April 25, 2016

12 More Picture Books about South Korea to Enjoy and a Linkup

This month the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club read When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park. This YA novel gives a glimpse into what it was like to live in an occupied country during World War II, when Japan had conquered Korea. Korean culture was being outlawed, even to the point of the citizens taking Japanese names and families were forced to hide the culture they were trying to preserve. This was a great read, though one that you will want to save for older children who could pick up on all the nuances.

This is the last week of our time with South Korea, so I wanted to share some other favorite picture books about the country. These are all ones we own personally (I'll star our particular favorites), because we try to give one or two books about Korea to our boys each year to help build the connection to their birth country.

This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong: A story about a half Chinese half Korean American boy celebrating Lunar New Year with his friends.

*Where on Earth is my Bagel? by Frances Park and Ginger Park: Yum Yung REALLY wants to try a real New York bagel, so his whole village in Korea pitches in to find out how.

We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo by Linda Walvoord Girard: Told in the voice of a 9 year old adoptee from Korea, this book shares insights into both the process and the feelings children who are adopted process throughout their life. This one is pretty wordy, so younger children might be less interested.

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak: Juno (in America) shares a sweet correspondence with his grandmother in Korea.

*Something for School by Hyun Young Lee: A little girl wants to wear something special on her first week of Kindergarten.

*My First book of Korean Words: An ABC Rhyming Book by Henry J. Amen IV and Kyubyong Park: A fun take on an ABC book that introduces Korean culture and words.

*The Coffee Can Kid by Jan M. Czeck: Annie and her father look inside a special coffee can and share the story of her adoption from Korea.

When You Were Born in Korea by Brian Boyd: This book is a little outdated now, but it tells the story of how a child is adopted from Korea using photographs of real people and places.

*New Clothes for New Year's Day by Hyn-Joo Bae: A little girl gets dressed in a traditional Korean Hanbok for Lunar New Year. Gorgeous pictures!

All About Korea-Stories, Songs, Crafts, and More by Ann Martin Bowler: For older children, my boys really enjoy looking through this and reading a few pages at a time. Organized by topic, it has recipes and crafts to go along with traditional folk stories.

Korean Holidays and Festivals by Frances M. Koh: Non-fiction about each holiday in Korea, organized by calendar year. Great for ideas if you want to try celebrating one of them with your kids.

Korean Nursery Rhymes-Wild Geese, Land of Goblins and other favorite songs and rhymes by Danielle Wright. This book is all nursery rhymes, but the real fun part is that each one is written in Hangul and English characters and includes the phonetic pronunciation of the Hangul so you could practice reading in Korean.

**Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park: Honestly, this is one of our all time favorite books EVER. The rhyme has a great beat to it, and the pictures are perfect. The recipe in the back of the book for Bee-bim Bop is also in regular rotation for dinner at our house, so be sure to give that a try too!

Have you discovered any new favorites this month? If you're looking for more books on South Korea, Sheila from the Deliberate Reader did a list a few months ago too.

If you joined in with us this month, please link up below! Any post linked up here will also appear on the blogs of the co-hosts, Sheila (Deliberate Reader) and Jessica (Quirky Bookworm).

Link Up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to the theme or to your homepage may be deleted.
2. Link back to one of the host's posts.
3. Link up will be open until the end of the month.
4. Please visit the person who linked up directly before you and leave a comment on their post.
5. By linking up you're granting us permission to use and/or repost comments or photographs from your post.

March 28, 2016

Korea Linkup!

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park was our book this month. It tells the story of two brothers, their love of kite flying and how they struggled to fulfill the expectations of oldest and youngest sons. We started reading this aloud at night, but it didn't hold my boys interest as much as I'd hoped. I think they are just a bit too young for it, and a setting so far back in time was a little tough for them to relate to. I finished it on my own, and I really enjoyed it. Park created a great window into this point in Korean history.

If you've been reading along with us, now is the time to link your blog posts up with Jessica, Sheila and myself. Add your link below and it will be linked to from all three of our sites.

In the comments, I'd love to hear if you have been reading along this month, or if you are planning to join us in April for When My Name was Keoko!

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host's posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person's blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you're granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

March 1, 2016

Explore Korea with the RTFEBC

If you read my post from a few weeks ago, you know that the next area of the world we are exploring in the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club is Korea. Throughout March and April, we'll be reading a picture book, and two chapter books-one aimed at elementary aged readers, and the other for a tween/teen audience. I'm thrilled to be co-hosting the discussion for the next two months with Sheila of The Deliberate Reader and Jessica of Quirky Bookworm.

As many of you know, Korea holds a special place in our family. Both our children were adopted from South Korea and we were able to travel to Seoul to pick up our youngest child. It's important to us that we weave the Korean culture into our family traditions, and one of the biggest ways we do that is through books. I'm a big supporter of the We Need Diverse Books movement, and I try to be sure that we have many books around the house with characters my children can identify with, both as Koreans and as Adoptees.

Jessica and Sheila picked some great books for discussion this month, and I will be sharing other favorite books about Korea as well if you'd like to explore further!

Our picture book pick is The Firekeeper's Son by Linda Sue Park. The story centers around Sang-hee, who is the son of the man responsible for keeping the village signal fire lit. When his father can't light the fire one night, Sang-hee must take his place. The discussion for the picture book will start this week, so jump in whenever you get the chance to read it.

The elementary aged chapter book is The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. This story follows two brothers who share a passion for flying kites, only one of whom can represent the family at the New Year's Kite Competition in front of the king. We'll start discussing this one on Monday March 15th.

The final chapter book will be When My Name Was Keoko (also) by Linda Sue Park. This story takes place during the Japanese occupation of Korea before WWII, when much of Korean culture was forbidden. We'll start discussing this one on April 11th.

Remember, all the discussion will take place on the RTFEBC Facebook group. Feel free to jump in as we go along. There will also be a blog linkup the last Monday of each month, so if you are a blogger we'd love for you to join in!

February 18, 2016

February Reading Roundup

My reading habits took a real nosedive in December, and it took me a much longer time than usual to get back in gear. Weirdly I was reading the 3rd Cormoran Strike mystery when this happened, and last year I had a very similar experience after reading the 2nd. It isn't exactly a book hangover, where the book was so.good. and I can't bear to start anything new...it's almost as if the world Galbraith/Rowling creates draws me in completely, but is just a little too gritty for me and I need some recovery time. I will have to pay attention to what happens when book 4 comes out!

Now on to the highlights of what I've been reading since December:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Aside from my odd reaction after finishing it, this is a very good mystery. Much of the story is character driven, and I loved seeing more of the story from Robin's perspective. It's gritty, but not as gory as the 2nd in the series. (And you should absolutely listen to Rowling's interview on NPR too!)

The Fellowship of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

 While I've read the Hobbit and seen the movies multiple times, I realiezed I had never read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I kept getting stuck on all that singing. I started this as something to read before bed, but it didn't take long before I was staying up for "just one more chapter" which is always a sign that I'm hooked! I'm working my way through The Two Towers now.

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

The second in the Inspector Gamache novels. If you are someone who stays away from mystery series with the idea that they are very one-dimensional, Penny's series is the one to change your mind. Gamache is a Montreal based Police Inspector who gets called out to the tiny village of Three Pines to solve another murder. In contrast to the first book, no one mourns this victim. There is so much depth of character in these books-even for the bit players.

Lovable Livable Home by Sherry and John Petersik

The couple behind Young House Love is back with their second book (and even a few recent blog posts). This one is less DIY projects, and more inspiration on making your home work with kids, pets, etc. I like that they used a variety of families and houses to illustrate their themes, which did make it feel a little more relate-able than other design books, but it also isn't as memorable as some others I've read. 

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is back, and in America for the first time since the WWII began. I enjoyed this one, particularly the contrast of England and America in 1941. I do feel that this book does a lot more wrapping up certain plot points to make way for future books, so it doesn't work as a stand-alone. However, MacNeal has found her writing groove in the series and several more characters are coming to life the way the core group did in the early books. I'm very curious to see what Maggie gets up to next...

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

For the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club, this is a great read-aloud chapter book. It tells the tale of a small village in Alaska that is trying to keep the one-room school afloat. Told from the perspective of one of the students, the whole town changes (in a good way) when a new teacher arrives. It's a sweet story with some great meat for discussions. 

The Father Christmas Letters by JRR Tolkien

Each year while his children were young, Tolkien wrote them a letter from Father Christmas. The letters tell stories about his life at the North Pole and are beautifully illustrated. The edition I got at the library was less than 100 pages, but I've since realized there is a longer edition around. The short version was so charming that I'm going to need to get the other one before the holidays roll around this year. 

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit. Check it out for more book recommendations!

Some of these links are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Hearth and Homefront. 

February 17, 2016

Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club

This year two of my favorite book bloggers, Jessica from Quirky Bookworm and Sheila from The Deliberate Reader started a joint online book club. Every two months, the group will explore a different part of the world through children's literature with a book aimed at each reading level from picture books to young adult. It was perfect timing for me, since as the boys have become such strong independent readers, I found that I wasn't reading aloud to them as much as we had before.

January and February are all about the Arctic and it has been so much fun to talk about a whole new part of the world with the kids. The picture book was In Arctic Waters by Laura Crawford and Ben Hudson, which was adorable. The elementary aged chapter book The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill was really fun to read aloud. The YA book is Julie of Wolves by Jean Craighead George. Short chapters told from a child's perspective sparked so many great questions from the boys. We looked Alaska up on our globe, talked about the roles of men and women in the past (they were both very happy that girls can wear pants now...can you tell we read that during a particularly cold part of February? Ha!) and talked about what it would feel like to go to a one-room schoolhouse. Not only did I get my snuggly read aloud time back, but the level of discussion between the three of us was new and really cool for me.

Discussion as a group is centered on the book club's Facebook page (join here!) and there is a blog linkup once a month on Sheila, Jessica and the guest host's blogs (the Arctic has been guest hosted by Carrie from The Lion is a Bookworm). The hosts try to post a question a few times a week on the Facebook group, so feel free to jump in where you are.

And for March and April, that guest host is ME! We'll be reading books set in South Korea-which is such a perfect fit. For newer readers of this blog, both my children are adopted from South Korea, and so we do as much as we can to incorporate and learn about their culture. Books have always been one of our favorite ways to do this, but I'll also blog a bit about things like holidays...and of course food!

Later this week I'll share the books we'll be reading over the course of my guest hosting and once March gets rolling I'll share more of my favorite books in each category.

In the meantime, join us in the Facebook group and use the hashtag #rtfebc on social media!

November 30, 2015

New on the Stack (December)

This will be the first time in several years that I will not be hitting my Goodreads goal for number of books for the year. Between a slightly ambitious number and a major reading slump this fall, I have made my peace with not reaching my goal.

This is actually rather freeing, because now I'm not going to be feverishly tearing through books when I'd rather be savoring them by the fireside.

Today, a glimpse of what I'm (hoping) to read in December. I'm linking up with Sheila at The Deliberate Reader, so pop over there to see more recommendations!

The Winter Laird by Nancy Scanlon

How did I get it: This is sitting on my Kindle as we speak.
Why did I get it: Nancy is a dear friend from college and I've been waiting very impatiently for her debut novel to come out! She's always been a fantastic writer and I'm so proud of her. Time travel, romance and men in kilts? I can't wait!

The Adventuress by Tasha Alexander

How did I get it: Found it on the library new releases shelf.
Why did I get it: I've been a fan of Alexander's Lady Emily mystery series since the beginning, and they are always a fun bet.

Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

How did I get it:
Why did I get it: My 7 year old just finished the Lightning Thief (the first in the Percy Jackson series) and he likes to alternate between reading it himself, and reading it aloud. I loved the books the first time around, but this is even more fun for me.

Still Life by Louise Penny
How did I get it: Audible
Why did I get it: I've been hearing about this series for ages, and I've found that using up an Audible credit on something I've been meaning to read is a great way to find new series...and it makes my commute fly by, which is always a good thing!

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillen Smith

How did I get it: I picked this up when it was on mega sale for the Kindle a few months back, and I've never gotten to it.
Why did I get it: I love down to earth decorating books that inspire rather than make me envious. Since we are about to be stuck inside our house for the winter, it's time to get some more work done on it!

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

How did I get it: It's already on my bookshelf.
Why did I get it: I read this every December.

The Martian by Andy Weir
How did I get it: It's on my kindle.
Why did I get it: My husband bought it this summer, loved it, raved about it, and I just never got around to reading it. I've got a bunch of time off between Christmas and New Years, so I'm thinking that's the perfect time to read a book guaranteed to keep me up late to finish it. I'm also the last person on the planet who hasn't read it...

Three more titles I'm hoping to read if my library holds come in (or if Santa is extra nice to me!)

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Why? I didn't have a lot of interest in this one until I heard her interview on The Lively Show (one of my favorite podcasts).

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal
Why? Hands down one of my favorite mystery series out there right now. Maggie Hope rises from the secretary pool at 10 Downing Street during WWII to a military special intelligence agent. In this latest book, Maggie accompanies Churchill to America.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
Why? Loved the first two in this series, and if I wasn't already looking forward to it, the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour interview with JK Rowling sealed the deal. I'm still at #36 on the holds list, so there's a good chance this one will be waiting until January.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?

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November 29, 2015

Falling off the NaNoWriMo Wagon

This month, writers across the world are participating in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). The goal is 50,000 words of fiction in November, which amounts to around 3/4 of a typical length fiction novel. It's been something I had been saying I wanted to participate in for years, but I never pulled the trigger. There was always a good reason not to do it.

Too busy, too stressed, too whatever.

This year I decided enough was enough and I was going to try. I had a few ideas floating around for a mystery novel and even though I hadn't even had the creative oomph to write here on the blog for ages...it was time I stopped saying "someday".

So I wrote. And those words were exhausting, creatively and physically. But I wrote.

The first week or so I sat down to write everyday. Some days I managed barely 150 words and one magical day I hit 1000. The second week I got in a few days.

But then life hit me and...nothing. Not one word.

November was suddenly a survival mode month, and survival mode included multiple work events, solo parenting, teacher conferences and extended family health scares, but not my novel. Work was nuts, the kids were nuts, I was nuts.

Things have calmed down and I've had a few days to catch my breath, which has been lovely. I was reminded of the truth of this quote from Isak Dineson during a quick trip to the coast to meet up with family.  I got lots of dog and kid snuggle time. My husband and I hunkered down to watch the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings.

And somehow, I still felt like a mess.

Stepping back, I can see where I went wrong. Survival mode does not mean I get to give up self-care. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first after all. Writing was my oxygen mask during the first part of November, and giving it up did not make my life easier by having one less thing to do. It made it harder by never recharging my batteries.

This is a hard-won lesson for me, one I'm probably going to have to learn over and over again.

Last February, in the midst of polar vortex, Anne wrote a post called "What's Saving My Life Right Now", made up of the little things that got her through each day in the bleak midwinter. Her list included things like a daily park visit, an americano and Beverly Cleary. The always fabulous readers of Modern Mrs. Darcy responded in a link-up with their town lists. It's great reading now, as the days get shorter and long winter season looms. (Katie's post was one of my favorites at the time, and she returned to the theme over the course of this year as well.)

So what's saving my life right now? A return to writing for one. A little here on the blog, a little on the novel. Since I need a little accountability to keep me on track (I am an obliger, after all) I'm going to be here at least weekly, sharing something that is saving my life right now. A quick preview: cozy mysteries, a new hobby, twinkle lights, and of course, Tolkien.

I'd love to hear how you feed your soul when you are in survival mode-what is saving your life right now?

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