2020 continues to teach our family important lessons. Recently, I was asked to feature a book that will be launching on Friday, November 20 and of course just hearing the press blurb had me saying yes. What I didn’t expect was how powerful the message was to me as a mother and what we parents instill in our children. May this message bless you and your family today, too.
In “Little Bremar: I Am Somebody”, Pittsburgh Public School teacher, Tracy Johns shares an affirmation that resounded with me as a mother through the experience of first grader Bremar. This book will be the “first book in a series of “Little Bremar” books, and is inspired by the belief that each child has unlimited potential and deserves to see their beauty reflected in literature. The book series is dedicated to children of color all around the world, and their parents, as this group does not always get to see themselves represented in an accurate or affirming light.” (Source: Findlay House Media)
Through the story, Bremar expresses fears of speaking in front of his class and their families, but in the end remembers his confidence is deep down inside him, regardless of the fears that he may face in the world around him.
For families of color, this book hopes to allow for connection to characters often misrepresented in literacy. Tracy Johns gives a beautiful gift to children and families through the characters in this book and the message of hope and inspiration.
Hey, friends. Mama Burgher over here, big cup of coffee in hand. It is day three of summer break in Western Pennsylvania and I am already tired of telling the kids to get outside, put down the electronics. Thankfully I recently found out about a book authored by a 10-year-old who gets me. In “Legends From Mom’s Closet”, Sasha Olsen shares her summer adventure of learning about historical legends, using her imagination and not a screen.
Sasha’s book is coming out in a few days, but this busy ‘lil lady took the time to share a guest post with us as part of a virtual book tour she’s doing on blogs like ours. Details on ordering “Legends From Mom’s Closet” can be found below.
USE YOUR IMAGINATION INSTEAD OF YOUR SCREEN
By Sasha Olsen
My name is Sasha Olsen. I’ve lived on the beach in South Florida since I was a baby. I have many hobbies; some are ballroom dancing and playing piano! This past summer, I also started working on my first book Legends from Mom’s Closet. Back then, I was spending a lot of time inside because of the stormy weather. Most of us have also been stuck indoors recently because of the quarantine situation. A lot of kids my age started distance learning in March, so I think it’s a really great time to share my story with everyone!
Instead of getting onto the computer or using phones, I think we should use our creativity to start new projects with what surrounds us. I realize more and more every day that there is just so much we can do at home. When I read about some amazing women legends last summer, I wanted to feel a bit more of what it would have been like to live a day in their shoes. So, I did exactly that! I started dressing up as them by getting creative and putting outfits together that showed off their signature styles. Most importantly, I was able to do this by rummaging in my mom’s closet and asking my grandma for help.
By reading my book, I think kids all around the world could get inspired to use their imagination to try something new. Last summer I also started my movement to help save the oceans, Iwantmyoceanback. So, I’m also always thinking of ways we can help the environment and reusing clothes is definitely one of them! Fast fashion is one of the biggest problems our planet deals with. That’s why it’s even more awesome to use what we already have for new projects, especially ones that help us learn something too.
When I started Legends from Mom’s Closet, I realized that I would never end this project. Recreating looks from iconic legends and historic paintings is something I love to do. It helps me learn even more about that person or time period, and I see it as something everyone can do. Not just kids!
I actually started planning some new recreations with my little sister, so that we can read and learn more together. The whole family can even do it! It’s really fun and helps us think outside the box.
Nowadays when I’m not doing schoolwork, I look for new people to learn about and dress up as since we have more time on our hands. You can check out the legends I learn about and dress up as on my Instagram, legendsfrommomscloset. Maybe you’ll see someone you recognize or maybe you’ll meet someone new. Dress up as your role model or favorite legend and send it to us! I would love to see what you guys come up with and share it.
Sasha Olsen is a 10-year-old author, environmental activist, ballroom dancer, bookworm, pianist, and enjoys anything artistic. She always finds new hobbies and things to do, which usually ends up in her trying to juggle everything. She lives with her family in Bal Harbour, Florida, where she also spearheads the conservation movement “I Want My Ocean Back.” Legends From Mom’s Closet is her first book.
Enter disclaimer text We have been sent books below in exchange for our honest review. All opinions are our own.
What We’re Reading: February 13
A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert
What happens when a family loses their couch on their way home from a furniture store and a llama discovers it? Good thing it’s comfy…will the family get their couch back or will llama feel all the sads? You’ll have to read this one to find out!
(We love the adorable illustrations in this book by greeting card designer and author Leah Gilbert. That couch sure looks comfy!)
Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone, Illustrated by Bali Engel
The twins love a lullaby, so it is no surprise that they enjoyed reading a book about nature shushing us to sleep. With scenes of animal parents putting their children to sleep, they connect and find it easier to go to sleep themselves.
If you think the cover is soothing (we do!), just wait until you see the pictures on the inside!
Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Helen Dardik
With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow, will Bagel find a partner for the Cherry Jubilee dance? It’s not looking great, then an adorable cupcake crosses Bagel’s path.
We love this story, the illustrations and the glitter texture in the book! You might recognize author Wing from “The Night Before Kindergarten” and illustrator Helen Dardik from work with American Girl and Parents Magazine. Super sweet!
You’ll have to pick this one up! Bagel in Love is available on Amazon and at other book retailers with an MSRP of $16.95.
Enter disclaimer text We have been sent books below in exchange for our honest review. All opinions are our own.
What We’re Reading: December 4
Choosing Light by Viral Dalal
In this season of light, I pray that you, like Viral Dalal (author of this book) choose light over darkness. Dalal recalls his five days trapped beneath a high-rise building following a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. Throughout the pages of this memoir, he recalls childhood lessons to help him shake the darkness in those moments.
Imagine being trapped for five days and recounting the tremors that led to the entrapment. Would you find the courage to choose light?
If you haven’t picked up on this yet, we’re a dog-loving house run by a chronic worrying mama. Picking up “One Dog’s Faith” felt like a good fit because Baker shares the story of how he overcame the constant worrying through the love his dog showed him. Baker tells this story through the “voice” of his beloved pound dog, Mango. Mango recounts lessons on playing fetch, loyalty, and even butt-sniffing. In the end, we’re all pound dogs, aren’t we?
You can also pick up One Dog’s Faith on Amazon and at other book retailers with an MSRP of $15.29.
Inky’s Great Escape by Casey Lyall
Our kids love under-the-sea themed books, so I know this one is going to warm their hearts when they find it under the tree. Inky is an octopus who recounts to his tankmate his escape from an aquarium and journey through the sea. Will the two try to do it again, for one last bucket-list hurrah?
You’ll have to pick this one up to find out! Inky’s Great Escape is available on Amazon and at other book retailers with an MSRP of $16.95.
Dough Knights and Dragons by Dee Leone
Are you and your child going to bond over cookie baking this holiday season? If so, maybe end the evening with this read! As a curious knight meets a dragon, they form a bond over their love of baking. The thing is, they aren’t allowed to be friendsbecause of the law of the land! The two come up with a way to change hearts and minds in this touching story of how love can really change the world.
With four kids to put to bed, our routine tends to be a bit crazy. Admittedly, we don’t always read all the books or tuck in just right. This story reminds me that it doesn’t matter what waits for me once the lights go off in the kids’ rooms, the kiddos do need a few things before powering down! Perfect for the bedtime routine.
Winter is the time that most mice love to burrow down, but that is not Lucy. She has a talent she wants her friends to see – but they need to come outside! Is there a way to make it happen? You’ll see through the pages of this beautifully illustrated book the wonder of stepping out of our comfort zones to support our friends can bring.
In this hilarious and colorful take on “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, your child will find out what happens when Santa delivers the things of their imagination. Sometimes it’s not all it is cracked up to be! This is definitely a fun one to appear on your Advent Gift Scavenger Hunt!
The Bear Who Didn’t Want to Miss Christmas by Marie Tibi
Bears should be hibernating in the winter, but Little Bear is afraid he’ll miss Christmas if he does. His friends join together in this delightful tale to find a way to include him in their celebration. (Again, another great picture book for your scavenger hunt!)
Find out what Little Bear’s friends do for him when you pick up this book at Amazon or other book retailers with an MSRP of $16.95.
Enter disclaimer text Recently, the kids’ school had a book fair. We didn’t send in money for them to buy books, so I had to deal with the tears of the Bigs when they said they weren’t included in the shopping fun. But not to despair – the school had a pile of free books (well-loved) that they could pick from.
You guys. MOM GUILT. My kids likely are pegged the kids whose parents don’t care about them. Or the kids who don’t have money. Or the uncool kids. GAH. The guilt trip is heavy.
But the thing is, those things are far from true. They are so loved. We have money, it’s just tied up in our plan to get out of debt and to feed six mouths. And as for the cool factor? Our kids get to preview books before they even hit the shelves. C’mon, Mom Guilt. Go away!
In this edition of What We’re Reading, I’m sharing four books that are perfect for those early elementary years. I’m hoping by the end of the year they’re all easy readers for Evan (our first grader).
What We’re Reading: October 2
Ally-Saurus & the Very Bossy Monster by Richard Torrey
You might remember our friend Ally-saurus, who helped our kids get over fears of new experiences. Well, she’s back and there’s a new girl in school. This new girl wants to be the boss. As much as the ‘lil Burghers house loves the Boss Babe culture (women in business ROCK!), we know being bossy isn’t a good trait to have. This book is a nice lesson in playing nicely and accepting each other.
Ally-Saurus & the Very Bossy Monster is available on Amazon and at other book retailers with a MSRP of $16.95.
The Adventures of Camellia N. Under the Seaby Debra L. Wideroe
This book is more on Arianna’s reading level, but the message throughout the first book in a series about Camellia N. (like chameleon) was fun for Evan, too. In this second book of the nine book series, Camellia N. goes under the sea to learn about sealife around the globe. There are moments of bravery, science, and friendship throughout her journey through the seven continents.
You can also pick up Under the Sea on Amazon and at other book retailers with a MSRP of $16.95.
Rufus Blasts Off! by Kim T. Griswell
The third book in the Rufus the Pig series picks up where “Rufus at Sea” left off. Rufus is done sailing the seven seas and ready to explore space! Will pigs fly? Will Rufus complete his mission to read a book on Mars? You’ll have to grab your own copy to find out! (Available on Amazon and at other book retailers with a MSRP of $16.95.)
Maurice the Unbeastly by Amy Dixon
If your kids are struggling with staying true to themselves, this would be a great read. Maurice is a beast who is not like the other beasts – he likes kale among other differences. Does he need to be like the others or can he make it by being true to his you? What a great message about individuality!
This adorable book can also be found on Amazon and at other book retailers with a MSRP of $16.95.
Enter disclaimer text With back to school, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to do all the things that you want to, isn’t it? But keeping up with what we’re reading as both kids and adults is super important. Here’s a look at some books that have crossed our paths recently.
What We’re Reading: September 25
Coding for Parents by Frazer Wilson
Confession. I work in IT. I run my own blog. I was a teacher. But when I was testing something on a website the other day, an “Array” message came up. I had no idea what it meant, even though I’ve been working with my third grader on multiplication. Times are changing, and thankfully I have this book as a reference guide when things come up in the “tech world” that I just don’t know. This book will help parents help their kids (or decode their speak!) and teach the parents something new, too!
Oh, the giggles that came out of The Bigs as they read this one to the twins. The humor in this book is sly as it tells how everybody BUT MOM get gas and let it fly. Is mom really fart-free? If you could see the look on my kids’ faces when the mom in this story claimed that, you’d know the answer to that question. =)
Don’t Go to School! by Maire Zepf and Tarsila Kruse
This book was a good read before our first day of school. After a long summer, the kids didn’t want to go back. Unlike the plot of this story, Mama and Daddy were quite anxious for when September 5 rolled around! Benno’s mom doesn’t want him to go to school – can he convince her everything will be okay?
This fun twist on the back to school theme is available on Amazon and at other book retailers with a MSRP of $14.95.
Cap’n Rex and His Clever Crew by Henry L Herz
We’re a few days late for “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, but pirates are a favorite in our house. This book is no exception – and it even adds in our beloved dinosaurs! Captain Rex (a T-Rex, of course) leads his crew across the seven seas to find treasure (as pirates do). This is a good one to motivate your kids to do something they swear they cannot do – obstacle breakers!
The adventure of Cap’n Rex can also be found on Amazon and at other book retailers with a MSRP of $16.95.
Amazing Animal Friendships by Pavla Hanackova
This book is for our Wildlife Wednesday fans – it tells stories of some of nature’s most unlikely friendships. It is a great way to teach kids how nature is connected and also to be friends with people who aren’t just like them. A win-win message. (Note – this book is a non-fiction read with facts – we recommend it for an after school read!)
Enter disclaimer textIn the midst of a busy summer, we’re still getting in some time to read. The Bigs have been participating in our local library’s Summer Reading program, the girls love when a book is read to them, and I’m trying to keep up on some professional and personal reading, too! Here’s a glimpse at what we’re reading right now:
What We’re Reading
The Twins (Books for ages 0-2)
Ella Who? by Linda Ashman is an adorable story of a little girl who gets a brand new friend on her first day in a new house. Her parents think Ella “the neighbor girl” is so a great new friend, but what they don’t know is her zookeeper is looking for her! Isla giggled her way through this one, I think she was onto the secret!
Dance is for Everyone by Andrea Zuill is an adorable story of diversity and fitting in. When an alligator shows up to dance class, the class accepts her and makes a routine just right for their “larger than life” friend. Adorbs.
World Pizza is the story of what happens when a mama wishes on a star for world peace and then she sneezes. Pizza falls from the sky, trying to solve the world’s problems! Pizza, pizza from everywhere! It’s kind of a dream, isn’t it? Can’t pizza solve our problems?
Mango Delight by Fracaswell Hyman is a good read with your girls. Arianna is 8 and although it’s recommended for 9-13 year olds, I think now’s a great time to dig in. This is the story of a girl’s life “falling apart” thanks to a simple accident. Making tough choices, finding real friends, this book is perfect for telling our daughters about real friendship!
Sterling Publishing, June 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $14.95).
Being a working mom who is trying to be everything to everyone is tough and can be lonely. That’s why Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst has made it to my audible playlist. I’m hoping to listen in and find peace in my relationships – and stomp on that ugly Devil and his evil ways. Uninvited is available on Amazon or through Audible (Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks!)
Have you started a summer book list? For you, the kids, or both? What is on your must read list?
Every so often, we get a chance to receive books in exchange for a review here on the blog. All opinions on these books are 100% our own. These What We’re Reading posts also contain affiliate links – thanks for supporting the ‘lil Burghers with your clicks!
What We’re Reading: May 22
As we get ready for the next to last week of school (seriously, where has time gone?), our reading is starting to increase. The kids will be part of the Summer Reading Program here in Kittanning, so we want to be sure the kids are ready to jump in.
The Twins (Books for ages 0-2)
Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie Helakoski pretty much is the story of our twins – “’some chicks like day, others like night. Some sleep in the dark, and some in light”. With irresistible illustrations and adorable rhymes, this story of baby owl and baby goose is perfect to share with babies and toddlers. Follow along as the babies (whose eggs hatched in the wrong nests) find their way to get bedtime just right. Sterling Publishing, March 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $14.95).
Big Little Hippo by Valeri Gorbachev is another great one for our girls, especially Isla who wants to be grown. When you are the smallest in your family and just can’t wait to grow, the struggle is REAL. Ask Isla or Big Little Hippo. With a good message about helping others, this book is sure to be a pleasurer. Sterling Publishing, April 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $14.95).
The Bigs (Books for ages 6-10)
Redwall, Book One was one of Greg’s favorite series when he was growing up. He reserved this plus the next two from the library and has been reading it to The Bigs before bed every night. I’d tell you more, but it’s like a secret society of readers in there, so you’ll just have to trust the fact that I hear lots of “keep reading!” squeals coming out of the room. Redwall is available on Amazon (MSRP $9.99).
Elly and the Smelly Sneaker by Leslie Gorin is a good modern-day girl retelling of the classic, Cinderella. When a girl wants to be just like all the other kids, her fairy godfather grants her a wish to trade in her glass slippers for sneakers. This is a good, quick read with The Bigs before bed or when we just need 10 minutes of chill time before a sporting activity. Sterling Publishing, April 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $14.95).
This post has made me want to revisit my love for reading. I can tell you something I should be reading for work, but have yet to get past the Introduction. Let’s save that for another installment so I can update you, ok? Greg will be taking the kids to the library, so perhaps that’s incentive to find some more reads throughout the summer.
Have you started a summer book list? For you, the kids, or both? What is on your must read list?
It’s hard to imagine that we are already over halfway through November. This Friday, the town we live in will hold its annual light-up night celebration. A few days later, it will be Thanksgiving, then shopping day on Friday. After that? The season of Advent will begin, our tree will be out, our house will smell of spruce and apples and cookies, then then it will be Christmas. Yes, the countdown to Christmas is officially on.
Our family has a lot of traditions, including attending advent calendars. Similarly, Theresa Seidlitz, a young girl (and now author), and her family had traditions. Her family had a Jesse Tree at Christmastime and her dad asked her and her siblings to find kids’ Bible stories to go along with the ornaments they were using for their tree. She decided that the stories should become a book, and thus “Countdown to Christmas : 24 Days of the Jesse Tree Tradition” came to being.
I’ll admit – I didn’t know before this book what a Jesse Tree was, but we’ll be doing one this year along with reading Theresa’s book (which comes with 24 paper ornaments matching the Bible Stories she shares). What do you need for a Jesse Tree?
Your Jesse Tree should be simple and be focused on reflecting on the bible stories read each night before bed. You hang the ornament associated with the story on the tree each night leading up to Christmas as a way to get to know Biblical characters.
Are you intrigued? If so, I’ve been given a copy of Countdown to Christmas to share with one of you (enter below!). If you don’t win, you can pick up a copy of the book through the publisher (Canter Press) or on Amazon. Watch us on social media for more about our Jesse Tree!
We’ve been sent several books to add to our reading collection. If you are looking for some great kids books, these all got a thumbs up from Arianna and Evan this past month. (All information in this reading roundup is from Sterling Publishing’s Kids’ Division. Their website is currently under construction; however, you can find them as a listed publisher here.) Happy Reading!
Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of Seasons (a follow-up to Goodnight Songs) by Margaret Wise Brown
As with the original, this collection brings together twelve of the poems that were discovered in Brown’s sister’s home—all but two of which have never before been published—and sets each to an original score by musicians Tom Proutt and Emily Gary.
We loved the illustrations and peaceful music. It’s a great bedtime story choice. MSRP $17.95 | Ages 3-6 (but we enjoy reading these with the girls, too) | Available at bn.com and other book retailers
Your Alien by Tammi Sauer
…a little boy meets a little alien, and the two become instant friends! They go to school, explore the neighborhood, and have lots of fun. But at bedtime, the alien suddenly grows very sad. Can the boy figure out what his new buddy needs most of all? This funny, heartwarming story proves that friends and family are the most important things in the universe, no matter who you are!
The big kids now have their eyes peeled for their own alien. Mine are still watery from how the book ends. Parents, we struggle to get through some of our days, but you’ll agree with me that the end of the book is the best part about being a parent.
MSRP $14.95 | Ages 3+ | Available at bn.com and other book retailers
Animal Gas: A Farty Farce by Bryan Ballinger
Every child—and plenty of adults—know that nothing’s funnier than a fart joke. And it’s also a universal truth (and mysterious fact) that people don’t mind the smell of their own farts, while everyone else’s should be avoided at all costs. AnimalGas: A Farty Farce (Sterling Children’s Books, July 2015) by Bryan Ballinger explores this hilarious concept through a parade of wacky animals who describe why they don’t think their own farts stink—against the truth about how they REALLY smell! Ballinger’s comical and detailed illustrations give the characters their own personalities while skillfully using imagery to relay their different scents.
This one gets tons of giggles from my big kids. Check out a quick Instagram video of them reading it!
MSRP $12.95 | Ages 3-7 | Available at animalgas.com and other book retailers
This Old Van by Kim Norman
I’m sorry to put an earworm in your head for the weekend, but “This Old Van” is a take on the classic song that you’re now humming. It kinda made me wonder if any of my relatives would’ve been caught enjoying life like this if they’d played their cards right.
Pack your bags and load up the old Volkswagen for the rollicking ride that is Kim Norman’s ThisOldVan(Sterling Children’s Books, August 2015), a joyful take on the classic children’s counting song “ThisOld Man.”The nonsensical and dated counting song children are familiar with receives new life through Norman’s fun, fresh, and clever edits and Conahan’s elaborate pastel illustrations, each filled with bright colors, adorable clothed animals, smiling passerby, and an assortment of animated automobiles with personalities of their own.
MSRP $14.95 | Ages 3-7 | Available at bn.com and other book retailers
Zack Delacruz by Jeff Anderson
What happens after you stand up to the school bully?
Twelve-year-old Zack Delacruz has remained happily unnoticed at his middle school… until now. When he sees his classmate being teased by the school bully, Zack surprises everyone – including himself – by breaking out of his shell and standing up to the tormentor. Somehow this act of bravery gets Zack put in charge of the sixth-grade dance fundraiser with none other than the bully himself!
Zack’s situation goes from bad to worse when he learns that his best salesperson for the chocolate bar fundraiser has been EATING – not selling – her candy bars. Zack never wanted to be the class hero, but with the hopes of the entire sixth grade on the line, can he come up with a new plan to save the dance?
With a diverse cast of characters, a great anti-bullying message, and incredibly funny and clever writing, everyone will be falling for ZACK DELACRUZ (Sterling Children’s Books, August 2015) by Jeff Anderson!
One of my favorite memories as a child was curling up in bed with my mom and reading chapter books chapter after chapter until I would fall asleep. This was precious time that I got as the big sister (and reader of the family). With books about real-life scenarios (as well as some of my favorites), I’m excited to share moments like this with my oldest (and eventually the other three). MSRP $12.95 | Ages 9-13 | Available at bn.com and other book retailers + What are you and your family reading this month? Stay tuned for more reading roundup features. (Have a book you’d like included? Get in touch with me via my “Work With Me” page.)