books + reading

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books for a 4-Year-Old)

Edgar continues to love to read. Jonas is liking books more and more, but I gotta say – the books get way better as the kids get older. The books Edgar likes tend to be a little more creative and interesting. I genuinely enjoy each of the books on this list.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima. Such a great story with a sweet and fun plot.

A Whale In The Bathtub by Kylie Westaway. Edgar is super duper into whales lately. Like, really into whales. Like, he hasn’t been talking much about trucks lately, and I never thought I’d see that day. This book is super cute and fun – the title sort of gives away the plot.

Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett. See above – we are REALLY INTO WHALES lately. This book is so fun and funny for kids and for grown-ups.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. This is a fun story with a great message about not making assumptions about who someone is on the inside based on what they look like on the outside.

Fire Truck v. Dragon by Chris Barton. I’ve written previously about Edgar’s love of and obsession with another book by Chris Barton, Shark v. Train. This book is similar, but with a different silly twist.

McToad Mows Tiny Island by Tom Angleberger. So we still like trucks a lot, and this book is a dream for any kid who loves vehicles. ALL the winners are include – planes, lawn mowers, helicopters, ships. It’s super cute and lovable.

88 Instruments by Chris Barton. Another unique and fun story by the author of Shark Vs. Train. Very different; still awesome.

This post doesn’t have as much summary as I usually strive for, but Edgar’s almost four and a half and I need to start working on his next list of recommendations. Happy reading, everyone!

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com
books + reading

Jonas’s Faves (Best Books for a 2-Year-Old)

I started writing posts about Edgar’s favorite books when he was about six months old. I decided to do so as a resource for other moms, and also as a memory keeper for us. I don’t have the best memory, so the blog is a really good memory holder for me. I love remembering that Edgar’s two first favorite books were The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin and Five Little Pumpkins. Because, really, what was the deal with pumpkins? It was February when he started getting into them – MONTHS from Halloween and fall festivities.

But, I digress.

stopped writing these Best Books post after Edgar was 22 months old. It wasn’t for any particular reason; I didn’t decide to stop, I just fell out of the habit of publishing those posts.

Now, I’ve decided to re-commit to writing these posts. AND HERE IS THE COOL PART: Jonas is now 2 years old. So that means I’m now picking these posts back up JUST where I left off. So someday, this blog will have a plethora of book recommendations covering from six months old to until I stop doing these posts, which may be never. YOU’RE WELCOME, PARENTS!

In all seriousness, I really believe there are enjoyable books for EVERYBODY – even those who aren’t die hard book lovers. And I get so much joy out of writing tiny reviews of the books my boys love. Here are a few that Jonas (age 2) loves currently:

Phoenix Goes To School by Michelle Finch and Phoenix Finch. This book is about a school-aged transgender girl; she explains being transgender in easy-to-understand language, and she tells the story of her first day of school. (SPOILER ALERT: she’s nervous but finds that she is accepted and befriended as herself.) It is such a sweet book, and both my boys love it.

Where Is Baby’s Valentine? and Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz. To be honest – these aren’t MY favorite books. But little kids seem to adore them. They are lift-the-flap, which I hate, because often the kids who like to lift the flap aren’t the most dexterous and end up ripping the library book and costing you a fine. (TRUE STORY.)

Do Not Bring Your Dragon To The Library by Julie A. Gassman. SO CUTE. So fun.

Frosty The Snowman by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson. Just a simple book with the lyrics to the well-known song. My boys have both seemed to love books that can be sung to them. This one has actually been a hit since Christmas.

Pouch! by David Ezra Stein. If you have a kid anywhere between 2 and 5, get this book immediately. It is adorable, features baby kangaroos, and is one of those little kid books that seems to be a hit with adults as well; every adult I know who’s read it has loooooved it.

One Love by Cedella Marley. This is a book with the lyrics (adapted) from Bob Marley’s popular song. Super simple and sweet.

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake. I find this book hilarious; Edgar does, too. I can’t tell if Jonas totally understands why the book is funny, but he sits and listens to the entire thing. It’s not long – none of these are, since Jonas typically won’t sit still for a longer book. A hit with kids and adults.

Llama Llama Sand & Sun by Anna Dewdney. I love the Llama Llama series. I really enjoy books with a rhyming flow throughout; it’s soothing for the kids, and for me, too.

Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. I really like Mem Fox’s books a lot. We’ve read a bunch and they have all been well-received by Edgar. Really helps if you start to get progressively more distressed and angrier as this particular book progresses, Jonas looooves that.

Happy reading from me and Jonas!

books in black wooden book shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

books + reading · goals

Educating Myself + Getting Things Done

My plan for 2020 was to have a theme for each month, and to publish blog posts related to the theme. But, as I discovered, that doesn’t really work for me at this time in my life. My blogging this year is less planned out and intentional – it’s more, What exactly is happening in this crazy 2020 world this week that I need to process through writing?

Once I let go of the possibility of sticking to a theme, it’s been interesting to be reminded of what they were. They were GREAT. And for September, the theme I chose way back in December 2019 was Education + Awareness.

The funny thing is – the reason I chose Education + Awareness as a theme was that this was an area I cared about deeply but was struggling to develop. I’ve written often about my struggle to read nonfiction books. I constantly write down titles and even check them out of the library, but I am always more likely to pick up a novel than a nonfiction book, even if I sincerely want to increase my knowledge about a specific topic.

I also knew that I wanted to increase my involvement with community activism, service, and politics. I chose September as the month for this focus because I knew I’d be motivated and energized due to the approaching election in November.

Then this spring, with the world shut down due to the pandemic and the civil uprisings calling out for racial justice, I found myself more motivated and connected than ever before. I was able to connect with my local chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) and through my work with them I’ve been learning, growing, and contributing to local and national movements. I’ve been text banking and writing postcards and letters to support voter registration, vote by mail, and Democratic candidates for office.

Additionally, I’ve finally been able to push through my resistance to nonfiction reading; I’ve read or listened to a bunch of the books on my list. I also realized, with the help of a friend, that books are not the only way to educate myself about a topic, which seemed reeeeal obvious once it was pointed out but often had not occurred to me in the past. For example, I’ve been trying to learn more about housing segregation, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to reading The Color Of Law by Richard Rothstein in its entirety. So I’ve been listening to podcasts that feature interviews with Rothstein – i.e., getting the gist of his book without reading all 368 pages. I’ve done the same with articles; I read a few chapters of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, but then found I had to put it down to concentrate on other books. But I did some googling and found a few articles by Michelle Alexander; that helped me to educate myself on her subject (mass incarceration of Black men) without pressuring myself to finish the book right now. (Hoping to get back to it at some point, for sure.)

So, through a series of unpredictable circumstances, my original goals for September 2020 have been largely achieved already, and I’m sincerely grateful.

With the school year starting, one of my big worries is how I’ll maintain my commitments and involvements now that my day job has to fit back into my life. I have a feeling that certain things will have to take a backseat for a while, but I want to be careful and intentional about the choices I make, and I want to keep family, service, and writing at the center of my life. I’m glad to have a mantra – slow it all down – and I’ve been aware of this coming change all summer, and trying to be mindful of how much responsibility I have capacity for at each moment. 

I’m not happy about events that have occurred this year. I’m horrified by the murders of unarmed Black citizens, and I’m deeply concerned about the losses and changes we’re experiencing as a country related to the pandemic. It sometimes feels awkward to be grateful during a year like this. But I am grateful, nonetheless. I’m grateful because I feel connected and purposeful and aware. I’m grateful because I’ve made progress with my ability to educate myself, which was something that has frustrated me for a while. I feel guilty that I haven’t done more, sooner – like, why was I not phone banking four years ago, and why didn’t I find a group like SURJ sooner? Then I remember that the guilt helps no one, and I set aside and try to figure out the next right thing to do. And there’s always a next right thing to do.

 

 

 

 

books + reading

What We’re Reading Lately (Kids Edition)

One of the byproducts of the current civil rights movement happening in our country is a plethora of reading lists being shared on social media.

I love a good book list. My kids are 3 and 1, and we haven’t talked a lot about race yet in their lives. I typically use books as a strategy for talking with them about various topics; we read books about the dentist in the days and weeks before an upcoming appointment, we read books about holidays, and we read a ton of books about moving before Moving Day last year. Edgar, who is 3, loves to read books together, so it’s a great way to explore something new within the context of something comfortable and familiar.

Whenever I see a book list, whether it’s for kids or adults, I always make a bunch of library requests. I am an avid library requester, which is why, once curbside pick-up opened up last week, two librarians had to team up to carry the 35 books I had requested to my car. (This was an especially big load, as it also included books I had requested BEFORE the libraries closed due to COVID 19!)

The book lists I used as resources were a mix of books about racism, race, and civil rights, and books that simply feature people of color living their lives. I think that our “library” – I’m including books we own and books we frequently check out of the library – is pretty diverse. But I’m always looking for more suggestions, and I try to be intentional about seeking out books featuring people of color as main characters.

Here are some of the awesome books that we’ve discovered thanks to recent reading lists:

Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. This book is SO FREAKING CUTE. It’s great for both of my boys; I think it is probably intended for a younger audience, closer to Jonas’s age (he’s almost 2), but Edgar adores it. Sweet, simple story of a baby’s day; rhyming and rhythmic and soothing; and it features ALL the sweetest and most tantrummy aspects of baby/toddler life, so that’s enjoyable for all.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima. Edgar loves this book. A little girl who loves to wear costumes (and has two dads, so bonus diversity!) goes on an adventure involving penguins and an orca. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE?

Saturday by Oge Mora. This one makes me cry. Sweet story of a girl and her mother spending Mom’s only day off going on fun adventures.

Juneteenth for Maizie by Floyd Cooper.  This is my favorite book about Juneteenth so far. It explains the holiday through a conversation between a young girl and her dad. Great for Edgar’s age – he’s almost 4.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi. This one we bought rather than borrowed. It’s adorable, and powerful. It really does feel like Kendi is attempting to capture the messages of his adult book, How To Be An Antiracist, in baby/toddler/preschooler language.

The Colors Of Us by Karen Katz. I really like this one, and I think the boys will enjoy it more once they stop asking for Harriet and Please Baby Please (see above) over and over again. It’s a good book for exploring differences in skin color in an understandable and kid-friendly way.

Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds. Wonderful book about different ways for children to use their voice to say something. It’s sweet and colorful, with a good rhythm to the text. It’s powerful, and the pictures are beautiful and enjoyable.

We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Jane Kates. This book features the Sesame Street characters and is a good intro into differences in facial features, hair color, and skin color. The message is: “We look different, but we’re also the same.” It’s a good intro book – to be followed later by a deeper explanation of race and racism later.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry. A story about a dad doing his daughter’s hair. So freaking sweet.

Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love. This book is about a little boy who wants to dress up like a mermaid. My FAVORITE thing about this book is that the story does not include any skepticism or negativity about the little boy wanting to dress up in lipstick, a flowery headdress, and jewelry; he simply likes what he likes, and his abuela supports him by finding him a necklace. My boys don’t really have any understanding (to my knowledge) of why a little boy wouldn’t wear lipstick or jewelry or dresses, so I appreciate a children’s book that celebrates different ways of being without highlighting how our society sometimes treats people who don’t meet societal expectations.

SO MANY GOOD BOOKS. Nothing I love more than sitting on the couch and starting to read a book, and then watching Edgar come sprinting toward me, dropping toys as he goes. Happy June 2020 – and, if you know a book I should request from the library to read with my kids, please share!

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books + reading

The Books I Need To Read

I’ve written many times about my struggle to read certain books. They are typically nonfiction, and they are sometimes books I want to have read but don’t necessarily look forward to reading, the way I look forward to curling up with the latest Louise Penny mystery novel.

Now, when it comes to fiction, I do not read books that I don’t want to read. A long, long time ago, I used to make myself finish books no matter what. These days, I will abandon a book if I lose interest, even if I am several hundred pages in or just a few chapters from the end. Life is too short to waste time on books that I’m not enjoying.

But these other books – these nonfiction books on adoption, transracial adoption, race, parenting, and writing – are different. I want to read these books because I want to be a better parent, a better writer, and a better human being.

The biggest challenge I have related to this task – reading nonfiction books to educate myself – is this: reading is my inhale – my stress relief – my recreation – my joy. I love reading, and I mostly love reading fiction. I have limited time to read – kids, job, house get in the way – and so when I get the time, I want to dive into an escapist novel, NOT an educational resource.

I have found a few strategies that have helped me to read these books:

  1. Listen to the audiobook. This helps – listening to the book as I empty the dishwasher. It doesn’t take away from my fiction reading time, and while I prefer a paperback to an audiobook, it’s less important to me when it’s a nonfiction book.
  2. Get a recommendation. If someone can vouch for the book, it helps me. I had White Fragility on my to-read list for months. Then a friend mentioned it to me, and I asked him to tell me a little bit about it. (I don’t have the same detest for spoilers when it comes to nonfiction books!) With a little more info and a recommendation from a friend, it was easier for me to dive in and keep going with it. I ended up loving the book and would recommend it to anyone.
  3. Read a page a day. Just keep on creeping through the book slowly. Some of the books I want to read are written in a very academic tone, and I am finding that
  4. Get freaking motivated. 

For # 4 – allow me to explain.

I started this post a few months ago. As I type today, it’s June 3, 2020, and there are uprisings across our country related to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. I have never been more motivated to better myself as a human being and as a parent. The connection between the books I want to read and the reasons why I want to read them has never been clearer.

Currently my social media feed is jam-packed with information about books, videos, articles, podcasts, TV, and movies that are recommended to White people so that they can learn what they need to learn to be actively antiracist. My copy of Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi arrives today, and I’ll be reading that book together with a friend. I’m participating in a book club discussing White Fragility so I’ll be gradually re-reading that book at all. The next two books on my list after Stamped are How To Be An Antiracist, also by Ibram X. Kendi, and In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption by Rhonda M. Roorda.

I honestly don’t think I can plan past those books at this moment. Are there other books I want to read related to writing, parenting, race, transracial adoption, and adoption? Yes. But right now, I am taking every single thing in life one day at a time, including this. When I finish these books, I’ll evaluate the other books that I need to read. I’m grateful to writers who are helping me to learn and to grow so that I can be the parent I need to be for my kids and the human being I need to be for the world.

Image taken from Jane Mount’s idealbookshelf.com