Need a Last-Minute Holiday Gift? Ricki and Kellee’s Top Picks

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Need to buy a gift, but do not know what to get?! Well, you can’t go wrong with the gift of books! Here are our recommendations for the best book gifts.

The requirements we set for ourselves were: a) books published within the last year or two, and b) books that would be appreciated of all ages, regardless of the category they are listed in.

Children’s Literature/Picture Books

Ricki’s Pick: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

the day the crayons quit

My husband and I giggled as we read this one when it first came out. It is sure to delight!

Kellee’s Pick: Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate

ivanpb

An important story told in the perfect way.

Upper Elementary/Middle Grade Literature

Ricki’s Pick: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

wonder

This book made me want to be a better person. Henry will be reading this book when he is old enough to understand it.

Kellee’s Pick: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

rain

Beautiful story. Rose’s voice will stick with you long after you finish reading.
(I almost picked brown girl dreaming, but I figured that it’d be on most lists. I decided to spread the love.)

Young Adult Literature

Ricki’s Pick: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

dr bird's advice for sad poets

I think every high schooler should have access to this book.

Kellee’s Pick: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Yaqui Delgado

This book will make you feel. All teens should read it.
(The AEWA2014 books are great choices too, but I wanted to switch things up.)

Adult Literature

Ricki’s Pick: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

the storied life

It’s a book about life, and it is beautifully written.

Kellee’s Pick: Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Gaiman has a way with words  and a way to suck you into a story. His most recent is no different. Bonus: The audiobook is phenomenal too.

Which books would you recommend as holiday purchases?

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Trent and Kellee’s Favorite Picture Books: Six to Nine Months

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Trent6-9monthsfavbooks

I CANNOT believe that my baby boy is already 9 months old (as of yesterday)! He is growing so quickly and is such an awesome little kid.  We have continued reading as close to a book a day as possible and we are currently at 230 books! He’s been alive 264 days so if you count rereads we are pretty close to a book a day.

I will say that a 9 month old is much harder to get to sit down and read a book than a 3 month old!  Also, over these 3 months, we focused on doing a lot of rereads because I felt we were rushing too much through books and not finding favorites. Because of these factors, we only read 59 different books over these 3 months vs. 91 during 0-3 months and 92 during 3-6 months.

Today, I wanted to share some of our 20 favorite books that we’ve read over the last 3  months. I did not include any rereads on the list because our favorites had already been mentioned on our past lists: 0-3 months & 3-6 months.

1. Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton

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This is probably our favorite. It has a song of it sung by Davey Jones, and we follow along as we listen to the song. It is our go-to book right now.

2. Mini Myths by Joan Holub

pandora hercules

I love that Joan Holub is turning myths into board books! They aren’t very detailed, but they give basic information about the myth and teach a lesson.

3. Swing! and Waddle! by Rufus Butler Seder

swing waddle

Scanimation illustrations mesmerize Trent, and with the rhyming text, these books are so entertaining to read.

4. Five Black Cats by Patricia Hegarty

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Trent really enjoyed this book. I think it is the rhythm of the rhyming prose mixed with the colorful illustrations.
(Fun side note: When we first picked this up to read, Jim said, “Let’s read Five Black Cats.” Then Trent responded with something that sounded very much like “Fie Back Cats.” Probably a coincidence, but it was awesome!)

5. Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

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I couldn’t believe I’d never read this book before! And I love that my husband pointed out the nuance that is the mouse in the book. He made me love it even more, and the simple story with strong illustrations holds Trent’s attention.

6. You Are My Work of Art by Sue DiCicco

work of art

Such a sweet, sweet, sweet message AND it is told using classic works of art. This book is right up our alley!

7. Big Bug by Henry Cole

big bug

This is a great book about perspective. This is a tough concept to teach, so Cole’s book will be great to help share it with Trent.

8. Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt

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Loved the promotion of reading a books with little ones in this book.

9. Up Close by Gay Wegerif

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This book teaches shapes, colors, and animals! Win!

10. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

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A classic with such a sweet message about mothers’ true love.

11. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

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I remember reading this book as a child, but I hadn’t remembered how good it was. It is a story of true friendship and perseverance.

12. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

green eggs

I have found that sometimes when I read a Dr. Seuss book with Trent, it doesn’t live up to my memory of the book; however, this one did! The rhymes and realization at the end are just done so well.

13. Kiss, Kiss Good Night by Ken Kesbitt

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A sweet bedtime book with mom animals saying goodnight to their sweet babies.

14. Bob the Dog by Rodrigo Folgueira

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Although the lesson at the end of the book was blatant, the illustrations, humor, and crazy characters makes this a new favorite for us.

15. Antic! by Cathi Hepworth

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This is an ABC book like no other I’ve ever read. The inclusion of ANT in each word made it so the author had to stretch a bit, but the stretching what made it so the author had to be creative. There are some phenomenal words in this book.

16. This Moose Belongs to Me! by Oliver Jeffers

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My husband read this book to Trent and it made us both laugh out loud. Another brilliant book from Oliver Jeffers.

17. Oliver by Birgitta Sif

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I love the lesson that is taught in this one. It is one I look forward to reading to Trent when he gets older.

18. Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares

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Um, the ending!

19. The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

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The illustrations are perfection and mixed with the sweet story of a kind girl make me read this to Trent multiple times (and since it didn’t have any words, I was able to change up the story each time!).

20. Thomas the Tank Engine: Shapes and Sizes by Wilbert Awdry

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This is one of Trent’s favorite books. It is the one he pulls off the shelf (and usually puts straight in his mouth).

 Almost. Baby Beluga by Raffi

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I LOVED this song when I was a kid! When I read this to Trent, I pull up a You Tube video of Raffi singing, and we follow along. The book would have made the list, not been honorary, because we like the song and book; however, the ecology just isn’t correct…

What books should Trent read in the next 3 months? 

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Ricki and Henry’s Favorite Children’s Books (6-12 months)

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Ricki and Henry

Every six months, I make an attempt to pick out the top ten picture books that Henry and I read together. This is incredibly difficult because we read so many fantastic books. But I understand, as a mom with a limited budget, that other parents may appreciate a list. We usually plow through library books and buy our favorites. Each of the books listed below is worthy of purchasing! With the holidays near, I recommend each of these. I am excluding my favorite books from our first top ten list (birth to six months). As I described in the first post, Henry, his dad, and I read books together every night, and we are excited to share these great books with all of you! They are in no particular order.

1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Goodnight Moon

If you follow this blog, you know it is a tradition in our house to read this book every night. Henry is in love with it. His dad and I have the book memorized, and it has become our favorite. The way he reacts to each page and touches the red balloon and stars makes our hearts swell.

2. Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

freedom summer

This lyrical book moved me. It is worthy of the praise it has received and may be one of the best picture books I have ever read. I was inspired to read it after A.S. King discussed it in her article of The ALAN Review. This is a wonderful text is for people of all ages. I put it on Henry’s birthday wish list.

3. Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

Once Upon an Alphabet

Oliver Jeffers is, in my humble opinion, one of the best picture book authors writing today. He breaks the rules and displays his quirky, clever humor in each of his books. This is a great book to teach the alphabet to kids. Each letter has a silly short story, and several of the short stories are connected. This book made me laugh a lot, and Henry seemed to enjoy it, too!

4. Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins (Linked to a Review by Kellee)

Tree Lady

This nonfiction picture book tells the beautiful story of a remarkable woman, Kate Sessions, who brought trees to San Diego. The book is inspirational, and the illustrations are absolutely stunning. I intend to read many books about powerful women to Henry. 🙂

5. The Noisy Paint Box by Robert Munsch (Linked to a Review by Kellee)

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This is a magical picture book that is well worth the hype it is receiving. It teaches about synesthesia and Kandinsky’s childhood. It made me want to get out my paint box to listen to the sounds of the paint. After learning about his life, I will be buying a Kandinsky print!

6. The Magic of Maxwell and His Tail by Maureen Stolar Kanefield

Maxwell Magic Tail

This is precisely the kind of book that I want to read to my son. It teaches him that it is only okay to be different, but that he can use his differences in ways that make him special. I adored this book and will certainly read it to him again and again.

7. Buddy and the Bunnies: Don’t Play with Your Food by Bob Shea 

Don't Play with Your Food

I absolutely adored this silly, fun story of a group of bunnies who fool a monster to prevent him from eating them. Bob Shea is an incredible storyteller, and this book reminded me of the trickster stories my grandfather used to tell me as a child.

8. The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty

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I wish I had thought of the idea behind this book! It is a great story for bedtime, and Henry was drawn into the magical illustrations and rhyming language.

9. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

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As one of the most censored books, you would expect this to be very controversial (rather than a true story about two penguins). I have always longed to read this book, and after reading it with Henry, I was surprised by how innocent and very well-written it is. I guess people like to challenge…the truth? Either way, censorship aside, this book is an excellent work of nonfiction that I highly recommend. I would use it to teach the value of family, but I guess I am a risk-taker. ::wink:

10. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

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Months after reading this book, I can still hear the “Whoo-whoo-whoo” of the owl and still feel the brisk, winter air. This text whisked us away into the setting, and it would be a great mentor text for teachers.

What are your favorite children’s books? Henry and I would love to reserve them from the library! Please share!

RickiSig

How Being a Mom Has Changed My Identity

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Identity

This post originally started with me wanting to write about reading time, but it has become so much more. By looking at how reading has changed in my life, it made me look at my life in general and how my identity is changing.

As a mom, I suddenly find my life turned upside down. Everyone warned me that when my little baby arrived, everything would change, but I thought, naively, that I was going to be that mom that could continue doing everything I did before AND be a fabulous mom. I pish-poshed everyone’s comments about how things would be different when I had the baby.  But BOY were they right. Well… mostly.

Before Trent, I put almost all of my energy (outside of time spent with Jim) into education and reading (or blogging). I worked on PD, planning, or grading for probably 20+ hours a week at home.  Any other free time I would read. My husband would go to bed, and I would read for hours. I was on Twitter all of the time talking to educators and authors. But it was all for me. I loved every minute of it because I love education and books so much. I prided myself in being knowledgeable–someone that other teachers could go to for help and guidance, and someone that could recommend books to ANYONE. I always had the newest books and knew about what was popular with teens/middle schoolers at all times. Because I love my profession so much, I made sure to put as much energy into being the best teacher I could be.

Things started to shift a bit when I was pregnant. I had a very hard time reading and thinking during the whole pregnancy. I was also very tired! I physically and mentally couldn’t put the energy into anything that I had before pregnancy. But I kept saying it would all come back when I had Trent.

And then my amazing son arrived. I cannot really explain the way that my mind has switched. I still love education. I would never imagine not being a teacher, but my heart and soul were stolen by this sweet, little boy. All of a sudden, I don’t want to do anything but be with him.  All of the time. But there is a part of me that needs what I used to have. I need that identity next to being a mom. This is where the pull within me is happening. I am now a mom. But a mom that is an educator, professional, and reader. How do I balance all of this? Can I truly be all of them and put enough into each so that I am succeeding at all of them? As I get used to being back at work, I am seeing that the answer is YES, but it will be different than before.

It is going to be hard
I have to realize that it is going to take some time to figure this out and that it is going to be hard. Very hard. I may feel like I am not caught up with anything, but that it is okay. It will all work out. Eventually. I have to work really hard at not feeling guilty about these changes, and instead embrace the change.

Work is staying more at work
In the past, I could be reached at any time via email, but I have now taken my work email off of my phone. I also will not be able to stay at work until 5 or 6pm every day. That doesn’t mean I don’t care! It just means that I am needed at home, and when I am at home, I have to give time to my family. Now, if I do bring work home, it is going to have to happen after bedtime or on the weekends though this takes away from reading and blogging time.

Reading may have to be scheduled and may not happen
I have found myself going days without reading. On these days, I really missing reading. But I was finding days were just getting away from me. Because of this, I have talked to my husband about trying to make a schedule so that at least 4 days a week I will get time just to read. Although this isn’t daily like I had before motherhood, it is a positive start. This may mean that I don’t get to read as much as I used to, but at least it allows me to keep reading a priority in my life. But I have to realize that sometimes reading will have to be pushed to the side for family time or because of a sick kid or to do work. This is a hard realization, but it is the truth. As long as I consciously keep reading in my life, it will always be there.

Reading may look different
But I have to remember that I AM still reading every day, but my books of choice are now often picture books that I am reading to Trent. Before I used to look at books through the eyes of my students, but now I also look at books through the eyes of my son. I now not only want to keep up with books for YA and MG but for younger kids as well so that I know my son reads the best books. (Book shopping has just gotten a lot more expensive! Though, I have found a new love of the public library because of the price of picture books.)

It’s okay!!!
I just have to keep telling myself that I can still be a great mom and teacher and blogger and sister and daughter and…, but that it just might be different.  I need to stop apologizing for how my life has changed. It is an amazing life, and I will continue to be able to do everything I love. And that, like Tim Gunn says, I’ll “make it work!”

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Trent and Kellee’s Favorite Picture Books: Three to Six Months

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3-6monthbooks

I am so proud to say that Trent already loves books! He grabs them from me, holds them, stares at them as we read, points at them, and overall enjoys our reading time. It is so special to me!

Through these three months, Trent and I have continued our picture #bookaday. So far we have read 182 titles (91 in the first 3 months then 91 these last three months)!!! Three months ago, I shared our favorites from those months, and today I am so happy to share our top fifteen favorites from these last three months with you.

Favorite Elephant & Piggie
We read a ton of Mo Willems books! I am such a fan! Though I love Pigeon, Cat the Cat, and Knuffle Bunny, E&P are still my favorite.

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

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Favorite Oliver Jeffers Books
We went on an Oliver Jeffers readathon, and these are our favorites that we read during these months (Lost and Found is probably still my favorite.) He is such a superb author!

Stuck and The Incredible Book Eating Boy

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Favorite Dan Santat Illustrated Book
We also read a bunch of books that were illustrated by Dan Santat. He is so talented!

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds

carnivores

Favorite Bedtime Story
This book is beautiful! Lyrical and great artwork.

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

sleep

Funniest Book
Laugh out loud funny.

Naked by Michael Ian Black

naked

Favorite “Full of Truth” Book
Giving Tree-esque, but without as much of the selfishness controversy aspect.

Stick Kid by Peter Holwitz

stick

Favorite Repetitive Book
These will be so much fun to read aloud with Trent when he gets older!

Oh No! by Candace Fleming

oh no

Honorary: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
(I cannot get the song out of my head!)

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Favorite Nonfiction Animal Book
Great photographs of these animals, and I liked that some lesser known animals were featured (Oh No! has some unique animals as well).

Baby Animals at Night by Kingfisher

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Favorite Theme
Some things are more important than finishing first.

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

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Favorite “I Love You” Book
So sweet!

Two Hands To Love You by Diane Adams

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Favorite Cause-and-Effect Book
Laura Joffe Numeroff’s books are so quirky and funny!

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff

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A Kids’ Dream Come True Book
Well, an anyone dream come true book actually.

Yes Day! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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Favorite Art (& Color) Book
So happy that I got to read these to Trent at the Hunter Museum of Art. I love that these books teach color through pieces of art.

My First Palette: Six Little Books by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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There are some amazing picture books out there for children, and I am always learning about more that I want to read with Trent! What books should I make sure to read with him? I cannot wait to see what the next three months hold?!

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Ricki and Henry’s Favorite Children’s Books (Birth-6 Months)

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Ricki and Henry's Favorite Children's Books

Being a mom is absolutely wonderful. I will admit that the first month or two passed by very slowly, and I was very eager to sleep for longer than two-hour spurts. I don’t think most moms are willing to share how relentless and exhausting those days can be. Now that I am six months into the job, I feel like Henry and I have hit our stride. We have a system, and it works very well for us. If either of us breaks that system on a given day, there is a lot of irritability (from both of us), but most days run smoothly and blissfully. I am truly grateful for the days I spend with my little boy.

Every night, Henry, his dad, and I read books together. While his dad is at work, we love to travel to the library. I have been posting a lot of books in these first six months, and a viewer asked if I would consider listing our favorites. At first, I had trouble consolidating. There are so many beautiful stories (and to be honest, many that left us a bit disappointed). But I always crave the best of the best from book lists, so here are Henry’s and my top ten children’s books from our first six months together (in no particular order—because ordering them would take me hours and involve a lot of stress). Enjoy!

 

1. This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

this is not my hat

A clever story, This Is Not My Hat will suck you in from the first page. It is about a tiny fish who steals a hat. The illustrations are beautiful and constructed digitally with Chinese ink. As an adult, I love how dark this story is, and I think kids will find it to be simply delightful.

2. Press Here by Hervé Tullet

press here

This is a wonderfully innovative book. It asks the child to interact with the story—pressing, tilting, shaking, etc. at each page. I am not ashamed to admit that I was smiling and following the instructions, eagerly wondering what awaited me on the next pages. I suspect I am going to have a very active child (based on the stories about my husband), and this book will allow him to wiggle and jump as he reads. This is a book that makes reading fun.

3. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox

ten little fingers

This is such a simple story, but it makes my heart swell. The ending of the book is what makes it truly wonderful. I suspect that moms everywhere will love this book because it shows how very special our children are to us.

4. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

library lion

There are so many lessons to be learned from this delightful picture book. It felt very whimsical to me—a lion in the library is just silly and fun. I suspect this is going to be one of Henry’s favorites when he is older.

5. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

love you forever

Break out the tissues! Every time I read this to Henry, I get weepy. It is a beautiful story. Now that I learned the truth behind the story, I cry even more.

6. Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

llama llama

I just love these Llama Llama books. They are simply delightful. This is my favorite of the series because I think it will be useful when Henry goes to school. He is a bit attached to me, so we may need to use books to help him learn a bit more independence when he gets older.

7. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

the day the crayons quit

This is a clever story that will surely entertain readers. I loved reading about the crayons’ revolt.

8. Locomotive by Brian Floca

locomotive

 Filled with a beautiful array images (watercolor, ink, acrylic, etc.), this incredibly well-researched book takes readers on a journey through the summer of 1869. It is a standout and well-deserving of the accolades it has received.

9. Noodle by Mauro Leaf

final cvr.indd

I borrowed this book from the library and immediately put it on my to-buy list. I loved the story of Noodle, a dog who is given the chance to be any other size and shape. Noodle spends time asking other animals about their sizes and shapes as he works to figure out the best choice. This is a great book to teach confidence and individuality to kids.

10. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

each kindness

The paintings in this book are phenomenal. It teaches lessons of kindness. Too often, children’s books finish with a neat, little bow that ties up the happy ending. This book breaks the mold, and I think this aspect offers great opportunities for discussion.

What are your favorite children’s books? Henry and I would love to reserve them from the library! Please share!

RickiSig

Kellee and Trent’s Favorite Picture Books: First Three Months

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Favorite PBs 3 months

For as long as I have dreamt about being a mom, I’ve dreamt about reading to my child. Trent made that dream a reality. I so badly want him to love reading as much as I do, so I started exposing him to books at day 3 and have done my best to read him a book a day (or the equivalent to a book a day). Some books hold his attention more than others, but overall he enjoys looking at the books and hearing the stories.

Last Tuesday, Trent turned three months old! In his first three months of life, we have read 92 different picture books. In this amazing pile of books, there are so many that touched my heart, made me laugh, kept my son’s attention, and have become favorites. Today I wanted to share some of them with you. There are different books that are special for different reasons, so I have categorized our favorites below.

Favorite Bedtime Book

It’s Time to Sleep, My Love by Eric Metaxas

Favorite Nonfiction

Best Friends: Owen & Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff

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Favorite “I Love You” Book

Forever by Emma Dodd

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Favorite “Be Yourself” Books

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andraea  & Rainbow Rob by Roger Priddy

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Favorite “Live Life to its Fullest” Book

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant

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Book That Made Kellee Cry

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

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Favorite Penguin Book

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

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Favorite ABC Books

Chicago Cubs ABC by Brad Epstein & Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.

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Favorite Counting Book

How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? by Jan Yolen & Ten Apples on Top by Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss)

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Favorite Interactive Books

Spot the Dot by David A. Carter &  Press Here by Herve Tullet

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Favorite Repetitive Book

The Napping House by Don Wood

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Favorite Poem Book

Little You by Richard Van Camp

Favorite Animal Book

Do Cows Meow? by Salina Yoon

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Favorite Simple Rhyming Book

Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom by Anna Dewdney

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Favorite Book About Dads

How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler

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Dad’s Favorite Book 

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood

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A Favorite Book That I Loved Watching My Sister Read (for the first time) to Trent

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I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Favorite New-to-Kellee Author

Mem Fox

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Favorite Rediscovered Author

Sandra Boynton

Favorite You Tube Read Along Videos

Are You My Mother?, Go, Dog Go!The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman

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Other Titles That We Loved

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell

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Oh, the Thinks You Can Think by Dr. Seuss

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Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb

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Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak

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Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard

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What were your favorite picture books to read when you were a child? Your favorites to read to your children?

I cannot wait to see what the next three months hold in terms of even more wonderful picture books for me and Trent to explore and discover!

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