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    Your Guide to Literary Road Trips Across America

    Literary lions like Jack Kerouac and Tom Wolfe have long been known for their tales about the open road, specifically the American highway. In fact, their adventures represent far more than just taking to the pavement. The road is a wondrous place — a car being the visible expression of freedom, a drivers license the ticket and the cross-country route the destination.

    Simply put, travel by car is at the heart of American culture — and beyond. From pioneers who chased the Gold Rush out west, to college students who long for summer road trips to young adults that drive home for the holidays, the idea of a road trip is ingrained in our culture. So, to celebrate this symbolism of freedom and the authors who’ve inspired us all, CarRentals mapped out their guide to literary road trips across America.

    From short, in-state drives to daring cross-country adventures, this guide will inspire you to pick up these literary classics and possibly recreate each author’s experience.

    Your turn: How fun would it be to recreate trips like these or create your own?  Have you ever done your own version of a literary road trip on your own or with others?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: A Night with Author Jacqueline Woodson at the Mark Twain House

    I recently had the honor of listening to Jacqueline Woodson, the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature speak at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT.  The event was sponsored by RJ Julia Booksellers and The Mark Twain House and was the first stop on Woodson’s current book tour to promote her latest books.

    Woodson received the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award and a Sibert Honor.  Woodson’s new picture book, created along with two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López, is The Day You Begin, a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.  Her new chapter book is entitled Harbor Me which celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students share their stories.

    The night started off with Woodson reading passages from her popular middle grade book Brown Girl Dreaming.  As she read, she told us different things that were going on during her life that inspired her to write the passage.  She also talked about parts of her childhood and how she migrated from the South before eventually ending up in New York City.

    Next, she read aloud the book The Day You Begin followed by reading a few pages from Harbor Me.  You could hear a pin drop as she read in a “sing songy” type of tone which was completely captivating.  After she finished reading, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions before heading out to get our books personalized and signed.

    A few things I loved most about the event:

    • Jacqueline was everything I thought she’d be and more!  I loved her added bits of humor and the amount of thought/detail she put into answering each question from the audience.
    • She challenged educators and parents in the room to have classrooms/home libraries that reflect “windows”, “mirrors” and “sliding doors” in order for all children to be able to see themselves, understand others and slide into different experiences.
    • Learning more about the inspiration behind writing her books.  Fun fact: The picture book The Other Side was intended to be a story about a present day experience in Jacqueline’s life, not an experience from the past.  It was the illustrator who set the book in the past (1950’s), not her.  Since authors and illustrators aren’t allowed to have any contact with each other during the book writing process, she had no idea what the illustrations would look like until they were completed.

    Overall, it was an amazing event and I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet her in person, shake her hand and receive a signed copy of her book.  Thanks to RJ Julia Bookstore and The Mark Twain House for putting on such a fantastic event.  Now I need to take my kids on a literary road trip to visit the Mark Twain House so we can explore the entire museum.  It looks like an incredible place!


    This amazing Mark Twain Lego statue greets you at the door as soon as you walk in the Mark Twain House Museum.

    Your turn: Are you planning to attend one of Jacqueline Woodson’s upcoming book tour events?  Which one of her books is your favorite?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun

    My Favorite Canvases: Canvas on the Cheap + Discount!

    A couple of weeks ago on Instagram, I shared a canvas print we received from Canvas on the Cheap.  It turned out to be far more fantastic than I expected and now I seriously want to re-do every family photo in our home.  Canvas on the Cheap has many options to choose from 8″x8″ to 30″x40″, but I fell in love with 16″x20″ frame we received.  And guess what…..there is an exclusive link for Here Wee Read readers below!

    There are so many things I love about these canvases.

    QUALITY: The quality is amazing.  The thickness, the detail, the coloring, the packaging they were shipped in….they pay attention to every single detail!  All photos have a gorgeous semi-gloss finish.

    EASY TO HANG: All I had to do was hang it on my wall, make sure it was level, put my nail and hook up and ta da…..it was perfect!  Seriously took me 5 minutes!  My husband couldn’t believe how fast I did it on my own!

    FAST TURN AROUND:  I got everything in about 2-3 days.

    I wish I could invite you all over to see it in person because the pictures really don’t do it any justice.  Buy one for yourself and your family to enjoy! Everyone needs one of these canvases in their home.

    SAVE BIG ON CANVAS PRINTS FOR YOUR HOME!

    Head to Canvas on the Cheap using my special link to order today!  The 8″x8″ canvases would make a great back to school gift for teachers, birthday presents or anytime of the year.

    Your turn: Have you converted any of your family photos into canvas prints?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    PIN PHOTO BELOW TO SAVE THIS COUPON CODE ON MY FAVORITE CANVAS PRINTS

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    family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip: Foxwoods Casino & Resort


    Foxwoods Casino and Resort is located about an hour north of us, which makes it perfect for a quick road trip getaway. Thank you to Foxwoods for hosting us last month!

    We stayed in a one bedroom deluxe room with two double beds that sleeps 4. We found the room to be spacious even with the four of us in it.  The rooms and hallways were always very clean and whenever we asked a staff member a question (like finding our way around – the place is huge!) they were always very helpful and polite. I was particularly taken by the sophisticated colors and the Native American accents shown throughout the hotel, casino and resort. It felt very luxurious and well appointed.  An added bonus was looking at all the beautiful holiday decor since we went right around the Christmas holiday.

    Our room was located in the beautiful Fox Tower.  With the blanket of light snow far below, the views from this height were very impressive. We could have stayed in our room all day enjoying the views.  The views at sunset were incredible!

    While Foxwoods doesn’t have on-site child care, they do offer activities for kids, along with familiy-friendly shows, on-site casinos and adult-themed entertainment.  Also, did you know they are second on the list of top ten largest casinos in the U.S.?  The giant Foxwoods Resort complex currently boasts a whopping 344,000 square feet of casino space, 4,800 slot machines, and 280 table games (including poker tables).  They also have a 20-lane bowling alley, golf course, museum, zip line, outdoor trails, an outlet shopping mall, swimming pools, spas, an arcade with dozens of kid-friendly games and dozens of family-friendly restaurants.

    My husband and I aren’t huge gamblers, but we took turns exploring the gaming area for a bit while one of us stayed with the kids.  During our stay we also had the opportunity to take advantage of the kid-friendly activities.  The kids were so excited to get up close and personal with live reindeer, feed them and take photos with Santa.

    Since we had some last minute holiday shopping to finish we also did some shopping at Tanger Outlets.  Tanger Outlets offers everything from high end shops to affordable stores you know well.  Mixed in with the shops are also many restaurants to choose from.

    Bring on the Books!
    Of course our road trip wouldn’t have been complete without books!  There is a nearby public library just minutes away from Foxwoods (Preston Public Library), but we opted to go to Bank Square Books in Mystic, CT instead.  It’s located directly across the street from the famous Mystic Pizza from the popular movie.  I had been wanting to check out that book store for a while so this trip was the perfect opportunity.

    Overall, I was pleased with Bank Square Books.  It’s a cute and quaint store with a nice selection of both children’s and adult books along with other novelty items.  I purchased a book for the kids as a Christmas gift – one we didn’t own yet: Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel.

    The thing we like most about Foxwoods is everything is in one location.  If we didn’t go off-site to visit the book store, we wouldn’t have had to go outside at all.  Foxwoods is a unique and diverse experience for families to explore.  No matter what your interests, Foxwoods is fun and worth the trip for the whole family.  Be sure to check out some of their upcoming family-friendly events taking place soon!

    Riverdance – Bring the family to go watch this amazing show!

    New England Patriots Cheerleading Auditions – Have you ever wanted to see cheerleading auditions for a professional football team take place?  Well this is your chance to do it for FREE!!!  Great for sports and cheerleading fans!  A fun, free, family-friendly event!

    Piff the Magic Dragon – Go see the break out star from season 10 of NBC’s ‘America’s Got Talent’, Piff the Magic Dragon!

    Super Hero Kids Week!
    4/7/2018 – 4/15/2018
    It’s time to take a break from saving the world and celebrate Super Hero Kids Week! This is the best time for kids to unleash their inner super hero and for Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods to unleash it’s savings for all! We are celebrating this 9 day event by hosting all sorts of free super hero themed activities. Meet your favorite heroes and participate in the scavenger hunt for prizes and much more!  For easiest access to Tanger Outlets park at the Fox Tower garage.

    Family Fun Day with Mystic Aquarium- APRIL 14TH
    Join Tanger Outlets and The Mystic Aquarium on Saturday, April 14, 2018 for a fun, interactive family event from 12 – 4 PM near Sketchers. Kids can learn about Dinosaurs and see LIVE tree fogs in a simulated habitat! Touch a real fossil and see ancient artifacts. Families can enter to win an encounter with live animals at Mystic Aquarium.

    Disclaimer: We received a media rate for our stay at Foxwoods.  As always all opinions are honest and my own.

    Your turn: Are you planning an upcoming literary road trip?  I’d love to hear about your experience and where you’re planning to go!  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    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 palacestamford.org 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

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    connecticut, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Mohegan Sun, A Kid-Friendly Casino Resort

    Disclaimer: We are thrilled to partner with Mohegan Sun for literary road trip series.  We received a discounted hotel stay and meals in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.


    Although casinos are commonly known as adult playgrounds, I was surprised to learn that places like Mohegan Sun offer a variety of activities and options for families with children.

    Kids will immediately love arriving into the lobby area of either the Earth or Sky Tower with the check-in desks surrounded by beautiful sculptures.  We went during the holiday season so we had the opportunity to enjoy all of the amazing, festive décor.

    Upon checking into our hotel room, we were thrilled to learn that Mohegan Sun is all about providing a family-friendly destination experience that truly offers something for everyone. For those who enjoy shopping and eating there are plenty of shops and restaurants with fine and casual dining options.

    Visitors looking for an escape will find the ELEMIS and Mandara spas as well as an 18-hole golf course, fitness center and indoor pools.  And for those who just want to play and try their luck at winning, of course there are plenty of action-packed gaming floors to choose from.  Oh, and did I mention kids eat FREE at some restaurants like Chick-fil-A every Tuesday evening?  Also, kids ages 6 and under eat free at the Mohegan Sun buffet restaurant every day!

    There are also plenty of live entertainment venues for kids, families and adults. Best of all, Mohegan Sun offers a Kids Quest hourly care play center for children, and a Cyber Quest arcade for family-friendly fun!  This was a complete game changer for me since we didn’t have someone else with us to watch the kids.  I was completely sold!  It was such a treat to bring them to a safe place like Kids Quest for a couple of hours while we had the opportunity to explore the casino floor. (We didn’t win big, but we had fun while being kid-free!)

    Of course, we toured Kids Quest first to make sure it was indeed safe and some place we felt comfortable leaving our kids at since they had never been there before.  Kids Quest not only has a fully trained and capable staff, it’s also packed with lots of stuff to keep kids occupied for hours on end.  There are iPad stations, PlayStation stations, video games, rock wall, a stage for karaoke and imaginative play, art supplies, an area for tiny tots & babies, a sports zone and so much more!  Kids Quest is for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old.

    Mohegan Sun also has their own book store called Spin Street which has a small selection of fiction and nonfiction books for adults (no picture books for kids), videos and other novelty items like t-shirts.

    Display of fiction and nonfiction books inside the Spin Street book store

    Display of books and novelty items inside the Spin Street book store

    In addition to checking out Spin Street book store we also ventured out to two local libraries: Gales Ferry Library and Bill Library.  Bill Library is closer to Mohegan Sun and Gales Ferry Library is located about 10 – 15 minutes away from Bill Library.  Both libraries were very charming and quaint with a nice selection of recent and older books for children, teens and adults.  The kids enjoyed playing with the toys in the children’s section of Bill Library, but they were fast asleep by the time we arrived at the Gales Ferry Library.

    Gales Ferry Library located in Gales Ferry, CT

        “The road to knowledge begins with the turn of a page.”

    If you’re thinking of taking a family trip to Mohegan Sun I’d highly recommend it!  Bring the kids to enjoy the arcade or some of the many other kid-friendly activities they have going on at different times of the year.  We’ll definitely be returning more often to visit with or without the kids!

    Your turn: Do you think casinos resorts are for adults only?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    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.

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