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Read Aloud Thursday–Easter Edition

During this very busy week, we have been reading books in celebration of springtime.  I hesitate to designate this as an Easter post, really, because I prefer to focus on the real reason we celebrate this holiday.  However, we do usually do the Easter bunny thing–sort of.  The girls get Easter baskets full of goodies, we hunt eggs, etc.  I don’t think, though, that they’ve ever been confused about what Easter is really all about.  In fact, we have a whole mini-library of Easter books which focus on the real reason for the holiday, but I haven’t gotten them out yet.  Actually, most of these are probably too young for the girls now, so I might just wait to read them to baby brother.  🙂  I decided this year to focus on some springtime/Easter storybooks this week and then next week to really focus on the real Easter story.  These are some Easter storybook gems we’ve read this week. 

This first one really deserves its own Friday’s Vintage Find post, but I’m consolidating posts.  So many books, so little time!  Like The Easter Egg Artists, this is a story I remember from my own childhood.  The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is a story of an unlikely heroine:  a mother bunny who once dreamt of being one of the five real Easter Bunnies that delivers Easter eggs on Easter morning.  However, she finally realizes that this might be one dream that motherhood has disqualified her for.  When the Old Grandfather Bunny has to pick a replacement, though, it is her wisdom, kindness, swiftness, and cleverness, all of which came to her through the experience of motherhood, that actually qualify her for the job.  In the end, she proves to be not only wise, kind, swift, and clever, but also brave.  Apparently this book started out as a story that the author, DuBose Heyward, told his daughter, Jenifer.  (Her name also appears on the cover of the book!)  Marjorie Flack’s (yes, the one responsible for this and this)  illustrations are vintagey-looking, colorful, and completely charming.  I can guarantee you that if you are a mother, you will enjoy this book!  (Sometimes we do have to read things for ourselves, right?)
Miz Fannie Mae’s Fine New Easter Hat by Melinda Milich is a sweet and funny book about a poor African American family that is rich in love.  Tandy and her father set out by horse and wagon for the nearest town, Meridian City, to buy Mama an Easter hat.  This isn’t to be just any Easter hat, though–it’s to be a “fine new Easter hat.”  In addition to not overspending, Mama gives Tandy the responsibility of not letting Daddy buy “no ugly hat.”  Daddy heads straight for the best millinery shop in Meridian City, and he and Tandy settle on a splendid hat–one with flowers and fruit and even a little nest of green cradling four tiny bird eggs.  Daddy has to pull a rather funny prank to get Mama to wear such an obviously expensive hat, but it’s at the Easter service at church that the hat really begins to take on a life of its own–literally.  🙂  My girls found this book hilarious!  It’s full of the cadences and rhythms of an African American church service, which is fun for a read-aloud.  Yong Chen‘s illustrations are warm, and almost every single person in this book is smiling.  This is just an all-around happy book!
Have I mentioned before how much we like Patricia Polacco here at the House of Hope?  Yes, I think I haveRechenka’s Eggs is a must-read for this time of year!  This is the story of Babushka, who spends her year painting eggs to take to Moskva to sell before Easter.  She rescues a goose that has been apparently shot by a hunter, and to thank Babushka for nursing her back to health (and to pay her beak for breaking the eggs Babushka had made), Rechenka the goose lays a dozen truly spectacular eggs, one at a time.  These eggs are a huge hit at the market, of course, but when Babushka returns home, she finds that Rechenka has left her the best gift of all.  This is a charming story, but it’s Patricia Polacco’s inimitable illustrations that make it unforgettable.  Visit Patricia Polacco’s amazing website to view some of the artwork from this book.  I believe this book appears in a later Five in a Row volume than the one we’ve been using, so activities that accompany this book abound.  In fact, we’ve done a few.  We’ve looked at Pysanky eggs (Ukrainian Easter eggs) online, and my girls have had fun playing with my set of Matryoshka dolls. I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Russian (or Ukrainian or . . .you get the idea) since I took a year of instruction in the Russian language while in high school.  I also love twentieth century history, particularly eastern European history.  This book was a big hit with me and my girls!
Last, but certainly not least, I have to tell you about Jan Brett’s new book, The Easter Egg.  After our adventure, how could I not?  🙂  This book is truly gorgeous, with Jan Brett’s trademark sidebar illustrations, etc.  After reading her Christmas books for so long, I find this springtime book and all its nature-inspired illustrations to be especially refreshing.  The Easter Egg is the story of Hoppi, a rabbit who wants to win the Easter egg decorating contest so that he can help the Easter Rabbit hide eggs on Easter morning.  The problem is, Hoppi is uninspired.  He observes all of his friends and neighbors with their respective talents decorating eggs that reflect those talents, but he comes up empty-handed.  That is, until he rescues a robin’s egg that has fallen out of its nest.  Hoppi’s true talent, it seems, is caring.  Of course, the story isn’t as heavy-handed as I am.  Instead, Jan Brett has created a lovely, lovely springtime story and a feast for the eyes, all at the same time.  Highly Recommended!  (If you’d like to see more of the artwork for this book, be sure to visit my post about our trip to Jan Brett’s spring tour booksigning or her website.)

Well, that’s it, folks–at least for the time being.  I’m sure we’ll read a few of our old Easter titles next week, as well as enjoy a few more new ones I’ve picked up at the library.  Has your family been reading any Easter or spring-inspired books?  Please share what you’ve been reading by linking up your Read Aloud Thursday blog post, or simply by leaving a comment.

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Next week will be the last week that Read Aloud Thursday will be here at my old blog.  My new blog goes live on April 5, so the Read Aloud Thursday for April 8 will be over there.  Please update your links! 


Read Aloud Thursday

It seems like things have gotten a little off track here at the House of Hope in the past week.  I always strive to finish (or mostly finish) Lulu’s kindergarten lessons before lunchtime, but this week it seems that we’ve usually only started the formal stuff (phonics, math) after lunch.  I’m trying to realize that this is a season in my life–one in which I move incredibly slowly and sometimes painfully (I have back issues which have been greatly aggravated by this pregnancy).  This really puts a crimp in my plans sometimes.  Plus, I’m trying to be a more relaxed homeschooler–to realize that no, we can’t do it all in one day, and that’s okay.  Anyway, what this has meant is that we have been doing a fair amount of reading in the mornings on the couch.  While our read-alouds times in the morning usually do have some direction (i.e. either a FIAR book or go-along or something that goes with our human body study), we’ve also been doing a good amount of “free reading.”  We’ve picked up quite a few winners!

Rabbit Inn was almost returned to the library before we had a chance to read it, but I’m so glad I held it out for one more day!  Patience Brewster’s gentle little story is about a rabbit couple who are innkeepers.  When the Mrs., Pandora Lapinandro, learns that some important visitors are coming to Rabbit Inn, she begins to see her beloved home through new eyes:  it’s in disrepair!  It’s in disarray!  Quick, Bob, let’s clean this place up!  The job is too big for just the two bunnies, though, so Bob Lapinandro calls upon the residents at the inn to help them.  They willingly help, two-by-two.  By the time the visitors arrive, everything is in order, and Pandora can relax.  Three things are great about this book: first, it is (unexpectedly, I might add) perfect for the place our family is right now.  (I’ll let you figure that one out!  😉  )  Second, the words and illustrations are so very detailed.  Much of the story rhymes, and all of the animals have funny names.  Third, the fact that the animals all come in pairs made it easy to turn this book into a little mini-math review. (No, I don’t turn everything into a lesson, but some books make it easy, right?)   🙂  This book surprised me, and I’m glad we read it.  You can find out more about the author and illustrator, Patience Brewster, by visiting her website.

I’m putting in this next one not because I think anyone out there might miss Jan Brett, but because I’m still hoping to attend one of her book signings.  Although we enjoy her books at Christmas time, I don’t often check her out at other times during the year (although we did have a books for Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day that she illustrated).  Unlike these holiday books, Berlioz the Bear is illustrated in the way we’ve all come to recognize as her style:  with sidebars and “extra” illustrations to alert us, the readers, to what is going on elsewhere in the story.  The story of Berlioz is a good one, one that really engages young listeners.  Poor Berlioz is a double bass player who is trying to get to the village square for the gala ball his orchestra is scheduled to play in.  He has a problem, though:  his double bass is making a funny, buzzing noise.  Once all the other musicians arrive and they all board the bandwagon, though, his one problem quickly morphs into two problems:  a wagon wheel gets stuck in a hole soon after they begin their journey, and the mule pulling the wagon characteristically sits down in the road and refuses to budge.  Lots of well-dressed animals come to their rescue, but it’s Berlioz’s first problem that finally solves his second.  This one is fun both to read and look at!  I found this page of illustrated notes about the story that makes me like Jan Brett even more.  If you haven’t checked out her website, you really should.  It’s positively brimming over with good stuff:  coloring pages, contests, lesson plans, etc.

I have more books to share, but my girls are up from rest time.  Duty calls!  🙂

What is your family enjoying this week?  Please provide a link to a blog post or simply leave a comment.  Oh, and spread the word!  I’ve recently begun participating in What My Child Is Reading at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns (when I can remember to link up, that is, since it’s a Saturday event).  I like to get Read Aloud Thursday out there as much as possible–the more the merrier, I say!

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Read Aloud Thursday–St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Let me be the first to say that St. Patrick’s Day is actually not a holiday that is usually even on my radar.  Although I am sure I must have at least a little bit of Irish blood flowing through my veins, I just consider myself plain old American.  However, I couldn’t pass by the bright green on the book display conveniently located right by the front door at one of our libraries, so we’ve been reading some fun St. Patrick’s Day books.  The girls have really enjoyed them, and so have I.  This post highlights the best of the bunch.

What caught my eye about St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning is the fact that is is illustrated by Jan BrettAs we learned for Valentine’s Day, she and author Eve Bunting are a winning combination, so I had to bring this book home(It also turns out that Eve Bunting was born in Ireland, which I only recently learned from this excellent shamrock post at Brimful Curiosities.)  St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning is the sweet story of  a little boy, Jamie Donovan, who remembers upon awakening that his village’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is that very day.  Declared too small to participate in the parade by his parents and older brothers, Jamie strikes out to prove himself by walking the entire parade route.  Everyone in his home is still asleep, so they are ignorant of his plan.  He meets and greets lots of villagers on his way up Acorn Hill.  Listeners get a taste of the lilting Irish speech pattern (if the reader can pull it off!) and life in a small Irish village.  Jamie completes his trek  makes it back home before anyone else is up.  This is a gentle story, and the illustrations are done primarily in black, white, and green.  This would be a perfect preschool introduction to St. Patrick’s Day.
The Last Snake in Ireland:  A Story about St. Patrick by Sheila MacGill-Callahan caught my eye, well, because I thought it would be nice to read a book about St. Patrick since I don’t even know much about him or the real holiday.  This book is about St. Patrick, but instead of it focusing on the real St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, it focuses on one of the many legends surrounding him:  that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.  In this story, there is one particularly recalcitrant snake, and St. Patrick must use all of his wits to outsmart him.  I actually thought the snake was a little bit creepy, but my girls liked the story (Will Hillenbrand‘s illustrations make it look particularly diabolical).  We didn’t accomplish my goal of learning something substantial about St. Patrick, but the girls were entertained.
This last story was by far our favorite.  Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott is just a fun, fun folktale.  Poor Tim O’Toole is a downtrodden fellow who, in addition to being poor, is considered bad luck by his neighbors.  Finally, at the insistence of his wife, Tim sets out to find a job.  What he finds instead is a whole pack herd group of leprechauns.  These leprechauns give Tim a goose capable of laying golden eggs, but poor Tim loses it to a wily couple with whom he spends the night on his way home.  This same scenario plays out a few times with every gift the leprechauns give him, until finally, they come to his rescue.  My girls really got the humor in this book, and it’s a much requested title here at the House of Hope these days.  Gerald McDermott’s text is fun to read and his illustrations are perfect.  It turns out that he’s a Caldecott Medal-winning artist.  You can read more about him on his colorful website

Other than reading these books (and a few others), we don’t really have any plans for St. Patrick’s Day.  Well, actually, I hope we can make these cupcakes, which look a lot like the beautiful cake I first saw at Lifenut but still haven’t gotten around to making.  This year it is, Lord willing!

On a related note, Carrie (of Reading to Know and Reading My Library fame) highlighted some St. Patrick’s Day books over at 5 Minutes for Books a few weeks back.  Check it out!

On a somewhat unrelated note, check out Jan Brett’s website!  She has a new Easter book out, and she’s going full-steam-ahead to promote it!  Don’t miss this contest–how neat would it be to own an Easter egg painted by Jan Brett?!?!?  (And yes, I do realize that I tell you this at the risk of decreasing my chance of winning!  😉  )  One more thing:  don’t miss her tour schedule, either.  I’d love to try to make one of the Tennessee events, but I’m not sure that we can swing it with next week’s schedule.  If we do, I’ll be sure to share the details!  🙂

Okay, enough of the PSAs.  It’s time for you to share what you’ve been reading together as a family!  Either leave a blog link by clicking on the MckLinky link below, or simply share in the comments.  Don’t forget, there’s a button, too!

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Read Aloud Thursday–Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder


I can’t let this Read Aloud Thursday pass by without commemorating the completion of our first chapter book read aloud for 2010.  We began reading Farmer Boy some time right after Christmas, and we finally finished it last week.  As a child, I always loved Farmer Boy best out of all the Little House books, so I was eager to re-read this one with my girls.  I feel like we got kind of mired down in it somewhere in the middle, mainly because we ended up being out of the house sometimes during our usual chapter-book reading time, which is right after lunch.  I also feel like sometimes the girls really didn’t pay attention since they know it so well.  They have listened to the audiobook of this particular story so many times, they corrected me when I mis-read something.  (Believe it or not, they’re currently listening to it again during rest time!)  It is a great story, though, and it’s a good one to read aloud.  Two things I can say about Almanzo Wilder:  that boy loved to eat, and that boy was born a farmer.  Seriously, don’t read this book if you’re hungry!  One of the biggest memories I have of Farmer Boy from my own childhood is the huge quantities and varieties of food they had at their meals.  I love those descriptions.  My girls especially like it when Almanzo does something mischievous or has some sort of mishap.  We enjoyed this book, but I am glad to be through it and on to our next read-aloud, one that is unfamiliar to all of us:  The Boxcar Children.

As a side note, I am working to update my 2010 booklists.  I’ve done a terrible job of keeping up with them, and here it is already March!  One thing I wanted to do this year is (try to!) keep up with the audiobooks that the girls listen to, also, for future reference.  Look for all of that information in the sidebar some day in the near future!  🙂

What has your family enjoyed together this week?  Please leave a link to your blog, or if you don’t blog, simply leave a comment.

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Read Aloud Thursday

 It has been a crazily busy week here at the House of Hope, with a couple of doctor appointments and a day trip for Steady Eddie and me on my birthday.  (Bless him, he worked hard to rearrange his schedule so he wouldn’t have to spend the night out of town on my big day.  It was still a work trip for him, but I got to putter around and spend an inordinate amount of time browsing in a huge bookstore, so it was a good day, at least for me.  What a guy!)  I said all that to say that although we have lots of books from the library, we’ve had a hard time getting to them this week.  I’m pulling a couple of books that we enjoyed several weeks ago, instead, and sharing them this week.  Hopefully next week I’ll have more current read-alouds to share!

Easy Work!  An Old Tale is an adaptation by Eric A. Kimmel of an American folktale, and my girls thought it was hilarious.  I’m not sure, but I think it might be because Mr. McTeague dons his wife’s dress, bonnet, and apron, as you can see here on the book’s cover.  Andrew Glass did a marvelous job of visually translating this very funny story.  The story, in a nutshell, is this:  Mr. McTeague thinks his wife, in all her housewifely duties, has it made.  She sees a golden opportunity (and he thinks he does), so they agree to trade jobs for a day.  Well, predictably, things don’t go very well for Mr. McTeague.  His homekeeping catastrophes are really funny, especially as he devises ways to make the work easier for himself.  In the end, though, he learns his lesson:  he’d rather leave the homekeeping to his wife and return to his work with the oxen in the woods.  I see from Eric A. Kimmel’s website that he is a very prolific writer, especially when it comes to folktales from around the world.  I’ll definitely keep him in mind as I plan for next year’s schooling!

The other book I’m sharing today is one that I’ve wanted to share for a long time, but I’ve been waiting for the time to give it its own post.  I’ve since decided that that’s probably never going to happen (and the library is finally going to just give me the book since I’ve had it out for so long 😉 ) and that I might as well just give it a spot on today’s Read Aloud Thursday.  The book? Harold’s ABC  by Crockett Johnson.  I’ve mentioned my love and appreciation for Harold and the Purple Crayon before , and it turns out that there’s a whole series of Harold books.  This one is obviously an ABC book; the story takes Harold through the alphabet from A to Z, with him drawing with his ever-present crayon all the way.  Harold’s ABC is every bit as clever as the first Harold book, and it even inspired me to encourage my girls in a little bit of bookmaking of their own.   I suggested to the girls that they use this book as a model; Harold’s illustrations are based on each letter of the alphabet (i.e. “C is for cake” and voila, the letter C is a layer cake with a triangular slice cut out).  I realize now that this might be too abstract a concept for a five year old and a four year old, but they had fun working on their little books.  We used the “Book on a Stick” concept for our creations.  Lulu’s book is entitled “Lulu’s World of Adventures with ABCs.”

This is her G page.  This is a gorilla, and if you look closely (and think backwards 😉 ), you’ll see that the gorilla’s claws (nails?  what do gorillas have?) are shaped like g‘s. 

One more:  this is her J page, and naturally, these are “jumping j‘s” on a trampoline. 

Of course, Louise was included in this activity, too.  I’ve already mentioned that she loves making books, but as it turns out, she prefers a more open-ended exercise.  Her first page is of a lovely green caterpillar. 🙂

Now we just need to go back and add the text to our books, and we’ll be done.  Oh, and I need to have a  manicure ASAP.  😉

Now it’s your turn!  What have you been reading with your family this week?  Leave a link below to your blog post in which you discuss your read aloud selections, or simply leave a comment.

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Have a fantastic Read Aloud Thursday!

ETA:  I am linking up this Read Aloud Thursday post to a fun meme called stART over at A Mommy’s Adventures.  This meme is for posts which combine stories and art.  Check it out!

Read Aloud Thursday

Folks, I don’t know about where you live, but it’s COLD here in the not-so-sunny South.  🙂 

What better time, then, to stay at home and read, right? 

I feel sort of like I’m cheating (again) for this post because it’s not random.  (FYI:   There are no Official Read Aloud Thursday Rules, so nothing anywhere says Read Aloud Thursday posts must be random.  But I like my posts to be. 🙂 ).  However, I truly did pick these books up randomly; they just happen to share an author.  😉

Let’s Go Home:  The Wonderful Things About a House by the inimitable Cynthia Rylant is just perfect for us homebodies.  (Shhh!  Don’t tell Steady Eddie, but I really am one.)  It’s a gentle story–more of just an extended description, really.  It’s about all the parts of a house and how, even though all houses are different, if they are truly homes, they share some commonalities.  Wendy Anderson Halperin’s illustrations, coupled with Rylant’s gentle text, really set this story apart.  The illustrations are so very detailed!  This book really makes me sit back and think about home and how important it is, and this is definitely something I want my girls to absorb through our life together here at the House of Hope.  All the better if our reading enforces it, right?

Cynthia Rylant‘s All in a Day couldn’t be any more different visually from Let’s Go Home, but the gentle tone is the same.  The story is rather philosophical:  it’s about all the potential inherent in any day.  Actually, it’s almost like reading poetry.  However, it’s the illustrations that make this one a stand-out.  Nikki McClure’s tri-color papercuts are very striking and graphic.  It would be difficult to read this story without calling attention to the illustrations–they’re that good. (You can see more of Nikki McClure’s work at her website.)  These illustrations remind me a little of those in Kevin Henkes’ Caldecott Medal winning story, Kitten’s Full MoonI would check out All in a Day for the illustrations alone. 

I guess I could’ve actually just made this an author spotlight post, but I really didn’t set out to read aloud everything I could find by Cynthia Rylant.  As it turns out, I’ve highlighted a few of her stories before–here and here.  It looks like you can hardly go wrong with Cynthia Rylant!

Is your family enjoying a particular author or illustrator this week?  Please share with us by leaving a link below to your Read Aloud Thursday blog post, or simply leave a comment.

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Read Aloud Thursday::Valentine’s Day Edition


This is not the usual random Read Aloud Thursday post.  Instead, it’s a post in which I cover a lot of mushy territory–picture books to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I usually don’t fall in love with holiday books, Christmas books being the obvious exception.  I think it’s because I tend to not make a huge deal out of most holidays (except for Christmas and Easter–I really try on those), and most holiday books seem stilted and overly planned in a “Look here!  You’re reading a _____ book!” kind of way.  This would likely explain why I’m just now, a mere four days before the holiday, getting a Valentine’s Day books post up at all.  Sheesh.

Okay, that’s part of the disclaimer.  Here’s the other half of it:  I’m only featuring books here that I at least like a little bit, and that my children have reacted (mostly–Louise is a wildcard–what brings a smile one day brings a frown the next) positively to.  (I’m sorry if this lets the air out of your Read Aloud Thursday balloon, but I must be honest.)  Let’s get started.

I don’t even have to ask my children–I know which of the Valentine’s Day selections we have about the house is their favorite.  Arthur’s Valentine by Marc Brown happens to be a book that we both own and that I checked out of the library (I really need to update my Library Thing account!), so we get to enjoy this book year-round.  😉  Our library copy actually has the old anteater-ish Arthur illustrations, which I like a lot better.  But I digress.  I think the appeal for my girls is the unknown–in this story, Arthur receives love notes from a Secret Admirer.  My children are fairly sheltered in that they don’t watch much television, etc., but they do know about boyfriends and girlfriends (and that they’re something to giggle over) thanks to some friends in our homeschool group.  😉  Another plus for Arthur’s Valentine is that they learned the old chant “Arthur and Sue Ellen, sitting in a tree. . . ”  Honestly, this is one book I would’ve preferred to put off for a few years, but it’s too late now.  Consider yourself warned.  🙂

My favorite new selection this year is The Valentine Bears, which is written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett.  I tell you, you can’t go wrong with that combination!  As Carrie pointed out in her Valentine’s Books for Kids post, the illustrations aren’t your typical Jan Brett style, but all in all I think they’re recognizable as hers.  The story itself is unusual and heartwarming.  It’s the story of a bear couple who do the unthinkable–they wake up out of their hibernation for Valentine’s Day.  It’s all Mrs. Bear’s idea, and she goes to great lengths to make the day a special one for her husband.  In the end, though, he has a few tricks up his sleeve, too.  It’s a sweet book and one I’d be glad to add to our collection.

I’m going from memory on this book because I’ve already turned it back in to the library, but this is my favorite of all the Valentine’s Day books we’ve ever had.  The girls like it, too.  🙂  I thought I’d already shared it here, but after a search of my blog, I realize that I haven’t.  How did I let this one slip by last year?  The Ballad of Valentine is so much fun!  It’s a ballad about a couple of star-crossed lovers, and it’s modeled after the song “Clementine.”  (I should say that it’s written to be sung to the tune of “Clementine,” but my girls reject all my attempts of singing books to them.  I don’t know why.  Does anyone else have this problem? 😉  )  The fellow in the story loves his Valentine, but due to various and sundry problems, he can never get word to her of his affections.  Of course, all is made right in the end.  Alison Jackson did a great job with this one, and as you can see from the cover, Tricia Tusa’s illustrations are whimsical and fun.  I give this one a Highly Recommended!

What about your family?  Are you enjoying some Valentine’s Day reads this week in February, or are you longing for springtime?  Whatever you’re reading together, please link up your blog post below, or share about them in the comments!

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Have a terrific Read Aloud Thursday and a happy Valentine’s Day!

Read Aloud Thursday


This week we’ve hit the jackpot with some good read-alouds–so many that I’m having to ration them for various blog posts.  🙂  That’s a good problem to have, though, right?

I am never “up” on new books, mainly because I just browse at the library and find most of our good books serendipitously.  Even after reading this post over at Brimful Curiosities, I mostly just thought it would be nice to happen upon the new Caldecott Medal winner one day.  Well, I was following my usual protocol at the library last week when I happened to see that beautiful bookcover staring back at me from a display shelf, smack by the library’s front door.  It was meant to be!  Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion & the Mouse is everything a wordless picture book should be.  (Keep in mind that I usually don’t even like wordless picture books.)  First of all, the story is familiar enough that we didn’t lose the narrative in the middle of deciphering the pictures.  Second, the illustrations themselves do a great job of carrying the story–there aren’t any gaps.  Third, well, it’s by Jerry Pinkney–need I say more?  (We’ve enjoyed his work before.)  Fourth, it isn’t truly, completely wordless–there are lots of onomatopoeic animal sounds in the book–all done up in large, illustrative type, which is perfect for a beginning reader.  I’d love to add this one to our collection.  I think I’m beginning to appreciate wordless picture books more.  🙂
Maybe I should’ve called this edition of Read Aloud Thursday the fable/folktale edition; this next book is a retelling of a familiar folktale.  Out of the Egg by Tina Matthews is sort of a fractured version of “The Little Red Hen.”  Actually, I think I’d call it a redeemed version, not a fractured version.  The story goes along predictably until the Little Red Hen lays a perfect, white egg.  Out of this perfect, white egg comes the cutest little red chick.  The little red chick then has the opportunity the undo some of the selfishness of the past. . . Okay, this sounds way too serious–it’s really a great little picture book, and I know we could pull all sorts of lessons out of it.  What I really want to highlight, though, are the pictures!  With a palette of only four colors, Tina Matthews showcases the woodblock print technique beautifully.  The reds and greens are surprising against the stark black and white backgrounds, which is perfect for this tale that ends in a surprising way.  Highly Recommended!

Okay, maybe this post is more about beautiful illustrations than anything this week.  😉  I saw Uri Shulevitz‘s Snow on display at the library and picked it up despite the fact that we had already finished our study of all things snowy.  I’m really glad I went ahead and picked this one up, though.  The story is rather sparse, actually–a little boy is excited because it is snowing.  No one he encounters, though, will admit that it might actually snow more than a flake or two or share in his excitement.  Even the weather forecasters side against him, but thankfully, “snowflakes don’t listen to radio” and “snowflakes don’t watch television.”  The story ends with some fantastical elements–a Mother Goose and nursery rhyme characters literally come off of a bookstore sign and frolic in the snow with the believing boy.  What this book is really all about to me, though, is the pictures.  (It turns out that Uri Shulevitz won a Caldecott honor for this book the same year Snowflake Bentley won the Medal.)   You can tell by the cover illustration that gray figures heavily into the color scheme, which is entirely appropriate for a snowy day.  I love the way the artist emphasizes the strengthening of the snowstorm as the book progresses.  On one of the first illustrations, there is just that one snowflake, a mere dot of white on a gray field of sky.  We found it to be surprising and delightful.  I’d definitely add this one to my winter book collection!

Oh, I’m just basking in the joy that is beautifully written and even more beautifully illustrated picture books!  What a privilege it is to share these with my children!  🙂

Would you like to share your joy at your family’s read-alouds? (Or even perhaps steer others away from certain books?)  Simply write up your own Read Aloud Thursday blog post and link it up below.  If you don’t blog, simply leave a comment!

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Groundhog Day Read Alouds

This post is from the archives, but I thought I’d post it again, just in case anyone is making a quick trip to the library today.  We’ve picked up a few new Groundhog Day reads this year, but I still think Gregory’s Shadow is the best.   Enjoy!

I serendepitously happened upon a few fun books about Groundhog Day last week at the library, and I thought I’d share them here at Hope Is the Word.  February 2nd usually comes comes and goes without much thought from me about these furry little mammals, but it is a fun tradition, and I was happy to share these books with my girls.  The Secret of the First One Up by Iris Hiskey Arno is my favorite.  In this sweet book, a little girl groundhog named Lila learns about Groundhog Day after her Uncle Wilbur challenges her to be the first one to go Above Ground after a winter’s nap.  Renee Graef of My First Little House Books fame is the  illustrator of this sweet and gentle story.

Gregory’s Shadow, written and illustrated by Don Freeman (whom you will recognize as the author and illustrator of  Corduroy), is the fun story of Gregory the Groundhog who loses his shadow when he goes outside the day before Groundhog Day.  What follows is a fun and suspenseful adventure at the end of which Gregory and his shadow are reunited just in time for Groundhog Day.  Please note that this story contains a reference to a ghost.

These books provide great introductions to the tradition of Groundhog Day.  What a great way to spend time together while waiting to learn whether or not we’ll have six more weeks of winter–reading!!

Read Aloud Thursday

I am super excited about this week’s Read Aloud Thursday!  After several weeks of being unable to spend much time in the library, we’re finally back in the game!  In fact, we currently have books from two libraries, and we are really enjoying the discovery of some new treasures.  Let’s get started!
A Cold Snap!: Frost Poems by Audrey B. Baird is the first poetry collection I’ve shared in a while, but I couldn’t resist this one.  I’ll admit up front that I usually enjoy poetry far more than my girls do, but I keep reading it to them in the hopes (conviction?) that they, too, will love it one day.  It might be that this one is just a wee bit over their heads, with its figurative language and puns, but exposure never hurt anyone, right?  A Cold Snap! is chock full of poems about cold weather, and it’s just a delight.  I don’t want to share any of the poems in their entirety here, but here’s a little teaser, from a poem entitled “Trees and Me”: 

Trees undress

in November,


their clothes

where they stand.

The ending of this short little poem is quite clever and witty, and I think it would really tickle the funny bone of children not too much older than mine.  Patrick O’Brien‘s illustrations match the tone of each poem, which I think is most important in a poetry book for children.   Highly Recommended, especially if you’re studying (or enjoying or enduring) winter weather

Now this one did tickle their funny bones, and mine, too. 
Good Times on Grandfather Mountain by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a folktale, of sorts, about an old man named Old Washburn who just won’t be beaten by anything.  Old Washburn’s talents are whittling and looking on the bright side, and he can do both with the best of them.  When his cow, Blanche Wisconsin, runs away, he confesses that her milk never did make good cheese, anyway.  When a storm blows down his house, he admits that he’s just at home under the stars as under a roof.  In addition to his optimistic declarations, he literally turns his losses into something to add beauty to the world:  he whittles himself a whole array of mountain musical instruments.  I won’t give away the ending to the story, but it’s very satisfying.  Susan Gaber‘s watercolor illustrations are colorful and folksy; they remind me a little bit of Patricia Polacco‘s.  (This is a huge compliment from me!)  Some of the illustrations are close-ups that take up a whole page, and I really like that.  This one’s good–Louise requested that I read it again immediately after the first go-through.  (Hmm–I just realized that Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of Snowflake Bentley!  No wonder we like Good Times on Grandfather Mountain so much!  You can visit Ms. Martin’s website here  for a list of her other titles.)

This last one is pure silliness and fun.  Coriander the Contrary Hen–the title just about says it all, especially if any of the little chicks (or hens or roosters!) at your house have a tendency towards contrariness.  😉  Coriander the hen decides that she will no longer roost in the chicken coop with the other cooperative hens.  Oh, no–she decides to make her nest in the middle of the road.  What ensues is a country traffic jam of gigantic proportions.  Of course, Coriander behaves in the end, but her contrariness spunkiness is evident clear to the last page.  Dori Chaconas incorporates lots of onomatopoeia and rhyme into this story, which is perfect for my blossoming reader.  Marsha Gray Carrington‘s cartoonish illustrations even include some of the text (namely, the onomatopoeic or rhyming words), and this made it even easier for my girl to follow along.  We all got a kick out of this one!

I’m feeling abundantly blessed right now–it’s amazing to me that I can simply visit my local library and come home with this much literary wealth!  🙂

What is your family feasting on this week?  Please share your family read-alouds with us by linking up your blog post on the MckLinky below, or simply by leaving a comment!  Please feel free to use the Read Aloud Thursday button, too!

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