Sunday, February 28, 2016

All the Books We Got for Christmas (Books. Lists. Love.)

The kids got a lot of new books this past Christmas, but you don't see me complaining.  It was my pleasure to write this fairly random, fairly long, and fairly awesome book list!  

Russ and I usually get each kiddo a new book or two (that they're expected to share ;) ) and everyone got new books from my parents this year.  Needless to say, we've all really been enjoying our new reading material these past few months!

So I get to do a major mega-force book review... because they actually all turned out great and there wasn't a dud in the batch!

Starting with a new-to-us treasure for the youngest...

(And these are affiliate links, so if you click through and buy something, thank you!)

How have we not had this until now??  I think the first I heard of it might have been from my friend, Mary.  And she's got good taste, so I should have known this book would be a delight!  I'm a stickler for good illustrations and non-cheesy text.  And this book measures up.  And it rhymes!  I usually avoid rhyming books because it's hard to get rhymes without sounding weird.  But this book does it!  It's filled with animal sounds, big trucks, little trucks, goopy mud, and all the things that boys and girls love.  It's a winner!

Sleep Like a Tiger

This book.  Think Bedtime for Frances, but not.  Like Frances, the little girl in this book has no interest in going to bed and engages her parents in all sorts of conversations to avoid bedtime.  But unlike Frances' push-over parents, the wise parents in this book successfully get their daughter in bed.  And she falls asleep :)  

I love the illustrations in this book.  They are beautiful and quirky (like the people are on wheels...).  Beautiful and quirky - it's one of my favorite combos for illustrations <3

Adventures With Barefoot Critters

Oh, goodness!!!  I just want to plaster the pictures of these sweet little woodland critters all over my house!!  They are so adorable I can hardly restrain myself from cuddling the book ;)  These furry forest friends enjoy adventures together all year long under the auspices of alphabet-themed activities. (But this really isn't an alphabet book, so don't base your opinion of it one way or another on that.)  Clare and I love this book... the illustrations make everything else about it lovely.  My only complaint, and it's a big enough one that I have to mention it... there's a triceratops friend.  ???????  I know!  I don't get it either.  The woodland squirrel, the woodland deer, the woodland fox, rabbit, and raccoon -- they totally make sense.  But the woodland triceratops is a little confusing to my brain.  Just had to mention it.  As is, the book gets 5 stars.  If they had left out the triceratops, it would have gotten 75,000 stars.  

Roses in the Snow: a Tale of St. Elizabeth of Hungary

We haven't had any books about St. Elizabeth of Hungary and I've had my eye on this book for a while.  The full page illustrations are bright and beautiful.  The girls have really enjoyed reading it over and over, as it's delightfully told from the perspective of a little girl listening to the tales her grandmother tells of St. Elizabeth.  They love the story of loaves of bread miraculously turning to roses, and I'm guessing we may have a bread-and-rose-toting St. Elizabeth among our All Saint's Day costumes year :) 

The Queen and the Cross: the Story of Saint Helen

I was so glad my parents gave this to us to add to our collection!  Ruth's middle name is Elaine, a derivative of Helen, so I've been wanting to make a point to learn more about St. Helen and to intentionally celebrate her feast day.  This is the story of her devotion to the cross and her search for the true cross on Calvary.   

Beauty and the Beast



Pop-Up Books


WOW!  All I can say is wow!  Ok, not really.  I'm going to say more...
These books are truly a treasure.  Not only are they lovely retellings of the classic fairy tales, but they are amazing feats of art and engineering.  Each large page is an intricate pop-up illustration - the hideous beast lurching toward you, a magical horse drawn carriage seeming to float on air.  Each page also contains much smaller "books" with... if you can believe it... mini pop-ups that are just as elaborate and beautiful!  The kids, of course, love these books, and even I have been caught opening and closing the pages, peering at the paper constructions and murmuring, "how do they do that??"   These books are a bit pricey, and they're definitely delicate enough that young readers should be supervised (or very mature in handling books) so that the pop-up mechanisms remain in tast.  But you must check these out!  (Other titles include Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, The Wizzard of OzThe Snow Queen, and The Jungle Book)

Well, the kids are just ecstatic to finally own these!  (Thanks, Papa and Grandma!)  They were books we regularly had out of the library, so to own them, even though they are readily available at the public library, means they must really be good!  They are :)  These totally ridiculous books about Mr. and Mrs. Wastson and their porcine wonder Mercy, are as silly as they sound.  They're great for kids that are just on the cusp of graduating to first chapter books.  They illustrations are a bit over the top for my liking, but I'm willing to overlook them to enjoy the comical characters and absurd story lines that elicit belly laughs from my kids :) 

Isn't this cover gorgeous?!?  The whole book is eye-catching!  And informative!  I'm really going out on a limb here -- but if you have curious kids I think this book is be a must-have for your home library.  It has something for every science-loving kid - earth science, geology, weather, flora, fauna.  The hand drawn illustrations are beautifully done, but are also done in such a way that they inspire my kids to exercise their own nature-drawing muscles.  (This is not to say the illustrations are child-like, but they are beautiful in their simplicity.  A child can look at them and think, oh!  I bet I could draw a lovely daisy like that!)  A good portion of the text is hand-lettered, which helps to give it the feel of a nature journal as opposed to an informative text.  My older boys have really enjoyed looking through this beautiful and detailed book and they've been doing quite a bit more of they own nature drawing as a result <3  I highly recommend this book as well as its companion Farm Anatomy: the Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life.

Small Adventures Journal: A Little Field Guide for Big Discoveries in Nature

We gave Dominic this book to accompany the previous one.  It's a sweet little nature journal, perfect for budding naturalists because it gently guides you through different kinds of nature walks and exploration.  On one occasion you're encouraged to look for the smallest things, on another you're encouraged to look for the biggest, or to examine the sky, etc... and then to draw what you observe.  It really is a little treasure of a book!

My First Book of Knots

We gave this book to Dominic (along with this game) at the suggestion of a friend.  Everyone's been enjoying the game, and Dominic and my dad have had some fun working on different knots from the book.  One day, out of the middle of nowhere, Dominic asked me, "Mom, do you know how to tie a sheepshank?"   So at least he's picking up some of the lingo ;)


These books are kind of self explanatory, right?  They both include lots of ideas and projects for boys that like to play with and whittle sticks.  Your boys like to do that, right?  Mine do.  They often take our kitchen knives outside to whittle the bark off of twigs.  Dominic got a proper pocket knife to go with these books so now he can practice his woodworking skills and I can not lose my mind trying to track down our knives around the backyard....


We are an Ernest Shackleton loving family.  It wasn't intentional, but it turned out to be a Shackleton-heavy Christmas.  The boys got these two books to add to the collection of picture books we have about Shack's antarctic adventure.  Shackleton's Journey is perfect for kids that can process more information than in a children's picture book, and can sit still for more in depth readings, but aren't reading chapter books on their own yet.   This book is a great read-aloud.  It's jam packed with info, but it's the illustrations that really shine.   Really, you must check it out!

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey  was fun for Aaron, as it's written like a graphic novel -- except it's not a novel.  It's real life.  And it's a total nail-biter.  It's a great story to to use to prove that history makes for some amazing stories :)

I said it was a very Shackleton-y Christmas.  I got the DVD documentary The Endurance for Russ, as well as this Shackleton's voyage t-shirt.  Nerds.

Not into documentaries?  You could read the book by Alfred Lansing or listen to it on Audible!

Living History Library books from Bethlehem Books

Ok, to be fair, we haven't read any of these books yet, but I'm looking forward to digging into them with the boys.   The titles we bought were Red Falcons of Tremoine If All the Swords in England: A Story of Thomas Becket , and  Big John's Secret.  I'm guessing that I'll have some sort of review or another once we read them ;) ;) 

 Believe it or not, there actually were more books, but I'm saving them for another post, because even book lovers can get long-book-list burnout :)

Have you or your kiddos read anything great lately?? 


  1. Just poured over this post! :-) and filled my wishlist. I know we often have similar tastes in books so happy to load up the card

    1. I know, I love getting your book recommendations!

  2. Oh my, you guys certainly had a book-haul last Christmas! I can see our 5 year old really liking the knot book in a few years. That book on St. Elizabeth looks so good! I need to get more saint picture books.

    1. My boys loved those books that give them ideas on stuff to DO. They're always DOING things or thinking about what they're going to DO next, aren't they?!

  3. We love Little Blue Truck, it's so fun! I'm off to go look up these other books. I love when you do posts like this!

  4. We just got Roses in the Snow for my Elizabeth for her Easter basket (I decided we'd get each kid a saint picture book because we don't have many) and she's SO excited! I'm going to have to check out some of these others from the library :)


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