Once Upon a Story
January 10, 2014

It’s no secret that most of my reading comes from picture books, middle grade, and the occasional young adult novel.  Part of this is because of time constraints, but much of it is truly by choice.  Every once in awhile, though,  an adult title will pop up that piques my interest.  This week, I read this article about books that are being released as films this coming year, and two previously-unknown-to-me titles caught my attention.

Winter's Tale

Winter’s Tale

by Mark Helprin

I was in the theater a few weeks ago, and this popped up in the previews.  When it was over, I nudged my husband and said, “That actually sounds like a book.  I wonder if it was a novel first?”  Sure enough… So when my daughter and I visited the library last night, I picked it up and brought it home.  All 768 pages.  Eesh.  I’m going to have to flex my reading muscles for this one. It’s been awhile.

7347109The Hundred Foot Journey

by Richard C. Morais

This summary for this reminded me a little bit of Chocolat (which is a wonderful story even without Johnny Depp), but with an Indian flair.  Travel and gourmet food.  This is why we read, friends.

And lastly, I just pre-ordered Hollow City  by Ransom Riggs Technically, this falls under the realm of young adult, but I couldn’t post without including my excitement for this book, which I’ve been waiting for since I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children last year.


And there’s your peek at my nightstand.  What’s on yours?

Happy Friday, y’all!

November 15, 2013

First, I should clarify:  That title does not mean I have an adverse reaction to non-bookish people.  I have love for ALL of you.  Really.  If you’re hear reading, I have love and appreciation for you. (Unless you’re here to spam me, in which case…not so much.)

I’ve spent the last 10 years of my non-student life surrounding myself with book people.  First it was as an educator, and while not all my students were readers, I took a great amount of pride and satisfaction in handing out (or reading aloud) books to them anyway.  Some remained uninterested.  That was okay.  Maybe I planted a seed (or maybe not).  Some, though, discovered an author or series or genre that was new to them, and it turned their reading life around.  As a reading teacher, these are the BEST MOMENTS EVER.

And then I left teaching to pursue a library degree and I really got to dig into the world of children’s literature.  I learned how to critically evaluate children’s books, where to go for the most informative reviews, and how  to read genres that might not interest me personally, but might be a perfect match for a student (in my case, the two biggies were/ are science fiction and graphic novels).

Then I had two children of my own, and suddenly I was trying to instill that passion for the word into two very tiny clean slates.  So far, mission accomplished with my daughter.  My son is a little more active and less inclined to sit still, but will still bring me books to read, especially if we can make them loud or noisy reads.  So he’s on his way, too.

In the midst of all that clean-slate teaching, I began blogging. My children are complete delights (aren’t they all?!) but I missed that professional and adult connection.  Blogging allowed me to have conversations with other adults–parents, teachers, librarians– about the books we were reading.

And I began writing stories of my own.  And then somebody believed enough in my stories to want to get them out into the world, a fact that still seems kind of unreal to me.

All this Friday rambling to say, this community of book people–writers, teachers, parents, librarians, publishers, agents– they’re good people.  They support each other (even when they’re competing with each other), they celebrate victories, they console over losses.  They freely recommend, share, and swap materials. Listen,  I have a husband who works in the business world, in a region of the country where you have to be competitive in order to be successful.  It can get ugly.  I’m so happy to be a part of a community that, overall, rejects that work philosophy.

So thank you for being part of that community with me.  And happy Friday, y’all!



Loot from KidLitCon last weekend. On the left, a door prize, which doesn’t include the handmade bookish necklace from MotherReader. On the right, books from the ARC swap.


June 21, 2013

Is this my third post this week?  That may be a record around here lately!

The day after Memorial Day, my husband left for a 3-week business trip, leaving me with our 18mo and 4yo.  Alone.  Outnumbered.

Since hiding under the bed for 3 weeks wasn’t an option, we just jumped in with both feet.  It looked something like this:

480: hours in total (really? that’s all??)
400: hours spent on 2 bathroom renovations (may be *slightly* exaggerated)
60: meals served
20: bedtimes
4: solo pool trips
2: BBQs attended
2: number of times lawn was mowed with non self-propelled mower (what? that’s an accomplishment!)
2: Farmer’s market excursions
1: Pennsylvania bridal shower (3 hours in the car each way)
1: Preschool Closing Ceremony

Also, I completed and worked on several revisions of a new manuscript and started drafting out another.

You’ll notice “blogging” didn’t make the cut.

With the exception of a few post/commitments I already had scheduled, blogging fell to the wayside.

But he’s back, and we’ve shifted back into our two-parent routine, and my head is not quite as Poltergeist-spinny-ish.

Which is good.

And also?

Bless those of you who are single parents.




Happy Friday!


March 22, 2013

Hello, Friday.

Hello, Friends.

The inside of my head is just one big, jumbled, busy mess.

How’s that for an honest, up front, has nothing-to-do-with-books confession?

This last month (months? year?) has just been one big, jumbled, busy mess.  It’s been a difficult year, personally, and I feel like I’m coming out of a bit of a fog, and that’s good, but MAN there’s alot to catch up on.

So today is just a bulleted post of what’s going on inside my head.  Feel free to take a peek…or don’t and come back on Monday (please?!) when we return to our normal programming.

Last year's (rainy) cherry blossoms.

Last year’s (rainy) cherry blossoms.



It’s ridiculous over here.  But it’s a crazy, busy, happy, ridiculous.

Happy Friday, friends.

March 14, 2013

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Published by:Random House

Release date: January 2013

Ages:10 and up


From the publisher:

“At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother’s death and placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains. Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can’t help being drawn to Early, who won’t believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear. But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives.”

My thoughts:

After her debut novel Moon Over Manifest won the 2011 Newbery, there was much buzz about Vanderpool’s second novel, Navigating Early.  I imagine, for an author, it can be intimidating to have your breakout novel to win the Newbery. How do you top that?  Fortunately, it doesn’t seem as if Vanderpool let this hold her back… Navigating Early is another wonderful work of fiction.

This is historical fiction, but there’s also a timeless feel.  The post-WWII time frame serves as a backdrop, but the emotions and growth experienced by the characters could take place at just about any time.  At the onset of the story, we meet Jack.  Jack’s mother has recently died, and his father, a Naval officer, has headed back out to see, shipping Jack off to remote all-male boarding school in Maine.  Here, everything is different, and Jack doesn’t quite fit in. He’s a misfit in every sense of the word.

And then he meets Early.

Early, who doesn’t live in the dorms, but instead in an old custodial closet.  Early, who collects odd newspaper clippings and listens to old records on a phonograph.  Early, who lives at the school…but doesn’t attend any of the classes.  Early is a true misfit. (Have you ever seen A Beautiful Mind?)

It’s through Early that Vanderpool introduces a parallel story, that of Pi.  It’s Early who tells Pi’s tale, using a mathematical formula that only Early seems to be able to understand.  Pi’s story is that of  a boy who sets out to find his own adventure and earn his name, finding much more than he bargained for.  In Early’s mind, his story is intertwined with Pi’s and he convinces Jack to embark on an adventure of their own. From this point onward, Vanderpool writes two adventure stories: Early and Jack’s, and Pi’s.  The stories weave in and out of each other in a way that should be confusing (and, to be honest, was a little bit in the beginning), but remain distinct from each other.  The stories are both about physical journeys, but moreover, they’re stories about pain, confusion, enlightenment, and healing for all 3 boys.

Navigating Early is masterfully crafted, once you fall into the rhythm of the stories.  On the surface, it’s an adventure tale, but there’s so many more levels to be explored.  Recommended for both home and classroom, as a read aloud or independently.

And what better book to recommend on Pi Day?




February 15, 2013

Remember when I shared the books I was giving my two children for Valentine’s Day?

Preschooler received two books with a same-name character, a ballerina.  Selected for her love of dancing/spinning, and the enjoyment of seeing her name in print.

Baby received a dinosaur board book reflective of his crashing, smashing, destructive nature.

Apparently, I selected poorly.

Preschooler gave me a cursory “Thank you”, and then immediately asked if we could read her brother’s book.

“It’s smells [scratch and sniff], Mommy!”




And so we did.  And she sniffed.  And she laughed.  And the book was enjoyed.

Which is really the point, so I guess I didn’t do too badly after all 😉

Happy Friday, friends!

February 8, 2013


So.  Valentine’s Day next week.

Do you do treats for your kids?  Since International Book Giving Day is also on February 14th, it’s the perfect chance to share some book love.

These are the books I picked up for our two kiddos.


Not a heart or valentine in sight.

It wasn’t a deliberate move.  I have nothing against Valentine’s Day books.  But I also don’t limit myself to them.  So these books may not be your typical Valentine’s Day reads, but they were picked with love.  That’s what counts, right?  And the nice thing is that we can leave these books out year round.

The two on the left are for Preschooler, who will be 4 in about 2 months.  We’re just starting to get into the early chapter books at bedtime.  The main character in these happens to have the same name, and the books are all about spinning and dancing and twirling, a popular activity in our house now (I’m pretty sure it goes hand in hand with the princess obsession).

The book on the right is a series most of you are probably already familiar with.  Baby (who is now 14months) doesn’t sit for long periods of time, so he hasn’t really discovered Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs… books yet, but this board book version is a good place to start.  Bonus: it’s a scratch ‘n’ sniff! It won’t be long before that does have appeal.

Anyone else doing books for Valentine’s Day?  Do you go with the more traditional selections or have you veered off the path like I have?

February 1, 2013

I’ll be up front and do my confessing right away.  Today’s post is a stereotype.  It’s all about

little girls and the princess obsession.

I know, it’s not just little girls who like princesses. I have a son, too, and right now his favorite book is Twinkle Toes by Karen Katz, and he can often be found carrying around one of his sister’s Little People princesses.

But there is something about preschool-aged little girls and princesses.  It’s like a rite of passage.  And right now, we are in the thick of it.  Preschooler loves anything princess-y, sparkly, or shiny.  This includes well-known movie princesses, but also extends to a current fascination with fairytales.  We’ve been having fun with a few fractured/twisted fairytales and princess stories and I thought I’d share some with you today.

(Click any image for more information)

The Monster Princess

Talk about unconventional! Here’s a monster who longs to be a castle-dwelling princess, until she learns that true princesses come in all forms.

The Apple-Pip Princess


The Apple-Pip Princess has a more conventional feel and storyline (Old King, 3 princesses, which one will prove her love the most), but I liked the slight twist on the ending, and Jane Ray’s illustrations are stunning.

Goldilocks and Just One Bear

If you read any book on this list, please read this one.  I can’t say too much without giving away the story, but I was laughing out loud the entire way through the book.  It’s a modified story of the one you know, with a wandering bear in a Manhattan setting.  You’ll want to read it several times, not just because of the text, but the hidden gems in the illustrations.  Just trust me.

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas

And while you’re checking out the book above, add this one to your bag, too.  After seeing his brother paired off with an over-demanding princess, thanks to their mother’s crafty test, Prince Henrik decides that what he needs is a princess who is the exact opposite of what a “true princess” should be.  He devises a test of his own, one that will determine his choice for an unconventional princess.

The King Who Wouldn't Sleep

Like every father worried for his daughter’s well-being, the king has vowed not to sleep until he has found a suitable prince for his princess.  Unfortunately, no prince seems to meet his standards, and no prince can trick the king into falling asleep so that he may have a chance to at least speak to the princess.  But someone decidedly unprince-like has a plan.

Do you have any unconventional princess or fairytales to share?  These are our favorite reads right now, and I’m always looking for more!

January 18, 2013

Earlier in the week, I read this article in Publisher’s Weekly, “Influence of Bookstores and Libraries Eroding for Children.”  Among other things, the article discusses the increased impact of friends and family (word-of-mouth) on book recommendations, over more traditional sources such as libraries and bookstores.  If you take the time to read the article, there is some evidence that these findings are slightly skewed, but it did get me thinking:

I’m guilty of book gossip (and happy to admit it).

The fact that you’re here, reading this blog, suggests that maybe you are, too, right?  You read about books, you chat about books, you have some social community (either online, in person, or both) that gossips about books right along with you.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you what books are on the NYT Bestseller list right now.  I have some guesses for the upcoming Newbery and Caldecott Awards (announcing on January 28th), but I guarantee I haven’t read all the contenders.  Even though I consider myself moderately current in the children’s literacy trends, it would be impossible for me to read every book, even every good one.

So where do my recommendations come from?  Mostly other kidlit bloggers whose tastes run somewhat similar to mine, or who feature a variety of titles.  I keep an eye and ear out for the ones that are being discussed all over the Twitterverse.  I follow particular authors that I’ve always enjoyed and are most likely to impress me again. I chat with friends who have children similar in age and say, “Oh, have you read _____?”

Even then, sometimes I’m disappointed by a book that everyone raves about.  Or I find myself being the only one in love with a title that leaves other readers ambivalent.

Which is okay.  Because the bottom line is, it comes down to personal taste.

So tell me, where do your book recommendations come from?  Are you a list follower, or a book gossiper?  Have you ever had the experience of being let down by a book that has taken the rest of the world by storm?

This is one time where gossip is a good thing.

See you Monday, friends!

January 4, 2013

Well, hello little blog.  How are ya?

I confess:

I’ve been too busy traveling and eating (and recovering from traveling and eating) to spend much time here.

I’m still trying to recover, but the big kid is back in school, the little kid is back to sleeping at night (thanks be to God!), and I’m back to carving out time for this little space.

But just because it’s been quiet, doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some new reading going on!

Here’s a brief rundown:


Everyday Picture Books

Alice the Fairy by David Shannon (I love this female version of his famous David character 🙂 )

The Prince Won’t Go To Bed! by Dayle Ann Dodds (fun rhyming story)

The Great Fairy Tale Disaster by David Conway (Preschooler has been on a fairytale kick lately, and enjoyed recognizing all her favorite characters, but with plot twists)

Ladybug Girl and Bingo by David Soman (Ladybug Girl–and Bumblebee Boy– are standards around here)

Ollie the Purple Elephant by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Same Krosoczka humor, picture book format)

Oh no, George! by Chris Haughton (A story about good intentions…)


Holiday Picture Books

Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows (Bedtime story with a little learning on the side)

Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera (A reread from last year  Fun Christmas series…I think there are three books now?)

The Night Before Christmas  by Clement C. Moore (Umm, I can’t remember which version of this we own.  But you know the story!)

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco


Chapter Books

The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan (I wanted to write a review on the blog for this, but my reading kept getting interrupted by illness, and then I was traveling and not spending time online, and..now it’s January.  But you should read it.  Really.  Such a clever, heartwarming, adventure story)

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli (see my review here! Comes out January 8th.  Get thee a copy!)

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (Currently reading.  Also releasing January 8th.  A great start to 2013!)

And then, of course, January 1st also was the release of the Cybils Finalists.  And since I’m a Round 2 Judge for Middle Grade Fiction…I’ve got a whole stack of chapter books to read in the next month.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.  See you Monday!


© 2014-2021 Once Upon a Story All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright