Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Review: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I cannot quite remember how this book became part of my collection. Perhaps it was a gift. I know for certain that I did not purchase it. It's simply not one that would have captured my interest upon a quick glance at the bookstore. Judging it by the cover, the book appears to be just another corny, sappy, not particularly creative or well-written story about loving a baby. (No offense to Robert Munsch, who is an extremely accomplished, well-regarded author.) In fact, it sat on my bookshelf for at least three years before I bothered reading it to my firstborn.

And when I finally did....well, I broke down crying uncontrollably about half way through. The lump in my throat and tears in my eyes that surprisingly appeared within the first couple of pages developed into a full-blown meltdown that prevented me from reading the entire story aloud to my very confused little boy.

Attributing my behavior to exhaustion, the book was shelved for a couple of years only to reappear this afternoon when my second child asked me to read it. Once again, feeling unenthusiastic about his choice and expecting a boring story, the same wave of emotion took over. And I happened to be very well-rested today.

So what's the hook with this book? As a mom, it's the thought that my children will grow up one day. A big revelation? Of course not. Here's the thing....I find myself often wishing for the next phase when things will (hopefully) get easier with my kids. Kind of like the Adam Sandler movie "Click" whereby a dad possesses a remote control he uses to fast forward through all of the challenging moments in his life.

It's those tender moments when they are asleep that I fully appreciate my children. And though some days begin with a mental countdown until bedtime...here's the rub....I can't bear the thought of them growing up and leaving me. And that is exactly where this gem of a book tugs at my heart.

A simple theme is repeated from the very start to the very end of the story. A baby boy moves through different stages of his life, leaving an exhausted and frustrated mom in his wake. Every night while he is asleep, his mother enters his room and cradles her "baby" well beyond his young childhood years. She whispers a sweet poem over and over again.

At the very end, when the mother is old and frail, they reverse positions and the son lovingly cradles his mom. Then he returns home to hold his own daughter and recite the familiar poem.

If you have read this book to your child, I would appreciate a comment! I'm not an overly emotional person...but this book has touched upon something deep within. A fear of my children moving on, of not needing me anymore (I've got to be more careful what I wish for!), of the intense love I have for them.

Okay, off to quietly slip into three little bedrooms and watch my babies sleep for awhile.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Building a Child's Book Collection

Reading good books with your child is instrumental in building your relationship and cultivating a love for reading. The hours of quality time are invaluable, and the developmental benefits to the child are numerous. For these reasons, it is especially important to build a large collection of good children’s books.

If your child already has a bookshelf stocked with some favorite titles, then you have made a good start. Here are some tips to continue building your child’s library into a source of entertainment that will give video games and television some serious competition-

Humor: Add books that make your child laugh. Seek out books that have funny illustrations and silly stories that will tickle your child. Laughter increases the entertainment value of the reading experience and engages the child in the story.

Variety: A wide variety of books is extremely important. Highly esteemed Caldecott Medal winners are wonderful to read. The illustrations are beautiful and the stories can be appreciated on many levels for years to come. Keep in mind that it is just as important to add some lightweight choices, such as those featuring favorite cartoon characters or movie stars. Just like adults, kids need diverse reading material to select from depending on their mood.

Reading Level: Be sensitive to your child’s reading level. Forcing a child to sit through a book that is too difficult can lead to frustration and turn your child against reading. While there are benefits to reading slightly above a child’s level, time is best spent when the book is on par with the child’s reading comprehension. Here are some pointers for finding books at the right level for your child:

  • Quantity of written content: Take into account your child’s attention span. If there are too many words on a page, a restless child may tune out before the story is over.

  • Vocabulary: Reading books is an excellent way to build a child’s vocabulary. However, too many unfamiliar words may cause the child to lose interest in the story. A good rule of thumb is that for a content-rich story, there should be no more than 5 new words per page.
  • Storyline: Make sure that the story itself is appropriate for your child’s age. If the story is too advanced, even if the vocabulary is easy, a young child will lose interest. Stick with more concrete books early on and save the abstract stories for later.

Let Your Child Pick: Engage your child in the process of selecting new books. Take your child to the bookstore and spend time in the children’s section looking at all of the choices. Try not to steer your child toward your preference; rather, let your child take the lead and seek out titles that seem interesting to him or her.

Give Books as Gifts: Books are the single best present you can give a child. Though toys win the popularity contest at gift-opening time, books have staying power long after all the plastic has been forgotten. So think about ways you can inject fun into giving a book. Here’s an idea- make it the last present he or she opens…and then send your child on a scavenger hunt around the house to find it. Or, establish a tradition in your family where the child gets a new book the day before his or her birthday. Find ways to make it memorable and exciting.

Send a gift of books from The Lollipop Book Club!

Dr. Seuss Quotes- Words to Live By

Some authors have the ability to make profound statements with a very few, easily understandable words. Their remarks can be appreciated by the young, the old, and everyone in between.

Dr. Seuss is one of the most quoted children's authors, and rightfully so. I'd like to share with you my favorite words of wisdom that this brilliant man has shared with the world.

“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

“How did it get so late so soon?”

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

“You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”

“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”

“And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed)”

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."

"So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads."

“Don’t give up. I believe in you all. A person’s a person no matter how small.”

"I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."

“Young cat, if you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you would learn! The most wonderful stuff!”

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way.”

“I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down on the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

“My alphabet starts with this letter called yuzz. It’s the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-matuzz. You’ll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond ‘Z’ and start poking around!”

“I’m sorry to say so but, sadly it’s true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.”

“If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Five Favorite Passover Books

Looking for a great Passover gift for your child? Send a gift of Passover books from The Lollipop Book Club. A book about Passover that you can enjoy together is a fabulous idea. Here are five of our favorites that both entertain and educate kids about the importance of this holiday:

Five Little Gefiltes

Based on the story Five Little Ducks, five little gefilte fish escape their jar and go off to explore New York City. Leaving a worried Mama Gefilte behind, the fish manage to survive their adventure and eventually return safely home. This hilarious rhyming story is packed with Yiddish with a handy glossary to study just in time for Passover.

The Matzah Man: A Passover Story

A highly-energized matzah man leaps out of the oven and leads a chase throughout an entire village in the midst of Passover preparations. Children will giggle at the Matzah Man’s chutzpah as he teases the very townspeople who would love to eat him at their Seder. He successfully eludes almost everyone but ultimately falls prey to a sly fox in this satisfying tale that ends with a creative twist.

Only Nine Chairs- A Tall Tale for Passover

Children will laugh at this silly story about a family who is unprepared for the ten extra guests who show up to celebrate Passover. With only nine chairs, each family member takes it upon himself to find a solution for the seating dilemma. The cartoon drawings add further appeal in this funny, rhyming tale of about a jam-packed Seder celebration.

Matzo Ball Moon

Eleanor and her Bubbe together make the yummiest matzo balls for the chicken soup on Passover. One by one, the matzo balls disappear as various family members sneak into the kitchen and sample the delicious creation. When everyone finally sits down to eat, there are not enough Matzo balls to go around, until Eleanor solves the problem. The warmth of a family coming together in a Passover celebration is at the heart of this enjoyable story.

The Secret Seder

In a serious, realistic portrait about Passover, a young boy and his family are masquerading as Catholics in France during WWII. They bravely slip under the radar of the Nazi soldiers and join other Jews in a special Seder celebration. Despite limited supplies, the resilient group engages in a traditional ceremony, while remembering and praying for those who have suffered major atrocities.

Top 10 Gifts for Kids

You will not be surprised to hear me say that "Book" should be listed next to every line from 1 to 10 on the Top 10 Gifts for Kids. But even the most fervent book-giver understands that kids do indeed enjoy other gifts from time to time.

There are lots of lists out there proclaiming to reveal the Top 10 Gifts for Kids. Many of them highlight the latest toys to hit the market, usually backed by a tremendous amount of advertising. Just put your kids in front of the television for a few minutes, and you will soon hear them chiming “I want that” after every commercial.

After awhile you question whether you have a spoiled brat in the making, some brilliant advertisers, or maybe a bit of both.

Here is a list of the Top 10 Gifts for Kids compiled by one mom’s observations of the things that provide lasting value:

(1) Nintendo DS: Let’s just get this one out of the way first. If you have a little boy 6 years old or older, a DS is all the rage. You will have to put severe restrictions on its use, however, because boys can get sucked in for hours, barely emerging for mealtime or anything else without firm prodding.

(2) Leapster: Talk to any parent about the Leapster, and they will agree that this is one toy that provides consistent entertainment. It is also a portable game system, but with an educational nature. It’s great for children as young as four, but I also find my seven-year-old sneaking in a couple of games in lieu of his DS.

(3) Legos: For boys, Legos are a universal and timeless gift that can be easily incorporated into an existing collection. Following the instructions for the model is enormously educational, but the real beauty of this toy is that the pieces can then be used to create alternative structures and ships. You’ll be amazed by what children can build when left to their own devices.

(4) American Girl: If you have not heard of American Girl, it’s time to get with the program. These dolls are based on pre-teen girl characters from different points in history. Their enormous popularity has spurred successful doll clothing lines, an American Girl Place in New York (complete with a cafĂ©, a photo studio, a salon, and store).

(5) A Box of Costumes: Boys and girls love to dress up and immerse themselves into the various roles they find in a box of costumes. You can find bargains right after Halloween. Also, be on the lookout for fun accessories throughout the year, like scarves, aprons, hats, sunglasses, and costume jewelry to add to the mix.

(6) Art Supplies:
Crayons, markers, stickers, glue sticks, chalk, etc…Find a good teacher supply store for some unique craft supplies to jazz things up. Put it all in a fun container with a bow on top. Kids go through supplies like crazy and it’s always good to have a stock on hand for rainy days.

(7) Umbrellas, Backpacks, Tents and Sleeping Bags: These items are always much better received by children than you would expect, especially when they are decorated with a favorite character.

(8) A Bulletin Board: A plain old brown bulletin board and some push pins make a great gift for kids of all ages. They can make a decorative mark on their bedrooms by showcasing favorite art projects and special photos.

(9) Tickets: To the movies, to a museum, to a play, to a sporting event. You will never have to worry about giving a duplicate, and the experience will be remembered long after most toys have lost their appeal.

(10) Books, Books, and More Books:
Enough said! This list of the Top 10 Gifts for Kids applies to boys and girls across various age groups. Spend your money wisely next time by seeking out a gift with lasting entertainment and educational value to boot. Send a gift of books from The Lollipop Book Club!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book Review: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Winner of the American Book Award and a New York Times Best Book of the Year

The single most poignant book you can give to a child is the beautifully written and illustrated Miss Rumphius. Told through the voice of her great-niece, the story of Alice Rumphius and her quest to make the world a better place is inspirational.

As a little girl, Alice’s admiration for her grandfather is apparent as she dreams of living in faraway places and growing old by the sea, just like he did. But her grandfather presents Alice with an even greater challenge- to leave the world a more beautiful place than she found it.

And so Miss Rumphius, as Alice is now called, begins her travels across land and sea. She visits a tropical island, climbs mountains, explores the jungle, and traverses the desert. Miss Rumphius makes lifelong friends along the way and leaves an indelible mark upon everyone she encounters.

In the course of her journey, Miss Rumphius is injured and finally decides to return to her home by the sea. She scatters a few lupine seeds around the stony, infertile land – a seemingly futile attempt to make the world a better place- but her injury soon forces her to retire to bed.

Miss Rumphius spends the winter ruminating about her inability to plant more seeds, and she fears she will fail at beautifying the world before she departs it. When the spring arrives, she regains her strength and makes her way over a nearby hill. There she discovers that her seeds had spread and grown into a magnificent patch of blue, purple, and pink lupines.

Now Miss Rumphius knows what she must do. She spends the last stretch of her life spreading lupine seed along roads, around the school house, along stone walls, and everywhere she goes. The little town by the sea is soon covered with the most beautiful flowers that bloom year after year.

As the children from the town gather around an elderly Miss Rumphius, intently listening to stories about worldly travels, her great-niece promises to mimic her life. Miss Rumphius responds with a very special challenge, passed down from her own grandfather, that the little girl must make the world more beautiful along the way. And so the story ends.

It is a noteworthy accomplishment when an author delivers a powerful message in a book that young children can understand. Barbara Cooney has achieved this feat in her masterpiece Miss Rumphius. She uses simple language making this book appropriate for children as young as four. And yet the artful rendering of a woman’s life journey, the powerful message, and the legacy an aunt leaves behind are all themes appreciated by much older children.

No one with a special child in his or her life should miss the opportunity to share Miss Rumphius.. It is a remarkable book that should have a place on every child’s bookshelf for life.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Best Easter Books For Kids

The Easter Bunny is on his way, so now is the perfect time to give a sweet Easter gift for children about this very special holiday. Here is a list of some favorite books from The Lollipop Book Club:

The Easterville Miracle: (My personal favorite!)

A little boy named Sam cannot understand all of the fuss that occurs in his town every year at Easter. The new outfits, the colorful decorations, the chick-shaped candies all seem so silly to him, especially since no one in his town of Easterville can answer his question as to what it is all about. With the help of an ancient man who live atop a hill, Sam finally learns the meaning of the holiday.

The Dumb Bunnies' Easter:

Laugh out loud with the dumb bunny family as they decorate their tree, prepare the turkey, and wait in anticipation of the Easter Bunny’s arrival…on December 24th! The silly illustrations and the ridiculous behavior of the confused bunnies will tickle the funny bone of every niece and nephew.

The Bunny Who Found Easter:

A sad, lonely bunny is in search of other creatures like himself. An owl informs him that there are always lots of rabbits at Easter, so he embarks on a journey that takes him through summer, fall, and winter in search of this place. Both the bunny and a mouse who has been following his every step ultimately find love and companionship when the special time of year finally arrives.

Humbug Rabbit:

While Granny Rabbit is aboveground busily decorating eggs for Easter, Father Rabbit is down below in the burrow informing his little bunnies that there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny. An unwitting cat turns Father Rabbit into a believer again after he sneakily hides the decorated eggs in the rabbits’ underground home. The little bunnies have fun discovering the beautiful eggs on Easter day.

Rechenka's Eggs:

Every year, old lady Babushka wins first place in an Easter festival for her beautifully painted Ukrainian eggs. After many hours of labor, she is ready to showcase her artwork again. Then she discovers an injured goose near her home. She takes in the animal and nurses it back to health, but the bird accidentally breaks her eggs when it spreads its wings to fly. Babushka is devastated until the goose miraculously lays colorful eggs, winning another prize for her caregiver on Easter.

Birthday Gifts for Children

Looking for affordable birthday gifts for children? Once your child reaches preschool age, the birthday party invitations start flowing, and you will find your wallet is quite a bit lighter. Add a second or third child into the social circuit and you may need a calendar on your refrigerator just to manage trips to the toy store. While some parents stick with a girl-only or boy-only theme, others extend a hearty birthday invite to every child in the classroom. Either way, it can seem like there is a party every single weekend. And with that comes a hefty credit card bill attributed to birthday gifts.

When your child received the very first invitation, you probably spent some time looking for the most adorable, unique birthday gift. You possibly had a budget in mind…and chances are you went a little over your mark. Then throw in the cute gift bag, the matching tissue wrap, and the $3.99 card that took you several minutes to find (and a lot less time to find the trash can), and you have surely spent way too much on the birthday present.

To lighten the load on your wallet, keep these tips in mind before you buy the next round of birthday gifts for children:

  • Send a Birthday Gift for Children from The Lollipop Book Club- You can send a book, an adorable lollipop, and a personal gift card for $15. This price includes everything, even shipping. It is a gift that will not get lost in the birthday party shuffle because it is mailed to the child. It’s a gift experience the birthday child will always remember.

  • Stock Up- Create a small stockpile of gifts that you can stow away. Watch for sale items and grab the deals when you see them. This way you will always have a small supply of inexpensive birthday gifts for children to choose from when you don’t have time to get to the store.

  • Avoid Last-Minute Purchases- Do not stop at the store on your way to the party (we’ve all done it), because, in your haste, you will definitely spend too much money. If you followed the previous tip, you’ll be able to choose a reasonable birthday gift from your closet.

  • Re-Gift- Please don’t think of this as a tacky tactic; rather, it’s a responsible way of recycling items your child does not need. So, if your child receives a birthday present that is identical (or close enough) to one already in the toy box, it is completely appropriate to give this item as a gift to another child. I am not suggesting that you pass along junk. But if the packaging is still intact and the toy is up to your standards, just a duplicate, then pass it along to someone else who may enjoy it.

  • Resist Accessories- We have all done it. We pick out a perfectly respectable toy for a birthday gift for a child. And then we decide that it just doesn’t look like enough. So we grab something else to go along with it. The other thing may be a smaller item along the same theme. Or it may be a little knick knack to tie around the bow to make the package look cute. Whatever it is, don’t do it. It may make you feel a little better about your gift but its value is quickly lost on the birthday child. This kind of wasted money adds up quickly.

  • Gift Bags- Avoid buying your gift bags, tissue paper, and gift wrap at expensive card stores. You can easily spend another five dollars just to wrap the birthday present. Instead, you should visit a dollar store and build a small inventory of solid gift bags you can use for any gender and any occasion. Also, always reuse the gift bags given to you, even if they are a little wrinkled. Once you add the toy and tissue, they’ll hardly notice.

  • Birthday Cards- I cannot think of a bigger waste of money than birthday cards bought at a store, especially when they are attached to a birthday gift you are taking to a party.(It is different if you are mailing a card, especially if you take the time to write a special message in it.) Instead, you can save some money and give a more memorable card by making it yourself, with your child’s help. I am not talking about anything time-consuming or requiring artistic ability. You can simply use a piece of construction paper, have your child add some stickers, and then sign it. I always keep a supply of brightly colored blank note cards that I use for every occasion. It forces me to personalize the message. Plus I can usually buy 20 note cards for the price of 2 regular birthday cards.

  • Signature Gift- Come up with a signature birthday present that is flexible across ages and gender. And then watch for when those items are on sale so that you always have a handy gift at home. Art supplies are always a good one. Crayons, markers, paints, paper, colored pencils…the list is endless. Buy them up when they are on sale at the big box stores during the back-to-school shopping season. Books also make great birthday presents. Think about personalizing it with a special note inside so that the book stands out. Find your “signature gift” for every birthday present and save yourself the hassle of searching for yet another unique something-or-other.

By following these guidelines, you will greatly reduce the time and money you spend shopping for children’s birthday gifts. You’ll welcome the next round of birthday parties and feel good about giving quality gifts without breaking the bank.

Easter Gifts for Kids

The Easter Bunny is on his way bringing baskets full of treats for lots of girls and boys. Lots of moms, dads, grandparents and others enjoy spreading their own Easter joy with unique Easter gifts for kids.

Here are some tips for picking out the perfect Easter gifts for kids:

Give an Easter basket full of books: Skip the chocolate bunnies and jelly beans (leave those to the Easter bunny) and fill an Easter basket with a variety of good children’s books.

Give an Easter craft: Egg dying has expanded well beyond the simple pastel dip and dye kits of the past, so be on the look-out for some really neat kits. You may also visit a local craft store for some other Easter craft supplies which make a great Easter gift for kids.

Give a piece of jewelry: A piece of jewelry is a wonderful Easter gift for little girls. You may look for a necklace with a cross or a pretty bracelet with charms symbolic of the Easter holiday.

Give a keepsake box: A personalized box makes a really unique Easter gift for kids, both girls and boys. Kids love to store their keepsakes in special places, so a little box is the perfect Easter treat.

Take your kids to an Easter show: Many time local theatres put on productions around Easter. The time you spend with your children by taking them to a special show is an invaluable Easter gift.

Send a Gift of Books from The Lollipop Book Club: Pick out an adorable Easter book, write a special message, and we’ll send it along with a lollipop handcrafted just for Easter. This is the best gift you can give, especially when you do not live close enough to deliver an Easter gift for kids in person.

Easter is a special time of year when families come together to celebrate. It is especially fun for children who eagerly anticipate the Easter Bunny’s arrival. If you have a special child in your life, follow these tips to give the best Easter gifts for kids ever.

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