Stop Those Painters! – Rita Golden Gelman

Funny

Whimsical

Entertaining

And my two year old is not the only one to like this book!  Both  my husband and I enjoy reading this book to her.  Perhaps it’s because the rhymes are reminescent of Dr. Seuss.  Perhaps it’s because the pictures are so outlandish.  Maybe it’s because it’s so easy to memorize that we don’t need to read it anymore (which is key when reading to a two year who really likes turning pages).

Then again it’s probably because the book is easy to memorize.  Which means I get to hear my cute little two-year-old SweetPea “read” the book to me.  And her interpretation is way better than anything I could come up with.

So my two-year-old likes this book.  My husband enjoys/tolerates this book.  I like this book.  That means it’s a winner as far as I’m concerned.

Stop Those Painters!

Stop Those Painters!

Jillian Jiggs – Phoebe Gilman

Cute

Energetic

Bright

I was first introduced to this book when I was a kid.  My parents gave it to me.  Probably because I (like Jillian) had a very VERY messy room.  I loved the book.  And now I’m so excited because SweetPea is finally able to sit still long enough to listen to all most of the book in just one sitting.

This is simply a whimsical story about a young girl who is forced to clean her room.  And she does!  Unfortunately (for the girl’s mom), as soon as it’s clean her imagination begins to take hold and she follows it through several stories.  Each time her room gets messier and messier.

It’s a simple book with cute rhymes and cuter illustrations (also done by Phoebe Gilman).  The story is driven by a young girl and her friends (imagine that, I like that the lead is a girl).  And it’s not too long for toddlers to stay interested in it (or adults, for that matter).

But if you’re looking for a book to teach your kid to keep their room clean, this probably isn’t it…at least, it never worked for me.  It’s more about having fun and living out anything you imagine.  Which, I think, is even better than a clean room 🙂 .

Baby Books

I’ve passed the halfway mark of my pregnancy.  21 weeks down, only 19 to go!

As I get further along I keep thinking about things I did while pregnant with or shortly after giving birth to SweetPea that made things easier for me.  And while there are a lot of things I did, a few books keep popping up.  These are the books that I keep recommending to my pregnant friends and kept mentioning to husband/family/friends about how they saved my life/sanity/marriage.

I’m a pretty laid back mom, and I like to think that some of that relaxed attitude rubbed off on my daughter, because she too is pretty laid back.  But maybe I just got lucky…either way, hopefully I can maintain that attitude and infuse this next with some of that low key vibe.  But as laid back as I was, I still try to do my very best, and sometimes that involved the help of others.  Especially people with more experience with kids.  Such as the authors of these books.

So I have three books that I think are quite possibly the best books for new parents.  Seriously, the best.  So if you’re looking for some good advice, knowledge, or recipes…this is what I recommend.  Not that there aren’t other amazing books out there, these just happened to teach me exactly what I needed to know (at least at the time).  Without further ado…

1.  Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.  This book helped my sanity so much.  There were so many things about babies and their sleep that I just didn’t know.  For example: I thought babies would just fall asleep when they were tired…I didn’t know that if you put them down to nap it might take a few minutes but that they would fall asleep.  And most importantly they needed that sleep.  Another example: babies/kids/adults who get overly tired will have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep.  So putting babies/kids/parents to bed earlier will enable them to sleep better throughout the night and to sleep longer into the morning.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

Now maybe this book is full of hogwash.  All I’m saying is that my kid rarely fusses about going to nap or bed.  And she is happily in bed and asleep from 8pm until 7:30 or 8am (sometimes as late as 9am).  And I know how lucky I am.  I also think that this book helped us get on that sleep schedule, and for that I am eternally grateful.

2.  The second book I needed to read was The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.  This book was amazing.  The tricks we learned from this book worked more often than not.  They also helped us feel a little more empowered during the time when our entire existence seemed to be controlled by a 5 pound twerp.  This book gives several methods to calm a fussy and crying baby.  And as we all know, a fussy and crying baby leads to a fussy and crying mom (or was that only in my house), so having methods to minimize the fuss is priceless.

The Happiest Baby on the Block

When we were in the hospital after delivery we had to watch the dvd for this book.  I must admit, that dvd was even better than the book.  Actually seeing/hearing some of the methods was incredible.  The shushing is so much louder than what I imagined it while reading the book…it’s actually kind of harsh to my ears, but it was sweet music to my baby.  If you have the opportunity, you should watch this dvd.

3.  The last book is one you probably won’t need too much during that first year, but if you’re interested in cooking healthy foods that your toddler (and husband) will actually eat, this book might just be your ticket.  The book is Weelicious by Catherine McCord.  The recipes in it are very healthy.  They also are presented in different ways to keep kids interested in trying new flavors and textures.  Also, a lot of recipes make pretty big batches, so you can freeze a bunch and keep them on hand.  It’s pretty nice to have a stocked freezer ready to go for those days when I’m not so motivated to cook.

Weelicious

This book also has a website, called Weelicious.com (easy enough).  So if you want to check out some of the recipes I highly recommend you head over there.  There are lots of recipes not found in the cookbook on the website (and some in the cookbook that aren’t on the website).  It also has some videos going through recipes.  It’s a really good resource for toddler food.

I also mentioned a weelicious recipe in another post, you can read about that here.

So there you have it.  If you or someone you know is having a kid (or recently had a kid) here a couple pretty amazing resources.

I Am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

Aliens

Super powers

Lame-o love story

I must admit, I enjoyed this book.  I’ve called books gateway drugs in a previous post.  And this book falls into that category.  It was delightful to read.  Granted, throughout the book I criticized it: poor choices…poor dialogue…poor love story.  Did all of those flaws stop me from reading the book?  No.  Did they slow me down?  No.

Will I stand on the rooftops and proclaim this the best book I’ve read in the past week?  Heck no.  But did it keep me entertained?  Yes, yes it did.  Is it currently introducing young teens to the sci fi genre?  Yes, yes it is.  Will those teens go on to read other books?  Hopefully, oh hopefully.

So, do I recommend this book?  I’m going to be a little ambiguous about this.  I think that if you are able to read books without getting caught up in flaws (as long as they’re not tooooo big) and you want some light hearted reading for a couple hours, this could be an option.  Then again, I could recommend some much better easy reads that you will probably enjoy more.  So maybe, read it if you want.  Like it for what it is: a simple story with a simple (albeit predictable) plot line.

I am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

Spoiler alert:  The best part of this book was the dog.  I’m not even kidding.  But as you know, in books, dogs die.  Not. In. This. Book.  Finally a book where the dog lives.

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

Other worlds

Magic school

Slightly offputting

So I just finished The Magicians.  It sounded very intriguing, comparisons to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but also compared to Narnia.  This was a story where the magical world you enter might not be as welcoming and heartwarming as Narnia was.  So I was intrigued, and excited to read it.

My first complaint about this book is virtually the same complaint I made about the Amulet of Samarkand.  I didn’t like the characters.  Any of them.  They were mopey, unsatisfied, undriven, and full of self pity.  All right, so there may have been one character with a little more drive and a little more reader sympathy, but she was peripheral for a good chunk of the book and it wasn’t until the very end that she became multi-faceted enough to really be interesting.

My second complaint is about how similar Fillory was to Narnia.  But it was twisted and dirty.  And while I think this darker version was very well done, it made me question some of the simple and good views I have a Narnia.  I selfishly didn’t like this because I loved Narnia, I especially love Narnia on a very simple and shallow level, yes I know it is virtually one long biblical allegory.  But Narnia, a tale about four kids and a witch and magic lion…that story I love, and I hate that for even a little while this book has made me look for dark, twisty corners in Narnia.

Personally, I won’t recommend this book to fellow readers.  If you want a magical world, go read about Narnia, or Oz, or Hogwarts.  This book left a sour taste in my mouth and I would have rather spent that time reading (or rereading) some other book, some better book.  Or sleeping, I like sleeping and I don’t do enough of it 🙂

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

The Amulet of Samarkand – Jonathan Stroud

dark

powerful

little twerp

Before reading this book I had heard so many good things.  People (both reviewers and friends) raved.  So I was very I excited when I finally got to read this book.

The story is told through the eyes of Bartimaeus, a demon who was been enslaved, captured, in forced servitude, to a young magician.  He’s very pompous and prone to bragging about his power and prior accomplishments.  This is done through footnotes which I never fully got used to, I found them jarring to the flow and frequently unnecessary.

Nathaniel is the young wizard who has captured Bartimaeus.  He, like Bartimaeus, thinks rather highly of himself.  Yet most of his accomplishments seem to stem from luck (and Bartimaeus), rather than skill.  And he happens to be a brat.

You might have already picked up on this, but I didn’t enjoy the book.  I think that if either Bartimaeus or Nathaniel had in some way been even the slightest bit likeable, I would have enjoyed the book.  But they weren’t.  I never rooted for them.  I didn’t care about them.  Because I didn’t care about them, I didn’t care about the story.

However, reading other reviews, it appears I am in the minority.  If you find yourself enjoying books with less redeeming main characters, give it a whirl.  However, if you don’t like it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh, and there was a very intriguing underlying plot, which no doubt will become more evident in the rest of the trilogy.  And even though I am curious about this plot line, I can’t bring myself to read any more about these characters.  So if anyone has read the whole thing maybe you could give me a brief spoiler.  Or maybe not.  I don’t have a burning desire to know.

Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

A head’s up, up front, this series started as a trilogy but it has been extended and is now 6 books.

The first book of this series is Daughter of the Forest.  This story is based on The Wild Swans folk tale.  I actually reviewed a version of this tale a while ago, you can find that review here.  It’s a beautiful story about a witch who enchants six brothers, turning them into swans.  Their younger sister has the power to turn them back into humans, but the sacrifices she must make are monumental.

In Marillier’s telling the story is expanded upon.  It’s set in ancient Ireland, where druids still have power and where Celts and Brits seem to ceaselessly battle for lands.

I have absolutely no complaints about this book.  Or this series (what I’ve read, I confess I’ve only read the first four books).

I love that magic permeates the land and the background but that it’s human determination, will, and strength that helps the good prevail.

I love that it’s filled with powerful women, both good and evil.  Especially the first book.  In a setting that is clearly patriarchal it is the women who are the greatest heroes and the biggest villains.  This continues in the rest of the books, but not quite to the extent of the first book.

I love that I’ve read the first three books three times and still can’t complain about the plot, the characters, or the settings.  I’m not saying there aren’t flaws, there very well could be flaws, but I’m so captured by the story that I honestly can’t remember a single flaw.

I think a huge strength of this series is that each book can stand alone.  They are all set in the same family, but the lead character is in a different generation.  So there are references to the previous books’ characters, but making the books jump forward a generation really gave Marillier the freedom to completely change the personality, weaknesses, and strengths of the main characters.  The audience still gets to read about those they fell in love with in the prior books, but we are given an opportunity to meet a slew of new characters.

These books are easy to read, they pulled me in, and two days later I emerged ready to pick up the next book in the series.

I highly recommend these books to fantasy readers.  I would caution younger readers, there is violence, there is also a rape in the first book.  Marillier, however, does a good job leaving the reader horrified by what happened without getting too gruesome or too explicit.