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cilla lee-jenkins: this book is a classic


Cilla Lee-Jenkins was one of Avery’s favorite books this year. She's an independent reader, but I read it aloud to her because I didn’t want to miss out on it either, and it was a memorable shared experience. I loved it.

Research shows that children benefit so much from discussing books that they’re reading, and that even older children who are independent readers still benefit from being read aloud to by a parent. As a parent, you’re able to explain unfamiliar words, connect the new experiences in the book with kids’ prior real-life experiences and help them understand the themes of the story and the author’s intent. All this supports kids in better comprehending what they’re reading, connecting with the text more and most of all, enjoying it (which contributes to them becoming a lifelong reader and learner).

Cilla is absolutely enjoyable as a read-aloud. She’s a "future author extraordinaire" with a penchant for the sensational and telling stories with "creative license." In other words, she's hilarious, charming and has some serious spunk. We get to hear about Cilla’s mixed-race background—her unique experiences with each and the insights she gains from a diverse background. She tells us how she overcomes her struggles with reading, bumps in the road with friendships and realizations she makes about herself as she gets older. But here's the big news—Cilla feels overshadowed by the new baby aka "The Blob" making inroads into the family and she does not want to be an older sister at all. Her solution? To write a book about herself before the baby is born—and become a best-selling author—so that no one will have a chance to forget about her.

In her sequel Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic, we continue to hear her lively voice as a young writer. She’s learning and writing about themes in her life and shares her family’s different traditions in detail, some of which involve moon cake and chocolate cake (because dessert is a BIG them in her family)!

In the first chapter, Cilla starts off Chinese New Year morning by donning all the red clothing she possibly can and leaving orange all over the house to bring luck for the new year! Auntie Eva comes to visit, and the whole family heads to Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. The morning is filled with lively conversation, firecrackers, drums and catching up with her beloved aunt, who has some big news to share with the family.



the tea party in the woods

While on a walk through the quiet wintry woods trying to catch up with her father, one curiosity leads Kikko to another, and quite an afternoon of new discoveries and unique experiences ensues.  Akiko Miyakoshi’s soft and beautiful charcoals are swathed in textured magic and a dreamy nostalgia.  Quite possibly the coziest story for this season, and a reminder that friendship and hospitality take many forms, and that creativity plays an inherent role in solving problems.

The Tea Party in the Woods was written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi and published by Kids Can Press.



Armed with nine quarters, Danny and James are hoping to coax out the prized silver race car from the gumball machine in Mr. Wright’s store.  Oh, the suspense, as each quarter yields gumballs galore but not quite what their little hearts are pining for.  Wanting something so badly and riding that roller coaster of high hopes followed by acrid disappointment when we don’t get what we’re hoping for, then daring to get back on our feet and give it just one more try is a childhood experience that we remember all too well.  Jeff Newman’s illustrations have a great vintage vibe with an exuberant line that deftly captures kid energy and nostalgia.

Gum was written by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Jeff Newman and published by Candlewick Press.



Britta Teckentrup’s books are quietly beautiful and thoughtful works of art.  She  crafts worlds full of wonder and beauty that deliver a much-needed dose of magic before bedtime and leave a long-lasting impression well into dream world.  Her latest book that brings children closer to nature is Moon: Night-Time Around the World, a collaboration with author Patricia Hegarty.  Its pages with clever cut-outs show the waxing and waning moon in its different phases, shining over different animals all over the world—puffins shivering in the snowy Northern light skies, birds flying south to warmer climate, giraffes resting in cool grasslands.  Patricia’s rhyming words, with their charming cadence, flow in and out of Britta’s otherworldly nocturnal scenes with a lovely ease and serenity.

Moon, was written by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup and published by Little Tiger Kids.


here we are

Here We Are is a set of notes—a kind of guide to our immense world—that Oliver Jeffers wrote to his son shortly after his birth.  He takes readers from land to sea, to sky, exploring elements of each along the way.  He shares observations about people, animals and the way things work, with sweetness, candor and humor.

“People come in many shapes, sizes and colors.

We may all look different and sound different…

…but don’t be fooled, we are all people.”

Our world, as vast as it is, has so much to it—an overwhelming amount of details.  But Oliver imparts two last pieces of advice to his son at the end, simple and succinct—an encouragement to be kind and a reminder that he is not alone.  With rich, twilight color stories and immersive, gorgeous art throughout, Here We Are is a new classic.

Here We Are, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, was published by Philomel Books and will be out November 14.  Click here to watch a book trailer and to pre-order.  Book tour dates for the US and UK are on Oliver Jeffers’ website.

In honor of the upcoming release of Here We Are, I’m sharing some extraordinary places on earth that I want my kids to visit in their lifetime.

The Algarve in South Portugal — A beautiful place to unwind and breathe in the deep blue Mediterranean.  There are miles of coastline dotted with dramatic cliffs and tiny, hidden beaches.  Some standout local fare — grilled sardines and patéis de nata (incredible custard tarts).


The Alhambra in Granada, Spain — The Alhambra, a sprawling, maze-like palace and fortress built on a rocky hillside in Granada, a enchanting city in the south of Spain.  Plus an amble through the narrow, hilly cobbled streets of the Albaicín, one of the oldest parts of the city, and a stop at one of the neighborhood’s many teterías (tea salons) serving jasmine and rose-scented Mil y Una Noches tea and slices of torta de almendra (almond cake).


Redwood National Park in Northern California — There are countless hikes through the awe-inspiring, majestic redwood trees shrouded in fog and an air of mystery.  There are spots where the forest meets the sea, perfect for sitting on a mound of driftwood or huge, smooth stones for an afternoon of quiet rumination and just taking in the beautiful moment of being there.


Hope you all get a chance to read Here We Are!