Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kids' Fun

I posted this on my personal blog, and thought I'd put it up here in case it's interesting to anyone around here:

I thought I'd mention some of our favorite books for Lilah, since I mostly talk about *my* reading. Unless otherwise noted, they're all board books. Obviously, we're big book people, as the list below just addresses some of her (and our) favorites. I've recently been doing what Matt calls "a dramatic reading" of Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury that, despite the story's length, keeps Lilah riveted. It takes a lot of energy, though.

Charles Fuge - Sometimes I Like To Curl Up In A Ball introduces Little Wombat and his animal friends. Charming rhymes, gorgeous pictures of animals. Unfortunately, the follow-up Little Wombat books just aren't as good. The illustrations are still wonderful, but the stories are less compelling. I Know A Rhino is absolutely darling. It's imaginative, beautifully drawn, and nicely rhymed. It's about a little girl who makes up stories about her stuffed animals. My Dad is a rarity--a book about a dad instead of a mom. I got this for Matt for his first Father's Day. It's fairly simple, a story about a bear bragging about his dad, but it's sweet and his drawings can't be beat.

Annie Kubler - Her illustrated versions of songs are just adorable, and some of Lilah's favorites are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which uses animals and people from all the continents and can prompt fun discussions about cultures and where different animals live with older toddlers), The Wheels on the Bus (the bus takes children, a magician, a clown, and others to a birthday party in the illustrations for an extra dimension), and Row, Row, Row Your Boat (which adds a couple of really cute verses to round out the short song and features babies in the illustrations, which Lilah loves).

Eric Hill - Lilah loves the lift-the-flap spot books, Spot Goes To The Farm, Where's Spot?, Spot Bakes a Cake. These are classics for a reason.

Barney Saltzberg - Peekaboo Kisses and Noisy Kisses are lots of fun for Lilah. She loves lift-the-flaps and feeling the different textures.

Karen Katz - Peek-a-Baby, Where Is Baby's Belly Button?, What Does Baby Say - more lift-the-flaps. Lilah likes the baby faces and she loves peek-a-boo.

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague - How Do Dinosaurs...? books. We discovered these through Kohl's Cares for Kids, the charitable organization of the department store. They periodically offer very inexpensive hardback books with accompanying stuffed animals, with proceeds going to health and education programs for kids. My mom (an elementary school principal) knew about these and ordered them for us. There are several board books available, too. Dinosaurs are much more pleasant and well-mannered than you probably thought! Cute rhymes, amazing dinosaur drawings that include the names of each type of dinosaur, and positive messages make these really fun. We have the three hardbacks, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon, and How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? We also have two of the board books, How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors and How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends? We like them all, and plan to get the others.

Sandra Boynton - We have pretty much all the Boynton books. They are fantastic. Cute rhymes, wonderful animal drawings, plus many with accompanying songs. A cost-effective way to get several is with two Boyton's Greatest Hits boxed sets through amazon (new for under $15 for 4 books, and another (Big Box of Boynton) with 3 books for under $13. Lilah loves music, so these are a big hit. Boynton has three musicals with books, and a fourth musical, Blue Moo, coming out this fall. We got them from my mom through Kohl's Cares for Kids. Rhinoceros Tap is the first. The songs with board books available are Horns To Toes and Barnyard Dance. We have lots of giggly fun with Tickle Time. All the songs are performed by the very talented Adam Bryant, so this one lacks the "Wow, that's Meryl Streep!" sort of fun on the later, star-studded musicals, but the songs are all enjoyable, and it doesn't really matter. Then comes Philadelphia Chickens. Songs with available board books are Snuggle Puppy, Pajama Time, and Belly Button (Round). Other highlights are Scott Bakula singing Pig Island and Laura Linney's very funny Please Can I Keep It?, but the whole CD is fun. The most recent is Dog Train. Our favorite songs on this one are the Kate Winslet-Weird Al Yankovic duet I Need A Nap, Penguin Lament sung by Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik (even my cool, 23-year-old brother brother loved these two), and Billy J. Kramer's three-episode Cow Planet saga, but again, we like the whole CD. Very non-annoying kids music. We put these on when Lilah's fussy and dance with her, or sing along with her board books. She loves music (as soon as we start playing music, she starts bopping in time with the beat, very cute), so it usually stops her fussing and often puts her to sleep if she's tired. Lilah's favorite Boynton board books are Your Personal Penguin (with a free download of the song performed by Davy Jones of the Monkees), Belly Button Book (a sister song is on Philadelphia Chickens), Pajama Time (song on Philadelphia Chickens), The Going To Bed Book, and Snuggle Puppy (song on Philadelphia Chickens). We were excited to see that Boynton has a bath book coming out soon.

If I Did It

Are you going to read it? AP is reporting that Barnes and Noble is not going to stock it and Borders is not going to promote it. I have to confess that I want to read it. At least my money will be going to the Goldman family rather than OJ.

Food for Thought

Here's a CNN article discussing people's reading habits based on a survey they conducted. Just sort of interesting to see where the world of reading is going. None of the statistics really surprised me. :-)

Random Reading

Harry Potter was our book club pick for August so it will be fun to discuss it with everyone next week. It really was a great ending to the series. And I can't wait to let a little time pass and then reread the whole series back to back. And Allison, I'm glad Matt has finally agreed to read #7. Did Rowling redeem herself for how she ended #6? Or did #7 not live up for Matt?

Since I actually read HP7 in July, I decided to read our September book club pick because I couldn't decide on any of my 900 books I have here. The book was The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner. While the author seems to generally write novels, this book was a collection of short stories. I admit, I sort of groaned when this was revealed as the September book because I am not a big fan of short story collections. I hate that I'm just getting into the characters and wondering about where the story goes and then it just ends. I always seem to be left with wanting more from a short story. HOWEVER, this one was slightly different. I enjoyed most of the stories in this book. There was one I pretty much skipped because I just couldn't get into it or the characters. Something about a group of guys dognapping a yippy yap dog on their bachelor party night (Hmm...whatever). I think Weiner set the book up well for people like me that shy away from short stories. The first three stories in the book actually have the same characters in them just at three different points in their lives, so even though they were completely different stories, you could see where they were going. The other thing I noticed about the short stories is that they progressed well and flowed one into the next. There was a general theme involving water/swimming, another was writing. It seems that although the characters and their lives were all different, there were threads though each story that connected with the next making it flow well. Again, I think there are much more intriguing books out there but I didn't feel this was a total waste of my time. Not one I would have read if it weren't for book club though.

I just finished Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult last night. I have not read any of her books before. I always see them at the bookstore and think about it, but never got on the bandwagon. I have several friends who love her books and have told me how good they are, so I borrowed some and have them sitting on my shelf. I really liked this book and will probably read some of her other novels now. The novel is set in New Hampshire and is a modern day retelling of the Crucible. But this time the witches are the ones doing the condemning. The main character Jack was wrongfully accused of having sex with one of his teenage students, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, did his time and now struggles to make a new life for himself. He shows up in the town of Salem Falls hoping to blend in and not make any trouble, but instead finds himself "outed" to the town as a sexual offender and endures what comes with that label. One of the town's teenagers again accuses him of rape and a trial proceeds. Underlying all of the main story is information on the Wiccan religion. Several of the town's girls including the teenage accuser practice Wicca. I found the book very engaging and the characters well developed. I thought the whole premise of the book was interesting and I enjoyed reading about the Wiccan religion. I would recommend this one. And I know people who would recommend any Jodi Picoult book.

Lastly, I have been reading a few parenting books of late, and while I don't want to turn this blog into a Mommy site, there is one particular book I want to recommend: Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske. While the book focuses on kids with larger sensory processing issues, I think any parent could glean some very helpful information from this book about how children perceive the environment around them and react to it. It has great information on the senses, processing your environment, and how to deal with behavior and discipline in a positive productive way.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer Reading

I finished a couple of books that I thought I'd review:

Putting on the Dog by Cynthia Baxter: It really wasn't that good, and I don't feel I'm overly picky when it comes to cozy mysteries. The sleuth was nosy and wishy-washy. Her annoying boyfriend whined through the whole book. Jessica kept saying how great he was, but I never saw it. Although, she was really no prize either, insisting that she wanted to make it work with the boyfriend in one paragraph, and getting drunk and slow-dancing with a movie star alone in his mansion in the next. Then she'd get mad that the boyfriend was jealous. Um, hello? The solution was really telegraphed quite a bit, too, and I didn't care that much by the end. If I weren't so compulsive, I would have stopped halfway through. Also, this woman is a vet, and she keeps leaving her dogs in her van while she runs errands. And it's summer! Duh! She says she cracks the windows and leaves water, but seriously, that's not gonna help. All in all, I really wanted to like these (Mystery? Animals? Crazy famous people? Yay!) but this one was just not great. I might check reviews of the others in the series to see if they get better, but I'm not too hopeful (this was #2).

I also read Halfway to Half Way by Suzann Ledbetter. The first in this series (mystery/romance) is South of Sanity, and these are cute. Hannah Garvey manages a retirement community that serves as home to some elderly busybodies who love to solve crimes. She's kind of their den mother. They're good-natured, funny, light reading, and I enjoyed this newest installment. You don't have to read them in order (although if you read this one first, it gives away something that happens in early books), and they're all funny.

I'm now reading The Science of Harry Potter and Hurricane Hannah by Sue Civil-Brown.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

So far behind... posting book reviews!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: I won't spoil it for anyone else, but I loved it! I think it was a great end to the series (*sniff*, so sad it's the end!) and her best yet.

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde: Excellent! I look forward to more. The first in the series is The Eyre Affair.

Crime Brulee by Nancy Fairbanks: Meh. Not great. The protagonist is annoying and not sympathetic. And she was the most engaging character. There is a recipe for Banana Bread Pudding With Banana-Rum Sauce I will be trying, though :)

Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke: Cute. Half the book is recipes, which is wild. Most aren't my thing, but there are some great sounding baked goods and desserts.

I have to re-read HP next!