1. Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett 2. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins 3. Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson 4. The Skunk by Mac Barnett


Finally a library haul!  I had to get this one out before I return these gems to JPL tomorrow in exchange for another batch of beauties.

1. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Leo: A Ghost Story.  In fact, I have purchased this book three times (!) in the past month to give as a christmas present or birthday gift.  Mac Barnett writes the story of Leo, a ghost who after many years alone, is forced to find a new home and in the process makes a friend, Jane.  Jane believes Leo is an imaginary friend, and Leo, finally happy to have a play mate, is reluctant to reveal he is a ghost for fear of losing his friend.  I  readily admit I am guilty of over analyzing children’s books, but I love how subversive the illustrations by Christian Robinson are.  The understanding/creative/tour de force of a friend in this story, Jane, is  black.  As a woman of color and the aunt to beautiful little girls who look just like Jane, I can’t tell you how good that rare depiction made me feel.  Both cops depicted in the story are women.  And in contrast to what the media tells us criminals look like, the man who breaks into Jane’s house is a white man. Also, Mac Barnett dedicated this story to Jon Klassen, which made my cold heart grow three sizes. I love this illustrator/author bromance. It’s the little things, guys!

2. A Fine Dessert is one of those books Foos loved so much, we read it almost every night for two weeks.  Seth bought it for her for christmas, so I’ll be reading it every week for the rest of forever, hah.  A Fine Dessert, is, as the title describes, the story of the blackberry fool from England in the 1700’s to today.  A Fine Dessert is truly a sublime work of art.  If you look closely, you can see the story of the blackberry fool is not the only one being told.  This book is about changing gender roles, advancements in technology, changing racial relations, and changes in society. But most importantly, how through all of those (welcomed changes) the one constant is the love and bond of family and friendship.  The book includes a recipe for making a blackberry fool, which we made, and it was as delicious as the book itself.  Also, if you pay attention to the house scenes, the illustrator, Sophie Blackall, throws in an easter egg! Apparently, a little  black horse is a decor element that has, like the blackberry fool, been enjoyed centuries.

3. Sidewalk Flowers is a wordless book in which a little girl, on a walk with her father through the city, spots and collects sidewalk flowers.  I loved this book! I thought Sidewalk Flowers highlights the beauty that can be found in everyday life, if one looks closely and takes the time to stop and take it in.  The little girl not only spots and picks the flowers, but she also shares them with others.  True story, I read this book to my niece, nephew, and Foos during a sleepover.  The next day, on our walk home from the park, they picked up every flower they saw (weeds, really) and left one on the stoop or doorway of the homes we passed.  That alone is reason enough to share this book with your littles.

4.  The Skunk is the story a man who believes he is being followed by a skunk. Initially at least, it really does seem that way.  The man is so unsettled by the skunk’s presence that he moves away, only to find he misses the skunk.  Then roles are reversed, and he begins to stalk to skunk.  I think this story is good for both adults and kids.  Foos loved it because the shenanigans between the skunk and the man are silent movie funny. I think adults will love it because in a lot of ways the physical skunk in the story is representative of the metaphorical skunks in our lives. We try to ignore it, but its always there, lurking.

Read on!


LIBRARYHAUL11.Sneezy Louise by Irene Breznak 2. Once A Mouse… by Marcia Brown 3. A Funny Think Happened On The Way To School by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud 4. The Awful Aardvarks Go To School by Reeve Lindbergh

In Sneezy Louise, Louise wakes up with a cold and like many of us, she knows, just knows, the day is going to end up being a shit storm.  So it is; Her mom gives her the wrong breakfast, school is a disaster, she ruins ballet class, she sneezes during dinner, and she fucks up story time.  We all have days like this, when we don’t feel well and nothing seems to go right.  What surprised me was how little empathy the other characters have for Louise. Until the very end of the book no one gives her a break.  This book was great to read out loud (Foos, wanting the title to rhyme kept saying “sneezy louisie”).  Sneezy Louise also drives the cover-your-mouth-when-you-are-sick-or-suffer-everyone’s-wrath point home nicely.

Once a Mouse… was okay.  It’s an adaptation of an Indian fable warning against boastfulness.  In this story a hermit transforms a mouse into a tiger to protect it from other creatures.  The mouse, now a tiger, lets it go to his head.  The woodcut illustrations by Marcia Brown are beautiful, but the way the book is laid out did not make it enjoyable to read out loud.  Sentences get broken up across several pages, not in a good way like Where The Wild Things Are, but in a way that makes the story sound clunky.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To School… is a book about all the excuses a boy gives his teacher for why he is late to school.  Every excuse is stranger than the the one that came before it, and to me, really sound like something a kid with a super fertile imagination might say.  The story itself is witty, moves along quickly, and is great to read out loud, but what I really loved where the illustrations.  The art in this book is fun, super detailed, and reminded me a bit of Edward Gorey (my fave). This is a companion book to I didn’t Do My Homework Because…, which I haven’t read, but I enjoyed this one so much I will get it on my next library trip.

The Awful Aardvarks Go To School, is about a family of aardvarks who ruin the school experience for the other animals, get expelled, and end up at the zoo.  The story cleverly uses every letter of the alphabet to describe the awful things the aardvarks do to the school and to their fellow animal classmates.  This book also uses a lot of alliteration, which makes it kind of fun to read out loud.  More importantly now that Foos is in school, The Awful Aardvarks helped us discuss what is appropriate behavior, respecting the bodies and properties of others, and being kind to our classmates.  Fun fact: The author of this book, Reeve Lindbergh is the daughter of the famous aviator (and apparent philanderer/nazi enthusiast/etc) Charles Lindbergh. FUN.



  1. Star Wars: The Story Of Darth Vader by Catherine Saunders 2. Batman: Fowl Play By John Sazaklis 3. Lego Star Wars: A New Hope by Emma Grange 4. Lego Star Wars: The Phantom Menace by Hannah Dolan 5. Star Wars: I Want To Be A Jedi by Simon Beecroft

This week’s Library Haul is brought to you by Foos’ current obsession with Star Wars, comic book heroes, and villains in general.

The Story Of Darth Vader outlines the story of the beloved villain.  It chronicles his change from the talented but rule breaking Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, to the feared Sith Lord Darth Vader.  These books use images from the Star Wars movies, which Foos didn’t enjoy as much as the lego scenes because she is four. The DK Readers series is great because they often include a glossary and an index. Because of these books Foos is learning how to use both of those tools, which is a bonus I did not foresee when we checked these gems out.  This is a level 3, which is longer, with a more detailed and complicated story arc than a level 1 or 2, but Foos who reads at 2nd/3rd grade level could do it.

Batman: Fowl Play revolves around Penguin’s scheme to hypnotize Gotham’s birds and get them to steal valuables for him.  Predictably Batman foils his plan.  As an adult, it was hard not to laugh out loud while reading all of the cheesy super hero puns used in this book (including the title), but Foos really enjoyed it.

Foos loves Lego’s. She loves building with them, crying in the lego aisle at target for me to buy them (fucking expensive), and leaving them all over her floor.  I was not surprised the Lego DK readers were her favorite of the bunch. A New Hope chronicles the rebel’s plan to destroy the Galactic Empire’s Death Star weapon. It also introduces young readers to the rebels, including Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. The Phantom Menace chronicles the discovery of Anakin Skywalker by Qui-Gon Jinn, the invasion of Naboo, and introduces the reader to the Sith and Queen Amidala. These books also include a photo glossary and an index.

I Want To Be Jedi is a guide to becoming a Jedi, which includes the training requirements, Jedi equipment, and how to use a lightsaber, etc. It also recounts the story of Anakin Skywalker. Though no lady Jedi’s were shown, the author of this book took great care to emphasize that boys AND girls can become Jedi’s, which, as the mother of a super awesome girl, I appreciated.  This was a level 3 reader like The Story Of Darth Vader.  Immediately after reading this, Foos asked for a lightsaber.  Good job marketing people, good job.




1. Joseph Had A Little Overcoat by Simms Taback 2. Neville by Norton Juster 3. When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat by Muriel Harris Weinstein 4. Isabella: Star Of The Story by Jennifer Fosberry

The ultimate lesson of Joseph Had A little Overcoat is you can always make something useful out of nothing.  Joseph has an overcoat, which eventually frays at the bottom, so he cuts off the fraying bits and turns into a jacket. That way what started out as an overcoat becomes many useful things for Joseph over time.  The illustrations are a feast for the eyes.  The edition we read included the lyrics to the yiddish song that inspired the book, and Foos being Foos insisted on singing it every time we read the story.  Joseph Had A Little Overcoat is a Caldecott Medal winner, you don’t really need my ramblings to tell you it’s good.

I picked up Neville mostly because it was written by Norton Juster, the author of The Phantom Tollbooth, a book that made my life when I first read it in the 6th grade.  Neville, about a boy doubting his ability to make friends in a new town, did not disappoint.  It is also a very relatable tale for most of us who had to move around as children without anyone considering our opinions on the matter.  I loved that the illustrations include a lot of gender and racial diversity.  It also seems as if Neville is being raised by a single mother, which is another thing many kids may relate to.  Reading it out loud is fun too, as there is a lot of shouting in this book, ha!

When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat is just a fun book – fun to read, fun to look at.  Louis Armstrong probably has a more accessible sound/personality than the jazz I like (Mingus), and I thought Foos would be into it.  In the book a little girl gets into Satchmo by listening to records with her mom, and later dreams she is getting her very own private lesson on how to scat from the man himself.  That dream makes up most of the story. It’s fun to read the scat improvisations between Satchmo and the girl out loud.  We spent quite some time looking at videos of the real Louis Armstrong on youtube after reading this book.  The story itself does not contain any biographical content, but in the back there is a nice page that does.

We own and love My Name Is Not Isabella, the feminist gem of a book by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin (it’s how Foos learned who Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, and Sally Ride were by the time she was two).  Isabella Star Of The Story is very similar in concept to that book, except instead of it being about famous women Isabella admires, this one is about all of the books she loves (Wizard of Oz, Alice In Wonderland to name just two).  Isabella is an amazing role model for kids. She is smart, spunky, interested in other women, loves to read, loves adventure, AND has purple hair. These books always manage to be both entertaining and informative. I know this blurb is supposed to be of Star Of The Story only, but I recommend all of the books in this series. I will probably be purchasing some as christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews this year.



LIBRARYHAUL11.The Enemy: A Book About Peace by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch 2. The Girl And The Bicycle  by Mark Pett 3. Edgar Wants To Be Alone by Jean-Francois Dumont 4. Sam & Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen 5. The Conductor by Laetitita Deverney

This library trip was actually library date with our good friend Alyse and her son Oliver.  We took the skyway downtown, had lunch in the library’s courtyard, and came home with these gems.

The Enemy is a book I very much enjoyed as an adult, but had a little difficulty explaining to my four year old, which is good. I don’t mind being uncomfortable. The Enemy tells the story of two soldiers stuck in trenches in opposite sides of a very long war. They both want to go home to their families, they both want the war to end, they are both filled with misconceptions of who “the enemy” really is. Foos actually read The Enemy alone before we had a chance to do so together. She kept saying “mom, the enemy is real, the enemy wants to kill us,” which as you can imagine freaked me out. Reading it together put what she had been repeating into context. The Enemy is beautiful and the message the story puts forth, that war is futile, is incredibly important and worth the slight discomfort you may feel explaining this story to your kid.

The Girl And The Bicycle is a wordless picture book. We are big fans of those kinds of books (looking at you, David Wiesner!) because the story always changes slightly in the telling, and everyone has a different way of explaining the story as put forth by the illustrations. The Girl And The Bicyle is about a girl who really wants a bicycle she spotted while on a walk with her brother. She counts all the money in her piggy bank realizes she doesn’t have enough.  Instead of giving up she works hard performing chores for a neighbor, and saving her earnings to purchase the bicycle. Judging by the change of seasons, it takes her about a year to earn enough. When she finally goes to the store to purchase the bicycle, it is gone. It isn’t a sad story (there is a really nice surprise at the end); it is a story about perseverance, kindness, and hard work.  The illustrations are lovely. If you look closely, there is a lot in the illustrations about the background of the woman she does chores for, too. A side story of love and loss, a hint of the person who probably helped her with chores around the house in the past.

Edgar Wants To Be Alone is a book a bout a paranoid and cranky rat, who hates the other animals at the farm he lives in, treats them poorly, and gets his comeuppance in the end. Throughout the book Edgar the rat is convinced he is being followed by an earthworm. By showing what Edgar is doing with what is going on underground simultaneously, the illustrations do a really good job of letting you know if there is anything to Edgar’s paranoia. While I thought it was fairly predictable, Foos loved it.

I spotted Sam & Dave Dig A Hole in the “New Arrivals” section of the library AFTER I had checked out my other books, and just had to have it. I love Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, together, individually, anyway you want to set them up, their work is always amazing. We had to read Sam & Dave Dig A Hole like three times before we realized what was going on, and even then I’m not quite sure. The book is funny, Sam & Dave start digging a hole to look for treasure, and every time the get close to finding something, they change direction or get tired. Their dog comes along and the poor dog always seems to know exactly where the treasure is, but is unable to communicate it to the boys. The ending is a bit of a mind fuck — they end up back “home” except its not the same house at the beginning of the book at all.  They go in for a snack and I just want to yell “DONT GO IN THAT HOUSE IT’S NOT YOUR HOUSE!” but they do, and that is how the book ends. For all I know they are in another dimension, or got murdered, or maybe they got their snack. I don’t know and neither will you, but its a great book never the less.

The Conductor is another wordless picture book.  I was attracted to the Goreyesque illustrations and the unusual dimensions of the book, which lent it an air of a being interesting/artsy. The illustrations show an orchestra conductor, conducting nature; a flick of his hands wills the leaves off the trees, turning them into birds.  It’s a really beautiful book, whimsical and dreamy, but it doesn’t lend itself to much story telling.




1. Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown 2. Mermaid Dreams by Mark Sperring 3. Waiting For The Biblioburro by Monica Brown 4. Pablo Neruda: Poet Of The People by Monica Brown

Our library got rid of the programs we attend for the summer, which means I don’t have to show up and change our books every week.  I finally finished reading The Trip To Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking (excellent! I want Olivia Laing to be my bff).  It was overdue because I read on mom time (usually the last half an hour of the day, before I fall asleep), and Foos was bored out of her tree, so to the library we went!

Children Make Terrible Pets is a really cute story that switches the whole human and pets narrative around.  In this case Lucy, a bear,  wants to keep a little boy she finds in her yard as her pet. But just as her mother warned, the relationship doesn’t go quite in the way she expects.  It reminded me a little of my favorite page in Marcel Et Hugo where the gorillas go to the zoo to see humans.  We really like Peter Brown, his illustrations are always really beautiful (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, swoon!), and for Foos this was no exception.  And though this doesn’t really count because it’s a children’s book, for me, it was probably my least favorite of his stuff.  But ya know, I’m not four.

Mermaid Dreams was a suggestion from Stephanie, a librarian Foos is in love with. While we were at the library, Foos was pretending to be a mermaid. Mermaids are her new thing, and she was going on and on about being a mermaid named Pearl in the undersea. Mermaid Dreams may as well be a book about Foos.  Meriam the mermaid, like Foos, doesn’t like to get ready for bed, brushing her teeth, or combing her hair.  While combing Meriam’s hair, Meriam’s mother, much like I do, made inquiries about her day. Meriam’s answers make up most of the book.  I wish, for Foos’, sake, they turned Mermaid Dreams into a series (she loves it that much).

Waiting For The Biblioburro is based on the true story of Luis, a former teacher who uses his donkeys (burros) to bring books to towns in Colombia where children have little to no access to books/libraries.  I spotted it while looking for the Pablo Neruda book (they are both by Monica Brown). I remembered reading about the real Luis a couple of years back.  PBS even did a documentary about him.  Waiting For The Biblioburro was a great read for so many reasons!  It was a way to teach Foos about her own privilege; she has access to resources a lot of kids in the world do not, and she should not take them for granted.  The book is also sprinkled with spanish words; I am bilingual, and probably what I consider my biggest failing as a parent is being lazy about teaching Foos spanish.  The biblioburro encouraged Anna, the main character, and by extension Foos, to write her own stories, which I loved.

Pablo Neruda: Poet Of The People is the only book I went to the library wanting to get.  A friend showed me this article about a Frida Kahlo book (I want!) and included in a blurb at the bottom was this one about Pablo Neruda. Pablo Neruda: Poet Of The People was a great way to introduce Foos to a poet I love, and in a lot of ways this book is a poem itself.  The illustrations in this book are beautiful and fluid; they contain words in english and spanish Neruda used in his poetry, floating on the pages like rivers.  I wish a book like this existed for all of my favorite writers.



LIBRARYHAUL11. Madeline And The Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans 2. This Day In June by Gayle E. Pitman 3. Joey And Jet In Space by James Yang 4. Library Lily by Gillian Shields 5. The McElderry Book Of Aesop’s Fables by Michael Mopurgo

For our trip to the library this week (actually last week) we picked some books we intended to bring on our trip to the yurt. However, when it came time to pack, the only book Foos wanted to bring was Two Silly Trolls, which she got as a gift from her grammy.   We have been reading these this week instead.

Madeline and the Gypsies is only the second book in the Madeline series we have read. I mentally prepare myself to be disappointed by children’s books written in this time period because racism and sexism sometimes subtly pop up (Babar, ugh).  This book indulges a bit in gypsy stereotypes (the untrustworthy gypsies will hide your kids and make them work, gasp!), but Foos is not attuned to any of that and enjoyed it. I like that books with questionable content give me the opportunity to explain things which may not come up otherwise.  I used this as an opportunity to talk a little bit about the historically unfair treatment of the Roma, and tried my best to explain how this book was a bit unfair to the gypsies and why. Madeline is generally, is a good choice for Foos, and it is very likely she will continue to choose books from this series on future library trips.

This Day In June is a brilliant book! the subject of the story is a pride parade and the happenings. The book itself never mentions pride or homosexuality, it leaves that to the illustrations. This book focuses more on the collective humanity on display during joyful gatherings (such as this parade); babies crying, couples smooching, dancing, chanting, and the like.  Honestly, reading this book started so many conversations about the nature of families and love, leather daddies, and drag queens.  I cannot recommend it enough, it was wonderful!

Joey and Jet in Space is simple and beautifully illustrated.  Joey loses his dog, Jet, in space and goes off in search for him. Spoiler — the story takes place in Joey’s imagination, but you don’t get that until the end.  I did find myself wishing Joey was a Julia because there are so many books about boys in space, but I am the mother of a little girl and a rabid feminist to boot, of course I feel that way.

Library Lily is about a bibliophile who goes to the library with her mom and would rather read than do almost anything else, including sleeping and playing.  Then she meets Milly, who is the flip side to the Lily coin; she hates reading and loves real life adventures and playing.  Lily teaches Milly to love books, Milly teaches Lily to love playing, they become great friends for life and even write a book together.  The illustrations were not my favorite, but it was a cute story.  If the characters of Milly and Lily were combined, they would equal Foos; there was a lot in there for her to identify with and I know she was delighted by seeing versions of herself, of us, on the page.

The McElderry Book Of Aesop’s Fables is perfect for introducing young readers to Aesop’s classic stories.  I must admit, when she  picked up this book at the library, I frowned because it looked like a text book to me.  Thankfully, the versions of the classic stories in this edition are short (perfect for bedtime and self-reading), amusing, and contain a clear explanation of the moral of each story.




1.Gobble You Up! by Gita Wolf 2. Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard 3. I Live In Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi 4. Extraordinary Warren: Saves the Day by Sarah Dillard 5. The Very Hungry Lion by Gita Wolf

We are serious about books. I’m going to turn into a momma peacock for a second here- Foos has been reading since she was two years old and currently reads at a second/third grade level.  She is three years old.  Our local libraries are a big part of our lives and our weekly routine. We go to the library about once a week for a couple of free classes and to get our books for the week.  JPL’s main branch has the most beautiful and expansive children’s library I have ever seen.  I want to throw all my tax dollars at it, sleep in it, probably be buried in it.   The staff are wonderful and we count quite a few of them as friends.

We almost never go in there with a plan, but this week we kinda sorta had one!  Foos has been super interested in India.  Recently, we had to buy her a sari to try to get her to stop crying after we told her that no, it wouldn’t be possible to go to india tomorrow, and no, we didn’t have the money to do it any time soon.  She also likes to pretend she’s a Japanese woman in her pretend play, which is a little weird, but Im not going to question it. This is why we picked up Gobble You Up!, The Very Hungry Lion, and I live in Tokyo from the cultural tales section of the children’s library.   Gobble You Up! and The Very Hungry Lion, adaptations by Gita wolf,  are easily two of the most beautiful books I have ever seen.  I Live In Tokyo follows the life of a Japanese girl, Mimiko, and her family for a year.  Her life, like all of ours, is a mixture of the traditional and modern.  Her opinions are honest, and the accompanying illustrations are lovely.  We enjoyed these books so much, I will probably buy them for Foos.

The Extraordinary Warren books, which Foos grabbed from the display near the front desk as we were on our way out, were an excellent impulse.  These books, follow Warren, a chicken who wants to be more than just a chicken. The books are made up of short chapters, with comic book style illustrations that were easy to read and follow.  They were fun (and funny) to read.