Snow Day or Makerspace Craft

Hello, world.

It’s another sometimes-snowy, sometimes-icy, always-primed-for-a-snow-day winter here in Maryland, and last week, my daughters and I made a craft that I hope I can use for our Makerspace at work.

I remember spending an art class in middle school using paper quilling to make snowflakes. I remembered it being relatively easy and fun, so I decided to try it again. It was mostly easy, and everyone seemed to have fun. One thing I had forgotten was how long it can take to make one snowflake (it took us the better part of the day, off and on), but the upside of that is it becomes a project that multiple people can contribute to.

What I learned about quilling in middle school involved making two basic kinds of shapes: circles and ovals/leaves (really just squashed circles). It can get a lot more complicated, but since that is what I remembered making, that’s what we went with.

The main process involves wrapping a strip of paper (I just used computer paper, cut into half-inch wide strips with a paper cutter) around a pencil to create a circle, then securing the end with glue (Elmer’s seems to work well for this). Once the strip is mostly wrapped, you can let it loosen up some to make a larger circle, or pull it tight to make a smaller one. After the glue dries, you can squash some of the circles to make ovals/leaves. Then it’s a matter of putting your shapes together to make the snowflake.

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Strips of paper and some quilled shapes.

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I found it easier to pour some glue on a paper plate and apply with toothpicks.

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Shapes laid out on a paper plate to glue together–again with a toothpick.

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Finished snowflake–just needs a string!

I’m hoping to do this at school with recycled paper, especially since we have an upcoming recycling fair this week to make a “winter wonderland” with recycled materials. We’ll see if the weather cooperates to get it up and running in time!

 

At least have some books…

I have a list of blog post topics on a Post-It note on my to-do list. Here are some things I have recently wanted to blog about:

  • Being called to the laity (instead of ordained ministry, like certain other members of the family…)
  • Ideas, or lack thereof, for Sunday school
  • Working on the YALSA Hub reading challenge
  • Life 9 months post-move
  • Thoughts about Lent this year
  • Guns and why I don’t like them

Obviously, I haven’t sat down to write any of these, and while I hope to get to at least some of them, it doesn’t seem likely in the next week, either. So here are some recent library books instead…

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary FriendThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We grabbed this from the library’s new award winner display, and I can see why it won. The pictures have a lovely bright and dark contrast, but the story is also fun and it just feels like a kid-friendly book all around. I hadn’t heard of it before it won this year’s Caldecott Medal (not surprisingly, for me), but my kids and I have all enjoyed it thoroughly, and I’ve had several reread requests.

The story follows an unnamed imaginary friend who, when he doesn’t get called up by a kid to be their friend, decides to go out into the real world and find his own friend. Sure enough, he finds both his friend and his name, and all live happily ever after.

Little OinkLittle Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From the creators of Little Pea and Little Hoot comes a story about a pig who wants to be clean. This is a cute addition to the Rosenthal and Corace’s brand of creatures wanting to doing the opposite of what they are known for, and it’s again fun as a parent to read how Little Oink disagrees with his parents.

Fox's GardenFox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a gorgeous, wordless story about a fox finding shelter in the winter and a boy who helps her out. I can’t rave enough about the pictures–I could sit and look at them for a long, long time, except that my kids technically have dibs on the book.

Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the PageMr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This installment of the Mr. Putter and Tabby series takes the pair to the library to read for story time. They don’t know quite what to do when Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke decide to come, too, but the visit goes well for everyone except perhaps a couple of librarians who lost their food to Zeke. A sweet, fun (and librarian-pleasing) entry for the series.

Shhh!Shhh! by Valeri Gorbachev

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A sweet story about how an older brother quiets his toys down for his baby brother’s naptime–and revs them back up when the baby is awake! All three kids liked this, and it was simple but fun.

Five, Six, Seven, Nate!Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first audio book for the YALSA Hub challenge this year, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a continuation, and I haven’t read the first book (Better Nate Than Ever), but Five, Six, Seven, Nate definitely stands on its own. In it, eighth grader Nate Foster heads from a Pittsburgh suburb to Broadway as an ensemble member of “ET: The Musical” and experiences all the ups and downs of being a member of a real Broadway cast. The reader gets a real sense of the theater world and can easily sympathize with Nate’s difficulties. Although he spends a lot of time getting cut from numbers due to poor dance skills, Nate’s flair for learning lines, ability to make (and keep) friends, and passion for the theater carry him through. There’s even some romance.

Author Tim Federle also narrates, and he does a great job–I read on the back blurb that these books are based on his own experiences on Broadway, and you feel like he really identifies with Nate when he reads. He doesn’t quite do Jim Dale-style voices, but he does vary his voice enough (including some very well-done accents) that you can easily tell which character is talking. I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and the audio production of it.

The last is one of the ones I’m reading for the YALSA challenge, but the two I’m reading now (one in print, one on audio) are taking me longer to get through. In audio format, I just got extra time to listen on Five, Six, Seven, Nate because I took a solo trip down to NC. In print, I can tell that bad things are coming for the characters, and that always slows down my reading.

I did finish one of the books I’ve been wanting to read this year, and I can strongly recommend it as very funny and enjoyable (and not even geared just to knitters, like most of her other books):
The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes: Stories of Tidiness, Self-Esteem and Other Things I Gave Up OnThe Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes: Stories of Tidiness, Self-Esteem and Other Things I Gave Up On by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book took me a little while to get into. My first problem was that I bought it in Kindle format, and when the first chapter came up with the title “Thirteen,” I thought the Kindle had simply dropped me in at the wrong spot. Once I figured out that it was just the title of the first chapter, and finished it, I was hooked. While there isn’t as much knitting as in Pearl-McPhee’s other books, the humor is just as great. My personal favorite was the skunk chapter, which had me laughing so hard that I had to retell a modified version to my kids so they’d know what was so funny.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 1/19/15

Still catching up from the end of 2014, this one includes some Christmas stories we enjoyed this year:

Awesome DawsonAwesome Dawson by Chris Gall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Chris Gall has pretty well sewn up being our six-year-old’s current “favorite author.” He specifically requested I get this from the library, because he’d seen it on the book jackets of other Chris Gall books, then spent most of the time we had it poring over it, and basically memorized it. His two younger sisters also thought it was great and deserved multiple rereads. I can’t say it’s my favorite, but I do think Mr. Gall knows his audience!

Dawson is an inventor, but he has to learn to harness his inventing powers for good…Dawson’s best friend, Mooey (a talking cow toy), was especially popular around here.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Jon Agee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one is awesome. It’s similar to another book we’ve loved, where different illustrators offer knock-knock jokes (and I need to check whether the two are from the same publisher), but in this one, each illustrator offers his or her own take on the age-old question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Because it relies so heavily on the illustrations, all three of my kids could soon read it to themselves, and they did–over and over.

I thought it was a cute book, but my favorite part was my six year old identifying all the illustrators and reciting the different books he knew them from–it warmed this librarian-mom’s heart!

I definitely recommend this to anyone with kids who are into jokes, and also anyone who is a fan of children’s book illustrations.

Captain Sky BlueCaptain Sky Blue by Richard Egielski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This unexpected Christmas adventure follows a favorite toy, Captain Sky Blue, when his plane suffers a weather run-in. It’s a little hard to describe, but it has lots of pilot talk (with a glossary at the front, thankfully!), lots of adventure, and a chance to save Christmas. We’ve enjoyed it a lot.

When Christmas CameWhen Christmas Came by Eileen Spinelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute book about who shows up for a Christmas Eve service during a snowstorm. We especially liked the prominent place that the organist was given, although I wish there had been a choir rather than a “soloist.” Will be most enjoyed by other church-goers.

A Season of Gifts (A Long Way from Chicago, #3)A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can never resist Grandma Dowdel. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a couple years now, but I didn’t want to read it except near Christmas, and it always seemed to be checked out. Finally got a copy of the audio book this year, and at a nice, short 3 CD length, finished it quickly. As in A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, Grandma Dowdel (who’s getting quite old–it’s now 1958) continues to live her life without regard for what anyone else thinks, and usually so that everything is arranged to her satisfaction (whether strictly legal or not).

In this installment, though, it’s not one of her grandkids that she’s surprising and leaving speechless, but a neighbor kid, Bob Barnhart and his family. Bob’s dad is the new Methodist minister in town (another reason that I especially enjoyed the book), and the family has not exactly been warmly welcomed. But with some help from Mrs. Dowdel, they are able to settle in and deal with bullies, low church attendance, and a teenage older sister. Bob’s younger sister Ruth Ann’s attachment to Mrs. Dowdel is especially fun to watch.

An excellent quick read (or fun read-aloud) for Christmastime.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 1/5/15

It’s been a good two and half months since I posted some library books, so the next few book posts will be catching up with favorites from that time period…

Goatilocks and the Three BearsGoatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was awesome!! As expected, it’s a retelling of Goldilocks, but I wouldn’t have thought how brilliant a retelling with a goat could be.

What does Goatilocks do with the porridge that’s just right? She eats it! Of course, that’s how the story goes. But what does Goatilocks do with the chair that’s just right? She eats it! Because she’s a goat!

The story goes on, and it’s just as fun throughout…and we had repeated rereadings in our house.

Secret Pizza PartySecret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dragons Love Tacos still remains my favorite book from this author and illustrator duo, but I liked Secret Pizza Party a lot, too, and so did my kids. They especially like the part where you first whisper, and then yell “Secret Pizza Party!!” Anyone who feels affection toward raccoons should also read this (those with personal vendettas against the critters may want to skip it).

Little Owl LostLittle Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We LOVED this one. I had to read it over and over, and I didn’t even mind too much–and eventually the kids memorized it and read it over and over themselves.

Little Owl falls out of his nest, and a squirrel enthusiastically tries to help Little Owl find his mother, based on the owlet’s descriptions of his mother. Squirrel’s enthusiasm outweighs his competence, and he finds several other animals, but no Mother Owl. Luckily, the Frog that Squirrel finds when Little Owl mentions that his mother has big eyes has a bit more sense, and the family is reunited.

The pictures remind me a little of prints or wood cuts, and the colors are darker, but beautiful.

My kids especially liked telling me what animal Squirrel had found on each attempt.

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think I liked steampunk, and then I read Leviathan. I liked Leviathan, but thought I probably didn’t need to finish the trilogy, and then I picked up Behemoth. And Goliath has been just as fun and satisfying a read. I loved the continued adventures of the Leviathan’s crew, and particularly the intertwined stories of Deryn and Alek, but my favorite part in this case may be the dedication: “To everyone who loves a long-secret romance, revealed at last.”

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Library Books Enjoyed, 10/20/14

Gabby and GatorGabby and Gator by James Burks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My kids LOVE this one. Gator is an alligator who was flushed down the toilet as a youngster, lives in the sewers, and guiltily eats dogs to survive. Gabby is a smart, vegetarian, earth-friendly girl who knows what she wants, but doesn’t have any friends who understand her. They become friends pretty instantly, but both Gator’s appetite and the local animal control officer are difficulties that have to be overcome.

Some of the kids’ favorite parts: Gabby’s tuba-playing, Gator’s first dog-eating incident, and scaring off the local bully.

Annie and Snowball and the Dress-up BirthdayAnnie and Snowball and the Dress-up Birthday by Cynthia Rylant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We like Annie and Snowball almost as much as Henry and Mudge around our house, but this one has been a particular hit. Annie plans a “dress-up” birthday with her family, but her idea of dress-up and Henry’s don’t quite match up. The results are both fancy and crazy, and my kids laugh every time.

Dear FishDear Fish by Chris Gall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My six-year-old now has a favorite author, and it’s Chris Gall. This isn’t one of my favorite installments, but my kids have enjoyed the story of fish coming to visit the local town after Peter Alan sends them an invitation in a bottle. Grown-ups and older kids can amuse themselves trying to find the “fish puns” that make up part of the drawings–I haven’t found all 10 yet!

WordGirl: Word Up: Word UpWordGirl: Word Up: Word Up by Anita Serwacki

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, Word Girl. If I did not have such affection for all things PBS, I might be tempted to banish you from my house. But you have entered, and you have conquered my children, especially my superhero-loving-six-year-old boy, and now I am doomed to read you aloud for all eternity. At least each book comes with two separate stories, which can each be read alone.

P.S. For a superhero whose power is vocabulary, you think you’d need more than 2 words per episode to defeat the bad guys!

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Library Books Enjoyed: 10/6/14

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these.

Buy My Hats!Buy My Hats! by Dave Horowitz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a cute story about two aspiring businessmen (well, a business bear and a business fish) who can’t quite figure out the secret of success. In the end, a rainstorm comes to their aid.

We reread this one several times, and I think the kids liked the ads for the protagonists’ competitors and all the conversations taking place on the pictures as much as anything.

Dog vs. CatDog vs. Cat by Chris Gall

My kids LOVED this one. I only thought it was ok at first, but it is one that seems to improve upon multiple (multiple!!) rereads. A classic dog versus cat tale that has forces the two adversaries to join forces against a common enemy. The pictures are really funny, and Mr. Gall completely knows his audience because, a week since returning this to the library, my kids are still calling “I have outdoor privileges!” and cracking up every time. This is also one of the first books to bring home the idea of liking different books by the same author, because my son has retrieved his Dinotrux book and also found another book by Mr. Gall at the library.

A Kiss for Little BearA Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book I had my six-year-old read to me without him having already had it read to him. He did a great job, and it was a fun story to discover together (if I’ve read this one before, it’s been a LONG time). Little Bear sends a picture to his Grandmother via Hen, and Grandmother sends a kiss back the same way. But Hen gets busy and enlists other animals to help send the kiss along. N.’s favorite part was when Frog was getting Cat’s attention to give him the kiss, and mine was when the kiss got stuck with 2 little skunks.

This last one is not a grown-up book, but it’s just one I read for my own interest, not with the kids.

I Kill the MockingbirdI Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t remember where I read a review of this one, but when I came across it at the library, the cover grabbed me. I was not disappointed. The premise (three friends decide to increase interest in the summer reading assignment To Kill a Mockingbird by hiding the book all over their state) is interesting, but it’s really the characterization and the real-life feel/details that make this book.

Some points I especially like:
-The amusing but fond descriptions of the Lucy, Elena, and MIchael’s Catholic school.
-The poignant parts about Lucy’s mom recovering from cancer are good, but not (I think) overdone, and they don’t take over the book.
-The smart, nerdy kids who know they are smart but can laugh at themselves, too.
-The little bit of romance.
-Several of the lines, but in particular, after the three use bus passes to hit bookstores all around Connecticut, “We’d never be able to pull this off in Texas.”

It was both a fun read and a thoughtful read. It’s short, and I don’t think very hard, so I think some older elementary students would enjoy it, but the protagonists are all about to start high school, and the focal point is To Kill a Mockingbird, so it’s best target may be younger middle schoolers. I think it would go over especially well with fans of E.L. Konigsburg.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 8/18/14: First Maryland edition

Our new library is the Harford County Library, and here are some recent picks that we’ve enjoyed from there:

Princesses Are Not Just PrettyPrincesses Are Not Just Pretty by Kate Lum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute story about three princesses who each WANT to be the prettiest, but eventually remember that they have more important things to do. My kids LOVED this one (and I have to say, I liked that one of the princesses was named Princess Libby), and now we need to seek out Lum’s other princess books.

My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A new Gerald and Piggie!! Hooray! Gerald and Snake find out that Piggie and Brian Bat are hitting it off–and then they start to worry that their best friends won’t need them anymore. Another great installment by Willems.

Naughty Kitty. Adam StowerNaughty Kitty. Adam Stower by Adam Stower

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do have ONE gripe about this book, which is that the tiger who appears and gets Lily’s kitty in trouble shouldn’t be quite such a surprise to Lily, since she adopted him at the end of Silly Doggy. Still, Lily’s animal raising skills amused us just as much, if not more, in this new story as in the first, and this is one that I not only reread several times, but that my 6 and 4 year old quickly learned enough to reread by themselves. Cute, funny, and right on target to audience (they especially loved the line, “As for Mom’s carpet, I can’t even talk about that. It was revolting!”

And one adult book (and I was very impressed by how quickly I got this from the holds list):

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this second installment of the Cormoran Strike detective series (yes, I probably wouldn’t have read it if it weren’t written by J.K. Rowling; I have no shame about this). I think I like that it follows the basic hard-boiled detective and green partner pattern, and I love the character development between Strike and Robin, and I LOVE that (at least so far) it has not become a romance. I did tell a friend who is hoping they will get together that there’s still room for it to develop (not least because Robin’s fiancé Matthew seems even less likable in this novel), but I’m still holding out hope that it will just stay a detective-partner relationship.

I thought the murder mystery part was also well done (and that the whodunit was less of a cheat than the first book), but be aware that the murder in this volume is extremely gory and disturbing.

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Books I’ve Enjoyed, 4/3/14

Hey, hey, it’s one year since I started this blog. Not yet to 100 posts, but we’ll celebrate anyway.

I’ve been rotten about keeping up with the books I’m reading with my kids over the last month or two, but I’ve had my own little reading boom, so I’m going to share some of the books I’ve enjoyed recently.

Only one of those came from the library (probably part of my problem with our book collection size…), but I enjoyed each of them nonetheless:

People of the BookPeople of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have had this on my nightstand for years now, and I finally decided that it was getting read…and I’m so glad I did. This book has restored my faith in literary fiction. I think the plotting and writing were beautifully done, but the story was enjoyable and gripping, too, and I did not feel like the whole human race was going to hell in a handbasket when I’d finished. Also, librarians are some of the heroes of the book, so you know it has to be pretty good.

The overarching story follows book conservator Hanna Heath as she is given the once-and-a-lifetime of studying and conserving the famous Sarajevo Haggadah in the 1990s, but then each section follows a different character who was part of the book’s previous history. Although Brooks is very upfront that the story and all the characters are fictional, it is based on some of the history of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, which Brooks learned about in her previous work as a journalist.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard TimesThe Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was quite a book, and having seen the entire first season and part of the second season of the TV show, I enjoyed seeing where the stories matched and where they differed. I enjoyed Worth’s narration of both stories about her patients and life at Nonnatus House, and I didn’t find her occasional judgements about the people she encountered as bothersome as other readers did, because she was honest about her feelings and about her naiveté at the time, and also fairly self-critical about them. It’s still hard to believe that people were having babies my parents’ age in a fashion that seems like it should be older than my great-grandparents, but it certainly was fascinating.

Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s been awhile since I read the first book in the series, but I enjoyed this installment very much. It was nice that I was already interested in both Deryn and Alek (it took me awhile to get into the alternating points of view with Leviathan), and the story certainly kept up the action. Some of the dilemmas that arise from Deryn pretending to be a boy are pretty funny…especially as the reader realizes (likely more than Deryn herself) just how many people are starting to guess that she’s a girl.

 

The Storyteller's Daughter (Once Upon a Time Fairytales)The Storyteller’s Daughter by Cameron Dokey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book in spite of myself. I bought it because it looked interesting (and because I like fairy tale retellings, and didn’t know a whole lot about the Arabian Nights), but when I started it, I felt like the narration was a little too self-conscious, trying a little too hard to create a mystical story aura. Still, the story itself was good enough, and the characters were likable enough, that I was eventually able to forget about the narration and just get lost in the story.

 

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity, #2)Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me awhile to pick this one up because I knew it took place in a concentration camp. My mom and I have discussed how it was easier to read books about the Holocaust before and, in her case (and hopefully mine, once I get there!), after our kids were young–but I’m still right in the young-kid stage. What strikes me reading this book now was how Rose was not yet okay at the end of the book, even though you know pretty early on that she survives and you get the sense that she will eventually be okay. Also, the fact that her mother doesn’t get to see her afterwards, and may not even know what she’s gone through…as bad as it is, I think I’d want to know what my daughter’s been through.

But all that aside, it’s an excellent book, you can tell Wein has thoroughly done her research, and Rosie and her friends are heroines worth rooting for.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 3/13/14

No theme today…

Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild!Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may have been one I chose more for me than for the kids…but nevertheless, they enjoyed it and we read it several times!! It’s a sweet story about children trying not to make messes and parents trying not to yell when they do anyway.

The Story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: A Roman Constellation MythThe Story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: A Roman Constellation Myth by Cari Meister

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My five-year-old found this, and it’s one that parents will want to preview before sharing with young kids. I thought that the story was well presented and it was easy enough to gloss over adult topics…however, like many other Greco-Roman myths, this story about the nymph Callisto and Jupiter/Zeus involves trickery, adultery, unwed pregnancy, revenge, and a near-miss on matricide. It certainly makes a riveting story about how the bear constellations got where they are, though!

No Roses for Harry!No Roses for Harry! by Gene Zion

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We love Harry the Dirty Dog, and when we saw this one that I don’t remember seeing before, we got it right away. This was a funny story about Harry getting a hand-knit sweater…with roses that he does not like! The solution to Harry’s problem is a bit far-fetched, but fun. The kids loved Harry, and I loved the knitting connection.

Benny and Penny in The Big No-No!Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one that I would probably like better if my kids didn’t like it quite so well. We have read this at least a million times in the last week. All three kids like it, too, which means that while we have consensus on what to read, we then have arguments over who gets to look at the book after we are done reading it together. (Obviously, Hayes knows his audience.)

On the upside, even the two-year-old is reading this to herself (she is particularly expressive with the raspberry and the crying sound effects), and it is short enough to stand up to multiple read-alouds without completely exhausting the reader. Also, I feel like it is easier to read aloud than many other graphic novels–it just seemed to flow better, without having to vocalize the action that’s going on–so that was a nice feature.

And one grown-up (well, YA) book:

Now I'll Tell You Everything (Alice, #25)Now I’ll Tell You Everything by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was prepared by a previous review for this book to be a little longer than it needed to be, and I think I agree with that assessment. It makes me re-think my disappointment at not getting enough details at the end of other series (i.e. Harry Potter). On the one hand, it was fun to have an author who cares so much about her readers that she really did give them “everything” about the rest of Alice McKinley’s life. On the other, it’s impossible to make all that information as intimate and readable as Naylor did with earlier Alice books. I started to feel like the book would have been stronger if it had stopped after a key event (I would choose Alice’s wedding, but there were several other places that could have worked) and just given us the last scene as a kind of epilogue. I was also slightly disappointed at the title…Naylor tells us in the afterword that it was originally Always Alice, and I like that one better.

With all this complaining, I need to end by saying that I still really liked the book (I gave it 4 stars, after all!), and it felt like Alice’s adult life went the way I would expect, and want it to go. I was especially happy to read about her wedding and her career path–both turned out the way I’d hoped they would!

I think most fans of the Alice series will really enjoy this finale–I certainly did.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 3/6/14: Nutcracker Edition

Because March is the perfect time to read about the Nutcracker, right?

Actually, the Nutcracker has been a slight obsession with my five-year-old since watching excerpts in his music class at school (of course, this happened right after we decided the kids were not yet old enough to be worth taking them to the Nutcracker in person!!). About midway through January, he started asking to check out Nutcracker books at the library. I thought a few weeks of this were in store, but we’re going on about 5 or 6 weeks now with no end in sight. As a result, we and anyone else who’s interested will have a thorough critical review of Nutcracker books available from the Durham Public Library before next Christmas rolls around. A book gets bonus points if N. really liked the portrayal of the Rat King (but they get actual star increases in the ratings if I didn’t mind reading them ad infinitum). Here’s the first installment:

The NutcrackerThe Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyway, this is my favorite of the ones we’ve checked out…Jeffers specifies that she wanted to do a version that was short enough for young readers/listeners (and as a parent who likes short bedtime stories, I am SO grateful), and that basically follows the plot line of the ballet (over that of the original fairy tale). Check and check. Add in Jeffers’ beautiful pictures (she also illustrates the McDuff books by Rosemary Wells) and we’ve got a crowd-pleasing winner.

Tallulah's NutcrackerTallulah’s Nutcracker by Marilyn Singer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing in the Nutcracker vein…this one follows Tallulah (apparently the star of a series!) as she plays a mouse in a production of the Nutcracker. The kids enjoyed it, I got to reminisce about also playing a mouse in the Nutcracker, and I thought it did a decent job of showing what it might like to be backstage in a ballet production (minus the egos of the ballet bigwigs, though).

The NutcrackerThe Nutcracker by Michael Hague

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those long versions that made me so thankful for Susan Jeffers’ version of the story. The kids loved it, and thankfully we had it checked out when my parents were visiting, so my father valiantly read it over and over again in my stead. I think the full tale is quite interesting, but once a week is plenty for me to read something this long aloud…the pictures are great, too, and my five-year-old was quite satisfied with the portrait of the seven-headed Rat King.

Ella Bella Ballerina and The NutcrackerElla Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker by James Mayhew

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Nutcracker story was an interesting mix of the fairy tale and a “child in a ballet” version. Ella Bella (who apparently stars in other ballet books…I didn’t realize how many ballet series are out there until we started looking for Nutcracker stories! In this one, Ella Bella and her ballet class are having a Christmas party, but when Ella goes to get her teacher’s music box, the music magically transports her (or is she just imagining things?) into the story of the Nutcracker. The Rat King made a sufficient appearance to please the five year old, and although we’ve only had the book for 24 hours, I’ve already been asked to read it 3 times, so I think it’s a success. It’s not as short as the Jefferson version, but it’s a lot shorter than the Hague version, so I’m ok with it, too.

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