Dec 21, 2011

What are you reading Wednesday?

What have you got open at the moment? A Christmas classic?

My kids and I have been reading some good holiday books, including The Bear That Father Christmas Forgot.

I'm into the Iron Fey series, by Julie Kagawa. I devoured the first 5 (3 full books and two bridge books) but the last one is slow going. It's not at all that it's bad, it's not, but the narrator has changed and it's taking me some time to get back into it from that point of view. Also, I want the girl to be with the other guy. I have that problem a lot. It happened with The Hunger Games too, I'm cheering for the guy the girl doesn't want. I also hate when there is a picture of a character on the front. The reason I like books more than movies is that I can imagine these people! I'm probably alone in this however, so many books have characters on the cover.

Not sure what I'll open after this one is done so give me ideas!

Dec 19, 2011

Short Story Monday: Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket

It truly is the most wonderful and rushed time of the year. Like many of you, I am rushed around trying to get everything done to make the most perfect Christmas experience. December is a busy month, and I personally feel like I don't get much time to sit and think.

What if, when traveling to a family member's house for Christmas, you were stuck on a plane or train or bus with perfect strangers? Would you sit and read your Kindle until the battery burned out? Would you plug your ears with music and keep from making eye contact? Or would you make conversation with those around you? Would you do your utmost to band together to give them Christmas joy even with strangers?

I'd probably be the one with my nose buried in a bunch of books, to be honest! But I love that the title character of this LM Montgomery book, Aunt Cyrilla, is not.

I read Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket, by LM Montgomery, for Short Story Monday. When traveling with her niece. Lucy Rose, for Christmas at a relative's, Aunt Cyrilla's train is stopped due to bad weather. A motley cast is stuck with her, including a soldier, a rich woman, a young mother and her kids, and a thin minister. Aunt Cyrilla is prepared for her visit to relatives and is able to provide a Christmas feast despite the unexpected occurrence. They give away what they have to make a happy day for all. And the impromptu concert keeps their spirits high.

This story is a great reminder of why we go to so much trouble to feed and entertain people at Christmas- it is truly a joy to give of yourself to bring others happiness. I'll try not to forget that lesson during the hustle and bustle this season.

Dec 17, 2011

Dogs Don’t Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know

You know how kids go through a phase where they want to impart every bit of knowledge they have? Even if they only gained that knowledge five seconds previously? My kids are going through that phase. I'm still in that phase, come to think of it (why else would I have a blog dedicated to telling you what to read?)

This tendency can be helpful or can veer over into bossy. This is a hard line to walk, I know! Japanese schools are really good at getting older kids to help younger kids out. As soon as kids go up a grade there are younger ones they need to guide around a new school, or help with a particularly difficult kanji, or to show how to ride a unicycle. I, however, have generally been on the bossy side. Sorry little brother.

Dogs Don't Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know (CAN, JP, US) by Sarah Tsiang and illustrated by Qin Leng and published by Annick Press, features an older sibling on the nice side of helpful. I think all that humour helps too.

This is the guide an older sister presents to her new baby brother. She takes him through all the things she knows, right from the start, such as eating, communicating, and managing parents in the middle of the night. She then takes Little Bro up to her own age, and shows him skills such as zippers and caring for their pet that she has just recently gotten the hang of. Big Sis makes it clear where her knowledge comes from, pure trial and error, like when learning to pour a certain amount into a smaller cup.

I have written about Qin Leng's illustrations before, when I featured her short story, Down at the Beach. Her illustrations continue to draw me in (whomp-whomp). I love these tiny faces and joy-infused limbs of her characters.

I love that this book shows the siblings working together, and that the older sibling doesn't seem put off by a new addition at all. This is a message I want my kids to understand- but the most important thing they both learned from it was that no matter how mad their father and I get at them, we still love them.

I loved this book enough that I nominated it for the Cybils in the Fiction Picture Book category. The first round short lists will be announced on Jan. 1, and I really hope this book is on that list!

This is the 19th book I read for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.

Dec 10, 2011

My Name is Elizabeth!

I specifically chose both of my kids' names because they lend themselves to nicknames. My daughter loves her nicknames, and generally introduces herself differently every time. My son, however, only likes his given name, and tolerates being called Spinky. He hates all the other nicknames we give him. This may prove a problem when he's a J-League soccer player and the fans want to make up songs using various nicknames, but until then we'll deal.

Just like Elizabeth's grandad, parents, friends, teachers, and everyone else around her (except her little brother) deal in My Name is Elizabeth! (CAN, JP, USA). This delightful book was written by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe, and published by Kids Can Press. It is one of two Canadian picture books appearing on the New York Times' Notable Children's Books list.

Elizabeth is called by a variety of nicknames, it seems the only one silent on the matter is her pet duck. Then one day she decides she is going to stand up and make everyone aware of what she wants them to call her. She does this, however, without being precious or obnoxious, which is a pretty hard thing to do. She gains acceptance from everyone but her brother who just can't pronounce Elizabeth at his age, and she's okay with him trying.

Like another Canadian classic, Red is Best, the lead character is a girl who knows her mind and is able to express that. This is really important to me, especially since Japanese culture doesn't always value this. I want both of my children to be able to speak their mind, and I'm glad these books show them other kids who do too.

The entire book is written using speech bubbles, but there is no other text to distract, such as in manga or in the Magic Schoolbus series. The beauty of this is you get a first-person story, which really suits the character and her story. No one needs to speak for Elizabeth. It's also so nice to see that Elizabeth isn't a girly princess girl. Her room isn't pink, she has a skateboard, she is very relatable.

It's the illustrations my kids love best- and so do I! The palette only consists of 4 colours- blue, orange, black, and white. This makes for illustrations that have that sort of retro but modern feel that hipsters love. So do I. I love it so much I painted my walls that blue (okay, that was last year). But that orange is so gorgeous with it, I am considering switching all the green out of my great room for orange. Just like in this book and the cover of Underground.

This is the 18th book I read for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.

Dec 8, 2011

What are you reading?

This is supposed to come out on Wesnesday but I am a day late and a hundred yen short.

This has been a very stressful week for me. Sometimes I concentrate so much on giving my kids an English and culturally Canadian experience that I am suddenly overwhelmed with the stuff I need to deal with for their childcare. I have so few precious hours with them, I hate to waste it on fixing others' mistakes and worrying. I also hate that comments about being a working mom means my children suffer really hurt me. Not my best week.

But like usual, I have a book to retreat into and help me relax and realize my problems aren't all that bad. At least I am not an 18th century gay man trying to avoid prosecution for buggery while in love with a man whose wife is a time traveller stuck in her own century. Silver lining that is a joy to read!

I'm still reading The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. Almost done, but I am savouring the last few pages just for the pure enjoyment of them.

My kids and I read The Flying Canoe: A Christmas Story, so expect a review on that later this week.

What are you reading? What are you reading aloud?

Dec 5, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Big and Small, Room For All

For Nonfiction Monday, a roundup of posts about nonfiction books for children, hosted this week by Gathering Books, my kids and I read Big and Small, Room for All (CAN, JP, US). This picture book was written by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Gillian Newland, and published by Tundra Books.

One of the staples in my kids' reading rotation is Big, Little by Leslie Patricelli. This is a great book. It has bright colours, illustrations that are so easy for your 18 month old to figure out, and it has rhythm. Which is why I didn't get bored of it the first 197 times I read it. But now...I'm a little over it.

That is why I am so glad we bought this book. It has a similar concept, but so much much more. I am sure I will be able to read this twice as many times and still have things to find in Newland's illustrations.

Big and Small, Room for All, is about perspective. It compares the sizes of things, so that children can figure out how huge the universe is and how tiny microorganisms are. Plus, it has rhythm. Not to mention some great questions. My kids are now obsessed with answering "What is smaller than a flea?" Usually the answer involves crushed up cereal, but hey, they're learning how to sweep right?

So the writing has everything- rhythmic, easy to understand sentences, so the sentence structure creeps into speech very quickly. Things kids know are juxtaposed against those they may not, making it easy for even a toddler to reference with the real world (such as universe vs. sky).

But the illustrations are what make this book. Just scroll up and look at that cover again. How many children's books are drawn with that much background? The finely detailed girl on a branch isn't just there, she's in a field with mountains kilometres in the background. This perspective is life-like and therefore great for kids to learn their place in the world.

This says it is aimed at kids 2-5 and honestly, I didn't think my 2-year old daughter would get it. But she does! I mean, she's not chatting about nebulae but she looks up at the night sky and knows there is more out there. That impressed me.

This is the 17th book I read for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.

Dec 3, 2011

Take your child to a bookstore day

Today is take your child to a bookstore day. I love this day.

We'll go after lunch.

Are you participating? Are you taking yourself to a bookstore? Second best way to spend a day (after reading, of course!),