There is something about that perfect shade of ballet pink that makes me happy. It reminds me of the years I spent in dance class as a kid. I loved it! When I was searching for books to put in this list, it made me really happy to find a level of diversity that I might not have found five years ago. I'm especially excited about the picture book biography of ballet super-star, Misty Copeland. I'm so glad kids can read about the barriers she has busted down!
Summer is almost over, and we are having one more big beach bash before we say goodbye to running through the sprinkler and wedges of watermelon for lunch and say hello to school books and lunch boxes. Thanks to Disney Hyperion for sending me a copy of this adorable book!
This is the second book for Vampirina. In her first book, Vampirina Ballerina, we meet our main character, a little vampire girl who wants very much to be a ballet dancer but has never taken a class before. When she goes to the ballet school, she is definitely not your average student and does things her own way.
In Vampirina At The Beach, Vampirina is going to the beach with her family and friends for a night of beachy fun. They do all the things everyone does at the beach - building sand castles, splashing in the ocean waves, roasting marshmallows by the fire, but these beach-goers do things their own monstery way. The combination of the familiar beach summer scene and the monsters of all shapes and sizes produces really fun results! It reminds me of a modern, kiddy version of the tv show, The Munsters. Every time I read this book, I can't help but hear the Munsters theme music.
What's story time without snacks?! We made some pretty pink and purple sea monster cookies to munch while we read today. I like my recipes super, duper simple, and my monster cookies are made easily with the work of an octopus shaped cookie cutter. Once you have made up your favorite sugar cookie dough and given it whatever bright color you want, cut the dough with the octopus cutter, and bake. After they are baked and while they are still hot on the baking sheet, stick on several candy eyes.
Hi there Booktomato family! How is your week going? We are in full lunch box packing-homework writing-teacher meeting-it's a school night so you need to get in bed now mode over here. What about you?
Today's book, There's a Bear on My Chair, is written by super-talented and super-prolific children's author, Ross Collins. A full list of his works would be way too long for this post, so if you want to read more of his books (and there are some really, really good ones!) check out his website here.
So what is a mouse to do when a bear comes and sits in his chair and he just will not move? He begs. He pleads. He bribes, but the bear will not budge. The solution? Go get in the bear's bed! This story is so cute, and my three year old loved it. It has the simplicity and humor that I feel so many of the classic picture books have. Also, any book that says the word "underwear" is the height of comedy for my kids. This is sure to be a classic!
Hello there, and welcome to Booktomato! My kids have been going through a big dragon phase for quite a while now which is great because there are so many awesome dragon books! Take a look at this one.
If you are brave enough to acquire a dragon egg, and are patient enough to wait out the three year hatching period, well, you are going to have a pretty high maintenance pet on your hands! This manual will assist you in your dragon care. It contains everything from how to care for dragon teeth, dragon exercise, their need to eat every thirty minutes, and their love of calming music. And you thought house-training your puppy was bad. . . . .
Are you a Beatles fan? Here is a book that you absolutely NEED in you collection - The Beatles Were Fab (And They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer with pictures by Stacy Innerst.
"From the time they got together as lads until they became superstars, the Fab Four made music, made history, and made people laugh."
There are about one million books about the Beatles. Why do you need one more, right? Well, I feel like if you are going to write a book on a well-worn subject like the Beatles, you need to find a unique take on the subject, and this book definitely does that. The story follows the same line of following the Fab Four through their climb to fame and the pop charts, but what makes it different from other Beatles books is its focus on humor and how important the ability to laugh and make jokes was to the band. As the title says, the Beatles were really, really funny people. This is a great read for Beatles fans, but I think there is a lesson in there somewhere for us all, too. Laughter and a good sense of humor is so valuable in helping us enjoy the good moments and survive the bad moments.
Recommended age group: 6 and up
This portion of my post contains affiliate links which means that I might get a small fee at no cost to you if you purchase something from the page. This does not influence my opinion stated here and helps keep my blog going. Thanks!
If reading this book has sparked Beatlemania in your little one, here are some cute things I found that celebrate all things Paul, John, George, and Ringo!
Hi there! Welcome to Booktomato today! There are so many classic mousey book characters, so this is not even close to a conclusive list. However, here are a few of our favorite picture books and early chapter books about those cheese-loving, whisker-twitching, furry friends - mice!
Today's book list is all about CAKE! Who doesn't love a big piece of chocolate cake? Or strawberry cake? Or caramel cake? Or coconut cake? Mmmmmm . . .Wait, what were we talking about?
Books about cake!
Do you have a little ballerina in your life? One that lives in her tutu and leotard even when it isn't a dance lesson day? Do you know a child, especially a little boy, that thinks that they can't dance or don't belong in a ballet class? You need to read Dance is For Everyone by Andrea Zuill.
This story is about what happens when a 450 pound alligator shows up in a ballet class one day and wants to learn to dance. At first, the students and teacher don't know what to think or do. They'd never had such a different type of student in their dance school before. The alligator, later named Tanya, is so enthusiastic about ballet and so happy to dance that everyone overlooks their differences and looks for ways to work together to put on the best ballet show ever!
We loved everything about this book. The story is really funny. (Have you ever seen an alligator try to do a ballet twirl?) I love the message of inclusiveness and acceptance, especially at the end, when instead of changing the alligator to fit in with the class, the class learns to find a place for Tanya's strengths.
Andrea Zuill's illustration style is so charming and adds so much character and humor to the story. This is Andrea's second children's book. If you want to learn more about the author and her books, check out her website here.
Where do you stand on practical jokes? There is one camp that stands firmly on the side of a joke is a joke is a joke, and everyone should just laugh it off no matter what. There is the other camp on the side of sometimes jokes can be taken too far, and the situation becomes more mean than funny. What do you think? If I'm being honest, I'm probably not the biggest fan of practical jokes. They always strike me as a bit mean-spirited, and I feel uncomfortable laughing at someone else's expense.
In the new book by now-beloved duo, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, two friends learn what it means to play a practical joke on a friend and what it means to take that joke too far.
Triangle and Square are two friends in a world of shapes. Triangle plays a trick on Square. Square is afraid of snakes, and triangle pretends to be a snake. It scared Square, but he gets his friends back by playing a trick on Triangle. Kids will enjoy the funny parts of this book. I have mixed emotions about this one. I love this author/illustrator duo's style, but I have some reservations about the story. I was having a conversation on Instagram about the story, and someone brought up a good point. The story focus is overall negative, and it seems like the friends play mean jokes on each other without learning to treat each other kindly in the end. Food for thought. Speaking of food . . . . . we made cookies!!!
We made some story-themed snacks today. Y'all know that I have a Pinterest board with one million ways to cook and craft, but at the end of the day, I love a project that needs no Pinterest pin but instead can be put together in ten minutes with minimal fuss. These cookies/brownies are that minimal fuss project that will go perfectly with your Triangle reading.
What you need:
- your favorite chocolate cookie dough or brownie recipe/mix (I used Dorie Greenspan's famous and delicious World Peace Cookies recipe.)
- candy eyes
- Nutella or melted chocolate
What to do:
- bake cookies/brownies according to the recipe.
- cut into triangles. (you could cut into triangles and then bake, but every time I do this, i get more triangle blobs instead of crisp-edged shapes. It's up to you.)
- use the Nutella or melted chocolate to adhere the eyes to the cookie/brownie.
- enjoy your Mac Barnett creations!
This summer, my family and I did something CRAZY. Crazy, I tell you. We loaded up in our car, waved goodbye to our family and friends, and completed a thirty one hour road trip across the southwest US. You read that right. Thirty one hours of "I Spy", spilled snacks in the back seat, sibling squabbles, and songs on the radio. Our stuffed-to-the-max car started its journey in our hometown, Memphis, TN, and made stops in Sedona Arizona to see the giant, almost Martian red rock formations, Monterey in California to watch sea otters relaxing in kelp beds, and Los Angeles for my husband and kids to ride bikes along Venice Beach and for me to attend my very first conference for writers and illustrators of children's books hosted by the SCBWI organization. I learned so much about what it means to be a children's author, and I also got to meet some amazingly talented new authors to share with you! I also got to be in the same room as the legendary Judy Blume!!! She was interviewed by the conference chair. See proof below.
Here are a few of the books I took back home with me from the conference. I'm loving them right now.
Dance is For Everyone by Andrea Zuill
In this book, anyone and everyone can learn to dance ballet, little bodies, big bodies, tall bodies, short bodies, brown bodies, white bodies, boy bodies, girl bodies, even a giant (and maybe a tad bit clumsy) alligator body. I loved this book from the moment I saw it because the alligator is so adorable! I love, love the author's illustration style. I was also drawn to this book because of the inclusion of boys in the ballet classroom in the book and the book's theme of inclusion when it comes to whether or not ballet is a "girl sport". I've mentioned before how my four year old boy is really interested in taking a dance class but has on several occasions told me that he can't take one because "ballet is for girls only". Well, that simply not true! Boys can dance ballet too. I love that this book shows little boys and little girls that as the title says, dance is for everyone.
Eat Sleep Poop by Alexandra Penfold and Jane Massey
Are you in the process of prepping your child for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister? This is the book for you! When my second child was born, my first born son was kind of disappointed by him at first. Babies don't do anything besides eat, sleep, and poop, and he was expecting someone to play soccer with in the front yard. This bright and happy little book is funny and sweet and would be a great way to prep older siblings on what to expect when baby comes home!
Here is a picture of me fan-girling out when I met fabulous illustrator, Leuyen Pham! My son loves her work in The Boy Who Loved Math, and I love her for her work in Vampirina Ballerina.
UPDATE: It's hard to believe, but my kids go back to school in less than two weeks! I am ready/not ready, of course. My type-A side is ready for more structure. I am craving my schedule and the ability to blog to my heart's content. I wanted to update this post based on what my fourth grader, almost fifth grader loved the most from the summer reading list I chose for him. He liked most of the books. He LOVED one of the books. First place winner this summer goes to The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart. We were on a long car trip home from vacation when he decided to pick this one up, and for the next two days, he couldn't put it down! It's got elements of mystery, suspense, and excitement. Trenton Lee Stewart is really skilled at world building, and my son was completely absorbed in the world of The Secret Keepers. Second place winner this summer goes to the Nathan Hale Hazardous Tales series. He carried these around for a month, reading and then re-reading them. I think the comic book format made the historical information easy to digest.
Can you believe it is time to start thinking about your summer plans?! By the end of this month, our kids will be released out into the wild with no homework to do, no lunch boxes to pack, and no piano practice to attend. My kids will be with me 24/7. (Gasp!)
What's your summer style? Do you plan lots of structured activities and camps, or do you just go with the flow and let things happen more spontaneously? I probably fall into the spontaneous camp which works for a couple of weeks until the house is a wreck, we have no clean clothes, and my kids are trying to eat Oreos for breakfast. Then I start to regret my lack of planning and long for my iron clad schedule that dictates our school year. This summer I am doing my best to land firmly in the middle of each extreme. I don't want to plan every second. Kids need to have enough free time to get bored. At the same time, I want to pepper some structure here and there. One thing I am definitely planning out is a good reading list for each of my kids. I picked lots of books to keep my fourth grader's mind busy over the school break. I wanted them to be fun reads, nothing too academic or serious. It is his vacation, after all. However, I did want him to learn new things from what he reads and not have the books I chose be total fluff. I think I found a solid list. Here is what I chose.
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
"When Reuben discovers an extraordinary antique watch, he soon learns it has a secret power and his life takes an intriguing turn." This book looks like a fun mystery-thriller, and it is written by the award-winning author of The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale
"In the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series, author Nathan Hale channels his namesake to present history's roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in the graphic novel format." My one rule for choosing books for his list was if they were non-fiction or historical, they needed to be presented in an entertaining to read way. I wanted his summer reading to be for pleasure. This graphic novel series fits that bill. Each one focuses on an event in American history and presents it in a fun but very detailed way.
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh
"Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can't stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn't go quite as well as she'd hoped, Mary fears she'll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever." This book gives me a real Roald Dahl/Lemony Snicket vibe. It looks like a juicy summer read with a bit of an edge.
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz
"On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon." This is illustrated throughout and has won the 2017 Newberry Award.
The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin
"Winston Breen says the only thing better than discovering a puzzle is stumping someone else with it. But when his sister uncovers mysterious strips of wood with words and letters on them, even Winston himself is stumped. Soon the whole family is caught up in the mysterious scavenger hunt that just may lead to a ring worth thousands of dollars!" The product description of this one says that fans of the classic kid's mystery novel, The Westing Game, will enjoy this. This is one that I might borrow from him after he reads it because I still love The Westing Game!
1. This fabric would make some pretty fabulous drapes! Drapes are way easier to make DIY than you think. Measure the length that you want your drapes to be, and then add an inch to each edge to account for hemming. Fold the edges over by that inch on each side of the fabric, press with an iron, and sew. If sewing isn't your thing, buy some hemming adhesive like stitch witch that will provide the same effect as sewing with just a press of a hot iron. Add some of the clamp curtain rod rings and a rod, and boom, custom drapes you made yourself! Domestic goddess, coming through.
2. This bean bag chair provides a solid background for the colorful pillows and rug.
3. This rug is so fun!
5. My favorite bookcase from Ikea! A workhouse that holds a million books and looks good doing it.
6. Hang this happy little friend on your wall so she can read over your shoulder!
7. Lighting that is fun but still a neutral color plus it won't take up any floor space. More floor room for lounging!
**this post contains affiliate links which means I might get a small fee at no cost to you if you purchase something. It doesn't affect my book pick opinions. Thanks for supporting my blog!
We are currently driving our way through the Arizona desert on what can only be described as a Griswald family vacation. We live in Memphis, TN, so for us, that means twenty plus hours in the car! Guys, GUYS, that's a lot of togetherness. We are falling in love with the desert way of life here in Arizona. We have seen beautifuland towering red rock formations, cacti, the beating hot sun, and fascinating Native American culture.
Here is the perfect reading list for learning all about the desert and the people and animals that call this place home!
Do you have a kid obsessed with knights, kings, and castles? Here are some great resources for kids who love castles!
Castle by David Macaulay won a Caldecott medal for a reason. This is an incredibly detailed look at how a medieval castle is built, brick by brick. Ages 10 and up.
This is a funny story about a knight and a dragon who can't get along. Perfect for preschoolers who are fascinated by castles and knights.
We love this series by Rachel Coombs which includes non-fiction, detailed looks at a year in the life of a construction site, a pirate ship, and a castle. This book shows how people living ina castle dealt with changes in weather and temperature, as well as holiday celebrations. For ages 5 and up.
The Magic Tree House series is such a treasure! They are designed for kids who are just able to read independently, and they feature so many interesting themes throughout history. The Knight at Dawn is an exciting fiction story, and after you read it, you can read the non-fiction companion, Knights and Castles to learn even more fun facts.
Michael Bond, beloved author of this beloved series, died today. Let's take a moment to remember what he has contributed to the world of children's literature.
Who is your favorite classic bear character from childhood? There are so many good ones to mention: Winnie the Pooh, Yogi Bear, Little Bear. Later this week we are going to share our favorite list of classic bear books. Today we take a closer look at one of our favorite classic bears - Paddington Bear! Paddington Bear is beloved in his native Great Britain, so let's have a tea party!
The origin story of Paddington Bear goes like this:
One day, the Brown family arrived at Paddington train station and found a cute bear who had traveled all the way from Peru to London. Around the bear's neck is a tag around his instructing them to take care of him.There are over seventy books featuring this cute little bear in the blue coat and red wellie boots, so there is bound to be a story for every kid and adult to love. I recently bought this collection of Paddington Bear stories. In The Paddington Bear Treasury, read as Paddington meets his family, goes to the zoo, visits the Queen at the Palace, and eats lots and lots of marmalade.
We need munchies for our Paddington Bear tea party, and nothing is more British than mini Victoria's Sponge! Victoria's Sponge is a classic English recipe consisting of jammy fruit preserves sandwiched between two layers of cake.
I made mine the cheater's way. (Don't judge!) Life gets busy, and not every day is cake from scratch day. If you have a vanilla cake recipe you love, please insert that recipe here. For my mini sponges, I used a yellow cake mix.
Instead of baking my cake in a pan, I used a muffing tin to make them "mini". I have these adorable silicone muffin wrappers from a certain large Swedish home store and using them gave my mini cakes fluted sides which I love.
After the mini cakes cooled, I cut the muffin tops off and spooned strawberry preserves on one cake before adding another cake on top. They taste great with a little freshly brewed English breakfast tea!
The author of one of the most successful and beloved book series, Michael Bond, didn't start out wanting to be an author. He was working as a cameraman for the BBC. One Christmas eve night, he went into a store looking for a gift for his wife (last minute, much?). He found one lonely stuffed bear all alone on a shelf. He felt sorry for the bear being alone on Christmas eve, so he brought him home for his wife. Ten days later, Bond had written his first story about a bear found in Paddington Station. He chose Paddington Station because he lived around the corner from it. And the rest is history! 80 titles, 30 million copies, 40 languages. Isn't that amazing?
Hi there! The moon is one of the most romanticized subjects in the world. The man in the moon. When the moon hits your eye. I see the moon and the moon sees me. So many classic songs, books, and movies are about the moon, and for good reason. Nothing is more enchanting than a glowing orange October harvest moon on a clear night.
Look At The Moon by May Garelick with pictures by Leonard Weisgard is a poetic look at the moon and everything is shines upon. The moon shines on the countryside with its wildlife and forests. The moon shines on the big city with its sky scrapers and traffic filled streets. It takes turns shining on the Western hemisphere and the Eastern hemisphere. I loved the picture of the sleepy koala about to tuck in for the night in his eucalyptus tree!
The illustrations are these black, white, and blue sketches that are really nice, and the language is written in poetic stanzas. We really enjoyed this.
recommended age: 3-6
Story Time Conversations:
- What are the different shapes the moon can take?
- What does the moon shine on in our neighborhood?
- Did you know that people used to think that the moon was made out of cheese? What is the moon really made out of?
"To give our kids access to a happy future, we want them to love math so they embrace it and dive in whole hog to learn it." - Laura Overdeck
Overdeck started a tradition with her kids. Along with the usual bed time routine of washing up, putting on pajamas, and reading a story, she started giving each child their own special math problem to solve before falling asleep. Her kids loved it so much that she started a website to share her fun math games with everyone.
The Bedtime Math books (there are three) make math lighthearted and playful and provide problems for a range of ages from preschoolers to bigger kids. Each page has a different theme like chocolate chip cookies or astronauts in space, and with each theme comes a set of math puzzlers for preschoolers, early elementary, and upper elementary. Below is a sample problem from the book. If you want to try out more problems, check out Overdeck's website - bedtimemath.org - where she provides tons and tons of wonderful math activities!
My older son has a rather peculiar taste pallet. He is extremely picky and refuses to eat a lot of the "normal" foods that most people, kids and adults, like to eat. Orange slices? Nope. Strawberries? Nope. But give him the most stinky, oozing, moldy cheese, and he is ready to eat!
Here is a list for cheese lovers out there!
**This post contains affiliate links, but all of the opinions are purely my own.
Anatole is a classic tale that we love to read again and again. It's the story of a French mouse who sneaks into a cheese factory at night, taste-tests the cheeses, and leaves little notes about how to make the cheeses better.
This is a classic that needs to be on every book shelf! A collection of reinterpreted fairy tales that will leave everyone rolling with laughter.
Everyone knows the elephants are terrified of mice, so what happens when a band of naughty mice try to steal Daddy elephant's cheese?
A mouse dreams of what it would be like to taste the moon.
A fun elementary school-age series about a family of mice that live in the White House.
The old man in this story loves stinky cheese so much that all of his friends and family can't stand to eat dinner with him! What is he going to do?
Do you have something in your heart that you wish you could be brave enough to do but are afraid of what other people would think of you? We all do. This year, I am doing my best to put myself out there in ways that would have intimidated 2016 me. I am determined to put my creativity out into the world in ways that make me happy and hopefully make others happy too. The thing about putting yourself out there is while there is the possibility that you will succeed, there is also the possibility that you will fail. 2016 me would have been too worried about failing in public, but 2017 me is doing her best to be brave.
Here is a picture book that I read with my preschooler today that playfully deals with being yourself in spite of what others think.
Bea and her dad are tired of their individual daily routine. Bea is sick of her kindergarten class and sick of learning her colors and story time. Mr. Jones is sick of his job at an advertising agency where he has to work and work and laugh at the not-so-funny jokes his boss tells. They decide that in order to break out of their ruts, they should switch places. Bea will put on a tie and coat and go to her dad's office. Mr. Jones will pack his lunchbox and nap mat and go to school.
Reading this book for the first time, I was anticipating that once Bea and Mr. Jones tried out the other's life, they would learn that they prefer their old routine and learn to find happiness in their old life. But actually, this book surprised me because nope, nope, and nope. Bea becomes an advertising genius! Her dad is the best, most successful kindergarten student around! They had the courage to try something new, take a chance, and it worked out well for them in the end.
Are you like Bea or Mr. Jones? What have you put off trying because you were afraid of what others would think of you? I encourage you to think WWBD? What Would Bea Do? She would do what she loved and own it!
How do you approach difficult subjects with your kids? It can be hard to find just the right vocabulary to use for young kids so that they will fully comprehend what you want them to know. It can also be hard to know just how much information to give - not too much for them to handle but not so little that they don't get the full picture of what is happening.
I like to find a good book on whatever difficult subject I need to discuss with my child. The book helps me in several ways. If I pick a book that I know is age-appropriate, then I know just how much information I should be giving. I can just follow the book's lead. Also, sometimes picture books can convey information to kids in a way that just talking can't, especially a book with great illustrations.
The topic of refugees is a tough one. I think it is important for my kids to understand that there are people in the world right now who are going through the horrific experience of losing their homes and families, who are having to start their lives over in a foreign land every day. They need to know to show these people compassion and friendship. At the same time, I find it hard to, in a sense, break their innocence bubble. I wish the world wasn't such a tough place and that they could stay blissfully unaware that evil exists. But that can't happen. It's my job to teach these little minds to be world citizens.
If you are like me, and you want to teach your kids about the hard life of a refugee but also don't want to have the story be too much, too scary, too violent, then Lost and Found Cat by Amy Shrodes and Dough Kuntz is a great book for you.
The family in this story must leave their home in Iraq because it has become too dangerous. They cannot bring too many personal belongings because they will have to carry them on their long journey, but they can't bear to leave their beloved pet cat, Kunkush, behind. They hide him in a basket and do their best to keep him hidden and quiet. When the family makes it to Greece, Kunkush escapes from the basket, and they can't find him before they must leave on a bus for the next leg of their journey. Volunteers help the family to find Kunkush and reunite him with his family.