New (to me) Picture Books

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XO, OX: A Love Story written by Adam Rex, illustrated by Scott Campbell

I really wanted to like this one, but fell flat. Despite the wonderful illustrations. Ox loves Gazelle (who seems like a celebrity of some sort, and who we assume Ox has never actually met), and writes her love letters. At first Gazelle is annoyed and then Ox accidentally insults her, but they keep writing. By the end Gazelle has fallen for Ox. Maybe XO, OX is supposed satirical, but clearly many of us are not getting that intent. Instead, it reads like a creepy (stalkerish) story and is not sending a good message about consent and respect.

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The Giant Jumperee written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

I really liked the illustrations in this one, and the surprise at the end will sure to delight kids. I think The Giant Jumperee would work really well in a storytime setting. Although I always have to wonder where these stories take place. Do all these animals really coexist in areas around the globe? I guess this is what happens when you are married to a naturalist.

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Not Quite Narwhal written and illustrated by Jessie Sima

Kelp is a unicorn born to a family of narwhals. This is super cute, but definitely playing into current trends/pop culture. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t know how much of the praise is due to the story and how much is due to the unicorn love at the moment.

Overall, it’s a very sweet story about making family and being true to yourself.

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A Greyhound, A Groundhog written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

This is so sweet. I love the watercolor illustrations and the repetition. It’s very reminiscent of Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett. I also think this one would work well in a storytime setting. Maybe around Groundhog Day?

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Baby Storytime: 24

Opening Song

Action Rhyme:

“Open Them, Shut Them”

Book:

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Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA by Jimmy Fallon

Song:

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Shared Book

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Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

Song:

Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Book:

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This is NOT a Cat! by David LaRochelle

Action Rhyme:

“Five Fat Peas”

Five fat peas (make a fist)

In a pea pod pressed.

One grew, two grew,

So did all the rest. (Open fingers one by one)

They grew and grew,

And did not stop, (wiggle fingers)

Until at last,

That pea pod popped! (clap hands)

Closing Song

A Royal Spyness Rundown

For the last month I’ve been living in the aristocratic world of England between the wars.

Once I finished On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service I realized I couldn’t really remember how Darcy and Georgie began. So I started listening to the first book again, and next thing I know, I’ve listened to the whole series (On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service twice) from September 1st through September 26. It helps that my husband was out of town one weekend and I spent the whole weekend working on his awesome custom (not biased at all here) cornhole and kubb set. Now when I talk to myself in my head I sound British (I know you probably all think I’m nuts now) and I really wish we could use phrases like “you’re a brick” and “old bean” today.

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Listening to all the books again, I have a few, not very well formed thoughts, that I’m mostly going to copy and paste from my Goodreads “reviews.”

  1. Katherine Kellgren is an amazing audio narrator. Reading the books without Darcy’s Irish accent in my ears or the aristocratic drawl of the supporting characters when they say things like “Old bean” and “what ho, (insert name)” is not nearly as much fun.
  2. I love Georgie. She does some really stupid things, but overall I think she’s a very realistic character.
  3. The attention to detail, whether it’s fashion, description of the architecture, or manners of the day is wonderful.
  4. Darcy vacillates between being overly bossy, not involved, and too perfect. Yet, I still love him. He is definitely one of my favorite book heroes.
  5. The consistent interactions with Wallis Simpson are great. She is a fascinating, if unlikable, person.
  6. Queenie’s character, who is introduced to us in Royal Blood is both a welcome inclusion in the world (she’s brave and funny and comic relief sometimes) but in some installments the character falls flat and the comedy can seem mean spirited.
  7. Bowen flirts with the supernatural a bit in a few of the installments. Heirs and Graces and Malice at the Palace mostly. I don’t necessarily mind ghosts etc, but it can seem like an odd inclusion at times.
  8. Until the last three books Belinda’s character is very flat and underdeveloped. Still a delightful character, but seeing her growth in later installments is nice.
  9. Overall, Georgie becomes more confident and her character does grow. However, her continual distrust of Darcy and his intentions with other women gets old by the 11th book. Some installments play up that insecurity, while it’s ignored in others, depending on the story. While I get it, Darcy was a bit of a player and she’s constantly hearing that he’ll never settle down, but trust has got to be in the relationship too.
  10. Despite all the flaws (I tend to nitpick more when I like something), I still love the series and will continue to listen. I just hope it has an ending in sight(ish) and isn’t one of those never ending series that needs to die. Although, I will be sad when that happens.

If you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. My last comments deal with favorites. I’m biased since I listen to The Twelve Clues of Christmas every Christmas since I started the series, but it’s still my favorite. Otherwise, Her Royal Spyness, Royal Pain and Royal Flush are tied for next best with Crowned and Dangerous. At first listen I did not like Crowned and Dangerous, but now I appreciate it for the conflict and growth it gives Darcy and Georgie. Meeting his family and seeing him in his natural space is also important for both Georgie and the readers. On the flip side, Heirs and Graces is the worst, followed closely by Queen of Hearts. For me, neither felt true to the series, either in mystery or in character development/actions.

Toddler Storytime: Owls

Opening Song

The More We Get Together

Book:

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I’m Not Scared by Jonathan Allen

Action Rhyme:

Wide-Eyed Owl

There’s a wide-eyed owl (circle eyes with your hands)

With a pointed nose (make a beak with your fingers)

Two pointed ears (make ears with your fingers)

And claws for toes (wiggle your “claws”)

He lives way up in the tree (point way up)

And when he looks at you (point to children)

He flaps his wings (flap your wings)

And says, “whoo! whoo!” (say “whoo” “whoo”)

Book

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A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

Song:

Owl Hokey Pokey

Feltboard:

Five Hoot Owls

Five hoot owls sitting in a tree

One flew away! How many do you see?

One, two, three, four… (count down).

Book

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Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Closing Song

On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service

Over Labor Day Weekend I listened to the newest installment of Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service (I just realized I didn’t blog about Crowned and Dangerous, which I also read this year. Oops). During a meeting with the Queen to discuss Georgie’s renouncement in the line of succession and her (hopefully) upcoming wedding, it’s discovered that Georgie plans on visiting Italy to be with Belinda who is soon to have her baby. Turns out the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson will also be in the area, and the Queen asks Georgie to do a bit more spying on the Prince and “that woman.” As one cannot say no to the Queen, and the potential permission to marry Darcy (a Catholic) is on the line, Georgie agrees.

Of course, our whole cast of characters finds their way to Italy in one way or another and antics ensue. In many ways this installment is more serious than the others. Hitler’s threat becomes more real, Bowen begins to discuss the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson’s alleged Nazi leanings, Belinda is having a baby in secret, and Georgie and Darcy are finally planning a wedding. Despite the serious subject matter I found On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service to be one of the better chapters in Georgie’s adventure. It didn’t rely as much on cheap jokes and fantastical situations (ghosts in Malice at the Palace and Vampires in Royal Blood come to mind).

I’m very curious to see where the series will go from here. I did some research and King George passes away in January, 1936. Our story here ends in spring 1935. We all know from history class and The King’s Speech that the Prince of Wales abdicates the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, and shortly(ish) after World War II breaks out. Will the series continue once the Prince and “that woman” are married? It’s such a plot point that I hope it doesn’t. However, it would be interesting to see what Georgie and Darcy get up to during World War II. I imagine all kinds of spying missions…

Baby Storytime: 23

 

Opening Song

Action Rhyme:

“Open Them, Shut Them”

Book:

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Outdoor Opposites by Brenda Williams

Song:

Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Feltboard

Down by the Bay

Action Rhyme:

Where is Thumbkin?

Shared Book

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Big Yellow Sunflower by Frances Barry

Bounce:

“Little Red Wagon”

Bumpin’ up and down in my little red wagon

Bumpin’ up and down in my little red wagon

Bumpin’ up and down in my little red wagon

Won’t you be my darling?

Book:

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Goose by Laura Wall

Bounce:

Baby’s Bellybutton

This are baby’s fingers (tickle fingers)

These are baby’s toes (tickle toes)

This is baby’s belly button (point to belly)

Round and round it goes. (tickle belly)

Closing Song