Saturday, August 31, 2013

One More Candle by Merry Susiarjo - A Review

One More Candle-  Written by Merry Susiarjo and Illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen

At any given moment in our house, you will likely hear the infectious laughter of my two girls as they run around, cracking each other up, and squealing with delight. However, those moments are fleeting and are usually interrupted by screams of pain or tears when hair is pulled or the play gets a little too rough. I watch lovingly as my girls share intense moments of pure joy, but cringe as I try to guide each of them as they suffer through moments of jealousy, envy, and sibling rivalry. A solid five years separates the two of them, and my oldest sometimes struggles with not being the only child anymore. My youngest pelts out her anger and frustration in temper tantrums and tears because at 15 months old she cannot yet communicate exactly why my hugging her older sister makes her so mad. Meanwhile, I struggle with this idea that sometimes my little one only wants her big sister to make her feel better after a tumble and not her mom. Sometimes, sisters just need each other. It is for these reasons that I think all three of us fell in love with the book One More Candle.

One More Candle, written by Merry Susiarjo and illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen, is the story of Nola and how the only thing that she wants in the whole wide world is to have the same number of candles on her birthday cake as her older sister, Betty. To little Nola, the year that separates the two sisters may as well be a hundred years. Each year, the two sisters have a shared birthday party with the same number of guests, same number of presents, and the same cake. But, there is one glaring distinction- Betty has one more candle on her cake. Nora begs and pleads with her parents to add another candle, but they tell her she isn't old enough to have that extra candle. They don't seem to understand just how important this is to her.

Nora goes on a quest to find someone, anyone, something who will light up one more candle for her. She turns to fireflies, the moon, the sun, and many other things that give light. But, they don't seem to have light to share with her. As the next joint birthday party approaches, Betty finds an incredibly heartwarming way to make Nora feel better, showing just how special that bond between sisters truly can be.

Often when my oldest and I read at bedtime, my daughter will doodle to keep her hands busy as she listens to the books.. She was doing this when I began reading One More Candle to her for the first time, but by the end, she had pushed her pen and paper aside and had snuggled up in the crook of my arm to get the best look at the illustrations. When I got done reading, I looked at her and said, "So honey, did you like that book?" She shook her head no. I was certainly dumbfounded, given how engaged she was as I read. She quickly added, "No, I don't like this book. I absolutely love this book. Betty is such a great big sister." I could see the wheels in her brain spinning, imagining how she, too, could be such a great big sister. (Although, she already is such a great big sister.)

This book is a rare gem in the way it addresses sibling rivalry by focusing on the positive aspects of the special bond shared between siblings. In most books about siblings, the struggle is usually between the "bratty" or "annoying" sibling and how they torture their brother or sister. Rarely do you find a story where the main character struggles with this more subtle form of sibling rivalry that isn't caused or instigated by the brother or sister. This book does not include any of the typical teasing and banter you find in most other books that deal with sibling relationships, but instead you find two sisters that are supportive of each other even when the reason their feelings are hurt is intrinsically linked to the other person. One of my favorite illustrations in this book is when Betty climbs in bed with a very sad and hurt Nola, snuggles up with her under the covers, and tries to make her feel better. There is a look of genuine concern on Betty's face in the picture that portrays a kind and patient sisterly love, not the demanding, sarcastic sisterly relationships we so often see on TV and in other texts. 

What really makes this book shine is how the illustrations perfectly reflect the warmness and love shown in the text of the story. The images are delicate, detailed, and calming, which makes it an excellent bedtime story. There are several pages where I thought to myself that I would like to own a print of the illustration, especially the final image of the girls hugging.

This book is the perfect read for any parent wanting to promote positive and strong sibling relationships, especially the bong between sisters. It is my hope that my girls' love for each other will only grow stronger through the years, and that they will be able to find a way to make those uneasy moments of sibling rivalry bring their relationship closer, just as Betty and Nola so perfectly show in this book.

For more information on the author check out the author's Facebook page or follow the author on Twitter @MerrySusiarjo.
You can follow the illustrator on Twitter @emmelinedraws.

To purchase the book, please check out it out from Amazon-

* I was given this book free-of-charge by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.

My girls sharing a moment of sisterly love at the Decatur Book Festival after the Children's Book Parade, where they dressed up as the Very Hungry Caterpillar and the butterfly from Eric Carle's book.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Suffering from a bad case of Stripes

Lately, we have had a bit of a problem with my oldest daughter suffering from a bad case of Stripes. Yes, Stripes.

If you have never heard of this illness called Stripes, you need to head to your nearest library and borrow this adorable book by David Shannon. In the book the adorable, impressionable, and incredibly self-conscious Camilla Cream obsesses about what other people think about her. She worries so much so that she won't eat her favorite food, lima beans, because she is afraid she might not fit in with the kids at school.

On the first page of the book she tries on forty-two outfits trying to figure out what to wear to school!
We have had forty-two outfit changes kind of mornings in our house.

Camilla comes down with the Stripes. Then, as each doctor, nurse, herbalist, and any type of disease detective you can think of comes in, she takes on the shape of the illness they try to attribute as the cause of the stripes. Camilla turns into an American Flag, a large pill, a virus, a bacteria, and eventually into an indescribable blob.

It wasn't until she finally decided that she didn't care what other people thought about her and she ate some lima beans that she turned back to her normal self.

But doing something you want to do or being who you want to be without regard to what other people may think is a tough life lesson. I know many grounded adults that struggle with not falling into that pressure to try and keep up with the Jones.

Each day it is something new- I absolutely must have this specific type of shirt, I will die if I don't get this Password Journal, and Please, please, PLEASE Mom I have to have a phone.

Already? Really?

So how do you has a parent teach you child it is OK to just be yourself? We love this book, but it is a bit on the disturbing side with graphic images of a little girl with roots, berries, and germs growing out of her body. To some little ones, the pictures may seem scary, but to other kids it may be just the message they need. Unless. Unless you happen to have a child that thrives off of getting attention from faking illness. In that case, you may just have an actual case of the Stripes on your hands. Read with caution.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Happiness Project- A Post for the Mommies

Lately it seems like everywhere I turn, the moms I know are at the end of their ropes. Their commutes are long; their kids are sassy and rolling their eyes; their jobs are demanding; the loads of laundry are endless; and the dishes are piled up high in the sink.

This impossible feat of finding a balance between a career and family, for me, is a daily struggle. It is as much a challenge for me to physically mean my daily demands, without factoring in this inner struggle where I wonder who I am and what I really want to be when I grow up.

So I am left searching each day for the silver lining in each day- the moment of joy among the moments of frenzy.

When things get tough, I always turn to a book. That is what I do for my children. So, a week ago when I was wandering through the bookstore where I work, I happened upon this fabulous journal created by Gretchen Rubin. I bought the journal.

The thing that makes this journal so great is that there is a page for each day of the year and on each page there is a spot to write one sentence for that day for a period of five years. So each day, for the next five year, I can write one sentence. That is it. All I have to come up with is one moment of joy for each day, and that is something totally manageable. The daunting task of feeling compelled to write pages upon pages about each day is exactly why I have had so many failed attempts at journal writing. By only having to write that one sentence, I feel that I have accomplished savoring a sweet moment in our family's life. That sense of accomplishment helps to give me the energy to move forward and face another day.

What I found out after reading the back cover of the journal is that Gretchen Rubin has two best selling books- The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. (Obviously, I have spent far too much time reading children's books and young literature that I missed this fact.) So, there are now two new books on my to read list. The Happiness Project.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

There is no substitute.

Today's message from's summer campaign is a simple, but poignant message: "There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." While the words are from Mary Ellen Chase, an educator and writer, the sentiment is felt in the hearts of many, especially my own.

We live in a world where we are bombarded with countless technologies, gadgets, toys, and games that are presented as the ultimate in childhood education. What to learn to count? There is an app for that!

However, there is no replacing the moments of quiet reflection shared with a child while reading a book- the feel of the pages between your fingers, the look of the illustrations that transport you to faraway places, and the conversations that spark from listening to the stories in the books. 

Books bring you to places you would have never dreamed, and they teach you about cultures you may have never known. One of my dearest friends just returned from Australia and she brought me this fabulous book- How the Birds Got Their Colours: An Aboriginal Story, told by Mary Albert and compiled by Pamela Lofts. 

I never would have found this book on my own, but in sharing this book with my daughters I was able to bring to them important aspects of another culture. My youngest loves the bright colors in the paintings of the birds, and my oldest loves the idea of dreaming stories being told and passed down to future generations. My oldest is always asking me to tell her stories my grandparents used to tell me, and she liked that this story was retold by a woman who had learned it from her mother.

Tonight, I asked my oldest why she liked reading books, mainly because of the message. She responded by saying she loved spending time with me. First, hearing that warmed my heart. Then it got me thinking, maybe books are irreplaceable because they promote the sharing of stories in a way that other media cannot. We share so much more than the stories when we are reading during those moments before bedtime. We share hopes, dreams, fears, laughter, giggles, and sometimes tears. We open door to other lands and find adventures in far off places. We learn about people, places, and animals that I never knew existed. But, most importantly, we share time. And there is no substitute for time.

Check out's website to learn more reasons why there is no substitute for books.

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