Book Review, Favorite Books, recommended reads

Recommended Reads June 2017

Welcome to Recommended Reads! We’ll be doing a blog post once a month of our favorite picks for picture books, chapter books, and young adult books. If you follow us on Goodreads, you’ve probably already seen these pop up.

Picture Book

little excavator

Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney. If the author sounds familiar, it’s because she is famous for her Llama Llama series. This book was released this month, and the illustrations and story live up to the Llama llama legacy. We loved reading this book and learning about all the different construction vehicles.

Chapter Books

deltora quest

One of my all-time favorite series is Deltora Quest. It’s a series of eight books, but the books are shorter so they are appropriate for as young as third grade. These books are sent in a fantasy world where the main character, Lief, has to complete a quest for all of the jewels for the belt of Deltora. The best part of this series is that in each book, Leif has to solve a logic puzzle. I love that these puzzles give kids the opportunity to solve it themselves. These books were well planned and each character or event builds to create a fabulous series.

YA Book


Even though it’s a little lower reading level, I found this book listed on so many “YA” lists that I’m just going to put it here. Holes is a fabulous book that ties together three different time periods into one fascinating story. The protagonist, Stanley Yelnats, gets sent to a youth camp for a crime he didn’t commit. He has to dig a hole every day as part of his punishment. Throughout the book there will be different stories about Stanley’s ancestors and how their lives came to affect his.



Favorite Books, Reading, recommended reads

5 Ways to Find Books Your Children Will Love


It only takes my son a few pages to decide whether or not he likes a picture book. If he likes it, we keep on reading. If he doesn’t, the book gets pushed out of my hands as he proclaims, “I don’t yike it!” Once a book has been “unliked,” I hardly ever can crack it open again for a second chance. There can be many reasons why he doesn’t like a book: he isn’t in the mood to read, he doesn’t like the pictures, or the reading level is too high for him. Thankfully I’ve still be able to read quite a bit with him, and today I’ll be sharing my tips with you! This post will mostly be geared towards finding picture books your children will love, although some of the suggestions can apply to chapter books as well.

1. Pick a Subject Your Child Likes and Explore

What toys does your child play with the most? What TV shows do they like to watch? Chances are if you find a book that relates to the toys they play with or the shows they watch, they’ll end up liking it. For my son, I know I’m safe if I get a book that has dogs, construction vehicles, or is a retelling of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ You can browse by subject at your library, or simply skim the shelves for titles and cover art that match your child’s interests. Usually I pick several shelves to look at each time we go to the library, changing it up every time so I can be exposed to new authors and illustrators. I’ve found dozens of books this way.

2. Ask a Librarian

Extra points if the librarian you ask is one that does Story Time! I always get books my son likes from Story Time. I know if he’s sat through it once, he can sit through it again. These librarians know what children’s books are most popular. They also will be able to guide you to authors or series that your child may like. They also have an extensive knowledge on searching the library databases. A few months ago, I could not figure out how to search for books with songs (you know, like nursery rhymes or classic kids songs like “Old MacDonald”) but within a few minutes one of our librarians printed out two pages of books in that category.

3. Binge Read Authors and Illustrators

Once you find a book your child likes, look up every book that author or illustrator has done. If they liked one book, they’re likely to enjoy the others. Children’s book authors are more prolific than chapter book authors, and so this should lead you to several–perhaps dozens–of books your child will enjoy. It is especially helpful to research illustrators because often they collaborate with several different authors. Pictures are really important to young kids, so if you find an illustrator they like, they probably won’t notice that the author changed.

4. Introduce Books from Your Childhood

If you remember a picture book you read as a kid, chances are it was an excellent one. Look it up and try it out! Your kids are more likely to be excited about reading it if you exclaim about how much you loved that book when you were little. And it’s much more fun to read aloud when you know you will like the book as well. We’ve already started doing this with several series, like Berenstain Bears, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and What Mommies Do Best.

5. Try Again

Your child will still come across books they don’t like. The important thing to emphasize  is that there are still books they can love to read, and you will help find them! We always have a few books from our weekly library haul that never make the cut. By figuring out why my son doesn’t like them, I’m able to troubleshoot so it doesn’t happen again. If he isn’t in the mood, I try reading the book later. If he doesn’t like the pictures, I try to avoid that illustrator in the future. If the reading level is too high, I make a mental note to try the books again when he’s older.

If you are still looking for books your kids will love, check out our Recommended Reads posts! We post about our favorite picture books, chapter books, and young adult books at the end of every month.


Favorite Books, Reading

Teaching Kids to Love Books


Not to brag, but my son loves books. He may not be able to read them yet, but he loves them. While I realize that some children are more naturally drawn to books than others, I’d like to offer some tips of ways to teach your kids to love books.

Read to Them

Schedule a time to read to your children at least once a day. Make it part of your routine! Like many other summer reading challenges, I encourage you to read 30 minutes a day to your kids! I know attention spans can be short, so consider breaking up the reading times. In our schedule, we read after breakfast, before our son’s nap, and before bedtime. This means we only have to do 10 minutes at a time, although often it goes longer than that. And once your child learns how to read, don’t stop reading to them! My mom would often read to us even in our teens, just to get us hooked on a book she knew we would love. Often she would tell us, “I’ll just read the first two chapters, and if you don’t like it, we can return it.” Inevitably she would finish reading and we would fight over who would get the book next so we could finish it.

Go to the Library Often

I recommend going to the library once a week. I remember as a child we would go to the library and load up on books for the week. It’s the best way to be able to cycle through books so you can keep your child engaged in reading. Be sure to let your kids help pick some of the books they will read that week. Sure, you may end up with some books that you don’t like as much, but you may end up finding some treasures. (Stay tuned for next week when I discuss “Ways to Find Books Your Children Will Love”). If it’s hard to make time for the library, I highly encourage reserving books online and making use of library book drop-offs. This means you only have to make a 5-10 minute trip to the library to drop off past books and pick up the books you have on hold.

Attend Story Time

I am constantly learning how to be a more engaging reader through our library’s story time. Each librarian has their own way of adding expression and voice to the book they are reading. Often this encourages children to be more engaged in the books. I’ve learned how to look for places in books where I can engage my son in the story (making animal noises, pointing out different details in pictures, saying a repetitive phrase). Kids love to feel involved, especially when they can’t read on their own yet.

Reorganize Your Books

This is a tip I got from a friend, who wrote a beautiful blog post on how she decided to organize her books. I’ll just include this quote about the results: “Though I didn’t add a single new book during this clean-up process, it was as if my kids were seeing them all anew. They spent the rest of the day exclaiming over books they thought were lost and enjoying entire collections or author groups.”

Get New Books

There’s just something exciting about getting a new book. The book lover that I am would much rather my son get a new book as a gift than a new toy to junk up our house. Because of this, we have a separate Amazon Wishlist just of children’s books. If you can’t afford to buy new books all the time, consider shopping at your library’s book sales. We found some great classics at our local library sale this year.

Library Book Sale Haul

You can also see if your area is part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, where your child can receive a free, age-appropriate book once a month from the time they are born until they are 5!

Happy Reading!

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Book Review, Favorite Books, recommended reads

Recommended Reads May 2017

Welcome to Recommended Reads! We’ll be doing a blog post once a month of our favorite picks for picture books, chapter books, and young adult books. If you follow us on Goodreads, you’ve probably already seen these pop up.

Picture Books

This month’s picture book author and illustrator is Mark Teague. He has written a variety of books, and here are the ones we’ve loved so far:

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf- I loved this retelling of the classic fairytale, because I don’t like that the wolf is always forced to be bad.  Once the wolf’s hunger issues are solved, it turns out he’s not so bad after all.

Funny Farm and Firehouse- Edward (a dog) learns more about how farms and firehouses function as he visits each one. The best parts of these two books are the illustrations. It is incredible how lifelike these dogs seem.

The Sky is Falling- a retelling of Chicken Little, where she is set up by a wolf but outsmarts him in an unexpected way.

Pigsty- Have a kid with a messy room? In Miss Piggle-Wiggle fashion, this book explores what would happen if pigs actually moved into a room because it was so messy.

Chapter Book

lawn boy

One of my favorite books is Lawn Boy by Gary Paulson. Written for children in grade school, Lawn Boy focuses on a 12 year old who decides to start his own lawn mowing business. Along the way, he learns about profits and expenditures, investments, and capitalism. I loved how this book wove these topics around a story that was relatable and fun.


Young Adult Books


The Bartimaeus Series by Johnathan Stroud is set in a fictional world that reimagines what London would be like if magicians ruled Parliament through the help of djinnis (genies). The main djinn is Bartimaeus, who despite being a slave is clever and resourceful. This series focuses on redemption as secondary character, Nathaniel, who pursues fame and fortune at the expense of djinnis and many others. The best part of the books is exploring the new worlds (reimagined London and the world of djinnis) and learning how they interact.

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Book Review, Compromise, Favorite Books, resolutions

No-Drama Discipline: Book Review


If you think I read a lot of parenting books, you’re probably right. It’s because I don’t know what I’m doing. And I need help. This last month the issue has been time-outs. Specifically how time-outs haven’t been that effective. But what other options are there? No-Drama Discipline has a few suggestions I’m going to try out.

But first off, it’s important to distinguish what makes No-Drama Discipline different from other discipline techniques. The goal of No-Drama Discipline is to teach children how make better choices and understand their emotions. It focuses on strengthening the relationship between the parent and child through the following principles: 1) when children are upset and throwing a fit, that’s when they need us most. 2) sometimes we need to wait until children are ready to learn, 3) the way we help them be ready to learn is by connecting with them.

What I liked about this book was that it focused on the needs of the individual child and offered flexible techniques to help discipline your child. I appreciated that the authors were realistic in their expectations that parents won’t be able to put these techniques into practice all of the time. I especially appreciated a section in the back titled, “When a Parenting Expert Loses It.” In that sense, I think the book should have been named, “Less Dramatic Discipline.”

Another thing I liked about the book was all of the visuals they included. A lot of them were cartoon scenarios of a parent disciplining a child in different ways. This really helped me understand what the authors were trying to get across.

My favorite quote from the book was: “Our kids don’t usually lash out at us because they’re simply, rude, or because we’re failures as parents. They usually lash out because they don’t yet have the capacity to regulate their emotional states and control their impulses…When children are securely attached to their parents, they feel safe enough to test that relationship. In other words, your child’s misbehavior is often a sign of his trust and safety with you.” A lot of times, I view my child’s tantrums as a sign of my failure as a parent, but this quote helped me realize that it is more a sign of the trust he has in our relationship.

What I wish the book had emphasized more is tools for parents when they feel they are going to lose it. Too often the book emphasized a parent immediately being able to empathetically rush to their children’s side. But honestly a lot of situations that call for this are ones in which I too am feeling out of control and angry. So if you are looking for ways to address that issue, I would recommend this article: What Helped Me Be A Calm Mom.

Right before I wrote this article, my son had a huge meltdown. He refused to do the things he needed to in order to go to bed. Here are how some of the techniques I tried from the book: First, I recognized that he was extremely tired. Second, I did my best to hold him (loving physical tough is highly encouraged in the book). Third, I would mirror what he said. (Ex: “You want me to play cars with you.”) Even though I didn’t commit to doing whatever he said, he at least felt heard. You know what happened? He continued to scream and cry and be unreasonable. For over 30 minutes.

The thing about No-Drama Discipline is that it isn’t a magic wand. They even say this in their conclusion! The good news is that I was at least able to feel calmer while I was trying to discipline my son. And eventually, he did calm down. Through another technique called, “getting creative.”

I remembered a book we had read months ago entitled, “Little Monkey Calms Down,” by Michael Dahl. Using my son’s stuffed monkey, I walked through some of the steps in the book, which include laying down, holding something soft, and taking deep breaths. And it finally worked! My son was able to concentrate as I used the monkey to walk him through the steps. We practiced deep breathing for a while after that. Then we were finally able to talk about how he had been feeling angry, and how next time he can take deep breaths to calm down.

little monkey

We’ve still had our fair share of tantrums, but I’m hoping that the techniques from this book will be more effective than just a time-out.

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Favorite Books

Recommended Reads April 2017

Welcome to Recommended Reads! We’ll be doing a blog post once a month of our favorite picks for picture books, chapter books, middle grade books, and young adult books. If you follow us on Goodreads, you’ve probably already seen these pop up.

Picture Books

amy krouse rosenthal

Our newest favorite author is Amy Krouse Rosenthal. We have enjoyed every single one of her books so far, but here are the ones we’ve liked the best:

Spoon and Chopsticks- These are Rosenthal’s “Utensil” series. The highlight of these books are the puns! My husband and I loved them, although D didn’t get them all quite yet. Here is a quick synopsis:  Spoon is jealous of his utensil friends, because he feels like they get to do things he can’t. But what he doesn’t realize is that he can do many unique things as well. Chopsticks are always together, until one of them gets injured. They learn to grown as they are apart, and reunite a stronger pair.

Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink- I loved this series because it shows things from a different perspective. Little Pea hates eating candy, and he has to eat it every night for dinner! Little Hoot just wants to go to bed early, but he has to stay up late. Little Oink loves to clean, but is expected to keep things dirty.

Friendshape and Exclamation Mark- These books are full of puns and very visual for children. Friendshape is about four shapes who are best friends. Exclamation Mark has always wanted to fit in with the periods but eventually learns that it is okay to stand out.

Bedtime for Mommy- a cute reversal of roles book where a girl has to put her mom down to bed. My son LOVES this book and requests if frequently.

Chapter Books

time warp se

I highly recommend the Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka. These books have just the right balance of history, magic, and comedy.  There are currently sixteen books in the series, which should keep you and your boys busy for a while! These books are short enough to read out loud with your child, and they are fast paced enough to keep their attention.

Jon Scieszka is also the founder of Guys Read, a web-based literacy program dedicated to helping boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.

Middle Grade Books

locker and key.jpg

I loved Allison Hymas’ debut book, “Under Locker and Key.”  The book released last week, and it is a new favorite. Here’s the synopsis: “In the jungle that is middle school, Jeremy Wilderson is the world’s one and only retrieval specialist. He’ll find and return your stolen property before the last bell rings. Business is good, and if it weren’t for the meddling of Becca Mills, whose number one goal is to put Jeremy in detention for life, he’d be happier than a gym teacher on dodgeball day. But when Jeremy botches a job, he accidentally places the master key to every locker in the school in the hands of an aspiring crime kingpin. Lockers are being robbed, teachers are hunting for the culprit, and the only person Jeremy can turn to is the one who wants to bring him down.”

If that wasn’t enough to entice you to read the book, let me just say that the characters in this book are relatable and funny. I loved learning more about Jeremy’s friends and seeing these kids develop their talents in extraordinary ways. This book is fast paced, and a great read for any boy (or girl.)

Young Adult Books

false prince

If you or your son is looking for a series with ridiculous plot twists and turns, you should read Jennifer Neilson’s The False Prince Series. The False Prince centers on a young man who is kidnapped and pitted against several other young men to learn how to impersonate a prince in order to overthrow a kingdom. Failure will result in death. But instead of stressing about this, the protagonist chooses to walk the fine line between going along with the plan and tormenting his kidnappers. Little do they know, his past and his motives are more complex than they ever imagined.

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Favorite Books

20 Board Book Series For Toddlers

20 board book

These board book recommendations come from both me and D, so they are mother and toddler approved! This post contains affiliate links, but I was not not compensated for any of the information.

Cozy Classics– These are books with one word every other page and an accompanying picture of handmade dolls in different scenes from classic literature. I love that these books boil down the plots of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to just ten words.

Epic Yarns– In the same style of Cozy Classics, these books introduce children to the fandom of Star Wars by boiling down the plot to ten words.

Hello Genius– These books teach in a manner similar to Daniel Tiger, where animals go through similar experiences as your toddler and they have to learn to deal with the situation. Whether it’s missing Mama, picking up, or speaking quietly, I love the lessons from these books.

BabyLit– These primers take a theme (colors primer, shapes primer, opposites primer, etc) and apply it to a classic book such as Treasure Island or Huckleberry Finn. As someone who has read most of the classic books they do, I’ve enjoyed seeing how they incorporate different themes and characters even though they won’t necessarily detail the plot. Some I like more than others, but overall it’s been a fun series.

Five Little Monkeys– This series reminds me of Curious George, where five little monkeys get away with some pretty outrageous behavior, because they are monkeys. I especially like the books in this series that rhyme (not all of them do).

Les Petits Fairytales– These are renditions of fairytales using only one or two words per page. Since Man-cub D rarely has time for me to read more than that in regular books, I get the satisfaction of knowing I was able to read everything before he turns the page. Though simple, the illustrations contain fun details for kids to notice. Since I love fairytales, these are books I don’t mind reading repeatedly.

My First [Sport] Books– These also only contain one word per page, describing different equipment and moves common to each sport. Instead of illustrations, there are photos on each page, usually involving children playing the sport, which I think makes these more relatable for kids.

Leslie Patricelli Books- I have mixed feelings about this book series. While they always aim to teach good principles (like using toilet paper correctly), usually something in each book will backfire for D and he’ll get the wrong message. But he loves the illustrations and short phrases, so we’ve read almost every book by this author. They also have some great quotable lines that have worked their way into our vocabulary.

Mini Myths– These are modern retellings of well-known greek myths. What I like about these books is that they epitomize how a child would act. For example, Midas loves the color yellow, and wishes that everything he wears would be yellow- until he paints his favorite dinosaur yellow and regrets it. These books are easy for toddlers to understand while also alluding to themes from myths that parents would remember.

Little Blue Truck– Little Blue is considerate and kind, and I love the flow of the words for these books. The first one in the series is a great mix of car and animal sounds, which toddlers love to imitate.

Gossie & Gertie– I burnt out on this series pretty quick, since D wanted me to read each book three times a day. These are quick little reads about small goslings and their daily lives. Honestly I think if you were to read a goose’s mind, you’d probably come out with the plots from these books.

Good Night Our World– A great series if you want to introduce your toddler to different places, especially if you are planning on visiting there. They are also good to use if you have family in that city and you can tell your child all about where Uncle/Aunt/ Grandma/Grandpa lives.

Hello World– Similar to Good Night Our World, Hello World books introduce toddlers to different cities around the world. Their twist is that they are also shape, opposite, or counting primers, and they try to limit their word count.

Dinosaur Vs.– These books are fun to read to a toddler who loves to make growling noises or should “hooray!” Dinosaur attacks each assignment he is given with gusto, and my favorite book from this series is Dinosaur vs. Santa.

The Bear Books– I love these sweet little books about friendship. They are really fun to read aloud, as they have a nice rhyming scheme. Our newest favorite from this series is Bear Feels Sick, where all of Bear’s friends come to take care of him when he gets the flu.

Construction Crew– These rhyming books are great for any child who loves to watch construction. They have small rhyming stanzas and take the child through each step of the construction/ demolition process.

Emma Garcia Books- These books focus on tools or trucks building something throughout the book. You get to see each individual tool/truck’s role and then at the end you are surprised with the final product. There are a lot of sounds in these books, which are a fun to include toddlers.

Caroline Jayne Church Books- I love the illustrations of these books! Several of them focus on the love a parent has for a child, while others teach children about their bodies or becoming an older sibling.

Sandra Boyton Books- I love Boyton’s quirky illustrations that bring to life her board books. Our favorite is Blue Hat, Green Hat, where one animal just can’t quite figure out where each article of clothing is supposed to go.

Brown Bear and Friends– Did you know that there are four books in this series? I thought it stopped at Brown Bear, but there is also a Baby Bear, Polar Bear, and Panda Bear. My son loves these books, and has memorized most of the words, since they often repeat the same question over and over.

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