Professor Astro Cat: our current obsession. 

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As a mom of extreme outlier, I struggle to find fun, colorful and INFORMATIVE children’s books for my kids.

A few weeks ago the Scientist casually asked me about black holes, gravitational waves and Einstein’s work. Easy enough task, right? While researching the topics and trying to simplify the language, I put “quantum physics for 5 year olds” and stumbled upon Dr. Dominic Walliman’s TEDxEastVan video Quantum Physics for 7 Year Olds. 5, 7…close enough. 

That lead me to his YouTube channel and I stayed up all night perusing the videos. 

That, in term, lead me to Amazon where I bough all the children’s books he wrote. Oops, that wasn’t the plan, I only wanted to purchase one, but kept slipping and falling onto the “buy” button. Repeatedly. 

Today we read Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventures. My wiggly kid who is NEVER still and is ALWAYS moving…sat still, barely breathing, with his eyes wide open for 2 hours. It a miracle!!!!

I share our read-aloud wiggly struggles and strategies to improve the experience here
Now please excuse me while I go out and patiently wait for our fabulous UPS driver by the road!  He is delivering these today: 

Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventures

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

What are your favorite children’s books? Bonus points if your gifted or 2e learner is mesmerized by them. 

Reading aloud to wiggly kids

Research shows that reading aloud to young children from the day they’re born is the single most important thing parents can do to prepare their kids for learning and reading on their own. It helps to develop a child’s vocabulary, phonics, storytelling and comprehension, and simply a familiarity and appreciation for the written word. It also fosters empathy, and encourages social and emotional bonding between parent and child. (See www.ReadAloud.org for more information and research.)

An award-winning author Emilie Buchwald said “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” An avid reader myself, I have always dreamed of perfectly peaceful snuggles during our hours-long read-aloud adventures. Who doesn’t like to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and read, read, read?

My kids, apparently. They’re wiggly and full of energy, to say the least. I often joke that we read AT them, not TO them. Many attempts to make them sit still ended in tears, meltdowns, self-deprecating comments and aversion to story time. What was I doing wrong?

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I was conditioned to believe that good listeners sit perfectly still, hands folded in their lap, listening ears turned on and eyes wide open. After all, fidgeting while being read to can seem rude.

With constant nagging, “Sit down, sit still, stop wiggling, stop fidgeting,” the kids  were spending ALL their mental energy trying to keeping their bodies still and could not concentrate on the story.  Attempts to build early literacy through reading aloud were detracting from my boys’ enjoyment of the books. We had to find a better way to enjoy reading together, so we came up with the compromise.

If you have been following our Reading Snowflakes Challenge (#readingsnowflakes  on  Facebook and Instagram pages,) you have noticed that my kids always have some kind of project that keeps their hands (or mouths!) occupied during reading times. To make read-aloud sessions a positive experience, I read, they listen and keep themselves busy with quiet activities during reading times.

These are some of out favorite activities:

  • drawing or doodling in the journal
  • playing with playdough or slime
  • building with LEGO, Duplos, wooden blocks
  • creating with magnets
  • working on a puzzle
  • creating shapes on geoboard
  • finding a way out of mazes
  • building with toothpicks, pipe cleaners, marshmallows, dry noodles, etc
  • playing single player logic games (Shape By Shape, Q-bitz, Rush Hour and others)
  • exploring sensory bins (salt, sand, beans, chickpeas, water beads, shaving cream)
  • scissor practice (this is our favorite activity this winter! We have soooooo many beautiful snowflakes created during reading times!!)
  • acting out scenes from the book

How to maximize read aloud time:

  • let the kids explore the books on their own, even if they are not fluent readers yet.
  • read aloud in the morning,
  • read during meal times,
  • explore story time at the local library or bring a book to read during playdates,
  • have a tea party (poetry tea time became our favorite activity!)
  • OUTSOURCE! listen to audio books and podcasts in the car.

What read-aloud tips or activities do you have? I am always open to new ideas and suggestions.

Favorite Books Of 2017

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Up until a year ago, given the choice between fiction and non-fiction, I would pick fiction in 10 out of 10 cases. Something changed on New Year’s eve 2017. What happened a year ago?

We officially started homeschooling our twice exceptional son.

Term twice exceptional (or 2e) often refers to intellectually gifted children who also have some form of disability or learning differences. So double the challenge, double the fun.

As a self-proclaimed research junkie, I NEEDED to have more information, so I turned to books, Amazon, library, friends, Facebook groups and trusted web sites. I read this article and down the rabbit hole I went.  Over the half of the books I’ve read this year are non-fiction.

Out of 75+ books I’ve read in 2017 these ten stood out the most:

  1. The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star by Tom Clynes  confirmed my suspicions that our 5-year-old is highly gifted and that turning to non-traditional parenting choices was the right thing to do for our family, despite all the sighs and well intended advice we received.
  2. The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism by Kristine Barnett I picked up this book after seeing Jacob Barnett’s Forget What You Know TED Talk. Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. But his story is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism. Surrounded by experts at home and in special ed who tried to focus on Jake’s most basic skills and curtail his distracting interests Jake made no progress, withdrew more and more into his own world, and eventually stopped talking completely. His parents knew that they had to make a change.
  3. Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson, Nathan Clarkson  Inspiring, heartbreaking and uplifting, this book made me feel like I’m not alone. We have an outside-of-box kid too, and I found myself tearfully relating to Sally’s story and making mental notes for the future. Nathan’s perspective was unique and eye-opening. I highly recommend this wonderful book!
  4.  The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre Thought provoking summary and analysis of the research showing that boys and men lag well behind girls and women in school achievement.
  5. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown  At the end of the day I often find myself exhausted, but looking back at the day I realize that nothing important was accomplished.  “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance?” Greg McKeown inquires in his book. He offers a simple but profound idea: that we accomplish more when we are more selective about where we direct our efforts. This book was essential (hehe) for me in 2017, with all the changes and new projects.
  6. Young Children Reinvent Arithmetic  Implications of Piaget’s Theory by Constance Kamii,‎ Leslie Baker Housman   Preschoolers easily grasp ideas behind fractions,  number lines, geometry and algebra elements. I see 3, 4 and 5 year olds exploring difficult concepts and taking on the challenges. Silly kids, they weren’t told yet that they hate math!
    Kids love the challenge of games. Why not use this attribute and incorporate games into learning? Instead of using endless worksheets and tests, give them problems to solve.According to Piaget’s theory, “children acquire mathematical knowledge…by constructing them from the inside, in interaction with the environment,” in other words, given the chance to explore and experiment, they will use their knowledge to  invent new ways to find solutions, explore patterns and make connections.  Let’s make math fun!
  7.  The Martian and Artemis by Andy Weir
    Andy Weir’s unique writing style, humor, meticulous research come together in well thought out, interesting, well paced page-turners. Once I picked up his books, I couldn’t put them down. Sleep? Who needs sleep, sleep is for the weak!
  8.  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor. Such a beautiful and gripping story. This is one of those books that will stay with you long after you’ve read it.
  9.  Maisie Dobbs  After reading the first novel, I was very excited to find out that Jacqueline Winspear published thirteen books in the series.  A quick, light mystery with an engaging main character set in England in 1929. I would love to see this as  a TV show!
  10. Wonder by R. J. Palacio  August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.
    Oh, what a wonderful book!!!! Well-written, touching, emotional and meaningful, this book become 2017 favorite instantly. We read it 4 (four!!!!) time. Our peculiar son fell in love with main character. I think he identifies with Auggie. You see, our eldest is 5 years old and since he was 18 months old we kept saying “His brain just works differently”. He absorbs every bit of information and remembers it FOR-E-VER, his vocabulary surprises and amazes us every day, he skipped 2 grades already, he adores everybody he meets. He is also very sensitive, VERY intense, VERY unpredictable. Parenting him is not easy, traditional parenting did not work with him and only deepened his anxiety. 80% of the time he can pass for a neurotypical kid, so when the atypical behavior kicks in, it is usually attributed to him being “spoiled” or “coddled.”
    **********SPOILER ALERT**********
    This book also helped us deal with a loss similar to that of August’s family. Loss of a beloved pet was (and still is) incredibly painful, and Daisy’s storyline helped our kids understand and cope with the devastating loss of a four-legged family member.

What books grabbed your heart and stayed with you in 2017? Share in the comments! 2018 is almost here and I NEED more, more, more reading material! Always.

 

2017 in books

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Non-fiction

  1. The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star
  2. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
  3. Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
  4. Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson, Nathan Clarkson
  5. A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students (The Templeton National Report on Acceleration, Volumes 1 and 2)
  6. It’s OK to Go up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids
  7.  It’s Ok Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids  
  8.  The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder (The Out-of-Sync Child Series) by Carol Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller
  9.  Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their potential by Peg Dawson ,‎ Richard Guare
  10.  How Children Learn by John Holt
  11.  How Children Fail by John Holt
  12.  They’re Your Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate by Sam Sorbo
  13.  The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When The World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D. 
  14.  Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne,‎ Lisa M. Ross
  15.  No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury
  16.  Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie  
  17.  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande 
  18.  Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
  19.  The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings 
  20. The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre 
  21.  Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism by Diane M. Kennedy,‎ Rebecca S. Banks,‎ Temple Grandin
  22.  The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed by Temple Grandin,‎ Richard Panek
  23. The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius by Gail Saltz M.D. 
  24.  Young Children Reinvent Arithmetic: Implications of Piaget’s Theory by Constance Kamii,‎ Leslie Baker Housman 
  25.  Let’s Play Math: How Families Can Learn Math Together and Enjoy It by Denise Gaskins
  26.  Burn Math Class: And Reinvent Mathematics for Yourself by Jason Wilkes 
  27. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  28. What is Unschooling?: Living and Learning without Schoolby Pam Laricchia
  29.  Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  30. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath,‎ Dan Heath
  31.  Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  32.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  33.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
  34.  The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism by Kristine Barnett

 

 

Fiction

  1.  Sandstorm (Sigma Force) by James Rollins
  2.  Map Of Bones (Sigma Force) by James Rollins
  3.  Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  4.  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  5.  What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  6.  The Circle by Dave Eggers
  7.  The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
  8. Storm Front (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher
  9.  Fool Moon (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher
  10.  Grave Peril (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher 
  11.  Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  12.  Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  13.  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  14. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
  15.  Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs) by Jacqueline Winspear
  16.  Pardonable Lies: (Maisie Dobbs Novels) by Jacqueline Winspear
  17.  The Dinner by Herman Koch
  18. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  19. In the Woods by Tana French
  20.  The Likeness by Tana French
  21.  Faithful Place by Tana French
  22.  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  23.  Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  24.  The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
  25.  Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  26.  Beartown by Fredrik Backman
  27.  The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
  28.  Artemis by Andy Weir
  29. The Trouble Begins: A Box of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-3 (The Bad Beginning; The Reptile Room; The Wide Window) by Lemony Snicket,‎ Brett Helquist
  30. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  31. The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
  32.  I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Read-alouds with kids

  1.  Wonder R. J. Palacio
  2. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  3.  The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  4.  Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  5.  The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  6.  The Trumpet Of the Swan by E. B. White
  7.   Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
  8.  Mister Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
  9. The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
  10.  Mary Poppins by Dr. P. L. Travers
  11.  Charlie And the Chocolate Factory by R. Dahl
  12. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
  13.  James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  14.  The BFG by Roald Dahl
  15.   Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming (author), David Tennant (narrator)
  16.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce (author) David Tennant (Narrator)
  17.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race against Time Cottrell Boyce (Author),‎ David Tennant (Narrator)
  18.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang over the Moon by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Author),‎ David Tennant (Narrator)

31 days of Halloween crafts and books

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OCTOBER IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!  Cool weather, sweaters, pumpkin patches, nature walks, apple cider, pumpkins, treats, hay rides, corn maze, trick-or-treating, beautiful colors…my favorite season!
Pairing books with simple activities is our favorite way to start a day and explore new subjects. I am excited to share what we have planned for the next few weeks!

1. “>Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Where is he heading? No one’s quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows. With illustrations made from actual fall leaves and die-cut pages on every spread that reveal gorgeous landscape vistas, here is a playful, whimsical, and evocative book that celebrates the natural world and the rich imaginative life of children. 

Activity ideas: gather leaves outside and use them to recreate leaf man from the story, or improvise and create your own leaf art, or try coloring on the leaves instead of the paper. 

2. There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“>There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!by Morteza E. Sohi.  Look What I Did with a Leaf! will show young art and craft lovers how to use nature’s bounty to create fanciful animals and natural scenes. Readers will develop their artistic eye and soon learn to see the artistic possibilities that surround them. Morteza E. Sohi gives careful directions on how to choose leaves for shape and color, how to arrange them in an animal form, and how to preserve the finished work of art. A field guide helps young leaf artists learn more about the tools of their craft.

Activity: gather beautiful leaves while hiking,  playing in the park or exploring the backyard and follow Mortexa E. Sohi’s directions on how to create leaf art. Our family enjoyed making suncatchers and window collage from the leaves. 

3. We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt“> by Steve Metzger. Join three friends on a fun leaf-finding adventure! This bouncy new version of the popular song begs to be read out loud.  There are lots of beautiful fall leaves to find! Three friends have a big adventure hiking over a mountain and through a forest to collect leaves of all kinds and colors.

Activity: What will they do with all their leaves at the end of the story? Let your imagination and creativity flow freely! We pretended that our leaves were snowflakes and had snowball fight in the park!

Leaf Chromatography

4. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!“> by Lucile Colandro. This spooky twist on the wildly popular “There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly” is perfect for fun Halloween reading! What won’t this old lady swallow? This time around, a bat, an owl, a cat, a ghost, a goblin, some bones, and a wizard are all on the menu! 

Activity: bat mobile made with a stick, fishing line and bat cutouts. We made this craft 2 years ago and we look forward to displaying it every year! 

5. Bats at the Library (A Bat Book)“> by Brian Lies. Join the free-for-all fun at the public library with these book-loving bats! Shape shadows on walls, frolic in the water fountain, and roam the book-filled halls until it’s time for everyone, young and old, to settle down into the enchantment of story time. Brian Lies’ joyful critters and their nocturnal celebration cast library visits in a new light. 

Activity: turn boring constriction paper into cute bat bookmarks! Twist: make a few extra bookmarks as  presents for friends, family, neighbors or hide some in the library books to brighten somebody’s day. 

6. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich“> by Adam Rex. Being a monster isn’t all frightening villagers and sucking blood. Monsters have their trials, too. Poor Frankenstein’s cupboard is bare, Wolfman is in need of some household help, and it’s best not to get started on Dracula’s hygiene issues. What could be scarier? 

Activity: Pair the nineteen hilarious poems with some hot cocoa, pumpkin cookies or sandwiches for a scary good poetry tea party.

7. The Monsters’ Monster“> by Patrick McDonnellOnce upon a time, there were three little rascals who thought they were the BIGGEST, BADDEST monsters around. Then along came an even BIGGER monster who changed their minds. And all it took was two little words.

Activity: make spooky fun Frankenstein from green balloon

  • draw Frankie’s face on it with permanent marker;
  • use a funnel to add 2 tablespoons of baking soda  inside the balloon;
  • pour half a cup of vinegar inside empty plastic bottle;
  • carefully place the balloon on top of plastic bottle;
  • lift up the balloon. Baking soda will drop into the bottle with vinegar triggering a chemical reaction that will inflate the balloon.

    8. Five Little Ghosts“> by Julia Woolf. Five little ghosts at the end of the day are on the lookout for somewhere to play. Follow the adventures of five little ghosts in this comical rhyming caper! 

    Activity: make five little teabag ghosts! Adult help required for this activity. 

    Step 1

    Step 2.

    Step 3. 

    Step 4. 

    9.  Ghosts in the House!“>  by Kazuno Kohana. At the edge of town lives a clever girl with a spooky problem: Her house is haunted! Luckily, she happens to be a witch and knows a little something about taking care of ghosts. She catches them, puts them in the washing machine, airs them out to dry, and gives them new lives as sofa covers, table cloths, and, of course, bed sheets to cozy up under. Fresh and charming illustrations in dynamic orange, black and white bring this resourceful heroine and these spooky ghosts to life. 

    Activity: ghost rockets with clear cup, corn starch and alka seltzer. 

    10.  There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“> by Emmanuelle Eeckhout.  When we moved to our new neighborhood, I had to promise my mother that I would not go near the strange old house on the corner. 

    People say it s haunted, she whispered. 

    Haunted? There is no such thing as ghosts! 

    But if there is…I am going to catch one! 

    Activity: cornstarch, water and goodly eyes! Oobleck for messy sensory fun!

    11. Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell The first pumpkin Tim ever carved was fierce and funny, and he named it Jack. When Halloween was over and the pumpkin was beginning to rot, Tim set it out in the garden and throughout the weeks he watched it change.

    Activity: following books storyline, we carved a pumpkin and will observe the decomposition process. I can’t wait to see what happens! Keep the seeds!

    12. Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino With bouncy, rhyming text in verse from the classic nursery rhyme and bold, dynamic illustrations from acclaimed author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, Five Little Pumpkins is a must-have Halloween board book!

    Roll along with the pumpkins and their spooky friends as they get into some spirited Halloween fun.

    Activity: using cloth pins and Popsicle sticks, build a gate for five little pumpkins to sit!

    13. How Many Seeds In A Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara “How many seeds are in a pumpkin?” Mr. Tiffin asks his class as they gather around the big, medium, and small pumpkins on his desk. Robert, the biggest kid, guesses that the largest one has a million seeds; Elinor, sounding like she knows what she’s talking about, guesses the medium one has 500 seeds; and Anna, who likes even numbers better than odd ones, guesses that the little one has 22. Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, doesn’t have a guess.

    Activity: This adorable picture book for curious kids explores skip counting and estimation in a fun pumpkin-themed experiment. Remember the pumpkin from Pumpkin Jack ? Can you guess how many seeds were inside that pumpkin? Count, skip count, make patterns and designs with the seeds!


    14. Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman The witch has grown the biggest pumpkin ever, and now she wants to make herself a pumpkin pie for Halloween. But the pumpkin is so big she can’t get it off the vine.
    It’s so big the ghost can’t move it, either. Neither can the vampire, nor the mummy. It looks as if there’ll be no pumpkin pie for Halloween, until along comes the bat with an idea to save the day.
    How can the tiny bat succeed where bigger and strong spooky creatures have failed? You’ll be surprised!

    Activity: use tape, rulers, strings, pieces of fabric and hands to measure the pumpkin you used for Pumpkin Jack activity. Compare the measurements to a soccer ball or a watermelon.

    Or make this fun geo board pumpkin:

    15. Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum Pumpkins! Who can resist the sight of big, round, orange pumpkins ripening in a field? Children piling off school buses to pick one out. Carving out funny faces, smiles, or scary frowns to illuminate Halloween doorsteps. Making room for that last piece of pumpkin pie after a delicious Thanksgiving feast. In this book, pumpkins aren’t just a fruit, they’re a symbol, a scent, a flavor of the entire season. Celebrate the flavor of fall on every page of this beautifully photographed picture book.

    Activity: let’s make pumpkin pie, roll, muffins or waffles!

    16. Aaaarrgghh! Spider by Lydia Monks Don’t let this lonely spider frighten you! She just wants to be a family pet—and she thinks she would make a better pet than the typical dog or cat. But every time this clever spider tries to impress her chosen family, she scares them instead, until the day she unwittingly enchants them. Aaaarrgghh! Spider! spins a lively tale about one creature’s efforts to find her place.

    Activity: make spider handprint art! If you prefer not to get messy, trace little hands on the black paper and use the cutouts to make a silly spider.

    17. Be Nice To Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham When Billy left his pet spider, Helen, at the Zoo, the animals suddenly became happy and contented. The lions snoozed all day long, the elephants enjoyed their baths, and the zebras ate their hay in peace — all because Helen was spinning webs and catching flies.

    But one day Helen’s webs were swept away. The Keeper had the cages cleaned for the Mayor’s inspection tour. Soon the flies were back again and the animals were miserable once more. But not for long…

    Activity: make your own spider web! We used painter’s tape to make a web design on the floor. Kids pretended to be flies and hopped around the web.

    18. Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler Skeletons are a little less scary when they have the hiccups. This particular skeleton can’t seem to shake them–not in the shower (nice fuzzy bat slippers!), not while brushing his teeth (woops! there goes the bottom jaw!), not while polishing his bones, carving a pumpkin, raking leaves, or even when playing baseball with his friend Ghost. Ghost, instead of Boo-ing! away his buddy’s hiccups right away as we might expect, advises Skeleton to hold his breath and eat some sugar and drink water upside down. When he finally does Boo! it still doesn’t work. But when Ghost finds a mirror and holds it up to Skeleton’s face, he sees his reflection and screams in fright! The hiccups jump away, hic, hic, hic. While it’s novel to see a skeleton eating sugar, drinking water, showering, etc., it may be tricky to find the right audience for this unusual picture book that’s more about hiccups than Halloween.

    Activity: We used our October friend, Mister Skeleton (kids named him) for anatomy unit. After discussion of a skeletal system, we built playdough towers with and without “bone” (noodle) and compared which tower was taller and sturdier.

    19. Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner With a lively rhyming text and vibrant paper collage illustrations, author-artist Bob Barner shakes the dust off the dinosaur bones found in museums and reminds us that they once belonged to living, breathing creatures. Filled with fun dinosaur facts and an informational “Dinometer,”

    Activities: make dinosaur “fossils!” Playdough and plastic dinosaurs will keep the kids roaring with delight.

    20. Shake Dem Halloween Bones by Mike Reed It’s Halloween night. The city is quiet. The city is still. But as the lights go down, the music comes up – and the guests start to arrive at the hip-hop Halloween ball! And oh, what a party it is. Told in hip-hop rhyming text, L’il Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Tom Thumb, and all of their fairy-tale friends come together for a rapping, stomping, shaking Halloween romp.

    Activity: dance party? Why not!!!

    21. Goodnight Goon: a Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex It’s time for bed, but one little goon still isn’t ready for sleep! With lively rhymes and cheeky art that’ll get readers howling, this hilarious take on the beloved classic will have a whole new audience saying, “Goodnight monsters everywhere!”

    22. Little Blue Truck’s Halloween by Alice Schertle Beep! Beep! It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps in this large, sturdy board book to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too? With the delightful rhymes and signature illustration style that made Little Blue Truck a household name, Blue’s new adventure is full of festive costumes, fall colors, and plenty of Halloween fun!

    Activity: lets build a Little Blue Truck out of LEGO, playdough, magna tiles, Popsicle sticks or cardboard boxes. Beep beep!

    23. Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney With short and simple rhyming text, the Llama Llama board books introduce Llama Llama to babies and toddlers before they’re ready for longer full-length stories. And their small size and durable pages are perfect for little hands.

    In Llama Llama Trick or Treat, little llama finds the perfect costume, picks out a pumpkin for a jack-o’-lantern, and then goes trick-or-treating with Mama and his friends!

    Activity: tin can bowling!! Doesn’t it sound fun? if you prefer a quieter activity, toulet paper can be used too.

    24. The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine Welcome to the Little Shop of Monsters! Do you want a SNEEZER? A TICKLER? Or one of the CREEPIEST monsters of all? Come on in and choose your favorite, if you dare (before one of them chooses YOU!).

    Activity: create  your own silly monster! We used pine cones, leaves, acorns and pebbles. These sweet monsters love performing in puppet show or a concert.

    25. Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.
    He eats them on the way to school.
    He eats them going to Little League.
    He eats them walking home.
    Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they?

    Activity: Slime time for a creepy squishy fun messy play.

    26. Bone Soup by Cambria Evans Known across the land for his infamous appetite, Finnigin is never seen without his eating stool, his eating spoon, and his gigantic eating mouth.
    When Finnigin finds himself in a new town on Halloween, he hopes to join a great feast with the creatures who live there. But not a body or soul will share any of their food with the ever-famished Finnigin. So what’s a hungry skeleton to do? Armed only with his wits and a special ingredient, will Finnigin be able to stir up a cauldron’s worth of Halloween magic?

    Activity: time to go outside and make a soup! Twigs and sticks, leaves and pine needles, sand and dirt, water and mud: whatever you can find outside!

    27. Scholastic Reader Level 2: Inside a House That is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli With illustrations that make the scariest creature look extremely funny and romping repetitive text, readers will never expect what happens when this haunted house has a trick-or-treater knock on its door. Ghosts, spiders, owls, skeletons and monsters take turns accidentally scaring each other in this silly, slapstick story.

    Activity: make a pumpkin catapult!

    28. Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he draws the shades, puts on his footy pajamas, and climbs into bed.

    But do you think the barnyard animals have any respect for a man in footy pajamas? No, they do not. For them, the Halloween party has just begun. And we all know these critters far prefer tricks over treats.

    There are big surprises in store for Farmer Brown!

    Activity: ghost rockets? Tea bag ghosts? What fun surprise will you pick?

    29. The Berenstain Bears’ Harvest Festival by Mike Berenstain Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and the folks of Bear Country are looking forward to everything the season brings. So when the Chapel in the Woods holds its first ever Harvest Festival, people gather at Farmer Ben’s for a wonderful time of family, friends, fun, and praising God for his gifts.

    Activity: learn about Harvest Festival in different cultures.

    30. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Kara McMahon Spooky tricks and hilarious treats abound in this retelling of the beloved Halloween special that comes with holographic foil and embossing on the cover!

    Activity: make spooky dry ice bubbles in the pumpkin.

    31. The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition by Tim Burton n this beloved picture book that could only come from the visionary mind of author and illustrator TIM BURTON, we meet Jack Skellington– a well-intentioned inhabitant of Halloweenland. Jack is bored of “the scaring, the terror, the fright….tired of being something that goes bump in the night”. And so, in an effort to bring to joy to his town, Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly old elf. But instead of bringing joy to the world Jack, who is a little more than a grinning skeleton, brings fear by delivering creepy toys and riding a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong does Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas.

    Activity: Make an articulated mechanical hand for Jack…you know, just in case!

    Mary Poppins: book vs movie. 

    This is going to be the most controversial thing I have ever posted and I just can not believe the words that are about to come out of my mouth (…more like from under my thumbs.) 

    I finally read the book and…the movie was better…I have NEVER said it before!
    What book/movie am I talking about? Marry Poppins.

    <I’ll wait for the rain of rotten tomatoes, shoes and other random items to die down before elaborating.>

    Disney is famous for taking dark and gruesome fairy tales and changing them into family friendly stories full of sunshine and singing rainbows.  Knowing that, I should not have been surprised that stern, but loving and fair Disney Mary Poppins was slightly different in the original story. Just slightly. Like night and day!
    P. L. Traver’s Mary Poppins is rude, vain, jealous
    and not  likeable character.  

    After inviting herself into Banks’ family life, what us the first thing she does? She gives all 4 children a mysterious medicine. “Why is she making them drink the medicine, mommy? They’re not sick!” wondered my 5 year old. “Maybe it’s some kind of hallucinogenic drug to make them like her, sweetie,” I thought to myself as I replied “I don’t know, honey.”

    The most bizarre part of the book didn’t make it into the Disney musical version of the book. Jane and Michael “…dreamed [that they] were at the Zoo and it was Mary Poppins’s birthday, and instead of animals in the cages there were human beings, and all the animals were outside.”

    When we read about Mary Poppins’ birthday  celebration at the zoo, my son shrunk in his seat and insisted we skip that part. 

    Ok, the movie wasn’t better than the book, it just was different and unexpected. The book is skillfully written and I enjoyed it (even though I had to pick my jaw off the floor a few times) and will probably read the sequels in the future. 

    Now good luck getting “The Spoonful of Sugar” song out if your head!