Our 6 Favorite Picture Books about Paris

becca-garber-favorite-picture-books-paris In honor of our trip to Paris one year ago, I decided to share with you a few of our favorite picture books that take place in Paris!

We already love and own two classic picture books about Paris — Madeline and Mirette on the High Wire. These will always be my first loves, and they rise above any others as enduring classics. Do you know and love them as well?

These new favorites pictured above, though, all come from this extensive list that my friend Becca shared with me a few months ago. I found most of them at my local library. Some weren’t that great, in my opinion, like this one — I just can’t love this character, try as I might, and the book was a headache to read aloud.

But these six are our new favorites. They, along with Madeline and Mirette, are the crème de la crème, as they say!

*****

EVERYBODY BONJOURS

by Leslie Kimmelman

A cheerful book without many words, this is great for teaching children how to say hello in French. A young girl travels throughout Paris — to a patisserie, a soccer game, the Eiffel Tower — and everyone says “bonjour!” wherever she goes. Helpful for teaching children — and adults! — that greeting with a bonjour is essential before any interaction in France. I wish I’d read this before we visited.

*****

ANATOLE

Eve Titus

“Anatole is a most honorable mouse.” This beautifully illustrated Caldecott Honor book is the story of a mouse who decides to earn food for his family in an honest way, so he sneaks into a cheese factory, tastes all the cheeses, and leaves little notes on them indicating “good,” “not so good,” “needs orange peel,” and so on. The cheesemakers love his advice, but they cannot imagine who this connoisseur could be…

*****

LET’S GO, HUGO!

Angela Dominguez

This is a sweet and simple book, and not super Parisian, but Lena really enjoyed it, so I’m putting it on the list. Hugo is a dapper bird who loves his city, but he only loves it from the ground — because he refuses to fly. Then he meets a lovely little bird named Lulu who convinces him to spread his wings. How long can he keep her on the ground? Will he ever learn to fly?

*****

THE INCREDIBLE PAINTING OF FELIX CLOUSSEAU

Jon Agee

Once again, I was not as big a fan, but Lena requested it over and over, so what do I know?! Felix Clousseau is an odd old painter, and no one paid him any mind — until his paintings come alive and volcanoes start erupting and ducks start quacking in them. This is all a nuisance, and his paintings are confiscated. All except one. Will that painting save the crown and make Clousseau a hero? I’ll give you one guess. ;)

*****

ADELE & SIMON

Barbara McClintock

Adele and Simon are a brother and sister walking home from school in Paris who see their friends and the sights of Paris along the way. Simon, however, has his hands full of books and crayons and binoculars, and he can’t seem to keep track of them. He loses something on every page! Can you find them for him? The illustrations are beautiful, and both Lena and I loved this book. I also recommend Adele & Simon in America.

*****

THIS IS PARIS

Miroslav Sasek

What a wonderful book! If you are planning a trip to Paris, this is essential reading — and it would make a charming gift for an adult, too. The author writes the book to you, the reader, with wonderful pictures of everything you will see and do in Paris. The illustrations are gorgeous, the writing is tongue-in-cheek, and the whole book is fresh and delightful, even though it was written in the 1960s. Check out the rest of Sasek’s travel series as well.

*****

Now, even as I put together this post I came across more picture books set in Paris that I haven’t even heard of yet. We even have one in our house right now — The Tooth Mouse — that takes place in Notre Dame and is just wonderful.

Do you have any favorite picture books that are set in Paris? We’d love to hear!

13 :: in good reads, Paris

Happy 4th Birthday, Lovely Lena!!!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-3 Every year on my children’s birthdays, I try to take photos throughout the whole day and then post them here. I love looking back on each birthday to see how they have changed and grown! Here is Lena’s first birthday, first party, second birthday, second party, and third birthday (and no party because her mama grew up too, hardy har), as well as Gil’s first and second birthdays.

This year Elliott’s parents were visiting but went home the day before Lena’s actual birthday, so we celebrated before they left with a special meal and a couple of presents. Her grandparents bought her the doll stroller she’s been asking about; I’ve heard her say, “For my birthday I want a balloon and a doll stroller” for the past four months or so.

We made Lena close her eyes while I brought the stroller out, covered in a blanket. Lena opened her eyes and saw the gift, but then she totally turned the tables on us and told us to close our eyes while she now did the unveiling. We complied…

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-1 … and I just love the next picture. Her grandparent’s faces (especially in comparison with Gil’s deadpan) makes me laugh every time.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-2 Lena and Gil, needless to say, both love the stroller. Thank you, Grampa and Marmee!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-18 The stroller itself, for those who are wondering, is an antique, but I bought it off my neighborhood yard sale (on behalf of Lena’s grandparents) and so all that I know is that it was made between the 1920s and 1950s. It needed a little TLC when we got it, including new screws for the handlebars and some bedding to make her doll comfortable. My mom and mother-in-law both contributed to the little mattress and quilt inside the stroller. I love what a collaborative effort this gift was!

On Lena’s actual birthday, Gil woke up early, and he was excited to go into Lena’s bedroom when she woke up to sing “Happy Birthday” with us. Unfortunately this is the last thing she wanted to hear right as she opened her eyes. ;)

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-4 We made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, her favorite. Always a group project around here, especially where dough and frosting are concerned.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-5 She posed with her presents, which she opened slowly, one by one, throughout the day. Please admire my wrapping job, which included the very last of all the wrapping paper I have left over from my wedding and baby showers! Do you think that means I can finally, in good conscience, buy some of this gorgeous paper?!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-17 Friends and family were so generous, as always. Here Lena is studying a card and wearing a beautiful handmade dress from my dear friend Nicole (who attended Lena’s 1st birthday party in Sicily with her family!) and is jumping in pink knee-high socks from her Auntie Jess.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-14 The “most played with” gift award goes to this toy. I can’t even believe how much time we all (including friends who visit) spend building and creating with it. Thanks to everyone who recommended them on this post! You were so right.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-16 Elliott came home for lunch and we took the kids to the carousel at the zoo, continuing the tradition from Gil’s birthday. Carousels are so hard to capture even in multiple photos, but trust me when I say that this one is a gem.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-6 I tried and tried but got no good pictures of the birthday girl on her horse. I stopped trying when Lena reached excitedly for my hand and held onto it tightly the rest of the ride.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-7 At home, our quiet, everyday routine prevailed after all the excitement. Lena and I snuggled together to read before her “nap”/rest time, just like we always do, and today she picked Paddington.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-8 After naps, the kids opened a gift from her great-grandparents while Lena wore her birthday gift from her Auntie Em.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-9 It was kinetic sand!!! Love this stuff.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-11 The kiddos continued to help in the kitchen, this time to make Lena’s birthday cake. She has been asking for “a strawberry cake” for a year, after having a raspberry cake last year. I finally decided to use this pavlova recipe (thank you, Amanda!) and top the meringue with fresh cream and strawberries. Unfortunately Gil grabbed the salt shaker when I wasn’t looking and did some serious damage to the flavor, but… life goes on!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-10 At the end of the day, I needed groceries and Lena still needed the balloon that I promised her for a birthday gift six months ago, so we went to the commissary… just me and her. What a treat to be alone, just the two of us! We both kept looking at each other like, “Where’s Gil?”

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-12 At home, I made a meal that Lena loves: roast chicken with root vegetables, green beans (under the foil, and with lots of butter!), and fresh fruit. My dad was in town and joined us for the meal, which made it even more special.

And then this little lady finally let us sing “Happy Birthday” to her!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-13 Like most, this day was not without its mishaps (like the too-salty pavlova and the Fiasco of the Frozen Balloon, may it now forever be forgotten), but it was also full of thankfulness for one very precious little girl.

To end on a more thoughtful note, I want to say what great joy Lena gives me with her heart and her faith. We clash daily over wills (more often than me and Gil) and frustrate each other all day long; she’s not perfect and I’m definitely not either. Even still, despite all our mistakes, she is loving and generous and thoughtful and kind, and she is truly an amazing and tender big sister. She will run to Gil when he cries, like when he wakes up in the morning, and she is inclusive and compassionate and joyful with him. I’m amazed by her memory of things that happened two years ago (“That’s what we did in Sicily… I’m not sure if you remember, but I do”) and of formative moments that we would never have known made such an impression (“Mama, do you remember when I went to the Pumpkin Playground with Grampa and Marmee?” two and a half years ago). She’s silly and strong and curious and bright and hopeful.

Above all, she speaks matter-of-factually and often about God, his death, his resurrection, and her sure place in heaven. She anticipates seeing Aunt Booie there one day. She prays aloud before meals with a childlike sweetness, and I do believe — and I do not say this lightly — that she loves and knows Jesus. This gives her mother’s heart the greatest joy of all.

I love you, my precious Lena. You are such a gift to us!

11 :: in Lena, motherhood

We Have a Surprise!

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-20 Our cat had kittens!!!

Siena, our Maine Coon, gave birth to four little kittens on April 2, 2015. We’ve been loving them for the past week and a half. They’re thriving and ready to show their faces to the world!

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-7 Here the kittens are just a few hours old. I’ll write more about the labor and delivery soon, but it was amazing! Siena very clearly wanted Elliott (who, coincidentally, is a veterinarian) to be her labor doula, and he stayed up all night with her.

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-1.jpg Now here they are two days old! We set up a “nesting box” for Siena in our closet and have carefully guarded her privacy during these early days. This was the first time we held the kittens. They were so tiny, about 4 oz each, and their eyes weren’t open yet.

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-8 You’re probably wondering how our (exclusively indoor!) cat got pregnant. In light of Elliott’s training as a vet, this was a BIG family decision. Given the abundance of mixed breed animals everywhere in the world, we wanted to be really sure of the value of letting Siena reproduce.

Siena is a purebred Maine Coon, which means she carries traits like her friendliness, large size, and the unique tufts of hair on the tips of her ears that make her look like a lynx. We do think it is worthwhile to maintain certain characteristics that have been developed in animal breeds over centuries. We love Siena and her breed, and we wanted to give a few other families the joy of having one of her kittens.

Elliott had a friend at work who also had a purebred Maine Coon, a huge silver mackerel male. He is a gorgeous, friendly cat, and I would adopt him in a heartbeat! He came to stay at our house for a week in January, and by mid-February it was evident that our “arranged marriage” had been successful.

There is another reason we’re excited to have kittens in our home, and that is for our children. We want to raise them around animals who procreate, live, and die, teaching them about the circle of life in a natural and healthy way. One day we’d love to have chickens and goats and a bigger yard… and the dreams go on. I’ll write more about this another time, though, because involves another layer of the kittens’ birth story.

And now here they are at six days old, eyes open:

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-9 Tiny little faces! There are two gingers, one cream, and one calico. The first three are boys, but the calico is a girl (obvious from the beginning because she has more than three colors in her coat).

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-3 Here the kittens are a week old. Lena helps every evening with weighing the kittens and then holding them gently in her skirt for a little while. We continue to be very respectful of the nesting box in the closet, visiting quietly and not disturbing Siena when she’s nursing.

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-2 Whenever Siena leaves, the kittens pile on top of each other to stay warm and sleep. It’s the sweetest thing! Here’s a few more of six-day-old kittens:

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-4 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-5 And now they are a week old! Lena has fallen head over heels in love with the calico, named her Sally, and says, “This one is going to be mine when she grows up.”

This is a problem because we are not planning to keep any of the kittens…!

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-10 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-11 And here are a bunch of photos from this past Saturday evening, a nine days old and more precious than ever.

becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-12 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-13 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-15 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-16 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-19 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-21 becca-garber-maine-coon-kittens-22 More photos to come! :)

lena-kittens-nine-days-old

17 :: in kittens, life lately, Siena

Why You Should Have Your Friends Over for Dinner

Our studio in D.C.

Our first home in D.C.

When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a 388 sq ft studio in Washington, D.C. That tiny apartment was like a bird’s nest; we were level with blooming magnolias in spring and could see the Capitol Dome out our window.

Despite having just enough room to turn around in, we made a regular habit of hosting friends for dinner. We were young and so happy, and so we opened our doors and borrowed chairs and sat on the bed and drank wine. Acquaintances turned into lifelong friends.

Looking back, those were our greatest hosting days so far in our marriage. I think part of it was innocence; we were too young to care about our Craigslist furniture and too-spicy curries. But I think the other part was time and energy – those were the days before we (and all our friends) had kids and early bedtimes. We had no one to entertain but other young couples and friends, and we had nothing but time.

When we moved to Coronado, we dreamed of having those days again. We have a deck and patio furniture and a grill, and the weather here is perfect 364 days of the year. The scene is set for entertaining. We have so much to offer now, compared to the tiny one-room studio in D.C.

And yet months have gone by, and my husband and I realized recently that we’ve hardly had any friends over to dinner. Traveling for work, bedtime with the kids, visiting extended family, and so on and so forth – all of these things have slowed our good intentions down.

Then we made some new friends in Coronado. We only hung out with them once before we received an invitation to have dinner in their home. It was a delicious meal in their simple two-bedroom apartment on Orange Ave. Our two kids and their two kids ran wild through the three rooms of the house. Our Moscow mules chilled in copper mugs on an IKEA table. Their simple, genuine hospitality warmed us through and through. Our friends continued this spontaneous, generous welcoming, giving freely of their time and food and home, never minding the kids or the space. They offered cheerfully, and we felt at home.

Since then, my husband and I have decided to try to have friends over to dinner three times a month. It’s a lot of work for many reasons, especially because, like us, most our friends have a couple kids under five. During our meal, we all spend just as much time seated as running after our children. Also I am still the kind of disorganized person who does a whole week’s cleaning in the hour before her guests arrive. So far I only have two good go-to recipes that accommodate for allergies and children and work well on the grill. We are not yet practiced hosts.

But I almost don’t want to be. Yes, I want to serve good food and strong wine and have forks and plates at everyone’s place. I want to clean the toilet before they arrive, do some tidying, and have the meal mostly ready. I want my guests to feel special, loved, welcomed.

But I don’t want them to ever feel like they are anywhere but in a home.

When I walk into a friend’s house and see her dust bunnies and dishes in the sink and pile of laundry waiting to be folded, I see a home. I feel connection, comfort, and even relief. She didn’t hide the mess before I came! She didn’t clean for me! Her kids don’t have any clean underwear either! Being welcomed into such a home is a sign of friendship these days. It’s a way of saying, “I am who I am, and I know you will see my real life and love me for it. I trust you.” I want to spend time in homes like that, to have friends like that, to fill my life with honesty like that.

I want our guests to feel that way, too. In some ways, I never want to get so good at hosting that I lose touch with that newlywed bride stirring a pot of made-up stew with her husband, taste testing from the wooden spoon, and then welcoming guests into a one-room home with no embarrassment and so much love.

So I’ll keep sending out dinner invitations. I can’t promise my guests an immaculate house, or quiet children. I can’t even promise them a wine glass, because I break them all and I drink my wine out of juice glasses now. I’m still working on finding good recipes to feed them.

But I do promise them a clean plate and a chair to sit in. I promise them a family and a home. I promise them a heart that wants them there.

Take this bread, this wine, this friendship, and stay awhile.

34 :: in Coronado, family, friends, goals, home sweet home, hospitality, marriage, San Diego, thoughts, visitors

On Becca’s Bookshelf // March 2015 Edition

Recently Updated-001 Wow, I read more in March than I thought I did! Probably because Elliott was home so I was watching a lot fewer chick flicks than in February. ;) More books, less sitting around moping about how lonely I felt every evening!

Of the eight books I read in March, I had one definite favorite, and several other good reads as well, including two chapter books I read aloud to Lena:

  • Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagarty — I was so astonished to see this book in our local (small!) public library that I checked it out immediately. Sara graduated a few years ahead of me in college, and Elliott knew both Sara and her husband at UVA. This book is the story of her faith over the past 20 years from the time she made a decision to follow Christ, to her college years of ministry, through the rough first years of marriage, over years of trying to conceive a child, to eventually adopting four children from Africa. Her writing style isn’t for everyone (very meditative and somewhat stream-of-consciousness), but her story is very spiritually encouraging. — 4 stars
  • The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones — I bought this book from the author herself, a fellow Coronado resident, and I’m excited to go to a book event for it (as a reporter!) later this month. I knew it was chick lit and went in with low expectations, but it left me happy and satisfied. It’s full of friendship and cake and New England and redemption and a little bit of romance — what’s not to love? — 3 stars
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid LindgrenWho else read Pippi as a girl? I read all the Pippi books when I was about eight or nine, and she was larger than life to me. Turns out they’re perfect for reading aloud to almost-four-year-old girls! I had to modify some parts because Pippi uses words like “stupid, stupid!” and some parents might not like all her shenanigans, but overall Lena and I have laughed out loud and share an even deeper love for Pippi than ever. — 5 stars
  • The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda RipleyFavorite book of the month! It focuses on three American high schoolers who go to Finland, Korea, and Poland in 2011 as exchange students. Their experiences and the resulting research are totally fascinating; it reads like a novel. I now have a much better understanding of what constitutes a “good school”: not electronics or money or programs or even diversity, but good teachers who believe their students can all be excellent scholars. And, simple as it is, it gave me encouragement for homeschooling, too (if we homeschool one day!), because I realized the thing kids most need to excel academically isn’t other kids or field trips or iPads in 1st Grade. What they need is high standards and excellent instructors who communicate learning well.5 stars
  • Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann MahAnn lived in Paris for four years, but during the first year she lived in Paris alone while her husband (a U.S. diplomat) unexpectedly spent a year in Iraq. She decided to spend that lonely season exploring several regions of France and their cuisine. Good to read slowly, to appreciate the depth of research and heart that went into this memoir. You must love food and love France to enjoy it, though; she doesn’t mince words. — 3 stars
  • The Undertaking by Audrey MageeA fictional love story set during WWII. Katharina and Peter decide to marry sight unseen so that a) Peter gets honeymoon leave from the front lines and b) Katharina has a husband and benefits during the war. The story kept me riveted, but in the end my main takeaway was that it was so so sad. Both the characters and I felt so much hope, but war and people are astonishingly cruel. Nevertheless, I appreciated the window into German life in Berlin and on the Russian front during WWII. Magee’s spartan, dialogue-heavy writing style is unique, too. — 3 stars
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy FowlerIntriguing first-person (fictionalized) account of a girl who was raised with a chimpanzee as her sister in an otherwise regular home. The story begins at the end, when she is making sense of her usual childhood and the years after the chimpanzee left their family. Interesting premise, but the story was too discombobulated and messy to enjoy in a deep and satisfying way. — 3 stars
  • Pinocchio by Carlo CollodiOne day I told Lena the story of the boy whose nose grew every time he told a lie, and then we decided to read the original story. We chose the full-length version, as translated from the Italian. I disliked the black-and-white morals: if you’re a bad boy, bad things happen, but if you’re good, you get your dreams. Definitely not the Disney version that leaves you with cozy, happy feelings. Three-year-old Lena enjoyed having it read aloud to her, but it wasn’t my favorite.  3 stars

And now I need to hurry up and read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn before Book Club on Tuesday night. Have you ever read it? It’s been on my “want to read” list forever, but clearly I keep procrastinating!

What did you read in March? Any favorites?

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18 :: in good reads, On Becca’s Bookshelf

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