Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Five Books You Should Have For Halloween

Berenstain Bears Trick Or Treat HERE
 By Stan and Jan Berenstain
I love this story as it not only is masterfully illustrated by reminds kids of a great lesson on Halloween--appearances can be deceiving.  This is my favorite Halloween story.

Julius's Candy Corn HERE
By Kevin Henkes
Short. Sweet. Great. Get it (or the whole holidays set).

Angelina's Halloween HERE
Written by Katharine Hollabird and Illustrated by Helen Craig
This beautiful illustrated story is a little spooky I think, but my four year old doesn't seem to mind and it does have great pictures.

Miss Nelson Is Missing HERE
Written by Harry Allard and Illustrated by James Marshall
I'll admit this isn't technically a Halloween tale but with the "substitute" dressing up like a witch, I always thought of this as a spooky fall book.  It's fantastic--get it!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything HERE
Written by Linda Williams and Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
This book is quite spooky but the illustrations are great and it's a good one for Halloween.

Post Script:
If you're looking for good Halloween movies
here are a few favorite of ours:

Garfield's Halloween (and other holidays) HERE
Be careful! This is great fun but pretty scary!

It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown HERE
The best Halloween movie ever. Full stop.  Shame on you for making me have to tell you. 

Monsters Vs. Pumpkins HERE
Funny and just a tad scary (best if you've seen Monsters Vs. Aliens)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vignette: How To Throw a Pixie Hollow Birthday Party

Here's my first post about birthdays! I love 'em don't you?  Here's how I threw a Pixie Hollow birthday party for my four year old's special day (I apologize if you've seen these pictures on my other blog).

Any party will need the following:
1. Decorations
2. Special guests (hopefully)
3. food
4. music
5. party favors
6. activities

Our Fairy Guests sat inside for pictures.  If you don't have Fairy Guests 
you can always use this as a photo op for all your wee ones.

1. Decorations.  For our Pixie Hollow party we were having it outside in my mother-in-law's garden (because fairies like flowers and green things growing).  The nice thing about a garden is it is already decorated with beautiful flowers and things most of the year.  My daughter's birthday is in January so it's always a toss-up whether it will be fine but it was gorgeous this year!  So, we focused on a location for our Fairy Guests to sit in and take pictures with the kids.  I used a bunch of tulle my mother had saved from my wedding and pinned it all together.  You can also use a mosquito net or even tablecloths or sheets of pastel colors (white also works well).  My sister bought poster board and made some lovely giant flowers, a Pixie Hollow sign, and a few butterflies and mushrooms to be pinned around the tree.  If you aren't artistic or know no one who is, you can print out a pretty sign on the computer and stick with faux flowers to pin on the "tent".  We pinned a fake flower garland at the edge of the "tent".  You can also use Christmas lights--white is most fairy-like but in a pinch the colored lights will look great. 

2. Special Guests.  I admit it--I have three lovely sisters (don't I?) They agreed to dress as fairies.  Their costumes were not as hard as you'd think to make.  Buy your fairy wings online on Ebay or Etsy to name a few sites that sell them.  I bought these green fairy wings at the Disney store when they were on clearance for $3.00 each!  We bought a few different colors of tulle at a local home store and ran a seam through the top and pulled it together then pinned it in back.  You can cut the bottom to look like flower petals with a jagged point.  Each girl wore a tank top in a similar color scheme and we pinned felt flowers to the necks of the tank tops.  You can use silk flowers as a substitute and put them in the girls hair, around their arms and waist, and even on their shoes.  We had them wear ballet flats in colors that went with their outfits, and each one did their hair and make up differently.

I didn't take a picture of my cupcakes but here are some cute ones from this site:
3. Food.  I like to stay away from meal times for kids parties because it gets more expensive and many kids (mine) are picky eaters.  For Pixie Hollow we had an afternoon snack time with all sorts of fairy treats--goldfish crackers, small bagels, pink lemonade, strawberries, and, of course, pink cupcakes with butterflies on top.  You can get cupcake cups and pics in all sorts of themes from bugs to the fairies themselves.  I find it's best to get the napkins or plates in the themed picture and the rest you can do in solid pastels. 

Here is my daughter sitting with her fairy friends (which are also conveniently her aunts)

4. Music.  Music is often overlooked at kids parties but I think it's essential for a great themed day.  I had my husband sift through my ITunes and create a mix of everything our little girl would love--it doesn't just have to be from the Pixies.  We used all the Disney things from Tangled, Enchanted, to Lilo and Stitch.  We even threw in some classical fairy-like pieces that could be talked over more easily.  It played gently in the background and hardly looped at all.  With a little foresight this can become a regular routine at birthdays and it helps so much with the mood.

5. Favors.  I gave each girl a headband with a felted flower on it and each boy a mask with felted leaves on it.  I abhor trinkety bags full of things that cost me an arm and a leg that my children will toss into their room, I'll step on, and eventually throw away.  Don't waste your money on that stuff.  Make it memorable.  Make it simple.  Make it good.  If you can't make it yourself, just put a little more thought into it.  It doesn't have to mean more money spent.  It just means a little more thoughtful planning.  Little girls at fairy parties can be given lots of different things for favors: a bug box and a net, a pair of fairy wings, a piece of jewelry, a butterfly-shaped lollipop, a small stamp of a flower and a little ink pad, a coloring book--many of these things can be found at inexpensive stores and will see more use than those plastic tops that everyone seems to end up with.   

6. Activities.   For our activity I bought a bunch of Pixie Hollow valentines from Target and our dollar store.  I bought some craft foam at the dollar store and cut out flower shapes with them.  Then I glued the Valentine on the front.  The adults hid the flowers around the garden while I told the kids inside what was happening.  Our Fairy Guests showed up and the kids ran out to meet them, then went hunting for the fairies' friends who were missing.  When they found a fairy flower they could bring it to the fairies in the tent and have their picture taken.  The kids loved this activity and my daughter still hides the foam flowers herself just for fun.

And last but not least my daughter gets a kiss from Tinkerbell 

Hope you've enjoyed this post.  I'll be doing party themed posts here and there just to spice things up a bit.  Happy party planning!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Children's Book Review: When I Get Bigger (Little Critter)

Name of Book: When I Get Bigger
Author / Illustrator: By Mercer Mayer
What's It All About: Little Critter, a series about a hedgehog-looking animal, will be able to do lots of things when he gets bigger.  He'll be able to go to the store by himself, have his own watch, cross the street, and even go to first grade.  But right now he has to go to bed because his parents say he's not big enough. 
My Favorite Bit: As some of you may know, Mercer Mayer is my favorite and my best.  In this particular story about Little Critter I like the page where he can go to the corner store by himself.  It's cheerful and I wish I could walk down that little street and wave hello to all the hedgehoggy things. 
Suitable Age For Reading It To: Little Critter stories are simple, the words on each page are large and few, and they are charmingly written.  Little children love to hear these and older children can read them to practice.  I'd say you could start reading these to a toddler and keep going until they take over and read them themselves.  This is a great series to have around. There's even holiday Little Critter's so they'd make perfect gifts.
Go Get It: When I Get Bigger on Amazon US
A Little About the Author / Illustrator: Check out my earlier post on Mayer HERE.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Golly Sisters Go West

Name of Book: The Golly Sisters Go West
Author / Illustrator: Written by Besty Byars and Illustrated by Sue Truesdell
What It's All About: May May and Rose are going West.  "Go," May-May says to the horse.  The horse will not go.  Will May-May and Rose ever learn the right words to get the horse to go West? This book is full of short stories about two sisters named Rose and May-May.  The stories are short, fun, and the print is large for beginning readers.  It's a level 3 read alone (but it's so much friendlier with two).  The stories contained in this little book are as follows:
The Golly Sisters Go West
The Golly Sisters Give A Show
The Golly Sisters Get Lost
The Horse Gives A Show
May-May Loses Her Hat
The Golly Sisters Are Scared
My Favorite Bit: I like Ms. Truesdell's almost sloppy illustration-style.  The characters are lively, the colors are just right, and there's always something funny going on in the pictures.  Her style reminds me somewhat of James Stevenson and I like it.  My favorite story out of this set is The Golly Sisters Get Lost.  There are more in this series so get them all!
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This is a great read for three to five year olds and children can read it to themselves when they get old enough (though I wouldn't mind sitting by to hear about the Gollys).  The stories are short and the words are fairly easy to read. 
Go Get It: The Golly Sisters Go West paperback on Amazon US
A Little About The Author / Illustrator:
Betsy Byars is from North Carolina and now lives in South Carolina.  She has written over sixty books, her first was published in 1962.  She lives with her husband Ed on an air strip.  They are both pilots, and the bottom floor of their house is a hangar so they can taxi out and take off. Find out more about Ms. Byars at her website HERE.
Sue Truesdell has illustrated many children's books, including How to Talk to Your Dog by Jean Craighead George and Betsy Byars's I Can Read! series about the adventuresome Golly Sisters. Ms. Truesdell lives in Tenafly, New Jersey.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Note From The Blog Author

I feel like writing a poem entitled, "I Had Two Blogs And Now I'll Have One".  But, I'm not going to.  I've just alerted the small band of followers of my other site The Nighs, To Scotland And Back Again that I will no longer be posting on that blog.  I will instead be posting on this blog here and there.  I feel I can add the little snippets of birthday party ideas, tips on crafts I make, and other little goodies on this blog in between all our book reviews.  So, I'm letting you know to look out for posts that have little or nothing to do with books on here every once in awhile.  I hope you'll stick around and see what happens next. 

Cheers, Rachel

Friday, August 19, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Spooky Old Tree

Name of Book: The Spooky Old Tree
Author / Illustrator:  By Stan and Jan Berenstain
What It's All About: Three little bears go out to explore a spooky old tree: one with a light, one with a stick, and one with a rope.  Do they dare go up that creaky old stair? Yes.  They dare.  This is another book with large print and moderately easy words for beginning readers (plus the illustrations are top notch).
The first little bear losing his rope.

My Favorite Bit:  My favorite and my best is when they dare to walk down the spooky old hall.  As a child the picture confused me until I realized that the axe had split the walking stick in half.  To this day I don't know why I didn't get that but there it is. 
Go Get It: The Spooky Old Tree in hardcover on Amazon US.
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This one is a little spooky so be careful with your young ones under four who don't like scary stories.  Otherwise, this book is great for all ages and another good one for kids who are just starting to read.
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Check out my earlier little bit on Stan and Jan HERE.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Children's Book Review: Mouse Tales

Name of Book: Mouse Tales
Author / Illustrator: Written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel
What It's All About: Seven mice snuggle in bed and their father tells them seven tales, one for each of them, for bedtime.  The stories are: The Wishing Well, Clouds, Very Tall Mouse And Very Short Mouse, The Mouse And The Winds, The Journey, The Old Mouse, and The Bath.  Each story is short, hilarious, and drawn beautifully.  Kids love the way these are written and so do I.  I don't want to do a synopsis of each as they are short and I'd basically be telling the whole book but trust me on this one--Mr. Lobel doesn't disappoint.  This book also has large print and simple words so it's a good one for beginning readers.  I also have to mention that the inscription in our family's copy is from my parents on the occasion of my fourth birthday (in 1983).  Thanks Mom and Dad for such a lovely gift that I can pass on to my kids.
Here's a scene from another good story in this book called appropriately, 'The Bath'.

My Favorite Bit: If I had to choose a favorite tale it would be The Mouse And The Winds.  Excerpt: 

'"Wind!" shouted the mouse.  "Come down and blow my boat 
off this house and off this tree!"  "Here I am," said the south 
wind.  The south wind blew and blew.  The mouse and the boat 
and the house and the tree went up in the air...and landed
on top of a mountain.'

Suitable Age For Reading It To: This is perfect for reading to little ones under five, perfect for ones above five reading their first chapter books, and kids older than that just to enjoy whether they're reading it or you (and you can laugh along as you read too :)
Go Get It: Mouse Tales paperback at Amazon US. 
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: See my earlier post about Mr. Lobel HERE.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Bears' Picnic

Name of Book: The Bears' Picnic
Author / Illustrator: Written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain
What It's All About: Papa Bear takes the bear family all across the land for a picnic but every picnic spot has something dreadfully wrong with it: mosquitoes, noisy crowds, planes, rains...Will the Bear family ever find a good place to have a picnic?
My Favorite Bit: The way the mosquitoes are drawn are amazing, I love picking out which is our favorite food each time we get to the big picnic scene, I love the way the food is drawn when they're on top of the mountain about to eat (so yummy) and my favorite is yelling, "KABLAMMO!" with the kids when the lightning hits.
Suitable Age For Reading It To: These bears are for everyone.  Each page rhymes and has short verses, the characters are simply and brightly drawn, and the story is easy for all ages to understand and connect with.  From two to fifty before you should probably read it with your Grandkids so as not to seem odd (though I would probably read this by myself at fifty with a cup of tea). 
Go Get It: The Bears' Picnic in hardback at Amazon US
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Check out my little blurb about the Berenstains on this earlier review HERE.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Sleeping Beauty

NOTE: This is my favorite book because of the perfect illustrations and to prove it I'm going to put them all in...that's right, all of them.  Here we go:
Name of Book: The Sleeping Beauty
Author / Illustrator: Retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
What's It All About: When a King slights the oldest fairy of thirteen in the kingdom, she curses the King's newborn princess saying she will die on her fifteenth birthday by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel.  The twelfth fairy softens the curse so that the princess will only fall asleep for one hundred years.  The King has every spinning wheel destroyed in the kingdom.  But over time as his daughter grows in beauty, grace, and kindness, he forgets about the curse.  On her fifteenth birthday the princess Briar Rose does indeed find an old woman spinning at a wheel in a forgotten tower and pricks her finger, falling down in a deep sleep.  The curse is so powerful that the whole kingdom also falls asleep.  One hundred years later a Prince searches for the enchanted princess. The thorns that grow around the castle part for him and he finds Briar Rose, kissing her to wake her.  The kingdom awakens from the spell and the Prince and Briar Rose are married.
My Favorite Bit: I have two pages that are probably my favorite illustration-wise but this book is so beautiful that I have taken the time to photograph my personal copy to show to you.  My parents gave me this book when I was four years old and it is perhaps my favorite.
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This is a slightly more realistic version of this well known fairytale complete with rotting corpses of valiant men in the thorns and language that would imply a more mature audience.  I would say six and over for this one based on the words but if you wanted to skip the page with the men caught in the thorns and kind of told your own version you could read it to younger children.
Go Get It: The Sleeping Beauty on Amazon US
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Trina Schart Hyman (1939-2004) was born in Phillidelphia, Pennsylvania and illustrated over 150 books in her lifetime.  Her favorite story as a child was Little Red Riding Hood and she spent a year of her childhood in a red cape her mother made for her.  She died of cancer at age 65.

The Sleeping Beauty

 Inside the first page

Title page


 The Queen hearing from a little frog that she will get her greatest wish--a baby.

The baby princesses dedication

 The feast to celebrate the girl's birth with twelve of the thirteen fairies invited

The thirteenth fairy arriving in a fury to curse the child

The twelfth fairy trying to soften the curse (with this picture being one of my favorites because of the beautiful baby peeking over the king's shoulder)

 The king having all the spinning wheels burned

 Briar Rose at fifteen

Finding an old tower (one of my favorite illustrations ever)

 Finding an old woman spinning 

 The castle and all it's inhabitants fall asleep

The cook falling asleep...even the flies sleep

 The castle with thorns growing up around it for a hundred years

 The men who die trying to get through the thorns (careful with this one for little children)

 A Prince traveling through the countryside searching for the princess under the enchantment

The hundred years are at an end so the thorns part for the Prince

 The Prince entering the still slumbering courtyard
 Walking the halls with sleeping people (though apparently the spiders didn't sleep)

This would actually be quite a nightmare to walk through so quiet and still

The Prince finding Briar Rose asleep in the tower...isn't this gorgeous?

The Prince and Briar Rose meeting up happily with the King and Queen (note: look on the balcony if you can see it--I always loved the couple who are running to each other down the hallway)

The castle returns to normal

And they lived in peace and happiness

This is the back cover that has been worn to pieces so my father-in-law laminated it for me and I put it in a frame in my house but I love it.

Doesn't it just make you want to own everything she's ever done? I assure you the others are just as gorgeous.  My mother's favorite is Snow White and I'll review that one soon.  For now just put this down for your kids as an extra special library item (Christmas gift?)