Three Hundred Pages Blog

Top 10 Picture Books For Families

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My youngest son is 5, so the last year or so has been filled with books about superheroes, robots, pirates, and knights.  I always try to sneak in a few other books, though, to add to the variety.  Recently, when talking with him about some of his favorite books, I was surprised to find that most of the books he enjoyed the most had nothing to do with superheroes, or pirates, or knights.  He did sneak in a robot book, however, but I can promise you that the one I've included here is worth reading and entertained our entire family.  While there were dozens of books that we considered "favorites," not all of them made the cut for the top ten.  Here are our family's favorites:

1.) Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin

Image result for those darn squirrels by adam rubin

Adam Rubin is a genius when it comes to creating clever and funny books for kids that parents will enjoy.  THREE of his books are in our top 10, and if you read them, you'll understand why. 

Witty text combines with quirky illustrations in this funny take on the classic man versus squirrel conflict over backyard birdfeeders.

2.) Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin

There is a reason Adam Rubin is in our top 2.  His books are awesome.  You will be too, if you read them.

A special sauce turns a boy into a robot, and he then transforms everyone and everything into robots, including the book.

3.) Press Here by Hervé Tullet

This book is interactive, and the kids feel like they're making interesting things happen.

Each page of this surprising book instructs the reader to press the dots, shake the pages, tilt the book, and who knows what will happen next! Children and adults alike will giggle with delight as the dots multiply, change direction, and grow in size, in this unique picture book about the power of imagination and interactivity will provide read-aloud fun for all ages.

4.) The Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems

Okay, I realize this isn't just one book, but we honestly couldn't pick our favorite book out of this series, so I suggest you read them all:

5.) The Pigeon Books by Mo Willems

I realize I just gave you a list of 27 other Mo Willems books to read, but I beg you to read the Pigeon books, also.  My son loved the Pigeon books so much he wanted a Pigeon-themed birthday party.  If the Pigeon is so memorable that a 5-year-old wanted him on a birthday cake (and balloons, and walls,) just think how great they must be.

6.) The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

I don't know about you, but my for awhile, my son had imaginary friends - 3 of them!  They've mostly disappeared since he started school and made more "real" friends, but every once in awhile I'll hear him mention one of them while he's playing.  This book is such a great story about imaginary friends waiting to be matched up with the perfect kid.

7.) The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

My son was skeptical when I brought this book home, but this has become one that we've read over and over.  Even the two older kids love this one, and here's why: The book makes you say silly noises.  The kids will laugh and laugh and you'll have to read it at least 31 times every day until you manage to sneak it into your library bag and return it when they're not looking.  But it's worth it.

A book with no pictures?

What could be fun about that?

After all, if a book has no pictures, there's nothing to look at but the words on the page.

Words that might make you say silly sounds... In ridiculous voices...

Hey, what kind of book is this, anyway?

8.) Earth to Clunk by Pam Smallcomb

This book is about a boy who becomes penpals with an alien.  They keep sending each other things they don't want anymore, (including the boy's sister, at one point,) until they finally meet.  It's a cute story, and funny to see the friendship grow between the two as they send each other packages.  We read this one at least 5 times in one weekend.

9.) Parts by Tedd Arnold

This is an oldie-but-goodie about the things that can go wrong throughout your childhood, and the hilarious reaction of a boy who doesn't know it's normal.

10.) Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin

I promised you three from Adam Rubin, and here is the third one.  This one is about a raccoon who loooves pizza.

How does Racoon love pizza? Oh, let him count the ways. He loves the gooey cheesy-ness, salty pepperoni-ness, sweet sweet tomato-ness, and of course the crispity crunchity crust. But someone is always chasing poor Raccoon away from his favorite food with a broom! What's a hungry raccoon to do? Plan an elaborate secret pizza party, of course! 
But shhh! It’s a secret! In fact, you should probably just forget I told you. Nope, no secret pizza party happening here.You didn’t already tell all your friends, did you? Uh oh . . .

Bonus:  I know I promised you 10, but then I remembered one more that was a big hit and that we read over and over.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan

This book is about a bunny who loves chocolate cake more than anything else in the world.  And it's funny.

Have you read any of these?  What are your kids' favorite books?

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Bringing up Bebe

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My most recent read was Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bébé: one American mother discovers the wisdom of French parenting.  In addition to being slightly obsessed with culture française, I also have 3 children who I sometimes wish behaved a little better, and paid more attention to their surroundings.  The French have a saying for this: "sois sage fais pas trop de betise," which translated, is basically: "be wise and don't do too many silly things."  But apparently, the French expect their children to behave, to be respectful of others, and to pay attention to what is going on around them, while making wise and appropriate choices about how to act.  Living in a culture where parents expect to have to micro-manage their child's every move, thought, and decision, this book was truly refreshing.  It totally changed my perception and ideas about the best way to parent.  Maybe teaching children to be autonomous while providing firm boundaries is the single most important thing a parent can do for their child.  The further I got into this book, the more I realized that the American way of "coddling" children is really doing them (as well as the parents!) a great disservice. I will never look at parenting the same way again!

If you'd like to know more about this book, here is the summary from the publisher:

The secret behind France's astonishingly well-behaved children. When American journalist Pamela Druckerman has a baby in Paris, she doesn't aspire to become a "French parent." French parenting isn't a known thing, like French fashion or French cheese. Even French parents themselves insist they aren't doing anything special. Yet, the French children Druckerman knows sleep through the night at two or three months old while those of her American friends take a year or more. French kids eat well-rounded meals that are more likely to include braised leeks than chicken nuggets. And while her American friends spend their visits resolving spats between their kids, her French friends sip coffee while the kids play. Motherhood itself is a whole different experience in France. There's no role model, as there is in America, for the harried new mom with no life of her own. French mothers assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children and that there's no need to feel guilty about this. They have an easy, calm authority with their kids that Druckerman can only envy. Of course, French parenting wouldn't be worth talking about if it produced robotic, joyless children. In fact, French kids are just as boisterous, curious, and creative as Americans. They're just far better behaved and more in command of themselves. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are-by design-toddling around and discovering the world at their own pace. With a notebook stashed in her diaper bag, Druckerman-a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal sets out to learn the secrets to raising a society of good little sleepers, gourmet eaters, and reasonably relaxed parents. She discovers that French parents are extremely strict about some things and strikingly permissive about others. And she realizes that to be a different kind of parent, you don't just need a different parenting philosophy. You need a very different view of what a child actually is. While finding her own firm "non", Druckerman discovers that children-including her own-are capable of feats she'd never imagined.

And here's how to find it on Infosoup:

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Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

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"Alice Metcalf was a devoted mother, loving wife, and accomplished scientist who studied grief among elephants. Yet it's been a decade since she disappeared under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind her small daughter, husband, and the animals to which she devoted her life. All signs point to abandonment . . . or worse. Still Jenna--now thirteen years old and truly orphaned by a father maddened by grief--steadfastly refuses to believe in her mother's desertion. So she decides to approach the two people who might still be able to help her find Alice: a disgraced psychic named Serenity Jones, and Virgil Stanhope, the cynical detective who first investigated her mother's disappearance and the death of one of her mother's co-workers. Together these three lonely souls will discover truths destined to forever change their lives. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Leaving Time is a radiant exploration of the enduring love between mothers and daughters"

Jodi Picoult is one of the best storytellers I have ever read.  She seems to approach most of her stories from several viewpoints, dropping clues and little bits of information so slowly and casually that the reader doesn't even realize how much they know until she expertly begins tying them all together - pointing out facts that were presented earlier on and how they relate to the big picture, even though it wasn't obvious at the time they were revealed.  This book provides so many elements of mystery: paranormal, elephant behavior, human behavior, disappearance/possible murder, and of course a twist at the end that makes you question everything you thought you knew.  This book is amazingly well researched, and impressively put together.  From a writer's perspective, I am in awe of her.  From a reader's perspective, I now want to read everything she's ever written.  Are any of you Jodi Picoult fans?  Which book should I read next?

Find Leaving Time on Infosoup:

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Desire Lines

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I became a pretty huge fan of Christina Baker Kline after reading Orphan Train several months ago, but I had no idea that she had written other books until I decided to use my library sleuth skills and do a little digging.  It turns out, she has several others (which you may have already known, but I didn't!)  I decided to read Desire Lines next, because it's a mystery, and I've been on a little mystery kick lately.  It was so good!  So needless to say, last week was another no-sleep-because-I-can't-put-this-book-down kind of week.  Here's the blurb from the back of the book, in case you're interested:

On the night of her high school graduation, Kathryn Campbell sits around a bonfire with her four closest friends, including the beautiful but erratic Jennifer.  "I'll be fine," Jennifer says, as she walks away from the dying embers and towards the darkness of the woods.  She never comes back.

Ten years later, Kathryn has tried to build a life for herself, with a marriage and a career as a journalist, but she still feels the conspicuous void of Jennifer's disappearance.  When her divorce sends her reeling back to the Maine town where she grew up, she finds herself plunged into a sea of memories.  With nothing left to lose, she is determined to answer on simple question: What happened to Jennifer Pelletier?

This book has a lot of things that appeal to me.  Kline is an amazing writer, and the characters are very realistic and relatable.  A lot of mystery stories I've read have had the main characters immediately turn into fearless super-detectives - leaping into the process of solving the mystery with reckless abandon.  I don't know about you, but I'm not Nancy Drew, and it would not be in my nature to slink around outside by myself in the middle of the night, or sneak into a suspected murderer's house to look for clues, or decide to single-handedly take down the criminal without involving the police.  Then again, who knows?  Maybe I would under the right circumstances, but in this novel, the main character, Kathryn, is much more reluctant and unsure.  She procrastinates; she doesn't really know how to begin, or where to look for information.  She cares very much about figuring out what happened to her best friend, but she also doesn't put herself in any sort of danger until the very end, when she is getting very close to figuring things out and knows it's up to her to find the one piece of information that the police could never find. 

This story is elusive, relatable, exciting, and heartbreaking all at once.  It's probably one of the best books I've read this year, and I can't wait to read more by this author.

Desire Lines is available through Infosoup if you're interested and want to check it out for yourself!  Here is the link:

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All the Stars in the Heavens

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I've been dying to share the review of my latest read: All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani.  This was my first experience with this author, and while honestly, the beginning felt slow to me, and even after the first few chapters I still felt I could take it or leave it, I am so glad I stuck with it.  The story follows the life of Alda Ducci, a young woman who escapes her past in Italy by joining a convent in America, later to be kicked out and sent to be the personal assistant to screen actress Loretta Young.  While Alda is presented as the main character, her plotline is very much overshadowed by Loretta's, something that seemed to be true of Alda's life, as well.  All in all, I felt that the overall theme of this novel was the epic love affair between Loretta Young and Clark Gable, something that added a lot of interest and intrigue to the story. 

Trigiani is a very good storyteller, and for those who enjoy peering into the golden age of Hollywood, reading juicy details about the stars, and speculating on what is fiction and what is not, this is the book for you.  There were so many parts of this book that were quite tragic and unsatisfying - love affairs that ended badly, or never actually began, miscarriages, deaths of close friends and family members - but at the same time, the tragedy kept me reading, hoping that eventually, there would be a happy ending.  Flawlessly researched and executed, this is a novel that was out of my comfort zone at first, but I would definitely recommend it!

Find it on Infosoup

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Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

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We have a lot of Amish fiction readers here at the Black Creek Village Library, which is why I chose Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult for my next book.  This was another great suspense story, keeping the reader guessing until the very end.

A young Amish girl, Katie Fisher, is accused of giving birth and murdering her own baby.  She, however, has no memory of giving birth or murdering an infant, and claims she wasn't even pregnant.  Her boyfriend, Samuel Stoltzfus, insists that they have never even had a physical relationship.  Katie's distant cousin, Ellie Hathaway, a big hotshot lawyer from Philadelphia decides to take on the case, and moves in with the Fishers while she creates her defense.

This novel follows the lives of Ellie and Katie, representing the points of view of each as they become friends, and discover the truth about what happened.  It's a wonderful story, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good legal drama, as well as those Amish fiction fans!

Find in InfoSoup

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The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

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I just finished the book The End of Everything by Megan Abbott.  I have to say, I was a bit skeptical going into it, because it's written from the point of view of a 13 year-old-girl.  I also don't typically read supense/psychological thrillers, but after reading this one, I'm beginning to wonder why I don't.  Aside from 2 or 3 sleepless nights during which I lay awake thinking about this book, I could NOT put it down.  Thank goodness for the audiobook version which allowed me to listen to it during every spare second of my day - while making supper, while cleaning, while taking a shower (yes, it was that serious!) - even while driving the 2 minutes it takes me to get to work. 

It might have been the mother in me needing to know what was going to happen - the main character, Lizzie's best friend goes missing, and there is a huge chance she may have been kidnapped by a man well known by the entire town.  Abbott does a great job writing from the point of view of a young teenager while also making it relatable for an adult audience.  This book explores friendship, family, and growing up, while making you question how well you actually know your acquaintances, your friends, and even your own family.  By the end, I didn't know who to trust, but the author expertly ties it all together at the end... and then leaves you with an unexpected twist.

Here is the link in Infosoup, if anyone is interested:

Find in InfoSoup

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End of Summer

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Well summer is officially over (yes, I started this post over 3 weeks ago!) and I’ve finally made it through the huge mountain of books you’ve all so generously donated – which means I finally have time to write this blog again!  Summer is our busiest time of year and on top of that, our director, Jackie, has purchased A TON of new materials to add to our collection (over 1,000 items were added this summer!)

Here's just a taste of some of our newer items:

Children and Family DVD:

Madeline - the complete collection

Nickelodeon. Puppy Palooza!

Henry Hugglemonster - Roarsome Tales

PAW Patrol - Meet Everest!

Miles From Tomorrowland - Let's Rocket!

Barbie in Rock 'n' Royals


Children's Books:

Beekle by Dan Santat

LEGO Ninjago Masters of Spinjitzu - The Visual Dictionary

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt

The Complete Collection of American Girl books

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - The First Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling

Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues by Kim Dean

YA Fiction & Non-Fiction:

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Demigod Files by Rick Riordan

The Survival Guide to Bullying by Aija Mayrock

The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Twilight; Life and Death: A Reimagining of the Classic Novel by Stephenie Meyer

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Happily Ever After by Kiera Cass

Adult Fiction:

Where the Road Takes Me by Jay McLean

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The Photograph by Beverly Lewis

The Imposter by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Keeper by David Baldacci

The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards

Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb

Dance of the Bones by J.A. Jance

Undercover by Danielle Steel

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Make Me by Lee Child

The End Game by Catherine Coulter

Adult Non-Fiction:

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names by Robert Edward Gard

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

Adult TV & DVD:

Girls Season 1


The Runner

Little Boy

True Story

The Walking Dead - Season 5


The Age of Adaline

Furious 7

Pitch Perfect 2

Some of these titles still have holds, so log into Infosoup today to place a hold on a copy for yourself!

Growing Lifelong Readers

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Some of my fondest memories as a child involve snuggling up with a good book and reading for hours.  I would read everywhere, and any time I could.  I loved it so much my parents would have to set a timer and limit my reading so that I would do other things, like my chores, or my homework.  When our family went up north to our cottage for a weekend, I would bring a book (or 5,) and sit in the screened-in porch reading for most of the weekend.  When I got home from school, I would hide out in my room and read until supper time.  Even in college, I would spend a lazy Saturday sprawled out on my twin sized bed in my dorm room, reading.

Reading has always been an enjoyable activity for me – something I looked forward to.  But not everyone feels that way.  So why do some people spend most of their lives with their nose in a book while others never, ever read?  I believe it all comes down to how often a person was read to during their childhood. 

My mom used to read to us almost every afternoon when we were small.  As soon as we stopped taking naps, that time in the afternoon that used to be dedicated to sleep became filled with books and stories.  I looked forward to that time.  We read books about everything.  Sometimes, my mom picked out a stack of non-fiction books about Christopher Columbus, or the Pilgrims, or slavery, or World War 2, and we would sit and read book after book, and learn so much without even realizing we were learning. 

One of my favorite things we read was the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Recently, I started reading them to my four year old son, Liam, and it’s amazing how much he’s come to enjoy reading, too.  Every night he begs, “Just one more chapter, Mama, please?” and sometimes I give in, and we stay up past his bedtime.  But I’m happy that I can give him the gift of reading, just as my mom gave me when I was small, and I hope that will stay with him his whole life, just as it has for me.

Please consider reading to your children every day.  It truly is a lifelong gift.

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10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block

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Writer’s block. Every writer has encountered this obstruction of creativity at some point, and everyone has their own way of overcoming it. Some are proactive and try to find a way around it, while some step back and wait for inspiration to strike. As someone who’s tried it both ways, I have to be honest – people who wait around for inspiration to strike will often end up waiting a very long time.

Here are some things I’ve tried that have helped immensely:

1.) Tell yourself you only have to write a tiny bit. Limiting your assignment to one page, one paragraph or even just a few sentences can really take away the pressure, which is often what is causing your block in the first place. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, also recommends giving yourself short assignments. In her case, she only has to write as much as she can see through a one-inch picture frame, and no more. If you feel inspired to continue – great! If not, that’s okay, too. At least you’ve done something.

2.) Rituals. Many writers have rituals that help to get them in the mood for writing. Some put on music, or sip their favorite beverage, or have a special room for writing, or even go for a walk and think about what they’re going to write about. Whatever it is, it has to work for you. The first few times you try it, it may not have the desired effect, but after it becomes a habit, it often has the ability to gently coax you into the writing spirit. If not, try something else!

3.) Try rewriting a paragraph or two from your favorite book in your own words and using your characters instead of the author’s. The reason this works is that it gets you writing in your own voice and often inspires ideas for your own story.

4.) Write about something else. Take a day off from your story and work on something you’ve set aside. Sometimes taking a day to focus on something else will be just what you need to get back to your project.

5.) Write a description of one of your characters. Or all of them. This works great, because often you discover something about them that you’ve never thought of before, and this can add great plotlines to your story.

6.) Try a writing exercise. Most writing exercises are designed to draw out your creativity with the process of improvisational writing. I have found this to be very effective, and often, it can lead to ideas for future stories. One of my old college professors used to challenge us to a 15 minute “Quickwrite”. He would write a topic on the board, and then tell us to start. This forced us to write off the tops of our heads without thinking about how it sounded. We were not allowed to go back and read it or fix anything until the end. Some of the best writing was achieved in this way, because it forces you to drop your inhibitions. Try it!

7.) Change your scenery. If you’re used to writing in your dining room or your home office, perhaps a change of scenery is all it will take to raise your inspiration levels. Try writing while sitting at a café or on a bench at the park, or on a lawn chair in your backyard. If you don’t have a laptop and don’t like writing by hand, try the library. Most libraries have computers that you can use for free if you have a library card.

8.) Change things up a little. If you already have a writing ritual, and it doesn’t seem to be doing the trick anymore, maybe it’s time to change things a little. Change stimulates your brain, which results in an increase in creativity and a decrease in writer’s block. If you usually write in the morning, try writing in the afternoon or evening. If you usually listen to classical music, try listening to rock. Do something different, and see how your brain, and writing, responds.

9.) Never finish your sentences. Another little trick I’ve heard is to never end your writing for the day with a complete sentence. This will allow you to jump back into the same flow of writing as when you left off. This can prevent writer’s block because you’ll immediately know what to write and you’ll avoid staring at your computer screen for 20 minutes while you figure out what happens next.

10.) Realize that you don’t have to write the story in chronological order from beginning to end. Instead, think of yourself as a movie director. They shoot scenes in random order and then piece them all together to create the final product. Some scenes get cut, some get moved around and some get changed or reshot. You can do this with your story, as well. If the scene you’re working on isn’t working for you, jump to a different scene. You may change your mind and decide not to go in that direction after all, but the good news is – at least you got yourself writing again.

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