Comic Books

My children love comic books, and I like reading them with the kids for the chance to discuss the books. Often there are subtle jokes, historical or cultural references, or just interesting themes. Benny and Penny: The Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes is an easy-reading comic book for that most younger kids should relate to in some way. Bo is a toybreaker, a cousin whom Benny and Penny don’t really like because he tends to break things. It takes a bit but Benny and Penny realize he doesn’t want to break things, and they find a solution so they can all Continue reading

But they’ll judge me if I say that….

I have heard the phrase “the elephant in the room” before but somehow I have always focused on the thought of what the elephant represents (different in every instance) rather than think about the fear that keeps the people from acknowledging it. Two books have left me thinking about that fear more, and how we worry about how others will judge us. One is a story called What Elephant? and it is written and illustrated by Geneviève Côté. Similar to the story of the Emperor’s New Gown, there is something everyone can see but no one wants to acknowledge. In Continue reading

A is for Activist

I found a neat book for children of activists! It is called A is for Activist and it is by Innosanto Nagara. While the book is a baby board book it held more interest for my six year old than my three year old, as he could relate to the abundance of poster-carrying protesters. Each letter is tied in with at least one activist-related word, including those normally hard to use letters: V is for Vox Populi, the voice of the people, X is for Malcolm X and Z is for Zapatistas. There’s lots of room for discussion of concepts Continue reading

Melanie Bluelake’s Dream

I’ve had the book Melanie Bluelake’s Dream sitting by my computer for  while now. I haven’t wanted to return it to the library until I write something about it, but I haven’t known what to write. It is a children’s chapter book by Betty Dorion about an eleven year old Cree girl who leaves her reserve to go live with her mom in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. She’s not happy about leaving her Kõhkom (grandma) and her community. The usual nervousness about starting a new school in a new place are compounded by poverty. She can’t afford the school supplies. She Continue reading

Learning about medieval religious plays and poems

Yesterday I finished reading the book A Little Lower Than the Angels by Geraldine McCaughrean. It is a great historical fiction novel, set in Britain during the middle ages and one of the wonderful things about it is that it isn’t about knights and castles. Instead its about a stone-mason’s apprentice, Gabriel, who runs away with a group of travelling mystery players. Gabriel enjoys the care given to him by Garvey, the playmaster who plays God, but he’s a little nervous around the Frenchman Lucier, who plays Lucifer. When they run into some trouble Garvey decides to turn Gabriel into Continue reading

My Name is Blessing, and the organization behind the book

The book My Name is Blessing by Eric Walters bears a lot in similarity to the book I Come from the Water. Both tell of a child finding a home in a children’s house (orphanage) and both are based on real stories. I Came From the Water takes place in Haiti. My Name is Blessing takes place in Kenya. The boy, Blessing, was not named that by his mother. Instead she named him after suffering. He was raised by his grandmother until she thought it best to take him to the children’s house. There he is told there will not Continue reading


After reading about Randolph Caldecott I decided we should try to find some of the books he illustrated. The university library near us had an original copy of the book Jackanapes by Juliana Horatia Ewing with Caldecott’s illustrations. After reading the term Jackanapes was a reference to an upstart “new money” and also to a monkey on a leash I thought the book might be a comedy of sorts. Instead the story tells of a hero, Jackanapes. It starts with his birth to a young woman who ran off with a soldier to Gretna Green and then lost her husband Continue reading

Sharing stories of Emily Dickinson with my children

Reading about Emily Dickinson seemed like the natural progression after reading about Christina Rossetti. Both poets were born around the same time, though Emily died earlier than Christina. Emily probably read some of Christina’s writings, and we know that after Emily died Christina read a book of her poetry. Yet the two women were in different countries, with Christina living in England and Emily in the USA. My library had two children’s books about Emily Dickinson, both talking about a child’s view of Emily, so I started with those. Those weren’t nearly enough for me, so I dug around through Continue reading

“If you Give a Gay Mouse a Cookie” by Art for a Democractic Society

I bought the book “If you Give a Gay Mouse a Cookie” by Art for a Democratic Society because a facebook friend recommended it, and I have to admit, I’m disappointed. I recognize the spirit of the book. I recognize that they are trying to rebut the crazy “gay marriage will lead to bestiality and people forcing you to marry them” nonsense by saying no, gay marriage will lead to good things, and as expected they followed the pattern established by Laura Numeroff where one (good) thing leads to another. What I didn’t expect was that the book would erase Continue reading

great children’s books for exploring the 19th Century

The 19th century was an amazing century of industrialization, railways and colonization. The Napoleonic wars, Crimean war, opium wars, the American civil war were just a few of the wars fought during the century. Beethoven was composing his symphonies. Railways were transforming travel, trade and many other things. My appreciation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days grows as I learn to recognize how new and exciting the ability to travel far distances by rail was. My appreciation of feminism grows as I read about the nineteen century woman’s struggle to break free of the limits placed on Continue reading