Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Books Before Bed

Getting three kids to sleep can take a while (sometimes 90 minutes when I am doing it solo), especially because I am kind of a softie when it comes to pleas of "one more book" or "one more chapter."  Without boring you with the details of our household's various bedtime rituals, I wanted to share the bedtime books being enjoyed in each child's bedroom this week.

The ritual begins with my lovely daughter, on the cusp of turning four.  Earlier this winter, she was obsessed with Bridget's Beret, an adorable children's book by Tom Lichtenheld -- this story of a young artist captured the heart of my little artist.  Last week, she punished me with repeated requests for Angelina Ballerina The Shining Star Trophy.  This week, we brought our two Little Critter anthologies up to her room.  We're both enjoying revisiting these old favorites.  Mercer Mayer's beautiful and clever illustrations, his sense of humor, and his candid but ultimately positive depiction of childhood appeals to little critters and their parents.

Tip:  Collections that include multiple children's books inside one cover make great gifts and make it easier to decide on "just one more" book at bedtime.

My middle guy, age five, is supposed to read me a couple of stories as one part of his bedtime routine.  We try to read from the Superkids stories that are part of his school's reading program.  I love Superkids, but he is not always feeling it (to say the least) so we are trying to move his reading practice time to earlier in the day.  I got out of the habit of reading chapter books to him at bedtime because I'd had a little too much Junie B. (which had been his choice for a while -- I am not anti-Junie B., mind you, just was needing a break).  When my oldest was in kindergarten, I read him all of the Beverly Clearly books that featured Henry Huggins, Ramona, and Beezus.
We're reading my copy from the 80s!

So, my middle guy and I are halfway through Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary.  I cannot say enough good things about this book for little boys.  The book was originally published in 1950 (the same year my parents were born), and there are (enjoyable) lessons to be learned from childhood in an earlier era. Can Henry have a dog?  Sure, but he has to take complete responsibility for Ribsy and use his own money for his license, flea collar, food, and dog bowl.  (Side note:  Henry also walks to the butcher on his own to buy horse meat for Ribsy).  Can Henry care for thousands of guppies in his bedroom?  Sure, but he'll learn about research and responsibility as he does it.  How about when Henry is tossing football with his neighbor Scooter and accidentally throws Scooter's football inside a passing car?  The football is gone.  Scooter wants a replacement.  It costs almost $14 (which must have been a fortune in 1950).  I can see my 2014 self saying to my son, "It's okay, it's only $14.  We can replace it.  Don't stress about it."  And by "we," I would mean "me."  Henry does not go straight to his parents with this issue.  He takes stock of his funds and brainstorms how he will pay for a new football.   When his neighbor gives him a chance to dig night crawlers for fishing bait and agrees to pay him ONE CENT per worm, Henry literally digs in and finds enough worms to buy the new football.  When he is still digging worms past dark, his parents join him at the public park (where he's been alone with his dog Ribsy -- different era) and help him finish the job.  They help him help himself.  Lessons here for my son and for me!  
 I will be forever charmed by Louis Darling's illustration of Mrs. Huggins,
the proper 1950's housewife, digging for night crawlers!

Last stop on the bedtime express is my oldest, eight years old and a READER!  As he waits for me to make my way to his room, he reads.  When I arrive, he tells me about what he has read and sometimes I give him a little more reading time as I read my own book on my phone.  He received a Roald Dahl box set for Christmas and just inhaled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Along with Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy, which we read together last year, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my most beloved childhood books that I never owned.  I regularly checked it out of our little school library.  What a joy to see him enjoy this book!  Plus, I finally have an appreciative audience for my Veruca Salt impression.  The Gene Wilder version of the movie, 40th anniversary edition, is on sale at Target for four bucks this week.  We are looking forward to a movie night this weekend.

Our days are busy, our house is messy, and there is always plenty I need and want to do downstairs, but I never regret time spent with my kids on books before bed.  

What are the current and/or all-time favorite books before bed in your house?  Please share!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Library Ebooks -- Oh My!

I'm not that interested in the ebook versus print debate.  I love the ability to read an ebook on my phone, ipad, or Kindle, but I also LOVE books as objects.  I will continue to read, collect, and buy book books.  If physical books were to disappear, I would be devastated, but I'm now at the point where I would miss ebooks as well (not that they are going anywhere).  I hope the view that more ways for people to read equals more readers/more reading in the world is not too naive.

When I first purchased a Kindle (foolishly, many years ago when one cost about 4x what it does now), I was delighted by the promise that most bestsellers would be available for $9.99 or less.  Many years later, the savvy ebook reader with the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps on her phone and/or tablet can check daily deals on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo to find fantastic ebooks available for a limited time (usually one day or one month) for two or three dollars.  This bargain ebook search is part of my morning routine.

Such discounts are great and do introduce readers to new books and authors.  It's easy to gamble on an unknown or barely known quantity for $1.99.  I admit though that I have now one-clicked my way into more $2 ebooks than I currently have interest in and time for reading.  In fact, buying discounted ebooks is the new version of my old habit of buying hardbacks in the Barnes and Noble Bargain Book aisles.  Unfortunately, I did the bulk of my bargain book buying in the years when I was moving apartments every one or two years.  Nothing like moving box after box of heavy books that you haven't read but thought you might because they were only $5.99.

Though I've always been willing to spend money on books, I have also been a frequent user of the public library.  When I lived in Chicago before the age of the ipod, I regularly scoured five different branches of the Chicago Public Library to find audiobooks on tape and CD to check out.  While there, I made a habit of checking the "new books" shelf and was often pleasantly surprised to find at least one recent release that I would have paid for but could now borrow.  The ability to order and hold books at public libraries makes it even easier to read desired books, especially if you possess patience.

I now have access to one of the most wonderful suburban public libraries imaginable:  The Elmhurst Public Library.  I've known for a couple of years that ebooks and digital audiobooks were available through the EPL, but sort of figured that it would be a technological challenge to download them and that the ebooks available would mostly be public domain titles that I can easily access elsewhere.  WRONG.  It took about five minutes on the library's website to read the tutorial and get started checking out ebooks.  If you want a more recent release, you will have to place a hold and wait until it is your turn, which can take a while.  Unless you are a great advance planner or get lucky, library ebooks are probably not the best choice for book club selections or required school reading.  I personally don't mind the wait.  I like knowing a good book will be coming to me sometime soon(ish) and it's sort of a happy surprise to get the email saying that your ebook title is available.  Life's little pleasures, etc.

I have also been downloading children's titles to my eight year-old's ereader.  The chapter books he reads now can sometimes be finished in a matter of a couple hours so it's fantastic to be able to refuel him at no cost when he is in a voracious reading stage!  My library has a limit of 5 ebooks out on a particular account at one time and there is also a hold limit (not sure what it is, only that I have reached it).  When you finish a book, you can return it digitally.  If you forget, it disappears from your device when your time is up.  Easy peasy.

My first library ebook?  Delia Ephron's Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.  My current library ebook?  Thanks to rave reviews on Goodreads from a grade school friend, I just started Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas.  In the hold queue for?  Want Not by Jonathan Miles, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, and This One is Mine by Maria Semple.  Fingers crossed that they don't all become available at the same time.

Next adventure?  Investigate digital audiobooks through the library.  I can't imagine that I would give up my Audible subscription, but I'd like to be able to supplement as two audiobooks per month are often not enough.

Anyone else test drive the digital content available at your local public library?