Introducing the Octopus… and Tolkien Week

September 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm (Education, Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Weekly Low Down on Kids Books and Adventures in Homeschooling with an Octopus and Tolkien…

Squissy2-103x160Title: Squishy the Octopus

Author: Mary Reason Theriot

Illustrations: Zoie Mahaffey

The last few weeks have been exciting.  With the start of fall and the new school year and kiddo turning three in October, we’ve been diving more heavily into “school time.”  There was a video floating around on facebook, courtesy of the Libertarian Homeschooler or maybe Practical Homeschooling – not sure which, dealing with the camouflage abilities of the octopus.

The video we watched (Where is the Octopus?) is here:

Add in discussions of legs, all things regarding the prefix “oct,” and an a event where Mary Reason Theriot debuted her children’s books, we’ve had quite a big week!

Authors Mary Reason Theriot and Jennifer Theriot at Good Books in the Woods during their Fall Festival

Authors Mary Reason Theriot & Jennifer Theriot

Theriot is quite a popular novelist on Amazon.  Living in Louisiana with her husband and daughter, she avidly writes spooky thrillers with a southern twist that only the home of the Cajun seem to be able to offer.  But most recently, with the aid of her extremely enterprising daughter, she’s branched out and started writing children’s stories as well.

In Squishy the Octopus, a little octopus with a big anger management problem learns to control his temper with the help of his other sea creature friends.  On various pages, like in the video above, Squishy changes color.  My own little kiddo got really excited when this happened, “Let me see the picture!” she’d exclaim, “What color is he now?”

Unrelated to sea creatures, but highly related to our homeschooling life, is the fact that this week is Tolkien week.  September 21st was the 76th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  An day that was celebrated with the first annual Fall Festival at

Archie Rocks Acoustic, little Theriot and my own kiddo in the garden at GBITW.

Archie Rocks Acoustic, little Theriot and my own kiddo in the garden at GBITW.

Good Books in the Woods.  There was a costume contest, a toast to Tolkien, Mary Reason Theriot doing a book signing, Aoristos portraits being drawn and more.  It was a pretty neat event, which we wrapped up at home with the kiddo indulging in a long time favorite The Lord of the Rings cartoon (the 1978 one, we have it on VHS… and yes, we still use our VCR).

September 22nd (yesterday) was Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ birthday! They were born in different years, but on the same day! Something, I suppose, only truly geeky Tolkien fans care about.  So this week is Tolkien week.

I may work for Half Price Books, a company I absolutely adore for so many reasons, but I spend a good chunk of my spare time at Good Books in the Woods.  It is definitely my home away from home these days.  My kid plays in the garden and with the toybox set up in the kids section while I absorb the ambiance of a house taken over by books.  If my husband ever let me, the inside of my house would look exactly like Good Books…


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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Kings

July 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books/ Adventures in The Magic Tree House

crouching_tigerTitle: Crouching Tiger

Author: Ying Chang Compestine

Illustrator: Yan Nascimbene

This book was an unexpected treasure from the public library.  Kiddo picked this book out herself and I was really excited about it once I was in the middle of reading it.

As a third degree black belt who grew up around a lot of Chinese culture, I love finding unique children’s stories like these.  It teaches etiquette, respect for your elders, culture appreciation, diligence, perfection through practice, and each page also has a diagram of a Tai Chi stance.

This was an excellent book to jolt us into our week on Ancient China.

Day of the Dragon KingTitle: Day of the Dragon King (Magic Tree House #14)

Author: Mary Pope Osborne

Publisher: Scholastic

Although we don’t have a research guide for this topic, we’ve been perusing all things Ancient China while reading this book this week.  There are pages from Life in the Ancient World specifically on the Chinese that we read through for a second time, I can’t wait to do some of the art projects when she is older.

toddler chopsticksAlthough we didn’t do anything crafty with this week’s topic, we did enjoy some stir fry for dinner and kiddo got to practice eating with her toddler chopsticks.

The kiddo’s chopsticks are an orange elephant, but the concept is pretty much the same.  These things are so handy and I think they are a great way to give your tiny person an ounce of how other countries live.

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The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 2/19/12

February 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm (Reviews) ()

Dream Hop – Julia Durango and Jared Lee

I took my best friend to the library with me and Ayla and this was her particular pick.  Its adorable and Ayla got really excited every time we yell: “Dream Hop!” It’s definitely worth while.

Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats – Allysa Satin Capucilli and Joan Rankin

Fellow blogger Emily of CoffeeCupsInTrees and I both agree that no child can sit all the way through this one.  It’s fabulous with great poetry and cute pictures, but its long and the pictures too pastel to interest growing, wiggly toddlers.


Big Little Elephant – Valeri Gorbechev

The author of a previous favorite: Molly Who Flew Away, we had to check out this fabulous Ukranian-American man’s elephant piece.  Ayla enjoyed it and of course, elephant obsessed me thought it was awesome.  We also read Shhh! by the same author.

It was a Gorbachev week, as you can see, but it was fun and we love his illustrations and stories.


Fairly Fairy Tales – Esme Raji Codell and Elisa Chavarri

Neither one of us cared for this one.  The illustrations are fun and girly, but the story is odd for lack of a better word.


The Kiss That Missed – David Melling

Love, love, love this book!  Ayla liked it a lot also.  The illustrations are fun and imaginative and so is the story line.  How great is it to follow a runaway kiss blown to a boy prince as he is laid down to sleep?  A knight is sent to catch it and a dragon brings it back.  This is a lovely bed time story to be read together as a family.


Blue Chameleon – Emily Gravett

Totally weird and totally awesome.  Gravett is an award winning illustrator and its obvious why, if ever I have a boy I’d be all about decorating the nursery to match her artwork.  The blue chameleon is adorable!

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The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 2/05/12

February 6, 2012 at 4:33 am (Reviews) (, , , , , )

Moo, Baa, La La La! And But Not the Hippopotamus – Sandra Boynton

We liked the last Sandra Boynton book so much; we had to try these ones.  Moo, Baa, La La La! Is wonderful, Ayla had me read it over and over again, even when she wasn’t feeling that well.  She’s been sick, diagnosed with Pharyngitis, and lost about 3lbs. That’s a lot of weight for a 15 mo.  But Moo, Baa, La La La! kept her in good spirits. But Not the Hippopotamus is cute, Ayla just didn’t care for it as much.  It might be an issue of color; Hippopotamus is a dark green, whereas Moo, Baa is a bright teal.  Who knows why babies go for the things they do, I just document my kid’s ‘reviews’ because she can’t do so herself!

Celestine, Drama Queen – Penny Ives

I didn’t think I’d care much for this, but Ayla grabbed it so I said ok.  After reading it though, I think its really cute.  Ayla wanted to read this as an ‘I’m sleepy’ read this week.  We would read through Celestine and then the usual signal of ‘Nurse me and let me rest’ she’d grab the Edna St. Vincent Millay poetry collection.  Ives story is wise and the watercolor illustrations appropriately girly for my little girl.

Which Witch is Which? – Pat Hutchins

This is one we’ll have to grab a few months down the road.  It’s a brilliant piece about twins Emily and Ella who are at a costume party and like different things, and its up to the reader to decipher who is who in each illustration: ‘Ella likes pink, Emily blue. Which witch is which?’ and one holds out a pink gift for the host and one holds out a blue one.  Between being ill and not really knowing her colors and whatnot, it just didn’t hold her attention this time.

What You Never Knew About Beds, Bedrooms, and Pajamas – Patricia Lauber

This is a great book to put curious minds to sleep.  Part of the Around the House History series, it goes through the entire history of beds, bedrooms and pajamas.  Ayla fell asleep about halfway through, but an older child would be more than capable of making it to the end.  It’s a great way to make bedtime learning time too, but no worries about making fun cozy story time in pajamas too scholastic, the illustrations by John Manders keep it all pretty fun.

Finklehopper Frog – Irene Livingston

With all the bright illustrations by Brian Lies, I thought this one was going to have a shoe in for Ayla’s affections without a doubt.  Quite to the contrary, she just wasn’t interested and kept pushing it aside to make me read Moo, Baa, La La La! again.  The poetry is fun, the rhymes mimicking the hopping of a frog as he tries to do things like the other animals.  In the end a bunny rabbit convinces him to be content being himself.

Geraldine First – Holly Keller

I was drawn to the illustrations, but they didn’t really captivate Ayla.  The story is definitely geared toward older children with younger siblings, and I think my nieces and nephews would find it quite funny.  Ayla probably wont share in this sentiment any time soon, if ever.

Introducing Limelight Larry – Leigh Hodgkinson

We both LOVED Limelight Larry.  It’s funny and clever, and the illustrations are exciting and beautiful.  The very best part?  All the different fonts and the surprise foil additions to Larry’s beautiful peacock feathers.  Had I seen this book prior to having Ayla, I may have done the entire nursery in Limelight Larry, maybe Ayla and I can paint her room that way together one day.

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The Brownie and the Princess – A Review

December 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: The Brownie and the Princess and Other Stories

Author: Louisa May Alcott


A HarperCollins Publication

Genre: Children’s fiction

Length: 250 pages

As everyone knows, Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in the 1800’s and became one of the most well-known and timeless children’s literature authors of all time.  The story of the March sisters is one that all little girls discover eventually, even if it isn’t until adulthood with the many movie productions (the most recent in 1994 featuring Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, and many other well-known stars).   What a lot of people don’t know is that, just like Jo March, Alcott had many stories published in children’s magazines.  The Brownie and the Princess and Other Stories is a collection of those stories.

One of the most delightful things about being a new mom is seeking out children’s books that I either remember loving or discovered later and wish I had owned.  This particular collection was published while I was in college, so I missed the joy of reading it as a small child, but am extremely excited about having it available for my daughter.

The story of the Brownie and the Princess teaches good manners and being happy with what you have.  Tabby’s Tablecloth is about patriotism and respecting antiques and the sentiments attached to them.  The Hole in the Wall is beautifully innocent and romantic in a way.  It’s lovely to go back to pleasant stories of gardens and happy moments strung together, skipping, playing, and the teaching of basic goodness, in the midst of a rough day of teething, tears, and tantrums.  Books like these help gently aid the teaching of right from wrong.

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A Book Review: TumTum & Nutmeg by Emily Bearn

November 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm (Reviews) (, , , )

Title: TumTum & Nutmeg
Author: Emily Bearn
Available from Egmont
Genre: Children’s fiction
180 pages from Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Little, Brown
Please visit:

     In the broom cupboard of a small dwelling called Rose Cottage, stands a house fit for a mouse – well, two mice actually. A house made of pebblestone, with gables on the windows and turrets peeking out of the roof. A house with a ballroom, a billiard room, a banqueting room, a butler’s room and a drawing room. The house belongs to Mr and Mrs Nutmouse, or Tumtum and Nutmeg as they affectionately call each other.
Tumtum and Nutmeg have a wonderful life but the children who live in Rose Cottage, Arthur and Lucy, are miserable. So, one day Tumtum and Nutmeg decide to cheer them up…
Tumtum repairs the electric heater in the attic where the children sleep and Nutmeg darns the children’s clothes. Arthur and Lucy are delighted and think a Fairy of Sorts is looking after them.
But then Aunt Ivy with her green eyelids and long, elasticey arms arrives. She hates mice and hatches a plan to get rid of them. Soon Tumtum and Nutmeg are no longer safe to venture out…
Tumtum and Nutmeg is a miniature masterpiece that will be loved by generations to come.

– Summary by Egmont

I picked up TumTum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall at Half Price Books in Humble, TX a few months back, with the intention of reading the stories to my daughter one day. I had never heard of them, but the front cover looked delightful and reminded me of the childhood days I spent pouring over The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

My daughter just turned one this last month and tired of re-reading every Eric Carle and Marcus Pfister book we own, I decided to see if she could sit through a few pages of Emily Bearn. I thought, maybe we can at least make it to the first illustration.

Low and behold, we were both captivated. I read until she fell asleep, and despite this book being written for very small children, I found I couldn’t put it down and wanted to know what would happen next. I was five years old again, huddled up in a quilt, lost in a world of a little family living in the nooks and crannies of an old house.

TumTum & Nutmeg is wonderful. It is precious in its descriptions and histories, the story is sweet and adventurous, enriching and exciting. I cannot wait to read the additional stories in the compilation and with sheer joy anticipate re-reading this story to my daughter when she is old enough to follow the story and not just my voice. This should be a part of every child’s library.

Buy Now!

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