It’s that time of year again! We head back to school on Thursday of this week, so I thought I’d share yet another one of my schooltime favorites with you: First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. Although I do find the illustrations a little dated (even though this book was written in 2000 – wasn’t that just a little while ago?) I really enjoy the story of Sarah Jane Hartwell, who does NOT want to go to school. It’s the morning of her first day at a new school and she’s positive she’s going to hate the whole experience. After stumbling and bumbling and stalling to get ready, she finally does arrive at the school, at which point we get a fun surprise: Sarah Jane Hartwell is actually a new TEACHER at the school!

I’m a sucker for a good farm story, and Otis, written & illustrated by Loren Long, definitely fits the bill! Otis is a sweet, slightly-outdated tractor who loves living on a farm and especially loves taking care of the farm’s animals. After he’s replaced by a fancy new tractor he figures out a new way to make himself invaluable to the farmer. Otis is a great preschool read and is also available in a board-book edition.

PS> Check out a few of Long’s original book sketches here.

We love Angelina Ballerina (the book series, not the tv show.) The first story in the series, Angelina Ballerina, was written in 1983 by Katharine Holabird, then a young mother of two. She wrote the first draft around her kitchen table as her young daughters danced around her. I love that her real life was the inspiration for these stories!

Helen Craig’s detailed drawings of this dainty mouse adventurer and the town in which she lives really enliven Holabird’s tales. I enjoy Craig’s use of color and the panoramas on the pages. While there is usually some dancing in each book you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of ballet, as there’s also a greater lesson within each story. For this reason, two of my very favorites (which also feature Angelina’s little cousin, Henry) are Angelina at the Fair – a perfect late-summer read – and Angelina’s Christmas.

Between the 3 of us (Cole, Harper, and myself) we read an inordinate number of Roald Dahl books this past school year, either in class, for nightly reading, or just for fun. At one time we were all reading different titles simultaneously, so we can definitely say we’ve had a good dose of Dahl! Roald Dahl’s chapter books are wacky, highly imaginative, opinionated, and fantabulously fun! It helps that we even like the movies based on his books, especially The Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here’s a glimpse at a few of our favorites, in newly-redesigned covers, no less, by Quentin Blake.

PS. The Roald Dahl website gives you a pretty good sense of what his books are like.

I read What Pete Ate from A to Z at the Art Museum the other day and had to share it with the kids. Pete is a very funny, very HUNGRY dog who helps himself to quite an unusual array of items (many of which would be considered unedible!) What I love most about this story is the witty vocabulary, as I’m always on a mission to expose the kids to new words.

PS. Check out more of Maira Kalman’s fun books here.

I returned home from a photo session last Friday to find Peter Rabbit munching away in our backyard. (Granted, there are quite a few weeds in that area, so it really needs all the help it can get.)

Of course, our cute little visiting bunny reminded me of a story Harper and I had just read from Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales. I realized then that I hadn’t yet written about Beatrix Potter and her beautiful gardens and animal inhabitants, illustrated in soft watercolors and clothed oh-so-cutely. Oh, what a treasure you’ll find this collection of sweet stories to be! I often think I would like rodents a lot better if they were just dressed more appropriately. And perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I still really enjoy children’s books…because imagination will always be king in my world and rabbits and puddle ducks should always wear bonnets and button-down suits. (Frankly, they could get away with so much more in our gardens that way.)

PS. If you don’t enjoy the heft of a complete collection check out smaller hardcover versions (pictured with white covers, about 5″ tall) of Potter’s stories here.