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Book Review Parenting

The Whatifs by Emily Kilgore–Book Review

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a case of the “what-ifs”, and while this pandemic has done nothing to ease those feelings, this book we read for our #bedtimeread actually has.

The Whatifs, written by Emily Kilgore and illustrated by Zoe Persico, tells the story of Cora, who because of her nervousness, was often visited by the “whatifs”, mini monster looking things, who added to her feelings that something bad is going to happen. They visited her all the time, no matter where she was or the time of day, causing her to doubt even the thing she practiced and was good at–playing the piano.

Thankfully, at her piano recital, Cora encounters Stella, who explains to Cora that there are also good whatifs, and helps Cora change her thinking.

There are a couple of things that I loved about this book and reading it to my kids. One, I love that it gives young readers a visual of what nervousness and/or anxiety might look and feel like. Sometimes when you’re young you aren’t able to name abstract things, but calling them “whatifs” and giving kids a visual can help them do that. Additionally, even I as an adult hadn’t really thought about the positive whatifs and I really liked that change of thinking. Even though this seems relatively straightforward, the story is told in a way that is engaging to readers, and there’s a great Author’s Note in the back that explains why she wrote this book.

So, regardless of whether your kids have nervous personalities or not, this is a great book to share with them. They can learn how to deal with their whatifs like Cora, or learn to help a friend like Stella.

Keep #RaisingReaders!

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Book Review Parenting Raising kids Uncategorized

Book Review–Oscar’s American Dream by Barry Wittenstein

For those of us who moved from the town you grew up in, have you ever driven through certain parts of your hometown when you visit, remincising about how the neighborhoods used to look and how the businesses changed? You may find yourself saying things like, “this used to be a so-and-so” or “when I was a child this was a _____”. I do it just about every time we travel to my hometown, and my family and I currently live in the town my husband grew up in, so he does it often too. Well, our recent #bedtimeread, Oscar’s American Dream, the latest picture book written by Barry Wittenstein, epitomizes these conversations, but more beautifully written than my husband or I could express.

“A local news reporter wrote that if you wanted to see American history, you just stood in the doorway of the corner store, and history came to you.”

This quote from Oscar’s American Dream, illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell, perfectly summarizes this well told story. This recently released book tells the story of not just Oscar, but many different people who take that brave step to not just start a business, but often to also immigrate to a new country.

As much as I can recall how my hometown has changed since I was a child, I’m only going back a few decades. Another awesome thing about this book is that it spans a century! It starts with Oscar in 1899, and ends in 1999, with a variety of store owners in between. So if you want to share with your children what going down memory lane is like mixed in with a history lesson, then Oscar’s American Dream needs to be added to your reading list! (You can also find some fun learning activities to go along with this awesome book here.)

*Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review Parenting Raising kids Uncategorized

Bedtime book Review–Straw by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

We have loved each book in this Utensils series, so we were looking forward to the last one of the trio–Straw written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Scott Magoon. In the previous books, we learned about teamwork and individuality, what could we learn from the straw?

With my kids starting back to school AND increasing their independence since they are learning remotely, this was a very timely book to read at bedtime. Not to give it all away, but Straw, who liked to be first all the time, had some really smart friends that were trying to convince him that that wasn’t always a good thing. Rosenthal did a wonderful job of teaching us a lesson that not everything needs to be done quickly.

Although we are sad to see the series end, Spoon, Chopsticks, and Straw are characters I will be referring to for years to come.

You can read our thoughts about the other books in the series here.

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Book Review Raising kids Raising Readers Uncategorized

Bedtime Read–A Vote is a Powerful Thing

Looking for something to read with your kiddos around voting or Election Day? I’ve got a great recently released book for you.

A Vote is a Powerful Thing, written by Catherine Stier and illustrated by Courtney Dawson is a great bedtime read for kids about the power of democracy. In Ms. Trask’s class, she’s teaching her students about how important voting is and has created a project for students to help get students invested in the act. Thanks to one of Ms. Trask’s students, our main character Callie, she and another student create campaigns to convince students to vote for the field trip of their choice.

Callie is particularly invested because her grandma is trying to save the same wilderness park that Callie is campaigning for. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say both campaigns work hard to get their classmates to pick their choice.

The thing I really appreciated about this book was what I felt was a different type of campaign that the students ran. Usually in children’s books the students are running for class president, which is a cool idea, but in my own elementary education as both a child and teacher, I’ve never had a class president. As a result, I found those books to be a little less relatable. Voting for a field trip though? That I could see happening, which makes it that much better to connect with its readers. There’s even a couple of pages of information about voting at the end, including a timeline of voting rights in the United States. It was a winning bedtime read for us!

So if you want to introduce your kids to how democracy works, A Vote is a Powerful Thing by Catherine Stier and illustrated by Courtney Dawson is the way to go.

*I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This title was released on September 1, 2020 and can be purchased wherever books are sold.

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Book Review Parenting Raising kids Raising Readers summertime Uncategorized

Summer Bedtime Read Struggles

So for the last couple of summers, my kids and I have read a chapter book together for our summer #bedtimereads. Last summer we enjoyed The Last-Last Day of Summer and previously we read a book from the Ramona Quimby series. I really enjoy the change from picture books, and because its summer, bedtime isn’t that big of an issue, so reading an extra chapter or two isn’t that big of a deal.

This summer however, we were on the struggle bus when it came to finishing a chapter book. I don’t know if it was because of the pandemic or because we had already read a chapter book during quarantine or what, but I even tried starting a chapter book that I thought they would enjoy and we abandoned it after the first chapter.

Next, I chose a book that had been recommended to me based on a different read aloud we had recently enjoyed–Holes. 24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusty Bowling was one I figured would be in a shoe-in because one–both my daughter and I have read other books by her and adored them, and two– the three of us loved the adventure piece of Holes. So we started 24 Hours in Nowhere, a novel whose chapters are organized by hours, so as you may have guessed from the title–there are 24 chapters. After 4 or 5 chapters they seemed interested, sorta, but I wasn’t sure and I wasn’t getting the pleas for “one more chapter pleeeease” that I usually get with our read alouds. So after about a week or so, I was ready to give up.

However, here’s where things change. One night as we were getting ready for bed, my son says, “we need to keep reading that book we were reading”…and that was all it took. I picked it back up that evening, and the chapter I started with was HILARIOUS (who knew bat poop could be funny) and at the end of that chapter what did I hear? “You have to read one more!” from both children, and so that night I did, and quite a few more nights I did, and we finally finished and enjoyed a chapter book this summer–Whew!

I share this story for a couple of reasons, particularly if you and your kids have ever been in a reading rut. First, as adamant as I am about raising readers through reading to my own children, even we have pockets of time where we struggle to keep our reading routines, and that’s ok. Second, I almost abandoned a book too quickly! Not every book is for every body, but I should’ve trusted the recommendation and my history with the author and continued on.

Now we’re back to picture books for the moment, but I’ll let you know when we start our next chapter book bedtime read!