Once upon a time, Sarah and I both lived in the same place. For the first year of this blog we were both in Minnesota, and oh, those were good times. She hosted our book club at her house, we enjoyed Easter dinner celebrations together, and we were always present for each other’s children’s birthday parties. Nearly four years ago, though, life took her to the California coast. She gets back to Minnesota on a fairly regular basis but (shame on me!) until this past weekend I’d never been to visit her in her new hometown.
Last week, though, I flew with my 8-month old and another dear friend for three blissful days of basking in the sun and friendship. I kept exclaiming (even on the crowded city bus, when I’m pretty sure Sarah thought I was being sarcastic – I was not), “This is so fun!” And it was. Here’s some proof:
Pretty sure I’m going back as soon as I possibly can.
Today we’re over at the Read Aloud Revival podcast chatting with Sarah Mackenzie about reading with toddlers! Hop on over to hear what we sound like in real life, and if you’re not already familiar with that podcast you’re in for a real treat. Sarah has interviewed some great folks (Jim Weiss, Melissa Wiley, Sarah Clarkson…) about reading aloud with kids and I’ve loved listening to each episode.
If you’ve found us via the podcast, welcome! Our links at the top of the page are the best way to get to know us, so feel free to poke around a bit. We have over 100 reviews of theological kidlit in the archives as well as lots of “food for thought” posts. We mostly write about the dual importance of truth and beauty in books about God for children, but our second favorite topic is celebrating the church year at home. (Speaking of which, Lent starts soon and we have some great resources for that season here if you scroll down.) We’d love to have you join the ongoing conversation here, so please make yourselves at home.
On the podcast we didn’t talk much about reading distinctly theological books with toddlers, but if you’re curious about our favorites here’s a list to get you started.
One more thing! During the podcast I neglected to mention one of my favorite read aloud strategies for toddlers: tantrum intervention. We read aloud when everyone’s happy, of course, but I’ve also found that when I have a young child melting down, one of the best ways to encourage calming down is to simply pick up a book and start reading. If you ask if they want to read a book they’ll scream “Noooo!” but if you just do it… Magic. 🙂
Like Haley, I’ve been doing a little poking around and updating (including my About page, in which my then-unborn son makes nary an appearance). And like Haley, I decided to try and compose a “me-in-books” stack. One of my favorite ways to talk about books is as friends: some we live with closely, some stay close to us although we only encounter them every few years or so, and with some we simply share a short but rich acquaintance. The books in this shot are some of those I’d have a hard time understanding myself without.
But alas, some other of my literary best friends are still packed away in a storage space in Minnesota. (My husband’s advice to me, when we were originally packing for the move: only bring books you KNOW you will want to read in the next two years. We’ll bring the rest later. And here we are, almost four years in, and I feel a little hollow knowing that my house has exactly zero novels by Dostoevsky on its shelves.)
My lovely, not so photogenic sewing room. That framed postcard makes me happy every time I walk in.
Looking at the photo, I realized it was thin on fiction: any account of my life in books is incomplete without The Brothers Karamazov, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Angle of Repose, and Jayber Crow. I loaned my copy of Kristin Lavransdatter to a friend, and need to just buy another copy for myself: it feels a little like I’ve loaned out the literary equivalent of my son’s beloved elephant, Saggy Baggy. And after taking the photo I realized I had accidentally left both What Are People For? and the collected poems of Denise Levertov on my living room shelf. Oh well.
The incomparable, irreplaceable Saggy Baggy
In a perfect world, all seven volumes of Harry Potter are represented. The Great Divorce and Hamlet and some old books of feminist theory from college jostle for space. And, crucially, the whole Lord Peter Wimsey series and a bunch of John LeCarre, because I dearly love good spy and mystery novels. But then I’d need a bigger cutting table to capture it all.
We’re a few months into my daughter’s kindergarten-at-home experience and I’m happy to report that thus far we are all still alive and well. 🙂 I like to say that our version of kindergarten is low key and high joy, and most days that’s an apt description of what’s going on at our house.
Our lessons in math, spelling/phonics, and handwriting are all going well, but what we’re most excited about is getting to spend lots and lots of time reading aloud together. We’re doing poetry teatimes, savoring some fantastic chapter books, learning about famous scientists, and exploring six countries (one at a time) via picture books.
The first country on our list was China (because my kids’ aunt and uncle live there) and wow, it’s amazing how many children’s books there are about China! I culled through some big stacks of books before narrowing it down to about fifteen that we used to explore the Chinese language, culture, and stories. For about seven weeks we read to our hearts content – we also learned a few words in Mandarin thanks to youtube and made a Chinese feast for dinner one night. Now we’re on to Brazil, and later on we’ll dive into England, Israel, Indonesia, and Kenya. Such fun! If anyone is interested in seeing the booklists I’m creating for any of those places let me know. I’d be happy to do a series on them as long as you don’t mind me veering that far off the path of theological kidlit.
I’d love to hear what those of you with school aged children are reading with them these days! Do you have any great literary discoveries to share with the rest of us? My daughter and I just started Betsy-Tacy and… swoon.
I’ve been poking around the blog a bit lately, tweaking and updating things here and there. We’d love to do more of an overhaul but, well, neither one of us is particularly tech savvy so this format is probably here to stay for the time being.
One of the things I tinkered with the past few days is my About page. In the past I’ve had thumbnails of book covers posted there, but I thought it would be fun to line up a bunch of favorite books and include that instead. I’m no photographer (I leave that to both of my very talented sisters), but here you have it: Me in books.
(You can click to enlarge the image and read the titles.)
I didn’t overthink my selections for this picture, which means that I’ve left out a great many important and beloved books. As I was reshelving them after the photo shoot I smacked my forehead a few times as I saw some that I’d inadvertently passed over. For instance: there’s not a single Chaim Potok title in my photo! A travesty!
That’s okay, though, because as I was lining up my books I quickly realized that I’d never be able to take a completely inclusive photo of all of the books that I hold most dear. For one, there are too many. And moreover, I don’t own all of them. Some I’ve borrowed from the library or friends and others are on my Kindle instead of my bookshelf. I still like the idea of this picture, though. Me on a shelf. A heap of books that have become a part of me in one way or another. Authors and characters and ideas that have formed me over the years, sitting together like friends. Makes me happy just to look at it.
(Sarah, you’re up next! Can’t wait to see what your choices would be…)