Design Mom » Picture Books The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:37:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Four Picture Books You’ll Love Wed, 20 Jul 2016 16:26:31 +0000 Design Mom

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got some gorgeous books for you and your kids to check out this summer. First up? What Can I Be, written by Ann Rand and illustrated by Ingrid Fiksdahl King.

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This book was originally published almost 40 years ago, but was reissued this past spring. It’s a classic. Vibrant and fun to look at, and it gets the brain going. It starts with a shape — a square or a triangle — and asks the reader to imagine what this shape might be. Is it a sail on a boat? A kite? A tree? All of the above?

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My next recommendation is The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer, by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud. (You may recognize the names from an earlier post.)

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I feel like these two (Davide and Benjamin) make a good pair. They know how to make kids laugh, and they understand how to hit that perfectly silly and fantastical note with both words and images.

In a few short weeks the what-did-you-do-this-summer questions will begin — here’s hoping this book inspires some super creative essays in the fall.

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And now we have Roy’s House, by Susan Goldman Rubin with art by Roy Lichtenstein. This one is for pre-schoolers. It’s simple — covering colors and numbers and other basics. But the whole book is illustrated with Lichtenstein’s work. So it’s also an introduction to the famed artist.

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I always love a chance to introduce kids to an artist they might not have heard of before, and this is an especially fun introduction because the art feels so kid-like and accessible, as if it’s straight out of a comic book. : )

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My fourth pick today just came out. It’s called Babies Ruin Everything, written by Matthew Swanson and illustrated by Robbi Behr. I happen to know this husband-wife team in real life. A few years ago, they applied to be speakers at Alt Summit, and they were fantastic — attendees couldn’t get enough of them. They’re both super smart and super funny, and they play off each other in the best sort of way.

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And this book is a great example of their work. It was created for big brothers and sisters who suddenly find their life disrupted by a new baby. The book is smart and witty, the illustrations are eye-catching and fun to study. Both children and adults will be nodding along and totally relating.

Now it’s your turn. What have you been reading lately? Any titles you want to recommend?

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Mon, 23 May 2016 18:28:27 +0000 Design Mom

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got four terrific book picks for you today. One funny, one sad, all gorgeous.

Let’s start with the sad one. It’s called The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown (yes, the same author as Goodnight Moon). You may already be familiar with the story, because it’s been around for a very long time. But this is a re-issue with new illustrations by award-winning artist, Christian Robinson.

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Some friends happen upon a dead bird in the park. They carefully bury it, cover it with flowers, and sing songs to send it on it’s way.

This sweet story had our June weeping — weeping for a pretend bird that was already dead when it was introduced in the pages of the book. I mention that as a demonstration that the author really excels at telling the story from a child’s point of view.

I know it seems like an odd subject for a picture book, but I find it to be a really sweet, matter-of-fact introduction to death and the rituals we have around death.

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Next, Bob the Artist, by Marion Deuchars. Bob’s legs aren’t quite like everyone else’s. The teasing really gets to him. So he decides to change himself to fit in.

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But it turns out trying to be like everyone else isn’t always the best way to thrive. (I’m guessing you already knew that!)

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Our third book today is called It Was So Quiet I Could Hear a Pin Drop, by Andy Goodman. It’s a beautiful book with simple, fresh illustrations that are a mix of modern shapes, silhouettes, and antique engravings.

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This book is all about sounds. Each page offers up a description of a specific noise that you kids will want to mimic or imagine. It’s a fun book to look at — lots of white space and just a few elements per page, which makes every detail stand out.

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Lastly, are you kids obsessed with the new live action Jungle Book movie? We saw it as a family and quite enjoyed it. If you’ve read Rudyard Kipling’s original Jungle Book, then you already know the movie doesn’t exactly follow the book. The character names are the same, but the story line is different.

And that’s the same for this picture book, The Jungle Book, illustrated by Migy Blanco. It’s a re-telling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic, which means it strays from the movie. I would recommend it to someone who wants to introduce their child to the real story before the child is ready to tackle the 200-page original herself.

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Also, the illustrations are really endearing!

How about you? What are you reading to your kids these days? Any gorgeous/clever/funny/interesting picture books crossed your path lately? I always love to read what you recommend.

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Mon, 25 Apr 2016 15:48:16 +0000 Design Mom


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got some gorgeous, interesting, entertaining book recommendations for you today. And even though the title says 4 Picture Books, my last pick isn’t a picture book at all — it’s about kids + money. But we’ll get to that at the end.

First up, I want to introduce you to Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them by Bernadette Pourquié, with dreamy illustrations by Cécile Gambini — both based in France.

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This one is for your little future botanist. This book features very real trees, with nicknames that sound completely made up — Ghost Tree, Rainbow Tree, Chocolate Tree, Upside Down Tree, Sausage Tree, and many, many more. Each tree gets a two-page spread, with fascinating facts and tidbits about the tree on the left, and an imaginative, beautiful illustration on the right.


Next up is Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by well-known illustrator Julia Denos. This book introduces a vibrant new character, a wonderfully wild girl named Swatch, to your children’s world.

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This book is perfect for little artists. Swatch is a color tamer — she can train colors to do anything! The illustrations are amazing. The text is brief, but smart — lots of good vocabulary. Every page will make your kids (and you) want to pull out a paint brush and put some of your own colors on paper.


And now we have Follow The Moon: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles. Written by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, with illustrations by Meilo So.

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This one is a book for those kids who are looking to save the world but aren’t quite sure how to start. Viv is new to town, and discovers there’s a simple thing the town can do to help the local sea turtle population.

In the book, we see what it looks like when a community comes together, and we see the real things kids can do to make a difference.


Last up today is How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000: Earn! Invest! Save!, by James McKenna and Jeannine Glista, with Matt Fontaine.

It’s a comprehensive guide to earning, saving and investing — but it’s written for kids, so it’s encouraging and funny and easy-to-understand, instead of intimidating or overwhelming.

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This one is aimed at kids in the 10 – 14 age range, but we gave it to Maude when she was 16 and she still found it useful and inspiring.

If you’re looking to raise financially savvy kids, this book is a good one to add to your collection. I would have loved something like this as a kid!

Now it’s your turn: What are your kids reading this month? Anything especially good that you’ve been recommending to friends and family? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Here are all my children’s book recommendations.

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Thu, 24 Mar 2016 16:31:24 +0000 Design Mom


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

It’s time for this month’s picture book post! I’ve got 4 excellent recommendations for you. First up: Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham. June checked this one out from the school library and we loved it.

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It’s an older book, first published in 1971, but still available. Mr. Gumpy lives by the river, and sometimes his friends (both the human kind and the animal kind) join him for boat rides. Sometimes the end up in the river. Sometimes they have tea.


Next is The Pancake King by Phyllis LaFarge, with illustrations by Seymour Chwast. The book’s remarkable orange cover caught my eye, and then I saw Seymour Chwast’s name, and I was admittedly pre-disposed to like it.

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When I looked into it, I realized this is a revised addition — the original came out in 1971. (What was in the water in 1971?) And it’s terrific. So glad they reissued it! This is a story of Henry Edgewood who loves making pancakes and becomes quite a star because of it. Will his new importance make him forget his true priorities?


Then we have Girl & Gorilla: Out and About, by Rick Walton, with pictures by Joe Berger. Girl and Gorilla are best friends and they want to go to the park. But how will they get there?

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Turns out getting to the park is quite an adventure! It might involve jump-roping, hopscotch, bike riding, wishing and more. Is it worth it? Yes. Yes it is.


Lastly, I’m completely enamored with Over the Ocean by Tokyo-based Taro Gomi.

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A girl stands on the edge of the ocean and wonders. And then wonders some more. Are there farms over the ocean? Cities? People? Are the people friends? Get this one for the wonder, and also for the illustrations. This is a gorgeous book. Watch for it in May, but you can pre-order it now.

How about you and your kids? What picture books have caught your eye lately? Any oldies but goodies that you’re reading these days?

P.S. — Lots more picture book recommendations.

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Wed, 24 Feb 2016 17:00:00 +0000 Design Mom


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I always love sharing new picture books with you! Here are four that we’ve brought home over the last couple of months, and I think you’ll love them!

First up, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Frank Morrison. This is partly a book about kids learning to make friends, and partly a history lesson about Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist sprinter. The story focuses on Alta, who is the fastest kid in town (even with holes in her shoes), and what happens to her when a new girl comes along who wants to challenge Alta for the “Quickest Kid” title.

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You’ll love it for the story — especially if your kids have a competitive streak. And the illustrations are outstanding, so you might love it for the images even more!


Next, Duffy & the Devil, by Harve & Margot Zemach. This is an older book — first published in 1973. And it’s a Caldecott winner. Ralph knows I collect Caldecotts and he searched out a title I didn’t have yet, found it at a used bookstore, and gave it to me for Christmas. It’s a good one!

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I read on Amazon that Duffy and the Devil was a popular play in Cornwall in the nineteenth century, and was performed during the holidays by groups of young people who went from house to house. I had never heard of it before, but when I read the book, I realized it’s another version of Rumpelstiltskin.


Then we have The Brownstone, with a story by Paula Scher, and drawing by Stan Mack.

Paula Scher is one of the most famous graphic designers in the world, and I’ve followed her career since I studied design back in college. So I was very curious to see that she had written (not designed) a children’s book. Happily, it’s quite charming!

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It tells the story of a brownstone building, split into six apartments, each one with very different tenants. And each of those tenants have very different needs. Is it possible for them to all live together in a happy way?

I really love this story because at it’s core, it’s about problem-solving and compromise. I’m a big fan of the idea that there’s always a way to make things work!


Lastly, I want to tell you about Apples & Robins, by French author, Lucie Félix. This one looks deceptively simple, but as you read it, it feels like a visual marvel. With the help of cutouts, shapes transform into birds and houses and ladders and lightning. What will you discover on the next page?

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Also, if you’re craving spring, this is a book that will make it feel a little bit closer. I’m thinking it would be cute as an Easter gift.


Now it’s your turn! Any great picture books you’ve seen or read lately?

P.S. — You can find all of the Design Mom book recommendations here.

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Books for Gifting Mon, 14 Dec 2015 20:00:07 +0000 Design Mom

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By Gabrielle.

It’s December 14th, and some of you have your gift shopping done, while others are just beginning. If you’re feeling panic-ed about finding gifts for everyone on your list, I highly recommend focusing on books. Why? Because there’s a book that makes sense for everyone out there. Every age, every interest, every reading level. From heavy novels, to how-to guides, to books that are almost like toys. Plus, many (or most?) are available under $20, and they ship really quickly. Hooray!

Here are a few that made my gifting list this year:

1) For the animal lover (or the soon to be animal lover). Do unto Animals. The more we know about the animals in our world, the better we care for them. This is a sweetly illustrated, friendly guide. It’s written by Tracey Stewart (wife of Jon Stewart). I invited Tracey to speak about her work with Moomah at Alt Summit a couple of years ago. I’m a big fan of hers!

2) For the non-traditional new mom. Mama Tried. This is for the pregnant woman who isn’t feeling all rainbows and unicorns about the situation. From New Yorker cartoonist, Emily Flake.

3) For the designer. Tile Makes the Room. Are you familiar with Heath Ceramics based here in the Bay Area? This book is by Heath’s owners Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey, and it’s gorgeous. A coffee table book for the design lovers in your life.

4) For the doodler. The Secret Garden. Probably the most popular of all the grown-up coloring books. It’s printed on thicker and heavier paper stock, to prevent bleed-through from ink pens. The Secret Garden theme also comes in postcards, journals, and calendars. All made for coloring in.

5) For the stylish maker. Everyday Style. This is the latest how-to book from Lotta Jansdotter, the Brooklyn-based, Swedish designer. This book features 25 really cool, modern sewing projects. Each pattern includes lots of options, and she includes fabric sources too.

6) For the young man who is just learning, or the older man who needs a refresher course. The Art of Manliness. I wasn’t sure what to think of this book, but with over 300 positive reviews, I went for it. And it’s good.

7) For the traveler. See San Francisco. Victoria Smith of wrote a love letter to the city. It will make you want to book a flight asap.

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And here are a few for the kids:

8) For pre-schoolers. Caps for Sale. Written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina. It’s the 75th anniversary of this book. Do you remember it from Reading Rainbow? You could also get this newly published sequel, More Caps for Sale, and give them as a set.

9) For 7 to 11 year olds. Superhero Comic Kit. Big oversize book, with lessons on how to draw your own superheros. Girls and boys. Villains and heroes.

10) For 8 to 13 year olds. The Astronaut Instruction Manual. By Mike Mongo. He writes: “The Astronaut Instruction Manual is written for young students who can imagine they may want to live, work, and play in space. By following the clear instructions I have outlined here in The Astronaut Instruction Manual, you will have a head start on doing whatever you most love doing…in space!”

11) For ages 5 up — or pretty much anyone who dreams of writing children’s books. Author Kits from Write Brain Books. The illustrations are already done. It’s up to you to write the story. And you can publish it too!

Okay. Now it’s your turn. What books are you gifting this year? Any that you’re particularly excited about? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — For toddlers, see my list of best-designed board books.

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Six Picture Books You’ll Love Thu, 19 Nov 2015 17:00:07 +0000 Design Mom

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I always love sharing new picture books with you! Here are six that I’ve added to our collection. One is for older kids, and one is for younger kids, and the rest are for the middle kids. As usual, all of these picks are both visually compelling and fun to read.

First up, My Wild Family by Laurent Moreau. This is an oversize picture book and the illustrations caught my eye first. It’s a really beautiful book to look at. As you read, you get introduced to each member of the family — like a strong older brother who is just like an elephant!

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This is a great book for sparking an imaginative conversation. What animal is your child like? What animal are you like?

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Next up, Who Done It? by Olivier Tallec. This one is a charmer, and I’m betting you don’t have anything else like it. It’s a visual whodunnit for preschoolers.

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Each page asks a mysterious question, and your kids will study the illustrations to find the answer. So many cute details! This one is irresistible.

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Third, we have Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers. At this point, if Oliver Jeffers is involved, I buy the book. Period. He’s so dang good! I’m admittedly less familiar with Eoin Colfer — you may know the name because he’s the author of the Artemis Fowl books (which I have not read). But this is his first picture book and the story is wonderful!

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It’s a story of about friendships. How they form and how they change. It’s sweet and satisfying. If your kids are still hunting for a best friend, this is a hopeful story too — their next friend could be just around the corner!

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Then, it’s Lazy Dave by Jarvis. This is a silly one that will make your kids laugh. Have they ever wondered what the family pet is up to while the kids are away at school each day? Does the dog or the cat just nap all day long?

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Well, it turns out some pets have more adventures than others!

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Here’s one for the very little kids: Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd. This is another gorgeous book that’s fun to own simply because it’s so pretty. It’s aimed at the very young — think babies and toddlers. It’s a study of opposites: big and little. But the pairs of opposites are not what you expect!

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This book also has an unusual format, tall and skinny, and the author/illustrator uses the format to her advantage.

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Last up, is a new book by two powerhouses: Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi. It’s called The Story of Diva & Flea, and it takes place in Paris. Diva is a pampered dog. Flea is a street cat. It’s a chapter book, but the chapters are not long one and it’s heavy on illustrations — it hits that perfect spot between picture book and chapter book.

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Adventures are had as these two make friends, learn from each other, and explore each other’s worlds. And there are little bits of French worked into the text on every page. I know Paris has been on everyone’s minds this week, and reading this with your kids will make them (and you!) want to book a flight to France asap.


Now it’s your turn! Any great picture books you’ve seen lately?

P.S. — You can find all of the Design Mom book recommendations here.

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Two Halloween Books You’ll Love Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:13:47 +0000 Design Mom


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

We have a pile of Halloween books we like to pull out in October. Some really are specifically Halloween themed, others are just sort-of Halloween-ish — like The Spider and the Fly. It’s really not Halloween focused at all, but it fits in well with the stack of other books. This year, I added two more titles to our stack.

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First up, Leo, A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Christian Robinson. This is one of those books that really isn’t Halloween, but it has a ghost, so it totally counts. Hah! It’s a terrific little story about an unwanted ghost that finds a new friend.

Not everyone can see Leo — he seems to appear for those who have especially good imaginations. Will your kids see him?


Next up, Only a Witch Can Fly, by Alison McGhee, with illustrations by Taeeun Yoo  This is a book that’s more poem than story. Beautiful illustrations, and the soft words carry you along like a song.

One brave little girl wants to fly more than anything. This book tells her tiny tale of trying and triumph.

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If you’d like more Halloween book recommendation, here’s an earlier post with 10 titles, plus more of my recommendations here and here. You’re sure to find something your kids will love!

How about you? Do you have any Halloween books your kids especially love? Please do share favorites in the comments! We’re always looking for good ones.

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:15:14 +0000 Design Mom

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Today, I have four excellent books to tell you about. One is a Caldecott winner, another is a Caldecott Honor book, another is an older reprint from Italy, and another was published just this month — and is one of the prettiest books I’ve seen in ages.

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Let’s start with Swan, by Laurel Snyder, with illustrations by Julie Morstad. If you’ve got a young dancer in the house, this book is a must have. It’s the life story of Anna Pavlova, legendary prima ballerina, and her most famous role.

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The words feel like a poem, and the artwork is outstanding. It is a seriously beautiful book, and I keep finding myself studying the illustrations.

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Up next is Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, with illustrations by Jon Klassen. This book won a read-aloud award, and it’s well-deserved. I have no doubt this is a much requested bedtime story at houses everywhere. It’s very funny, and very fun to look at.

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Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are the same team that created Extra Yarn, which was my first introduction to both talents. And ever since I’ve been a big fan — they both keep knocking it out of the ballpark with their books.

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Speaking of which, Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat won the 2013 Caldecott! It’s a follow up to I Want My Hat Back.

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This is Not My Hat features a little fish with an little blue hat (that happens to fit him perfectly, but does not belong to him), and a little adventure. It will make you laugh!

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And one more book today, The Apple and the Butterfly by Iela and Enzo Mari. This was originally published in 1969 in Italy, with the title, The Apple and the Moth.

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It’s a wordless book, and it tells the story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and how it’s life is intimately connected to an apple tree. It’s beautiful and it’s educational. A classic for every library.

Your turn! What books are your kids requesting these days? Anything new-to-you that you’ve wanted to share?

P.S. — Here are Six Great Books about School, just in time for back-to-school season.

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Mon, 27 Jul 2015 18:59:20 +0000 Design Mom

The Treehouse - a wordless picture book

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I think you’ll love this month’s round up of books! There are knock out illustrations, really good stories, and a non-fiction selection as well. First up, let’s talk about The Tree House, by Marije and Ronald Tolman. This is a wordless book — which means the images have to work even harder. But they totally do!

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A polar bear rides a whale to a tree that’s growing out of the water. How’s that for a magical opener? And it just gets more fabulous from there. Polar Bear isn’t alone for long — as the water recedes, more and more animals join him. Some by land, some by air. Your kids will want to study every image.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Remember Iggy Peck, Architect? Well, today I’m happy to introduce you to Rosie Revere, Engineer. It’s written by Andrea Beaty, with gloriously detailed illustrations by David Roberts. Jessie Arora, the founder of Embark Labs, sent me this book to welcome our family to the Bay Area. Such a sweet gift!

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Though Rosie may seem a bit quiet during the day, her nights are filled with visions of inventions. Not every invention is a hit, and Rosie is tempted to give up her dream of becoming an engineer. But maybe her invention “flops” aren’t as bad as they seem.  The whole book is written in memorable rhyme, and the message of the book is so encouraging, it appeals to kids and adults alike.

The Great Brain

Next up is The Great Brain, written by John D. Fitzgerald. This is a chapter book, not a picture book (though it happens to feature some memorable illustrations by the legendary Mercer Mayer).

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We’ve been reading this book as a family this summer and it’s been a huge hit. Ben Blair and I read this as kids and we both remember it fondly, but I swear, it’s even more fun to read as an adult — because as a kid, I think I missed a decent chunk of the humor. I know I don’t typically feature chapter books, but if you’re looking for something fun to read as a family, this gets a big thumbs up. I should note: this is actually a series, so if you like the first, you can find the rest here.

Unusual Creatures. A witty book about real-live animals you've probably never heard of.

And then we have Unusual Creatures, written by Michael Hearst, with illustrations by Arjen Noordeman.

Unusual Creatures. A witty book about real-live animals you've probably never heard of. Unusual Creatures. A witty book about real-live animals you've probably never heard of.

My son Oscar basically loves any non-fiction book about animals, and this book is certainly on his approved list. He keeps it by his bed and references it often. The book features facts and descriptions of real live creatures most people haven’t heard of (raising my hand here), and the whole thing is written with a lot of wit, so it ends up being informational plus fun.

Your turn! What are your kids reading these days? Are there any books on your shopping list or library list that you’d like to share?

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Wed, 17 Jun 2015 17:39:31 +0000 Design Mom

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Yay! It’s time for another roundup of fabulous picture books that I think you’ll love. All four picks are really, really beautiful and I’m delighted to add them in our family collection.

First up, let’s talk about Locomotive by Brian Floca. Ben Blair gave me this book for Mother’s Day (did I tell you I collect Caldecott books?) and I love it.

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Readers get to follow along with a family heading west, and on the way, we get to learn all about the history of trains in the U.S., and how they’ve affected our country. Plus it’s big and it has big impact!

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Next up, A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alamagna. This is another BIG book — it fills up your whole lap in a sideways format, as if the illustrations want to be studied.

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In this book, we meet a bored lion, who leaves his grasslands for an adventure in the city of lights. If you’ve ever been to Paris, or are planning a trip there, this book is especially delightful because it hits many of the major tourist highlights — and the illustrations are fantastic! But even if Paris isn’t on your travel list, this book is also universally appealing because the story is about what it’s like to be a stranger in a new place and figuring out how you fit in.

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What Do You Do With An Idea is by Kobi Kamada, with illustrations by Mae Besom. This lovely volume was a gift from my dear friend, Audrey, and it’s another gem!

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What do you do when you have an idea that seems too big or unwieldy? Well, this book has the answer. You nuture it and care for it and as you get more confident about the idea, the idea will get better as well. This book is one of those life-lesson stories that appeals to people of all ages.

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And last but not least, we have Pool by JiHyeon Lee. This is a book with no words! It’s all about a shy boy and his visit to the busy public pool.

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So many sweet little surprises in this story! And the message is clear: don’t remain on the surface, dive deep to find the best adventures and the best friendships!

And there you have it. Some fun books to check out on your next trip to the library. Now it’s your turn! Any books that have caught your eye lately? I always love your recommendations!

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Wed, 13 May 2015 14:00:07 +0000 Design Mom

Rude Cakes

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

It’s time for another Picture Book post! I’ve got four good ones for you today. First up, Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins, a Brooklyn-based author who probably wins the prize for coolest name of a person.

I had my oldest daughter Maude read this book to see if she agreed it was a keeper. She confessed she expected to be annoyed by it, but then ended up loving it! It’s really good. It’s packed with hilarious details and grin-bringing surprises — and it works in a lovely message, too.

Rude Cakes Rude Cakes

You could use this book as a good starting point for a conversation about manners, or even bullying.

Interstellar Cinderella - a futuristic, more bad-ass version of the fairytale

Next up, Interstellar Cinderella, which sounds like it might make a good tongue-twister. It’s written by Deborah Underwood, and illustrated by Meg Hunt.

Does Cinderella really need another re-telling? Heck yes! It’s a best-loved fairytale for a reason. This version features a mechanical-minded, independent Heroine who manages to save the Prince on her way to the ball.

Interstellar Cinderella Interstellar Cinderella

This heroine is someone a modern girl can root for. Oh, and did I mention the whole thing rhymes? You’ll love it!

A Nest is Noisy - one of several in a gorgeous nature themed series

The third book I’m featuring today is A Nest is Noisy, written by Dianna Hutts Aston, with illustrations from one of my favorites, Sylvia Long. This is the next installment of a beautiful, and award-winning series of nature books including A Butterfly is Patient, A Rock is Lively, An Egg is Quiet, and A Seed is Sleepy.

A Nest is Noisy A Nest is Noisy

It’s packed with solid information — really good, captivating facts. But the best part is this book will turn your walks through the park, or through the neighborhood, into a treasure hunt. Your kids will start looking for nests everywhere!

How To Read A Story

My fourth pick for today is How to Read a Story. Written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Mark Siegel.

To me this book is about teaching your kids how to fall in love with reading. It’s funny and keeps your attention, while it paints of picture of how lovely it is to immerse yourself in a text.

How To Read A Story How To Read A Story

This “how-to” book takes you through 10 steps. And with the 10th step, kids are primed to jump right into another book and start the steps all over again.

Now it’s your turn? What are your kids reading these days? Any new discoveries you’re loving? What have you picked up from the library lately?


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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Tue, 10 Mar 2015 02:05:16 +0000 Design Mom

Polar Bear's Underwear - a cute book with a surprise ending!

By Gabrielle With photo assistance by Rose Gluck.

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve done a book post, but I think today is the perfect day for some picture book recommendations! Here are four new titles that have been a hit at our house.

First up, Polar Bear’s Underwear. It was written and illustrated by Tupera Tupera, the Tokyo-based art and design firm of artists Tatsuya Kameyama and Atsuko Nakagawa. This book is perfect for the five and under set. Polar Bear can’t find his new underwear, so he starts hunting for them with the help of Mouse. Are they those pretty patterned ones? No. That tiny, colorful pair? I’m afraid not.

Polar Bear's Underwear Polar Bear's Underwear

Your little readers will encounter all sorts of creatures on the underwear hunt, and will laugh at the twist at the end!

Tricky Vic - the true story of how a swindler "sold" the Eiffel Tower

Next up, is this beautiful book about a real life con man. It’s called Tricky Vic — The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. I received this as an early review copy, but the book will be out tomorrow! This is a fun one for older kids — it has lots of history, new vocabulary, and factoids built in. If your family is a fan of heist stories, then this is sure to become a new favorite.

Tricky Vic - the true story of how a swindler "sold" the Eiffel Tower Tricky Vic - the true story of how a swindler "sold" the Eiffel Tower

It was written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli — an author, illustrator and screen printer from Philadelphia. I don’t know Greg, but based on his clever mix-media illustrations in the book, thing he must have a great sense of humor.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Another title, I’m excited to share with you is Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. It’s by Kate Messner, with art by Christopher Silas Neal. And it makes a great companion piece to their earlier collaboration, Over & Under the Snow, which I profiled earlier here.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

In this book, you’ll find out about all the bugs and seeds that are living their lives in the dirt, creating good soil where plants can grow. You’ll also learn about common bugs that live their lives above ground in the garden as well. It would make a really sweet addition to an Easter basket.

I loved the simple, helpful creature index at the back so you can remember which bugs are garden heroes and which ones are garden pests.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

Last but not least today is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School, written by Davide Cali, with illustrations by Benjamin Chaud. (I’m a big fan of Benjamin Chaud’s work. You might know him from the acclaimed book, The Bear’s Song.)

Getting to school on time can be tough when there are ninjas, mysterious mole people, and time machines about. Your kids will get a kick out of all the adventures this book’s hero experiences on his “short” walk to school.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

But how will he prove to his teacher that his adventures really happened? You’ll have to read the book!

Now it’s your turn. Have you read any of these titles yet? Any favorites among them? And what are your kids reading these days?

P.S. — I love picture books! You can find all the children’s books I’ve featured here.

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Book of the Week: The Christmas Wish Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:44:18 +0000 Design Mom

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Images and text by Gabrielle.

What are your favorite holiday books? We have a tradition of adding a new Christmas book to our collection each year. I love this tradition because it’s easy, it’s something the whole family can enjoy (and can continue to enjoy for many years), and it’s typically under $20 to get a new book, so it’s a tradition that doesn’t break the bank.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Ben Blair found this year’s pick and it’s a good one! It’s called The Christmas Wish, and it had us reminiscing about our trips to Sweden and Norway. We’re not the only ones who like it, apparently it’s a New York Times Best Seller. And it’s no surprise. It just oozes Christmas and wintertime — her clothes, the polar bear and reindeer she meets — every little detail is delightful.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Looking for more holiday books? I’ve shared tons of great picks over the years — click through for a full list. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, my apologies in advance, because my list is very-much Christmas focused. But obviously, there are lots of other winter holidays, so if you have favorite non-Christmas holiday titles to share, please do!

- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

- A Child’s Christmas in Wales (If you can find this one as an audio book, you will especially love it!)

- The Christmas Alphabet

- A Christmas Carol (You can also try the Young Readers Edition or the Picture Book Edition)

- Christmas Day in the Morning


- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

- Corgiville Christmas

- Dream Snow

- Every Man Heart Lay Down

- The Gift of the Magi


- How the Grinch Stole Christmas

- The Night Before Christmas

- The Nutcracker

- Olive, the Other Reindeer

- The Polar Express (I’m not a fan of the movie, but I adore the book. It’s even a Caldecott winner!)


- Santa Calls

- The Little Match Girl

- The Snowy Day (Not holiday related, but a great winter time book that we like to keep with the Christmas titles!)

- The Twelve Days of Christmas

- Who is Coming to Our House?


An Orange for Frankie

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka & Their New Skates

The Birds of Bethlehem

The 12 Days of Christmas

Babar and Father Christmas


Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama

The Trees Of The Dancing Goats

My Wonderful Christmas Tree

Chanukah Lights

Stick Man


The Christmas Quiet Book

Great Joy

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Book of the Week: Meet The Artist Series Tue, 11 Nov 2014 19:50:57 +0000 Design Mom

Meet the Artist Series

Images and text by Gabrielle.

This is just a quick little post. I wanted to be sure I told you about this terrific series of books by Patricia Geis called Meet the Artist. There are 3 in the series so far: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Alexander Calder.

I think these books are just right for kids. They’re short — only a few spreads in each one, so they’re not overwhelming. And they’re packed full of interactive details. Flaps to lift, pop up pieces, and 3-D surprises. They offer lots of good basic info about each artist and show enough of the artist’s work so that it feels familiar.

I’ve started to get questions from readers about good holiday gift options, and I think these books would be lovely for any budding artist out there! Here’s an interior shot from each book so you can get an idea of what they’re like:

Meet the Artist Series Meet the Artist Series Meet the Artist Series

Any other great art books for kids you’ve seen lately? Feel free to add the titles in the comments!


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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:30:38 +0000 Design Mom

Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team.

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Last month I wrote a post about four picture books we’ve added to our library, and this month I thought it would be fun to share another four. As you may remember, I’m trying to write less posts this year, but keep them packed with content, so sharing 4 books once each month, instead of one small book post each week could be a great solution!

1)  First up, The Memory of an Elephant: An Unforgettable Journey. Written by Sophie Strady, with illustration by Jean-Francois Martin.

Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team. Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team.

Such a cool book! And totally unusual. There’s a storyline you can follow about Marcel the Elephant as he writes and encyclopedia, but it’s also a book that packed with information — sidenotes and tidbits — so you can browse the pages without following the story at all.

And the images! So dang good.Both the author and illustrator live in Paris and the book definitely has a chic French feel. I feel like this book is a treasure.

Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree

2) The Little Pear Tree by Jenny Bowers.

Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree

My friend, Annie, who owns Brimful Shop (and is a frequent commenter here — you may have seen her name), sent this book for June. It’s delightful! The book follows a pear tree over a full year, and readers watch at the tree transforms over the pages.

It’s interactive too. Each spread has lots of flaps to lift, hiding happy little discoveries. A perfect nature book for the littlest ones.

Book of the Week: Jumping Jack — by a Swiss Author Illustrator team.

3) Jumping Jack. Written by Germano Zullo, with illustrations by Albertine.

Book of the Week: Jumping Jack — by a Swiss Author Illustrator team. Book of the Week: Jumping Jack — by a Swiss Author Illustrator team.

This book is by a Swiss author-illustrator team. The outstanding cover drew me in, and the story kept me there. Jack is a championship show-jumping horse, but one day, finds he’s not doing so well competitively. Readers get to follow Jack and his rider as they try to figure out what’s going on — these two friends never give up on each other!

The whole style of this book — words and images — is fantastic. A treat to read and look at.

Book of the Week: In This Book — by a French author + illustrator team.

4) In This Book by Fani Marceau, with illustrations by Joelle Jolivet.

Book of the Week: In This Book — by a French author + illustrator team. Book of the Week: In This Book — by a French author + illustrator team.

This is another book written by author illustrator team based in Paris. The book feels like an art book that will appeal to babies and toddlers. The words are simple and introduce simple concepts — I am in the bus, said the driver. I am in the lighthouse, said the lighthouse keeper.

It has oversize pages with details to explore and discover, and the text if full of new things for little minds to think about. It’s also a really beautiful book to own.


I hope you enjoy these titles. And if you’ve seen any picture books lately that you think I’d love, let me know if the comments!

P.S. — Looking for more book stuff? You can find all of my picture book posts here. Also, I know it’s October. If you’re craving Halloween titles, here are ten great ones!

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:38:52 +0000 Design Mom

Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. I haven’t written a post about children’s books in months — the last post was in March! So I thought it would be fun today to share four in one post. Let’s get to it!

1) Bonjour Camille by Felipe Cano. Illustrations by Laia Aguilar.

Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom

Such a gorgeous book. You’ll meet Camille on a sunny Sunday morning. And get ready, because Camille has so many things to do! Eating cherries, jumping on the bed, talking to the wind, and on and on. The pages feel magical — like they’re lifted right out of child’s head.

Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom

2) Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet.

Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom

Oh. This book is brilliant! It’s interactive and teaches kids about the basics of color theory. They shake the book, turn the page, and discover the colors have mixed together to make something new!

Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom

3 ) Lately Lily, The Adventures of a Traveling Girl, by Micah Player.

Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom

This is a book for anyone who has caught the travel bug (or who wants to!). Join Lily as she catches her next flight, bus, train or hot air balloon! See what she packs, meet the friends she makes, and adventure with her around the world. It would be a cute book to read before a big trip.

Our daughter Betty has a special love for this book because the creator, Micah Player, once made an illustration of Betty and Lily hanging at a café in Paris!

Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom

4) The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall.

Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom

This one is a charmer. A young boy is going to become a big brother and is wondering where the baby is going to come from. Each person he asks has a different answer and you can watch him imagine each new scenario. Happily, at the end, there are satisfying age-appropriate answers to the big question.

Yay for wonderful picture books! The library in our reading loft continues to grow. : )

P.S. — Want more book recommendations? I’ve got a ton! See all the book posts here.

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Coloring Books 2.0 Wed, 12 Mar 2014 17:57:18 +0000 Design Mom

Design Mom's 9 Favorite Modern Coloring Books. They're all super cool.

By Gabrielle.

I was doing a bit of organizing in the studio/home office last weekend and noticed we have accumulated quite the collection of really good coloring books and doodle books. Have you noticed how many awesome options are out there these days? It’s like a coloring book renaissance!

These are not the commercial character driven coloring books of my childhood, they’re created by artists and graphic designers and some of the very best publishing houses. They are really good looking! Some focus on patterns, others include prompts to spur imaginative drawing. And many of these books are designed to appeal to both children and adults. In fact, I’ve heard some people are using the mandala coloring books as a sort of soothing therapy! Coloring in the spaces seems to hit a sweet spot between mindless busy work and intense creativity.

Lately, one of our favorite go-to gifts is a coloring book paired with a new set of markers. Easy, fun, and it doesn’t break the bank. We also like to pull them out on slow afternoons for a quiet, calming activity. Taking some time to sit with my kids and color is delightful, and it provides a great space for casual, non-lecture conversation.

In case you’d like to get in on the coloring action, I’ve collected our very favorites here. If you have a favorite that’s not on this list, please feel free to share! We’re always on the lookout for new ones. And I’d love to hear if you ever get to color with your kids. Do they like to color? Do you?

1) Doodles. This one is by Taro Gomi and he has a ton of other great options as well! I think of Taro Gomi as the grandfather of all the good coloring books.

2) Zolocolor. There are several of these, all good.

3)  The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Coloring.

4)  Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny.

5) Photoplay.

6)  Outside the Lines.

7) Doodle Cook. By French artist, Hervé Tullet. And if you like it, you could also try The Coloring Book and The Scribble Book.

8)  Pattern + Design.

9)  Rosie Flo’s Coloring Book — there are at least 6 versions of these.

P.S. — We also like to use these on flights and at church, when the kids need something quiet but entertaining.

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Book of the Week: What Does It Mean To Be Global? Mon, 24 Feb 2014 14:00:31 +0000 Design Mom

What Does It Mean Books1B

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello from Washington D.C.! I’m here at the Power Summit. I’ll be attending policy sessions about poverty and world aid throughout the day, and then receive training on how to lobby my congressmen later this afternoon. I’m very excited about it!

The group I’m here with is ONE Moms — which is the same group I traveled with to Ethiopia. It feels like a little reunion. And I’m happy as can be to get to spend time with these wonderful women. One of the women, Rana DiOrio, runs Little Pickle Press — a small publisher “dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people.” A wonderful goal! And I think it aligns so well with the work that ONE Moms engages in.

If  you’re someone who spends time thinking about how to raise kids that are globally minded — eager to learn about different cultures, curious about other countries, and respectful of all races and religions — there’s a set of 4 books from Little Pickle Press that are a great way to introduce these concepts to your children:

What Does It Mean To Be Global?
What Does It Mean To Be Green?
What Does It Mean to Be Safe?
What Does It Mean To Be Present?

They’re non-fiction picture books and they make excellent conversation starters between parents and kids — or in classrooms, too. They introduce important topics in an easy to understand, comfortable way, and the illustrations work hard to offer the reader a better understanding of what’s being discussed. One thing I especially appreciate about the books is that they cover some big topics without being self-righteous or judgmental. Hooray!

I’d love to hear if you’re already familiar with these books — or if you have related books you’d recommend. Feel free to add links or titles in the comments. And wish me luck on the lobbying!

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Six Books for Valentine’s Day Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:00:14 +0000 Design Mom

6 Books for Valentine's Day   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

One of my favorite things to give on Valentine’s Day is books. You can find dozens of sweet and beautiful choices under $15 (often under $10!). A book is a treasure, but doesn’t feel extravagant, which I think is perfect — I don’t like to go over-the-top on Valentine’s Day.

These picks would be especially sweet for February 14th. Order one today and it will arrive in time — or stop by your nearest local shop.

1) You Know What I Love
We have a copy of this and June has requested it every night since it arrived. She knows it so well now that she “reads” it to us! About a doll and her girl.

2) Monday Hearts for Madalene.
Every Monday, Madalene would wake to find a heart created just for her. The sweetest token of true love.

3) Love Letters
200 letters from over the centuries. Some historical and some fictional. Who doesn’t enjoy a good love letter? For years, Ben Blair and I exchanged a hand-written love letter on Valentine’s Day, but at some point we stopped. Will this be the year we start it up again? I hope so. (Which reminds me, did any of you see the movie Her?)

4) Counting Kisses
Get this one as a board book for your toddler or baby, then read it at bedtime. “How many kisses does a tired baby need?”

5) Hearts
An offering from Toon Books, this is a good pick for a girl or a boy — and this is what Betty will be receiving this year. What happens when Penelope the Fox drops her heart into the sea? A beautiful adventure.

6) I Like You
I know. I know. I recommend this every year. But it’s still so good! I’m quite sure everyone should own a copy. A sweet gift for a teenage crush. A sweet gift for a favorite teacher. A sweet gift for a husband or wife. A sweet gift from a parent to a child. A sweet gift for a dear friend. It’s perfect every time.

Will you be giving any books for Valentine’s Day? Feel free to share your picks in the comments.

P.S. — Ten more Valentine’s Day book picks.

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