Tag Archives: book review

This is NOT our normal toilet paper.

It looked like the toilet paper that I normally buy. It was the same brand, same packaging . . . I didn’t even read the label. It had been a long day of errands, and this was my last one. With two kids running around the store like maniacs, it was time to go. I just didn’t realize that when we got home and it was time to go, that we would have a problem on our hands.

Growing up, there was one rule in our house: “Don’t buy cheap toilet paper.” And I was grateful for that rule. Now as a mother, I try to live by it as well. Until, that is, Aldis changed their packaging.

My son put the toilet paper away. It’s his one big responsibility and he LOVES stacking the rolls in the bottom cupboard. So I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late.

“Bogies, mum…” said my 3-year-old, arms at his sides–we’re trying to teach him not to use his shirt, or his arm as a tissue.

“Okay, hold on,” I said.

As I went to grab some TP, I was not greeted with the soft, two-ply, quilted delight that is usually there. This was worse than the toilet paper you find in mall bathrooms. This was one-ply, rough, falls apart, awful.

I went to the trash and checked the packaging. It was the same brand, but it was NOT our normal toilet paper. And now we had a LOT of it because when it’s only one-ply there is a lot more paper on each roll.

I’m pretty frugal, so I thought, “Hey, we can handle this. It’s just TP, right? Nothing to get upset about.” But it’s been over two months with this horrible and never ending cache of toilet paper. Our family will persevere. We will get through this. And from now on, I will take the time to make sure I get the right TP.

 

In honor of going, my new book review is Even Firefighters Go to the Potty by Wendy Wax and Naomi Wax with illustrations by Stephen Gilpin.

Firefighters Potty

This book had the kids and I laughing very hard because, let’s face it, what preschooler or toddler isn’t obsessed with bathroom humor? The premise is pretty simple. Adults from different professions are mysteriously missing. As you lift each flap, you see that they are in the potty.

This was a nice sturdy flap book, but it is not for the faint of heart, or the mom who is so tired of hearing the word poop, and jokes about poop, and kids talking about poop nonstop…that she just might scream. This book encourages dialogue about the bathroom, and all that it entails.

My little guy is already potty-trained, so I can’t say for certain that it would help with that. It might make it less scary to think that even people as brave as firefighters, pilots, and astronauts use the potty.

So if you’re ready for lots of giggles, especially about the train engineer’s locomotive themed underwear, then this book is for you.

 

 

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Expectations

I have a mantra, and it goes like this:

I will not worry, obsess, or dwell on the things, people, or situations I cannot change.

There’s another saying that goes something like “you can’t change the situation, only your perception of it.” Then there’s that one about having no control over anyone’s actions but your own.

What I’ve found, though, is that it all boils down to expectations.

Sometimes what you want isn’t what you get because what the other person has to give doesn’t meet your expectations. Maybe it’s better to change your expectations because sometimes what the other person is giving is more than they ever thought they could.

This isn’t about lowering standards, like the skit from MadTV. It’s more about empathy and understanding. It’s about being grateful, and working to make yourself a better person outside of the situations you find yourself in.

It’s becoming a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. And when I reflect on past conflict, it mostly comes from ME expecting too much. Too much from myself, and definitely too much from my family and friends.

You have to meet people where they are at, and not expect them to know where you’re coming from or where you’re going. Because they are coming from and going to their own places. Places that are sometimes filled with conflict outside of your own.

I have one more mantra that I sometimes use:

Don’t throw dirt in my hole because I already throw enough on myself.

Okay, so maybe that one’s not as profound as the others. But if you dig yourself into  a hole that you created, that means you’re the one that should dig yourself out. So you better find a large, durable shovel.

As a mother this becomes all too apparent when it comes to scheduling. Especially when you run a small independent publishing house that just took on two new authors. This on top of your mom duties, wife duties, daughter duties, friend duties. Then you buy a house. Next up it’s being the maid of honor at your sister’s wedding. Now it’s time for your husband to start school, then your oldest kiddo starts Kindergarten.

Let’s just say life is full of dirt. It must be time for a bigger shovel.

 

My review for this week is appropriately titled Dig by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha with illustrations by Marc Rosenthal

Dig

This great board book is fantastic for your little ones that are obsessed with construction. And I know there are a lot of them out there. I have two myself.

In Dig, Mr. Rally and his dog, Lightning, have five jobs to do. As they go to each site to complete their tasks, they:

Dig up rock and dig up clay! Dig up dirt and dig all day!

This book has all the elements of a great beginner children’s book. There is counting, rhyming, and a repetitive rhythm that will have your little one “reading” along in no time. The illustrations are bright and offer little things for your child to discover along the way.

The accountability of hardwood floors

We recently moved from an apartment completely covered in carpet (with tile in the kitchen and bathroom) to a house completely covered in beautiful hardwood floors. I’m guessing that there are at least a few of you that know what’s coming next . . .

Hardwood floors are always dirty and dusty and the little balls of lint that float around the corners drive me nuts!

I’m not naive enough to think that this dust and dirt and lint didn’t exist in my carpets (and I am, only now, a little disgusted thinking about it), but now I see it. I see it while I’m gathering laundry, and I sweep. I see it while I’m reading stories, so I sweep. I see it after doing dishes, and I . . .

IGNORE IT.

Because let’s face it, there are a lot of other things I’d rather be doing than sweeping.

But there’s an accountability here, and I am thankful for it in some ways. The dirt isn’t hiding in the carpet, it’s out in the open. And that forces me to look it in the eyes and either say, “Your time is up, it’s time to sweep.” or “Okay, you can stay for now, nasty puff-balls of lint. I am going to jump on the trampoline with my kids.”

Sometimes we need hardwood floors in our lives.

IsLenaPretty

My book review for this week is one that I won in a Facebook giveaway. And I’m SO glad that I did!

Is Lena Pretty? by Liza Dora is one of those books that has an important lesson to teach, but doesn’t say it in a preachy way. It is also very age appropriate and very approachable. This book is a wonderful tool for teaching character.

It’s important to mention that this is NOT a rhyming book. Don’t get me wrong, I love a whimsical, sing-songy rhyming book. I even write children’s poetry—and yes, it usually rhymes. But it isn’t always necessary.

This book is a breath of fresh air. The illustrations are simple and fit the text nicely. I love what author Liza Dora signed in the front of our copy:  “Smart is the new pretty. And who says you can’t be both?! Keep being kind, and smart, and helpful, and keep reading!”

I really loved this book. And I hope that our household can be accountable for teaching these standards of beauty.

Momma smiles. “If I told you someone was smart, helpful, kind, talented, and brave, would you think they were pretty?”

Lena thinks for a minute before she answers: “I’d think they were beautiful.”

Visit Liza Dora’s website to get your very own copy of Is Lena Pretty? http://www.lizadora.com/books/shop/

 

Happy Birthday Mom

We’ve all had that moment as a mom when you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and try to get through the next 5 minutes. I know my mom did. And I know this because I just did the EXACT same thing I saw her do a million times when I was a kid.

Yes, the fear that every daughter has is slowly coming true: I am becoming my mother. And in a lot of ways, I consider myself one lucky daughter.

My mom is an amazing person, and an especially awesome grandma.

She is the one who began my love of reading, and now she is encouraging my kids to start the same journey. Just as she does so many young readers as the children’s librarian in my home town.

So on this day, her most special of days, I wanted to share a few of my favorite books from my childhood:

 

And, I want to add one more special book (which has come back to haunt me).

Planetanimals: Mission Zapton.

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I loved this book when I was little, begging my mom to read it to me over and over. And now, I find myself trudging through it with my little ones. The only problem is that it’s surprisingly awful, completely strange, and hardly makes any sense. The worst part is that it is REALLY long. Thank you mom for suffering through this one, and reading with me, and encouraging me to read on my own. Although the last one might have been a selfish excuse to not read this book anymore.

Happy Birthday, I love you.

 

 

Reality

I remember a few year ago, a friend on Facebook posted pictures of her two young kids watching Finding Nemo. They were finally beginning to understand the seriousness of what was really happening. This was no longer a colorful movie where fish spend their days in the happy ocean, swimming around and meeting other fish friends.

This was chaos! This was underwater Armageddon!

Mothers were being gobbled up! Children were being separated from their parents! Shark attacks! A deadly girl in braces was killing fish!

Reality had come crashing in.

I had a similar moment as a child with Bambi.  They always show the cute little skunk when promoting this epic disaster/horror movie. “You can call me Flower, if you want to…” It was all so deceiving, so traumatizing . . . when reality strikes.

My husband bravely admitted that his movie/reality moment came with Charlotte’s Web.

And now, while our two-year-old is dancing and laughing through the “scary” parts, our five-year-old has a look of terror–actual TERROR–in her eyes, plus the trembling lip, the tears, etc. Every kid’s movie from Hoodwinked to the Little Mermaid, even Barbie and the Dream House (yes, scared of certain parts in a BARBIE movie), along with several episodes of The Octonauts are now off limits.

Knock Knock.

Who is it?

Reality.

Um, Reality who?

Just answer the door, lady. 

There is only one way to get through this stage. Patience, of course, and a good dose of Dinosaur Train (which, right now, is the only TV show that both kids can agree on). I find it funny that just as reality is setting in, my five-year old is obsessed with a show where all species of dinosaur happily co-exist, discuss their different features, and ride a train together through different parts of the Mesozoic Era using glittery time tunnels. Maybe there is a little room left for imagination?

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In honor of reality, my book for this week comes from our family’s new favorite author, Patrick McDonnell (who has actually been around for a long time). Mr. McDonnell is the creator of the comic strip, Mutts. His characters are crazy-cute. But what my family really loves are the stories. We originally fell in love with his book, Art. And now, A Perfectly Messed-Up Story. (We just picked up two more of his children’s books at the library today.)

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is all about Louie, who is going merrily through his day until a giant blob of jam suddenly ends up on the pages of his story. Then some peanut butter. Then some fingerprints. And then (gasp!) crayon marks. The premise of the book is that even when life is a bit messed up, the show (or story) must go on. And it’s not usually as bad as you thought it was going to be.

My kids’ favorite part is when Louie freaks out. They also really enjoyed the fact that the messed-up parts look like real things. (Note the paper towel, which my daughter tried to peel off of the book–without success.)

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If you have not discovered the children’s books of Patrick McDonnell, A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is a great place to start!

Chasing a girl on a bike down a hill

It was like a scene from a movie. We were having a family evening at the park, I was pushing our little guy on his trike, and my husband was getting our four-year-old helmeted up and ready to ride her bike. It’s been a summer filled with trips to the pool, learning to be a fish. Most days it was too hot to go to the park and ride her bike. She hadn’t gone for a cruise on her cool Princess two-wheeler in a while.

Then there was that moment. That slo-motion, watching-in-horror moment that freezes you.

My husband and daughter caught up to us quickly, with him on his skateboard (where he sometimes hitches a ride like Marty in BACK TO THE FUTURE) and she on her bike. They got ahead of us quickly, cruising side by side. I only looked away for a moment. When I looked back, I saw my husband disappear full-speed down a steep grassy hill, running like mad. My daughter was nowhere to be seen. As my son and I hurried down the path to where they had last been seen, I watched as my husband sprinted after our daughter as she bombed down the hill, holding tight, feet no longer on the pedals. She was heading full-speed towards a very large, very sturdy tree, and picking up speed.

All ended well, but that was a close call.

As we explained (once again) how the brakes on her bike worked, I looked closely at her face. I quickly noticed that there wasn’t any fear . . . only excitement. She had absolutely no idea that she was about to crash head-first into a tree (and possibly inadvertently aiming straight for it). She didn’t see the panic/relief on her father’s face, didn’t know that he was about to kick off his shoes (loosely laced Converse) so that he could run even faster, and was even contemplating diving to catch her as the tree approached. All she knew was that she went fast, really, really fast, down a steep grassy hill!

That was when the panic in her mother’s face set in. How am I supposed to catch her as she plummets into life? How can I warn her about the “trees” without killing the excitement of going fast? Because let’s be honest…going fast is the best part!

Our fearless little girl is about to turn five. She started preschool this year, and I want so badly to slow down time. But that’s not an option. So for now, we run full-speed to catch her, to keep her safe, and protected. But we let her explore, we let her go fast, and we let her learn. All this in hope that the lessons along the way come together, and she can learn to slow down, or at least go around the trees.

My review this week is Crab Cab (Flip-A-Word Series) by Harriet ZiefertYukiko Kido

Crab Cab

This is an amazing book for teaching early readers to sound out words. The book is divided into three word families, -ab, -ot, and -it. Each page is either divided in half or has a peeking hole to foreshadow the next word. The best part was that after only one reading, my four-year-old could sound out/read the entire book by herself! The second best part was found in the “-ot” family and featured a witch blowing her nose into a cauldron . . . the “Snot Pot.” My two kids loved this book! Early reader books are abundant, but this one was a definite success. And we are going to go on the hunt for more on our next trip to the library.

Time

My daughter is obsessed with time. She is forever asking “What time is it?” Then, hardly a minute later, “What time is it now?” We even bought her a watch, to help with her curiosity about time…but since she’s still working on her numbers, and working on telling time on her digital princess watch, it’s much easier for her to just ask mom.

Today, though, I started to ask myself if her obsession with time is merely a reflection of mine?

I, mom, am constantly setting the (theoretical) timer. “In five minutes, it will be your brother’s turn.”  “In ten minutes, it will be time for bed.” “Five more minutes of TV and that’s it!” Or at the park, there is the countdown until it is time to leave.

The “countdown” technique is awesome because it slowly prepares them for something unpleasant that is fast approaching. Then there’s time to share, time for bed, and time to go home. Time to “share” seems to cause the most battles. Even time to go home usually plays out better. But sharing?

But then time comes back into play when it is time for an appointment:  “Come on guys, we only have ten minutes until we have to be at the doctor’s office!” I usually find myself saying this when it’s at least at 15-20 minute drive to whichever doctor we’re going to today.

These are the hours and minutes in our day. And now that kindergarten is almost here, my five-year-old sponge understands that we also have days, and weeks, and months. Even years.

All of this time, time, time. But with so much to do, I swear most days it feels like I get nothing done.

Today, I wished that there was a way to slow down time. Not because I had so much to do (I did, but that’s nothing new), but because I realized that time was running out.

When I was pregnant, I was warned, time and time again, by many “seasoned” mothers, that time goes by SO fast. But I didn’t understand until today.

As I was watching my two kiddos paint together, it suddenly hit me that this season of their life (and ours) is so very short. Soon these little people will be big people. How crazy is that going to be? I will still be their Mom, yeah sure. But I won’t have magical healing kisses or be able to blow their minds with my ability to make a bubble out of chewing gum.

So for now, I set the timer to count the minutes, and spend my days living in the wonderful chaos, frustration, and beauty that is this gift of motherhood.

I guess it’s like the Shel Silverstein poem, How Many, How Much.

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How much time you have in a day? Depends on how you spend it.

And now, from an obsession with time to time for fun, my book review for this week is What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night: A Very Messy Adventure by Refe TumaSusan Tuma

DinosaursDidLastNight

This book is amazing! My kids read it over and over and over again. And I don’t mind one bit. The concept is pretty simple: all of those crazy things that happen around your house, be it a mess in the kitchen or art on the walls . . . the dinosaurs did it!

The pictures in this book are definitely the best part. Creators Refe and Susan Tuma have ingeniously used toy dinosaurs with real-life props to create photographs that are hilarious. There are tiny things to discover on every page that will have your kids giggling and pointing and taking the story far beyond the words on each page.

PS– as I was writing this, my son saw the cover picture, and immediately said that it was time to go to the library so we can check this book out again. A must-read, I think.

Reading books with no words . . .

You’ve probably read, or at least heard about The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. If you haven’t, I would definitely recommend it. It’s silly and fun, and also a bit of a novelty because, let’s face it, most children’s books have pictures!

But this blog is actually about the alternate universe of Mr. Novak’s book: picture books with no words. Every time we check one out from the library, I’m surprised by how much my kids LOVE them. Dr. Joanne Meier in her blog about reading Sound it Out, says that reading books without words helps to develop many literacy skills including: listening, speaking, storytelling, vocabulary, comprehension, story structure, inference, cause and effect, and many more.

There are probably thousands of books out there with no actual printed words, but these are a few of our family’s favorites.

With two super-reader kids who check out probably 20 books per visit to the library, I’ve seen my fair share of children’s books. The biggest surprises tend to be how often the books with no words end up chosen at story time. It started with  Bow Wow Bugs a Bug by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash. The first time we read that one, I thought it would go back in the bag, never to be seen again. Wow, was I ever wrong! Not only did we read it everyday, we exhausted our renewals, took it back to the library, and checked it out again the next time we went to the library.

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Next up, The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller. This one is a looong one, people. And because it has no words, the story can literally take an hour to read. This might be why this one is a favorite, because what kid doesn’t want to delay bedtime?

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Thunderstorm by Arthur Geisert was a favorite of my two-year-old son, who does not sit still for much of anything. He would stare at the pictures in this book for a VERY long time, though. I think it’s because there are a lot of hidden animals and trucks/tractors. It’s one continuous illustration, and it’s fun to find the connecting points from page to page. (He actually came in while I was typing this, saw the picture, and we had to talk about it all over again. He told me he, “Miss at the library. We see it again.” I guess I know what will be in our bag next time.

thunderstorm

Finally, Journey by Aaron Becker was a recommendation from my mother, who is a children’s librarian. The illustrations are magnificent, and the ways in which you can “tell” the story are endless. I suppose there is a reason why this one is a Caldecott Honor Book.

Journey_Aaron-Becker

What’s your favorite book with no words?

Fight Song

We all have one song that gets us pumped. My new anthem is Rachel Platten’s Fight Song. Seriously, there are days when in-between getting laundry done, making meals, making snacks, breaking up the 101 scuffles that happen on any given day, making more meals and more snacks, and basically just trying to hold it all together, that nothing can keep me going like the perfect song.

Imagine that you have two different volume dials in your brain. Just turn the chaos down to zero, and then crank your anthem to eleven! Sometimes I even picture myself in my own music video for said anthem . . . call me crazy . . .

Yes, sometimes life can be overwhelming, but sometimes I agree with the mom I overheard at the grocery store when she said to her four-year-old, “Let’s just do what we have to do to get through this.” I will add, “Even if it means starring in your own “in your head” music video.”

So what’s your fight song? Maybe we can start a playlist?

This week’s review is Prisoner 88. It is a “loosely based on a true story” book about a ten-year-old boy who is found guilty of murder in 1885 and sent to an adult prison. He might not have had an anthem, but he was a fighter.

I was a bit surprised at how much I liked this book. The main character, Jake Oliver, has a, never-give-up, matter-of-fact spirit that is both endearing, frustrating, and inspiring, I think it’s the perfect read for kids and adults alike.

The only downside to this book is that it’s written in a bit of an accent, that takes some time to get into. This type of writing can be difficult for younger readers, but I think that the characters and the situations are drawn so clearly that the accent becomes secondary. 

There were just so many levels to this book, and each one helped to build it into something that left me feeling hopeful and encouraged.

http://leahpileggi.com/books/prisoner_88

Hats

My kids, like most, have a dress-up collection that includes everything from old Halloween costumes to scarves to miscellaneous scraps of junk that find themselves repurposed into everything from lasers to magic wands. Then there are the hats. So many hats. Watching my daughter try on almost all of her hats (at the same time, of course) made me start to think about the different “hats” that I wear.

Wife, mother, children’s author, cover designer, editor, avid reader . . . these are a few of the hats that I wear. And now I add “Blogger” to the mix. The strange thing about the blogging hat is that I’ve had to find my own voice. It may seem strange that an author wouldn’t have her own voice, but I’m finding my voice outside of the hats that I put on. I’m finding MY voice, and as I continue to blog and share what I love–my family, reading books, creating books, designing book covers–I’m finding that my voice is becoming this strange combination of everything that I do. I know you more enlightened folks out there might be crying, “Duh!” But I’m guessing there are a few others looking for their voice, as well.

Sometimes we get lost in choosing a hat, and forget completely about the head we’re putting it on.

I initially thought that I would make this blog very formulaic: funny kid story, bit of wisdom, then a book review. But it’s becoming more about who I am as a person, a person who wears many hats that sometimes feel too small, yet are usually too big, but occasionally fit just right.

I recently finished the first installment from Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories series, The Wishing Spell. I REALLY wanted to LOVE this book. It had everything going for it, all the action and adventure and lightning fast pace that I usually enjoy in a middle grade book.

This weeks Book Review:

Last week, I reviewed Rump by Liesl Shurtliff, which I found be  formulaic but enjoyable. This week I finished The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (of Glee fame), and I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately, The Wishing Spell fell into a cliched and predictable pattern. I REALLY wanted to LOVE this book. It had everything going for it, all the action and adventure and lightning fast pace that I usually enjoy in a middle grade book, but I just did not like it.

Then I realized something.

I don’t think I was supposed to like this book. This is a middle grade book that is written for–gasp!–middle grade kids. This book is for kids who are just discovering fairytale retellings. It is written in a very approachable way. While I, personally, found it over descriptive and REALLY predictable, I’m guessing that a fifth grader would be totally immersed in Colfer’s new telling of some very familiar tales and characters. I also think they would completely relate to the two central characters, Conner and Alex, who literally fall into The Land of Stories.

(My mom is a children’s librarian. She recommended this book to me, mostly because they couldn’t keep it on the shelf. Kids are checking it out like crazy. And I am always 100% for any book that gets kids reading!)

So as far as hats that fit “just right” . . . The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell was not the book for me. However, it wasn’t written with thirty-something moms in mind. It was written with middle schoolers in mind, and they will think it’s um, like, you know, totally awesome n’stuff…