The Yes

Summer vacation as a kid: sleeping in, reading my own books on the front porch all day, playing “empty lot” baseball with my brothers, riding bikes around the neighborhood with friends, watching scary movies with my best friend at her house so my parents wouldn’t find out, fishing and swimming down at The Lake, Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen…

Summer vacation as a mom with two kids: no sleeping in (kids have no respect for clock time–they only acknowledge sun time), no reading my own books (not during the day, anyway), no baseball (even on TV), no bikes (kids too young), no movies (kids can’t sit through them), no fishing (Worms on a hook?  Ewww!), no swimming (Luke won’t do life jacket or water on his head), Dilly Bars…hmm…well, I guess we have had Dilly Bars.

One yes!  Woohoo!

As parents, we have to say no a lot.  No to ourselves and to our children.  A lot.  But man, in the midst of all of those nos, isn’t it refreshing to actually say yes sometimes?

That’s what The Yes by Sarah Bee and Satoshi Kitamura is all about.  In this book, the Yes is a big orange animal-ish blob that wants to do so many things like hike huge hills, climb skinny trees, and ford wide rivers.  Clustered all around the Yes though, are Nos, hundreds of Nos, all of them telling the Yes what it can’t do, where it shouldn’t go, what is too dangerous to attempt.  But in the end, the Yes keeps right on going, ignoring the multitude of Nos that seek to bring it down.

It’s a wonderful, empowering message for kids.  Lots of people will tell you no throughout your life, but if you want something badly enough and are willing to fight for it, you can do it.  Ignoring those Nos may be the hardest thing that you ever have to do, but as the book says, in the end, all of those Nos are puny little things, completely unequal to the task of bringing down a determined YES.

It’s a great message for kids, but I believe that this book is also great for parents (these types of books make the best children’s books, right?).  After I read it to Luke (age 5 now!), I realized that I had a lot to learn from the Yes.  As summer vacation started, Luke and Brynn (age 2) had to figure out how to be together all. day. long.  And I found myself saying (well, more accurately “loudly exclaiming”) “Nooooo!”  all. day. long.  It was exhausting, and no one was having much fun.  After reading The Yes, I made a pact with myself: say “yes” at least once a day, per kid.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a start, and it began to change the tenor of our summer.

One Yes.  That’s all it took to make everyone just a little bit happier, a little more content, which slowly snowballed into more and more moments of peace…and more Yeses.

Did I mention that The Yes is also a great picture book in general?  The prose reminds me of e.e. cummings poetry, with made-up words that don’t quite make sense but then kind of do.  A little bit like Dr. Seuss, but with a more serious tone.  There is repetition as the Yes tries thing after thing, and the illustrations are artistically done, not cartoony.

I really enjoyed this book, clearly, and Luke really liked it as well…especially when he got to shout, “YES!”

Happy Reading!


Flying with Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy




Being one’s self.

These are the rock solid underpinnings of the Ladybug Girl series by David Soman and Jacky Davis that, as a mom, make me love the books.

But both of my kids (Luke, age 4.5 and Brynn, age 23 months) love them as well, and here’s why:

Ladybug Girl, aka Lulu, dresses in a tutu and defeats playground monsters.

She wears red wings with black spots and braves sharks at the bottom of puddles.

She helps neighbors carry in their groceries and can count up to infinity.

She is kind, imaginative, and intrepid, but she is not infallible.

She makes mistakes when dealing with her friends, she gets frustrated when playing with Bumblebee Boy, and she’s not quite sure the ocean is safe when she first encounters it.

In the lives of my children, these traits and experiences are very real.  Luke and Brynn enjoy watching Lulu overcome her fears and work through problems, and she teaches them how to engage with the world of big scary things and friends who have their own minds.  Luke, in particular, is at the point where he needs more complex social stories that mirror the situations that he’s encountering at preschool, and these books are perfect for him.

At the moment, Luke is enjoying the following books in the series:

  Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy: About two friends negotiating what and how to play–very important budding skills for preschoolers and Kindergartners.

  The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy: About older brother Sam learning to play with his younger brother–Luke and Brynn are likewise discovering the pains and joys of playing with a sibling.

  Ladybug Girl at the Beach: About Lulu’s day at the beach and how she gradually works up the courage to play in the water–Luke is scared of the ocean right now, so he’s been reading this book often.

  Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow: About Lulu’s adventures in the snow.  She gets very frustrated because everything is much harder in the deep, soft snow, but she perseveres and turns her day into a great one.  Luke likes how Lulu plays with her brother and builds snow creatures.

Brynn enjoys these books:

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy: Brynn loves the imaginative play that goes on in the book.  In the car the other day, she was yelling at the top of her lungs, “Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee can do ANYTHING!”  “Bumblebee Boy” is still a bit of a mouthful for her…

  The original Ladybug Girl: I don’t know how many times Brynn has used the phrase from the book, “I’m not too little!”  And she loves Lulu’s dog, Bingo.

Happy reading!

–Erin, Luke, and Brynn

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A Series That Luke Loved: Emily Jenkins’ Toys Trilogy

Hi there.  Luke here.  I’m four and a half years old now.  I still enjoy reading picture books either with my parents or by myself, but I also really enjoy being read longer, more difficult books, too.  My mom has tried Magic Treehouse (not engaging enough for me), Magic Schoolbus (I like them but they are pretty complicated), and some Roald Dahl books (I’m definitely not ready to talk about child abuse and parents dying!), but the Toys trilogy by Emily Jenkins has been the first series to really stick.

The chapter books are about the adventures of three toy friends (and a few other supporting characters like a one-eared sheep, a rocking horse, and a bath towel): Plastic, a rubber ball; Stingray, a blue plush stingray; and Lumphy, a stuffed buffalo.  They belong to a little girl whose name (they are pretty sure) is Honey.

I enjoyed these books for a number of reasons:

1) SOUND EFFECTS!  I love sound effects!  They make me laugh and keep me engaged.  Seriously, who doesn’t think “Fwuuumpa! (baggle baggle)” is funny?  Ok, how about “Fwap! Gobble-a gobble-a”?  And “Grunk, gru-GRUNK!”  When Stingray gets scared, she makes this sound, “Frrrrrrrr.”  My mom does a great job with this sound–I laugh every time.

2) Songs!  Sprinkled throughout the stories are funny little songs.  My favorite is sung by Frank, the washing machine.  Did you know that washing machines get lonely and need dance parties, too?

3) Just the right level.  Some longer chapter books have too many words that I don’t know, and when there are too many of them, I have a hard time following the story.  But these books had only a few words that I didn’t know, and my mom would either define them for me or I could piece together what they meant from context.

4) The story.  As a kid who finds social interactions challenging, these books gave me many examples of how friends can interact.  From fights to making up to feeling empathy for others to having fun, the toys in the stories, with their distinct personalities and strengths and weaknesses, provided models of friendship for me.  The toys’ adventures are also laugh-out-loud funny, touching, and a bit philosophical. (The last two pages of the third book made my mom cry.  She said that the ideas about existence in them were beautiful.  They were ok, I thought, but she said that I’d better understand them when I got a little older…)

So if you’re looking for a series to read to an older preschooler, Kindergartner, or first grader, check out the Toys books!


Happy reading!

–Luke (age 4.5)

Clicking on a book will take you to, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

Mama’s Corner: What Makes a Book Stick?

Recently I noticed an interesting trend in the books that my children request me to read over and over again: bad.

Yes, my children enjoy bad books.

At first I thought that they had just inherited their father’s taste in literature, but then I realized that it had a little to do with me, too.  Whenever I happen to bring home a bad book from the library, I cringe the first time I read it.  With awkward rhyme, uninspiring illustrations, terrible (or no) story line, each page is worse than the last.  After I get over the initial urge to toss it into the return pile, I try to find something redeeming about it.  It was published after all, so someone must have found something worthwhile in it.

I think: Can I add voices?  Can I add sound effects?  Can I act it out?  Can I sing it?

I’ll try one or the other, occasionally all four, but somewhere along the way, something magical happens and my kids fall in love with the delivery.

The book sticks.

Our most recent example was originally a song by Ziggy Marley (Bob Marley’s son) that was then turned into a picture book: I Love You, Too.  It was pretty terrible at first read, but when I sang it to Luke and Brynn, they loved it.  I made up my own melody, but there’s no reason that one couldn’t listen to the song online or use an existing melody.

There is also something beautiful about singing a song with the refrain of “I love you, too.”  We all tell our children that we love them, but it has been amazing to have those words sung in bits and pieces all day long, week after week.  They became the soundtrack to our December, January, and February.

That “bad book” gave me an excellent excuse to cuddle with my kids and share my love for reading and music with them, and in my book, that’s pretty good.



Deck the Halls with Books, Books, Books: Books for Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and New Readers

  Each Peach Pear Plum board book (Viking Kestrel Picture Books): I spy for the little guys (and gals). I (Brynn, age 17 months) really enjoy searching through these detailed pictures for not only the main images (“I spy Tom Thumb”), but other things like rabbits, birds, and tea kettles (!).  Yes, I now know what a tea kettle is!

  Baby’s Got the Blues: I (Brynn, 17 months) LOVE this book right now!  Mama sings it in a bluesy way (Dada tries his very best to sound like he’s singing), and I sway as we read it together.  I demand this book by saying, “Baby!” and if the book isn’t within easy reach, we have to go get it immediately.  Great for little ones who love music, but parents have to be willing to get in the spirit, too!  Illustrations are bright and expressive, while text is amusing.

  Got to Dance:  Same kind of book as the above.  If parents will sing it jazzy, with some cymbal sounds (“chh, chh.  chh, chh.”) and some finger snapping, then little ones will really enjoy it.  Illustrations are fresh, but not quite as sharp as Baby’s Got the Blues.

  Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose: One Hundred Best-Loved Verses:  I (Brynn, 17 months) am in love with all things nursery rhyme.  Reading experts know that hearing rhyme helps kids become aware of phonemes, the building blocks of language, which helps with future reading success.  But that’s not why I love nursery rhymes.  They just sound cool!  Mama sings most of them (Dada really does try), and I’ll sign or say “more!” over and over again if I want to hear the same rhyme.  My brother did the exact same thing when he was my age.  These illustrations are much better than the original Mother Goose that my mom grew up with, too.

  A Perfectly Messed-Up Story: This book is one that I (Luke, age 4) really like, and it’s for two of my friends who enjoy interactive, funny stories.  Peanut butter, jelly, orange juice?!  What else could possibly be dropped onto poor Little Louie’s story?  Despite his story seeming like a complete debacle, in the end, everything is just fine, just the way I like it.

  Mo’s Mustache:  It’s tough to explain why I (Luke, 4) enjoy this book so much, but I read it religiously for two months straight this fall.  Is it the hilarious, spare illustrations?  Is it the melodramatic exclamations of the monsters (“Murf!” “Huzzah!”)?  Is it the 1970’s reference at the end of the book that always makes my mom laugh but I just don’t quite understand (I like to hear her laugh, so it’s ok if I don’t get it)?  Whatever the reason, preschoolers will enjoy it.

  Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds: I spy for preschoolers.  I (Luke, 4) read the story once with Mama, but the real appeal of this book is the elaborate search and finds.  The illustrations are vibrant and well done, and the hidden objects are actually quite challenging to find.  I still have trouble finding all of the socks…

  Chalk:  A wordless picture book that is absolutely top-notch.  Stunningly realistic drawings tell the story of three friends who happen upon a bag of magic chalk on a rainy day.  What they draw ends up coming to life, and one creation almost spells disaster.  I’m giving this book to a preschool friend who loves dinosaurs.

  Thank You, Octopus:  Quintessential preschooler humor: slightly gross, but oh so funny.  Octopus is putting his buddy to bed, but every time he tells his buddy something nice he’s going to do for him, Octopus switches the meaning and it ends of being not so nice.

Octopus: Let me give you a bath, Buddy.

Buddy: Thank you, Octopus!

Octopus: In EGG SALAD!

Buddy: Gross!  No thank you, Octopus!

Very clever plays on words that kept me rolling night after night.  My parents and I even started our own “thank you, no thank you” routine.

  The Munschworks Grand Treasury:  This past Fall has been “The Fall of the Robert Munsch Books.”  My parents and I (Luke, 4) have read just about every story Munsch has written.  They are generally clever stories that just beg to be read aloud and embellished with inflection and sound effects.  The stories are longer than typical picture books, and the characters are smart and funny with a modern kid humor, so they are a lot like me.  I love these stories!

  I Really Like Slop! (An Elephant and Piggie Book):  I’m (Luke, 4) giving three of the Elephant and Piggie books to my cousin who is just starting to read independently.  The text in these books is always simple, the illustrations are always expressive, and the stories are always hilarious, for preschoolers and parents alike.

  I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (Beginner Books):  I’m (Luke, 4) also giving this classic Seuss book to my beginning-reader cousin.  I loved this book when I was starting to read, and I still return to it every now and again just because it’s so much fun.  And with simple sight word text, it really is a book that beginning readers will be able to feel good about reading by themselves.

Happy Reading!

–Luke (age 4) and Brynn (age 17 months), blog co-authors

Clicking on a book will take you to, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

For Veteran Parents with New Babies: 5 Books for Babies Off the Beaten Path

At the baby shower for my first child, I received a children’s book from each of the guests, most of them beloved classics that are near and dear to everyone’s hearts (think Goodnight Moon, I Love You Through and Through, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and I Love You, Stinky Face). I also had my own collection of classics neatly stacked in the baby’s room: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose: One Hundred Best-Loved Verses.  Over time, other books were accepted into the more or less permanent reading rotation.  Below are a few of my children’s (and my) favorites:


   Caps for Sale Board Book: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business (Reading Rainbow Books) by Esphyr Slobodkina:  This book has been one of Brynn’s favorite books since she was about 6 months old.  Sound effects for the peddler’s caps piled on his head keep her engaged until we get to the middle of the story when the caps suddenly disappear, swiped by a band of monkeys who mock the peddler’s attempts to get them back.  When Brynn was about 9 months old, she began shaking her little finger, waving her chubby fist, and stomping her tiny feet back at the peddler, just like the monkeys.  Luke loved this book, too, and “The End” so boldly printed on the last page was the first phrase he ever read.  We read the board book version because it’s quite a bit shorter than the original hardcover.

  Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson and Sam Williams:  Super cute rhyming text that has parents nibbling toes, kissing noses, bouncing baby, and hugging oh so tight.  From now on, I will be buying Baby Cakes for any expecting parents that I know.  Brynn and I both love it!

   Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes padded board book by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury:  Brynn has been entranced with this book since she was teeny tiny.  The text rhymes and repeats throughout the book, so very quickly, babies learn what to expect while reading it.  Throughout the book, the reader is introduced to babies from all over the world, growing up in all kinds of circumstances, but “each of these babies, as everyone knows, has ten little fingers and ten little toes.”  Brynn loves examining the different baby faces, and we spend a lot of time talking about where each of the babies lives.  The illustrations are beautiful; the babies’ faces are full of expression and delightfully cute and cuddly.  We have the lap book version, and if you can find it, I’d highly recommend it because the pages, and thus the pictures, are huge.

   Lick! by Matthew Van Fleet:  Ok, so while the AUTHOR of this book isn’t “off the beaten path,” this particular book is one of his newer offerings.  Lots of creative touch and feel bits, pull tabs, and funny illustrations along with a rhyming text make Lick great fun for babies.  Brynn had a hard time with the tiny touch and feel elements when she was younger and less dextrous, but at 12 months old, she loves them.  She still can’t quite manage the pull tabs, but she’s happy watching me work them for her…for now.

   Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox (Mar 16 2009) by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek:  “Here is the red sheep.  Here is the blue sheep.  Here is the bath sheep.  And here is the bed sheep.  But where is the green sheep?”  And so begins the toddler-length quest for the feisty green sheep.  And what a fantastic quest it is!  I didn’t come across this book until Luke was too old for it, so the first time I took Brynn to the library, I snagged a copy to see if she’d like it.  She did.  A lot.  Great for teaching opposites and colors, the funny, rhyming text and expressive illustrations are very engaging for the baby set.  And in the end, the mystery is solved peacefully and satisfactorily.  Brynn and I both love this one!

Happy Reading!

-Erin and Brynn (13 months old), blog co-authors

Clicking on a book will take you to, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

Reading Tip: Engaging Children in Books Through Beautiful (or, in my case, awful) Song

Aaaaand now for the newest song by morebooksmama co-author, LUKE!  WOOOOO! YEAH!  ROCK OUT, LUKE!

Sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Mama cannot sing a lick.

She sounds like a duck that’s sick.

Dada’s voice is even worse.

He can’t sing a single verse.

I still like it when they try.

‘Cause singing makes words dance and fly.

Thank you, thank you very much!

I love music, and I know that I’m not alone.  Most kids love singing songs and dancing to music.  My Mama knows this, too, so one of the things that she enjoys doing is using music to make books more interesting.  She goes about integrating music in a few different ways:

1) She uses familiar songs to sing books that aren’t musical: My favorite example of this one is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle.  We sing the words to Twinkle, Twinkle.  Setting the words to music helps to emphasize their rhythmic nature and makes them more appealing.

2) She finds books that have songs built into the text: Many of my favorite books have music written into the stories.  Mama enjoys making up her own tunes, but there are also recordings of many of the books online.  Sometimes music plays a big role, as in Perfect Piggies!by Sandra Boynton, where the book is a song, and Goodnight Songs: Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists by Margaret Wise Brown, which is a compilation of lullabies.  Other times music complements the words, as in Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin and Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas.  Still other times, as in Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen and Joel Stewart and Belly Button Book (Boynton on Board)by Sandra Boynton, music plays a minor role but helps me hook into the book.

3) She makes up tunes for books that don’t have any music in them: These books are always rhythmic to begin with, and then inspiration hits Mama and she just starts making up melodies.  Books that I might otherwise lose interest in become more engaging and I’m hooked.  My two favorite examples of this type are The Man from the Land of Fandango by Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar and Where, Oh Where Is Huggle Buggle Bear? (Picture Books Large) by Katherine Sully and Janet Samuel.

My parents truly cannot sing, so do not feel shy about belting out a melody–your kids will love the books you read all the more!

Happy reading!

–Luke, blog co-author (age 3.5)


Books suitable for babies: Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?, Perfect Piggies!, Goodnight Songs

Books suitable for toddlers: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Belly Button Book, Where, Oh Where is Huggle Buggle Bear?

Books suitable for preschoolers: Red Ted and the Lost Things, Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy, The Man from the Land of Fandango