Family Fridays – TV Shows for One Year Olds That Won’t Make You Insane (YMMV)

As mentioned earlier in the week, my son and I both had a pretty bad cold a few weeks ago, and so we did something we normally don’t do: we camped out in a comfy chair together, snuggled, went through mountains of tissues, and watched several tv shows back to back. Here are my top three picks for shows at his current age:

Sesame Street: I don’t remember watching Sesame Street growing up, so I’ve been blown away at how good it is. They’ve got great educational stuff, music, art, morals, etc. and they still manage to entertain the very young crowd. My son giggles out loud when he sees his favorites: Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie, Grover, Elmo (man, I hate Elmo) and Oscar the Grouch. I was raving about what a great show it was to a friend and she mentioned something about the “political messages”. I haven’t seen any subversive political messages, though I only watch the show on Netflix, which has a very limited selection, so I might be missing something from later seasons.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: This is a spin off from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood (which I’ve also never seen), and the focus is on learning social skills – sharing, what to do when you get mad, etc. It is a very good show, though of the three listed here, I find I have the lowest tolerance for this one, mostly due to the repetition. Each thirty minute segment is split into two parts, each teaching the same lesson, but with different characters. Each segment has a song that gets sung quite often (“If you have to go potty, STOP! and go right away!”) and WILL get stuck in your head. The first season is on Netflix.

Postman Pat Special Delivery Service: This is the updated version of a show I remember from my childhood, Postman Pat. It is a charming little show set in a small, rural town in England (using stop motion animation – or at least a look alike) that features the adventures of the postman trying to deliver a parcel that somehow always goes wrong. It’s probably the least educational of the three here, but it’s very pleasant. This one isn’t on Netflix, but you can watch it free on Amazon Prime if you’re a member. My mother bought me the first season, and we’re enjoying working our way through it. It doesn’t hold my one year old’s attention as much as the other two (it’s a little old for him), but we can usually get through at least one 15 minute segment, and generally a 30 minute show.

I’ve tried other shows, but these are the three I keep coming back to. What shows do you watch with your kids?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m not a huge celebrator of Valentine’s Day, but I do love those little conversation hearts, the ones that taste like pepto bismol and have cutesey sayings on them. I can easily eat a package of them by myself – by which I mean, I do eat a package of them by myself, at least twice a year because my husband detests them (he also doesn’t like brownies). The other good thing about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a wonderful excuse to read a sappy romance.

Here are my current favorite romances. Warning: there’s no bodice ripping in any of these, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed.

  1. Gaudy Night (1935) by Dorothy Sayers (Barnes and Noble, Amazon) – I know, I know! I’m forever going on about it. But I can’t help it if the greatest love story ever written comes packaged in a well written mystery full of great characters and wonderful ambience.
  2. Persuasion (1817) by Jane Austen (Barnes and Noble, Amazon) – While I love Pride and Prejudice as much as the next girl, I think Persuasion slightly edges it out as my favorite Austen. This movie adaptation (Barnes and Noble, Amazon) is excellent.
  3. Edenbrooke (2012) by Julianne Donaldson (Barnes and Noble, Amazon) – I first read this a year or so ago, and I immediately fell in love with it. It’s just fun.
  4. Sorcery and Cecelia (1988) by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Barnes and Noble, Amazon) – see my review here.
  5. Black Sheep (1966) (Barnes and Noble, Amazon) and Frederica (1965) (Barnes and Noble, Umm…Amazon apparently only carries the Russian edition?) by Georgette Heyer – I couldn’t decide, so I went with both. I went through a Heyer phase when I was pregnant and couldn’t handle reading anything even remotely stressful. Some of them I hated, and some of them I really enjoyed. These are two that are pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on my face.

Ok, so I just realized that all of these are either written or were set a very long time ago. I’m not sure what that says about me, but there you have it.

As a bonus, because it is Friday and I need to sneak in a “Family Friday” bit somewhere, I’ll present you with my favorite love book for children: Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram. (Barnes and Noble, Amazon). One of the many things I love about this book is that it features a dad as the loving parent. Moms often take center stage (not that I’m complaining) in these types of books, so it’s great to see a dad trying to explain just how much he loves his child. Sweet without being smarmy, it is a great way to show a kid (or adult!) how much you love them.

What are your favorite romances? What is your favorite love book for kids? How can someone not like brownies?!?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – Lost In The Woods

Book: Lost in the Woods (2004) by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick

Category/Age: Picture Book (Older)

Blurb:

The authors of New York Times’ best-seller, Stranger in the Woods, bring you this beautiful springtime fantasy about trust, patience and waiting for your time. Woodland creatures are concerned for a newborn fawn they believe to be lost.

Review:

One thing I’ve never understood about human brains is the connections they’re able to make between the symbolic and the concrete. It’s really mind boggling, especially in very young children.

Take the following:

Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

What is it? Well, obviously it’s an elephant. A rather well done elephant, if I do say so myself. But it’s not really an elephant, it’s a collection of lines on a screen in a vaguely elephant-like shape. How is it that people can immediately recognize, “oh, elephant!”? It doesn’t have the same actual shape, texture, depth, color, etc. as a real elephant. It kind of boggles my mind.

Here on the other hand, is an actual elephant:

Real Elephants

 

 

 

 

 

Well, again, it’s not really an elephant, but at least it’s the photograph of a real elephant, so we’re much closer to the real thing. I’ve always been curious to see if a child brought up on cartoon pictures of animals would be able to recognize the real animals from their simple, stylized drawings, if they had never before seen the real, live counterparts. If you think about it, much of what makes up the visual part of the animals: color, texture, movement, etc. is just not captured in most children’s books. To say nothing of the smell.

But anyways, the point of all this rambling (I do have a point!) is that this book, Lost In The Woods, is a different style children’s book in that it’s photographs of animals instead of illustrations. It makes a wonderful addition to any young child’s library, and has a great cast of woodland animals. The pictures are absolutely lovely; you’ll find yourself wanting to reach out and touch the baby animals.

It also makes the point that newborn deer are abandoned by their mothers for the first few weeks of life to keep them safe from predators, so if you come across one in the wilds, leave it alone! Apparently they are born without a scent, so the mother only comes back to feed, then leaves again until the fawn is strong enough to keep up with the doe. I didn’t know that. You learn something new everyday.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble

P.S. They also have another one in the series, Stranger in the Woods, that shows forest animals reacting to a snowman. That one is definitely going on my wish list for next Christmas!

P.P.S. Who DOESN’T need an adorable stuffed fawn?!?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

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Family Fridays – Jack London

Books: White Fang and The Call of the Wild

Category/Age: Middle Grades, 10+

Blurb – Call of the Wild:

The Call of the Wild is a novel by American writer Jack London. The plot concerns a previously domesticated dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events leads to his serving as a sled dog in the Yukon during the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, in which sled dogs were bought at generous prices. Published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is London’s most-read book, and it is generally considered his best, the masterpiece of his so-called “early period”.

Blurb – White Fang:

Half wolf, half dog, White Fang fully understands the cruelty of both nature and humans. After nearly starving to death during the frigid Arctic winter, he’s taken in first by a man who “trains” him through constant whippings, and then by another who forces him to participate in vicious dogfights. Follow White Fang as he overcomes these obstacles and finally meets someone who offers him kindness and love.

Review:

From my reading of these two books as a child, I remembered vaguely that they were a bit violent. I was therefore a little startled at how violent the books are when I reread them. Both humans and dogs (as well as other animals) die and suffer in a surprising variety of horrible ways. I also was not all that impressed by the writing this time around. It’s old-fashioned, yes, but I have no problem with that. It was just a little clunky – it felt like an uneducated man trying to impress with his use of large vocabulary words, and not-so-subtle imagery.

All that being said, they are still both gripping tales. You really care about the characters in the stories and root for them to succeed despite the odds. I think they’re best read together, in the order presented here as you end on a happier note with White Fang. White Fang is also significantly longer. You have more time to come to care about the character, but also more time for bad things to happen to him. And they do, aplenty, which is one of the reasons his redemption is that much sweeter at the end.

I have always been fascinated by survival stories, and these have lots of action and hardship, loyalty and betrayal, sacrifice and love. The things I mentioned not liking about them – the violence and the writing style – I think are less likely to bother children than adults. I was (am) a total wuss about violence in books and movies and I don’t remember being traumatized by it. Perhaps children are more practical about violence in nature than adults. That being said, I recommend these books for children, but I also strongly recommend you read them first to make sure your child is ready for them.

Have you read White Fang or The Call of the Wild? What did you think? Would you encourage your kids to read either?

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

P.S. I read most of these books with my dog curled up in my lap, which provided a hilarious contrast to these noble, savage beasts that Jack London knew as “dogs”. My little terrier mix has about as much in common with these creatures as she does with a banana. We’re pretty sure the tan recliner pictured below is her “natural habitat”.

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Family Fridays – The Going to Bed Post

Book: The Going to Bed Book (1982) by Sandra Boynton

Category/Age: Picture Book (Younger), Board Book

Blurb:

This classic bedtime story is just right for winding down the day as a joyful, silly group of animals scrub scrub scrub in the tub, brush and brush and brush their teeth, and finally rock and rock and rock to sleep.

Review:

In our house, this really is The Going To Bed Book. Our bedtime routine with our (one year old) son is to read him a couple of books, then pull this one out. When he sees The Going To Bed Book, he knows the end is near and depending on how tired he is, will either start yawning, crying, or just immediately assume the sleep position (he curls all his limbs underneath him and rolls onto his stomach, which is hilarious when he attempts this while in your lap). Then we’ll turn out the light, sing a song, and put him down. Whereupon he usually screams himself to sleep. This boy does not go gently into that good nap.

Anyways, having a bedtime (and nap) routine has really made the process much easier for all concerned (yes, it’s much better than it used to be – the screaming period is much shorter, and is often just crying), because everyone knows exactly what’s happening, and what will come next. Originally we were just reading him any books, then continuing on, but that meant he started to associate ALL books with being put down in his crib, so whenever you’d pull out a book he’d start to cry. Naturally, I don’t want my son to associate reading with bad things, so we stopped doing any sort of routine for a while. When we started up again a few months later, using The Going To Bed Book as the piece de résistance every time, he quickly learned that books are good, it’s just this book that means he’s going to go to sleep.

Obviously you could pick any book to be your “sleep is coming for you, my friend” signal, but I love this one. It’s short, has a soothing rhythm to read, depicts cute animals getting ready for bed, I can read it 2-3 times per day and not going insane, and most importantly, it’s a board book, which means if your child is trying to escape, it’s in less danger of being damaged.

The bottom line here: consider both bedtime routines and The Going to Bed Book highly recommended.

Do you or your children have bedtime routines? Did you have any books you used as you bedtime books?

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – Tillie and the Wall

Book: Tillie and the Wall (1989) by Leo Lionni

Category/Age: Older Picture Book, 2+ Years

Blurb:

All her life Tillie the mouse has wondered what lies on the other side of the wall. Imagining all sorts of fantastic possibilities, she digs a tunnel to get to the other side, where she discovers . . . other mice, just like her! Together, Tillie and her friends work to bring down the wall and unite mouse-kind. Written just before the fall of the Berlin wall, this seemingly simple fable has a powerful message for all children—and all people.

Review:

Huh. I just learned, about two seconds ago, about the Berlin wall context of this book. Even without the historical significance, this is an awesome, awesome book. I think the two words from the blurb, “seemingly simple”, capture it perfectly – story and illustrations. There are so many great things layered into this book: a character who questions the status quo, fights against a seemingly insurmountable barrier, fails again and again before succeeding, then unites her people (well, mice). Not to mention the adorable mice in the illustrations. I defy you to find a more adorable mouse than any of Leo Lionni’s mice.

I’ll try to limit myself to talking a little bit more about only two of the above points: failure and the subtle “her”. I recently read an interesting (despite the annoying GIFs) blog post about failure, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I think it’s wonderful that Tillie and the Wall can be used to encourage kids (and adults) that it’s ok to fail; in fact that it’s a normal part of life. I am by nature a very cautious person, and when I encounter failure my first reaction is to curl up in my shell and retreat (as much as one can retreat in a shell). I’ll try to be more like Tillie in the coming year: if something doesn’t work the way I want it to – or at all – I’ll regroup and try again.

The second thing I wanted to mention is how refreshing it is to have a book that has a female main character without making a big deal about it. I think it’s important for there to be diversity in books, both to show our kids that not everyone looks like us, and also that there are other people out there that look like they do. We all like books – to some degree at least – when they feature people we relate to, and all children should be able to pick up a book and say “look, Momma, that character is [a girl/black/redheaded/short/adopted/wears yellow polka dot socks] just like me!” However, the cynic in me sometimes has to roll her eyes a little bit with the books that are so carefully diverse you feel like you’re being hit over the head with it. This book is a story about Tillie. She happens to be a girl mouse. Done.

Get it! Amazon, Barnes and Noble

What is your favorite Lionni book? Wouldn’t you love to have a cute little mouse like Tillie?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – Five Minutes’ Peace

Book: Five Minutes’ Peace (1986) by Jill Murphy

Series: The Large Family

Category/Age: Older Picture Book, 2+ years

Blurb:

All Mrs. Large wants is five minutes’ peace from her energetic children, but chaos follows her all the way from the kitchen to the bath and back again.

Review:

How could you not love a book that starts out: “The children were having breakfast. This was not a pleasant sight.”? And besides, what does any mom really want? Just five minutes’ peace, of course! If you want to give a mom the gift of her dreams, give her a couple hours of babysitting and this book. Or cash. Your call.

I remember loving this series when I was young, and in fact, the Five Minutes’ Peace on my bookshelf is the one my mom read to us as children. One of the reasons I loved this book as a child was that it closely resembled my own family (the elephant version, at least) – three kids: boy, girl, boy, and the middle girl loved to read.

The series overall is excellent: Murphy has a way of poking fun at family life from a mother’s perspective (incidentally, I can’t think of any other picture books that are told from the mom’s point of view), while still managing to entertain kids. Five Minutes’ Peace is my favorite, though All In One Piece and A Piece of Cake are excellent also (don’t worry, not all the titles have peace or piece in them). One of the things that has delighted me the most when rereading a few of these books for this post is noticing the layers of fun details in the drawings. For example, the first glance shows an elephant family sitting around eating breakfast. Then you notice fun little things like “crayon drawings” of elephant stick figures tacked on the walls, and little elephant pictures in the newspaper.

It’s a fun little story that will appeal to parents and children, and the illustrations are utterly charming. If you haven’t yet met the Large family, I’d strongly recommend checking them out. It is an “older picture book” which means that for the amount of text on a page, you’ll probably have a hard time keeping a very young child interested all the way through. I generally can’t get all the way through it with my one-year old, but we do occasionally.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Side note: I will give a caveat about A Piece of Cake: I looked it up for this post and was surprised to see that a few Amazon reviewers absolutely tore it to shreds. The book is about the Large family exercising and going on a diet, and not having much success. It also uses the f-word (fat) which apparently has become more taboo in our culture than that other f-word. I don’t remember being permanently damaged by reading it as a child – although, come to think of it, from that day forward I’ve had absolutely no luck being diligent about exercising or dieting. Hmmm… So anyways, if this is a concern in your family, consider steering clear of this title.

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Book: The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1958) by Elizabeth George Speare (1959 Newbery Winner)

Category/Age: Middle Grades / 9+

Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.

Elizabeth George Speare won the 1959 Newbery Medal for this portrayal of a heroine whom readers will admire for her unwavering sense of truth as well as her infinite capacity to love.

Review:

As a child, I was (and still am) endlessly fascinated by learning about the way other people lived, especially if they lived in a vastly different time or place from my own. I’ve always struggled with straight history –dates and rulers and governments and all the rest of it makes me a bit cross-eyed – but give me a good story about a person and I’m hooked. The most mundane details are what draw me in: What did they wear? What did they eat? How did they cook it? Where and how did they sleep? How did they spend their days?

The Witch of Blackbird Pond gives these kinds of glimpses into the life of a teenage girl in the late 1600’s. This story delighted me as a child as I learned about Kit’s new life in the colonies and her struggles to fit in. One of the things I remembered most about the book before rereading it was the strong themes of love throughout: love for family (and the many different forms that can take, whether begrudging duty or total, instant acceptance), love for friends, and romantic love.

I have to admit that when I reread it for this post, I was just a little disappointed. Reading it from the perspective of an adult, I noticed some things that fell a little flat for me. There isn’t a huge amount of character growth for Kit throughout the book, and there don’t seem to be long term consequences for any of her impetuous actions. These often lead her into immediate crises, but these are quickly resolved with hardly any fallout.

It is still a charming book, and I’m recommending it as much based on how much I loved it when I was a girl as much as anything else. There is also the classic “outsider who stays true to who she is and finds happiness because of it” motif, which I think always goes over well – I was going to say “with kids”, but then realized this is possibly even more true for adult literature. I especially recommend this for kids who struggle with history. If you can excuse this lame joke, it really does put the “story” back into “history”, as it excellently balances historical details and references with the plot and characterizations.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Have you read it? Would you give it to your children? Are there any books that come to mind that disappointed you when you first reread them as an adult?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

Book: Go, Dog. Go! (1961)

Ages: 3-7 Years

Blurb:

Reading goes to the dogs in this timeless Beginner Book edited by Dr. Seuss. From big dogs and little dogs to red, green, and blue dogs, dogs going up and dogs going fast . . . who knew dogs were so busy? And laughter will ensue at the repeated question “Do you like my hat?” Like P. D. Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother? Go, Dog. Go! has been a go-to favorite for over fifty years, leaving audiences of all breeds wagging their tails with delight.

Review:

How much do I love this book? Well, it’s the book I’m giving to my son for his first birthday (this week! Where did the year go?). It’s an excellent early reader book, full of repeated, simple words. And it’s excellent for pre-readers as it covers colors, directions (up, down), relative sizes (big, small) and just a lot of great “young mind concepts”. It even manages to do all of this while still being entertaining. I love P.D. Eastman’s work, and hope to add more of his books to our library over the years, but Go, Dog. Go! will always hold a special place in my heart. Plus, it uses a vocative comma in the title, so what’s not to love?

Get it! Amazon, Barnes and Noble

What’s your favorite early reader book?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Book: The Snowy Day (1962)

Genre: Children’s Picture Books

Ages: 3+

Blurb:

No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.

Review:

I won’t promise that this will be the last wintery book I post, but it will be the last for a while, and we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming (whatever that is). I absolutely love this book, and couldn’t miss the opportunity to recommend it. The joy and excitement Peter feels about his snowy adventures are contagious, and will make you and your little ones want to get out and play in the snow, too.

The age categories I saw online suggested 3+ years, but it’s worth reading to younger kids as well. If I catch my wiggly one-year-old in the right mood, we can make it all the way through (it is fairly long for the baby/toddler age range) and I think it’s always worth trying books that are aimed a bit older to stretch their minds. Also, it helps keep you from going insane as you read the same, 5-sentence picture books over and over and over.

This book ranked as one of the “must-buys” for me while I was pregnant, and makes a fun gift for a fall/winter baby shower (or anytime, really). Snuggle up with some hot chocolate and your little ones and read all about Peter’s fun day in the snow!

Is this book part of your library? What are your favorite winter books?

Get it! Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.