Tag Archives: book recommendations

Exciting News

I have happy news for our family.  Rhiannon Lee (Annalee or Anna to old time readers, Rhia nowadays) and I have published a children’s poetry book!

Poems from Under a Toadstool

It all started when Rhia showed me her mushroom doodles in her journal last year.  I fell in love with them and told her they should be in a children’s book.  She suggested that I could write poems for a book and they could be the illustrations (many, many years ago I was a poet) and we decided to collaborate.

So she gave me her drawings to scan, and every so often I would sit and work on mushroom poems (and nature poems, and related poems…).

Poems From Under a Toadstool (If Ever)

Poems from Under a Toadstool

I added a glossary to the back, since some of the poems had bigger words like biome and mycology, and space for kids to add their own poems, drawings and spore prints at the end.

Poems from Under a Toadstool (Mycology)

We were in no hurry.  It was just a fun joint project.  Then she got the opportunity to move to West Virginia for three months, and she started working extra hard to earn extra money for all of her expenses.  That lit a fire under me to get the book finished and out into the world to help her out.

The book was published last week and is available on Amazon (affiliate link) if you’d like to take a peek .  If you’re interested, you can order it through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  It would also help us out enormously if you asked your local library to carry it!

Half of the profits will go to Rhia as she embarks on this new adventure.  My half will go to support my nonprofit children’s nature magazine, Wild Kids Magazine, which costs a fair bit to host since it sees so much monthly traffic that we regularly get overage charges to our web hosting.  I offer the magazine for free to do good in the world (just like Magical Childhood), but it would be great if it didn’t cost so much to do good some months!  😉

I’m also working on putting up a free print of one of the illustrated poems for folks to print out.  Look for that soon.

Wish us luck, and wish us extra luck as Rhia heads off next week on this exciting new chapter in her life.






Filed under happy stuff

20 Children’s Books That Are a Joy to Read Aloud

There are a million reasons why we read to our children.  The best books contain wonderful art, engaging stories, rich vocabulary and something that just makes kids (and their grown ups) feel good.  They also are the kind of book you don’t mind reading again and again to your kiddos. 

Here’s 20 books that we return to over and over because they do that for us.  🙂 

(Note: I haven’t separated these into age levels because I really think great books transcend age and families often read together.  The majority are picture books.  I’ll post a list of recommended chapter books for older kids soon.)

  1. A Fairy Went A-Marketing (a must own, as far as I’m concerned!)
  2. Miss Rumphius
  3. Kiss the Cow
  4. There’s a Nightmare in My Closet
  5. Mama, Do You Love Me?
  6. Please Baby Please
  7. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  8. Hop on Pop (my favorite for helping reading “click” for kids)
  9. More! More! More! Said the Baby
  10. Anything (Pooh or poetry) by A.A. Milne
  11. The Napping House
  12. Jamberry
  13. There’s a Frog in the Bog
  14. Anything by Sandra Boynton (but especially “But Not the Hippopotamus”)
  15. Where the Wild Things Are
  16. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  17. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
  18. Silly Sally
  19. Big Momma Makes the World
  20. Do’s and Don’ts (and others by Todd Parr)

This is just a drop in the bucket in terms of our favorites, and mostly off the top of my head.  I’m sure I’ll think of 20 more that should have been on the list as soon as I hit post!

Want to share your favorite read-alouds?  Please add them in the comments!


Filed under Book Recommendations

What Are Your Favorite Picture Books?

One of my favorite parts of motherhood is getting to enjoy picture books with my children.  I’ve been collecting good ones since before I had kids, and have far too many now but just can’t stop.

Here are some of my all-time favorites.

Do’s and Don’ts, by Todd Parr (totally silly and colorful fun!)

Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney (this book sums up my biggest goal in life)

There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, by Mercer Mayer

But Not the Hippopotamus, by Sandra Boynton (and just about anything else by Boynton!)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst

More, More, More! Said the Baby, by Vera B. Williams

Kiss the Cow, by Phyllis Root

Please, Baby, Please, by Spike and Tonya Lee

Big Momma Makes the World, by Phyllis Root

The Napping House, by Audrey Wood

Weird Parents, also by Audrey Wood

I could go on, but there’s a start!

What are favorites at your house?


Filed under Book Recommendations

Children’s Favorite Novels: And the winner is….

I’ve compiled all the votes by children in the favorite read-aloud/novel round-up!  Thanks to all the kids who weighed in!

A note about scoring:  Some kids and parents had a hard time listing one book and listed more than one, sometimes many!  I didn’t want to leave out any great book suggestions, but many kids also narrowed things down to just one fabulous book and I wanted those ones to have special weight.  So I counted additional books with basically half a vote.  For instance, if someone said “Margaret says she votes for Harry Potter, but she also loves the Little House series” then I put down both books anyway, with the first entry getting double the weight.  I just couldn’t ignore books that were listed by enthusiastic readers (and even one girl who came back to rave about more!).

In some cases, children raved about certain writers even if they chose different books.  I grouped these together so people could seek out those authors.

The first 14 (in blue) all got multiple votes. Numbers 15 through 34 (in green) only got one vote but were listed as the child’s absolute favorites. From 35 (in orange) on are votes that were listed additionally with only one vote.

Many of these titles and authors are new to me, and many seem to be fantasy related.  Book series were also especially popular.

And now on with the list.  Keep in mind that we had all ages of children answering, so these range from toddlers to teens in readers!

  1. The “Harry Potter” series (one vote specifically for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, otherwise all for the series in general)
  2. The “Magic Treehouse” series (one vote specifically for Mummies in the Morning)
  3. Books by author Enid Blyton (in order of favorites: The Uncle Wiggly books, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Secret Seven series)
  4. The “Percy Jackson” series
  5. The “Narnia” series (one vote specifically for The Magician’s Nephew)
  6. The “His Dark Materials” trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass)
  7. The “Little House on the Prairie” series
  8. The “Baby Mouse” series
  9. The “Ivy and Bean” series
  10. Books by author Kate Di’Camillo (one vote specifically for the Mercy Watson books)
  11. The Inheritance Cycle
  12. The Wizard of Oz
  13. The “Warriors” series
  14. Chris D’Lacey books (The Dragons of Wayward Crescent was specified by one child)
  15. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  16. The “Eleven” series
  17. Specky McGee
  18. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
  19. Geronimo Stilton
  20. Black Beauty
  21. The Princess Academy
  22. The Doll People
  23. Raold Dahl books
  24. Daisy Dawson Is On Her Way
  25. Clue Me InThe Detective Work of Ethan Flask and Professor von Offel
  26. The “American Girl Samantha” series
  27. The Dark is Rising
  28. My Side of the Mountain
  29. The “Brainwaves” series
  30. Lauren Child books
  31. The “Junie B Jones” series
  32. John Deere books (Barney Blackhoe as one specific)
  33. The “Flatfoot Fox” series
  34. Lord of the Rings
  35. The “Nancy Drew” series
  36. The End of the Beginning
  37. The Wishing Tree
  38. Guardians of Ga’hoole
  39. Sabriel, Lireal and Abhorsen trilogy
  40. Uglies
  41. Little House on Rocky Ridge
  42. The Castle in the Attic
  43. Tut’s Mummy:  Lost… and Found
  44. Redwall
  45. The “Flower Fairy” books
  46. The Caterpillar Fight
  47. The “Charlie Bone” series
  48. The “Keys to the Kingdom” series
  49. Citizens of the Galaxy
  50. Clan of the Cave Bear (the teen warns that this is for more mature readers)
  51. Robert J. Sawyer books
  52. Calvin and Hobbes
  53. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
  54. The Gypsy Girl
  55. Betsy-Tacy
  56. The “Boxcar Children” series
  57. The “Fairy Books”
  58. The “Horrid Henry” series
  59. Pippi Longstocking
  60. Ramona
  61. Anastasia (by Vladimir Megre, the teen reader notes that this is more of an adult book)
  62. Piers Anthony books
  63. The Diary of Anne Frank
  64. The “Christomanci” series
  65. Wayside School
  66. The Underland Chronicles
  67. Inkheart
  68. The Name of the Wind
  69. The “Paddington” books
  70. The Tiffany Aching Adventures (from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series)
  71. Ness the Nurse (chosen by two-year-old “S”!)

If you have more to add, feel free to plug them in the comments.  Thanks to all the kids who voted.

Happy reading!

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Filed under Book Recommendations

Kids Only: What’s Your Favorite Chapter Book?

I heard from the author of the Fuse 8 blog yesterday about why she had not included all of the children’s votes for the 100 favorite children’s book list.  She wrote:

Well, just to justify the tampering, had I allowed every child vote to count (and initially I did) you would have seen numbers 1-50 consist entirely of Fablehaven, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, iCarly, and Rainbow Fairy sequels and series. In the future, I’ll have a better method for handling child votes. As it was, any child that sent me a vote individually counted. If they were in classes, however, then for each of their votes, two adults also had to vote. Not perfect, but amenable.

I responded:

So if you hadn’t tinkered, then the “wrong” books would have been chosen as favorites? Favorites are favorites! Perhaps what we need, then, is two lists. I would love to read the true list of what children pick as their favorite books even if we consider them twaddle, and I also would love to read a list of what adults consider the 100 best books.

I am not trying to be snippy or difficult, but I really have a problem with saying that children’s opinions don’t count, for any reason.

I find the 100 book list very helpful and plan to try to finish them all off with my kiddos by the end of the summer (or year at the least).  Luckily, we’ve read an awful lot of them so it shouldn’t be that difficult!

That said, I would really like to know what other books children would pick — even if they all would be books that grown ups might look down upon.

Please ask your kids and spread the word that I would love to hear their votes for their all-time favorite children’s books.  All respondents must be under 18 and they can vote for any book they please!

If books are in a series, I will count them together as such instead of making children pick just one book in the series.  I suspect the Harry Potter books and Little House books would have been higher up if they had been counted as one entry, for instance, and other series might have made the list if the whole series could be listed (such as the Paddington Bear series, Nancy Drew, Magic Treehouse and American Girl books, just to name a few).

That said, if your favorite book is part of a series you can feel free to tell me which one and I’ll make a note so others will know to check it out!

I realize that my little blog will not get nearly the votes and traffic of the School Library Journal’s, so please help spread the word so we can get as many book recommendations as possible!

I’ll leave the voting up till the end of June and then write up the results.  Perhaps I’ll do a parents’ book poll then.  🙂

So please gather up your kiddos and ask them to weigh in.  What’s your favorite novel or chapter book?

Victoria with one of her library piles


Filed under This and that

100 Favorite Children’s Novels

The School Library Journal’s Fuse 8 blog conducted a survey recently of favorite children’s books and these are the top 100 (after being tampered with so that children’s votes were not always counted — see the edit note at the end).

While I’m not a fan of the way the voting was done, I love any sort of list of good children’s books and I have a new summer goal — to have read all 100 by the end of the summer!

Since we have read so many of these already, that’s not actually too scary of a goal.  🙂

Want some new ideas for what to put on your library list (or to see how many you and your gang have read)?  Here they all are….

#1 Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

#3 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

#4 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

#5 From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

#6 Holes by Louis Sachar

#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry

#8 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

#9 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

#10 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

#11 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

#12 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

#13 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

#14 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

#15 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

#16 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

#17 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

#18 Matilda by Roald Dahl

#19 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

#20 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

#21 Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riodan

#22 The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo

#23 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

#24 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

#25 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

#26 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

#27 A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett

#28 Winnie-the Pooh by A.A. Milne

#29 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland /Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

#30 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

#31 Half Magic by Edward Eager

#32 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

#33 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

#34 Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

#35 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire JK Rowling

#36 Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

#37 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

#38 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

#39 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

#40 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

#41 The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

#42 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

#43 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

#44 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

#45 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

#46 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

#47 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

#48 The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

#49 Frindle by Andrew Clements

#50 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

#51 The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

#52 The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

#53 Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

#54 The BFG by Roald Dahl

#55 The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

#56 Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

#57 Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

#58 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

#59 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

#60 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

#61 Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

#62 The Secret of the Old Clock (The Nancy Drew mysteries) by Caroline Keene

#63 Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

#64 A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

#65 Ballet Shoes by Noah Streatfeild

#66 Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

#67 Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

#68 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

#69 The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

#70 Betsy Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

#71 A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

#72 My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

#73 My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

#74 The Borrowers by Mary Norton

#75 Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

#76 Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

#77 City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

#78 Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

#79 All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

#80 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

#81 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

#82 The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

#83 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

#84 Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

#85 On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

#86 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

#87 The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg

#88 The High King by Lloyd Alexander

#89 Ramona and her Father by Beverly Cleary

#90 Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

#91 Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

#92 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

#93 Caddie Woodlawn by C. R. Brink

#94 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

#95 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

#97: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

#98 Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston

#99 The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

#100 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

(I’d include a link to the original posting but the main site has been redesigned and all of the original links are no longer working.)

Any that you and your kiddos would add?


Filed under To do

I Wish My Mother Had Known

Magical Mama Lucy shared this poem from a book about girls with ADHD.  She wrote:

I know there are a lot of other books out there on ADHD but this book, Understanding Girls with ADHD is groundbreaking.  The book’s author deals specifically with girls who present symptoms much different than boys withADhD. 

I Wish My Mother Had Known
by Mary H.

I wish my mother had known
that I was actually very smart.
I wish my mother had known
that I needed more attention.
I wish my mother had known
that I went to school every day as a little girl,
in fear and dread
at the prospect of being shamed
and humiliated in class.
I wish my mother had known
that my low self-esteem and
lack of physical affection at home
would lead to rampant promiscuity.
I wish my mother had known
that someday I would have to
compete in the world,
and that being married
was not going to make me safe.
I wish my mother had known how desperately
I needed stimulation and attainable challenges.
(Expectations for me were very low,
so even I was surprised when I realized
that I love a challenge!)
I wish my mother had known
that my artistic and creative skills
were important, 
and could have sustained me,
had I been encouraged to develop them.
I wish my mother had known
that I could not organize my room.
I wish my mother had known
that I had a huge curiosity about life,
but that I could not absorb it
in the context of public school.
I wish my mother had known
that I was too sensitive and shy and embarrassed
to have my needs met.
I wish my mother had known
that I could not easily either fall asleep or wake up,
and that I had no control over that.
I wish my mother had known that being put
into the dumb classes,
in spite of my consistently high IQ tests,
was humiliating,
and caused me to not even bother to try.
I wish my mother had known
that having only one friend
was not normal and might have signaled other problems.
I wish my mother had known
that leaving the house unzipped, buttoned wrong,
or without my lunch or books, was a signal.
I wish my mother had known
what we know now.
She didn’t.  She did her best,
and I hope that she knows
how very much I love her.

What a touching poem!  For more information about girls and ADHD, see this article.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Picture Book Challenge

The New York Public Library collected this list of 100 picture books every child should know.  How many have you and your kiddos read together?  Why not start a quest to track down any that you haven’t read and then pick your favorites?  If you think they have any books left off that should be on the list, please add them in the comments! 

I personally would add…

  • A Fairy Went A-Market
  • More, More, More! Said the Baby
  • Kiss the Cow
  • Crictor
  • There’s a Nightmare in my Closet
  • Miss Rumphius
  • Mama, Do You Love Me?

As for our number, it’s 55.  I would have sworn we’d know more with all the reading we do!  Now I have some new books to look for at the library. 

So what’s your number?  And what would you add?  I’d love to hear your favorites!


Filed under Uncategorized

Kids Can Earn Books by Reading Books!

Here’s a neat program if you have a store in your area.  Half Price Books is offering kids a $3 shopping card for every week they read for at least 15 minutes through June and July for their Feed Your Brain summer reading program.  The store, which sells used books and has lots of locations in the U.S., seems pretty neat.

Barnes and Noble is once again offering their Summer Reading Program too, where kids read 8 books to earn a free book from their list.

Most libraries have summer reading programs too, though I tend to avoid them because my kids get caught up in quantity over quality and we end up with bucket loads of plastic prize trinkets instead of just kids off in corners and up in trees reading plain old, fabulous books.  🙂   Perhaps your library has a better program than ours though!  Or perhaps you’re a bigger fan of plastic trinkets….

If you want some fabulous chapter book suggestions, 11 year old Victoria heartily recommends these at the moment:

A House Called Awful End
(she says it’s very funny!)
Owly ("a sort of comic book with no words– it’s sweet")
Strider (a Beverly Cleary book about two boys who share joint custody of a stray dog)

She’s the only kid in the room at the moment so I can’t tell you what the others recommend!  How about your kiddos?  Any current favorites?

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Diary of a Wombat

The kids and I brought home a pile of library books today and this was one that had caught my eye.  I read it to Jack and Anna tonight and we all loved it!  It’s absolutely adorable.

The book tells the story of a rather lazy wombat and its adventures when some humans move in nearby.  It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s charming & I think we simply have to buy a copy now.

Look for it at your local library or get yourself a copy. 
It’s out in paperback and well worth the price!

1 Comment

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