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Why you might ask, would a web site celebrating all women, especially, "women of a certain age," devote a section to children's books? A multitude of reasons is the answer. We look upon all children as "ours" and think of them as our future. Furthermore, we believe one of the most compelling and valuable traits any adult can instill in a child is a love of reading and learning.

"Children are often made readers on the laps of their parents." Emilie Buchwald (Or any loving adult)

Neat Women Inc is proud to introduce Susan Heyboer O'Keefe. Children's Book-of-the-Month Club author Susan Heyboer O'Keefe has written Countdown to Christmas: Advent Thoughts, Prayers, and Activities, Angel Prayers, Sleepy Angel's First Bedtime Story, and Good Night, God Bless. Visit www.susanheyboerokeefe.homestead.com for fun, book info, and great parrot photos. She offers NWI neighbors thoughtful, insightful descriptions of children's books authored by some of the best writers in the children's market. She has prepared a wonderful book selection for young readers.

ANGEL PRAYERS: PRAYERS FOR ALL CHILDREN, illustrated by Sofia Suzan. Hardcover. These warm original prayers use angels as their focus to ask God for help and forgiveness, to give praise and thanksgiving, and just to have fun. The gorgeous, color-drenched illustrations are in the style of Mexican folk art. For children of all faiths, ages 4 to 8, and angel lovers of all ages. A Catholic Family Book Club Selection

GOOD NIGHT, GOD BLESS, illustrated by Hideko Takahashi. Hardcover. A child asks God to bless his world, his town, his family, and himself Quiet text emphasizes family love and the security of home, while the childlike art soothes and comforts. For children of all faiths, ages 4 to 8. A Children's Book of the Month Club Main Selection. A Scholastic School Book Club Selection.

SLEEPY ANGEL'S FIRST BEDTIME STORY, co-authored with Tara Malanga, illustrated by Dennis Rockhill. Hardcover. When Racquel has trouble falling asleep, Grandma Kathy makes her a special gift to show her she's never alone, not even in the dark. For children of all faiths, ages 2 to 7. A Catholic Family Book Club Selection.

Click on "school" as a subject at Amazon.com and over a thousand books pop up, just for ages 4 to 8. Clearly this is a MAJOR ISSUE in every child's (and parent's) life. Here are a few titles that may help. I'll start with first-timers (good for both Kindergarten and daycare/nursery school) and work my way toward the older child:

For the Eager Beaver: If your would-be student needs just a friendly guide to what's going to happen, check out MY FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, by P.K. Hallinan. This is a lively description told in rhyme of first-day activities. It's an upbeat introduction to nametags, cubbies, school buses, and other important business of school life.

For the Nervous, the Timid, and the Downright Neurotic: Okay, okay, I'm revealing my own little ticks here, but it's true. Some kids start out eager then something happens that dampens their enthusiasm. Other kids are born fretters.

In TIMOTHY GOES TO SCHOOL, by Rosemary Wells, Timothy belongs to that first group. He's excited about school until he meets classmate Perfect Claude. Whatever Timothy does is wrong; whatever Claude does is right, including his choice of first-day, second-day, third-day clothing. Perfect Claude is smart, talented, and -- worse -- popular. Timothy finds his solution in befriending Violet, who has her own nemesis -- Perfect Grace.

I'll admit to being lifetime president of the second group of kids, the chronic worriers. So I was delighted to find a soulmate in WEMBERLY WORRIED by Kevin Henkes. Wemberly worries about everything, whether she'll shrink in the bathtub, spill juice on her stuffed rabbit, even whether the bolts will hold when she's on her swing. When the very first day of school arrives, she has a brand new set of worries -- Will the kids like her? Will anyone have as strange a name as hers? Will anyone else be carrying a must-have-at-all-times doll? In the end, Wemberly finds strength in befriending someone just as timid as herself.

What's especially nice about both books is their message that going outside of one's self to help others is much better than sitting around and stewing.

For the Returning Student: I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL by Marisabina Russo is for the returning student who's afraid that last year's good experience can't be duplicated. What if no one remembers him or her from last year? What if this year's teacher is mean? What if the questions this year are really hard? Most of the worries in the story are planted by a teasing older sister, but that makes them no less real. There's no avoiding going back, but in the end the worries are shown to be groundless.

For the Determined-to-Not-Like-School Student: If your reluctant student is ready for chapter books, try JUDY MOODY by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter Reynolds. Judy Moody did not want to give up summer and that put her in a mood -- not a good mood; a bad mood. Even though she has to go to third grade, she is determined NOT to like it. But third grade proves to be interesting and funny, plus she gets a Venus Fly Trap as a new pet, and then she pulls the best practical joke in the whole world on her younger brother. All of this goes into her first big school assignment -- a "Me" collage. Her adventures will have even reluctant students (and their parents) smiling by the book's end.

"I learned from the age of two or three that any room in our house, at any time of day, was there to read in, or to be read to." Eudora Welty

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