For April we adopted a water cycle and rain theme (April Showers!…get it?), along with gardening.
We read for Marguerite Henry’s birthday and National Help a Horse Day (seems like those should have been on the same day!). There was also World Penguin Day, Earth Day, National Arbor Day and Shakespeare’s birthday – yes, we even managed to work The Bard into our 365 read-aloud project! April was National Poetry Month, which led to some entertaining selections, and National Library Week happened this month as well. In a sense, we could have relabeled this year “A Local Library Year”. We have always been fans of the public library – but never more so after leaning on them so much all year to help us keep our book list going!
If we thought we had a lot of special days in February, we hit the jackpot in March. This Month we didn’t just have a “foine bundle o’ books” for St. Patrick’s Day!
There was Dr. Seuss’s Birthday (!), Dentist’s Day, Pi Day, and Albert Einstein’s Birthday, National Doctor Day, and the anniversary of the Eiffel Tower’s opening. Oh – and let’s not forget the beginning of spring and a very early Easter! It was a veritable Easter basket full of special days…in what we normally don’t think of as a holiday month!
February was an entertaining month…and because of leap year we got one extra day of reading aloud (bonus!). It was still winter (or as close as we get to it around these parts) and we were geared up to celebrate Valentine’s Day. What we didn’t expect was how reading for other special days during the month – Groundhog day, Lincoln’s birthday, and President’s day – led us to read several books we might not otherwise have picked up!
But wait…there’s more!
Wow! Where has this year gone! We’ve been quiet on the blog for a while, but we never stopped in our goal of reading aloud a unique picture book every day – and this holiday season we are feeling particularly grateful for all of the wonderful suggestions we received from friends and contacts, and all the amazing picture books we have discovered during the year.
January was a great month, full of anticipation and excitement about what we were planning to accomplish this year. There are some great books here – but what strikes me most is how we started pulling from our own shelf for these books…and eventually ended up with a house full of (literally) piles of brand new books and a list of library books we have checked out that might reach to the moon and back!
In celebration of our Storybook Year, we are going to be posting more collages here, and (as time allows :)) we will also be posting reviews of some of our favorites from each of the last several months. Be sure to check out our feed on Instagram, and stay tuned there for a holiday giveaway coming soon!
Is there a day summer day – or any day, really – that isn’t made better by reading aloud together about the mice of Brambly Hedge? Today’s book, “Sea Story,” is another outstanding entry in Jill Barklem’s Brambly hedge series, telling the story of Dusty, Poppy, Primrose and Wilfred who set off for the sea in Dusty’s boat, the Periwinkle to stock up on salt.
The mice set off together on a beautiful, breezy and warm summer day to pay a much-needed visit on their cousins, the Sea Mice. Along with a little bit of peril on the “high seas”, this lovely little tale has some delightful vocabulary, charming characters (with interesting names), and of course Ms. Barklem’s intricate and fascinating illustrations! We were once again quite impressed not only by the care apparent in Ms. Barklem’s artwork, but by the colorful details of everyday life that she works into the narrative – details which really help to bring her characters and the world of Brambly Hedge alive.
Can’t wait for the next time we get to pop in on Ms. Barklem’s friends!
Tags: adventure, barklem, Brambly Hedge, mice, primrose, sea mice, sea salt
Category: 365 Read Aloud, Age Range 3 to 5, Age Range 6 to 8, Category - Upper Elementary, Illustration
Today we read a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking a joke just a little too far. First published in 1958, “Sam and the Firefly” by P.D. Eastman is ultimately an engaging story about friendship and redemption – with a side of drama!
Sam is an owl who wakes at night to find everyone else asleep. He cannot find anyone to play with but a firefly named Gus. At first they have fun with the discovery that Gus can use his tail light to write words in the sky; Gus proves a prolific sky-writer. He writes “Gus and Sam”…”Fish” and “Wish”…”House” and “a Mouse”…”Yes”…”No”…even “Kangaroo” and “Thermometer!”
Gus is excited with his new-found skill, but it soon becomes clear that things are getting out of hand. When Gus jets off to an intersection and begins scrawling competing instructions in the sky, he causes a big car crash. Then he gets airplanes all crossed up by doing the same thing high in the sky – all the time pursued by an increasingly dismayed Sam.
After causing a stampede at the movie theater by scrawling “Come in! Free show” in bright lights above the marquee, Gus finally pushes his luck too far. He changes “Hot Dogs” to “Cold Dogs” on a hot dog vendor’s stand – and the vendor manages to catch him and put him in a jar! Sam desperately wants to free his friend, but does not know how. As the man drives Gus back out into the country, the man’s car gets stuck on some train tracks…and a train is coming! In the nick of time, Sam fetches the jar, frees Gus, and has him write “Stop, Stop, Stop, Stop” in front of the train. The train stops, and the car is saved! Gus has learned an important lesson, and he and Sam continue to be friends…playing every night, but no more bad tricks.
“Sam and the Firefly” has some outstanding illustrations – simple but with a charming, vintage feel. There is just enough danger to keep little listeners engaged, and some repetition and rhyming that might be nice for beginning readers. Overall, an excellent choice for read aloud…it has been read many times in our house.
Tags: bad tricks, Eastman, firefly, friendship, owl, redemption, sky writing
Category: 365 Read Aloud, Age Range 3 to 5, Age Range 6 to 8, Early Readers, Picture Books
“Emanuel’s Dream” is the amazing and inspiring true story of Emanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a young boy from Ghana born with only one leg who managed to ride his bike all around his home country.
When Emanuel was born his father left home, and everyone thought that with only one leg, Emmanuel would be useless, or even worse: a curse! Everyone that is, except his mother, Comfort. Mama Comfort told Emanuel he could have anything, but he would have to get it for himself.
When Emanuel went to school, his mother carried him at first; when he became too heavy, he hopped. He saved his money and bought a soccer ball, and played with the other boys on crutches. Then, Emanuel learned to ride a bike with only one leg(!).
When Emmanuel was thirteen, Mama Comfort became very sick, so Emmanuel moved to the capital city Accra to earn some money to care for her. When Mama Comfort died, she told Emanuel, “Be respectful, take care of your family, don’t ever beg. And don’t give up.” Emanuel wanted to prove that being disabled did not mean being unable, so he resolved that he was going to bicycle around Ghana. When no-one in his town was willing to help, that did not deter him; Emanuel instead wrote to the Challenged Athletes Foundation in San Diego California, and they sent him the things he needed. He received a blessing from the king of his region, hired a taxi to drive after him and film him, and Emanuel rode all the way around Ghana with only one leg wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word “Pozo” (meaning “The Disabled Person”) on his jersey.
We absolutely loved this story, as did I think everyone else who’s read it – based on the reviews we’ve seen. Emmanuel represents true grit and strength and his story is full of so many wonderful messages about never giving up on your dream or on the people you love.
Tags: bicycle, determination, disability, dream, Emmanuel, Ghana, grit, inspiration
Category: 365 Read Aloud, Age Range 6 to 8, Age Range 9 to 12, Nonfiction, Picture Books, Real World
“Island Boy” is another charming tale of historical fiction from one of our favorite author/illustrators, Barbara Cooney.
Matthais is born on Tibbets Island, Maine and his life is inextricably tied to the sea. After traveling the world as a young man, he returns to the island to marry his sweetheart and raise a family. The story crosses generations, sprinkles in some Maine history, and also includes a fascinating map in the back for children and parents alike to pore over. The ending is a little bit sad, but the book is as charming and beautiful as you would expect from Ms. Cooney. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tags: cooney, illustration, island, maine, melancholy, ocean, picture book, sea, tibbets island
Category: 365 Read Aloud, Age Range 6 to 8, Age Range 9 to 12, Category - Upper Elementary, Historical Fiction, Illustration, Picture Books, Real World
Over in the ocean
Far away from the sun
Lived a mother octopus
And her octopus one
‘Squirt’ said the mother
‘I squirt’ said the one
So they squirted in the reef
Far away from the sun”
So begins Marianne Berkes’ “Over in the the Ocean”, a wonderfully catchy rhyming and counting book that also serves as an introduction to some of the amazing animals that live along the coral reef. Set to the rhythm and tune of Olive Wadsworth’s classic rhyme “Over in the Meadow”, “Over in the Ocean” is a delightful read aloud experience made all the more entertaining by Jeanette Canyon’s intricate “relief” illustrations.
We had a lot of fun reading this book. The pace and rhyme scheme are addictive – it rolls right off your tongue and should keep little listeners thoroughly engaged. In the back of the hardcover edition that we read there is also a copy of the music to go with the rhyme and some additional information about the coral reef and the animals in the book. The end notes also include some tips from Ms. Canyon – who created all of the illustrations in the book with polymer clay(!) We love finding these kinds of extra “goodies” as part of our reading adventures – it’s so fun!
For some additional background information, you can watch a video about Ms. Canyon’s work on “Over in the Ocean” by clicking here.
Today we read a perfect book for summertime – a playful and breezy book of poems about outdoor play called “A Stick is an Excellent Thing” by Marylin Singer and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. With jaunty, rhyming text and joyful depictions of children enjoying the outdoors to the fullest, it had us ready to drop everything and head outside to play!
Ms. Singer’s poems pay tribute to all the fantastic fun that can be had outdoors with the simplest of toys – a sprinkler, bubbles, jacks, a red rubber ball, a jump rope, some sidewalk chalk, and (yes) excellent sticks! It’s a great reminder that having fun on a hot summer day doesn’t necessarily require any planning or expensive toys, just a few simple props and some space to move (of course, around these parts you also often need some Off repellant – which I noticed was not mentioned in any of Ms. Singer’s poems!)
The rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and the fast-paced format is perfect for short attention spans (whether it’s the reader or the listener with the short attention span). I’m not sure which poem was my favorite, but my favorite illustration accompanied the poem “Upside Down” about looking at the world from another angle while hanging from a swing. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Singer: a stick is an excellent thing. I have seen it many times with my own eyes – which is why just reading the title of this book makes me smile. Ding-ding! Another winner.
Tags: hopscotch, jump rope, outdoor play, poetry, rhyming, stick
Category: 365 Read Aloud, Age Range 3 to 5, Age Range 6 to 8, Category - Upper Elementary, Poetry, Rhyming