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 ending­čśé)– 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.

February Picture Book Favorites

I’m back sharing our most read picture books from last month. These were the books we read over, and over, and over again, and most of them we’re still reading regularly.

Mae Among the Stars | I almost bought this book during a recent 2 for 3 sale, but ended up picking something else, then the next day we walked by it on our way out of the library, so I picked it up and I’m so glad I did, BUT also wish I had just purchased it because we’ve read it a million times. It’s about Mae Carol Jenison, the first African American woman in space. The story follows her as a little girl and shows the importance of persevering, even when others try to tell you, you can’t do something.

Hair Love was on the book list from Mason’s teacher for this month so I picked up our own copy from the library. It’s a sweet and moving story about a little girl who wants her hair to be special for the day her mom comes home– and with the help of her dad, she’s able to achieve the look

Frog and Toad are Friends— a classic, but totally new to me. I have to admit I wasn’t ever that interested in picking this series up, but starting to venture into some early readers with Mason this was highly recommended on more than one occasion. We’ve also been listening to the audiobook non-stop and I’ve found myself chuckling as we listen.

We had Stop! Bot! back in the fall/winter from the library and my youngest loved it. We returned it at some point and he started asking for it again every. single. day. I happened to find a discount copy of it and I’m really happy to have it as part of our collection now. Yang’s illustrations are fun and I love the unique shape of the book.

Someone shared Polar Bear Island on Instagram and it is a delight! It’s really fun and a bit silly with penguins wearing flipper slippers and making snow cones among other things, but there’s definitely a deeper message on the importance of inclusion & how people who are different can make where we live even better.

Bunny’s Book Club is adorable and I have to admit I was excited that both boys loved it as much as I did, because I love a good book about books. Bunny loves listening to outdoor story time, but when the weather changes and story time moves back inside, he can no longer listen. He decides to sneak in the library at night through the book return & the adventure goes on from there with his friends.

What books have you read and loved recently?

Recently Read 2022

Happy new year of reading! A few months into the year… I haven’t read as much this year because the last few months have been mostly survival mode with a non-sleeping toddler and just an overwhelmingly challenging season of life.

The Lazy Genius Way | I went into this book completely unfamiliar with Kendra Adachi and the first half was 1000/10 stars for me. I lost track of how many things I highlighted and it was just exactly what I needed to read, both from an informational standpoint, but also just for solace in so many motherhood feelings and things not being alone if that makes sense? The second half wasn’t as relatable, but I’m still glad I have a copy of the book to refer back to (I won a copy on instagram) & I’m excited for her kitchen book coming out later this year.

The Maid | Initially I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get into this, but after I reread the synopsis it really sounded like something I would like so I decided to keep going and by 20% or so I was totally invested in Molly and her story. Really great characters and I found the writing great as well– I thought the sharing of things from the past was mixed in effortlessly with what was happening currently. The ending though… I did not understand it and wondered if it went over my head, or really was just kind of random? thank you to netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review

One last thing to note about the book, the night I started reading this was the night Bob Saget died– he was found dead in his hotel room like Mr. Black and at the top of my Twitter feed was Jason Alexander saying he was the definition of a good egg. I saw that tweet as I was reading a part in the book where there’s a whole conversation between Gizelle and Molly about being “a good egg” & it being an uncommon phrase/what it means. Just one of those weird things.

New Order – A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and everyone else) | This was a library suggestion when I put something else on hold, so I figured it was worth checking out & I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t consider myself a creative, but this was quick and easy to read, the chapters on paper and digital clutter had some practical ideas and it inspired me to tackle some organizing projects.

Olga Dies Dreaming | I maybe overhyped this book to myself– like was so excited to read it that I almost bought it. I ended up waiting for my library hold and by the time I got it I couldn’t remember what it was about, or why I had been so excited to read it. Here’s the blurb: A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up loving it. As much as I typically prefer character driven novels, I think I was waiting for more to happen to propel the plot. At the same time there was so much going on in terms of social, political, or personal issues combined with the plot around Olga’s parents, specifically the letters from her mother. I did find the writing engaging and often found myself feeling like I was immersed in the scenes I was reading about and it made me want to learn more about Puerto Rico’s history.

I’m currently reading Wahala and loving it. What are you reading? Linking up for Show Us Your Books. `

January Picture Book Favorites

While I didn’t read a large number of adult books last year, picture books, or children’s books in general I guess, are life in our house– specifically with my 3 year old. We read mostly library books and when I got to the end of the year I was bummed I hadn’t done a better job keeping track of what we read.

This year I decided to use a spreadsheet and am keeping it super simple, just recording the title, month read, and whether or not we own the book– and for now just documenting the first time we read the book. At some point I might go back and add categories like trains, construction, friendship, etc., but for January at least it was easy for me to keep up with. These were the favorite– or most read out of the 50 or so we read in January. Most of the book links are affiliate links through bookshop.org where you can shop via your favorite independent bookstore.

I picked up a used copy of the Curious George Treasury for $3 and if I were keeping track it would probably be the MOST read book of the month. None of us were really that familiar with Curious George, I just knew this was kind of a classic and thought it was a good deal– so happy I picked it up because it has brought a lot of reading enjoyment.

Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters— Theo’s top pick, though it was enjoyed by all of us. It’s quick and easy to read with fun illustrations, and is based on a true story about people making sweaters for penguins who were impacted from oil spills– it turned out that the sweaters are actually not good for penguins.

We have a wonderbook version of Islandborn that is read by the author and includes music and Mason adores it. The illustrations are incredible and the story of Lola collecting memories from her friends and family about the island where she’s from is a great way to talk about what home means.

I love the look inside series, but flap books are maybe my least favorite bedtime book. As much as I would try and put Look Inside Things That Go away before bed, Mason would always ask for it, so it was read a lot on top of him flipping through it on his own. I could probably recite the entire thing by memory and it is full of a lot of info. One of my favorite things though is how Mason likes to look very closely at what people are doing in the images– little things I would never take the time to notice on my own.

Stranger in the Woods— this book wins for best soundbites? We haven’t read it as much recently and I still have “strange in the woOoOoDs” stuck in my head, and Theo will regularly say “whoooo are youuuu??” Fun phrases aside, the nature photography is really incredible mixed with a fun story of animals discovering a stranger (snowman) in their woods.

Mason and I saw Corduroy at the Imagination Stage back around Christmas, so I made sure to check out a couple of the books from the library beforehand. We read the original story so much that he could basically recite the entire thing while doing a puppet show. We’ve also really loved listening to a few of the other stories read by Viola Davis via audio.

Locomotive— this book is on the heftier side, both in size and content, but it’s creative and engaging while being informative– definitely deserving of the Caldecott Medal. Mason loves all things trains, so this was an easy favorite for him– he loves the map inside the front cover and the detailed drawing of all of the locomotive parts on the back cover. We’ve also made our own recreation of the journey westward using his train tracks– complete with a rickety bridge, extra engine, and tunnel.

Hopefully I’ll stay on top of sharing these monthly picks as the year goes on.

Favorite Things 2021

My goal was to get this post up sometime in January, so I’ve just barely made it, but I love being able to look back on these things. This was never meant to be so kid focused, but I really couldn’t think of anything else– which is a very telling look back on the year in itself I guess.

kinetic sand | this easily wins for the most used sensory filler of the year. Almost always with the little trucks, but they also loved hiding gems and putting them in their treasure chest, or pretending to make muffins or cookies.

recycle truck | we have quite a few of the green toys vehicles, but this one hands down is the one that gets played with the most. You can fill it up and even ride on it if you’re small enough.

wipe clean books | these took the place of sticker books for the favorite activity book. I love that there are so many options from dinosaurs to construction themed. My 3yo is especially into the dot to dot right now and my 2yo has fun just scribbling away.

busy books | I wrote an entire blog post on these books, and even though I’m not including “regular” books in this post (it would be a million pages long), these books double as an activity. When I got our first one for my oldest he loved playing with the little figurine, but now he can pull them back on his own, and even my 2yo is able to get them going on the track by himself.

kitchen helper | I waited FOREVER to get one of these because I kept convincing myself we didn’t *need* it– they’re expensive & our kitchen doesn’t have a lot of open space, but we really did need one because it gets used every single day and is WAY safer than having a toddler kneeling on a stool. I am a little bit grateful that we waited because I found one secondhand for way less than what we would have paid if we got a new one.

portable potty | For the longest time we took our inside mini toilet in and out to leave in the car and I have no idea why because this little toilet is perfect to keep in the car. It folds up and comes with little bags, but can also be used as a seat to sit on top of a regular toilet.

funtainer | These water bottles have been our favorite– the parts are easy to clean, they don’t require any pressure on the straw to drink, and they’ve held up well in the dishwasher and being dropped.

if you give a mouse a cookie | Love the books, but this is for the show on Prime. It’s the only thing my 2yo requests to watch and my 3yo was the original fan. Thankfully new seasons seem to come out somewhat regularly and the holiday specials are always really great too.

stabilo woody 3 in 1 pencils | We got these towards the end of the year for my 2yo’s birthday, and they are definitely another thing I wish I had just purchased earlier because we use them pretty much every single day. They’re usually kept out with our easel (also a birthday gift that has been used daily), but we’ve also used them with the stained glass coloring books, and they truly wipe off windows easily too.

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