Wednesday, December 21, 2011

B is for Bethlehem

B is for Bethlehem
Isabel Wilner, author
Elisa Kleven, illustrator
2004--board book

It's a little late to let everyone know about this charming Christmas book, but I'm afraid I'll forget next year! I've had this book for years, and my children have grown to love it as well. The illustrations are sparkly collage style and provide a wonderful twist near the end--you realize a group of children has been acting out the Christmas story. The text is simple couplets that walk the reader/listener through the Christmas story--including a wonderful reminder at the end that Jesus came for everyone! Amazingly, the author created this in ABC order and still keeps the order of the Christmas story. She begins with Augustus and ends with Zanzibar.

I like that this book is different from the usual Christmas story fare; it's a nice counterpoint both in illustrative style and in text format while still reinforcing the biblical story of Christmas. The board book edition makes a wonderful gift for toddlers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Museum ABC

Museum ABC
Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Which one do you like?" is the inevitable question as we turn the pages for each letter. A is for Apple of course, and on the opposite page are details of four paintings in a variety of artistic styles with depictions of apples. B is for Boat, C is for Cat, and so on, a wonderful introduction to art and its appreciation from ancient to modern (honestly, I haven't checked to see how recent, but quite a range is represented), art from all over the globe. Every time we share this book I want to go to an art museum for our own treasure hunt to find Dancing, Eggs, Feet, Games, Hair, Insects, Jewelry, and Kisses (our favorite). Highly recommended for all ages.

Museum 123 and Museum Shapes are also available, and I believe they will go on our Christmas lists this year!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gift Ideas!

Of course we Literaritea types are going to champion books as the ideal Christmas gifts! But, what if you already want to give a young friend or relative a good book and don't know what to get? I am a "heavy user" of the library, and there are lots of books out there that are good "library checkouts" but not necessarily books I'd like to own. On the other hand, there are some books well worth buying. In addition, never under estimate a young person's delight when he or she gets a book for his or her very own--even if it's not "classic" material. (The "classics" are certainly worth investigating, too, particularly if you find truly beautiful editions.) Here are some possible ideas from amongst recently published books or reissued books; consider them "good reads" and books that delight children as well as books that will interest multiple ages. They are easy to find as well, and you should have time to get them here by Christmas if you order them online.

*These books have been reviewed on our blog, but I can't get their links to work today! So, feel free to check our indices or do a search. So sorry!!

Wordless and/or books for the very young
  • The Lion and the  Mouse by Jerry Pinkney  (amazon)*
  • Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage  (amazon)*
Books for Preschoolers
  • Press Here by Herve Tullet (amazon)
  • Cars Galore by Peter Stein and Bob Saake  (amazon)*
  • The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone  (amazon)*
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone  (amazon)*
  • Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip Stead (amazon)
  • A Pocketful of Posies by Sally Mavor  (amazon)*
    Museum ABC from the Metropolitan Museum of Art  (amazon)*
***Early Readers (these also make great gifts for preschoolers who aren't reading yet)
  • Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems (review) (amazon)
  • Amanda and her Alligator by Mo Willems (amazon)
  • The Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo (review) (amazon)
  • Classics such as Frog and Toad, George and Martha, Cat in the Hat, Henry and Mudge, Annie and Snowball, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Little Bear, Frances,... never go out of style; when you are first able to read a book all by yourself, it is magic. These are some of the BEST books to buy for kids!!! And some of the ones they will remember the most!!!
Mid-Upper Elementary School/Independent Readers (children's novels)
Middle School and Up
  • Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner (review) (amazon)
  • The 100 Cupboards Series by N. D. Wilson (review and review) (amazon)
  • An American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel) (review) (amazon)

    Movie Tie-in's (a great way to encourage reluctant readers)
    • The Adventures of Tintin (one of the first graphic novels) (amazon)
    • The Adventures of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik--especially for young artists and/or inventors (review) (amazon)

      Monday, November 14, 2011

      The Rescuers (Retro Reads)

      The Rescuers
      Margery Sharp, author.
      Garth Williams, illustrator
      1959; re-released 2011

      I can sing every word of the songs from the animated Rescuers movie--truly, one of the classics of its genre. So, it was with delight that I discovered a month or so ago that it was a book first!! Imagine my added interest when I realized that Garth Williams was the illustrator (he did Charlotte's Web and The Little House books).

      And, yes, the book is about two mice named Bernard and Bianca who rescue someone. And there the similarity ends. Disney's animated version did a good job of portraying Bernard's and Bianca's characters, but they completely made up every last little bit of detail and plot for the movie. You might say that the movie was "suggested" by the book.

      The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Retro Reads)

      The Three Billy Goats Gruff
      Paul Galdone
      2005 (reprint)

      We are HUGE fans of Galdone's folk tales around here; I've highlighted his Gingerbread Boy before. Thankfully, some of his best folk tales are being reissued with newer covers. Yea!!

      The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Galdone style, is a wonderful telling of this classic folk tale. If you haven't read this to a small group of young children, you're missing out--they will reenact it over and over and over and over. You're liable to hear repeats whenever you go under (or over) a bridge while out and about.

      Galdone tells this tale with all the gore you'd expect from a good, classic folk tale. The troll is fully planning to eat these billy goats and the last billy goat does some damage to that mean ol' troll. Kids need that kind of reconciling action at the end of a story like this. Let them enjoy it! Let good soundly trounce evil... even if that means the big billy goat defeating the troll.

      New cover at top; old below.

      Play With Me (Retro Reads)

      Play With Me
      Marie Hall Ets
      Caldecott Honor

      We don't have only sweet, quiet books here at our house, but I think far too many people in today's society overlook these older, quiet books--so I'm bringing them to your attention during National Picture Book Month. I listed this title in an older post on Restful Illustrations. That's a great description for this gentle book.

      A little girl goes outside to play (by herself!) and tries to get various animals to play with her. Eventually, she sits down and is quiet, discouraged perhaps because all the animals have been running away. As she sits there, though, the animals begin to creep back out and be with her.

      This is a great book for young children, both for naptime reading time and other times throughout the day. Take it on your next picnic and read it outside! This is the kind of book my kids have enjoyed looking at on their own--something about those peaceful illustrations invite pondering.

      May We Sleep Here Tonight? (Retro Reads)

      May We Sleep Here Tonight?
      Tan Koide (author), Yasuko Koide (illustrator)

      This is a "retro reads" book because it is 20 years old! It has been reissued with slightly adapted cover art (as of 2000), so it is still available. Since this is apparently Picture Book Month (who knew?!), I thought I'd highlight some oldies, but goodies. This is a great place to start because May We Sleep Here Tonight is not as well known as some others. It's not a major award winner or terribly progressive or overtly educational.

      It IS gentle and beautiful. A Japanese husband-wife team wrote and illustrated this charming picture book (you'll notice Japanese words in the pictures). It strikes the perfect balance between suspense and reassuring for young children. Small animals are lost in the woods and find shelter in a stranger's house. The stranger returns and there is some initial question about this stranger's benevolence....

      Between Shades of Gray

      Between Shades of Gray
      Ruta Sepetys

      What happens to the people in a country that "disappears" from the map? It depends on the conquering country, but I would imagine that many displaced people groups suffer similar things to Lina and her family.

      Lina and her family are part of the large Lithuanian (and Latvian/Estonian/Finnish/etc.) deportation enacted under Stalin's brutal regime in Russia and its neighboring countries. Lina's family is deported to Siberia, where they survive (some of them) for an unbelievable length of time.

      Wednesday, November 9, 2011

      An update to our favorite homemade chai concentrate recipe

      If you've tried the popular homemade chai concentrate recipe before, you may be interested in the update to the original that I just posted here. The spices are stronger and it's not as sweet, and my (Megan's) husband actually prefers it without vanilla! Feel free to adjust to your own taste, of course.

      I strongly recommend Betsy's scones as an accompaniment. Thanks for joining us!

      Tuesday, November 8, 2011


      Pat Mora, author
      John Parra, illustrator
      Pura Belpre Honor Winner

      This is a wonderful picture book to check out this time of year. Gracias/Thanks is a bilingual celebration of giving thanks no matter what. The child in the book doesn't direct his thanks to anyone or anything in particular--which gives parents the freedom to discuss their own religious traditions and holidays. For instance, my family focuses on how we are to thank the Lord in everything, in all situations. Because this book doesn't say to thank the earth or some other entity, we are free to interpret as we choose. And we can read it at any time of the year because the holiday of Thanksgiving is never mentioned or alluded to (partly because the boy in the story is Mexican-American and may or may not celebrate that holiday).

      Illustrations are delightful and showcase what the boy is thankful for. This book is original and a great complement to the myriad Thanksgiving oriented books--we can give thanks all year!

      The Mommy Manual

      The Mommy Manual
      Barbara Curtis

      This book doesn't get a lot of attention in my particular Christian community, and it should. We spend a lot of time discussing books that help us know how to discipline our children; this book spends more time on the training of some of those heart attitudes.

      Barbara Curtis is mom of 12: some biological, some adopted, some special needs.... And she's done it all: public school, private school, home school. She's a former Montessori teacher, and you will see that training come through in this book. She's also a believer and encourages moms SO much in that arena (even discussing how much praying she does in her laundry room--a room where she spends MUCH time).

      What I like about this book:

      • strategies for inculcating heart attitudes of service, gratitude, and others
      • watching for opportunities even with your toddlers for encouraging these heart attitudes
      • an emphasis on the potential of your children (a realistic look, but positive nonetheless)
      • an honesty about her own background and walk with the Lord
      • a realism that doesn't come through in other parenting books
      • it's written by a mom--no matter how much I enjoy parenting books by men, they still lack that "mom" voice and reality.
      • encouragement!
      The bottom line: Curtis will encourage you to seek out ways to encourage the potential in your child's heart, no matter how old that child is. You will come away from this book eager to seek opportunities to build heavenly treasure in and with and for your kids.

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011


      Remy Charlip

      We are enamored with Fortunately around here! One of the rare books we have kept the entire three weeks from the library AND read it multiple times along the way. It's a terrific introduction for young children to suspense and irony. The first time we read it aloud, there wasn't a lot of reaction except for, "read it again!" By the third or fourth time through, everyone was laughing uproariously and pretending to guess what was coming. What makes this book so funny?


      Brian Selznik

      A few weeks ago, I finally read The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Why did I finally read it? Because Wonderstruck came out this year, and the blogosphere is hot with the discussion of whether it can qualify for a Newbery--does the text stand alone? Does the award require that? I wanted to read Hugo first, so I got to work.

      Hugo won a Caldecott--quite a new direction for that award which is usually given to a picture book. If you haven't seen either Hugo or Wonderstruck, then let me assure you: Selznik FILLS his books with his art. He messes with the conventions of the book in an intriguing way. I don't believe either his text or his art can stand alone; they are completely interdependent on one another. These books are more like the experience of watching a movie in some ways.

      I enjoyed Wonderstruck more than Hugo, but I'm still not wowed by Selznik's writing. His strength is in his art and the manner in which he constructs his story. The story in Wonderstruck is marvelous and another little known piece of historical timeline fictionalized for the book world. It is worth reading and features a young girl and a young boy. Both the girl and boy are struggling to fit in, to adapt to a world in which they have similar physical handicaps, and to find their true families. They are also separated by a number of years, but the stories come together in the end marvelously.

      Julie over at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a nice, long interview with Selznik if you would like some more info!

      Recommended for elementary and up.

      Tuesday, November 1, 2011

      The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children

      The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children
      Lou Priolo
      Calvery Press

      We don't use a rating system on this blog (yet), but if we did, this parenting book would receive my highest rating. I don't know about you, but reading a really great, biblically based parenting book helps me "get back in the fight." I'm not referring to fighting against my children and making them bend to my wishes; no, I'm talking about fighting FOR my children--for their souls, for their training in godliness, for their heart condition. Sometimes this involves conflict between us as parents and our children; it should involve much more, though, and books like Priolo's Heart of Anger cover that "more."

      So what makes this particular parenting book so great? There are others out there (and I hope to review some of them, too!). But I really appreciate Priolo's approach and wisdom:

      1. Examine YOUR heart first. Are you provoking your children to anger? (even unwittingly)
      2. Praise and encourage your child. (in addition to discipline--basically, don't overlook the importance of the positive)
      3. The Gumnaizo Principle (train, train, train--practice makes permanent)
      4. Call a spade a spade: If it's sin, then label the behavior/attitude/word as sin, not a "phase" or some other nonsense.
      5. KNOW YOUR BIBLE and USE it--just reading this book makes you realize how much more you need to read your Bible. 
      6. Recognize manipulation in your children--you'd be surprised!
      7. Strategies for getting at... you guessed it... the heart of anger.
      Priolo does advocate spanking in the right context. I know some parents who don't believe in spanking. But I know others who err too much on the side of spanking and don't sprinkle in enough positive. Priolo seems to balance both. I found his approach unstinting in regard to truth, but gentle and affirming at the same time.

      Bottom line: This book will challenge you to examine your own heart, to look for opportunities to discern your child's heart, and to spend more time in the Word.

      Dandelion Fire

      Dandelion Fire
      N. D. Wilson

      In book two of the 100 Cupboards Trilogy, we are plunged into a whole new experience. Henry, KS, forms a distant memory as Henry, Henrietta, and the rest of their family embark on otherworldly adventures. I'll just say that only one of these persons actually seeks out his or her adventure. The rest have their "greatness thrust upon them" as it were.

      I won't tell you much more except to say that you must read my 100 Cupboards review if you're unfamiliar with this series. Then, you must know that this book continues that creation-fall-redemption framework with aplomb. Here we see the effects of the fall. Here we see evil, and the death it creates as it spreads its tentacles. And here we see redemption--at least the beginnings. We see heroes rise up. We see people stand in the gap. And we see brothers come together, families reunited, and hope spring anew. All because of a little dandelion.

      Doesn't that whet your appetite? Wilson's writing is even better in this book than in the first.

      Things to Note/Discuss
      • there are few mild expletives at one point in this book; I made a mental note only because I was reviewing this book for this site. They are certainly not worth not reading the book--but there are folks who would like to know.
      • there is more violence in this book; you might say it's "darker" than the first. That's to be expected since we are seeing the reach of Nimiane grow and she is truly evil. It's certainly in keeping with the plot.
      • heroic tradition: what makes an epic hero? (think of the unlikely hero and the quest and all those famous stories you know!)
      • the "Green Man" is a legend/tradition in its own right. Feel free to do a little outside research!
      • Also, there is a big difference in literary tradition between fairies, faeren, and the fae. You might be surprised to know that all are not like Tinkerbell. In fact, Tinkerbell is a rather modern creation....

      Monday, October 31, 2011

      Egermeier's Bible Story Book

      Ergermeier's Bible Story Book has been around for generations! First published in 1922, it has continued to be updated and published ever since. We have an older edition from the 1970s, but our kids still enjoy it.

      This story Bible is a nice followup to Kenneth Taylor's Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. If you enjoyed Taylor's story Bible with your toddlers and preschoolers, reach for this when your children hit elementary school. The stories are between 2 paragraphs and 2 pages in length: a fact which I very much appreciate. Rather than editing stories to fit in a certain framework, Ergemeier breaks the stories up logically, letting longer events take up more space. And she covers the entire Bible, not skipping over gruesome stories or even the book of Revelation. This story Bible will take you a long time to get through, but it is worth it. There are discussion questions after each story which are wonderful. Sometimes, we have to rephrase them, and our 4 and a half year olds don't always follow them. Our 6 year old, on the other hand, is picking up every word and can nearly always answer each question.

      Stories are covered chronologically with Scripture references given. To give you an example, the New Testament starts with the announcement of the birth of John. Between the announcement of John's birth and his actual birth/naming, the story of the angel's visits to Mary and Joseph and Mary's visit to Elizabeth are recounted. (For some reason, this story Bible leaves out Anna and Simeon in the temple with the baby Jesus--it includes so many other smaller stories that I'm puzzled about this oversight.)

      I highly recommend this Bible story book; I must point out, though, that it does contain pictures of Jesus. Occasionally, there are liberties taken with the stories--additions made in order to make the stories more understandable to young children (comments about someone being happy or similar ideas). We haven't found any that are overly troubling to us, but it's worth pointing out. We also tend to add to the questions or reword on occasion; still they are wonderful starting points, and we so much appreciate that this story Bible doesn't cutesy up the Bible with trite sayings or pithy quotations. And, because Scripture references are included, it is easy to read the actual Bible along with it.

      Tuesday, October 25, 2011

      My Name is Elizabeth!

      My Name is Elizabeth!
      Annika Dunklee, author
      Matthew Forsythe, illustrator
      Kids Can Press, Ltd.

      I've been waiting to review this until my daughter actually opened this book for her birthday. I was afraid she would see it and ask me questions about it! (The "problems" of having a child who can now read!)

      My Name is Elizabeth! is a marvelous addition to the picture book realm. I hope more than those named Elizabeth read it; it's a book for anyone with a slightly longer name and/or one that habitually gets shortened. Since my name is actually NOT Elizabeth, I sympathize as well--people are constantly asking me about my "real" name. Well, folks, my "real" name is Betsy! My daughter's: Elizabeth. No shortcuts. So she and I both enjoy this book tremendously (and "Betsy" gets a mention as a nickname!). I especially love the final page when a little brother attempts to pronounce Elizabeth: we've heard those garbled attempts A LOT in this house.

      But the art just makes it. Don't you love that cover? The art inside is the same color scheme and style--very retro in feel but quite up to date at the same time. This book just hit shelves in September so it may be hard to find in your local library. If your name is Elizabeth, you might as well just buy it straight up! :-)

      Preschoolers will love this book--and so will their older siblings and parents

      A Visitor for Bear

      A Visitor for Bear
      Bonny Becker, author
      Kady MacDonald, illustrator

      Bear is a curmudgeon who despises visitors. When his breakfast preparations are repeatedly disrupted by a "small and gray and bright-eyed" mouse who simply won't go away without a cup of tea, Bear finally gives in. A beautiful example of true friendship in children's literature that demonstrates how unlikely, yet genuine relationships can develop. Bear remains a curmudgeon throughout, but Mouse's cheerful persistence reminds the reader that in spite of appearances, everybody needs faithful friends. Features beautiful watercolor illustrations and teatime.

      We have also enjoyed A Birthday for Bear and look forward to reading A Bedtime for Bear and The Sniffles for Bear.

      The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig

      The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
      Eugene Trivizas, author
      Helen Oxenbury, illustrator

      Among fractured retellings of The Three Pigs, this is by far my favorite. It reverses traditional roles of predator and prey (why would a pig be bullying three mild-mannered wolves?) and goes beyond straw, hay and brick in such a natural voice that in a concluding twist, meekness and tea break down more resistance than force. Although the conflict resolution seems oversimplified, I as a Christian, friend and mother am reminded how much peace can be accomplished in the home through kindness.

      Humorous, accompanied by great illustrations; another teatime book.

      Monday, October 24, 2011

      100 Cupboards

      100 Cupboards
      N. D. Wilson


      I was going to wait and review this whole series once I finished it. However, I just finished book 2 and cannot wait any longer to bring them to your attention!! THANKS to Brandy for introducing me to them. WOW.

      In this first book of the trilogy, we meet Henry York, nephew to Frank Willis and his cheery wife, Dottie, and cousin to Henrietta, Penelope, and Anastasia. They happen to live, ironically enough, in Henry, Kansas (Henry is from back East). Henry is living with his cousins for the summer; it turns out to be a most interesting summer....

      Sunday, October 23, 2011

      Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes

      I've reviewed Kenneth Taylor's terrific Bible memory books already; now, let's look at his The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. Again, he has a real gift for communicating on a very young child's level. This story Bible has been around awhile. The volume pictured on the left is the one my husband and I each grew up reading (and the one we now have to read to our children). The one on the right has updated illustrations.

      This story Bible has quite a few Bible stories in it; it doesn't skip over the gruesome stories or gloss over events such as the sacrifice of Isaac or the Passover. Instead, Taylor communicates the essence of the story in a way young children can understand. After each short story (about 2 paragraphs), there are some simple comprehension questions for children about the story.

      It's worth pointing out that this Bible does have pictures of Jesus (obviously--the front of the newest version shows Christ). If that is not troublesome for you, then I highly recommend checking this one out!

      Thursday, October 20, 2011

      What Should I (or my children) Read?

      There are so many books out there, and children have such diverse abilities, interests, maturity levels that no one list will work for everyone. That being said, there are some widely praised books/authors that are working checking out and exploring further. There are also top notch reading lists in a number of places. Below are some links to reading lists on other sites/places. Remember, just because a book has won an award doesn't mean you have to like it; conversely, if you love a book that hasn't won an award, don't sweat it! These lists include many, many books we haven't read--use discretion.

      Jim Trelease of Read Aloud Handbook fame (check here for great read aloud suggestions)

      Top 100 Children's Novels (from A Fuse #8--Betsy Bird's blog)

      ALA Notable Children's Book List 

      Caldecott Medal Winners

      Newberry Medal Winners

      National Book Award Winner List 

      Boston Globe-Hornbook Award List 

      Coretta Scott King Award List (for African American authors/illustrators)

      Pura Belpre Award List (for Hispanic authors/illustrators)

      American Indians/Native Americans Booklist (a list of books by/about Native Americans)

      Batchelder Award List (for best work in translation--a terrific way to explore literature written by non-English speakers)

      New York Public Library 100 Best Picture Books

      ECPA Christian Book Awards (formerly the "Gold Medallion" Award; there is a category for children)

      Sonlight (they will note RA for read aloud as well as independent reading level; these are suggested age ranges of course; this is a Christian homeschool curriculum that is heavy on reading and tends to pick top notch works; book choices dovetail with their history program; they also have good multicultural recommendations)

      Veritas (classical Christian curriculum; advanced reading selections--your child may or may not be ready to read their list for the appropriate grade; book choices follow history curriculum)

      First Language Lessons (grammar program that pulls excerpts from great works of literature. Check the samples/tables of contents for various grades and note the titles used for the different exercises)

      Writing With Ease (writing program tied to literature; Check samples/tables of contents for various grades and note titles used)

      Heart of Dakota (another Christian curriculum--more Charlotte Mason in style and literature heavy; nice selections and range of abilities represented--check out the "bookpacks" for their suggestions)

      Ambleside Online (Charlotte Mason style homeschool curriculum; rigorous book lists--again, your child may or may not be reading at the same level they suggest; they are heavy on the classics)

      Best Books/Fiction for Young Adults (ALA sponsored list--this is more popular reading than some of the previous lists)

      Booklists/Award Lists from YALSA (division of ALA that focuses on Young Adult literature; includes link to Printz Award among others)

      A Secret Garden Dinner Party

      Our women's book club usually reads the "classics." This has been great fun because we often find that we either enjoy these classics much more as grownups (The Scarlet Letter is a good example) or we never read them in the first place (Ethan Frome is next on this list; I haven't read that one). I don't make many of the meetings anymore, but I must share what they did recently with The Secret Garden.

      The Flint Heart

      The Flint Heart
      Katherine and John Paterson, authors
      John Rocco, illustrator

      I have a bit of hero worship going for Katherine Paterson. Just recently I picked up her Come Sing, Jimmy Jo (which I'll review at some point) and immediately felt that I was in the hands of a master storyteller. The way she crafts her prose, the precision of her characterization, the delicate way she handles the hard issues in life--really, she is a master of the craft.

      In addition, I'm also a huge, huge, huge fan of Victorian fairy tales. There are a number which are well known (Alice in Wonderland, anyone?). There are an equal number which are less well known, and that is a shame: George MacDonald's Princess and Curdie books, Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant, Ruskin's The King of the Golden River, Thackeray's hilarious The Rose and the Ring to name a few. 

      Which is why this book left me a bit disappointed: could it have lived up to its billing? A fairy tale from the early 20th century (almost Victorian!) "freely abridged" by one of my all-time favorite authors? Sign me up. Even better: illustrated by the likes of John Rocco (who did that great recent picture book Blackout which I'll get around to reviewing one of these days).

      Wednesday, October 19, 2011


      Sara Pennypacker, author
      Marla Frazee, illustrator
      Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book

      Clementine will remind you of the Ramona books! This is the first in a series about a third grader named Clementine who has such brilliant ideas and pays attention so well and just wants to help people out... but somehow is constantly getting into trouble or messing things up.

      Told in Clementine's droll voice, this short early chapter book covers one mere week in Clementine's eventful life. Both grownups and children will appreciate Clementine's struggles to do the right thing and find her commentary on life amusing. Here is a short snippet from the opening of chapter 3:

      "'I'd better not go to school today,' I told my mom on Wednesday as soon as I woke her up. 'I have cracked toes.' I put my foot right up on the pillow next to her face so she could see without getting up. This is called Being Thoughtful."

      Sprinkled with charming illustrations throughout, this is a terrific book to hand to the young elementary students in your life who need a genuinely funny book about being yourself. (Besides, don't you think "Pennypacker" is just the perfect name for a children's book author? Marvelous)

      Recommended for early-mid elementary

      The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1: The Mysterious Howling

      The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1: The Mysterious Howling
      Maryrose Wood, author
      Jon Klassen, illustrator

      This book is almost a favorite of mine; in just about every respect save one, it's a marvelous, funny, well written book. I'll get to my quibble in a moment, but first I must share how delightful the author's "voice" is in this book. If you're a fan of Victorian literature and/or the whole young-unmarried-woman-turned-governess theme that runs prominently through much older fiction, you'll enjoy this book. If you like those wry authorial intrusions a la Lemony Snickett style, you'll enjoy this book. Here's a sampling of the text--nothing to spoil the plot, here, just a hilarious little paragraph:

      "Mrs. Clarke was also rather well turned out for the party, in her fashion. The dress she wore was a voluminous melange of floral patterns that did much to accentuate the impressive girth of the wearer. She resembled nothing so much as a spring meadow in full bloom, depicted at nearly life-size."

      A ha ha ha ha.... (gulp, snort). Did you catch that? at nearly life-size? What a thoroughly funny way to subtly point out the "impressive girth" of Mrs. Clarke. I must admit that I cackled through much of this book just because the writing style was so funny. The heroine (appropriately ridiculously named Penelope Lumley) is always bravely summoning up pithy statements from her former headmistress (also appropriately named Agatha Swinburne) or consulting her book of poetry for fortifying literature. Oh, so funny. And she's been summoned to a formidable estate in order to civilize three siblings who've been found in the woods--having been raised to this point by wolves.

      Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same

      Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same
      Grace Lin
      Geisel Honor Award Winner

      Looking for an easy reader that changes things up a bit? Look no further! Ling and Ting are Chinese American twins and while they look the same, are not exactly the same. In fact, if you'll look at that cover closely, you'll see that the one on the right has a slightly different haircut than the one on the left. And that, my friends, is the subject of the first "chapter!"

      My kids really enjoyed this book on a number of levels (my identical twin boys bonded with Ling and Ting). We all loved the chopsticks v. forks issue--we eat Chinese food on a regular basis around here and everyone has experimented with chopsticks.

      A well written and illustrated book that reminds us of each person's individuality and "specialness" without being preachy.


      Tuesday, October 18, 2011

      Juan Bobo Goes to Work

      Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale
      Marisa Montes, author
      Joe Cepeda, illustrator
      Pura Belpre Honor for illustration

      My children love this story of silly Juan Bobo and his antics. It won a Pura Belpre Honor for illustration which means that the illustrator has Hispanic heritage (and, in this case, I believe the author does, too). And the illustrations are indeed charming: bold colors, acrylics, comic elements. The text is also nice; there are Spanish words sprinkled in, but the context and/or a restatement by another character make the meaning quite clear. There is also a glossary, complete with pronunciation guide, in the back of the book.

      Juan Bobo (which means "silly John") sets off for work each day in the hopes of bringing home money or some other reward for his labor. Each time, his mother gives him instructions for how to bring home his payment; each time, he either forgets or misapplies the instructions leading to hilarious results.

      Kids will enjoy this silly tale, and it's a nice introduction to Hispanic culture.

      Recommended read aloud for preschool and up.

      Tuesday, October 11, 2011

      Retro Reads: The Gammage Cup

      The Gammage Cup: a Novel of the Minnipins
      Carol Kendall
      Newbery Honor Book

      Another terrific children's fantasy novel from the 1950s! This one is alternately funny, suspenseful, and thought-provoking. The Minnipins are a rather silly group of small people who are blindly following their supposed upper class (a group known as the Periods--why? well, you have to read to find out!). When a few brave Minnipins stand up to the Periods and stand true to their own beliefs, they are outcast from the village. Those few brave souls end up saving their village and restoring goodwill thanks to some historic swords and battle armor. Along the way, they have a crazy adventure, meet strange creatures from the other side of the mountain, and a few fall in love.

      Things to Note/Discuss
      • When is it right to conform to the group? to the ruling class? When is it right to stand up for your beliefs, even at the expense of community? Consider both Romans 12 and 13.
      • Do you think the Gammage Cup would have been bestowed to a different group of people if the Minnipins had succeeded in welcoming the judges as they'd originally planned?
      • Who is the real hero of this book?

      Retro Reads: The Children of Green Knowe

      The Children of Green Knowe
      L. M. Boston
      ALA Notable Children's Book

      This is a Retro Reads post for sure; I haven't reread this book in ages, but I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Originally published in England, this is fantasy in that grand old English style and quite rewarding to read. Somehow the Brits have the corner on children's fantasy--especially that involving mysterious old houses, time travel, and a group of siblings from long ago....

      The Children of Green Knowe is just the first in a series; children who enjoy other British fantasy will no doubt enjoy these books as well. They are similar to the Narnia Chronicles or Dianna Wynne Jones' works in reading level. (And, it's worth pointing out that this book exists with LOTS of different covers)

      Monday, October 10, 2011

      The Big Picture Story Bible

      The Big Picture Story Bible
      David Helm, author
      Gail Schoonmaker, illustrator

      I know this book has been out longer than its publication date is showing; we got ours for our boys' 1st birthday back in 2008. At any rate, this is a terrific Bible story book to use for toddlers and preschoolers when you want to do just what the title says: give them the big picture. It's not a substitute for a traditional Bible story book; it doesn't have many stories in it that you might normally expect to see in a children's story Bible. For example, in one picture, you see Joseph in a many colored coat, but that particular story is not in the text.

      What the book does do is group periods of Biblical history together and weave them all in one long narrative: the big picture. From Creation onwards, we are waiting to find God's forever king that He promised in the garden. Once Jesus is born, we rejoice in the forever King!

      Illustrations are terrific, by the way.

      Check this book out if you are looking for a resource to help teach your young children about the big picture of the Biblical narrative.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Forsythia and Me

      Forsythia and Me
      Vincent X. Kirsch

      My kids and I really enjoyed this serendipitous checkout. I had no pre-conceptions, no reviews telling me "Check this out!"--just picked it up off the new book shelf because the name piqued my interest.

      Forsythia and Chester are best friends--Forsythia can do everything well. By that, I mean everything: circus performances, ice skating, baking, portrait painting, etc. She also has a unique style and, of course, a unique name.

      But one day, Forsythia gets sick and must stay in bed. Chester rises to the occasion: he plays his accordion for her with only 13 mistakes, picks a bouquet of... you guessed it... forsythia for her, and cheers her up in general.

      Monday, October 3, 2011

      ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts

      Susan Hunt's ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts is a terrific Bible memory tool for 4's and 5's (and even older). These stories are longer than the ones in Kenneth Taylor's Scripture memory books, and the questions at the end are a little more complex. The verses are organized alphabetically by first letter of the verse. If you're familiar with Steve Green's Hide 'em In Your Heart CD's, you will recognize some of these verses. But there are plenty of new ones, and the stories help flesh out the verses nicely. Some of the stories are a little warm and fuzzy, but overall, this has been a great tool to help us learn Scripture with our children. We've read and discussed (and memorized) one verse a week.

      The verses are in the New King James version, so I rewrote these in our preferred version/translation (ESV); thankfully, most of the beginning letters were the same!

      Friday, September 30, 2011

      Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

      Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes
      Sally Mavor, illustrator
      Boston Globe-Hornbook Winner

      Back in graduate school--well, the first time around--my fellow blogger, Megan, and I created lavish spreads for the story of Cinderella. We enlisted the help of some young grade school students and together crafted the scenes from found objects. It took quite a bit of work for an even remotely presentable final product.

      Since those days, Megan and I both have worked on various sewing projects and the like for our homes and children. And we know how much time and effort goes into those endeavors as well.

      That is why I am amazed at this book, truly amazed. Mavor has taken well known nursery rhymes and illustrated them by sewing/creating scenes out of fabric and small objects; the scenes are photographs of her creations. This is a book to pour over, to examine closely. The illustration for "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" is one of my favorites because there are actual little bells sewn into the "picture." Both boys and girls will enjoy this one; the "illustrations" are not girly. They celebrate the beauty that textiles bring to our lives and also to the beauty one can create when creativity goes hand in hand with skill. The characters for each nursery rhyme are small dolls that are begging to be picked up and played with--facial expressions are painted on and each one has an appropriate costume.

      The Invention of Hugo Cabret

      The Invention of Hugo Cabret
      Brian Selznik
      Caldecott Medal

      If you are unfamiliar with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, you might be tempted to reserve this at your local library for your 5 year old. After all, it won a Caldecott and that cover looks intriguing, doesn't it? And there you would be disappointed (for your 5-year-old's sake). Because this is a book the size and heft of a later Harry Potter volume.

      And there, the similarities end. Can't judge a book by its cover, can you? The Invention of Hugo Cabret is getting lots of renewed press these days because the author/illustrator has contributed another gigantic words-and-pictures novel to the children's literary scene. Will the next one (Wonderstruck) be a medal contender for Caldecott or Newbery? That is the question.

      Where's Walrus

      Where's Walrus
      Stephen Savage, illusrator

      I spoke too soon when I discussed my favorite wordless books! This one is a gem. The bright, clean illustrations are perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers. Each page features the walrus in "disguise"--all because he's on the hunt for the perfect swimming pool. Older children will spot the walrus effortlessly, but younger children will enjoy the challenge.

      Check it out from your local library! This would also make a fun baby shower gift.

      Tuesday, September 27, 2011

      Published Paper and Tooting My Own Horn

      Years ago, I wrote a paper that actually won a student award at a Christianity and Literature Conference! I was thrilled--I was in my final semester in college and this paper came out of some of the research I did for my senior thesis. An online journal published the paper a year later; that online journal no longer exists from what I can tell, but I recently found the paper in full on someone else's blog (thankfully, I was given credit). Megan and I have not given our full names on this blog, so I will resist adding my married name to the paper. However, I am staking my claim to my original paper! Feel free to skim or skip; it's long and academic. But I do want to stake my official claim to this since apparently people are still citing it. (Who knew!?). I should also point out two facts: (1) this was BEFORE the LoTR movies and recent buzz. (2) This was also before there was much available/easily accessed scholarly content via the web. After all, this paper was published online--ONLINE, mind you--in 1998! (the Dark Ages for the internet!)

      Monday, September 26, 2011

      Big Thoughts, Wise Words, and Giant Steps

      Kenneth Taylor has a knack for knowing how to communicate with the youngest children. These three books are all sets of verses laid out for Scripture memory: a short (VERY) synopsis/explanation of the verse alongside an illustration form each "lesson." There are also review and application questions--which I really love. For instance, the verse might be about loving your neighbor. The questions will be along the lines of, "Do you see someone in the picture who is loving his or her neighbor?" In addition, each illustration has ladybugs hidden throughout--finding the ladybugs is a hugely enjoyable pastime for toddlers and preschoolers.

      My only complaint about these books is that the verses are often paraphrased--and I would prefer a translation. That's a simple matter to fix, though, and I just typed up the verses in the translation we preferred. This even works with the ABC volume (Big Thoughts) because the ABC letters relate to a concept, not the first letter of the verse.

      The first book has been updated--you see the updated cover in that image--but I don't believe the other two have. Nevertheless, our children haven't minded the somewhat dated illustrations. These are readily available used--so snap them up!

      Big Thoughts for Little People: ABC Concepts with coordinating verses (i.e. "I" is Illness)
      Wise Words for Little People: verses from Proverbs
      Giant Steps for Little People: 10 Commandments and Beattitudes

      Wednesday, September 21, 2011

      Library Activism: Check Out Books!

      Our friends over at Redeemed Reader have been mulling over the hype and melodrama of Banned Books Week. The discussions have reminded me of a little known fact: you can advocate for your chosen books, your most cherished book "friends", the kinds of books you think people should be reading by a very unobtrusive type of library activism: CHECK OUT THE BOOKS.

      Because of privacy concerns, most circulation records are not identified by person anymore--no one will pull your particular circulation history. But they will be able to see which books have been checked out and how frequently. Every single library must go through a weeding/culling/deselecting (aka "throwing away books") process on a regular basis. Some titles are obviously out of date (any computer manual pre-2000 is definitely obsolete). Some books are simply falling apart. Sometimes more shelf space is needed. Guess which books make the cut? Those that have been checked out in the past few years. If a book hasn't been checked out in the past few years, it will be on the chopping block before a hot "checkout."

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Scripture Memory: Hide 'em In Your Heart

      There are some great books for Scripture memory--and I fully plan on highlighting our favorites. But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats these Hide 'em In Your Heart CD's from Steve Green for Scripture memory with young children!

       I could go on and on, folks. Suffice it to say that Mommy needs the verses on these CD's as much as the kiddos. The range of verses is terrific--alternating between verses that instruct us in how to act (i.e. "Do everything without complaining or arguing") and those which inform us of who God is/what He has done (i.e. "For God so loved the world..."). Before each verse, there is a very short introduction/explanation by Steve Green. Then, the entire verse is sung--no mere snippets or phrases here (i.e. "Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God."). The songs are original compositions and are sung by Steve with a kids' choir. Our kids have loved listening to these CD's, and Scripture memory has followed effortlessly. The verses themselves have become part of our everyday conversation. If someone is misbehaving, I can ask him or her, "What are your actions saying about you? Remember our verse? "Even a child is..." and the child will fill in the rest of the verse. Or, if someone is cranky, we might sing "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones."

      We have volumes 1 and 2. Both volumes are available as a set on amazon I believe. You can also check out the resources on Steve Green's website.

      Saturday, September 17, 2011

      Teaching Discernment to Wee Ones

      Ideally, teaching discernment to our children begins at birth! Everything we do and say instructs and models something--whether we're aware of it or not.

      But there are more formal methods out there for teaching discernment--as soon as your young child can talk. What are these methods? Very simply: instruction in Biblical literacy! What better way to teach discernment to our children? After all, bank tellers learn the real money in order to better spot the fake money. The same principle holds true here--our children will learn truth in order to better evaluate and spot potential falsehoods.

      I'd love to start a mini-series on this idea and highlight some resources that have aided us. Our children are still quite young (4-year-old twins and an almost-6-year-old; Megan's oldest is 4) so I/we don't have much experience with the resources out there for older children. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments! I'm sure Megan will contribute, too, but she and I have used many of the same resources--so rest assured that much of this content is coming from both of us even if I am the "poster."

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      Elephant and Piggie

      Elephant and Piggie Series
      Mo Willems
      200--'s (still in process!)
      Geisel Award (several)

      How in the world have we managed to ignore these guys on our blog???? Megan told me of them a while ago, and we have read EVERY ONE multiple times (well, all the ones in our local library--they are still being published and not all have trickled down yet). We LOVE Elephant and Piggie around here. I must have written this post a thousand times mentally, but, since I can't seem to locate it on our blog, I must not have actually typed it up. Shame on me.

      Elephant and Piggie are best friends along the lines of Frog and Toad. Truly, they represent one of the best literary friendships. Elephant is a boy (Gerald) and Piggie is a girl (Piggie), and their personalities are very distinct (and oh, so lovable).

      Inside Out and Back Again

      Inside Out and Back Again
      Thanha Lai
      National Book Award Winner*
      Newbery Honor*

      I'm fully expecting to update this in a few months when more awards are announced.... (I've had to update Chime  to reflect its recent Boston Globe-Hornbook Honor status--announced in June). Inside Out and Back Again is beautiful.  *Yep... I'm editing as we hear awards announced!!

      I've read a few novels in verse this year and have been pleasantly surprised at how effortless they are to read; don't let the verse format put you off. One of the authors of this format has described it as "intentional line breaks" more than "poetry"  (wish I could give credit for that--but I can't remember!).

      Wednesday, September 14, 2011

      Anna Hibiscus

      Anna Hibiscus
      Atinuke, author
      Lauren Tobia, illustrator
      Boston Globe-Hornbook Honor

      This is another of those books that I could have sworn I'd already reviewed for this blog.... But, no, sadly I've been remiss! I must credit Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 Production for first drawing my attention to this little gem. We are big Anna Hibiscus fans over here. This is an early chapter book that is wonderfully illustrated. It doesn't hurt that Anna is probably only a year or so older than my kindergartener nor that she also has twin brothers.

      And there the similarities abruptly halt. Anna lives in Africa, Amazing Africa. Atinuke is originally from West Africa and now lives in Wales, I believe. She is a storyteller by trade, and this book simply begs to be read aloud. The rhythm is unmistakably that of a true storyteller. Anna's family is a middle-upper class family in some unnamed African country. Her mother is Canadian and her father African. They live in a large family compound near a big city. Much of Anna's extended family lives with them.

      Retro Reads: Pollyanna

      Eleanor F. Porter

      Just the mention of the name "Pollyanna" is liable to create one of two reactions in many readers (some may have both!): an image of a cute, young Hayley Mills and/or the word "glad."

      Both are appropriate! I remember the Hayley Mills movie from when I was a kid, but I'd never actually read Pollyanna until just recently. I'm so glad I did! This book has become such a part of our cultural heritage that people even use the term "pollyanna-ish" or "pollyanna spirit."

      Friday, September 9, 2011


      Suzy Lee

      Our latest discovery--and one that my children have fought over. Each one covets the chance to take it to bed with him/her (yes, I do let them do that--even with library books!).

      If you're longing for the beach now that school has started, pick up this little gem from your local library. I don't know how such seemingly simple illustrations can capture so much of the salt spray and the delight of waves crashing on the shore--not the mention the sheer movement of the water, but they do. Even my children picked up on it and none of them have any memories of actually standing on the shore. A wonderful recent addition to the wordless book scene.

      What are YOUR favorite wordless books?

      Wednesday, September 7, 2011

      Noah's Ark

      Noah's Ark
      Peter Spier
      Caldecott Medal

      There are some really great Noah's Ark retellings and illustrations out there (someday, I'll review Jerry Pinkney's amazing version). But Spier's version is my all-time favorite. Aside from the image of him shutting the ark's door (the Lord does that in Genesis), this version could very well have happened. Spier fills each page with myriad details, inviting--no, demanding--one to take a closer look. Since Noah and company were on the ark a very long time, Spier allows the animal population to grow. (Watch for the hoard of bunnies leaving the ark!). He also gives clues as to the potential chaos on board, the mess generated by that many animals, and the relief all must have felt when the waters began to recede.

      This is not technically a wordless book since the first page or two contains a line from Scripture and a centuries-old poem. Lest you are tempted to skip the poem, I should point out that my children request it! The rest of the book is word free, though. Spier's illustrations are so detailed that my children love to pore over the pictures again and again--each time they notice something new. Unfortunately, this book is out of print. However, since it is a Caldecott winner, you're likely to find it at your local library since they tend to hang onto those!

      The Carl Books

      Good Dog, Carl
      Alexandra Day

      This series of wordless books about a lovable Rottweiler named Carl are charming and young children seem to really resonate with them. Imagine having a large dog looking after you! As an owner of a Labrador/Rott mix, I can tell you that Carl's expressions are quite genuine. He has various adventures with the young girl in the family (Madeleine--she's a baby initially). After you become a fan of Carl, check out Carl's website.

      Monday, September 5, 2011

      A Boy, A Dog, and a Frog

      A Boy, A Dog, and a Frog (mini boxed set of 4 books)
      Mercer Mayer
      1976 (the boxed set)

      I still have the little set of mini books I was given as a child. Oh, how I poured over these illustrations with my mom and sister. The expressions on the frog's face are priceless. A particular favorite is the scene in which frog realizes he's left all alone. For a couple of pages, he gets smaller and smaller until he's really quite tiny--yet you can still see his sad little expression. These little books are a true gem. If you can't get the mini books, the bigger ones will do. But there's something about the small size that makes them extra inviting to little hands. I find them in my children's beds all the time--evidence that some little person couldn't resist Frog's siren call for help.

      Worldless Books

      The best wordless books invite continual exploration of their visual elements--images that provide enjoyment for both non readers and expert readers. You can come back to them again and again. Children, especially, delight in telling and retelling the stories. This week I'm going to highlight some personal favorites. Friday's book is our latest discovery and so much fun.... Stay tuned!

      Friday, September 2, 2011

      New Readers

      It's so exciting to have a reader in the house! I mean, another reader. After all, her daddy and I are avid readers--welcome to the family, little girl!

      My daughter has just started kindergarten but, as is expected in a home where she has grown up hearing books read aloud, she is already reading without much official instruction on my part. We dabbled in The Ordinary Parent's Guide (and it was GREAT), but I laid off once we decided to send her a school rather than homeschool. She has managed to keep it up on her own quite successfully and is voraciously gobbling up early readers.

      Good news for anyone out there in cyber space who wants some reviews of early readers! Get ready. We're reading lots of them around here.

      Bink and Gollie

      Bink and Gollie
      Kate DiCamillo, author
      Alison McGhee, author
      Tony  Fucile, illustrator
      multiple "best books..." lists
      Geisel Award Winner

      DiCamillo has done it again! We are HUGE fans of the Mercy Watson books in this household, and my daughter has fallen in love with Bink and Gollie (the boys will, too, once I introduce them). In a new early chapter book series, DiCamillo (and team) give us two seemingly opposite girls: short, crazy-haired Bink and tall, tidy Gollie. Best friends who love to roller skate, they must compromise for nearly everything else. Even their houses are completely different. While Bink and Gollie are girls, they are not princess-y; they make a nice change of pace and boys will enjoy them, too.

      Wednesday, August 31, 2011

      Mediocre Tea + Styrofoam Cup = Nastiness

      I've done some traveling this summer and have been forced to confront this ugly truth over and over: NOTHING tastes good in styrofoam (unless it's instant hot chocolate mix and I'm sitting around a campfire...). But I digress.

      I'm not sure if coffee tastes as terrible in styrofoam, but tea is downright undrinkable--even if you start with something halfway decent, like Twinings.

      Another thought has occurred to me during my travels: why, oh why, don't fast food restaurants offer hot tea? Think about it: you don't have to do ANY prep. As long as you have a hot water dispenser, you simply need to have a stash of tea bags. That's it. No clean up. No wasted tea to throw out at the end of the day. No filters to buy. Nada. Zip. Maybe my favorite Chick-Fil-A will see this post and start offering hot tea. Then, there truly will be no competition to the great chicken sandwich (and bendy straws--CFA is the only one to wise up to this genius idea for kiddos!).

      Any thoughts from the peanut gallery? Any places you've found suitable hot tea options (other than coffee houses and establishments like Panera)? (note that I said "suitable"--I'm not even asking for delicious here... just something drinkable)

      Tuesday, August 30, 2011

      All-of-a-Kind Family

      All-of-a-Kind Family
      Sydney Taylor

      This book review is in honor of dear Megan who is enjoying having her beautiful new baby finally in her arms! (Another boy :-) ). Congratulations, Megan and family!

      I know Megan read these books growing up and harbors all kinds of warm fuzzies toward them. What a great choice for my first Retro Reads post!

      All-of-a-Kind Family is one of those books like The Five Little Peppers that makes you kind of (secretly, even) wish you were poor. The family is so loving, cheerful, hard-working, and kind that poverty looks downright enviable. The mother is devoted to her home and children, the hard-working husband comes home to children who are eager to shower him with affection, and all are working together to pinch pennies where necessary, sacrifice immediate gratification, and save up for wonderful family celebrations.