Grace upon grace…


I grew up saying grace at every meal.

I knew what it meant be a “graceful” young lady…
…and gave up on wearing high heals because they
were definitely not adding to my “gracefulness.”

(I walk like my Dad. It was kind of hilarious.)

But not too many years ago, I discovered the
real meaning of the word “Grace.”

God’s unmerited favor.

His love and forgiveness for us…
His favoring us…
His laying down His life for us…

… When we didn’t even deserve it.

As Christians, we can demonstrate a small portion
of grace to those around us by helping, forgiving,
loving, being patient, and offering kindness.

And we can offer a bit of grace to our own selves…
…by realizing we all fail, we all fall…
…and by not expecting perfection from ourselves.

So, for this next year,
my One Word is going to be

For from His fulness, we have all received grace upon grace.
John 1:16

Day #12 – Books that Inspire Creativity

Feeling creative?

Or not so much?

Below are some new picture books that help kids get in an artsy mood!

Mouse Paint is a  fun little book that teaches primary and secondary colors…
…Three white mice have a grand time splashing about in paint!


And a little more color fun for the older kids…
The Day the Crayons Quit is a book of protest…The crayons are fed up with
their normal jobs and are mad at each other, so they write letters
to a little boy named Duncan, telling him all their woes.


The Dot is another book with a bit of attitude…
Vashti is having a bad case of artist’s block, and in frustration makes a
angry jab at her paper, creating a dot in the center of the page.
She discovers that The Dot can be a beginning of a great work of art!


And for those of us who have kids that get Very Upset when making a mistake…
Beautiful Oops! gives lots of ideas to turn a mess up into something beautiful!


And… Though not necessarily about being creative, Press Here
will get your kids creatively involved in the reading process…


Day #11 – Cute Critters

Who were your favorite personified picture book characters?

Personification is a popular character development method used in children’s picture books. It’s fun to imagine animals that can talk, walk around in people clothes, and who sometimes act up or get themselves into a bit of a fix. One of the benefits of reading books about animal characters is that we can discuss their behavior and attitudes, the mischief they get into, and how they solve their problems with just enough “distance” so that it doesn’t feel like it’s pointed directly at any behavior or situation that might be cropping up in real life. These cute critters can give our little people examples of friendship, leadership, sharing, obeying, curiosity, and much more. Definitely worth including in our read-aloud repertoire!

Just a few that you’ll love introducing your kids to…










Day # 10 – Picture Books that Rhyme

Did you ever get the feeling There’s a Wocket in your Pocket?

If so, I’ll bet you grew up reading Dr. Suess!

Hubby and I both loved Dr. Suess books when we were little. Hubby absolutely loved Green Eggs and Ham… Mom-Mom Frey must have read that book several thousand times! My favorites were And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? When I was little, these wonderful books arrived in the mail at our house, two or three at a time, via the Dr. Suess and His Friends Book Club. So, when the sun didn’t shine and it was too wet to play, there were lots of fun, whimsical rhyming books to read!

Besides being super fun to read aloud,
did you know that Dr. Suess books,
as well as other rhyming books,
can help your child learn to read?!?

Hearing lots of rhyming words… whether it’s by reading Dr. Suess books or chanting Mother Goose poems… can help establish pre-reading skills for your little folks. Rhyming helps kids develop auditory discrimination so they can distinguish those tiny little differences in sounds of letters and words. Rhyming helps them understand what a “syllable” is. Rhyming helps kids recognize word families, such as cat, hat, mat, and pat. And it helps them learn to spell using those word families or patterns of letters.

Plus, rhyming can be downright silly and fun.

I mean, who doesn’t want to Hop on Pop?


Make sure you have some Dr. Suess books in your home library!


Day #9 – Bible Friends

There’s a small stack of books in our home that have been around quite a while.


They belonged to my brother and me when we were little.

These books are definitely favorites around here. Reading these stories over and over again as a little girl made the people of the Bible so familiar. David, Esther, Samuel, Daniel, Josiah… and especially the Lord… felt like friends I had known forever.


The illustrations were realistic and beautiful, and God’s people were courageous.

Queen Esther was one of my heroines…
“For such a time as this” is such an amazing thought.


I loved reminiscing over these storybooks from my childhood…
and then as I flipped through to the back pages, I saw tell-tale signs
that these books had been part of our daughters’ childhoods as well…


…The girls played “Library” with them!


What were your favorite Bible story books as a child?

Day #8 – And the ladies…

Decided not to worry that the “Day” matches the “Date”
in this year’s 31 Days of  Reading Aloud Project!

Guilt for being late now officially deleted.


Who could do a blog series about children’s picture books and not mention two Very Special Ladies? While the guys we talked about in the last post were a bit stylized and modern, these two ladies are decidedly old-fashioned. The first is old-fashioned because of when she lived and worked… The second completely by choice.

Beatrix Potter is known for being one of the very first female author/illustrators in the world of children’s picture books. When we think of Miss Potter, she seems to be the epitome of “old-fashioned,” but in reality, she was quite the progressive! Though she was born into English society, she did not want to follow the path of marriage for wealth or title, but instead wanted to marry for love and live a simple life in the countryside. Miss Potter had made up stories and painted pictures since she was a little girl, and as a young woman she decided to have one of her stories published. She was turned down by several publishing houses who thought her “bunny book” would never be successful, but finally her little book was chosen for publication by Warne Publishing. Unlike most authors of her day, Beatrix was very involved in the production of her books for children, from choosing a small size that was just right for little ones’ hands, to personally approving the colors used in duplicating her illustrations. Her first little book proved to be unbelievably successful…


Miss Potter lived quite an interesting life, and if you’d like to know more about her,
take a look at this list of books.
You can also watch this wonderfully sweet movie.

You’ll need a hankie.

You’ll also want to read aloud all Miss Potter’s sweet stories to your little folks…


Tasha Tudor was born almost half a century after Beatrix Potter. Tasha was born into Boston society, but she also wanted to live an old-fashioned lifestyle… and she did. Like Miss Potter, Tasha persisted on having her first book published even though editors turned her down. She became known for her sweet, softly colored watercolor illustrations, which were often surrounded by elaborately detailed borders. Her first book was published in 1938, and thus began a 70 year career in illustration…


Tasha also lived a life that has intrigued many people all over the world.
This movie is a wonderful introduction to her lifestyle.

Warning: You may decide to raise goats and chickens after watching it.

We did.

Needless to say, Tasha is my Very Favorite Children’s Book Author and Illustrator…

…Guess how excited I was to find out we share them same birthday!!!

Reading aloud favorites by Tasha?


… and also Corgiville Fair and Corgiville Christmas!

Day #7 – Just a few of the guys…

Whoops… a day late!


Today I thought we’d take a look at a few of the most
well-known male picture book author/illustrators…
…Maurice Sendak, Tomie DePaola, and Eric Carle!

Maurice Sendak is probably most well-known for this…
WildThingsWhere the Wild Things Are
… The story of a little boy who got in trouble, was sent to his room,
and sailed off to land full of wild and wonderful creatures…
“Let the wild rumpus begin!”

In our family, however, Mr. Sendak is most famous for this little set of stories…
Sendak1The Nutshell Library…
Alligators All Around: An Alphabet
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue
One Was Johnny: A Counting Book
Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months

Grammy and Grampy have a tiny vintage set of these bold little stories by Sendak… And they were read out loud Every. Single. Time. we visited. Sometimes more than once. I can hear Grammy’s voice… “Sipping once, sipping twice, sipping chicken soup with rice…” The illustrations in these books remind me of old world woodcuts, while the “Wild Things” illustrations are the stuff of dreams. (The kind of dreams you have if you eat spicy things for dinner!) Sendak’s art is folky, fanciful, and very stylized, and his stories center around precocious little kids that misbehave… and often get eaten up as a result. As a mom, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Sendak’s books at first, but soon realized there’s a bit of reverse psychology in them!

Another well-known author/illustrator is Tomie dePaola…


Tomie dePaola has written and illustrated oodles of books… over 200! He’s well known for European folk tales and Native American legends, but our favorites are his autobiographical stories. Tom is about his special relationship with his grandfather. (Somehow a story about chopped-off chicken feet makes a great kids’ book!) Another favorite of our is…

NanaNana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs

We were partial to this one because we had several generations of Nana’s in our family. Nana Anne (Who our youngest daughter Kate blogged about inner 31 Day Project) found this at a yard sale and brought it home. She explained to the girls that one day SHE would be Nana upstairs. It’s a slightly sad story, but also a very sweet one. And probably our very favorite book by Tomie…

ArtLessonThe Art Lesson

The Art Lesson is the story of young Tomie wanting to be an artist since he was a very little boy. Our oldest daughter, Jordan, loved this book so much that she wrote a letter in first grade to Mr. dePaola… and he wrote back! Talk about encouraging a little kid! Tomie’s style is also very stylized and easily recognizable.

The last guy we’ll talk about today is Eric Carle, who began his career
in children’s book illustration by doing pictures for a book by Bill Martin, Jr….
Brown BearBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Carle did a few more books with Bill Martin, Jr., but he also quickly began producing books that he wrote and illustrated himself. One of his most well-known books for children is…

CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a fun book for little folks in which a small caterpillar eats his way through the week (and the pages!) and grows bigger each day. Eric Carle produced many concept books that teach counting, the days of the week, insect sounds, parts of the body, and much more. But what is really special about Eric’s books is the WAY he illustrates them… with collage. Look a little closer at an illustration…


Each piece of his collage illustration is created from paper that he painted to add texture to the artwork.


Pretty neat, huh?

Making paint-textured papers and creating collages from them
would be a fun way to explore Carle’s illustration style, don’t you think?


…A Someday Field Trip…

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Hoping to get there some day!!!

Day #6 – Picture Books

My FAVORITE type of children’s literature!

bunniesFrom A Tale for Easter by Tasha Tudor

Seriously… Picture books hit some kind of deep down place in me.
Just of hint of sentiment in the story and I’m all slobbery.

harvestFrom Harvest Home by Jane Yolen
Illustrations by Greg Shed

Which can get some pretty odd looks from those being read to.


So what ARE picture books?

That question seems somewhat self-explanatory, but just because a book has pictures in it, doesn’t make it a “picture book.” Many books have illustrations here and there throughout the text, such as chapter books with several pictures per chapter, or a storybook with an elaborate illustration for each story. Picture books, however, have a much stronger connection between the text and illustrations. Often, the text is very sparse… sometimes only a few words per page. The average picture book has less than 1000 words in the entire book. What the text leaves to the imagination, the illustrations… on nearly every page… clarify for the reader. You really can’t “read” a picture book without looking at the pictures, because much of the detail is in the artwork. Some picture books have no words at all… but we’ll get to them later!

ColorRoughsColor Roughs for Zero and One by Jeff Byington

The collaboration between author/editor and illustrator is very unique, and varies from book to book. Some authors have no say in the style of illustration that will be used for their manuscript, as a publishing house chooses the best illustrator for the job. Some authors give very detailed instructions about who will illustrate their book and how it will be done. I think the best picture books are the result of a good relationship between author and illustrator… Where the writer gives some basic suggestions and trusts the artist’s skill… and where the artist submits ideas back to the writer to see if they’re on the same page. (Pun intended.)

NumberCharactersZero and One Character Development

Picture books offer a great opportunity for some beginning “Art Appreciation” discussions with your kids! Help them really look at the illustrations by pointing out details as you read the story. Discuss the mood of the pictures… Is it a bright,  sunny day or a stormy, windy night? Are the illustrations flat and stylistic or three-dimensional and realistic? Can you tell what medium the artist used? What about getting out some of the same stuff to make their own pictures? Can you find other books illustrated by the same artist?

pupincupFrom Hop on Pop by Dr. Suess

Picture books also give you a chance to teach inference skills they will need later on as they learn to read. Can they guess how the character is feeling by the illustrations, even if the text doesn’t tell you? Does the picture give you a clue about what will happen when you turn the page? (“Page turn” is a BIG DEAL in picture books!) Does anything in the illustration refer to other stories or books your child might recognize?

3BearsFrom Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Clement Hurd

We’ll spend this week looking at some well-known picture book artists…

AmeliaFrom The Amelia Bedelia Treasury by Peggy Parish
Illustrated by Fritz Siebel & Barbara Siebel Thomas

…Who are your favorites?

Day #5 – The B-I-B-L-E

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the Book for me!
I stand alone on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E!

I thought Sundays would be a good time to talk about sharing God’s Word with children through reading aloud. Just like it’s never too early to begin reading aloud to little ones, it’s also never too early to introduce them to the most important Book of all time… The Bible. The Bible is actually 66 books, inspired by God and penned by men of His choosing. It’s full of history (His Story!), poetry, prophecy, proverbs, Good News, and instruction in righteousness. The Bible tells the stories of men and women of God over many centuries, and it is THE story, woven from Genesis to Revelation, of God’s plan for redeeming the human race. God’s Word is fascinating, full of adventure, sweet and precious, and life-giving… And reading it to your children will be a blessing for you and for them!

Today, I thought I’d share a few resources for reading aloud the Bible to your children. Of course, the very first thing I’d recommend is to just pick up the Bible and READ it. Children understand a lot more than we give them credit for, and reading straight from the Bible can help their understanding grow immensely. However, today I’m just going to highlight a few Bible storybooks for children that we have used for family devotions…

ChildrensBibleThe Children’s Bible

The older version of this Bible Story book (from 1965) is out of print, but I’m pretty sure there is a new version. The Children’s Bible is a collection of all the major Bible stories, from Genesis to Revelation, written accurately and reverently. The reading level is probably upper elementary, but it makes a great resource for family devotions for all ages! I’ve found enough copies of this at thrift shops and used book sales to make sure our grandkids have a copy!

StoryBibleThe Child’s Story Bible

Catherine Vos’s Child’s Story Bible (from 1935)  is another excellent resource for family devotions. Mrs. Vos tells the major biblical narratives in a grandmotherly tone, adding in historical and cultural information when needed. It’s not only a favorite of our family, but Ruth Bell Graham loved this book as well! Again, probably an upper elementary reading level, but a great read-aloud for all ages.

JesusStorybookThe Jesus Storybook Bible

And… a NEW favorite! This story Bible is directed at the younger set, with a target audience of ages 4-8. However, I love this version (published in 2007) for its “Big Picture” focus… Every story in this book, from Creation to Revelation, shows the plan of Redemption and the need for Jesus. It shows how all the stories of the Bible are not just incidental, free-standing events, but part of the ultimate plan of God. I wish I had this when our girls were young… Or when I was young, for that matter!

And just when should you read-aloud the Word of God to your children?

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

That’s a pretty good suggestion… When you’re hanging out at home, taking a walk,
riding in a car, when you wake up in the morning, and when you go to bed at night.

Any time you get a chance!


Day #4 – Goodnight Moon

One of the most well-known bedtime books is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.


It has been loved by generations, and has helped millions of little people fall asleep. It is also a great example of how text and illustrations work together to make an excellent book for children. I’ve heard that Margaret Wise Brown didn’t give much direction to illustrator Clement Hurd, other than a few notes and a picture of Goya’s Boy in Red for a color reference.


Hurd’s primary color scheme must have been influenced by that bright red pantsuit! The illustrations alternate between brightly colored views of the entire bedroom and black-and-white illustrations of individual items in the room. The switch back and forth provides interest and helps add a calming effect. I’m guessing that including black-and-white illustrations was also an editorial decision… Illustrators charge more for color illustrations, and printing pages in color added quite a bit to the cost when the book was published 60 years ago. (Color is not so much an issue in printing costs now.)

photo 1

What I find most interesting in the illustrations of Goodnight Moon is Clement Hurd’s attention to details. You may not notice it at first, but if you look carefully, you can see that it’s getting later and later. At first, the room is bright and the night sky is dark by comparison. The clocks say “7:00.” There is activity in the room… frisky kittens, a scampering mouse, and a bright-eyed bunny who has just been tucked into bed.

photo 5

As the “quiet old lady” whispers, “hush,” the room begins to darken, the moon begins to rise in the window, and the little bunny settles back a bit in his bed. (Though he does wiggle and squirm a bit more before succumbing to sleep… And the old lady whispers “hush” a few more times! (I can identify with her… Can you?)

photo 2

As the story progresses, the bunny says goodnight to everything in his room. The room gets darker and the night sky gets brighter as the moon rises higher. Even the kittens begin to settle down. The clock keeps ticking and time moves on. (Note the wiggling bunny child.)

photo 4

Finally, the story ends with a sleeping bunny, a brightly lit night sky, and a room that is completely dark, except for the fire in the fireplace and the lights in the toy house. The clock reads “8:10.” (An hour and ten minutes to get a toddler to sleep? Yup. Sounds about right.) The old lady has left the room, and the kittens have curled up in her rocker. I don’t know how you read this story aloud, but by this time, I’m practically whispering… even if it’s being read in the middle of the day!

photo 3

Isn’t it great how the illustrations darken as the text quiets?

Makes ME want to take a nap.

Sooo… Next time you read aloud to a little person,
take a little extra time to look at the illustrations with them…
You might be surprised at the details you discover!