What We’re Reading Wednesday: September 23rd

Filling our homes with books allows us the freedom to turnoff the screens in our homes – even if it is just for the week. The book review team is back this week with three fantastic recommendations:

Baby and Toddler

from Meghan (Out of the Woods)

house-in-the-night-coverHave you heard yet about The House In the Night by Susan Marie Swanson?  This book is the 2009 winner of the prestigious Caldecott award (aka It Must Be Awesome).  I am obsessed.  Both the text and the illustrations by Beth Krommes are utterly enchanting and perfect for getting you and your little one swept up in the glory of a starry, fall evening.

I recommend this book for the infant/toddler category for three reasons:

1. The book is entirely illustrated in black, white and yellow and provides an excellent opportunity for young ones to focus, instead of getting lost in pages packed with bright colors.  I knew it would be perfect for my nine-month-old daughter when I noticed her point to the fireplace on almost every page of Goodnight Moon.  The color yellow represents The House’s main character—light—and just as I thought, my girl goes right for the bright spots of color every time. Krommes is a printmaker, and her illustrations are done in the style of wood engraving.  You will love her landscapes of rolling hills, inviting cottages, fields awaiting harvest and yellow sun and stars.

2. The text is very simple (only one phrase per page) and is full of basic words that your toddler is likely working on, such as home, book, bird, sun, moon, song, etc.  The pages are full of opportunities for image and word recognition, as they are teeming with animals, toys and musical instruments.

3. Best of all, this is the perfect book for children who are developing a fear of the dark. It explains very simply how light from the sun reflects off the moon at night and comes into the little one’s room, along with the shining of the stars.  It explains that her home is full of light, even if the lamp is turned off, pointing out pets, plants and parents as comforts better than any lightbulb.

And I recommend this book for parents, because it will captivate you as well, with its intimate and tender details, its depiction of home and family, and its masterful illustrations. You’ll want to study every page.

Early Elementary

From Jean-Marie Maier

mercyrescueMercy Watson doesn’t want to sleep alone in her dark, scary room, so she sneaks into Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s bed and snuggles between them. Typical behavior of a preschooler you say? Only problem is Mercy isn’t a preschooler. She’s a fun-loving pig with an affinity for warm, buttery toast.

Just when Mercy is deep in a dream about a plate piled-high with delicious, hot-buttered toast, she and the other dreaming Watsons are awakened by a “Boom!” The bed is falling through a second floor hole. And although Mr. Watson tells everyone to stay where they are, Mercy dashes off to find…help?  No!  Some of that dreamy, hot-buttered toast!

What happens next? A scare. A wild chase. And firemen are called to the scene. Mercy’s insuppressible love of toast turns her into the unwitting hero, or as the Watsons like to call her a “porcine wonder.”

Mercy Watson To The Rescue by Kate DiCamillo is an action-filled, fast moving story that completely delighted me and my 5-year-old daughter. We shared lots of chatter, giggles and toast. We would also recommend the other books in the Mercy Watson series.  They are perfect for beginning readers ready to give chapter books a try. Each book has so much to offer: easy to read text, vibrant illustrations, quirky characters and lots of humor and silliness.

And if you’re gearing up for Halloween, check out Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise. It features a trick-or-treating Mercy, many of the same familiar faces and, of course, stacks of delicious, hot-buttered toast.

Upper Elementary

By Elizabeth (Finding Him Bigger)

crookedkindofperfectThere’s nothing like having a dream and not quite being able to reach it. Zoe, the 5th grade protagonist in Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect, knows this disappointment well. She dreams of playing the piano in Carnegie Hall, complete with a ball gown, gloves up to her elbows, and ruby slippers. Because for her a piano is everything she is not: glamorous, sophisticated, and worldly.

Unfortunately, instead of a grand piano, Zoe plays the organ: a loud, awkward instrument, nothing like a delicate piano.

In learning how to play the organ and preparing for a competition she’s not even sure she wants to compete in, Zoe learns a great deal about herself and her unconventional parents. She makes an unlikely friend and realizes that people aren’t always as they seem. Some of their quirks might actually be strengths. In fact, what seems crooked to one person and perfect to another might be just that: a crooked kind of perfect.

So when Zoe’s performance in the competition seems anything but perfect to her, she learns that sometimes you just have to keep going. She tells her dad, “You can’t jut get up and walk away every time you mess up. You’d never get anywhere.” That’s a lesson that’s good for all of us to learn.

My 10-year old daughter and I both enjoyed this book very much, and it has sparked some wonderful conversations in our home about perfectionism and expectations. Most upper-elementary aged girls understand Zoe’s feelings of wanting to fit in with their peers but not always being able to. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban is a delightful book from which they’ll find encouragement and inspiration to be themselves. It inspires confidence and self-assuredness, even for moms like me, and reminds all of us that what seems perfect has mistakes in it too. But when we focus on the positives, those mistakes hardly matter at all.

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  1. Those all sound great! My kids love Mercy Watson, but up until now I never see it in anything but hardcover. It looks like the one you mentioned will be in paperback in December.
    .-= Visty´s last blog ..Have you ever been chased, movie style? =-.

  2. I love all the encouragement that our kids are getting to JUST BE THEMSELVES!!
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..to my dad, on his birthday =-.

  3. Oh, we just adore Mercy Watson around here! We also found them on CD at the library and have enjoyed re-listening to them in the car.
    .-= Amy @ Let’s Explore´s last blog ..Tissue Paper Vases =-.

  4. All of these books are wonderful. I love the black and white illustrations in The House in the Night. And Kate DiCamillo’s books are all wonderful! The Mercy Watson books are a perfect introduction to chapter books for new readers.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Simple Kids Book Review: September =-.

  5. I’m going to have to get The House in the Night for my 10 month old! Nice picks this week!
    .-= Emily @ The Pilot’s Wife´s last blog ..Just One of Those Days =-.

  6. Mercy Watson has just gained hero status in our house. My son LOVES this book.

    He’s not been open to chapter books before, but this time, he’s sold. I can’t wait to show him that there are more of these books. Now, I need to find others that are similar to help bridge him to the next stage of stuff.
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..And on with the show . . . =-.