Happy cozy reading, friends!
If you're a fellow bibliophile who has endorphin zings when viewing art, being in nature, or reading
Happy cozy reading, friends!
If you're a fellow bibliophile who has endorphin zings when viewing art, being in nature, or reading
We Read to Know We're not Alone...
So yet again this week, I've had two sleepless nights. My brain just would not shut down. Sometimes life is plain overwhelming. After a few hours of laying there, I finally groped around in the dark on my nightstand for my tiny new reading light (Thank you, Christmas stocking! Santa must be an insomniac too...). I clicked on the bitsy light, picked up my fresh library book, and hallelujah (why hadn't I done this sooner?), my over-wrought brain was whisked away into someone else's troubles and adventures, and leaving my own behind. Fifteen minutes later, I was free of anxiety, set my book down, and dozed back off to a peaceful sleep.
This. Is one of the many reasons why books are our friends. Why do YOU read? Really, think about it...what keeps you going back to read even when there are so many other distractions in this world?
And here's another question for you...if you're here reading this very book review, right now, why do you choose children's lit so often? Here's one reason for me: picture books were the first source of media to spark a sense of compassion, empathy, and melancholy in my three year-old soul--it was an awakening sensation to read of the The Little House's plight (in Virginia Lee Burton's classic so many years ago) to have the city encroach around the quiet country cottage--eating up her peaceful countryside. And then to have the great-great grandchildren of the little house's residents save her and take her back to the country, far from the cacophony of the maddening crowd. The full circle of life and closure and what brings peace, which Burton illustrated so beautifully, captivated my childlike imagination. And hasn't let me go since.
Looking back, pulling a magical picture book by Mark Teague or Mark Buehner off the campus book store shelf during my college years, gave me a care-free escape (for just twenty minutes) from the pressures of exams and essays. Falling into the imaginary world of childhood wonder again let me day-dream a bit about being a children's book writer and illustrator myself someday. (Still working toward that goal, ha ha!).
And lastly, and most importantly, reading great children's lit with my own little ones saved my sanity as a young mom of toddlers. And brought us great amounts of pleasure, coziness, rapture, and joy.
Just one short decade ago when the house nearly always felt like a disaster, the sink was perpetually full of dishes (we had no dishwasher but my own hands), my feet were aching from standing at the stove, the newborn needed nursing, and the short residents were fighting--needing a wonderful distraction...I would grab the nearest picture book, sit on the sofa, and gather everyone in.
Voilà! We would escape into Audrey Woods' The Flying Dragon Room, Melanie Walsh's Monster, Monster lift-the-flap classic, or the blueberry muffin-scented mint green techmobile of Chris Van Dusen's If I Built a Car.
By the end of reading just one ten minute picture book, my nerves were calmed, I could put the tanked-up baby down for a nap, send the kids out to play in the yard, and face the sink full of dirty dishes. Picture books were a panacea for my younger mom self. They still are such a source of joy for my artist's heart. My writer friend, Julie, and I joke that we're now the only ones in our homes who bring home picture books anymore from the library. But that's okay, we just label it "research."
I watched a nine month-old baby for a friend this week, and was reminded of what a hard, long-suffering (often thankless), job motherhood (parenthood) is. If you haven't had an infant of your own, whom you've diapered, fed mushy food, rocked to sleep day-in, day-out, bathed, potty-trained, and entertained for three + years, then you won't have any idea what I'm talking about.
But if you're a young, exhausted mother, who sees no end in sight to the sleep-deprivation, never-ending entropy, and continual mess, then know that there is actually an end. And it will suddenly come upon you abruptly one day. Either when your youngest starts school, or your first child leaves home. OR, the joy and madness leave all together when the baby of the family grows up. (I haven't visited that one yet, and would rather not think about it...) But there does come a time as a mom when the kids actually can help more than hinder, and the house can stay clean for a good seven-hour stretch of time. YEE HAW!
In the meantime, there are picture books to help bring adults and children together. Some of these masterpieces in board book form are so brilliant--looking at you Sandra Boynton and Nadine Bernand Westcott--that one wonders how people can be so clever and consistent as to come up with them.
So, if you know a young mom or dad who needs a fresh stack of children's books to recharge their parenting well, and be reminded they are doing THE MOST CRUCIAL WORK ON EARTH of laying a foundation of stability, patience, and compassion for the next generation, here are six fantabulous book recommendations to remind us that we read picture books to bond kids and adults together, and to know...we're not alone.
1) The Next Great Jane
by (Michael L. Printz Honor-Winner) K.L. Going
The Next Great Jane Is one of those books that helped ease my mind back into rest recently, when I needed a nighttime escape from mom anxieties. I picked it up to see if one of my daughter's might enjoy it. But I was the one who ended up riding the wave of a ride.
Get ready for various modern nods to the classic Pride and Prejudice--I lost track after about fifteen.
Here's the blurb from Goodreads:
Jane Brannen wants nothing more than to become a famous author like Jane Austen--she just needs to figure out the key to literary success! Her chance to uncover the secret arrives when famous author J. E. Fairfax visits the tiny lobster town of Whickett Harbor, Maine. Unfortunately, a hurricane rolls in and Jane gets stuck with the author's snobbish son, Devon, instead. But when the skies clear, Jane realizes the wind has blown in something worse than annoying boys: Her mother, Susan, and Susan's new fiancé, Erik, have flown all the way from Hollywood to file for custody and bring Jane back to California. Now she needs to find a mate for her marine biologist father and figure out what's truly important about Whickett Harbor, so she can prove to her mother that this is where she's meant to stay.
2) What's in Your Pocket
Collecting Nature's Treasures
Written by Heather L. Montgomery,
Illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
What do Charles Darwin, George Washington Carver, and Jane Goodall all have in common? They were once all kids who loved to spend time in nature and fill their pockets with treasures for examination and study!
If you know a little scientist who has a passion for collecting fossils, seedpods, seashells, dead butterflies, pressed flowers, turkey feathers, or bits of lichen, you'll want to check out this book. Your little observer will see how others with similar interests have gone on to let their observations guide them to making groundbreaking discoveries!
And the illustrations are a sheer delight!
3) Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story
Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall
Illustrated by Zara González Hoang
Jewish holidays are something about which I don't know much. But I love learning about other cultures, especially with children. It's what adds the spice to life.
If you feel the same, you'll find this book a simple gem, and very timely, as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and give children the chance to ponder on the present and the past, and to “measure” a year and ourselves and how we've changed through time.
Don't let this naive-looking picture book deceive you, though. Its contents are thought-provoking and a perfect conversation-starter for families to discuss how we've grown in a different blocks of time, helping us take stock of the happy times as well as any painful regrets, remembering relationships made along the way, and new skills learned over time.
Happy New Year! Shana Tova, everyone! (less)
4) Dadaji's Paintbrush
Written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande,
Illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane
Raising my own children so far away from my own parents is one of those reasons I sometimes don't sleep at night. In this tender depiction of the "painting bond" between a grandpa and his grandson, is a lushly-illustrated story of how those we love become part of us--instilling in us a connection that transcends space and time.
5) Our World Is Relative
Written by Julia Sooy,
Illustrated by Molly Walsh
The flap inside the book says it best:
Size, speed, weight, direction, distance
This book is such a clear snapshot of a day-in-the-life of any child going to public school. I felt as though I were re-living a week of my elementary school memories--for good and bad. But in the heroine's case of this little story, she starts noticing that her arm doesn't work like it should on the playground (curling up at her chest). And her vision starts to go a little fuzzy. Then her legs don't quite do what she expects them to.
When the mom of this fun-loving, mustache-sticker-wearing Maddie tosses her an avocado one day after school, and Maddie's curled-up arm doesn't reach out to catch it, Maddie's mom is worried. She looks up Maddie's symptoms, and the next day after calling the doctor, Maddie is checked out of school to go "immediately" not to the doctor's office, but to the hospital. Maddie has a brain tumor.
Based on the true story of the authors' (husband and wife writing team) daughter, the empathy invoked by the reader for our brave little heroine here is why we read.
How many of us throughout our lives haven't experienced being poked and prodded with needles in a doctor's office at some point, feeling the uncertainty of facing an upcoming surgery, or even the suffocating claustrophobia of being inside a noisy MRI machine? If we haven't, we most certainly love someone who has gone through one of these uncomfortably-frightening scenarios...
The humor and imaginative personality of the little main character in this story is contrasted so poignantly as she faces such a bleak, somber prospect of brain surgery.
As my community and close friends are dealing with a difficult prognosis of someone we love very dearly who's facing the very same outlook, this book feels like a balm for me. And I hope Maddie's story can bring some peace and closure for some of those also struggling who love our ward matriarch, Emma, in our faith community .
We love you, Emma and family! Praying for you daily!
Reading and writing to know we're not alone is a gift that we share as people. Books are pretty incredible little packages of thought--transferred from one person's heart and soul--transcending time and geography, to enter the heart and mind of another human being weeks, months, or even hundreds of years and thousands of miles away. How cool is that? Like time and space travel for ideas!
As I get excited to help some of my close friends, Brandon and Cristina Boey, launch Brandon's very first book, Karma of the Sun on Tuesday January 17, 2023, help us celebrate by commenting below to enter a drawing to win a signed copy of Brandon's book. All you have to do is share one title of a book you think everyone should read in 2023 to escape from anxiety and enjoy the transmittal of hopeful ideas through time and space!
I'll announce the winner of Brandon's signed book on the homepage this coming Tuesday, January 17th, 2023. Now bring on your favorite titles to share in the comments below, and you'll be entered in the drawing to win a signed copy of Karma of the Sun!
So stir up some hot cocoa, grab a blanket, share your favorite recommendation below, and enjoy your cozy winter reading, friends!
1/16/2023 09:30:19 am
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak really stuck with me this year.
1/17/2023 10:21:16 am
Paul, I looked up the blurb on goodreads and it sounds fantastic. It's going on the nightstand list...
1/16/2023 10:39:20 am
Reading is the best. I love the picture book, The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, and the Legacy of Orisha series series by Tomi Adeyemi(3rd book is supposed to release this year).
1/17/2023 10:24:10 am
Danielle, The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors IS the cleverest! So funny...And this is the first I've heard of the Legacy of Orisha series. I'll be looking into it. Thanks for the tip! Happy winter, old roommie!
Jo Gregory Barber
1/16/2023 01:58:21 pm
I read A Place To Hang The Moon (Kate Albus) over Christmas last year, and it was a beautiful comfort-read! I highly recommend snuggling under a quilt and just soaking up the story! 😊
1/17/2023 10:28:55 am
Jo, I LOVE A Place to Hang the Moon! It truly is the perfect book to read aloud this time of year. You're making me want to revel in it all over again! Hope your boys are keeping busy there in jolly old England with all sorts of wonderful books this winter. Keep sending on your (and their) favorite recommendations...
1/18/2023 01:04:21 am
What a great post! I loved those pictures of those cute, bookish kids with their cute, bookish Mama. What a gift you've given them! Thanks for the great recommendations. My friend, Shelly Brown wrote the mustaches book. Unfortunately, Maddie is back in the fight recently as the brain tumor has returned. Keep them in your prayers!
1/18/2023 09:28:15 am
Wow! Shelly and Chad did such a lovely, lovely job with their book. And Maddie must be one incredible soul--to go through such a journey at such an age. And her parents have given a touching gift to so many young people, by documenting the hard things right along with the beautiful, funny, and profound. I love this book.
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