What We’re Reading Wednesday: September 16th

Four fantastic selections from the WWRW Review Team this week!

Baby and Toddler

from Kelly (Notions and Threads)

rockabyefarmBefore my son, Ari was born, I envisioned rocking him to sleep every night in my arms. Fourteen months later, the unused rocking chair is collecting cobwebs on our front porch.

Wanting to encourage another try at this soothing nighttime routine, I went searching for a book to show Ari the merits of rocking. I found Rock-a-Bye Farm by Diane Johnston Hamm, a delightful tale of a very busy farmer at bedtime. One of my favorite parts of the book is the beginning when he rocks his own baby to sleep before tucking in his animals. I love the message that a dad in his work overalls gladly ends his day putting his baby to sleep.

I was also drawn to the dreamy, yet whimsical illustrations by Alexi Natchev, which have been updated since the book’s first publication in 1992. You’ll love how patient and inventive this farmer is as he makes his rounds before rocking himself to sleep on his front porch. Sure, of course you’d rock a tiny mouse to sleep in a wooden cradle, but how do you rock a cow to sleep? A horse? This farmer’s challenges makes putting a tireless toddler to sleep look easy. On the page where the farmer rocks a large brood of hens in his apron, my son likes me to whisper, “back and forth, back and forth” while swaying him gently side to side. This may be the closest we get to rocking in my house, but at least we have an engaging new bedtime book.


from Amy (Girlfriends Get Real)

tellmesomethingI discovered the book Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep this summer while I was searching the internet for new books to add to our home library. This book written in 1998 by Joyce Dunbar and Debi Gliori is a story of a little bunny that cannot fall asleep.

Willa is afraid to have bad dreams. Her older brother Willoughby helps her to fall asleep by reminding her of happy things. He reminds her of all of the things that are waiting for her in the morning.

“What do you see in the corner?” asked Willoughby.
“I see my basket full of toys,” said Willa.
“What do you think they are doing?” asked Willoughby.
“I don’t know,” said Willa.
“They are dreaming, dreaming of tomorrow, and the games you are going to play.”
“That’s very happy,” said Willa. “What else?”

I have a daughter that prays about dreaming happy things before she drifts to sleep every night. This book captures all of the happy thoughts through the story and the beautiful illustrations that can help your child drift into dreamland. If you are looking for a wonderful bedtime story, this is the perfect book to read to your child.

Early Elementary

from MJ (turnitupmom)

Those ShoesThis week’s selection, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, is a perfect fit for any child who has ever felt pressured to buy the latest fad in order to belong.  It’s also for any parent who has ever struggled with how to talk to children about wants versus needs.

The story begins with Jeremy longing for a pair of new black sneakers: I have dreams about those shoes. Black high-tops.  Two white stripes. We immediately discover, however, that Jeremy’s grandma is in no financial position to buy what he wants, only what he needs.  And what he needs are warm winter boots.

After a humiliating school incident in which Jeremy is forced to wear Velcro baby shoes from the school’s donation box, he and his sympathetic grandma search several thrift shops for a used pair.  When Jeremy finally finds them, they’re too small.  Of course he buys them anyway, limping to the bus stop and praying that his “too-small shoes” will stretch.

One day, Jeremy notices that his best friend, Antonio- the only one who didn’t laugh at his baby shoes- is wearing taped-up shoes.  Despite his disappointment and embarrassment, Jeremy knows what he must do.  In a spirit of generosity, he surprises Antonio with a gift- those shoes.

This sweet and sincere ending tugs at the heartstrings, suggesting that what we really need are loving relationships and good friends by our side.  It’s a story that builds empathy and understanding as we grapple with the fine line between our wants and needs in a gotta-have-it society.

Upper Elementary

from Diana (HOLES in my Shiny Veneer)

“That’s just how parents are,” Henry explained wisely as he ate the cheese off the top of his slice and wiped his greasy hand on his jeans. “They like to talk about how they used to do things or about how they plan to do things someday, but parents aren’t very good at right now.” From Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder

tlccontentUgh, such an indictment for all parents!  I found this quote in a review, and it led to a post on my blog and an open thread discussion on another blog before my library even got Any Which Wall in.  Snyder is a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers, struggling like the rest of us, which makes this masterpiece all the more incredible of a read to me.

Any Which Wall is a special book, one that begs to be added to the family library instead of just being borrowed from the one downtown.  Written as a tribute to Edward Eager’s “Magic” novels, it would be the perfect family read-aloud on a rainy day: the narrator with her clever-but-not-too-clever asides explains that this is a tale of “common magic”, that ordinary magic just waiting to be found by kids who have too much time on their hands and are willing to open their eyes to the unusual.

Susan, Henry, Roy, and Emma are the four protagonists who find a wall dropped into the middle of a cornfield on a previously boring summer day.  Once they figure out the basic rules of this particular magical wall, they find that it can take them to anywhere and anytime.  Over the course of the book, they each choose a destination and have adventures in Camelot, with Blackbeard’s son, on the American prairie, and in present-day New York. In spite of the mention of cell phones and e-mail, their adventures have a timeless feel about them and it’s obvious that Snyder is a lover of childhood adventures from Anne of Green Gables to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

Yet Any Which Wall isn’t just a collection of magical journeys.  The children, of course, learn about themselves and each other in their time travels.  Parents will appreciate such lessons as:

“I can only be what I am,” said Merlin.  “And I’m happy, I suppose, because I don’t try to be anything else . . . It’s a lot of work to pretend.”

So yes, the morals are there (as in any classic kid lit), but I think the young reader will be too caught up in the adventures and the magic to be put off by them.  They certainly will make good talking points after a family read aloud, though.  I can’t wait for that rainy day to share Any Which Wall with my two.

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  1. Oohh–another great sleep book! I also love the message of “Those Shoes,” a book I hadn’t heard of, and I am getting “Any Which Wall” to read myself ASAP. Thanks mamas!

  2. “Those Shoes” looks like a great read– I’ll have to pick that one up on our next library trip.

    And I didn’t mention it in my review, but Laurel Snyder’s “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains” is also a great read– wish I could have fit both of them into my pick!

  3. These all sound like such great books. Funnily enough, Rock-a-bye Farm and Tell Me Something Happy would be so appropriate for our house right now – we are having lots of sleep issues.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..party planning =-.

  4. I am running to the library to pick up one of these books!

    Thank you:)

    Ashley, with CWDkids

  5. I am loving all the book ideas. Just got all three of these books this week. I started reading Any Which Wall last night to my 6 and 8 year old, I along with the kids was disappointed when it was time for bed and we had to stop the story! Thanks for the new adventure!


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