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Read Aloud Thursday

We have quite an eclectic mix of books in our library basket this week, and really, most of them are just so-so.  We did thankfully end up with a few winners, though.

My favorite of the week is Dahlia, written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. This is the story of a little girl named Charlotte who has no use for the fancy doll give to her by her Aunt Edme.  However, after a day of outdoors, rough-and-tumble play, Charlotte realizes that Dahlia (christened such because she looks like Charlotte’s mother’s huge dahlias in the garden) might be a worthy companion after all.  Aunt Edme arrives at the end of the day, and the story ends with a sweet surprise.  The story is completely charming, especially for little girls who prefer messiness and rowdiness over being prim and proper.  The illustrations are delightful in an old-timey storybook kind of way.  This one is really a keeper!

My second favorite book of the week is a surprise to me, really.  I associate Kevin Henkes with Lilly, Wemberly, Owen, Chrysanthemum, and I love them all.  I really do.  However, I have not read Henkes’ books to my girls because I was waiting until the girls are a little older.  I picked up A Good Day because of the illustrations, which are really what make this book so great.  This is a simple story about how a day that starts out to be not-so-good turns into a good day.  The bold-but-simple watercolor illustrations are gorgeous.   Highly recommended!
I was a little hesitant to pick up Cindy Ellen:  A Wild Western Cinderella because I didn’t know if adoration of the Disney princess Cinderella and familiarity with her story (only through books; we’ve yet to make it through the movie due to an intense cat-and-dog scene early on) would be enough to bridge the gap for my girls.  I shouldn’t have worried, though.  I actually read Cindy Ellen aloud to third or fourth graders when I was an elementary librarian, and I can’t say that they were as delighted with the story as my four-and-a-half year old was.  Lulu loves this book!  This is a great book on many levels in terms of teaching, too.  The author, Susan Lowell, uses lots of “wild west” slang that would be interesting  to discuss with older children, and of course, the concept of fractured fairy tales is one that is good for lots of mileage.  This book can definitely stand alone as a fun read-aloud, with or without the more in-depth treatment , and the illustrations by Jane Manning are perfect.
This last book really surprised me.  I picked it up because I thought it would be interesting to learn something about chameleons, and I am always looking for nonfiction titles to grab my girls’ attention.  Martin Jenkins does a great job at making this book interesting and accessible, more like a story than a science lesson.  For example, did you know that chameleons don’t just look grumpy, they really are grumpy?  Or that their eyes can look in different directions at the same time?  Wow!  This book is particularly fun to look at, well, because chameleons are fun to look at!  Sue Shields captures their odd but entertaining physiques in a bold and colorful way in this great science read-aloud.

That’s it for this week, folks!  What have you and your family enjoyed together this week?  Tell us about it in the comments or leave a link to your blog post.  I’d love to hear about it!


Book Review–The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman

birth order book

Title:  The Birth Order Book:  Why You Are the Way You Are

Author:  Dr. Kevin Leman

Publisher:  Revell

ISBN:  080075977X

Length:  362 pages

Synopsis:  This is a conversational, anecdotal book that attempts to get inside the head of children and adults based on their birth orders.  With a blend of popular psychology and family counseling (and just an occasional hint of scholarly psychology), Dr. Leman approaches the birth orders (first, middle child, baby) and many of the combinations thereof and explains why we behave the way we do.  The book is big on application; Dr. Leman shows how birth order applies to the business world, marriage, our own approaches as parents.  In other words, our careers and how we deal with our own spouses and children are a factor of our birth order.  While much of the information in the book has reached the point of stereotype in today’s talk-show psychology ridden world, Dr. Leman does a good job of explaining the whys behind the characteristics.

My Thoughts:  I usually do not like books written in a conversational tone; often, I find them difficult to follow.  (I’m sure this probably says something about me as a first-born.)  However, this book manages to both be informative and entertaining without losing its message.  The parts that are of most interest to me are those about first-born children (I am one) and the part about raising two children (I have two).  In fact, Dr. Leman seems to spend more time, or at least more emphatic energy, on the first-borns.  (Or maybe it just seems that way to me because I identify so much with what he says.)  The overall message I got from what he says is this:  

  • First borns tend to be perfectionists
  • As a first born parent, I should lighten up, especially on my own first born
  • In other words, I should embrace my own IMPERFECTION!

For some reason, it was burden-lifting and freeing for me to recognize my own perfectionism and realize that it is detrimental to both me and my children.  I have had an unhealthy obsession with being a perfect parent, and I recognize so much of myself in my children, especially Lulu.  This combination of things has led to a lot of mental stress for me.  Simply recognizing this has made me feel that I have more of a handle on it.  I’m really glad I read this book.  The following are a couple of passages that really hit home with me:

Jesus told Peter that he should forgive seventy times seven (meaning indefinitely).  No one leads to learn about forgiveness more than the critical-eyed parent who pursues perfection.  You may do it politely and sweetly but, as you enforce your perfectionistic will on your children, are you showing them forgiveness for their mistakes or are you judging them (all in the name of trying to help them, of course)?

It also helps to remember that all children need encouragement more than prodding.  Learn to simply hold your child when he or she is having problems.  Just say, “Everything’s going to be okay.  What’s the problem?  Do you say this isn’t working out right?  Would you like me to help?”

No matter your birth order, this is an interesting and helpful book.