Mar 27, 2015

KidPages: Three Picture Books for Spring

The grass is greening up, the daffodils are opening, the air is warm and fragrant . . . and our book basket is overflowing with spring picture books (a sure sign that spring is finally here!). Here are three of our favorites:

1. Hatch, Little Egg by Édouard Manceau

For me, this little book conveys the essence of spring: the wonder and anticipation, but also the surprise and unexpectedness of it all.

Told completely in dialogue, the animals are racing over to see the chick hatch out of the egg. They come on motorcycles and cars with their cameras slung around their necks. They can hardly wait. They're afraid they might miss it, but luckily they arrive just before the first crack appears. They gather around in giddy anticipation . . . but what comes out of that egg is not at all what they were expecting.

I love a picture book that looks like it's going along a predictable path and then veers off to something completely surprising, and this book does that very, very well. I also love that it addresses a fear that I know many children have--that of doing something new in front of an audience. Kids like to be able to test the water, explore new territory, and try new things without everyone watching and cheering them on. (Of course, some kids love an audience and the accompanying applause, but this book is for the kids who don't.)

I will admit that it took me a couple of times through the book to know how to read it. Like I said above, it's told solely in dialogue, but it's mainly just exclamatory phrases: "Ooooh! Here we go!" "Look! There is it!" "The egg is hatching! The egg is hatching!" etc. You don't really know who's saying what, and they're not very descriptive to the overall plot. But then I discovered that if I simply point to one of the animals as I'm saying the exclamation, it merges the text and pictures together, and I think having the story told through joyful cries really contributes to the overall feeling of excitement.

2. Jack's Garden by Henry Cole

Adaptations of The House That Jack Built are almost as common (and frequently as poorly done) as those of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (why anyone thinks it will be funny if that old lady swallows a bell or a rose instead, I'll never know).

So I was, as you might guess, just a bit dubious of Jack's Garden, but I'm glad I gave it a chance (and I beg you to do the same).

It begins on an empty garden plot with Jack standing in the middle, shovel in hand. Behind him, there's a tree with clusters of white blossoms--our first indication that it's spring--and of course the words that tell us right away the kind of book we're getting into: "This is the garden that Jack planted."

But this is why I love this book: While the text follows the expanding pattern we're all familiar with, the illustrations take on a different role entirely--that of teacher. There's a large picture in the middle of the page, but around the edges, the reader is introduced to the various cast members that play a role in making a successful and authentic garden.

For example, when the text reads, "These are the seeds . . ." the borders are filled with little piles of seeds--lupines and phlox and hollyhock, all perfectly detailed so that you would be able to recognize them if you held a few of them in your hand. My favorite page (that goes with "This is the rain . . ." ) showcases the various kinds of clouds that might bring that much needed rain to your little seedlings.

There is just so much to look at and talk about. It feels almost like a reference manual--like something you could take out with you to your own garden and use to identify that mysterious wild flower that just popped up in the corner or that armored beetle creeping along a stem. But still, through it all, you've got the running anthem of "the garden that Jack planted," and it just ties up the whole thing into a great little package that's very interesting and engaging for kids.

3. Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

If you like Hervé Tullet's Press Here, you definitely need to check out Tap the Magic Tree. Told in a similar style, it invites the reader to perform various actions, but instead of colored dots, the creative medium is a tree. Touch each bud on the tree and soon it is covered in blossoms; shake the tree and the apples fall down; blow on the tree and the leaves fly away.

This book is as much about the four seasons as it is about spring. But it begins and ends in spring, so I figure if you can only choose one season for it to be about, spring's the best choice.

The first changes happen slowly, gradually. The opening page is just a bare brown tree. It looks dead, but there is life there, just waiting to come out. Tap here, and tap there, and green leaves begin to appear. Before you know it, the tree is full and beautiful once more.

I love it that the tree is referred to as magic because spring really does feel magical to me. Look one day, and the tree is empty; look the next, and it is somehow, miraculously, magically, covered in white blossoms. The changes happen slowly but then all in a rush. Buds stay tightly closed for days and then magically open up over night. It's such a thrilling season, and this book captures that feeling.

Also, can I just say how much I love interactive picture books that do not rely on flaps? Nothing to worry about tearing out of this book. Just enjoy.

What picture books have delighted you this spring?

Mar 25, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Chances are you've seen this book around. It seems like everyone is reading it. And everyone is raving about it.

Since my life feels like it's in an ever-fluctuating state of chaos, I didn't need all the glowing testimonials to be convinced I wanted to read it. I waited for months through the long library hold list until it was finally my turn.

It's a small and slim volume, which was a pleasant surprise since these types of books so often look like they belong in the textbook section.

But after reading the first chapter, the thing I found even more surprising than that was that this little book has such a wide following. I honestly can't believe it's on the international bestseller list--and not because it's a bad book.

But it is, for lack of a better word, trite. Several years ago, I read Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley (better known as FlyLady). I found her book extremely helpful and motivating, but although she certainly has a following of devoted fans, her book is just not bestseller material. It's quaint, it makes bold promises, it feels a little contrived.

Just like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I felt like both were helpful books. I'm glad I've read both books. But I didn't see anything especially revolutionary about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (unless naming a method after yourself makes something revolutionary and not egotistical). Nothing to warrant its place on everyone's to-read list. Nothing to garner the multitude of praises it's been getting. It's a book about de-cluttering and organizing your life. But suddenly that topic is one of profound interest to everyone. I'm just a little baffled is all.

But let me tell you about it. And then maybe you can tell me what I'm missing.

Marie Kondo is a personal organizer in Japan. Her method (coined the KonMari Method) is based on the idea that "tidying," when done correctly, is a one-time event. You begin by going through all your possessions (clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and sentimental items (in that order)) and only keep the things that bring you joy. That is the key. You physically touch each item, and if it gives you a little thrill, you keep it; if it doesn't, then away to the Goodwill it goes.

Once you have reduced your possessions to only the things that bring you joy, then, and only then, you put them away in your house. You store things by category and make sure that every item has a place where it belongs.

And that's it! Your home will be peaceful, clean, and clutter-free for the rest of your life (because the KonMari method boasts no relapses). Now go fulfill your life's calling.

Okay, so I'm being a little sarcastic, and I apologize for that. I actually agreed with a lot about this book and am going to go through all my possessions while asking myself the simple, but profound, question, Does this bring me joy? My possessions should not be a burden, and I don't want to be a slave to things I don't really care about. Reading this book gave me the freedom to bid a fond farewell to those items I've held onto out of guilt.

But every review I've heard or read of this book has talked about the joy question (as well as how to fold clothes, which I'll get to in a minute), so I'm going to focus on some of the issues I had with this book in the hopes that some of you who loved it (I'm looking at you, Suzanne!) can tell me how to overcome these pitfalls.

First and foremost, I don't think Marie Kondo has children, nor does she spend much time living in her home. I'm not holding this against her, but there is a world of difference between being gone for most of the day and returning to a home exactly as you left it and being at home all day every day with four little boys. I get it that if I reduce our possessions, it will make it easier to keep things tidy, but it will still take a tremendous amount of effort.

Even if we get to the point where my boys get out a game and immediately pick it up after playing it (something we're still working on), there is still a hefty amount of living that goes on in our house. There are snacks and mealtimes (which total at least five a day), play time, accidents, crafts, cooking, running inside and outside, and a baby who lives to make a mess.

Oh, and the laundry! The laundry, people! It is the bane of my existence. I don't think Marie Kondo has any idea the amount of laundry that six people generate on a daily basis. She would be appalled. Even if all four of my kids only wore one outfit a day (a noteworthy event for sure), it would still be an incredible amount of laundry.

Which brings me to the KonMari art of folding clothes, which is this: fold each item into a neat little package that you arrange vertically in your drawer so that when you pull it open, you can see exactly which clothes it contains at a glance. This is an almost heavenly image to me, and, just like heaven, it feels about as attainable. For those of you who have implemented this strategy, I am so curious how you've done it. Do you fold the laundry by your dresser and put each item away as you fold it? Do you fold your kids' clothes in the same way? How do you keep them from rifling through their drawers (because even though they could see everything at once, I guarantee you my kids would still shuffle everything around)? How have you taught your kids to fold this way? Have you been able to sustain this type of folding for a long period of time? These are the pitfalls I see. I still want to try it, but I'm just afraid it won't last.

Now let me talk about the de-cluttering order. First come clothes. I can do that. Then books. I can do that (although Marie Kondo says, "Books are essentially paper--sheets of paper printed with letters and bound together. Their true purpose is to be read, to convey the information to their readers. It's the information they contain that has meaning. There is no meaning in their just being on your shelves." She obviously does not have a love affair with books, that's all I'm saying). Then papers. I can do that. And then komono.

Komono is this broad miscellaneous category that includes everything that isn't clothes, books, paper, or sentimental (which comes later). In my opinion, this is where most Americans will falter. Maybe the Japanese are more natural minimalists, and so the komono category isn't overly daunting. But I can see myself going through my clothes, books, and papers and then getting overwhelmed with how to tackle the illusive komono which will include everything from toys, kitchen gadgets, and craft supplies to DVDs, music, and sports equipment. Thankfully, within the komono section, she does break it down into smaller categories, but it still seemed overwhelmingly broad to me.

With all of the praises for this book, I've heard very little said about the fact that Marie Kondo addresses possessions as if they have souls. And that surprises me because those were the places where, in my mind, it went from being practical advice to bordering on the ridiculous. I am a firm believer in taking care of your possessions, but the idea that you shouldn't fold your socks a certain way or that you should empty your bag every day because those items worked hard for you with nary a word of criticism or complaint is just absurd. These were the parts of the book that I read aloud to Mike because they were almost comical to me, and these were the moments where I found it so hard to believe that this book is as popular as it is. Maybe I was reading too much into it. Maybe the translation from Japanese to English tampered with the original tone. Maybe she was trying to convey the importance of gratitude and respect in regard to our possessions, but it doesn't necessarily read that way.

Let me show you what I mean. Here's a brief excerpt:
"When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes. Folding properly pulls the cloth taut and erases wrinkles, and makes the material stronger and more vibrant. Clothes that have been neatly folded have a resilience and sheen that can be discerned immediately, clearly distinguishing them from those that have been haphazardly stuffed in a drawer. The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle. Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies."
And finally, even if I loved everything about the book, I still don't think I could implement it entirely because I believe a home is meant to be lived in, and it should look like someone lives in it. I think things should be neat and tidy, but I'm going to keep my soap by the kitchen sink and my clean dishes in the drainer, and my rolling pin on the counter, and I'm going to be okay with it. I'm okay with people knowing that I cook and clean and eat in my kitchen. I'm referring specifically to her suggestion to keep your soap under the sink and your clean dishes drying on the veranda so that your counters can be completely free of clutter. But this seemed a bit extreme to me.

There were other things I didn't like (taking every photo out of the photo albums to determine if it brings you joy; not keeping a supply of any essential items) and other things I did like (remembering that storage should "reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out"; asking yourself, "Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or becuase of a fear for the future?"), but I've touched on my main impressions of the book.

I know all of this probably seems overly critical, but it's just that all the reviews I've read have been heavy on the praise and light on the problems, so I decided to do the reverse. I hope those of you who loved it will comment because I'll bet we actually agree on a lot of things. And I hope those of you who weren't as thrilled with it will also comment so I know I'm not alone (although maybe that's a false hope, and I really am alone--the one person in the entire world who didn't think The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was all that life-changing.)

Mar 24, 2015

My Favorite Time of Year

Green is new
in spring. Shy.
Green peeks from buds,
trembles in the breeze.
Green floats through rain-dark trees,
and glows, mossy-soft, at my feet.
Green drips from tips of leaves
            onto Pup's nose.
In spring,
even the rain tastes Green.

--from Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman

Friday was the official first day of spring, and for once in Utah, it actually felt like it. My mom was here visiting, and I remarked to her, "This is what spring is supposed to be like."

The crocuses and daffodils and hyacinths are the welcoming committee. Many of the trees have already opened up their buds and are clouds of frothy white or pink. The air tingles with the scent of magnolia trees. The sky is blue. The temperature sits at a comfortable 70 degrees. My kids are playing tag in bare feet.

Mike bought a truckload of mulch on Friday and spent the weekend delivering it to all of the beds in our backyard and spreading it out over our empty garden plot. We haven't planted anything yet, but soon.

On Sunday I accompanied a couple as they sang a song entitled "How Can I Keep from Singing?" And honestly, as I walked over to the church to practice it with them ahead of time, I felt those words so powerfully. My heart was so full of gratitude for such an absolutely gorgeous day that I didn't know if I could keep it contained or if it would burst forth in careless abandon.

I'm telling you, sunshine on my face is good for my soul.

This week started out rainy, but I don't mind it one bit. How can you begrudge the very thing that is waking up the ground and giving sustenance to the new life that's opening up? I'm just so grateful it isn't snow. Rain feels as much a part of spring as the daffodils and sunshine. Like the poem above says, In spring / even the rain tastes Green.

I think spring is the time of year when I most wish I was a better photographer. I just want a way to capture and document the joy I feel inside. But my pictures never adequately express it, and neither do my words.

But even if I can't play it back for myself in perfect clarity, it doesn't really matter. Every year, it comes back, and I get to experience the wonder and magic all over again.

P.S. Do you love spring, too? Read my gushings from last year: Treasure Trove and The Princess in Our Front Yard. And tell me what you love best about this time of year!

Mar 20, 2015

Poetry Memorization With Kids

Last year, I started memorizing poems with my kids. We started with "Spaghetti, Spaghetti" by Shel Silverstein and went on from there.

Sounds so simple, right? 

But would you believe me if I told you that reading and memorizing poetry with your kids actually is simple . . . and fun, too? I don't know if I would have believed that a year ago since at that time I was strategically avoiding any and all poetry collections. But several things prompted me to change my mind, and now my kids and I love to sit down with a hefty volume and read poem after poem after poem.

Today I have a new post over at What Do We Do All Day. I'm pretending to be an authority on the subject and am sharing 7 tips for how to memorize poems with your kids (but trust me, these tips work).

You can read the full article here.

What is your favorite kid-friendly poem?

Mar 18, 2015

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

I don't know what I was expecting from Danny the Champion of the World but definitely not what I got, I'll tell you that. I guess I just never imagined you could earn the title "Champion of the World" by coming up with an ingenious way to poach pheasants.

Leave it to Roald Dahl to come up with something completely wacky . . . and yet, surprisingly engaging.

Danny and his father live in an old caravan next to the filling station. It is nothing fancy, but the two of them are happy and content, especially if they are working on cars or telling stories (the BFG even makes an appearance at one point in one of Danny's father's stories, which is especially delightful, especially since, at the time, The BFG was still several years away from being published).

Things might have continued on just as they always had if Danny hadn't woken up one night and realized his father wasn't in the caravan with him. Although nine years old, Danny starts to panic just a little. His father finally returns, and when he does, he realizes he has no choice but to let Danny in on his "deep dark secret," which is this: some evenings he likes to creep into the woods and knock off a pheasant or two (although, in his defense, this was his first time doing it since Danny was born. Apparently old habits die hard.) The problem is, the pheasants don't belong to him. They belong to a man named Mr. Hazell, and they reside in Mr. Hazell's wood. In fact, Mr. Hazell has the wood specially stocked with pheasants so that several months later, when they're nice and plump, he can invite the local dignitaries over to hunt the pheasants for sport.

Danny's father has long had a serious dislike for Mr. Hazell (and shares this dislike with almost everyone else in town, including the police). He is not alone in poaching pheasants off Mr. Hazell's land (and his delight from the sport come as much from trying to out-sneak Mr. Hazell as it does his love of roasted pheasant). It turns out, Danny's grandfather is something of a legend for coming up with some of the most successful methods of pheasant poaching.

Until Danny comes along, that is.

After Danny hears about his father's midnight activities, he comes up with a fantastic idea for how to take out all the pheasants in one go. It involves raisins and sleeping pills, and Danny and his father plan to carry it out on the night before Mr. Hazell's big hunting party. They can't wait to see the look on his face when he walks into the wood, all set to impress his esteemed guests, and finds it empty.

Sorry for the rather long summary. I wanted to give those of you who, like me, have not read the book a sense of what it is all about. However, chances are if you're not already familiar with it, that little summary didn't really help and you're still scratching your head, thinking, Say what? This book is about the illegal poaching habits of a nine-year-old boy and his father?

Yes, I know. I've read the entire thing, but I'm still kind of waiting for the punch line. 

The thing is, I had a hard time getting behind the illegal activity because (dare I admit it?) I didn't despise Mr. Hazell enough for it. Sure, he had an insufferable ego and was a bully, but stealing is stealing whether the person deserves it or not. My impassivity could have been because I hadn't had enough interaction with Mr. Hazell. Until the end, the reader's only exposure to him is through second-hand accounts. Those opinions come from Danny's father and Sergeant Enoch Samways and Doc Spencer and Reverend Lionel Clipstone (all highly respectable characters), but nothing they said got my blood boiling or my heart wishing for revenge against Mr. Hazell.

However, and this is a big however, somehow Aaron and Maxwell found my lost passion. They felt what Danny and his father were feeling. They yearned for the success of the mission. They despised Mr. Hazell. All told, I was a little envious of them. I think maybe they were hearing the book the way Roald Dahl intended, and there was a part of me that wished I could conjure up that much excitement over pheasants. Honestly, I felt much more dislike for Danny's teacher, Captain Lancaster, and there was no retribution for him, so obviously my judgement of who deserved what was not lining up with Roald Dahl's.

My favorite part of the story was Danny's relationship with his father. I may not have approved of (or even understood) the allure of poaching, but I couldn't deny Danny and his father's love for each other, which was fierce and loyal. I loved seeing this strong friendship between a father and a son. (Although, I have to say since finishing this book, I find myself looking back and reading a bit too much between the lines--Did Danny care too much about pleasing his father? Did he feel like he had to earn his father's love? etc. etc.)

I can't tell if I'm over thinking it or under thinking it or if I just didn't click with the story. Probably the latter. Maybe I'm just playing too much the part of the responsible parent these days, and so Danny's father just seemed a little on the immature side. But maybe that's why my boys loved it--they could think of nothing more exciting than to have a father who would risk a little danger and trouble for the sake of fun.

Mar 17, 2015

How to Celebrate Pi Day

Earlier this month, we celebrated our one-year anniversary in our home. I would find it hard to believe that it's already been a year except for the fact that we feel so well established in our neighborhood. Seriously, I don't know when else in my life I've put down roots so quickly. It must mean that this is finally home.

One of the things we've loved about our neighborhood is that many of the families have long-standing traditions that happen year after year after year. For example, one family makes groundhog pizza on Groundhog's Day. Another hosts movie nights several times during the summer, complete with an endless supply of cotton candy. In the fall, that same family make enough doughnuts to feed a small army. Around Christmastime, a group of families closes off their street and invites the neighborhood for hot chocolate and scones.

Mike and I love all pf these traditions. But we wanted one of our own. One that new families in the neighborhood would hear about when they first moved in: "Oh, and then Mike and Amy, they do this amazing thing every year. You will definitely want to check it out . . . "

And then we thought of it. Something that happens every year in mid-March that celebrates two things Mike loves: numbers and pie. March 14th. 3.14. Pi Day. What better way to commemorate our home-buying anniversary every year than by inviting our neighbors over for a slice (or two) (or three point one four) of homemade pie?

Even though we thought of this months ago and knew it was the perfect tradition for us, we almost didn't do it. Life got busy. We were caught up in other activities, and it actually sounded a little daunting. It's all well and good to say you're going to invite the entire neighborhood over for pie. It's another to actually do it.

But when we realized that (a) March 14th was on a Saturday, (b) March 13th was an off-Friday for Mike, (c) the weather was supposed to be gorgeous, and (d), it was Pi Day of the century (3.14.15), we knew if we were ever going to do it, this had to be the first year for it. It was just too perfect of a kickoff.

And so we (but mostly Mike) pulled it off. This is how we did it.

Step 1: Plan out your menu. For us, this was chocolate, key lime, cherry, pumpkin, apple, grasshopper, and pecan. (Mike put the official ban on banana cream.)

Step 2: Invite the neighborhood. We tried to let everyone know through a combination of announcements, word-of-mouth, fliers, and a large sign.

Step 3: Don't schedule anything (not even work) on the day before. Reserve it for a pie-making frenzy. Luckily, as I already mentioned, Mike didn't have to go to work on Friday, and to quote him midway through the day (after he'd already churned out fourteen pies): "Can you think of any better way to spend an off-Friday that making pies while listening to Dennis Prager?" Actually, I could think of a lot of things I'd rather be doing. It all looked rather chaotic and stressful to me.

Step 4: Make a banner proclaiming the event. Set up tables and chairs. Spread out the pies.

Step 5: Wait for the people to come.

Step 6: Enjoy the company of good friends and neighbors.

Since we'd never hosted such an event before, it was a little hard to plan for. I thought it was entirely feasible we might get as few people as twelve or as many as two hundred. And Mike absolutely could not bear the thought of running out. So he shot for the upper limit and made twenty-eight* pies. Yes, twenty-eight. I so wish I had taken a picture of all of them because it was rather spectacular.

I tried to keep track of how many people came, and I think we were close to one hundred. I counted this as a success, but it still meant that we had a lot of pie left over.

Which could be seen as a bad thing.

But not if you're Mike and like eating pie for breakfast.

Until next year . . .

*Final count:
  • pecan: 2
  • cherry: 2
  • apple: 3
  • grasshopper: 2
  • strawberry: 2
  • pumpkin: 3
  • chocolate: 7
  • key lime: 7

Mar 13, 2015

KidPages: Frogs by Nic Bishop (or, Why It Pays to Go to Storytime)

Most Tuesday mornings will find us at the library for storytime.

In the realm of storytimes, I think the ones at our library are pretty standard: we listen to a few books, we sing and dance to a few songs, we color a picture at the end. On lucky days, the parachute comes out.

My boys (especially Bradley) love it. And I love it too because I almost always come away with a new book or two I want to take a closer look at.

This last Tuesday was all about frogs and the color green. Annie (the librarian), asked, "What color are frogs?" Many of the kids (including Bradley) called out, "Green!" Then she asked, "Can frogs only be green?" The kids were quiet as they thought about the answer.

Annie pulled out the book Frogs and said, "I want to show you a few pictures in this book." And then, almost as an aside for just the parents, she said, "I love the books by Nic Bishop. They're always full of these great closeup shots of animals." She proceeded to page through and show a few of the frogs in the book (which were, I'll admit, impressive). She then closed the book and launched into a rousing rendition of The Wide-Mouthed Frog.

But I was still stuck back on Nic Bishop's books. I am always on the lookout for interesting nonfiction for my kids, and this was an author I'd never heard of.

After storytime, I looked up the call numbers and found a couple of his books on the shelves. (That alone shows how desperately I wanted them because usually I just reserve what I want so I can pick it all up in one place and not have to go in search of a book when I'm trying to keep an eye on my crazy kids. But I knew these were just the kind of books my kids would love, and I didn't want to forget about them after I got home.)

We checked out both Frogs and Lizards. Even though we'd seen a few of the photographs from Frogs during storytime, we hadn't heard any of the text, and it was fascinating . . . detailed and interesting without being overly wordy or laborious. Did you know that a spadefoot toad can dig itself several feet underground?  Or that "the skin of some dart frogs contains enough poison to kill ten people"? I didn't . . . until I read this book.

At the back of the book, Nic Bishop shares a little bit more about how he captured some of the photos. For example, there's this one incredible shot in the book of a frog leaping out of the water to snag a caterpillar. Nic tells about how he literally had to train the frog to basically jump on command in order to get that photograph. I really love a little behind-the-scenes info.

But really, the photographs are the crowning point of these books. Tiny poison dart frogs, vibrant red-eyed tree frogs, and big, billowy bull frogs. Each one as clear and breathtaking as if you were kneeling right beside it. My very favorite picture is of the glass tree frog. In real life, it is the size of a pea, and its skin is translucent, which means you can see each of its tiny organs. It's amazing to take the photo in the book and shrink it down in your mind to its real-life size, which is something so fragile and tiny and intricate it makes you gasp in awe.

Alas, there are only six books in this series (and I'm a bit fearful to check out the one on spiders--the larger-than-life photos might be a little too vivid for my liking). I wish there were dozens more. But a few of them have been converted into easy readers, which I'm anxious to check out for Maxwell. And besides his own books, Nic Bishop's photographs have also graced the pages of several other nonfiction works, including the Scientist in the Field series. (Aaron actually checked out one of them, The Snake Scientist, several months ago, and it was quite a bit more text-heavy than I like to read aloud in one sitting.)

Discovering Nic Bishop's books totally made my week. To think that they've been sitting on the library shelves all this time just waiting for us to come along and take them home! With all the time we spend at the library, it always kind of surprises me how many books we still haven't seen or heard of. There really is a never-ending supply of good books. And it gives me a little thrill every time I find a new one. What other amazing books are hidden in the stacks?

Do you have a favorite nonfiction picture book author? Please share!
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