Saturday, August 31, 2013

Over and Over by Charlotte Zolotow

My mother-in-law shared this book with me. She had read it to my husband when he was little, and recently when his parents were downsizing, the book was passed unexpectedly to us. It was in a box of books to be discarded to Deseret Industries, but I nabbed it and gave it to my oldest daughter, with whom I spent many an hour reading and re-reading our own copy of this book that we had been given by Lane's mom years ago. The spine on the discarded copy was ragged, and the cover barely held on, but it we knew it was a treasure not to be passed by!

The narrator in this story tells of a little girl who asks, "What comes next?" as she moves through the year, marked by the seasons and celebrations that highlight her days. At the end of the year, it is finally her birthday, and she wishes for "it all to happen again." And it does, of course, "over and over again."

It's such a comforting book to read, and parents can relate to children's lack of sense of how time works, and remember it for themselves as children. A lovely book. Get a copy if you can!

P.S. If you like this book, but want a chapter book you can read aloud or have older children enjoy, try Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen. It is a delightful read!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

If you have not yet read Gary Schmidt, I highly recommend his books to parents and young adult readers alike. (You will have to decide if his books are appropriate for your upper elementary-age child.)

Okay for Now describes the personal journey of 14-year old Doug Swietack through the trials of an abusive father, a judgmental community, and searching for personal identity in a world of (im)possibilities. It is a story of determination, hope, friendship, and new beginnings. I laughed and cried and wanted all of the people I love to have a chance to read it if they wanted!

Schmidt's story is a powerful reminder of how self-deception on a parent's part to excuse unkind behavior impacts children. I am reminded how children can see through adult behavior, and how they learn from it and imitate it even when they sometimes don't want to. It is what they know. I was also reminded that as a community, we must look beyond appearances, speech and other misleading mannerisms when interacting with children (and teens) who have inappropriate behavior to see the potential for what lies inside.

I finished this book the same day I heard this quote, and the two certainly coincide: "Children are highly vulnerable. They have little or no power to protect or provide for themselves and little influence on so much that is vital to their well0-being. Children need others to speak for them, and they need decision makers who put their well-being ahead of selfish adult interests" (

Other books by Gary D. Schmidt that I would recommend: The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. Here's more about Schmidt:

Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher

My daughter brought home this sweet story about a little boy who loves to "zoom" around with his mother in her wheelchair. Through this child's eyes, we see his mother's wheelchair as a gift and not a hindrance. What a great thought to share! What a great reminder of how little children can make life so much more fun and help us to avoid "adult-onset pessimism" (

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Small Woman by Alan Burgess

My 12-year old daughter, Rebecca, gives this synopsis of a marvelous biography she finished today:

Gladys Aylward wanted to be a Christian missionary in China (in the 1930's). She wanted to go so badly that she got a job as a parlor maid, even though she hated doing so. She opened an account at the train station to save money for a train ticket across Europe, through Russia, and finally to China. She took a boat, trains, buses and mules and finally got to Yangcheng. She stayed with Mrs. Jeannie Lawson who was a former missionary but loved China so much she got married there, had children there, and stayed there the rest of her life. Together with a Chinese cook, Yang, Gladys and Jeannie started the Inn of the Eighth Happiness. She became very good friends with a Mandarin who appointed her to be official foot inspector. She also adopted 5 children, but she took in many others. They all called her "Ai-wei-deh" which means "The Virtuous One." She stayed there until the Japanese came and bombed Yangcheng. She fled into the mountains with a hundred children to help them escape to Sian. She had almost no money and a little millet to eat. Their arduous journey was miraculous. She got very ill from her journey and never fully recovered.

Rebecca loved this book "because she had such a strong spirit, and believed so firmly and had such a lot of faith, and she...was a natural leader. She just helped out SO many people. It was just amazing. Even when she was ill, she helped the lepers. The fact that she could take care of 100 children saying "Are we there yet?" and "I'm so hungry" was amazing. Really moving."

This book was made into a beautiful movie starring Ingrid Bergman. It has some violent parts in it that I wouldn't recommend for young children. As usual, if you are choosing one over the other, the book is very much worth reading!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Children's Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrations by Glenna Lang

I love to read aloud to children, at home and in their school classrooms, and I especially have a fondness for sharing the poetry that my parents shared with me. This book has interesting illustrations that help a child to understand some of the older language and historical references used by Longfellow in the poem, all the while preserving the mirth and love that I think he meant to convey.

I thought of this poem this last summer when a work-at-home father talked about how school would start soon, and he might be able to get some work done with his children back in school. He lamented, at the same time, that he would miss them interrupting him. I think the situation is age-old. This poem is a reminder that children are our most important business. I love it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood

Have you ever had a nap at Grandma's house? If so, I bet it wasn't like this one! Husband-wife illustrator-author team Don and Audrey Wood have produced a number of wonderful books, including this story. A grandmother and her grandson are enjoying a peaceful snooze when the tiniest surprise comes along and changes everything! Happy, warm illustrations.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Child's Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Here is another great introduction to poetry in a gentle, simple style. Pullitzer-prize winning Updike has written a poem for each month of the year. 
“At last, small witches
Goblins, hags,
And pirates armed/
With paper bags,
Their costumes hinged
On safety pins,
Go haunt a night
Of pumpkin grins” (from “October”).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston, paintings by Robert Duncan

Amber on the Mountain has such wonderful, warm, peaceful paintings as the illustrations that it is a visual treat as well as inspiring. Amber doesn't know how to read and lives up in the mountains where there is no school. A young girl, Anna, comes to live temporarily near her and takes on the challenge of teaching her to read. "Daddy says you can do almost anything you fix your mind on," Anna tells Amber. As their friendship grows, so does Amber's ability to read. This story is a great example of perseverance and service to peers. You also can find many extension activities available online for this story.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Orphan Singer by Emily Arnold McCully

I love historical fiction! Did you that in Venice there was an ospedalo, or orphanage, where people would drop off their infant daughters? These girls were well-trained under the tutelage of such Maestros as Vivaldi! This delightful story tells of an imaginary daughter, Nina, who has the voice of angel. Her parents are to poor to have her trained, so what do they decide to do? Give her to the orphanage so that she will have the opportunity to develop her voice? Find out, and learn if she ultimately learns about her family's love for her.

We discovered this book at the library and read it during a tea party. Beautiful watercolor and tempera paintings. If you have read Mirette on the Highwire, you already appreciate this author's delightful storytelling style.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chicken Feathers by Joy Cowley, illustrated by David Elliot

FLAG: We thought this book was a great read-aloud book, but there were some words/phrases/parts that I edited as I read. Better to read it yourself before handing it to a child, or just to enjoy it read by an editing mother.

Ever wonder about an animal that could really talk in a world of disbelieving humans? This comical story tells the story of a sassy, old, homemade beer-drinking (!) chicken named Semolina who is Josh Miller's best friend. Josh, an 11 (?) year old only child who lives on a chicken farm, finds out from Semolina that a fox is steeling the eggs from egg house #3. Josh's dad, Tucker, is a more than a little skeptical--especially since the supposed information source is the chicken! Josh's mother, Elizabeth, has to go to the hospital to stay on bed rest to see if she can "hatch" a sister for Josh. Josh's strict-and-grumpy grandmother comes to help cook and clean while Josh and Tucker take care of the farm. Will anyone ever believe Josh? Will Josh finally be able to having a sibling? Will his grandmother ever understand and be nice? As I type this plot description, I realize it sounds pretty strange. But Chicken Feathers really is just a delightful tale about a boy and his loving family, forgiveness, hope, friendship, and laughter.

We recommend it as a fun summer family read. Darling illustrations. And not just because we're raising a chicken right now!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Love You The Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse illustrated by Mary Whyte

This book is a favorite of our bedtime readings through the years. One of my children was always asking which child I loved the best. This book gave me some great ideas about how answer her. A wise mother in this book teaches her children about the unique and special place they hold in her heart that is all their own. Plus, the setting is a cabin by a lake, a place that is reminiscent and special for me and my children. I hope your family loves this book as much as ours. The beautiful illustrations really make it an excellent choice!

(Click on the book to go to the author's website.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Boxmaker's Son by Donald Smurthwaite

I just finished this incredibly sweet story by a boy about his father. It is a love story, hands down, just a different kind of love than what we are generally used to. It is a portrait of a gentler, simpler time (which I couldn't help longing for...) and those who lived greatly in it. I was touched by almost every page.

I didn't think it was overly emotional, but then I am an overly emotional person. I like what I like, and I hope you like this too. I was drawn in by the details of his childhood, accented by experiences with and observances of his father, his church congregation, and neighborhood friends.

If you want to feel good, inspired, and uplifted, don't miss this book. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Go here to learn more about Donald Smurthwaite's books.