I Found The Perfect Christmas Present (hint... its a book!)

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells 
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to read
A two-book Disney treasury!

With the Christmas and holiday seasons fast approaching - its the perfect time to recommend another fabulous source of pure, unadulterated read aloud pleasure for your kids.

My latest find:

The Walt Disney's Donald Duck Christmas Treasury Gift Box Set!

Originally I bought this set and two others (but more about that later), to entice my little ones to read more on their own.

But, what did I know.

These Donald Duck treasuries are also perfect read aloud material!

In order to get them hooked, I thought - I'll just read one story from one of these luxurious treasuries during lunch time to my twins.

Maybe they will like it - and then they will pick them up.

But, boy was I wrong!

It was like magic. 

My twins just went bananas about these comics and then didn't let me worm my way out.

I had to read all the stories ... it became our new lunchtime habit.

And my policy is -  when the twins insist on a specific book for reading aloud - I have to say yes.

The Best Children's Book on The Beatles

There is something inexplicable about The Beatles.

Why were they so interesting?

Even today's children are fascinated with them.

Can it be just the amazing music?

Or their unusual mop tops?

Or maybe the bigger-than-life Beatlemania phenomenon?

Admittedly, they had larger-than-life personalities that helped fuel interest.

Yet, at the same time always seemed like just four ordinary boys who were doing something they love.

My eight-year old twins demonstrated eager interest for The Beatles when I played them some of the classic Fab Four songs.

However, they got really interested when I showed them some videos of the whole Beatlemania phenomenon and a recording of the group's famous last concert on the roof of Apple headquarters at 3 Savile Row!

But, I knew that this fascination with The Beatles was just the top of the iceberg.

There was room for a read aloud rendezvous with the Fab Four in our house.

Why, you ask?

Well, make no mistake, the real story of the individual Beatles is even more interesting than the story of the group.

It is a story of hardship and success.

A story of loss and love.

A story of creativity and genius.

I simply had to find the best read aloud book about The Beatles to read to my children.

The Beatles were not simply a rock and roll group ... they were young people who overcome great challenges because they worked and believed in themselves.

I wanted that story about the individuals behind the group.

The Gardener - A Picture Book Classic

Cover of The Gardener picture book showing little girl on rooftop

Last time around I reviewed a book chosen for you by my beautiful little girl Mila.

Today, I asked Mila's twin brother Ivan to select another special treat for you.

This time Ivan also had full freedom to choose a book for you with no instructions from me or anyone else.

What would he choose?

From our entire home library of more than a thousand children's books.

I must admit I was wondering which book would my son bring me.

My lovely son surprised me.

He chose a fantastically moving picture book - The Gardener.

We have not read it in a long time, more than half a year - I think.

Not many picture books can be defined as true classics, yet this is one of the few that belong to the select group.

The Gardener is not only recognized as fab by Ivan, but it is also a 1997 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year, as well as 1998 Caldecott Honor Book.

Had you asked me just five years ago, I would probably have said that a girl would have chosen The Gardener and that a boy would have chosen The Man Who Lost His Head (Mila's choice last time around).

But this error, just serves to illustrate a good point.

Reading aloud has taught me how little do we truly know about the inner life of our children. 

I mean about their real selves.

Books make that inner life even more complex. Books have a crucial influence.

It is a page by page process.

Children grow into different people after coming into contact with new ideas, images, concepts.

Older man reads a poem while sitting at a table
Uncle Jim reads a poem
written for him by Lydia Grace
Reading aloud helps our kids to evolve together with the times - but in their case time runs faster.

They evolve faster with books.

They evolve yet they still remain kids.

But they become smarter or, even better - more aware of themselves and their surroundings.

They are no longer the same person they would have been ... without children's literature.

And that is the greatest positive power that children's books have over our children.

The power of fostering self-improvement.

How to Become a Timeless Master of the Formidable Art of Reading Aloud

One comes across three types of people in life.

image of sheep lying dead as sacrifice, allegory for reading aloud
a. Those who do.

b. Those who don't.

c. And then there are those who want to (but still don't).

Reading aloud is a form of personal dedication that requires daily sacrifices, strong effort, will power and investment.

Yes, it is not for the feeble-hearted.

Once you commit, there is no way back.

It will knock out a sizeable chunk of your free time every day, leaving much less time for your other personal priorities and forcing you to reschedule some other events.

It is a job without any immediate reward and the possible rewards are down the line, many years down the line. (If they even materialize).

Reading aloud is also not a simple matter, as you need to prepare for your read aloud sessions by previewing every single book that you want to read beforehand.

That means looking at the book from start to finish - and the middle parts too!

That preparation phase can take up twice or three times as long as the reading itself.

The Man Who Lost His Head

image of the front cover of The Man Who Lost His HeadWhat do you think?

Isn't this a great book cover?

I love it!

A cover that is able to attract the attention of children like a powerful magnet.

But what makes this book irresistible for kids is its quirky title.

A children's book called The Man Who Lost His Head!

Imagine that.

And what is that pig doing on the cover?

And did the man really lose his head?

Why is the contour of a head still visible it in the clouds?

Well, I promise that by the end of the book you will have the answer to all of those questions that I just mentioned.

Anyway.... this is another fabulous addition from my favorite children's book set EVER.

The book set and book series in question is the amazing New York Review Children's Collection that I reviewed early on on my blog.

If you like The Man Who Lost His Head you can also check out some of my other reviews of NY Review children's books such as The Two Cars, Wolf Story, Beyond The Pawpaw Trees, Wee Gillis and The Sorely Trying Day.

But back to the present.

I rarely share the reasons why I choose a certain book for a review at a given moment, but this time I will spill the beans this time around.

My lovely daughter Mila yesterday decided it was time for her to choose a book for me to review, so I was more than happy to acquiesce.

"May I choose a book you will write about on the Internet for your hobby?"

Could I say no?

So, Mila did her best to find a book that:

a. we have already read
b. I have not reviewed yet

After almost a dozen hit and misses, Mila brought The Man Who Lost His Head to my desk.

Mila thanks for your efforts! And it was a definite yes!

The KnowHow Book of Spycraft

Cover page of The KnowHow Book of SpycraftDo you know that warm feeling of fondly remembering a book you adored while you were a kid?

But now ... you simply do not know where it ended up?

That is exactly what I felt every time when my mind wandered back to one of my childhood favorites - The KnowHow Book of Spycraft.

It was one of those books that one knew was a keeper, even as a child.

Alas, I "lost it" (polite way of saying that my parents probably got rid of it).

Fortunately, I stumbled upon The KnowHow Book of Spycraft recently after I was able to piece two and two together and remember its name.

Looking at it again, from a distance of several decades, I could not believe it was still around, but also how interesting and relevant it remained for modern kids.

I could see that the publisher simply had to publish it again in 2013 on the book's 40th anniversary, as it remained unsurpassed even for kids of the new millennial generation.

I predict it will be around for a long time.