Dec 172021
 
 December 17, 2021  Book Reviews, Christmas 2 Responses »

Grab some cocoa and wrap up in a blanket! It’s time to snuggle up with great New Christmas books for kids! This collection includes re-tellings of classic tales as well as modern stories, but all are perfect to read together again and again.

Christmas Books for Kids to Read This Season | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclaimer: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

New Christmas Books for Kids to Read This Season

Christmas Books for Kids to Read This Season | Alldonemonkey.com

Here are our favorite new Christmas books for kids to enjoy together!

Are your kids fans of the Where’s Waldo books? Then they will love Where’s Waldo? Santa Spotlight Search, a special Christmas edition! Use the spotlight slider to search for Waldo, Santa, and other festive characters. This fun book features the searches these books are known for, as well as puzzles and games. It’s a great activity for the holidays!

What set of Christmas books would be complete without ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? In this new edition, this beloved Christmas tale is now accompanied by gorgeous illustrations from P.J. Lynch, which are fresh and original yet still have a classic, timeless feeling. This wonderful new edition of this classic poem is sure to find a place in your family’s Christmas traditions.

Another gorgeous retelling of a classic tale is the new edition of The Robin and the Fir Tree. This beautiful story of friendship is inspired by a story by Hans Christian Andersen. The fir tree tells his friend the robin of how he longs for adventure and freedom. One day, his dreams appeared to come true when he is chosen to be the town’s Christmas tree, but the robin worries for her friend. What will happen when Christmas is over and the town no longer needs him? This thought-provoking tale is enhanced by the incredibly detailed, stylized illustrations.

This Christmas, why not take a trip to the African savanna and celebrate with the animals? The Twelve Days of Christmas Safari is author Wakanyi Hoffman’s beautiful tribute to the animals of her home country of Kenya. Accompanied by the beautiful wildlife paintings of Kenya-based Milena Weichelt, it is a wonderful way to take children on an imaginary Christmas adventure!

In The Nick Of Time is a wonderful story about the true meaning of the season. Nick, like most kids, is excited about Christmas because of all the toys he’ll be getting! Yet when a note intended for St. Nick is accidentally delivered to him, he realizes that life is not so easy for other children. Nick must figure out a way to make Christmas special for a classmate and his family that don’t have a home of their own. Author Deedee Cummings has woven a heartwarming tale that help children see Christmas in a new way, and encourages them to appreciate the power of small acts of kindness. It is also so refreshing to find a Christmas story that centers a Black boy! A lovely story for the whole family.

May Your Life Be Deliciosa is a wonderful story about the importance of traditions and family stories. Based on the author’s own experiences, it shows a family making tamales together at Christmas. As the abuela (grandmother) teaches the children how to make the tamales, she also imparts her wishes for them. For example, as she folds the corn husks over the masa, she recites, “May you always have many hugs.” A powerful example of how food is so often infused with love, and of the importance of passing on our family heritage.


The Little Bell That Wouldn’t Ring: A Christmas Story has the magical quality of a fairy tale, with its gorgeous illustrations of a traditional European village. There is a new little bell in the belfry, but an attentive dove can’t figure out how to help the little bell find its voice. As it collects loving words (“snowflake,” “cake crumbs,” “chocolate”), the dove learns about the spirit of the season, until finally she and her friends discover the key to helping the little bell sing.

Don’t you love seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center every year? It is such a wonderful sign of the season! But did you know the story of the little owl that got caught in the tree one year? The Christmas Owl: Based on the True Story of a Little Owl Named Rockefeller shares the tale of the owl that found itself in the tree that was chosen to be in Rockefeller Center that year and traveled in its branches to Rockefeller Center, much to everyone’s surprise! A sweet story and a tribute to the workers at the rehabilitation center that cared for the owl once it was discovered and released it back to its forest home.

We love the Jasmine Green Rescues chapter book series! You may remember earlier this year when I reviewed A Lamb Called Lucky and A Goat Called Willow. (If not, read my review). Jasmine Green Rescues: A Donkey Called Mistletoe is the Christmas installment of the same series about a young girl who aspires to be a vet. Although her parents have told her absolutely no more pets, Jasmine is determined to find a way to save a beloved donkey whose owner can no longer care for it. A lovely early chapter book for any young animal lover.

I haven’t forgotten about older kids! I recently discovered the Sophie Washington series, about a diverse middle grade series about tween Sophie and her friends and family. In Secret Santa, Sophie must discover who is the mysterious person behind the gifts she starts receiving near Christmas time. This is a feel good story aimed at kids ages 8 – 12. I loved the main character of Sophie and her family, as well as how diverse her group of friends is. The author also does a wonderful job of incorporating issues that many kids face, like dealing with younger siblings, balancing the needs and interests of different friends, and learning to overcome their fears.

Nov 052021
 
 November 5, 2021  Book Reviews, Native American Heritage Month Comments Off on Books by Native Authors and Illustrators

Celebrate indigenous creators with these wonderful picture books by Native authors and illustrators! Perfect to share for Native American Heritage Month or any time of year!

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators | Alldonemonkey.com

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know presents issues faced by Native peoples in the past and today, such as assimilation and self-determination. The main message is that Native peoples are still here; they are not a relic of the past! I love how the book highlights the diversity of Native Nations. There is also a wealth of additional information at the back of the book on each of the topics covered. Best of all? I recently got to present on this wonderful book at the monthly Multicultural Children’s Book Club meeting from Walking in Other People’s Shoes! We even had a visit from award-winning author Traci Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee nation. Check the website soon for a recording of the event.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author Sherri Maret about her wonderful book The Cloud Artist. Written to celebrate Maret’s Choctaw heritage, The Cloud Artist is about learning to listen to your own inner voice. It also teaches children that beauty is meant to be shared, not sold. What makes this bilingual English-Choctaw book even more special is that it is is illustrated by Choctaw artist Merisha Sequoia Clark – who, they discovered later, is Maret’s cousin!

We Are Water Protectors is a powerful call to protect the Earth and its natural resources. Its vibrant illustrations earned illustrator Michaela Goade a Caldecott Medal, the first Native American to do so. This best-selling picture book is a must read to help children understand the urgency of taking action to protect our precious resources from harm.

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know: Niibing, dgwaagig, bboong, mnookmig dbaadjigaade maanpii mzin’igning / A Book about the Seasons is another bilingual book, this time told in English and Anishinaabemowin. In it we experience the wonder of changing seasons through the eyes of a young girl. With each season, she notes the signs in the natural world: the ripe blueberries in summertime, the departure of Red-winged Blackbird in fall, when hungry animals in winter, and the green shoots peeking through the snow in spring. A wonderful book to help children sharpen their observation skills and appreciate how to “read” nature.

When I Was Young in Nunavut is a celebration of the author’s own childhood and Inuit heritage. It looks at all the activities she enjoyed growing up, such as finding the flowers blooming on the tundra in the summer, or harvesting berries in the fall. And of course, there were the glorious northern lights to watch stream across the sky. When I Was Young in Nunavut is a joyful look at the seasons and the natural world, as well as a warm remembrance of family and simple pleasures.

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators | Alldonemonkey.com

Oct 262021
 
 October 26, 2021  Fall, Northern California, Sacramento, travel Comments Off on Apple Hill: Sacramento Day Trip

Learn more about Apple Hill, a popular fall destination in Northern California! It is an annual tradition for most Sacramento families, with lots of great food, spectacular views, and activities for kids.

Apple Hill Sacramento Day Trip | Alldonemonkey.com

For many families in the Sacramento area, making a trip to Apple Hill is a fall tradition.  In part this is because here in the Sacramento Valley we are “seasonally challenged.”  It’s not that we don’t have seasons, it’s just the two main ones we experience are 1) Incredibly Hot (summer) and 2) Rainy and Cold (winter).  Spring and fall are just brief periods during which the weather jumps back and forth between these two extremes, as if unable to make up its mind.

Apple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

So for many of us, a day trip up in the mountains to Apple Hill helps us feel like we are experiencing what autumn should be like: cool yet sunny weather, gorgeous fall colors, and apples everywhere you look – in barrels, boxes, and bins, and in cider, tarts, jams, sauces, breads, and – of course – pies.
Apple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

The Apple Hill Growers – Contact Info and Schedules

Apple Hill is an association of apple orchards, all located within driving and sometimes even walking distance of each other in the towns of Camino, Placerville, and Polluck Pines, California.  But if you think Apple Hill is just about apples, you’d be mistaken.  Most of the orchards feature bake shops and/or craft stores, and many also have small cafés or specialty shops.  And best of all, there are quite a few with activities for kids, such as petting zoos and hay rides (more on this below).  You can even pick your own apples and pumpkins at some of the orchards.

From the association’s main page you can find a complete list of growers, with an interactive map.  They even have pages just for those where you can pick your own apples or pumpkins, and those selling Christmas trees.

Activities for Kids

Every year the association also publishes a complete list of growers offering kids’ activities.  There are pony rides, hay bale mazes, nature trails, crafts, and face painting.  (Please note that some of these activities are only offered on the weekend, and some may involve a small fee).

There are so many orchards at Apple Hill that it is impossible to visit them all in one day.  I have only visited a handful, although I have a friend who makes sure to visit a new orchard every year, with the goal of eventually visiting them all.  She is the person to ask about who has the best pie! (See her recommendations below).

There are so many good spots to visit in Apple Hill.  Here are just some of our favorite places to go:

Apple RidgeApple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

We always have a good time at Apple Ridge. This is without a doubt my favorite place to visit for those with young children.  When mine were small, they loved running up and down the hill that leads to the petting zoo, where kids can see and even feed goats, sheep, chickens, and bunnies.  There is also a pumpkin patch and a nature trail, plus a tractor to climb on!

This is also where we usually stop to eat, either for a picnic lunch or a sandwich from their café; it is truly beautiful to sit out and enjoy a meal (or pie or cider) under the trees.  This is also a good place to pick up a pie to take home or goodies such jams and sauces.

Denver Dan’s

Denver Dan’s is a great place to take kids, especially if you’d like to pick your own apples.  Don’t be put off by the odd look of the large silver bunker that houses their shop.  This is a really fun place for little ones, and it’s a great spot to buy a whole pie (see recommendations below) or some of the other specialty items. They even do small pie-making classes. Sometimes there is a (very) small petting zoo outside (think llamas!), but for us, the main attraction is the older gentleman who works at the back of the store.  He will let you sample all of the many kinds of jams and jellies they sell (including many flavors you would have never imagined), but he is best known for showing kids how to use the hand-cranked apple peeling gadget mounted on the back table.  He is such a sweetheart and a real character – trust me, he alone is worth the stop!

Delfino Farms (formerly Kids, Inc.)

This is one of the most popular spots in Apple Hill to take kids. You can pick pumpkins, walk on the nature trail, see farm animals, or play in the corn maze.

High Hill RanchApple Hill, CA - Alldonemonkey.com

This is one of the most popular spots in all of Apple Hill, partly because they have such a variety of activities and products, and partly because it is one of the first stops off of the highway.  One of the most popular features is a large fish pond, where you can either feed the fish or catch them with your fishing pole!  There are also ducks wandering around, which my kids love.

A warning, however: If you have a toddler as curious and active as mine were, you may want to hold off visiting High Hill Ranch until they are old enough to not want to run straight into the water (or go before they are old enough to walk!)  My oldest used to love High Hill Ranch, but I found it exhausting, as I spent most of my time chasing him around.  This is especially difficult because the pond is located at the bottom of a steep hill, which he also found very entertaining.

Beyond this, though, High Hill Ranch is a lot of fun.  One of the highlights for us was seeing workers clean and peel the apples in big machines and then making them into cider, which they give out in free samples.

Abel’s Acres

This is another fun spot for kids.  Behind the fully stocked bakery and specialty shops, there are a hay maze, pumpkin patch, and pony rides, plus a large field for running around.

Apple Hill Sacramento Day Trip | Alldonemonkey.com

Boa Vista

Boa Vista is not known for its kids’ activities, although they do have a small area to walk around and pick pumpkins. But it is a very popular spot to stop and enjoy some baked goods or buy jams and sauces.  In fact, now that my kids are older, this is our favorite destination because the food, including a café serving lunch, is really amazing. If you have small ones, keep in mind that there is a busy road running right through Boa Vista, which you have to cross to get to the main picnic tables.

Apple Hill: Plan Your Trip

 

Schedules

If you go to Apple Hill, you must pay attention to the schedule, especially if you are looking for something fun to do with the kiddos.  While some of the locations are open year-round (though often on a limited schedule), many of the orchards only open in the fall (usually September through December).  If you are unsure whether a location will be open, it is best to call ahead before making the drive.

Getting Around Apple Hill

Apple Hill is located in a beautiful area, but this means that once you arrive, your drive will be on narrow, winding roads.  (The drive to and from the area is all on highways).  This makes for a scenic drive, which is lucky because if you go on an autumn weekend, chances are you will spend much of your time in your car, looking out at the fall foliage, since you will be stuck in the traffic from all the other folks driving around on these small roads.

If possible, we go on a weekday morning instead, which makes for a much more relaxed experience with hardly any traffic.

Parking is free at each location, in parking lots of varying sizes, and usually easy to find, although if you go on the weekend, you may have to walk a bit at the most popular spots from the back of the lots.

Keep in mind that cell reception is very spotty throughout Apple Hill, though it has improved. So don’t count on having service until you get back on the highway.

Bathrooms are available at most places, but be aware that this often means a port-a-potty or a tiny stall at the back of a store.  Back when I had little ones, I could never find a changing table, so we always had to do diaper changes in our car.

Costs

Most locations are free to enter, though they may charge for the activities.  In many instances, though, this is fairly minimal – for example, fifty cents for a cup of food to feed the goats at a petting zoo.

Apple Hill Sacramento Day Trip | Alldonemonkey.com

Food in Apple Hill

The main food you can find at Apple Hill are baked goods. Some but not all orchards offer lunch, so we often packed a picnic, and it is easy to find beautiful picnic spots.  We have also found good meals to purchase as well.  Most are casual dining, offering sandwiches, salads, or barbecue that you can eat from paper plates at nearby picnic tables.

So, who really has the best pie in Apple Hill?

Every person you ask has a different opinion, and truthfully, it would be hard to go wrong with any Apple Hill pie.  (Pie is, admittedly, one of my main reasons for going to Apple Hill in the first place!)  But I asked my friend Crystal, who grew up visiting Apple Hill with her family and has now visited nearly every orchard, whose pies she likes best.  Her recommendations?

  1. Bavarian Hills, especially the French (crumble top) apple pies
  2. Denver Dan’s, especially for apple berry pies

Have fun deciding which orchard you think has the best pie (or doughnuts, or breads, or tarts, or cider…)! Let us know in the comments!

Related:

Sacramento for Families

Fall Crafts, Activities, and Books for Kids

Oct 142021
 
 October 14, 2021  Book Reviews, Halloween Comments Off on New Halloween Books for Kids

It’s almost Halloween, which means new Halloween books for kids! Here are some of our favorites, from board books and to a middle grade novel about a zombie cat!

New Halloween Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. 

New Halloween Books for Kids

Enjoy these new Halloween books for kids! What is your favorite Halloween read?

Owl Has a Halloween Party is an adorable Halloween book for little ones. It is a sweet story that follows Owl as he visits all of his friends to invite them to his Halloween party. At each stop, we get to preview the animals’ costumes by using the sturdy pull-tabs, which are chunky enough for little hands to grab. A cute first book about Halloween that young readers will love to read again and again.

Vegetables in Halloween Costumes is a fun story that addresses that classic childhood dilemma: what to wear for Halloween? The vegetable friends help us think through all the different possibilities, and children will love the indecisive Carrot’s creative solution to the problem! A fun book all kids will be able to relate to.

Poultrygeist is my daughter’s new favorite book! It has been on constant rotation at bedtime and often a few times during the day as well. It is a fun twist on why the chicken crossed the road – and what happened when he got to the Other Side (thanks to a passing truck).

New Halloween Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

The illustrations are spooky without being too scary, and the story is so cleverly done that my older kids enjoy it as well.

Twitchy Witchy Itch is a great read to help children appreciate that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfectly bewitching. Itch the Witch rushes around to get her house ready for visitors, but when they arrive she gets a lesson in accepting imperfections – in herself and in others.

Eenie Meenie Halloweenie is another adorable new Halloween picture book. It is another look at the difficulty of deciding what Halloween costume to wear. I love that it gives children (and grown ups!) lots of ideas for DIY costumes, as the main character thinks through all the different animal costumes she could make. In the end she comes up with a creative solution that incorporates all of her favorite animals!

Trick or Treat, Crankenstein a follow up to the popular book Crankenstein. Kids will relate to the awful feeling of being cranky on a day, like Halloween, that you’ve been really forward to. Somehow it is much worse than being cranky on any other day! The illustrations are so clever, that kids will love poring over them for all the fun details. And it is a good way to talk to kids about how sometimes things don’t go as planned, but in the end it can still turn out to be fun after all.

Older kids will enjoy reading Return of ZomBert, a middle grade read that is the follow up to Rise of ZomBert. When Mellie adopted a stray cat, she didn’t realize that he had actually escaped from a laboratory. The lab was secretly testing on animals, which would explain the cat’s amazing strength and smarts. While Mellie is just focused on getting Bert ready for the pet contest at the local Harvest Festival, the lab workers (backed by a powerful corporation) are working on re-capturing their prize experiment. Can Mellie discover the plot in time to help Bert stay free of the lab’s clutches? A great read that incorporates a lot of science (some of it a little gross!) and sensitive portrayals of family dynamics and bullying.

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Silly Halloween Books

Sep 172021
 
 September 17, 2021  Book Reviews, Hispanic Heritage Month, Literacy, parenting Comments Off on Pura Belpré: Latinx Heritage Month

Pura Belpré was a champion storyteller and the first Puerto Rican/Latina librarian in New York City, but many of us only know her name from the award named in her honor. This Latinx Heritage Month (Hispanic Heritage Month) learn more about the trailblazing woman behind the famous children’s book award. Scroll down for a review of a new children’s book about her life!

Pura Belpré: Latinx Heritage Month | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. I received a complimentary copy of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Pura Belpré: Latinx Heritage Month

Pura Belpré had a gift for stories and an especial love for tales from her native Puerto Rico. But when she became a children’s librarian in New York (the first Latina library in New York City), she saw that these stories were not being told to the children.

Pura Belpré filled that gap by telling the cuentos (or stories) that she grew up with. She also saw that many of the children of other immigrant families were not participating in the library and made an effort to invite and include them as well.

One of her innovative ideas was to create bilingual story times, something we have personally benefited from. She was the first librarian to hold bilingual story times in New York!

Today her legacy is honored in the Pura Belpré Award, given annually to the Latinx illustrator and author whose work best celebrates the Latinx experience. Here are the 2021 winners:

¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat (World of ¡Vamos!) (Read my review of other titles by the same author)

Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C. Tello / Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

Efrén Divided

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

Lupe Wong Won’t Dance

Furia

Pura Belpré: New Children’s Book

And for a lovely new book about Pura Belpré herself!

Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories is a wonderful way to share the story of this Latinx heroine with children. This beautiful book pays tribute to this pioneering librarian, who made such a difference for so many children, not just in New York City but throughout the country. It tells of her early love of stories and her journey to bringing those stories into the library, and in turn bringing more children into the library as well.

The vibrant illustrations capture Belpré’s joy for storytelling, catching the reader up in the same enthusiasm that the children in the library must have felt on the rug at story time. The story of Pura Belpré is a wonderful way to teach our children the power of stories to bridge cultures.

And next Wednesday, September 22, at 3 pm ET, be sure to watch my interview – in English and Spanish! – of the both author and illustrator of this book: Annette Bay Pimentel and Magaly Morales. 

Aug 202021
 
 August 20, 2021  Back to School, Book Reviews, Education Comments Off on Back to School Books for Kids of All Ages

The start of a new school year means another new crop of great back to school books for kids! This collection ranges from picture books to early chapter books and middle grade novels. They tell the stories of children starting school for the first time as well as those who have moved to a new school. Some are dealing with the normal first day of school jitters; some have an added layer of feeling “different” than the other kids. All of the children wonder if they will make new friends.

These back to school books are a wonderful way to help kids prepare for and process those exciting and nerve wracking first days!

Back to School Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Back to School Books for Kids

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Enjoy these new back to school books for kids!

School Is Cool! is another wonderful picture book from the authors of Hello! Lucky books (read my recent review of their book Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!). Just like all the books in this series, School Is Cool! is bright and colorful, with adorable animal characters. Its rhyming text fairly bounces off the page, contributing to the cheerful, upbeat feel of this joyful book. A great way to get kids excited about their first day.

Sounds Like School Spirit is the perfect book to get your kids pumped up about starting school! The rhyming text takes the form of a chant, so it would be great to read out loud, especially at circle time! I love that the students and teacher are so diverse, and that there is an emphasis on working together to have a great school year. Go team!`

Emily D. and the Fearful First Day is the third book from Sivan Hong, who has dedicated herself to writing books that include neurodiverse kids. As in Hong’s first two books, the main character, Emily D., is neurodiverse, and the book shows how she is successful at tackling a challenging situation, in this case a new school year. The story incorporates elements that often help neurodiverse kids, like fidget toys. I love that the author took such care to make sure that the book was appropriate for neurodiverse kiddos, like making simple illustrations for kids that are easily distracted, and choosing a font that is easier for kids with dyslexia. Hong was also careful to challenge our stereotypes about neurodiverse kids (usually thought of as white boys) by making the main character a Black girl. A great book for all kids to read!

If you are interested in this topic, be sure to watch my interview with author Sivan Hong on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, at 3 pm ET on the Instagram for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

What Should Danny Do? School Day is part of the Power to Choose series, where children help the main character choose what to do in various situations. Depending on their choice, they follow the story in one direction or another to see the consequences of that action. So each book is really 8 stories in one! It is a brilliant didactic technique, as children get to see how different scenarios work out. (Read my recent review of What Should Darla Do?). This latest book, What Should Danny Do? School Day, focuses specifically on situations that children often encounter in school, such as being picked for the losing team at basketball, or how to help a classmate that’s sad. I love that the scenarios are so realistic to what kids will face at school. My kids read this book over and over to try all the different storylines. Wonderful book to teach children that they have the power to choose how they respond to the challenges they face.

As soon as I heard about Becoming Vanessa, I knew I had to have it. Vanessa Brantley-Newton is one of my favorite author-illustrators. She has illustrated such celebrated books as The King of Kindergarten (another great back to school book!) and The Youngest Marcher. She is also the author and illustrator of a number of wonderful books, such as Just Like Me and Grandma’s Purse. And now, we get to learn about her own childhood!

In Becoming Vanessa, we experience the excitement of young Vanessa as she heads off to her first day of school – only to discover she is not like the other children, who don’t wear flamboyant clothes or have unusual names. Vanessa decides that she no longer wants to be “special.” The next day she wears a more muted outfit, and she announces that she has changed her name. Then her mother tells her the story behind her name, which means “metamorphosis,” just like a butterfly. With her parents’ encouragement, Vanessa learns to take pride in her name and in herself. A beautiful story for children who feel like they don’t quite fit in, especially knowing that the book is inspired by a true story!

When the pandemic hit in 2020, children everywhere had to learn how to do school at home. For many, it meant adjusting from a classroom setting to remote learning in front of a computer. Back-to-School at Home! is a wonderful book that addresses this new reality, incorporating some of the common challenges as well as the surprising joys. And I love that this series was created by a mom who was frustrated because she didn’t see multicultural families like hers (with heritage from Togo & Japan) represented in picture books. A great book that children will easily relate to.

One of the biggest milestones of starting a new school year is making new friends. How to Spot a Best Friend follows a young girl confident that she will make a new best friend at school that year. She recounts to her mother all the ways you can recognize a best friend, such as someone who holds your hand during a scary story and who celebrates your successes. But most of all, to find a best friend you have to be a great friend, too!

1, 2, 3, Off to School! is about Pom, a child so excited to start school that she decides to get a sneak peek a year early! Pom visits the different animal schools of all the woodland creatures, from the mice and hedgehogs to the bears. At each school, Pom learns more about how schools work and what students do there. Now Pom is ready for kindergarten! This is an adorable book with detailed illustrations that children will love to spend time exploring.

I Wish You Knew is a poignant book that reminds us that children don’t come to school as clean slates. They bring with them all of the problems and trauma that they have experienced. Factors such as poverty and loss mean that many children are burdened with fear, anger, hunger, and sadness that make it difficult for them to learn. In I Wish You Knew, Estrella misses her father terribly after he is deported. When her teacher begins an “I Wish You Knew” sharing circle at school, Estrella feels her own burden lighten as she realizes that she is not alone. A must read for teachers and students alike.

Every child has experienced nervousness on the first day of school, especially when starting at a new school, but has anyone actually turned into a turtle because of it?? That’s exactly what happens to Tally in this first book of a wonderful new early chapter book series. In Tally Tuttle Turns into a Turtle, an already nervous Tally is overwhelmed when her new classmates make fun of her full name, Tallulah. She is just wishing she would shrink and disappear, when she turns into a turtle! Through her experiences as a turtle, Tally gains the confidence she needs to get to know the other students (when she’s a human again!) That is the magic of Mrs. Norrell’s classroom – in each book of the series, a different student will transform into an animal to learn important life lessons (and some science facts as well). A fun way to let children look at their problems from a different perspective.

Starting at a new school is never fun, but when you are a Muslim kid, there is an extra layer of fear and uncertainty. The award-winning middle grade novel Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet tackles this tough situation. Omar has all the usual worries about how tough the schoolwork will be or if the new kids will be mean. But then a school bully makes his life miserable, including telling him that Muslims were going to be kicked out of the country! Omar is such a lovable character, with his incredible imagination, and he is so relatable, whether you are Muslim or not. It is a great book for teaching us to see past our differences and get to know people beyond just the stereotypes. It’s also a great book for reluctant readers, as it mixes a lot of graphics into the text.

Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year, another Own Voices book, takes on a similar situation, as Ahmed and his family move from Hawaii to Minnesota because of his father’s illness. On top of the stress of his father’s health, Ahmed has to deal with a bully and being one of the only minority kids in a very white school. Ahmed has always been an underachiever, so he is surprised to enjoy the assigned books from school, learning important lessons from literature about courage and being confident in yourself. A thoughtful read that also has a lot of humor.

As a homeschooler, I was drawn to Lily’s Promise instantly, as it tells of a girl starting at the local elementary school after years of being homeschooled. Still reeling from the death of her father, Lily struggles to keep her promise to him to speak her mind. When she and her new friends face bullying, Lily learns to overcome her anxiety in order to stand up for herself and others. The heaviness of the story is given a humorous counterpoint with an innovative element: commentary from Libro, the book itself, whose voice is snarky and funny. A beautifully told story of grief and courage.

What are your favorite back to school books for kids?

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Jul 152021
 
 July 15, 2021  Book Reviews, Spring, Summer Comments Off on Children’s Books about Flowers

It’s summertime, and everywhere we look we see flowers! Here are some of our favorite new children’s books about flowers that also help teach life lessons about patience, determination, and generosity.

Children's Books About Flowers | Alldonemonkey.com

Children’s Books about Flowers

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Enjoy these children’s books about flowers! What are your favorite blooms?

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers is a wordless picture book, so it’s great for sparking conversations with your child. When a loved one must go away on a trip, Oscar copes by focusing on growing flowers to share with his neighbors. He patiently waits for them to bloom, filling every nook and cranny of his apartment. Then, one by one, he takes them in his red wagon to each neighbor in the building to share the bounty. By the time his loved one returns, Oscar has learned the principle that we can help ourselves by helping others. The book also demonstrates the power of beauty and nature to lift our spirits and bring people together. My favorite illustrations are the end papers, which show the transformation of the apartment building thanks to Oscar’s flowers.

Sweet Pea Summer is another book about the therapeutic nature of gardening. A young girl stays with her grandparents while her mother is in the hospital, and gardening with her grandfather helps her to keep her mind off worrying and missing her mother. But soon she discovers that her sweet peas aren’t thriving. With determination, she works diligently to solve the mystery. Once she discovers the problem, can she save the flowers in time for the flower show? A sweet story with a happy ending that is sure to spark an interest in these beautiful flowers.

Little Dandelion Seeds the World is the only non-fiction book on this list. Ever wonder why there are dandelions everywhere you turn? This lovely book explores all the different ways that dandelion seeds travel: on the wind, in water, on clothing or fur, even in bellies! They are so successful that they bloom on every continent – yes, even Antarctica! This book shows how children around the world enjoy these playful flowers and help them seed the world.

Lucy’s Blooms also features dandelions, as a young girl learns what it takes to keep her favorite blossoms happy. With her grandmother’s help, she tends to them patiently, adjusting her methods each morning as she sees how they fared the night. Just like Sweet Pea Summer above, this is a wonderful book to teach children the science of carefully monitoring plants to see what they need to thrive. I also love that Lucy’s Blooms shows love to the often underrated dandelions, which are so cheerful and hardy, but which, as Lucy discovers, don’t win prizes. Lovely twist ending, as Lucy decides to give her beloved dandelions their own prize as Most Loved.

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Jun 302021
 
 June 30, 2021  food, recipes, Summer Comments Off on No Bake Desserts: Summertime Treats

Summertime is for playing outdoors and enjoying time with family – not for sweating it out in the kitchen! These no bake desserts are a cool treat when the weather is hot, so you can get back to enjoying what you love. Which one will be your favorite?

No Bake Desserts: Summertime Treats | Alldonemonkey.com

No Bake Desserts: Summertime Treats

Enjoy these no bake desserts! What’s your favorite summertime treat?

Greek Yogurt Trifle: All Done Monkey

Brazilian Paçoca de Amendoim: All Done Monkey

Peanut Butter Bars: The Soccer Mom Blog

Gluten Free Snack Bars: Mom Junky

Egyptian Spiced Oranges: All Done Monkey

Creamy Grape Salad: Little Sunny Kitchen

Fruits of the Spirit Snack Board: Catholic Icing

Peaches and Cream Snack Cups: Blessed Beyond a Doubt

Pineapple and Raspberry Frozen Fruit Whip: Picklebums

Tropical Chocolate Mango Pops: All Done Monkey

Pomegranate Popsicles and Dairy-Free Pistachio Ice Cream: All Done Monkey

Banana Cream Frozen Yogurt: Kim Schob

Rainbow Pudding Pops: Grace, Giggles, and Naptime

No Bake Cherry Chocolate Fudge: Ann’s Entitled Life

Key Lime Icebox Cake: Multicultural Kid Blogs

Strawberry Jello Pie: Crayons and Cravings

Strawberry Ice Box Cake: Amanda’s Cookin’

Lemon Blueberry Ice Box Cake: Amanda’s Cookin’

American Flag Cake: The Analytical Mommy

Chocolate Cake: The Analytical Mommy

Simple Berries Cheesecake: Living Life as Moms

Cookie Monster Cheesecake: The Soccer Mom Blog

Oreo Cheesecake: Baking Beauty

Cheesecake Cups: Blessed Beyond a Doubt

Keto Egg Fast Lemon Cheesecake Fat Bombs: Mom Junky

Blueberry Delight: Crayons and Cravings

Gluten Free Strawberry Dessert: Blessed Beyond a Doubt

Creamy Pineapple Dessert: Blessed Beyond a Doubt

Vanilla Pannacotta: Kidgredients

Funfetti Dip: Baking Beauty

Ice Cream Pie (watch the video): East Coast Mommy

Mud Pie: Ann’s Entitled Life

Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich Cake: The Soccer Mom Blog

Oreo Layer Dessert: Salt and Baker

Oreo Tiramisu: Little Sunny Kitchen

Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches: Mom Junky

Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Pies: Well, If She Can Do It

Hershey No Bake Pie: Well, If She Can Do It

Easy Cookie Pie: The Soccer Mom Blog

Pirate Cupcakes: In the Kids Kitchen

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Jun 252021
 
 June 25, 2021  Book Reviews, Summer Comments Off on Ocean Books for Kids: Beach Reads

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy these ocean books for kids. They make great reads for the beach – or for when you’d like to be at the beach! These picture books are a great way to find children’s curiosity about the ocean. They include fiction and non-fiction books.

Ocean Books for Kids: Beach Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Ocean Books for Kids: Beach Reads

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Enjoy these fiction and non-fiction ocean books for kids!

Ocean Lullaby is a beautiful bedtime read, perfect after a long day at the beach. The illustrations are dream-like, with soft colors yet realistic details. The lilting text adds to sense of being soothed to sleep with the waves. Young readers will love seeing the ocean creatures like dolphins and whales also settling down for the night.

Sophie’s Seashell Scramble is an adorable board book for the youngest readers. As the adorable Sophie the otter collects seashells, children sharpen their matching skills by recognizing shapes and colors. Little hands will love exploring the shaped pages and all those wonderful flaps to lift. There’s even a Sophie’s Seashell Scramble Game to go with the book!

Ride the Wind is an emotional journey set off the coast of Chile, about a young boy who has recently lost his mother. One day he finds an injured albatross and, against his father’s wishes, he secretly nurses it back to health. His empathy for the bird parallels his grief for his mother, and he cares for the bird as he wishes he could have cared for his mother. It is a story of redemption and hope, of a father and son torn apart by grief then reminded of what is really important. The watercolor illustrations are so evocative of the small fishing village, and the stormy skies reflect the emotions of this moving tale.

For kiddos that want to dive deeper into the science of oceans, Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas is a fascinating book they will want to read again and again. It gives an overview of the ancient history of the oceans and how the creatures there evolved. The illustrations are wonderful, and there is so much scientific detail, yet all presented in a very accessible way, such as the timeline running at the bottom of the pages. I love how it compares the ancient creatures to those that can be found today. To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time poring over this book myself!

What are your favorite ocean books for kids?

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Jun 222021
 
 June 22, 2021  food, Summer Comments Off on Healthy Summer Dessert: Greek Yogurt Trifle

When the weather gets hot, it’s a great time to make this healthy summer dessert! Even better, this Greek yogurt trifle is loaded with fruit and other ingredients you can feel good about serving to your family. Imagine your kids’ faces when you tell them they can have this dessert for breakfast!

Healthy Summer Dessert: Greek Yogurt Trifle | Alldonemonkey.com

Healthy Summer Dessert: Greek Yogurt Trifle

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Enjoy this healthy summer dessert! I love no bake treats like these in the summer, when I really don’t want to turn on the oven.

We just made our Greek yogurt trifle in a large serving bowl, but it would look really lovely to serve it in a trifle bowl!

The great thing about this dessert is that it’s so adaptable. I’m listing below the amounts we used, but you can adjust it to your tastes and preferences.

Healthy Summer Dessert: Greek Yogurt Trifle | Alldonemonkey.com

Ingredients

3 ripe bananas, sliced

2 cups strawberries, sliced

6 cups plain Greek yogurt (you can substitute regular yogurt, but the pudding layer won’t be as firm)

1/4 – 1/3 cup peanut butter

honey, to taste

10 large rectangles of graham crackers

Variations

  • Add a layer of chocolate chips!
  • Add an extra banana or two in the pudding to pump up the flavor and add more natural sweetness.
  • Substitute another favorite fruit for the strawberries.
  • Add cacao powder to the pudding (as shown here). We used 4 T of cacao powder. Be aware that because the cacao is bitter, you will need to add quite a bit more honey, which makes the pudding layer much runnier. The taste is great, though!

Instructions

  1. Crush the graham crackers into small pieces. Do not crush into a powder, or it will be absorbed completely into the pudding layer. Adjust the size of the pieces by how much crunch you would like.
  2. Mix the yogurt, peanut butter, and honey in the blender until smooth. (If using cacao powder, add now).
  3. Layer the trifle in your bowl as follows:
    • Graham crackers
    • Pudding
    • Bananas
    • Graham crackers
    • Pudding
    • Strawberries
  4. Repeat layers, ending with the strawberries.
  5. Chill several hours and serve.

Healthy Summer Dessert: Greek Yogurt Trifle | Alldonemonkey.com

This Greek yogurt trifle was a big hit! My oldest gave this healthy summer dessert a “100, on a scale of 1 out of 10”! What are your favorite summer treats?

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