Tag Archives: resources

Two Free Audiobooks!

Audible.com has a free 30 day trial offer for new customers!  You get to download two free books (and listen to them on your computer, iPhone, iPad, mp3 player, or burn to CD) for free!  If you have no intention of continuing your membership through the website, you can cancel anytime before the 30 days are over; obviously you get to keep the downloaded material too.

I have just taken advantage of this.  I wouldn’t recommend using your credits for picture books of course… but for those longer stories that you can’t seem to find time for reading.  This is an excellent opportunity to get ready for any summer road tripping you might do!  We are planning on listening to a book that my husband really wanted to read to his sons, but couldn’t seem to find the time or energy after a long day at his physically demanding job.  So it’s the perfect thing to listen to in the car as a family: Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers.

Our second free book was agony to choose; I mean you can get the ENTIRE Beatrix Potter collection for free!  There are so many good ones out there.  For me, it was a toss up between Swallows and Amazons, The Paddington Bear Collection, Just So Stories, The Princess and Curdie, Redwall, or the sorely tempting Thomas Sowell books.  (Those however, aren’t particularly family oriented so I thought it better to aim for road-reading… err… listening).  Just So Stories won!  It’ll be nice to hear the narrator do the animal noises much better than I could anyway…

So take advantage of this excellent offer!  The great part is that as you are canceling your membership, they offer you deep discounts to stay active.  I think the $7.50/month (one free book a month) for three months is an excellent deal… but ultimately, I just milked the system and got my free books and cancelled.  But if you can afford it and can’t seem to make time for longer reading with the kids… it would be a great program to subscribe to. Let me know which books YOU got for free!


Mythology and More

Here is a bright post from a bright young lady who I am happy to know personally. Seems I can’t get enough of the fairy tale topic lately. In her post, she references Psyche and Pandora; incidentally, I’m currently on a manhunt for excellent illustrated myths. I have read several and I currently have several more ordered at the local library to preview before giving glowing recommendations. But in the meantime, I did create an Amazon listmania list on this very topic. Most of the books on that list, I’ve read and loved… a few still need to be seen in person yet. But nothing at the outset leads me to believe there would be anything objectionable in them. So I created the list as a running reminder for myself to check them out and to guide others in finding excellent mythological picture books.

I expect to get more into the topic of mythology on here at a later time.

“For Mythology is the handmaid of literature; and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of happiness.” 
                                                     -Thomas Bullfinch

Bargain Book Roundup!

If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, I don’t blame you… it’s close to $80.  But if you DO have one, you’ll know as I do, that it is a wonderful, wonderful gem!  My husband bought one for my birthday this year, and I can’t tell you how much I love just buying a single item and having it at my door two days later.  No more waiting until I have $25 worth of purchases to get free, slow shipping. It’s great… plus the free streaming of certain videos has been nice too.  We’ve watched a few documentaries on there now and have many seasons of How Its Made to get through!

But I digress. I bring it up because it’s excellent when you find a bargain priced book on Amazon and you can just purchase it easily!  Occasionally, I take the time to peruse their bargain barrels; it’s a lot to wade through and so I usually narrow it down to just biographies, non-fiction, folk and fairy tales… above 4 star ratings.  It’s still a lot to wade through.  But I’ll save you some time and give you a current list of books I happened to uncover this week.  *Disclaimer: I’ve not read every single title here!*  But they “looked” good to me based on titles and illustrations and reviews. So you may already be familiar with them or want to splurge a few dollars to see if they may be jewels or not.  Bargain books are an excellent way to purchase books as gifts since they are brand new. They are a great place to find off-season holiday book and they also help fill in gaps for unit studies. The books listed below are all hardcover and under $8. The price is right… and quantities are (sometimes extremely) limited! I’ve bought a few of these titles myself this week (who needs to buy shoes, when you can have books instead?!)


Thrifting Tips

Building your home library take time, patience, thoughtfulness and money. I can’t help you with time or patience but I do hope to help you with thoughtfulness (See this post for more on that.) and I have a couple tips to help you not break the bank. “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” you say. “Go to thrift stores; we already know that.”. Oh good! I’m glad you know that. But allow me to spare you some frustration with thrift store shopping with these tips:

  1. Find the right kind of store. Every store is bound to have the occasional good find.  But the best stores are the ones you can go to and have reliably good luck. I regularly bypass at least four more local stores to get to my gold mine in the next town over. For some reason, it collects fantastic books on a regular basis. What this means is that the people who donate to this Goodwill are fairly well off, fairly typical in having only a couple kids, and fairly ignorant to the glories of good literature… So it gets dumped. See, I benefit greatly from families who aren’t open to having many children; I get their good clothes and books in excellent condition for my brood! The other thing is that I’ve noticed that many people like to give lovely books to children as gifts. But either the spoilt dears don’t care for books or they their parents don’t because I have found many remarkable books in near mint condition with inscriptions on the inside dated only a year or three ago! A pity. But their tremendous blindness to greatness is to my benefit so I won’t complain too much.
  2. The other component of a right kind of store is one that has a flat pricing structure. Many stores charge a flat price for children’s books and this is where you can save a lot of money! You don’t have to be AS selective because if you aren’t totally familiar with a book, it really only costs you 79 cents to preview! Unfortunately, you can’t rely on the franchise name of a store to guarantee same costs.  The Goodwill in my hometown prices children’s books the same as regular books and even puts more expensive prices on ones that look popular or to be in especially great condition.  Gag.  You are looking for a store with a staff that doesn’t know any better when it comes to children’s literature.
  3. When you get to the kiddy book section, depending on the size of your selection, you may or may not have time to do a title-by-title scan of each book.  You sometimes need to employ razor-quick econo-shopping mode.  It looks like this:  First look at all the hardback books closely.  This is where the better titles usually live.  This is where you’ll find your treasures.  I often don’t even scan the paperbacks anymore because their lifespan can be quite short in a large family.  I DO scan the paperbacks more closely if the pickins are slim in the hardbacks and I’m feeling desperate to score SOMETHING.  And if your home library isn’t well established yet, you may want to give the paperbacks a closer look.  After all, having a flimsy copy of Blueberries for Sal is better than having no copy.
  4. You can’t always judge a book by its cover or its title… but they sure do tell a lot sometimes.  You can continue your quick-shopping mode by training your eye to gloss over things in the generic vein like “Franklin Goes to School” and training it to catch things that sound like they might be a fairy tale or folklore or of course, one of the millions of titles you’ve memorized that you want to own.  The title The Man Who Kept House is one that caught me on my latest trip, a book that I knew nothing about until then. With time, you’ll be wise as a serpent in your selections and quite efficient at sorting titles out.
  5. Lastly, get reading some books about books!  The more you become familiar with the rich titles out there, the more equipped you are to sift through the piles of junky books to find treasures.  There are lots of books about books out there.  I can trust the booklists of a few out there.  A good starting point would be Honey for a Child’s Heart. Excellent other ones include A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind (though unfortunately, many of his recommendations are out of print), and A Picture Perfect Childhood which is FULL of recommendations. And there’s also For the Love of Literature which is a great tool if you are a fan of learning through LIVING books. There are other good books about books… but this should get you started…

Don’t forget about other great ways to build up your library:

  1. Consider giving books as gifts to your children.  This will help you to feel better about shucking out $15 for a brand new book if you were going to spend that money on something anyway. Children see that its worthwhile, and you have a gift taken care of.  Incidentally, I have an amazon list on books that I think make excellent gifts.  I’ve not updated it in a while… I ought to do that presently.  Also make it known to family members that you’d like to build up your children’s library and would welcome Christmas and birthday gifts to them to reflect that. (This comes with the caveat that they may not have good taste in literature… I would say direct them to your amazon wish list, but I personally find it kind of tacky when people personally “direct” others to the gifts they want.
  2. Check out your library sales!  I’ve gotten so many gems this way and they are usually the cheapest possible option.  Our local library “Friends of the Library” charges something like 50 cents for children’s books!  Sometimes, you find something and you can swear you hear an Alleluia chorus ringing in the heavens as your hand trembles in finding a jewel.  I have found an entire collection of fantastic kids books on Ancient Egypt which I used this entire year for school.  My real piece of glory however was when I paid pennies for three… count them THREE David Mac Caulay books.  HARDBACK!  I got Mosque, Underground and Mill to accompany the Pyramid I already owned. What a find! If you don’t know Macaulay… get to know him posthaste. He is a brilliant author and illustrator on so many excellent historical, architectural books.  Turns out there are a few excellent PBS documentaries featuring him on youtube: Castle, Roman City, Pyramid, Mill Times and Cathedral.  All would be a superb supplement to studies of those eras.
  3. Elementary schools often just TOSS books into the trash.  They make room for new library books buy getting rid of old ones… lucky for us, so many old ones are the better ones anyway! If your child goes to a public or private school, talk to whosever in charge of the library and ask what their policy is on discarded books; you just might be able to work out an arrangement!
  4. Garage sales and rummage sales are historically where you can find the CHEAPEST children’s books.  Most people selling books will tell you that kid’s books are a dime or quarter… maybe fifty cents for a hardback.  These are people who are looking to get rid of stuff, whose children have outgrown certain books or who just don’t know what they’ve got.  My best garage sale score to this day was finding the entire Little House on the Prairie series for $2.  I’ve also bought the entire Anne of Green Gables series, the Narnia collection, the E.B. White collection and (my favorite) the Great Brain collection at garage sales.  I just realized that other than the Lord of the Rings books, all my ‘collections’ have been acquired at garage sales!
  5. Don’t forget about online swapping sites like Paperbackswap or Bookmooch.  I wrote a bit more about how this works here. You have to have a bit of luck and a lot of patience… but it can pay off!
  6. Sniff out family members or friends whose children have grown up.  They are often ready and willing to part with their kiddy books if they know they are going to a good home!

Remember above all of this, that it is much more beneficial to have a small collection of quality books than a large collection of riff-raff. Don’t expect it to happen overnight!  But books are an investment indeed.  We don’t think much of spending $15-$20 on a single visit to a fast food restaurant.  But that same amount of money could buy a brand new treasure that will last much, much longer than those french fries.  Be smart, be patient, and happy thrifting!


    One Potato: And Then It Was Spring

    I really, really, really like this website. I liked reading the “About.” I liked reading the FAQs, I like the whole premise of the organization. There exists in the e-world fellow bibliozealots that receive my salute. I have not read every blog entry and I still am dabbling in the nubs and nuances of trying to pin down what kind of zealot this is, but I like much of what I’ve seen thus far.

    I really loved what was written about a book I recently purchased on a whim last week. What a superb purchase it was. I was just getting ready to write up a review on it when I stumbled across what Jay Bushara wrote and found he articulated what I would have said with much more zest and finesse than I could have mustered up the energy for. I need to go update my Top Ten Spring booklist now and bump off another (I guess, I can safely kick off Wildsmith’s The Easter Story) since it technically belongs on a holiday booklist and has received glowing praise from me elsewhere. So yes indeed, make And Then It’s Spring one of your “highest” priorities on your Amazon wish list. It’s clamoring to be my 2012 Book of the Year. Let me whet your appetite:


    I added a couple new ideas onto the ever-popular Resistant Readers post. Seeing all the beautiful images all over Pinterest on great reading spaces reminded me that marketing is an important tool in marketing literacy to the disinterested!!!


    Upcycling Casualties

    It’s been a brutal month on the Western Front. Three… I say again, three deaths of library books for which I have to pay. Every year or so we lose a book or maybe one gets a cup of water spilled on it accidentally but to have three casualities in a single month is a new, sobering reality. It is a reality that brings me shamefaced to my husband once again, who shakes his head and threatens to ban the library altogether unless we can get our act together. And like any good commander, I take full responsibility and tell him with all sincerity that we’ll do better this time! I have a plan! My platoon was poorly trained, in truth. One young soldier thought it was okay to sit a 5 month old grabbing, teething baby on his lap and read a book to him. It is okay… encouraged even. But the young lad failed to grab an appropriate board book from my shelf… or even one of those annoying books that I have to keep because they were gifts. No, he grabbed a library book. It was one that isn’t worth a title mention, for better or worse, as one of the kids tossed it in my book pile before I checked my holds out at the library. Being such a nondescript book, I couldn’t even have the pleasure of salvaging beautiful artwork to frame.

    Then, we lost something that came to us with a loose binding to begin with. Readers, let it serve as a warning to always check the condition of a book before you check it out! It’s easy to hand something off to a librarian for repairs before it’s on your account! But should you do any further damage to such a book, you will pay. So, we bought one of the Where’s Waldo? books once a couple good yanks from the same teething, grabbing baby got a hold of it when his siblings left it on the floor in too close of his reach. While I never buy Waldo books or I Spy books because their merit lies solely in their novelty, I can use this remains of this book in a constructive way. Waldo backgrounds would make for fun homemade wrapping paper or envelopes for letters that I write (believe it or not, I’m among the dying breed that sometimes still handwrites letters!)

    The third loss came when the two year old found a pair of scissors and decided to shred the pages of Raining Cats and Dogs which was a delightful and very well illustrated book of idioms. There are some pages left with which I could do something crafty I’m sure… but it really is a book that needs to be appreciated in its whole; a single page out of context just won’t carry even half the charm as the whole thing. Still, I’ll hang on to it and toss it in my scrap paper bin for a while at least.

    Finally, I am sad to say that the two year old was on quite a spree this month and also ruined my personal copy of a book which is a sweet delight: A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog which is one of my very favorite wordless books out there featuring one of my favorite illustrators, Mercer Mayer. So that was fairly depressing. The book is too small to make envelopes with and I suppose I could matte and frame a series of photos… it would be lovely artwork in a child’s bathroom or even bedroom… or I could use the images for gift tags, address labels on packages or mod podge them onto some blocks or a piece of furniture… hmm, here’s a sweet bunting idea… what else? I suppose that when it comes to repurposing books, there’s quite a bit that can be done. Ideally though, books are best left in their original form. Time to go write a check to the library… *sigh*… the pain of being a bibliozealot can be fierce indeed.


    The Motherload List of Excellent Catholic Picture Books

    ***last updated August 2018***

    catholic-picture-booksHere is my personal, comprehensive list of excellent picture books that help nurture a love for the Catholic faith and Christianity in general. This is just my opinion, mind you.  There are certainly other Catholic books out there but I have been pretty selective in highlighting only ones that I either have or would buy myself. You won’t see ugly or inane books on this list; I don’t think we should buy/read “twaddle” even if it comes packaged as a “saint story.”No sense in dumbing down the beautiful!  However, there are a couple compromises on this point… only because either the pictures or the text are in and of themselves absolutely worth your time. This used to be a post linking you to my Listmania lists on amazon.com but they limit you to 40 titles.  🙂 I also left out the entire St. Joseph Picture Books series (which admittedly do have their place, especially being thin, cheap and Mass-friendly), as well as most Christmas books since that genre is too big for my purposes here, another time maybe…  I’m interested only in STORY picture books here, that happen to reinforce specifically Catholic/Christian values.  I starred *books that are my own very special favorites. Either way, enjoy the list!

    An Alphabet of Saints*
    Saints for Girls: A First Book for Little Catholic Girls
    Saints for Boys: A First Book for Little Catholic Boys
    Lives and Legends of the Saints
    Saints: Lives and Illuminations
    More Saints: Lives and Illuminations


    The Lady of Guadalupe
    Our Lady of Guadalupe*
    Our Lady of Guadalupe
    Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe
    Mary and the Little Shepards of Fatima
    The Life of Mary
    Mary: The Mother of Jesus
    The Lady in the Blue Cloak: Legends from the Texas Missions

    St. Francis
    Clare and Francis*
    Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy*
    Francis Woke Up Early
    St. Francis and the Proud Crow
    Wolf of Gubbio
    Saint Francis of Assisi
    Canticle of the Sun: Saint Francis of Assisi
    Brother Sun, Sister Moon*
    The Good Man of Assisi
    Brother Juniper*
    Saint Francis

    Joan of Arc
    Joan of Arc*
    Joan of Arc
    Joan of Arc

    St. Nicholas
    The Real Santa Claus: Legends of Saint Nicholas*
    The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale
    Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend
    A Special Place for Santa: A Legend for Our Time*
    The Legend of Saint Nicholas*
    Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins

    St. Wenceslaus
    Good King Wenceslas
    Good King Wenceslas
    Stephen’s Feast

    St. Valentine

    Saint Valentine*
    Saint Valentine

    St. Hildegard
    Hildegard’s Gift
    The Secret World Of Hildegard

    St. Christopher
    Legend of Saint Christopher*
    Christopher: The Holy Giant

    St. George
    Saint George and the Dragon (more legend than fact, but still fun to read…)
    Saint George and the Dragon

    St. Benedict
    The Life of Saint Benedict
    The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica*

    St. Martin de Porres
    The Pied Piper of Peru
    Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert
    Martin’s Mice
    Snow on Martinmas

    St. Patrick

    Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
    Patrick: Saint of Ireland*
    The Life of St. Patrick: Enlightener of the Irish

    St. Columba
    Across a Dark and Wild Sea
    Man Who Loved Books

    Other Irish Saints
    The Blackbird’s Nest: Saint Kevin of Ireland*
    The Ravens of Farne: A Tale of Saint Cuthbert
    The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare
    The Saint and his Bees (St. Modomnoc)
    Saint Ciaran: The Tale of a Saint of Ireland

    Misc. Saints
    St. Anthony the Great
    Bernadette and the Miracle of Lourdes
    A Saint and His Lion: The Story of Tekla of Ethiopia
    St. Jerome and the Lion
    Pascual and the Kitchen Angels*
    The Wonderful Life of Saint Sergius of Radonezh*
    Saint Brendan And The Voyage Before Columbus*
    Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves/Pedro Claver, Santo Patrono de los Esclavos
    John Mary Vianney: The Holy Cure of Ars
    Bernadette: The Little Girl from Lourdes
    Lucia, Saint of Light
    The Little Friar Who Flew (St. Joseph of Cupertino)
    Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times
    Saint Felix and the Spider
    Mother Teresa
    Yes! The Life of Blessed Josemaria for Young Readers*
    Lolek – The Boy Who Became Pope John Paul II
    Roses in the Snow: A Tale of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
    Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree
    St. John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog


    Bible Stories
    Old Testament
    Noah’s Ark*
    Noah’s Ark
    The Tower of Babel*
    Sarah Laughs
    Moses: The Long Road to Freedom
    The Angel and the Donkey*
    Jonah and the Whale*
    The Book of Jonah
    The Story Of Ruth
    The Story of the Call of Samuel
    Jacob and Esau
    Benjamin and the Silver Goblet*
    The Coat of Many Colors
    David and Goliath
    The Wisest Man in the World
    Kings and Queens of the Bible
    Old Testament Rhymes
    Queen Esther Saves Her People*
    The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale
    Daniel and the Lord of Lions
    The Lord is My Shepherd
    To Every Thing There Is A Season*

    New Testament
    The Nativity: Six Glorious Pop-Up Scenes*
    The Miracles of Jesus
    The Parables of Jesus
    Loaves & Fishes
    Parable of the Good Samaritan
    The Parable of the Vineyard
    The Parable of the Sower
    Parable of the Bridesmaids
    The Twelve Apostles
    The Easter Story*
    The Thornbush
    St. Peter’s Story
    St. Joseph’s Story
    Love Is . . .
    The Way of the Cross: Holy Week, the Stations of the Cross, and the Resurrection

    The Saving Name of God the Son *
    The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith*

    Angel Stories from the Bible
    Twice Yours
    I Believe: The Nicene Creed
    The Lord’s Prayer
    This Little Prayer of Mine
    This Is What I Pray Today: Divine Hours Prayers For Children
    Prayer for a Child
    If Jesus Came to My House*
    If Jesus Came to My House (newer edition)
    A Child’s Rule of Life
    Friendship with Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI Talks to Children on Their First Holy Communion
    A Is for Altar, B Is for Bible
    Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present
    Manners in God’s House: First Prayers and First Missal
    I Believe: The Creed, Confession and the Ten Commandments for Little Catholics
    Just For Today*
    I Went to Mass: What did I See?


    The White Cat and the Monk
    The End of the Fiery Sword
    Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb
    Jacinta’s Story
    Brother Hugo and the Bear*
    The Miracle of St. Nicholas*
    Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove
    The Clown of God*
    The Little Juggler*
    The Acrobat and the Angel
    The Monk Who Grew Prayer*
    The Little Rose of Sharon*
    The Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God’s Gift of Purity
    The Squire and the Scroll
    Brother William’s Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey*
    Joseph’s Hands*
    Sister Anne’s Hands
    The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale
    Song of the Swallows
    The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane
    Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born*
    Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat
    Max and Benedict: A Bird’s Eye View of the Pope’s Daily Life
    The Monks Daily Bread
    The Monks Stormy Night