Thursday 3: Getting Ready for Easter

I’m excited for Easter this year because my daughter will spend it with us rather than with her grandparents.  My parents usually have Ladybug spend her Spring Break with them, and last year it meant that she was there for Easter.  We still celebrated Spring officially at the May Day Festival like we always do, but Easter passed by without any colored eggs or baskets or bunnies.  This year, I’d like to make up for that.  After the winter we’ve had (are still having, it seems), we will be celebrating every spring related holiday we can find.   Our plans so far include a family lunch and fancy clothes  because it’s time to come out of our winter hibernation, dress up, and enjoy the weather–even if it doesn’t really feel quite like spring yet. :)

In preparation for the festivities, we have been reading, of course.  Here are our picks:



Chester’s Colorful Easter Eggs by Therese Smythe – A good choice to read before coloring eggs for the first time perhaps.  Cute and colorful picture book for preschoolers.

The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen – Ever wonder where the Easter Bunny comes from?  Here’s a possibility.  I don’t think it’s canon or anything, but it’s a sweet story.  And it’s fun to speculate about the bunny’s back story.

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs by Janet Morgan Stoeke – Simple story for the very young about the silly hen who never seems to know what’s going on, which is a big factor in kid humor as I’ve written about before.

You can read about our last Easter celebration (from 2011) here, complete with our spring related book picks from back then.

Did you miss last week’s Thursday 3 on my photo blog?  3 Funny Graphic Novels for Kids

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The Spirit of Christmas in Picture Books

What does Christmas mean to you?  For me, it is a cultural holiday centered on family and generosity.  Here are a few books that I think capture the spirit of Christmas that will appeal to families who also celebrate culturally.


christmasquietThe Christmas Quiet Book is Deborah Underwood’s follow-up to The Quiet Book and The Loud Book, and it is perfect for sharing with kids during the holiday season.  Each page shows one quiet moment.  There is “hoping for a snowy day quiet” and “trying to stay awake quiet.”  All the familiar sights of Christmas are there, including the tree, presents, and a Christmas play.  The play’s quiet moments are “forgotten line quiet” and “helpful whisper quiet,” and only observant readers will likely notice the three kings bearing presents on the stage.  Other than that, the book is quite universal in it’s celebration of the quieter side of Christmas.

christmasevegoodnightI think The Christmas Quiet Book would make a great bedtime book during the holiday season, but in case you need another sleepy story in your Christmas bedtime repertoire, try Christmas Eve Good Night by Doug Cushman.  In cute rhyming verse, readers are asked how various Christmas or winter related animals and others say good night.  We see a polar bear mother and cub who “grrr” good night, a nutcracker father and son who “crack!” good night, and many others.  We end with Santa calling good night to all as he flies over the earth with a giant bag of presents.

justrightJust Right for Christmas by Birdie Black is a great book for sharing the spirit of generosity that many of us associate with the holiday season.  It has a similar story as Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree, in which one giant tree makes several smaller trees.  In this book, a beautiful piece of cloth makes several gifts when the scraps are shared.  At the end, we see everyone skating together, from the king and his daughter who started the book to the little mouse who made a scarf from a small scrap and everyone in between.  This is a great opportunity to talk about how we can give from our surplus to help others.  I also like that most of the characters make their gifts since my family is going to be giving some handmade gifts this season.

merrylittlechristmasA Merry Little Christmas: Celebrate from A to Z by Mary Engelbreit is an alphabetical look at one little mouse family’s celebration from the angel that tops their tree to the “zillion ways Christmas brings cheer.”  We also get occasional looks at Santa’s workshop for E (elves) and N (North Pole), but the focus of the book is really on the family.  They do everything together and exude happiness in almost every spread.  Other than the angel tree topper and the Yule log, which I was only vaguely familiar with, their Christmas was pretty universal.

pynThe last book is my favorite.  A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea is a lovely book about a father and daughter living in a wintry home.  The gruff father tells his daughter “My name is Oother” when she calls him Papa, and he says “We’ll see” to little Pyn’s wish for a Christmas tree.  Pyn is persistent, however, and the two end up bonding over a tree they cut down together after saying a prayer to thank the tree (the only religious aspect to the story). I love the depth of emotion in this book from Oother and Pyn.  It beautifully captures the way that holidays can bring families together.  I highly recommend this book.

What are some of your favorite Christmas picture books?

For more about secular family life, see my Secular Thursday page or check out the Books for Secular Families Amazon Book Shop.  A portion of purchases made from links on this site benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support!

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

If you’re not out shopping for Black Friday deals today, you may at least be starting to think about what you are going to give this holiday season now that Thanksgiving is over.  As you might imagine, I like to give books. :)

Here are a few ideas for you to give books this year too.

Gift Books for Little Kids:


  • I like to stick with the basics.  The cute basics.  LMNO Peas and 1-2-3 Peas by Keith Baker are about as adorable as vegetables get, and they introduce numbers and letters as a bonus.  If your style is more retro than cute, try Apple Pie ABC and One, Two That’s My Shoe by Alison Murray.

Gift Books for Bigger Kids:

Gift Books for Future Scientists:


Gift Books for Grown-Up Science Buffs:

Gift Books for Artists, Poets, & Musicians:


  • Remember I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail from this post?  Perfect gift book for anyone interested in poetry, language, or design.
  • Record Collecting for Girls kind of limits the audience in the title, but it’s a great book for anyone interested in indie music (of either gender). I blogged about it here and here.
  • Everyone is talking about How Music Works by David Byrne.  I haven’t seen this one yet, but it may be worth checking out for the musician in your life.

Will you be giving books this year?  Which books do you like to give?

A portion of purchases made from links on this site benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support!  I might also point out that zines make great stocking stuffers.  My zines are available online here!  I also have books and blog related merch in my Cafepress shop.

Halloween Reflections

I know I’ve been accused of turning everything into a Learning Experience, and some people think that means sucking the fun out of everything.  I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that because I think we had a great Halloween, thank you very much.

We traipsed up and down the streets of our neighborhood with the “park friends” and their parents.  We had a dinosaur, a fairy princess, a ballerina and my little witch all excitedly carrying around their bags of candy and doing what they are rarely allowed to do: be out walking around after dark.

But that isn’t all there is to it.  Wait for it…. Halloween is also an opportunity to build social skills.  For the shy kids, this means meeting new people in a safe space.  For all kids, you can talk about (& model) the ways we are good neighbors–respecting property, being friendly, not littering, etc.   In our group, we also addressed not asking for more candy, not ringing a door bell more than once, and staying on the sidewalk.  We also discussed  whether it was polite to ask if there were treat alternatives for kids with food allergies.  We weren’t sure on that one.

It was a learning experience for us too.  Next year we may try to go with a smaller group.  I will definitely wear better walking shoes, and I’ll at least throw a witch’s hat on or something.  Everyone ought to get in the spirit of things, including me.  Even if I do suck the fun out of everything. :)

More about the Hidden Lessons of Halloween from Parent Further.

Halloween Beyond Candy

Costumed kids dancing at Calhoun Square HallowEve

I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween, and I fully admit it: I didn’t get it.  Why would you take your kids out after dark to strangers’ homes to get candy?  I could not fathom why people would do this.  I guess it was something I had to experience to appreciate because I definitely get it now.  I enthusiastically wrapped up in a blanket to sit outside my apartment building with a giant bowl of candy yesterday evening to watch my neighborhood come alive.

It isn’t about candy or costumes.  It’s about community.  A Canadian mom offers 7 Reasons Why Your Kids Should Trick or Treat in Your Neighborhood.  For one:

“For parents of young children walking around the neighbourhood with their little trick-or-treaters, it’s a chance to meet other parents doing the same thing. It’s another chance to talk to your neighbours, share a laugh and help to turn a bunch of people who live in the same geographic location into a community.”

This year, we did it all.  We went to a library Halloween program, the local mall-o-treating event (pictured above), and up and down our block with the neighborhood kids.   I’m already excited to do it again next year.


Happy Spring!

“Is it still spring?” Ladybug asked as we bundled up in sweatshirts yeaterday. I tried to explain that spring is an in-between season that is sometimes warm and sometimes cold, but I’m not sure she believed me. Nonetheless, we have spent the past week or so celebrating spring in as many ways as we could find. It has been a long and snowy winter in Minnesota, and I am ready to celebrate that we are so much closer to the Minnesota summers I love so much.

As usual, we began our family celebration in books. Ladybug liked Mouse’s First Spring by Lauren Thompson. We have read several Mouse books now, and she likes the familiar character. The books are simple and colorful–perfect for preschoolers. I liked Mama, Is It Summer Yet by Nikki McClure for the unique illustrations. I also appreciated the long list of activities in It’s Spring by Linda Glaser. We’ve used these books to watch for signs of spring as we walk around our neighborhoods. It’s great to see Ladybug get excited about flowers blooming or at the sight of a robin.

We also joined in a family Easter Egg hunt with Ladybug’s cousins searching for colored eggs (some plastic with candy inside, some hard-boiled, decorated), which was fun. The kids got to gorge on candy, and the adults got to enjoy one another’s company. Just as we didn’t do Santa (See this post for more about that), we aren’t doing the Easter Bunny either. I explained to Ladybug that everyone was going to pretend that the Easter Bunny hid the eggs, and it would be fun to pretend. I’ve said before, we love pretending with her, but I’m not willing to pretend to her.  We focus our sense of wonder for Easter on nature.  The “magic” there isn’t going to go away.

We also attempted to color eggs for the first time. It was kind of a bust. They all look pink, but they were supposed to pink, purple, yellow, and blue. We’ll try again next year. Sorry, kid. Your mom’s a noob.

My favorite way to celebrate spring, though, is at the May Day Festival in Powderhorn Park. I just discovered this long-running festival last year, and I fell in love. It’s a celebration of art and peace in addition to the stories that have symbolized spring for so many years. The parade is a theatrical performance more than just a parade. We saw beauty and hope amidst pointed statements about our world all in the context of reflection as we move ahead. Yes, it was cold this year. But it was worth it to be one of so many coming together to celebrate so much.

Happy spring everyone!  Let’s make the most of it.