Category Archives: Gifts to Give

New Releases

Today we are looking at a few new releases from the first half of 2012 that are worth checking out.

Penny and Her Song

Penny and Her Song is by the wildly popular Kevin Henkes.  This is a beginning reader chapter book (2 chapters) that follows Penny as she tries to capture an audience to listen to her new song.  In the clip below, Henkes introduces us to the character, Penny.

Builder Goose (It’s Construction Rhyme Time)

Builder Goose: It’s Construction Rhyme Time! by Boni Ashburn and Sergio DeGiorgi plays off classic nursery rhymes with a construction twist.  The illustrations are bold and lively.  This is a fun read for young readers.

Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons

Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin is next in a series of Pete the Cat picture books.   In this tale, Pete sings a groovy song about his buttons.  However, his buttons keep popping off.  No need to worry.  Pete discovers he will always have a bellybutton that he can sing about.  Children even learn a little basic subtraction in this tale.  Get a little taste of the book in the clip below.

Bugs Galore

Bugs Galore by Peter Stein and Bob Staake is a perfect book for your little bug lover.  Lots of descriptive adjectives to describe all those bugs also helps build vocabulary.

Enjoy checking out one of these 2012 new releases.  What other 2012 releases have you found to be noteworthy?

*Please check out the linky party directory to see where this post has been linked to for the week.


ABC Books

There is an ABC book out there on just about any topic.  They range from very simple labeling of basic objects to complex descriptions of specific subjects.  ABC books aren’t just for beginning readers.  They can teach something to all of us no matter what our age.   Let’s look at some interesting ABC books on a variety of subjects.

Firefighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest

I love when authors write about topics that are meaningful to them.  Demarest was a member of a volunteer fire department in New Hampshire when he wrote this book.  The text is short, but informative. What is most interesting is that the text follows the real life order firefighters take when fighting a fire from when the alarm (A) sounds all the way to zipping (Z) into bed for a rest.  He ends the book with an author’s note filled with fascinating and important information about fires.

On Your Toes- A Ballet ABC by Rachel Isadora

Here is another book where the author has some real-life experience with the subject.  Isadora was a ballet dancer with the Boston Ballet before she became a successful writer and illustrator.  Her colored pastel illustrations will capture the attention of any child dreaming of being a dancer.  I will say that it’s helpful to have some background knowledge on the subject to understand some of the vocabulary such as pas de chat and harlequin.  Although, Isadora does include a glossary for each word she depicts in her ABC book.

Potluck by Anne Shelby and Irene Trivas

Potluck is one of my favorites.  Maybe it’s so well liked because it revolves around food!  Some friends get together for a potluck and each person brings an item that begins with the first letter of their name.

Lonnie loves lasagna, so he brought lots of that.

Monica made mounds and mounds of mashed potatoes.

Norman knew that oodles of noodles would be needed.

I’ve used this book countless times in the classroom.  One of my favorite activities was to create a class book with each student writing and illustrating a page for our own potluck book.  The students always had a fun time researching a food that began with the letter of their first name.  I’ve also used the book as an administrator when we held a potluck lunch for a staff development day.  Each participant signed up to bring an item that began with the first letter of their first or last name.  I created a sign-up sheet on chart paper labeled with the ABCs down the side for each participant to record their dish.

All Aboard ABC by Dough Magee and Robert Newman

This book will educate a train enthusiast.  I’m guessing this will be a favorite of my oldest son when he gets a bit bigger.  The illustrations are photographs of trains and all things train related.  Diesel engines, junction, signals and freight cars are just a few words that you’ll pick up in this informational book.

The Desert Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta and Mark Astrella

This book is just one of Pallotta’s 24 ABC books that he has written in addition to several other books.  Each of his ABC books is loaded with information on the topic he is covering.  In The Desert Alphabet Book you will learn facts such as a Headstanding Beetle stands on its head to collect droplets of water on its body that then slide down to its mouth.

Eating the Alphabet- Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

This is a great book to introduce children to new vegetables and fruits.  In fact, it would work well with the tasting passports that I talked about last week!  This is a very bold and colorful labeling book.  Ehlert includes a very detailed glossary at the end of the book.  Did you know that celery is native to the Mediterranean area and the Middle East and was cultivated by the Romans?

Hurricane City by Sarah Weeks and James Warhola

It has always fascinated me that hurricanes have people names and that every hurricane for each season is named in ABC order.  This silly tale revolves around the havoc that different named hurricanes have on towns.

Hurricane GABRIEL blew like mad-

Father lost what hair he had.

Hurricane OPAL huffed and puffed,

Sandwiches came all unstuffed.

A Garden Alphabet by Isabel Wilner and Ahsley Wolff

This is a great book for the spring as we begin to plant our gardens.  Travel through the alphabet as a garden is planted, nurtured and harvested.  The simple text is perfect for the preschool crowd.

Antics by Cathi Hepworth

26 words in ABC order that all have the little word “ant” in them!  Yep, who would have thought that they all existed.  Hepworth showcases them in this clever book.  Flamboyant, gallant and hesitant just to name a few.  How many more can you think of?

Avalanche by Michael J. Rosen and David Butler

This ABC book is actually a story.  The author highlights the alphabet during the tale of  a snowball that grows into an avalanche while collecting items in its path.  This is a fun twist on the predictable type of ABC books we are familiar with reading.

So here are ten of my favorites.  What ABC books are you fond of?  Let’s grow the list even more.

Please check out my linky party directory to see where this post has been linked to this week.

2011 Literacy Gift Picks For The Holidays

The holiday shopping season is upon us.  Here is my 2011 guide to help you find great gifts that will also build your child’s literacy skills.  Make sure that you don’t miss the GIVEAWAY  in suggestion number two!  So, let’s get started.

1.  Magazine Subscription

  When I was young, my brother and I had a subscription to National Geographic World.  I was always excited to get a piece of mail each month and would then use the issue to play school with my cousins.  There are lots of great children’s magazines available.  My pick for this year is the series from the National Wildlife Association.  I particularly like that the magazines are ad free.  Your child will receive 10 issues during the year for $19.95.

 Wild Animal Baby (Ages 1-4)   Your Big Back Yard (Ages 4-7)   Ranger Rick (Ages 7 and up)

2.  Writing Journal

     Scissor Savvy on Etsy has very cool spiral journals that are made from recycled Golden Book covers.  I find that children prefer spiral bound journals when writing and the hard cover protects all of your child’s great ideas.  There are lots of styles to pick from with a price point of  $9.99.  Recommended for ages 6 and up.

   Gabby from Scissor Savvy has graciously offered to give one Golden Book journal away to a lucky Growing Book By Book reader.  Simply visit her site to view her journals.  Then, leave a comment on the Growing Book By Book site telling us which journal you would like to have.  One lucky reader will be selected to win a journal.  Hurry, you have until 12:00 pm (CST) on Sunday, November 27, 2011 to enter.  The winner will be announced on Growing Book By Book Monday,  November 28, 2011.

3.  Apples to Apples Junior

      I love Apples to Apples Junior!  This fun card game helps to build vocabulary and thinking skills.  You have green cards and red cards.  The judge turns over a green card which contains a characteristic such as silly.   Players have several red cards in their hand which contain  noun cards.  Each player selects a card they feel best fits that characteristic card.  After all the cards in the round are turned over, they try to convince the judge that their card is the best choice.  This is a great game for families to play together.

 4.  Personalized Stationary

   In this world of email and texting, the art of letter writing has begun to disappear.  Can you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter in the mail?  Pedaling Designs on Etsy has some cute and fun personalized notecards.   There are several styles to choose from.  Each set comes with 20 notecards and envelopes for $15.

5.  ABC Puzzle

  This Melissa and Doug ABC puzzle has both upper and lowercase letters which is very helpful when children are learning the alphabet.  I’ve always been impressed with the quality of this company’s products.  It’s about $15 and recommended for ages 4 and up.




 6.  Puppets

   Puppets are great for storytelling and can provide endless hours of entertainment.   Storytelling promotes creativity and imaginative play.   Laurels Zoo on Etsy has several styles to choose from for $9 each.  Recommended for most ages.

P.S.-  Stay tuned for an upcoming post on puppet theaters!

 7.  Independent Bookstore Gift Card

  A visit to a bookstore to pick out a brand new book can be quite the thrill.  Let your young one select something that strikes their fancy and support a local independent bookstore while they are at it.  For a list of independent bookstores in your area check out the link below.  Recommended for all ages.

             Independent Bookstore List

8.  Reading Rainbows DVDs

  I’m not a huge fan of children watching television.  However, I do support the use of quality shows used for an educational purpose.   Reading Rainbow  was a series that aired on PBS.  The 30 minute shows focused on inspiring young children to widen their reading preferences .  Booktrailers, that are widely available now, remind me a bit of this show.  With this set you get a collection of some of the favorite episodes that aired.    Recommended for ages 4-8 and approximately $28.

 9.  Bananagrams

     Banagrams is a fun word game where players race to make words crossword style.  The game is recommended for ages 7 and up and will only set you back $15.

10.  Illustory

     I’ve talked about Illustory in a previous post.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for young writers to write and illustrate their own book.  They then send it off to be “published”.  It is sent back all typed up and hardcover bound.  This is one of my favorite gifts to give.  It is recommended for ages 6 and up and costs $19.95.

Hope this list helps jump-start your holiday shopping.  Do you have a favorite gift that promotes literacy?  Share your ideas.  And, don’t forget to leave a comment below to enter in the journal giveaway! 

*The opinions expressed above are my own.  I have not been compensated for any product.

First Year Favorites

Dump Truck 1st Birthday Cake

Today is my son’s first birthday.  So, I thought I would highlight his top ten favorite books of his first year.  All of the books are board books.  Board books are constructed with durable cardboard pages that make them great for wear and tear with a baby. 

1.  My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk is his favorite book of the moment.  Hence, the theme of his birthday cake!  He loves when your voice does the “beep! beep!” and “vroom” sound effects.

2.  Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow was the first book we ever read to him.  He has enjoyed this book all year long and has now begun to shake his finger for the part when the doctor says, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed.”

3.  Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton is another year long favorite.  The rhythm of the story really keeps him engaged.

4.  Toes, Ears, & Nose by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Karen Katz is a lift-the-flap book.  This is another recent favorite.  throughout the story different body parts are named.  We then touch the same part on his body.  He shakes this one in front of you over and over to read it again.  One warning though  I do not recommend lift-the-flaps with an almost one year old.  He has ripped all but one lift the flap off.

5.  I Love You, Sun I Love You, Moon by Karen Pandell and illustrated Tomie dePaola is a simple tribute to loving the planet earth. 

6.  That’s not my monkey… by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells is a touchy-feely book.  In my opinion, most touch and feel books out there aren’t very good.  However, this series by Usborne does a very nice job of placing a variety of textures in their books.  My son’s favorite page is feeling the monkeys fuzzy tongue.

7.  The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and Illustrated by Christina Ong was an early favorite.    The edges of the book are completely chewed.  I love the message of the book to believe that you can do anything.

8.  Dr. Seuss’s ABC An Amazing Alphabet Book! by Dr. Seuss is a silly romp through the alphabet.  Again, this story has great rhythm that keeps the listener engaged.

9.  Chicka Chicka a b c by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault and illustrated by Lois Ehlert is super fun.  It’s an oversized board book which has really intrigued by son.  He now even uses his finger to mimic the letters climbing the coconut tree.

10.  Favorite book throughout the whole year is Hickory, Dickory, Dock and other favorite nursery rhymes illustrated by Sanja Rescek.   Wow, this book has seen a lot of wear and tear.  He loves, loves, loves this book.  Favorite rhyme is ‘Old King Cole’.  I haven’t figured out that one yet.

Does your child have a favorite board book from their childhood?  We’d love some ideas for mommy and daddy are getting tired of the same stories and would love something fresh.

Book Making – Publishing

Creating books with children couldn’t be easier and the benefit to their literacy development is great.  Reading and writing go hand in hand.  Even if your child can’t write with conventional letters, it is important that they “pretend” to be writers.  Scribbling and making random letters are part of the developmental stages in writing.  Let’s explore some easy and fun book publishing projects.  We will look at four different options ranging from free to $20.

FOLD AND CUT:  The fold and cut book is one of the quickest books to make with the least amount of supplies (paper and scissors are all you need).  Select one sheet of light-colored unlined (blank) paper and fold it in half (hamburger fold- the fat way as opposed to a hotdog fold- the long skinny way).  While folded, cut along the fold starting a 1/2 inch up the side and ending a 1/2 inch before you reach the end.  


Now you are ready for the pages of your book.  Take five (you could use a few less or a few more)  sheets of the same paper.  Stack your sheets and make another hamburger fold.  Open the pages back up and cut a 1/2 in. slit at each end of the crease/fold.

Ready to assemble?  Open your first cut page.  Take your stacked insides and gently bring the long ends together.  Slide the stack through the first page so that all the folds line up. Gently release the pages so they go back to lying flat with the closed ends of page 1 sliding into the slits of the rest of the pages.

Close your book, get creative and write a story!

FREE WEBSITE:  Let’s Book It, is a free website with over 25 templates for making books.  The site also includes links to other book making projects.

FEE BASED SITE:  If you would like a professional looking published book, there are a few websites that can accomplish that look.  One that I like is Tikatok.  This site is associated with Barnes and Noble.  You write and illustrate your story.  Illustrations can be uploaded.  Then, you choose to have your book published in a softcover or hardcover format.  Prices begin at $15.  You can also choose to digitally download option for $2.99.

PURCHASED KIT:  IlluStory made by Creations for You is a kit that can be purchased at Amazon or many parent/teacher supply stores.  I’ve given it as a gift a few times.  The child writes the story and illustrates it on the sheets provided.  You then send the manuscript off in the mail and it comes back to you bound as a hardcover book.  The benefit to this kit is that you can do it all by hand so it’s great for younger children.  No computer is needed.  Although, there is an online version if you so choose that route.  Amazon sells the kit for $19.95.

So, you have lots of choices for book making projects.  Now it’s time to start your children on thier book.

Grandparents Day

Since 1978, we have been celebrating National Grandparents Day on the first Sunday after Labor Day.  This year that day falls on September 11, 2011.   There are many ways that families honor grandparents on this day from making cards to planting trees.  As my nieces were growing up, their elementary school would host a grandparents breakfast each year. 

There is even an official flower, the forget-me-knot, of Grandparents Day which seems very appropriate.  Though my maternal grandparents are no longer living, memories of them continue to shine strong.  I remember my grandma writing a telling time book for kids, her homemade apple pies and her soft flabby arms.  We enjoyed opportunities with grandpa for many more years than with grandma.  Trips to McDonalds, him hanging a sack swing from a tree and  teaching me to drive in the horse field will rank as some of the best memories of my childhood. 

When I learned that I was pregnant with my son, I wanted to make sure that my child had lasting memories of his grandparents.  On Mother’s Day, I purchased For My Grandchild: A Grandmother’s Gift of Memory  for my mom to announce our big news.  This journal allows the grandparent to write about topics ranging from what life was like when they were little to advice that they would like to pass on.  My mom worked on filling in the book throughout my pregnancy and added pictures of herself and my son after his birth.   There are several blank pages for photos or mementos.  When she gave the book back to us, I read it from cover to cover learning some things I didn’t even know about my mom.  I already treasure the completed book and know my son will feel the same as he grows up.

A memory journal is a great gift to give this Grandparents Day.  There are a variety of grandparent memory journals available at your local bookstore or online.  Do you have a favorite way to preserve memories of grandparents?