14 Books I Will Never Regret Reading With My Daughters

There are a thousand books that I have loved down through the years as a father reading together with my daughters, but this list (in no particular order) represents those works that changed something within us and so often caused us to keep reading beyond our normal one-chapter limit before bedtime.  These are the books that I think of without looking in the book room to remember them.  As I type their titles here below, I am immediately transported to the moments I was reading them with the girls, wondering what in the world was going to happen next and hoping they were half as excited as I was about the title of the next chapter or the illustration on the next page (and they were, most of the time).  I love them for allowing me to read to them.

1.  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett – another world and cool weather!


2.  The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – how it all began and from where that wardrobe came!

3.  The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – our first chapter book together and better than the wonderful movie we know so well!

4.  Doll People by Brian Selznick – before Toy Story, there was this gem!


5.  Psalm 139 (that’s right, this is in the Old Testament of the Bible)
-good medicine when it has been a tough day at school!

6.  Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl – a dad who loves his son and proves it every day!

7.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – an invention and old movies and a yearning to know your past!


8.  The Meanest Doll in the World by Brian Selznick
– toys come to life and make one of the best to read aloud!

9.  The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo – a short novel that packs a profound punch!


10.  Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles – only one word: wow! You’ll never forget it!

11.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis – more hope packed into this story than you can even imagine! Dragons included!

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

12.  A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni – simply powerful for its friendship!

13.  Here I Am by Patti Kim – a book without words about life in a new country, and that says more than a dozen books with words!


14.  Snot Stew by Bill Wallace – laugh out loud funny from start to finish!



‘A Color of His Own’ – Tuesday’s Look at this Book

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page.


Today’s great book: A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni (1975, RandomHouse)

The Author’s Book Website:  http://www.randomhousekids.com/brand/leo-lionni/

Time to Read: short and sweet; bedtime or anytime

Summary:  from the author’s website…”Elephants are gray. Pigs are pink. Only the chameleon has no color of his own. He is purple like the heather, yellow like a lemon, even black and orange striped like a tiger! Then one day a chameleon has an idea to remain one color forever by staying on the greenest leaf he can find. But in the autumn, the leaf changes from green to yellow to red . . . and so does the chameleon. When another chameleon suggests they travel together, he learns that companionship is more important than having a color of his own. No matter where he goes with his new friend, they will always be alike.”

Best Quote:  “And so they remained side by side.”

Our View:  Any book by Leo Lionni is worth its weight in gold.  This particular work is among our favorites in its simplicity and colorful illustrations, as well as its profound statement of the joy that can be found in finding even one friend in this big old world.  The author’s website is a wonderful treat that your young children will really enjoy, as well.  We love this book!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – Grocery Store Fun – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Charles Dickens in the Old West

I can’t believe it.  Ben Cartwright, Little Joe, Hoss and…wait for it….Charles Dickens, all on the same show!  I was so surprised by this mixture of classic tv western and classic English author that I really had no choice but to write to you about it.  My father is an avid old west television and movie fan, so he has handed that love down to me in these past 40 years.  Bonanza remains a singular favorite and its rich story-telling is among its greatest assets.

Because of the literary angle, the particular show we wanted to share with you is from season five, episode two of the series and originally aired on September 29, 1963 on NBC.  It was titled “A Passion for Justice.”

Here is an especially good summary written by Charles Delacroix at IMDb.com about this fascinating episode:  “At Ben’s invitation, Charles Dickens comes to Virginia City to give a reading from ‘Oliver Twist’ while on a reading / lecture tour in America. While there, he stays at the Ponderosa. He becomes enraged by the townsfolk’s casual attitude toward distribution of copies of his stories published without protection of copyright laws. After confronting the local newspaper publisher, the newspaper’s office is destroyed. Already having lost the esteem of the townsfolk, Dickens now finds that the townsfolk blame him for the violence.”

If you have some time, I hope you’ll enjoy watching the episode as much as we did.  Thanks to youtube you can click below and enjoy it right away!


Father Knows Five 1-17-14

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.)  See you next week…

1.  Book Apps –  here are several really intriguing apps to help you get your books in order!

2.  E.B. White – the author of such children’s works as Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web wrote this fascinating essay in 1951 entitled “The Future of Reading.”

3.  This is a beautiful work of art!  No wonder we like to read…


4.  This is just a reminder of the blog from Wednesday.  Mr. Banks and his children…


5.  The creator of Mary Poppins, author P.L. Travers:


‘The Farm Adventure Begins’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

BF Farm

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn and…old metal windmills!  Here is his story:

Baby Frederico woke up to the sounds of the wind.  It had never blown quite so loud or quite as fierce at home as it did out here on the wide open plains of his family’s ancient farm.  His grandfather Frederico had been born nearby, in what was now a mysterious overgrown hollow in the far north fields of the land, and that was where Baby Frederico intended to go today.  He knew one thing about this wonderfully hidden place that few people outside of his immediate family knew or even cared about – it was going to bring him what he loved more than anything else in the world…adventure!

Baby Frederico was up and ready in no time.  His Mamma had prepared a snack sack with breakfast and lunch for him, and his Papa had prepared the family’s famous adventure back pack – an old green backpack lined in red and covered in fabric patches that nearly held the entire thing together by a thread – with the kind of things a Baby Frederico would need for such an adventure:  a compass to find his way to and from the site, a flashlight just in case he found the old cellar, extra batteries, empty plastic containers for storing treasure, one walkie-talkie (his Papa kept the other one) just to check in with his parents throughout the day, and paper and pencil for making notes and drawings.

As he left the familiar surroundings of the homeplace and his family, he looked off into the distance and caught just a glimpse of a burst of light as the sun bounced off the rusted metal blades of the century-old windmill that awaited him.  It was the one landmark that still rose high above the farm and always seemed to invite him to come for a visit.  He couldn’t resist it anymore, and he was on his way.

Baby Frederico had no idea that a storm was brewing far to the north in the borderlands, and that it would sweep across the path of his adventure before the day was over.  It would also bring with it an experience of which he could have only dreamed.

Stay tuned…

P.S. Parents, if you are reading this story to your kids and they have an idea for what might happen next, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

The Fathers of Mary Poppins


Finally, we went to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks.  It is the profoundly moving story of Australian native P.L. Travers (1899-1996), the author of the Mary Poppins book series, and Walt Disney (1901-1966), who desperately wanted to fulfill a 20 year-old promise to his daughters that he would make their beloved book into a beloved cinematic wonder.

Though the musical fantasy eventually debuted on August 27, 1964 to rave reviews and forever cemented the lives of its lead actors, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, into Disney’s forever wonderland as well as the imaginations of children for generations to come, 2013 welcomed Saving Mr. Banks as it beautifully tells what happened not only behind-the-scenes at Disney Studios that led to their movie, but even more importantly, in the young life of Pamela Travers that led to her book.

I won’t say more about the film itself other than to implore you to see it, especially if you are a father.  This one movie is the Father’s Day movie of our time.  It is all about fathers and it is all about the enormous impact that they have upon the lives of their children.  When Ms. Travers realizes that the Sherman Brothers and Mr. Disney believe her book is about Mary Poppins saving the children, she is stunned (and her response stunned me).  It is about saving the father, and that sentiment is at the core of this movie – from Travers’ father to the father she created in her books, to Walt Disney’s father and his own life as a father – and, if you are also a father, it is one mesmerizing event.

I will never forget this movie.  For years, we have had most of the P.L. Travers works (Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary Poppins in the Park, and Mary Poppins from A to Z), but have never read them.  That ends tonight.  We will review each of them here on the website in the coming months.  So dads, gather up your own kids and get these books and join us as we begin the adventure.  Or at the very least, “go fly a kite!”

‘The Magician’s Nephew’ – Tuesday’s Look at this Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page.

 photo (2)

Today’s great book: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (1955, HarperCollins)

The Author’s Book Website:  https://www.cslewis.com/us

Time to Read: about two weeks (we read before bedtime each night)

Summary:  from the author’s website…”On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan’s song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.  Discover the magical lands of Narnia in The Magician’s Nephew, the first title in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has enchanted readers of all ages for over sixty years.”

Best Quote:  “Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,Strike the bell and bide the danger,Or wonder, till it drives you mad,What would have followed if you had.”

Our View:  This is one in the series of The Chronicles of Narnia that I had never read until just a few weeks ago.  Being that this is the first one in that famous landmark book series, I am amazed that I had never read it until now.  While it brings the world of Narnia to us for the first time and introduces characters and locations (such as the lampost!) that we will see throughout the series, it also gives a backstory unlike any other series I have read and it is action-packed, funny, and harrowing from chapter one.  The entire work is exciting and interesting and full of time-travel style mystery and wonder and fear and adventure and risk, but the chapter that I will never forget is entitled “The Bell and the Hammer.”  I was reading it aloud to the girls and truly lost myself in it – and that doesn’t happen very often, even though I love to read, because it is usually at night after a long day and I am tired anyway.  But this chapter, all I can tell you is that if you read this one chapter, it will force you to buy the book and read it aloud to your children!  One great book and one great experience for us all.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Delightfully Delicious Disappearing Delicacy – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.