My 5 Favorite Books of 2019

2019 was a really big year for this blog. I took a HUGE nose dove into book reviews, and I loved every second of it. I have worked with some absolutely incredible writers and read some amazing texts. As 2019 draws to a close, I thought I would recap my favorite five books of the year before we ring in 2020 (in no particular order).

Bound in Silver

Bound in Silver by Marie Grace. This book is the ultimate YA fangirl book. I love the creativity and all of the amazing reminders of other great YA books (Harry Potter, Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc.). The plot moves at a great pace and really sets up ideas for the next books. And, as a plus, the author is a true book lover with an amazing Instagram account.

Arial the Youtuber

Arial the Youtuber by Mary Nhin. It’s no secret that I have fondness for this incredible unicorn, but this is my favorite Arial book. Being a virtual teacher, I’m drawn to ideas that involve technology, and this one shows how much work is involved in making it in the Youtube world. Nhin allows has life lessons mixed into inventive plots making her books engaging for young readers.

Timothy's

Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values by Christopher Gordon.  I always find it hard to find good books for boys that teach life lessons that don’t feel super Disneyish. This text definitely engages all readers, especially boys, with the use of a superhero. The stories are quick and effective, while focusing on one core value at a time. The questions at the end of each story also allow readers to interact with the text and make it personal.

Under the Scars

Under the Scars by Isabella Morgan.  This book is a little outside my usual review genres, as it’s an adult romance novel. It’s nothing like 50 Shades. It’s an incredible love story that will have you falling in love with Nick from the moment you meet him. This book will make you believe in the power and magic of love, and I guarantee each reader will want their own Nick or Violet.

Swimming Sideways

Swimming Sideways by C.L. Walters. This realistic fiction YA book is truly one of a kind. It’s the first in a trilogy that follows three extremely relatable characters as they struggle through life as teenagers in today’s world. The characterization is so intense and realistic that I can picture Abby, Seth, and Gabe as my own students. The realness of this book will leave an impression on any reader, especially those in high school.

The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Tale Book Review

There are officially 4 days til Christmas. It’s the last Saturday shopping day. In the midst of all the chaos of the next few days, spend some time reading books from The 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas.  Some of my favorites include: Arial the Secret Santa, A Christmas Cookie ExchangeThe Elf Who Couldn’t Read and The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Tale.

The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Tale, by Bethany Brevard, is an adorable Christmas book about the little acts of kindness.

I was requested to make a list of Christmas books for ELL students to read, so I did a little Google search, clicked on the top Christmas books for kids on Amazon, and found a lovely variety. While looking at this list, I noticed a book that was on The 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas post I did a few weeks ago. Not gonna lie, I got super excited for this author because that is definitely an accomplishment. I mean the book is on an Amazon list with How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express.

Ever since I became a parent, I realize exactly how much is involved in Christmas. I mean, the list is pretty much never ending. I have had moments where I wish I had a little helper, just like in this story.

Our main character is a mouse, who makes his appearance once a year during the holiday season. His job is to help his human family with Christmas. This means sewing the hole in a stocking, hanging the mistletoe, and tasting the cookies. All of these little tasks are very important in making sure the family is prepared for Santa’s visit. There are so many tasks for our character, so he spends all day sleeping in his hammock in the Christmas tree.

However, the best day for our little helper is Christmas Eve. He is extremely thoughtful as he readies the living room for Santa’s big visit. The Mouse notices a hot coal in the fireplace and puts it out and he even blows on the hot chocolate so Santa doesn’t burn his mouth. These may seem like such little tasks, but they are definitely acts of kindness that don’t go unnoticed by Santa.

The overall theme of this adorable text is kindness, and the importance of doing little acts to help others. My favorite act the mouse does is to blow on the hot chocolate for Santa. It’s so simple yet one that I wouldn’t think to do.

As always, I LOVE books that offer readers more. This book has a few extra special components to it. The first is a fabulous little poem titled “The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Eve Tale”, that’s written to the rhyme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It is such a creative way to tie in a little bit of traditional Christmas to the story. I could see it being a great read aloud activity for young readers as they take turns reading every other stanza.

But wait, there’s more! Readers can purchase a mouse sleeping in a hammock ornament! The author even writes a blurb about adding the Mouse to the reader’s Christmas traditions. You can order the ornament right from Amazon!

AND THERE’S MORE! By buying the book, readers are helping the women in the Fair-Trade factory in Nepal who make the ornaments. In exchange for fair wages, healthcare and education for the women and their children, the women create the adorable mouse and hammock ornaments.

I would recommend this book for preschool and early elementary children.

To purchase the book click here.

To purchase the ornanment click here.

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read Book Review

Two weeks ago I shared a post about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas and I wanted to share some of my personal faves from the list. I’ve already shared Arial the Secret Santa and A Christmas Cookie Exchange , and today I’m sharing my current favorite.

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read, by Sonica Ellis, takes a look at the realities of reading struggles in a fun, festive way that encourages readers to not give up.

I’ve been teaching reading for ten years. I have seen kids struggle to read aloud in front of their peers and how difficult it can be. We know these situations exist, but we often don’t see it in movies or books.

This story starts with Santa needing some help reading his list, after all the man is pretty old. Jingles, the elf, is asked by Santa to read the list to the other elves, and Jingles has a very difficult time reading the words. I LOVE how Ellis makes it a point for Santa to express that Jingles knows all his letters and sounds, but he needs time to practice and to take his time when reading.

Santa encourages and supports Jingles in his practice by working with him. With Santa’s assistance, Jingles gains confidence in his reading to feel comfortable reading in front of the other elves. When he gets stuck, he has no problem taking his time to sound out each word.

The story concludes with Jingles accompanying Santa on his Christmas Eve ride. Jingles is responsible for telling Santa where to go by reading the names on the list. Readers can see how Jingles sounds out the various names, and that even though he has gotten better, he is still working on improving his reading skills.

There are so many things I love about this book. I love the positive approach the author took about the challenges struggling readers face. I love how Santa is so supportive. We typically think of Santa as generous, but this shows a whole new side of Santa that really embodies the Christmas spirit. I love that the story teaches kids to not give up when a task is hard. I love that readers come away knowing that reading can be fun.

I was a struggling reader when I was in kindergarten, which is why I repeated. I think a book like this would have truly spoken to me as a kid because I could relate to Jingles. This book would be ideal for a class read aloud in for preschool through second grade.

To purchase the book click here.

Arial the Secret Santa Book Review

This week I shared a blog post about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas, which features some incredible indie authors. With Christmas quickly approaching, I wanted to personally dive into some of the books on the list.

I’m drawn to children’s books that I can read with my three year old, Molly, that have incredible quality. Mary Nhin never fails when it comes to crafting a quality text, especially when it comes to Arial. In the past I have reviewed Arial the Chef, and Arial the Youtuber, and today I’m incredibly happy to share Arial the Secret Santa.

Arial the Secret Santa, by Mary Nhin, is a heartwarming picture book that teaches young readers the true spirit of Christmas through acts of kindness.

The story begins with Arial’s mom planning to donate a bag of her daughter’s old toys. Arial proceeds to tell her friends that once she donates her old toys, she will be replacing them with new ones. Her mom teaches her a life lesson about acts of kindness, and that they can be done in many different ways. Right after this, in the drive thru coffee line, someone pays it forward and buys Arial’s mom coffee, which clearly demonstrates the lesson.

The family then decides to change up their secret Santa Christmas tradition, and will instead perform daily acts of kindness. For each deed completed, the family will add an ornament to the tree. Nhin includes some examples of these types of ornaments on the pages before the story begins, which is a fabulous pre-reading point to make with young readers.

Arial then spends time thinking about ways she can be kind to others, and creates a solid list. She can give a sandwich to someone in need, provide a smile to someone who is having a bad day, donate her time to nature by planting trees, and give back to the community by volunteering. I truly love that this list has SOOO many options of ways to give show kindness that individuals of all ages can do.

Arial reminds readers that the true meaning of Christmas is showing kindness, which can be done in so many different ways. It’s not just about giving one another presents, but about making an impact in the lives of others.

And, as always, one of my favorite parts of a Mary Nhin book is the after reading activity. In this book, Nhin provides directions on how to create ornaments to record acts of kindness just like Arial’s family used. Nhin took it a step further and provides instructions on how to download the free printable, making this a super teacher-friendly activity.

I would recommend this book for kids in preschool through second grade.

To purchase this adorable book click here .

15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas

One of my favorite things about connecting with members of the literacy world is being able to share great books. Today I’m super excited to share a blog post written by Jennie Lyon about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas.

Christmas Hot Chocolate

Do you remember what Christmas was like when you were a child?

Sure, as an adult, the winter holidays can be filled with all kinds of stress. You have to worry about family, hosting a big dinner, making sure that all of the presents are under the tree… It’s crazy!

But if you’re a child, it can be pure magic. Santa Claus and snow and reindeer and stockings! They get to be around all of their favorite people for days and be showered with nothing but love and attention. It’s little wonder why kids love Christmas.

And if you really want to build up the Christmas spirit in them, you can work in some fantastic children’s books about Christmas into the evening bedtime story rotation! Here are some of my favorites that I highly recommend you share with them:

Polar Express

The Polar Express: 30th Anniversary Edition by Chris Van Allsburg

Before it was a Tom Hanks movie, The Polar Express was one of the most beloved Christmas books ever written. If you’ve only seen the film, then you should definitely check out the original it’s based on.

On Christmas Eve, a little boy boards a mysterious train bound for the North Pole. Once there, he meets Santa himself, who gives him any gift he desires. His choice isn’t what you might expect and leads to a magical tale filled with beautiful images.

Arial Christmas

Arial the Secret Santa by Mary Nhin

I love Christmas. It’s a time of peace and kindness. And kindness and compassion are the traits I most want to instill in our kids.

In Arial the Secret Santa, children will follow Arial the unicorn through school, in her community and in nature as she models how easy it can be to share kindness. From giving a compliment to smiling at someone who’s having a bad day, Arial shows children that, no matter how small, words and act of kindness MATTER, especially at Christmas! Included in the book is the Kindness Tree Activity to help encourage your child to give praise and spread positivity into the world.

If you’re looking for a book this Christmas to help teach your kids about the power of kindness, then this is the book to have under the tree. I highly recommend this book!

Festive Flamingo

Festive Flamingo by Shaula Maitland

If you would like a moment of calm this Christmas (and a brilliant night’s sleep, shh…) then Festive Flamingo is the book for you!
Flamingo shares a festive selection of breathing exercises and relaxing
visualizations. She joins you for twelve magical meditations, where you explore
positive themes such as perseverance, curiosity and self-belief. Build a magical
camel out of snow, learn to ice-skate with the woodland animals and create an
exciting game for the elves.

Enjoy the benefits of meditation, alongside adventure and festive fun!

Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

I mean, do you really need a summary of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? It’s one of the most celebrated children’s books of all-time, let alone one of the all-time great Christmas books! It’s also a brilliant cartoon, two big-budget movies, and the basis of countless toys. And you know what? It deserves every single bit of praise it gets.

The Grinch that Stole Christmas perfectly communicates the meaning of Christmas and is filled with stunning art, hilarious rhymes, and some truly funny jokes. It’s a true classic that should be on every child’s bookshelf. If you’ve never encountered it before, you owe it to yourself to give it a read (even if you’re an adult)!

Little Squirrel

Little Squirrel Squish Gets His Christmas Wish by Ross Hammond

Do you remember the story of Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer? Everyone told him that he couldn’t be a member of Santa’s reindeer team. Well, here is a children’s book that reflects that story, putting a whole new spin on the idea of following your dreams!

Little Squirrel Squish is a tiny squirrel who wants to be part of Santa’s flying crew. But because he’s so small (and because he’s not a reindeer), everyone keeps telling him to forget about his dreams. But one Christmas, he decides to go for it, changing everything! This book will teach your children that their every dream, no matter how seemingly out of reach, is worth exploring!

Santa's Reindeer

Santa’s Reindeer by Brooke Stevens

Getting back to Santa’s reindeer, let’s talk about Santa’s Reindeer, the book! Discovering that everyone is different is one of the most important lessons a child can be taught. In this adorable Christmas book, all of the various personalities of Santa’s reindeer are explored. It’s a perfect read for small children, full of cute illustrations and a lovely Christmas message!

The Mouse

The Mouse in the Hammock, a Christmas Tale by Bethany Brevard

If you think it’s only Santa who does good deeds on Christmas Eve, you need to meet a very special mouse!

Spinning off from the “Not a creature was stirring…” line from Twas the Night Before Christmas, this wonderful book features a mouse who is busy all Christmas night doing small acts of kindness, such a cooling the cocoa for Santa, hanging up the mistletoe, and taste testing the cookies! It’s a fabulous lesson for kids who are looking to drive the meaning of Christmas home: that you’re never too little to make a big difference!

The Elf Who Couldn't Read

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read by Sonica Ellis

Do your children know how to read yet?

Countless children learn how to read their first words while sitting on their parents’ laps. And if you want a book that will help them sound out letters while also embracing the Christmas spirit, then this is it!

In it, Jingles the elf doesn’t know how to read yet, but needs to figure out Santa’s Christmas list. With the help of your child, they read the list together and make sure that Christmas is a huge success!

Secret Santas

Secret Santas And The Twelve Days of Christmas Giving by Courtney Petruzzelli

One of the reasons why I love Secret Santas so much is that it makes giving anonymous. You aren’t giving someone something with the expectation of a “thank you” from them. Instead, their enjoyment is its own reward.

In this wonderful Christmas book, your kids will learn about Secret Santas and why it can be such a wonderful Christmas tradition. Beautiful art and a wonderful message make this a Christmas must!

Christmas Cookie Exchange

A Christmas Cookie Exchange by Sheri Wall

Who doesn’t love Christmas cookies? But have you ever noticed that there tends to be one seemingly plain oatmeal cookie left on the plate after all the other cookies are eaten? Well, this is HIS story!

Meet Phil, an insecure fruit-filled oatmeal cookie who longs to be more fancy and famous. With help from his cookie friends, he learns what’s on the inside is more important than fancy sprinkles. Self-love and acceptance are essential qualities for kids to learn, and this rhyming Christmas tale teaches them that character and self-confidence really do matter.

How to Catch an Elf

How To Catch An Elf by Adam Wallace

Have you kids ever wanted to catch an elf? It turns out that it’s trickier than you might think…

In this fun and silly story, a clever elf manages to elude all of the traps that children set for him on Christmas Eve! There are lots of fun rhymes and some inventive illustrations that your kids are sure to love!

Never Let a Unicorn

Never Let A Unicorn Meet A Reindeer! by Diane Alber

If you’re looking for a Christmas story with a twist, this might be the book for you and your kid!

Instead of it being Christmas in the book, it’s about a birthday wish gone wrong. A little girl (who has a unicorn) sends a letter to Santa to ask if she can borrow one of his reindeer during their “off-season.” He sends one with a note saying that the reindeer should never meet any unicorns. It turns out that unicorns and reindeer get highly competitive around each other, so the little girl soon has a mess on her hands! This is a funny and delightful book that can even be read when it isn’t Christmas!

Adventures of Pookie

The Adventures of Pookie: Mission Fat Hearts by Rebecca Yee

If you want your kids to take lessons of kindness and caring into the real world, this book might be the perfect way to do it. It not only tells a Christmas story about three of Santa’s helpers doing missions of good deeds before Christmas but gives your children some missions of their own!

For example, their Christmas mission might be to give an extra hug to someone they love that day. Or to leave a “thank you” note for the mailman. With these Christmas missions, your kids will be brightening up someone else’s Christmas, a wonderful lesson to learn!

God Gave Us Christmas

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

If you worry that presents, tinsel, and trees are distorting the true meaning of Christmas, then this might just be the book for you and your child.

In it, a Mama Bear and her cub explore what Christmas truly means, from what Santa truly represents (the spirit of giving) to the birth of Jesus. It’s filled with beautiful art and a wonderful Christian message.

Construction

Construction Site on Christmas Night by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Have you ever read any books from the Construction Site series? If not, this might be the perfect place to introduce you and your children to some fun and entertaining characters!

In this Christmas tale, all of the vehicles of the construction site get together to build a new home for the fire engines and, after they finish that important job, find Christmas surprises of their very own! A lovely message and some adorable art make for a great Christmas book!

What are some of your favorite Christmas children’s books? Please share them in the comments below!

And Pip Too Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I LOVE when I get to work with authors multiple times. When I started to get back into blogging again in March, I connected with a fabulous author, Colleen Brunetti, who wrote a picture book about food allergies (click here to see the original post). Today, I’m so excited to share her new book with all of you.

And Pip too, by Colleen Brunetti, is an adorable picture book about a little sister and big brother’s sibling love.

Right away one feature that popped out at me was the font. I really like how the font was a little bolder than I usually see in a picture book, and how the author played with it. For instance when Big Guy stretched, the word is literally stretched on the page.

Pip is Big Guy’s little sister who wants to do everything her big brother does. From reading a book to building a tower, Pip is right behind him to trying join in the fun. While readers can infer that Big Guy isn’t always thrilled about this, he never actually says anything negative to Pip, which I really liked. Big Guy shows older siblings that even though younger brothers and sisters can be a lot to handle at times, it’s all part of being siblings.

The more we get to see some of the silly things that Pip does, my favorite is pouring the milk, the more she reminds me of the Cat from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Pip is just trying to join in with her older brother, and sometimes she doesn’t do something the right way, but she does it all out of love. Pip is only trying to include herself in tower building, and resting underneath the oak tree, just like the Cat was trying to make that rainy day fun.

I think this book would be great to use with preschool and kindergarten kids.

To purchase the book click here.

I Like Me and I Love Me Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As a middle school language arts teacher, I would use picture books here and there in my lessons to teach reading skills. However, it wasn’t until I started reading books to Molly that I developed a whole new appreciation for picture books. It’s incredible what pictures and simple sentences can convey to young readers.

I Like Me and I Love Me, by Abby Zaitley, is a charming picture book that teaches children the importance of self love.

I was instantly drawn to the simplicity of this text. Each page consists of a simple sentence with easy vocabulary for kids. The end rhyme allows the sentences to flow nicely and avoid choppiness, especially when reading it aloud. The pictures also add a lovely touch, especially the water color feel. They provide a very calm feeling that aligns really well with the text.

While I was reading this book, I have to say that I felt very zen, as though I was taking a yoga class. The affirmations are supportive and reassure young readers that not only is it acceptable to love yourself for who you are, but to embrace the quirks. The story in fact opens with the lines, “I like me when I feel perky. I love me when I’m quirky.” We live in a very judgmental world sometimes, so being able to tell young children that it’s okay to be different is a very powerful message.

My favorite pair of pages is when the main character is at school. “I like when I trust in me. I love me when we are we.” The picture shows the little girl holding hands in a circle with friends and it just evoked such a safe feeling. When kids are around their friends they should be able to be themselves and enjoy their friendships. The wording reminded me a little bit of Winnie the Pooh, which also adds to the warm and fuzzy zen feeling of the story.

This is a great book to use with young readers at home or in school settings. I could see it being used by a guidance counselor to do some self-esteem/confidence building skills when working with preschool, kindergarten and elementary aged students.

For more information about this book check out the author’s blog here.

To purchase the book click here.