(Some of) What We Read This Summer

As I mentioned in my previous post (three days ago... sorry), we didn't get as much reading done this summer as I would have liked. I was in a play in June, and I seldom read much while I'm working on lines. We were also just... lazy. We started some things that were never finished. Little Sis or I already blogged about a few things. This post is a great dump of some of the other books we took the time to read. The mini-reviews I provide will probably be less than helpful. Sorry about that.

Picture Books We Read Together

Mr. Brown's Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai. minedition, 2014.

Mr. Brown is a lonely, grumpy bear. A woodpecker decides he needs company and makes himself at home in Mr. Brown's hat. Soon, more and more birds make themselves at home in the magically growing hat. Imai's illustrations are beautiful, and the way Mr. Brown's "civilized world" meets the natural world is brilliant. The girls thought this was a strange, but lovely book. I agree.

Outstanding In The Rain by Frank Viva. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015.

We read this book two months ago, and it still comes up in conversation! It's the story of a child's trip to Coney Island, but told in the most playful way. Each page tells a bit of the story, with a die-cut hole revealing a bit of word(s) on the next page. When you turn the page, the story continues, using an oronym of the word(s) on the previous page. I don't have a lot of space to go into great details, but to understand what I mean, please see the Brain Pickings and New York Times reviews. This is a clever book, and while I'm sure you can tell by the cover, it features some amazing art.

Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, illustrated by Brigette Barrager. Orchard Books, 2015.

My daughters were crazy about this book. We love Brigette Barrager, so it was a must-read. It's a funny look at unhappy fairy tale princesses, and what happens when they switch stories. The grass may not be greener, but each girl gains the courage to change her own story. Little Sis liked it because "they wear sneakers, not high heels." (I spotted a pair of heels, but why ruin good things?) I thought it was cute, but not necessarily one I would need to own. A bit slight, for my tastes. But as I said, they loved it.

Where Does Kitty Go In the Rain? by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Brigette Barrager. Blue Apple Books, 2015.

More Brigette Barrager! This one, I loved. It's a gentle fiction/nonfiction hybrid about animals and how they adapt (or don't adapt) to water. It's written in rhyme, and it would make an ideal book for a curious toddler or preschooler, although the science is interesting enough for older kids, too.

Cinderelephant by Emma Dodd. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.

Another silly fractured fairy tale, featuring an animal cast. As you can plainly see, Cinderella is an elephant. She lives with the Warty (warthog) Sisters, and her Furry Godmouse saves the day. It's all pretty goofy. Little Sis picked this one out, and while she liked it, I think we'd all agree it was rather forgettable.

Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel Books, 2014.

I know, I know, I'm probably the last bookish kid stuff blogger to finally get around to this book! We love Oliver Jeffers, but for some reason, we kept forgetting to check this one out. I think I was worried about the alphabet book concept, as my girls are now in 4th and 2nd grade. I shouldn't have worried. This is a much larger book than your average alphabet book, or even Oliver Jeffers picture book. Each letter of the alphabet gets its own zany, nonsensical short story. We enjoyed this one so much, we actually read it several times!

Tallulah's Tap Shoes by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015. (Official website for the Tallulah books may be found here.)

I do love the lovely Tallulah books. This one has a great message, too. Tallulah is excited for dance camp, but she's terrified to don her first pair of tap shoes. She's a ballerina, after all. At camp, she meets a girl who is a confident tapper, but is scared to try ballet. Each girl is strong in the class she is used to, but both feel like failures in the other class. The next day, Tallulah skips her tap class, while the other girl skips ballet. When Tallulah goes home that evening, her parents announce that a girl from dance camp is coming for dinner with her parents. Of course, it's the tapper! She and Tallulah help each other out, and while Tallulah is never an excellent tap dancer, she is content to be in the middle. The point is to try and have fun, right?

The Grasshopper & the Ants by Jerry Pinkney. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015.

Jerry Pinkney - say no more. You know it's beautiful. This gorgeous, whimsical retelling of the fable by Aesop had us ooohing and ahhing.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle Books, 2015.

This is a lovely companion book to Over and Under the Snow, also by Messner and Neal. While that book showed the hidden natural world under the snowy winter ground, this one shows all the creatures under a summer garden. It's informative and lovely, and it would make a lovely gift for a child who helps with the gardening.

One Family by George Shannon, illustrated by Blanca Gomez. FSG Books for Young Readers, 2015.

This is a simple story with a simple message: no matter how many people (or things) are in a family, they are still one family. Gomez's figures come in all colors and races and even religions, demonstrating that a family can consist of anyone. I wish more picture books showed such diversity.

When Royals Wore Ruffles: A Funny & Fashionable Alphabet by Chesley McLaren and Pamela Jaber, illustrated by Chesley McLaren. Schwartz & Wade, 2009. 

I remember reading this one with Big Sis when it was brand new! Back then, she was my little fashion plate. Now, she's a cool, sporty girl who prefers jeans and a t-shirt. I laughed when Little Sis found it at the library, as it's definitely her. It's an alphabet book, demonstrating different fashion trends, both cool and crazy, over the centuries. McLaren is a fashion illustrator, and the book is certainly stylish. I enjoyed reading it again, Big Sis enjoying scoffing at things like corsets and ruffs, and Little Sis loved every bit of it.

Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Alina Chau. Chronicle Books, 2015.

Big Sis's best friend moved to Texas this summer. While she is within driving distance and will be back to visit her family here, it's still sad to leave your school and friends and family behind. Double Happiness is a lovely book, written in verse, alternating between the point of view of a girl named Gracie, and her brother, Jake. The children are leaving their home in San Francisco, flying miles away to their snowy new home in the country. It is painful to say goodbye, but there are new memories to make, as both children collect memories for their memory boxes. This was a poignant read for Big Sis, who had just spoken to her crying friend on the phone that night.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead. Roaring Book Press, 2014.

Weird and wonderful! Philip Stead is so cool. Sebastian creates the most awesome balloon in the world out of his grandmother's quilt scraps, gathers "all the things he would ever need", and takes flight. Along the way, he meets a bear, a very large bird, and three sisters. Whatever mishap occurs, he has "all the things he would ever need" and time to stop for sandwiches. No, there isn't a lot of point to it, but the surreal imagery and amazing art make it such a wonderful story. Read it before bedtime, and hope to dream about it.

The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi. Kids Can Press, 2015.

Kikko's father is heading to Grandma's house to clear her snow, but he has forgotten the pie he was supposed to bring. Kikko sets off in the woods alone. Spying her father, she races to catch up with him, dropping and crushing the pie in the process, only to see him approach a strange house. It isn't Kikko's father at all - it's a bear! In a suit and hat! A well-dressed lamb invites Kikko inside to tea. And what a tea party. There are all kinds of forest animals gathered around the large table, and Kikko is asked to introduce herself. She eats and drinks, and the animals replace the smashed pie with slices of different pies of their own, full of nuts, seeds, and berries. They offer to accompany her to her grandmother's house. When she arrives, however, they are nowhere to be seen. Were the animals really there? Or did Kikko imagine them along the way, as she trudged alone through the woods? Magical.

Bunny Roo, I Love You by Melissa Marr, illustrated by Teagan WhiteNancy Paulsen Books, 2015.

Melissa Marr wrote this darling book while she was in the hospital with her newborn son.On each page, she compares her baby to an animal (in a nice way), and shows how she would comfort and provide for him. At the end, she reveals that he is her baby, and as a mama with an almost-10-year-old (NO! HOW?), I admit to tearing up. This would be an excellent gift for a new mama.Teagan White is another favorite illustrator of mine. I love seeing her work in picture book form.

What Little Sis and I Read Together

Sky Pioneer: A Photobiography of Amelia Earhart by Corinne Szabo. National Geographic Children's Books, 1997. 

Another Amelia book! We had to read something, after missing the Amelia Earhart Festival this year. This is my favorite Amelia book, consisting of fabulous photographs, and well-researched biographical information, focusing more on her life and spirit than on the tragedy of her disappearance. It's no longer in print, but I plan to keep an eye out for a used copy in good condition.

What Little Sis Read Aloud to Us

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, 2013.

Few children's book authors today understand kids as well as Kevin Henkes. Little Sis reclined on the couch and read this entire book to me, and I was struck by how familiar Penny's emotions were to me. Penny is walking her doll in a stroller and finds a pretty blue marble outside of Mrs. Goodwin's house. She takes the marble home and hides it in a drawer. She begins to feel sick, sure she stole the marble. When Mrs. Goodwin comes to talk to her, Penny is almost overcome with guilt, but it turns out, Mrs. Goodwin left the marble on the lawn on purpose, hoping a child would claim it. It was a perfect book for my kiddo to read aloud, as it wasn't as long or difficult as a chapter book, but just right for practice.

Owl Diaries #2: Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliot. Scholastic, 2015.

There was much excitement over this book, let me tell you. Little Sis LOVED the first Owl Diaries, from Scholastic's cool Branches early chapter book series. This one was predictable, but funny (and punny!), as Eva is sure she sees a ghost, and enlists her friend Lucy to help. These books are just too cute. They're a bit silly, but just the right length. There are fun, colorful illustrations on each page, and for an active kid like Little Sis, they really keep her engaged.

Kids Books I Read 

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly. HarperCollins, 2015.

This is a sad fantasy store about an odd girl, a hybrid created out of parts both human and animal, set by her father to protect the girls of the neighboring kingdom from a powerful wizard. She only wants to do what's right, but occasional flashes of memory from her earlier human life and the friendship of a boy make her doubt her mission. It's a dark, complex fairy tale, great for older kids.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. Dial Books, 2015.

I love books about magical circuses! Magic circuses are the best! After reading this one, I wanted to rush out and buy it and thrust it into Big Sis's hands. An old man named Ephraim Tuttle is dying. His grandson, Micah, is miserable. Ephraim writes a letter to a magician named The Lightbender, who works for the Circus Mirandus. You see, The Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. There is so much to tell you about this book, but I'm not going to do that. Just read it.

YA Books I Read

Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008.

Do you see this cover? It does not go with this book. Not at all. This is a dark, moody book set in the Orkney Island of Scotland, about a girl named Elin Jean who does not fit in. The villagers call her Selkie Girl, because she strives to save the seals from being clubbed (overpopulation, they say). She also has webbed skin between her fingers, although her father tries to keep it cut. When she discovers the truth about her mother, she knows she is caught between two worlds. I really liked this book, although the dialect and poetic narration made it much denser than your average YA fare.

There were other books, too, but I'm saving some for other posts.


Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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  1. Great post! That's quite a lot of books actually! Monstrous, Circus Mirandus, Bunny Roo and The Tea Party in the Woods really caught my eye. I love Tallulah so much! I want all her books -we 've only got the tutu and Nutcracker ones. Oh so I guess now I'm the last one who hasn't yet read Once Upon an Alphabet hehe :)

    1. I LOVED Circus Mirandus. It's a great first novel. The Tallulah books are so very sweet.

      I have a stack of books I hope to read soon. I just have to get Hamlet memorized, seeing as how we open a week from tomorrow. ;/ Hope to get back to reading and blogging soon!

  2. Are you kidding?? LOVE the mini reviews!! and wow, this is a treasure trove of books. Seriously. Amazing things you came up with!! The Tea Party in the Woods. OH MY. That's got my name written all over it! I'm so delighted with every book you listed!!

    1. The Tea Party in the Woods is pretty wonderful. Do check out Circus Mirandus, if you get the chance. I want Big Sis to read it, when she's done with her library books.


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