Happy November! We are gearing up for the holidays (one down, two and a birthday to go), winding down fall sports, and finding lots of new books! It’s hard to get my kids to read anything but Harry Potter these days (as evidenced above), but we’re working on finding books that are just as worthy.
The Wizards of Once
We received this in our very first OwlCrateJr. subscription box, and I’m stealing it as soon as my son is finished with it. This is written by Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon series. It’s about wizards and warriors, magic and lost magic, and it looks AMAZING. This is solidly in the fantasy genre, and given that Cowell is the author, I think it’s going to be great. (That awesome map came with it in our box, and I love it!)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Well, this is probably the millionth time I’ve talked about Harry Potter here, and it definitely won’t be the last. My 6-year-old is trying to read this on his own, but I’m mainly reading it to him because it’s a little difficult. He heard most of it when I read it to my 8-year-old, but he wants to start the series just for him now. And I’m ok with that!
What We’re Reading Together
The Magician’s Nephew
We’ve finally started the Narnia series! I’ve been dying to start this with my kids, and we’re reading about a chapter a night. My 8-year-old was a bit resistant, because he doesn’t want to read anything except Harry Potter right now, but he is loving it! My 6-year-old is too, and it’s tough to find a book that both of them love. I decided to read the series in chronological order, not publication order, and I THINK I’m ok with that. This book tells the story of the beginning of Narnia, and it makes me even more excited to read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to them next!
Those bookmarks you see (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and Lucy Pevensie in The Magician’s Nephew) are from Carrot Top Paper Shop. Y’all, she has the cutest female literary hero prints and bookmarks. I have a bunch, and I have a feeling my collection is only going to get bigger. (I’m not affiliated with her shop or sponsored or anything-I’m just a huge fan!)
The world can be a scary place. As a mom, I wish that I could put my kids in a bubble sometimes and protect them from all the bad things. Unfortunately, that’s not an option, nor is it the right thing to do. Aside from plastic bubbles not having great ventilation, it’s our job as parents, caregivers, and family members to help the kids in our lives understand tough subjects. But we can also help to make the world seem less scary, and to give them ideas of ways they can help and make the world a better place. (I think for a lot of kids, having an actionable task really helps.)
In the past few weeks, we’ve been having discussions about some tough subjects. One specific subject (9/11) and then the more global subjects of how people treat each other. I’m not going to get political in this post, so no worries! But I think we can all relate to finding it difficult when our young children ask really hard questions. We’ve discussed bullying, racism, and equality, to name a few. None of those are easy to talk about, but they are important. It’s a bit heartbreaking to watch my kids discover that the world can be a scary place, and that not everyone is as accepting, loving, and kind as they are.
My 8-year-old found out about 9/11 recently, so we’ve had quite a few discussions about that event lately, and that really spurred my search for some of these books. The books I’m talking about this week have been extremely helpful in offering concrete stories about 9/11, as well as showing ways in which we can all “look for the helpers” in the scariest situations.
I think books, in addition to open family discussions, can be so helpful for kids when it comes to understanding big topics. I’d like to highlight the books that we found the most informative and helpful with our kids, for several tough subjects. Today’s post focuses mainly on 9/11 books (which are pretty hard to find for younger kids), but some of them may be helpful for you! Let me know how you approach difficult subjects with your kids, and what books you’ve found that might be helpful.
My 8-year-old loves the I Survived series, so this was the first place I looked to find a more tangible way for him to read about 9/11. I was so happy to see there is one, and so was he! It’s about a middle grade boy who ends up in Manhattan on 9/11 (he skips school to visit his dad’s firefighter friend), and the events are seen through his eyes. This was incredible helpful, since it’s from a kid’s perspective, and it’s not graphic at all. While I do not believe in banning books for kids, when it comes to something like this, I think it’s important to find age-appropriate books, and this one is great for 8 and up!
My 8-year-old was particularly interested in this one because he had a lot of questions about the people who helped that day, and we always talk about how people can help with terrible things happen, whether it’s a natural disaster or otherwise. This is 10 stories from first responders, military officials, and the story of United Flight 93. The stories are not sugar coated, and some of them are a bit more graphic, so if you have a younger kid, you might want to read this with them or just pick a few of the stories to read aloud. It’s a fantastic way to show how real-life heroes help in tough situations.
This book was recommended to me by Bethany at Mom of Wild Things. I love this one because it is a picture book for all ages, and it focuses on what happens after a disaster. Like, way after. This book, which is beautifully illustrated, tells the story of how a steel beam from the World Trade Center was removed from the rubble and remade into the bow of a navy ship called the USS New York. That in itself is amazing. But the story goes on-the USS New York ended up housing shipbuilders who lost their homes after Katrina, and it continues to work in the ocean today. This is the best book I’ve seen for all ages that shows how good things can come out of the worst situations, with the concrete story of taking a steel beam that might have just been trashed and turning it into a massive navy ship. I highly recommend this one.
Kate at The Loud Library Lady recommended this to me, and it is the most gentle, wonderful book. This one is not about a specific event, but about a little girl who sees scary things on the news and how her parents take her out into the community to show her that not everyone is scary. It focuses on how we can all make a difference in the world, even if it’s something as small as being kind to a new friend or saying hello to everyone, even if those people don’t look like we do. This is a quietly powerful book, and I teared up reading it. I’m very glad it’s in our collection now.
I absolutely love this book, and we’ve had it for awhile. While it does not deal with disasters or scary subjects, it does show kids what it means to be kind to others (filling up their buckets, and by extension your own) and what it does when you’re mean to others for whatever reason (empties everyone’s buckets). I think this goes hand in hand with the other books, because it shows kids a tangible way to bring kindness into the world and make a difference, no matter how small. And for my kids at least, when we read it, they really do think more about how they act (especially with each other…) and what kind of people they want to be in the world. It’s also a great way to open discussions about what they can do at school if they see others not being kind or see someone who needs extra kindness.
In honor of Halloween being just a little more than a week away, I thought I would share some of the spooky (but not too spooky) books we’ve been reading this week! My kids love reading seasonal books as much as I do, and we found some great new ones this year, in addition to one of our standbys. (That Berenstain Bears book was brand new . . . in 1989.)
This is the story of a little girl who wants to be a ballerina. That’s hard enough, but as a vampire? It seems impossible. Vampirina has to overcome all kinds of obstacles (trying not to turn into a bat in front of the other ballerinas for one) to realize her dream of becoming a ballerina. It’s cute, funny, and has some great, spooky illustrations. Even my boys (6 and 8) enjoyed it! I believe it’s also a TV show on Disney Jr., so kids will definitely love this one.
This was my 6-year-old’s favorite of the bunch! Gilbert is a little ghost going to ghost school, where everyone learns how to haunt and be scary. The only problem is that Gilbert doesn’t want to be scary. He is banished to an abandoned tower, where he finds a friend and learns how to make his own place in the world. This book is SO cute, and I wish we’d found it sooner.
This was my 8-year-old’s favorite! It is written like an instruction manual: the care and feeding of your ghost. It’s funny, a little spooky, and the illustrations are fantastic. This is a must, especially for slightly older kids.
For me, it’s not really Halloween until we read this book. It’s one of my favorites, and my kids request it several times throughout October. Brother Bear and Sister Bear go trick or treating with a group of their friends, and when one of them decides to play a trick on the scary old lady at the end of the lane, things don’t go quite as planned. This is great for all ages, and such a wonderful classic.[Top]
Happy Friday! The format is a little different this week. Instead of featuring three books my kids are loving, I’m going to review one, because I loved it so much and because I think it remains an extremely important book for kids of all ages today. (And to be honest, I think some adults could learn a lesson or two from it.)
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is a children’s classic. It is a children’s classic that I didn’t read until this year. I know, I know. Surely I’m not the only one out there who hadn’t read it before. And if I am, please don’t tell me.
I bought this book because I wanted to read it to my kids before the Blue Sky movie version is out in December. Book before the movie, kids, always remember that. I was expecting a simple book about a happy bull that didn’t want to fight. And it is that, but it is also so much more. I was so taken with the message of this book that I did a little research about it. Ferdinand was first published in 1936, and was immediately labeled a pacifist story. Hitler ordered that all copies of this book be burned in Nazi Germany, but Stalin allowed it as the only non-communist children’s book allowed in Poland. It has been called everything from fascist to communist to pacifist to a story about gender nonconformity. And of course, it’s been banned in many countries.
Sounds a little more interesting than a simple story about a bull.
The story is set in Spain. Ferdinand lives on a farm with other bulls. All the other bulls want to socialize and run around and show how tough they are. Ferdinand is perfectly happy sitting under a tree by himself and looking at the flowers. When a bee stings him one day, he runs around in pain, snorting and stamping the ground. He is immediately recruited for bull fighting, and thrust into the ring. Instead of getting angry or scared, he simply sits down and enjoys the flowers all the ladies in the audience are wearing on their heads. He is poked and prodded many times, but he never gives the audience what they want. Ferdinand stays true to his nature.
What immediately struck me was how fantastic this is for kids who are happy being by themselves. Not lonely, and not by themselves against their will, but kids who prefer to sit quietly rather than be in a crowd. Kids are so often told or forced to go play with other kids, to go be social, to play sports. And those things are important. But some kids really, truly aren’t comfortable with any of that, and that’s ok. Ferdinand the bull shows them that even a big, tough bull needs quiet time as well.
It is also a wonderful example of how it’s ok to be different, even though everyone around you acts the same way and expects you to act like them. Ferdinand didn’t let anyone, not even bull fighters with spears who poked at him, change who he was or how he wanted to live. I think that’s a lesson we can all appreciate.
If you’re like me and are new to Ferdinand, please give this one a try. Both of my kids (ages 6 and 8) enjoyed it, and they each understood what the deeper meaning was. This is such a wonderful little book for all ages, and I wish I’d read it sooner!
This is a great article on Huffpost about how to talk to kids about the deeper meanings in Ferdinand.[Top]
Since Wednesday’s post was about seasonal reading for adults, I thought I would include a kid-centered post as well! Fall is also a great time for kids to read seasonally, and there are plenty to pick from! In addition to all the classic kids’ picture books, there are some great books that are perfect for fall. Whether your kids want to read on their own or you read these to them, here are a few choices we’ve been enjoying, and will continue to read, in the next month!
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This is such a classic children’s book, and with beautiful illustrations of monsters and Max’s wild rumpus of a story, it’s so perfect for fall. (It’s even more fun if your kids are wearing monster costumes while you read it!)
Grimms’ Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
This one is definitely for older kids, at least age 8 and up. With the Disneyfication of most fairy tales, it’s easy to forget their more gory origins. Violence, deception, and plenty of good vs. evil is a perfect fit for some Halloween reading. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney! But if you’re looking for some scary stories, the Grimm brothers can’t be beat.
The Magic Tree House Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve and A Good Night for Ghosts by Mary Pope Osborne
If you have elementary-aged kids, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Magic Tree House books. They are fantastic for kids who are ready for chapter books, as well as for kids interested in history. (It’s simple historical fiction for younger kids.) These two (one about a haunted castle in Camelot, the other about ghosts in New Orleans and Louis Armstrong) would be great to pull out this month to get a little cozy, not too scary, reading in.
The Witches by Roald Dahl
This is another one for slightly older readers, age 8 and up depending on their level of comfort with witches. Witches who hate children. The Witches is about a little boy who lives with his grandma. She tells him scary stories about real witches who hate children, and who hide among regular people. When they go on vacation in Norway, the end up staying at the same place as a witch convention, and the Grand High Witch discovers the little boy spying on them. If you love Roald Dahl, this is a must, but be aware that the book does deal with death and the potential death of a beloved grandma. But it’s one of my favorites, and witches and Halloween go hand in hand.
The Monstore by Tara Lazar and James Burks
This is a fun picture book that both of my kids love to read every year. (They love it so much that it never stays with our seasonal Halloween books for long, and always ends up next to their bookcases.) Zach visits the Monstore for all of his monsterly needs, but when his little sister discovers it too, his plans go awry. This is a cute, fun book that’s not scary, and the illustrations are great!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
For older kids! Age 10 and up, for sure. I haven’t read this, but I would like to very soon. Neil Gaiman is the king of fantasy, a great genre for fall, and this one covers all the creepy Halloween bases as well. Bod lives in a graveyard. He is the only living resident there, and was raised by werewolves, ghosts, and other fantastical creatures. He has to balance the world of the graveyard with the world of the living, and the dangers that lie in each. If you have a child who likes fantasy and suspense, this would be perfect for them.
Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe
This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to read it. It will definitely be required fall reading for them very soon. It’s such a simple story: a dog and a cat living in the Monroe house must figure out if the new pet, a bunny with fangs, is a vampire or not. This book. This book! I really hope kids today still read it. It’s funny, not too scary, and it’s about a vampire bunny who sucks the color out of vegetables! What more could you want?
The Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan
This is my recommendation for a fall fantasy series. Rick Riordan does this so well, and the Magnus Chase series, about a boy who must save the world and Viking myths, is fantastic for fall. (Or anytime!) This is for older kids, and kids who are fans of Percy Jackson and the Avengers series will love this one. (The third book in the series, The Ship of the Dead, was just released on October 3.)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Illustrated Edition
Fall is my favorite time to re-read the Harry Potter series, and this book will make a wonderful edition to any Harry Potter collection, and will be fun for any Harry Potter fan. I know the illustrations will be beautiful, and kids (and who am I kidding, adults too) will have a good time cozying up under a blanket and looking at all the magical beasts J.K. Rowling has written about. (Out November 7, 2017)
The Eerie Elementary series by Jack Chabert
This is a new series for me, and I’m going to be checking them out for my kids. These are chapter books for new chapter book readers, and for older readers who want a quick book to read. (And obviously, with a name like Eerie Elementary, excellent for Halloween!) Eerie Elementary is a scary school, and Sam Graves has to protect himself and his friends from all the weird things that happen at the school. There are 6 books in the series, and the 7th one (Classes Are Canceled!) will be out on November 28, so there are plenty of books to read for the rest of October!