Monthly Archives

December 2017

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    If You Look Up to the Sky by Angela Dalton (A Book Review)

    If You Look Up to the Sky by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Margarita Sikorskaia

    Publisher: Beaver’s Pond Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 24
    Age Range: 5 – 6
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 1
    Available for purchase on Amazon: Order Here!

    There are times when a full moon will guide you, a storm will excite you, and a big, blue sky will inspire you to believe anything is possible. These are a few of the many gifts we receive from the sky and universe when life feels scary and confusing.

    Told by a grandmother to her grandchild, If You Look Up to the Sky is about the power of everlasting love and the ways the sky connects us through good times and bad. It offers a child comfort in knowing that you never need to be afraid… if you look up to the sky.

    I love clear black night skies.  On such a night I am often elated, and if I stop and just look up I am humbled in wonder at the vastness and beauty of the universe. Looking up at the sky helps me to remember that me and my problems are both infinitesimally small and conversely, that I am a piece of an amazing and vast universe.

    Don’t these stars look like they pop off the page?  AMAZING!

    Just like the ocean, I adore the sky. It’s as if it’s constantly trying to teach me to remain calm whatever the situation may be. That’s the same overall message I took away from this book.

    It’s the story of a young girl getting wisdom from her grandmother. Her grandmother teaches her to look to the sky when she’s feeling lost, afraid or sad. Despite having some stormy and gloomy days, the sky always remains content and at peace. If we just look up, the sky teaches us so much about life.

    I want to be lying in this field right now on a warm, sunny day, don’t you?  Gorgeous!

    This book blew me away, truly! Not only are the words beautifully written, the illustrations are outstanding!  If You Look Up to the Sky is definitely my new favorite bedtime book to read with my kids. It’s the perfect book to snuggle up and read with your kids to remind them just how special and loved they are. Great for grandparents to read with their grandchildren too…a gem!

    Your turn: Do you look up to the sky when you’re feeling lost, afraid or unsure about something?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    family fun, giveaways

    Playtime at the Palace Theatre: Connecticut Family-Friendly Events + A Giveaway!

    Playtime at The Palace, the hit series of live performances geared toward children and families, returns to The Palace Theatre in Stamford, CT on Sunday, January 14, 2018. The fun-filled season of puppeteers, bubble-makers, magicians and musicians has doubled in size for 2018, with eight shows to entertain and delight even the youngest theatergoers.

    Playtime at The Palace runs select Sundays January through April with performances at 3:00pm.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon especially during the winter months when cabin fever usually starts to kick in.

    The 2018 line-up includes:

    January 14 – Cardboard Explosion: A one-of-a-kind puppetry experience, Cardboard Explosion brings original stories to life using nothing but cardboard and the power of imagination. With help from the audience, puppeteer Brad Shur transforms simple cardboard shapes into elaborate puppet characters. Audience members will outsmart dragons, choose their own superpower, and train adorable animal sidekicks in this fun, energetic, participatory show.

    February 4 – The Magic of Presto Pete & Incredulous Chris: Traveling two-man kids comedy magicians and real life brothers Presto Pete and Incredulous Chris present this ultra high-energy show. Kids will guffaw and giggle at their crazy cartoon-like slapstick antics and be wowed at the illusions presented. The show is sibling rivalry at its wackiest and packed with audience participation.

    February 11 – Mr. Fish: The Science of Magic: The secrets of magic are scientifically revealed! Most magic tricks and illusions that have confounded and confused audiences for centuries actually have scientific explanations. This show uses mirrors, magnets, air, optical illusions, and mental confusions to educate and delight the audience, demonstrating the principals of light, sight, reflection, magnetism, memory, air pressure, and logic.

    February 18 – The Tanglewood Marionettes Present Sleeping Beauty: Large, beautifully handcrafted marionettes, colorful sets, and integrated lighting and sound create a fully immersive theatrical experience. In the Tanglewood Marionettes’ retelling of the classic tale, a painted storybook opens to reveal each scene and marionettes are brought to life by a master puppeteer as the dramatic events unfold.

    March 4 – Jay and Ray: Jams for Fams: With an energetic, silly and fun show rooted in play-based learning, Jay and Ray explore rhythm, melody and movement in a way that’s entertaining not only for children, but their parents as well.

    March 11 – Casey Carle’s BubbleMania: Dubbed “a true master of his craft” by Cirque du Soleil, Carle’s one-man show combines spontaneous comedy, jazzy music and brilliant bubbling. Carle delights audiences with fantastic fog-filled bubble sculptures, a cube bubble, funky foam, bubble ping-pong, trapping an audience member (or two) inside a gigantic soap bubble and thousands of bubbles filling the stage.

    March 25 – Story Pirates: The Stuck in the Stone Age Tour: In Story Pirates’ newest book, “Stuck in the Stone Age,” two scientists accidentally transport themselves back in time to the age of cavemen and saber-tooth tigers. Audiences join in the adventure to bring Tom Edison (no relation to that Thomas Edison) and Dr. Marissa Morice back home, all the while learning about the building blocks of a good story and proving that every kid has a story to tell.

    April 8 – Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers’ The Legend of the Banana Kid: Featuring twenty handcrafted glove, mouth and rod puppets, and a slew of flying and twirling Styrofoam bananas, “The Legend of the Banana Kid” tells the story of Little Chucky as he heads to the Wild West to outwit outlaws in this cowboy adventure.

    The Palace is offering a “Buy More and Save” bundle for patrons interested in four Playtime at The Palace shows. Individual tickets are $12.50 plus a $2.50 facilities and handling fee. The $50 “Buy More and Save” bundle includes a ticket to four shows when purchased in a single transaction. The facility and handling fees for bundle tickets will also be waived.

    The Palace Theatre is located at 61 Atlantic Street in Stamford, CT. Tickets for all performances may be purchased on or by calling the box office at 203-325-4466. For the latest news and updates, follow @ThePalaceTheatreStamford on Facebook and @PalaceStamford on Twitter.

    About The Palace Theatre
    The 1,580-seat Palace Theatre is dedicated to performing arts of all genres – music, dance, theater and comedy. In addition to hosting world-renowned performers in each of those fields, the Palace partners with arts organizations like the Stamford Symphony and Connecticut Ballet for their performances. The Theatre’s three floors encompass a deeper-than-typical Broadway-size stage, a café, a Learning Center, a theatre-long art gallery and a magnificent glass-walled promenade. The Palace is dedicated to providing exciting entertainment that enriches the cultural, educational, economic and social life of the community.

    The Giveaway!

    One lucky reader will win a 4-pack of tickets to Cardboard Explosion on Sunday, January 14, 2018!

    • Must be 18 years or older to enter
    • Only one entry per person
    • Contest closes on January 7, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST
    • One winner will be chosen at random and will be notified via e-mail.
    • The winner will have 24 hours to respond by email with his/her name, mailing address, and phone number to the claim prize. If he/she does not respond in the designated time he/she forfeits the chance at the prize. An alternate winner will be chosen.
    • Tickets can be picked up at the Will Call office at the Palace Theatre on the day of the performance.

    Cardboard Explosion

    children's books, children's literacy, read aloud

    KidLitPicks: 17 Counting Books for Kids

    10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… We are fast-approaching the season of the countdown. Children are getting more and more excited counting down the days, lighting candles, opening advent calendars of all shapes and sizes—my family will be having a book-a-day for our advent season. Parents are getting more and more frantic to get organised as the days disappear. It’s the time of year that everyone practices counting.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… A study several years ago by researchers from the Institute of Education in London found that children who receive bedtime stories from their parents as infants perform better in vocabulary and spelling but also in math. Reading supports numeracy. Books are full of numbers and images for counting.

    A special thanks to Kim from BookBairn for our November @kidlitpicks theme!

    Counting with Barefoot Critters, by Teagan White

    “Each rhyming verse leads on to the next. 1 through to 12 and a sweet goodnight.” — Summer from @readingisourthing

    I Know Numbers!, by Taro Gomi

    “If you have a little learner that’s getting digit-curious, check this book out.” — Katie from @afriendlyaffair

    365 Penguins, by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joëlle Jolivet

    “As with all the best learning opportunities, it’s done in such a clever way that children will barely notice that they are learning.” — Claire from @alittlebookhabit

    Eight Jolly Reindeer, by Ilanit Oliver and Jacqueline Rogers

    Young readers will love counting down from eight to one in this adorable board book featuring Santa’s famous reindeer! .”  Leah from @astoryaday

    10, 9, 8 … Owls Up Late!: A Countdown to Bedtime, by Georgiana Deutsch and‎ Ekaterina Trukhan

    “It is engaging for little ones –– with peep-through cut-outs and cheeky little owls to count as well as repetitive text that they will soon be able to join in with reading the story.” —  Kim from @bookbairn

    Numerical Street, by Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell

    “It’s quintessentially Australian and nostalgic through the architecture and details in the story, such as the myna birds throughout and the lamingtons/caramel slice/jam rolls and custard tarts at the bakery.” — De from @books_and_babycinos

    Roar by Stuart Lynch

    “I couldn’t resist the cute little dinos in this board book that introduces little ones to counting from 1-5.” — Carissa from @bookskidslove_

    One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me!, by John Micklos Jr. and Clive McFarland

    “Fun fall counting book!” — Arielle from @childrensbooksgalore

    Joey Counts to Ten, by Sally Morgan“Not just a counting book, this picture book can be used to discuss concepts of time of day, weather, sounds and sights.” — Rossa from @curiouslittlepeople

    One Minute, by Somin Ahn “Young children counting down seconds and minutes will come to understand how relative time can be.” — Rossa from @curiouslittlepeople

    Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story!, by JaNay Brown-Wood and Priscilla Burris

    “This counting and rhyming book is by far the cutest thing I’ve seen all day!.” — Charnaie from @hereweeread

    Read my book review here.

    Cats Night Out, by Jon Klassen

    “Dance through the night with some fabulous felines whose numbers increase two at a time.” — Wendy from @homegrownreader

    William’s Winter Nap, by Linda Ashman and Chuck Groenink

    “This bedtime tale and it’s kind cast of characters is sure warm your winter chilled heart.” — Heather from @kidlitbookbits

    One Family, by George Shannon and Blanca Gomez

    “This book works on so many levels: it’s a simple counting story, a little bit of seek and find, and (my favorite!) a lovely introduction to and celebration of diversity in families.” — Anna from @kidlitcrafts

    Let’s Count Kisses, by Karen Hull“This is a gentle bedtime story incorporating a lift-the-flap design, Australian animals and counting from 1 to 10.” — Shannon from @ohcreativeday

    One Big Turkey, by Anne Vittur Kennedy

    “It’s simple and sweet rhyming text gets children counting everything they have to be thankful for, including food, friends, and full bellies!” — Michelle from

    And one more for good luck!

    How Many Legs?by Kes Gray and Jim Field

    “The book introduces us to a myriad of crazy critters turning up to a party with a varying number of legs and asks us “How many legs?”.”  Fiona from @fee_loves

    Your turn: What are some of your favorite counting books for children?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, family fun

    Beyond the Book: Shoe Tying Activity & Craft For Kids

    We partnered with Disney Books to bring you this fun and easy shoe tying activity for kids.

    Using the potty.  Riding a bike without training wheels.  Getting yourself dressed.  Tying your own shoelaces.  Conquering any of these tasks are considered to be childhood milestones that truly set kids apart as “big kids”.  Am I right?

    But shoe tying is not necessarily easy to learn or teach, especially with kids under the age of 6.  Developmentally speaking, children are typically capable of independently lacing up and tying their shoes all by themselves by 6 1/2 years of age.  Prior to that age, there is a progression of skills that build up to conquering the ultimate task–shoe tying.  Despite knowing this information, I decided to start introducing the kids to the concept of tying their shoes a little early.  It’s never too soon to start, right?

    Before we began our craft activity, we read the latest book in the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series by Mo Willems, It’s Shoe Time! by Bryan Collier.  It’s such a cute story about a little African-American girl in search for the perfect pair of shoes.  The book provides a great overall message to kids about individuality and daring to be different.  Who says your socks, shoes or shoelaces always have to match?

    I was pleasantly surprised to see this book featured a little Brown girl and her dad!  The kids were thrilled to see Elephant, Piggie and even Pigeon appear in the book.  The Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series introduces readers to new authors and characters through Mo Willems’ beloved characters.  What a fun surprise!  This book was also great for reinforcing concepts like the matching pairs and the difference between your left foot and right foot.

    To make the shoes, I simply printed a free shoe template and glued it to a piece of cardboard for reinforcement.  After the kids colored and decorated their cardboard shoes, it was time to practice tying the laces.  My 4 year-old son had a little bit of a harder time trying to grasp the concept than my 5 year-old daughter.  She’s a tenacious little girl and I have no doubt she’ll get it down after practicing more times and when she’s developmentally ready.

    Since my kids seem to retain information better when there’s a catchy rhyme or song to go along with it, we practiced saying this rhyme during our practice sessions:

    Bunny ears, Bunny ears, playing by a tree.
    Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me.
    Bunny ears, Bunny ears, jumped into the hole,
    Popped out the other side beautiful and bold.

    If you’re looking for some help teaching your child to tie his or her laces, I hope you found this activity to be helpful.  And if you’re looking for a fun shoe themed-book to read check out It’s Shoe Time!

    Have you already taught your children to tie their laces? What worked for you?


    Book Featured
    It’s Shoe Time! by Bryan Collier (from the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series from Mo Willems)

    Released November 7th, 2017

    Recommended for ages 6-8

    About the Book

    Tie your laces. Zip your zippers. And tap your toes. It’s…SHOE TIME!

    This lyrical beginning-reader by multi award-winning artist Bryan Collier turns the closet on its heel and redefines what it means to be a pair. Beautifully rendered art paired with rich, rhyming dialog creates a powerful reading experience.

    Connect With Disney Books!

    Visit the Official Website

    Follow Disney-Hyperion on Twitter

    Check out Disney Books on Facebook and Instagram

    black history, book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    50 Inspirational Bedtime Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World (A Book Review)

    50 Inspirational Bedtime Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World by L.A. Amber

    Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 120
    Grade Level: 3-4 and up

    Children looking for inspiration will surely find it here. This fun and inspiring collection of influential stories provides fifty illustrated examples of strong, independent role models, all of whom had a profound impact on the world. Personal aspirations from today’s youth are also interspersed throughout the book, so that each story has its own life lesson alongside a positive message. It’s never too soon to start making a difference, and these stories are exhilarating examples of power in action to make for ideal motivation.

    This gorgeous and colorful book contains 50 short one-page inspirational bedtime stories to share with little readers. It highlights the achievements and stories of fifty notable Black women and men from the 18th century to present day.  There are people like: President Barack Obama, Ida B. Wells, Beyonce Knowles, Michael Jordan, Dr. Patricia Bath, Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela, Bessie Coleman, and more.  It’s perfect for daily reading aloud at bedtime for fifty straight nights in a row!  Each short story takes about 5- 10 minutes to read depending on how fast you read.

    Children (and adults) will enjoy reading about political activists, artists, musicians, scientists, athletes, business people, inventors and more. Each individual featured overcame adversities and changed the world for the better in some way. The back matter contains several positive affirmations to say aloud which are great for helping to boost self-esteem.  This book is an amazing and informative resource for Black History Month or anytime of the year!  It’s available to order on Amazon and on the Bedtime Inspirational website.

    Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  If so, which stories did you enjoy reading the most?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    black history, book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs (A Book Review)

    Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs, illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

    Publisher: Chronicle Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 40
    Age Range: 5 – 8
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

    Elizabeth Cotten was only a little girl when she picked up a guitar for the first time. It wasn’t hers (it was her big brother’s), and it wasn’t strung right for her (she was left-handed). But she flipped that guitar upside down and backwards and taught herself how to play it anyway. By age eleven, she’d written “Freight Train,” one of the most famous folk songs of the twentieth century. And by the end of her life, people everywhere—from the sunny beaches of California to the rolling hills of England—knew her music.

    Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of Elizabeth Cotten before.  Born near Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1893, Grammy Award Winner Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten (born Elizabeth Nevills) was an African-American blues guitarist who invented “cotten picking.” At age 11, she picked up her brother Claude’s guitar and picked the strings with the instrument upside down and backwards (because she was left-handed), and kept the sound in perfect pitch.  It’s no surprise though since she was constantly surrounded by music and she came from a musical family.

    Soon after her first encounter with the guitar her brother moved out to go find a job, taking his guitar with him.  But little Libba didn’t let that stop her.  She was determined to work odd jobs and earn enough money to buy her own guitar.  That’s how much she loved music – it was in her bones.  She wrote her own songs like her most popular one “Freight Train” before she was even thirteen years old.

    But soon, Libba would have to go to work for a living as a maid. Times were tough in the 1900’s in the segregated South especially for poor Black females like her.  So Libba put down the guitar and put her musical days behind her.  As the years went on, she married and had children, not returning to the guitar again until she was 60 years old.

    Years later, while working as a maid for the Seeger family, who were musicians, Libba started playing the guitar again and the Seeger family recorded her music at home.  The Seeger family truly believed in her talent and helped spread the word about her music.  Libba played shows with big names like Muddy Waters and performed at prestigious cathedrals in London and Rome.  She played until she was well into her 80’s. In 1984, she finally got her big break and won the Grammy Award for “Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording”.  Libba spent her last days in Syracuse, New York until she died in 1987.  Fans of her music might be inspired to visit the park called “Libba Cotten Grove” in Syracuse, New York which still exists today.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this picture book biography and learning about the life of Elizabeth Cotten.  I am inspired by her skills, talent and determination at such a young age.  The story is not only informative, but the plot is very engaging and it flows well.  The gorgeous graphite illustrations and color palette complement the time period of the book so well.  I truly felt like I stepped back in time to the country South in the 1900s.

    It was so interesting to see how Libba’s musical life came full circle.  From her early days of sneaking into her brother’s room to play his guitar to winning a Grammy award.  How serendipitous of her to eventually become a live in maid working for such a musical family like the Seegers!  It’s clear Libba’s musical genius deserved to shine in the spotlight even if her career didn’t take off until well into her adulthood.

    The back matter includes an author’s note and links to different websites, videos, interviews and recordings of Elizabeth Cotten’s music and her story.  I’d recommend this book for music lovers of all ages who want to learn about a lesser-known African-American female who made a huge impact on the music world.  This would also be a great book to read during Black History Month or Women’s History Month.

    Your turn: Have you ever heard of Elizabeth Cotten and shared her story with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.