Thursday Ten: Waterlogged Edition

1. You know that feeling when you see a spot on your basement carpet and you think, “HUH. What’s that?” And then you realize it’s your footprint? And you realize it’s your footprint because your carpet is FULL OF WATER? There was a bit of panic-filled moments (minutes…hours…a day or so…) waiting to find out the cause (a broken valve) and waiting to find out if insurance will cover anything (they will!). Now I’m a bit more relaxed about it but seriously? ENOUGH WITH THE CHAOS.

2. I’m actually surprised insurance is covering anything but I figure I’ve lived here 11 years and I’ve never filed a claim. Maybe they figured they’d just give me this one. Like that time I spilled butter on my iPhone (long story) and the Apple store replaced it without any fuss.

3. And in news that doesn’t involve my house being broken or my wallet being empty… yesterday my sister and brother-in-law had their ultrasound and it’s a…BOY. Looking forward to the arrival of my nephew this winter and learning how to be as awesome an aunt to him as I am to his sister. {That might sound conceited but I’m a really great aunt, y’all.}
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4. I kind of enjoy having a kid who bakes but I don’t enjoy the part where I forget that her monkey bread cupcakes spilled melted butter all over the bottom of the oven and I remember when a rush of black smoke starts billowing out of the oven into the kitchen. No fire, just stink. Sigh. I’ll add it to my list of things to clean.

5. Second week of school almost and I do believe we’re falling into a groove here.

6. #I #Don’t #Understand #People #That #Use #Hashtags #For #NonHashTaggy #Things

7. Something I’ve been curious about lately is – as an adult, what do you wish you had learned when you were younger? Think about it – and if you feel like sharing with me, toss me a comment. I’ll marinate on this one as well… there’s a post in the works here.

8. I mean it. There’s a post in the works that’s NOT a Thursday post. You would think with alllll this free time. But… nope.

9. It’s all fun and games until shuffle plays “Endless Love” and you get it stuck in your head for two days.

10. What I’m reading now? Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield. He’s a good writer and I love the music-inspired memoir. And, no. I was never a Duran Duran fan. Not even a little.

Thursday Ten: School’s BACK edition

1. Yep, back into the swing of things this first week of school and already the house has taken on a rhythm that we just can’t find during the summer – a rhythm that includes SLEEPING CHILDREN. After an insomnia filled night before the first day, The Princess has taken to completely zonking out before I even tell her that it’s bedtime. Waking up before the sun will do that to ya, I guess (SERIOUSLY – her bus comes before 7 a.m. RIDIC). So far so good for both of them, which is good.

2. Realized the first day of school that…Pumpkin had absolutely no idea how to tie the shoes her dad bought her. I posed the question on Facebook already and got some great ideas for how to teach her, but – what say you: How did you teach your kid to tie his or her shoes?

3. The thing about being the photographer in the family is I’ve been asked several times for copies of photographs of my grandpa. I don’t mind sharing them; I’m glad I have them. But at what point will it stop breaking my heart to see his face as I scroll through the files on my computer because it makes me sad every time.

4. I worked three days last week, had five days off, worked two days this week, and now I have four days off. Yeeeeeeah. This isn’t going to work. “The only thing wrong with part time is the money,” someone said to me yesterday. Yeah, I know – but that’s a pretty big freaking thing to be wrong. Disposable income, oh, how I miss thee.

5. But! I read books. I’ve finished at least three books in the past week. Guess all that time off is good for something. I’m not reading high brow stuff, though. Most recently I finished One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper and then I just cracked open a book by the ladies who wrote “The Nanny Diaries”, The First Affair. I can tell you this: I wholeheartedly recommend ANYTHING and EVERYTHING by Jonathan Tropper. He has a contemporary lit style and he’s a screenwriter too (I just read the back flap of the book) so most of his novels you can easily picture on the big screen (or on the little screen if you will). I really dig his stuff. Whereas “The First Affair” will likely be straight up fluffy-chick lit and while I should be ashamed, I’m not really. Sometimes it just feels really good TO FINISH A FREAKING BOOK. {Note: those are affiliate links – because of course they are.}

6. My brakes need fixing. I could use a break. (I couldn’t help myself) Grateful that my mom’s husband is a car whiz and is helping me out but I swear, sometimes you have to just shake your fist at life and say, “REALLY? WHAT NEXT LIFE?” (Kidding. You never ask what’s next.)

7. I grew this!
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8. BREAKING BAD OMG AND YES THE ALL CAPS ARE WARRANTED. There are two reasons I have yet to cancel my cable: Breaking Bad and HGTV. And seriously cable companies, when will we be able to order channels a la carte? You can’t tell me there’s no way to make it profitable for you and still cost effective for the consumer who only watches two channels.

9. I think I need a haircut but I don’t actually want one.

10. It’s college football season now! GO BLUE!

Fun Children’s Books for Back To School

If I was a more organized blogger, I’d have probably written and posted this over a month ago – when some of y’all were getting your kids ready for school ALL THE WAY BACK IN AUGUST. Here in Michigan, law says public school can’t start until after Labor Day, which means that while kids all over the country are already back in the swing of things, my peeps are enjoying (I hope!) their first day of third and sixth grade today.

I received some fun school related books to review – and I forgot to tell you about them. I hope you’ll give me a free pass because this summer was ridiculously hard. Maybe next year, I’ll get my self together and be legit with an editorial calendar or something.

Stranger things have happened.

Amelia Bedelia’s First Library Card

I grew up with Amelia Bedelia stories – silly, literal Amelia Bedelia (who doesn’t love saying that name?) – and in this update, Amelia gets new life…as a kid! I don’t know that I love it, to be honest – this updated and young Amelia, but the book and illustrations are fun and the story is cute. Seeing as how I have a kiddo just itching to get her first library card, I thought this book was a fun read. Amelia’s class goes to the library, learns about how to find books, and gets their first library card. And when Amelia Bedelia checks out her book, something goes wrong… it wouldn’t be Amelia Bedelia otherwise!

My New Teacher and Me

My New Teacher and Me!

This delightful story from Al Yankovic (yeah, that’s the one) surprised me – a skeptic because, well… I don’t love his music. I don’t love the parodies, I don’t find him particularly amusing but I think that this is the right target demographic for Weird Al, because I really kinda dug this story about Billy on his first day of school. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a rhyming story for kids and the bright illustrations enhanced the details of the wild stories Billy tells his doubting teacher, Mr. Booth, on the first day of school. A lovely tale about imagination and thinking beyond what’s already known. It was almost inspiring. I liked it.

Clark the Shark

Clark the Shark reminds me of any number of students I’ve seen over the past several years that my kids have been in school – only, y’know… he’s a shark. Easily excitable, not always on task, boisterous in a way that can be annoying to others… Clark the Shark struggles because his behavior makes his friends not want to play with him and causes the teacher to reprimand him often. A little lesson in self control teaches Clark that there’s a time and a place for that playful behavior. A good book for that oh-so-enthusiastic kiddo in your life – in a not preachy way, it provides a good lesson – that the enthusiasm is great, but sometimes we need to take it easy, or as Clark’s teacher says: “Stay Cool.”

Those are a few of the books that have found their way to our bookshelves and our hearts as we roll into a new school year. Opinions, as always, are my own, though the books were sent to me for review. These books are appropriate for ages four to eight, approximately – though your mileage may vary depending on your kiddo.

Happy School!

Our Favorite Children’s Books For Summer

One of my favorite blogging perks – since no one is clamoring to send me on lovely trips to write about them (though I’m TOTALLY open to that, FYI) – is getting brand new books in the mail to review. I get quite a lot of books, and it makes me and the little people tremendously happy. It also makes me friends happy because for some reason, I get a bit of romance novels and I really don’t care to read or review those so they immediately get passed on to friends who will dig ’em.

The kids’ books I mention on my blog have met a few criteria:

  • My daughters like them
  • I like them
  • I believe they have enough staying power to not get annoying after you’ve read it to a kid four times in a row

When I get books, Pumpkin goes through them first (most of what I’ve received has been more fitting for a 4 – 8 year old age group, so The Princess opts out of a lot of the reading). She tells me what she likes, and I read and pare the list down from there. What you’re seeing here are some of our latest faves.

Fanciest Doll in the Universe

Fancy Nancy: Fanciest Doll in the Universe

I’m forever a fan of the Fancy Nancy series – I love the illustrations, I love the concept, and I love the sneaky vocabulary lessons (“Then my mom tries consoling me. That’s fancy for making me feel better.”). In this latest book, Nancy’s little sister draws all over Nancy’s favorite doll with a permanent marker. Nancy is devastated that her doll is “ruined” and mad at her little sister. In the end, of course, the sister-drawn tattoo ends up being a good thing, and Nancy realizes her sister won’t always be little forever. I kind of dug this – I remember Pumpkin ruining her older sister’s stuff. It’s a sibling thing and it’s pretty common and I love how they covered it.

Sticky, Sticky, Stuck!

A family so wrapped up with work, cell phones, television and the like that they fail to pay attention to little Annie except to tell her she’s sticky. So when Annie makes a sticky sticky sandwich and the whole family gets stuck they realize they actually kind of like to spend time with each other and it’s good to put the phones down and connect with the people in front of us. Uh, whut? Yeah. Kind of heavy handed, but a cute way to share a good message. And yes, I put the iPhone down for awhile after reading it.

Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach (My First I Can Read)

The Pete the Cat series (we just received Pete at the Beach, Pete’s Big Lunch, and Play Ball) are great because they are for beginning readers and are entertaining and somewhat challenging but not so challenging that you’re filling in every third word for your reader.

Tyler Makes Spaghetti!
But perhaps my favorite of the bunch is this offering from chef Tyler Florence (apparently, he’s also penned Tyler Makes Pancakes! which sounds equally fun). With the focus I’m working on instilling in my kids – eating more whole foods and less meals from packages (I’m not all the way there yet, by the way. My addiction to snack foods isn’t likely to end any time soon, but for meals, I’m doing a pretty darn good job), I love this book’s focus on the simple and natural ingredients that encompass a meal of spaghetti and meatballs. The book finishes with Tyler Florence’s recipe – and yeah, I’ll be giving that a try soon with the kids in the near future.


So these are some of the latest pages we’ve been turning. What have you been reading with your kiddos this summer?


Though these books were sent to me free for review, the opinions expressed are my own. Amazon affiliate links used because why on earth not.

Thursday Ten: Mother Nature is on Crack edition

1. Dear Mother Nature: Last year at this time, things were blooming. It’s been another week and there is now snow in the forecast and all I can think of is that you hate everyone. And if it really does snow this weekend, I may really and truly cry. This week has been rainy and I’m choosing to look on the bright side – here’s hoping all that rain means that all of the lawns in the neighborhood quickly turn from brown to green. BUT YOU HAVE TO STOP SNOWING ON THEM FIRST.
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2. We’re coming into the home stretch of competitive gymnastics season and I have to say, the end of this season has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. From finding out that the gym has been padding meet registration fees (there could be a legit reason – and yes, I’ll be asking them) to being unable to pin down a meet time for an event nearly three hours away, I’m frustrated. I hate when people mess with my money or my time (OR BOTH).

3. Don’t mind me. Just googling crafts to make with empty wine bottles. And more crafts. And I hate making crafts.

4. Michigan made it to the finals and they KILLED my bracket (I’d picked Syracuse to win). It was a bummer to see my team make it that far – and then lose – but it was still pretty awesome that they got that far. And if a team had to kick my bracket in the teeth, I guess it’s okay if it’s MY team.

5. I have been reading the fluffliest books just to FINISH something lately. Don’t ask what.

6. The Avon Walk is in under two months and so while I’m in a rush to get outside and start getting real workouts in soon, I’m also in the frame of mind of “Work out, get in shape but for the love of god, woman, don’t hurt something!” Some days I wake up really feeling my age and I’m slightly more afraid of maiming myself just climbing out of bed than I used to be.

7. Pumpkin has had moments of expressing frustrating with our schedule and I do hope that she adjusts soon. I know the chaos of an ever changing schedule doesn’t do anyone any favors, but it’s been hardest for her and that’s tough for me.

8. Though I haven’t posted a “Kitchen Through The Lens” post in awhile, I haven’t forgotten the project. I’ve got one post pending (Okay, I took the pictures, I have to write it) and frankly, I just need to take the time to get back into my kitchen. I made all the stuff I really wanted to make already. Now it’s the leftovers. Makes it harder to keep moving forward.

9. Due to some spectacularly awful driving on behalf of a school bus driving hauling a bus full of kids (yeah. scary.), my vehicle and I very nearly became the squished up middle of a Lexus/Audi sandwich. Fortunately, we’re all better drivers than the person carrying a bunch of kids so… crisis averted.

10. I’m still thinking about a 40 before 40 list. I guess item number one should be “Finish writing this list.” And then items two through 39 will be things I’ve already done. Item 40 will be something new. Because that’s how I roll. Lazily. Slowly. Downhill.

National Poetry Month – Children’s Poetry Books

From the time we are born, poetry is infused into our lives in many ways – whether we realize it or not. Nursery rhymes, lullabies, silly nicknames. All poetry. From there, maybe your roads lead to Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. And then onward and upward.

Chances are, your kiddos aren’t UNFAMILIAR with poetry. Which is good – because poetry is AWESOME.

I’ve loved – perhaps as much as my daughters have loved – looking at these books we received for review for National Poetry Month. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love children’s lit – this poetry? It’s FUN. It’s entertaining. And some of the book art is absolutely lovely.

Take for example, Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: and Other Poems. This book of poems by Jack Prelutsky features amazing art by Carin Berger – these images are dioramas, shadow boxes, and cut paper collages. Pictured above are the “Braindeer” (Braindeer are very clever, Braindeer are very wise. Their brains are very wrinkled and of a massive size…). From SLOBsters to Panteaters, this book is entertaining, but the art makes the book. It’s unique and special and really stands apart from most of the books we own

As a tremendous fan of Maurice Sendak and “Where the Wild Things Are,” I was excited to receive a review copy of My Brother’s Book, Sendak’s elegy “for his brother, Jack, his partner of over fifty years, Eugene Glynn, and for himself.” Described as the kind of fairy tale a grieving child tells, this book was moving and quasi-Shakespearean. And my kids hated it. I guess it’s fair to say that Pumpkin also hates “Where the Wild Things Are” and The Princess was disturbed that it says “To hell with you then!” She didn’t find that appropriate. Given how I mourned the death of Sendak, though, I found the book to be a welcome addition to our book collection – and even though the kids don’t love it now, I’ll hang on to it.

Two other volumes of poems by Jack Prelutsky –The New Kid on the Block and A Pizza the Size of the Sun feature a more age appropriate nonsense kind of poem that my children, particularly seven-year-old Pumpkin, seem to enjoy. These poems are short and silly and remind me a bit of Shel Silverstein’s work (though, I’m a big Silverstein fan – and while these are good, Shel’s a tough act to follow!). Because the poems are short and sweet, they make for great bedtime reading – a few at a time, with an easy place to stop for the night.

This probably isn’t even fair to the other books because we are such total Dallas Clayton fans in this house. Make Magic! Do Good! is just as lovely as the other offerings from Clayton we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. These are the kinds of books that the cynical side of me wants to dislike because they are so FREAKING POSITIVE, but frankly – we all could use a little positive. I find the poems to be calming and they make me smile. My daughters enjoy them as well. Particularly “My Mistake” – a good one for this house full of overachievers:

I made a mistake when I wrote this
then I covered it up with some ink
then my hands got mistaken and made a mistake
and they spilled it all over the sink
so I asked for a rag to help fix it
but they brought me a rug by mistake.
Now the sink and the rug are all covered in ink
and the writing has taken a break.
Now I’m down on my knees
And a scrubbin’ it clean
but the mistake that I made just keeps growin’
and I think
if I had it to do over again
I’d’ve made my mistake and kept goin’.


Disclaimer – I received the books for review but as always, my opinion is my own. Blah blah blah FTC blah blah blah.

Thursday Ten: Not En Route To Dallas Edition

1. Though I left Blissdom early last year because I thought my sister was going to go into labor ANY MINUTE (and then my niece waited TWO MORE WEEKS), it’s still kind of a bummer seeing my friends posting on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook about their travels to Dallas (and a whole ‘nother BioDome). *sniff* The downside to having a lovely group of blogging friends – is that most of us aren’t all in one place and don’t see each other much… so I’m a bit bummed to be missing it.

2. The kids and I had a family portrait done a few weeks ago – the photographer did a lovely job. It’s not her fault that I’m hyper critical of myself. I hate it. I’m trying to look past my perceived flaws and focus on the fact that I’m surrounded by my daughters – and you can see the love and the happy in the photos, despite the fact that I had shoes full of snow. I see all of these things and my eyes lock on them and I can’t unsee them and this is why I do better on the other side of the camera. Because I’m dumb.

3. But on a brighter note, Justin Timberlake’s album came out this week. I haven’t listened to all of it yet, but I love “Mirrors”  – far better than “Suit & Tie.” There’s an ad before this video, but that’s okay, it’s not too obnoxious.

4. Do you Bracket? Y’all know that I’m kind of a BIG FREAKING NERD about my NCAA March Madness Brackets. Don’t make me watch any basketball, but indulge me because I AM COMPETITIVE AS ALL GET OUT and yeah, my bracket is filled out. I, uh, actually have two apps for it on my phone too. (That’s really only because the ESPN Bracket Bound app is just a big old mess and it keeps changing my picks and I can’t have that. Nope. No way.) NERD.

5. Easter is fast approaching and the girls and I have had a chance to check out a few new books. Our favorites for Easter are Easter Bunny on the Loose!: A Seek and Solve Mystery! and Mia: The Easter Egg Chase. Both books are awesome for ages 4 – 8 (Pumpkin loves ’em) and are available on Amazon. Each is under ten bucks (Mia was under $5 – and comes with a fun page of stickers your kiddo can use to decorate the pages of the book.)

6. As the winter weather holds on even though spring is officially “here” – I’m grateful that I remembered about the Nike Training Club app. Tired of my treadmill, my workouts have been boring, lackluster, and frankly? Ineffective. There’s a wide enough variety in NTC workouts to (hopefully) keep me motivated and from getting bored. Goodness knows, I wanna be ready when the weather warms up.

7. So, because I’m a goofball, I’ve started a Flickr set of Other People’s Grocery Lists. You know how sometimes people leave ’em in the cart (lazy litterbugs)? Well, I’mma take pictures and add them to Flickr. And then I’m going to judge them (not really).
Other people's grocery lists, 3.15.13

8. I haven’t made anything from the Kitchen Lens project for quite some time – but! I’m going to! I have all the ingredients. I’m just…too tired when I get home to try something different. But I will.

9. The other day I did the “math” with regards to just how much of the year I spend FREEZING here in Michigan. Damn near half the year it’s cold here. Ugh. Do not like (This is when it’d be awesome to have some weird SEO-friendly relationship with a brand that wanted to send me someplace warm so I could drink umbrella drinks and post pictures on Instagram of my toes in the sand while on some tropical beach. Anyone want to adopt a blogger?).

10. I’m passing on my HGTV fondness to The Princess who particularly gets emotionally involved with trying to guess the outcome of “Love It Or List It.” Man, I remember those days of having to sit through countless hours of Dora the Explorer. Watching HGTV and cupcake shows with my kid? Not bad.

Thursday Ten: And So It Goes edition

1. Just when I had been panicked about the fact that I only had a little over a week left of full time work, it was extended another month. While I hesitate to write too much about my job situation in my blog – I have been (understandably, I think) stressed about the thought of reducing my hours at work (and the corresponding paycheck). Another month for now is a huge relief.

2. I love rooms that have lots of windows and are full of lovely beautiful natural light. I also love bright colors. I don’t know how many times I took this shot because I have a tendency to tilt slightly a few degrees when I shoot, but… I like how it came out.
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3. I just spent ten minutes watching YouTube videos of people covering Anna Kendricks from Pitch Perfect doing “Cups” because I was going to embed the song because even though I’ve never seen the movie, I’m somewhat intrigued by the whole cup thing. (Note: there are a lot of people sitting at home, playing with cups and uploading videos to YouTube.)

4. I’ve started reading again. I’m turning off my laptop earlier in the evenings and falling asleep with books again instead of with Netflix. Means I may never find out what happens next on Weeds, but hey, I’m using my library card again. I’ve missed reading.

5. When I picked The Princess up from gymnastics last night, the owner of the gym made a point to tell me how well she thought my daughter was progressing with her double back handspring. She had The Princess show me before we left for the evening – and my gosh! She was right. It’s amazing, even just in the past few months how far she’s come. I find that so exciting to see her improve by so much.

6. Things you never think of needing until you need them: a meat thermometer and a roasting pan.

7. Thing I’ve thought all too often this week: “I wish it was someone’s birthday. I’d really like a cookie!” (And then the girls came home from their dad’s and made me cookies, only I didn’t have enough all purpose flour so The Princess used wheat and… I’m not a fan of the wheat cookie. Apparently.)

8. When I started my Kitchen Through The Lens project, I really really despised cooking. As I type this, I’m researching two different kinds of recipes for the next two things I plan to cook and I’m thinking, “Yeah. I can do this. This will be good.”  The one thing I’ve learned to consider when selecting recipes is how freezeable leftovers might be. I hate throwing away food and since I don’t love leftovers, I need to either freeze it or make less. Somehow.

9. The thing about eating healthy all day is the urge to binge on graham crackers at 11 p.m.

10. After two uses, my KitchenAid food processor completely stopped working. I finally emailed them yesterday in hopes that they do something to remedy the situation. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE my KitchenAid stand mixer. I am not even exaggerating when I say what a tremendous difference that mixer makes to the cooking and baking experience, so… the fact that after two uses, the food processor went still and no longer works? It’s disappointing. I’m hoping they’ll make it right though, because I have a list of things to make and improving my knife skills was not a goal of this project.

Books for Valentines Day Even If You Don’t Actually LIKE Valentines Day

I’m sure you guys know this by now…

I have mixed feelings on Valetines Day. I’m a fan of Hallmark, not a fan of Hallmark holidays. Why wait for a holiday to say you care?

Having said that

My kids? They love it. A lot.

And they really loved this batch of books that we got for Valentines Day. Admittedly, even I got a little squooshy about one of ’em.

Awesome Book of Love!

How much do I love Dallas Clayton? Kind of a really lot. I truly enjoyed “An Awesome Book” and this one is pretty darn enjoyable too. With its quirky illustrations and its fun rhyming verse make this book truly enjoyable, whether you’re a kid or a kid’s mom or probably even if you’re a kid’s mom’s mom, you might dig this also. I like this because it’s not Valentines specific – you don’t need a special day to tell someone you care (okay, maybe you do, but some people don’t and they will be just as happy reading this book on a Tuesday in November as they are reading it on February 14). This book is a lovely little love story. And I’m not sure I’m going to let the kids take it for their own shelf – I may just keep it on mine!

But you know that’s not all that this love is about
Sometimes it’s a whisper when you feel you could shout
Or just being around when others have gone
or about letting go when you want to hold on


Mia: The Sweetest Valentine
by Robin Farley

Pumpkin loves the Mia series of books perfect for ages 4 – 8 (she’s seven years old and difficulty wise, she can read books a bit tougher than this one, but she’s at the point where she can’t decide if she wants chapter books or the cool pictures – and that’s OKAY). A fun little story of Mia celebrating Valentines Day with her friends annnnnnd… accidentally eating the box of chocolates her dad had purchased for her mom. This cute (short!) story also comes with a page of stickers which, as you know, makes every book better. Too bad it didn’t come with a box of chocolates. (Free marketing idea!)

Splat the Cat: Funny Valentine

Another series that Pumpkin LOVES. This cute story with lift-the-flap surprises is fun for kiddos ages 4 to 8. A sweet fun story that your kids will love, particularly if they are already fans of the Splat the Cat series (like my kiddo is).


Though I received the books for review, the opinions, as always are solely my own. It takes more than review copies of books to sway my opinion (but you’re welcome to try). All children’s books received for review go through the paces with both me and my kiddos. If they don’t like them or if I don’t, that’s the end of it. Children’s literature is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, which is why at 36 years old, I still LOVE kids’ books.


Happy Valentines Day.

Happy Reading.

Children’s Books for Black History Month

Perhaps one of my favorite things about blogging is getting love from book publishers – occasionally I come home from work to find books in the mail and my kids and I rip open the packages and read ’em and decide which are the best of the bunch.

A few weeks ago, I received several books in honor of Black History Month – the kids and I did some reading and of the bunch, these are our favorites. These books are well written with great art and were extremely informative (actually, so informative that I learned a lot, which I love).

In the Land of Milk and Honey by Joyce Carol Thomas

This book was our favorite. Lyrical prose, gorgeous art. This book is a true story of the author’s trip from Oklahoma to California in the late 40s. A former California girl myself, I have to say I loved seeing my old home, even in illustrations.

At the welcome party
limber-legged dancers
shimmy in and out of each other’s arms
And ever-changing rhythms
call the feet to follow the beat
here in
this Land of Milk and Honey

I was drawn in by the words and Floyd Cooper’s illustrations create a vivid backdrop for this tale. If you close your eyes, you’re almost there on a train making your way through dusty states on a quest to reach a land where lemons grow as big as oranges.

Beautiful story.

I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Written by Walter Dean Myers, Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

My public school education not lacking so much that I didn’t know the story of Martin Luther King Jr., but this goes beyond “I Have a Dream” and details the life of MLK before his famous speech. This book is straight-forward and it’s narrative isn’t flowery, pretty or lovely. It’s history and it’s pretty straight up. This might be too “old” for Pumpkin, but The Princess sat and read it cover to cover.

I like the simplicity and matter-of-fact way it’s written.

What I really love though are Leonard Jenkins’s paintings. The illustrations in this book are so compelling and they really bring everything together.

Nelson Mandela
Words and Paintings by Kadir Nelson

Can I just admit something really quickly? History wasn’t my best subject in school. I once cried my way from a B+ to an A- (it worked too. It shouldn’t have but it did), and so it is with embarrassment that I admit that I didn’t really know a whole lot about Nelson Mandela before reading this book.

And so my girls and I learned together while reading this book.

When Nelson Mandela was a child, his father died and he was sent to live with a powerful chief. He  left his mother and his family to live with this chief. He grew on to become a lawyer, defending the poor and powerless.He was ultimately arrested for fighting apartheid, met his wife and had children, while continuing to fight apartheid. He went into hiding to avoid the warrants out for his arrest but ultimately he was captured and spent over 27 years in prison.

This book takes a complicated story and makes it easy to understand and the illustrations are bold, genuine, and straightforward.

So check them out – they’re pretty awesome new additions to our home library. The books were sent to me for review, but as always, the opinions are mine alone (I received a few others, but… they didn’t pass muster and rather than say bad things about books I don’t dig, I’d rather focus on the ones we loved).

Stay tuned because some great Valentines books for kiddos are coming soon. My kids are really happy lately about this whole “mom’s a blogger” thing. Hey, me too.