Blog, Children's Picture Books, Easy Readers, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12)

Meet the Mewest Addition to Our Family & 10 Beloved Dog and Cat Books

dog and catThe most amazing thing happened! After teaching a class in Sunday School, I drove home from church later than the rest of my family. Right there in front of our door was a plate full of cat food.

“Did you find a cat?” I stepped inside and let the door shut.

My husband hugged me. “Some kitten ran right into April’s arms. She left food for it.”

A stray kitten friendly enough to spring into my teenager’s arms? “That cat must be special. Where is it?”

“Gone, I guess.”

Then lo and behold a plaintive mew behind the door. “The cat came back.”

I opened the  door and a little striped kitty jumped in. “Catch her!” I chased the kitten, but my teenage girl pounced on the four-legged intruder before me. “Put her in the bathroom. She might have fleas.”

Then I went to work, scrubbing the cat and dousing her with flea treatment. April and I made a make-shift litter box out of a large Rubbermaid container and we used extra food and water bowls from our other kitty, a Maine Coon named Smokey.

I quarantined the kitten in the bathroom until I could get her to the vet, so she wouldn’t pass on any sicknesses she caught from being outside to Smokey.

“We’re keeping the cat?” asked my husband. Mind you, he makes jokes about turning our Maine Coon into a fur rug.

“She’s a special kitty. I just know it. You said she ran right into April’s arms?”

My husband scratched his chin. “I don’t normally spend much time in the front yard, but I spotted a blue heron and had to get a picture of it. That little kitten was frolicking near the pond across the street. She took one look at April and charged ahead.”

“The cat found her girl and you know it. She’s a gift from above.” I patted his arm. “April has had a rough first year of high school. Our girl needs this cat and this cat needs our girl.”

My husband didn’t argue. He knew there was something special about this kitten. So, now she’s ours and her name is Lizzie.

kitten

Whether cat or dog, pets hold a special place in our hearts. And books about the bond between pets and their owners can be some of the best books for kids. The following are ten pet books that have touched my children’s hearts.

Biscuit

1. Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.

This easy reader series is about the adventures of an adorable puppy named Biscuit. My five-year-old girl can read these stories all on her own. The text is repetitive for easy reading and yet the stories are fun and engaging enough for children to read again and again.

2. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.

Having younger children who aren’t especially fond of taking baths, they can totally relate to the story of Harry who doesn’t want to get clean. In the end, Harry decides he’d rather take a bath than be unrecognizable. This classic is sure to be a staple on your child’s bookshelf.

For a version read-aloud by Betty White, click here.

 Cynthia
Cynthia Rylant, the quintessential children’s author on pets, takes fan mail seriously. When my teenage girl was little, she wrote a letter to Mrs. Rylant and one day this postcard appeared in the mail.

3. Brownie and Pearl  series by Cynthia Rylant.

My five-year-old loves this series about a girl named Brownie and her kitty, Pearl. The illustrations are bright and cartoon-like, perfect for capturing the attention of our littlest readers. Brownie and Pearl’s antics had her giggling with each turn of the page.

4. The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant.

This story had me teary. An old woman lived all alone. She had outlived all her friends. She named her car, her chair, and her house because she refused to name anything that would not last as long as her. Then she met a lost puppy who helped her to open her heart again to love.

5. Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant.

Mudge is the perfect name for an enormous dog who slobbers and loves on a little boy named Henry. This easy-reader series tells about the adventures a gentle-giant of a dog can have with his boy.

cat

6. A Traveling Cat by George Ella Lyon.

Boulevard the cat sauntered into her girl’s life and for a time stayed. A touching story about the quick bond between a child and a found feline and learning to accept when a pet runs away and doesn’t come back.

7. Stay! Keeper’s Story by Lois Lowry.

Only Lois Lowry, author of The Giver series, could write a believable story from a dog’s point of view. Sweet, sweet story of the trials and triumphs of being a dog.

winn

8. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

Opal finds a dog in a Winn-Dixie store, or did the dog find her? Being from the south, I can relate to all the quirky characters in this story. And, Winn-Dixie (the dog) reminds me so much of my dog, Molly who also was found fully grown, smiled like a human, and ran away during an occasional thunder storm.

9. Green Dog: A Mostly True Story by Suzanne Fisher Staples.

This little middle grade fiction novel stole into my heart. For those who’ve had difficult pets that they loved anyway, this book is sure to steal your heart, too.

10. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

Reading this book is a rite of passage for any child. There’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend. The bond between a boy and his dogs can be just as strong and true as for human friends.

Having owned many cats and dogs growing up, reading books like these to my children brings back nostalgic feelings about all those furry friends of mine who hold a special place in my heart. Reading these stories can grow compassion for all God’s creatures and a sense of responsibility to take the best care of them. Isn’t that a marvelous thing about a good book? They truly help our kids grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog, Seasons and Holidays

10 Gardening Books for Growing Kids With Green Thumbs

GARDEN

“Mom, this is actually fun.” My teenager dug into the soft earth with her shovel. In Florida, the dirt is extra sandy, so the earth must be tilled and compost added.

Tired of watching from the sidelines, my nine-year-old piped up. “Can I have a turn?”

Even my youngest wanted to stick her hands in the dirt, adding an enjoyable sensory experience to her day. And, then my sensory-sensitive middle son, helped making holes to plant the seeds with an unsharpened pencil.

With a “Team Griese” effort, all of us worked together to make our garden grow. Now, all it needed was rain (or watering with the sprinkler every other day) and sunshine. My the grace of God, in about 100 days, beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, and a few  others we wanted to try will be ready to eat!

048Gardening can be hard work but with proper planning, the right tools, and plenty of seeds children will be eager to help create a little sanctuary in your backyard.

Good for the body, mind, and soul, gardening strengthens muscles, relieves stress, and helps children focus.

047

Books are the perfect way to prepare children for making a garden of their own. Excitement builds as they picture the tiny seeds bursting into life under the ground.

Here are ten gardening books for growing kids with green thumbs.

  1. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.

    For our smallest gardeners, Carle tells the tale of the life cycle of a flower. With paper mosaics of bright, bold colors and simple, yet rhythmic prose, this one is sure to be read again and again.

    039

  2. A Fairy Went A-Marketing by Rose Fyleman, with pictures by Jamichael Henterly.

    A lovely, lovely book about a wee fairy going to the farmer’s market and with each purchase, she has a change of heart. A story of kindness, compassion, and love.

  3. Eating the Alphabet.

    Lois Elhert presents a wonderful introduction to fruits and veggies for our younger children with each letter of the alphabet. Not only will they learn the names, but they’ll develop an appreciation for their beauty and a desire to try them all.111

  4. From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons.

    I love every book Gibbons has authored and illustrated for preschoolers on up. Her simple line drawings filled with eye-catching colors, brings clarity to what’s going on underneath the ground in your garden.097

  5. A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston.

    Don’t let the picture-book style of this book fool you. The gorgeous drawings coupled with free verse poetry, will captivate both toddlers and teens and all ages between. Before the first page of poetry, the outer pages are filled with an assortment of seeds which are labeled for children who wish to learn their different names.

  6. National Geographic’s Seed to Plant

    With mesmerizing pictures and short, attention grabbing explanations, even the youngest child will love to gaze at the vivid photography in this easy-to-follow book.gardenbooks

  7. Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman

    Like six or more books rolled into one: conservationism, botany, art, earth science, anatomy, zoology, … every detail in the drawings are labeled for children’s growing vocabulary. Even an element of art can be added if children wish to trace or copy whatever strikes their interest.

  8. Vegetables in the Garden

    A Scholastic First Discovery Book, colorful, layered pictures show the different parts of vegetables growing from the plant above the soil to the roots beneath the earth. A favorite series of mine (my kids love The Egg), kids delight in lifting the next page to see the surprise underneath.boots

  9. Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy.

    For creative gardeners, Lovejoy gives brilliant ways to add flair to the average garden and make it extraordinary.

    bean

  10. Gardening Wizardry for Kids by L. Patricia Kite.

    This unique book shares the history behind our veggies along with how to grow many of them in your own home. An element of science is added when children experiement with different seeds.

After planting these seeds of knowledge in your children’s minds and hearts, you’ll have the know-how and confidence to go outside and start growing your own backyard paradise.

Blog, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12)

How to Plan a Book-Driven Trip

Untitled (2)

A good book is a break from reality, an escape from the day- to-day into the extraordinary. And, taking a book-driven family trip can bring the words on a page into real life.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Yearling, made her home in Florida and fell in love with this land and its people.

Reading through this novel with my teen was the perfect opportunity to plan a book-driven “field trip” together.

First, we looked up all the diverse flora, fauna, and food described in the book.

Like, what are cow peascorn pone, and ham hock?

What is a flutter-mill (seen on the Disney film), a demi-john, and a feist?

And, what ever happened to the Florida Red Wolf?

Another good read for younger children to tie-in with The Yearling is Lost in the Woods. For added fun, kids can try to find the “wolf shadow” in the middle of the book.

For ecology, we studied the Indian River Lagoon (which has free interactive learning tools here), and it brought back sweet memories.

One summer when I was a young teen, my sister and I waded into the Indian River, combing through the muddy bottom in search for clams. We picked them up using our toes and had a clam bake dinner with my dad.

Now to find a yearling! A trip to the Brevard Zoo’s Florida wildlife exhibit was in order.

Who are these silly sea turtles?

In one exhibit, we were able to see a real live Red Wolf. These endangered species can be elusive; it kept dodging my camera.

Finally, I got one good shot.

Imagine meeting one of these in your backyard! The red wolf were hunted until there are no longer any left in the wild in Florida. The only other dangerous creatures left are Florida Panthers, our plethora of poisonous snakes, and one other reptile… 

The Florida Gator.
Not the football players in orange and blue, the scaly creatures leftover from when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
That’s about as close as I’ll let my children get to one. And there has to be a good fence!

Gator tail is a “tailgating” appetizer now, but in The Yearling, it was smoked and made into dog food. Maybe in old Florida, people didn’t think it tasted just like chicken.
Check out the tail on this one …

Rather than spotting a real yearling, we got an up close encounter with a doe much older than one year. Still, she was a friendly one who ate the dog-food-sized snacks we had bought from the coin vending machine right out of our hands.

Here’s one more animal at the zoo not native to Florida, but I couldn’t help sharing…
Was this ‘the end’ of a fantastic week in reading Florida books and visiting related wildlife?
Not quite…

On the way back home, as we rocked out to “The Ballad of Jody Baxter” (an Andrew Peterson song inspired by The Yearling), we feasted our eyes on a brilliant Florida sunset.
After combining reading The Yearling and Lost in the Woods, with our visit to the zoo, we got to know Florida a little better. We felt closer to our roots and thankful for God’s glorious creation given for us to enjoy.
So, how about you? What books highlight the history of your state and what are some places you can visit to bring them to life for your children?
Blog, Seasons and Holidays

5 Thoughtful Books to Give for Easter

download

What do you put in your children’s Easter baskets? Eggs? Chocolate? Books, I hope!

Here are five beautiful books to enrich your children’s hearts and minds this Easter.

 

1. The Bunny Side of Easter by Linda W. Rooks, pictures by Marilee Harrald-Pilz

Not only are this book’s pictures absolutely adorable, it’s not your typical Easter Bunny story. The allegory’s lively characters and richer meanings will lead you into deeper discussions of faith and sacrifice with your child.

“beautiful job of capturing the heart of what it means to sacrifice for others; a tough concept for all of us, but especially for children. The book led us to a great talk about Jesus’ sacrifice making Him the greatest hero of all.” ~review on Amazon.com by Becky Hunter, wife of Senior Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Northland a Church Distributed, Longwood, Florida

 

2. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Yago

“Every story whispers His name.”

Have you ever read a children’s picture book that contains truth for all ages? The Jesus Storybook Bible takes you through many beloved stories of the Old Testament, including Noah and Joseph, showing how they point us to Christ. In the New Testament stories, Jesus is portrayed as healer, hypocrisy-revealer, and Savior.

 

3. The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrated by Tim Jonke

Even children struggle with significance and this allegory shows how God has a greater plan than we could ever think or imagine. With connections to both Christmas and Easter, it can be read year-round.

4. What is Easter? by Michelle Medlock Adams, illustrated by Amy Wummer

For our littlest readers, What is Easter? is a sturdy board book that takes children step-by-step through the meaning behind the holiday. Starting our children young on explaining the life, death, and resurrection of Christ prepares their hearts for hearing and believing when they are old enough to understand.

5. Personalized Holy Bible

Whether your children like soccer, football, cupcakes, or flowers there is a Bible cover to match their interests. Most Christian bookstores can add your child’s name to the front of their Bibles in gold or silver lettering. I am forever grateful for the Easter present of my beloved Bible when I was a child (thanks, Mom) with my name on front, written in gold. This precious gift was a love letter from God. It’s words sparked the fire of faith that has burned brighter and brighter the more I have come to know and love Christ.
This Easter, consider adding an inspirational book or personalized Bible to your child’s basket. Books that speak to the soul are the ones we always cherish.