Reach & Read: Six Books of Fable and Folktale for Children of All Ages

I enjoy a good fable, parable, tale or story to help illustrate a lesson, prompt new thinking or reframe a problem. One that comes to mind really quick is the empty boat Tao story….. But in this post I want to share reviews and thoughts on six books gifted to me by August House in exchange for my honest review. What a treat, really as I would not have likely come across these particular presentations of classic storytelling.  I found them all enjoyable and encouraging of follow on activities (like baking some cookies!) Read on to learn about the Little Red Hen, origin of a baker’s dozen, some mischievous fairies, a slobbery dog, the smart kind sun and lastly a compendium of even more diverse tales.

The Little Red Hen Retold by Heather Forest Illustrated by Suan Garber

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I love my chooks books! This timeless tale is told with succint lines, phrasing that perked up the ears of my toddler and prompted some ‘reading’ along (He loved the line My! My!). The book is written at just the right pace to keep the story moving but make clear the point of how important it is to pitch in and help with others. The illustrations are pleasing and catchy to the eye (both child and toddler). They are not too over done, predictable or crowded but still have some humorous, whimsical elements (the mouse in particular is comic relief) and offer the reader-in-charge items to question the listener about. Show me the dog, the cat, can you spy the mouse, what color is the string etc. I appreciate being able to spend more time in a story, toddler permitting and this book certainly supports that reading connection, it also offers an excellent alternative to the mass-media version. I certainly recommend this retelling of the classic fable and am thankful it has joined our bookshelf at home.

The Baker’s Dozen Retold by Heather Forest Illustrated by Susan Gaber

Another tale brought to our home complements of August House books! Forest and Gaber are names that appear on several books in our home know but you would have to look extra close to see the similarities as each story feels different and has different take on illustrations. This Colonial American tale about a greedy baker Van Amsterdam was a fun read for me, mostly because I did not know the origin of a bakers dozen (just the quantity) before reading this tale! I will most definitely add this book to our Christmas book count down calendar collection for sure and baking St. Nicholas cookies with the little man. The story does have a ‘dark’ character but she is presented in an approachable way that still makes the point about greed and its ripple effect. I also appreciate that the story’s lesson is clearly stated ” when generosity replaces greed, good fortune follows.”

Anyone have a family favorite recipe for St. Nicholas cookies to share?

The Contest Between the Sun and Wind: An Aesop Fable

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Another fable from the Forest and Gaber duo complements of August House! I was not familiar with this particular Aesop fable in which Forest prompts the reader to think about whether or not gentleness, instead of force, can be a means to achieve a goal? Big question for a little people’s book but rings quite true in current day.

The wind is bit of a braggart and eggs the sun into a contest to see who can get an unsuspecting man’s jacket off first.  The wind tries to force it (think huff and puff) and sun kindly address the reason for the coat being on to begin with but imparting his (or is it a her?) warm rays. Guess who wins?

Recommendation: If Aesop could have met the Beatles on Abbey Road…. “Here comes the sun, here comes the sun.  And I say it’s all right”

The Great Smelly, Slobbery, Small-Tooth Dog Retold by Margaret Read McDonald and Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

 

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The illustrations are quite elaborate and (naturally) I love that there are honeybees on almost every page and she uses the phrase ‘sweet as honeycomb’ to describe the kind canine. However, this particular fable was not a favorite at our house despite  being familiar with other versions like Beauty and the Beast. I think it is really the part that the father  gave his daughter (albeit beloved) away as a prize that influenced us the most. I try to be aware of potential themes that might raise questions  or fears as it relates to adoption or foster care.  For this single reason, we probably won’t be reading this again until little man is much older and we have a better idea of how he perceives the topic. I would still encourage others to read this book and enjoy the colorful and active illustrations.

The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies Retold by Heather Forest and Illustrated by Susan Gaber

 

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It is not every day that the word flummoxed shows up in a children’s book. Flummoxed however captures the historical setting perfecting and for those not familiar defined on the last page [ confuse, perplex, surprise or befuddle] – all of which the smart woman did! You also learn the word ‘seanachies’, which was new for me, meaning Scottish storytellers. I would imagine that i have a few of these in my family tree. The illustrations are actually a bit hysterical, given the manly man type of fairy king with teeny legs and the perfect rainbow septor. Love!

The story is quite clever and highlights what lengths a parent will go to keep family together, but also be kind to others. She also teaches the fairies a few lessons in greed and practical things like what you need to bake a cake. The lesson learned through all of this is that ‘fairies gold (my note: think of this as gratitude) is like love or knowledge ~ or a good story. It’s most valuable when it’s shared.”    Please share this story with your family, you won’t regret it.

Ancient and Epic Tales from Around the World by Heather Forest

 

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This is the last one by Heather Forest in our stack of books so kindly gifted to us by August House.  While it was just published this year, it is brimming with retellings from around the globe and across many diverse cultures. I love this fact! As there is more and more attention on how books should or do or don’t reflect diversity, there is literally a treasure of them already in existence. They just need retelling. I hope Heather puts more of these into children’s books, making them even more accessible at a younger age. Tales in this book range from Greek, Norse, light versions of Homer, Roman times, Sumerian, England (think Beowulf), Persia, India, China (Mulan), Japan, and all across the Southern Hemisphere. This particular book is more advanced that we are ready for at our house but in a few years will be fun to read the tale, talk about what we know already (maybe related to main stream story versions) and pair with learning more about the particular culture featured. Could also be class room resource. The book has a bibliography section with author notes from her research, remember that many of these stories were in oral form only for centuries.  Thank you to the author for all the research.

What are some of your favorite fables and stories to tell?

Reach & Read: Counting with Barefoot Critters

Counting with Barefoot Critters by Teagan White

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An endearing counting book with adorable animal and insect illustrations. Rhyming is utilized but not in a nauseating type of way, I really like how it leads you think about the next number. The stories are sweet, not so fantastical that a child couldn’t relate and promote positive thinking and play.  The only drawback from my perspective is the word barefoot in the title. Because many do, I initially judged a book by its cover and this title suggested a more hill billy type story line. But like more people should do, I took the time to get to know the book (reading) and found it be articulate and pleasant, complete with counting to twelve, rhyming and animals that are not as commonly found in mixed woodland company (e.g. rhino, pirate robin). My favorite ‘character’ is the bee, look for them throughout.

I received a electronic copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated, nor required to say something positive, in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my experience and observations while reading this book. I would certainly purchase this for others!

Reach & Read:Kuma-Kuma Chan’s Home

Kuma-Kuma Chan’s Home by Kazue Takahashi

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I really wanted to fall in love with Kuma-Kuma and get invited to his house, his bear-y nice house.. The illustrations are fantastic, artsy and remind me in a way of those fun fingerprint drawings but the story line is flat for me. It just didn’t go there and just like the beginning of the book where they are a tad bored and experiencing awkward silence that is how I felt reading as well. This series could be positioned for earlier reader books with a little different phrasing perhaps. That said, I will check out the next Kuma-Kuma because I appreciate the different setting and characters.

Maybe you will like it better?

I received a electronic copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated, nor required to say something positive, in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my experience and observations while reading this book.

Mending a Sleeve and Sheet Tear: Hemming and Hawing returns

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It has been a few years since I posted about mending and hemming but I only have so many tricks up my sleeves and it isn’t my faaaave – orite thing to do, so naturally falls down the to-do list. That said, I periodically need to mend my husband’s shirts, right below his elbow. Most of the time the tear is horizontal, although a random vertical tear just showed up (see large blue plaid). It isn’t on his ‘mousing arm’ and it occurs regardless of button-up brand.  See exhibit 1 – elbow close up.

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Ex. 1 – It doesn’t look serrated? Bonus fur baby i spy…

Also of note: the red checkered shirt has been mended twice before (so today makes three). I know that mending can weaken fabric but this time I wanted tried a different approach. Previously I would patch on the inside and use a satin stitch to hold overlapped raw edges together. Inspired by a 1940s vintage sewing book gifted from my local Buy Nothing group, I tried a different method. reinforcing on the back with iron interfacing (not something the ladies had in 1940s) and then patching with a piece of quilting cotton and hand stitching on the front. I also used fray check (again, modern convenience) on the raw edges. I cut both the interfacing and cotton about 1/2 inch bigger all the way around. Clean up any lose threads on shirt. Iron on interfacing, add fray check. Then press under the edges of the cotton patch (about 1/4 inch) so there are no frayed edges. Pin in place and sew with tiny and tidy blanket or whip stitches.

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I also did something similar with a cozy soft flat sheet that tore along the top hem. I used a machine zig zag stitch to hold the overlapped raw edges together and again a fabric patch but machine sewed it on. I also left the finished selvedge as one edge, since it was a scrap cut and #rebel.

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basically sheets so soft from years of use and ‘excuse’ to use bee fabric.

Fingers crossed! The contrast patch isn’t too noticeable and for future mending (I can only imagine with a toddler boy), the patches could be out of an even more fun contrasting fabric. The effort has not be wasted even if we only get a few more wears out of the shirts.

Other mending, hemming posts:

Reach & Read: Water Wow: a visual exploration

Water Wow! by Paula Ayer, Antonia Banyard, Art by Belle Wuthrich

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Infographic book, brimming with ‘party trivia’. What a fresh way to present some really interesting facts about water: visually pleasing, scientific but in an interesting way, and useful and meaning info to frame the climate change issue. I always enjoy a good infographic and find them to be a valuable learning tool for my self or when teaching others. The author and illustrator have created a book that can be read with toddlers (and enjoyed by the adult) and consumed by older children as well.  Thankfully this is available in hard and soft cover, spending on the fine motor skill of your audience. It gives a little fun dose of chemistry, some meteorology and other -ologies that could just be the career inspiration they needed.   I look forward to more in the series and style. It looks like in the spring of 2017 there will be one about food, titled Eat Up! Note when searching the title might get lost  because of popularity of a paint with water product of same name (note also fun and popular for travel). Here is my affiliate link.

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Picture proof of toddler review as part of this process.

I received a electronic copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated, nor required to say something positive, in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my experience and observations while reading this book. I have since purchased a copy as a gift for someone else.

Reach & Read: Joseph’s Big Ride

Joseph’s Big Ride  by Terry Farish, Illustrated by Ken Daley

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Great story about kindness and acceptance and a little patience. This is the first book I have read featuring refugee children and it does a good job highlighting some of their different cultural elements, how some of ‘ours’ may seem and presents common ground regardless. The girl, Whoosh, is a strong female character who recognizes the kindness in others. The illustrations are spunky and keep you engaged in the story.  I have added this book to the Children’s Book Shelf page where right now a list is growing with books featuring diverse characters or stories. Learn more about why on my Bee is for Books post.

I received a electronic copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated, nor required to say something positive, in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my experience and observations while reading this book.

Bee is for Books: Summer 2016 Campaign

#BeeisforBooks – instilling right (pint)-sized philanthropy in children

The What: Join Bee in his SECOND philanthropic event! So what if he as been on this planet approximately the same number of days that there are hairpin turns in the road to Hana? Bee is for Books is about ensuring that all children have books of their own and removing a barrier to the critical adult child interaction of reading aloud and together.

The Why: Right now, there is so much going on in the world, in particular regarding stereotypes: race, religion, gender, income. No better way to fight the negative energy of ignorance and hate than with education, awareness and language of acceptance and kindness. For children, this can happen in a lot of different ways depending on where you live, your family and experiences. But one activity makes things far away near, or foreign friendly or frustrating reassuring; Reading, specificially reading books about diverse characters or themes. Maybe they look like you, maybe they don’t, maybe their family is different than yours or celebrate different holidays or have different toys or play in a different manner. It is this curiosity and interaction that leads to conversations and opportunities to grow together with your child, influence identity and values, foster moxie and credence and develop tolerance, acceptance and understanding.

Click to support the Bee is for Books Summer 2016 campaign

The Ask: Share the titles of your favorite books featuring diverse characters so that we can create a massive list of resources. Then make a donation! For every $25 you donate up to $100, Beckett will match your donation! Curated list will live here.


The Who: Children of patients and clients at the Bailey Boushay House in Seattle. We provide the donation straight to the children. This summer there are almost 40 children ranging in age from baby to teenager who will benefit from your support!

The  More Why: Philanthropy, community support, empathy, awareness, loving kindness and just being a good human being are only a few of the many many attributes we want to cultivate in our young family, now more than ever. Research shows [link to prove it!] that involving your children in charitable activities is key to lifelong community support, much more so that just watching their parents donate money.  I use community loosely in that there are some many different ‘communities’ we are a part of: neighborhood, cultural, hobby, professional, political, demographic, social, special interest… on and on. But even without a robust study to test hypothesis, we have known from before our little Bee was part of our life that philanthropy was an important part of our family.

Guess what? We aren’t uber rich major donors, nor logging in 20 hours a week at a soup kitchen – but we are involved in charity and causes that resonate with us, giving of time, goods and financial support. Sure we could do more but we could do less and there is no perfect level, it is what is meaningful for you at that time, for that particular cause. Including our toddler is the next step for us and fits right in with wanting to build our family more around experiences and less around things, but also teaching important life lessons. I don’t have all the answers right now (or likely ever) for the hard WHY questions Bee will ask as he grows up (why do some children in the world not get to go to school/does that man sleep in the van on our the street/would someone give up their pet/do some kids get a special meal at school/why ….) BUT I know that sharing and learning and discovering together overtime will ease this.

The Still Skeptical but Persistent Reader Part: 

The Fine Print

  • The ‘campaign’ runs through August 11
  • Total campaign matching donation will be up to $500 (he is just a toddler after all)
  • Donations (97 cents of every dollar) will be used to purchase new books featuring diverse stories for Seattle children who do not have access to new books to call their own.
  • It is just our family trying out this tactic, not a uber non-profit, but if you want to join us and make this even more big and more official, let us know in the comments!
  • One article explaining a view of tolerance versus acceptance versus understanding, in case you are curious. I still have so much to learn.

Thank you for joining us in Bee is for Books. M

Past event raised approx. $800 for books for BBH children and families!

This week’s food inspiration: fresh, mostly local, cleaning out the fridge

My garden is not going gangbusters but I am enjoying a new CSA we are trying this summer, Growing Washington. Having so  many colors and options to play with makes the peak of summer a great time to prepare food. Mixed in you might also find ways to integrate food from the larder to make way for future bounty, meat from a local farmer or, of course, a shopping trip to local Costco or grocery store (probably delivered, because I would rather be playing, or you know #life). I am not going to put on airs, just know that I vote with my dollar, taste buds and I like to snap pictures of my food. And eat out too. Ok, I like to eat good food.

This week I did a version of the Green Bean and Tomato Salad from last week. This time the ingredients featured.

  • Green/Purple and Yellow string beans (CSA)
  • Chopped heirloom tomatoes (CSA)
  • Striped Garlic (CSA)
  • Patty Pan Squash (CSA, baby version)
  • Olive oil (Instacart)
  • Basil (pot on deck)
  • Salt and Pepper

Elephant Mushroom with Charcuterie Remnants Pizza

The big ‘win’ with this was cleaning out the fridge.  At this house we like to make pizza at home as a way to use up left overs and other food. This particular Pizza Night featured:

  • Crushed and drained heirloom tomatoes (CSA) with garlic (neighbor)
  • Roughly chopped elephant mushrooms (CSA)
  • Basil (pot on deck)
  • Two slices soft Mozzarella
  • Charcuterie and pickled raisin leftovers from our date night at Bateau!
  • A few cherry tomatoes
  • Pre-made frozen pizza dough from Essential Bakery
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Chopped drain one tomato and add some minced garlic to make the base sauce. Decide on what needs to go onto pizza and then chop or slice the ingredients. We have made some pretty tasty combos (Peking Duck or Potato Ham) – be bold. The dough if frozen, should be defrosted and rested so I let it do just that on the counter this afternoon. Heat the oven to 500. Spread/pull the dough out to the size of the stone or sheet, put it on parchment then onto stone. Bake just the crust for two minutes. Pull out and add the sauce and spread out the other ingredients evenly. Drizzle some oil olive over the top, in particular the mushrooms and add some salt and pepper. Bake for 5-10 minutes depending. Watch it. You want it to brown up but times might vary. Then finish under the broiler to get some nice char.

Fennel Frond Fresh Egg Noodle Pasta

This made short work of some frozen tomato sauce from last summer (thank you Marcella Hazen for best most versatile recipe ever), meatballs, mushrooms and some tops from CSA fennel.IMG_1167

Egg Noodles are easy to make and have a nice texture to them. You can freeze them if there are any left. I use approximate two eggs per cup of flour and a drizzle of olive oil. Beat eggs, add herbs (as much or little as you like)). Add to flour, mix/knead a little to combine. It will feel crumbly but i promise will come together. I gather about a 1/4 cup size ball of dough and then start running it through my paster maker attachment. If not using a pasta roller, keep kneading and then eventually you can start rolling out with rolling pin until it is smooth, not sticky and eventually the thickness you desire. I cut some with pizza roller and other with fettuccini attachment. I like the wider hand cut noodle. They cook in just a minute or two in boiling water.

  • Flour
  • Eggs (back yard)
  • Fennel Frond (CSA)
  • Olive Oil

Other recipes:

Lastly – Zucchini Treats!

I had some zucchini left from the CSA and also was gifted two from my neighborhood Buy Nothing Group, so I made another batch of toddler friendly muffins using roughly (but doubled) the basic muffin recipe from Joy of Cooking. The modifications included more eggs (because mine are smaller from my urban flock), 1/2 cup pure maple syrup instead of sugar, 1/2 cup apple sauce, 1 grated apple, 2 grated carrots, 3 cups grated zucchini, some grated ginger, cinnamon/nutmeg, no oil). They are nice and moist, not sweet and have been consumed eagerly, with poor table manners. I recommend using the mini-muffin pan.

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I also tossed about a cup of zucchini in a batch of chocolate no-bake cookies. Not too shabby! These tasty treats are practically a health food with cacao powder, almond butter, oatmeal and now zucchini. I did use sugar in them, but less then a usual recipe (1 cup) and added more almond butter to use of the jar.

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Because Zucchini. Here are some other links:

Toddler Tried It: Bread in a Bag

Have you seen the video in your newsfeed about making bread in a bag with your kids from Leigh Anne over at www.yourhomebasedmom.com? Well, we tried it and it was a success. Save for the age-appropriate (18 month) yet periodic and unexpected emotional outbursts of unknown origin – the baking show went on.

Granted kneading isn’t yet in my sous-chef’s motor skill (or patience) wheelhouse. He did help scoop the flour into measuring cup (must teach best practices early), help dump flour in bag and then mix it up (three stages). Of course there was flour flung and dough eaten – but that is the fun part. I am a messy baker and cook and I like it that way.

This makes a simple white bread that made for a warm tasty vehicle for jam and also honey and butter. The recipe makes two perfect mini loaves of bread.

Thank you Leigh Anne!

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