1… 2… 3… Books about Unicorns!

Just about every child I know adores unicorns. My son has 3 different unicorn pillow pets resting on his bed and a rainbow unicorn painting hanging on the wall. Though my daughter is not quite as obsessed as her brother, she also has her fair share of stuffed unicorns scattered about her room. After reading these three books, I have to admit I’ve become equally smitten with these fanciful and (who knew?) funny creatures.

 

You Don’t Want a Unicorn written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Liz Climo – When a young boy tosses a coin into a well and wishes for a pet unicorn, he quickly discovers he made a BIG mistake. They shed, chew, jump, scratch, and they can’t be house trained. Worst of all, when they get lonely they call for their friends. One of the things I love most about this book is that the main character is a boy with an “I love unicorns” t-shirt. As the mom of a unicorn-loving boy, this made my heart happy. I also love all the “poofing”. So fun to say! Finally, the illustrations are downright hilarious. There is a unicorn with an orange perm and rainbow leg warmers. Enough said.

 

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima – This heartwarming story is about a young unicorn named Kelp who lives in the sea with his narwhal family. Kelp has always known he’s a little different than the rest of the narwhals, but he didn’t know how different until one day a strong current sweeps him to the surface and he spots someone who looks just like him. He soon discovers that these land narwhals are actually unicorns, and so is he! Kelp struggles to decide where he belongs until he discovers that maybe he doesn’t have to choose. This book will charm readers of all ages. Kelp is absolutely adorable and everyone will be able to relate to the sweet message of fitting in and finding yourself.

 

A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young – When a young girl orders a unicorn, she is surprised to discover he is not at all what she expected. He smells funny, has fleas, and eats tutus. When he behaves badly and embarrasses her at Show-and-Tell, she decides to send him back. However, while she’s waiting for the unicorn man to arrive, she realizes that sometimes he makes her smile and sometimes he makes her laugh. My favorite thing about this book is Sparkle. Who doesn’t love a unicorn that looks like a goat? This irresistible tale about unconditional love and acceptance is sure to become a family favorite.

 

 

Nanette’s Baguette

Remember when I wrote about how Mother Goose Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins was the best book ever? Well, it still is. But, Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems might be the second best book ever.

This hilarious tale begins in the kitchenette where Nanette is told that she gets to get the baguette. Is she ready? YOU BET! On her way to the bakery, she meets her friends, Georgette, Suzette, and Bret, who happens to have his clarinet. All is well until Nanette is given the baguette from baker Juliette. Nanette cannot resist the warm and wonderful baguette, so she KRACKS into it again and again until it is all gone and she is beset with regret.

There are so many things to love about this book. First, the rhythm and rhyme is pure genius. I don’t typically like rhyming books, but this one is not typical. It does not follow a set pattern, but there is a definite rhythm. The combination is irresistible. Second, the story is set in a handcrafted paper-modeled French Village, complete with a toilet paper roll chimney. The attention to detail is impressive. One of my favorite details is the pigeon head walking stick inside Nanette’s front door. Third, the theme deals with temptation and regret, something to which we can all relate. My dad loves to tell the story of how I used to steal cookies and hide under the kitchen table eating them. When I was finished, I’d emerge covered in crumbs to ask “Can I please have a cookie?” I might not have been beset with regret like Nanette, but I can definitely relate to the temptation part.

I think the phrase “laugh out loud” is overused (are all those people really loling as often as they claim?), but I do think it is the perfect phrase to describe this book. During the first read, my children giggled. The second time through, they were falling on the floor clutching their sides. And the fun didn’t stop there. For the next three days, they would periodically fall to their knees and scream, “I ATE THE BAGUETTE!” before guffawing and snort laughing in a heap. If you too enjoy snorting laughing in a heap, pick up a copy of Nanette’s Baguette and get ready for some side-splitting fun.

The Message of the Birds

Many years ago my parents started giving everyone in the family a book on Christmas Eve. Each year they pick out a book that has touched them in some way and they write a special message in the front cover. Each one they have chosen has been unique and beautiful, and each message they have written has been heartfelt and love-filled. I treasure these books and their messages because they give me insight into my parents’ own hearts and values. They show me what is important to them, and what they hope becomes important to all of us.

This year they chose The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund and Feridun Oral.

It begins with an old owl telling a gathering of birds the story of Jesus’ birth. He tells how the birds in the rafters of the stable heard a song of peace in Jesus’s cooing, and then carried that song with them throughout the world. After old owl finishes his story, the birds wonder why the song isn’t sung anymore. Together they decide to whisper the song to every child near and far, and carry the message of peace to all. The book ends with children of all colors coming together to hold hands and share the message of the birds. The illustrations are stunning, and the simple text conveys a powerful message – Let there be peace on earth.

This book seems especially important given what is happening in the world today. Messages of fear, anger, and division often dominate our newsfeed and it’s easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed. But if you look carefully, and listen intently, the message of the birds is still there. The message of peace is present whenever a stranger is welcomed and a child is fed. It’s present in those who stand up for the vulnerable and weak, and in those who fight for justice despite what it may cost them.

I’m thankful my parents chose to share this book with us as reminder that we can all be messengers of peace. I encourage each of you to think about ways you too can share that message with the world.

As our first act as messengers of peace, my children and I decided to thank our bird friends by decorating our discarded Christmas tree with pinecone bird feeders. It was a great idea until our dog decided to eat one and barfed all over the living room carpet. I think from now on we will choose a different way to share the message of peace with our woodland neighbors. Thankfully, there are many ways to be neighborly, and not just with the birds.

 

Best. Book. Ever.

Every time I read Mother Goose Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, I transform into a star-struck teenager talking about their celebrity crush. There’s a lot of squealing, open mouth gawking, and an occasion dramatic sigh. Generic phrases like “It’s soooooo good!” and “You HAVE to read it!” spill out one on top of another. When people ask what I like about it, I talk about the amazing detail in the illustrations, Bruce’s hilarious expressions, and the edgy humor. I’m able to form coherent, adult-like sentences for a short while, but then I revert back to my 5 year old self and simply say “I love it so much! It’s my favorite.” Do yourself a favor and buy this book. Then do yourself another favor and buy Hotel Bruce. It’s sooooo good! You HAVE to read it!

Nighttime Ninja

My son’s life is one battle after another.  Clone troopers, zombies, and good old fashioned “bad guys” constantly threaten his existence and must be destroyed at all costs. I’m not sure how he sleeps at night. Our arsenal of Nerf guns, light sabers, and swords would rival that of Rick’s group on The Walking Dead.  However, his favorite method of fighting has always been hand to hand combat… Ninja style. Many years of his life have been spent as “The Ninja Master” training his sister in stealth and martial arts. So when we saw Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta on the shelf at the library, we were immediately intrigued.

After flipping through the pages, I wasn’t sure it would hold my kids’ attention. It had little text and not a lot of action. However, the unique illustrations, done with cut paper, textured cloth, string, and colored pencils caused our eyes to linger on every page and the slow pace actually heightened the tension. “What’s he doing, Mom?” “Where’s he going?” We couldn’t wait to find out what this nighttime ninja was up to! When his task was finally revealed, my kids laughed out loud and the Ninja Master began making plans for his own midnight mission.

This book is a must-read for all the Ninja lovers in your life. If you’d like a snack to go along with it, check out my recipe for Nighttime Ninja Cookies. Or you can just get a bucket of chocolate ice cream. That works too.

 

Nighttime Ninja Cookies

3 cups oatmeal

1 ½ cups flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

¾ cup sugar

1 tbsp. molasses

2 large eggs

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups of chocolate chips

1 ½ cups chopped pecans

 

Cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and molasses. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in the dry ingredients. Add the chocolate chips and pecans. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes on the pan before removing to a cooling rack.

 

Behold… The Magnificent Moose

On one of my first trips to the boundary waters in Northern Minnesota, I saw a mother moose frolicking in the water with her two babies. Those giant noses and clumsy bodies made a lasting impression, and ever since, I’ve been a little obsessed. Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees the comedic potential in the majestic moose. There is a half ton of picture books written about moose, which by the way is approximately how much an adult male moose weighs. Check out 5 of my favorites below. Enjoy!

 

This is a Moose written by Richard T. Morris and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld – A determined filmmaker’s attempts to make a documentary about a moose are foiled when his subject refuses to settle for just being a moose. He’d like to be an astronaut instead, thank you very much. Chaos and hilarity ensue as other animals share their own dreams and aspirations. This is a silly book with an important message – be true to yourself. This is one of my husband’s favorite books and picture books aren’t really his thing (gasp!). That’s why I always pay attention when one makes him laugh.

 

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers – When a moose shows up one day, Wilfred knows it was meant to be his. Wilfred goes about explaining all the rules of how to be a good pet, but it doesn’t seem as though the moose is listening. Some of the rules he follows with ease, like knocking down items out of Wilfred’s reach. But others he ignores completely, like staying close to home. Then, Wilfred is astonished to discover that someone else thinks they own the moose! In the end, they reach a compromise that works for both of them. Sort of.

 

 

Too Many Moose written by Lisa Bakos and illustrated by Mark Chambers – Martha wants a pet and she decides a moose would be the most marvelous pet she could get. In fact, she loves her moose so much she orders 3 more… and 3 more… and 3 more… until she ends up with 10 moose! They bake muffins, do math, and dance the mambo until midnight. Everything is marvelous, until the moose cause a bit of mayhem. Perhaps 10 moose are too much. The sweet ending may cause you to look into moose adoption.

 

 

Z is for Moose written by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky – This alphabet book starts like many others – A is for apple, B is for ball, C is for cat. But then an impatient moose bursts into the production knocking a poor duck right off the stage. When it’s finally his turn, Moose is dismayed to discover that M is actually for mouse! Thankfully, Moose’s good friend Zebra finds a creative way to include him that leaves everyone smiling, even the reader.

 

 

Duck Duck Moose written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallan and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones – In this laugh out loud friendship story, two well-organized ducks are planning a surprise party for their messy friend Moose. Unfortunately, Moose keeps hindering their efforts when he inadvertently smashes through walls and destroys their cake. Kids will love chanting along with the familiar refrain of “Duck, Duck, Moose”, and will giggle and groan when Moose comes crashing into the scene.

For the Love of Harry Potter

When I was 22 I read the first Harry Potter book for the first time. I fell hard. A year later my friends and I threw a Harry Potter Trivia party complete with a sorting ceremony and special made house hats. Since then, I’ve read the series countless times and last year I started reading it aloud to my two children. My hope was that they would grow to love it as much as I do, thereby necessitating a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. So when my son asked to have a Harry Potter birthday party this past year, it was a bit hard to contain my excitement.

I spent hours researching decoration, snack, and game ideas. My dreams were big. Walls turned into Platform 9¾, rooms turned into Honeydukes Sweet Shop, and my backyard turned into a Quidditch Pitch. On several occasions throughout the planning process my husband had to remind me the party was for my son, not for me. Same difference.

Unfortunately, my dreams were bigger than my abilities. There is a list of things I can do well, but crafting and decorating are not on that list. Neither is braiding hair, much to my daughter’s disappointment.

Fortunately, I found two easy crafts that added a little pizzazz to our Potter Party. The first was the invitation. This hardly qualifies as a craft since it really just involved me typing up an invite and then burning the edges. But those of us who are craft-challenged count all of our victories however small they might be. Of course, the invitation wasn’t complete until we added a delivery owl.


The second craft was a wand. I can honestly say this was the only craft I ever enjoyed making. Maybe it was because I felt like Ollivander or maybe it was because it was super easy. Either way, I’m considering starting a wand-making side business.

To make these wands you’ll need dowels, sandpaper, a hot glue gun, acrylic paint, and brushes.

First, sand down one end of the dowel to make a rounded tip.

 

Then, add glue to the other end in whatever design you desire.

After the glue dries, paint the wand whatever shade of brown you like. You can also paint it pink if you aren’t concerned about authenticity. My daughter clearly wasn’t concerned.

The invitations and wands were a big hit at the party. Spells were cast all night long, and when it was time for bed, each little wizard snuggled up with their very own delivery owl. Now I just need to convince my daughter to have a Harry Potter party too so I have another excuse to make those wands.