We Help Mommy

bobby-and-martha2There is no question that I love finding new books for my kids and me to enjoy for the first time together. However, as fun as that is, it can’t compare to watching them fall in love with a book I also loved as a child. And in the case of the Little Golden Books, We Help Mommy ranks as one of  my top five favorites. Fortunately, my sweet son and daughters love it too!

Written by Jean Cushman and illustrated by the great Eloise Wilkin, this precious story follows young Bobby and Martha through a day at home with Mommy, showing how they help her with shopping, housework, and cleaning from the time they wake up until it’s time to go to bed at night. The brother and sister sweetly set the table, put away cookies, dust the furniture, watch the clothes swirl around in the washing machine, pick up their toys, and more. It’s a normal day for these two young ones at home, lacking any unusual happenings, and yet there’s something so very special about their love and care toward Mommy and Daddy and each other that the missing excitement isn’t even noticed. The story itself is simple and sweet, but the artwork is breathtaking and truly makes the book worthwhile.

Times may have changed somewhat since this classic book was originally published, but Ms. Wilkin’s illustrations of fresh-faced children are as lovely today as they were fifty years ago. Her pictures of the everyday doings of a family at home are cozy and warm, drawing readers in to the peaceful scenes. I honestly can’t think of another children’s illustrator whose work I like more.

If your kids are anything like mine, they are eager to be a help to you all day every day. I’m quite sure they too will enjoy this book (also available in this collection of stories illustrated by Eloise Wilkin).

Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley?

512zx4ec4l-_sy291_bo1204203200_ql40_Did You Carry The Flag Today, Charley? is another Rebecca Caudill favorite in our home. It’s another story about a poor family living in the Appalachian Mountains. Five-year-old Charley is unendingly curious and in constant motion, traits that combine to make him a bit different than the other students at Little School. It’s Charley’s first time to go to school, and every day he discovers something new that amazes his eager mind. Unfortunately, his discoveries don’t exactly help him to be a calm, quiet pupil. Instead, Charley is outside when he’s supposed to be inside, washing his hands when he’s supposed to remain dry, wiggly and distracting when he’s supposed to be still and unobtrusive. In a word, Charley is charming. He’s a little guy out in the world for the first time, and his excitement over everything he sees is contagious. How my girls giggled as we read about all of silly Charley’s antics!

Every day, the most helpful student is honored by being the one to carry the flag as he leads the other students out to the bus. Every day, Charley’s family ask if he was the one who carried the flag. And poor Charley replies in the negative day after day. Finally, though, on a truly extraordinary day, Charley’s answer is decidedly different!

The illustrations accompanying the story are skillful pencil drawings made by Nancy Grossman. They offer a lovely visual for little ones, and beautifully communicate Charley’s nonstop energy and excitement. They really do complement the story in a wonderful way.

Boys and girls alike will enjoy this tale tremendously. I look forward to reading it again to my own children before too long!

Happy Little Family

51qrvxloirl-_ac_ul320_sr208320_I love finding books for my kids that model a kind, loving family life for them. So many children’s books seem to rely on the stereotype of ridiculous parents, fighting siblings, and an “it’s all about me” kind of attitude. When I do find a nicely written story about a family who loves each other and takes care of one another, in spite of their faults, I am eager to share it with my children in the hopes of encouraging right attitudes and expectations for our own little family.

Happy Little Family by Rebecca Caudill is such a book. Here we first meet the Fairchild family, consisting of hard-working, loving Father and Mother and five children: Althy, Chris, Emmy, Debby, and Bonnie. The main character is little Bonnie, just four years old and so hopeful of being included in all that her big brother and sisters do as they enjoy everyday life on their farm in the hills of Kentucky.  Together the family experiences the joys and struggles of hill country life, from finding arrowheads in the dirt to searching the woods for lost Bonnie. My daughters were only four years old when I first read this book aloud them, but even at such a young age they were very excited each day to find out what was going to happen next to the little family. I will warn you that the chapters are a bit long for such small listeners, so you might consider reading just half a chapter at each sitting in order to keep little ears more attentive.

Another wonderful aspect of this book is the wealth of eye-catching illustrations frequently found between its pages. Decie Merwin’s simple black and white drawings bring alive the settings and experiences of days gone by.

If you’re ever looking for a good book that focuses on the activities of a sweet, loving family, be sure to check out Happy Little Family! I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

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Dance at Grandpa’s

1309727-_uy200_One of my all-time favorite series of books is the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Because of those remarkable stories of American pioneer life, I grew up longing for nothing less than a little house on a happy farm filled with people I love. And I always held a great desire to someday churn my own butter! I’ve been waiting for my girls to be old enough to enjoy those dear books as well, but before they were I stumbled across this beautiful set of stories that are perfectly adapted from the classic novels for a younger audience. They’re called My First Little House Books, and the stories are just the right length and level of difficulty for young pre-readers to enjoy hearing aloud, or for young readers to enjoy reading all by themselves. The wonderful sweetness of the original tales comes through in this adaptation beautifully, and my daughters have thoroughly enjoyed every one we’ve been able to locate thus far.

Dance at Grandpa’s was the first of the books that I purchased, and it tells the story of a winter time party held at Grandpa and Grandma’s house in the Big Woods. Neighbors gather for a delicious meal, music, and dancing, and the little Ingalls girls enjoy playing with other children who they don’t get to see very often. The book is simple, sweet, and a delight to read.

Illustrator Renee Graef provided lovely, full-color artwork for the books that imitates the well-known style of Garth Williams in a charming way, providing even more connection between the original novels and these delightful picture books. I’m so thrilled to be able to share with my children such wonderful stories from my own childhood in a way they can fully appreciate while not quite ready for the full chapter books. I’m sure your family will enjoy them too!

You’re All My Favorites

516lgwabpql-_sx258_bo1204203200_ Ever since we found out we were expecting triplets, one of my concerns was in assuring them of how very much each of them is cherished. I kept my eyes peeled for books that would reinforce this idea for them, and none that I have found over the years has come close to being as special as Sam McBratney’s You’re All My Favorites. (Obviously, we’re big fans of Mr. McBratney at our house.) I gave this book to the girls on their second birthday, and in the years since that day we have read it far too many times to count. It is an oft-requested favorite for their bedtime story, besides sneaking many times into the piles of books they stack up for story hour. This book is the perfect story to explain to my children how it’s possible for their dad and me to love all them the best all at the same time.

In this precious story, three little bears begin to wonder about their father’s nightly pronouncement that they are all his favorite cubs. So they question their parents, who offer the most special and loving response to each of them, convincing them in the end that they are, in spite of their differences, all the very best little bears to Mom and Dad.

 

 

I don’t want to spoil the adorable explanations given to these concerned cubs, but I can assure you that any family with more than one child would be blessed by this book. The story alone is worth reading again and again, but the addition of truly beautiful artwork by the very talented Anita Jeram helps to make it a family keepsake. I am sure my children will never forget hearing this story read to them, and I urge you to look into getting it for your own bookshelf. I have no doubt it will become a family favorite even before you reach the last page for the first time.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk

51edy2fk6rl I suddenly realized that I haven’t yet focused on any of my son’s favorite books on this blog, and it took me less than two seconds to choose It Looked Like Spilt Milk to share with you. My little man is now just two years old, but he has LOVED this book for at least six months. Written by Charles G. Shaw, it’s a simple but brilliant book that runs through a number of shapes that something appears to imitate before finally declaring that it’s just a cloud.

Such a description doesn’t do the book justice, though. More times than I can count, my son has crawled into my lap with this book, laughing delightedly every time I “oink” like a pig or try to blow out the birthday candle, only to cover his giggles with his hands when I whisper conspiratorially into his ear than what is pictured really isn’t any of those things. And he claps his hands in excitement when I finally proclaim that we’re looking at a cloud, calling out, “Cloud!” in a happy squeal. Then he promptly grabs the book away, opens it back to the first page, and insists that I read it again and again and again. How I cherish these times together, and I’m thrilled that there are books like this one that so engage him at a young age!

Also, there are so many fun activities that could be done as an extension of this book! I’ve heard of people making their own cloud pictures with cotton balls and school glue, white paint, stamps, or tissue paper. I haven’t done any of those activities yet with my own little guy, but I’m sure he and his sisters would have a blast doing any of them! If you’ve got littles in your own home, I highly recommend this book! It is a keeper for sure.

The Hundred Dresses

Eleanor Ethe_hundred_dressesstes’ The Hundred Dresses is another beautiful book that my daughters and I could hardly bear to put down each day. Written over sixty years ago, this story has never been out of print, and for good reason. It was based on the true story of the author’s classmate many years before, teased and despised for her foreign-sounding name, quiet manner, and poverty. Ms. Estes once explained that she felt terrible over what the girl endured at the school, and after the classmate had moved away, always wished she could make amends. The closest she could come to that, she remarked, was to write her story.

And what a powerful story it is. I wondered if my daughters, at just five years old, could fully grasp the impact of idle words, much less the devastating consequences of staying silent while observing cruelty in front of you. I was wrong to be concerned. They fully understood the book, begging each day for another chapter, hoping against hope that all would be resolved in the end. We had wonderful, important conversations about compassion, about opening our eyes to see beyond our own noses, about fighting cruelty with kindness. We talked about how they could show real love to kids they might meet at the park or at church or playing in the neighborhood. We role-played the various characters and examined their motivations and discussed how their regret after the fact could never erase the consequences of their actions (or inaction). We opened this book to read a good story and by the time we closed it we had gained valuable character training.

The illustrations, beautifully created by Louis Slobodkin, are found frequently throughout the book. The style of the illustrations complements the style of writing perfectly and keeps young children fully engaged with the story as it unfolds.

This books is a great story and a valuable tool in teaching your children compassion and kindness. I highly recommend it and am sure your family will enjoy it as much as mine has!

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The Raggedy Ann Stories

raggedyannMy mother and father have known each other since they were children and were high school sweethearts. Ever since I was a small child, I loved hearing stories from their younger days. For years, I excitedly helped Mom make up her bed each morning just so I could have the privilege of putting a very old Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy in the center of the pillows. Dad had given the pair to her when they were teenagers, and they’d lived on her bed ever since. Those rag dolls meant so much to Mom and in spite of their yellowed and somewhat bedraggled appearance, they seemed to represent love to me. So it didn’t surprise me when I eventually discovered that Raggedy Ann, in the original stories, was uniquely lovable.

 

I recently read this particular collection of Raggedy Ann stories by Johnny Gruelle to my kids, and once again I was taken in by the sweetness of the simple stories that focus on the everyday adventures of a well-loved rag doll and her toy and animal friends. This book includes an introduction to Raggedy Ann as well as seven timeless tales, beautifully illustrated by the author. My little girls loved hearing these stories about a doll and her friends and examining every old-fashioned picture. Each story was a perfect length to read to wiggly little ones in one sitting, and I think this book (and others like it) would be a delight to any family with young girls.

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Black Beauty (abridged)

blackbeauty     Let me begin this by stating, very clearly, that I am usually strongly against abridged editions of classic books. Growing up, I despised their stilted, choppy language and the complete lack of flow to their timeless tales. Instead of drawing young readers toward the charm of age-old favorites, they can often cause children to despise books which they might otherwise value very highly. That is why the abridged  Black Beauty, edited for the collection called The Great Classics for Children by Dalmatian Press, was such a pleasant surprise to me. My parents actually gave this book to my children a few months ago, and as we had just completed reading Emily’s Runaway Imagination, which mentions Anna Sewell’s classic a number of times, the girls were only too happy to finally discover what exactly was so special about this old horse book. So after we finished our collection of Christmas stories during the holidays, we dove right into it, despite my suspicions concerning its quality.

This edition of one of my all-time favorite books absolutely surprised and delighted me from the very beginning, staying perfectly true to Ms. Sewell’s lovely tale and infusing every page with the rich language and high ideals which are so much a part of the original Black Beauty. My daughters enjoyed every word of this book, and even my two-year-old son was interested in the beautiful illustrations created by Micheal Fisher.

We read one chapter together every day, and every single day they asked for more. It was a perfect introduction to a remarkable classic, and I am quite confident that they will look forward to reading it in its original form when they’re a little bit older. For now, I’m very glad to have this particular version of Black Beauty on our shelf, and I hope you’ll look into it for your own family.

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Here’s a Penny

Carolyn Haywood was a twentieth century author who clearly understood little children very well. I haven’t yet come across one of her books that my children and I didn’t absolutely love.

In Here’s a Penny, readers are introduced to a funny little boy named William, but who everyone calls Penny thanks to his copper-colored curls. Penny is six years old in the book, and always tumbling into silly situations which often include his next door neighbor Patsy. There’s a sweetness in the simple story, evident in all of Ms. Haywood’s works, that makes it especially appealing to little children. I read it to my daughters when they were about four and a half years old, and many months later, V was giggling about a scene she remembered from Penny’s adventures. Throughout the tale, Penny becomes the accidental owner of two very mischievous kittens, enjoys a surprise from his mother when he goes to a costume party, earns money for the first time, gets the seat of his overalls glued to a barrel, and even gets a new brother- an older brother, just like he’s always wanted! Every chapter has a fun and interesting story to tell, as well as simple illustrations that add even more charm to a delightful book.

Penny

Penny rescues a kitten.

As a mom of littles, I’m always looking for opportunities to expand their understanding in gentle ways. Here’s a Penny provided a lovely chance to talk with my daughters about adoption. Penny himself is adopted, and at the end of the story his parents adopt a second little boy to be his big brother. Ms. Haywood treats the topic very gently and sweetly, and I so enjoyed opening my daughters’ eyes to what adoption is, as well as seeing how different aspects of adoption affect Penny and his relationships with his parents, his friend Peter, Patsy, and even his kittens. Of course, the adoption process today is much different than that which is briefly described in the book, but the love and sense of real family rings beautifully true.

This book is a perfectly delightful addition to any family’s library, appealing to both boys and girls and an enjoyable read for the parents, as well.

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