Grace’s current favorites

Grace adores book time — whether it’s before nap, in the mornings with big brother, or by herself in her room.  Here are some top picks by our one and a half year old:

1. She giggles, I giggle, it’s all fun when we read about the silly pigeon in Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.  She loves the whole series. I do, too.


2. Grace has been picking up Chick by Ed Vere lately.  Maybe it’s the adorable cartoon pop ups, or the simple text, but she loves it.

Interactive book |

3. No, David by David Shannon has always been a favorite in our house, and it doesn’t disappoint Grace.  David gets in trouble on each page, and Grace is quick to giggle and point out what he’s doing wrong.  I love the last page when he gets a big hug from Mom.

No, David by David Shannon |

4. We can’t go wrong with a fun interactive book, and Grandma’s version of Brown Bear is so much fun.  With illustrations by Eric Carle, the figures are colorful classics, and the patterned text entertains little ones.

Making interactive children's books |

5. Grandma’s newest interactive book is a big hit.  Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar is just fun to read. Grace loved poking her finger in the little holes in the book, and now she enjoys playing with the caterpillar as he eats his big meals.  The butterfly puppet at the end is a fun treat.


Reading routines

I like to think that I am free spirited, flexible, and go with the flow.  And then something out of the ordinary happens, like a strange little light on the car dashboard sending my day into a tailspin, and I am reminded that I crave routine.

Kids are like that, too.

Routine is not a bad thing.  Yes, doing something repetitively without a purpose is not good.  But many routines have a good purpose and actually help us feel safe and secure.  Just as driving a familiar road feels comfortable for me, going through the same steps before nap creates a sense of security for our young daughter.

Grace is 18 months old, and recently, she has been surprising me with her understanding of routines.  In fact, the routine cues her behavior.  Here’s what I’m talking about:

For all three of our kids, we have read them books before putting them to bed — naps or night.  The last book we always read is I Love You Through and Through.  Sweet book.  Leads to sweet dreams for them and sweet mommy thoughts for me.

4 Favorite Bedtime Books |

I’m not sure exactly when it started, but for about the last three weeks, Grace has began really snuggling in during that final book.  For the first 4 books, she will be animatedly clapping, giggling, and chatting in my lap.  But as soon as I pull out “I Love You Through and Through” — boom! — she tucks her stuffed lambs under her arm and puts her head down in my lap.  She knows — it’s time for bed.

A familiar book can provide a signal that cues a child’s behavior.

Observing Grace got me thinking about other ways we have used books to guide our children’s behavior.  For example, every day after dinner when James was two years old, we read from his toddler Bible.  It was a signal to him that dinner was over.  He knew not leave the table, though, because we would read our story.  He knew he could get down and play once we had prayed.


That was years ago.  Nowadays books help him transition between school and home in the afternoons.  He listens to a book or two while eating a snack and then he’s ready to go play.  Same in the morning during breakfast.

The last few days I’ve been thinking about how else I can harness the power of books to help me parent throughout the day.  We know they are powerful.  Now I just need to figure out how to use it to my advantage.  Trust me, I need all the help I can get!

How do you use books to aid in everyday routines?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

It’s a classic, right? I remember reading this one in preschool.  Wow, that was a long time ago!

Jonathan adored other Eric Carle books like Brown Bear, but he never got into The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Grace is another story, though.  She loves reading about that caterpillar.  She also adores interactive books.  Daily she brings Jonathan’s Brown Bear bag to me and wants to read / play with the animals.

Making interactive children's books |

So I asked my mom if she would make another interactive book for the kids — The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  There would be a lot of ways to do this.  I was thinking simple with felt or velcro, maybe printer paper and my new laminator.  Or simple with construction paper and scissors.  Much to my surprise, she returned to our house with this:


Unfold the quilt as we read, and Grace gets to help the caterpillar eat through apples, pears, plums, strawberries, and oranges.  Plus, the Saturday junk food (sounds like Saturdays around here!).  And then a nice green leaf on Sunday.


He wasn’t hungry any more.  But was he wasn’t tiny either.  He built a home around himself.


Two weeks later he was a beautiful butterfly!


Grace loves it!


I wish I had my mom’s talent.  No patterns, no pinterest inspiration, only using fabrics from around the house (in fact, a lot of the fabric was left over Eric Carle fabric from the Brown Bear project).  I’m impressed, Mom.  And I’m glad I have you as a resource!

Almost Easter!

It’s time!  We’ve been getting ready for the Special Egg Event again this year, and it’s almost here!

Two years ago, Jonathan loved the event.  He very proudly picked up magnetic eggs using a magnetic pole from his wheelchair.

IMG_0018 (2)

Last year, our family donated eggs filled with prizes (not candy, but things Jonathan would have liked — stickers, tattoos, trinkets, etc.).  We also attended the event and brought a carnival game — a fishing game for kids of all abilities.  James had fun handing out prizes and the rest of loved being at the event.

jonathans bookshelf special egg event7

This year we’re doing the same.  The big event is this Saturday!  Can’t wait!

If you are looking for other Easter activities that all kids would enjoy, check out these ideas from Ability Hacker.  It’s a very cool website, and we loved seeing Jonathan’s photo featured!  He would had a lot of fun with their website!

The book that said what I couldn’t

Even though our Jonathan passed away a year ago, I love him dearly.  But that was hard to say at first.  Especially aloud.

Wherever You Are My Love will Find You translated those thoughts into words.


Nancy Tillman’s books have a similar style.  Just look up her work on Amazon and you will find whimsical illustrations, sweet story lines, calming colors, and curlicue font.  She has several best sellers.

Years ago I would have brushed her books off as being sentimental for parents but not something kids would be interested in.  There may still be a hint of truth in that.  Grace doesn’t usually jump up to read Wherever You Are.  But she certainly doesn’t mind it.  The flowing lines and sweet message resonate even with our kids.  And it’s good for them to hear these words over and over.  We never know when we won’t get to say them again.


“I wanted you more
than you ever will know, 
so I sent love to follow
wherever you go.” 

Every child needs to hear those first lines.


“So climb any mountain. . .
climb up to the sky!
My love will find you.
My love can fly!”

When I came to these lines after Jonathan died, I realized my love doesn’t know the limits of this world.  After all, it can fly.


This last page gets me every time.

“You are my angel, my darling, 
my star . . . and my love will find you, 
wherever you are.”

On her website, Nancy Tillman explains her purpose in writing this book: “It is my wish that this book helps give your children a sense of confidence that there is nowhere in this world that your love cannot find them.”

So true.  Not even death can separate our love.


Good books for a quiet afternoon

The snow just keeps falling.  We’re going nowhere today as a result.  Grace comes toward me with her Frankenstein-like toddle (so sweet!), a book in hand.  We read, she stands up, and is off to find the next book.  Here’s what she is reading today:

Brown Bear is always a favorite, as are the sequels. She adores the interactive book.  It’s amazing to watch her little mind work as she tried to match up the pieces.

Making interactive children's books |

She loves Sandra Boynton books, just like Jonathan did. Tickle Time is always fun.

Jonathans Bookshelf Tickle Time Boynton 2

Grace is drawn to the rhythm of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom |

These bedtime books are not just for bedtime.  I’m not sure if she quite understands Good Night, Gorilla, but I enjoy it, as did James.

4 Favorite Bedtime Books |

Grace often choose 5 Little Monkeys before nap time.  She smiles every time she sees the mommy jumping on the bed.

5 Little Monkeys book review |

Grace just went down for nap, Kyle and James are reading, and I’m taking a short break from a good novel.  Books really are a great snow day activity!

Cleverly Funny Children’s Books

Some children’s books annoy me.  You know the ones… boring plot, poor illustrations, too simplistic, blah.  Sometimes  I wonder what editor let a book go to print.

But why waste time with those?  There are so many great ones out there.

Today I’m writing about one of Jonathan’s favorites.  He seriously cracked up, as did James and me.


Caldecott Award winner Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! does not disappoint.  Like Mo Willems’ other books, his zany sense of humor prevails.


The book begins with the bus driver asking the reader to watch the bus while he steps away for a moment.  His  most important words of advice: Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!



Throughout the story, the pigeon asks politely, demands, and begs to drive the bus, speaking directly to the reader.  This creates a fun relationship between the book and the reader, and my kids thought the pigeon’s tactics were hilarious.


In the end, the pigeon gives up on his bus driving dreams and moves on to bigger things — trucks!

This book entertains my kids and me: it’s a winner.

Library Love

Story time at the local library was one of our favorite Saturday morning activities.  Jonathan loved the songs, books, and rhymes.  He squealed during silly books, and found the felt mouse hidden in the colored houses.  Our library continues to be a favorite hang out for our family, especially in cold, rainy weather.  Here’s why…

1. It’s free!  Enough said… I’m sold.

2. Fits into lots of schedules.  Jonathan and I tried lots of different music classes through church and our community’s park and rec.  The library programs worked best for us because they were offered at a variety of times of day — evenings and weekends, especially.  I liked that they were drop in programs; we didn’t have to commit to a weekly program that we often couldn’t attend due to his health issues.

3. Something for everyone to do.  Jonathan could attend story time while big brother James played on the iPads or Legos.  Kyle and I could pick up books, too.

4. Books, books, and more books.  We always come to the library with a big bag.  Always.

5. Special programs. Seasonal reading programs with prizes, movie nights, open craft studio, drama workshops, therapy dog time, special summer speakers, and so much more… I appreciate the variety of themes and activities.

6. Staff with experience.  It was obvious our children’s librarians had experience working with children with disabilities.  They talked to Jonathan, not just me.  They let him choose his own prizes, even it took a while longer than other kids.  And they were patient as we maneuvered his wheelchair.

7. Library love.  Visiting the library is a great habit for kids to development young.  After all, every community has one, it’s a great source of information, and the programming is terrific.


Adam, Adam, what do you see?

I like connections.

Last week I posted our family’s 3 favorite children’s Bibles.  My first post on this website reviewed Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr.  Connect those two and we have…


That’s right, a Christian sequel to follow in the footsteps of Polar Bear and Baby Bear.

Jonathans Bookshelf Brown Bear Baby Bear Polar Bear

The text follows the traditional pattern.  Bible references are added to each page.  Adam, Adam, What do you see?  I see creation all around me.  Each page features a different Bible hero — Abraham, Moses, etc.


However, the illustrations are different.  Not Eric Carle’s collage style.  More detail.  More people.  Rather than being bold shapes, the illustrations help tell the story.

James really liked this book, but Jonathan was a little young to get into it.  The original Brown Bear books are terrific for older infants/young toddlers.  Jonathan enjoyed the sequel, but James liked it better because he could appreciate the Bible references.

3 Favorite Children’s Bibles

Three years ago I stood in front of the children’s Bibles in our local Christian bookstore.  I was overwhelmed.  Shelf after shelf of colorful, beautifully illustrated Bibles sat before me.  I knew I wanted to purchase one for two-year-old James, but how to decide which one?

Thankfully, a friend from church happened to be in the store.  As we chatted I shared my dilemma.  She showed me the Bible their son enjoyed when he was James’ age.  I purchased it and we loved it, reading it most nights after dinner.  It got a little grubby from dinner fingers, but that’s ok because he loved it.  And he learned.  He learned so much at a young age.  Even though James is now five, he occasionally pulls this one out for fun, although he has a new favorite.


What I look for in a toddler Bible:

  • Simple yet colorful, cartoon-ish illustrations — so kid-friendly that they invite a young child to read.
  • Short stories written with toddler-appropriate language.  I wanted each story to be 2-4 pages.
  • Sound effect words (bam, dong, clip clop, etc.).  Seriously, kids loves these, especially toddlers.
  • Parent suggestions for additional activities.
  • A full survey of Bible stories.  We have other beautiful books with individual stories.  However, I wanted the kids to have a book they could call their Bible with a collection of common stories from the Old and New Testament.  Reference books, like a Bible, are important so kids learn the big picture timeline of history.


It’s easy to see in this example the inviting, colorful illustrations.  I like how we count the stones together in the text.  Sound effect words like “Whirr! Whirr!” are perfect.  Each story is 2 full pages like this, and parent suggestions are included at the end.


When Jonathan turned two, we read from James’ toddler Bible.  But then I realized that Jonathan may enjoy a board book more.  I avoided board books for James because I wanted lots of stories, more than could fit in the thicker board book pages.  However, Jonathan could more easily turn pages in a board book.  So I found this one:


Again, each story was short, but filled with simple, colorful illustrations, not too artsy or so detailed that a toddler would get lost.  Since this is a board book, this version has fewer stories, but the major highlights were included.



James’ current Bible was a gift, and I’m glad it was because it probably wouldn’t have been my first choice for a preschooler.  Its length would have encouraged me to wait until he was older.  However, it’s perfect for him now, as well as when he’s older.


Here’s why I love this for preschoolers and early readers:

  • Detailed pictures open conversation for great discussion and questions.
  • Short stories — 2-4 pages
  • Simple sentence structure, yet recognizable phrases from the Bible.
  • Excellent survey of stories from the Old and New Testament.
  • Discussion questions included at the end of each story.


I included photos of each Bible’s telling of David and Goliath.  The differences in artwork and sentence structure clearly indicate the appropriate audience age.


These are our three favorites so far.  As the kids get older, we will continue to find Bibles that are a good fit for their reading level and interest.