Picture books for poetry month, plus GRAND Social No. 202 link party for grandparents

Picture books for poetry month

April is National Poetry Month, and I had the pleasure of previewing some super picture books of poetry of various sorts from Candlewick Press.

Take a peek at the sweet, silly, and shark-filled fun you can share with your favorite poetry-lovers-to-be in my post titled April is National Poetry Month: Favorites new and newfangled for girls and boys.

One of my favorites (which you literature lovers will appreciate) is Shrunken Treasures: Literary Classics, Short, Sweet, and Silly by Scott Nash. Such fun, even grownups will chuckle, grin... and groan (appreciatively, of course).

shrunken treasures by scott nash 

Cheers to...

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11 last-minute gift ideas for grandmothers and others to give and get

Time's ticking and if you still have a few stockings to fill or a few gifts to give, here are some simple gift ideas to consider. I tested out each — free for review — and give an honest thumbs-up to all.

A few are ideal for grandmas to give, a few more ideal for grandmas to get. Bonus: All can be ordered online, so no need to be out and about in the snow. (Note: There are NO affiliate links in this post.)

RING IT GAME ($14.99, BlueOrangeGames.com)

ring it game

Oh my goodness! My four-year-old grandson loves this game, even though it's designed for...

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Picture books to share with pint-size valentines

Share your love this Valentine's Day by snuggling with your favorite pint-size valentine to share these these sweet (and sometimes silly) picture books. No nearby kiddo to snuggle? These fun and colorful books are short and engaging, making them ideal for sharing over a Skype or FaceTime session, as well.

picture books for valentine's day

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Thanksgiving picture books, plus GRAND Social No. 132 link party

Thanksgiving picture books

It's nearly Thanksgiving, and I have some suggestions for Thanksgiving picture books you and yours will happily devour in celebration of Turkey Day. These colorful offerings cover giving thanks and eating healthy, plus other Thanksgiving sorts of things including dodging the hall of aunts and the hall of butts. That's right, the hall of butts, a chuckle-worthy scene in The Great Thanksgiving Escape.

thanksgiving picture books from Candlewick

Find my brief reviews (and I do mean brief) of...

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In celebration of Father's Day: Storybook dads

My son-in-law is a pretty darn good dad. Not only does Preston squash scorpions, regularly take my grandsons to baseball games and ride the scary rides with Bubby at theme parks, he also reads to Bubby and Mac. As in, bedtime storybook readings.

dad reading to sons

Being the book-loving, storybook-reading grandma that...

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Nature-nurturing books for young readers

Though Earth Day 2014 has come and gone, every day is a great day for sharing with children books on nature and the environment. Especially picture books the kids will not only enjoy but possibly — no, probably — learn a little from.


Last week I received four fantastic picture books...

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'GG and Mamela:' A conversation with author and grandma friend Belinda Brock

Many Grandma's Briefs readers are likely familiar with Belinda Brock, fellow grandmother and blogger at Grandbooking. What many may not know is that Belinda recently wrote a children's book called GG and Mamela, which publishes April 15 and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com (that's not an affiliate link).

GG and Mamela by Belinda BrockAs the subject matter of Belinda's picture book will resonate with Grandma's Briefs readers, I requested an email interview with her about GG and Mamela, and she...

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Love is in the air... and in these children's books for Valentine's Day

With Valentine's Day in sight, 'tis the season for celebrating love. Just last week I received a box of books that do exactly that, books I plan — for the most part — to share with Bubby and Mac when I see them this weekend.

Dinosaur Kisses

Alas, as time is of the essence for those looking to share sweet tales with sweet kiddos, I'm going to share these books from Candlewick (which I received free for review) with you before my grandsons even get a peek at the pages. Yes, you are that special to me.

Without Bubby and Mac previewing these stories...

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From shivers to shrieks: Spooky stories for Halloween

A lot of people enjoy being scared. I'm not sure why that is, but the plethora of scary movies, scary books, scary television shows — and scary vampires and zombies everywhere — confirm that to be true.

Even my grandsons like to be scared. Sort of.

Bubby and Mac like sort of scary stuff that sort of scares them a little. Especially sort of scary Halloween stuff. And sort of scary Halloween books, in particular. In fact, when I visited my grandsons in July, we went to the library one day and Bubby made a B line for the Halloween picture books. In July!

(Of course, his mom contributed to the early enjoyment of all things spooky. Megan loves Halloween picture books, too, and checked out a huge stack of sort-of-spine-tingling tales for her and the boys to enjoy. In July.)

The joy my grandboys — and their mother, my daughter — get out of Halloween books is part of the reason I was delighted to receive (free for review) several Halloween books from Candlewick Press. I'll be packing a few of them — the sort of scary ones, at least scary for wee ones — in my Grandma Bag to share with Bubby and Mac when I visit next week.

Another reason I was delighted to get the spooky stories? So I could share them with you here today.

(Don't be afraid... they're mostly just sort of scary. I promise.)

Vampire Baby by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Paul Meisel ($15.99, Ages 4-7) Mac is going to love, love, love this one, as he's been experiencing a few bites from one of his fellow toddlers at his babysitter's. I'm thrilled there's a trailer for it, so you can get a real taste (har, har) for this treat.

Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Adam Record ($15.99, ages 3-7 years) A rhythmic tale where the spooky stuff grows in number with each turn of the page.
From Candlewick: When a little ghost goes slip-sliding down the hallway, he suddenly hears... a groan! Turns out it’s only a friendly mummy, who shuffles along with the ghost, until they encounter... a monster! As the cautious explorers continue, they find a surprise at every turn — and add another adorably ghoulish friend to the count. But you’ll never guess who is the scariest creature in the house!

Filbert, the Good Little Fiend by Hiawyn Oram, illustrated by Jimmy Liao ($15.99, ages 3-7) I love this book so, because Filbert makes me think of Bubby and the angel character makes me think of Mac. I have a feeling they will agree (or fight over who's who; we'll see).
From Candlewick: Daddy and Mommy Fiend want their little Filbert to be gruesome and ghastly, but he won’t trample or terrify, roar or holler. He’d much rather help an old lady with her bags or go bird-watching. What are they to do with him? When Filbert starts school, he quickly learns that good behavior isn’t tolerated in class, and he is banished outside until he can act like a proper little fiend. Suddenly a little angel appears, flying fast and furious until... bump! Could this naughty Angel-School dropout be just the friend Filbert needs? Could they find a way together to make everyone accept them as they are?

The Music of Zombies by Vivian French, illustrated by Ross Collins ($15.99, ages 8-12) See? I told you: Zombies are everywhere. But this book seems like a must-have for preteens who enjoy sort of scary tales. I envision the entire series (this is the fifth Tale from the Five Kingdoms) being a great gift for the holidays.
From Candlewick:
Prince Albion expects a unique occasion when he starts planning Cockenzie Rood Day to celebrate his kingdom—and himself. What he doesn’t expect is boppings on the head and kidnapping, all because a zombie wants to play his fiddle in the talent contest. With a misbehaving path, a romantic bat, and a greedy butler to set them on their way, Gracie Gillypot and Prince Marcus are off on their fifth adventure. It’s up to a Trueheart, a resourceful prince, and Gubble the troll to stop the zombie before he does some giant damage to the Five Kingdoms.

Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith ($17.99, ages 14 years and up) This is one I plan to read in the nights leading up to Halloween. The back-cover quote from The Horn Book calling it "A hearty meal for the thinking vampire reader" has me intrigued... and ready to be sort of scared.
From Candlewick:
When sexy, free-spirited werecat Yoshi tracks his sister, Ruby, to Austin, he discovers that she is not only MIA, but also the key suspect in a murder investigation. Meanwhile, Werepossum Clyde and human Aimee have set out to do a little detective work of their own, sworn to avenge the brutal killing of werearmadillo pal Travis. When all three seekers are snared in an underground kidnapping ring, they end up on a remote island inhabited by an unusual (even by shifter standards) species and its cult of worshippers. Their hosts harbor a grim secret: staging high-profile safaris for wealthy patrons with evil pedigrees, which means that at least one newcomer to the island is about to be hunted. As both wereprey and werepredator fight to stay alive, it’s up to mild-mannered Clyde — a perennial sidekick — to summon the hero within. Can he surprise even himself?

Find out more about these books and others at Candlewick.com.

Best wishes for a splendidly spooky weekend!

Disclosure: The books above were sent to me free for review. Opinions and anecdotes are my own.

Today's question:

What is the last scary — or sort of scary — book you read?

Dads rule and sea life's cool: A picture book roundup for summer reading


When my daughters were little, we spent many summer days perusing the shelves at the public library, gathering up stacks of stories to take home and read together. No matter their ages, picture books were always represented in the piles we happily carted away — for my enjoyment as much as for theirs.

I love picture books and love, too, sharing with you those I think you will enjoy reading with your favorite kids — or on your own, if your penchant for picture books is as strong as mine. Following are six delightful hardcover releases that recently came my way courtesy the publishers (for free, without obligation), stories that make perfect additions to summer reading lists for kids of all ages.

With Father's Day soon on the horizon, what better place to begin a reading roundup than with some top tales featuring fathers.

Deer WatchThe Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins, illustrated by David Slonim (ages 3-7, Candlewick Press, $15.99). This perfect summer story tells of a young boy's eager anticipation of spotting for himself the deer he's heard so much about from his dad. Father and son traverse sand dunes, marshes, an unexpected rain (followed by puddles!) and more in search of a buck or fawn. Staying still and quiet enough to witness the wonder is hard for a small boy, but if he can manage, the payoff will be one to remember.

Matchbox DiaryThe Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (ages 6-10, Candlewick Press, $16.99) A young girl visits her great-grandfather and upon his urging, chooses from his shelves a cigar box filled with matchboxes for him to tell her its story. Each matchbox holds within it a keepsake from the great-grandfather's boyhood. As a child, the great-grandfather couldn't read or write, so he created a matchbox rather than written diary, filling it with baseball tickets, bottle caps, a lost tooth and more. He shares with his great-granddaughter the mementos of his journey from Italy and his early years in America and encourages her to start her own written diary.

My dad thinks he's funnyMy Dad Thinks He's Funny by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett (ages 5-8, Candlewick Press, $15.99). Dads say the darnedest things and this book hilariously highlights quite a few of those silly things that come out of their mouths. This one made both Jim and me chuckle. (Yes, I made him sit down and let me read it to him.) Kids will no doubt see their own dad in one or more of the utterings and especially giggle at the page in which Dad offers up words that clear the room — "before it really starts to smell."

FArTHERFArTHER, written and illustrated by Graham Baker-Smith (ages 5-7, Templar Books — an imprint of Candlewick Press, $17.99) In magical artwork and heartrending prose, this book tells the story of one young boy whose dad goes off to war and never returns, leaving a life-long dream behind, unrealized. The boy takes up his father's dream — to fly on homemade wings — tweaking those left by his father. Through magnificent drawings of magical machinery, we see the dream of the boy and his father take flight.

nighty night sleep tightNighty-Night, Sleep Tight by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by David Walker (Ages 3-5, Sterling Children's Books, $9.95) Getting little ones off to dreamland can be a bit more of a challenge during summer. This rhyming bedtime story makes the transition smoother and will have even the most rambunctious kiddo cuddling up to say nighty-night to creatures all across the globe. Tigers, chimps, turtles and other stars of the animal kingdom get the goodnight greeting from the charming pink-jammie clad cutie.

Shimmer & SplashShimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life, written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky (ages 6-10, Sterling Children's Books, $14.95) Of all the books here, when Jim saw this oversized book, he exclaimed, "Bubby is going to love this one." And he is, as will all little naturalists who get a kick out of aquatic creatures of endless variety. The author and illustrator — a renowned naturalist — has so jam-packed this book with life-size illustrations, it took seven fold-out pages to feature it all. Personal stories of close encounters with sea creatures plus fascinating facts and descriptions of everything from fiddler crabs to blacktip sharks and manatees make this a must-have for any child (or adult) who appreciates amazing ocean dwellers and related accounts of their discovery.

Disclosure: I received free copies of these books; I share them here not because I was paid or obligated to do so (I wasn't), but because I think they're pretty darn good. I hope you do, too.

Today's question:

What books have you read (picture book or not) that feature memorable fathers, good or bad?

The Saturday Post: Chris Van Allsburg edition

Chris Van Allsburg has long been one of my favorite picture book authors and illustrators. He's quite popular for The Polar Express, but despite sharing with my girls The Polar Express as well as Jumanji years before the movies made them beloved tales for children everywhere, it's The Garden of Abdul Gasazi—my first introduction to the magic of Mr. Van Allsburg—that holds a special spot in this grandma's heart.

The Polar Express undoubtedly sits upon many a child's bookshelf. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, though, may be unknown to many kids, maybe to many moms and grandmas, too.

As the season for sharing is officially upon us, I'd like to share with you The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. Feel free to share it with the Polar Express—and children's literature—lovers in your life, to show them the magic of Chris Van Allsburg extends far beyond Christmas stories.


Have a magical Saturday!

She came in through the (bedroom) window

I write picture books. I've yet to have one published. Thanks to a particularly challenging last week or so as it relates to such things, picture books have been on my mind lately. A lot. And not just as they relate to kids.

As a mom, I had a favorite picture book I regularly read, regularly cried to, regularly gave as a baby shower gift to moms-to-be.

As a grandma, I learned the error of my ways—at least as far as giving that favorite picture book to new mothers.

The book of which I speak is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It's not a literary classic by any means, but it resonated with me. For those of you who don't know the story—is there really a mom who doesn't?—it's about a mom and her beloved baby boy whom she loves tirelessly throughout the years. Her son begins as an infant, and, as baby boys are wont to do, grows into a man. Through each phase of his life, his Mommy rocks him and tells him...

I'll love you forever,

I'll like you for always,

As long as I'm living

my baby you'll be.

In the story, Mommy grows older, too. And bolder. At one point, once her beloved boy is a man with home of his own, Mommy drives across town in the middle of the night, leans a ladder up to her son's bedroom window, and climbs the darn thing. She goes through the window into the bedroom, where she cuddles and rocks her sound-asleep man-sized boy.

Ladder-climbing Mommy continues to get older...and older and older, and eventually it's the adult boy's turn to rock his Mommy, singing basically the same song.

So sweet. To me, at least.

So creepy, though, to Megan. Megan, my daughter. Megan, mother to my grandsons. Megan, recipient of what I thought was a love-it-forever baby shower gift—a hardback copy of Love You Forever. Not long ago I learned Megan didn't find the gift sweet, that she actually hated it. Always has, she eventually admitted. Mostly because a mom climbing through the bedroom window to express her love to her grown child hits the high point on the creep-o-meter. At least for Megan.

Creepy never crossed my mind when reading and crying over Love You Forever. It just seemed a sweet tale of never-ending loyalty and love between mommy and son.

Now it seems it's yet another way I show my age.

Like so many other things related to parenting, reading and loving Love You Forever is apparently outdated, not how the current generation of parents does things. Nor how they want things. Like picture books. No, kids nowadays—meaning adult kids nowadays, parents themselves—eschew the sweet, the sentimental, opting instead, it seems, for all things practical, pragmatic.

A friend of mine who is a bit younger than I and clearly not of the sweet and sentimental sort (at least not before having kids; motherhood, though, has softened her significantly) received from me for her baby shower a couple books from the Baby Be of Use series: Baby, Mix Me a Drink and Baby Do My Banking. They were given in jest, obviously not to be taken seriously.

That was several years ago. One of the current top books for giving new parents—parents who understandably likely already or will soon want to scream the title to their kid—is Go the F**K to Sleep. Fortunately I don't currently know any moms-to-be, because though I like to give picture books as baby shower gifts, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around giving the particular popular picture book. I've considered buying a copy for myself, for the novelty of it and the chuckles it will surely elicit. (I'm not that much of an old fogey.) But when it comes to baby showers, Go the F**K to Sleep is surely not this grandma's cuppa tea. (Okay, maybe I am that much of an old fogey.)

Maybe like everything else, though, the picture book pendulum will swing back to the sweet, the sentimental. Just like what happens with parenting rules—such as recommendations for placing a sleeping baby on his back...or stomach...or side...or whatever is the current wisdom—what was once old will eventually be new again.

In the meantime, while I wait for that pendulum to swing back my way, I'll just go read Love You Forever another time or two.

And cry.

And consider the logistics of lugging a ladder to the desert for my next visit to Megan. (Mostly just to creep her out.)

Today's question:

What picture book has creeped out you, your children, or your grandchildren?