143 Day

I was half way through writing today’s post when I discovered it is 143 Day. Immediately, I stopped, saved the draft and decided to return to that one another day. I simply must celebrate 143 Day with my blog neighbors.

If you don’t know what 143 Day is, reader, don’t feel bad. It probably just means that you aren’t quite a big Mr. Rogers fan as I am. Today, May 22nd is the 143rd day of 2020. And because 143 was Mr. Rogers’s favorite number (he said it meant I love you), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has declared today as an official Day of Kindness.

If ever there was a year that we needed to remember and celebrate love and kindness it is 2020.

Step one when I decided to write this post was pull my copy of The World According to Mr. Rogers off the shelf to get some inspiration. This volume is full of wise quotes from our television neighbor and there is a whole section on understanding love. As I expected there were some gems. My favorite is one that I am fairly confident I remember hearing him say on more than one occasion on his show:

If Mr. R was correct… and I think he usually was… than we as caregivers of children are in a prime position to do Great Things. Childhood is the best (and easiest) time to lay the foundation so our children will grow up confident in both their lovability and their ability to be loving. Personally, I am placing a whole lot of faith in the ability of stories and books to help me plant these seeds in my own kiddos.

We have celebrated Kindness Day a few different ways today. We wrote chalk messages on the cement outside our home for our neighbors. One of my kids surprised another child with a special Lego creation and we watered a neighbor’s plants while she was work. Before bed we’ll watch an episode of Mr. Rogers. Plus, we… wait for it… read books.

Here are just a few of my favorite books about kindness, perfect for sharing on 143 Day.

Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. I know, I know I already wrote about this book. But if you plan to be a regular blog reader, you probably better get used to it because I am sure I will have George’s tale on any number of lists. But really, it is the best book on kindness I have read to my kids or read myself for that matter. This humble giant cheerfully and creatively parts with his newly purchased clothes as he encounters animals in need of help. In the end, he is content to slip back into his old clothes, but he has a new accessory… a crown for the Kindest Giant in Town.

Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia. This is an aptly named story for the day since according to Mr. Rogers love starts with listening. The young Latina protagonist of this story is good at listening to others and being kind to her schoolmates, neighbors and animals. Esperanza discovers the importance of another type of kindness when she flubs her part int he school play… kindness to yourself.

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora. It was a stroke of luck that this was one of the books we had checked out of our local library when the pandemic hit and the library stopped accepting book returns. That means we’ve had it for over two months. I am making the most of it by reading it at every opportunity. Mora’s gorgeous cut paper pictures wonderfully complement this story, which has won a Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King award and the Anna Dewdney Read Together award. I don’t always agree with award committees, but this time, they got it right. Omu (which means “queen”) is cooking a stew that for her supper and the delicious scent lures her neighbors in. Omu generously shares from her big pot with everyone from a little boy down the hall to the Mayor. When she goes to enjoy her own creation, however, she finds her pot empty. Yet she doesn’t stay hungry for long. This is a charming illustration of the power of kindness and sharing to build community. I find the whole thing incredibly joyful to read and share.

Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass. My kiddos love Herb. This sweet herbivorous dragon is the only one of his kind who doesn’t devour wild boar meat, crispy knights and sweet princesses. When the knights of Nogard go on a dragon hunt to rid their kingdom of the murderous dragons, Herb is the only one captured. Things get tense for Herb, but by remaining true to himself he ends up bringing peace to the whole kingdom. You can also share Herb’s story in Spanish.

Since I am getting this post out in the evening instead of the morning, it may be too late to properly celebrate Kindness Day today. But I am confident in saying that Mr. Rogers would happily give you permission to celebrate kindness another day. Or even better, everyday.

Your turn. What are your favorite books about kindness? How have you and your kids shown kindness to yourselves or others lately?

143 Day

Top Toddler Read Alouds, Part 2


Canva - Photo of Family Sitting on Floor While Reading Book
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As I prepared Part 2 of the list of books to read together with your toddler (Part 1 available here), the first book on today’s list got me thinking about beloved children’s author/illustrator, Anna Dewdney.  Dewdney tragically died at the age of 50 from cancer.  Of course, I never met the successful and famous creator of Llama, Llama Red Pajama.  Still I recognize her as someone who saw books, stories and reading in the same light I do.  In September of 2013, she wrote an explanation in the Wall Street Journal as to why reading with children does more than just prepare them for academic success:

“by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes. I will go further and say that that child then learns to feel the world more deeply, becoming more aware of himself and others in a way that he simply cannot experience except in our laps, or in our classrooms, or in our reading circles.”

I just love that.  It’s far more eloquent than my own manifesto comparing books to vegetables. Had we known each other, I like to imagine that Anna Dewdney and I would have been friends.  Like many of my favorite writers, her work has earned her a place in my life’s story.  When she died, she asked that instead of a funeral, the people who wanted to honor her should read a book to a child.  When I read that, I cried.  What a beautiful way to memorialize her life and work. I can only hope that someday my life inspires someone to share some beautiful stories with children.

And now, without further ado, here are some more stories that will help you and your children become a bit more human:

littleexcavatorLittle Excavator by Anna Dewdney.  We love Llama in our house.  Kids easily relate to Llama’s bedtime drama, missing his mama and grocery store tantrums.  Meanwhile, I wish I was as patient and gentle as Mama Llama.   Still I think this one-off title about a young excavator who at first seems too young to help out on a construction site is my kids’ favorite picture book.  After The Spiffiest Giant in Town, this is probably our most read book in their first four years of life. If you have a truck or vehicle lover in your home or life, this is a sure fire winner.  Can’t all kids relate to Little E’s desire to help despite the big truck’s repeated message that he is too small to do the work? I love that the job they are tackling is converting an empty lot full of trash into a lovely oasis in the middle of a neighborhood that you can just tell houses many children.  The beautiful illustrations invite you and your kids to imagine people enjoying this new green space after all the trucks drive off.  Of course, Little E has his big moment and proves to himself, the other construction trucks and little readers that “there is work to do just for you, here and now.” I can’t tell you how many warm fuzzy memories this book will always have associated with it.  And that’s just what I am hoping to create when I share stories with my babies.

MamaPanyasPancakes_PB_W_1Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary and Rich Chamberlin.  Our house is not full of world travelers.  We are more of the stay at home types.  Still I want my children to love the world and appreciate and care about the beautiful diversity of its inhabitants. This is why I am so passionate and determined to allow my children to travel the world and meet of residents of other lands through books.  Mama Panya’s Pancakes is a great first trip to a location geographically far from where we live.  This story’s Kenyan village setting has little in common with our town on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, but the book’s gentle and not at all preachy message is universal.  Adika is so thrilled that he and Mama Panya are heading to the market to buy the ingredients for Mama’s wonderful pancakes that he invites “all our friends” to dinner.  Grownups will relate to Mama’s concern about there being enough for everyone, but Adika’s innocent confidence that they can share with all turns out to be prophetic.  This wonderful tale of community, with lots of educational back matter on village life in Kenya and its animal inhabitants, is also available in French and Spanish.  You can start sharing this one with your kiddos when they are young and keep on reading it for years to come.

snowydayThe Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  As I’ve written before, I love stories that show diverse characters just living their lives.  Keats was one of the first to do this in picture books.  Which is why his stories have endured.  The Snowy Day about young Peter’s adventures in a winter wonderland is a classic of childhood.  Peter spends a magical, but simple day making snow angels, knocking snow off trees, avoiding snowball fights with the big kids and trying to save snow in his pocket for later.  Perfect for sharing on any snowy day.  Or a hot day in the summer when you are dreaming of the cold days of winter.

animalboogieAnimal Boogie illustrated by Debbie Hartner and sung by Fred Penner. “Down in the Jungle, Come if You Dare…”  Barefoot Books has a line of sing-along books with CDs that are perfect for the toddler set.  The Animal Boogie will have you and your tiny people swaying, boogieing and having a grand old time. I love the diverse cast of kids who spy the various jungle animals and move to the beat.  Children’s literature needs to do a better job including children with disabilities in text and illustrations, so it is good to note that Animal Boogie depicts a child in a wheelchair dancing along in the pictures.  If you’d rather groove in Spanish, Cha Cha Cha is the version for your house. Even if you don’t buy the books, bopping along to one of Barefoot Books animated sing-along videos is a great way to get some wiggles out.

journeyhomefromgrandpasThe Journey Home From Grandpa’s by Jemima Lumley. This is another Barefoot sing-along, but we never actually listened to the CD or watched the video of this one.  My father-in-law’s house is about a twenty minute drive from our house, which can seem long when you have two little ones crying in unison in the backseat.  Many a time, I wedged myself in between their two carseats and read them this story when we actually on our way home from Granpa’s.  The bright illustrations and rhythm are a natural fit for older babies or toddlers and I will always be grateful to this book for bringing a bit of peace to our car rides.

clickclackmooClick Clack Moo, Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin. I give big bonus points to any book that not only engages my children but also entertains me.  The C.S. Lewis quote, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story,” always makes me wonder if the famous author was reading a lot picture books to toddlers over and over again.  This tale of intrepid cows that demand labor concessions from a farmer and go on strike when their demands aren’t met meets the Lewis test for a good story.  Of course, where I see a clever and funny story of collective action by oppressed farm animals, my toddlers saw awesome illustrations of cows, chickens, a duck and harried farmer.  They also heard fun animal noises and lots of exclamatory statements from this same farmer.  The cows may kick-off the action, but its the seemingly “neutral” duck that steals the show in the end.  In fact, duck has become such a popular figure that he stars in the many spin-offs Click, Clack stories that Cronin has written, but I’d rather skip those and just read the original again.  Writing about this one makes me want to go pull it out of storage because I think the tale has enough cross-over appeal that my four year olds might enjoy hearing it again.

jessebearJesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstorm. This book appears on lots of lists of great books to read with kids.  The description always left me wondering why.  Once I read the story, though, the appeal was obvious.  Kids love to see themselves reflected in stories, especially as toddlers.  Jesse Bear’s day and routine will be comforting and familiar to your little ones.  Jesse eats, digs in the dirt, takes a bath and goes to bed.  In addition to just the right amount of repetition, I love the old-fashioned illustrations and coziness of this tale.  This is a worthy tale to share at bedtime or any time you want to slow down the pace of the day just a bit.


If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff.  Numeroff is quite well known for this If You Give a… series.  She explores what happens when you give pancakes to a pig, donuts to a dog, and of course, cookies to a mouse. It may be sacrilege of me to say so but of all of these, the Moose and his muffins is my favorite. It always entertains me to see how Numeroff cleverly paints animals like toddlers who wear out their caregivers. Here we have a moose, who after devouring all the muffins, sews buttons on a sweater, makes sock puppets, paints scenery, creates a Halloween costume, spills paint, cleans-up, does laundry and gets hungry all over again.  The circular story delights little ones and the subtly of the illustrations will make parents smile. This series deserves its place as a modern classic of children’s lit.

mousieiwillreadtoyouMousie, I will Read to You by Rachael Cole.  Oh my gosh.  This adorable poetic story melts my book loving mama heart.  It follows a mama mouse and her journey to share the magic of stories with her little mouse.  Here is a mouse who sings lullabies, reads books and poems in abundance to her little one and is rewarded with the joy of watching her kiddo become an independent reader.  I hope this mouse mama still basks in the connection of reading aloud to Mousie even after she could read to herself.  This sweet and slow-paced celebration of raising lifelong book lovers makes a delightful bedtime story for all your mousies.

So that’s it for now.  Let us know what books your toddler loves in the comments!

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.





Top Toddler Read Alouds, Part 2

Picture Book Picks for Toddlers, Part 1

If narrowing down my picks for top books for babies was hard, selecting my top picks for kiddos who graduate to the toddler phase is next to impossible.  I’ve done my best to curate a list from all the books I enjoyed reading to my kids at this stage, but the toddler years are prime picture book time, so I am splitting this list into Part 1 and Part 2.

spiffiestgiantintownThe Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. To be quite honest, I am impressed that I have made it to week two of writing this blog without mentioning this book. This is my all-time favorite picture book.  I have easily read this book to my kids five hundred times.  I know it by heart and have been known to recite it in the car when I am driving and can’t read to the kids.  Julia Donaldson achieved picture book fame for her story The Gruffalo, but in my opinion, she should be famous for this one.  George is a giant and he always wears the same patched-up gown and old brown sandals.  One day, he splurges on a whole new set of spiffy new duds. On his way home, George meets a series of animals in need and cheerfully parts with his new outfit, one piece at a time.  A laugh-out-loud climax and a fitting gratitude filled ending to the story of the Kindest Giant in Town complete this tale.  The illustrations, done by Axel Scheffler, are vibrant and detailed: there is always something new to pick-up on (even after the five hundredth read).  An all-around beautiful book that deserves to be widely read and well-loved.

littlebluetruckLittle Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.  I am a sucker for kids’ books featuring kind characters and like George, Little Blue Truck fits this description.  He cheerfully drives through the countryside greeting all the farm animals along the way with a friendly Beep Beep Beep.  When a grumpy, self-important dump truck gets himself stuck in the mud, Little Blue helps him out and shows him the importance of being a friend and having friends.  There are sequels to this story, but nothing can compare with this first rhyming rollick.

Shape-Capers-9780061236990Shape Capers by Cathryn Falwell. This prolific Maine-based author has written a number of stories I enjoy reading aloud, but Shape Capers is a natural fit for toddlers. A diverse cast of kids play, arrange and re-arrange shapes into boats and more. A effortless introduction to shapes, this book with its eye-catching, bright illustrations will spark your kids’ imagination and has lots of easy play connections.

barkgeorgeBark George by Jules Feiffer.  Laugh out loud fun for the whole family.  George the dog’s mother tries to get him to bark, but despite her best efforts, George makes just about every animal noise under the sun except for the appropriate one for a dog.  A trip to the vet reveals the problem, but just when we all think George’s troubles are over, a surprise ending will provide one last giggle.

mindfultotsbundleMindful Tots by Whitney Stewart. Kids have a lot of big feelings, don’t they? In my house, their big feelings have been known to give me big feelings. And then things spiral downward.  Teaching kids (and adults) to recognize and constructively express their emotions is a big undertaking, but a worthwhile one.  Mindfulness may be trendy right now, but it’s not new.  Mentioning and managing emotions was my hero Mr. Rogers bread and butter all the way back in 1968 when his show first aired. After September 11, 2001, Mr. Rogers told parents, “I’m convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings–ways that don’t hurt them or anyone else–we’re helping to make our world a safer, better place.” I think if our favorite television neighbor were still around to help us out today, he would be delighted at the new mindfulness tools that exist for families. These Mindful Tots books were inspired by the success of the Mindful Kids card deck for older kids that Barefoot Books debuted. The Spanish/English version of these books will be a great addition to classroom libraries or on the home shelves of bilingual families.

giraffescantdanceGiraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. A lovely, poetic story about listening to your inner music. Gerald the Giraffe can’t dance, which makes the annual jungle dance an ordeal for this lovable animal. When the event arrives, it unfolds just as Gerald dreaded.  He slinks off in embarrassment and has a lucky encounter with a cricket who shows him that “sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song.” Charming.

mygrannywenttomarketMy Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone. My kiddos were born in November, so their first Christmas arrived shortly after they were born.  There wasn’t much we needed for them at this age, so my mom graciously gifted them a whole stack of Barefoot Books that I was drooling over.  My Granny Went to Market was one of them.  This adventurous grandmother buys a magic carpet and proceeds to visit local markets across the globe to pick-up treasures from cats to kites. This delightful story is an easy introduction to geography and counting. If you are the crafty type (which I am decidedly not), there are plenty of fun tie-ins from decorating kites to making Japanese lanterns to making your own Russian nesting dolls.  The story’s open-ended conclusion can also spark plenty of opportunities speculate about where you and your kids would take your magic carpet.

peacebookThe Peace Book by Todd Parr. I am a big Todd Parr fan.  His illustrations are charming,  quirky, humorous and bright.  He breaks down large, complex topics that we may struggle to explain to kids (peace, environmentalism, family relations) into regular bite size peaces.  Since I am your average certified tree hugging hippie, The Peace Book and The Earth Book are my top two Parr selections, but you can’t go wrong with any of his work.  If you prefer not to purchase them, hit the library when it reopens.  I’ve yet to see a library that doesn’t have a healthy collection of his titles.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more picture books I love sharing with toddlers.  In the meantime, what books do you and your toddlers turn to over and over again?

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

Picture Book Picks for Toddlers, Part 1

Books that are getting me through self-isolation

Canva - Book Page
Photo by Dzenina Lukac

If you do not know me outside of my blog, reader, you will not be aware that I have rather, shall we say, eclectic reading interests. I love a good teen book, middle grade novels delight my heart, I can’t get enough stories about bookshop owners and librarians, I enjoy a great deal of historical fiction, political nonfiction (sometimes) engages me and I go through phases where I devour bonnet fiction (for the uninitiated, “bonnet” fiction are novels about the Amish). Spiritual memoirs have done as much for my faith as any church service.  Anne Tyler, L.M. Montgomery, J.K. Rowling, Shane Claiborne, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Cindy Woodsmall, Barbara Kingsolver and Sarah Bessey compete for space on my way too small bookshelf. And obviously I adore picture books of many flavors (they have their own bookshelf… and baskets and bins).

I do a lot of re-reading. I always think of it as re-visiting old friends, but I saw something online recently that suggested that people with anxiety like to re-watch their favorite shows in times of stress because they don’t want the tension of finding out how it ends.  I’m sure that’s at least partially why I re-read so much. I tend to read very quickly on my first pass through books, especially fiction ones so I can reach the conclusion. If I enjoy the story and re-read it, I can then take a more leisurely journey back through it the next time or the next one hundred times.  Since we’ve been spending most (ok, all) of our time at home, I have done about equal parts diving into new tales and reading over old favorites. Here’s the recent line-up:

afterlifeAfterlife by Julia Alvarez. When I worked at a public library, I met some truly amazing people, including a number of writers. Because I love meeting authors (seriously, I swoon… it’s a bit embarrassing), each of these events stand out clearly in my memory. One year, we received an NEA Big Read grant to do a community read with the novel In the Time of the Butterflies and we were able to do a Skype visit with Julia Alvarez.  Technical difficulties aside, it was amazing.  She was soft-spoken, eloquent and even more inspiring than even I could have hoped. I envy the students at Middlebury College who get to take writing classes wit her. I loved her stories before I met her, but afterward, I knew I would never miss another book she penned. Which is why I literally gasped with delight (yes, I am that nerdy), when I saw that she was releasing an adult fiction book this spring. Oprah’s magazine listed Afterlife as one its most anticipated books of the year and I quite agree with that. Afterlife did not disappoint.  It’s the story of the newly retired and newly widowed Antonia Vega who is trying to process her grief while still navigating the world of family and societal responsibilities. Her erratic older sister goes missing, requiring her to engage with familial drama at the same time that she is drawn into the trials and tribulations of the migrants on the farm next door who are undocumented. Antonia is generally sympathetic, flawed, but shows an enviably amount of self-knowledge.  There is a certain amount of humor in the story, plus some heartbreak. I sped through this story and can certainly see myself pulling it off my shelf for a re-read in the future.

pastrixPastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I laughed out loud when Nadia Bolz-Weber admitted that she gets more admiring glances from truck drivers than from good church ladies.  I can see why.  She’s a rather unusual Lutheran minister. Now any good spiritual memoir requires a lot of honesty, some deep insight into God, a healthy amount of humor and the ability to relate seemingly non-spiritual life events to the formation of personal theology.  Bolz-Weber has all of these ingredients and more in her writing.  Here is a pastor who is both down to earth and a deep believer in God’s grace.  She doesn’t sanitize herself, the world or her understanding of God before laying it all out before her readers. I have read Pastrix twice now and I know I will continue to return to it when I am not in the mood for any sugar coating about life or sweet stories about Jesus. Somehow Pastrix gives me comfort that God can meet me where I am even if I am wallowing in cynicism.

fiercefreefireFierce, Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker. Here’s an author who has been on quite a spiritual and writing journey over the last fifteen to twenty years. Her books reflected the changes she has experienced as a mother, a wife and a faith seeker.  Before I became a mother, I discovered her book Interrupted and connected with the message of social justice. Then I read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and connected with its message of anti-consumerism. It seems there is a Jen Hatmaker book for all my moods.  When I am feeling down about my mothering skills, I read For the Love and when I am feeling a general mess and in need of a little general encouragement, I turn to Of Mess and MoxieGoing forward, I am sure I will pull out Fierce, Free and Full of Fire when I am in need of some bracing words about the power of community or a reminder to knock-off the body-loathing we all seem to have internalized from our culture’s none too subtle messages. There’s no one quite like Jen Hatmaker to remind us that our struggles are not ours alone, but that we should and do share them with our sisters around the country and the world. While, I miss the fun asides that were present in the hilarious how-tos and lists of her last couple of books (as Jen reminds us humor is not a throw-away quality!), there is a lot to chew on in this latest offering, which shows that Jen has reached the stage in her life when she has become all the adjectives she used to title this book. One last word on Jen Hatmaker (for now): if you can get her books on audio narrated by her, do it.  For real.  You will not regret it for a minute.

firsttestProtector of the Small Series by Tamora Pierce. I am a reluctant and selective fantasy reader. But if I can get into a book, I usually love it.  Happily one of my favorite fantasy authors is quite prolific. Tamora Pierce writes fiercely feminist fantasy for teens and this “grown-up” is here for it.  This series has four volumes: First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight.  The main character Keladry is determined to be the first known female knight in her kingdom in hundreds of years. Some people are less than pleased about this ambition. But instead of putting her head down and trying not to stand out as her older knight brothers advise, Kel’s passion for defending justice and protecting the weak and innocent brings her to the notice of just about everyone.  She may have to work three times as hard as the boys, but she will prove that she deserves her shield.  One of the great things about teen literature is that the books are often quick reads.  There have been times during this pandemic that my brain just didn’t feel up for anything but quick reads.  Plus I could get it through the NH State Library Overdrive collection so I could read them while the kiddos were falling asleep next to me at night.  Tamora Pierce books are awesome for teens and just as good for adults.

lostforwordsbookshooThe Lost for Worlds Bookshop by Stephanie Butland.  Why are bibliophiles always portrayed in novels as liking books more than people? And why do I love all these books so much?  (Readers, these are rhetorical questions; no need for you to analyze how much I may or may not have in common with said characters). This is all by way of saying that the premise of this story isn’t original. Loveday has her dream job in a bookshop and despite her feelings of being alone in the world, she is actually tenderly watched out for by a number of people.  But she has a secret that she guards obsessively.  Again, perhaps not the most original point of departure for a novel, but I enjoyed it.  And what’s more, when it was over, I found myself thinking about it for several days. For some reason, Loveday’s story is one that is sticking with me.

emilystarrEmily Starr series by L.M. Montgomery.  When pushed, I often admit that Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book.  This is the truth. But in some ways and during some times, I love L.M. Montgomery’s lesser known works just as much. If you are only acquainted with Anne, I’m happy to introduce you to Emily (If you are not familiar with Anne, just stop reading this blog and go read the whole series.  All seven books. Do not do anything else until you are finished.  Your kids can fend for themselves).  Emily is not inflicted with Anne’s despised red hair, but she too is an orphan who goes to live with an older, stern guardian.  In Emily’s case, she moves to the family homestead, New Moon, and finds much beauty there, but not much tenderness from her Aunt Elizabeth. I first read these books as a young teen, but for me now, as a parent, I find Emily’s story more poignant as it opens while her father is still alive and you walk with her through his death and her departure from their house to her new home. Once installed in New Moon, this young, highly imaginative heroine discovers her affinity for writing.  The sequels to Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest follow Emily through her high school years and into adulthood as she pursues her rainbow gold (a successful writing career), but continually finds love elusive. I have probably read these books a dozen times and just writing about them makes me want to close my computer and go read them again.  Looks like we’re having cereal for dinner.

marthaMartha by Diana Wallis Taylor. The Red Tent introduced me to the concept of fictionalizing Biblical stories.  I’ve yet to find anything that compares to Anita Diamant’s imagining, but Martha is a solid entry in this genre (is it even a genre?). When I was about four years old, I told my family that “I am not domestic.” This line became the centerpiece of one the family’s most oft-repeated stories.  I’m not sure a four year old really should be “domestic”, but even now over three decades later, my declaration would still be accurate. Which is why in the Biblical story of Mary and Martha, I have always been firmly in the Mary camp.  No sense pretending I’d want to be the sister buzzing around cooking and serving.  Nope.  Still Martha often gets a raw deal in sermons and commentary on this story.  Although this story doesn’t paint Mary as a duty-shirker, but as a day dreamer who has a crush on one of the disciples. And Martha is not a nagging shrew, but a typical oldest sister with too much responsibility thrust upon her.  I love the emphasis the story has on Jesus as a healer and reading the story of the raising of Lazarus from the perspective of one his sister made me see the miracle from a new angle. While I found the romantic resolution unsatisfying, I still enjoyed this re-telling.  Diana Wallis Taylor also retold the stories of Mary Magdalene and the woman at the well and I’ll likely give those a shot at some point too.

travelingmerciesTraveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. I’ve heard Anne Lamott referred to as a [living] “patron saint.”  She is the kind of patroness I could see appealing to for help. Certainly not too holy, she’ll relate to my everyday struggles and not judge me for my less than loving thoughts towards some inhabitants of this world.  Although if she’s having a bad day, she might tell me to bug off.  This spiritual memoir is an older one, but the reluctant Christian, recovering alcoholic and bestselling author is super quotable, humorous and not hesitant to reveal her shortcomings.  Whether or not she’d appreciate me adopting her as a patroness, she is someone to whom I can always return and find fresh insight.


Reviewing this list, it strikes me that this is a fairly accurate representation of what I like to read. I have dipped often in the past couple of months into the wisdom of my favorite storytellers. As usual, they have not let me down.

Your turn. What have you been reading to get you through these strange times?

Disclosure:  I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.


Books that are getting me through self-isolation

Books are not broccoli

Canva - Photo Of Man Carrying Baby
Photo by nappy

Now don’t get me wrong.  I like broccoli.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite veggies.  Even my kids like to eat “little trees” sometimes. But, let’s be honest here, if someone offered me a choice between broccoli and a donut, I will take the donut almost every time. I do have some friends who, bless them, would honestly prefer kale to pizza. But, readers, I’m just not one of them.

This is what we hear: Books are good for you.  You have to read to your children so they will do well in school. So they will be straight “A” students, go to a great college  and get a high-paying, stable job. This is the message parents hear from early literacy experts, schools, librarians, children’s museums and more. In fact, when I worked for libraries and a children’s museum I probably promoted this message too. Reading to your kids is the single most important thing you can do to ensure Kindergarten Readiness.

My concern is that those of us who love books enough to make it our career or, you know, blog about it, are doing literature and children a disservice by making reading books seem like eating your vegetables. We do it only because we know it is good for us.  I don’t want children to believe they should just read books because they are good for them. That message may motivate some competent readers, but I don’t think it can transform this proficiency into love.

I read books because I think they are the salad, the main course and the dessert. Like food, stories nourish me, comfort me and give me energy.

So let’s talk less about reading to children as a way to promote academic excellence and more about it as a way for families to connect, bond and create memories.

readaloudfamilyMy favorite book on this subject is The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie.  She describes how to “build your family culture around books.” I just about swooned when I heard that phrase for the first time. She is an evangelist for the power of stories to bind families together.  Sarah’s book waxes far more eloquently than I do about the joys, the benefits, and the beauty of reading aloud as a family. Plus she provides questions you can ask your children (or anyone) about books to stimulate deep conversations. And there are booklists with suggestions for little ones all the way up through teens. I am always here for a good booklist. Sarah’s podcast (honestly my favorite podcast) and website are called Read-Aloud Revival.  A revival of reading aloud?  I am here for that.  I want the t-shirt.  Seriously, if anyone knows Sarah Mackenzie, please ask her to make t-shirts.

BFB_Pinterest_Medium_RaisingAReader_564x846px_0520What I am not trying to do is discredit the hard work that early childhood educators and advocates do. I am grateful that they are out there helping families raise readers.  Some children do not grow up in homes where they are literally tripping over books. The adults in their lives may very well be too exhausted from working low paying jobs or juggling the many demands put on caregivers to read lots of books to their kids or take them to the library. Which is why I am beyond thrilled that Barefoot Books is currently donating a book to Raising a Reader for every order placed until July 31, 2020. Anything that gets books into the hands of children and families is good work.

Frankly, all families need and deserve support from the community to create life-long dedicated readers.  All children need as many people in their lives as possible to share the magic of stories with them.  People who will say “This is a lovely tale.  Let me read it to you.”  Reading to children takes time and it requires your attention. For very little children time and attention show love.  Actually, for most people of all ages, time and attention show love.

What I am advocating, really, is both a change in messaging and a change in thinking.  To paraphrase John Wesley, “Read all the books you can, to all the children you can, for as long as you ever can.” Do it because books provide connection, books stimulate the imagination, books change lives.

All the Books You Can (1)

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

Books are not broccoli

My favorite books for babies


Sure, parents need clothes and diapers and stuff for their babies, but they also need books.  I love when people asked guests to bring a book for baby in lieu of a card, although I always think “a book???” My favorite baby shower gift to give is a laundry basket full of books and zip up sleepers.  Because in my experience if you have laundry baskets, sleepers and books, you are almost all set for a baby (or two babies in my case).

My trouble comes in when trying to narrow it down.  I am embarrassed to admit that I once actually thought there were no interesting board books out there.  I can barely believe it now.  There are so many that today’s list is a bit long. But after all, what else will new parents want do with their babies’s early waking moments if not read to them?

whereveryouareWherever You Are My Love will Find You by Nancy Tillman. You can’t go wrong with any of Nancy Tillman’s lovely, sentimental (but not maudlin) books for a new tiny baby.  Her most famous is probably On the Night You Were Born, but Wherever You Are edges it out for my favorite of hers.  The illustrations are so absolutely stunning, I wish I could frame them and hang them on my wall like the art that they are.  The poetic text sends just the message we all hope our children will take with them in life.

Clare-Beatons-Nursery-Rhymes-GENBB_HRES_W_1Clare Beaton’s Rhymes. Mother Goose has been a part of childhood for many, many years for good reason.  Nursery rhymes are a solid addition to any young child’s at-home library. There is no shortage of options out there.  For my kids, I discovered Mother Goose Remembers at our library. I fell in love with it right away, mostly because of Clare Beaton’s artwork. Her fabric art is just delightful.  Unfortunately, Mother Goose Remembers is no longer in print, so I purchased a copy used.  You can still get one from Better World Books and if you and your recipient don’t object to second hand gifts, that would be my recommendation.  Happily, if do want something new or if you prefer board books that can take a lot of baby touching, Clare Beaton now has a set of rhymes featuring her same fabric art. You can select from Garden Rhymes, Animal Rhymes, Farmyard Rhymes, Bedtime Rhymes, Action Rhymes, or Nursery Rhymes.  They are also available as a complete set.

global babiesGlobal Babies from the Global Fund for Children. When I worked at a public library, we put together kits to distribute to new parents in the community.  We needed a book that would appeal to our diverse community.  Global Babies was an obvious choice.  Babies love to look at faces and the photographs in this board book are just that: faces of babies from around the world.  Our personal copy of Global Babies got so much use, it is basically falling apart now. If I had it to do over again, I would have gotten one for each baby so they could have each had one to gaze at.

mommy mama and meMommy, Mama and Me by Leslea Newman. As a pregnant mama, I scoured all sorts of lists of books about diverse families.  I was excited to find this one, which was one of the first baby books to portray a two-mom family.  My favorite diverse books for children don’t show diversity as an issue to be solved, but just a fact of life.  Mommy, Mama and Me fits this description very well.  The moms feed their baby, play with her, read to her, push her on swings and put her to sleep. It was nice to have a board book on our shelves that reflected our family.

notwoalikeNo Two Alike by Keith Baker.  Speaking of reflecting our family, we purchased or borrowed a number of different board books featuring twins.  To be frank, many of them were a disappointment.  This one was an exception. With a lovely winter setting and featuring two baby birds, the text and illustrations will appeal to families of multiples or singletons.

babysfirstwords_genbb_cover_rgb_72dpi_wBaby’s First Words by Sunny Scribens and Stella Blackstone. This book wasn’t available when my kiddos were babies, but if it had been it would have graced our shelves for sure.  Honored as an American Library Association Rainbow Pick, this book, featuring two dad and their little ones, is full of pictures and words that fill a baby’s life.  One of the reasons that I became a Barefoot Ambassador is their commitment to diversity and I love that they have children’s books available in Spanish, French and bilingual options. Baby First Words is one of those available as a bilingual Spanish/English board book.

paperbagprincessPaperbag Princess by Robert Munsch.  I don’t care for lists with titles like “10 Books You Must Read” or “1,345 Every Child Must Hear Before They Turn Two”.  I’m more of the Read What You Want kind of bibliophile.  So when I started this blog, I promised myself I would share my suggestions and trust my book-loving readers to pick which ones are best for them and their children.  This one time, however, I will make an exception.  You must read the Paperbag Princess.  And every child should hear this book. Preferably many, many times. As I am writing this post, The Paperbag Princess is available for $2.49 on Bookshop.org, so there is no reason not to slip this gem into every baby shower gift, birthday gift, Christmas gift or International Women’s Day gift that you give. Do it; don’t be a bum.

thechillypenguin_bb_cover_rgb_72dpi_wThe Chilly Penguin by Constanze von Kitzing. This poor little penguin is cold and tries a number of ways to warm up. This story has a sweet message about friendship.  Plus penguins are just cute.

littleengineThe Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper.  If you haven’t guessed by now, I deeply love both brand new, modern children’s books and classics.  The Little Engine that Could is obviously the later.  And I do highly recommend this book.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can also take my mother’s (the original story loving mama) or Dolly Parton’s. This may very well be my mother’s favorite picture book of all time and I listened to it while sitting on her lap many, many times.  Sharing this story is a bit of a family tradition now and both she and I enjoy reading it to my kiddos.  While a shared love for this book is probably one of the few things that my mother and Dolly P have in common, Dolly loves the Little Blue Engine and her can-do attitude so much that she wrote a song about it.  I love the song; I love the book.  In fact, this iconic and fabulous lady has sent over a million books to children through her super cool Imagination Library and the very first book every child receives to start their home library is this one. If you want baby to be able to handle the book freely, you can get it in board book format.  Be aware, though, that the board book is an abridged version.  Once the kiddo can be trusted with regular books, you may have to do what I did and buy a full length version.  I don’t recommend getting the sequels or a treasury including other stories about the Engine and friends.  Often treasuries have different illustrators and the pictures can’t compare to the original.  Plus, the “sequels” are simply not very good.

sounds-around-town_fc_bb_wSounds Around Town by Maria Carluccio.  I read this one a lot to my kids from the time they were born and through their fist couple of years. The collage illustration spreads give kids plenty to look at and the sound words are always good for keeping their attention and working on early speech. When kids reach the toddler stage, they will love joining in to purr like a cat, tick like a clock and honk like a horn. This one will get plenty of use.

Bear-about-TownBB_WBusy Bear series.  If Clare Beaton is one of my favorite Barefoot illustrators, Stella Blackstone is one of my favorite Barefoot authors.  And I am not alone.  The Busy Bear series has been a favorite in the Barefoot Books collection for over twenty years. In various volumes, Bear bops around town, rides a bike, goes to school, take a trip, works and celebrates his birthday. Classic stories that will reflect the world that babies and toddlers are just beginning to explore.  If you want to set a new family up with lots of hours of reading pleasure, you can get the entire Busy Bear library of nine board books or a smaller a paperback library with five classic bear tales. If you are looking to get just one tale of Bear, I’d suggest Bear About Town. Many of the Busy Bear books are also available in the Barefoot Books Spanish collection and French collection. And if you are looking for a book/ toy combo gift, you could pare any of these options with an adorable Busy Bear stuffie. Really, there is a busy bear option perfect for any baby gift giver.

peek-a-booset_w_1Peekaboo Set by Phillis Gershator. As much as we read and enjoyed The Sounds Around Town, if I had to pick just one Barefoot Books board book collection to recommend to someone purchasing books for a baby, it would be this set.   You can get each volume separately – Who’s in the Forest?, Who’s in the Garden?, Who’s in the Farmyard? or together as a set. I can’t imagine a little one who wouldn’t love the sweet, bright and vibrant animals and settings, plus the peekaboo feature is a sure crowd pleaser.  These books are just made for babies and toddlers to delight over.

corduroyCorduroy by Don Freeman. I simply couldn’t consider this list complete without mentioning my favorite bear in search of his lost button, a bed and a friend. Another classic in the kidlit world, Corduroy will charm a kiddo from their first days all the way through their first years of elementary school. If you are lucky enough to ever read this one with a child you love, don’t forget to end your read-aloud with a nose nuzzle.

What is your favorite board book to give as a baby shower gift? Is there one missing from my list that you and your babies love to enjoy together?

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

My favorite books for babies

What We’re Listening To During Self-Isolation

Canva - Turned-on Black Samsung Smartphone Between Headphones
Photo by Vlad Bagacian

Before the world closed down for this surreal global pandemic, we spent a fair amount of time in the car. I certainly drove less as a work-at-home mom than I did when I had a 45 minute commute each way to work, but between visits to grandparents, trips to children’s museum or playgroups, and ice skating and swimming lessons, we still clocked between forty and ninety minutes in my truck some days.  I am a super lucky mom in that my kids like audio books and will listen peacefully in the car to the right story for extended amounts of time.  Truthfully, it’s a nice break during which I can either enjoy the story or zone out and just drive. Even now that we are sticking to only seeing the other people in our house, we have been known to pack the kids in the car and go for an audio book drive when we need a change of scenery.  Or just want the kids to stop moving for more than ten seconds.

I know other families that put on audio books when their kids play or do other things.  That rarely works for us.  My kids are loud when they play and very little of the story can be heard over their enthusiasm.  So other then the car, the only other time of day we can enjoy audio books is when they are falling sleep at night.  At first, I worried they would miss parts of the story when they finally dozed off, but often we listen to the same audio book multiple times and I realized quickly they were taking it all in.  And there is always the option to rewind if need be.

My kids won’t always listen happily to long books without a lot of pictures if I read them, but on audio, they are often mesmerized.  I can’t say that I blame them.  There are some pretty talented audio book narrators out there.  Over the past two months, these are the stories that we’ve enjoyed having read to us:

zapatopowerZapato Power series by Jacqueline Jules.  This series is delightful.  The audio books are not long (usually around thirty or thirty-five minutes), so if your kiddos aren’t ready to listen for a couple hours at a time, these might be a hit. And who wouldn’t enjoy a story about a kid who is gifted sneakers that give him superhero powers like super-speed, super-hearing and super-bounce? From my perspective, it’s an added bonus that Freddie Ramos and his mom are Hispanic. We live in an incredibly non-diverse area and it is very important to me that our children be exposed to children of different races, ethnicities, religions and gender identities.  I am a big believer in the We Need Diverse Books movement and that these books show an ordinary kid having great, believable adventures makes these a win-win-win in my book.

pipbartlettPip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce. Both my boys are going through a big Unicorn Phase. We have unicorn clothes, unicorn puzzles, unicorn toys and naturally, unicorn books. The first of the Pip Bartlett series that we listened to was the second book in the series: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training.  I stumbled across it on CD at our public library. Happily, Pip’s adventures entertained both me and the kids so we quickly devoured Pip’s Guide to Magical Creatures (#1 in the series) and Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Sea Monsters (#3 in the series). Pip, who can talk to magical creatures, and her new best friend Tomas, who is allergic to everything, are likable, quirky and scrappy.  Although the stories are clearly aimed at children in the eight to eleven age range, there was nothing that I found problematic for my four year olds to hear, so I can honestly recommend Pip to magical creature lovers of any age. I’m just hoping that Pip is currently working on a Guide to Mermaids.

pippiPippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. While Pippi will never claim the title of my favorite red-headed literary heroine (Anne Shirley shall always hold that place in my heart), she has captivated my boys. They find her funny and charming. They often want to pretend to be Pippi, Tommy and Annika and the other day when they found a pretty beaded necklace in a pile of dirt near our house (don’t ask me…), they declared themselves “Thing Finders.” Some of the more dated content gave me a bit of pause at the beginning, but it’s led to some good conversations.  When the library re-opens, I’ll be heading over to get books two and three in the original Pippi series.

new-anna-hibiscus_7Anna Hibiscus series by Atinuke.  I love Anna Hibiscus.  In fact, this is probably my favorite series of kid’s chapter books that I’ve discovered since becoming a mother.  She lives in Africa… “amazing Africa” with her large extended family.  She has twin brothers (Double and Trouble), loves snow before she ever sees it and has taught me and the kiddos a bunch about Africa.  The characters are loveable, the chapters are short and and Anna’s experiences keep our attention.  We have checked out four of the series from our library’s electronic audio book collection and listened to each multiple times.  There are more books in the series I haven’t yet found through the library, so I may just have to buy them.  They are definitely worth having in my collection.

ribsyRibsy by Beverly Cleary. So far, the boys favorite Cleary books are, hands down, the Ralph S. Mouse collection but they certainly do enjoy a good tale about Ribsy and his human Henry Huggins. In this story, Ribsy gets lost from his family and spends the remaining chapters trying to find his way back to Henry. Along the way he encounters a number of different families and has a number of adventures, including a particularly fragrant lavender scented bath.


chittychittybangbangChitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming.  I watched the movie version of this classic British tale many times as a child (yes, I can still sing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song), but somehow I missed out on the book series.  I am happy that I discovered them now though for the Potts family’s adventure with their magical car outwitting a gang of bandits delighted all of us recently. I foresee checking out the others in a series soon.


fathersdragonMy Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. This is another new to me classic.  I had never even heard of My Father’s Dragon before I started devouring lists of books to read to your preschooler.  This books was on every list.   The first time we listened to this story of a young boy who runs away from home to free an abused dragon from evil animals, I wasn’t sure if the kiddos actually liked it.  They listened in total silence and made no comment when I asked if they enjoyed it.  I think it was a little tenser than our usual stories, since the brave boy must outsmart some pretty scary animals.  But by the time they had asked to listen to it for the four or fifth time, I figured out that we had a winner on our hands. This is yet another book that is the first in a series that we haven’t completed. Isn’t it wonderful to know we will never run out of lovely stories to share with our kids?

A quick note on where I get audio books. I have never purchased an audio book for me and the kids to listen to.  I spend plenty of money on physical books (ask my wife!), but I am content with the library for my audio books.  When they are open, I will check CDs out of the library to listen to, but by far my favorite way of getting kids audio books are through the library’s e-collections.  Download an app, enter your library card number and boom… audio books galore.  And no CDs to change while you are driving or to forget to put back in the case before you return them.  Most library’s utilize Overdrive for their audio and e-book collection and the Libby app is easy to use.  The only real downside to Overdrive collections from the library is that there are often long waiting lists for books you want (especially right now when everyone is relying on electronic media from their libraries).  If your library subscribes to Hoopla this is not an issue since all Hoopla content (they have e-books, TV shows, movies, and comic books too) is always available.  I am a huge fan of Hoopla and during all this extra time at home I am devouring their content.

What are your family’s favorite audio books?  Do you purchase your audio books or do rely on the library to satisfy your listening needs?

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.

What We’re Listening To During Self-Isolation

What We’re Reading During Self-Isolation

We haven’t been leaving the house for our regular activities since the middle of March. With no visits to grandparents, no trips to children’s museums, no playgrounds, no playgroups, no swim lesson and no library visits (this is a particularly hard pill for me to swallow) to break things up, the days sometimes… well… drag by. I would be perfectly happy to sit on the couch all day, sip enjoyable beverages, eat comfort food and read.  Since my four year olds seems to need more variety to their days then this (whyyyy?), we mix things up with other activities, but we still squeeze in quite a few stories every day.  Here are a few of our recent Covid-19 companions:

helloneighborHello, Neighbor: The Kind and Caring World of Mr. Rogers by Matthew Cordell.  Most (ahem, all) people who know me have a vague idea that I have a soft spot for a certain television neighbor in cardigans and sneakers.  And when I say soft spot, I mean that my wife and I drove ten hours in a car with twin two-year olds to go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the premier of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  But we met the real Mr. McFeeley so obviously it was well worth it.  Anyway… I digress.  Hello, Neighbor is the recently released authorized picture book biography for children, so naturally I had to do curbside pick-up to get a copy from our local independent bookshop.  And I ensure you, my Internet neighbors, it does not disappoint.

doryDory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon. To make myself feel better about purchasing the Mr. Rogers picture book for myself… I mean for them, I let my kiddos select a book to get from the bookshop at the same time.  This is the one they chose. I wasn’t familiar with Dory before this and I can say truthfully that was a shame.  The whole family read it together within two hours of arriving home with our new books. We were giggling like crazy at Rascal’s antics.  This is the first in a series and we’ll certainly be finding a way to get our hands on the others.  And I am dead serious.

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. We are currently reading a chapter a day of this classic bear’s tale. Somehow I never read Paddington as a kid, but as an adult I have developed quite a book crush on Paddington. Plus this emigrant bear’s antics are sure to elicit at least one laugh out loud reaction everyday from each of us.

rescuebotsRescue Bots books. When I was working full time as a librarian I spent a lot of time exalting the value of parents and school letting children choose what they want to read. I felt very virtuous when I would quote Maya Angelou: “Any book that helps a child form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”  Of course, at the beginning of my career I didn’t have children and then later on, they were too young to express a preference in story time material.  In those early days, I was free to read them whatever wonderful literature I deemed worthy. So such advice was easy to dispense.  Now that my kiddos are four and half, however, my chickens have come home to roost.  They love the television show Rescue Bots. It’s an older show, but a couple of seasons stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Transformers are at the center of their lives right now.  They watch as much Rescue Bots as we allow, play with Rescue Bot toys, pretend to be Rescue Bots and recently started dictating Rescue Bot fan fiction stories for us to transcribe. So I knew they’d love the various TV-show tie-in books and I bit the bullet and bought a bunch of used ones from Better World Books. Predictably, they want me to read them frequently.  And I do. Time to practice what I preach, right?

Chandra’s Magic Light by Theresa Heine. After seeing a solar lamp in the market, two sisters set about earning money to buy one in hopes of easy their baby brother’s breathing difficulties caused by their family’s kerosene lamps. Chandra and her sister are compassionate, determined and hardworking. This is a lovely story set in Nepal that I really enjoyed sharing with my little ones.


thestorytree_genpb_qr_cover_rgb_72dpi_wThe Story Tree by Hugh Lupton. Anytime I make oatmeal for breakfast, the kiddos are sure to request that I read the Magic Porridge Pot from this collection.  Like all Barefoot Books, this compilation of classic folk tales is heavily and eye-catchingly illustrated. Including classics from around the world like Jack and the Beanstock, The Three Billy-Goat Gruff and Monkey-See, Monkey-Do, these seven stories have been read-aloud hits around here.



invisiblestringThe Invisible String by Patrice Karst.  This book was gifted to us by an important person in our lives and one of my little ones frequently requests this book at bedtime. In it a mom tells her twins that no matter how far the distance, they are always connected to the people they love by an invisible thread. Here’s a story that may bring comfort to kids and adults who are missing family or friends during the pandemic.


twotimesthefunTwo Times the Fun by Beverly Cleary. This was the kiddos first chapter book and it continues to be much-loved. My own childhood was heavily flavored with the wonderful characters and stories created by the indomitable Beverly Cleary (who recently turned 104!), so I love sharing her work with my children. They’ve enjoyed several of her stories on audio (stayed tuned for a future post on audio books that we’ve been enjoying), but this story of four-year old twins we read as a paperback. Jimmy and Janet are thoroughly relatable four year olds, who love getting new boots, surprising their mailman friend and digging holes with real shovels. Even though Beverly Cleary was writing several decades ago, my thoroughly modern kids easily see themselves in her characters. I am always on the lookout for good books featuring twins (there’s another future post) and this one tops my list!

merywatsonMercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo. Mercy Watson is a porcine wonder! Or at least that’s what Mr. and Mrs. Watson of 54 Deckawoo Drive believe. Our family tends to agree.  These silly tales of a pet pig and her neighbors are sure to delight. After checking each of them out of the library several times last year, we added a complete used collection of Mercy books to our shelves. If your kids are as taken with this darling, dear pig as we are, you’ll want to do the same.


daraDara’s Clever Trap by Liz Flanagan. I have two avid future inventors around here, so they love almost any story about engineers, inventors and makers.  Dara’s Clever Trap fits the bill nicely and gives them the additional thrill of hearing about a princess who outsmarts the “bad guys.” For my part, I love that it features a strong female character from Cambodia. Add the appealing illustrations and there is much to like about this short chapter book.


My hope for all of you is that during this time when you can’t be physically present with others, your family will meet some new friends and revisit many old friends in stories.  What is your family reading and loving during self-isolation?

Disclosure: As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I earn commission on any of the Barefoot Books ordered from these links. I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Bookshop.org supports independent bookshops.


What We’re Reading During Self-Isolation