Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Lion's Tales: January 24-30

Inspired by Sadie's Saturday 7 and Jessica's Weekly Ramble, this weekly recap is where I blog about anything and everything from the past week. It could be about books, my kids, my garden... Random things in my life that don't fill enough space for their own post!

1. A couple of weeks ago Ellie and I were browsing the dvd collection at our library (they have a TON) and came across the new live-action Cinderella movie. I almost checked it out, then realized my girls have never seen the original animated Disney version! The library didn't have it, but I asked around and borrowed it from a friend. And so our Friday night tradition expanded!

I've been making homemade pizza every Friday for quite a few months, and now as soon as we clear the table we put on pajamas and head downstairs. So far we've watched Cinderella, Tangled, Bambi, and Lady and the Tramp (oh and the original Star Wars movie since Abby keeps talking about it from talking and playing with the kids at school).

2. I'm considering something slightly crazy... I've discovered I'm very addicted to sugar, and am considering fasting from it for a time. I'm inspired by Jessica Fisher's sugar fast that her whole family did a couple of years ago - they allowed local honey and real maple syrup. There are other programs I've found online and a handful of books -- I'm currently reading Eve Schaub's Year of No Sugar: A Memoir.

I'm thinking it will help me appreciate the times I do eat sweets going forward, and help prevent type-2 diabetes (always on my mind, because of some family history). Weight loss would be a nice side effect too, though I'm not getting my hopes up. :)

I'm not sure if I would go full-on checking every single label of everything I eat (did you know there's sugar in ketchup, and lunch meat, and peanut butter, and...?) or just give up "sweets" (ice cream, chocolate, sweet cereal, coffee creamer, etc).

That's all for now. It's been a pretty slow, average week. :)

What's your favorite classic Disney movie?
Have you ever given up sugar?

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Arctic: Part One

We're wrapping up our first month of the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club! The topic for January and February is the Arctic. We've had some fun discussion in our Facebook group about picture books, The Year of Miss Agnes, additional reading, and even craft and activity ideas! (You can still join us! Come on over!)

I was hoping to read The Year of Miss Agnes aloud with my 5.5-year-old, but she was really bored after the first chapter. I asked her if we could keep going, just to find out what happened next, but she didn't want to and I didn't want to force it.

(we're still working on the transition from reading aloud picture books to reading aloud chapter books...)

So I read it all by myself, in a single afternoon. It's been a long time since I read a simple chapter book like this, and I was impressed by the character development that was able to take place in so few pages. I loved reading about some of the Alaskan culture, and how excited the kids were to learn about new things their previous teachers had never done with them. I'll admit that even I couldn't guess whether or not Miss Agnes would come back for another year of teaching!

I found a neat article by the author, about the making of the book and whether or not the characters were based on real people.

I'm REALLY glad we decided to stretch each theme in the RTFEBC to two months -- I'm not ready to move on from the Arctic yet!! :)


But before we do move on to February's book -- Julie of the Wolves -- here is your chance to linkup a blog post you've written this month about the Arctic. It could be a book review, craft idea, or just general thoughts about reading with your kids. We'll share some of your posts in our Facebook group for others to see! (we all like extra exposure for our blogs, right?)

Special thanks to our hosts for the RTFEBC:

And I'm Carrie, your co-host for January & February. :) 

Link-up Guidelines:
1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.
2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.
3. The linkup will be open until the end of January.
4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.
5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Teach Your Preschoolers About The Arctic [reviews of 8 picture books]

The topic for January & February in the RTFEBC is the Arctic. It's pretty fitting that here in Michigan we've had a week of high temps in the teens and lows around zero!

The recommended picture book to read for the book club is In Arctic Waters, but I wasn't able to get it from my library. So I did a little digging and requested a bunch of other picture books about the Arctic that I want to share with you, in case you want to teach your kids about a new part of the world!


Way Up in the Arctic by Jennifer Ward
From Amazon: "Jennifer Ward and Kenneth Spengler have teamed up to create another wonderful, joyful, counting romp. This time they prance and dance readers through the Arctic and introduce kids to the fascinating animal mamas and babies that call the Arctic home. Set to the beloved tune of Over in the Meadow, read again and again this book will have kids singing along from one to ten with polar bears, beluga whales, Arctic foxes and more! Hey, kids! Look for the number hidden on each page!"

Recommended age:
 4-8 years

My thoughts: Rhyming, counting, Arctic animals, and a hidden number on each page combine to make this a great book! The back even contains additional facts about the animals and the Arctic. 


Hello, Arctic! by Theodore Taylor
From Amazon: "The Arctic is more than ice and snow. As the seasons change and winter turns to spring, birds return, seals leap and splash, and polar bears are born. Childlike, rhythmic text invites us to greet the animals that come with the turn of seasons--Hello, birds! Hello, seals! Hello, cubs!--while gorgeous illustrations reveal the wondrous creatures and colors of this stirring northern land."

Recommended age: 3-7 years

My thoughts: This book has no more than 10 words on a page, and most only have 4-6, making it great for younger children. It gives a basic introduction to the animals and seasons of the Arctic.


Immi's Gift by Karin Littlewood
From Amazon: "Karin Littlewood has crafted a simple, affecting story of how individuals around the world connect and even enrich each others lives. Her beautiful, full-spread watercolor illustrations colorfully depict the story s shifting locations from the frozen Arctic to the tropical shoreline, and the vast and diverse world that exists below the sea."

Recommended age: 4+ years

My thoughts: Surprisingly, out of all the arctic books we got from the library, this is the one my kids have requested at bedtime most often. The illustrations are beautiful, and it's a simple fictional story (would you really invite a polar bear into your igloo?!) that shows we can connect with people in other parts of the world.


by Susan Canizares 
My thoughts: These short non-fiction books use real photographs and a minimal amount of words on each page to show children what the arctic looks like.

Recommended age: Amazon says 4 and up, but these books are SO short and small (16 pages each) that I think MUCH younger kids will be able to sit through them.


Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller
From Amazon: "Imagine a land where the sun rises at 1:58 a.m. in the summer and shines for less than four hours on a winter's day. The animals in the wilderness near Fairbanks, Alaska, witness some of the world's greatest temperature extremes and light variations ever year. At an average low of -16 degrees Fahrenheit, the winters may be unpleasantly frigid, but the light shows are always glorious!"

Recommended age:
 5-9 years

My thoughts: I read this through once with both of my kids, and I think it may have been a little old for them. I explained and expounded a lot on the concept, to help them understand, and I think it's great for teaching kids about how the amount of daylight is different as you get closer to the poles. Each two-page spread represents a different month, starting with June, and tells when the sunrise and sunset occurs each month. The beautiful illustrations show how the landscape changes with the seasons too.

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk
From Amazon: "This bedtime poem, written by internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts bestowed upon a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. Lyrically and lovingly written, this visually stunning book is infused with the Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants."

Recommended age:
 preschool and up

My thoughts: This is a beautiful bedtime book, that shows the many different Arctic animals, and gives lots of warm fuzzy feelings and welcomes snuggles from your kids. :)


Arctic Son by Jean Craighead George
From Amazon: "Eskimo life has adjusted to the long summer day and the long winter night, the severe cold, and the arrival and departure of wildlife. In this stunning tribute to the Arctic and its inhabitants by the celebrated author of Julie of the Wolves, the warmth of the Inupiat Eskimo culture shines through."

Recommended age:
 preschool and up, though I think it's more early-elementary

My thoughts: "In the Arctic, where Kupaaq was born, things are very different." This book is the most in-depth and longest of the picture books we have, and it has a TON of Eskimo culture. I needed to explain a lot of it to my kids.

We have a friend who moved to Alaska to teach for a few years, and while there she met and married a local man (he even has an English name and an Inuit name, like the boy in the book). They have since moved back to Michigan, and have two daughters, who are friends of my kids. I was able to use this book to teach my 5 year old a bit of what life was like for Mr. George when he was young.


There's still a whole year ahead of us in the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club! This week in the Facebook group we're discussing the chapter book The Year of Miss Agnes, and in February we're reading Julie of the Wolves together! Come join us!

This post does contain Amazon Affiliate links. Purchases you make after clicking through will help support The Lion is a Bookworm a little bit without changing the cost to you!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Lion's Tales: January 10-16

Inspired by Sadie's Saturday 7 and Jessica's Weekly Ramble, this weekly recap is where I blog about anything and everything from the past week. It could be about books, my kids, my garden... Random things in my life that don't fill enough space for their own post!

1. I completed a goal on Monday that I've been wanting to do for awhile -- I read through the Bible in [just over] a year! I found a really good chronological reading plan to follow in the YouVersion Bible app on my phone, called "Reading God's Story". It had 6 days of reading and 1 off day for catchup each week. There were a few weeks throughout the year that I fell way behind (especially the beginning of the school year and December), but I was determined to not give up.

2. We had our first snow day off from school this week. I'm actually pretty surprised we made it almost half way through January before the first one! We have a tradition of making monkey bread muffins on snow days.

What was going to be a day full of MOPS and work/preschool and a school open house turned into...

3. Shopping day. We bought a new [to us] van this week. Our other van has been having some transmission troubles, and when we brought it in for an estimate to fix they quoted $6000. No thanks! So I started stalking Craigslist and created an Excel spreadsheet with details about vans for sale that caught my eye. :) We can across one that was 20 years old, but only had 76,000 miles on it. We checked it out, and it had just been a man's second vehicle but mostly something to tinker with, so it was in super great shape. We bought it for only $2500 and brought it home on Tuesday!

4. Some good friends of ours are moving 2 hours away (because of a job change), and we helped them finish packing and loading the moving trailer today. We talked about how amazing it is to see the amount of stuff you accumulate in such a short time (they're only been in the house for about 4 years). I've been thinking about the possibility of us moving in the next 12-18 months, and it was a good experience to watch our friends go through the process. We're sure going to miss them though. :(

5. Friendships are hard for adults. Once we have kids, we often default to our friends being the parents of our kids' friends. Rocky and I have been blessed the last 8 years or so to have had 2 couples we've been really close to within our church. We've had similar interests, both before and after kids, so we've been able to share lots of life together. But now both couples/families have moved away, and Rocky and I are back to looking for someone to call our best friends. We know we can keep in touch with the other families, but it's not the same as being able to call them up and say hey, want to come over for a playdate/dinner/tennis match/etc...

Have you accomplished any New Years goals before? Do you have close friends as an adult that are/aren't tied to your kids' friendships?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

10 Chapter Book Series for Beginning Readers (that are NOT Junie B. Jones!)

My 5.5-year-old really took off in her reading ability last spring (read some about it in this post). She went from phonics readers ("fat cat sat on a mat") to My First I Can Read books like Biscuit to harder I Can Read books in a matter of weeks.

(I've since discovered that it was because she became an expert at sight words - without us even trying - she would memorize all sorts of words instead of learning to sound them out. I now know that's why I can read so fast too...)

I began looking for really really simple chapter books ("big kid books" as she called them) for her to try, and surprisingly the search was difficult! There seems to be a gap between those leveled-readers (advertised as for ages 4-8, but so many even of the level 3's were too easy for her) and something like Magic Tree House or Judy Moody or Clementine (all advertised as for ages 6-10).

While I know Junie B. Jones would probably be perfect for this age and there are lots of them in the series, I have heard so many negative comments from parents about everything from bad grammar to rudeness and sassiness in them. No thanks...

Here is a list of some good book series that I DID find. Abby has read most of them, though a few series she wasn't interested in the subject (like Rainbow Fairies - for some reason she didn't seem to like the one we tried, but the level is appropriate. I'll probably get another one for her to try in a few months).

Recommended age: 4-7
Pages per book: 48
Chapters per book: 4
Read my full review here. These were the first true chapter books that Abby read after the I Can Read books. Highly, highly, highly recommended -- and not just because I sell them. They are PERFECT for this transition age.

Recommended age: 4-6 years
Pages per book: 64
Chapters per book: 8
These are actually shelved with the "level 3" I Can Read-type books at my library, though they're not advertised as such. Full color throughout.

Recommended age: 5-8 years
Pages per book: 96
Chapters per book: 10
Black and white illustrations are spread throughout these books, and the chapters are short.

Recommended age: 4-8 years
Pages per book: 96
Chapters per book: 10
I've heard these are the boy version of Junie B, and therefore some of the books have an occasional bad message in them (lying to parents, etc). But there are nearly 30 books in the series, and it's pretty easy to tell by looking at the ratings on Amazon which ones to avoid.

Recommended age: 4-10 years, depending on the series
Pages per book: 80
Chapters per book: 
If Abby ever gets hooked on these books, there will be enough for her to choose from to last her till middle school... There is the original "Rainbow Fairies" series (red, orange, yellow, etc), then additional series (night, ocean, party, sports, music, etc) with about 7 books each. According to Wikipedia, over 200 books have been published since 2003, with more coming out every year!

Recommended age: 6-9 years
Pages per book: 96
I tried to give Abby the first one in this series, Spooky House, last fall -- but 1) it was still a little too difficult for her and 2) so far she's not a big mystery reader, and I think the idea of a spooky house was a little scary. We tried the series again a couple weeks ago with Playground Detectives, and she read the whole thing. Then she discovered she'd read the books out of order and got mad at me... :-P

Next step: 
(books that are slightly longer, that I really want to get for Abby now to push her reading ability!)

Recommended age: 5-9 years
Pages per book: 128

Recommended age: 6-10 years
Pages per book: 96-128

The first 28 books in the MTH series have 80-96 pages and are recommended for ages 6-9. After those, the books become 144 pages long and are for ages 7-10. I tried the first few books with Abby last fall, and she only paged through to look at the pictures. I think it's about time to try them again!

What other beginning-independent-reader chapter books would you recommend?

I am an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books & More. Purchasing books through the link(s) above will pay me a commission. Usborne Publishing Ltd. has no connection with this blog and does not sponsor or support its content.

This post also contains Amazon Affiliate links. Purchases you make help support The Lion is a Bookworm a little bit without changing the cost to you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Looking back, and looking ahead

I hope you all had a great few weeks full of holidays and family time and lots of books! :) I disappeared for a time here on the blog and on Facebook, but if you follow me on Instagram you may have discovered the reason for my absence...

My extended in-law family (9 adults and 4 kids total) took a week-long vacation to Aruba. I feel a little shy even telling you about it -- it sounds so exotic and not-like-me (I don't consider myself a beach-y person) and I hate making people feel jealous... It must be the people-pleaser in me -- you'll still like me right? I promise this is the only time I'll mention it, unless you really want to hear more about it. :)

SO, because of all that craziness at the end of the year, I'm going to play catch-up really quickly with all of the other things I've wanted to tell you about! It's been quite a year -- I wrote this post one year ago about all the things I wanted to accomplish as a youth librarian, not realizing that two months later I'd be turning in my resignation letter...

Looking Back:

1. Reading Goals Update
After reading 24 books in 2014, my goal for 2015 was to read 36 books -- 3 per month. I fell a little short, only reaching 31. But considering I have 2 young kids at home, work part time, and a few of the books were pretty long, I think I did alright. Therefore I'm making my 2016 goal the same -- 36 books.

I also had a personal goal of reading through the Bible in a year -- I found a really good chronological plan through YouVersion on my phone, and came oh so close to finishing. I have about 10 days to go, and I will finish!

2. Young Adult Book & Movie Club
I tried some books that I would never have picked up on my own because of the Young Adult Book & Movie Club. I do like YA, and discovered some new favorites (Legend!!). Thanks Jessica for running this two years in a row!

Looking Ahead: 

1. A NEW Book Club!
I'm excited to participate this year in Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club. Every two months the book club will focus on a different theme, and I have the honor of being co-host for "the Arctic" in January & February! Join the Facebook group for discussion, and be on the lookout for more posts from me about some great books to read with your kiddos.

2. 2016 MMD Reading Challenge
I hope to participate this year in Modern Mrs. Darcy's Reading Challenge. I didn't discover her amazing blog until last spring, and didn't want to jump in on the 2015 Reading Challenge part way through the year. So I'm telling you right now I'm doing this for 2016! I like that it doesn't have specific goals for specific months, but instead lets me choose when do complete each one. :)

What are some of your reading goals for 2016,
or book clubs you're participating in?