Books, Celebrated Authors

Marilla’s Famous Plum Preserves {from author L.M. Montgomery}

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Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on this day in history, 143 years ago, in Clifton, Prince Edward Island.

She was a brilliant author and one of my favorites. And because I am such a nerd of all things AOGG, I wanted to bring a particular aspect of the books to life.

So I will share a few of my favorite plummy quotes about Marilla’s famous plum preserves.

And why plum preserves? Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see 😉

 

Yellow Plum Preserves

The rarer of the two types of preserves was the yellow plum preserves. Reserved more for special company, and for Davey, apparently.

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“We’re to have two kinds of jelly…and fruitcake, and Marilla’s famous yellow plum preserves that she keeps especially for ministers…”

-from Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 22


 

“Anne had came home from school the previous evening, to find Marilla away at an Aide meeting, Dora asleep on the kitchen sofa, and Davy in the sitting room closet, blissfully absorbing the contents of a jar of Marilla’s famous yellow plum preserves…”company jam, ” Davy called it…which he had been forbidden to touch.”

-from Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 14

 

Blue Plum Preserves

More of the regular sort, these blue plum preserves were still fit for a king. Or even an Earl, as Anne points out. I imagine that these plums were picked by Marilla from her own tree on the Green Gables farm.

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“Your dinner is in the oven, Anne, and you can get yourself some blue plum preserve out of the pantry.”

-from Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 18


“I daresay even the English earl himself wouldn’t have turned up his aristocratic nose at Marilla’s plum preserves,” said Anne proudly.

-from Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 2


“Anne’s laugh, as blithe and irresistible as of yore, with an added note of sweetness and maturity, rang through the garret. Marilla in the kitchen below, compounding blue plum preserve, heard it and smiled…”

-from Anne’s House of Dreams, Chapter 1


So…what about Marilla’s plum preserves? Well…I happen to have some. Ok I admit it. I cooked and canned them on purpose because of the particular reference to it in the Anne of Green Gables books.

And folks, it was divine.

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Preserves aren’t jam exactly. They are thicker, with peices of fruit left unmashed. Not chunky but not smooth. Very rich, flavorful and good.

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I had a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice tea with my toast and preserves, keeping with the plum theme.

What do you think? Do you like plum preserves? Have you ever tried it? Have you ever made any particular book-themed treat?

~Rachel

Books, Celebrated Authors

Remembering Louisa May Alcott with Favorite Quotes from “Little Women”

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Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott! She was born 185 years ago *today, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was the second oldest of four daughters. Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth and Abigail were the four girls born to Amos and Abigail Alcott.

Louisa May Alcott wrote quite a few books and short stories in her lifetime. Little Women is the most well known of her works and is followed by the books Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

Her contemporaries were such authors as Charles Dickens (1812-70), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), Alexandre Dumas (1802-70) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81). One of my favorite time periods for literature for sure.

Since I posted an in-depth e-book review on The Courtship of Jo March last week, I thought it would be fun to write up a simpler post full of my favorite quotes from Little Women.

Enjoy!

Favorite Quotes from Little Women

From Part 1 (Chapters 1-23)

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“Meg’s high heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but dear me, let us be elegant or die!”

-from Chapter 3


You don’t look a bit like yourself, but you are very nice.”

-from Chapter 9, Sallie to Meg.


I don’t like fuss and feathers.”

-from Chapter 9, Laurie to Meg.

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You’d have nothing but horses, inkstands and novels in yours,” answered Meg petulantly.

Wouldn’t I, though? I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled high with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle-something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day.”

-from Chapter 13


From Part 2 (Chapters 24-47)

“By-and-by Jo roamed away upstairs, for it was rainy, and she could not walk. A restless spirit possessed her, and the old feeling came again, not bitter as it once was, but a sorrowfully patient wonder why one sister should have all she asked, the other nothing.”

-from Chapter 42

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“The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted his father and distracted his mother, for he tried to imitate every machine he saw, and kept the nursery in a chaotic condition, with his “sewin-sheen”-a mysterious structure of string, chairs, clothespins, and spools, for wheels to go “wound and wound”; also a basket hung over the back of a chair, in which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sister, who, with feminine devotion, allowed her little head to be bumped till rescued, when the young inventor indignantly remarked, “Why, Marmar, dat’s my lellywaiter, and me’s trying to pull her up.”

-from Chapter 45 (the antics of John and Meg’s twin children Daisy and Demi).


 

Have you read any books by or about Louisa May Alcott lately? Which novel is your favorite? I’d love to hear about it 😊

~Rachel

*For some reason, WordPress marked my post as 11/30, when I wrote it at 8pm on 11/29, which is Louisa May Alcott’s birthday. Not the 30th.

Books

Book Review: The Courtship of Jo March

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Introduction

In October, I purchased the e-book anniversary edition of The Courtship of Jo March. It was written by Trix Wilkins and released in August of 2017. Before reading, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t like it when my view of a classic is altered. However, I was looking forward to an alternate ending, one that myself and other readers craved.

In this post, I will share a summary, my initial thoughts, as well as my opinion of the major characters, plot and writing style.

You may encounter some spoilers. Fair warning! 🙂

Summary

From GoodReads:

“It’s the classic story of four sisters we’ve come to love, and yet we can’t help but wonder. Why did Jo refuse Laurie? What might Laurie have done on the European Grand Tour? What became of Jo’s writing, Amy’s art, Laurie’s music? Would a school have existed without Aunt March? And could Beth possibly have been saved?

This re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is for all who have ever wondered how things might have worked out differently for the beloved March sisters – the life Beth might have led, the books Jo might have written, the friends they might have made, and the courtship that might have been.”

First Thoughts & Background

First off, I loved the cover design on this anniversary edition. And as I started to read, I was impressed with how the book began and how well the characters almost seamlessly resemble their counterparts in Little Women

Characters (Spoilers)

The characters in this novel are very well done. They were consistent, with only a few exceptions. Trix has 100% done her research here and I was impressed.

Jo

Jo and especially Laurie had very consistent and detailed characters. I thought that Jo appeared softer and less brash, even than her adult self in Little Women.

The way Jo behaved in chapter 11 doesn’t sit well with me. Jo came off as very flirtatious, which is not consistent with the Jo I know. Maybe it was too sudden for me as well. The shift from “just friends” to something a little more seemed a bit over the top for me in the way it was expressed.

So Jo’s dress I am kind of in love with. At first I thought red was a scandalous choice, but recently researched it and found that a deep red color was highly fashionable in the 1870s. But was it entirely proper for Laurie to buy her a dress? All the same, I think it is highly romantic.

It made me smile, and think of the scene when Amy and Laurie are picking roses at Valrosa in Nice, France.

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Laurie

Laurie’s character was portrayed very well. I enjoyed seeing more of how he acted around Jo and away from her (and away from Amy as well). His motives, his speeches and everyday activities matched what I knew of him. I loved what Trix has done here to expand upon his character.

Beth

Beth’s story was beautifully done. Certain parts I wasn’t so sure about, but I did so enjoy her story.

Beth approaching Frank at the concert was not something I expected of Beth. That Beth went to the concert at all suprises me, but Beth could sometimes do surprising things. She possesses a quiet strength.

I still wondered at some of her decisions in the book. Beth was not physically a strong person and she was exceedingly shy. I wonder at the wisdom of her decision.

Would Beth have been so brave as to talk to Frank, alone, in a crowded concert? To accept his hand when Jo dissaproves and her family cautions?

Yet I do see that if Beth’s story changes, every one else’s would come apart.

Plot

As a whole, I thought that the story flowed together nicely. However, the sisters, I felt, were married too soon. Within the first few chapters, all but Jo have been married. It seemed almost too rushed and left me with questions about the husbands that weren’t answered until later.

A Favorite Chapter

There is a proposal in Chapter 6, after Laurie’s graduation, just as it is in the original.

I love the way the proposal scene happened. Much, much, so much better. It ended as I anticipated but the wording was much softer and much more satisfying. My heart didn’t feel ripped out of my chest.

Writing Style

I agree with other reviewers on GoodReads who said there was slightly more modernity here than there would have been in the 1870s. However, for me it wasn’t a deal breaker. I thought the particular instances added to the romance of the story.

On my kindle, the e-book was 243 pages long. Some of the chapters were a bit long, which made it a bit difficult for me to finish a chapter in one sitting.

Also of note is the Pride and Prejudice references tucked away in a few places, like pretty flowers hidden in the pages.

I am a huge Austen fan, as some of you probably know 🙂 🙂

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Conclusion

I really enjoyed reading this book and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Regarding rating, I would give this book 4/5 stars.

I had mild problems with only a few parts of the book, such as portions of Jo and Beth’s stories and the longer chapters.

Overall I was impressed with the level of care and detail that is apparent in the way the characters are portrayed. There are many powerful, romantic and humorous moments which made this book an enjoyable read 🙂

~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~

Visit Trix Wilkin’s blog here to read more about her, her book and view purchasing info for The Courtship of Jo March.

~Rachel

Books, Reflections

Little is Much

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Turkey day approaches. In some ways I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the rush of the holiday season.

Then at other times I just want to tuck into a good book and forget about things for an hour or so. One book out of 10 in my book stack is the Lark Rise to Candleford series, by Flora Thompson.

It is a book that follows the life of a young girl who lives in a tiny hamlet (or village) in England called Lark Rise. Her community is very poor but oddly very happy. It is set in the late 1800s, one of my favorite time periods. Early on in the book I came across one of those quotes that I read over and over.

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“People were poorer and had not the comforts, amusements, or knowledge we have to-day; but they were happier. Which seems to suggest that happiness depends more upon the state of mind-and body perhaps-than upon circumstances and events.”

from Lark Rise, chapter 3, by Flora Thompson

I finished the book a few days ago and it ended with a description of harvest days and feasts. The hard work and sweat and subsequent festivity and joviality.

The scene put me in mind of another feast day, of a story told long ago.

There was a kingdom where dwelled a wealthy King and his grown son, the Prince. The Prince was to be married, to have a wedding feast and the invitations were sent. But those invited responded with scorn and violence. And so the King, enraged, did away with the violent men.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (From Matthew 22:1-10)

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I’ve always pictured this as a beautiful scene. Full of warmth and cheer and happiness. Everybody is there. Young, old, rich, poor, outcasts, knights in shining armor. Everybody. All were there. All were invited in.

And its always put me a little in mind of Thanksgiving.

The goodness, the plenty, the laying aside of differences just to be together and be happy and grateful for the blessing of harvest, and most importantly for the blessing of family.

And at the banquet scene, who was most blessed? The King was The Giver of blessings. And I imagine those who felt least deserving were most blessed. For they had nothing to recommend them to attend the feast of a King. They had little. But little was much.

This story speaks of God’s gift of salvation and grace. It is a gift of much to one who has little. Once upon a time, as a young girl that person was me.

And as I’ve gone through life I’ve seen this beautiful pattern. The times I’ve had less have been the times I’ve had more. Less in the material world. Less comfort maybe. But more room for cheer and love in my heart.

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Life gets simple. And when life is simple, it forces you to look within.

Looking in to see what you value most when you have little.

A simpler life, a shorter budget, it is a gift. So enjoy it. Enjoy your life amidst the harships. The scrimping and saving. The wondering. Enjoy your family and friends, one of life’s purest and greatest gifts. May you be blessed. And well stuffed with stuffing!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to my readers here in the U.S. 🙂

~Rachel

Yes I know it’s early yet to be saying Happy Thanksgiving but if I don’t say it now I’m liable to forget! Mom brain 😛

Books

Book Review: Dawn at Emberwilde

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Many thanks to Rachel Poli for her post “How to Write a Book Review That Matters“. Very helpful, Rachel! Thank-you!

Title: Dawn at Emberwilde

Series: Book #2 in The Treasures of Surrey Novels.

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Publication Date: May 10, 2016

Genre: Romance Fiction

*Rating (out of 5): ⭐⭐⭐

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As I wrote this review I sipped some hibiscus and ginger tea with nettle and cinnamon. Yummy!

 

Introduction

I decided to place this book on hold at my local library after reading 2 other books by Sarah E. Ladd. (The Heiress of Winterwood and A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, both of the Whispers on the Moors series.)

I tried to read The Curiosity Keeper, which was book #1 in The Treasures of Surrey Novels series. I didn’t finish it because the story did not hold my interest. So I wasn’t sure what to think of this second book of the series. But it looked promising. It had that deep, spooky mystery about it that I couldn’t wait to explore.

Plot

The overall plot of this book centers on Miss Isabel Creston. About her past, her strange new life at Emberwilde and the mysterious “Black Forest” that seems to be calling her name. She attempts to unravel her past while planning for her uncertain future. What exactly happened to her mother all those years ago? And who will be the lucky gentleman to whom she can give her heart and hand?

The first 6 chapters I thought were rather slow and I had difficulty getting into the story until talk of the Emberwilde Forest began in chapter 7. Other than that, the book moved at a fairly good pace. Parts of the story I expected and others were a welcome surprise.

I found it a bit odd that Isabel has 2 suitors and yet Colin (or Mr. Galloway) has more limelight. It automatically predisposed me to favor him, so the ending did not suprise me. I saw this as a bit of a weak point in the plot. It was an interesting love triangle but Isabel’s interest in Mr. Bradford did not convince me as he seemed shallow from the start.

“We do not find ourselves in new situations by accident. Oh, no! Remember, with each new dawn to seek guidance, and with each night give gratitude. For there is a divine plan for each of our lives, and a journey, and you have started yours.”

Dawn at Emberwilde, Chapter 7, by Sarah E. Ladd

Characters

I thought the main characters were likeable and believable. There seems to be more depth to Mr. Colin Galloway than to Isabel’s character. Perhaps because of the emotions he secretly has and the details of his past that seem to be absent in Isabel’s life. Isabel doesn’t have a lot of depth, but enough to be likeable. I found I wanted to know more about her past and her parents than the book provided.

Colin was my favorite character but I also liked Mr. Robert McKinney. He had that burly angry Scotsman persona about him that I found funny.

I thought the villians were carefully constructed. It was easy to dislike them and Mrs. Margaret Ellison especially raised my ire. She was oddly likeably dislikeable. Her character was so overbearing and selfish that it was remarkably easy to dislike her from the moment she was introduced.

I did not especially like Lizzie Creston (Isabel’s younger sister) or Miranda. Lizzie I felt was whiny much of the time and often got into trouble. Miranda’s character seemed sly and manipulating. Her character did add interest to the story but I didn’t care for her.

Writing Style

I really love Sarah E. Ladd’s writing style. It isn’t as detailed as Julie Klassen’s writing style, but it isn’t lacking in detail either. There is a good balance of description and conversation. I liked it that the chapters were generally shorter and centered on one character at a time (mostly) instead of going back and forth within the chapter. This made it easier for me to focus on the story.

Conclusion

Overall, I really loved this book. Ladd is quickly becoming one of my favorite Regency romance authors. Although the beginning of the book was slow, the remainder did not disappoint with more than a few mysteries and various interesting challenges for the character(s). I liked some characters more than others, but none of them “spoiled” the book for me. A lovely novel. I look forward to reading the next one in the series.

~Rachel

*After mulling it over, I decided to switch my initial rating of 4 stars to 3. There were parts I loved but a lot of parts that I did not enjoy/had issues with.

Books, Celebrated Authors

Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl! {7 Lesser Known Facts About His Life}

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Roald Dahl is easily one of the greatest children’s book authors of all time. Because yesterday was his birthday, (he would have been 101!) I wanted to write up a few lesser-known facts about his life.

Many people know that Dahl was Norwegian. That he was zany and fun and a bit wild. His books are in a league all their own and I believe his unique life experiences inspired a bit of his style.

7 Lesser Known Facts About Roald Dahl

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1. His mother inspired him.

Like Theodor Geisel (or Dr. Seuss), Dahl’s inspiration began with his mother. Sofie Magdalene often told her children lively tales from Norse mythology. This, along with a 20+ year span of correspondence with his mother enabled his storytelling skills to take root.

2. He faced deep struggles in his life.

And he persevered. When he was just 4 years old, he lost his father and a sister.

In 1960, his infant son struggled to overcome severe head injuries after his stroller was hit by a taxi.

In 1962, his oldest child Olivia passed away. She had developed complications from the measles.

Then in 1964 his wife Patricia suddenly had a stroke. She was pregnant at the time and faced a long recovery. Her doctor doubted she would make it through but with her husband’s help she made a full recovery. And with that recovery came the birth of their 5th child (Lucy).

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It was during these trying times that his first children’s books were published. James and the Giant Peach was written in 1961 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964.

Good writers don’t let personal struggles stop their dreams from becoming a reality.

3. He found faith in God difficult.

Dahl struggled with understanding faith and religion after the death of his daughter Olivia. A deep sadness overtook him during this time and he turned away from God and religion in general.

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4. A severe head injury jumpstarted his writing career.

In 1939, when he was 23, Dahl enlisted in the RAF (Royal Air Force) at the onset of WWII. But in 1940, Dahl crash landed his plane and sustained severe head injuries. This resulted in headaches and blackouts which meant he was unfit for flying.

Though discouraged, I love Dahl’s humorous take on the situation:

“…I got a cracked skull which seemed to qualify me for being sent to Washington. There I began to write some stories in the evenings. Now I have become quite excited about it and writing stories is the only thing that I want to do.”

-from the jacket of Over to You, by Roald Dahl (1945)

5. He got to hang out with a lot of cool people.

After his life as a pilot came to an end, he went to Washington D.C to work for the British Embassy. His official title was Assistant Air Attaché. Essentially it was his job to get the American public excited and supportive of the war effort.

At any rate, he rose to popularity pretty quickly. He was charismatic and quickly made connections with Vice President Henry Wallace as well as the Roosevelts. Here is an awesome picture of Dahl with Ernest Hemingway.

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6.  He lived in the U.S. for many years.

Because Dahl was a British writer, I assumed he lived mostly in the UK. Not so. From 1942-45 and then from 1947-1962 he lived in Washington and New York.  He had a few jobs that kept him busy but he also married an American woman (Patricia Neal) in 1953 and they raised a family together before they moved to England.

7. He did more than just write kids books.

Dahl proved to be surprisingly versatile as an author. He wrote for The Saturday Evening Post, published over 60 short stories for adults, a book of poetry, two screenplays (The James Bond film You Only Live Twice and everyone’s favorite movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), and he also wrote for a few tv programs. All in addition to the 10 children’s books we know and love today.

~Rachel

~~~

Sources:

Love From Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother, edited by Donald Sturrock

http://www.roalddahl.com

Books, Lessons In Literature

5 Things Meg March Taught Me About Being a Wife & Mother {from author Louisa May Alcott}

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Honestly speaking…I don’t like Meg. I love Alcott’s Little Women. But I’ve always had a fondness for Jo. She seems more likeable for her blunders and awkwardness. Meg is kindof…prim, proud and careful about everything. Perhaps being the eldest such things were ingrained in her mind.

But even though Meg is not my favorite I was in for a shock when I began part 2. When I read chapters 28 and 38 I thought, “My goodness. Our stories are remarkably alike.”

Join me as I thumbed through these much loved pages to find 5 common, yet unique pieces of advice that Louisa May Alcott has hidden within this most beloved novel.

5 Things Meg (March) Brooke Taught Me About Being a Wife and Mother

 

Cook What They Love

At the beginning of her marriage, Meg struggled with cooking. She made too much, or made too little and didn’t know quite what to make.

“She was too tired, sometimes even to smile, John grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty dishes and ungratefully demanded plain fare.”

Little Women, Chapter 28

It took Meg awhile to find what worked for her family and how much was just enough. She had to budget wisely.

 

On Saying “I’m sorry”.

One of my most favorite parts of Little Women is when Meg decides to can currants. She attempts to make currant jelly (with currants harvested from her own garden no less!) with disastrous results.

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Meg is distraught. And even more so when her husband comes home from work with a friend to stay to supper! Everything is a mess. Meg can’t understand why her husband John could think she could make supper in her sorry state. John doesn’t understand why his wife can’t just put forth a bit of effort and make them a small supper.

And then he appears to laugh at Meg for getting caught up in her failed jelly. This proves more than she can take and she declines to make supper.

Long story short, she remembers her mother’s words of advice and everything is made right when she makes up her mind that

“(She) will be the first to say, ‘Forgive me, John’.”

 

How To Live Within Your Means

It was Meg’s job to “keep the books”. She dutifully kept track of every penny she spent. Meg could be frugal when she had mind to be. But sometimes it got to her.

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Meg was often in the company of Sallie Moffat. She was a good friend but a rich one. Meg on the other hand was not rich and felt it. She was not envious but merely hated being pitied.

Because of this she bought “trifles” here and there until the trifles increased to the point of a length of not-so-trifling silk fabric.

It was $50 then. Hard to figure what that translates to today with inflation and whatnot. But apparently it was worth as much as a man’s new winter coat.

Because that’s exactly what her husband denied himself because of Meg’s frivolous purchase. In the end, Meg sets all things right. Sells the silk to Sallie, buys her man his coat. Peace restored and wisdom gleaned.

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The Babies and the Beloved

The question of affection is a common issue. One I have struggled with many a time. It can be so hard making sure everyone gets your time, your love.

Meg found this out too.

She made her twins, Demi and Daisy, her world. She didn’t cook (they hired an Irish lady for that) and she was always in the nursery. When the babies stopped teething, stopped needing her so much, then she turned to her husband.

But he was not there. He was at a friend’s house. An environment that was welcoming, friendly and most importantly not lonely.

John had not given up on his wife, he had waited 6 months for things to change. But because of Meg’s decision be a solo parent, she and John were drifting apart.

The solution? With Marmee’s advice, Meg was determined to 1) ask for her husband’s help with the kids 2) make time for John in the evenings and chat about his interests and 3) start going out more with John on dates!

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On Taking Care of Yourself & Accepting Help

How easy it is to not do these things. And how quickly it can destroy you. Self-care and the occasional help are vitally important as a mother. All people need this. We are not solo beings but creatures who need people. Need community, support and advice. We need each other.

Meg here relies a lot on her mother. She gives advice and is a seemingly bottomless pit of motherly wisdom. She reminds Meg that Hannah is ready and waiting to be a help with the kids.

I want to say, “Duh Meg of course you need help girl! You’ve got twin babies!” But I know it takes a lot of reminders for me to get it too.

Pockets of alone time, girl time, excercise time even grocery shopping time (haha); these are all times that are necessary for a good mom to become a healthier, stronger and even better one.

 

Conclusion

Meg is a good girl, really. She’s smart and gentle and giving. She still seems a bit too perfect to me but I loved looking at all the issues we have in common. I wonder if Alcott knew that 149 years later, people would still identify with and greatly adore her little book?

~Rachel

Books, Children's Books

Toddler Favorite Reads: Year 3

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Ah me how time flies. One minute I’m collecting board books to read to my babbling baby boy. The next he’s ready to waltz off to preschool.

I wave people off when they tell me those oft repeated words…

“They grow up so fast.”

But it’s true. So desperately true. And here I am, thinking of year 3. The last year before school. The year that ended only recently. The little yellow brick road of sunshine (ok there were tears and frustrations too) that comes to a halt oh so soon.

Preschool. Can you believe it?

I find it hard to believe still. Ooh boy. If you have any tips on the toddler to preschool transition, I’m all ears!

Moving on.

Here are my son J’s favorite books from year 3. Most he still asks for today 🙂

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1. My Peekaboo Fun: Shapes, Colors and Opposites, by YoYo Books

This one is a lot of fun. There are lots of flaps to look behind. The adult reads the question on each page and the answer is found under the flap.

-This one was given to us.

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2. Scuffy the Tugboat (Little Golden Book), by Gertrude Crampton

A true classic. This one is such a good one for little boys who love to go out adventuring. The artwork is lovely and the text not so long as to completely lose my son’s interest. Scuffy is an ambitious little tug boat who discovers where he is truly meant to be.

-One of my relatives found this book for cheap at an Antique Mall.

3. Truck Stop, by Anne Rockwell

Truck Stop is all about the comings and goings of a family owned truck stop “right beside the main highway heading north and south”. It goes through the motions of morning routine and describes the personalities and vehicles of all the regulars. And there is a mystery to be solved…where is Green Gus?

J loves this book because of the trucks (of course) but also because of the emphasis on the mom-dad-son relationship that I think makes J feel special.

-Free from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

4. Max and the Tag-Along Moon, by Floyd Cooper

Here is one of J’s favorite bedtime books. He loooovves his Grandpa and this book helps him shift his focus from missing Grandpa to seeing the moon as a symbol of Grandpa’s love and drawing comfort from its constancy.

-Also free from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

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5. Shark Attack! (DC Super Friends), by Billy Wrecks

Batman and sharks. Need I say more? We are currently in the midst of a superhero craze. And honestly who doesn’t love Batman? The storyline moves fast yet is simple enough for J to follow. Suspenseful and fun.

-A library book.

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6. The Wild West (Disney Pixar Toy Story)

This one was difficult to find a link for. I bought it at Dollar Tree. But there are a few listed on eBay currently. My kids go crazy for this book and as you can see it is well loved.

This book is based on a scene from the Toy Story movie #3 (I think). A very fast paced adventure. Can Woody and Jesse outsmart One-Eyed Bart? Who will save the orphans? And how will they escape the army of monkeys so they can defeat the Evil Dr. Porkchop??

~~~

Thus ends my series of favorite toddler books. If you want to check out year 1 and year 2, you can read about those lists here and here.

Happy reading! And at the risk of sounding like one of those annoying older moms…hold onto those babies. They do grow up so fast 😢

~Rachel

Books

Book Review: The Homemade Housewife

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Introduction

This e-book was written and published this May by Mrs. Kate Singh. Because I loved it and found it to be a valuable resource I wanted to post a review on my blog. I will share a summary, things I loved, a small critique, and little tidbits from my favorite chapters.

Summary

This book is a marvelous collection of thrifty tips and wholesome advice. The chapters cover topics like decorating, cleaning, self-care for the mama, urban farming, parenting resources, homeschooling and ideas for free fun.

About the Author

Kate Singh writes both motivational and fictional books to inspire and entertain. She currently resides in California with her family.

Visit the author’s blog here.

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Review

What I Loved…

The reasons I really enjoyed this e-book are similar to the reasons I loved 2 other books of Kate’s. (I read The Lazy and Cheap Housewife and The Funky and Frugal Housewife previously.) From the first, I saw that this book was relatable. Kate is honest about the fact that she is no Martha Stewart and doesn’t want to be. I breathed a sigh of relief. Me too.

I loved her encouraging tone that was coupled with her unique and fun style. I love things that have a different slant and this book definitely falls into that category.

But what I loved most? Her books are built around this tiny seed of an idea. This belief that I could live a full and happy life while practicing frugality. This intrigued me.

Not So Much…

I can only think of two areas for constructive criticism. They are minor things but I feel that 1) a bit less repetition and 2) a bit more organization would improve readability. The repetition increased the length of the book, which was 3,368 pages on my kindle. I loved the huge collection of all things thrifty but there was quite a bit to go through. The chapters and headings were good but sometimes there were parts that were hard to follow because of a change of topic.

My Favorite Chapters

My favorites were chapters 6 (care for the mama) and 8 (about gardening). But I also enjoyed parts of chapters 3 (food), 5 (cleaning), 9 (kids) and 10 (free fun). This book is a compilation of tips from all of Kate’s previous books so some things I had read already. But regardless of this and the fact that I’ve been practicing frugal living for 5+ years I still found quite a few new things to put into practice.

Chapter 6 is mostly about self care, which I found to be so relevant and helpful. Kate titled this chapter “Beauty for the Lady of the House and Ways to Avoid Burn Out”. There are many helpful ideas about exercise, primping, investment in hobbies, me-time breaks and ways to make homemaking easier.

I loved reading about boredom busters and ways to reduce burnout. There were ideas for staying emotionally and physically healthy and many ways to improve one’s image with little cash.

The part about self-love and pride went straight to my heart as I remembered that yes, I can still dress up and look nice even though I don’t go much of anywhere. This quote also spoke to me:

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All things gardening was covered in chapter 8. I found this particularly helpful as I had just planted my garden when I read this book in early June. I loved the tips about where to find free gardening supplies, re-growing plants and how to make compost without fancy equipment. I love gardening and saving money in this area makes me so happy. I’m learning how to get the most of my plants by dividing and regrowing them. It’s a lot of fun 🙂

And here are a few things I loved about chapters 3, 5, 9 and 10.

Chapter 3 is all about food and the kitchen. I made a mental note of the snacking tips, ways to make meals healthier and reminders of cheap and healthy ingredients. I was suprised to learn I could save money on cat food without compromising too much on quality.

Chapter 5 pertains to cleaning. It’s a challenge for me to make cleaning fun but Kate inspired me anew. I was (and am still) going through a decluttering process here at home. Kate had a lot to say about this and helped me to see it as an easier job instead of a never endingly difficult one.

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Chapter 9 reminded me of what kids really need for health and happiness. There is a lot in this chapter. Minimalist baby care and food, homeschooling help, fun kids activities, preschool ideas, help establishing a first aide kit, preventative care and ways to make birthday parties cheap and fun are all included here. Sometimes I forget how little kids really need. How much they love simple things. And how I’m killing it as a mother even though most of the time I don’t see it. 

Lastly, chapter 10 was full of great suggestions for places to go and have fun without spending much $. There were so many activities…some that we do now (like the library) and others that I hadn’t thought about in awhile (such as a picnic at the park). Some of these ideas are for the family and others are more geared towards just the mama.

Conclusion

This book is full of so much goodness. It was motivating and encouraging to read. An excellent resource for any homemaker practicing or seeking out ideas for frugal living 🙂

Check out The Homemade Housewife along with Kate’s other helpful books here. All of her books are $0.99, which I love!

~Rachel

Celebrated Authors

Remembering Thoreau: That Odd Man From Massachusetts

 

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I just noticed that yesterday, exactly 200 years ago, a man by the name of Henry David Thoreau was born.

Which is interesting, because I just finished reading a book about him. And then I started reading Walking again a few nights ago. And I wondered…

Who was he? What was he about?

He was a poet. A naturalist (he had an intense love and respect of nature), transcendentalist and abolitionist.

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If you want to learn more about transcendentalism, I recommend checking out dictionary.com, as well as this article.

Friends and fellow transcendentalists included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Amos Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott (father and daughter), and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Amongst these folks his work was accepted.

But Thoreau was not always understood by his fellow man. Those who lived in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts saw him as a loafer, didn’t think he contributed much to society.

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Which was fair enough. Because although he was a Harvard grad, he didn’t have any specific employment or job title. Although he did have some work as surveyor and handyman for a time.

But that wasn’t his passion. He loved to study nature. In Walking (published after his death) his level of detail and study of the natural world is amazing. But passion and paycheck don’t always intersect.

Enter Emerson. Emerson was a close friend who helped Thoreau further his dreams. He was the one who provided the land on which Thoreau built his famous Walden cabin. Here he could write and dream without fear or impediment.

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I am so intrigued by the life he lived here. He built a little house (only 10’x15′!) and for 2 years he had this experiment where he lived such a simple and minimalistic life. He farmed and lived off of the land. He studied nature and walked for hours each day. Man that sounds so relaxing!

His book Walden (also called Life In The Woods) covers this time period.

The remainder of his life he spent exploring parts of Maine and Canada and recording his thoughts. He saw himself as a “reporter in nature” and thought it his responsibility to observe and record what he could.

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He is also well-known for his anti-government essay entitled Civil Disobedience. This essay was sparked by the night he spent in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax. The theme is peaceful protest against blindly following unfair governmental laws and regulations. This particular work is part of the inspiration behind a few of the advocates for peace that we know today, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

“In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and the Iliad, in all the scriptures and mythologies, not learned in the schools, that delights us.”

-from Walking, by Henry David Thoreau

The abolition of slavery was likewise important to Thoreau. He wrote the essay “Slavery In Massachusetts” and the speech “A Plea For Capt. John Brown” both in defense of abolishing slavery, one of the evils of his day.

For a man obsessed with all things nature, he was surprisingly humanitarian.

I picture Thoreau as a bit of an oddball. No wife and kids, no real job, writing about things and issues that didn’t gain acceptance till after his death on May 6th, 1862.

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He was different, but he didn’t let that stop him. His differences defined him. Like many authors, his works didn’t become popular until after his death.

He was a quiet, simple man who knew what he believed and stood by it. That quiet, odd man from Massachusetts.

~Rachel


 

For further reading:

Online:

Henry David Thoreau

The Power Of Peace Thoreau, Gandhi, And King

Photographs of Walden Pond and Concord, Mass

 

Books & e-books:

Henry David Thoreau: American Naturalist, by Peter Anderson

Walking (free e-book)

Walden (free e-book)

Books, Lessons In Literature

Friendship (Is Greater Than) Politics

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Earlier this year I discovered something unexpected about a beloved book series. I was reading Anne of Avonlea and came across an interesting passage. Given certain current events that occurred at the time, my mind was primed to catch all things political. And so I read…

“Diana’s father was a Liberal, for which reason she and Anne never discussed politics. Green Gables folk had always been Conservatives.”

(Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 18)

But are they the only ones? I picked apart the series to find out. Lets start in the beginning.

Marilla and Mrs. Rachel Lynde

How about these two? Marilla and Mrs. Rachel were two very unique individuals who proved to be opposites in more than a few ways.

In Anne of Green Gables, it states that it was likely because (and in spite of) these differences that their friendship remained through the years.

In chapter 18, they attend a political meeting to see the Premier (political leader running for office). Mrs. Lynde attends purely because she was “a red-hot politician” and deemed her presence to be necessary. She went with her Conservative friend, (Marilla) even though the Premier was decidedly not on her “side”.

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But through everything, they supported each other. Death of family, loss of health, money troubles…even raising two rambunctious (ok only one was squirrelly) twins together. Friendship endures through the ages. Through life’s trials. Marilla and Mrs. Rachel were so different to start with that I can almost see them laughing and waving their hands in dismissal at the idea of politics.

Anne and Diana

Anne and Diana have one of the most iconic friendships of all time. I mean I close my eyes and I see all the crazy things they went through. All the fun and laughs. Chasing after (what they thought was) Anne’s Jersey cow, Diana getting drunk from currant wine (decidedly not cordial), jumping on Miss Josephine Barry in the spare room (by mistake of course). They also had a few times when they didn’t quite see eye-to-eye.

One such event occurs in Anne of Avonlea, chapter 18. The girls are on a trip to buy a willow-ware platter from the Copp girls, who live on Tory Road in Spencervale. On their journey, Anne asks how the Tory Road got its name. Diana gives an explanation and a jab at the Tory (Conservative) government. But Anne makes no reply. And they continue on as they always had. And Anne gets stuck in a duck house roof. And Diana stays faithfully by her side. And they get the willow-platter! And no more mention is made of politics for Anne and Diana. Life goes on.

We are more than our political views.

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Anne and Gilbert

Another duo worth noting is Anne and Gilbert. But they got married! Yes. And once they had opposing views. In a heart-to-heart talk with Matthew, Anne says she is glad that she and Matthew are Conservatives “because Gil-because some of the boys in school are Grits.” However, later in Anne’s House of Dreams, chapter 35, Gilbert is described as “an ardent Conservative”. So did he change for love? Was it a passing fancy? A means to raise Queen Anne’s ire? Perhaps we will never know 🙂 Are similar views a necessity in marriage?

More Characters

How about some of the others from Anne’s House of Dreams? Captain Jim, Cornelia and the newly married Blythes were thick as thieves and yet did not have everything in common. Captain Jim=Liberal. Cornelia=Conservative. As were the Blythes. And still they did not let their political mindset get in the way of friendship.

Many a late-night chat and playful banter did these four have. There were jokes and there was teasing. And yet their friendship was marked by a distinct absence of discord. In this day and age, I find that profound.

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Lastly, we have the unlikely couple which is Cornelia Bryant and Marshall Elliot. Cornelia is definitely Conservative. Mr. Elliot, on the other hand was so strongly Liberal that he refused to shave or cut his hair for 18 years, when his political party came back into power. I’m sure he was a sight and I guess a girl has her pride!

Cornelia’s character makes me laugh. I find it so funny that a good haircut was all that kept her from marrying Mr. Marshall Elliot. I wonder if their political differences added stress or simply a welcome contrast to their lives?

Conclusion

Reading these passages really made me think. Here in the U.S. things have not been smooth sailing on the political front. But the harsh words, the protests…the spite. Is it necessary? What happened to polite disagreement? To friendly banter? To respect?

I wish so much that we had more of that. But it starts with one. It starts with me. I have to be willing to mix with those who don’t see things as I do. To be kind. And yes even seek out friendship from those from other political groups. Food for thought.

What do you think of this approach to politics?

~Rachel

Books, Children's Books

Toddler Favorite Reads: Year 2

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Shortly after I wrote Toddler {Summer} Favorite Books: Year 1, I learned that I was pregnant. I remember being constantly exhausted until I hit the Golden Age of pregnancy (AKA the second trimester). And then, you know, shortly after it was back to exhaustion-land which seemed to stretch for quite some time until my daughter was 4 or so months old. Long live sleep. Long live naps.

It was during this 9-month time period that I devoted as much time as I could to nurturing my son. Before our baby girl made a visible appearance. Before the dance began of dividing my attention between my children.

I knew I would do my best, but deep down I also knew that a newborn would have heavy needs (read: demands). The thought of it made my heart ache, and still does.

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This list of books are 6 that we own and love. During the age of 2, they were books that I remember reading over and over. And he would still ask for them the next day!

This is for you, J. The memories tied to these books still make me smile.

 

Favorites From Year 2

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1. Hop On Pop, by Dr. Seuss

This book is a well-known favorite. The title makes me smile. I can remember reading this one as a child and how my brothers and I laughed over it. It has simple sentences throughout that help toddlers learn language and sentence structure.

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2. Oscar’s New Neighbor, by Teddy Slater Margulie (Little Golden Book)

About this time J was still in his Sesame Street phase. One night, he asked for an Elmo book. I asked if we could read this “new” Sesame Street book. From then on he loved it! It is a story about Oscar and his new neighbor, a girl grouch named Germaine. They have some interesting conversations and Oscar learns a valuable lesson. I think J really enjoyed the emotional complexity as well as the happy ending.

 

3. Jake Baked The Cake, by B.G. Hennessy

Sometimes you find a book that is a joy for parent and child. Jake Baked The Cake is that for us. It is wonderfully romantic, yet centers on Jake, the wedding cake baker, so it isn’t overly so. It has short, rhyming text and beautifully illustrated artwork.

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4. Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney

Ok so this one annoys me a little bit. But J loves it and it helps us to understand each other. The Llama Llama books are a bit silly, yet always teach a valuable truth. This one is about bedtime and the balance of mama’s tasks with a child that needs “just one more thing” before bed.

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5. I Am A Rainbow, by Dolly Parton

Oh this book! He wanted to read it over and over and over! He loved books that talked about emotions. This one combines emotions with different colors. I love how each emotion is gently explained. There is an emphasis placed on positive emotions, and yet other emotions (such as sadness) are not portrayed as wrong. I think this book helps a child to understand why they feel a certain way. It helps me too. Sometimes I would forget that the little things meant a lot to him.

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6. Pup Pack Power, published by Bendon (board book)

I actually love reading this one. J started getting into Paw Patrol at this time and this book helped us learn the names of the Paw Patrol crew. Handy little reference guide 🙂

For our kids books, we’ve found that the best way to save money on books is to shop at the smaller, more obscure used bookstores as well as sales that are organized by our local library.

Two of these books we received through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which I heartily recommend, if you live in an area that qualifies. The program ensures your child has a free new book delivered monthly until age 5.

Library sales are awesome. Children’s books are typically the cheapest, usually running as low as 10¢. And it’s always fun to scout out different used book stores. Some of them will even offer some kind of a credit system. You can donate books you no longer need for a credit of a % off your next purchase. Kinda cool! Hope you enjoyed this volume of our favorite toddler reads. More to come in the future! (Update: 8/17/17 my last toddler favorites book list…for J…is now complete. You can read it here.)

~Rachel

Books, Children's Books

Toddler {Summer} Favorite Books: Year 1

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It hit me today. Square between the eyes. Sometimes I forget just how special my son is to me and how very much I love him.

It was a bit of a rough morning. Getting ready to go out was quite interesting. My child has a new found love of the toilet. And he did not hesitate to show it as I was shampooing my hair under the bathtub faucet…you know those moments. Sometimes I just want to shout, “I am a bona fide manager of a crazy house!” And then you clean up, the moment passes and you move on with life.

When we got back home he was grouchy. Hungry and tired. And truth be known, so was I. So we ate our lunch. Or he did. Sortof. He nibbled and I stopped eating to lay him down for a much needed nap. He wanted me to sit with him while he fell asleep. From experience I know that could take ages. So I went back to eating. He cried, which is not unusual, but typically does not last long.

Then I was filled with compassion for my dear son. Who wanted only me to comfort him. Only his mother to soothe him and love him. I left the leftovers of our lunch on the table and did something I don’t often do. I crawled into his crib. I laid next to him until he fell asleep.

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And then I realized. I don’t know much about being a mother, but I have learned two things. There are definite, no-fail ways to bond with your child when they are little. One is to crawl into their crib when they are very distressed. Another is to read to them while they sit on your lap. I don’t think there is a child in this world that doesn’t like being read to.

Reading is such a powerful, beautiful thing. Now I am a book nerd, so I’m rather partial. But you can’t argue that reading is full of goodness on so many levels.

So I would like to share some of our favorite books. And I would like to thank my local library for their summer reading program. It gives me so much motivation to read new books to Baby J.

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5 of Our Most Favorite Books

 

1. My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor has been a long time favorite. This is a board book. It gives a lot of accurate details about farm animals. Also, the wording is catchy and the artwork is beautiful.

 

2. Your Kind of Mommy by Marjorie Blain Parker is one that is so dear to me. One of those books that helps you get back to how special you are as a mommy. Really nice on those hard days! Its sweet and simple and will give you the warm fuzzies.

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3.The Berenstain Bears’ Dinosaur Dig by Jan & Mike Berenstain is a fairly new one we’ve tried but Baby J wants to read it all the time! It actually has quite a bit of text, but somehow he sits still and listens very intently. He loves dinosaurs lately so I believe this is why. Plus I love the Bearenstein Bears. It brings up a lot of childhood nostalgia. Watching the cartoons at my Grandma’s..reading all the books. And they always have positive messages in the books.

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4. The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is another dinosaur book. I’m actually not too sure why J likes this one. I think the illustrations are a bit goofy. But the text rhymes a bit and it flows well. Plus J likes the part where the Mine-o-saur spills the snacks on the floor. He will always point it out and say uh-oh. The ending is really nice too. A good book for promoting sharing 🙂

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5. Here are two books but they belong in the same entry. Wow! Ocean!  and Wow! America! by Robert Neubecker are two books that have less text and more visual info. They are responsible for teaching my son the word “wow!”. The ocean book we currently are borrowing from the library. Really good one for summer. Full of lots of details to discuss and point out.

There you have it! 6 of our favorite summertime books.