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Results 1 - 25 of 76
1. Double Dipping – Picture book therapy

When medical conditions affect children or the people in their lives, one of the most daunting aspects of their situation is how to cope. The management of a disease or disability is one thing, the understanding why they have it and why others react the way they do is another. Picture books are marvellous non-invasive […]

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2. Picture of Grace, by Josh Armstrong | Dedicated Review

Picture of Grace, by Josh Armstrong, is certainly moving and will be well received by families who are suffering or have suffered from loss.

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3. Last Stop on Market Street – Diversity Reading Challenge 2015

 Today’s Diversity Read/Review falls into categories #1 and #2. The author Matt de la Peña  is half Mexican/half white and the illustrator Christian Robinson is African-American. Title: Last Stop Market Street Written by: Matt de la Peña Illustrated by: Christian Robinson Published by: G. … Continue reading

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4. Can You Buy Me the Wind?, by Steven Schoenfeld | Dedicated Review

In children’s book author Steven Schoenfeld’s Can You Buy Me the Wind?, children and parents alike are treated to a rhyming picture book that seeks to instill a solid set of values.

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5. The Duck and The Darklings: Can my reading year get better than this?

I have my first contender for the very best picture book I’ll read all 2015.

duckdarklingsThe Duck and the Darklings written by Glenda Millard, and illustrated by Stephen Michael King is a gentle and powerful heart salve. It is a tiny yet quenching oasis of love and hope. It is funny and quirky and lyrical and poignant and lovely in that way that makes your lips feel a little like singing when you read its words.

Grandpa and Peterboy live underground because the earth above has fallen into ruin. A quiet air of melancholy pervades their home whilst they remember happier, healthier and brighter times past. One day Peterboy finds a wounded duck which he brings home, even though they have little food to share. Compassion, thoughtfulness and generosity heal the duck, but once she is well enough she is drawn by instinct to leave and fly across the skies. The thought of losing his new friend makes Peterboy sad. Can he let that which he loves go?

Millard has written an exquisite story about hope and friendship. Rarely will you come across a picture book full with such glorious verbal imagery, where in almost every line words and sentences feel like they have been recast, hewn afresh from the language we use everyday. Melodic and evocative, I can’t remember the last time I read aloud a picture book and so enjoyed simply feeling and hearing the sentences blossom into the air as I shared the story.

With echoes of Leonni’s Frederick, The Duck and the Darklings explores the power of stories, real, remembered and imagined, to sustain us. For me it was also a metaphor for mourning and a way through, back to finding a sense of hope after experiencing depression, and how building relationships, even if they ultimately change and move on, is a that which brings us life.


M and J probably didn’t react the same way, I shall freely admit! As child readers of this book they adored its unconventionality, its playfulness, its whimsy. Grandpa in the book is highly inventive (there are many illustrations of his contraptions), Peterboy is brave, inquisitive and kind. He has freedom to roam and a valued role in the family and both these aspects also hugely appealed to my kids.

King’s illustrations are a perfect match for this very special story. With lots of black, dark blues and purples, mixing seemingly chaotic splashes and brushes with fine detail, humour and increasing use of colour as hope gradually fills the world between the book’s pages, King has created a beguiling landscape.


To paraphrase a line from The Duck and the Darklings, when I’m searching for books to share with my family and with you here on the blog, I wish “for more than crumbs and crusts”; I wish for “scrap[s] of wonderfulness.” And a piece of wonderfulness is truly what this book is.

A detail from the backcover of The Duck and the Darklings. This was the image which especially inspired our sculpture.

A detail from the backcover of The Duck and the Darklings. This was the image which especially inspired our “playing by the book”.

Inspired by the darkness and the forest and flowers which grow as the earth heals, thanks to the blooming of hope and friendship between Peterboy, Idaduck and Grandpa, we created our own sculpture taking King’s illustrations as are starting point. To create the sculpture we used a large cardboard box, a piece of polystyrene (packaging from another box), jam jar and bottle lids, twigs, acrylic paint and tape.


First J painted the inside of the cardboard box and the twigs black, matching the black stemmed plants in King’s illustrations. She also painted the back of the lids black (where they weren’t already black), and the insides of the lids bright colours. For all of this it was important to use acrylic paint (rather than poster paint) as it adheres to almost any surface, including wood, metal and plastic.


Once the paint was dry we used the tape to stick the lids on the ends of the twigs to create “flowers”, which we embellished with paper leaves.


Then to bring light into our sculpture we used small batteries and LEDs to create pinpricks of magic.

I think you can just about see in the photo series below how J loved the “magic” of being able to turn the LED on by positioning it carefully on the battery. A simple but exciting introduction to electricity and circuits! We used small CR2032 3V lithium batteries and 5mm LEDs, and what J had to investigate is what difference it made as to which side of the battery the long leg of the LED (LEDs have one long leg, and one short) needed to be on, in order for the LED to light up. Once she’d cracked the magic-making we used electrical tape to fix the LEDs in position, taping around both legs of the LED and the battery to prevent any movement.


J stuck her LED lights through holes in the boxes once we’d assembled all our flowers inside the large cardboard box she’d painting black. To help the flowers stand upright, I “hid” a piece of polystyrene packaging under the base of the box. Thus, when J made a hole for her flower to stand in, the flower’s stem also went into the thick polystyrene base, helping it to stay vertical. You can just see the polystyrene in the picture – under the flap at the bottom of the box.


Finally we turned off all the lights in our room and entered into our own Darkness, gradually filling with light and hope and renewal.


Whilst making our garden in the darkness we listened to music I think could light up any darkness:

  • As steals the Morn by Handel, sung here by Mark Padmore and played by the English Consort. Exquisite, soothing, restorative.
  • Bless the glad earth also by Handel, the last piece in Act 2 of his opera Semele. You can see the production which moved me to tears the first time I saw it here, with ‘Bless the glad earth’ starting around the 45 minute mark. Yeah, I know it’s opera, but don’t think the kids won’t enjoy it; in my experience the “dressing up”, the theatricality, and the whole pomp of it can appeal to kids quite a lot! Just like many kids can fall in love with going to see a ballet, I’m convinced just as many could enjoy opera if given half a chance.

  • Other activities which might go really well with reading The Duck and the Darklings include:

  • Creating a candle hat just like those worn by the Darklings. Seeing as we’re on a role with LEDs I might use one of them, but alternatively you could create a candle out of toilet rolls like Creative Jewish Mom did and attach to your favourite hat (or make one like these from Ikat Bag)
  • Reading the Kingdom of Silk series by the same author and illustrator pair. It’s actually thanks to this series of short novels for young children that I discovered The Duck and the Darklings. The series is remarkable and I will be reviewing this hopefully next month on the blog, but I can’t resist an extra opportunity to bring it to your attention as it is something rare and incredible.
  • Have you read anything yet this year which has simply taken your breath away?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Duck and the Darklings from the UK distributors, Murdoch Books (YES! This Australian book is easily available here in the UK, your local bookshop should be able to order it without you having to resort to Amazon).

    3 Comments on The Duck and The Darklings: Can my reading year get better than this?, last added: 1/19/2015
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    6. The Katie Morag Treasury / Books with a strong sense of location

    Over the last couple of year’s I’ve read quite a lot about how children’s books with a very specific cultural setting are not favoured by publishers because it is hard to sell rights widely; publishers are keen for “universal” stories which translate (literally and figuratively) well across borders and languages.

    Whilst I understand publishers’ drive to maximise sales, I think a great deal is lost if we ignore stories boldly and vividly set in specific and identifiable locations and cultures. Indeed, considering the current drive for increasing diversity in children’s books, I would argue that books which are culture specific have a vital role to play.

    And of course, a great book will be “universal” whether or not it is set in a specific time, location or country; enduring stories speak to that which we share whatever our differences.

    I have been a fan of Mairi Hedderwick’s books for as long as I can remember. She writes and illustrates rural Scottish island life in a magical way. She captures truths like poetry can in her watercolours of Hebridean life, whilst her stories are full of acute observations about family life that’s more or less the same wherever you are in the world, exploring issues such as sibling rivalry and intergenerational relationships.

    katiemoragetreasuryThe Katie Morag Treasury by Mairi Hedderwick is a glorious book, bringing together a mix of the most popular previously published Katie Morag books and new stories and illustrations first heard and seen on episodes of the highly acclaimed BBC Katie Morag TV show. It really is a treasury, with a range of witty and poignant stories, illustrated in ink and watercolour in a way that invisibly and movingly marries romance and realism.

    For kids listening to these stories Katie Morag’s tales act as mirrors; yes she may live in a community vastly unlike the one the young reader or listener lives in, but that only makes it more interesting and reassuring to read that Katie Morag has the same sort of worries, plays the same sorts of games and quarrels with her parents just like they do. Thoughtfulness is a consistent thread in all these stories, and Katie Morag herself is a terrific role model; full of strength and imagination she is not afraid to explore, to try new things, or to be kind.


    This is a keeper of a book, one which works well both as a read-aloud, or for children who can read themselves. Indeed the lovely hardback binding makes this ideal for older readers who might not want to be seen reading picture books any more.

    Last year when we were holiday in Scotland we collected a stash of shells and sea glass and re-reading these fabulous Katie Morag stories inspired us to get our jars of them out of our natural history museum, and play with them using a home-made light box.


    I borrowed one of our large plastic boxes which we normally store lego in, lined it with white tissue paper, and then put a load of fairy lights inside it. With the fairy lights turned on, and all the other lights turned off and curtains drawn we entered something of a soothing world where the girls could then make patterns with the shells and sea glass, with soft light shining through.


    If you don’t have any sea glass, you could do this activity with florists’ glass (vase) pebbles instead, making light imbued mosaics.


    Music which goes really well with Katie Morag stories (though maybe not with the light box activity as much of it will get you up and dancing) includes:

  • My favourite radio programme – available worldwide online – Travelling Folk. This is BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship folk programme and it’s full of treats each week.
  • Arrangements of songs like you’ve never heard before from Billy McIntyre and his All Star Ceilidh Band, who I’d love to hear live because they are just WAY out there…. Pop! goes the Ceilidh is a hysterical album with covers of lots of pop classics (eg Living on a Prayer, Robbie William’s Angels, Billy Idol’s White Wedding) redone with fiddle, accordion and more. It will put a crazy smile on your face.
  • Anything by Skippinish but especially Land below the Waves that always gives me goosebumps:

  • Other activities which you could try out alongside reading The Katie Morag Treasury include:

  • Creating a sand imprint roller (!) like we did when I reviewed audiobook versions of the Katie Morag stories.
  • Making stone soup, as per one of the six folk tales told at Grannie Island’s Ceilidh, and reproduced in The Katie Morag Treasury. If you’ve never made stone soup here’s a recipe to get you started.
  • Adapting a pair of shoes to make your own tap shoes; Katie Morag learns to tap dance but uses her wellies and a little bit of ingenuity. Here are some ways you can turn your regular shoes into tap shoes.
  • What are your favourite children’s books which have a very strong sense of location?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of The Katie Morag Treasury by the publisher

    4 Comments on The Katie Morag Treasury / Books with a strong sense of location, last added: 11/13/2014
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    7. Grandma


    0 Comments on Grandma as of 11/16/2014 6:35:00 PM
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    8. Hugs!

    There's nothing like a hug from your grandpa. :-)

    (Really old piece for Highlights Magazine. Watercolor. By Tara Larsen Chang)

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    9. Grandmother Remembers

    This story was set in the meso american pre-classic period...interesting to research!


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    10. Grandpa's here!

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    11. Some things are worth waiting for: Snow by Samuel Usher

    Illustrator Sam Usher burst onto the scene two years ago with with a riot of colour and pattern in Can You See Sassoon?, which was shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013. When your first book gets flagged up as a potential prize winner, there is some expectation and anticipation when it comes to future publications.

    More than two years after Can You See Sassoon? was published, Usher is back, and like all good things, it has been worth the wait.

    snowfrontcoverSnow by Sam Usher celebrates that wonderfully exciting feeling in the pit of your stomach when you open your eyes in the morning, draw back the curtains and… your world has been transformed by a deep blanket of snow. The potential for play, the white world waiting to be explored, the possibility to really make your own mark….ahh! Just how quickly can you get out there to delight in at all?

    A young boy zooms through getting ready, frustrated by the time it takes his Grandfather to join him. Will it be worth the wait for other kids are already out there leaving footprints everywhere?

    A whole lot of snowballs and a little bit of childhood magic later, Grandpa and child agree “some things are definitely worth waiting for“. With Snow, I couldn’t agree more.


    Usher’s illustrations are full of life and energy; there’s a comfortable looseness about them, and I cannot help but draw comparisons (in the best possible way) with Quentin Blake. Perhaps it is because the Grandfather in this story physically reminds me of Blake, with his bald pate and avuncular manner. But it’s also in the noses, the wonky fingers, the hand gestures and I love this stylistic echo. Indeed I get a real kick from these potentially vulnerable pen lines that speak to me of a real person, drawing a line that connects creator, story, reader and listener together.

    With another contender for my favourite page turn of the year, showing how an almost plain white page can produce both gasps and a burst of warm delight, Snow is a wintry classic that will bring much delight and joy, however long you have to wait for it.


    Alas weather in our part of the world has been unseasonally warm so I don’t hold out much hope of snow any time this year. Ever the optimist, I instead made some snow to play with in the warmth of our kitchen.

    Snow dough is a moldable yet friable substance akin to commercially available ‘moon sand’, made out of corn flour (corn starch) and oil. We mixed about one part sunflower oil to four parts corn flour, and just for good measure added in a few drops of peppermint essential oil so that our snow dough smelt like Christmas candy.


    I smoothed out the snow dough to recreate that blissful untouched vista of snow, and brought out a load of playmobil people and plastic animals (matching those in the book where possible). A small pot of glitter, for pinching and casting over the scene to add a little extra sparkle completed the invitation to play.


    Lots of tracks in the snow were made, and because the snow dough is moldable, caches of snowballs and even an igloo were also prepared.


    The snow dough has a wonderful crunch to it when you mold it – satisfyingly just like real snow!


    Cake and hot chocolate completed our afternoon playing in the “snow”.


    Whilst playing in the snow we listened to:

  • Dean Martin sing Let it Snow!
  • Snow Day by Zak Morgan – we really love this one!
  • Snow Day Dance by The Fuzzy Lemons

  • Other activities which could work well alongside reading Snow include:

  • Creating your own snowstorm at home. Inspired by the ‘Snowstorm in China’ magic trick (click here to see in action – I’m assuming shiny trousers are optional), you – and the kids – could tear up large quantities of white tissue paper and then use fans to get the “snow” falling in your home.
  • Using a jam jar to male a snow globe. I particularly like this tutorial on Our Best Bites.
  • Researching how to make the best hot chocolate. Why not make a “science lab” with different types of milk, cocoa vs hot chocolate powder vs melted chocolate, optional extras like marshmallows or flaked chocolate and investigate different ways of making this wintry drink; kids will no doubt enjoy coming up with their own recipes. Here’s a comparison of different recipes to get you started.
  • I know at least one of my readers has already got snow this November (Hello Donna!), but has anyone else had the chance to play in snow yet this year? Or are you heading into Summer?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Snow from the publisher.

    3 Comments on Some things are worth waiting for: Snow by Samuel Usher, last added: 11/20/2014
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    12. Grandparents tsunami

    Something a little different from me this month - for a feature about the effect of an aging population on the health service.

    0 Comments on Grandparents tsunami as of 11/29/2014 5:47:00 AM
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    13. ‘When I see Grandma'; A Compelling Account with Author, Debra Tidball

    I love the way award-winning author Debra Tidball describes her view on valuing connectedness across the generations. I also love the sentiment in celebrating people’s personal histories and appreciating who they are now, and then. Having had a grandmother with whom I had a strong bond, ‘When I see Grandma’ really resonated in my heart. […]

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    14. The Story behind 'GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit' by Terry Nicholetti

    When I moved from Ithaca, NY to Washington DC in 1998, I was missing my three granddaughters, ages 10, 8, and 6, and wanted to stay close to them. At the same time, I was going through a rebellious phase, resisting doing daily things we all need to do, cleaning, sorting mail, paying bills, etc.  My therapist encouraged me to make friends with the “little girl” within me who was so angry about “shoulds” and find a way to work together.  She also encouraged me to look for the “why;” why should I care about this task that I don’t want to do.

    One day I told her that I had paid all my bills on time that month, and she said, “Good for you! Give yourself a gold star!” What an idea! So I started a little notebook, listed my accomplishments, and gave myself a gold star each time. I wanted to share this idea with my granddaughters, so I designed a two-way postal card out of oak tag. On the top part it said, “Here’s something I did that I’m proud of.” On the bottom half, to be returned to the sender, it said “Here’s what I think of your story.” I made up a supply of these cards, and for a while, we exchanged these messages with great joy.

    When I shared these cards with my friends, they said, “This is a great idea; you should turn it into a product!” I didn’t want to just write up a boring “how to” pamphlet to go with them, so I got the idea to write a children’s story about a little girl named NoraLee Johnson who hates doing chores and misses her grandparents who have moved away. She is visited by Loofi Mondel from planet Ifwee, where the motto is “If we care, it’s magic!” They travel in a space ship to Ifwee, where NoraLee meets several residents who only do things they care about. Then they give themselves gold stars, and share their accomplishments with people they love. That’s GoldStar Magic!

    They also show her the “magic two-way postal cards” so she can stay close to her grandparents by writing to them about things she’s proud of. The GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit, ™  including NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, two-way postal cards, gold stars, and a link to download the Ifwee song.


    Terry Nicholetti, Founder and Chief Encourager of Speak Out, Girlfriend!, is a former teaching nun and professional actor/playwright and author, with nearly 30 years experience in sales and marketing. A speaker, consultant and member of National Speakers Association, Terry helps clients, especially artist/entrepreneurs, find their voice and tell their stories. For the past five years, Terry has been studying Mindfulness Meditation, and loves to share a simple yet profound process for becoming more “mindful or “present” at difficult moments, for example, when one is nervous right before a presentation. A member of Unity Worldwide Ministries congregations for more than a decade, Terry has built her Speak Out, Girlfriend! 9 Steps to Get from Fearful to Fabulous in part on Unity principles, especially that the spirit of God/Source/Universe lives in each of us, and that we create our life's experiences through our thoughts. Inspired by missing her own grandchildren after a move, Terry created and produced the GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit ™, including the delightfully illustrated  NoraLee's Adventures on Planet Ifwee, to help children and their grandparents get closer together, one story at a time.


    Title: GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit, ™ including NoraLee's Adventures on Planet Ifwee Genre: children
    Author: Terry Nicholetti
    Publisher: Terry Nicholetti
    Purchase linkhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0971648816 

    The Gold Star Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit™
    Bringing children and their grandparents closer together – one story at a time!
    Parents: Are you looking for ways to help your young children (ages 4-10) stay in touch with their grandparents?

    Grandparents: Are your Skyping, texting, emailing, to stay in touch with your grandchildren? Do you remember how exciting it was to get something in the mail addressed to you?

    The Gold Star Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit™  offers a really unique way to use first class mail to help children get closer to their grandparents – as well as build their self-esteem – one story at a time! The kit is built around NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, a delightfully illustrated, 32 page book about a little girl who hates doing her chores, and misses her grandparents. When she visits Planet Ifwee, she learns how to use GoldStar Magic! to solve both these challenges. NoraLee meets residents like Robinia Clarinda Gazaundry, who helps her dad with the family laundry. From her new friends,  NoraLee learns to do something because she cares, give herself gold stars because she feels so proud, and use magic Two-way postal cards to tell her grandparents so they can be proud too.

    The kit also includes:

        6 Two-Way Postal Cards™ and sealers for children & grandparents to tell their stories.
        Lots of Gold Stars.

        A link to download The Ifwee Song!“ by Terry and Jan Nigro of Vitamin L Children’s Chorus.

    0 Comments on The Story behind 'GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit' by Terry Nicholetti as of 12/1/2014 1:00:00 PM
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    15. ”A Tapestry of Experiences Folded into Fiction”; Victoria Lane Talks About ‘Celia and Nonna’

    Victoria Lane has made a successful career from writing; as an award-winning financial journalist for many years, editor and correspondent for many leading media publications, and of course, as a picture and chapter book writer for children. Today, we delve into Victoria’s writerly mind as she shares her inspirations behind her touching picture book, Celia […]

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    16. National Grandparents Day Tribute

    By Georgia Mierswa

    Oxford University Press would like to take a moment to honor all grandparents, great-grandparents, and beyond, acknowledging the often extraordinary efforts (more are primary caregivers than ever before in history!) required to build and sustain a family. The information and statistics below have been drawn from numerous articles on the significance of grandparents in the Encyclopedia of Social Work online.

    At the turn of the 20th century, only 6% of 10-year-olds had all four grandparents alive, compared with 41% in 2000 (Bengtson, Putney, & Wakeman, 2004). Accordingly, more adults are grandparents and, increasingly, great-grandparents, although they have proportionately fewer grandchildren than preceding generations.


    Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) with his granddaughter in Yasnaya Polyana.
    Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


    Among parents aged 90 and older, 90% are grandparents and nearly 50% are great-grandparents, with some women experiencing grandmotherhood for more than 40 years. This is because the transition to grandparenthood typically occurs in middle age, not old age, with about 50% of all grandparents younger than 60 years. As a result, there is wide diversity among grandparents, who vary in age from their late 30s to over 100 years old, with grandchildren ranging from newborns to retirees.

    Queen Henriette Marie with her daughter

    Queen Henriette Marie with her daughter, granddaughter and son in law from the Family of Louis XIV. Painting by Jean Nocret (1615-1672).
    Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


    While managing conditions related to their own aging process, many older adults assume caregiving responsibilities. In fact, about half of all individuals aged 55–64 spend an average of 580 hours per year caring for family members (Johnson & Schaner, 2005a).

    Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller Großmutter mit drei Enkelkindern 1854

    Großmutter mit drei Enkelkindern, signiert Waldmüller - Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793-1835). 
    Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


    Grandparents may have primary responsibility for raising grandchildren. About 2.5 million grandparents have responsibility for raising one or more grandchildren within the same household (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). Additionally, over 40% of grandparents in a custodial role are over 60 years of age (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).

    The First Steps 1889

    “The First Steps”. Georgios Jakobides (1853-1932).
    Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.


    Most grandparents derive satisfaction from their role and interaction with grandchildren (Reitzes & Mutran, 2004; Uhlenberg, 2004).


    The Naughty Grandson by Georgios Jakobides (1853-1932).
    Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


    With over 2.4 million custodial grandparents providing primary care, skipped-generation households—the absence of the parent generation—are currently the fastest growing type. Among the challenges are reductions in free time, limitations on housing options, increased demands on resources, and even situations where the retiree needs to return to work to support this new family situation.

    India - Varanasi old food seller and granddaughter - 0604

    Old food seller and his granddaughter Varanasi Benares India.
    Photo by Jorge Royan. Creative Commons License. via Wikimedia Commons.


    Grandparent caregivers have been called the “silent saviors” of the family.

    Mohov Mihail Grandmother and Granddaughter

    Mohov Mihail (1819-1903). Grandmother and granddaughter.
    Public domain via Wikipedia Commons.


    As a result of longer life expectancy, many of today’s families are multigenerational. Parents and children now share five or six decades of life, siblings may share eight or nine decades of life, and the grandparent–grandchild bond may last three or four decades.

    As Bengston notes, longer years of shared living may offer a multigenerational kinship network to provide family continuity and stability across time as well as instrumental and emotional support in times of need.

    FDR grandparents uncles

    Franklin D. Roosevelt, Delano grandparents, uncles, and cousins in Newburgh, New York. Photo provided by Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (NLFDR), National Archives and Records Administration. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

    Georgia Mierswa is a marketing associate at Oxford University Press. She began working at OUP in September 2011.

    The Encyclopedia of Social Work is the first continuously updated online collaboration between the National Association of Social Workers (NASW Press) and Oxford University Press (OUP). Building off the classic reference work, a valuable tool for social workers for over 85 years, the online resource of the same name offers the reliability of print with the accessibility of a digital platform. Over 400 overview articles, on key topics ranging from international issues to ethical standards, offer students, scholars, and practitioners a trusted foundation for a lifetime of work and research, with new articles and revisions to existing articles added regularly.

    Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
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    The post National Grandparents Day Tribute appeared first on OUPblog.

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    17. Heaven Is Paved with Oreos: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

    Book: Heaven Is Paved with Oreos
    Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
    Pages: 208
    Age Range: 10-14

    I loved, loved, loved Catherine Gilbert Murdock's books about D.J. Schwenk (Dairy Queen, The Off Season, and Front and Center). So when I heard that Murdock had written a book called Heaven is Paved with Oreos, for a slightly younger audience, I scooped it up. I didn't even realize until reading a review at Book Nut last week that this new book is set in the Schwenk universe. What a lovely and unexpected gift!

    Heaven is Paved with Oreos is told in journal fashion from the viewpoint of Sarah Zorn, best friend and science partner of D.J.'s younger brother, Curtis. It's the summer before freshman year, and Sarah and Curtis are pretending to be boyfriend and girlfriend, so that people will stop asking them if they are boyfriend and girlfriend. But Sarah is a bit concerned about another girl from their class who appears to want to be Curtis' real girlfriend, making Sarah self-conscious about, say, going to Curtis' baseball games. Meanwhile, Sarah's grandmother, who everyone calls Z, invites Sarah to accompany her on a week-long pilgrimage to Rome. The trip turns out to be a bit more than Sarah bargained for, but it certainly contributes to her emotional growth over the course of the summer.

    So, basically Heaven is Paved with Oreos is a coming of age story, a book about family, and a book about taking baby steps towards boy-girl relationships. It falls to the upper end of middle grade, I think, given the 14-year-old narrator, and a storyline involving the father of Z's illegitimate child, born some 45 years earlier. But it is absolutely perfect for middle school-age readers, I think. 

    I fear that some fans of the Dairy Queen books will be a bit disappointed by Heaven is Paved with Oreos, because the content is a bit less mature. But personally, I was happy to be spending time back in D.J.'s universe, however I got there. I found myself reading Heaven is Paved with Oreos slowly, because I was just so happy to be spending time with the characters. D.J. is a character in this book, someone Sarah looks up to and gets advice from. But Murdock is quite clear throughout that this is Sarah's story. It's not necessary to have read the Dairy Queen books to read this one, though it undoubtedly enhances appreciation of the book.

    One thing that I especially liked about Heaven is Paved with Oreos is how Murdock handles the journal style storyline. She tells you, briefly and without taking you out of the story, where Sarah is when she's writing each journal entry. There's an entry, then she goes somewhere and writes there, then she goes home and writes there, and so on. This lends an immediacy to the narration that works well. One might think to question whether a fourteen-year-old girl would really sit in a cafe in Rome writing in her journal. But Sarah is a strong enough character to totally pull it off. 

    I LOVE that Sarah is interested in science. That's the source of the bond between Sarah and Curtis, a mutual fascination with physical science (studying animal skeletons, and so on). She's also just ... secure in who she is. She has things she is working on, sure, but she's happy to eat nothing but vanilla ice cream, for instance, and work on projects that other people think are disgusting. Here are a couple of snippets, to give you a feel for Sarah's voice:

    "I wanted to be sympathetic -- Paul looked so upset -- but I could not help being reasonable. Reasonableness is a byproduct of a scientific mind." (Page 11-12)

    Oh, I would have been friends with Sarah when I was fourteen. And this:

    "Lady Z does not eat anything made with wheat. She says the hardest part was giving up Oreos, but they are made with wheat flour, so even though they are absolutely delicious and perfect, they're out. If I ever stopped eating wheat, I would make a rule that I could only be 99% wheatless. The last 1% I would leave for Oreos." (Page 16).

    Curtis is, well, Curtis. For a character who says hardly anything, he still feels completely himself. Like this: 

    "I nodded. Curtis stared at the floor, but that is not unusual for him." (Page 26). 

    Lady Z is more complex. I like that though she's larger-than-life (not at all a regular grandma), she's also clearly flawed. Part of Sarah's growing up throughout the book involves coming to terms with the fact that you can love someone even if they aren't perfect. As Z is not. 

    Fans of Murdock's books about D.J. Schwenk will definitely want to give Heaven is Paved with Oreos a look. I loved it, and plan to keep my copy for when Baby Bookworm is older. There are spoilers for the Dairy Queen books, so even though this newest book is appropriate for a somewhat younger audience, readers unfamiliar with the series may want to wait to read the Dairy Queen books first. I think that the whole series is wonderful. 

    Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks)
    Publication Date: September 3, 2013
    Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

    FTC Required Disclosure:

    This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

    © 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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    18. #539 – Two Hands to Love You by Diane Adams & Paige Keiser


    Two Hands to Love You

    by Diane Adams & Paige Keiser, illustrator

    Chronicle Books      2014


    Age 4 to 8     36 pages


    “With two loving hands, an adoring mother cradles her baby after bath time and a devoted father introduces his toddler to the wonders of he world. Sister, brother, grandma, and grandpa all can’t wait to share what they love best about the world with their newest family member. And when it is time to step ot into the world, this caring family is right there alongside. In simple, heartfelt language, this soothing picture book for the very young will tug at the heartstrings and remind us all of the caring hands that helped us along our way.”


    “When the world is a strange place, unfamiliar and new,

    my two hands will hold you, will carry you through.”

    The Story

    In a nutshell, the story is about a couple who begin a family and the paths they take with their children as they grow and become a family of five—plus two involved grandparents. The first baby is gently cared for, everything new for everyone, not just the baby. As he grows, mom plays outside with her toddler, pulling him in a wagon after an afternoon bath in the sun.

    Dad takes over, playing airplane with his son, then cradles the new baby and pledges his love. The first-born cares for the second-born, a girl as curious as her brother. Then the third arrives and the three kids guide and love each other.

    Grandparents read to their grandson and blow bubbles for this newest child. The joys of childhood and a mother who races to her crying child. This all is part of this family of five, who love each other.


    My loyal readers know what I will write in this space and it will not be that I hated this book. The story is composed of fragments of time, caught like photographs. A mother holds her first-born close, never wanting to let go, but she does. With dad, the toddler continues to grow and this happy family of three thrives. Then enters child number two, a girl. It is daddy’s turn to hold the baby close, his little girl. The images that accompany each frame of time softly plays the scene out for us.


    Using watercolors and ink, the artist catches these tender moments, making them precious and tenderer, if that is even possible. Her images could tell this story without the text, which is what a good illustrated picture book should do—words for adults and kids, images for little ones, not yet a reader. I tended to pick up this book and turn its pages carefully, feeling the fragility of family, and the joys of one so close.

    Children have real childhoods, playing with each other, guiding each other. Along the way, various hands help the children to grow: mom, dad, grandma and grandpa, and many more not shown.The sweetness is palatable. Two Hands to Love You may well have you thinking about your own little ones, whether they are still little or grown and on their own, maybe starting families. Alternatively, of your own childhood and what that meant to you.


    I love the rhyming text. The words fit together perfectly, meaning I did not immediately recognize the rhyme, just the smooth flow of words that belonged together in that precise order. I think this story can help others remember what a family needs to be—a shelter in the storm and a place to learn and grow without ridicule and maybe a little rhyme.

    I love the inherent gentleness the illustrations give us. I love the extended family all involved in raising a child. I guess I simply love Two Hands to Love You, which is an ideal baby shower gift. This is also an, “Oh, my, gosh, you’re pregnant” gift. New parents will cherish Two Hands to Love You. It would be the couple’s first, How to Raise Baby book.

    For children Two Hands to Love You reinforces that parents will always be there for them, no matter the distance. That home is a shelter from the storm. A place to recharge before heading back into the world. Children want to know their parents will also be there for them. That message rings loudly through the tender pages of Two Hands to Love You.


    TWO HANDS TO LOVE YOU. Text copyright © 2014 by Diane Adams. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Paige Keiser. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

    To learn more about Two Hands to Love You, click HERE.

    Make Two Hands to Love You yours by going to AmazonB&NChronicle Books—or your local bookstore.


    Meet the author, Diane Adams at her website:   http://www.dianeadams.net/

    Meet the illustrator, Paige Keiser at her website:   http://www.paigekeiser.com/

    Find other incredible books at the Chronicle Books website:   http://www.chroniclebooks.com/


    Also by Paige Keiser

    The Little Green Pea

    The Little Green Pea

    One Night In Bethlehem

    One Night In Bethlehem




    . I Love My Hat (October 2014)


    NEW from Chronicle Books

    I Didn't Do My Homework Because . . .

    I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . .

     Peek-a Zoo

    Peek-a Zoo








    2 hands to love you


    Today is National Library Workers Day

    Be extras nice to those who staff your library!

    Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: children, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, Diane Adams, family, family relationships, grandparents, growing up, Paige Keiser, parents, raising children

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    19. Three Bird Summer: Sara St. Antoine

    Book: Three Bird Summer
    Author: Sara St. Antoine
    Pages: 256
    Age Range: 10 to 14

    Three Bird Summer by Sara St. Antoine is a lovely book about the summer that a 12 year old boy spends at his grandmother's cabin on Three Bird Lake in Minnesota. It's a quiet sort of book about an introspective kid, but St. Antoine manages to touch upon the challenges families face as grandparents age, the aftermath of divorce, and the tentative first steps of boy-girl relationships. There's also a small mystery, and even a treasure map. It's a coming-of-age story, though without major drama. 

    In truth, the subject matter of Three Bird Summer felt a bit ... familiar, with echoes of Cynthia Lord's Half a Chance and Karen Day's A Million Miles from Boston, and even Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Summer stories all, featuring kids of a similar age range. But the sheer beauty of St. Antoine's writing, as well as her choice to feature a male protagonist, make Three Bird Summer stand out. 

    Adam is a fine narrator, a little geeky, a little lazy, and baffled by the behavior of girls. His initially reluctant friendship with new neighbor Alice, and the oh-so-gradual dawning of "more than friend" feelings, is utterly believable. Alice and her parents are, perhaps, a tiny bit too good to be true, but I love that she spent the previous summer at a science camp for girls, and that she chafes under the yoke of her over-protective parents. Adam's mother and grandmother are well-drawn, too, with flaws as well as surprises. 

    Three Bird Summer perfectly captures the feel of a rustic summer lake house. Like this:

    "Mom lingered in the kitchen while I hauled my duffel through the main part of the cabin, breathing in the familiar smell of wood paneling and fireplace cinders. Everything was in its usual place." (Page 10)


    "A cool breeze crossed the water. It felt like the great North was barreling through me with my every breath. Here's what slipped away: schedules, bus rides, the stale smell of the school cafeteria, algebraic equations, Mom and Dad's phone arguments, girl talk, and Grandma's interrogations. Here's what I got in exchange: water sloshing slowly and steadily against the dock like the heartbeat of a great whale. A pair of black-and-white loons swimming into view. Fresh air and a lake that, right then, felt like it was all mine." (Page 16)

    Reading the above passage, I could practically feel the tension leaving Adam's shoulders. Three Bird Summer is filled with passages that I wanted to save, long and short. Like this:

    "Mom turned around and we began paddling again, but not in a getting-there sort of way -- more like a being-there sort of way." (Page 199)

    For the rest, you'll have to read the book. Three Bird Summer is a book to read on your front porch on a warm summer day (or, even better, on a dock floating in a lake in your bathing suit). It's about growing up, the ways that family relationships change, and young love. It's beautifully written, with a strong sense of place, and well-rounded characters. While Three Bird Summer is clearly a book that will appeal to adult readers, I hope that kids find it and love it, too. Despite the male protagonist, Three Bird Summer certainly has as much appeal for girls as for boys. Recommended! 

    Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
    Publication Date: May 13, 2014
    Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

    FTC Required Disclosure:

    This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

    © 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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    20. Abuelo: Arthur Dorros & Raul Colon

    Book: Abuelo
    Author: Arthur Dorros
    Illustrator: Raul Colon
    Pages: 32
    Age Range: 4-8

    Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Raul Colon, is a quiet picture book about the relationship between a boy and his grandfather. They live somewhere in the country, where they ride horses, camp, and encounter wildlife. Later, the boy and his parents move to the city, leaving Abuelo behind. However, the skills that Abuelo has taught the boy (such as standing his ground) come in handy in his new life, too. 

    Dorros blends English and Spanish words in the text, including translations for key words and phrases. Like this:

    "We would ride into the clouds,
    with the sky, "el cielo,"
    wrapped around us."

    and this:

    At night, we could see forever.
    "Mira", look, he would tell me,
    reaching his hands to the stars."

    Even after the boy moves to the city, he still includes the Spanish translations for the things that he sees, though he perhaps does this a bit less. 

    Colon's watercolor and colored pencil illustrations are warm and deeply textured, cast in desert palettes of browns, grays, and sage green. There's a nostalgic feel to the pictures - this is a book that could be set now or 40 years ago. My favorite illustration is that one at the end of the book. The boy rides a bike, with the shadow of his Abuelo riding alongside him. I can't describe it, but Colon captured this perfectly. 

    Abuelo is about family and culture, moving away and growing up. It's a book that introduces readers to a different environment, while touching on universal truths (the fear of getting lost, the need to stand up to bullies). Abuelo is well worth a look, particularly for library purchase. 

    Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens
    Publication Date: April 22, 2014
    Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

    FTC Required Disclosure:

    This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

    © 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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    21. Lights, camera. . .CAKE!

    I ask a lot of my kids.

    I ask them to read manuscripts and give me feedback. I ply them (and their friends) with questions about the age-appropriateness of certain (sometimes embarrassing) grade school behaviors. I make them stop what they're doing and quickly write down a story idea when I'm elbow-deep in potting soil or cooking dinner (or in the shower) and can't jot it down myself.

    They put up with all of it, as I imagine most offspring of children's book writers do—and I'm grateful.

    Recently though, I asked more of them than ever. "Um, girls how do you feel about standing in a hot kitchen in the middle of summer for four hours while three strangers make you crack and egg nine times in a row?"

    Well of course, I didn't say it like that. 

    It was more like, "Guess what?! You get to be on YouTube! Eating cake!"

    As it happened, the experience was much closer to the latter than the former. With the help of a brilliant group of filmmakers—writer/ producer/director Leigh Medeiros, cinematographer JJ Rok, and sound tech Tebello Rose—we created a little piece of art, for our little piece of art.

    Baking Day at Grandma's is a very personal story. It's based on memories of my Grandma Rose, as well as the baking traditions my mom began with our girls. The art is inspired by the Adirondack region of New York, specifically Lake George, where I spent summers (and quite a few winters weeks) as a child. Each spread contains a nod to our families—Grandma Bear's cabin, touches of her furniture, the cookbook, the victrola—all come from the people and places we love. It's a love letter to our family, and a celebration I hope many readers and families will enjoy. As we set out to make the book trailer, we hoped to capture the personal nature of the book, to let readers know that like Grandma Rosie's chocolate cake—the book was made with love.

    When the day of the shoot came, I felt confident in our concept. Like any gifted documentarian, Leigh had spent a great deal of time getting to know my story. She'd browsed old photos with me, and listened as I recounted memories of baking with my grandma. She hadn't wanted to over-script it. Sure, we had a shot list and some talking points, but the real gems were going to be found in the unscripted moments, we decided.

    If I had one concern going into the day, it was about the kids. Would they freeze up? Look at the camera too much? Get grumpy? Especially my little one. She's three and generally well behaved, but...well... she's three.

    Both Leigh and JJ did a wonderful job making the kids (and all of us) feel comfortable. When I asked for some direction before we began, Leigh smiled and said to me, "Just bake a cake, and don't worry about us." I wasn't sure it would be possible, with the lights and the big boom mic and the camera pointing at us, but to my amazement, once the measuring and the mixing began, we did sort of forget about the camera. I was a mom, baking with my kids. It was fun! And messy. Flour dusted every surface; there were egg shells in the sink and splatters of chocolate cake batter on our aprons. It was the the real deal, not the scrubbed up version. (Ok, I admit, I cleaned my house for two days before the crew arrived, but the baking scene was authentic.)

    The kids did great! And most importantly, they enjoyed it. Now, in addition to a lovely book trailer, I have a little time capsule to help me remember the sounds, spills, giggles, bloopers and joy of baking with my girls.

    It's really a pleasure to get to share this heartfelt collaboration with the you. Thanks for cheering us on, spreading the word, and making the homestretch of this book's journey to publication so delicious! I'll say thank you in every way I can think of, including offering free baking day recipe cards and gift tags if you'd like to host your own baking day at home, or make a special treat with grandparents for Grandparent's Day on September 7th.

    For bookstores, libraries, classrooms and home-schoolers, I'll soon be adding a downloadable story hour kit to my website, which includes a Baking Day at Grandma's song (!!!) composed and recorded by my talented friends at Little Hands, reading prompts, activities, posters, crafts, snack suggestions—everything you'll need to get kids, reading, dancing, singing and connecting with the book.

    For bloggers, I'll have an extra-special Baking Day at Grandma's giveaway (to be revealed soon)!

    I hope you'll stay tuned as we cook (and bake) up new goodies and giveaways! (One great way to keep up to date and connected is to join my new mailing list.)

    Until then, happy reading and baking! Here's a peek at the book trailer. . .

    0 Comments on Lights, camera. . .CAKE! as of 8/7/2014 6:42:00 PM
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    22. Sharing a Read-Aloud Between Grandparents and Grandchildren

    Do you have grandmother memories that you treasure? I have so many, and luckily for me, as I launch my new picture book, My Bibi Always Remembers, about a grandmother elephant and her little grandbaby, I have a reason to revisit them all!

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    23. Abuelita

    watercolor on Arches paper
    Steven James Petruccio

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    24. Grandparents

    Amy Huntington

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    25. Grandparents and SkADaMo 2014

    Over on my blog ( June Goulding ) I'm trying to post a sketch a day as part of Sketch A Day Month, and this couple arrived on my sketch book page.
    I think they might qualify as Granparents, so I thought I would share them here as part of our monthly inspiration theme word - Grandparents.

    0 Comments on Grandparents and SkADaMo 2014 as of 11/6/2014 10:15:00 AM
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