It is getting tougher and tougher to find good picture books that align with your values these days. How do you find ones that tell a quality story and have the kind of language and art that your family enjoys? How can you make your librarian your ally and know just which books to choose in the bookstore to add to your home library. I am joined today by Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival to answer all of those questions and more. This was such a fun conversation. I hope you’ll join us.
Pam: This is Your Morning Basket where we help you bring truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone. And welcome to episode 118 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I’m so happy that you’re joining me here today. Well end today’s episode of the podcast. We have a special treat. My good friend, Sarah Mackenzie is here, and we’re going to be talking all about picture books. Just a great conversation about how to find the best picture books, how to trust yourself as a homeschooling mom and knowing what you and your kids are going to like how to use picture books with older kids and so much more. So I think you’re really going to enjoy this episode of the podcast. Now, speaking of good picture books, good picture books are the perfect tool to use in your Morning Time. In our free month of Morning Time plans are filled with great picture books, suggestions. So if you would like to try out doing a Morning Time with your kids, we have a whole month of free plans for you that include not only the books, but music, art, poetry, and so much more. So come download that pambarnhill.com/month. And now on with the interview.
Sarah Mackenzie is an author, speaker, podcaster, and homeschooling mom of six with a passion for encouraging fellow homeschool moms like herself. She’s the author of Teaching from Rest: The Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakeable Peace and The Read Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with your Kids. She also hosts the wildly popular Read Aloud Revival podcast, which has been downloaded over 9 million times in 160 countries. You can connect with her readaloudrevival.com and I am so excited to have her joining me on the podcast today. She’s one of my very favorite people. Sarah, welcome to the podcast.
Oh, Pam. Thanks for having me. I always loved spending an hour with you, so this is going to be fun.
So much fun. Okay. So we are going to be talking all about books today, and I want you to tell me, where did your passion for books, picture books and reading aloud come from?
Well, I was a voracious reader as a kid, so I really did have always loved books, but my passion for picture books specifically, really didn’t become apparent to me until I was reading them with my kids. And I would notice that some books I would read with my kids, I just it’s like, I’d want to hide them or accidentally lose them behind the couch or something, you know, after I’d read them, like, please do not make me read that book again. And other books were just a delight to read aloud.
And so I kind of started paying when I first became a parent 20 years ago, you know what, just paying attention to which books were capturing my attention to why that was, you know, why, what makes some books more appealing to read than others? But I started reading aloud a lot after I heard Andrew Pudewa’s nurturing, competent communicators talk that you sent me my dear.
Okay. So I wrote an email this week saying you sent it to me cause that’s how I remember it.
Oh, that’s really funny. I’m pretty sure you sent it to me. Okay. And you went to the Great Homeschool Convention and then you bought the audio and sent it to me. I’m almost sure that’s what happened.
Okay. So somehow in the, like what, 11, 12, 13, 14 years since this happened, we completely flip the story around. All right. So I really think most of the best ideas I’ve ever had are actually from you.
So I think this is probably it’s a continuation of that running theme in our friendship. Okay. Okay. That talk was absolutely life-changing and like completely shaped my homeschool. So what, what was it about that talk for you?
Well, in this talk, he tells you that the two most important things you can do to help your kids be good communicators, whether that’s written communication or spoken communication is to read aloud a ton and to memorize poetry. And both of those things are actually very easy and natural to do. They’re very enjoyable, they’re free. They don’t require some like complicated curriculum or anything. And so it’s deceptive how effective they are because they don’t cost anything. And they’re pretty and they can be pretty enjoyable. They’re not always enjoyable. And so that’s kind of what stuck out to me. So I started reading aloud more than I’d ever read before, because in that talk, he says, however much you’re reading aloud, read more. Yeah. And so I did, and all the things he said would happen. They happened like better vocabulary and better written comprehension and reading comprehension, all these academic gains. But one of the things that I loved is that he, these what he didn’t actually say, at least I don’t remember him saying in that talk was how much we were going to connect how, like this shared experience of rooting for the same hero and cowering about the same villian and holding your breath in the same moments really puts you all on the same page, our minds, you all that you’re on the same team and rooting for each other. And so it had this incredible impact on our relationships. And that’s when I got super zealous about “wait a second, this so simple and so effective on all the most important levels in our homeschools.”
Yeah. And so that was when you, I mean, you really did start the revival at that point.
Yeah. And I think the reason that it gets, I mean, people get excited about it is for the same reason I got excited about it. This is simple. This is free. This is incredibly effective and I’m having a good time. And there’s a lot of things that are effective in parenting that are not having a good time. So this is one of those ways that you can have a good time and, and make a huge difference in your, in your kid’s life.
So big difference. And it’s fun. Love it. It’s fun. And it’s fun. Okay. So, I mean, did you immediately dive off into reading like novels and things like that? Because I think I see this a lot with homeschool moms. It’s like, oh, I can’t wait till I can read the real book. So I want to dive into Little House on the Prairie or Charlotte’s Web or something like that.
So did you start with that or did you already know the magic of picture books at that point?
No. I did try to read Little House, in fact, that very series with my oldest girls when they were maybe five and three and two. Number one, it was not successful because they wanted pictures. And number two, I was like, I love the Little House books by the way though, the audio book narrations narrated by Cherry Jones are spectacular. But when I’m reading those books aloud, I feel like we’re going through Noah’s arc all over again. It’s like the log was this wide and this long. And it went on top of a log that was this wide and this look, and it’s so much description and it did not capture their attention. So I got frustrated because again, I had that same thought of these are the real books, because when we think back about the books that turned us into readers, a lot of us think back to Ramona or the Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables or something like the novels that we remember reading as kids. But one thing that has been really interesting to me to discover is that the syntax and sophistication of the language of picture books is actually often not always, but very, very often superior to the language and syntax in a novel. And the reason for this is very simple. It’s because publishers expect that when they wait, you have a picture book, an adult is going to be reading this aloud to your child. Either that’d be a teacher or a parent or whatever adult is going to read this to a child.
But when they were talking about Charlotte’s Web or Ramona the Pest or a novel, they’re expecting that probably the child’s going to be most often reading it to themselves. So now they have to take into consideration reading level, Lexile scores and complexity of language and simplifying vocabulary. So oftentimes when we go from reading a picture book to a novel, we’re actually taking a step down in the complexity of language.
So if I had known that back then, I would have felt better about sticking with picture books longer. But now I’m a, I’m a big believer in sticking with picture books for as long as possible. And then adding novels in like, instead of thinking of it like a ladder where you graduate from picture books and go to novels, we can think of it more like concentric circles.
So you’re always reading picture books. And then you can add on novels when they’re ready to listen to them. But there’s nothing that a novel can give your kids that a picture book can’t. So there’s a lot of freedom in that because we don’t necessarily feel rushed to get to the quote unquote real books.
Yeah. I love that. And I downloaded your grade leveled using using books instead of a literature curriculum. I was like, I totally messed up the name of that.
Teaching literature without a curriculum. And I noticed that there are actually picture books for all the little grade groupings in there all the way up to high school.
Yeah. And you know what, there are some picture books that are not only best for high school. I mean, I would never read them with, you know, let’s say a six or seven year old. Some of those are on our list for the high schoolers, but they might be set during a really difficult time in history. They’re beautifully done. If we think of a picture book, we can think of it being like where the author only has a certain number of words to use.
So every word is going to matter so that the texts can often read a lot more like poetry, where the weight of the words matters, but then there’s also these beautiful illustrations. And so for a lot of us will think, well, as soon as the book has pictures, it’s for little kids. So then instead we give our kids novels and then we take them to art museums to look at beautiful art. When a picture book is like an art museum and beautiful poetry, or really well-written prose in your child’s lap. And so we, I absolutely read picture books all the way up through my high schoolers and my college graduates. I mean, my high school graduates who are now in college, they still feel very fondly. They don’t feel like it’s childish to read a picture book, which makes me very proud.
Oh, that’s, that’s awesome. Okay. So I’m just asking for your permission right now. I’m planning out my history curriculum for next year. And I was like, you know, I, there are some really great picture books out here about this period in history. And I think I want to read them with my high schoolers.
Oh, okay. So that’s so fun because that’s what I did this last year with my high schoolers, I guess it was the year before it was previous, but we were doing American history. And so we were reading through The Story of Us by Joy Hakim, like as a spine.
And then yes. And then every time we would run into a person during, as we were reading that spine that has a picture book biography, and they almost all do. I mean, there are a lot of spectacular picture book biographies. I would read the picture book biography to them about that person. And, and the kids actually thought it was funny because I would be like, I have a picture book for that became a funny saying in our family, no matter who we were reading about, I’d go, oh, hold on, wait, I have a picture book for that. And we’d read it. And my high schoolers learned just as much from those picture book biographies as they did from the spine text. We actually have a list of our favorite picture book biographies at Read Aloud Revival. So if you go to readaloudrevival.com/recommendations. We have picture book. Biographies are one of my very favorite genres. And so we have a huge list and it’s separated into like American history or 17th century history, or even different kinds of people like artists or athletes or whatever. So this is really fun.
Okay, I’m going to check that out and I’m just taking this as permission. That’s what we’re going to do for next year is look at those. It’s like, it seems so much more fun to do the picture books then other things.
Permission and granted.
Thank you. I love that this is completely validated by these conversations. All right. So we’re, we’re talking about our fondness for picture books and how we love picture books, but I’m going to have to tell you I’ve been a little discouraged. Sometimes these days going online, looking at some of the online bookstores or even going to bookstores in person and not being able to find good picture books. So how do I do that?
Yeah. I remember walking into the children’s book section of our, my library when my oldest, who’s now 21, she’s on my hip. And I walk in and I see this sea of picture books and some of them are face out. Some of them were, most of them are not right. And I know that some of these are better than others, because like I said, at the beginning, some of them make you just want to poke at your eyeballs, but I couldn’t figure out what it was, why that is. And it can be a little frustrating if you’ve read book after book, after book, and they’re just not good. It feels very demoralizing. And it doesn’t make you want to read more with your kids.
A couple of things are helpful. I always, I like to use book lists as a general guideline, because if you like with the booklets and we make a Read Aloud Revival, for example, are not comprehensive. We’re not trying to get every single, amazing book on them, but we try to give you a curated list of like, here are some really good books. So start with these and, or start with a couple from here. What looks good to you as a way to familiarize yourself with authors and illustrators who are reliably making really good books.
And once you get practiced and like, you can pretty much know that anytime you pick up a Jan Brett book, or anytime you pick up a book by Tomie dePaola, you’re going to find, oh, it’s going to be better than a lot of the other books on the shelves. So realizing the book lists are your friend that getting to know authors and illustrators names, just a few of them. But one other thing that I think is really key here is it doesn’t take that many books. And usually kids want us to read the same book over and over. And there’s a really good brain science reason for that. They’re making all these connections and reading on a better level. Every time we reread the same book, there’s some interesting research that shows in fact that with younger kids, they retain the vocabulary from rereads better than they do. So if I was to read five different picture books to my kids in one week, or if I was to read one book five times to my kids that week, they would retain the vocabulary from the one book read multiple times better than if I had read to them this wide array. So I think sometimes we think we need to constantly be refilling our coffers of picture books with new selections. When if you just find a handful that you love, you can read and reread and reread those. And that’s just as valuable if not more valuable.
Oh, that makes me think of Five in a Row. I did Five in a Row with my kids when they were little. Oh man. If I could just go back to those days of homeschooling, like if I could have it back.
Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know. I was really tired back then. I really liked them being able to feed themselves. My youngest is 12. Your youngest is younger than 12. So I think there’s, there’s a nostalgia that will eventually kick in for you there.
So yeah, I’m waiting for it. It hasn’t hit yet.
Okay. One of the things that I love that you said was the book lists are, don’t just look at it as these are the books I need to go out and get. That’s kind of like level one of the book list. These are books that I can go out and get and use in my homeschool.
But this is also level two. This is my training ground. Yeah. By getting these books, then that teaches me how to find other books. And so it’s the difference between giving people fish and teaching them to fish. I love that because one of the things that we hear so often, like with our Morning Time plans is, I can’t find all the books that are in there.
And we tell people, make substitutions. We really don’t expect you to go out and buy all those books. We get lots of books because different libraries have different books. But I love this idea of, of giving moms permission to say, let this show you what good books are. And then you can start making that decision for yourself.
That’s why I love this. It’s like training wheels. Right? The other thing to keep in mind here is that everybody’s taste is different. And just because a book is good, doesn’t like is actually objectively well-written and well illustrated doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to love it. And sometimes I think, especially as homeschooling moms or like, I need to know what the good ones are, cause I can’t trust my own taste and understanding that here are, you know, here are some samples of books that are really well-written with good illustrations. And then you kind of develop your own taste and your ability to see books, to find other books that are just as well done. But aren’t on the book list. And just because the book is on the book list, doesn’t make it more worthwhile than another one that you found. In fact, I think some of the very, very best books I have found recently have come from recommendations from people at Read Aloud Revival who are listeners to the podcast are part of our premium community who recommend a book to me and I’ve never heard or seen it before. And so it doesn’t mean that just because it wasn’t on our list, it’s not good. I just hadn’t themey yet. You know? So it’s this idea of being able to sort of under like, look at it, be able to look at a book and go, oh yeah. This one is worth reading or worth owning and realizing whether it’s on a list or not. It’s just as good as another one that’s on the list.
Yeah. I think it’s so important to sometimes just go with what you like, whether other people think it or not.
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
I mean, there’s no shame in liking something that nobody else likes and there’s no shame in not liking something that everybody else loves.
It reminds me, Pam actually for a while there years and years and years ago, you and I had a Pinterest board that we called a books Pam loves that Sarah hates or, or the other way around and the other way around and vice versa. Yeah. Because we didn’t, I don’t know. There was like a couple of books we found, we just didn’t have similar tastes in books. And then now you, you tell me that we don’t have this problem anymore because you only recommend things that you think I’ll like.
I mean, I think I’ve gotten better at noticing the books that you’re like, oh, I liked that one. Give me another one, like it. And I’ll be like, oh yeah, I kind of store that away in my mental file.
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I know whenever I’m looking for a book to read a loud with my kids or we’re going on a road trip and I’m wanting a great recommendation or, you know, like the other day I was thinking about this history time period. And I was like, I wonder if Read Aloud Revival has a book list for this time period. I go to you like you are my go-to person for book lists for my kids and my homeschool and reading aloud to Sarah Mackenzie used book lists?
I do, I do. There’s a few reliable places. I go look, when I am, I’m either looking for a book like you just said for a certain time period or on a certain theme, or if I’m making a book list myself, but I go for recommendation. So redeemedreader.com, they have a wonderful system of reviewing books that are mostly they’re reviewing books that are new.
So it’s Christian moms, a handful of them there who are writing reviews on a lot of books that are coming out now because it’s easy for us to kind of find recommendations or reviews on classics or older books. But the new stuff is oftentimes what our kids want to read and is oftentimes also what has most problematic content in it for us as far as like what we want our kids to read.
And so having someone else look through it and go, okay, the redeemed reader ladies, aren’t going to tell you, yes, read this one or don’t read that one, but there are going to go. Here are some things you might want to know about this book that might, that might come up for you and then they give it a rating.
So they’re a resource that I lean on heavily, especially for new books. And they can read those newer ones faster than I can because there’s multiple of them working on it there. So they’re a great resource. And then a lot of times I will just, and this kind of goes back to the idea of training wheels and like where you’re starting to learn authors and illustrator names that are, you know, consistently putting out really, really wonderful stories for kids. I will just Google like a homeschool books about, and then I’ll, you know, Whales, let’s say, and I will look through some lists. Now what I have found is that most people who are making book lists are just looking up all the books they can find, let’s say picture books about whales. They’re just looking up all the picture books they can find about whales and putting them on a list. And that’s not that helpful because some of those books are really not engaging at all. And some of them are fabulous. So I will start there, put a lot of them on hold with the library and then curate. So where all of our lists are kind of shorter at the Read Aloud Revival cause we’re trying to pick ones that we think are universally winners. Like very good chance that you’re going to love this book. But again, when I’m looking through like a long list like that, I can kind of notice author and illustrator names that I’ve recognized. Or if I see the same book listed on a couple of different lists, then I’ll, you know, think it’s a more reliable, more reliable source. But again, you don’t need that many. So even if you’re looking at a list of, let’s say you’re doing American Revolutionary history and you find three good picture books or, or three good, like one good novel and two good picture books to read with your kids. If those stories are read in a way that’s like leisurely and memorable and enjoyable, they’re going to have a better impact than if you’d read twelve. So you don’t need that many, which I think can be really freeing too.
Yeah. I love that.
That idea of just choosing a few good books as opposed to trying to read all the books. Less is oftentimes more, especially if you can reread that book again or just have a more relaxed, demeanor when you’re reading it. Cause you’re not feeling like you’re trying to plow through some long list. So I think then the books that you choose to read, even though there are only a few of them will end up having a better impact.
Yeah. Okay. So let’s say I’m just wondering into the bookstore, to the library and I want to walk out, I don’t have a list. You know, I just don’t have one today. I want to walk out with a couple of really good winners for my kid. Like how do I even start? That’s tricky. I think it’s getting trickier because I think sometimes the books that are on display in our libraries, some, it just depends library the library. If you can form a relationship with your librarian, that’s a good place to start. It there’ll be some trial and error. So I hear from a lot of people who try to get books recommended by their librarian and think she just doesn’t understand the books we like, but they’re not mind readers. So you have to like say, oh yeah, we did not like that one. And just be kind about it. Thank you so much for those recommendations. This one wasn’t a fit and this one wasn’t good, but this one totally was, and this is what we liked about it. That will help her or him give you a better, you know, have a better chance of giving you books that you really like, and that are regularly good fits a couple of things that you can do usually.
Or often I should say, libraries have lists or collections of like Caldicot award-winning books in the picture book session section. And they’re not all fabulous. I get irritated every once in a while at a book that’s chosen for Caldicot. But I think your chances of reading a book that’s very engaging and has illustrations looking at and looking at again and looking at again, they are higher with a Caldicot, if you’re looking at a collection of Caldicot books or Newbury books, if you’re talking about middle grade novels or kids novels, then that’s another good place. Again, they’re not, you know, I wouldn’t give like a universal recommendation of everything that’s won an award, but I think you’re just better, you’re probably going to find you have a better pool to start with. The other thing I would do is look for picture books that are picture book authors that have done a large amount of work. So you’ll notice if you go, for example, to the Brett section, I’d already mentioned Jan Brett. So if you go to the beast section, you’re going to find Jan Brett has a whole bunch of picture books.
And once you find an author like that, you’ll probably notice you haven’t read all of her books because there are a ton of them or Eric Carle or Tomie dePaola or Philip and Erin Stead. There’s just a lot of authors and illustrators who are making a pretty significant body of work that you can reliably like find something else that they would like based on facts that you’ve enjoyed before
Like Karma Wilson is another one of mine. So many of her books I’m really excited.
I’m glad you mentioned her because I just got an email from her yesterday. We’re going to have her at Read Aloud Revival this November in a very fun.
Okay. You tell her that Pam Barnhill thinks that Frog and a Bog is one of the best books ever written. Okay. Yes, absolutely. That’s an absolute favorite. You know, somebody like an Ezra Jack Keats, he has all the Peter books. So many of those and yeah. So just, those are some favorites I can think of from when my kids were little, I think.
And also like you can just think back to books that you loved as a kid. Now, this doesn’t always work. I, my favorite picture book as a child was King Bidgoods in the Bathtub. I remember going to the library story time. I was probably seven or something and hearing this book and just thinking it was amazing. And my kids do not like this book at all. I mean, Audrey will tell you, like it gave her nightmares. I don’t know if he knows story there’s these lush medieval paintings of a king that will not get out of the bathtub and all of the leader of the military and the queen and the, all the different people all throughout the castle are trying to get him out of the bathtub. And it’s finally the page, the little boy page who figures out that he needs to pull the plug. Anyway, it’s really funny, but there is an audio drama of it that has like some music and stuff that apparently really haunted my poor oldest child. So my kids don’t love that book, but there are books that you remember as a kid, Sandra Boynton had the Chloe and Mod series when we were kids. I think those might be out of print, but again, like I can go to Sandra Boynton books and go, okay, I loved these as a kid. So even if it’s not the highest quality picture book, it’s your having a good time reading it, even if it’s just sentimental value, you’re going to be transferring so much of that enthusiasm for reading to your kids that you can’t. Oh,
I love that. And, okay. So my favorite Sandra Boynton book is the Going to Bed book. I remember me reading Olivia that one, when she was like three or four weeks old. Yeah. And I think before it wasn’t all over, I memorized it and they put on their pajamas and go exercise. And that one does not.
Yeah. I think they got in the bath burst. They got put on their pajamas and then they would exercise.
No, it works. I don’t know. It does read that book to my grandchildren one day though.
Okay. All right. So, oh wait, where was I at? Okay. What do I, what do I do? And I just want to touch on this quickly because I have to ask you a big question about a big, a big surprise project. What do I do if my teenagers don’t want to read those picture books anymore? Okay. Yes. And they’re not probably going to want to at first, so you have to kind of normalize it and that is going to take some time. There’s a couple of things that I do when I read picture books with my high schoolers. Number one is that I don’t sit them around. Like we think of reading a picture book, like maybe sitting with a little kid on our lap and reading it or sitting on a couch. And they’re all like right next to you. My 16 year old is not interested in sitting snuggled up next to me. There’s no part of this where he’s like, yes, that’s what I want to do. So, so I will oftentimes just read the book and then we’ll, we might talk about it afterwards and he’ll be flipping through looking at the pictures so it could look different than you think of. It doesn’t need to look like a five-year-old reading a picture book. They don’t need to look at every single picture.
They don’t need to, you don’t need to be worried about them, like getting every single thing out of it. So even if you’re like treat it like a short story and you’re gonna read it to them, usually with a picture book, there is some element in the illustrations that they maybe should see or might need to see in order to get the full story.
Because it’s not a picture book is not just a short story. It’s usually a short story that is told half in pictures and half in texts. And so looking at the illustrations is important, but come up with, you know, some low barrier ways at them, see the illustration, you might just every third picture of something. Or when you notice something in illustration and go, oh wow, look at the picture of that ship. Can you imagine being in that hold for so long or whatever it is that you’re you’re reading. So I love that.
And one other idea is if you have older and younger kids and making it part of their school day to read a picture book to the younger kids can be a great way for them both to get it. So your younger child’s getting read to you and your older child is getting all the good stuff in the picture books. So if you give them any kind of, especially non-fiction or picture book, biography to read to the younger kids, they’re, they’re going to be learning all kinds of stuff. I learned something every time I read a new non-fiction picture book or a picture book biography.
So there’s always something there. And then the other thing that comes to mind is that I guess I work pretty hard not to be, make it weird. Like now I’m going to read you a picture book and I know you’re going to feel this is like for little kids, but so I will just say, I’m going to read you this story about Henry’s freedom box, which is an incredibly well done picture book biography illustrated by Kadir Nelson. And I think, I mean, I’m trying to, most of the time I’m not giving like a big introduction or like, it’s time for story time, or now I’m gonna read a picture book and I’m going to show you each of the pictures, like a circle time librarian at, you know, the library story time or something. It’s just a lot more casual than that. But also if you can manage it, letting your kids catch you, reading picture books on your own can help in our house. It’s just very normal for everybody to be reading a picture book every once in a while, if my teenagers walked in and I was sitting on the couch, reading a couple of picture books, nobody would go, what are you doing? You know. I’ts like mom’s reading, you know? It’s like the newspaper.
Well, you are Sarah Mackenzie, you know, I think people would expect you to be reading a picture book.
Okay, well, that’s true.
But there no reason why we couldn’t be doing it too though. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very much so. I think you just like, put out a plate of brownies and say, if you want one, you’ve got to sit here and listen to me read.
That’s brilliant. Absolutely. And your 16 year old son might even be willing to snuggle up a little closer to you if you put the brownies close to you.
Yeah. I don’t know about that. I’m not about that. No. Okay. Well picture books. I think that you probably have liked me seen not as many good picture books out there recently, so I know that you are doing something about that. So tell us about this new project that you’ve got going on.
Yeah. I mean, for all these years that I’ve been reading and recommending books that read a letter revival and just with my own kids, like I said, right at the beginning, I think I developed this habit of looking at a book after I’d finished it and trying to figure out like, what was it about this book that made it so much better than the last 10 books I read aloud to my kids. So I think over all this time, kind of seeing what makes a really timeless picture book, the kind that I like reading aloud that engages my kids. That’s fun to read, has fun words to say, or the language is fun to read, but also the illustrations are so well done. They make me want to look and look again and look again and all of those pairing together and make something like a classic or like a timeless book. And when I’m thinking about this, I’m thinking of Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney or Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola, or a lot of the books illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. They’re timeless. You could read them 30 years ago. You can read them 30 years from now and they’re going to be just as engaging. And I do think we’re seeing less and less of those kinds of books coming out of publishers books that aren’t necessarily fixed at our certain point in time in history and current events, but books that are able to really tell a good story in that classic good storytelling kind of way. So we decided at Read Aloud Revival to launch our own publishing imprint called Waxwing books. And we are making picture books to fit that bill.
Basically, our number one priority is making picture books that are a joy to read aloud. So you can read them aloud all 20 times when you’re child. Like, again, again, I want that one again for the next night in a row, but that are also so engaging to your kids and beautiful works of art. And so it’s been a labor of love. We’ve been spending a long time getting these first projects ready, but we are about ready to launch a Kickstarter for our very first one. I wrote the text for this one, it’s called A Little More Beautiful, the Story of a Garden. And it’s illustrated by Breezy Brookshire, which is really fun, cause Breezy herself was homeschooled. And so it’s just really fun to see her gorgeous illustrations, their watercolor illustrations bring to life this story. When I first saw it all kind of laid out together, I thought, oh my goodness, this is a story that like this lady in this book lived in my head. And then I put some words on paper and Breezy made her come to life. And there she is like, I can’t imagine her in any other way. You know, it’s really fun. So we are really excited. What we’re trying to do is basically make a book that you wouldn’t be able to tell didn’t come out of the New York market as far as like the quality of the paper and the hardcover and the dust jacket and the design of the book is we’re just really putting this high emphasis on quality because we know that when parents read aloud with their kids, they kids want the same book. If it’s really well done, they want the same book over and over and over. And the last thing you want to do as a parent is think, I wonder if I can hide this Dora the Explorer picture book. They never asked me to read it ever again. So, so yeah, we’re, that’s what we’re doing. I’m very excited.
Yeah. Okay. So this has been like, this has been years in the it’s been years.
Yes. I mean, I think I wrote the text for this book. I mean, I’d have to look back and actually see, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was five years ago and it’s been on a journey through editing that text and honing it and then deciding what we’re going to do with it.
And then deciding to launch Waxwing books, which we did at the end of 2019, I think, or 2020, I can’t remember which year I’d have to go back and look, but where we really decided, you know what, I think we’re going to make it ourselves. And it’s really been a joy because since we’re publishing the book ourselves at Read Aloud Revival, we’re able to really take everything we know about what makes book design a book of absolute joy to holding your hand and a work of art and piece together, all the different parts of that, whether it’s book design or illustration or text or typography and put it all together into this gift that we’re very excited to launch into the world.
Oh, that’s awesome. And then there were more books coming, right?
There are more books coming. We’ve got several more in the pipeline in the process of being illustrated. As we speak. One is actually finishing illustrations as we speak. So we expect newer books to be rolling out behind this first one, maybe every six to nine months or so for awhile.
So I love it, I love it. Okay. So tell me a little bit about the Kickstarter. What details do you have about that? As far as if I’m really interested in getting my hands on this book and supporting what would that be?
Okay. Yes. Thank you for asking. So basically the reason we’re launching a Kickstarter is so that we know how many books to print, because otherwise we do not know how many books to print and we want to make sure if you want one of the first books in the first print run, then the best way to make sure you get one of the first books in the print run is to order it through the Kickstarter. We’re going to have some Kickstarter exclusive like a Kickstarter exclusive book bag, and some prints and other really fun things in there that you get as a part of being part of this group that orders from the first print run. So the Kickstarter itself starts August 10th and we’ll run through September 1st. And so if you want to get in on that first print run and have some of those fun rewards, then you want to head over to Waxwingbooks.com and pop your email in there so that we can let you know when the Kickstarter launches it’ll be open. Like I said, August 10th, and you’ll get to pick from, you know, a few different packages of how you want your book, or you can just get the book itself. And even if you’re international, there will be an ebook. And this is fun. Oh, I haven’t told anybody this yet. So let me tell you this first book is actually going to come with an audio book. So do you remember when we were kids and there was those audio books where you could listen to it while you were looking at a picture book and it would say like, turn the page. So we’re doing that because I don’t know why they stopped making those. Because those are so fabulous
Yes. Those are so good.
Yes. So what we’re doing is every book will have a QR code on the back. And so if you’re buying the book, you’re actually also getting a free audiobook. So you’ll scan that QR code on the back. And then there will be two different versions of the audio book, one with the little page, turn prompts and one without. So very excited about that so that your kids can be read aloud by you, can look at the book themselves and be read to, or can look at the book themselves and just, you know, look at the pictures. So lots of different ways to enjoy it.
I love that. I love that. And you’re including it with the book, which is absolutely. It’s so generous and awesome and amazing. And now I really do wish I had little kids again, because I needed that with them.
I know it’s true. Right?
You know, those kids who are learning to read and all of that stuff, they really it’s such an important thing. So I love that. And I have to tell you, I am so excited that you are having book bags with this kickstarter.
Every person asked me, how do I get a Read Aloud Revival and book bag? And I realized this may be a different book bag, but at least there’s a book bag.
Actually, it’s the same. It isn’t going to be the same book bag, but the same style, a new design that coordinates with the book. So that’s why it’s a Kickstarter exclusive is because the only place you can get this particular book bag is through the Kickstarter. So if you have been waiting for a Read Aloud Revival book bag, first of all, I’m sorry that we haven’t had them available for so long. And number two, definitely check out the Kickstarter because I think you’re going to love the design on this one.
Well, Sarah, thank you so much for joining me here today. And I love, love, love this project. I’ve been so excited about it for a couple of years now, and I’m glad to finally see it coming out and come into fruition. And thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom about picture books and how to choose the really good ones and just have it have more confidence as a mom like looking to read to your kids. Cause it is one of the best things you can do. And thanks for giving us the skills to do it. We appreciate it.
Oh, thanks so much for having me. I love being here.
And there you have it. Now, if you would like links to any of the books and resources that Sarah and I chatted about today, and there were quite a few book links, you can find them on the show notes for this episode of the podcast. That’s at Pam barnhill.com/ymb118, and we will also link to Waxwing Books for you over there.
So you can get on the waitlist for that exciting Kickstarter. That’s going to be coming up really soon and maybe even get your own book bag. So all of that is on the show notes, Pambarnhill.com/ymb118. And Hey, thank you so much for joining me here today. We really appreciate you as a listener of this podcast.
It means so much to us that you are here and you take the time to listen. Now we’ll be back again in a couple of weeks with another great Morning Time interview. We’re going to be talking to Colleen Rein. Now, Colleen is a homeschool mom and she has been doing Morning Time in her home for a number of years. She has some really great insights and I think you’ll enjoy the interview until then keep seeking truth, goodness and beauty in your homeschool day.
Links and Resources from Today’s Show
- Sarah’s Website: Read Aloud Revival
- Contact Sarah McKenzie
- Sarah’s Book Recommendations
- Waxwing Books
- Little House Audiobooks (Narrated by Cherry Jones)
- Five in a Row
- Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace
- The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids
- A Little More Beautiful
- Little House on the Prairie
- Charlotte’s Web
- Anne of Green Gables
- A History of US
- A Frog in the Bog
- King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub
- Chloe and Maude
- Henry’s Freedom Box
- Miss Rumphius
- Strega Nona
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable PeaceThe Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your KidsLittle House on the Prairie: Little House, Book 3Charlotte’s WebThe Complete 8-Book Ramona Collection: Beezus and Ramona, Ramona and Her Father, Ramona and Her Mother, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Ramona Forever, Ramona the Brave, Ramona the Pest, Ramona’s WorldAnne of Green GablesA History of US: Eleven-Volume Set: Paperback SetA Frog in the BogKing Bidgood’s in the BathtubChloe and MaudeHenry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground RailroadMiss RumphiusStrega NonaA Little More Beautiful: The Story of a Garden
Key Ideas about Finding Good Picture Books
You have permission to use the picture books. Don’t be afraid to use picture books, even with older kids, to teach them what you want them to learn.
Use book lists to help develop your eye for good ones and to learn who is reliably writing and illustrating great books. Once you find those authors and illustrators, look for more of their work
Don’t feel like you have to read ALL the books. A few good picture books read in a leisurely and enjoyable way is much better than trying to read a lot of books. And, it’s okay to reread your favorite picture books over and over again.
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