Book Love: The Emma Books by Jean Little and Jennifer Plecas

Jennifer Plecas, Emma's Magic WinterSometimes, early readers can really stink. I know this because I’ve read, at this point, literally hundreds of them at all of the different levels. My daughter’s graduated to level three now, and is so proud of her reading prowess—as am I. But I’ve learned the hard way that the path to reading prowess is paved with a lot of really awful leveled readers.

That is, until we discovered Emma. My kiddo first took Emma’s Magic Winter out of the school library, and she was immediately hooked. The story of a shy, anxious young girl who slowly comes out of her shell with the help of some “magic” boots and a new neighbor and best friend resonated with us. The problem is real, the solution is lovely, and overall effect is one that sweet but never soft—that reflects real life with still maintaining its magic.

The same is true for the other two books in the series, which we’ve now ordered and read within an inch of their lives.Jennifer Plecas, Emma's Yucky Brother

Emma’s Yucky Brother. When Emma’s family adopts a four-year-old boy named Max, it isn’t a bed of roses for any of them. It’s hard for Max, it’s hard for Emma—there are some serious growing pains. But there’s also real love and real understanding. There are parents who stand by your side through thick and thin. And there’s a family who learns to adapt and grow in dear and unexpected ways.

Jennifer Plecas, Emma's Strange PetAnother adoption takes place in Emma’s Strange Pet, but this time of a lizard (and eventually, two lizards). The story is as much about siblings learning to live together as it about loving and taking care of a pet (no matter how strange either siblings or pets can be).

Each of these three stories tackles down and dirty family issues—each does so with grace, with affection for its characters, and with an understanding of the young reader that’s sadly rare in books of this type.

So, if you’re looking for some lovely readers for your own little one, Jean Little and Jennifer Plecas have got your back.

Children’s Books Worthy of a Blizzard Read

A blizzard is coming—as least it is in our neck of the woods. The meteorologists are predicting more snow in the next two days than I’ve seen at one time in my whole life. Groceries have been purchased, schools have been cancelled, and hatches have been battened down.

And what could be better on an extraordinarily snowy day than curling up under a toasty blanket and reading a good book with the little person in your life?

Nothing really.

So here are a few of my snowy day favorites, in all shapes and sizes (and age ranges)!

The Snowy DayEzra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day:  Sure, this one is a no-brainer, but only because it is so enduringly wonderful. As a former city kid, seeing Peter venture out into the cityscape transformed by snow is nearly irresistible. And when he finally finds the kid across to hall in the end to share the snow with, it’s a thing of beauty. Lovely to look at, fun to read.

A Perfect Day


Carin Berger, A Perfect Day:  Gorgeous snowy artwork overlays handwritten notes as seeming an entire town’s worth of kids come out to frolic in the snow. At the end of the perfect day, there are warm hugs and even warmer steaming mugs of hot chocolate—and the promise of another perfect day in the snow tomorrow. A new favorite!

Virginia Lee Burton, Katy and the Big Snow


Virginia Lee Burton, Katy and the Big Snow:  Just because Geoppolis has had a blizzard’s worth of snow dumped on it doesn’t mean that life stops, and that people don’t still need to get places. Only Katy—tractor turned strong plow—can dig everyone out and get whole town running again. Girl power on the tractor level, and Virginia Lee Burton’s artwork to boot—it’s a winner.

Jennifer Plecas, Emma's Magic Winter

Jean Little and Jennifer Plecas, Emma’s Magic Winter:  Another new favorite, this sweet and gently funny tale of shy Emma finding her voice—with a little help from a new neighbor and their matching “magic” snow boots—has won over hearts in my house. Perfect for young independent readers, with a message about overcoming one’s fears that comes with a spoonful of sugar, and lot of fun in the snow.


Ernest ShackletonJennifer Armstrong, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World:  Looking to share your obsession with Ernest Shackleton with the young person in your life? Wait, you’re not obsessed with Ernest Shackleton? This book will make you a convert. Details abound about this ill-fated trip of Antarctic exploration in which the ship got smashed on ice, the entire crew had to set up shop on the ever-moving ice—and not a single life was lost. Illustrated with some of Frank Hurley’s original photography from the ordeal, this also features some pretty awesome storytelling.

Jo March, Little Women


Louise May Alcott, Little Women:  Hey, the blog is named after Jo March. You had to see this one coming. The whole book is pure gold, but the wintery scene in which Jo first becomes friends with the ailing Laurie practically glows. Perfect with a warm beverage and someone who likes to snuggle up as you read aloud to them.

For everyone facing the storm today, bundle up, stay safe, and have fun!