Weekly Review: Gratitude, Books, and Taking a Break

Children's Books

Week In Review: Children’s Books, Gratitude, and a Taking a Break from Writing

We’ve had a lovely week with a lot to be grateful for, a lot to pray for, and a lot of soul searching about what will happen in the fall.

This past week has been a bit of a whirlwind, and I expect the next couple of weeks will be no different. As we prepare to move back into our home in Kingston, we’re trying to visit with family and friends before the packing frenzy begins. We don’t have a lot to pack as we have no furniture, but we do still have clothes, books, kitchenware, etc., so it’ll be good to leave the last few days we have in London for packing rather than visiting.

Weekly Review


But through all of that, we’re still managing to fit in the odd trip, and of course, lots of library visits, too. There’s not as much time for my writing, as I’ve now officially taken over the kids’ schooling and care (while we were travelling, Dan was the primary caregiver, as I continued to freelance write on the road).

Now that we’re stationary, I’m not really freelance writing anymore, but I’ve continued to do my blogs. As we prepare to return home and to homeschool full-on, I’ll be taking a break from writing. I’ll still journal and write some blog posts, but the blogs won’t be updated as often as they have been for the last few months. There’s a tonne of really great information here, so I really do hope people continue to visit and see the older posts. For now, let’s review the past week.


Week in review: gratitude


Week in Review: Gratitude. Person holding up a framed piece of paper that says "Give Thanks." Only person's hands are visible. Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash


I have a lot to be grateful for this week, despite being preoccupied with some things. A good friend was in a really bad car crash and is still in hospital, but I am grateful that she is recovering and that there were no fatalities in the accident.

Another friend is going through chemotherapy. I’m thankful that despite the difficulties these treatments bring, we do have treatments for cancer. I’m also thankful for his and his wife’s friendship and continued contact, despite the circumstances that would completely justify falling out of touch.

I’m also thankful that we were able to visit with our friend April this past week, and we had a lovely time. We were able to take a nice nature walk, watch a funny film together, she did a puzzle and colouring with the kids, and once Dan got back from his annual camping trip with his buddies, we even got to go out on our own and watch Alladin at Western Film. It was a lovely time.


April and the kids doing a puzzle.


Three children in a forest. The youngest girl is sitting on a chair made from a tree stump. Her older sister is to her right and her older brother is to her left.

This past weekend we hung out at a cottage owned by Dan’s mom’s family, and it was nice seeing lots of people again, after a year of being away. It was raining heavily as we drove towards the cottage, but the rain stopped right as we pulled in, and held off for the rest of the day. I especially enjoyed chatting to one of Dan’s cousing and her husband, another set of adventurers who I admire and aspire to be like “when I grow up.”

I’m grateful that my children have had a chance to try martial arts while we were here in London, ON, and that they’ve gained valuable skills, not just for self-defense, but for discipline and respect. 


9-year-old girl in martial arts uniform setting up for a kick

7-year-old boy in martial arts uniform, throwing a jab punch.5-year-old girl in martial arts uniform, doing a jab.










As always, I’m grateful for good food on my table, clean water in my glass, and a good roof over my head. I’m grateful for a wonderful husband and amazing kids who make me smile every day. I’m grateful for life.

What are you grateful for this week?

Children’s books we read this week

(and why we checked them out of the library)


Several books about dogs and two books about babysitting sitting on a coffee table. Children's books on www.marianamcdougall.com


Whenever my kids ask me to get a pet, I always have the same response: “when you’re old enough to have a job that pays for the pet, the pet’s food, the pet’s vet bills, and everything else that comes along with having a pet, you can have a pet.

My 9-year-old has decided to buy herself a dog, so she’s been doing the odd extra chore here and there to earn money so she can buy a dog. We’ve discussed it and she knows that it’s not enough to have the money to buy the dog, she also has to have enough money coming in monthly to pay for the recurring expenses that come with owning a pet. I don’t want a pet, so I’m not paying for one—simple as that. Call me cruel; I call it practical.

Anyhow, she’s determined she’s going to get herself a dog, so she’s been doing her research, both about dogs as well as about how she’s going to make money to buy one. The books she took out of the library this past week reflect her goals. We’ve got a tonne of books about dogs, plus books about babysitting—she figures she’ll do some babysitting once she’s old enough, so she can earn some extra funds. She’s playing the long game.

I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read the dog reference books she’s taken out, and my ignorance was plain when we were visiting a family cottage this weekend. I referenced the Husky dog, and my daughter immediately asked, “what kind of Husky?” I had no idea there was more than one kind. So the books are working to teach her about different breeds. See the picture above and zoom in if you’d like to see the authors’ names. I won’t review them because as I said, I haven’t read them.


Books for the younger kiddos


As usual, we read lots of books this week. Here are some details about the books I read with the little ones.


Several children's picture books on a table. Children's book reviews on www.marianamcdougall.com

Peg & Cat: The Lemonade Problem by Jennifer Oxley, illustrated by Billy Aronson

I knew Peg & Cat first as a TV show about simple math problems for young kids. M-girl found this book at the library and wanted to take it home. I’m not sure if she remembers watching this, as it was a very long time ago that we saw an episode, but regardless, the book is cute.

Peg must figure out how she’ll get enough marbles from selling lemonade. A nice book to review the concept of value. It might also be a good starting point to discuss setting up a small business that gives enough return on investment.

Toby, Who Are You? by William Steig, illustrated by Teryl Euvremer

Cute book for very young kiddos about a (prairie dog?) who pretends to be different animals while on a picnic with his parents. Might be a great one to use in an active games class with little kids—imitate the animals.

Many Kinds of Animals by Molly Aloian

This is a neat book with excellent photos and illustrations of, as the title suggests, “many kinds of animals.” It could be used as a launching pad to discuss animal classification. Good for new readers, with short sentences and simple wording.

Pete the Kitty and The Case of The Hiccups by James Dean

Pete the Cat is a really cute series for kids. Apparently there’s also Pete the Kitty. This book follows the kitty as he tries to get rid of the hiccups. Cute story to read with little kids, though I’m unsure if the solution that works in the book would work in real life. 

Fly Guy Presents Insects by Tedd Arnold

Follow the protagonist and his pet fly, “Fly Guy,” as they learn all about insects. Neat illustrations mixing photographs with cartoons. Had a discussion about mixed media with the children after observing the illustrations.

In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

A book about leaves changing colour and the changing of seasons. This type of illustration isn’t my favourite, but the kids enjoyed the book.

Daddy Hugs by Nancy Tafuri

What a breath of fresh air to find a book illustrated with simple coloured pencils. I enjoy drawing and have wondered about learning to illustrate books, but have noticed how almost every book now is done with digital illustration. I’d love to be able to just draw with colored pencils, simply. Perhaps one day I’ll pursue this. For now, I’ve already got too much on my plate, and it’s time to start taking things off instead of putting more on. Anyway, this is a sweet book with sweet illustrations about how daddy hugs are wonderful. Would make a cute gift for father’s day, but is a nice read any day of the year.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

I love how the eyes on the bunny seem to jump off the page. Beautiful paintings and a lovely story about planting the seeds of kindness. Kadir Nelson is a very accomplished artists and his paintings are absolutely gorgeous. Worth checking out his website (click on his name above).

Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. Cougarpants by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dave Mottram

I love this book, because this Mama is just as chatty as Wordy Birdy. Great story about how it’s not all bad to be too chatty, and how it can come in very handy. Also a great starting point to discuss friendship and how we should love people for who they are, accepting all of their personality traits.

That’s Not Funny by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds

Cute book about how what goes around comes around, and how it’s best to treat others with kindness.

No One But You by Douglas Wood, illustrated by P. J. Lynch

Gorgeous paintings in this book, and a lovely story about each child’s uniqueness. Also love that the author is a “renaissance man” and doesn’t just write children’s books—he’s also a musician, speaker, wilderness guide, and more. Check out his website by clicking his name above.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

We’ve read this one before, and it would be good for a “read the book, see the movie” event with kids. A good launching pad to talk about the dangers of greed and the importance of caring for the environment.

Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar, illustrated by Matt Faulkner

A lovely book and a good starting point to discuss the meaning of friendship and/or the importance of standing your ground and telling the truth, depending on the age of the children reading it. Love the illustrations. Also love that the author, like me, is a person of many interests, being a librarian, children’s author, teacher, and speaker. Not a fan of the automatic audio when you visit the illustrator’s site, though.

Fancy Nancy Ooh La La! It’s Beauty Day and Fancy Nancy Tea Parties by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

If you’re not yet familiar with the Fancy Nancy series, I can’t recommend it enough. Nancy Clancy loves everything fancy—even her words are fancy. This series is an excellent resource for vocabulary words, and they have both picture books for the younger readers as well as chapter books for more advanced word lovers.

My 9-year-old has loved these books even before she could read, and frequently takes out both the chapter books as well as the picture books from the library.

The two Fancy Nancy books we read this week give homemade recipes for a spa day (Oh La La book) and for sandwiches and treats for a tea party (tea party book). They have lovely illustrations and the stories are always cute.

Real Size Farm Animals by Marie Greenwood

This book has large pictures of farm animals and teaches facts about each one. There are pigs, horses, ducks, cows, and more. 

Children’s books we’ll consider buying—to read slowly and reference frequently


Several children's books on a sofa. Chidlren's books we read this week on www.marianamcdougall.com


Some of the books we checked out this past week were not read in full, because they’re meant to be read slowly and referenced frequently. These are books we will consider buying to have at home. We loved everything we read in them, but we have not read them in full (yet).

The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up, by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer

An awesome book that delivers exactly what the title promises. I’d love to own this book and plan on doing a few activities from it every year as the kids grow up. We’ll likely be purchasing it. The illustrations are really nice, too.

Forest Club: A Year of Activites, Crafts, and Exploring Nature, by Kris Hirschmann, illustrated by Marta Antelo

Another cool book for summer, fall, and more in the great outdoors. Love the illustrations, too. I’d like to buy this book and pick some activities from it to do at least once a week or once every two weeks.

Weird but True! Ripped from the Headlines by National Geographic Kids and Famous Fails! by Crispin Boyer for National Geographic Kids

These books are super awesome, but they’re definitely “look at a couple of pages at a time” kind of books. I’d consider buying some of these, but if it were up to my daughter, we’d buy all of them. She already owns a couple, so we’ll probably just check these out of the library frequently and continue to look at them, one page at a time.

The Famous Fail book is especially good for kids who have a fear of failure, to talk about how a sometimes, a mess-up can turn into a success (see the post it notes story).

Sandwiches! More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering, illustrated by Bob Lentz

OK, notwithstanding the odd use of “America” to only mean the U.S., this book is useful, but I find it visually overwhelming. There’s a lot going on with the illustrations on every page, and I wasn’t sure where to look first every time I turned one. However, there are cool histories of different sandwiches, and different recipes to try. My 9-year-old enjoyed the book. 

Epic Lego Adventures by Sarah Dees

This book has awesome full-colour illustrations of Lego projects for kids to try. My kiddos looked at it for a bit but didn’t really try the projects, but I think if the book hung around long enough, they might want to.

Personally, I prefer to let kids loose with Lego and have them create their own stuff, no instructions needed. Still, for those who like projects with instructions, this book would come in handy.

Recycled Crafting for Kids by Kate Lilley

I’ll be honest and say we ran out of time to look at this book in detail. However, considering how much my oldest loves crafting, it’d be a good book to have around permanently. I may consider purchasing it; however, we do also love to watch My Froggy Stuff and sometimes try her simpler projects (there’s no way I could do some of the stuff this gal comes up with).

The Klutz Book of Inventions by John Cassidy and Brandan Boyle

This book is hilarious, and I totally want to buy it to have at home and look at when I need a laugh. The ridiculous inventions are awesome and make me feel like time creating something is never wasted—even if what you create is totally nonsensical… Someone, somewhere will find it useful or at the very least super funny. I also love the binding in this book—it’s hardcover but spiral bound. Super neat.

Children’s books we checked out this week

for fluent readers 

drawings jumping out of an open book. Children's book reviews on www.marianamcdougall.com

Rainbow Magic Fairy Series by Daisy Meadows

My 9-year-old loves these books and reads them in a day. I’ve read them and to be honest, don’t really see the appeal, but for a 9-year-old who loves fairy stories, it works. If you have a kiddo who loves fantasy and is a strong but young reader, this series seems like a good choice.

Whatever After Series by Sarah Mlynowski

This is a cool series that re-imagines fairy tales by giving them different and sometimes girl-empowering endings. Two siblings have a magic mirror that takes them to different fairy tales, where the kids often cause mayhem and then change the stories.

My 9-year-old has read several of these; the latest being a reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk. This series reminds me of a YouTube channel that I found years ago that re-tells fairy tales by giving them different endings, some of which are kind of funny.

Dear Canada Series (this week we checked out An Ocean Apart, The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei Ling

This is a series of journals from girls who have been part of Canada’s diverse history. These journals tell the chidlren’s stories in their own words. My daughter is still working on this one. It was our friend April who took it out of the library and recommended it, so K-girl is slowly making her way through the book. I have 5,000 books on my “to read” list, so I can’t comment on this one. If you’ve read it, let us know what you thought about it in the comments 🙂

Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish

I love this author’s name. It’s just as cool as Penn for an author’s last name. Anyway, my husband is on a bread-making frenzy these days, and he picked up this book at the library to try out some new recipes.

I LOVE the photography in this book, though I’ll be honest and say I haven’t really taken the time to look through it in detail. From the looks of it, though, it seems to be a very detailed account of how to make artisan bread, including suggested equipment, etc.

I personally feel the print is far too small, and other than wearing glasses, my vision isn’t that bad. I’d prefer a bigger font. Otherwise it looks like a good addition to a Cookbook shelf. (ever since I saw one of these at Kate & Jim’s cabin, I really want to collect cookbooks again).

Other Stuff

We Checked Out From the Library This Week

Tae Bo photo in a gym with Billy Blanks

We also checked out some movies and workout DVDs from the library this week! We tried Tae-Bo together and had a blast (I adapted several of the exercises to accommodate my wobbly joints), and I unwittingly checked out a children’s dance DVD (Dance It Out Kids), without realizing that the instructor is actually the son of the Tae-Bo guy! (Billy Blanks does the Tae-Bo one, Billy Blanks Junior does the Junior Dance one). We had a blast trying out different dance move and exercises this past week.

We also checked out Beethoven, which I’d never seen before, and made use of the private movie theatre in the building where we’re living. We had a lot of fun and the movie was totally hilarious.

We also checked out Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Flushed Away, and a Lego Ninjago TV Show. The kids loved all the movies (we’d seen Narnia before, but the kiddos enjoyed watching it again).

Library Summer Reading Program is a Lot of Fun

We’ve been having fun participating in the library summer reading program—reading lots of books, participating in challenges, doing crafts, and just having a good time with books. Summer is coming to an end, but if you haven’t participated this year, there’s always next. Most libraries do some kind of summer reading program, so check with your local one for next year. Some libraries do both adult and children programming.

As you can see, the library has a lot more to offer than books. When was the last time you visited your library?


We enjoyed all the children’s books we took out of the library this past week. One of my favourite things to do with my kiddos is read to them, and it’s fun to also participate in the summer reading program that the library puts together.

What have you read with your kids this week? If you don’t have kids, what have you read to yourself?


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