Once Upon a Story
April 7, 2014

18405514Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Published by: Abrams Books

Release date: March 2014

Ages:6-9

Pages: 192

From the publisherI did a mean thing.
A very mean thing.
I HATE that I did it.
But I did.
This is worse than
carrot juice on a cupcake
or a wasp on my pillow
or a dress that’s too tight at the neck.


In the third installment from the team who created Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and Like Bug Juice on a Burger, Eleanor’s relationship with her best friend, Pearl, experiences its first growing pains. When a glamorous new student transfers to school, at first Eleanor’s excited about the possibility of a new friend. But when Pearl is assigned to be the new girl’s buddy, Eleanor fears she can’t compete. To make matters worse, Eleanor’s been chosen for the lead role in the springtime musical, which means she has to sing a solo in front of the entire school!
From overcoming stage fright to having a secret crush, young readers will relate to Eleanor as she navigates the bittersweet waters of growing up.

My thoughts:

As adults, we sometimes look back on our childhoods as carefree.  And for many, in many ways, they were.  But when you’re in the midst of that childhood, it can be tough.  There’s changing friendships, and new experiences, and fears to be conquered.  With the gift of time, those pain of those challenges fade and we forget.

Fortunately for today’s kids, Julie Sternberg hasn’t.

In Like Carrot Juice for a Cupcake, Sternberg gives voice to the everyday fears of today’s elementary-age youth.

Why does my best friends suddenly have a new best friend?

What does it mean that the boy sitting behind me pictures and kicks my chair every day?

Will my parents give my dog away if he doesn’t stop destroying the house?

This is childhood. And rather than waving away these big heartaches of youth, Sternberg confronts them head on in a way every child can relate to.  Couple that with Cordell’s sketch-style illustrations and you have a winning chapter book series.

Haven’t met Eleanor yet?

Here’s your chance. I have ALL THREE BOOKS to give away to one lucky recepient!

That’s Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie (2011), Like Bug Juice on a Burger (2013), AND Like Carrot Juice On a Cupcake (2014), all in one fantastic giveaway package!

U.S. Residents only, please.

Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on Monday, April 21st, 2014. 

Winner will have 48 hours to respond by email before a new winner is selected.

 

Good luck!

 

Disclosure

April 2, 2014

Hooray, hooray, it’s my birthday today!

 

(That, folks, is as good as my rhyming gets)

If you’ve been following the blog for more than a year, you know what happens today. If you’re new (or just have a slippery memory), I’ll remind you:

It’s GIVEAWAY day!

 

Every year, I celebrate another year of health (still good!), wealth (HA!) and happiness (definitely) with a little giveaway.  I mix things up from year to year, but the intent is always the same.  To pass along some of my beloved favorites to you.

The deal this year is simple:

1.I’ve selected six books, three picture books and three middle grades that are currently at the top of my list and have been published since my birthday last year. You can check them out below. Click on each image to read more.

2.Decide which book you’d like to own, or give as a gift.

3. Enter your information in the Google Form below.  None of your information will be shared.

4. Do all this by 11:59pm EST on April 9, 2014. No entries will be accepted after that point.

5. U.S. addresses only, please.

6. Cross your fingers!

That’s it!

I will select a winner via Random.org and will announce here on April 10th. The winner will also receive an email and will have 48 hours to respond.

AND!

Because I believe in supporting small businesses, I will purchase the book through my local children’s indie bookstore, Hooray for Books.

Got it?

Okay.  Here are this year’s picks.  First, in the PICTURE BOOK category:

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The Invisible Boy

written by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton

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Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue

by Naoko Stoop

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Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

by Bob Shea

And now for the MIDDLE GRADE category:

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Listening for Lucca

by Suzanne LaFleur

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Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

by Liesl Shurtliff

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The Real Boy

by Anne Ursu

Phew! Narrowing it down to three in each category was no easy task! Hopefully picking your favorite is a little easier (or maybe it isn’t and now I’ve got you wanting to read ALL THE BOOKS!)

But pick you must, and enter here:

 

Good luck, friends! I’m off for a dental cleaning (because adult birthdays are so very glamorous).  But tonight…cake!

March 31, 2014

Happy Monday!

What better way to get things moving on the new site than with a weekly roundup?

Here’s what new in our rotation this week:

Blanket & Bear, A Remarkable Pair

Blanket and Bear, A Remarkable Pair

by L.J.R Kelly, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

It was the illustrations that drew me to this book, and the inside is just as beautiful as the cover. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as in love with the ending. So I’ll just gaze fondly at the pictures until it’s time to return it to the library.

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Not Last Night, But the Night Before

by Colin McNaughton, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

Nursery rhymes have always been a hit with my oldest, and she loved the cameo appearances of all her favorite characters in this rhyming story.

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The Invisible Boy

by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton

This is one of those books that’s beautiful in every detail.  We borrowed it, but I’ll be adding it to my library.  Pay special attention to the use of color to complement the emotion of the text. Amazingly done.

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The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark

by Deborah Diesen, pictures by Dan Hanna

The opportunity for shared chanting is great in these books.  I’m not sure my daughter is fully captivated by the story, but she loves being able to “read” along.  They always remind me a little of the Rainbow Fish books.

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Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake

by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

More on this book later this week, so I won’t say anything for now :)

The next two are series I’m starting with my oldest (who will be 5 in two weeks) :

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Clementine

by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

I borrowed the first book in the series.  She liked it so much that she couldn’t wait for me to go back to the library to get the next one, so we’re now reading the second-to-last book because we already owned it and it was instantly accessible.

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Ivy and Bean

by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

A little bit of naughty, a little bit of nice, all rolled up into one best friends package.  I think my little reader sees a little of herself in both Ivy AND Bean.

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When You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead

This MG wasn’t one I read with the kiddos, but on my own on the recommendation of several trusted writer friends. I finished in about 3 days, only because I couldn’t stay up all night to read it straight through. The following morning, I hopped on Twitter and sent this message out:

And to be honest, that’s STILL all I’ve got. Just read it.  And then think about it. And then get back to me and see if you can articulate better than I can.

March 30, 2014

You found my new home! Isn’t it lovely?

If you’re new, feel free to poke around a bit.  If you’re an old friend, I’m glad you’ve followed me here.

Talk soon!

Maria

March 29, 2014

So a year ago, I wrote this post.

And then that was pretty much it.  I don’t talk about my writing much here, in part because half the time I’m muddling through it myself and who wants to read about my muddling? And in part because there are certain things I just can’t share. And in part because there are other wonderful, published books to share (see the end of this post!) and that’s how this blog started, and a direction I want it to continue.

But a year feels like it deserves an update, yes?

So.  Here’s what has happened this year.

-I’ve revised.  I’ve lost track of how many rounds of revisions have happened this year.  It’s ongoing, and eternal, and I’m always jumping around fixing something.  One manuscript that originally “caught” my agent’s attention got a major overhaul after I had an “AHA!” moment several months ago and realized how to fix the thing that had never felt quite right. And you know how when you buy new curtains you then realize how badly the cushions look?  And how the couch would suddenly look better on the other side of the room, and the lamp should actually go on that other end table? And suddenly you have a room that looks entirely different just by shifting things around, and you sit back and smile? That’s how I feel about this particular piece now.

-I’ve written. Okay, duh.  But more specifically, I wrote something new.  In August I took the plunge and tried my hand at a longer middle grade manuscript. It was terrifying. And thrilling.  And a real learning experience. And it was FUN. And I’m so glad that I took that leap. That piece is now being read by a team of adults and children who I trust to give me the “tough love” feedback I need.  I also have 2 new picture book manuscripts that I’m toying with, and the beginnings of another new novel that, once again, both terrifies and excites me with its prospects.

-I’ve learned. Boy, have I learned. Some of it has been through just practice and sharing and discussing. The kidlit writing community is very giving in the sharing of their information and experiences. If you’re quiet, and you listen, there’s so much that can be learned.  But I also attended the Annual SCBWI Conference in LA last summer, and the SCBWI MidAtlantic Conference here in in Virginia last fall. And in about a month I will attend a week long revision workshop at the Highlights Foundation site in Pennsylvania, an experience I am absolutely giddy over. But my biggest lesson, one that I think I’ve finally, finally accepted, is that it’s okay to write really crappy stuff. Because sometimes that crappy stuff evolves into something good. Or, sometimes it remains crappy and I vow to never show it to anyone. It’s 50/50 around here.

-I’ve networked. That listening and gleaning of knowledge? It’s through networking that I find those wise souls. I’m taking part in 12×12 for the second year in a row, and am active on Twitter between preschool drop-off, and laundry, and meal making, and dirty diapers and dog walking.

-I’ve grown. I’m actually proud of what I’ve managed to do this last year. Did I make millions (HA!)? Nope. Did I sell a manuscript? Nope. Can you buy one of my stories at your local bookstore? Nope. Not yet. But I’ve enmeshed myself even further in this community that I’ve really come to love and respect. I’ve stretched myself. I’ve tried new things. And I’ve learned so, so much.

Yes, it’s a lot of frustration. Yes, it’s a lot of waiting. Yes, it’s a lot of non-news. But it’s a lot of new relationships, new experiences, and new self-discoveries, too.

See you back here next year! Who knows what I’ll have to share then.

(In the meantime, check out my agency-sister, Joanna! Her debut picture book Always Mom, Forever Dad releases next month and is available for preorder NOW!)

 

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March 26, 2014

18079564The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

Published by: Dial

Release date: February 2014

Ages: 8-12

Pages: 240

From the publisher:

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.

Auggie Jones lives with her grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town.  So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.”  But Auggie is determined to prove that there’s more to her—and to her house—than meets the eye.

What starts out as a home renovation project quickly becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.

Holly Schindler’s feel-good story about the power one voice can have will inspire readers to speak from their hearts.

My thoughts:

From the very first page, I was rooting for Auggie. She’s what I think most would consider the underdog.  Living with her grandfather in the less affluent part of the neighborhood. Forced to move schools after her old school is closed down. Writing to a mother in California who never seems to find the time to write back. Auggie is the type of girl you want to hug and fix things for.

But Auggie doesn’t need somebody to fix things for her.  She’s got grit and determination and an unusual eye for beauty.  She’s not one to be kept down.

And neither is her Grandpa Gus, which is why I invited him on the blog today to share a little bit more about what has happened at The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky.

Hi, Gus!  Thanks for stopping by today!  I know you’re a busy man, so I’ll get right to it.  Tell me a little bit about what you do?

Well, I’m a trash hauler.  Doesn’t sound like such a fancy job, and it isn’t.  Really, I’m retired.  Get “security checks,” as Auggie and I are always calling them.  Trash hauling’s something I do on the side.  Got my old truck—Old Glory, we call her—painted up on the doors, with “Gus’s Salvage.”  Even got a winch on the back, so I can pull old cars out of muddy spots and rivers where they got abandoned.

And you’re raising your granddaughter, Auggie, right?  Tell us a little bit about her.

Little Sister, I call my Auggie.  Since it feels like I’m raising daughter number two—a little sister to the first one.  Right about the time she got sent to a new school, she realized she and I don’t really just live in an old house—it’s, well, it’s poor, too.  Got it in her head that she wanted to spruce the place up.  But like I told her, “Poor folks have poor ways.”  We couldn’t afford a bunch of fancy new stuff for the house.  Had to use what we could—which turned out to be the stuff I picked up as a trash hauler.

You and Auggie live in Serendipity Place and there’s been a lot of chatter surrounding your neighborhood lately. What’s going on?

A fancy new committee recently formed—The House Beautification Committee.  Decided to clean up old neighborhoods like ours.  And when Auggie and I started working on our house, boy, did they get mad!  Started sending us warning notices and fines…but what could we do?  We’d put in stained-glass windows and glass-filled Quikrete on our walk!  Wasn’t like we could just take it off anytime we wanted.

But the committee didn’t like the rest of Serendipity Place’s updates, either.  We’re all getting fined.

So you and Auggie have been hard at work.  Can you share a little bit of your project?

Sure—like I said, we’ve been using the stuff I pick up as a trash hauler.  But we’re also using an old welding torch I had from back when I was a full-time welder.  We’ve taken junked cars and old water heaters and toasters and a hundred other discarded items and turned them into metal flowers and sculptures of people who dance and jump rope and play Duck, Duck, Goose, and anything else that Auggie can think up.

I’ll let you get back to work, Gus.  But just one more question.  If there’s a message you want everyone who hears about you, Auggie, and Serendipity Place to hear, what is it?

Sometimes, “pretty” and “new” aren’t the same thing.  Seems to me, something that’s old can be every bit as pretty as something that’s still got its new shine on it.  Funny, isn’t it?  Auggie found her own “shine,” her great special talent, by finding what’s pretty in rusted, old, discarded stuff.

 

Thank you Gus (and Holly!) for visiting today.

Words of Praise for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky:

“…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Axioms like ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ come gracefully to life in Schindler’s tale about the value of hard work and the power of community…Auggie’s enthusiasm and unbridled creativity are infectious, and likeminded readers will envy her creative partnership with [her grandfather] Gus.” – Publishers Weekly

“Determined to save her home, Auggie [uses] pottery shards, vivid glass, and metal sculptures [to] transform the house’s exterior into a vibrant expression of the love within its walls.  In Auggie, Schindler creates a spunky, sympathetic character young readers will engage with and enjoy.” – The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Book Studies

“The protagonist perches in the reader’s heart as she goes about trying to “‘discover her shine.’”  – NY Journal of Books

Holly_Schindler_SMLLinks:
Twitter: @holly_schindler
Facebook: facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor
Author site: hollyschindler.com

More from Holly:

Site for young readers: Holly Schindler’s Middles – hollyschindlermiddles.weebly.com. I’m especially excited about this site. I adored getting to interact with the YA readership online—usually through Twitter or FB. But I had to create a site where I could interact with the MG readership. I’m devoting a page on the site to reviews from young readers themselves! Be sure to send your young reader’s review through the Contact Me page.
Group Author Blogs: YA Outside the Lines (yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com) for YA authors and Smack Dab in the Middle (smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com) for MG authors.
THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY Trailer:

Link to purchase on Amazon:

My next YA, FERAL, releases with HarperTeen on August 26, 2014:

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question Feral HCeverything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

 

 

Disclosure

March 10, 2014

Happy Monday!

We seem to be at that stage where both my kiddos are fully enthralled with their own favorite series and characters.  Check out our reading this week:

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy's Tres Charming Chapter Book Box Set

Nancy Clancy series

by Jane O’ Connor, illustrated by illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

My daughter got the above box set for Christmas this year.  She has been Fancy Nancy obsessed for awhile, to the extent that we’re planning a Fancy Nancy themed 5th birthday party for next month. We had pretty  much exhausted all the Fancy Nancy picture books, and she was ready for something a little more involved.  Nancy Clancy is the chapter book version, and features a slightly older version of the “fabulous” character (2nd grade, I think?).  We just finished the third book last night and she’s already begging for more. I think there’s only one more, so Jane O’ Connor, please get writing! ;) In the meantime, if anybody has any suggestions for something similar, please send them my way!

 

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Little series

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

This series was also a Christmas gift, for my 2yo.  BY FAR his favorite book in the set is Little Oink. There are nightly refrains of, “Read book about pig! Read book about PIG!” We’ve read the other two as well, but something about that pig book….

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Sheep in a Jeep

by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple

And then there’s this one. My children both now have this memorized (as do I).  In fact, last week my son (who is still not sleeping through the night thankyouverymuch) woke me up at 3 am with an excited, “UH OH! THE JEEP WON’T GO!” from his room.  So I’m glad, I suppose, that if he’s not sleeping through the night, he’s at least reading during his early morning playtime?  This book has to be in his bed each night. He won’t go to sleep without it there.

That’s all for me this week! I’m actually hoping to sneak off to the library alone tonight to do some browsing without having to worry about where each child is and whether or not the toddler is on a mission of destruction. Bliss!

Happy Monday, all!

March 5, 2014

Are you ready for World Read Aloud Day?

Today is LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day.

For many of you reading this, this seems like no big deal.  You read aloud every day.  Multiple times a day.  Some days, more than you want to (yes, I said it…we’ve all had those days.)

That’s not the case everywhere.  Even in our own suburban communities. Many children have caregivers who don’t have the time because they’re working multiple jobs just to make ends meet.  Or they don’t have the money to buy books to keep in the house.  And it’s easy to say, “Well, there’s always the public library!” And there is.  But sometimes even getting to the library is a challenge.  Or the local library, because of ever-increasing budget cuts, is under-staffed, under-funded, and under-stocked.

Well, what about at school?

Also true.  Schools have books.  Some still have staffed libraries.

They also have high demands placed on them by government mandated standardized testing, over-anxious administration, and stressed-out teachers who struggle to find the time to read aloud.  Especially in the older grades.

And that’s all in our middle class communities.

So. World Read Aloud Day.

It seems like a no-brainer, but for many it’s not.  For many, it’s a legitimate challenge.

So today is a day to set aside, to encourage, to promote, and to remind.

I’m going to get all cliche on you, but here’s why I do it, in a quick bulleted list:

Celebrate the read aloud today. If it’s something you already do, keep on doing it.  If it’s something you’re able to do, but don’t often find the time for, try to find the time today.  And if you truly can’t, don’t beat yourself up. There are 364 more days before the next World Read Aloud Day for you to squeeze one in. Every little bit counts.

In case you’re curious about what we’ve read so far today:

Sheep in a Jeep

I Love You Through and Through

Big Enough for a Bed

Nancy Clancy Sees The Future

 

 

 

February 28, 2014

Oh you guys.

You know how I feel about being honest with y’all, right?  Because let’s face it…nothing makes us feel better as parents and caregivers than hearing about other people’s challenges.  There’s camaraderie.  There’s head nodding.  And there’s hopefully a little bit of sympathetic laughing, because you know that it could so happen to you.

I’m here today to make you feel better about yourself as a parent.

Awhile back, I discovered Melissa Guion’s Baby Penguins Everywhere.  And I tweeted about it, and Melissa saw it, and we chatted back and forth about how cute penguins are and about how crazy children are. Then the stars aligned, and I got a review copy of her second book Baby Penguins Love Their Mama and the chance to have Melissa visit my blog (if you missed it, you can check out her guest post here.)

When Melissa mentioned she was going to be in the DC area doing a storytime at a local children’s bookstore and did I want to meet, OF COURSE I said yes.  The reading was for ages 2 and under, my oldest would be at school.  I could get out to the bookstore and back in time to pick her up.

Except this week.  Oy, this week.

The 2yo is getting over a cold.  And while he’s better today, he’s a little low on sleep from several nights of waking up every hour.  And the puppy has been sick.  And the husband has been out of town.

The deck was kind of stacked against me, but I’d made these plans WEEKS ago, and I was going.

We arrived and right away I knew I was going to have my hands full.  Most of the crowd was under two, and they were ADORABLE.  Like sitting on their parents laps, quietly prepared to listen, cute-as-a-button ADORABLE.

Did I mention we hadn’t been out of the house for a week?  My 2yo was ecstatic.  He bounced through the store, loudly showing me book after book, some of which he recognized from home and others that had instantly recognizable themes (TRUCKS! DINOSAURS! ELMO! BALLERINAS!) Thank goodness for a staff who was pleased with his enthusiasm and didn’t kick us out.

It’s a good thing I’d read Melissa’s books, because there was no way he was sitting still to listen to them (sorry, Melissa!)  We explored, returned for the songs, then explored some more while we waited for the crowd to die down.

And then, just as I introduced myself…

He decided he wanted a snack.  Pretzels.  And he’d like them now, thankyouverymuch.

He lets me know this by placing his hands on my cheek and trying to redirect my face while I’m talking.

I’ve had it both ways.  My daughter has always loved storytime, still does.  She was one of those lap-sitters who hung on to the reader’s every word.  My son?  He likes books and stories, too.  But on his terms.  And he’s less likely to sit quietly on your lap.

So if you’ve ever been that parent at storytime, the one whose child is more physically curious and less quietly observing, take heart.  We’ve all been there.  Or at least, I have.  Today.

And Melissa?  She was super-sweet about the whole thing.  Because she has kids, too. I suspect you can find them in her books :)

Happy Friday, friends.

zonked

 

 

 

 

February 19, 2014

My 2yo idolizes his big sister, who will be 5 in a few months.  He copies her speech, her actions, and has even adopted some of her favorites.  This includes some of the books he asks for.  And that’s where I run into a dilemma.  My very active, constantly moving, not-so-very-gentle little boy still has to be highly supervised around books, especially library books.  When left alone, like in his crib, he only has board books.  When we read to him at night, it’s also board books, which tend to be shorter and just the perfect length for a quick snuggle without him getting the idea that it’s still playtime (anyone else have to walk that fine line at night?)

Yet his favorite characters are from longer books, like the “Jack and Annie” audiobooks we listen to in the car, or the longer picture books he hears when I read to his sister.  Which don’t come in board book format.  So, on his behalf, I’m sending out this plea into cyberspace.  Dear publishers, please make board book formats of these books for my son:

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Stella and Sam

Marie-Louise Gay

Stella is the tolerant, creative old sister.  Sam is the questioning, more cautious younger brother.  Fred is the constant canine companion.  These books so mirror my children’s lives.  They’re simple, sweet, warm, funny.  There’s no flash, no special effects, “loudness”, and yet my kids want to read them over and over and over again.

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Bobo the Sock Monkey

Eileen Rosenthal, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

Again, super simple plots about a boy, his sock monkey, and his cat.  Monkeys are BIG in this house, and one can only take so much Curious George.

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Red Knit Cap Girl

Naoko Stoop

Okay, this one might be more for me, because I find every aspect of these books to be beautiful and every child should be exposed to them as early as possible.  The third one comes out this year.  Plenty of time to format into a board book, right?  I’ll buy it!

Am I alone in this?  Does anyone else have this conundrum?  Any books or series that you’d like to see converted into a different format?  Until that happens, I guess we’ll have to stick with our hardback copies.  And lots and lots of supervision.

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