Christmas Books Worth Keeping

It’s that time of year again. No, not the New Year. I mean, YES, it’s New Year’s Eve, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the semi-annual bookshelf purge. Specifically, today it’s time to look over the books that were part of our Advent Calendar of Books, and weed out the ones that can safely be donated to the preschool.

Which means making the crucial decision of which books to keep.

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There are a few points I like to keep in mind during bookshelf purges:

  1. My son is a (beginning) reader, but my daughter hasn’t started reading yet, so I need to hang on to at least SOME of the books he’s outgrown so she can grow into them.
  2. Some of the books my son has technically outgrown have sentimental value to him. So he may be over Thomas most of the time, but on holidays and in the summer he drags out the trains and train books, and I think it’s important to respect that. We’re keeping The Missing Christmas Tree and Thomas’ Night Before Christmas and we’ve added Santa’s Little Engine.
  3. As much as media tie-in products annoy me, they don’t annoy my children. So I try to strike a balance between my urge to get rid of everything overly-branded, and their urge to keep anything they ever once saw a commercial for. See Thomas in #2, and also Barbie: a Special Christmas, Peppa Pig: Peppa’s Christmas Wish, and the Backyardigans: Jingle Bell Christmas.
  4. Christmas is a religious holiday. I read my children retellings of the Christmas story every year. So I need a few of those. Also, I am a sucker for any retelling of the Christmas Story told from the point of view of the animals in the stable (really; I cry over these regularly), so for my own happiness a couple of choices in this important category have to be “I said the donkey”-type versions. We like Who is Coming to Our House?, Room for a Little One, Christmas in the Manger, and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.
  5. My children have one Canadian parent (me) and one Australian one (their father), and we like to have our bookshelves reflect that. So if you look closely at that picture you’ll see The Fairies Christmas Wishes, Fair Dinkum Aussie Christmas, A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, and Dashing Through the Snow.
  6. It may eventually cause me to lose my mind, but the kids love to listen to The Twelve Dogs of Christmas and follow along with the book. Over and over and OVER. And they both started to recognize words while still in the pre-reader stage by doing this, so overall, it’s worth tolerating.

2016: New Year’s Resolutions

I’m sure I’m not alone in needing to reign in my spending. In fact, one of the most common complaints I hear from people (both on and offline) is that somehow, in the past couple of years, BUYING books has replaced finding the time to READ them.

I know that for me personally, the less time I make for reading, the more easily swayed I am by online reviews or round-ups into loading up my cart and Amazon and creating yet another to-be-read pile on my overstuffed shelves.

So with that in mind, here are my resolutions for 2016:

  1. No new books for me this year. ESPECIALLY no romance novels. I could literally read a romance novel a day for every day of 2016 with no repeats, and I may just have to do that to free up some shelf space.
  2. I’m going to make a serious effort to read some of what’s on my shelves, possibly even review them, and then hand on any that aren’t destined to be keepers.
  3. While I’m at it: no new subscription boxes. Barkbox stays, and the new Kawaii box gets a six-month trial, but that’s it for the year.

So what are your resolutions? Are you making any special plans to tame the shopping-and-clutter monster this year?

The BEST Christmas Eve Gift for Children

I don’t know how many families do this, but when I was a child we were always allowed to open up one gift on Christmas Eve. Lately I’ve seen “Christmas Eve boxes” that contain new pajamas, popcorn, and a DVD to watch, and I think those are a great idea.

But my children are almost-five and six-and-a-half, and I have an entire DAY to get through. I have cooking to do! I need them to be at least a little bit self-entertaining throughout the day.

Enter the best gift ever, which we let them open this morning before my husband left for work.

Now, if you’re better at planning than I was this year, you can start squirreling away supplies as soon as the Boxing Day sales hit, and you can probably pick up more in September, when the stores fill up with cheap school supplies. That’s my plan for next year.

But this year, I made do with what I could order online in October when my son SUDDENLY developed a huge interest in drawing. My daughter has always liked colouring, but thanks to him she’s now creating her own drawings and even copying some words. Elder siblings are the best.

So here’s what they opened this morning:

  1. A case-it binder. I bought these in two different colours, to make it easier for them to find their own. I have absolutely no idea why some colours cost more than others, but obviously I picked the cheapest two. You could get a good zipper binder more cheaply if you planned ahead, but I like that the case-it has both a handle and a shoulder strap, because this is something we can port along on visits with family.
  2. Several binder pouches full of supplies. I bought them one each of these sparkly ones and a couple of plain black ones. (I use the black ones all the time myself to organize crafting supplies, so we actually have extras on hand should they need them.
  3. A sketchbook. I wanted something with coil binding so it would lay flat, and a hard cover so it could take a bit of abuse (and decorating). There are literally a million options that fit those criteria.
  4. A pack of coloured Smencils. Honestly any decent-quality coloured pencils would have worked just as well, but I was placing an order with Fun Toys That Teach anyway, so I splurged just a little.
  5. A pack of scented gel crayons.
  6. A few sticker sheets. I picked up some Paw Patrol and Frozen stickers at Walmart, and then bought one pack each of these scented stickers to continue the theme. Everything I bought had two or more sheets inside, so I opened the packs and split them (except for the Frozen ones; my son has his limits. I bought him one single sheet of Star Wars ones instead.)

Next year I’m assuming the binders and pouches will still be operational, so I just need to stockpile some craft supplies and new sketchbooks.

Here’s the best part: it has been THREE ENTIRE HOURS since they opened their Christmas Eve gifts and they are still completely absorbed!

Four Book Series for pre-K to Grade One

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I’ve been lucky so far in that both my children love to read and be read to, but these books will charm even the most reluctant reader. Best of all, with characters and settings continuing across more than one book, series books provide a comforting familiarity even when the child is tackling new text for the first time.

Here are four series my own kids can’t get enough of:

  1. Little Blue Truck

Now that my son is an independent reader I’d thought maybe he’d outgrown these, but when Little Blue Truck’s Christmas came out of storage as part of our Advent Calendar of books he snatched it up happily. We also have the original Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, and I was excited to see there’s a Halloween book coming out this summer.

2. Fly Guy

There are about a billion of these. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but we have at least eleven on our shelves. Some of our favourites are Hi, Fly Guy; Fly Guy and the Frankenfly; Fly Guy vs. the Flyswatter. My son also really enjoyed Fly Guy Presents: Insects and Fly Guy Presents: Dinosaurs. Scholastic have a parent’s guide here.

3. Elephant and Piggie

We already knew and loved Mo Willems from the Pigeon books when we discovered these. My children think they’re HILARIOUS, and I have to admit, I enjoy them a lot too. Some of our favourites: We Are in a Book; I Really Like Slop!; I Broke my Trunk.

4. Llama Llama

Always gentle and so, so easy to relate to, these are tender stories of a llama (and his llama mama) encountering trials such as the first day of preschool, an over-long shopping trip, and too much holiday excitement. We also really like Llama Llama Home with Mama and Llama Llama and the Bully Goat.