Lincoln’s Birthday and Books!

I was born in Illinois the Land of Lincoln, so naturally this president has a special place in my heart. We ended January discussing the Civil Rights movement in America and the life of Martin Luther King Jr., Penelope is 7 and it was interesting how much she could not fathom the idea of segregation. We live in Chicago, a large metropolitan city full of many ethnicities. Our friends are  people of all shades of skin color and ethnic backgrounds. “How did segregation come to be so?” she would ask, so naturally we went back into our country’s history, to the topic of slavery, the divided North and South, and Abraham Lincoln. Here are two books that told these stories in a simple, easy to understand way for a child of this age. We read many books, but these two were our favorite.


“Abe’s Honest Word’s” is a story of the life of Abraham Lincoln, from his time as a young man, to presidency. Full of powerful illustrations and prose, this book truly captures Lincoln’s passion for the abolishment of slavery, using very accessible language for young children. Abe’s Honest Words is a follow up to Martin’s Big Words a favorite book of ours, on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Underground Finding the Light to Freedom By Shane W. Evans. A captivating book about the journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad. A wonderful story for my early reading child to read herself, as the words were minimal, yet so well chosen that alongside the sketch like illustrations, the absorbing story captured the fear and the risk, these brave slaves experienced, on their difficult journey to freedom.

To lighten things up, today we have been telling jokes all day, in honor of Lincoln’s humor and in honor of laughter in general, which gets every single one of us through the darkest of times.

Here’s a political themed one for the road folks! (from our joke book “More Laugh out Loud Jokes for Kids By Rob Elliott) : Q: Where do polar bears go to vote? A: The North Poll! Get it?! Poll, Pole haaaa! So funny. I feel better already!

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Celebrating Chinese New Year with Kids

Hello friends! Chinese New Year begins with the New Moon this Monday February 8th. Penelope’s interest in Chinese culture grew after reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon By Grace Lin. This book, is a book to be savoured, it is simply extraordinary! I was absolutely captivated and moved by the story. There is a strong, empathetic, brave female lead character and as the story unfolds we follow her throughout her amazing journey. We will soon begin another of Lin’s books Starry River of the Sky and we are looking forward to it very much.

We visited Chinatown here in Chicago shortly after finishing “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon”. We had a nice Chinese dinner, bought a variety of Chinese candy, browsed an Asian  grocery store and a few Chinatown shops. All of this feeds Penelope’s interest and allows her become immersed in another culture, which I love.

I checked three picture books out from the library, they were simple, yet educational enough in explaining the customs and rituals of Chinese New Year to Penelope, who is 7 years old. My First Chinese New Year” By Karen Katz, Happy, Happy Chinese New Year” By Demi and National Geographic Kids, Celebrate Chinese New Year By Carolyn Otto (Not pictured) all were wonderful to read.


We will be going back to Chinatown for dinner today and will be stocking up on red envelopes, yummy foods, sweets, and anything else we may find interesting and beautiful. If you are in the Chicagoland area, here are two free Chinese New Year events for family fun this weekend. Both events are on Saturday February 06, 2016

1. Chinese New Year Celebration
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 North Central Park Ave., Chicago
The Year of the Goat is coming to a close, and the Monkey is on its way in! Put a wish up on our money tree, dance like a dragon and make your own Monkey Mask in this fun-filled afternoon. Kids and adults alike will learn all about customs and traditions associated with this holiday as they engage in hands-on activities and more. All ages. Noon – 4pm. FREE.

2. Brookfield Zoo Lunar New Year Celebration It’s an event for the entire family.  Enjoy traditional Chinese lion costume dance, animal feedings, zoo chats, face painting, and a live Chinese Cuisine Cooking Demonstration by Chef Ying.  Also, make your own take-home red lantern, snap a picture in the dragon photo booth, enjoy a Year of the Monkey Scavenger Hunt through the indoor Tropic World exhibit, receive a lucky red envelope with a special prize inside, and much more. 

10:30am – 11:00am – Chinese Lion Dance by Chicago Cultural Center in Wild Encounters ITW White Oaks Room
11am – 1pm – Arts & Crafts, Animal Face Painting, Dragon Photo Booth in Wild Encounters ITW White Oaks Room; Goat Feedings* in Hamill Family Wild Encounters
11:15am – Animal Ambassador in Wild Encounters ITW White Oaks Room
12pm – 1pm – Chef Ying’s Cooking Class/Demonstration in Wild Encounters ITW White Oaks Room
1pm – 4pm – Scavenger Hunt in Tropic World
Zoo Chats:
1:00pm in Tropic World South America
2:00pm in Tropic World Asia
3:00pm in Tropic World Africa

We will begin crafting for the Chinese New Year this week and continue reading through the 21st. I will be sure to follow up with recipes, Chinatown adventures, and of course crafts. Have a wonderful weekend exploring!

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Our Summer Reading List 7/15-8/07

Hello! How is your summer reading going? We have been enjoying our trips to libraries and bookstores this summer, finding new and interesting books to explore and also revisiting our own home library for our favorites to read again and again. I can not believe it is August! Our summer is quickly coming to a close, making way for a new school year in just a few weeks! So without further adieu, onward to the list:


Part Three of our summer reading list continues with #29. Ramona the Pest
which we renamed Ramona the Wonderful and Spirited. My daughter thought it wasn’t very nice to call Ramona a Pest, which is a dated word anyway, so we did away with the word throughout the book and instead said things like “Ramona’s behavior made Beezus feel frustrated.”
Penelope kept asking “Why are people so annoyed with her? She’s just acting like a regular kid!” Which I think, is a testament to Beverly Cleary’s brilliant ability to write from a child’s perspective. Once again, Beverly Cleary really gets to the raw feelings of a 5 year old, like no other author can. We enjoyed the book but we’re left hanging at the end wanting more! Wait, what?! Is that really the ending? Does Howie stay for lunch? How is Ramona’s return to school? What was the rest of the year like? How was the end of Kindergarten? We had so many unanswered questions! Sigh. We began the series with Ramona the Brave which is book number Three and we are now almost through “Beezus and Ramona”  which is book One of the series. Yes, I know we read the first 3 backwards, but honestly it doesn’t change a thing, we have enjoyed them all the same.


Following Ramona the Pest we read
30. Breathe By Scott Magoon, which was lovely for my early reader to get through herself. She and I were wowed by the beautiful illustrations of the sea. They are indeed remarkable. We highly recommend it! The link is to Amazon, where there are examples of some of the illustrated pages.


31. The Moon Seems to Change By Franklyn M. Branley. Penelope loves the Moon and follows the Moon cycles on her calendar. We enjoyed reading it and performing the experiment at the end.


32. Mr. Poppers Penguins By Richard and Florence Atwater. Hilarious! We were laughing out loud at this wonderful old story!


33. Time to Sleep SHEEP the SHEEP! By MO Willems. There really isn’t a MO Willems’ book we don’t love, and the CAT the CAT series is so fun. This one is particularly hilarious because it deals with bedtime. Great for early readers.

4 books by Penguin Young Readers. I love Penguin Young Reader books! Their Level 1 books truly are beginner books that encourage independent reading and build confidence. Most Level 1 books we have read, are far more advanced reading and require assistance on my part.


34. Level 1 Book: A New Friend By Wiley Blevins. A sweet story about the unexpected friendship between a cat and dog.

35. Level 1 Book: Clara and Clem Under the Sea


36. Level 1 Book: Clara and Clem in Outer Space

Both By Ethan Long. Clara is adventurous! Clem, not so much. See how these two explore the Sea and Space together in these 2 stories.

37. Level 2 Book: Love is in the Air By Jonathan Fenske


An enchanting tale about a kite and balloon playing in the sky.

38. Little Bear


39. Little Bear’s Friend


Both written by Else Homeland Minarik. The Little Bear series is so delightful and sweet. We love them all. Also as a sidenote, the television series is lovely as well. I was a big “no screens” mom and this was a series I approved of. I was and still am very particular about what my daughter watches.

40. Toys Go Out By Emily Jenkins


Another book that was not my cup of tea. This is a Chapter book for the older set to read. My daughter found the toys to be very negative and kept asking throughout the story “why is this so negative? ” “Why do the toys have so many bad thoughts?” I wholeheartedly agree with this. This book was recommended by a librarian and was on several summer reading lists, but it made me yearn for the sweet “Lulu” series, full of kindness and positivity.  Feel free to check the book out yourselves. It definitely was not for us at this time. We may revisit the series in a few years when Penelope is older and can read them on her own.

41. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole Written By Mac Barnett


Mac Barnett is the founder of the Echo Park “Time Travel Mart”, a convenience store with a time traveler theme, he also serves on the board of 826LA, a not-for-profit writing and tutoring center in Los Angeles. When we lived in Echo Park we frequented the Time Travel Mart often and we are big supporters of 826LA. I guess you can say I have a soft spot for his books. This one is one of our all time favorites. It makes us Crack up and scream nooooo! Keep digging! And the ending, always brings forth a slew of theories. Love it!

42. Juna’s Jar By Jane Bahk Illustrated by Felicia Hoshino


A young Korean American girl’s adventures with her empty Kimchi Jar. Also deals with friends moving away, which we could relate to. Beautiful, dreamlike illustrations.

43. Bedtime at Bessie and Lil’s By Julie Sternberg Illustrated By Adam Gudeon


A book about a mother rabbit trying to get her 2 young rabbits to sleep, a pretty accurate account lol.

44. Knit Together By Angela Dominguez


I love books by this author! My mother was a knitter, crocheter and weaver and passed those crafts onto me. Now, I share them with my daughter. It is a sweet story that resonated with me, as the subject of creating with my own late mother and now my 6 year old daughter is one that is near and dear to my heart.

45. Click, Clack, Peep By Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin


Another fun book on getting little ones to sleep, It reminded me of days when I would drive Penelope around to lull her to sleep. It takes a village, but in this book it takes a farm of barnyard animals to help a little chick go to sleep.

46. Hana Hashimoto Sixth Violin By Chieri  Uegaki and Qin Leng


Penelope loves the Violin, so naturally we gravitated to this book about a Japanese American girl who will play her Violin at a talent show, finding a courage within, despite the naysayers. A lovely story about connecting with ones ancestors and finding your own voice.

47. Richard Scarry’s Great Big Schoolhouse Readers Level 1- Get That Hat!


Lowly has lost his hat to a gust of wind! An early reader book about their chase around town.

48. Peter’s Chair By Ezra Jack Keats


We are big fans of Peter in “The Snowy Day” so Naturally we are full of empathy as Peter struggles with the arrival of his baby sister.

49. Level 2 Book: Princess Buttercup a Flower Princess Story.


A book about six Garden Fairy Princesses named after flowers. Princess Lily, Princess Tulip, Princess Rose, Princess Hyacinth, Princess Iris, and Princess Buttercup are preparing for a party, to celebrate the first day of Spring. This urban gardener was sold! A sweet early reader book. I wish there was a series of these flower fairies. Penelope really enjoyed the book as did I and we were left wanting more!

50. Bob’s Books Level 1: My School Trip Written By Lynn Maslen Kertell.


We have been reading this book fairly often. It is about a class trip to the zoo.

Our current read is Beezus and Ramona By Beverly Cleary.


51. Book one of the Ramona series is written from Beezus’ perspective, which I am really appreciating having already read the two books that follow this story. We are loving it so far! We have one more chapter to go, and have been laughing hysterically at Ramona’s antics.

I hope you have enjoyed this book list. I certainly enjoy sharing our reading list with you all! I will post again in a few weeks with our upcoming books. Happy reading!

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Our Summer Reading list 6/19-7/15

I did not realize how much we were reading, until we began logging our time for our library’s summer reading program. We are doing an average of 40 minutes a day. Hooray! What is even more fun, was that Penelope won a tote bag and gets to pick out a brand new book from the library to keep tomorrow. How exciting!

11. We left off with Runaway Ralph By Beverly Cleary the sequel to The Mouse and the Motorcycle.


12. We then followed with Ralph S. Mouse to end the series. I didn’t like the last 2 as much as the first one, but Penelope enjoyed completing the series, and that is what is important in the end. I find myself changing language I do not care for in books. Do you do find yourself doing that as well?

13. The Courage of Sara Noble is one of my all time favorite books. There is so much depth in this short book. About family, early life in America, discrimination, and human nature. We had such rich discussions after this read.


14. Wind


15. Rain
16. Snow

A wonderful series of early reading books that teach science, all Written By Marion Dane Bauer.

17. Ladybug Girl and Bingo


A sweet story about a girl and her curious dog. We are big fans of the Ladybug Girl series of books.

Wordless picture books we pulled off our bookshelf:

Oh my goodness I LOVE wordless books! They are books your child can read independently because the story is told via the illustrations and often multiple stories may occur in a single page. There is something so beautiful about hearing my child tell me in great detail what a character is not only doing, but what they are feeling, just by studying the pages. These books help encourage storytelling and bring forth a greater appreciation for visual exploration and imagination. It is nice to bounce between chapter books with few visuals and many words and these wordless illustrated stories. A story emerges from both but in very different ways. I love this.

18. In The Town All Year Round


This book is a visual masterpiece. I bought it on sale at Anthropologie while I was pregnant. And pulled it out when Penelope was around 18 months old. At that age she took to it instantly. One of our absolute favorites, we read it at least once a month. It never goes out of rotation in our home and will most likely be listed again in August lol.

19. The Chicken Theif


20. Chicken and Cat


Oldies but goodies we pulled off the shelf:

21. Littleland


22. We Are In A Book


23. Barnyard Dance
24. Maisy’s Book of Things That Go

25. In honor of the Women’s World Cup Final we read Madlenka Soccer Star By Peter Sis. Did you all watch the game? It was sooooo GOOD!


26. Ramona the Brave


This was one of my favorite series as a child. I read them myself independently as I was older, perhaps 9? I am finding myself replacinging words as some of the language is a bit dated. Despite that, it is a lot of fun and Penelope is still happily enjoying the story.

27. The Princess in Black


A Princess who is also secretly a Superhero. What’s not to love about that! The second book will be out in October of this year, be sure to look out for it!

28. Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow


Another great one from the Ladybug Girl series, about the joys of a big snowfall.

We are currently reading “Ramona the Pest” By Beverly Cleary, we just finished Chapter 2 last night.

I will post a new list with links in a few weeks. I hope these lists are helping add to your summer reading. Hooray for books!

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Our Summer Reading List 6/04-6/18

School has been out for us since June 4th and I can not believe the year is over. I absolutely love Penelope’s Kindergarten teachers and I am so grateful we are able to have her in a school that we love. I was definitely mourning Penelope leaving their classroom and moving on to First grade. There is a lovely quote by Mister Rogers, that sums up the end of anything really, one of her teachers attached it to our final class newsletter and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning  of something else” It is the uncertainty of the future that makes leaving our comfortable safe routines so difficult, isn’t it? My daughter loved school and did not want summer to come, but time stands still for no one and so here we are moving forward as we must, and we are filling our days with books! I will share what we have read thus far and my thoughts.

First is a sequential series of 6 books that is so wonderful and sweet. They were recommended to me by our librarian. I am always looking out for sweet early chapter books, which can be a challenge. Our teachers, librarians and friends agree that there is a need for gentle, innocent books  in the Early Chapter Reader department. This series was simply lovely.

Written By Hilary McKay

1. Lulu and the Duck in the Park
2. Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
3. Lulu and the Cat in the Bag
4. Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door
5. Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain
6. Lulu and the Hamster in the Night

Lulu is a little girl who loves animals. She has adventures with her cousin and best friend Mellie. You can click on each title for a link to Goodreads. You can also see the list and read more about Hilary McKay on her website here.

7. The Mouse and the Motorcycle By Beverly Cleary.

A classic. I loved this book as a child (as did Penelope) and reading it again as a parent was just as enjoyable.

8. Skippy Jon Jones
9. Skippy Jon Jones in Mummy Trouble
10. Skippy Jon Jones Class Action

Written By Judy Schachner

I have to admit I don’t like the “SkippyJon Jones” books very much. They have a huge following and many people love them, but it was a little confusing with an early reader. There is back and forth with English and Spanish, and a lot of word altering for the sake of silliness and rhyming. Penelope now works to read aloud and asks about words a lot while we read, so this book was a bit confusing with all of the word altering. It would have been better if she were younger and not trying to identify words that aren’t actual words. Or read aloud during school or library story time. I have other issues with the book, but in general they are not my cup if tea. We read all 3 listed above. The link to Goodreads is above as well, feel free to check the series out and make your own judgment.

11. We are currently reading “Runaway Ralph“, the sequel to “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”. It is not nearly as good, but Penelope is enjoying it so far.

We have a stack of 5 more books from the library, for after Runaway Ralph. I will post after we have gotten through a few. What is on your summer reading list? I would love to hear!

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