Tag Archives: first experiences

Themed Third Thursday: Grandparents Edition

My father officially retired at the beginning of this month after about a billion years (more or less–probably less) working for a local John Deere store. (Both GirlChild and BoyChild know that–in our family, at least!–the only real tractor is a stunning green!) In honor of his newly-free grandparenthood, I’m reviewing books this month about grandparents! (Also, this gives you tons of time to find that perfect book about grandparents before Grandparents’ Day in September!)

How to Babysit a GrandpaHow to Babysit a Grandpa, by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish (2012): As every little boy knows, sometimes he will have to babysit his grandfather. (*winkwink*) This little boy gives tips for what to do when a grandpa arrives (hide, then surprise him!), how to entertain him, what to feed him, and what to do during his naptime. Even BoyChild knows that you can’t just wait for a grandpa to wake up–you might have to yell, “Wake up, sleepyhead!” or crow, “Croc-o-dile-doo!” (BoyChild still isn’t great with the cockadoodledoo noise…) so that you can get cleaned up before your parents return! Saying goodbye is made easier when you give hugs and kisses, a picture you drew as a gift, and a request to babysit again soon. Cute illustrations complement the realistic depictions of what might go on in a little boy’s head while a grandpa is babysitting. I just might have to buy this book for BoyChild and his grandpas to read together, especially since my parents will be staying with our kids for a few days next month! (Also recently published by the author, How to Babysit a Grandma!)

Spot Visits his Grandparents, Spot Visits his Grandparentsby Eric Hill (1995): A typical Spot lift-the-flap book, this book follows Spot as he visits his grandparents and gets into some mischief with his grandfather (which they hide from his grandmother) while they are outside working in the garden and playing. Spot happens to find a ball in the garden that had belonged to his mother, and he happily shares his discovery with her when he returns home.

The Napping HouseThe Napping House, by Audrey Wood and Don Wood (1984): The cumulative nature of the story, where everything starts on a rainy day with a napping house and a cozy bed, leads to listener participation and prediction, and the illustrations (gently listing toward the reader as each page is turned, a subtle shift in perspective I didn’t even notice until almost the end of the book) provide comprehension clues and endless detail that make rereadings even more fun. This classic book has aged beautifully–while many children’s books get dated because of the illustrations, these are absolutely timeless! This was actually the first time I read this book to my children (I don’t know why!), and GirlChild was the first to be able to predict which napper would join the pile next, but BoyChild’s sharp eyes were the ones who figured out the flea! (GirlChild also predicted that the bed would break…but she was several pages too early in her prediction. 🙂 )

My Pop Pop and Me, My Pop Pop and Meby Irene Smalls, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson (2006): Onomatopoeia, repetition, and rhyme characterize this book about a little boy baking with his beloved Pop Pop. The illustrations are brimming over with the joyful togetherness of boy and grandfather, and they even clean up after themselves! The book includes a recipe for the Lemon Bar Cake Bake that they are making together in the book. The author has also written My Nana and Me, but I wasn’t able to find a copy of that title to review!

I'm Going to Grandma'sI’m Going to Grandma’s, by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2007): The little girl who is going to Grandma’s is very excited and enjoys time with her grandma and grandpa and the puppy, but she starts to get nervous as bedtime nears. Her grandmother shares with her the story of the patchwork quilt on her bed, how it was made by her grandmother’s grandmother out of pieces of outgrown clothing, and each patch had a story to tell. The little girl then peacefully drifts off to sleep, dreaming of a story quilt all her own. The rhyme scheme in this book has an AAAB, CCCB, DDDB continuing pattern throughout (each page ending with a word that rhymes with “night”), so it would likely make a good mentor text for teaching that sort of continuity in a multi-stanza poem. Mary Ann Hoberman is also the author of the You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You books and several poetry compilations.

Sleepover at Gramma’s House, Sleepover at Gramma's Houseby Barbara Joose, illustrated by Jan Jutte (2010): A little elephant girl is really excited to go visit her gramma because they “love each other so.” She and her grandmother do all sorts of silly and irresponsible things together, and they end the day sitting on the porch swing listening to a summer storm because “the very best way to fall asleep is inside a hug.” I would recommend this as a read-aloud suitable for preschoolers to early elementary, but the unusual vocabulary and flow of the text and the punctuation irregularities might make it difficult for the intended audience to read independently.

Grandpa GreenGrandpa Green, by Lane Smith (2011): Lane Smith may be best known for his illustrations for books by Jon Scieszka (at least to me!), but he is also the author-illustrator of other titles, like The Happy Hocky Family and It’s a Book. This book–a 2012 Caldecott Honor recipient–is very different from his usual bizarre humor, however. It is written as a child telling about his great-grandfather’s life, but the life events are illustrated as topiary trees that the boy is helping tend in an elaborate garden. The great-grandfather apparently uses the garden to help him remember the things that his advanced age would otherwise cause him to forget. The last touching illustration shows the little boy beginning to create his own topiary to help him remember: a life-sized version of his great-grandfather.

What! Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story, What! Cried Grannyby Kate Lum, pictures by Adrian Johnson (1998): Patrick goes to his granny’s house for an overnight trip, but as Granny tries to send him to bed, he realizes he’s missing one thing after another–from a bed to a teddy bear–and his overzealous grandmother hand-crafts each missing item in this tall-tale of a bedtime delay story. (She actually shears some sheep, spins the yarn, knits a blanket, and dyes it when it becomes clear he has no blanket to tuck under his chin.) In the end, he’s lacking nothing…but it’s already daylight again. Poor Granny. (BoyChild didn’t like that she cries at the end!)

Singing with Momma LouSinging with Momma Lou, by Linda Jacobs Altman, illustrations by Larry Johnson (2002): Tamika doesn’t really like visiting Momma Lou in the nursing home every Sunday. Momma Lou used to be her confidante, but now that her grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, she has to remind Momma Lou who she is every time she comes in. After one particularly unhappy visit, Tamika’s father shares with her a scrapbook of her grandmother’s photographs and newspaper clippings, and Tamika decides to try to connect with her again through these mementos. She starts with the picture of Momma Lou holding Tamika as a baby and ends with sharing the clipping of Momma Lou and fellow protesters in jail after a civil rights demonstration. After that last one, Momma Lou no longer has any lucid moments, but Tamika takes the memory of that clipping and sings “We Shall Overcome,” the song they sang in jail and in the nursing home sitting room as they remembered the event, to make herself feel happier when she’s sad.

Zero Grandparents (A Jackson Friends Book), Zero Grandparentsby Michelle Edwards (2001): Second grader Calliope James is unhappy to find that her class will be celebrating Grandparents Day the next week since she no longer has any grandparents. She struggles with her feelings of embarrassment and exclusion, refusing her friends’ offers to share their grandparents with her. Finally, she finds a solution in sharing about one of her grandmothers, the one whom she most resembles and whose picture and belongings she brings to class with her, and her friends’ grandmothers tell her how proud her grandma would have been of her. The second of three books in the Jackson Friends series.

Whether your child calls his or her grandparents Grandma and Grandpa, Meemaw and Pawpaw, Nana and Papa, Oma and Opa, or any regional, language, or family variation in between, sharing these books about grandparents is a great way to keep their grandparents fresh in their minds and on their hearts! (There are a million other great books about grandparents out there, I know! Share some of your favorites in the comments!)

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Themed Third Thursday: Leaving Edition

We’re moving! GirlChild is happy about Daddy’s new job and moving closer to extended family, but she is sad about leaving behind her friends and our home here. (She’ll be even sadder when she realizes that winter is colder and lasts a lot longer where we’re going!) As I’m sure that many families choose to move during the summer while school is out, I thought that books about moving and saying bye-bye would be relevant this month!

Time to Say Bye-ByeTime to Say Bye-Bye, by Maryann Cocca-Leffler (2012, toddler/preschool): This story follows a toddler through her day which is filled with bye-byes…bye-byes at the park, bye-byes at Grandma’s, even bye-byes after dinner and bath! “Time to go!” is a phrase most toddlers hate, and getting to say bye-bye to all their favorite parts of an activity is a way to help them transition to new fun activities during the daily routine. The focus is a little young for preschoolers, but GirlChild loved this book anyway…perhaps because she forms unnatural attachments to every “friend” with whom she has a chance meeting! 😉

Bye-Bye Time (Toddler Tools)Bye-Bye Time, by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marieka Heinlen (2008–toddler/preschool): This board book is a cute way for a family to talk to little ones about what to do when their parents have to leave them somewhere (like a babysitter’s or school). The feelings a young child might experience are described, and coping mechanisms are reviewed and shown. A note to parents and caregivers is included at the end of the book to give tips for saying good-bye.

A New Home, by Tim Bowers (2002–early elementary): In this easy reader, Matt the squirrel moves to a new home but is disappointed because he has no friends there. When Pat the squirrel loses her new hat and Matt returns it to her, they become friends. Recommended for beginning readers in kindergarten and first grade, this book doesn’t offer a lot of helpful advice or give a small child an understanding of what it will be like to move (except that you might be lonely at first), but it might be a starting point for a conversation (and give a new reader a chance to practice, too).

Topsy and Tim Move House (Topsy & Tim picture puffins)

Topsy and Tim Move House, by Jean and Gareth Adamson (1997–preschool/early elementary)–When Topsy and Tim’s family moves house, their cat escapes from the car on their way from their old home to their new one, and the twins are very sad. Dad has a good idea, though, and a quick trip back to their old house locates the missing cat and makes the move happy once again. Some vocabulary–like “removal men” instead of “moving men” and “move house” instead of just “move” will be unfamiliar to most American children, but GirlChild was able to figure out what the different words meant by context, especially in the animated version. (This book is not readily available in the States (really cost-prohibitive!)–I don’t know about the UK–but I linked the animated version on YouTube to the title so anyone can enjoy it!)

A New Room for William

A New Room for William, by Sally Grindley, illustrated by Carol Thompson (2000–preschool/early elementary): William tells his mother that he likes his old room better when they move to a new house. He misses his jungle gym and the garden he and his dad had. Even a waving boy in the next yard doesn’t cheer him up, and the new shadows at night in his new room frighten him. As he and his mother fix up his new room (he chooses new dinosaur wallpaper instead of what he had in his old room) and he gets to know the boy next door, though, he starts to feel better. The night when his room is finally finished, he sleeps soundly in his new room after his mother assures him that his dad will let him choose the wallpaper for his room in his father’s new house, too. While this book is clearly about moving to a new home because of a divorce (though that is never in the forefront), the feelings William displays about what he misses about his old home and his ambivalence toward his new one is relevant for any moving situation.

The Berenstain Bears' Moving DayThe Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (1981, preschool/early elementary): This “prequel” of sorts tells of when Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Brother Bear (before he had any sisters) used to live “in a hillside cave halfway up Great Bear Mountain at the far edge of Bear Country.” Although they enjoy their life, some things are hard living on a mountain, and Papa announces (suddenly, as Papa often does) that they are moving, and they immediately begin to pack despite Brother Bear’s reluctance. He doesn’t see any good reason to go, and he’ll miss his friends (since his parents assure him that his books and toys will be brought along)! The tree house they buy is a fixer-upper, and their new neighbors come to greet them as they stand dreaming about how it will look when it’s repaired. The welcome they receive makes them happy in their new home. As with most of the “first experiences” Berenstain Bears books, this one realistically depicts some of the challenges a new experience can bring as well as what can make it better.

Where I Live, by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Matt Phelan (2007–elementary): Diana uses free verse poetry to describe what her life is like living across the street from her best friend, Rose, when her father loses his job, and when the family moves far away to live with her Grandpa Joe. Although she is very sad to be leaving her home and her friend, Diana discovers that there are always opportunities wherever you go. Because of the spare text and expressive pencil illustrations, this book makes a good title on this topic for reluctant middle to upper elementary readers and would be enjoyable to any elementary-aged reader, especially those who like to express themselves in verse.

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Moving Day, by Meg Cabot (2008–middle to upper elementary): Allie Finkle has a lot going on: finding out her family is moving across town to a historic fixer-upper, alienating her best friend (who cries too much anyway), and learning that there may in fact be a zombie hand living in the attic of her new house. This 9-year-old fourth-grader responds in the most logical way possible: by doing everything in her power to get some control on the situation (which somehow includes liberating the turtle at the local Chinese restaurant…) by keeping a list of rules (and other unconventional tactics). I’m pretty sure most grown-ups will be a little bit horrified by Allie’s preoccupation with the kid who got hit by a car while riding his skateboard without a helmet (and his brains), but, on the whole, Allie Finkle is a realistic representation of a straight-forward fourth-grader with a lot on her mind. (Squeamish parents or parents of squeamish children might want to give their young readers a heads-up about the brains thing–I found it kind of macabre–but the narrator’s feelings and reactions to moving and the changes it brings might make the book a worthwhile read for them anyway.) First of a series.

If you’re interested in finding books about moving in your own library, try the subject heading “Moving, Household — Fiction” and for “bye-bye” books, try “Change (Psychology) — Juvenile literature.”

(For parents, this online article from the August 2012 issue of Parents magazine might be helpful: Smooth Move, by Caroline Schaefer. It also includes some suggestions for books to read before the move.)

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Themed Third Thursday: Give the Gift of Books

I know that I have forgotten many of the books that I loved as a child, and I’ve even forgotten what books GirlChild loved when she was a baby (until I happen to pull one out for BoyChild and find that he has the same fascination!), and I’m still working on being up on all the newest books for kids. For baby showers, I almost always get Dr. Seuss’s ABC (sometimes in both original and board book editions since the board book is different!) because that is one book I do remember loving! So for this latest Themed Third Thursday, I asked my friends and the Internet what books or authors children in different age groups might love. Here are some of the suggestions! (Links in green are links to my previous blog posts about that suggestion (which also have links to Amazon); regular links link to Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

Birth to Toddler:

The most important thing to remember is durability; always go for a board book if you can!

Preschool to Kindergarten:

  • Topsy and Tim series, by Jean and Gareth Adamson–These first experience books are perfect for the three to five year old range, and the fact that they’re published in the UK means that there are some fun cultural and vocabulary differences that you can discuss!
  • Ladybug Girl, by David Sonam and Jacky Davis–Ladybug Girl and the rest of the Bug Squad love their imaginary adventures, and so does GirlChild! The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy is another personal favorite from these authors, but all the books in the series are fun!
  • The Berenstain Bears series, by Stan and Jan (and Mike!) Berenstain–I loved these as a child, and any book in this series is a favorite to ask Grandma to read for all the cousins (ages 2-7!) right now!
  • anything by Mo Willems–Some favorites mentioned were Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and other Pigeon stories, Knuffle Bunny, and the Elephant & Piggie books (there are tons!). The Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie stories are great for beginning readers, and they’re all fun for read-alouds!
  • Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series–Mercy Watson is a pig. 🙂 Written as a chapter book, each “chapter” is about three pages long, and at least one of those pages is a full-color illustration. Short chapters and short sentences make this good for beginning readers, but it is a fun read-aloud for younger children, too.
  • anything by Jan Brett–She has many books about Christmas and winter that are seasonally appropriate!
  • A Is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet, by Sandra Boynton–This is a perfect age to teach a range of adjectives for emotions! (I know I get tired of everything being “mad” or “sad” all the time!)
  • the Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney–Our family favorites are Llama Llama Mad at Mama and Llama Llama Red Pajama, but there’s even a Llama Llama Holiday Drama one!

Primary Grades/Early Readers:

  • the Skippyjon Jones series, by Judy Schachner–I find these books strange. Small children find them hilarious. So whose opinion matters here, anyway? 😉 Skippyjon Jones is a big-eared Siamese kitten who thinks he’s a Chihuahua, and he has all sorts of wacky daydreams/adventures. The favorite mentioned for a first-grade boy was Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse.
  • Fluffy the Classroom Guinea Pig series, by Kate McMullan, illustrated by Mavis Smith–A parent and former first grade teacher says these are highly popular amongst that age group! Some titles include Fluffy Goes to School, Fluffy Goes Apple Picking, and Fluffy Meets the Tooth Fairy.
  • Junie B. Jones series, by Barbara Park–Some adults really, really can’t stand Junie B. and her grammatical issues. I admit that, as a teacher, she would have driven me bananas, but kids (even slightly older kids!) love to read about her craziness (and possibly live vicariously through her because even GirlChild is properly horrified by some of her behavior). I used Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business as a read-aloud to let my third-graders know I was expecting, and Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May!) is a seasonal favorite!
  • I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Books (you’ll recognize the Cat in the Hat logo), especially the ones by Dr. Seuss/Theo. LeSieg like I’m Not Going to Get Up Today and Wacky Wednesday. Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me (a book for the child to complete with facts about him/herself) is another good Dr. Seuss title for this age!

Middle Elementary/Confident Readers:

  • Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder–Based on the author’s experiences growing up in the American prairie, these books are a great way to get children into historical fiction!
  • The Boxcar Children series, by Gertrude Chandler Warner–I loved the first book of this series when my mom read it to us ages and ages ago, and the rest of the series has been a favorite in my classroom library in both third and fifth grades!
  • the Ramona Quimby books, by Beverly Cleary–I can’t believe I had forgotten these books! My mom read them all to us ages ago (she read out loud to us a lot!), but I still remember so many of the names (Who can forget Beezus, Howie, and Chevrolet?) and events (like Ramona’s dad losing his job) because these books and characters were so real to me! Ramona even inspired me to wear my pajamas under my clothes to school one day, although I still don’t know why I thought that was such a bright idea when it turned out so poorly for Ramona… 🙂
  • the Fudge books, by Judy Blume–Writing about the Ramona books reminded me of the Fudge books, starting with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. While the first book focuses on older brother Peter, most of the rest of the series brings Fudge into the limelight. (NOTE: For those of you who remember these books from your childhood, be warned that reviewers on Amazon have noted that these are updated editions that change some of the clues that this book was written in a different era (one with record players and the like). These may not be the exact books you remember.)

Upper Elementary/Middle School:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney–These highly popular faux journals are right up a middle-school boy’s alley. (I can’t be held responsible for what middle-school boys find funny!) They spawned a plentitude of copycat works, but these are the originals!
  • the Alex Rider series, by Anthony Horowitz–There are nine books in this British series featuring Alex Rider, a teenager who is drawn into the spy world after his undercover uncle dies mysteriously. Fans of action/adventure stories will enjoy this series.
  • Holes, by Louis Sacher–The Wayside School stories were personal favorites growing up, and while this book maintains much of the quirk of Sacher’s previous works, it is definitely a big step up. Important details that at first seem insignificant are sprinkled throughout, and there is a depth here that the Wayside stories certainly didn’t have–which might be why it won a Newbery in 1999. A great book for fifth grade and up!
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede–Called a “wickedly funny fantasy series,” these books did fractured fairy tales before Shrek made them mainstream. Cimorene is a princess who doesn’t want to be princessy…so she volunteers to be a dragon’s princess, and it’s the best choice she could have made for everyone involved. Hilarious for any fan of fun fantasy!
  • anything by Gary Paulsen–The ultimate survival storyteller for teens, Gary Paulsen was actually quite the outdoorsman/adventurer himself. His experiences and knowledge inform books like Hatchet and Tracker. Paulsen’s books are necessarily somewhat gritty due to the survival themes usually present, so keep that in mind if your reader is sensitive to that sort of thing.
  • Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer–Artemis Fowl, a billionaire, evil genius, Irish teenager, is the star of this series that is a wonderful mash-up of action/adventure, spy novel, science fiction, and fantasy–really speculative fiction!

This is by far not a comprehensive list, and I’m sure I left out plenty of absolutely great authors and titles that any child would swoon over–let me (and anyone looking for a good gift or just a good read!) know in the comments what I’ve missed!

(Also see my Christmas Wrap-Up post from last year featuring full reviews of twelve Christmas-themed books and a list of a good number more!)

(UPDATE: Introducing Paper Gains: A Guide to Gifting Children Great Books from Modern Mrs Darcy–posted by Modern Mrs Darcy and shared on Money Saving Mom, this (downloadable, free) list of books overlaps my list a good bit, but it has more ideas as well! I don’t necessarily agree with all the age levels, but the list is pretty good and worth checking out!)

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Themed Third Thursday: Going to School Edition

My second niece (I have six) starts kindergarten next week, so this Themed Third Thursday is dedicated to books about going to school! (Instead of recommended reading ages, I’m putting what the topic of each book is. For instance, I’ll delineate which books are general school themes, which are about starting school, and which are about a specific grade level.)

D.W.'s Guide to Preschool (Arthur Adventures)
D.W.’s Guide to Preschool, by Marc Brown (preschool): For children starting preschool, this Arthur book could be a good introduction. It features the somewhat ambiguous animal characters known from other Arthur books and a pair of human twins (who are the only ones who seem to have any troubles at preschool, except Dennis who once wet his pants) and really seems like a seasoned preschooler guiding a newbie through what preschool is like. I’m not fond of all the Arthur books, but this one seems useful!

Llama Llama Misses Mama
Llama Llama Misses Mama, by Anna Dewdney (starting school): Llama Llama is shy on his first day of school (presumably preschool, but it doesn’t actually say). He doesn’t want to play, and he finally breaks down during lunch because he misses his mama, and his classmates and teacher help him feel better. When Mama Llama comes to pick him up at the end of the day, he realizes that he loves his mama…and school, too! Also available to read free online at We Give Books. (I love reading the Llama Llama books out loud…so much drama! 😉 )

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten (Miss Bindergarten Books)
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff (starting kindergarten): Starting with the illustrations on the title page, we watch Miss Bindergarten (a be-jumpered Border Collie) and her students (twenty-six alphabetically-named animals) prepare for the first day of kindergarten. While the preparation of her once empty classroom is unrealistically done the first morning of school before students arrive, this is possibly the only book I’ve seen where the teacher’s classroom preparations are a focus, and it might do new kindergarteners some good to know that their teachers have been working hard to make the classroom welcoming for them!

On the Way to Kindergarten
On the Way to Kindergarten, by Virginia Kroll, illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg (starting kindergarten): This book celebrates the milestones of getting older, from newborn to age five and starting kindergarten. It seems like a good book to encourage a child to be excited about getting bigger and moving on, and it doesn’t mention a single fear or phobia, so that’s a plus for those kids who tend to develop all the fears they hear others have (like GirlChild with Caillou shows–blech!).

Countdown to Kindergarten
Countdown to Kindergarten, by Alison McGhee, pictures by Harry Bliss (starting kindergarten): While this book focuses on one worry children might have in the days leading up to kindergarten (not being able to tie shoes), it would be a great way to start a discussion to find out from your child what worries he or she has about starting school and correct any misconceptions before they get blown out of proportion.

Franklin Goes To School
Franklin Goes to School, by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark (starting kindergarten): Okay, so this is not actually written and illustrated by these people, but it’s part of the series, and I’ve seen the television equivalent which seems pretty good as well. It starts with going over some things that Franklin can do (count by twos and tie his shoes, etc.), then showing that he’s still worried about kindergarten, especially once his friends start talking about what they can do. At school, however, the teacher (Mr. Owl) finds out that Franklin knows his colors and is a bit of an artist, and that gives Franklin the confidence to try other things. Another good book for discussing what concerns your child about kindergarten (especially if it has to do with skills).

The Berenstain Bears Go to School (First Time Books(R))
The Berenstain Bears Go to School, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (starting kindergarten): You can’t have a “firsts” theme without including the Berenstain Bears! For fans of the series, this is a good starting school book that doesn’t focus too much on worries, although Sister Bear does think about the things at home that she will miss. She has just a little case of the jitters, and then she has a great time at school.Elizabeti's School
Elizabeti’s School, by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale (starting school): Elizabeti is eager to start school, but she begins to worry about how they’ll get along without her at home. She enjoys her day but misses her family, so she decides that she doesn’t want to go back to school the next day. In the end, however, she decides that she’ll “give school another try, but home [is] surely the best place to be.” And it is. But school is worth a try, too. 🙂Fisher-Price Little People Let's Go to School
Fisher-Price Little People: Let’s Go to School, by Doris Tomaselli, illustrated by SI Artists (school): This lift-the-flap book walks through some basic parts of a school day (as well as a school play) while letting children practice opposites, counting, feeling words, shapes and colors, and action words. While I think showing lunch time or a lesson might have been a better choice than the school play in regards to a normal school day, the feeling words probably worked better in the play setting than they would have in either of the other scenes.School Bus
School Bus, by Donald Crews (riding the bus): Donald Crews books are a staple in every library picture book collection, and this basic rehearsal of the comings and goings of school buses might be a good introduction to a young student who has to ride the bus for the first time. The simple description begins with school buses all parked in the bus lot, then shows them moving throughout town during the routine of a school day, ending with them all parked in the lot again.Topsy and Tim Start School
Topsy and Tim Start School, by Jean and Gareth Adamson (starting primary [elementary] school, see here for an explanation of the British naming system): Topsy and Tim move up from playgroup (what seems to be kind of like preschool, not the informal playgroups we often see in the U.S.) to primary school with both excitement and some trepidation about the big kids. Some things are very much like their playgroup, and although they find they already know some children in their class, they meet new friends, too.The Night Before First Grade (Reading Railroad)
The Night Before First Grade, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (starting first grade): Penny, the first-person narrator, tells the story of starting first grade (in the style of “The Night Before Christmas”) with her best friend. She gets put into a different class from her friend, but she finds a new girl, Nina, to befriend and is eager to introduce her to her pal Jenny at lunch…and is surprised to find that Jenny has a new friend to share, too: Nina’s twin sister, Tina! You can read it for free online at We Give Books.Surviving the Applewhites
Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan (homeschooling, sort of): This Newbery Honor book is probably not particularly representative of your average homeschooling situation (okay, unschooling is probably the closest, and even that is likely not as unstructured as the Applewhite family version!), but it is a charming book that does feature first-time homeschooling (of bad boy Jake, an experimental “guest” of the family after his expulsions from traditional schools) as a major plot point. It is best suited for upper elementary and middle school readers since the main characters are early teens and there are references to negative behaviors by Jake and his parents (not glorified, however). (If you know of any well-written children’s books about homeschooling, please share! I’d love a “My First Day of (Home)School” type book to review, and I really didn’t have any luck finding another story that was mostly about homeschooling!)

Does anyone have any other books that they’d recommend? I mentioned The Kissing Hand in last month’s Themed Third Thursday, and I know that one is a pretty standard starting-school book, but what other good ones have I missed? Share in the comments!

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Little Parachutes: picture books to help children with life’s challenges

I stumbled across this website when I was searching for an image of the Topsy and Tim birthday book to share with a friend…what an awesome resource! This free online catalog of themed picture book summaries and reviews is staffed (on a volunteer basis, I believe) by professionals ranging from a librarian to a psychotherapist who have compiled this collection of books to help children cope with or learn about different difficulties or new experiences they may encounter in their lives, like moving, allergies, bullying, and many more. Books are searchable by keyword or by preselected themes, and there is a way to submit reviews of the books featured or ideas for new books for inclusion on the site as well. As this project is UK-based, it appears that most of the books are of British origin, but I know that some of the books at least (such as those by Lucy Cousins and the Usborne First Experiences series) are readily available here in the United States as well. Although you can always do a web search for collections on specific themes since many blogs (like this one!) do periodic themed posts and reviews and issue-specific associations and support groups often include children’s book lists on their topic, I don’t currently know of an American equivalent of this broad coverage of “life’s challenges” for children, but anyone with any knowledge of something similar is welcome to share in the comments!

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Themed Third Thursday: The Berenstains

Jan Berenstain passed away on February 24th at age 88, and when I read the news I was reminded once again of my childhood love of the Berenstain Bears. (Please don’t pronounce it “burn-steen” as I’ve so often heard–it’s “bear-en-stain”!) Little did I know as I scanned the book order pamphlets and book fair shelves that Stan and Jan Berenstain had been publishing books and cartoons since my mother was an infant (in 1951) and that they have been continuously publishing since then, with Jan and their younger son Mike (who joined the team by 1992) publishing the most recent Berenstain Bears story in January 2012! In 2004 publication was moved to HarperCollins, and, at Mike’s suggestion, they started a new sub-line of Berenstain Bears books (called Living Lights) which focuses on spiritual themes and is published by Zondervan. Stan passed away in 2005 before the first four books in this line were published in 2008. Their book credits range from coloring books to the traditional Berenstain Bears books to Berenstain Bears chapter books to parenting books and more!

The Big Honey Hunt, 50th Anniversary Edition (The Berenstain Bears)

The Big Honey Hunt (1962): Their first children’s book, this title was published by Dr. Seuss himself (as editor-in-chief of Beginner Books, a then-new division of Random House), without whose editing skill and influence we might not have ever gotten to know the Berenstain Bears. Papa Bear and Small (Brother) Bear go on an errand to get some honey.

'C' Is for Clown (Bright & Early Books)

“C” is for Clown (1972), rereleased as The [Berenstains’] C Book (1997): The third letter of the alphabet gets a lot of use in this book with alliteration to spare! (There is also The B Book (1971) and The A Book (1997).)

The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist (Berenstain Bears First Time Books (Prebound))


The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist (1981): I’m beginning to think that these books are the Topsy and Tim of America! (Still, again, with animal characters, and these are less basic.) This book is a part of the First Time Book series.

The Berenstain Bears Accept No SubstitutesThe Berenstain Bears Accept No Substitutes (1993): This book is in the Big Chapter Book series and takes place when Brother Bear and his classmates go a little too far in the pranks they pull on their substitute teacher.

The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five

The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five (2000): Honey (the only Berenstain Bear I didn’t realize existed prior to researching for this post!) joins the family, and Sister Bear isn’t too happy about it at first…but (as always) Mama Bear helps make things right.

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights)The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story (2012): This is the most recent book published, and it’s one of the Living Lights titles. Although the cubs are all wrapped up in the sweet trappings of Easter, their Sunday school teacher Miss Ursula manages to teach them about Jesus’ resurrection and the sweetness of salvation. It comes with stickers, too! (Can you guess what GirlChild’s getting in her Easter basket this year?)

Down a Sunny Dirt Road: An AutobiographyDown a Sunny Dirt Road: An Autobiography (2002): After browsing the website and discovering bits and pieces about this family, I am intrigued to give this book a try! This was published three years before Stan’s death.

So there you have it! This list has one book from each decade of the Berenstain Bears’ existence (plus a book about the authors, a real bonus!), and there are still MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED MORE BOOKS to explore! I’ve only scratched the surface of the titles and series-within-a-series available with this list, so get to your library and get reading!

(All information that is not opinion was gleaned from the Berenstain Bears official website or from the individual product descriptions on Amazon.com. Most of these books are available either new or used from Amazon, and many Berenstain Bears books are also available for Kindle!)

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