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.

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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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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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