustration is fairly graphic and may just be a tad realistic for the younger audiences. My 3 year-old did not seem to have a negative reaction to it.

If you are looking for another way to help your child understand their Christian faith, I believe this book is a great way to do just that.

The Stars in April

For Ruth, India is the only home she’s ever known, but now she must move to America. Ruth is, to say the least, not thrilled. Ruth is feeling angry at her father for sending the family off, sad for leaving her best friend, and disappointed in missing her Spring concert. If all of that was not bad enough, Ruth must ride overnight on a boiling hot train only to be put on a ship bound for England where she will set sail for America on the RMS Titanic.

The reader who is aware of the fate of the Titanic cannot help but read with that ending in mind. I actually cheated and read the author’s note at the end! As a mother, I can only imagine Mrs. Becker’s fears and anxiety in taking 3 children halfway across the world! Not only that, but then dealing with the actual sinking of the ship and the separation from her daughter. I absolutely experienced some real emotions while reading this story.

The sinking of the ship and Ruth’s experience with that is the climax of the story. The bulk of the story line follows Ruth’s travels from India to the mid-Atlantic. Throughout her travels, Ruth is met with many wonderful characters; Each one giving Ruth something to think about and helping her come to accept the turn her life has taken.

This book is a great read for upper elementary and beyond. If you love a well-thought out historical fiction book, then I encourage you to pick this one up. I will certainly be adding it to my school’s library.

Something I’ve learned about myself

Within this last year, I realized that I LOVE to check off things consistently. I want to see how many days I can complete something. 30 day squat challenges? Love them! So when my school began using Beanstack as a way to track reading minutes, I should have known how into it I would get!

Beanstack is a platform we use for our students to track their minutes read. As the Library Media Specialist, I set a community goal for the year (which we have already exceeded!) and the kids track their minutes. Our charter ran a challenge for Hispanic Heritage Month to see which school could read the most. Man did I jump on this! I’m not an athletically competitive person, but when it comes to academics, I can go all out. (Side note: my school of 148 kids read over 25,000 minutes! We read the most out of the high schools in the charter. But I digress!)

I enjoyed tracking my minutes and made sure that I read for at least 10 minutes a day so my streak wouldn’t die. I think I may have been more into it than the kids! 🙂 I did, however, lose my streak in October… that is because I completed two absolutely fabulous books and I just needed to sit with them for a while. You ever feel that way? I couldn’t even fathom starting another book because those two were just so, so good! But I have since picked up another great read and my streaks are back! Do you like to see how many days in a row you can read? Also, do you know how many books you can read when you ensure you’re reading 10 minutes a day? Trust me, it’s more than you think!!

My Beanstack streak for October!

The Paper Wolf

Gracie is an eleven year old who has been in foster care since she was six, moving from family to family. It is no wonder that she has no true understanding of family stability. After being kicked out of a foster home, she is temporarily placed in a group home while her social worker searches diligently for a new family for her.

Early on on the novel, Gracie is placed with the Barkmans. Here is a true family unit. Mr. and Mrs. Barkman have two teenagers and are eager to show love to foster children. But Gracie is not the easiest child to love or so she thinks. Plagued with emotions she can’t really name, Gracie struggles to let down her walls and allow the Barkmans into her heart.

Through unconditional love and one very dramatic experience, the Barkmans show Gracie that they do love her and want her to be a permanent part of their family. But Gracie is holding out. She has to decide if she can let go of what she dreamed of the last six years and let the Barkmans become her permanent family.

Written by a foster parent, this novel introduces its reader to the potential struggles faced by those in foster care. At some points, you just want Gracie to get over herself, but then you remember that 5 years is a long time to be in foster care and Gracie has not had loving families care for her. You begin to see that Gracie is not being a pouty preteen but is harden by a difficult life and needs lots of love to break down barriers she has had to put up to survive. As a granddaughter to foster parents, I have some personal experience with children who have had to be removed from their families for various reasons. Loving foster families can make such a difference in the lives of these children. I think this is a great book for preteen and teen readers. It lends itself to some wonderful discussion about the love of family and the love God has for us all.

Awesomeness:

-The Barkmans want to show Gracie love the way Christ loves us.

-Mrs. Barkman prayers out loud when she is having a particularly difficult moment.

-A wonderful picture of a family who truly loves each other and enjoy being around one another.

Cautions:

-As you can imagine, Gracie has a lot of anger and frustration. She has several outbursts and runs away a few times. Chrissy does a great job of showing us what possible walls a child in foster care might have and ways they might express their emotions without being unrealistic or too descriptive. I think this allows for some really great conversation regarding the experiences of children in foster care.

-There is a scene where Gracie is nearly assaulted by some older boys but is saved by her brother who is then beaten up pretty badly. The description here is well-written and does not use any unnecessary details.

You can connect more with Chrissy at www.chrissymdennis.com

The Broken Paintbrush

Everyone wants to be needed, important, seen.

Sitting among perfectly crafted paintbrushes was a little broken paintbrush. He was continually passed up by artists because he was cracked. But one day, a painter comes in and purchases this little, imperfect paintbrush. The paintbrush is excited. Finally!! Finally he was going to be an artist!

His excitement was diminished when he discovered the artist he was going to be used by was not a great, artistic master but a little girl. Feeling disappointed and confused, the paintbrush had no choice but to do what the little artist wanted. He was dipped into clay paint and roughly brushed across the canvas. He lost bristles. He was unable to breathe. He was, to say the least, very upset.

But his demeanor changed when he realized that this little girl thought he was special. He was special to her.

We can all relate to this broken paintbrush. At one time or another we have felt forgotten, but we can remember that even on days when we feel this way, God sees us and has NOT forgotten us. This powerful story is told in such a way that the littlest of readers can understand. Certainly a must-have for your child’s library.

Awesomeness:

-Art history- this is a fun little intro into Italian art and one of the most famous paintings around.

Challenge:

-Grab your child’s untouched/forgotten art supplies and encourage them to create a masterful work of art!

Twelve Weeks to Midnight Blue

Chance has his heart set on buying a bike before school starts in the Fall. But he doesn’t just want any bike, he wants Midnight Blue which can be his for a mere $225! With this information Chance sets out to do what any enterprising kid would do: make money. He starts by cleaning his dad’s pool once a week for $10. As his customers increase, he learns about leverage, marketing, business partners, and more during his twelve weeks of summer.

In this first volume of KidVenture, Steve Searfoss takes his reader through the ups and downs of reaching for a goal. Several times Chance wonders if all the work is worth it. Through conversations with his parents and lots of math, Chance will learn just how much work it takes to run a successful business.

Awesomeness:

-The family relationships presented in this story are delightful. Chance has regular conversations with his dad about his business. He also has a personal conversation with his mom. He takes his sister on as a partner.

-Each chapter has 3 discussion questions to allow for conversation about the issues Chance encounters. Readers will have a chance to discuss what they would do or how they would proceed. This book lends itself to being read aloud.

-The book is only 118 pages and written in a way that younger readers can follow.

-A fun story for any enterprising kid!

Cautions:

-Some mild sibling bickering. (But isn’t that real life?)

Just Like That

I picked up this novel straight out of the Junior Library Gild delivery box! The book jacket sounded so good. I will tell you that I have not read any of Gary D. Schmidt’s other works. For you Wednesday War fans, just be prepared for the beginning of this book… my friend threw it across the room!

After the loss of her best friend, Meryl Lee’s parents send her to an all girls’ boarding school. There she will be exposed to societal expectations all the while attempting to become accomplished and still holding on to her personal convictions.

Gary D. Schmidt beautifully weaves two storylines together. While Meryl Lee is figuring out life at an all girls’ prep school, Matt is figuring out how to survive on the move. Finding himself on the Maine coast, Matt is welcomed into Dr. Nora Macknockater’s home. As headmistress of St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for Girls, she encourages Meryl Lee to stay true to who she is all the while attempting to learn just who Matt is. As the common thread between the two, Dr. Macknockater has a front row seat to see just how things really do change- just like that.

Awesomeness:

-Meryl Lee works through her grief at losing her best friend and finds ways to bring people together despite their differences.

-Matt discovers a true sense of family. The way his story starts out, it reminds me of the Boxcar Children.

Cautions:

-Matt is running from some seriously nasty men. They burn down buildings and hurt people in an attempt to get back what he stole (after they killed his best friend).

-There is a bit of kissing towards the end of the book. And at the end, Meryl Lee and Matt are left alone in a house while the adult supervision leaves on an extended trip.

The War I Finally Won

In June 2020, I listened to The War That Saved My Life for my Children’s and Young Adult Literature class. Apparently I did not write a review over it! I will do that soon.

A few weeks ago, I was emptying the book return box outside the library. There I found this book. I had NO IDEA there was a sequel! I immediately checked it out to myself and proceeded to read it in less than 3 days. It has been a really long time since I have managed to do that!

I will say that there is not way I can truly convey through my writing just how powerful these books are.

Once again, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley brings us deep into Ada’s world. It is still early 1940s and we pick up with a very important event in Ada’s life. Even though she is still tucked away in her village with Susan, Ada continues to struggle to let go of her fears and anxiety. She may be physically free but she still struggles in her mind. As the war rages on and more and more people become personally affected by it, Ada will learn that she is not the only one holding on to past trauma and difficulty.

Bradley develops such wonderfully complex characters. Ada’s life experiences (presented in The War That Saved My Life), have caused her to struggle to trust but thanks to the events of WWII along with patience and love from those around her, Ada will finally win the war.

Awesomeness:

-Ada has experienced true trauma in her life, but those around her can see and understand that. Therefore, they are loving and patient with her as she continues to work through it.

-I love how protective Ada is of her brother Jamie. I also love how protective Susan is of Ada. Their family grows throughout this novel.

Cautions:

-This novel is set in WWII. There is death all around. However, there is no graphic depiction of death. (Except for a plane crash in the village. Even that is mild.)

-Ada did truly experience trauma. She will be moody, anxious, and at times, have verbal outbursts. This could be a great way to discuss how different people handle trauma and the need for working through it.

-Ruth, a young Jewish-German girl comes to live with them. Lady Thorton is not nice to her at all. Even though she is Jewish, Lady Thorton only sees her as the enemy. (Eventually, this will lighten up.) I think this allows for some good discussion about the feelings of war.

Little Man’s Spring Basket

My husband and I decided that we’d do a seasonal basket for our little man at the start of each season. This spring was my first chance to follow through with this.

If you follow me on instagram, then you saw my story about my Reading Warehouse book order. I ordered my son 12 books for less than $30! And that included shipping!!! Then I noticed that he was running low on paint so I bought him some new paints and some new brushes. Fast track a few weeks later, Zulily was running a deal on magnet tiles, so I purchased another small set; this one containing tires and a windmill.

As I was pondering what his spring basket would contain, I realized that I had a book about painting and a book about architecture in my Reading Warehouse order. An idea materialized: I’d put the painting book with the paints and the architecture book with the magnet tiles. Voila!

Little man LOVED this!! We immediately opened and put together the windmill car and then painted. The funny thing was that he would only use the paintbrush with the paint it matched! Therefore, the orange and purple did not get painted with! Silly boy.

All in all, these gifts were fantastic. We have added Roberto the Insect Architect to our bathroom schoolroom and Violet and the Eggplant Painting Problem has been read countless times before bed. I love that all of these items were purchased separately but worked together so nicely! I have decided that I want to give him a book with each “basket” he gets throughout the year. The best thing this momma hears is: “I want to read books.” Oh this momma heart!

So the next time your contemplating a themed basket, think about adding a book or two. Your little one will truly love it.

And yes, we are still wearing our Christmas pjs, because if they fit, why not?!?