Fall Book Series: The Biggest Pumpkin Ever

Have I mentioned that I love Fall?  The weather is cooler, we've already made a visit to our first Harvest Festival of the year and I splurged on Starbucks Hot Cocoa mix from Costco.  We've also read some really great Fall themed books, including The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll.

This book follows two mice, a house mouse and a field mouse, as they unknowingly care for and nurture the same pumpkin.  They both have their own idea for the pumpkin - the house mouse wants it to win the grand prize at the town pumpkin contest and the field mouse thinks it would make a great jack o'lantern.  In the end, they have both contributed to making it the biggest pumpkin ever and get to both enter it in the contest and carve it.

What I thought about the book:  It's a great story overall.  It's really fun in the beginning to see the two mice care for the same pumpkin and anticipate them finding out about each other.  The illustrations (by Jeni Bassett) are fun and engaging.  It's not a long story, but there are a lot of words on each page.  I think it's ideal for kids age 4 and up, but if I were reading it to a younger child I think I would just skim the story and kind of make it up as I went along and it would still be good.

What Jack thought about the book:  Jack thought it was a pretty good story, but he wasn't overly enthused about it.  He said his favorite page was the last page that shows the pumpkin carved into the biggest jack o'lantern ever.  (I think he also likes seeing his name in print, haha!)

What Colin thought about the book:  Well, true to form, I could barely get Colin to hold still long enough to listen.  He did manage to catch the part where the mice spread manure over the garden though, imagine that.  Jack asked me what manure is and of course them Colin wanted to see the poop. Sigh.  He also really loved the part where it took one hundred mice on motorcycles to drag the pumpkin into town.  Something about mice on motorcycles really cracked him up.

We got this book as a hand me down from a friend, but you can pick it up at your local library or on Amazon, where ranges in price from 97 cents to $4.99.

Fall Book Series: When Autumn Comes

You may recognize this book from my Book Haul post from Saturday.  With the light rain and cooler weather tonight, I thought it would be great time to bring this book out.

I had some stiff competition from a certain toy catalogue that showed up in our mailbox today.

 Finally, after some convincing, we got down to business.

When Autumn Comes by Robert Maass is a book that uses real photos and simple words to show the beauty that is Autumn (yes, I'm biased - it's my favorite season).  It shows people painting fences, fixing roofs, putting up storm windows (ha! a totally foreign concept for us), beautiful red & yellow leaf piles prime for jumping and much more.

What I love about this book:  I can't say it enough, but I love the photographs.  The book was originally published 21 years ago, but the photos actually don't look too dated.  (Side note:  when I looked at the copyright date I thought, "oh, that wasn't too long ago".  Umm, yeah, it's been 21 years.  I'm old.)  I love that the book progresses in photos and words from the very tail end of summer to the first frost of winter.  The many fun colors for little ones and great conversation starting photos for the older kids makes this a great book for all ages.

What Jack loves about this book:  Jack can't help but love autumn because of my enthusiasm.  His favorite page, however, is one showing the first snowfall of winter.  It shows a family walking out on a snow covered dock to the river.  He said, "Mama, why are they walking out into the ocean?!?".  We had to stay on the page for a while.

What Colin loves about this book:  Colin absolutely loves the page with the "pumpkin people".  I don't know if it's the phrase or the photo that cracked him up more, but he wouldn't stop laughing.  If you go to Amazon, this is one of the pages they show you in the preview.

I paid a whole 25 cents for this book, but you can buy it at Barnes & Noble on-line for $8.09 (plus, it looks like some sellers are charging only $1.99) or from Amazon for $8.99, but it also qualifies for their 4-for-3 promotion.  Honestly, I don't think I could bring myself to pay that much though.  I would definitely try my local library first.

Book Haul!

A couple of weeks ago, I won a book giveaway from Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves and received the books pictured below:

Jack was super excited to get books in the mail and wanted to read the Babar book right away.  I know Colin will love By the Sea too.  It was really fun to win a blog giveaway!

Today we went to the book sale at the local library and picked up these books:

All of these books only cost $7.75!  The kids books ranged in price from 25 cents to 50 cents each and the one book I bought for myself cost a dollar.  As you can see, we picked up quite a variety.  Some fall books, some Christmas themed, some new, some old.  The older women in charge of the sale doted on Jack while he was picking out books & paying for them - it was so cute and he just ate it up.

When I buy books in bulk like this, I usually put most of them away at first and give the kids one or two new books a week.  This is a great plan especially when the weather is poor and the kids are restless.

With this haul I think I could do my own giveaway!

Where to Get Children's Books

I thought it would be fun to share where we get our books.  Maybe you will get a few new ideas and maybe you can share your ideas with me.  I'm listing these in order of preference.

Our local library is a great resource for children's books (and audio books, e-books & movies!).  Most (all?) libraries have a website now where you can put items on hold, renew checked books & even pay overdue fees (guilty here).  We find it more fun to go in and choose books on the spot though.  It's a great way to discover new books and old favorites all in one place.  Best of all, library books are free!

Hand Me Downs
Another free resource is friends and family with older children.  We were lucky enough to receive large shopping bags full of books from a good friend whose children are older than ours.  Some of the books were over their age range, but we just held onto them (in some cases, still holding onto them) until they are ready for them.  We've also brought home a few books from Grammy's house, mostly the Bernstein Bears series that Jack loves (he calls them "the dancing bears"), but we really like to leave most of them at Grammy's house for the kids to discover.  Don't forget to share the love, though, and hand down books to younger friends when you're finished with them.  We have quite a few baby/toddler books that we need to hand down and/or donate.

Library Book Sales
Our local library has a book sale at least a couple of times a year.  Children's books generally sell for anywhere between five cents and a dollar.  The books are usually in well-loved condition, but this is a great opportunity to stock up.  There is usually a flier at the front desk when a sale is coming up or you can check the library website under "Events".

Local Used Book Stores
This one is tricky.  Our favorite used book store carries children's books, but generally frowns upon children in the store (I base this on experience, not store policy obviously).  Also, in my experience, prices vary from store to store.  Sometimes we get a great deal, other times we don't.

On-Line Retailers
I buy so many things on-line these days, including books.  I like Amazon's 4-for-3 deals, especially for gifts.  Even better if you can get free shipping.

Brick & Mortar Stores
Are there any local booksellers around anymore?  I've purchased books for the kids at Barnes & Noble on occasion and Target (impulse buys), but I think the last time I bought a book from a local bookshop was when Colin was a baby and I was visiting my hometown.  Sad.

Where do you get your children's books?  Any experience with eBay, Craigslist or Etsy?

Fall Book Series: Dinosaurs' Halloween

Nobody is going to throw something at me for reading a Halloween book in September, right?  Since it's officially Fall (my favorite season), we've dug out all of our Fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving books and are enjoying them despite the 90 degree temperatures outside.

Dinosaurs' Halloween by Liza Donnelly is about a young boy and his dog who dress up like dinosaurs and  meet up with an unexpected friend for a night of trick-or-treating.  They run into some bullies who try to steal their candy and take off their masks, but they get a big surprise when they try to take off one of the masks!

What I love about this book:  The story flows, but is simple.  There's not a lot of text, which is okay because it leaves room for dialogue about what is going on in the story.  Jack's school just did a lesson on bullying so we were able to talk about that and reinforce what he learned and what he would do in a similar situation.

What Jack loves about this book:  Jack liked the story & the twist at the end.  He also loved the last couple of pages, which have pictures & information about real (and made up!) dinosaurs.

What Colin loves about this book:  Colin had zero interest in this book.  I'm sure we'll read it a few more times this season, though, so he may change his mind yet.

This book was published in 1988 and is now out of print.  A quick search proved that it can still be purchased on-line, both in used and new condition.  We picked up this book at a local library book sale for probably ten cents.  The target audience is baby-preschool, but based on our experience it is more appealing to children that are at least age five.

Slow Food Challenge Part Two

Here's the post where I finally make the meal.  :)

I made the Crunchy Chicken Tenders, from page 196 of The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine.  The recipe isn't much different from what you'd expect in a chicken tender recipe, basically cover the chicken in flour, dip in egg & cover with breading.  The difference here is that the egg and the breading mixtures pack an extra nutritional punch.

The egg mixture includes Missy's "Orange Puree", which consists of yam and carrots (this is the puree that Jack couldn't keep his hands off yesterday).  In order to puree the yam & carrots, you first have to boil the heck out of them.  I was worried that would leach out any beneficial nutrients, but the puree was still bright orange when done, so I don't think that's a real concern.  I recommend using the boiling water in the puree rather than fresh water though.  Photos of the puree are in yesterday's preview post here.   I was also concerned that the puree and the egg wouldn't mix together well and actually stick to the chicken, but it did.

The breading was Missy's "Better Breading", which consists of whole wheat bread crumbs, ground slivered almonds and wheat germ.  I couldn't find wheat germ in the store, so I substituted ground flax seed that I already had on-hand.  Here's a pic of (most of) Better Breading:


The chicken tenders turned out beautifully.


Also, in the time it took for the chicken tenders to bake, I whipped up a quick half pint jar of strawberry jam.  I had a container of strawberries that were just about past prime & I didn't want to waste them!


What Jack thought:  Jack loved them!  He even knew the "sneaky" ingredients and it didn't phase him, probably because he loved the orange puree so much yesterday.  He ate two good sized pieces of chicken.

What Colin thought:  Well, Colin only ate half of a piece of chicken.  This is about typical for him though.  At least I know he got a bit of extra nutrition in that half piece than in a questionable store bought or fast food chicken nugget.

What I thought:  I thought the chicken was delicious.  The breading stayed nicely on the chicken pieces and tasted just like regular breading.  I kind of wished I could taste the almonds though.  I think next time I'll won't grind the almond so fine.  I will definitely make this chicken again.

I also like the concept of the book and the book itself.  Like I said yesterday, I want my kids to like fruits & veggies in their raw form, but in the meantime, I don't want mealtime to be a battle.  The purees/mixtures don't seem to take much time to prepare  & they can be stored in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer.  I could easily see myself spending a couple hours on a Saturday making purees for the week.  A couple of recipes that I look forward to trying are Breakfast Cookies (uses ricotta cheese and a whole wheat flour/wheat germ mixture) and Brainy Brownies (uses whole wheat flour/wheat germ mixture, ground rolled oats & raw spinach/blueberries).

If you want to know more about the book, check out their website or pick up the cookbook at your local library.

Natural Network Blog Hop: Slow Food Challenge

Today, September 17, Slow Food USA is inviting you to be a part of their $5 Challenge, and the Natural Network Blog Hop wants to kick it off and invite you to join us! The challenge is to take back the 'value meal' by getting together with family, friends or neighbors to enjoy a meal that costs no more than $5 per person (the cost of the average fast food meal).

Slow Food USA says that slow food shouldn't have to cost more than fast food, and they're right! If you want to join in, you can sign up for the challenge over at Slow Food USA. If you're a blogger, join us by sharing your favorite slow food meal ideas and linking up with to our Natural Network Blog Hop at the bottom of this post!

Here's where I confess that I didn't make a 'slow food' meal tonight (we had homemade pizza but used pre-made dough, canned tomato paste & pre-shredded cheese).  I went to the market today armed with a list, but somewhere between the house and the market, I lost the list and had to do my best without it.  As such, I forgot some key items for my kickoff $5 challenge meal.  We'll head out again tomorrow & try again.

Tomorrow, I will be reviewing a recipe from the cookbook, The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine.  I recently purchased this book because my youngest has been boycotting most fruits & veggies for a while now.  I'm not a big fan of sneaking nutrients in or tricking the kids into eating healthier, but the reality is that my youngest is likely not eating a very balanced diet right now.  I'll continue to offer fruits & veggies in their whole form and will be ecstatic if he eats them, but I will also give "sneakiness" a try at the same time.

While Colin napped today, Jack helped me make the first puree.  Here are a few photo previews (clickable):


Jack loved the puree by itself.  I let him have one spoon full and then he licked the bowl when I was finished bagging it all for the freezer.  Clearly, he's not the one boycotting the healthy stuff!

Recipe review to follow!  In the meantime, let me know if you plan to join the challenge & what you will make.

UPDATE:  Click Here for recipe review.


Join the Natural Network Blog Hop:
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New Look!

I hope you love it as much as I do! Big thanks to Seventeen Stone for the new blog design. Check out her Hyena Cart shop here or her Etsy shop here.

She does great work and is a dream to work with.

In other news, you can now subscribe free via email or RSS feed and "like" my Facebook page.  ----->

I'm working on some great updates and will be posting again soon.  :)

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Just in case Jack does not look sufficiently enthused, I have to emphasize to you that this is quite possibly the best loved book that has been in our house for a long time. So good, in fact, that we had to pay a fine at the library because we held onto it way too long! I ended up buying it (the kids were happy to open that package!) and we've read our own copy several times already.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster is about Leonardo, who is, admittedly, a terrible monster. He doesn't seem to be able to scare anybody. This leads him to try to find "the most scaredy-cat kid in the world". There's a great page in here showing Leonardo doing "research" - posters on his wall, balled up pieces of paper overflowing the trash, a cup of coffee. His "research" leads him to Sam, who he does, in fact, scare! Well, it turns out that Sam has some other reasons for crying (a huge list, actually). It's at this point that Leonardo decides that he'd much rather be a good friend than a scary monster (although he reserves the right to scare Sam on occasion).

What I love about this book: The illustrations are huge (the book is large too), which makes it an easy book to read to two kids. There aren't a ton of words on each page, which makes it easier to hold Colin's attention. It has a great message (friendship and empathy) but is funny and appealing at the same time.

What Jack loves about this book: His hands-down favorite line in the book is when Leonardo wants to find the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world and "scare the tuna salad out of him". Cracks him up every time!

What Colin loves about this book: He loves the different expressions that Leonardo makes & he loves the part at the end when Sam chases after Leonardo. He also just loves talking about who is who and what they are doing.

Did I mention this book is written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny anyone?)? Enough said.

Run to the library to check this book out or buy it here.  Well worth the $9.99.

P.S. Totally unrelated, but this is the first photo I've published on the blog that I took in manual mode on my camera.  Trying to break my dependence on the auto functions!  Not the best photo, but it's a start.

Slacking...and a great website

I have to admit that I've been slacking on this blog.  The kids and I still visit the library almost every week, lugging home a huge pile of books.  We read them like crazy and I have great visions of posting the reviews here, especially when the kids really fall in love with a book.  In fact, we currently have seven books just itching to be reviewed...

In the meantime, I wanted to share a great website I found.  It's called Jacketflap.com (click here).  It's a website that "is a comprehensive resource for information on the children's book industry".  I've found it to be a great resource to keep up-to-date on newly published children's books as well as not-so-newly published books.  You can search their database by title or even your child's age range.  The site also has it's own blog reader, so you have access to over 700 blogs...all about books!  Some are writers' blogs, agents' blogs, publishers' blogs, etc. all about the children's book industry.

Let me know if you check out the site & send me a friend request!

The Treasure Bath by Dan Andreasen

This is a wordless picture book that depicts the story of a young boy who discovers treasure "under the sea" in his bath.  The pictures start out showing the boy getting messy helping his Mom bake a cake.  Of course this leads to a reluctant bath time until the boy discovers a whole under the sea adventure, including a treasure map, sea creatures and eventually a treasure chest (full of soap!).

I was reluctant to bring home this book just because I'm not too hot on making up stories.  However, both my kids like this book a lot.  Colin loves the fish and loves the part where the octopus and other sea creatures are washing the little boy.  Jack loves to tell stories anyway, so this book gave him a chance to make up a great story to go along with the pictures.  I have to say that my favorite part is when the little boy is all dressed in his button up pajamas with his hair combed over just so.  I mean, what is cuter than a little boy in button up pajamas?

The book jacket indicates that the intended audience is ages 4-8.  I think that age range is a bit high, but this is definitely a good book for the pre-school crowd.

I can't say that I love it enough to buy it (here), but definitely check it out at the library.

Library Haul January 22nd

The haul is a little lighter than normal as you can see. That's my fault. I took Jack along with me to the library but my main purpose for going was to pick up a couple of cookbooks. Well, I spent so much time looking at cookbooks/craft books (and making sure Jack was happy & occupied) that we didn't leave a ton of time to find kids' books. Luckily, Jack was very efficient in his choices (i.e., the grab & run method) so we did end up with a few new books to read.