Sunday, July 27, 2014


It's Summertime!
Plum Island ~ Massachusetts

What Emmy loves about SUMMER...lazy days, flip flops, 
chocolate ice cream, juicy watermelon, swimming pools, walks in the woods, bike riding, 
the ocean:  the smell of the warm sea breezes, the sound of the crashing waves, 
the warm sand between her toes and so much more.  SUMMER!  

With more time spent outdoors during the summer, we find ourselves working to create moments in the day for reading and creating indoors (quite different from wintertime when we work on creating moments to be outdoors).

When we first wake up and right before bed seem to be the best times for reading and creating in our household. I recently restocked Emmy's paint supplies and set up her art table with an "invitation to paint." When she woke up the next morning and saw her table, she was so surprised and very motivated to get back to painting.
Emmy's art table and her painting of a sailboat at sunset 
inspired by the view outside of our living room window.  

We've also been motivated to keep reading thanks to our local bookstore and library.  Both have fun summer reading programs going on right now.  At The Book Rack, children are given a passport to Find Waldo in Newburyport.  Local businesses have a small cutout of Waldo hidden somewhere in their store and it's up to the child to find him. Emmy is much better at this seek and find game than I am. She gets so excited when she can ask the shopkeeper to sign her passport.  We have two more Waldos to find and then we can enter our name into the grand prize drawing (a set of Where's Waldo books).
The library's Fizz, Boom, Read program has Emmy reading books for prizes like a coupon to her favorite frozen yogurt shop - Orange Leaf, a free book (she choose Gingerbread Friends by one of her favorite authors Jan Brett) and a free Topsfield Fair ticket!  Emmy fractured her wrist six weeks ago so I've been helping her to fill in her reading log with the titles of the books.
Here are a few books that we've been reading to celebrate the season of SUMMER! (books are listed from a more difficult reading/listening level to an easier one)

Time of Wonder, written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, won the Caldecott Medal in 1958 for the gorgeous illustrations which depict the Maine landscape in summer.  This is McCloskey's second Caldecott award the first being for Make Way For Ducklings. Time of Wonder revolves around two sisters who spend the summer with their family at the seashore.

When the Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant illustrations by Steven Gammel  You can just feel the family love as soon as you open this book about distant relatives coming to stay for the summer. Many people will relate to the connection one has with relatives that you only see once or twice a year ~ you make the visit worthwhile filling each other up to last until the next gathering.
Summersaults and A Summer Day by Douglas Florian...the first is a collection of poems that shares the joys of summer and the not so joyful things - annoying flies! The second is the story of a family that leaves the sweltering heat of a summer day in the city to spend time exploring in the country.  Emmy and I love it when a book shows a family that lives in an apartment since that is home to us.
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee  I love the nostalgic feel of this sweet story. Emmy loves that the main character is the same little girl from one of our favorite winter books Tracks in the Snow (check out our post here).  Yee creates a summer day that is full of wonder and magic from sun up to sun down.  

I See Summer by Charles Gigna, better known as Father Goose, thrills us with his lyrical rhymes. This book is one of four in a series of books about the seasons. Emmy's favorite part is when the children are chasing fireflies in the dark. Such fascinating little creatures.

Summer by Gerda Muller - This book is one of four in a series of wordless picture books about the seasons.  We have enjoyed this set of books since Emmy was a baby first talking about what we saw as we slowly turned the pages to telling a different story each time we opened the book using the beautiful detailed pictures.  Now we use the books to inspire creative writing about the seasons.  Here's an example of a recent poem inspired by the book...
by Emmy
hot and sweaty, sunny and rainy, 
biking and swimming, chilly and juicy
splashing and diving

We wish everyone a summer full of fun adventures and relaxing days!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Raffi is the most influential children's entertainer of all time.  He has created top notch music for kids and their parents since the beginning of his career as a musician for children.  It was his commitment to honoring his young fans that changed the way we came to view music made for children.  Through his own record label, Troubadour, Raffi recorded quality music that resonated with parents.  Four decades later, Raffi continues to inspire millions of families worldwide through his music.  His lyrics spread messages of love and caring with infectious melodies.  From Raffi's songs grew a purpose much larger than performing music for children.  Raffi has worked to create a philosophy of living called Child Honouring.  This is a children first approach to healing communities and restoring ecosystems.  It views how we regard and treat our young as the key to building a humane and sustainable world.  

Raffi's music has touched my life both as a parent and a teacher. When Emmy was a baby I would sing Baby Beluga to her during feedings and diapering.  As she grew, she joined in and together we belted out our rendition of this very popular song.  Whenever a good laugh was in order, I would start singing Shake Your Sillies Out and before you knew it the two of us would be dancing all over the house.  I used both of these songs in the classroom.  Baby Beluga was always a favorite song when we learned about ocean life and whenever we needed to get up and move, Shake Your Sillies Out was our go to song.  No matter the age, children (and adults) always LOVE Raffi.  

Here is Raffi performing Baby Beluga.

A wonderful way to connect music to reading is by sharing books based on familiar songs, such as the Raffi Songs to Read series.  Of course we owned the board book Baby Beluga and Emmy always enjoyed turning the pages in the book as we sang the words together. As she became more aware of frequently used words and letters and their sounds, she began to actually read this book with great enthusiasm.  
When Emmy was around two years old, she was obsessed with trains.  We sang many songs about trains including Little Red Caboose.  I created a book for her using a three ring binder.  I typed the words to her favorite train songs, added some clip art, printed them and slid them into plastic sleeves and then added them to the binder.  Voila - we had a homemade book.  We also took this idea and used it for gift giving.  We would find out the child's favorite song and either buy the corresponding book with the CD and a trinket to go with it (like a stuffed beluga whale to go with Baby Beluga) or we would create our own.  Several years ago we put together a tractor gift for a boy in Emmy's class.  We included the book Otis by Loren Long (a wonderful book of friendship), a toy tractor and a plastic cow.  We happened to have the song Driving My Tractor so we made a CD of the song and typed out the lyrics into a little book.  All of this was placed into a drawstring bag.  This gift was a huge hit.  
Back to Raffi...It's been 12 years since Raffi recorded an album for children!  No need to wait any longer as he just released a brand new album Love Bug and it is awesome!  

Here is a video of the single Love Bug.
You can download this song for free from his website by signing up for his newsletter.  Check it out HERE.

I am going to end this post by using Raffi's words...
"Beauty. Tranquility. The Arts. In these may your life be rich."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Too Many Frogs

Rabbit lived by himself in 
the hollow of an old tree.
He cooked for himself.
He tidied up after himself.
And at the end of each and every day, 
he read himself a story.
It was a simple way of life - 
No fuss, no clutter.
And Rabbit liked it.

Or did he?   Sandy Asher and Keith Graves have paired up to create the book Too Many Frogs, a heartwarming tale of two unlikely friends, a loner rabbit and a pesky frog, that celebrates the joy of reading aloud.

This book was given to Emmy on her birthday several years ago and is one of the most read picture books in our home.  Too Many Frogs begs to be read aloud with funny voices for the characters and funny sounds for the actions.  From Froggie's knock-knockety-knocking on the door followed by his croak "It's Froggie!" to his goodbye, "Thanks for your kindness. Toodle-oo!" readers will love the interaction between the two characters.

Emmy laughs and laughs as Froggie brings noise and clutter to Rabbit's quiet and tidy world.  She especially enjoys when Froggie makes the two of them a snack.

Rabbit opened the door, "I was about to read myself a story."  
"I know!" Froggie cried, and hopped right inside.  
"Love to listen!  But first, let's fix ourselves a snack - or three!  
Don't mind, do you?"  "I suppose not," Rabbit said.  
So Froggie hopped - and popped - and whipped - and flipped - and mixed - 
and fixed a snack.  Or three.  Too much fuss! Rabbit thought.  

Graves' illustrations are full of color and seem to pop right off the page.  Whoever heard of a bright blue bunny, Graves did and it's PERFECT.  There are many fun details to find on the page spreads. Emmy's favorites...the ladybug lamp, the umbrella with a crooked handle and the rug that looks like grass.  But most especially, Emmy likes the facial expressions on Rabbit.

We both highly recommend this book!  Such fun to read and talk about.  Emmy often interrupts me when I am reading so I will remind her of Froggie and Rabbit.  She just giggles and offers to go get us a snack or three!  We have been on the lookout for these two follow up books that are sure to entertain us as well.