The Reading Life – Hurricane Harvey to Now

April 29, 2018 at 3:35 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It’s been 8 months since Hurricane Harvey swept the Gulf, the flood gates of Conroe were opened post-storm, and our house was overtaken by 13-14 inches of water. We’ve done a lot of moving around, renovation, and – of course – reading.

Martin Luther: The Great Reformer – J.A. Morrison

Studying Martin Luther with my first grader was pretty interesting. Knowing enough about your denomination to explain it to an inquisitive seven year old is harder than I thought it would be. There are many things we do that we might not know why we do until we really dive into the history behind them, and celebrating Reformation Day on October 31st was definitely more exciting after having gotten to know Martin Luther a little bit better. Morrison’s biography is designed for middle grade readers, so it’s actually great as a read aloud to an elementary age student. Morrison also included sheet music for a hymn written by Luther, which fell in nicely to our tin whistle practices during the holidays.

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) – Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas has become a guilty pleasure of mine. Assassins, fairies, War… yes, please. Naturally, there’s a romance because strong female leads can’t seem to exist without a love interest, but she rarely gets graphic enough to make me blush. The series is slated for young adult, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing them to anyone under sixteen.

Jorie and the Gold Key – A.H. Richardson

We are loving the Jorie series. So far we have read Jorie and the Magic Stones and its sequel Jorie and the Magic Key. Kids who are into Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or the Wrinkle in Time series should enjoy Richardson’s fun little saga. The books remind me most of The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles. We can’t wait to read the next installment.

Tales of Pixie Hollow – Kiki Thorpe, Laura Driscoll

Kiddo is a huge Tinker Bell fan, and these stories never let her down. They are a fairly easy going chapter book series, tie into the well beloved movies (available on Netflix), and are beautifully illustrated in the typical Disney style. We will eventually read them all, but this year have only tackled the first 9 or so.

Will I Ever Be Free of You? – Karyl McBride

As its subtitle states, this book is a self help title to aid in navigating a divorce from a narcissist. I needed it, found it helpful, and am glad I read it.

1066: The Year of the Conquest – David Howarth

I absolutely love history books the length of a a novella. Dive in, get to the heart of the information, and move on. Howarth does this nicely with 1066, it is short and sweet, but an extremely detailed account of one year in history that changed everything. It should be on every high school student’s required reading list.

Nooks & Crannies – Jessica Lawson

Could a young adult novel be more fun and reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes?! I adored this. So did kiddo. We definitely both got a little more than choked up at the end and we look forward to more books from Lawson, she is both clever and gifted – like her main character.

Peter the Great – Diane Stanley

This children’s picture book is a great addition to any homeschool mom’s library, especially for history lovers. We read it for fun, and now that we are studying Peter the Great in our actual history lessons we are pretty impressed with how thoroughly Stanley wrote the great Czar’s story. Her entire account is quite memorable and we’re pleased to own a copy.

The History of the Medieval World – Susan Wise Bauer

As I teach my kiddo, I’m trying to keep up in my own studies as well. After all, Education is a lifetime pursuit. Bauer presents the history of the world fabulously for young students in her Story of the World series, but is also very efficient at the task for adults. I plan to use these books as core history “textbooks” when kiddo is high school aged, but for the most part they give me a glimpse into what I want to study in detail, pointing me to people and places I may never have known existed. They are great starting places for adult history students.

Twenty Shakespeare Children’s Stories: The Complete Collection Box Set – Shakespeare

Kiddo and sort of went on a Shakespeare binge this winter. We read all the stories, both in these chapter books designed for early readers, and in beautifully illustrated picture books. I highly recommend this set to keep on hand so that the stories of Hamlet and Macbeth, the confusion of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and the tragedy of Othello may always be a part of childhood memories.

Story of the World #2: The Middle Ages – Susan Wise Bauer

I honestly don’t know how I would homeschool without these books. Although we are currently a part of Classical Conversations, we look to Susan Wise Bauer for our day to day homeschooling structure. We love learning chronologically through history and kiddo is enthralled with these books. We recently acquired the entire set on audio as well and can’t wait to repeat each title as we repeat each “cycle” as per the Classical model.

The Five Love Languages of Children – Gary Chapman

If you have a kiddo and have never read up on love languages, this book is very helpful. I had read The Five Love Languages about twenty years ago and didn’t find the information for children all that unique, but it did help me relate to my child a little better and ask more pointed questions to ensure I wasn’t missing or misinterpreting how she receives love.

Adjustment Team – Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick just never gets old, and I love re-reading this old short, especially when I’m gearing up to re-watch the Matt Damon and Emily Blunt version titled Adjustment Bureau.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life – Alison Weir

Alison Weir is one of my favorite biographers, and she didn’t fail me with this history of Eleanor’s time. There’s little known about Eleanor, so the biography is heavy with information about her family and the political world. It took me longer to read than her books usually do, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

The Double Life of Pocahontas – Jean Fritz

Jean Fritz is another must have for teachers and homeschool parents. We loved learning about the real Pocahontas and comparing her true life stories to those portrayed by Disney. Reality versus fantasy is always a riveting discussion topic in our house and Pocahontas offers a foundation for digging for truth in the half truths of legends.

Bloomin’ Tales: Legends of Seven Favorite Texas Wildflowers – Cherie Coburn

As a family, we tend to gravitate to legends, folklore, and fairy tales in our down time. We also spend half our time outside as eager amateur Naturalists and gardeners. Also, we’re Texas girls. Of course we love this book, of course! We were sold from the second we saw the cover.

King of the Wind: The Story of the Goldolphin Arabian – Marguerite Henry

Kiddo has been horseback riding for over two years now. It is P.E., it is diligence, it is empathy, it has become a cornerstone for everything in our lives. Naturally, we felt the need to highlight this in our reading lives and stumbled across a unit study prepared by Beautiful Feet. We pieced the titles they include in their study and lined them up chronologically to coincide with our existing school schedule as best we could. It’s a little off every now and then, but we’re learning the history of horses and the practices of keeping them along with our study of people. We also covered a lot of geography with this particular book as the Goldolphin Arabian made his way from Morocco to England. This was a childhood favorite of mine and I was so pleased to share it with my kiddo as well. I cried at the end, just like every other time I’ve read it. Marguerite Henry truly had a gift.

Anthem – Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead is one of my favorite books ever. That being said, I didn’t care for Anthem. I found it contrived, a tad annoying, and though the message was well presented, I wanted my hour and a half back.

Mistborn Series – Brandon Sanderson

When I met Brandon Sanderson while working Kevin J. Anderson’s booth at DragonCon in Atlanta, most my coworkers back in Houston were a little perturbed that I had gotten to bask in the glory of the most amazing fantasy writer of our day. I hadn’t read any of his work yet, so I admit it seemed a tad unfair. I’m glad I hadn’t read his books when I worked with him during his signing, it would have rendered me completely inarticulate, because I love the Mistborn series so much now. Finally diving in and reading them on my vacation was the best birthday present I could have given myself this year. If you haven’t read these yet, stop what you’re doing, and order them now. They are truly amazing.

Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola Africa

How exciting it is to discover all these great female leaders of history. I was not familiar with Nzingha as a child and I’m excited that my kiddo has had the chance to discover her. We’re pretty smitten, and now when we’re practicing archery it’s not just Queen Susan from Narnia she pretends to be… sometimes she is Nzingha!

Black Beauty – Anna Sewell

Another childhood favorite. Another recommendation from Beautiful Feet. I cried over the last pages, Kiddo patted me. Oh goodness, sometimes I’m not sure who the books are for, but I am sure she is getting something out of them so I keep doing what I’m doing.

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms – Amy Stewart

I have always enjoyed finding earthworms in my garden. My daughter and I tend to play with the worms and name them, both in the garden and when we go fishing. Amy Stewart propelled this love for the little Annelids further by being such a warm writer. I can’t wait to start my very own earthworm farm.

Madeleine Takes Command – Ethel C. Brill

Have I mentioned how much I love homeschooling? My kiddo is getting a rich and well rounded education and I’m learning so much too! Madeleine de Vercheres lived in Canada in the late 1600’s. This historical novel brings to life the events that made Madeleine famous: at fourteen she was left in command of Fort Vercheres, where her parents were stationed, and thwarted an attack by the native Iroquois.

The Earth Moves: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition – Dan Hofstadter

As kiddo was learning about Galileo and we began basic astronomy lessons, I wanted a deeper insight into the war between the Catholic church and the heliocentric view. I like these Great Discoveries books, and Hofstadter delivered exactly what was promised on the jacket blurbs, however it took me longer than anticipated to finish such a short book. It is well written, just too easy to put down. I’m still glad I read it, am happy to own it, and look forward to picking it apart with Kiddo when she is older.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers – Ralph Moody

A good friend recommended I read this out loud to Kiddo and I am so glad I listened. This is a new favorite, a must read for all, and we’re currently saving up to buy the complete series! I don’t know how I didn’t discover Ralph Moody sooner. Moody rivals Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain in my heart.

Niels Stensen: The Scientist Who Was Beatified – Hans Kermit

I constantly marvel at people who cannot understand my fascination for science as a field of study and my Christian faith. To me, those who think the two cannot coexist have not studied one or the other sufficiently. Niels Stensen is a comfort, an inspiration, and I’m certain if I had ever met the man in person I’d have been madly intrigued.

I Hope This Reaches Her in Time – R.H. Sin

Sometimes I am too tired to do much, but not ready for sleep. That’s when I read poetry, those moments between awake and dreamland. This particular collection is for Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur lovers.

If you wish to browse or order any of these books through Amazon, please click through my link here: https://amzn.to/2r72WPI

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Archimedes and the Door of Science

August 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

517SvkV79rL.jpgTitle: Archimedes and the Door of Science

Author: Jeanne Bendick

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Genre: Children’s Biography

I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library.  My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book.  At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.

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Mr. Emperor Should Be Serialized

January 23, 2016 at 3:00 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

what-was-it-like-mr-emperor-9780989377669_hr.jpgTitle: What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor?

Author: Chiu Kwong-chiu & Eileen Ng

Illustrations: Design and Cultural Studies Workshop

Translation: Ben Wang

We received this awhile back in exchange for an honest review and it took us awhile to get through it – not because it isn’t brilliant, but because it is long, especially for a kids’ picture book.

The information is fantastic, the pictures fun.  But What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? should have been serialized.

It wouldn’t be hard to do as there are already mini chapter-like breaks.  Kids like my own five year old would respond better to it being shorter titles that they could collect like a series as opposed to reading bits of the same book each night.  Ultimately, it’s the same amount of reading for the same amount of time, but kids see it differently for some reason, and they tend to like to collect things anyway.

We loved all the tidbits about Life in China’s Forbidden City, but as a customer, reader, mother, author, bookseller, reviewer, and someone who possesses a BBA in Marketing, I think there could be a lot more money into turning this title into a series of smaller books.

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Spend the Holidays with Pout-Pout Fish

November 14, 2015 at 1:00 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

613r-T9OAbL._SY494_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish

Author: Deborah Diesen

Illustrator: Dan Hanna

Kiddo and I fell in love with The Pout-Pout Fish about three years ago when we discovered The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark.  We had a slight aversion to the possibility of “baby talk” in the writing, but were won over by the fun poetry and the fabulous underwater illustrations. (Read my original post here.)

In addition to our joint love of underwater children’s stories, Kiddo has taken on a serious love for Christmas that can be countered only by my mother’s.  These two, I’m not kidding, have enough Christmas spirit for the entire nation. All of America could abandon the idea of Christmas altogether and my kid and her grandmother would still have us all covered. (I’m a little more ba hum bug, but you know – yin and yang and all that.)

So you can imagine our excitement when the publisher sent us a copy of The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish.

“The Pout-Put Fish is like SANTA!” the kiddo exclaimed, seeing his very merry Santa hat atop his very un-merry face.  We’re not Santa promoters in our house – in the modern day sense that has become tradition, but rather in the currently untraditional traditional sense where we talk about the history of the original Santa stories and how the legend of a good man became a magical myth.  Yet, with all our reading and exploration of wonderful tales and things that promote vivid imaginations, we’ve fallen in love with stories like the Rise of the Guardians by William Joyce and so on…

Come the holidays, we have another household tradition.  We like the concept of four gifts (or gift categories that promote specific, well-thought out gifts in moderation): What You’ll Wear, What You’ll Read, What You Want, and What You Need.  So as a parent of such a household, I especially love the line, “And his gifts had meaning/ Plus a bit of bling-zing/ And his each and every friend loved/ Their just-right thing.” No meaningless haphazard gift giving for the Pout-Pout Fish! (Thank you, for that, Deborah Diesen, it truly does mean so much to us.)

“Can we read it again tomorrow?” Kiddo asked when we were through.

“Of course.”

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October Birthday Books for a 5 Year Old

October 20, 2015 at 4:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Kiddo just turned five. With that come some serious growing up perks – like, for instance, a public library card of her very own.  She now can check out up to 30 books each time we visit and she is over the moon with excitement.  She even wore her fancy new party dress to the library this morning to sign up for her card.

But before we went to the library and checked out new books on her new card, which we will write all about next week – I bought her books at Barnes & Noble that we are pretty thrilled about.  (It was a big deal to buy them from B&N because we’re such used book and library fiends.)

61weEnfu3CL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Snatchabookfeatures a spooky mystery about a village of animals whose bedtime stories are being stolen by a midnight thief.  Who is this thief? Why are they stealing books? It’s all very riveting, and has a gloriously happy ending.

Of course, because the main theme regards the characters’ love of books, this is a great story to share with little ones to get them excited about stories; or, in our case, to celebrate our existing passion.

We adore the illustrations, which always affect our purchasing habits, and look forward to finding more stories from Dochertys.

Julia’s House fo51xXd20Z2wL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_r Lost Creaturesis probably my newest favorite.  I fell in love with this book from a Halloween display at Barnes & Noble and knew the moment I laid hands on it that it wasn’t going to be left behind.  Ben Hatke is a genius.  His art is sweet, imaginative, spunky, and rich.

The story is about generosity and expectations, community and the need for chores, but within the fantastical fun of monsters, ghouls, mermaids, trolls, and more.

No child should go another Halloween without it.

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Spike and Spanish

June 19, 2015 at 4:22 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

SPIKE front coverTitle: Spike, The Mixed-Up Monster

Author: Susan Hood

Illustrator: Melissa Sweet

Genre: Picture Book

Ay, caramba!, we just read this before bed this evening and we love it! First off, I’m a sucker for an axolotl.  I discovered them about two years ago when an avid reddit surfer sent me some images they had found. Strange but cute creatures are kind of our thing, and an axolotl definitely fits the bill.

I remember thinking there should be a picture book about them.  I love kids picture books featuring the odd ducks of the planet and offer educational value at the end of the story.  I have tons of them lined up in my head that I haven’t written yet.  My favorite thing about Hood’s book is that she incorporates Spanish words through out the story and thesusan-hood-spikepic last few pages include research about the creatures who made an appearance.  There’s so much educational value to this book and I can’t wait to own a copy. (We read from a library book.)

Referred to as a water-monster by the Aztecs, I was introduced to these tiny creatures as Mexican Walking Fish.  Either way, they are super cute, come in all different colors, and if ever there was an animal worthy of a picture book it would be this one.

I absolutely adore Melissa Sweet’s illustrations.  They are bright and spunky and the kiddo was riveted by each and every page.  Sweet captured the essence of the story with care and finesse and I look forward to seeing more of her illustrations on picture books in the future.

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Kids Books You MUST Check Out

May 13, 2015 at 6:06 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We’ve been spending more and more time at the library than usual.  About 2-3 hours A DAY.  Before it was every few days, but with this rain – in the tradition of Noah – occurring in the northern Houston area the past few weeks, we’ve been trapped indoors.

So these are our top favorites for the week:

1. Snippet the Early Riser – Bethanie Deeney Murguia (http://amzn.to/1cxqz9Z)

We adore the illustrations in this tail of a snail that wakes up long before his family is ready to start their day.  In the book, you’ll meet a ton of different insects, and then finally discover the source of this family’s plight – Snippet just goes to bed way too early.  It’s a common hazard in family’s with small children and I think most kids and adults alike will be able to relate.

2. When a Dragon Moves In – Jodi More (http://amzn.to/1cxqsew)

Again, the illustrations are fantastic! Kiddo loves the beach setting and the fact that dragons are actually moving into the kid’s sandcastle.  She hasn’t yet caught the nuance that it’s this little dude’s epic imagination at work, but kiddo is – after all – only four.

3. When Rain Falls – Melissa Stewart (http://amzn.to/1bPVhdO)

This is soothing.  And completely appropriate for our current household situation.  So much rain and so many days when it merely threatens to rain, it was nice to read through how rain effects everyone and everything.  We read this right before bed and in the middle of the afternoon several times.  Lovely, lovely, book.

4. Freckleface Strawberry – Julianne Moore (http://amzn.to/1cxsknL)

This isn’t just one title, this is a series of which we have read two. Freckleface Strawberry is an adorable little girl with flaming red hair, completely covered in freckles.  I relate to these books so well because I was the freckle-faced short kid in my class.  Kiddo loves her “because she has so many freckles.  And you know what I like best of her? She has a nickname!”  Kiddo loves nicknames.  Her cousins call her “Fruitcake,” her daddy calls her “Booger,” her tia Danielle calls her “Nugget.”  I call her heathen, but that’s besides the point. Not really, I call her “Nugget” a lot too.

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Fibonacci

May 8, 2015 at 11:39 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Unknown-1Title: The Man of Numbers

Author: Keith Devlin, PhD

Publisher: Walker & Company

Genre: Math History

Length: 183 pages

Swirl by Swirl – a child’s picture book – is where it started.  We checked it out from the library once, then twice, and finally again and again.  It’s about the Fibonacci sequence found in so many spirals in our natural world.  We love it.  Of course, it has a bit in the back about the Fibonacci sequence and the math involved, and that’s cool too, something to instill in young minds so that theP1000952re is familiarity with the topic before they begin Algebra in their tweens.

Of course, at some point I picked up The Pythagorean Theorem, and there Posamatier mentions Ptolemy and his great work The Algamest as well as Fibonacci’s Liber Abaci. Naturally, I requested these at my local library.  “There’s a book about Fibonacci called The Man of Numbers that’s here if you want to read that while you wait for the others to come in,” she told me.  Yes, yes, I would like to read that while I wait for the others.

I checked it out.

I ended up starting and finishing it, however, in one sitting while my kiddo made use of the sixty minute literacy computer session I allow her if she’s been good prior to coming to the library that day.  It was good.  Quick.  Informative.  And of course, just made me want Liber Abaci even more.

Devlin gives you all the necessary history in the concise nature of a mathematician.  He even laments how most mathematicians are concerned about the math and the theorems and not necessarily who originally came up with them or their history, causing much of the history surrounding mathematical ideas to be lost or misconstrued.  Who cares? It’s about the numbers.

I care.  Historians care.  We don’t care as much about the numbers as we do about the theory, the philosophy… we care about math’s heritage more than the practice of being all mathy.  At least that’s how I feel.  I’ll leave number crunching to my husband and daughter – I’ll just be able to tell them who came up with that particular way to crunch.

With all this caring comes the discovery that Fibonacci’s name wasn’t even Fibonacci.  Devlin recounts the fact that the man’s name was Leonardo and he hailed from Pisa.  Leonardo Pisano, as the people of that time and culture would say.  But he referred to himself as fillies Boracic, “son of Bonacci.”  Yet, his father’s name wasn’t Bonacci, so people assumed he meant that he was of the family Bonacci… the Bonacci family evolved and later historian Guillaume Libri coined the name Fibonacci.  Hundreds of years later.  Leonardo was renamed Fibonacci in 1838.

Fibonacci also referred himself as Leonardo Bigolli… a named once translated would be “Leonardo Blockhead.”  Though, Devlin asserts, it’s doubtful that Fibonacci was calling himself a blockhead.

Unknown-2That brings us to our latest picture book selection… Blockhead: the life of Fibonacci.  This delightful picture book was written by Joseph D’Agnese and was illustrated by John O’Brien.  Even though there’s a lot we don’t know about Fibonacci’s real life or how he came to discover his mathematical findings the way he did – it’s fun to imagine what his life was like and where he might have come up with his self-proclaimed nickname “Bigolli.”

For good measure, we re-read Swirl by Swirl afterward and are looking forward to memorizing a few things in the upcoming months.

The first is from Brahmagupta (quoted in Devlin’s book):

“A debt minus zero is a debt.

A fortune minus zero is a fortune.

Zero minus zero is a zero.

A debt subtracted from zero is a fortune.

A fortune subtracted from zero is a debt.

The product of zero multiplied by a debt or fortune is zero.”

The second are the first ten numbers in the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55.

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Springtime Means Seed Time

May 1, 2015 at 4:19 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

We are kind of in love with our librarians at this “new” library branch.  We loved our librarians at the old house, don’t get me wrong, but these ones have definitely weaseled their way into our hearts.  Case and point – there’s this adorable seasonal bin one of the children’s librarians puts together, and of course, we find the *best* things there.

P1030750 This week, it was Flip, Float, Fly and Strega Nona’s Harvest, both perfect stories to read during planting season.  Flip, Float, Fly talks about seeds and how they work, blowing dandelions, and the nature of sticker burrs and such.  Strega Nona, of course, in Tomie dePaola typical fashion, covers not just gardening season – but an entire culture of a family and their village and what fresh vegetables can mean to people.  (More typically, the nature of their rituals to ensure that they get an abundance of these fresh vegetables.)

Of course, when we’re not reading and planting ourselves… we’re out and about playing in creeks and inspecting the forest.

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Maple & Willow

March 15, 2015 at 4:44 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Title: Maple & Willow Together51pSKNjwntL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Author/Illustrator: Lori Nichols

I would have gotten this review up earlier in the week except every time I pick it up to look at it the kiddo stops me and says, “Oh Mommy, read it again, it’s so beautiful.”

So we’ve read this on repeat all week and have yet to put a line down about it anywhere.

We love that the girls are named after trees.  We love that they spend 90% of the story outside.  We love that they are sweet, sweet, but realistic sisters.

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The girls play outside making fairy gardens and blowing dandelions – something we do a lot of.  Collecting worms is also a household specialty; kiddo once delivered earth worms to my sister’s kitchen table and insisted they have lunch along with her and her cousins.  My sister was none too thrilled about this and sent kiddo and the worms back outside where they belonged.

We love how familiar the girls’ lifestyle is, how much these aspects of their lives are in fact the best parts of childhood.  We love… well, we simply love everything about them.  Kiddo has asked that I buy this one for our collection, as we picked this up at the library.  We will do just that as soon as I find it.  We’ll purchase the other books in the series as well.

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