Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Go To Market

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Some of you may already know that my oldest children are triplet girls. Even before they were born, I knew that their bond would be different in some ways than that of sisters who are not multiples, but I had no idea how different. When they were still very young, they fell in love with books (just like their Mama), and I began to search for some children’s books that might have triplets in them, thinking my daughters would enjoy hearing about some sisters who are all the same age – just like them! I was very fortunate to discover this beautiful series by Maj Lindman, originally published in Sweden during the late 1950’s and just now being reprinted during the last five years or so. I ordered Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Go To Market, and was so surprised by how eagerly my daughters examined the pictures of the little girls, exclaiming over and over, “They’re all the same size, Mommy! They all have blue eyes! And yellow hair! Mommy, they’re alike just like we’re alike!” I was truly amazed by how quickly and completely my daughters latched on to these books – and not simply because of the similarities between themselves and the main characters.

The story itself is sweet, innocent, and full of the wholesome qualities so often lacking in modern children’s literature. This family loves one another and works together. The girls want bicycles and decide, since their family does not have an excess of funds, to spend the hot summer working faithfully in a garden, selling the proceeds every Saturday at the local market. They do so, learning a great deal about responsibility in the process, and by the last Saturday of the fall market, they are the proud owners of three beautiful bicycles! These girls are a perfect example of young children who are both motivated and considerate, independent and obedient, competent and respectful. These qualities work so well together, but such a combination is practically unheard of in a great deal of the new books sitting on the the children’s shelves of my local bookstore.

The illustrations too, done in the style of the period, are charming. It’s been two years now since I began purchasing these books, and they’re still one of the first series my girls will pull off the shelves and spend a long time looking through the sweet pictures.

Whether you have triplet little girls or not, this book is a wonderful one that I am confident your family will enjoy time and again. I highly recommend it!

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Betsy-Tacy

51kr8Pn0hdLWhat can I say about this delightful book? Betsy-Tacy by the wonderful Maud Hart Lovelace will always hold a special place in my heart and memory. It was our girls’ very first audiobook, borrowed from the library for an especially long trip during the holidays one winter. I was really quite surprised by how much my daughters enjoyed it, considering they weren’t even four and a half at the time. But they were so enthralled by the charming friendship of Betsy and Tacy – two little girls just about their own age – that any time we needed to stop the story for any reason, they were full of questions and speculations about what would happen next. Well, we returned the audiobook to the library, but before a month had passed, they were eager to hear all about Betsy and Tacy’s adventures again, so we had to check the actual book out from the library. And before too long, I finally bought the book just so we’d always have it on hand when they ask to read it again. It’s really just that good.

This book is truly delightful. The setting of yesteryear is one that I doubt my children will ever get to experience firsthand, but that only adds to the story’s charm. The little children of this book, though – they are the same as the ones cuddled up on your lap as you read, full of wide-eyed innocence, brimming with excitement at every new adventure, eager to free their imaginations and enjoy any number of fantastic experiences they can dream up. I enjoyed the book as much for its sweetness as my children did for its wholesome, old-fashioned fun.

The simple, precious illustrations by talented Lois Lenski are styled in such a way as to make them unique from many of the drawings found in more modern children’s books, and they are frequently found throughout the book, offering clear images to enthrall young readers and engage them even more fully in the story.

Betsy and Tacy’s friendship is beautifully told through the hardships and celebrations recorded in this book. There is great value in reading about the wholesome ways these two little girls enjoy every day. I smile every time I see this on our shelf. I can’t wait to read it with my kids yet again!

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Just You and Me

s-l225While I enjoy reading silly stories to my kids and I love hearing them laugh out loud at some of the ridiculous tall tales we’ve discovered together, there is something extra special about the cuddles that come with reading sweet, lasting books together. Sam McBratney, author of the deservedly famous Guess How Much I Love You, has given us one of those memory-making stories in his delightful picture book Just You and Me. As in his greatly loved rabbit book, here we have a duo of father and child expressing their love for one another in a gentle fashion that makes my own children curl up close to my side when reading it.

Big Gander Goose and Little Goosey are out for a lovely walk together when they notice storm clouds appearing, so their stroll becomes a search for a safe place to hide from the coming storm. Each place they find already houses another forest creature, and sweet Little Goosey asks Big Gander Goose if they can look for another place for just the two of them. Finally, they find a place that’s just right for them, only to discover that all the animals they’d met along the way decide to join them right as the storm begins. When clear skies return, the geese set out once more on their walk, just the two of them alone together.

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The illustrations by Ivan Bates are absolutely beautiful. Every time we pick up this book, my children pause on each page to soak in all the details of what’s happening in each frame.

 

With four small children in our family, finding time to spend one-on-one with each of them can require some creativity and a bit of a seize-the-moment attitude. But reading Just You and Me with one child while the others are playing elsewhere, or sleeping a bit later, or busy with a puzzle or game, can instantly create a tender intimacy between us and offer ten precious minutes of “just us” time. I highly recommend this sweet picture book to any family with young children. I’m quite certain it will soon boast a home on your shelf of favorites, as it does on ours.

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Ducktails (for young children)

51GBDP13QGLLast week I wrote a review of Janette Oke’s memorable children’s book, Ducktails, and today I’d like to introduce you to this same story, edited to be appropriate for younger readers. All of Oke’s Classic Children’s Story series were edited and republished as the series Animal Friends. The publisher suggests children ages 6-10 would enjoy reading this book, but I read it aloud to my daughters when they were just 4, and they enjoyed it very much. This younger version of the book is much shorter, with many chapters only 3-4 pages long. It also replaces Brenda Mann’s lovely black and white drawings with full color illustrations by Nancy Munger, catching the young child’s eye and helping to bring the story to life in his imagination.

Although the main story line remains much the same, there are some important differences between this version and the original which make this one a better choice for families with very young children. The benefit of reading about a likable character’s struggle to choose obedience is still here, but rewritten in such a way as to remove the tragedy found in the older edition. The narration and descriptions have also been edited to make this book easier for even the youngest listener to follow. My daughters especially enjoyed the emphasis on the young ducklings’ attempts to learn basic life skills and the humorous mishaps that happened along the way. At age four, they were able to easily enjoy 1-2 chapters of the book read aloud each day, and the questions of character and choices that appeared offered us some wonderful opportunities to discuss the wisdom of trusting mom and dad’s judgement rather than ignoring it. It’s a great choice when beginning to introduce young children to chapter books, and a good option for a young reader who may not be ready to read through the much longer older version.

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Ducktails

2125ZRAZZTLLet me begin by saying that Janette Oke is one of my all-time favorite authors. Everything she writes is full of heart, genuine, and worth reading many times over. The same is true for Ducktails, one of the books in her Classic Children’s Story series for children ages eight and older. A tale of family and friendship, of rebellion and real consequences, this book is thoroughly entertaining even as it broadens a child’s mind to consider the cost of foolishly rejecting the wisdom of his parents. The story is narrated by the main character, a duckling named Quackery, who must make the choice of either listening to and heeding the words of his parents or risk his life by rejecting them as his brother and friend urge him to do. I can still remember how I felt the first time I read this book many years ago. I was so worried for Quackery, sharing in his concern over his wayward brother.

Don’t misunderstand me; while parts of this story are rather sobering, there are a great deal of lighthearted descriptions of the newly hatched ducklings that will brighten the reader’s countenance. There are even a few silly moments within the pages, and throughout the book you’ll find beautifully drawn black and white illustrations by the very talented Brenda Mann.

Though told through the perspective of a young duck, this book still rings true to one of Janette Oke’s greatest strengths: her knowledge and understanding of real life, and her ability to convey that understanding to her readers through an enjoyable story. Ducktails (and the other books in this series) would be a valuable addition to your family’s home library.

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James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

51pDT-YQvOLA collection of  eight short animal tales from the perspective of a country veterinarian in England, this Treasury for Children by James Herriot is one of my favorite read aloud books for preschool and kindergarten aged children. The classic stories included are thoughtfully written with rich, descriptive language and a beautiful simplicity. They’re the perfect length to hold a young child’s attention from beginning to end, and while the stories each have their own degree of gentle humor, their most attractive quality is the tender sweetness found in every tale.

The full page illustrations by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett are absolutely delightful (my children will sit with this book and pore over the pages, absorbing every detail). They inspire the same heartfelt sense of sweetness as the stories, working in perfect harmony to create a timeless work that parents and children can enjoy together again and again.

Stories included:

  • “Moses the Kitten” – A humorous tale about a tiny stray kitten who finds a warm home with a family of piglets.
  • “Only One Woof” – The story of an adorable, capable sheepdog who only ever barks once.
  • “The Christmas Day Kitten” – A pitiful stray mother cat entrusts a kind woman with the care of her only kitten, who grows up among basset hounds and becomes more of a retriever than any of them.
  • “Bonny’s Big Day” – A sweet, proud tale of a kindly farmer and his pet horses, long since put out to pasture, but for one day brought back to the center of the community.
  • “Blossom Comes Home” – After many years of service, a dairy cow is regretfully sold away from home, but refuses to stay away!
  • “The Market Square Dog” – The country vet and a jolly policeman work together to aid a mixed breed dog known for begging in the marketplace.
  • “Oscar, Cat-About-Town” – A very amusing story of an oft-missing cat who enjoys going out visiting!
  • “Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb” – This little lamb starts out with adventure on his mind, but in the end he’s quite content to stay safely at home!

My children enjoy every one of these stories, and I know it’s a book we will continue to read time and time again! I highly recommend it to any family with children!

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Why A Book Review Blog?

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When I was nine years old, my family moved from Brandon, Mississippi, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a little more than one year. In spite of my exposure to some truly fascinating people and some of the most amazing experiences I’d ever know, my world shrank a bit to the gated and walled confines of our apartment complex. My closest relationships (referring to proximity) were with my sister and parents, the two elderly women who lived above us, the one elderly woman who lived below us, the grizzled custodian, and the little girl my age who lived two buildings in front of us. Thanks to the language barrier, my already over-indulged imagination sought freedom and expression through reading. Over the course of that year, I became very close to my family, was introduced to the fun of homeschooling, learned passable Spanish, grew to appreciate living in a major city, and made scores of lifelong friends – both real as well as those dwelling only in the ever-expanding realm of my invented worlds. When we returned to the States, I carried those friends with me and became the little girl traipsing back and forth from the library each week with a stack of books so high I could barely see over it. In order to gauge the quality of my reading material, my very wise mother read or reviewed every single book I read until I was about fifteen years old. Because every book I read during those years passed first through her careful hands, I developed a taste for rich language, great storytelling, and lasting literature. I consider that one of the greatest gifts my mother gave me.

Now I am a mother, and I have discovered that not everyone was fortunate enough to have a discerning parent guiding their book choices as a child, and they, as adults, are at a loss concerning which books to put now in their own children’s hands. I’ve had friends ask me for recommendations for books and authors that will make a lifelong, positive impact on their children. They understand that books are powerful, having the ability to shape one’s mind and character and worldview. They want to encourage wholesome, beneficial reading in their homes but don’t know where to start. I began to realize that there are many, many parents among us who feel that same way. Thus, the idea for a blog reviewing great children’s books was born.

I hope you come visit often and enjoy what you see. I look forward to sharing with you some of my oldest and dearest friends.

~ Katie

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