ages 6 – 9


5M4B disclosure

As I type this, it’s late in the evening of December 14th, and my husband and I just said to each other, “We really should start Christmas shopping.” This is par for the course for us. What about you? Do you comfortably do some shopping in the week before Christmas, or do you start in July and finish by November? Regardless of when you begin shopping, books are always great gifts for the people in your life. I personally think all families should have their own copies of the classics, and most do, but often they are old tattered copies from the parents’ childhoods (true confession: our family tends to be like this). Oxford is continuing to republish children’s classics in fun, bright new editions, and this is a lovely way to add to your own family’s library or to buy a present for a child in your life.

I’m presenting 4 recently reintroduced books, ones that I’m sure you read and enjoyed as a child, but that could stand a reread, especially if you’re reading aloud with a young friend. Writing this review has put me in the mood to read them all again, curled up on a couch and pretending I’m 11 again. Be right back. In the meantime, I highly recommend them all–either for Christmas presents, or really just for you, all over again.

black beautyBlack Beauty

This book is SO. SAD. I  am not going to tell you what happens just in case you’ve forgotten,  but Black Beauty goes through some Very Rough Times. Don’t worry though–all is okay at the end. This book introduces ideas of social justice and kindness to animals, through a well-told tale that takes one into the world of horses in the late 19th century. Many little girls go through a horse phase, and I was no exception, and I remember loving this book. This version has a glossary, which helpfully explains some words no longer in use, and a section of facts on the author. Did you know that Black Beauty was distributed by animal rights activists and helped change people’s attitudes towards horses? There are also recommendations for other books, all presented through fun quizzes and interactive games.

wind willowsThe Wind in the Willows

First of all, don’t you love this new cover? I realize that we don’t judge the book by it, blah blah blah, but I must admit that covers attract or repel me. That said, this is such a fun book no matter its outward appearance. I think I’m going to have to reread it. I remember how very sensual a book this is, how it makes you love the outdoors in all seasons and weather. I loved sensible Mole and Ratty, the wise and kind Badger, and the crazy Toad and his madcap adventures, who never learns from his mistakes. I remember giggling helplessly at Toad’s antics. What about you? This edition includes some thoughtful questions to deepen the reading experience, as well as short reviews of other classics.

tom sawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Who didn’t love these stories as a child? Who didn’t scheme ways to be this resourceful and cheeky? I personally wracked my brains to try to come up with my own version of the fence-painting scene, and I longed to escape down a river on a raft. (I once took an inner tube down a creek, but I had a most uneventful childhood overall) This is a great adventure story, full of fun and mischief and humour, but again touching on the real issues of the time, which also reflect our own. This is another book with a gorgeous cover, with the lettering formed of tree branches that line the river, and this edition includes a short interview with the illustrator. I love this, as I think it gives kids ideas for the future–I could illustrate books I enjoy! And of course there’s also recommendations for other books, fun quizzes, a glossary (called “Weird and Wonderful Words”), and reading questions.

secret gardenThe Secret Garden

I loved this book so much when I was a child, and I still love it now, even though it’s been several years since I last read it. (My daughter is now 17 but we read it together when she was younger.) The story of grumpy, unlovable Mary Lennox and how she is transformed into a happy, healthy child who helps her cousin through love and friendship, good food, and outdoor play is one that resonates through to a very different time period, our own. And who doesn’t thrill at the hidden, secret garden, and Mary’s discovery of first a door, then a key, then of growing things and how to help them thrive. This edition includes a quiz, recommendations for other books, an explanation of all those weird Yorkshire words (wish the version I’d had as a kid had had that!), and more. It’s a lovely book.


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The Biggest Burp Ever, poems for kids by Kenn Nesbitt

I love funny poems, and my 10 year old son and I have been a big fan of Kenn Nesbitt’s for a long time (see below for our thoughts on his other books). Since he’s moved into self-publishing, the covers have changed, but the poems haven’t. They are still funny and relatable. The line drawings inside are from the same illustrator who did the cover I assume, but in black and white, they look much less juvenile and are great accompaniments to the poems. When my son began reading The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids, he laughed (as always), and then called me over when he was reading “I Didn’t Go Camping.” This poem tells the story of all the things a child
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Smithsonian Discover and Young Explorers Series #Giveaway

If you’re still on the hunt for educational holiday gift ideas for the elementary school aged children in your life, the Smithsonian Discover and Young Explorers series give glimpses into themes of their world famous museums in book and puzzle form. Smithsonian Discover: Flight and Smithsonian Discover: Space are fabulous gifts for enthusiastic learners from about age 8 and up. Mixing historical information about the history of flight and scientific explanations for how various flight machines work, along with models for paper airplanes and even a large poster celebrating the concept of flight, Flight is a wonderful hands-on resource perfect for the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Space follows the same format with the inclusion of fact cards and a poster, as well, with the focus on aspects
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50 Years of Rudolph #Rudolph50 #Giveaway

When I sat down to write the post on 5 Minutes for Mom celebrating 50 years of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the longest running special in television history, I wasn’t sure what to say. Sure, I grew up watching Rudolph, but could I get nostalgic about it?  It turned out I could, and the more I wrote, the more I realized what a big part that brave reindeer has had in my Christmases over the years. While we own the DVD of the Rankin/Bass special and have several Christmas decorations, we don’t have any Rudolph books, which is kind of amazing. So I was thrilled to receive a box of Rudolph books as part of the review and giveaway, featured over on 5 Minutes for Mom. The books
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Animal Teachers

In the nonfiction picture book Animal Teachers, author Janet Halfmann introduces young readers to twelve different groups of animal parents and children. Beginning by pointing out to readers that parents and caregivers are their first teachers, parallels are then made to the ways in which animal parents teach their little ones skills or habits that are essential to each particular type of creature. The animals chosen for inclusion in this nonfiction book are widely varied, including some exotically wild ones like emperor penguins and cheetahs, and more domestic or familiar animals such as chickens and beavers. Each animal is depicted in attractive and realistic watercolor illustrations by Katy Hudson that portray their natural habitats well. What really appealed to me as a parent and early childhood educator was
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Hank Has a Dream #Giveaway

Looking for a new bedtime story for your little ones? Hank Has a Dream by Rebecca Dudley brings back the delightfully adorable Hank, a stuffed woodland creature who showed his compassionate side in Hank Finds an Egg (linked to my brief review). This time around, Hank is telling a friend about his magical dream, and the meticulously detailed dioramas that provide the images in the book add greatly to the magic factor. You’ll want to hear more about this picture book, so head over to read my full review on 5 Minutes for Mom today. Be sure to view the video trailer for this imaginative book, and enter to win a copy, too.  
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Bright Board Books for Kids

I have a thing for board books, and I like that it’s more common to see a large-format board book (not just the chunky toddler ones). Board books are great for durable reading — especially for independent play and reading time — for kids up through school age. This is a 26th anniversary board book edition of Elmer. I vaguely remembered the story of the patchwork elephant, but he was never one of my kids’ favorites, because it wasn’t a book we owned. However, the story holds up so nicely. It’s a little bit silly, because of course he’s a completely imaginative and different-looking elephant, but the theme of fitting in and being yourself is so current. I love how when Elmer tries to fit
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Behold! The Dinosaurs!

Dinosaurs can be awfully fascinating to some children, and books and toys featuring the ancient creatures range from straightforwardly informational to outright silly. A new (sort-of) book by Dustin Harbin, Behold! The Dinosaurs!, presents over 100 dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures from the Devonian to the Cretaceous periods in eye-popping drawings. Did you catch how I called it a “sort-of” book? Well, I have to admit that I learned something new when I received this publication in the mail and I saw it referred to as both a leporello and concertina, and I was compelled to look up the terms before I opened the book. All I would have had to do was open the cover and see the fold-out pages, which measure more than six
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Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds

Mr. Tweed is a smartly dressed dog who is heading out for his daily walk. With his dapper suit jacket, striped trousers, walking stick, and extremely tall stovepipe hat, he looks like quite the character. Soon, he reveals himself as a kind friend as he bumps into neighbor after neighbor in need of assistance. Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds by Jim Stoten tells the story of this helpful dog, in a picture book that is part narrative, part counting book, and part ‘look-and-find’ activity book. Each friend that Mr. Tweed assists is looking for an increasing number of items or creatures- one kite, two kittens, three mice, in that type of pattern. After the missing object is declared, readers are invited to search for them on the
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A Collection of Oxford Children’s Classics

The thing with the classics is that you grow up with them, and you love them, and by the time you’re ready to pass them on to your own kids, they are tattered and dog-eared and too-much-loved, and that’s if you’ve managed to hang on to them and not lost them in one of your many moves. It’s time for new versions, and Oxford University Press is obliging by coming out with new editions of all your old favorites. And they are delightful; they contain the original unabridged stories, of course, but also bonus material such as quizzes, reading recommendations, fun and unusual facts about the author, and more. I chose four to look at, but they’re coming out with many more. With these reviews,
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Little Humans #Giveaway

Fans of Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York have likely heard about his newest book focusing on young subjects from his NYC photography project. Little Humans, which is already receiving tons of publicity and positive reviews, made me smile, too. A celebration of childhood through simple, encouraging text and gorgeous photographs of young kids, this book is a delight to look at whether you’re little or not. To hear more of my thoughts on this book, please read my full review over on 5 Minutes for Mom, where you can enter to win a copy of both this beautiful picture book and a Little Humans poster.
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Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times

When my kids were younger, I was always on the look-out for good collections of Bible stories. I had the ones I liked, and there were some gifted to us that gradually found their way to a thrift store. I’m fussy–I like the stories to be accurate and the pictures to be good. (No blondes, for example. I have nothing against blondes; I am one myself and I am mum to 2 of them as well. But the ancient Middle East wasn’t overly populated with them.) Magnificent Tales’ Treasury of Bible Stories is a worthy new addition for those of you wanting to add some Bible knowledge to your kids’ lives. Author Kelly Pulley has taken many of most beloved tales from both Old and
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