What the Kids are Reading (in February 2016)

Late in January I finally closed out my Usborne kickoff parties and cashed in on the free books I earned through them.

I got a TON of books, and we’ve been reading and reading them. Here are the board books I received – stay tuned for later posts about all the other books. It was an amazing shipment! So, yes, most of the books we read in February were either picture books about the Arctic or Korea, or our new books. Since I’ve already posted about those themed picture books, today’s post is all about the books we actually added to our bookshelf. So exciting!

Board Books and Activity Books

Busy Train bookBusy Train Book
I *thought* I was just getting this as a display book for home shows. Ha! My kids – all of them – LOVE this book. Who knew a train driving around in loops could be so amazingly entertaining?

My Wild Animal WorldMy Wild Animal World
Another huge hit here – my youngest is obsessed with opening the big book, and then removing the 9 individual books, flipping through them, and then putting them back in the big book. The other two love reading these with her too, so it’s a double win!

Slide and See Under the SeaSlide-and-See Under the Sea

And yet another huge hit with the toddler. She loves the textures, she loves the various interactive features – it’s fantastic. I’ve even caught the other two flipping through it, and both are eager to read it to her.

Little Red Penguin ShapesLittle Red Penguin Shapes

The toddler likes lifting the flaps on this one, but it doesn’t captivate her as much as some of their other choices. However, I like the smaller size on this, as it’s easy to keep in my purse and pull out when I need a little bit of distraction.

Pop-Up JunglePop-Up Jungle

Really pretty pop-ups, but it’s probably the least popular of all the board and interactive books I’ve gotten from Usborne, perhaps because it’s got all these tempting elements – the snapping crocodile jaws, the swinging monkey, the slithering snake – and I won’t let her grab any of them.

Peek Inside the ZooPeek Inside the Zoo

A great first lift the flap book, as the flaps are bigger than in some of their other titles. Pretty illustrations too – I really like it. That said, it just misses being one of the biggest hits of this order, but I can see my youngest liking it more as she gets a bit older. It’s suggested for kids 3 and up, and based on my experiences with my three, I’d agree with that. 🙂

Felix and Ella's VacationFelix & Ella’s Vacation

It’s a huge, reusable sticker book: of course my kids are obsessed with it. It was all I could do to keep them from tearing into it the first day it arrived. We haven’t had it long enough to really test the long-term re-usability factor of the stickers but so far they’re definitely movable.

Big Book of ColorsBig Book of Colors

My 4 year old LOVES this. The 6 year old really likes it too, but not as much as his sister. I have to admit I kind of wanted this one for myself – I love the colors, I love the color wheel, I love the acrylic overlay that lets you see how colors change. Love love love. It’s great for color vocabulary too.

I Want to Be a Lion TamerI Want to Be a Lion Tamer by Ruby Brown, illustrated by Alisa Coburn

Usborne has a handful of books that are great transitions from board books to picture books, and this is one of them – the pages are thicker and plastic-coated, so while they feel and turn more like picture books, they’re sturdier like board books. This has great illustrations with an old-fashioned feel, and the message is fantastic. I really debated between choosing this one or the I Want to Be An Astronaut, but like this one so much I may end up getting both. 🙂

Look Inside Mummies and PyramidsLook Inside Mummies and Pyramids

I got this as a fun extra for our upcoming homeschool history program, and cannot WAIT to pull it out and let my son see it. He’s going to love it, I’m certain.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: How I Decided to Homeschool and How I Decided on a Curriculum
Two years ago: Women Heroes of WWII
Three years ago: Let’s Talk about Spoilers

newest reads board books interactive books February 2016February 2016 Usborne board books

Korea-Themed Picture Books

Interested in joining in with us for the Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club, but have children too young to appreciate the chapter books we’ll be reading? While the “official” picture book for our theme is The Firekeeper’s Son, here are 19 other options in case you can’t find that one at your library, or if you read it and want more!

Twenty Picture Books about Korea

20 Korea-Themed Picture Books:

Asterisks mark ones that I especially enjoyed

Korean History

I do love learning about history through picture books, and all three of these are well done – focusing one small aspects of history (often with a personal connection) to bring it to life.

Korean Immigrant or Korean-American Experiences
Based on Korean Folktales

The lack of asterisks here is perhaps based more on my usual indifference to folktales than a fair reflection on the quality of these books. If you’re a fan of folktale retellings, you may appreciate them more than I did.


If you’re looking for picture books best for the youngest of readers, you may want to try one of these. The above books all are longer picture books, and none of my toddlers would have wanted to sit through them.

  • * Bee-Bim Bop!Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee
  • * The ZooThe Zoo by Suzy Lee by Suzy Lee
    (Note: This is a really great book, but the Korean setting is incidental to the story, and if I weren’t looking for it I’d easily miss the limited hints about the setting that are provided. Do read the book, but unless you have no other options pick another one to support the theme. And, don’t feel like this is only for younger readers – the illustrations are detailed, and lead to fun discussions about the contrast between the text, and what the pictures show.)
  • My Cat Copies MeMy Cat Copies Me by Yoon-duck Kwon by Yoon-duck Kwon
    (Note: Another one where the setting is incidental to the story. It was originally published in Korean, and the illustration style and technique are apparently traditionally Korean, so you can always branch off on that if this is your only book option.)
Other Options

Thinking that perhaps you want to give the other readalouds a try? In March we’ll be reading The Kite FightersThe Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park and in April we’ll read When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, both by Linda Sue Park.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Two years ago: Book Review: Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry by Jack Prelutsky
Three years ago: Reading Through Grief

Recent Sequel Readalouds

I’m getting backlogged on writing about our readalouds (we’re moving through them faster now) so here’s a post catching me up to date on some of the sequels and pseudo-sequels I’ve read to my son, with my daughter listening in as she wants.

More Milly Molly MandyMore Milly-Molly-MandyMore Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley by Joyce Lankester Brisley

We’re all fans of Milly-Molly-Mandy, and this book is a not-essential sequel to the Sonlight book we read last year, The Milly-Molly-Mandy StorybookThe Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley. If you liked the first set of stories, you’ll likely enjoy this as well. It’s more of the same, with no surprises. However, it’s not really necessary to have read the first book, as you’ll quickly catch up on the setting and characters. These are excellent first-chapter books, as each chapter stands on its own, and helps develop those listening skills.

Penny and PeterPenny and PeterPenny and Peter by Carolyn Haywood by Carolyn Haywood

This sequel picks up right where Here’s a Penny left off. This book has a lot less of his next door friend, and the focus is instead on Peter as well as Penny (no surprise with the title). Another one where if you liked the first, you’ll probably like this one too. I would recommend not reading this one before Here’s a Penny – you’ll spoil yourself as far as some particulars go.

Dolphin TreasureDolphin TreasureDolphin Treasure by Wayne Grover, illustrated by Jim Fowler by Wayne Grover, illustrated by Jim Fowler

My son was not into this one as much as the first book, Dolphin Adventure. I’m not sure why, as I felt they were pretty similar stories, although this one did take a bit longer to get to the point of any significant action. That’s probably enough of a reason for him to have been less interested in it. 🙂

Five True Dog StoriesFive True Dog StoriesFive True Dog Stories by Margaret Davidson by Margaret Davidson

A sentimental favorite for me, as I’d read this as a child, and recognized the stories and the illustrations. My son really liked 4 of the stories, but one of them did not keep his interest at all. I prefer this book to the Five True Horse Stories, so if you’re debating between them, go for this one. And yes, this isn’t a true sequel, but more of another book in a similar style.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Two years ago: Book Review: Buried in the Sky by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan
Three years ago: Reading Less / Reading More

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

The Port Chicago 50The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin by Steve Sheinkin

Juvenile nonfiction is tough: I often find myself wanting more depth, and so perhaps giving lower ratings than is fair because a book skims the surface (as may be appropriate for the target audience).

I think this is probably one of those times – I’m not super enthusiastic about this book, mostly because I wanted *more* from it. It felt superficial, and like it’s the skeleton of an AMAZING book.

So, if you like juvenile nonfiction, or are looking for something to round out history for your children, this may be a great choice. It touches on World War II, military history, African American history, segregation (both in the military and in the US in general), civil rights, and life on the homefront. I’m fairly well-read in World War II history, but had never heard of this incident, and found myself getting enraged at the offensively bad treatment these sailors received.

Recommended, with the caveat that there isn’t much depth to it all and it left me wanting more. If you don’t mind it being aimed at middle grade readers, then it is interesting, if infuriating. And if the topic sounds appealing but you don’t want a juvenile title, there is Robert Allen’s The Port Chicago MutinyThe Port Chicago Mutiny by Robert Allen. I haven’t read it but am thinking about it, on the assumption that it will give me the depth I was missing in Sheinkin’s book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
An astonishing civil rights story from Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin.

On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution. This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.

Book Details

Title: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Category: Juvenile Nonfiction / History
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: Parnassus on Wheels

What the Kids are Reading (in January 2016)

That Is Not a Good IdeaThat Is Not a Good Idea!That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems by Mo Willems

They are *obsessed* with this one. Great repetition, fun illustrations, and a twist that makes them laugh every time.

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You SeeBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Eric Carle by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Eric Carle

Wonderfully repetitive – I keep thinking H is going to get tired of reciting it to herself, but so far she hasn’t.

Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You HearPolar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin, Jr. illustrated by Eric Carle by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Eric Carle

Just like the Brown Bear book, only with a polar bear and sounds. H loves this one too, and reads both of them to her sister (and how adorable is that?).

That's Not My HedgehogThat’s Not My Hedgehog by Fiona Watt, illustrated by Rachel Wells

We already owned other titles in the “That’s Not My…” series, but M got this one for Christmas and it quickly became her favorite. It’s all about the scratchy texture on the last page – she loves it! Plus, you know, finding the little mouse on each page is super fun as well.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
Two years ago: Book Review: Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller
Three years ago: Getting Geeky: 2012 Reads, Charts & Graphs Style

The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill by Andrea Warren

The Boy Who Became Buffalo BillThe Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding KansasThe Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas by Andrea Warren by Andrea Warren

An excellent biography for children and younger teens. It doesn’t have the depth I’d want to recommend it as a full biography for adults, but for the target audience it’s well-written and engaging. Warren does an impressive job of sifting through the embellishments of Cody’s life, and of detailing some of the tragedies of his childhood in a way that still keeps it readable by younger children.

I especially enjoyed it because of having recently read Eiffel’s Tower, which included a little bit about Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show as it appeared at the Paris World’s Fair. After reading in that book about what a showman he was, and how much his shows delighted Paris (and much of the rest of Europe, before and after the World’s Fair), it was enlightening to read about how he became that man.

While I don’t think it’s a must-read as an adult, it was still one that adults can appreciate. I’d be careful before handing it over to younger elementary students but upper elementary and older should be fine with it (although, as always, know your readers and their sensitivity levels. There are some harsh moments in the book.)

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The greatest entertainer of his era, Buffalo Bill was the founder and star of the legendary show that featured cowboys, Indians, trick riding, and sharpshooters.

But long before stardom, Buffalo Bill—born Billy Cody—had to grow up fast. While homesteading in Kansas just before the Civil War, his family was caught up in the conflict with neighboring Missouri over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state.

To support his family after a pro-slaver killed his father, Billy—then eleven—herded cattle, worked on wagon trains, and rode the Pony Express. As the violence in Bleeding Kansas escalated, he joined the infamous Jayhawkers, seeking revenge on Missouri­ans, and then became a soldier, scout, and spy in the Civil War—all by age seventeen.

Award-winning author Andrea Warren brings to life the compelling childhood of an adventurous, determined boy who transformed himself into a true American icon.

Book Details

Title: The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding KansasThe Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas by Andrea Warren
Author: Andrea Warren
Category: Juvenile Nonfiction / Biography
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Books Read in 2014 – the Compiled List

The Year of Miss Agnes (& a Linkup)

Last week we started discussing The Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill as part of the Arctic theme for our Family Exploration Book Club (Haven’t joined us yet? There’s plenty of time – come on over to our Facebook group!)

The Year of Miss AgnesI selected The Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill as one of the books for the year, even though it’s maybe not *technically* set in the Arctic precisely. As far as I was concerned, the Athabascan village setting on the Koyukuk River was close enough to the Arctic Circle in order to include one of my favorite titles.

I love the character of Miss Agnes (of course), but I love so many of the children as well – Fred is a fantastic narrator, and she brings the setting to life.

What delighted me almost as much as the book was learning about the story behind it. The author taught in the Alaskan bush for many years, and all of the characters and incidents in the book are based on people she knew and things that really happened.

If you’ve written a post about The Year of Miss Agnes, please add it to the linkup below. This is a joint linkup with the other hosts – Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) has written a post about the adorable Arctic-inspired craft she did with her 2-year-old, and Carrie (The Lion is a Bookworm – our guest host for the months in the Arctic) has shared her thoughts about the book as well. Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs. Yay technology!


Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

Looking ahead, next month continues the theme, and we’ll be discussing Julie of the WolvesJulie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. I read this in elementary school, so it’s past time for me to reread it and see what I think about it now as compared to back then.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Link Love

Early Reader Success: Hey Jack!

Hey Jack 1Hey Jack! The Best Birthday Party Ever by Sally Rippin

This was recommended to me as one that was a good choice for early readers. It’s easy to see why – it’s engaging, with short chapters and lots of illustrations. The varying font size makes it easier for newer readers to read with appropriate inflection and emphasis, and the lightly tinted pages are also helpful for them.

While G liked the book, and read it in one sitting, it wasn’t as ideal of a book for him like his adored Wheelnuts. I think if I’d have given him this about a year ago he’d have loved it – now it’s a little bit too easy for him. Because it is a much easier read than Wheelnuts, if you have a reader who isn’t quite ready for those books, this one might be a better fit. It’s roughly at a second grade reading level.

The Best Birthday Party Ever is book one in the Hey Jack! series, and it’s a companion to the original series about Jack’s best friend, Billie B.

And a heads-up: many Usborne books are available in public libraries, so don’t forget to check your local branch if you see me mention ones that sound intriguing.

Disclosure: This is an Usborne book, and I’m an independent consultant for them (i.e., I sell them). I’m still going to give you my honest opinion on their books though, because every book isn’t right for every reader. If you buy from my link I’ll receive a commission, which goes to support the blog and my homeschooling adventure. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Crimes and Mathdemeanors by Leith Hathout
Two years ago: Book Review: Beyond Bath Time by Erin Davis
Three years ago: Books Read in 2012

The Best Kids Books (I Read for Myself) in 2015

Last week I shared my favorite books from 2015, and this post was originally going to feature all of the best children’s books I read in 2015 – board books, picture books, readalouds, and the ones I read for myself.

Except 2015 was a knockout year with great kid lit, and I needed to split it up so it’s not completely ridiculous.

So, today is all about the books I picked and read for myself. Not books I read to a child or three – these were my reads.

The Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill by Kirkpatrick Hill

A reread in preparation for the online kids book club I’m doing with Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). I adored this book the first time I read it, and suggested it for our Arctic theme. Then I was scared that it wouldn’t hold up well to rereading, or what if people hated it?

Well, so far everyone who has commented about it has said they’ve enjoyed it (yay!) and I loved it just as much the second time through. It’s heartwarming and inspiring, and all around a lovely read.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
by Grace Lin

Also read when it was a possibility for that book club (we ended up not selecting China as a theme this year). It’s gorgeously written, and charmingly illustrated – go for the print version, not the electronic as I did, or you’ll miss out on some of the illustration details. Loved, loved, loved it.

The War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

An uplifting look at World War II evacuees, and how being sent away from London ended up being the best thing to happen to one girl. It’s heart-rending but ultimately hopeful. Because of the descriptions of abuse that Ada suffers I wouldn’t advise it for younger readers, but for those emotionally ready to read it, it’s a fantastic book.

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

A heartbreaking account, beautifully written in verse that manages to make the semi-autobiographical story emotionally easier to read. Well-deserved winner of the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

Listen SlowlyListen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

Yes, a second book by the Thanhha Lai. Unlike Inside Out and Back Again, this is written in prose, and she is just as adept in that form. It’s a captivating story, with lots of appealing characters, that brings contemporary Vietnam to life.

Sparrow RoadSparrow RoadSparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor by Sheila O’Connor

Relationship-focused middle grade book with beautiful language and appealing characters. I like how it’s got a bit more depth in the content than some books I’d recommend to early elementary readers, while still being gentle enough for all but the most precocious of readers.

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

Precocious reader alert: because of some of the topics addressed (including bullying and sexting), this isn’t one you’ll want to hand off to younger readers, but it’s a wonderfully written tale for those old enough for the content. It’s not as amazing as Stead’s When You Reach Me, but it’s still a solid book.

The ThiefThe ThiefThe Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) by Megan Whalen Turner by Megan Whalen Turner

(a reread)

It still is one of my favorites, and I gave away my copy this year and may need to replace it soon so I can read it another time. 🙂 If you’re new to this series, don’t give up on this one – it has a slow start – but ultimately it is so good. Vaguely historical in feel, with some fantasy elements as well, and flashes of humor add up to a winning read.

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

(A reread for book club)

Possibly even better as a reread, as you know what’s going to happen, and can appreciate the clues Stead weaves throughout the text. No more details, lest I slip and give spoilers, but READ THIS BOOK.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Recent Readaloud: No Children, No Pets

No Children No PetsNo Children, No Pets by Marion Holland

An unexpectedly enjoyable book. It’s an older title, and can be hard to track down, but it was included with our Sonlight Core A readalouds. If your library doesn’t have it and you have trouble locating it, it’s not an absolute must-read (in other words, don’t go to extreme effort or expense to find a copy), but if you can easily obtain it, it was fun to readaloud.

The Florida setting was one of my favorite parts (I am partial to it, as that’s where I grew up), and the slight mystery included in the plot held my son’s interest to the point where we read the last four chapters in one day – we both wanted to find out how everything resolved!

A warning though: it is old-fashioned, especially with occasional remarks about “women’s work.” If you are adamantly opposed to books with that sort of thing in it, you’ll likely want to pass on it.

Find the book: It’s out of print, and used copies are very expensive on Amazon. Sonlight has republished it themselves, and you may still be better off buying a copy from them and paying their shipping fees | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Three children and their widowed mother inherit a run-down apartment building in Florida. A sign on the front door says “No Children, No Pets.” Adventure awaits as the kids solve lingering mysteries and help fix up the building. A satisfying childhood tale that keeps you guessing what will happen next.

Book Details

Title: No Children, No Pets
Author: Marion Holland
Category: Juvenile Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Two years ago: Book Review: Code Name Pauline by Pearl Witherington Cornioley and Kathryn J. Atwood
Three years ago: Biggest Disappointments of 2012