Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Top Ten Bookish Christmas Gift Ideas

As Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday quickly approach, I am planning my attack for Christmas shopping and thought I would share 12 bookish gift ideas. Enjoy!

A Bookish Mug: 

I had a major impulse buy early in November. I ordered a couple mugs from the Roald Dahl museum in England. I specifically ordered this fabulous BFG mug for my oldest daughter. Nothing is more bookish than drinking some hot tea on a cold winter night while reading a book.
 I also got a mug for Little J with Matilda on it. I also, ahem, got a third mug with The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me on it.. I cannot wait to start using them on Christmas morning.

A Boxed Set: 

What could be better than receiving a book you love on Christmas morning? Receiving the whole boxed set! My oldest will be receiving the Harry Potter series on Christmas morning. Scholastic has a boxed version of them. You can also find them at Barnes and Noble (but beware- the online price is much cheaper than in store).

Other boxed sets we have and love include an E. B. White Box Set   and The Ramona Collection, Vol. 1: Beezus and Ramona / Ramona the Pest / Ramona the Brave / Ramona and Her Father [4 Book Box set]

A Cookbook:

We have several children's book themed cookbooks, and my girls love them. This year, Roald Dahl's Cookbook (Penguin cookery library) will be found under the tree. It is a bit more grown-up than other book themed cookbooks that we have received in the past, but it is intended to be a special book to share with my oldest, whose love for Roald Dahl prompted me to start this blog.

Other cookbooks with bookish themes I would recommend include: Chef Olivia Cookbook and Cookie Cutters Kit and Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Dr. Seuss. They are both fabulous. 



Interactive Books:

Right now, my toddler is in love with books that have the buttons on the side that play music or make sounds that correspond with a certain page in the book. While they can get annoying, they do solve the problem with engaging super busy toddlers that don't sit still during reading time. I have my sights set on this amazing set of 12 Disney books from Kohl's. I love that it comes with such a great assortment of books, but makes it feel like they are toys. Normally, I wouldn't be a fan of that type of packaging, but for Christmas morning, I can get behind opening up lots of books. (Not to mention my toddler is obsessed with Minnie Mouse.)

A Book that Becomes a Toy:

Check out this amazing book from Usborne that turns into a castle! I mean seriously. How cool is this book? The Usborne Slot-Together Castle (with an Usborne Book) bring play and reading together. Check out this video that Heather, from Heather Has Books, created to show just how awesome this book can be!

Bookish Pajamas:

Have you seen the Eric Carle collection over at Gymboree? I absolutely adore this new series of clothing, and I love they have so many pajamas to choose from. Gymboree pajamas really do hold up to nightly wear. The shrink- so buy a size larger than normal. (And it looks like they are on SALE!)



A Signed Copy:

I recommend heading to your local indie bookstore and checking out their selection of author signed books. I know that Little Shop of Stories, in Decatur, Georgia usually always has a great selection of signed copies of books from their author events. Imagine just how special it will be to give a book that was hand signed by the author.


Make A Book:

My oldest wrote a cute little book for her sister and then uploaded pictures to a My Publisher photo book of the girls together and added her text. Imagine how exciting it will be for Little J to get a book by her sister from her sister.

My oldest also loves creating her own books on Storybird. The website helps you create picture books and has stores of artwork to choose from for your illustrations. I love that the pictures almost act like writing prompts for my daughter. The website is free to use, and there is an option to have the books you create printed. (They also have an option for class accounts for educators.)

Bookish Game:

Speaking of story prompts...Rory's Story Cubes is a game that sparks the imagination by rolling the dice and telling a story about the pictures on the dice. I think this would be a great game to have around for car rides, camping trips, or an icebreaker at a party.

A Magazine Subscription:

Author E.S. Ivy gave me the great suggestion to look into a subscription to the American Girl magazine for my oldest. I am not sure why I hadn't thought of it before now because I had that magazine when I was a young girl and loved it.

I do recommend going to a bookstore or grocery store to test out the magazine before ordering it. I have been disappointed in the past with other subscriptions I ordered. (For instance, I ordered the Spider Magazine by Cricket Media because the publisher has won so many awards. However, I soon realized the magazine was too literary for my daughter. If she wanted literature, she wanted a good book. She wanted a magazine to flip through for light reading. And I totally get that. I have been known to indulge in a fashion magazine or two. She didn't read a single copy of the Spider Magazine.)

One magazine subscription my daughter LOVED and still flips through old copies of is Chirp Magazine. This magazine had arts and craft activities, jokes, comic strips, songs, and stories. It is a really great choice for the emerging reader.

So there you have it! My top ten bookish gift ideas. What other suggestions do you have for my list?

***FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an affiliate, if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Books, Babies, and Bows (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are You There God? It's Me, Jenny.

It was Monday morning, and I was already starting the week off with a huge deficit of sleep. The girls and our crazy dog had me up several times throughout the night, and I had to get up at 5:30 to make a casserole for a work function. I was volunteering at my daughters school from 7  until 8 in the morning, and then had to make a quick stop back by the house to pick up my casserole before heading to work. But, by 8:45 am I found myself in complete traffic hell and late for work, again. I found myself vacillating between a verbal diarrhea of profanities to the drivers obviously preventing me from getting to work and a mental pep talk to calm myself down. And that is when I found myself pleading to the man upstairs to help me out.
Are you there God? It's me, Jenny. I am stuck in traffic, again. I don't think I can handle this anymore. I am not cut out to be a working mom. It is all too much. My youngest broke the sugar bowl before I even had my cup of coffee this morning. I feel like I am running a marathon. And, I am going to be late for work again. I have a meeting at nine. Please, could you just clear the traffic for me? It would really help.
And then it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, Judy Blume's fictitious Margaret grew up and continued to have the conversations that made me fall in love with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret as a young girl. What I love most about this book, having recently reread it, is that her conversations with God are so honest and realistic for a 12 year old girl. They range from a superficial plea to develop breasts all the way to questions about faith and religion. And it is that brutal honesty of Margaret's desire "fit in" or be normal makes the book a refreshing read, even 44 years after it's publication date!
"Are you there God? It's me, Margaret. Gretchen, my friend, got her period. I'm so jealous God. I hate myself for being so jealous, but I am. I wish you'd help me just a little. Nancy's sure she's going to get it soon, too. And if I'm last I don't know what I'll do. Oh please God. I just want to be normal."
So I wondered what would Margaret's conversations with God be like if she grew up to be a working mom, like me. And this is what I think it would sound like....
Are you there God? It's me, Jenny. I am dead tired. Why won't my kid go to sleep God? What am I doing wrong? 
Are you there God? It's me, Jenny. We have company coming for Thanksgiving, and I am pretty sure the house will never be clean in time. Do you think it would be possible to create a house elf? I could really use one, God. You know, like in the Harry Potter books. I promise to be nice to it. I see cobwebs all around my ceiling, my blinds are disgusting, and I just saw a dust bunny fly off of my ceiling fan. I am judging me. I could use a little help.
Are you there God? It's me, Jenny. I know the last time we spoke I asked for a House Elf, and I realize that is a crazy request. But, I seriously need help with the laundry. It is taking over the house. Any chance there are laundry angels out there looking for some kids clothing to fold and sort? I would totally be able to focus on things like spending time with my family if I could just find them underneath this growing pile of clothes.
Are you there God? It's me, Jenny. How in the world am I supposed to do all things I am supposed to be doing as a Mom in 2014?  I just signed onto Pinterest and apparently everyone else is making their own detergent. I don't have time for that. And, I am pretty sure that our Elf on the Shelf will continue to be the lamest Elf. I am getting palm sweats just looking at all the amazing ideas my mommy friends are Pinning to their walls for their elves to do. Am I a bad mom? Wait, what am I saying? Surely you have much better things to worry about than some fake tradition created and marketed to our children. Succumb to the peer pressure to have an Elf of the Shelf feels like giving into the devil, God. You agree with me that it is a ridiculous, unsustainable tradition that sets the bar way to high for moms that value sleep over remembering to move the elf? Right?
But, eventually, the conversations always become much more serious.

Are you there God? It's me, Jenny. My daughter just asked me if she needs to be skinny to be sexy. How in the world do I respond to that question? She is beautiful just the way she is. Where is this coming from? Is it something I said? How can I teach her to be confident? I need help showing her how to highlight what she loves about herself instead of focusing on what she doesn't like about herself. And if I am honest, I need help with that lesson myself.
Which brings me back to Margaret...When Margaret first meets Nancy, she discovered that Nancy had a ton of cosmetics in her room, even at the young age of 12. And I love this part in the book-
"I asked, 'What do you do with all that stuff?'
'It's another one of my experiments. To see how I look best. So when the time comes I'll be ready.' She opened a lipstick and painted on a bright pink mouth. 'Well, what do you think?' 
'Ummm....I don't know. It's kind of bright, isn't it?'"
How young we are when we have already defined what it is we believe makes a woman beautiful! How young we are when we want to emulate that image! It makes me wonder what young girls with smooth, young, taunt skin think make-up does for them? I haven't had to cross that bridge yet with my daughters, but it certainly coming down the line. And when the conversation does come, I hope I will be prepared.

Recently, I was asked to participate in a Yes2You Preview Group through Kohl's. As part of the group, one of the first things I received was a sample of the Nude Dude Eyeshadow Palette. As soon as I opened up the makeup, I began giggling because the packaging reminded me the part in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret where the girls sneak an anatomy book to be able to see the male form.

The packaging is ironic and funny. But, more than anything else, I fell in love with this palette of eyeshadow because of the fantastic assortment of skin tone shades that accentuate the natural beauty in your eyes. It also comes with a brush that helps to blend the colors and a really great large mirror.

Just as I don't want my daughters to see makeup as a way to coverup and hide behind a mask, I also don't want my girls to see makeup as a bad thing. I want them to be empowered to use makeup as a tool to bring out the beauty in their face, not to hide their "perceived flaws." I hope they see the little makeup that I do wear on a daily basis as a confidence booster instead of a crutch. And, I also hope that when they do decide to wear makeup, they will choose tones and colors that are natural and nude tones and not the bright blues I wore in the 80's.

I imagine that fictitious, grown-up Margaret would agree with me that a natural color palette is the way to go when it comes to makeup. And, I think she would also feel just as confident leaving the house without makeup as she would with it on.

***FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an affiliate, if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Books, Babies, and Bows (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support!

I received a free sample of the Nude Dude Eyeshadow Palette as part of a Kohl's Yes2You Preview Group. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Year in the Secret Garden by Valerie Budayr and Marilyn Scott Waters- A Review

A Year in the Secret Garden - Blog Tour Button  

About the Book

A Year in the Secret Garden - cover Title: A Year in the Life of the Secret Garden | Author: Valarie Budayr | Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters | Publication Date: November, 2014 | Publisher: Audrey Press | Pages: 144 | Recommended Ages: 5 to 99 Book Description: Award-winning authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have co-created A Year in the Secret Garden to introduce the beloved children’s classic, The Secret Garden to a new generation of families. This guide uses over two hundred full color illustrations and photos to bring the magical story to life, with fascinating historical information, monthly gardening activities, easy-to-make recipes, and step-by-step crafts, designed to enchant readers of all ages. Each month your family will unlock the mysteries of a Secret Garden character, as well as have fun together creating the original crafts and activities based on the book.Over 140 pages, with 200 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room.

Amazon * Audrey Press * Goodreads


My Review

I imagine that if the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett continued, following Mary, Colin, and Dickon as they grew, the children would have compiled all of the amazing activities, crafts, and recipes that Valarie Budayr wrote down in pen and Marilyn Scott-Waters brought to life in the book A Year In the Secret Garden. We have been in love with this book ever since receiving it to review. Divided into sections by the months of the year, the book brings the magic of The Secret Garden to readers by getting them into the garden, cooking authentic foods, and jumping rope.

About a year ago, I read The Secret Garden to my oldest for the first time. She feel in love with the magic of the book and became obsessed with watching the movie. She would wistfully tell me how she hoped to find a key to a secret garden as we walked through the paths behind our house. I remember feeling that way when I was little, and it has enchanted me to see the book have the same effect on her.  The Secret Garden is timeless and effortlessly captivates a child's imagination. I always get sad when I finish rereading The Secret Garden because I want the story to continue, and my daughter has expressed the same sentiment. You can only imagine my delight when I opened A Year In the Secret Garden and realized how breathtakingly beautiful the book is and how it brings a new life to The Secret Garden.

The book offers in depth character reviews, arts and craft activities, deliriously delicious looking recipes, and gardening tips that can make anyone pine for a green thumb. Recently, my daughter made a terrarium and made a point to tell me she would keep the plants alive, unlike our garden. I had sadly let the garden go to the wayside this past summer and fall. However, while reading A Year In the Secret Garden, in the month of October, the author has in depth instructions on how to plant bulbs to end up with an enchanting spring full of flowers.

I never think to plant bulbs by the fall because it is easy, living in the South, to let the plants from the summer linger on and on if the fall is mild, missing the opportunity to plant bulbs. This book has inspired me to plant some bulbs, and now I am giddy with excitement for the spring surprises to come.

We also enjoyed playing with the Secret Garden Cutouts that were featured in the section for the Month of October and provided in the back of the book. Nothing makes my kids happier than scissors, tape, and cut up paper everywhere. While the children enjoyed the activities associated with this book, I was entranced by the beautiful water color illustrations and the scrumptious looking images of foods to make.  I am certain that any person who grew up hoping to find that secret key to let them into an enchanting garden will fall in love with the magic inside this book to share with their children.

About the Author: Valarie Budayr

Valarie BudayrValarie Budayr loves reading and bringing books alive. Her popular website,, inspires children and adults alike to experience their books through play, discovery, and adventure. She is founder of Audrey Press, an independent publishing house, as well as an Amazon and iTunes best-selling author. She has written The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden and The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Valarie is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and encouraging families and schools to pull books off the shelves and stories off the pages.  

Book Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Pinterest | Google+ | Goodreads


About the Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters

Marilyn Scott-WatersMarilyn Scott-Waters loves making things out of paper. Her popular website,, receives 2,000 to 7,000 visitors each day, who have downloaded more than six million of her easy-to-make paper toys. Her goal is to help parents and children spend time together making things. She is the creator of a paper toy craft book series The Toymakers Christmas: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling), and The Toymakers Workshop: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling). She is also the co-creator with J. H. Everett of the middle grade nonfiction series, Haunted Histories, (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). Ms. Scott-Waters illustrated The Search For Vile Things (Scholastic), and created paper engineering for Pop & Sniff Fruit (Piggy Toes Press).

Website | Facebook | Google+


A Year in the Secret Garden Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

November 1
Coffee Books & Art (Guest Post)
WS Momma Readers Nook (Book Review)
November 2
Hope to Read (Excerpt)
November 3
Eloquent Articulation (Book Review)
November 4
BeachBoundBooks (Excerpt)
November 5
Monique's Musings (Book Review)
November 6
SOS-Supply (Book Review)
November 7
Randomly Reading (Book Review)
November 8
Adalinc to Life (Book Review)
November 9
100 Pages a Day (Book Review)
November 10
Edventures With Kids (Book Review)
November 11
November 12
Girl of 1000 Wonders (Book Review)
November 13
Seraphina Reads (Guest Post)
November 14
Juggling Act Mama (Book Review)
November 15
Pragmatic Mom (Author/Illustrator Interview)
November 16
Stacking Books (Book Review)
November 17
Oh My Bookness (Book Review)
November 18
November 19
The Blended Blog (Book Review)
November 20
All Done Monkey (Book Review)
November 21
Geo Librarian (Book Review)
Grandbooking (Author/Illustrator Interview)
November 22
November 23
Christy's Cozy Corners (Book Review)
November 24
Bookaholic Chick (Excerpt)
November 25
Ninja Librarian (Guest Post)
November 26
Jane Ritz (Book Review)
Rockin' Book Reviews (Book Review)
November 27
November 28
Deal Sharing Aunt (Book Review)
November 29
Mommynificent (Book Review)
November 30
This Kid Reviews Books (Book Review)
Java John Z's (Author/Illustrator Interview)

* $100 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon 100 gift card Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest ends: December 7, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway MDBR Book Promotion Services  
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