It is Christmas morning and at first everyone in Morris’s family is very happy. But while Morris’s three older siblings are all interested in swapping with each other for playtime with their new presents (a beauty kit, hockey outfit, and chemistry set), they don’t want to swap for playtime with Morris’s new bear. Morris is deeply disappointed. But what is that under the tree? And what is a disappearing bag anyway? The answer surprising, and the book is a total pleasure–perfect for any sibling, or anyone who’s ever felt in need of a bit of magic.
Every year, after Thanksgiving, I bring out the Christmas books. Every
year, after New Year’s Day, I put them away again. I still read the
books aloud to the boys in the order they pick, and each year this book
(along with Shall I Knit You a Hat?, which I’ll be posting about soon; Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree; and The Christmas Wombat)
is one of the first chosen. My oldest likes it so much that in 2017
he asked for (and received) a bear just like Morris’s as his Christmas
In this story, which was inspired by the author’s grandmother own journey, a Polish family flees war and hunger around the turn of the last century. They are immigrating to the United States to join the husband/father who went first. Nearly all of their possessions (which are already vanishing few by current standards) must be left behind. Their journey via foot and steerage-class is difficult. They don’t speak English. But they have each other and reach Ellis Island on Christmas Day, where they are met with kindness and decency and ultimately welcomed to their new country. We’ve been reading this book for years; this year it was especially meaningful.
Author: Maxinne Rhea Leighton Illustrator: Dennis Nolan
Posted onJanuary 8, 2019|Comments Off on Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert
The Santa in this story is a hard-working, hard-playing, jolly but largely solitary fellow who spends the entire year happily using his unmatched expertise in kids, toys, and gifts to match “the exact right kid with the exact right toy 99.9 percent of the time.” As always, Marla Frazee’s pictures are wonderful and reward settling in and really enjoying the details (like the subtle and funny “post-credits scene” on the back cover).
Author: Marla Frazee Illustrator: Marla Frazee
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Posted onFebruary 2, 2016|Comments Off on Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
I was about to read this sweet story tonight when my oldest asked to read it to us (a first!). He did so with incredible fluidity and expressiveness and I’m so very, very surprised and delighted.
Although we haven’t read it very often, both of my boys really enjoy this book, which winds down a busy day of work and play by saying goodnight to big trucks one by one. My youngest noted of the picture above that the crane truck has a teddy bear to cuddle, a star for if he wakes up in the night, and that he looks very happy. Me too.
Author: Sherri Duskey
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
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Posted onMay 10, 2015|Comments Off on The Magic Nesting Doll
Once upon a time a girl named Katya lived with her grandmother
at the edge of the forest. They worked hard and loved
each other tenderly, until one day the old woman fell ill.
She called Katya to her side and said, “Little pigeon, my time is
near. Soon you must make your own way in the world, but I have
a gift that will help you.” She took a little matryoshka, a nesting
doll, out of a small box. The doll was smooth and bright, painted
in the likeness of the grandmother with apron and kerchief.
Katya started to open the doll.
“Stop!” said the old woman. “Not yet. If your need is great,
open the doll and help will come. But you may only do so three
times. After that, the magic will be gone. Keep the doll and
After her grandmother dies, Katya goes out into the world where she is told that:
“Ever since the Tsarevitch fell under a wicked spell that turned him
into living ice, it is always winter without thaw, night without moon,
and dark without dawn.”
Can Katya’s magic and courage break the spell, saving the crown prince and the kingdom? While there may not be much suspense (at least for an adult reader), getting to the answer is a pleasure. The story feels like a classic fairy tale, with an interesting Russian flavor, and Laurel Long’s illustrations are utterly beautiful (as in her The Twelve Days of Christmas). Although the boys enjoy this book, they do not reach for it as yet.
Author: Jacqueline K. Ogburn
Illustrator: Laurel Long
On Market Street, vendors of items from apples to zippers all wear (or are made of) their wares. I’ve loved this beautiful alphabet book from the first time I saw it as a child. The boys prefer The Racecar Alphabet, but this is the week when I share some of the books that I currently enjoy more than they do, in honor of Mother’s Day.
Fuzzy Rabbit had been with the family for
as long as he could remember. His dungarees
were faded. He had a hole in the elbow of his
sweater, and his buttons were all odd ones of
different sizes. One of the stitches of his mouth
had come undone, and he couldn’t even smile.
Fuzzy has been feeling sad of late. His little girl, Ellen, used to take him to school with her, but recently she has started leaving him at home with the other toys. And, for the first time, she forgets to take him downstairs for her birthday party. Fuzzy is starting to wonder where he fits in. Luckily, by the end of the book he is reassured he is loved and regains his confidence (and his smile).
The pictures here are a big part of the attraction; I remember poring over them as a girl, wishing I could play in (or, better yet, have) Ellen’s room and toys. Now I enjoy noting that Fuzzy Rabbit (or “Alpaca,” as he is known in the U.K.) was made for Ellen by her mother and that Ellen has all the skills she needs to repair him. This is a favored book of my youngest, who is very interested in stuffed animals, birthdays, and school.
Monkey and me,
Monkey and me,
Monkey and me,
We went to see,
We went to see some. . .
A girl and her toy monkey imagine going to see all kinds of animals. That’s it, really (with one small visual twist at the end). Visual clues give a hint to what type of animal they will be going to see next (in the photo above, they are anticipating elephants), which is fun, and this is an outstanding read aloud; the repetitious refrain (quoted above) is perfect (if ungrammatical).
When the boys were very, very small, they each loved this book. Like When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, it arrived in a Cheerios box in 2008 (which was a truly banner year for the spoonfuls of stories promotion in our house). The version we have is very small and, well, it was free, so I had no qualms about flapping it about to make the boys laugh (especially on the bats page, to make the bats “fly”).
The boys have outgrown it now, but this book is highly recommended.
Posted onMarch 21, 2015|Comments Off on The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
When I was a kid, Calvin and Hobbes was the highlight of the comics page. When this big box set came out in paperback a bit over two years ago, I pounced. Last year, I started reading it to my oldest before bed. Now he is devouring it without me (but he loves to show me the strips he thinks are the funniest, like the one above).
Author: Bill Watterson
Illustrator: Bill Watterson
This series, about a slightly-diabolical genius whose science skills far outpace her social skills, has been making the boys HOWL with laughter. In a very happy coincidence, the poem generator above was part of tonight’s bedtime reading. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Author: Jim Benton
Illustrator: Jim Benton
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