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Halloween Books 2022

Welp sharing our Halloween books a month behind schedule, but ’tis 2022 around here. We have been all in on the spooky cute books for a while, and I’m so excited to share our spooky cute shelfie from this year! At some point during this year my 2.5 year-old decided he loved ghosts and anything spooky (though not scary), so we are all in on ghost things over here. (links are affiliate links through bookshop.org where you can support your favorite local bookshop)

Gustavo the Shy Ghost – This book might have the cutest secret cover ever. This book focus on a ghost who wants to make friends, so he invites them to hear him play in a concert. I love the messaging of using your own talent/interest and staying true to yourself to make friends.

Corduroy’s Halloween – We went through a big Corduroy phase earlier this year and I found this at a thrift shop for a couple of dollars over the summer and had tucked it away. There are quite a few flaps and it’s fun to find the cat on each page. We did have a lengthy discussion on why Lisa isn’t anywhere in the book because it’s just Corduroy and his other stuffed animal friends.

Leila the Perfect Witch – From the same author-illustrator as Gustavo, this is a sweet story about family and friendship as Leila wants to win a baking competition and realizes she isn’t great at baking. Instead of her family feeling disappointed, they help her and cheer her on along the way! She also doesn’t win in the end, so I love the lesson that winning isn’t always the most important part. The illustrations are so fun and we love searching for the little gingerbread man on most of the pages.

Hardly Haunted – This book is told from the viewpoint of the house, who is lonely without a family. They think if they try not to be haunted someone will want to move in, but they realize they actually like being haunted & in the end a lovely ghost family moves in. A great talking point for not changing who you are for someone else.

Bonaparte Falls Apart – This is probably the MVP of the Halloween books. We had it from the library a few years ago and I remember thinking it was cute, so I scooped it up on a super sale out of season. This is actually a great back to school book too, as Bonaparte is worried about starting school and being made fun of because his bones are falling apart. His friends all try different ways to keep him together. There’s a second Bonaparte book we haven’t read yet.

Sir Simon: Super Scarer – This one has adorable illustrations, and is a cute story about a ghost who tries to convince the boy who moved into his house to do his “ghost chores” for him, only in the end to realize that the boy is much better off being his friend. My 2.5-year-old especially enjoyed this one, though much (if not all) of the humor went over his head.

Not pictured on our shelfie, but equally loved are two phonics books: Spider Queen’s Halloween and Trick or Treat Parakeet.

Boo Stew is high on the list for next year. What Halloween books were your favorite?

Recently Read 2022 | Part III

As expected, my summer reading didn’t end up exactly being summery books, but I finally hit my stride with 5 star books, and my two favorite books of the year so far!

Unlikely Animals | I came across this book after hearing about it on the all of the books podcast when Liberty mentioned it giving her similar John Irving vibes and I quickly added it to my library holds list. It was so good– unique plot and storyline, flawed but likable characters, great pace and ending. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Here’s some of the synopsis because I really feel like I can’t fully explain it:

It was a source of entertainment at Maple Street Cemetery. Both funny and sad, the kind of story we like best. Natural-born healer Emma Starling once had big plans for her life, but she’s lost her way. A med school dropout, she’s come back to small-town Everton, New Hampshire to care for her father, dying from a mysterious brain disease. Clive Starling has been hallucinating small animals, as well as visions of the ghost of a long-dead naturalist, Ernest Harold Baynes, once known for letting wild animals live in his house. This ghost has been giving Clive some ideas on how to spend his final days. Set against the backdrop of a small town in the throes of a very real opioid crisis, Unlikely Animals is a tragicomic novel about familial expectations, imperfect friendships, and the possibility of resurrecting that which had been thought irrevocably lost.

Rules of Civility | I rarely prioritize reading backlist books, but I came across this one when searching for books set in New York and the synopsis sounded like something I would love, and I was right. It took a turn I wasn’t expecting pretty early on, and definitely what I was expecting, but I haven’t been so wrapped up in a book in a really long time. I felt like I was in Katey’s world the entire time and I can’t wait to read Amor Towles other books. Another favorite of the year!

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

Every Summer After | I usually don’t go towards into romance books, but this one was all over Instagram & Heather’s reviews convinced me to give it a try because it reminded me of Love and Other Words (which I looooooved). It was similar to that in the childhood friends to lovers told through a then & now format– totally different settings & characters though. The majority of the story takes place over the summer at a small lake town in Canada, where Percy falls for the boy next door as they grow up spending their summers together. You know *something* happens that splits them apart, and she goes back to the town for Sam’s moms funeral. The *big thing* is pretty obvious from chapter 3, but I kept thinking maybe I was wrong (I wasn’t), but it was still okay because I was so wrapped up in the characters that it didn’t feel as eye-rolly as it could have.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

After this I started and stopped a ton of books, Lessons in Chemistry among others, and couldn’t get into them, my reading has ebbed and flowed so much this year– I either read books back to back, or I go weeks without reading anything.

July & August Picture Book Favorites

Happy end of summer! I decided to combine months to try and catch up on posting– and if I’m honest we mostly read Sophie Mouse books, we’re all caught up and waiting to see if there will be a book 20. As it always seems to go, summer flew by, and we’re (well, me) anxiously awaiting all the new routines that come along with fall. Links in this post will take you to my bookshop or bookshop.org, where I earn a commission for any purchases while you can support your local bookstore.

Redlocks and the Three Bears | Reading this book made me realize that we never really got into traditional fairy tales, but my kids both requested this book over and over again and love reciting different parts of it aloud, “Golidlocks, never heard of her.” For example. It’s a quick read with more muted illustrations, but a fun twist on your favorite fairy tale.

Red Ridinghood and the 3 Billy Goats Gruff | Continuing with the mixed-up fairy tale theme, this one really packs a punch in the silly department with beautiful high color illustrations. There are two other books in this series.

Knight Owl | This book was all over Instagram at one point and I’m so thankful because it became an instant favorite in our house. A small owl gets the opportunity to go to knight school and ends up being the perfect knight to guard the castle at nighttime– befriending the dragon that was (implied) eating the previous knights!

Valenslime | I’m 99% sure this will be in a top favorite of the year. My two-year-old is obsessed, and I even have to admit this book finally convinced me to make slime (there are fun recipes in the back). It’s the followup to Frankenslime, and I had *almost* purchased it last year around Valentine’s Day, but wasn’t sure about it. We randomly saw it facing out at the library & even though it’s technically “out of season”, we picked it up anyway and I’m so happy we did.

The Collectors | While I adore the illustrations and styling of this book, my kids love the collecting and adventure aspect. Two friends set out to find something amazing for the very last spot in their collection. It’s fun to read aloud and the message in the end is really great.

Mindful Mr. Sloth | This was another book we first listened to on audio, but our library finally got a copy of the physical book and it’s SO GOOD. We listened to quite a fee Katy Hudson books on audio and they were all wonderful (stories + great narration!). This one is an adorable story about a little girl who finds a sloth who teaches her the beauty in slowing down sometimes.

Dinosaur Atlas | Dinosaurs have officially surpassed trains and construction vehicles as the top favorite thing of my 4-year-old. He loves playing with dinosaurs, talking about dinosaurs, pretending to be dinosaurs… so this was an epic library find on the new releases shelf that he has looked at dozens and dozens of times. As the title suggests, the sections are broken up based on where in the world the dinosaurs lived. Some of the photos of fighting dinosaurs are a bit intense in my opinion, but both of my kids are on the sensitive side and seem unbothered.

What were your most loved picture books of summer?

June Picture Book Favorites

I’m really behind posting this, and I’ve completely given up on the GoogleDoc to track our books– but I am going to try and catch up with these monthly posts because it’s a great way to look back at our favorite books of the year. Links in this post will take you to my bookshop or bookshop.org, where I earn a commission for any purchases while you can support your local bookstore.

The Adventures of Sophie Mouse — This is a darling early reader series about a mouse and her family and animal friends. Each book is around 10 chapters, so we usually read a book in 2-3 sittings and there’s still pictures on every page (or almost every page, at least). As I’m finishing this post in August, we are up to book 15 and so far the stories have been exciting and engaging without being intense or scary.

Luna Boo Has Feelings Too — This is one of the School of Monsters books, geared toward beginning readers, but my 4 year old and 2.5 year old are equally obsessed, and it has been really fun for all of us to read together. The rhyming predictive text, makes it easy for them to guess what world will come next/finish the sentence, which is great for building confidence in beginning readers. We definitely have the rest of this series on our wish list!

Library Lion (audio) — I love using the Hoopla and Libby app to search for audiobooks to listen to in the car and this was a random one picked because it was on the longer side for a picture book (14 minutes, I believe). We still haven’t read a physical copy of the book, but have listened to it dozens of times– about a lion who goes to the library, a great story for when it might be okay to break an otherwise important rule.

More Than Sunny – This book was faced out on a library shelf and looked cute, and it has been a favorite. There’s minimal text, but it’s such a fun one to read aloud– sometimes multiple times in a row. While the cover is happy and summery, it’s a great book that goes through each season with two siblings.

Dinosaur Lady – I saw this book on Instagram and for some reason thought it was going to be too advanced, so I skipped over ever checking for it from the library. We went through a Dino Dana phase, and I somehow made the connection between one of the episodes and this book and I’m so glad I did because it’s a wonderful look at Mary Anning, the first paleontologist! Really fun illustrations, plus so much information and great talking points to start talking about gender discrimination along with all of the tidbits about dinosaurs.

M is for Mitten – This was a baby shower gift from one of my best friends and my 4-year-old came across it recently and could not be more excited about a book as he has been endlessly counting down to our trip to Michigan. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite for bedtime because there is a lot of text on some of the pages, and he does not let me skip anything 😂, but I love that there’s a portion that’s more story-based along with the non-fiction.

May Picture Book Favorites

Happy summer! Just a couple of books for this month…. possibly because I didn’t keep track that great, I’m going to try and stick with it because I’ve loved looking back at previous posts from this year. Links in this post will take you to my bookshop or bookshop.org, where I earn a commission for any purchases while you can support your local bookstore.

The Rabbit Listened – We got this from the library and it was an immediate must-purchase for me. It has simple illustrations and text that explain the importance in sometimes just listening to someone when they have a problem or they’re upset. A cast of animals all visit Taylor after they are upset when their block tower falls down, and each animal has a different “strategy” for how to help.

Oona and the Shark – We have all loved this book so much. I think I might like it more than the original Oona just because I think it’s a great story about friendship combined with thinking outside of the box.

The Biggest Story – I haven’t related to a book so much in a long time. My 4 year old is in a huge story phase– his favorite thing is probably us telling him stories… especially long ones with lots of chapters. This is a book about a little boy who wants his mom to tell him a story but they’re having plumbing problems, so she suggests he come up with his own story, and it is epic!

Over the Shop – I love a good wordless picture book and this one is definitely up there at the top. It’s about a little girl and her grandparent who are trying to find renters for the rundown apartment above their shop. There is so much to see and feel within the pages.

Recently Read 2022 | Part II

Unless the second half of this year goes in another direction, 2022 is not shaping up to be much of a reading year for me. So many books I want to read, but my attention-span is just not there. I wanted to get this post up before summer officially starts so I can maybe do a summer wrap up in September. Linking up for Show Us Your Books.

Wahala | I had a book hangover after finishing this book because I missed reading about Simi, Ronke, and Boo. This is the ultimate new-friend-to-the-group-is-up-to-no-good, quiet thriller where you know something bad is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when. The thriller element is definitely second to the friendship and unique storyline of each of the women– 3 Anglo-Nigerian women, who have been friends since college, are reunited with an estranged friend from childhood of one of the women. 

I think a blurb I read called them flawed but likable & I found that accurate, because mainly Boo– was really unlikable, but I still found myself rooting for her happy ending. The women are all mixed-race, so there are themes surrounding their struggles of often never fitting in with either of their cultures. Food is also a big theme in the book & I love that the author included a few recipes in the back of the book. I’ve never had Nigerian food, but have added it to my list.

One Italian Summer | I had a change of heart halfway through this book and went from being slightly annoyed to mostly enjoying it. Katy’s mother dies right before they’re set to leave on a trip to the Amalfi Coast. Her mom is the great love of her life, so her world is turned upside down & she suddenly no longer knows if she want to be married. She decides to go on the trip by herself and when she arrives she ends up running into her mom when she was her age (enter the magical realism). Reading about Italy was wonderful, as was the relationship with her mom– I really struggled with her decision to seemingly suddenly leave her husband behind & basically act as if he doesn’t exist. When I stopped to think about it I realized she was grieving, and I didn’t need to agree with her decision, but I could be understanding.

Overall, it was a nice quick read– I definitely prefer her last two books to this one, but would still recommend this if you’re a fan of her writing.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins | I read this over a few weeks with my four-year-old and it was the perfect first chapter book for him. Some of the language is definitely a bit dated, and the story took a few turns I wasn’t expecting (especially the ending😂)– but it’s great for a child who doesn’t like any conflict or anything “bad”.

Book Lovers | As I mentioned above, I’ve really struggled to read this year, so this is probably more of a me thing, but it’s a miracle I finished this one. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I love Emily Henry’s writing, but it was not my favorite. The romance and banter between Nora and Charlie was 10/10 and it was sweet seeing their relationship form, but the part about Nora’s sister I just didn’t get. From the start I had a hard time believing a mom is going to leave her two young kids for a month while she’s pregnant. The last 60 pages or so definitely won me over and I loved the epilogue– but overall, definitely my least favorite of her adult novels.

What have you read lately?

Early Reader Series We’ve Been Loving

I wasn’t 100% sure what to title this post because I don’t know what category these books actually fall into– I’m guessing maybe a few different ones? But these are the series my 4-year-old has been loving over the past 6 months or so– ours are all library copies, but I hope to stock our home library with each of these series, because they have all been so loved & will be great for continuing once he’s reading on his own one day. I think there is an overall category that considers them “buddy books” because every one contains two friends and their adventures. Links in this post will take you to bookshop.org, where you can shop via your local bookstore— I also earn a commission for any clicks or purchases.

Frog & Toad – A classic that I had never read before– we’ve listened to all 4 collections on audio in the car a lot too. There’s a couple of language things I don’t love, like “shut up” being used once or twice (mostly an issue when listening on audio, for reading aloud I would just choose another word), but overall this has been a great series that we all 3 refer back to regularly & have listened to dozens and dozens of times.

Charlie & Mouse – Maybe my favorite of this list– four short stories in each book about two brothers, Charlie & Mouse. The stories are often relatable (I laugh a lot at stuff that goes over my kids’ heads), and the adventures are entertaining for both of my boys.

Sydney & Taylor – This is a really cool series about a skunk and porcupine who are best friends and live together in a burrow in someone’s backyard. The amount of text per page is most similar to Frog and Toad but every single page has full color illustrations too & one story spans all 12 chapters.

Elephant & Piggie – I feel like we were a little bit late to get into Mo Willems because I wasn’t sure if these were age appropriate, but they are so fun & silly, and will be great for learning to read. My biggest dilemma is wondering if we want to get the individual hardcovers, or the “biggie” volumes that contain multiple stories in one book.

Fox & Chick – This series is one that easily entertains my 2.5yo and 4yo. Fox is more on the serious side & Chick is the more silly one of the duo. Each book contains 3 short stories that are loosely connected, told through a comic-book style text bubbles. We love checking out the end pages, that are always cleverly related to the stories as well. The next book comes out July 2022 and I am so excited!

We’ve also read the first Mercy Watson book and it was okay, but not one any of us were eager to read again right now. I am anxious to check out Mattew Cordell’s new series Cornbread and Poppy because we love so many of his picture books. What are we missing, or what should we check out next?

April Picture Book Favorites

April was another quick month– we had a busy month with a mini trip to New York, some new playgrounds, lots of puzzles, magic painting, and board games too. We’ve also been reading a lot of early chapter books and recently finished Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Some of the language is definitely dated, but it was perfect for my 4-year-old, who doesn’t like conflict of any kind. I made it almost 4 full months before I kind of gave up on my picture book tracking, but I’m trying to get back on track.

Mighty Mighty Construction Site— This was a repeat for us that someone grabbed on one of our recent library trips and I’ve enjoyed reading it almost nightly with my 2.5yo. The original crew of trucks link up with some new trucks– pumper being the fan favorite in our house.

The Digger and the Duckling— this cute little story arrived in Easter baskets this year and my 2.5yo cannot get enough of it. A little duckling arrives on the construction site one day and eventually wins over the hearts of all of the different construction trucks. It reminds me a bit of a Curious George story we’ve read about ducklings, a dump truck, and a park– and it’s a great book for sensory play.

The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible – We got this for my now-four-year-old’s third birthday and had read a few of the stories here and there, but it wasn’t until this month that he was interested in reading the entire thing cover to cover. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a great beginner bible.

The Curious Garden – I found this randomly before we took a trip to New York, but we didn’t end up getting the book from the library before our trip. Once I picked it up from the library I couldn’t remember why I had checked it out, but it’s inspired by the high line, and it is SO GOOD. My 4-year-old was immediately intrigued by the train tracks, but he quickly grew interested in the story, and now goes around saying he has a pruning problem.

My Tree – This is a beautiful story about a boy who moves from Korea and an old tree in his new backyard reminds him of home. I definitely teared up reading this, and it was one I was excited my 4-year-old liked just as much. We talk about the old tree all the time.

Thank You, Omu! – I have to admit I had seen this book all over Instagram and it never piqued my interest. When I saw it as a Wonder Book option at the library I flipped through it and decided to check it out and I’m so glad I did because it is wonderful. It’s about a grandmother who shares her stew with the entire community, and when she goes to eat dinner that night she has nothing left, until the knocks on her door begin again. The author’s note in the back explains that Omu means queen in Nigerian, and growing up it is what she called her grandma.

March Picture Book Favorites

Happy Spring! The best time of the year– I can’t believe it is already April. March went by incredibly fast, but I’m excited for the first full month of spring. Here are our most read/loved books of the month. For these posts I haven’t decided if I’m going to also share repeats, or just new books I haven’t mentioned yet… and on that note I feel the need to mention that we also read, or mostly listened to on audio, a ton of Frog & Toad.

Ada Twist Scientist | This was a tv before the book situation– we loved the Netflix adaptation & picked up the book from the library and mostly loved it– we read it daily at the beginning of the month. My issue is that Ada’s parents essentially get mad at her (their words) for being curious. They send her away to be alone and it mentions her heart turning to goo because she’s so sad. It feels really harsh to me, and my 4-year-old usually asks to skip those 2 pages. I wish they could at least apologize?

Otherwise, there is so much to love about this book. It’s great to see a diverse character, especially a girl, in STEM, it’s a fun read aloud, and the illustrations are fun and so clever with all of the details– including being able to solve the mystery of the smell.

Truman | This is the cutest story about a turtle who misses his human when she goes to school for the first time. The illustrations are by the same artist who wrote Stumpkin, and they are a delight!

Last year I saw Mel Fell everywhere and I had a feeling it would be one that my boys would love. Usually I start with the library, but this wasn’t available at the time, so I purchased a copy and somehow held onto it until springtime. It’s a short little story about a bird (a kingfisher) who goes to fly/fall for the first time– the book is cleverly told turned sideways and when Mel reached the water you turn the book in the other direction as she flies back to her nest. This is another one where the illustrations really tell the story.

Luna Loves Art | I love books about museums, so I was sold by this one before really knowing what the story is about. Luna’s class goes to the museum and one boy is repeatedly seen being on his own and having a hard time. The story actually goes pretty deep with some symbolism used when the boy shares his feelings about a couple pieces of artwork, but on a more surface level it’s a great opportunity to talk about kindness & also touches on families looking different.

In wanting to be more intentional about learning our letters I did a quick library search and found What About X?. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect it to be — but it’s a great book for talking about letters. X, and his class of other letters prepare to go on a camping trip. A great way to talk about letters while also having a fun narrative to follow.

And lastly, we discovered the adorable early reader series Charlie & Mouse this month. We’ve only read the first two in the series so far, but each book has 4 short stories about two brothers, Charlie & Mouse. We all love these stories– some are silly, some are a bit more serious with some humor that goes over my kids’ heads, but definitely a series I plan on owning eventually.

I hope your month was full of books you loved reading!

Allergy Friendly Party Favors

We have officially entered into the world of birthday parties with my oldest and it’s a lot of fun. Both of my boys have food allergies, so I’m always on the lookout for allergy friendly– mainly non-food options for party favors. These work great for Valentine’s Day or Halloween gifts too.

Enter Magic Painting pages! These magical books are the ultimate just add water books– really great for a wide variety of ages. You use water and a regular paintbrush and the colors appear. Depending on how precise you are with wiping your brush off between sections, they can actually be really detailed.

I used 2 pages out of the book (each book contains 15 pages), rolled them up with string & added a paint brush from an inexpensive pack on amazon, and gift tag I made in Canva and printed on card stock.

A great thing about the magic painting books is that there are tons and tons of different options, so it’s very likely you can match a theme if you’d like. Animals and butterflies. Fairy gardens and space. There are even some fun ones geared more towards older kids (& adults– it’s really relaxing!)– like the unworry and unhurry book.

Another fun option: Wikki stix— wax sticks that you can use (& reuse) to create different designs. There are many different party pack options that end up being less than $1 per pack. These were great with my 3.5 year old, though my 2 year old just likes to roll them into a ball.

Let me know your favorite party favors to give or receive. Shop the entire Magic Painting collection at my bookshop link here or request a free custom book list here.