Back to School Picture Books

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

As we head back to school we often focus on those going for the very first time. Pre-schools are pretty ubiquitous these days but kindergarten is still a big step; often the first time that kids are gone every day, sometimes for a full day including lunch and naps. It seemed appropriate to start our lists out with a book focusing on this important milestone.

Planet Kindergarten book review

A nameless explorer is preparing for his biggest mission yet, a journey to Planet Kindergarten. His parents help him gather supplies, get a check-up and assure him he is ready so off he goes!  His new commander (teacher) and crew (fellow students) have to work together to meet the objectives of the flight plan (daily schedule) and test all the equipment before lunch, naps, and the end of the mission.

Failure is not an option, so with a positive attitude and a little hard work he finds a way to succeed and even continues training to return again the next day.

A mixture of fantasy and reality play out in this fun tale that kids will enjoy with bright, busy graphic illustrations to capture every reader’s imagination.

 

Planet Kindergarten

Written by: Sue Ganz-Schmitt

Illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Kids, 2014

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

And if you enjoy this one, there’s a second in the series, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, as well.

Schools First Day of School book review

I don’t know that anyone else has ever written a first day of school story from the point of view of the school (though a few of my favorites feature teachers and faculty that are reluctant to start a new year.) This one is a subtle delight and pulls off the feat quite nicely.

A new building built over the summer is cared for by a kindly Janitor who does his best to explain to the school just what a school actually is. The school is a bit nervous to be filled with children and when the first day arrives there are children everywhere.  It’s more than the school knows quite how to handle though it enjoys watching the kids explore the playground and learn. It’s disheartened to overhear a couple of kids complain that they hate school and its nerves set off the fire alarm by mistake. But for the most part the day passes uneventfully and when the janitor returns that afternoon the school decides it would probably be okay if the janitor invited everyone back again tomorrow.

Children’s own fears about starting a new school or going for the first time are lovingly portrayed by the anthropomorphized school. And the childlike illustrations show the basic ins and outs of a school day from a few perspectives. Kids will appreciate and relate to both.

 

School’s First Day of School

Written by: Adam Rex

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, 2016

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

This is My Home This is My School book review

Another subject that doesn’t get quite as much play as it probably should is homeschooling. What if your home and school are the same place? Jonathan Bean tackles that very topic in his great little autobiographical (ish) picture book.

A typically busy day of homeschooling is slightly frenetically illustrated from sun up to sun down. The boy narrator explains how his mom is his teacher (dad plays a role too, teaching shop and acting as phys ed coach), and all the rooms (and his yard) are classrooms. They go on field trips, visit the library, eat in the cafeteria, have show and tell, and do homework just like everyone at a school would.

The best part is an author’s note follow-up that tells the reader about his experiences being homeschooled and includes pictures of his family’s school in action. For those of you who homeschool it’s a wonderful resource for making connections to someone else’s school experience.

 

This is My Home. This Is My School

Written and Illustrated by:  Jonathan Bean

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher:Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

 

Who have you got headed back to school this year? How are you helping them prepare for the big day?

Back to School Giveaway!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.    

I’m so excited to be hosting my first giveaway over on Instagram this week.  All week on the blog I’ll be featuring some back to school favorites for all ages in order to help everyone gear up for the big day. Today’s spotlight books are 2 fun dino-themed tales that I’ll be sending off to one lucky winner. Have you entered yet?!

Page and Print Back to School Giveaway

 

First up is an absolutely adorable dino by the name of Penelope. She’s a little nervous to start school but mom and dad are there to help getting her a new backpack and making her lunch. The problem is all of her classmates are human! So Penelope does what any dinosaur would do. She eats them! A scolding from her teacher gets things (mostly) back on track but now everyone is very wary of her and it’s clear she’s not making many new friends.  Dad gives her some guidance and she heads back into day two determined to try harder. But it looks like things will stay very much the same until Walter the class goldfish gets involved.

I won’t spoil the twist except to tell you that Penelope figures things out and makes friends with her classmates. It’s a perfect vehicle for discussing any fears that may arise (no matter how silly) about going to school and has a way of making the reader sympathetic to both sides of the dilemma. Higgins’ humor and heart are both spot on (if you’ve read any of his Mother Bruce books you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t you need to remedy that ASAP) and even older readers will appreciate the subtle irreverence of it all.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Written and Illustrated by: Ryan T. Higgins

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, 2018

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 4.5/5

 

The second book in our giveaway doesn’t actually have anything to do with back to school but pairs perfectly with Penelope’s story.

In a similar vein as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and the many other active reader books that have followed, this story invites the reader to step into the story and participate in a very real way. We come across an angry dinosaur who threatens to chomp anyone who turns the pages. Of course, we don’t fall for his threats and continue to read until he confesses that he’s keeping all of his cakes and goodies at the end of the story and doesn’t want to share. But his bark is worse than his bite…or is it? 🙂

Continue the conversation you began with the first book and lead into manners and sharing and what it means to be a friend. And have a giggle or two while you’re at it!

 

I Will Chomp You!

Written by: Jory John

Illustrated by: Bob Shea

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Random House, 2015

Age Range: 3-6

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Check back in every day this week for more recommendations and don’t forget to visit my Instagram page for all the details on how to enter to win copies of these two great books for yourself!

Happy National Book Lover’s Day!

National Book Lovers Day

In my world, every day is book lover’s day, but I guess the rest of humanity might need a special reminder. 😉 So, if you weren’t aware of the holiday I’m giving you a little head’s up to find at least a few minutes to celebrate in some way today. Drop into a library or bookstore, share a story with a little, read a favorite poem or just reminisce about the favorite titles and covers on your own bookshelves if you don’t have time for some serious reading. But do tell, how are you going to celebrate today?

Books and reading have always been a part of my life. During some phases I have more time to devote to them than at others but not a day goes by that I don’t do some kind of reading whether it’s a verse of scripture, an online article, or the back of the cereal box. I find that you make time for the things that matter (though not always for the things that are important, those aren’t always the same but they probably should be.) And I can always find time for at least a little bit of light reading but I know it’s not always easy, especially when you start adding jobs, kids and other responsibilities to the mix. Over the years I’ve found a few things help to make it easier to carve out some time with books.

  • Take advantage of audio books. I listen on my drive to/from work, when I’m waiting in lines, or doing chores like laundry or dishes that don’t take much mind power. (Visit my Instagram page to see my current listening experience!)

 

  • Always keep a book with you. Channel your inner Rory Gilmore and take a book everywhere you go (this is much easier now that we can load books on our phones, tablets etc and don’t actually have to make room in an already heavy purse for the latest 400 page thriller.)

 

  • Keep books in the main rooms of your home. This one is especially great if you’ve got kids. They’ll be more likely to pick them up and you can spend a few minutes of down time (or use them as a calming down tool) if they’re close at hand. A basket of books by the couch, the bed, even in the bathroom (pick some of the ones made from plastic coated pages or ones you won’t be devastated if they fall in the tub if you’re doing this with kids 😊) can increase time spent reading on a daily basis.

 

  • Turn off the TV! This one is hard for me. It’s so easy to use this as a decompression tool, watching until late into the night (oh Netflix, you’ll be the death of me one of these days!) But especially at night, turn the TV off (and the phone and all other electronic distractions) an hour earlier than you normally do and keep a book by your bedside. There are all sorts of studies showing how the lights from our electronics can mess with our circadian rhythms and disrupt our sleep patterns so this one has a double benefit…unless you find yourself caught in the ‘just one more chapter’ trap!

What are your favorite ways to squeeze reading into your day?  And what are you currently reading that you can’t wait to get back to? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Happy Reading!

Music for the Weekend ~ Nat King Cole

I tend to go through waves in my music listening.  Sometimes I just put the ipod (yes, I still use my ipod!) on random and see what happens but often I’ll get in genre moods and inundate my ears with everything I have stuck in a particular grouping (my definitions and qualifications are fuzzy at best and no musicologist would be able to find much of a scientific basis for what counts as what in my world…but hey, it’s my world!) Lately I’ve been on a ‘jazzy’ kick. This means anything from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble and even some Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson. Today’s artist of choice though is a pure classic and this song just seems to sum up how I feel right now.

What are you listening to? And what have you got on tap for the weekend? I hope the music and the plans are both fabulous!  Happy Friday 🙂

YA Book Review ~ Ready Player One

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.                                

I married my husband under false pretenses. In his online dating profile, he mentioned that the last book he’d read was The Hunger Games. Naturally I assumed that meant he’d read others as well…but no. He’d only read that one to see what his teenage daughter was into and that’s pretty much the only book he’d read outside of a classroom during his whole adulthood. I’ve been doing my darndest to change that ever since.

On our honeymoon we bought a copy of The Martian after seeing the movie and started reading it out loud to each other each night. He loved it (as did I.) It was the perfect vehicle for proving to him that books aren’t boring. We’ve read about 20 books together since then. Some hits, some misses, some fiction, some non, some of his choosing, some of mine. One of our latest successes was Ready Player One.

Cline’s writing reaches out and grabs you from the very first page. His dystopian world is all too believable and since the hubs is a huge video game fan and was a teen in the 80s all the nerdy references were just icing on the cake.

In the year 2044 the world is a dark and overpopulated place. Most people seem to spend the majority of their waking moments inside the OASIS, a virtual reality video game world created by James Halliday. When Halliday dies he leaves clues to a treasure hunt hidden within the OASIS. The solver of the riddles will become controller of Halliday’s company and vast fortune.

Wade Watts lives in a trailer in the stacks (the definite wrong side of the tracks) and has been obsessed with Halliday for as long as he can remember. When he becomes the first person to find the first clue the virtual becomes very, very real. Now he’s up against some of the most obsessed, powerful and dangerous people in both worlds and he enlists the help of some unlikely allies to figure everything out.

There’s intrigue, adventure, romance, humor, and 80s throwbacks galore. Anyone who lived through the 80s (or knows anyone who lived through the 80s) will appreciate the references to Monty Python, PacMan, Star Trek (all iterations), WarGames, Dungeons and Dragons, Ray Bans, Indiana Jones, John Hughes, HR Pufnstuf, and Rubik’s Cubes just to name a few. Even if you have no idea what any of those things are you’ll still get caught up in the story and cheer for the underdogs right up to the very last page.

Steven Spielberg turned this into a movie that was released this past spring, and last week it was released on Blu-ray. We literally finished the book in the parking lot of the movie theater 20 minutes before watching the show and that may have ruined the experience for us. We both came away highly disappointed that it didn’t stick more closely to the book. It was entertaining but it lost so much with the changes they made (surprising since Cline was involved with the screenplay and producing.) We want to give it another shot now that there’s a little bit of space between the book and the viewing. But I’m curious…have any of you both read the book and seen the movie? What did you think? Should we give it another go?

Regardless, if you’ve got a video game addicted teen (or husband :)) you might want to give this one a look. And let me know if you’ve read anything similar I could pass on to the hubs to try.

(P.S. We’re always looking for suggestions of books to read together so please be sure to send some our way!)

 

Ready Player One book review

Ready Player One

Written by: Ernest Cline

Number of Pages: 375

Publisher: Broadway Books, 2011

Age Range: 13+

Rating: 5/5

Picture Book Review ~ The Street Beneath My Feet

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

When I was little I used to spend hours poring over the illustrations in the books on our shelves.  Some of my favorites were the Richard Scarry books with all their little labeled worlds filled with intricate details and happenings in every nook and cranny of the page. I also loved to look through the various National Geographic resources my parents had bought through the years, especially the atlases. We had books showing pictographs of every country’s revenue, imports and exports, flags, national symbols and so on. There was one that had cellophane overlays showing either the cities and landmarks or the natural topographical features over the outlines of the countries or showing relative sizes of the various planets, moons, and constellations within the solar system. I was entranced by this huge world of ours and how vastly different (or similar) places so far from each other could be. I think that’s probably where I first got the travel bug thought I didn’t recognize it as such at the time.

If you’ve got any readers in your house who can relate to my description above then you’ve absolutely got to get your hands on this book. From it’s gorgeous embossed cover to the flipped layout to the inside-out and back again format there’s a lot to take in and hours’ worth of discussion and study to be had.

We start out with a young child walking along the city street wondering what’s happening below him, just out of sight. The illustrations lead us down through a maze of sewer pipes and storm drains, electric cables and phone wires down to the bugs, rats, and microorganisms that make up the first layers of topsoil. Then we venture farther down on our own archaeological dig past bones and coins and pottery. Next there’s discussion of the various layers of clay, rock (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic all get their chance to shine), coal, caves with underground water, until we make it to the earth’s core.

Then our pages start folding the other direction (take a look at my post on Instagram for a better idea of how this works) and we head back out from earth’s fiery center to learn in more detail about minerals, fossils, the dinosaurs, and how plants and other creatures use the soil. When we make it back above ground we can see how the things happening beneath us can affect the world we see around us.

There’s so much here it’s almost impossible to take it all in in one reading, making it an ideal one to re-visit before a trip to the museum or a rock collecting adventure. Perfect companions for Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, The Skies Above My Eyes by the same duo, or Zommer’s Big Book of Bugs or Big Book of Beasts.

The Street Beneath My Feet

The Street Beneath My Feet

Written by: Charlotte Guillain

Illustrated by: Yuval Zommer

Number of Pages: 20

Published by: words & pictures/Quarto, 2017

Age range: 4-10

Rating: 5/5

Street Beneath My Feet detail

Adult Non-Fiction ~ The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.                                

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I love making personal connections with the books I read and how powerful a tool that can be for readers in general. Any parent who’s ever read a book with their child about potty training or welcoming a new baby to the family in an effort to ease either process along knows exactly what I’m talking about. When a reader sees herself or her immediate world in the story in any way she finds tools to deal with her own conflicts, gains empathy for the character (and the world at large) and connects emotionally in a way that brings that book to life and cements it in her brain and psyche.

I also mentioned how much I loved experiencing bookish adventures tied to the tales I read. Again, just as we create experiences for our young readers through art projects or science experiments or field trips to extend the learning they’ve had through their readings, we can do the same for ourselves. One of my recent book club reads was the perfect example of a natural book extension.

Used booksellers have often fallen prey to scammers, thieves and frauds. That was especially true in the time before advanced technology. An informed collector could scout out a particular tome, give false information, pay with a bad check or stolen credit card and be on their merry way leaving the seller stuck with the bill and no recourse for prosecution. This, obviously is not a phenomenon unique to booksellers but because of the way the book selling community functioned up until recently it was particularly detrimental to them. Unlike art or antiques, books haven’t always been cataloged and valued in the same way. And while many art pieces are one of a kind, most books are created in mass numbers so even something dating back hundreds of years may still have multiple surviving copies making it harder to prove value or track ownership.

On the west coast in 1997, John Charles Gilkey stole his first book using stolen credit card numbers. Over the next few years he amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of rare books from libraries, stores and book fairs across the country.  Book sellers at the time were a fairly independent lot with little communication or cooperation between vendors. Ken Sanders, a victim of Gilkey’s operations, took it personally and took it upon himself to catch the thief. Describing himself as a reluctant “bibliodick,” Sanders revolutionized the used book selling world creating networks of communication, tracking methods, and cohesive communities in order to stop the thefts. A sting operation in 2003, with Sanders front and center, finally brought Gilkey down and saw him put behind bars.

The book is a fascinating look into a milder true crime than we’re usually accustomed to reading about. No sensationalism, no blood, no glory. Just a book lover who took things too far and a book lover who set things at right again. Bartlett spends time with both Gilkey and Sanders, giving us insight into both men’s motives and personalities. We also get a bit of the history of books, publishing, and the passion of collecting. Any bibliophile will relate.

The adventure for me came in visiting and exploring Sanders’ Rare Book Shop here in Salt Lake City and seeing some of the scenes described in the book. Sanders is a product of the beat generation (Edward Abbey was a close friend), an avid naturalist, and above all, a book lover. His shop is naturally a book lover’s paradise filled with crammed shelves and tipping stacks of books everywhere you look. I spent over two hours perusing the aisles and piles before purchasing a copy of The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor and wishing I could afford just one of the items in the locked glass cases.

If you’re ever in town, do yourself a favor and check out Sanders’ shop. In the meantime, check out the book and let me know what you think!

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

 

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Written by: Allison Hoover Bartlett

Number of Pages: 288

Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2010

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4/5

 

Ken Sanders Rare Books

Ken Sanders Rare Books

Music Monday ~ Jason Mraz

I love when people do what they do in a way that makes a difference to those they do it for. Basically, there are a ton of people out there who are finding ways to spread love and positivity through their everyday passions. They’re not out starting foundations or rallying for anything (though those paths are definitely important and needed and often happen naturally after a person has gained a certain notoriety), just doing what they love in a way that builds and inspires instead of condemns or breeds hate.

Jason Mraz is one of those people. His music is brimming with hope and positive messages and he seems to be always on a mission to lift and make a difference. He’s got a new movie coming out in conjunction with his new album “Have It All” that he describes as “a family film about joy, success, and artistic collaboration.” He’s also an advocate for mental health, constantly speaks out about being ecologically responsible (he’s vegan and runs an avocado farm in his spare time), childhood slavery and trafficking, and human rights. But it all started with the music.

Take a listen to the title track from the album:

Who is out in the world inspiring you to make a difference? I’d love to hear about them! Share your idols and their causes in the comments section below.  🙂