It's Friday, Friday...

This picture has nothing to do with anything, except I never shared it before.  Last Sunday, while I was working on dollhouse #2, Little Sis was having a quiet memorial service for Grandpa Bear.  You see, Grandpa was 200 years old, so apparently, it was his time to go.  She made little sympathy notes for the mourners.  She also made a big mess, but that's nothing new.  I should be working on their rooms right now, in fact, but she stayed home from school today (just a cold, I think).  I can't keep up with anything around here anymore.

I thought I'd share a few more books we've read lately.  Just a few.  Unfortunately, my personal reading is about to take a hit - really, it should have already taken a hit - as I begin rehearsals next week for Clybourne Park.  I have lots of lines to learn, and I tend to read less when I'm in a play.  We only have a month before we open, and I'll be back in the reading swing of things after we close, but ohmygoshonlyamonth!!!!  Yeah, I'll be concentrating on lines.

Now, on to what we have read lately:

Unspoken [2012] and Untold [2014]
by Sarah Rees Brennan.
Random House Books for Young Readers.

I know there are some YA-paranormal-fiction fans out there.  Before Christmas, I finished the first two books in Sarah Rees Brennan's The Lynburn Legacy series.  There is much to like here!  Imaginary friends that turn out to be real, a sleepy English village (called Sorry-in-the-Vale!), a brave heroine with a wicked sense of humor, her wonderful girlfriends, brooding teen boys, sorcery...  I enjoyed these very much.  The books have a romantic vibe to them, but I think it's the humor that I liked most of all.  The second book ends with a cliffhanger, but we must wait until September to find out what happens next.

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Fortunately, The Milk
by Neil Gaiman,
illustrated by Skottie Young.
HarperCollins, 2013.

Considering I first checked this one out at least two months ago (perhaps longer), I admit it took me a very long time to get to it!  By now, I'm sure everyone has read it or considered it or at least heard about it.  I read it very quickly to myself one day, then handed it off to Big Sis, who read it very quickly to herself over the course of the next two or three days.  We both agree:  this was a very funny book!  Big Sis would add, "Especially when the kids ask the dad questions, trying to catch him lying."  She also liked the ending, and wanted to know why the dad in the illustrations has such crazy hair.  I showed her a picture of Neil Gaiman.  "Oh!  Okay."

I also read some Christmasy things, but since I did not get to them this season, I have decided to hold onto them until the end of the year!

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What I've been reading, but it's taking me forever and now I'm worried I won't get a chance to finish before I have my lines memorized.  (Once you're well into your thirties and kids have taken over, it's a lot harder to memorize!!!):

Bellman & Black
by Diane Setterfield.
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2013.
This one is categorized as a new release at out library and only available to be checked out two weeks at a time.  Two weeks wasn't enough the first time.  I was halfway through the book when I had to return.  I just picked it up again yesterday!  I would love to finish it.  I wasn't a fan of Setterfield's first book, The Thirteenth Tale, but I was really enjoying this one.  

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The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai.
Penguin, 2011.
Lucy suggested this one to me in the comments of one of my Oz posts.  I'm loving it so far.  Only halfway there, though.  No trailer, sorry.

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What We Read Together:

Nursery Rhyme Comics
edited by Chris Duffy.
First Second, 2011.

It took us three nights to read Fairy Tale Comics, but you know, nursery rhymes are a lot shorter.  We read this one last night!  It was wonderful, too.  Nick Bruel, Jules Feiffer, David Macaulay, and Patrick McDonnell are among the artists this time!

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Junie B. Jones and the YuckyBlucky Fruitcake
by Barbara Park,
illustrated by Denise Bruckus.
Random House, 1995.
(Aww, I just noticed this one came out the year I graduated high school!)  We have several new Junie B. Jones books to read, but this one is my favorite this year.  Big Sis had us start with this one, because it's one
of her favorites, too.

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What We're Reading Together Now:

Another Oz book...  but that will wait until next week!

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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Frozen Stuff

How is the weather where you are?  Our latest round of snow has diminished quite a bit, thanks to yesterday's balmy 38-degree temps (!).  It was only 32 degrees today, but there was very little wind. Perfect weather for posing the girls' Frozen dolls in the snow!

Aren't they lovely?  My dad ordered them for Christmas on Thanksgiving night, right after the four of us saw the movie together.They're the Disney Store variety, not the Mattel/Disney Princess/Barbie kind.  Their hands and knees are jointed, so you can pose them all sorts of ways.  In keeping with the sister theme, Big Sis received Queen Elsa and Little Sis got Princess Anna.  (Sorry, I'm linking through Amazon, as they're no longer on the Disney Store website.)

Little Sis also received a Frozen Little Golden Book!  Movie tie-in books are so much cooler when they're in Little Golden Book form, don't you think?

Frozen (Disney Little Golden Book) by Victoria Saxon,
illustrated by Grace Lee, Massimiliano Narciso, and Andrea Cagol,
designed by Tony Fejeran.  (RH Disney)
Golden/Disney, 2013.

I do believe it is impossible to get to this page without wanting to belt "Let It Go" at the top of your lungs, super-melodramatically.  

The Anna doll has freckles, by the way.  They make me smile.

I want a big stuffed Olaf now.  Oh!  And a reindeer.  Not a stuffed Sven, but an actual reindeer.  I whispered that to Big Sis in the theater, the second time we saw the movie.  She made a face at me and said, "Dad just said the same thing!"

And this is why Mr. B and I are married, folks.

I was a wild Disney fanatic as a kid, even through high school, but these days, not so much.  This is the first non-Pixar Disney movie I've loved in years.  Forgive me if I'm still a little excited.  Just...  let it go.

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Best Read-Alouds of 2013

My daughters, Big Sis (8) and Little Sis (6) love to read together.  Big Sis is on to her own books, and Little Sis is learning, but no matter what, we cherish our read-aloud time.  For the past two years, I've been a once-a-week reader in Big Sis's classrooms at school, by request of her teachers, and I love getting to read to a classroom full of kids, getting hugs and Christmas cards and "Hi, Mrs. B!"s in the hallway.  For the last three years as a bookstore employee, I was the storytime lady, and it's definitely the part of my job I miss most.

Yesterday, I posted about a book that will definitely be one of our favorite read-aloud experiences of 2014.  I thought I would share our 15 favorite read-aloud experiences of 2013!  Some of the books were brand new, some older, some much older, but each one was special to us in some way.  The list is chronological (for the most part), and rather heavy on fall and winter reading (snuggle time).

1.  Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson [Nobrow, 2012].  We read this at the very beginning of 2013.  In fact, we read it New Year's Day!  This one is special because I finally read a comic/graphic novel to the girls and loved it.  I have no problem with the genre, other than the fact I have trouble focusing on the page.  Perhaps it was the humor, the cool little heroine, or the Scandinavian influence that made me love Hilda.  The girls loved her, too.  In fact, we now own the first Hilda book, Hildafolk,and are awaiting the arrival of another Hilda book!  [Blogged about here.] 

 2.  The first four Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee.  Pictured is Clementine, Friend of the Week [Disney Hyperion, 2010].  Oh, what is it about exuberant, "naughty" little girl heroines in books that we love?  Ramona Quimby, Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Clementine...  We zipped through the first four Clementine books at the end of January last year, and they made an impression!  Clementine is so lovable, with such an interesting way of seeing things. We love her relationship with her principal and teacher, her messy family, her friend and sometime-enemy Margaret.  I should pick up the most recent books this year.  We could use another foray in Clementine's world.  [Blogged here.]

3.  Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer.  [Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012]  This one makes the list because of two classroom read-alouds.  I relish the chance to read an Olivia book to a bunch of kids, and when Big Sis's first grade teacher told me last February that she had read Olivia to the class, and that the kids were asking for more, I was thrilled to oblige!  I love this particular book, too.  It is one of my favorites in the series, in fact.  The second classroom read-aloud is one I cannot tell you about firsthand, because I wasn't there!  Big Sis's second grade teacher asked for student volunteers to read to the class this fall.  Big Sis practiced this book at home - you should have heard her repeating "corporate malfeasance" to herself - then read it to the class herself.  She told me it was kind of scary, but she got through it, and she didn't even stumble!  I was very proud of her.  She reads to her sister all the time, but it's another thing to project your voice to your teacher and 19 kids!  [I first blogged about this book in 2012.]

 4.  Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick.  [Scholastic Press, 1999]  // Flying Ace: The Story of Amelia Earhart by Angela Bull.  [Dorling Kindersley, 2000]  I'm cheating a bit, perhaps, by combining these.  2013 was the year my five-year-old discovered Amelia Earhart.  We had read Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride before, but something about it fascinated Little Sis this year.  She wants to be an artist-ballerina-pilot when she grows up, and tells us that her hero is Amelia Earhart.  This summer, in honor of Amelia Earhart's birthday and to whet her appetite for visiting the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in August, we read this wonderful, Level 4 DK reader.  She loved the pictures of the real Amelia: as a baby, as a child, a teenager, a pilot.  Seeing her face when her eyes beheld Amelia's red Lockheed Vega 5B at the museum, after seeing it in the pages of a book, was precious!  [Blogged here and here.]

5.  The Magic Half by Annie Barrows. [Bloomsbury USA, 2009]  One night, while Little Sis was in dance class, Big Sis and I each grabbed our own book and stretched out in the hall to wait.  I don't remember what book I brought with me, but Big Sis had The Magic Half.  She asked me to help with a word, and suddenly, it was clear we were going to have to read it together.  It was too intriguing!  This one was special because it belonged to only Big Sis and me, reminding me of when she was tiny and I would read "big kid books" to her to go to sleep.  Now she is a big kid reader herself, although not too old for her evening read-aloud!  And this time, we could take turns reading. [First blogged about here.]

6.  Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. [Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.]    It was April, and I was looking for books to feature for National Poetry Month.  Here was a darkly funny take on Mother Goose, illustrated by Sophie Blackall!  I thought we would enjoy it, but this book had us rolling!  Not the best bedtime reading, as it got everybody wound up with laughter that night, but definitely one to remember!  [Blogged here.]

7.  Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell by G.M. Berrow. [Little Brown, 2013]  Yeah, this is the one I didn't really want to buy at the Scholastic Book Fair, but I relented and bought it anyway, then I read it out loud to the daughters over the course of a few nights and realized it wasn't so bad.  In fact, it was pretty good.  In fact, Hey girls, let's go watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic now.  [Blogged here.]

8.  Ivy and Bean Make the Rules [2012] and Ivy and Bean Take the Case [2013] by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  [Chronicle Books]  We love Ivy and Bean!  We love Ivy and Bean so much that this summer, Little Sis decided her daddy needed to love Ivy and Bean, too!  She convinced him to read Ivy and Bean Make the Rules to her.  (The three of us first read it last year.)  It was awesome listening to Mr. B read about Ivy and Bean's creative alternative day camp, especially when he kept cracking up!  I mentioned this post to him, and how I loved listening to him read this book.  He shrugged and said, "Those are two very funny girls."  (He lives with two very funny girls, you know.)  Ivy and Bean Take the Case must be on the list, too, because any new Ivy and Bean book is a happy read-aloud experience.  [Lots of Ivy & Bean love.]

9.  Vampirina [2012] and Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover [2013] by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. [Disney Hyperion]  // Zombelina by Kristyn Crow, illustrated by Molly Idle. [Walker Children's, 2013]  Because this was the year Little Sis decided she was going to be a zombie ballerina for Halloween, long before we found Zombelina at the bookstore.  I read this one to the second-graders, too, after Big Sis told them about the book and her sister's costume.  The first Vampirina Ballerina book was a re-read from last year, but the new one was even better!  [Blogged here and here.]

10.  Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorg. [Schwartz and Wade, 2013]  If there was an honest-to-goodness family favorite picture book this year, Sophie's Squash would be it.  The darling story of a girl who names a butternut squash Bernice and makes it her playmate, we read this one multiple times at home, as well as once to Big Sis's class at school.  Little Sis took possession of a squash in my grocery bag one night, drew a face on it, and named it Phoebe.  Alas, Phoebe became a risotto, but as compensation, I made sure a copy of Sophie's Squash was wrapped under the tree, with Little Sis's name on it.  [Blogged here.]

11.  The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.  [Books of Wonder edition, HarperCollins, 1995]  I'm sure my regular readers have been wondering, Where's the Oz book?  Surely Danzel picked an Oz book. (I am rather Oz-crazy.)  Instead of cheating and saying, "All the Oz books we read last year!," I will be honest and pick my beloved Patchwork Girl of Oz.  Both girls agree with me, the seventh Oz book (first published in 1913) is the most fun, so far.  Scraps, the Glass Cat, and the Woozy are great characters, and Neill's illustrations are gorgeous in this one.  Note:  We finally started Tik-Tok of Oz last night!  [Blogged here.]

12.  Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Bruckus.  [Random House, 1994]  When Barbara Park died in November, both of my daughters were very sad, especially Big Sis.  Big Sis began first grade by barreling through the school library's collection of Junie B. Jones books, in addition to the ones we owned and the ones she found at the public library.  She would then tell all the plots to Little Sis, who would then convince her best friend, Chloe, to play Junie B. Jones with her on play dates.  In second grade, Big Sis moved on to Magic Tree House, Judy Moody, and Fudge, while her sister still longed to hear about Junie B.  I read a book to her once in a while, but after Barbara Park passed away, I had Big Sis pick her favorite Junie B. book that we owned off the shelf, and we settled in to read in her memory.  And Big Sis was right - this one is really funny!  [Blogged here.]

13.  Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of the Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet. [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011]  Something I have learned this year:  children love nonfiction.  I always tried to mix nonfiction in with fiction, but I can't remember ever reading so much aloud to children as I did this year.  At home, we had our Amelia Earhart reads, our Women's History Month books, a few science books here and there.  This fall, I read two nonfiction books aloud to Big Sis's second grade class, and those two books stand out as favorites.  The first was Little Sis's beloved copy of Bones by Steve Jenkins.  I expected the kids to like that one (eww, bones!), but the second book took me by surprise.  I wanted something different to read the week before Thanksgiving break, and the girls had enjoyed Balloons Over Broadway.  I wasn't sure how well it would do in our particular classroom.  In the end, I loaded a tablet full of picture files of Macy's balloons, from the '20s through recent years, and trekked to the school.  The answers to my first question did not bode well for me.  "Who likes to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning?"  Big Sis raised her hand.  No one else did.  In fact, few of the kids had even heard of the parade.  Uh-oh, I thought.  So I explained a bit about the parade, and showed the kids the pictures on the tablet, then delved into the book.  Never underestimate the will of a child to learn.  Whether or not they were familiar with the parade, the story truly interested them.  They had so many questions and exclamations, and when we were through, I showed them the pictures one more time.  "That cat was in the book!"  [Blogged here.]

14.  Auntie Claus [HMH Books, 1999]; Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas [HMH Books, 2002]; Auntie Claus, Home for the Holidays [Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2009]  When I asked the girls about their favorite read-alouds of 2013, Big Sis immediately blurted out, "Auntie Claus!  The Auntie Claus books!"  Indeed, these were fun books to read out loud!  Actually, I doubt I read them so much as performed them.  Few books lend themselves to such overacting!  Fun, fun, fun!  [Blogged here.]

15.  Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfield Martin.  [Random House, 2013]  Okay, the pictures are the real reason to read this book.  My sleepy artist was doodling as we read this at bedtime, and I wasn't sure she was paying attention.  Then she handed me her notebook.  "There," Little Sis said.  "I can draw that."  She had drawn a picture of the moon wearing pajamas.  We read the book again a couple nights later.  [Mentioned here.]

You're in the middle of a Best of 2013 blog hop!  Hop on over to Where the Watermelons Grow to see Cathy's list of Favorite Things from 2013!

And for those of you who are new to Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes, thank you so much for stopping by!

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Fairy Tale Comics

Oh boy, have the girls and I had fun at bedtime lately!  We received a lovely set of books for Christmas, but I'm so sorry I didn't check this one out from the library before now.  This book would have been under the tree for sure, I'm telling you.

Fairy Tale Comics [edited by Chris Duffy, First Second, 2013] is one of the coolest read-aloud experiences we've had in ages.  These fun, irreverent interpretations of well-known and lesser-known fairy tales are so well done.  There are some amazing cartoonists at work here, including Brett Helquist (A Series of Unfortunate Events), Charise Mericle Harper (Fashion Kitty, the Just Grace series), Raina Telgemeier (Smile, the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels), and Luke Pearson (the Hilda comic books).  You can see a full list of who illustrates what at the First Second Books blog.

Our new favorite tale is "The Boy Who Drew Cats."  The original tale is fine, but it's even more entertaining when retold and drawn by Luke Pearson.  You can read it at the Macmillan website.  I think "I really just want to draw cats" will become a catchphrase in our home.  "Honey, the railroad is calling."  "Awww...  I really just want to draw cats."

I just put a hold on Nursery Rhyme Comics, the predecessor to this book.  This one I'm going to keep through Thursday.  I plan on choosing a few of these tales to read to Big Sis's second grade class!

And yes, I will do voices.  I do many voices.  Muwahaha!

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Shoe Box Dollhouses

Happy Epiphany!  I meant to share our usual chalking over the door this morning, but it's a weird day.  The girls are headed back to school after the longest winter break we ever had, the windchill is below zero, and we're just... off.  Sooooo, I'll share what we made this weekend!

But first, let me show you our backyard...

Taken through the back window.  It's cold!!!

How this project began:  I started another Pinterest board last week.  (I have too many boards, I know.) This one is called "Magical DIY Dollhouse Inspiration."  Mr. B and I have so much work to do on our real-life little dollhouse, now that the girls are back in school, but once we have their bedroom and playroom organized (and purged - shhh), we would love to work on a family dollhouse project.  There are so many great ideas for making your own dollhouses, from plywood to cardboard to bookshelves to cabinets.  (Please, check out my Pinboard!)  It's going to take some time before we can begin.  Most likely, it will have to be a summer project.

However, there are also some great ideas for simple, small dollhouses.  Doll rooms, really.  Houses made of suitcases and hat boxes and shoe boxes.  Shoe boxes.  (Look at this adorable shoe box dollhouse!)  Like the two we had sitting out from a trip to the shoe store this week...

Saturday night was cold and dreary.  The snow was just starting.  I have a huge supply of partially used craft supplies:  fabric scraps, hot glue, scrapbook paper, acrylic paint, wooden sticks...  Why not see what we could come up with on our own?

I started by painting the larger shoe box this pretty plum color.  I wanted a cool retro wallpaper, and none of the scrapbook paper I had fit the bill, so I wound up buying this adorable Scandi Kids paper and accents kit designed by Alice Apple for Kitschy Digitals.  The colors are great, and I could print more for future projects.

After I painted the floor charcoal grey, I measured, cut, and pasted the paper to two walls.  Then Big Sis and I had the idea to make a mirror for the third wall using aluminum foil.  A lollipop stick became a ballet barre on that wall.  (Big Sis wants a ballet barre to use at home!)  I used an Exact-o knife to cut two windows, and cut out some fabric for curtains and hot glued them in place.

The shelves are made of cardstock.  I drew the ballet slipper picture.  For the books, I cut the folded edge of the shoe box lid into book shapes.  (The folded edge works as the spine.)  The furniture consists of a modern chair made of brown cardstock and wooden stir sticks, a table made of stacked clothespin craft bases and cardstock, and a stool made of a bottle cap covered in batting and fabric, glued to a miniature clothespin.  Everything is hot glued down.  Maybe it's more like a cruise ship cabin than a house?

Yesterday, we decided to tackle the smaller shoe box.  This box was already pink and white, so the only painting I did was green on the floor, ceiling, and trim.  We used another Alice Apple Scandi Kids print for the walls, and made curtains out of scraps, with some ribbon as valances.  The bookcase is made of cardstock.  This time, the books are made out of scrapbook paper, folded into book shapes.  The bed is made of cut tongue depressors, stacks of polyester batting wrapped in fabric, with extra fabric for the top sheet.  There is another table, and the pictures are actual photos I took at the Wildwood Boardwalk in New Jersey last summer, printed postage stamp size.

This house is the ideal size for the girls' Littlest Pet Shop Blythes and pets, and Lalaloopsy minis.

The girls received some Lottie Dolls for Christmas!  My sister got them two each.  Have you heard about Lottie Dolls yet?  They are originally from the UK, and what makes them so great is that they are designed to proportionately resemble real nine-year-old girls!  They wear no makeup, and are meant to be a realistic reflection of what real girls are like.  (Read this!)  I first read about them on Small for Big and I knew we would love them.  Big Sis got Snow Queen Lottie and English Country Garden Lottie, and Little Sis got Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie and Robot Girl Lottie.  There are so many cool dolls to choose from, though.  Pirate Queen Lottie?  Awesome!!!

I kept myself preoccupied with dollhouse making and playing, while our Packers lost in the playoffs.  Happily, we were done before the return of Downton Abbey.  I love Carson.  Do you love Carson, too?

Happy Monday, one and all.  Stay warm!

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