What We’re Reading Wednesday: September 30th

It’s What We’re Reading Wednesday again, and each of our selections this week have a wonderful connection to our Free-Range Kids Week theme.

mooseinmaineI’m going to steal the microphone for a moment to introduce you to a new book from Simple Kids’ newest sponsor – Shankman and O’Neil children’s books. Just over a week ago, we added Ed Shankman and Dave O’Neil’s I Met a Moose in Maine One Day to our home library, and I can honestly say I nearly have it memorized because the girls have requested that I read it so much!

This funny tale that just bursts with incredible rhyme and meter begins when the narrator tells us

“I met a moose in Maine One Day.  Just how it happened, I can’t say.  I brushed my teeth, I combed my hair and all at once, the moose was there!”

He goes on to tell about the adventures he and the moose undertake together.  Set against the backdrop of the state of Maine, this unlikely duo takes us from sampling maple syrup in the village general store to river rafting and log rolling in Bangor and all sorts of places in between.

Ed Shankman’s way with words make reading this story out loud a stimulating adventure in itself.  My favorite passage is when

“In Camden a lot of us got on a yacht, and we docked before dark in a beautiful spot.  We saw fish having fun.  We watched seals eating meals.  We met lobsters and otters and eagles and eels.”

Dave O’Neil’s illustrations masterfully match the whimsical text.  I think our four year old could study the pictures for hours!  The big old loveable moose brilliantly captures what every child must imagine to be the perfect animal companion – silly, adventurous, imaginative, and great manners, too!

The adventures of the boy and his friend the moose are sure to spark a desire for adventure in your children.  I can only imagine that families who love the state of Maine would be delighted by the details which honor that fair state, but I can also say that this charming story has been fully appreciated by my little family in the southern plains of the USA!

(Get to know Ed Shankman and Dave O’Neil by following them on twitter and becoming a fan on Facebook!)

And now I’ll step aside to make way for the wonderful selections from our book review team:


from Trisha (okioOLIO)

apple pieIn the spirit of free-range parenting, thinking outside the house, and embracing childhood independence, I’d like to offer a review of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman, which celebrates early freedoms in an often uncharted territory: the kitchen.

In the same way parents may initially feel nervous about releasing their child into the city or even the neighborhood , some parents may balk at introducing their kids to “dangerous” things, like knives, stoves, and ovens. But even in the home, exposing kids to potentially hazardous situations rather than sheltering them actually serves to protect the young’uns: if they are prepared to act with caution, and familiar enough to understand the dangers, they are less likely to accidentally discover something that could hurt them.

In the “cool-inary” kids classes that I help teach with a local chef, we begin teaching knife skills as early as age six, and make sure the kiddos learn a healthy respect for the sharpness of kitchen tools, the power of electric appliances, and the heat of cooking appliances.* This book is a delightful tribute to encouraging resourceful and creative thinking in children, and a philosophy that allows you as a parent to comfortably let out the reigns on your child’s independent ambitions.

In Priceman’s picture book, a young girl instructs the reader how to bake and apple pie – which is “really very easy” – as long as the market is open. When she finds the store closed, this ambitious little baker embarks on a world-wide shopping journey to collect the necessary ingredients. After retrieving wheat in Italy, cinnamon in Sri Lanka, sugar cane in Jamaica, and apples in Vermont, she returns home to make her pie.

While the rosy-cheeked girl in a green pinafore certainly displays free range independence as she travels by boat, train, bus, bike, and parachute, the solo globe-trotting and subsequent cow milking, butter-churning, wheat-milling activity is not something preschool or grade school kids will likely try to imitate. But the adventurous and purposeful attitude that is conveyed is refreshing and inspiring, and a realistic application can be found as she makes her grocery list, confidently strolls down the street to the market, and later slices apples, boils water, and shows skilled use of the oven.

The fanciful, brightly-colored watercolor illustrations feature cheerful, hard-working people all over the globe, and the front and back of the book offer facts and activities as well as world maps and a recipe for apple pie. This lighthearted tale contains great potential to lead to enriching lessons on the world, culture, adventure, goals, the origin of grocery items, and of course, cooking!

*If you decide to introduce your child to the wonders of the kitchen, you’ll of course want to set precautions and rules The children in our classes always understand that they must never try to cook in the kitchen without telling a parent – who can determine the level of supervision needed depending on experience and age. For helpful resources on pint-sized cooking utensils and more, visit www.cookingwithkids.com

Upper Elementary

from Katie (This Natural Life)

seven-wonders-of-SassafrasThe Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney is most perfectly summarized as “sweet,” in the best sense of the word.  I decided to read this book after seeing that it was recommended by a reader in the Simple Kids post about “Children’s Literature We Love.” I had no preconceived ideas and wasn’t sure what to expect, since I had never heard of the book before I checked it out from the library.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover the small-town adventure that awaited me.

The book is set in 1923, in a tiny town in Missouri called Sassafras Springs.  Eben, our chief explorer, is eleven years old and has just read a book about the Seven Wonders of the World.  He is captivated, and longs for adventure and travel and excitement.  Sassafras Springs begins to seem incredibly mundane and boring by comparison, and one evening as he is moping and complaining, his dad offers him a challenge: he has seven days to discover seven wonders, right there in his own town.  If he succeeds, his dad will send him on a train, all by himself, to stay with relatives in Colorado.  And so the journey begins!

What follows is an interesting and delightful story about Eben’s various encounters with his friends and neighbors while on his quest for wonders.  He learns to listen, to think, to draw his own conclusions, and to see with new eyes.  He discovers that beneath the seemingly mundane, there is often beauty and mystery waiting to be revealed.  And in the end, he realizes that there is wonder all around, every day, if we only have eyes to see.

This book is written in a charming, folksy voice, and is accompanied by endearing black and white illustrations, skillfully drawn by Matt Phelan.  While the officially recommended age level inside the book is 8-12 years, it could easily be enjoyed by younger children, especially as a read-aloud.  Although it took me a couple of chapters to really be drawn in, I eventually found myself turning pages quickly, intrigued and inspired.  The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs is, indeed, a sweet book that invites each of us to seek adventure, but reminds us that sometimes the best adventures are right before our eyes.

Online Knitting Class
Delightful kids' crafts delivered to your door!  See sample crates>>


  1. I love the sound of ‘I Met A Moose In Maine One Day’. I really enjoy bedtime rhyme reading for kids. Something soothing and peaceful seems to accompany simple rhythm and play on words and sleep comes fast. I’ll have to put this book on my Christmas list.
    Maureen Hume. http://www.thepizzagang.com

  2. We LOVE How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World!

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..Visit The Lovely List =-.


  1. […] book by that title and other literary gems for young bibliophiles in today’s “What We’re Reading Wednesday” over at Simple Kids. my latest contribution to the weekly kid lit reviews is dedicated to […]