Four dragon themed books

Mon Cœur (MC) really has missed story time at the library, and although we can’t attend in person, at least our regional library is bringing it to us through Storytime @ Home.  Now that the library is open again, MC and I have been trying to make a weekly trip out there to check out books.  We get the added bonus of sometimes seeing our storyteller librarian, too!

I’ve talked before about how I’m figuring out the best possible routines for us at home and for MC to learn at home. I’ve decided that if all else fails, I can’t go wrong checking out a handful of good children’s literature based around the same theme.  Studies show that it takes 17 (seventeen!!) encounters to learn a new word. Experiencing these words in different books, in meaningful contexts provides opportunities to solidify the meaning of the word. MC loves to read, it’s a great way for us to spend time together, and by sticking with one theme, she is repeatedly exposed to the same or similar vocabulary.  

As I am focused on building a bilingual environment, too, it’s helpful to approach themes and curate book selections in both French and English. This allows us to build awareness of cognates and create meaning and relationships between languages. To read more about vocabulary instruction, check out this Reading Rockets article.

RELATED: How I create a themed learning unit for my toddler, in six steps.

We recently checked out some books with dragon/castle/knight themes to read at home.  We were inspired to explore dragons based on the short story and sticker competition in MC’s August Toupie Magazine.

RELATED: Read more about Toupie Magazine and our international correspondence here.

We had checked out about fifteen or so books around the theme, and after reading through all of them over the course of two weeks, we found four winners.

The Dragon Tamers by James Russell

Why we loved this book: [Spoiler alert:] MC loves this book because “the dragon came home with the boys.”

I loved the illustrations by Link Choi – they are beautiful and simple, with plenty of information to sit and discuss the pictures with MC.

There is a fun rhyming scheme (ABCB) throughout the whole book and it incorporates robust vocabulary (words like forbidden, treasure, scorched, filthy).  It’s a great adventure story with humor that can be appreciated by parent and child alike. 

This book is part of a series, so we are looking forward to reading more of these as they become available at the library.

The Dragon’s Toothache by Annie Besant

Why we loved this book:  MC said, hands down, “The rooster.”  I would like to clarify – yes there is a rooster in this book, and yet the 2nd through 10th times reading this book she argued with me that it was a chicken and I should not call it a rooster.  Exasperated, I finally pointed to the word, spelled it, and read it to her saying, “Mommy’s not making this up – she’s reading what the words say in the book!”

The story encourages problem solving and persevering, and it’s a simple enough story that MC could retell it using the images.  There was one particular page [pictured below] where she was able to use the images as well as her memory to “read” the page to me.

Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori

Why we loved this book:  “I liked the penguin,” MC told me.

This is a story within a story, with a message of love and the lesson that, “Sometimes things happen for a reason.” I tell myself that all the time.  It’s a story of penguins and dragons, of ice and fire, scales and feathers, and fitting in, standing out, and making the most of what you’ve got.

This was one of our favorites to read and reread. It’s about a brave dragon, a courageous penguin, and relationships that are built along the way.

Be a Good Dragon by Kurt Cyrus

Why we loved this book: “The snot.” That was MC’s reason, not mine.  Gahhh! Toddlers…

It’s a story about a sick dragon learning social courtesies (cover that sneeze!) and self care (drink plenty of fluids “abracadabrew” and get plenty of rest).  Both are timely lessons to reinforce.

I love how the poor little sick dragon talks throughout the book – it helps bring the story to another level – “Bake be all bedder!” “I’b sick! I’b sick! Oh, Baba!” I really enjoyed reading these parts, and since we read it over and over I was able to practice and get better reading these parts!

What themes have you enjoyed reading with your children recently?

Book Review: Serious Goose

Another great read Mon Cœur (MC) received for Christmas was Serious Goose by Jimmy Kimmel. Everyone knows what a silly goose is, but what exactly is a serious goose?

Kimmel recognizes the serious side of parenting while letting those of that flock know sometimes you have to loosen up and let your feathers fly. I love how the inside flap reads, for all parents (including me!) who may have flustered wings, and be pressed to get some other project accomplished.



This is a great book to read when you’re in any mood, and especially helpful for me if either I am in a grouchy mood or if MC is being a grump. Below are three reasons MC and I love this book:

It lends to role playing

We make faces to correspond with the goose in the book – we love looking serious and playing with our eyebrows to look mean, mad and angry. I mean serious.

When the goose makes her transformation from serious to silly, we enjoy smiling and giggling with her.

We use our serious voices and our silly voices, use lots of finger pointing to act serious. We also make faces, silly noises, and are goofy to try to make the goose laugh.

It’s so silly and punny

Who would think to dress a goose as a moose or order a pizza with snails? The illustrations, especially the one where the goose finally smiles, make me laugh.

The pizza is “Honk & delicious” The serious goose reads headlines from the paper, “Take a Gander!” He also delights in reading the tome War and Geese. Kimmel adds these small details which delight the adult reader and perhaps, help make him/her less of a serious goose!

It issues a direct challenge

Everyone loves a challenge and there’s page with a mirror where the child is challenged to make faces, sounds, and be a silly goose. But it doesn’t matter, the book says, because the goose will not laugh – she’s a serious goose. We like to spend extra time investing in all sorts of goofy faces to try to make the goose laugh.

It really only does take a few minutes to read, and by the end, if you haven’t cracked a smile at least, you really are one serious goose.

What do you love about Kimmel’s Serious Goose? Do you know of other books that can crack a smile when you’re feeling otherwise irritable?

Book Review: Little Prince Board Books

Ever since I read Le Petit Prince in high school for French class, I have loved it.  Like, from the first page and the first picture.  If you’ve never read it – I highly recommend it.  It’s a quick read (85 pages with pictures sprinkled throughout).  Although may be a quick read, the content settles in your soul and makes you contemplate all the symbolism for much longer.

I’ve read the book many times since then, and every time I do, something new speaks to me.  Every time I read it, I’m a little wiser.  Below are some of my favorite gems from the book:

The Fox on being tamed

“One does not see well except with the heart.  The essential is invisible to the eyes.” Fox shares his secret with the Little Prince before his departure.

The fox also tells the Little Prince how words create misunderstandings, but by just sitting next to someone, investing time in them, creating a bond with them, one can tame or domesticate them.

The Rose and what makes someone special

The fox teaches the Prince that despite there being a whole garden of roses, his rose can be special and unique to him.  

The Little Prince visits the rose garden again. “You’re lovely, but you’re empty,” he went on. “One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three for butterflies.) Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.” 

Mono No Aware and the color of honey

“I had drunk the water. I could breathe easy now.  The sand, at daybreak, is honey colored.  And that color was making me happy, too.  Why then did I also feel so sad?”

When I read the final chapters with a class this past semester, I had a whole new context that I was bringing to it, a whole new level of understanding. And a boat load of tears.

Recently, I learned about the Japanese concept of Mono No Aware. The bittersweet feelings of happiness for having known or experienced something that will not last. As I read the quote above, it hit me again – Mono No Aware. It’s so remarkable that a simple scent, color, sound, or texture could provide a link to a memory and concurrently a pang of sadness, too.

The Little Prince is a book for kids, but the message speaks to us all.  Even though this is a “kid’s book,” it’s a little above Mon Cœur’s (MC) current attention span or word to picture ratio.  I can’t wait for the day when we can read this book together.

So I was more than excited to find Little Prince board books – Meet the Little Prince and Travels with the Little Prince at a local bookstore.  It introduces the characters (the Prince, the fox, and the rose) and the story in a concise, toddler-friendly fashion.  Bonus: Meet the Little Prince, was written bilingual French-English.

MC enjoys these books immensely, and tells me the characters each time.  This is a great way to introduce the story without reading the book, and it will build interest and background for MC for when we do read the book together when she’s a little older.

Have you read The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry? Please share your favorite gem in the comments section!

Book Review: The Gruffalo

But who is this creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws? He has knobbly knees and turned out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.  His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, he has purple prickles all over his back.

Mon Cœur (MC) received this sweet little gem of a book for Christmas. After reading it a few times at bedtime, I wondered if it was a little too frightening for right before wishing her “sweet dreams.”

Although Gruffalo’s quite a beast, she is not easily scared away. She continues to choose this book among her top three every evening. Chouchou and I love this book, too, and happily read it to her with our most monstrous voices.

Three reasons we love The Gruffalo

1. Sing-song rhyming and repetition: The author, Julia Donaldson, has a gift with words. When I read it, it’s like the words are dancing across the page, spinning the story of the mouse and Gruffalo. She weaves animals, forest settings, and food dishes together to make silly rhymes. For example: “Where are you meeting him?” ” Here by these rocks, and his favorite food is roasted fox.”

In addition, I love the repetition of words and phrases. MC is at a stage now that she is able to figure our patterns of repetition and sing along with songs or “read” along in books. I enjoy any book that has repetitive, predictable phrasing so that she may participate in the reading with us.

2. Survival of the wittiest mouse: Poor mouse is just looking for a bite to eat, when three different predators try to “invite” him to their home for consumption. Mouse is so smart, he makes up the beastliest beast to scare each animal off, but then he realizes this monster of his imagination truly exists!  So then he has to outwit the Gruffalo, and in the end, that intelligent little mouse scares away any would-be predators and gets his snack.

3.  The formatting of the text: It may seem minor, or even silly, but I really love when authors differentiate between speakers. Yes, yes, they use quotation marks, of course. It just makes for an easier read and better flow when there is a little something extra. Donaldson uses italics to help the banter between animals flow back and forth.

The format of the text and images on the pages also reflects the predictable and repetitive phrasing I had mentioned earlier. It makes for an enjoyable reading experience, no matter how many times we read it.

I was surprised to learn that the Gruffalo is celebrating his 20th anniversary this year. I knew he was after my childhood, but I imagined he was younger than 20. There is an official Gruffalo website with resources, activities, and games that are tied to one of Donaldson’s many books. I found finger puppets for our next read, and a recipe for Gruffalo Crumble. Hmm, I was thinking a sweet crumble like apple or peach…but I suppose Gruffalo are saltier, as the recipe suggests. MC and I may still give it a go and we’ll keep you posted.

Book Review: Hedgehog Needs a Hug

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Attributed to Plato

I’m feeling a little down and out and could use a hug today, so I chose this recent library read to review…In the picture above, I did not ask Mon Cœur (MC) to pose/pout and she really was in a spectacular mood, I guess she was just channeling the hedgehog’s feelings!

There are so many reasons to love Hedgehog Needs a Hug by Jen Betton (click on this link for reviews, as well as really cute projects, craftivities, and discussion guides for the book).

  • It features all our favorite forest animals – rabbits, raccoons, turtles, foxes, and skunks.
  • There’s a sing songy alliteration describing how the animals move – the fox sly-slink-slides.
  • The story has a universal message that everyone needs a little love and kindness.
  • The illustrations are beautiful, and we love talking about what we see on each page. Every time we read, we find something new to discuss.

This book goes great with a couple of other books featuring prickly animals that we love to read:

  • Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson
  • How do You Hug a Porcupine? by Laurie Isop