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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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Happy Read Aloud Thursday!


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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Have a terrific Read Aloud Thursday!

Read Aloud Thursday

This week our library basket contained some interesting and very quirky books.  Among them was One Potato, Two Potato, written by Cynthia DeFelice and illustrated by Andrea U’Ren.  This is the story of Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady, who are poor both physically and materially.  The discovery of a magic pot, however, changes all of that.  The pot can multiply anything placed within it, and the O’Gradys take advantage of this with humorous results.  The illustrations in this book struck me as a little odd at first, but after I read the book the first time, I grew fond of their quirkiness.  This book ends with a delightful play on words.

Another book we enjoyed this week was The Real Story of Stone Soup, written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Stephane Forisch.  This is, of course, a retelling of the Stone Soup legend, this time from southeast China. In this story, the Chang brothers work as fishermen for a lazy man they respectfully call Uncle.  The Chang brothers, of course, trick Uncle into doing most of the work in making the stone soup.  There are subtleties in this story (for example, Uncle’s laziness) that make it a good story for reading between the lines and interpreting illustrations.

Our favorites of the week, however, are two history books written in the form of poetry.  Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails, written by Verla Kay and illustrated by S. D. Schindler and Homespun Sarah, written by Verla Kay and illustrated by Ted Rand, are wonderful introductions to the westward movement and colonial life, respectively.  In Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails, we follow Father, Mother, and Baby John as they trek along the California Trail from Independence, Missouri, to the Sacramento Valley.  The obstacles and triumphs of the pioneers wagon train are described in rhyming couplets and in warm and expressive illustrations.  It is especially fun to “watch” as Baby John grows into a toddler on the journey.  Homespun Sarah, on the other hand, details the daily life of  a girl in colonial Pennsylvania.  Sarah does many chores including fetching water, filling the wood box with branches, tending the garden, cooking, doing laundry, making candles, gathering berries, spinning wool, and finally, making her own dress since she has outgrown the one she wore throughout the whole story.  Again, rhyming couplets and warm illustrations make this book engaging for little ones, all the while giving a good sense of life in the 1700s.  My four year old daughter requested to have this book read as a bedtime story even as I had it in a stack to review here on my blog.  Of course, my girls do have a predilection for pioneer stories, but because of its fun rhymes and interesting subject matter, I think this book would make a great read aloud for almost any audience.

What have you and yours been enjoying together as read alouds?  Leave me a comment or a link to your blog where you tell about it!

Next week’s Read Aloud Thursday will be a special A.A. Milne edition.  If you have read Milne’s Pooh stories or his poetry (or even some of his lesser-known adult books and articles), please be sure to come back next Thursday and link your blog or leave a comment!

Read Aloud Thursday

Boy, I’m just full of new ideas lately, aren’t I?  It’s because I don’t have anything else to do (cue maniacal laughter). 

I’ve been thinking for a while that I would love to keep up with the good read alouds we do each week, but I’ve never gotten around to posting most of them.  My girls and I visit the library weekly, and it never fails that each week we make a few serendipitous choices that are read and re-read until they are exchanged for another title the next week.  I know that there are lots of other reading mommies (and daddies, too) who might like to share their own weekly read alouds, so I decided to create this fun little weekly blog carnival.  I’ve never done anything like this, and I really have no idea if I have a readership (!) that will support it, but I decided to give it a go anyway.   

Here’s how it will work:

On Thursdays, I will host Read Aloud Thursday.  Link to your blog page where you have written about the book(s) that you have read aloud that week.  The books can be picture books, nonfiction, chapter books, or whatever you read aloud to your children.  While my children are preschool age, you may certainly include read alouds that you enjoy with your family, no matter the age of your children (or lack thereof, ‘though the focus here is on children’s literature). 

Since we’re a scant two weeks away from Christmas, last week I tried to pick out as many random Christmas books as I could find.  While this is not necessarily the preferred method for finding the highest of quality literature, it usually works well enough for us.  I did hit up on a few great Christmas titles this week that I’d like to add here:

This is a gorgeous illustrated version of the classic Christmas carol “We Three Kings.” The book is illustrated by Gennady Spirin. The illustrations look like the ornate artwork that one might see in a beautiful cathedral. My girls were amused by the Magi’s choices of transportation: a majestic steed, an elaborately bedecked elephant, and a regal camel. “We Three Kings” has always been one of my favorite carols, but I would challenge anyone to read this book without singing the song!



Coming Through the Blizzard by Eileen Spinelli (illustrated by Jenny Tylden-Wright) is a fun story about  a Christmas Eve church service that is almost ruined because of a blizzard.  The question posed by the minister who waits at the church is “Who would come to the Christmas Eve service?”  This is a story with lots of repetition, so it is perfect for toddler and preschoolers.  Spinelli is a master at choosing just the right word to paint a picture for the reader.  Witness this:

Moth came.

Silvery, silent,

blown from a pipe in the organ

on a burst of song,

a wordless Hallelujah.

Moth came. 

 This story is page after page of such poetry.  Beautiful!


The Donkey’s Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri is the sweet, sweet story of the little donkey who, timid because of his loud bray, brings joy and warmth to the Baby Jesus.  With only a few short sentences per page, simple illustrations, and lots of animal sounds, this is the perfect Christmas story for toddlers. 


Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson (illustrated by Jane Chapman) follows a delightfully predictable pattern for those familiar with the other Bear books.  Written in rhyme, this is the story of Bear who uncharacteristically stays awake for Christmas Eve, but he is so busy with his preparations that he misses a very important visitor:  Santa!


Of course, we didn’t only read Christmas stories this week.  Here are a few other noteworthy read-alouds:


The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt (illustrated by Yaroslava) is, of course, another retelling of a Ukranian folk tale made famous in the world of children’s book lovers by Jan Brett.  While I would certainly never want to detract from Jan Brett’s gorgeous version of this story, we enjoyed this more simple version.  The illustrations in this story are warm and the tone of this version is very reminiscent, since the narrator is recounting a story told him by his grandfather.  


Cook-a-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (illustrated by Janet Stevens) is a “spinoff” of the classic Little Red Hen story.  Big Brown Rooster, great-grandson of the famous Little Red Hen, makes a strawberry shortcake with some unlikely helpers:  Pig, Iguana, and Turtle.  With humorous illustrations and comedic suspense, this makes a great read-aloud for preschoolers or gradeschoolers.  Older children might enjoy reading the sidebars which include information and illustrations about baking. 


Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra (illustrated by Will Hillenbrand) is the entertaining story of a monkey who lives on an island in the middle of the Sillabobble Sea.  The monkey, whose only source of food is a lemon tree, spies a banana tree on an island across the sea. The clever monkey tricks the crocodiles who live in the Sillabobble Sea into helping her get her bananas.  This rhyming story is pure fun for the preschool set.


Basket Moon by Mary Lyn Ray (illustrated by Barbara Cooney) is the interesting story of a little boy who lives with his Ma and Pa in the backwoods of  Columbia County, New York, in what is presumably the 1800s.  His father makes baskets for a living, going into the town of Hudson to sell his wares only when there is a Basket Moon (i.e. full moon).  The little boy longs for the day when his father will take him to town, too, but when that day comes, he learns that venturing into society brings with it some pain and disappointment.  His parents and community help him cope with his disappointment by giving him the gift of a calling:  to be basketmaker, too.  I suppose you could say this is a bildungsroman, picture book style.  According to the author’s note at the end of this book, this story is based on an actual community of basketmakers who lived in that same region of New York.  This would be a great story to use as a part of a history or social studies lesson.  I was surprised that my girls, ages four (“and a half,” Lulu would quickly add) and two, enjoyed this, but out of all the books we read, this one was the most requested.  Maybe it’s their penchant for pioneer stories.

Join me, please, in sharing your read aloud picks for the week!