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These Words I Shaped for You

These Words I Shaped for You by Megan Merchant, illustrated by Basak Agaoglu

Philomel Books, 2018

OH! MY HEART I LOVED THIS GORGEOUS BOOK!!

I had a feeling before this gem fell into my hands that it would be special, because Megan Merchant is SUCH A BRILLIANT POET!!

And, as someone who devours books and words, I don’t say that lightly.

Words can be such simple things, but in the hands of a great writer, words can reach in and seduce your heart, caress tears from your eyes, leave you breathless with magic and hope and wonder. Megan’s poetry and essays do all of that and more. She treats words like fine strands of silk, weaving them together until they become a butterfly newly released from its cocoon.

These Words I Shaped for You, Megan’s first picture book, is the newest, dazzling butterfly to add to her collection of writings.

Illustrated by Basak Agaoglu, a mama panda carries and twirls and loves her baby through this vibrant, lyrical world. Each new page of stunning artwork matches Megan’s words beauty for beauty as you explore this book.

It’s a mother’s song, a mother’s poem, a mother’s comfort at bedtime, a mother’s reminder of dreams and exploration, and ultimately a mother’s way of teaching her child about the connections made through love, that carry us through this world. It’s a stunning love letter from a mother to her child.

Gosh, I found it difficult to pick a favorite line in this book, but I’ll leave you with these words,

“If you are quiet,

you can hear

the lulling chime of starlight

as you descend into dreams…”

If you’re ready to meet your first baby, this book is the perfect love song. If already have your babies, even if they are nine and seven like mine, this book is such a touching, precious reminder of those dreamy, first moments and all the wondrous days to follow.

Treat yourself or a new mama in your life to this stunning board book. And if you want to read more of Megan’s work, you can find her here, meganmerchant.wixsite.com/poet.

 

Nevermoor

Nevermoor by Jessica TownsendNevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend

Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2017

Lily and I love books with strong characters and beautifully drawn worlds, and Nevermoor is an absolute delight!

Open the pages to Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor and you enter a magical world full of adventure, mystery, secrets, friendships, and so many intriguing characters. The heroine, Morrigan Crow, was born on Eventide which in her world, makes her one of the cursed children. People blame her for everything. Every death, every disaster, every negative thing that happens. She’s miserable and lonely, and waiting to die on her eleventh birthday, as the curse predicts she will.

But just before she turns eleven, she’s rescued by a man named Jupiter North. He spirits her away to the secret city of Nevermoor. In this new magical world, Morrigan learns that she is to compete in four trials to enter the select and highly esteemed Wundrous Society.

As her journey unfolds, Morrigan makes friends and enemies, discovers fascinating secrets of Nevermoor, and learns that she isn’t cursed after all. But being told you’re cursed for eleven years, and suddenly trying to believe the opposite, isn’t necessarily as easy as one might think. Morrigan struggles with the truths she uncovers about herself and others, she struggles with being brave, she struggles with not having all the answers, but throughout, her true nature of curiosity, compassion and strength prevail.

Lily and I felt this book overflowed with amazingness! For fun, we decided to write about it in an interview with me asking her questions.

Tell me what you liked about Nevermoor, Lily.

I like the characters, especially Hawthorne Swift because he was so adventurous. And I like how every character she meets in Nevermoor has a unique personality. Jupiter North, the super smart but mysterious owner of the Hotel Deucalion; Fenestra the enormous, snobby Magnificat; Hawthorne Swift, a joke-playing, dragon-riding friend; Noelle Devereaux, a girl with a voice like an angel who’s also as mean as a wicked witch; Dame Chanda Kali who can sing to animals; a vampire dwarf; and Jupiter’s mysterious nephew, Jack.

Also, I thought it was interesting and crazy that she starts off in an ordinary place as a cursed child, but she gets taken to Nevermoor where everyone has an awesome talent, except for her.

What kind of heroine is Morrigan?

In the beginning, she’s a bit young and naïve, but also a bit negative because she thinks she’s going to die. Morrigan doesn’t know what her knack is, and she doesn’t want to cause Jupiter to lose his job. She wants a family to love; she wants people to like her; she wants to belong somewhere. She’s kind and brave, even though she doesn’t think she is, but being brave isn’t easy, as Morrigan finds out.

What is a knack?

It’s like a talent that people have who want to get into the Wundrous Society.

What is Wunder?

The power source for everything they use, like electricity. You can harvest it. It can also be used in bad ways.

Who is your favorite character?

My favorite character is Hawthorne Swift. He’s a jokester, he’s adventurous and mischievous, he rides dragons. And he makes a good friend to Morrigan.

Were there any parts of the book that made you mad or frustrated?

There were some parts I was kind of mad about, but I like that because I like to be able to feel emotions for your characters. Mostly the part where Jupiter won’t tell her things and it’s frustrating for her and she doesn’t know what to do. Also, the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow was super scary. And the fact that she kept thinking she was going to die because of the curse.

Are you excited to read the second book in the series?

YES! I am pumped to read the next book. There’s so much going on in Nevermoor, that I want to know all of it. I liked this book almost better than Harry Potter.

I’m pretty sure my kids like the Harry Potter series more than any other books they’ve ever read, so for Lily to say she likes a book almost better than Harry Potter, well, that is high praise indeed. If you’re looking for a fantastical adventure with a great heroine in an enchanting world, Nevermoor is the book for you.

The Bad Guys

The Bad Guys – by Aaron Blabey

Published by Scholastic Press, 2016

Okay, here’s how we Ohlins feel about this book by Aaron Blabey…

WE LOVE IT!!

It’s clever, fun, unique and the pages are full of pure silliness. We need more silliness in the world. In fact we love the entire series!! This was one of the first series Jasper found, once he started reading, that he absolutely fell in love with.

I mean, come on, it’s about a bunch of bad guys, a wolf, a snake, a shark, and a Spanish-speaking piranha who all think they are MISUNDERSTOOD (although their hilarious rap sheets say different.)

Wolf tries to convince his pals that they are done with being bad, and instead it’s time for them to do some GOOD, like rescue a cat from a tree, even though what they really want to do is eat it!

Some of the words may be hard for a budding reader, but Blabey makes it fun by highlighting them, enlarging them, all-caps-ing them. I think he has as much fun with the fonts and layout as he does with the story. The illustrations are also fabulous, including ridiculously large eyes, suspicious smiles and a shark dressed as a lady. You’ll absolutely be in for some great big belly laughs.

If you love the first one, there’s an entire series! Come join the fun of this series as these bad guys save chickens, fight aliens and deal with a farting piranha, all in the name of GOOD!

These books grabbed Jasper’s attention and made him laugh and giggle his way through the series faster than my kids can polish off a slice of pizza. These are the kind of books that make Jasper excited about reading. He reads them out loud to all of us; he never gets tired of them, and neither do I.

I feel that if authors and illustrators like, Aaron Blabey, Kate DiCamillo, Mo Willems, and Laurie Keller could write the reading curriculum for kids in the U.S., then literally no kid would be left behind, because they’d all be having too much fun reading!!!!

Now I know we’re supposed to be “good for goodness sake” this time of year, but we can’t help but love The Bad Guys!

Jasper’s Thoughts

“Bad Guys is a book with an endles amount of series about bad guys who want to be god guys. The carekters are a shark, a parana, and a wolf, a shark and a spider. I like wolf because he’s funny. These books are helaris!”

Jasper gives this series 13 Stars!!!! *************

 

2018-01-08T14:06:36+00:00 December 13th, 2017|Categories: Ages 7-9, Reviews, Series|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

Our Favorite Holiday Picture Books

Every December one of our favorite family traditions is to get a new holiday book to add to our collection. I love unpacking them every December and seeing the kids’ reactions to them. “Oh I remember this one!” “I forgot all about this book!” “I love this one!”

So today we give you three of our old favorites and a special new one for this year’s pick.

 

Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh Illustrated by J. Otto Seibold

This is one of my all time faves. I have had this book since I was a teacher in Los Angeles, and the story is warm and wonderful. Olive, the dog hears the Christmas Carol, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and thinks they are singing “Olive, the other reindeer,” instead of “All of the other reindeer.”

She goes on a super fun journey to join the reindeer team, and help Santa deliver gifts. We see it all in gorgeous, fun illustrations of Seibold.

 

 

 

Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

Oh! What a delightful book about a spoiled rotten girl, Sophie Kringle, her spoiled rotten, little brother, and her family who all live “High atop the luxurious Bing Cherry Hotel in New York City.” Sophie adores her eccentric aunt, Auntie Claus, but can’t figure out where she disappears to every year between Halloween and Valentine’s Day. This year Sophie stows away and follows her aunt all the way to the North Pole.

Mistaken for an elf, Sophie gets put to work, and working as an elf at Christmas time is hard. But the worst surprise of all for Sophie is that her brother’s name is on the Bad-Boys-and-Girls list, the list of kids who get NO presents.

Open the pages to this delightfully illustrated book and find out what Sophie decides to do. This book will wrap you in the special feeling of Christmas and the precious words of Auntie Claus, “It is far better to give than it is to receive!”

Auntie Clause has a few other fabulous adventures in more books too!

 

Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas: Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve by Walter Wick

This is Jasper’s favorite, actually my kids fight over this one. I know, I know, how lovely to say my kids fight over a Christmas book. Good parenting there, huh! It’s just so much fun to search and find on every page of holiday-themed photographs.

Along with a list on each page of hidden items, don’t forget to find the wooden elf doll who first appears on the title page. This book will give you hours of puzzle solving fun!

 

 

 

And this year’s beauty, drum roll please…Red and Lulu by author and illustrator, Matt Tavares!

Red and Lulu are a pair of cardinals who live “in the branches of a mighty evergreen.” For Red and Lulu, this is the perfect tree in the perfect location, especially at Christmastime when people sing to the tree. But one day when Red flies off in search of food, someone chops the tree down and takes it away, and with it, Lulu who’s tucked into its branches.

Red follows his tree and his love, Lulu all the way to New York City where he finds them in Rockefeller Center. The tree is beautifully decorated, people are singing to it, and Lulu is safe.

Red and Lulu make a new home in Central Park where they can see each year’s Christmas Tree, and sing along with the carolers. It’s such a sweet story, but it’s the AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS illustrations that bring this story to life. Sometimes the art tells more of the journey than the words. Treat yourself to this special book this year.

Happy Holidays!!!

Thanksgiving Gratitude

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, a busy week for so many. People are traveling. People are baking and cooking and shopping. People are grieving. People are surrounded by others. People are lonely.

And me, my writer’s mind is blank, sent into hibernation by all the wonderful and difficult things this holiday brings to my life.

But my heart is full of gratitude for all the gorgeous people I get to surround myself with this week.

I’m so lucky.

Lily and Jasper Hugging

A few days ago, the kids and I plodded along with our old mutt, Dizzy, on a walk, and Jasper asked me if I could have a superpower, what would it be. I said I would end world poverty. And he replied, “What’s poverty?”

My kids, my kids are so lucky.

They don’t know poverty; Jasper doesn’t even know what the word means. So we talked about it. And he started to make connections. He’s had classmates that have slept in their cars, others who are on free breakfast and lunch at school. Lily has classmates who get to take meals home over the long weekends. Thank goodness because otherwise those kids might not eat much until they get back to school each Monday.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP),

21% of children in the U.S. live in families that are considered officially poor. 

For many of those kids, I’m betting books are low on the totem pole of their belongings. Poverty and illiteracy often go hand in hand.

Instead of reviewing a magical book this week, we thought we share with you a few of our favorite book-related charities to donate to, in case you want to spread some gratitude and kindness of the reading variety. I’ve taken these quotes from each organization’s website. Go explore and see what kindness and gratitude awaits you!

Project Night Night

“Project Night Night donates over 25,000 Night Night Packages each year to homeless children 12 and under who need our childhood essentials to have a concrete and predictable source of security and an increased exposure to high-quality literacy materials during their time of upheaval. Each Night Night Package contains a new security blanket, an age- appropriate children’s book, and a stuffed animal — all nestled inside of a new canvas tote bag. By providing objects of reliable comfort, Project Night Night reduces trauma and advances the emotional and cognitive well-being of the children we serve.”

World Literacy Foundation

“The World Literacy Foundation is a global not-for-profit organisation working to lift young people out of poverty through the power of literacy. We believe that every child should be able to read and write so they can enjoy lifelong learning and empowerment. We are committed to building strong partnerships, providing assistance to grassroots literacy organisations and maximizing our impact through innovative solutions that bring quality education materials to classrooms across the world.”

Project Literacy

“Project Literacy is a global campaign founded and convened by Pearson, the world’s learning company. The aim is to bring the power of words to the world, by building partnerships and driving action. Project Literacy exists to bring the power of words to everyone. So that by 2030, every child born can grow up to be a literate adult.”

Room to Read

“Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.”

And an easy one for lots of moms and dads out there…

Scholastic

Do your kids bring home the Scholastic Book Order form from school? Mine do, and once in a while we order from it, because how cool is it to get your book orders in class!! Well, I don’t know why I never noticed it before, but the book club form, when you fill in your order you can also chose to donate to kids in need. LOVE this idea, because I’m already filling out the order form and paying for a few books for my kids, and it is so easy to add a donation to the BOOK TRUST box at the bottom of the order form.

“Book Trust is a nonprofit organization empowering children from low-income families across America to choose and own books of their very own at no cost to them. Even $1 Supports Literacy for Kids in Need!”

Happy Thanksgiving Week Everyone!!!