Thursday, March 28, 2013

Short Story Review: Medusa


Adapted by:  Rob M. Worley
Illustrated by:  Mike Dubisch
Published by: Magic Wagon, 2008

* This book is one in a series of Greek Myths that I found while wandering around the children's floor of the library.  I'm always looking for new and interesting books to read with the kids.  I thought that my daughter might be ready and interested in reading Greek Myths.  It's part of the Short Tales series  by Magic Wagon which also has a series on Norse Myths, Fairy Tales, and Classics. 

In the beginning of the book there is a page of The Greek Gods that includes a portrait, his or her name, and what they are the God of.  This book does a great job of telling the tale of Medusa in a simply written and easy to understand way.  My daughter ended up grabbing this book and reading it on her own.  While I was sitting and reading it on my own my son came over and asked to hear it.  I thought that the illustrations might be a bit scary for him since he's only 4 1/2.  But he enjoyed the story.  This was the first book of the series that we have read but I think it's a great intro to the Greek Gods.  We will definitely be checking out more in this series.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Non-fiction Beginning Reader Book Review: Gross Out! Animals That Do Disgusting Things

Gross Out!: Animals That Do Disgusting Things

Gross Out!  Animals That Do Disgusting Things
Written by:  Ginger L. Clarke
Illustrated by:  Pete Mueller
Published by: Grosset & Dunlap, 2006

* My daughter got her own library card during a Kindergarten field trip to the library last year. I usually make a weekly trip to the library with my 4 1/2 year old son after preschool.  My husband will usually take my daughter on the weekend.  My daughter has a lot of reading interests and would probably spend all day perusing the books if my husband let her!  On her last trip to the library she picked out this book.  Normally, she'll read her books and put them in the "to return" bag when she's ready.  The other night I was getting ready to blow-dry her hair after her shower when she went running to get this book.  She excitedly told me, "I have a book that I want to read to you!"  While I was blow-drying her hair she very loudly read this book to me. 

This book is part of the All Aboard Science Reader Series and is a Station Stop Level 2 book.  Level 2 books are geared towards children who are reading with help.  They contain short sentences and simple plots and dialogue. 

This book is broken up into five short chapters.  Each chapter focuses on a different set of creatures (Underwater, Creepy Crawlies, etc.).  Each set of pages describes a creature and the disgusting things it does.  As much as I was grossed out by the facts my daughter was really into this book.  I think this book would be great for reluctant readers who like gross things!  It's non-fiction, so there's learning going on.  But the book is fun and the reader will learn a bunch of interesting facts.  The book contains illustrations, but I think it would be even more interesting and fun if there were actual photographs of the creatures described.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Picture Book Review: Bridget's Beret

Bridget's Beret

Bridget's Beret
Written and illustrated by:  Tom Lichtenheld
Published by: Henry Holt and Company, 2010

* My almost 7 year old daughter is very creative and likes to create all kinds of art.  So I've been on a little bit of an art book streak to help feed her interest and help her get to know some famous artists.  In this book, Bridget loves to draw so much, she prefers drawing to ice cream!  But before she can begin any masterpiece she has to put on her big, black, beret....because all great artists needed to wear one to make art, right? But one day while she was sitting outside drawing (her favorite place to draw), the wind blew her beret away.  She tried to find the beret, including filling out a "missing beret" report with the police and trying to find a replacement hat.  But without her beloved beret Bridget discovers she has artist block.  Eventually, Bridget's little sister helps her get over her artistic block and there's a happy ending. 

The book has portraits of some famous artists and some of Bridget's artwork is inspired by famous paintings (Andy Warhol's soup can, Van Gogh's "Starry Night").  At the end of the book Lichtenheld includes some inspirational tips on "How to Start Your Art." 

This was a book that the whole family enjoyed together.  I can see this book finding a permanent spot on our bookshelves since I know my daughter would go back to the "How to Start Your Art" section and create projects based on the ideas given!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Beginning Reader Book Review: Poppleton Has Fun

Poppleton Has Fun

Poppleton Has Fun
Written by:  Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by:  Mark Teague
Published by:  Scholastic Inc., 2000
Grade Level Equivalent:  2.2
DRA: 18-20
Guided Reading: J

* Although this was my son's first Poppleton the Pig book, Poppleton has starred in several books written by Cynthia Rylant.  Poppleton Has Fun is number 7 in the series.  As the title of this book suggests, in each of the three stories Poppleton has some kind of fun.  His friends Cherry Sue (a llama), Hudson (a mouse), and Fillmore (a goat) also make appearances in the various stories.  In the first story Poppleton goes to the movies alone...which doesn't sound like much fun!  In the second story Poppleton makes a quilt with his friends and in the third story he enjoys taking a bath. 

We are fans of Cynthia Rylant's Henry and Mudge series and weren't disappointed with this book.  The series doesn't have to be read in order, as we discovered, reading book number 7!  The stories are fun and  focus on friendship.  My son was able to read these on his own to me....which surprised me to discover he's reading at a second grade reading level!  We will definitely be reading more Poppleton books!

We own this book.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Picture Book Review: My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks

My Dog Is As Smelly As Dirty Socks: And Other Funny Family Portraits

My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks and Other Funny Family Portraits
Text and Portraits by:  Hanoch Piven
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2007

* I happened to find this book perusing the library shelves.  The title definitely caught my interest.  The young girl narrating the story is asked by her teacher to draw a picture of her family.  But she doesn't like her drawing, because as she states, "there are so many things about  him (dad) that you don't see in this picture."  She then proceeds to describe her father comparing him to everyday objects.  For example, "My daddy is as jumpy as a SPRING" with a picture of an actual spring.  After each family member's object comparisons the girl creates a portrait using those objects.  As a teacher, my mind was thinking, what a great book to teach similes and comparisons.  As a parent my mind was thinking, what a creative and fun book!  The author's note in the beginning of the book is very inspiring.  He conducted a workshop at the Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel called "Drawing with Objects" for children and teens with cancer.  The kids created self-portraits using everyday household objects. It is  photos of these self-portraits that appear on the front and back inside covers of the book.  Creating self-portraits inspired by this book sounds like a great rainy day activity that I may have the kids do over the summer! 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Non-fiction Picture Book Review: First Garden

First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew

First Garden:  The White House Garden and How it Grew
Written and illustrated by:  Robbin Gourley
Published by: Clarion Books, 2011

* I wish I could garden but I can't.  Not just for lack of space, which is true.  My backyard is very small and shady, so not very conducive for growing a garden.  But I think I have a black thumb.  Every year I attempt to grow vegetables in containers and every year I'm lucky if I get a handful of green beans and a couple of tomatoes.  Last year I even started with tomato plants, given to me from my parents, rather than starting from seeds.  But I keep trying and hoping!  To help us start thinking about our container gardens (the kids always help me plant the seeds) I got us this book.  We had recently read The House that George Built which described the building of the White House.  This book goes a step further and describes the development of the First Garden.  Beginning with First Lady Michelle Obama's concern about the health of the American people, Gourley then goes into detail about the designing and planting of the garden.  I found it interesting that there's a beehive for about 60,000 bees that produces about eleven gallons of honey in the garden.  I learned that some of the seedlings planted in the garden are passed down from plants grown over 200 years ago by Thomas Jefferson! I can only imagine (and drool) over a 1,100-square-foot garden with over 55 varieties of herbs, fruits, and vegetables.....although my garden would have beets!  My daughter and I enjoyed this book but it did not hold my son's interest at all!  He was crawling around the bed and fooling around while we were reading.  At the end of the book Gourley includes "Good Reasons to Garden" and "Recipes from the White House."  My daughter is excited to try out some of the recipes.  This book is definitely not for everyone, but if you have a child who's interested in gardening, he or she may enjoy this book.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Picture Book Review: Only One You

Only One You

Only One You
Written and illustrated by:  Linda Kranz
Published by: Rising Moon, 2006

* What first caught my eye with this book was the cover.  It's an ocean blue cover with bright, colorful "fish" swimming.  As you begin reading and take a closer look you realize that these "fish" are actually painted rocks.  Although the illustrations are detailed and enjoyable to look at, I found the text of this book to be even more enjoyable.  Mama and Papa fish feel it's time to share some wisdom with their child, Adri.  The advice they give to their child, including, "Know when to speak; know when to listen" and "Set aside some quiet time to relax and reflect.  Every day."  are things that I as an adult can be reminded of!  The front and back inside covers feature lots  more bits of wisdom.  This is a book that can be read over and over and should be read over and over as a gentle reminder to your kids and to yourself about how to make one's self and the world a better place.  The kids really enjoyed looking at the pictures, but I'm not sure how much they appreciated this book, being 4 and 6.  However, this is a book that I can see finding a place on our permanent bookshelf so we can revisit it again and again.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Cat: Why Do Cats Purr?

Product Details

The Cat:  Why Do Cats Purr? And Other True Facts
A Q&A Reader Written by:  Apple Jordan
Published by:  Scholastic, 2007

* I know that I've mentioned in the past that my kids have been wanting a pet for awhile now.  My husband and I finally decided that they were responsible enough to take care of a pet.  So this year Santa brought our kids kittens for Christmas.  Yes, that's kittens, plural.  One for each of them.  We had visions of what would happen if we just got our daughter a pet, "No Connor, it's MY kitten.  Santa brought it for ME!"  So, Santa actually brought them two stuffed kittens with all of the supplies they would need to take care of said kittens, and a note explaining why he couldn't bring the kittens on Christmas (it's too cold of course!).  But mommy and daddy would take them to the shelter so they could each pick out their own kitten.  And we did.  And we love them and can't imagine our family without them!  We've had them for about two months now and they are 7 months old.  Even though they're not from the same litter, they get along so well, as seen from the pic below.

We've read some kitten care books right after we got the kittens.  My daughter recently mentioned that she wanted to read another kitten book.  On our last library trip my son reminded me that we needed to, "get a cat book for Abby."  He's always looking out for his sister!  So we headed over to the pet section and he picked out this book.   I'm sure the adorable kitten on the cover had something to do with it!  So we brought it home and at bedtime we read this book together.

The book is in question and aswer format.  Each set of pages poses a question, for example, "Why do cats purr?"  The question is then answered from the perspective of a cat.  The answers are both informative and humorous.  It gave just the right amount of info for my four and six year old, in an easy to understand way.  The book includes photos of cute kittens and cats, although I didn't think the quality of the photos was that great.  There are also boxes on each page providing facts or tips to the reader. 

Overall, this was a cute and informative read for the family.  It provided useful information for the kids on taking care of their kittens and explained cat behavior in a way they could understand.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Picture Book Review: A World of Food

A World of Food: Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat!

A World of Food:  Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat
Written and photographed by:  Carl Warner
Published by: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012

* This picture book is literally a feast for the eyes!  Each set of pages begins, "If all the world were...." and names a color.  Warner then writes in rhyming detail of some of the things you would find in that colored world, all of which relate to food.  For example, "If all the world were yellow...." "we'd stop and drink from pools of lemonade."  The landscapes that Warner has created using food are amazing.  You can spend hours studying each photograph admiring all of the details and trying to identify all of the food used.  The kids espsecially loved the pink and white worlds, filled with sweets of all kinds.  At the end of the book is a cheat sheet listing the foods that were used to create the different parts of each landscape.  This can be a great book to introduce children to new foods.  All different types of mushrooms, fruits, vegetables, and grains are used in the photos, which might hopefully lead up to, "Hey, maybe we should try some of that?!"  This was a book that the whole family enjoyed reading and looking at together.  It was also a 2012 National Parenting Publication Book Awards Honors winner.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Picture Book Review: The Circus Ship

The Circus Ship

The Circus Ship
Written and illustrated by:  Chris Van Dusen
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2009

* This fictional story about a circus ship is told in rhyme.  When a circus ship en route from Maine to Boston crashes, the fifteen animals swim all night in the cold water, until they reach a small island village.  At first the villagers were a bit annoyed and bothered with the circus animals roaming about.  But after the tiger rescues little Emma Rose from a fire they have a change of heart.  The animals and villagers were living peacefully when there was word that the circus owner was coming back to get his animals.  Mr. Paine was greedy and mean and the animals didn't want to go back so the villagers came up with a plan to hide them. (The kids found this part to be especially humorous!)  Mr. Paine looks everywhere for his circus animals but eventually leaves the island empty-handed.  The villagers and animals end up living happily ever after.

I found it interesting to learn that this book was inspired by an actual event.  On October 25, 1836, the Royal Tar, a steam ship with 103 passengers and a complete circus ended up burning in flames after hitting a gale off the island of Vinalhaven, Maine.  Unfortunately, most people and all of the animals died in this accident. 

Van Dusen took this tragic story and used it to help him create a fun tale.  Van Dusen is also the illustrator of the Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo.  His colorful and almost cartoonish illustrations are perfect for this story.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Picture Book Review: Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture

Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture

Look! Look!  Look! at Sculpture
Written and Illustrated by:  Nancy Elizabeth Wallace with Linda K. Friedlaender
Published by: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2012

* My almost 7 year-old daughter is a budding artist.  She loves any type of crafty, creative arts and crafts type project.  I recently had a watercolor that she painted, of a fish in an ocean scene, matted and framed.  She made it in art class in Kindergarten but it seriously looks professional!  She did not get this talent from me.  My husband definitely passed down the artist genes to her. When I saw this book on the shelf at the library I thought that it might interest her and introduce her to a new medium. 

In this book three mice see a poster for a Celebrate Sculpture! event at the local art museum.  Of course they decide to go. The mice look at different exhibits of actual images of real sculptures.  They are mainly interested in the sculpture from the invitation (and also on the cover of the book) "Four Rectangles with Oblique Circles, 1966" by Barbara Hepworth.  The mice talk about the shapes and material the sculpture is made of as they observe the piece.  They then sketch and sculpt their own versions of what they see.  There is a lot of great art vocabulary introduced, like lines, shading, flat vs. 3-D, and texture.  I also liked how the mice went on a museum walk, with their hands behind their backs.  When my daughter was asked why are they walking with their hands behind their backs she was able to conclude that you shouldn't touch things at a museum (unless of course it's a Children's museum!).    At the end of the book the author explains what sculpture is and provides more examples.  She also gives instructions on creating Paper SHAPE Sculptures.  Detailed info about each of the sculptures in the book is also provided at the end.  This was a book that was enjoyed by us all.

Reading this book motivated my husband and I to think about taking our kids to an art museum.  We've been to many children's museums but I think the kids are old enough now to visit the Museum of Natural History or the Museum of Modern Art (the MOMA).  NYC is only a short train ride away.  This is something that we definitely plan to do in the next few months! 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Picture Book Review: Oscar and the Bat: A Book About Sound

Oscar And The Bat (Oscar)
Oscar and the Bat:  A Book About Sound
Written and illustrated by:  Geoff Waring
Published by: Walker Books, 2006

* At school my daughter was finishing up a study of sound in science.  As part of the end of the unit she was required to make a musical instrument out of household materials.  She chose maracas using mini water bottles and beans.  They turned out really cute and my husband and I were very proud of her.  Although my husband helped her a little with the paper mache and gluing the dowels (for the handles) this was really her idea and vision from start to finish.  As a former teacher I've seen projects that have clearly been completed by parents.  This was not one of them!

I thought it would be nice to get a book about sound that she might be able to connect with since she's been studying it.  Author/illustrator Geoff Waring has written several science books featuring Oscar, an inquisitive kitten, that deal with topics like electricity, light and dark, and growing.  This was our first "Oscar" book.  After reading it I realize that these books are actually more appropriate for my 4 1/2 year old son, than my almost 7 year old daughter.  The book focuses on listening and the different sounds you hear (animal noises, weather, grass blowing in the breeze, vehicle engines) but doesn't really go into much detail about the hows/whys. 

For preschool students I think this is a great introduction book.  For older kids, probably not so much.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Non-Fiction Picture Book Review: The House That George Built

The House That George Built

The House That George Built
Written by:  Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by:  Rebecca Bond
Published by: Charlesbridge, 2012

* In honor of Presiden'ts Day I thought that I'd post a book about Washington.  More specifically, the house that he built.  The book opens with a foreword about the formation of the United States of America and the search for a leader of this new country, George Washington.  The pages on the left side of the book give details about the design, placement, and construction of the White House.  The right side text mimics the British nursery rhyme "This Is the House That Jack Built" with "the President's House that George Built."  I found this book to be informative (even I learned things about the construction of the White House!) but not too detailed that it was lost on my 4 1/2 year old son.  The illustrations look to be colorful and detailed watercolor paintings.  At the end of the book the author includes changes to the White House that various Presidents have made, including Clinton adding a hot tub and jogging track in 1993 and President Obama and the First Lady planting a vegetable garden on the south lawn in 2009.  Slade also includes additional resources if you want to learn more about the White House.  Overall, we found this to be an informative and fun read.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Beginning Reader Book Review: Arthur's Great Big Valentine

Arthur's Great Big Valentine

Arthur's Great Big Valentine
Written and illustrated by:  Lillian Hoban
Published by: HarperCollins, 1989

* Although Lillian Hoban's Arthur series has been around for awhile this was the first Arthur book that my son and I read together.  It's a Level 2 (Grades 1-3) in the I Can Read Book series.  While he had no real difficulty reading this book it was a bit lengthier than most books we have read together.  There are no chapters so we ended up breaking this up into two days of reading, taking turns reading. 

It's Valentine's Day and Arthur is getting ready to go out ot play in the snow while his sister, Violet, is making valentines.  When asked why he's not making any valentines, Arthur tells his sister that he has no friends because he got in a fight with his best friend Norman.  While playing a stick accidentally ripped Norman's jacket.  Norman got mad and made a secret club with their other friends, and Arthur wasn't included.  Their friend Wilma comes with invitations to her Valentine's party.  But when Arthur discovers that Norman will be there he doesn't want to go.  Eventually, Arthur discovers that Norman is bringing him a secret valentine, so he makes a valentine for Norman.  The two have missed each other and want to be friends again. 

This was a sweet Valentine's Day story about friendship that is appropriate for the beginning reader.  My son and I enjoyed this and will continue to read some of the other Arthur books in the series. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

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Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Children's Poetry Book Review: The Green Mother Goose

The Green Mother Goose: Saving the World One Rhyme at a Time

The Green Mother Goose:  Saving the World One Rhyme at a Time
Written by:  Jan Peck and David Davis
Illustrated by:  Carin Berger
Published by: Sterling, 2011

* By now my kids, ages 4 and 6, are familiar with almost all of the Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.  My daughter enjoys poetry books too so I thought this would be a cute book to read.  The two authors take classic Mother Goose rhymes and change the words so they all have a "green" message.  They touch upon everything from turning lights off when leaving a room, eating local and organic food, car-pooling, picking up trash, and more.  Even the pages of the book are printed with soy-based inks and printed on paper from mixed sources.  The kids enjoyed the fun "recycled" illustrations too.

I have read many reviews on Goodreads from readers who question, "Why mess with Mother Goose?"  In the same way that fractured fairy tales have become very popular, I think different takes on nursery rhymes can be entertaining as well.  This book is probably not suitable for very young children becoming familiar with nursery rhymes.  However, for older children who are familiar with the rhymes already I think this is a motivating way for them to read and learn about ways to be eco-friendly.

I think that the authors' message is an important one and this book does a great job of getting it across in a kid-friendly way. 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Picture Book Review: Substitute Groundhog

Substitute Groundhog

Substitute Groundhog
Written by:  Pat Miller
Illustrated by:  Kathi Ember
Published by:  Albert Whitman & Company, 2006

* Happy Groundhog's Day!  Are we expecting six more weeks of winter or an early spring?  I'm totally over winter.....hoping the groundhog didn't see his shadow today! 

I found this book at the library and thought it would be cute to read to the kids.  In this story Groundhog wakes up sick.  He goes to Dr. Owl who tells him that he needs to rest for two days.  But Groundhog Day is the next day so Groundhog puts up an advertisment for a substitute.  Many animals apply but none seem right for the job:  Mole can't see well, Eagle can't fit in Groundhog's hole, Bear gets comfy and falls asleep in the hole.  Eventually, Groundhog finds the perfect substitute in Armadillo, who was visiting from Texas. 

This book is focused more on finding the perfect groundhog substitute, rather than on the holiday (although is Groundhog Day really a holiday?!!).  It did help me to remember that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there's six more weeks of winter (I always get confused as to which is which!).  Overall, this was a cute, holiday read.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chapter Book Review: New York City

New York City (Read-It! Chapter Books) (Read-It! Chapter Books)

New York City (Read-it! Chapter Books)
Written and illustrated by:  Lisa Thompson
Published by: Picture Window Books, 2006

* On one of their weekend trips to the library my husband found this book and thought my daughter would enjoy it.  My daughter read it on her own and then, because I was curious, I read the book.  I found this book to be a great mix of fiction and fact.  Ari and Tess are skateboarding, although I'm not sure you know here, when they receive their first mission.  They discover that they have been picked as special agents by the SWAT (Secret World Adventure Team) and must travel to New York City.  They have 24 hours to help a boy named TJ and his friends save their skate park.  Once they get to New York and meet TJ they get involved in a treasure hunt competition that, if they win, will give them enough money to save the skate park.  As the kids race around NYC lots of information about famous landmarks are given.  I also liked the use of real photographs interspersed with black and white "sketch" illustrations.  I don't think the skateboard theme was very appealing to my six year old daughter (who knows practically nothing about skateboarding and doesn't seem very interested in learning more!).  However, we live in the suburbs of NYC and she's been several times, so she was familiar with some of the landmarks mentioned.  Plus, she enjoys scavenger hunts.  She's already expressed interest in reading book #2 in the series Mission 002:  Sent to Sydney.  I'm also very curious to check it out.  Other missions take the reader to London, Tokyo, Africa, Spain, India, and Thailand. I think these books are a great way for children to learn more about the world around them! 

This book was borrowed from the library.

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Kid Lit Blog Hop

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Non-Fiction Picture Book Review: Benjamin Franklin: An American Genius

Benjamin Franklin: An American Genius

Benjamin Franklin:  An American Genius
Written by:  Kay Melchisedech Olson
Illustrated by:  Gordon Purcell and Barbara Schulz
Published by:  Capstone Press, 2006

* I recently picked up the first book in The 39 Clues series, Maze of Bones, by Rick Riordan, on audio.  We have all been listening to the story with interest, while driving in the car.  So far the book has focused a lot on Benjamin Franklin.  I thought it might be helpful and informative for my daughter if we read a biography about him.  I found this book at the library among several different bios that they had of Franklin.  My daughter has shown interest in graphic novels so I thought that this would be right up her alley.

This book is broken up into four chapters that highlight important parts of his life:  Printer, Inventor, Patriot, and Statesman.  Each illustrated box has a text box with factual information and then speech bubbles with character commentary.  I think the book did a great job of highlighting the important parts of Franklin's life, in a format that is easy to read and understand.  My daughter was able to make many connections to things we read about Benjamin Franklin in this book and things that were mentioned in Maze of Bones

This book is one in a series of Graphic Biographies published by Capstone.  They also have a series of books called Graphic History that focus on important events in history.  As the new Common Core Standards are being implemented in most states there is a greater need for children to read more non-fiction.  This series can help motivate the reluctant reader by presenting factual information in a fun and interesting format.

This was an informative book that my six year old daughter and I enjoyed reading.  We will definitely check out some of the other books in the series.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Graphic Novel Review: Babymouse Our Hero

Our Hero (Babymouse, #2)

Babymouse Our Hero
Written and illustrated by:  Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Published by:  Random House, 2005

* My daughter found the graphic novel section of the children's library on her own and Babymouse was one of the first books that she picked out on her own.  Since that first discovery, she has now read many of the books in the series.  Unfortunately, I usually go to the library during the week with my son while my daughter is in school.  But I always pick out a bunch of books for her.  On my last trip this book was included in my picks for her.  She read this book in one sitting, telling me that it's really quick and easy to read.  I was interested in reading the book to see what the draw of these books are for her.  She gave me a little tip before reading that, "the black and white pages are what's happening and the pink pages are what she's thinking in her imagination."  This ended up being a right-on target, helpful tip.

The gist of this story is that Babymouse is participating in a dodgeball tournament in gym class.  She really hates playing and isn't very good but her teacher is making everyone play and it counts as part of their grade.  So Babymouse practices and trains with her friends, knowing that she will be up against reigning champ, Felicia "The Elminator" Furrypaws.  Babymouse and Felicia end up alone in a final showdown and of course, Babymouse saves the day, thus the title of the book.

I have very fond memories of dodgeball in school.  Along with kickball, it was one of my favorite games to play.  Unfortunately, I think my daughter is a little young to have played the game so she was at a little disadvantage reading this.  She enjoyed the book through and plans on reading more in the series.  I like that this series is written and illustrated by a brother and sister.  While I will keep myself busy reading my books I don't mind my daughter reading these books on her own.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Early Chapter Book Review: Heidi Heckelbeck and the Cookie Contest

Heidi Heckelbeck and the Cookie Contest

Heidi Heckelbeck and the Cookie Contest
Written by:  Wanda Coven
Illustrated by:  Priscilla Burris
Published by: Little Simon, 2012
Ages 5-7

* This book is the third in the Heidi Heckelbeck series.  My daughter and I have read all three and find them very enjoyable.  This is a great new series for the newly independent reader.  The book is broken up into short chapters with illustrations on almost every page. In book one we are introduced to Heidi, who used to be homeschooled but is now starting second grade at Brewster Elemntary School.  She meets Melanie, who teases and picks on her, and continues to do so throughout the series.  But Heidi also meets a new friend, Lucy. We also discover that Heidi is a witch! 

This third book opens with Heidi signing up for the Brewster Elementary cookie contest.  After much deliberation she finally decides to make her family's famous chocolate chunk cookie recipe.  But after hearing about the different cookies her classmates plan on making, Heidi thinks that her cookies are too plain.  So even though she's not supposed to use her witching skills in everyday life, she of course uses a Cookie Charm spell to jazz up her cookies.  Unfortunately, the cookies don't turn out as expected and Heidi learns a lesson that sometimes simple is best. 

We are enjoying this series and will be reading number four in the series Heidi Heckelbeck in Disguise soon!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

This post is shared at The Children's Bookshself @ What Do We Do All Day

Monday, January 21, 2013

Non-fiction Picture Book Review: Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King
Written by: Jean Marzollo
Illustrated by:  J. Brian Pinkney
Published by: Scholastic, 1993

* We have read many books about Martin Luther King, Jr. at home and my children have heard many at school.  I think it's important for them to understand the significance of the holiday and realize that it's not just a day off from school.  It's hard for them being so young to understand that there was a time when children of color had to use a different water fountain and go to a different school. 

I found this book on a display at the library.  It caught my eye because it didn't look too difficult for my four year old to understand.  After reading this book I did think it was perfect for my son.  It's written in very easy to understand language.  It doesn't give many facts or details but does give a nice overview of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. The author, in her foreword, mentions that, "if you feel the words "shot and killed" are inappropriate for the child or children you plan to read this book to, you many want to change the words and say simply that Martin Luther King "died" in 1968.  I felt that my four year old son could handle hearing that MLK Jr. was "shot and killed" but some young children may not be able to. My daughter told me that she didn't really like it but I think it's because she already knew everything that the book mentioned. 

The illustrations are done in what looks like scratch art.  Overall, I think that this is a good introduction for young children to Martin Luther King.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating:  1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Beginning Reader Book Review: Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan

Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan (Henry and Mudge, #19)

Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan
Written by:  Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by:  Sucie Stevenson
Published by: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1999

* My daughter and I have read several books in Cynthia Rylant's Henry and Mudge series.  However, this was the first Henry and Mudge book that my son has read.  I had wrongly thought that he was familiar with the series so I had to give him a little background on the characters.  I told him that Henry was an only child and asked his parents for a dog.  That's pretty much all he had to know before beginning!

My son is a beginning reader.  This book is broken up into three titled sections. So, he ended up reading one section a day, over three days.  In this book, when Henry sees a poster advertising a snowman contest, he gets really excited and runs home to tell his dad.  His dad is in the midst of painting a chair but ends up with more paint on him than on the chair.  The day of the contest Henry and his dad already have their snowman plan ready.  When the judging begins there are all kinds of snow sculptures including snow aliens and a snow Abraham Lincoln.  Henry and his dad are happy with the way things turn out and their prizes. 

This book is actually #19 in the series.  Luckily, I don't think the books have to be read in any special order to understand them.  Henry and Mudge is a good beginning chapter series, with short chapters.  My son had very little difficulty reading this book to me.  He enjoyed it enough that he's interested in reading more of the series. 

We own this book.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Picture Book Review: Nora the Mind Reader

Nora the Mind Reader

Nora the Mind Reader
Written by:  Orit Gidali
Illustrated by:  Aya Gordon-Noy
Published by:  Enchanted Lion Books, 2012

* Orit Gidali is an Israeli author.  She wrote this book, in Hebrew, for her six-year old daughter, which was then translated by Annette Appel.  In this story, Nora comes home from Kindergarten upset that a classmate told her that she had "flamingo legs."  Her mother gives her a magic wand (a bubble wand) which allows her to see what people say and what they actually mean.  Nora comes to realize that insulting people doesn't make sense but not doing anything about being insulted doesn't help either.  So she decides to be nice to the boy and gives him a compliment (which she really means).  She even invites the boy over to play but makes him promise to stop name calling.  Nora discovers that she doesn't need the wand anymore and her mom leaves it outside for someone else to discover. 

I am glad that so far my kids haven't experienced being insulted or teased by their peers and I hope that they never do.  However, this was a good book to introduce them to the topic.  Because even though I don't want them being teased, I don't want my kids insulting their peers either. It's important for them to try to put themselves in someone else's shoes before they say something.  This book helped show that people sometimes say one thing and often mean another.  For example, one illustration shows a boy saying that he didn't feel like playing soccer but he really thinks to himself, "I don't feel like losing."  So, the book doesn't just deal with insults.  Empathy is a difficult thing to teach, but this book is a great start.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Chapter Book Review: Goofballs #1: The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder

Goofballs #1:  The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder

Goofballs #1:  The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder
Written by:  Tony Abbott
Illustrated by:  Colleen Madden
Published by: Egmont, 2012
Ages: 7-9
101 pages

* I am always on the lookout for new chapter books to read with my daughter.  Many new series have been published since I stopped teaching 3rd grade over four years ago!  My daughter and I have had a long-time ritual of reading a chapter book together while we wait for the bus to come in the morning. Unfortunately, I end up getting way too many chapter books for us to read and there's not enough time for us to get through them.  Like this book for instance.  My daughter decided that she wanted to read it on her own this weekend when she had some "relaxing time."  Because I was really interested in checking it out I had to read it on my own.  :( 

This first book in the Goofball series follows four friends, Jeff, Mara, Brian, and Kelly, who dub themselves the Goofballs because......well, they are goofy!  They like to solve mysteries and take books out of the library to help them solve them.  The Goofballs became big in town when they solved "The Totally Incredible Pizza Disaster"(which has already happened before this story takes place, but we learn bits and pieces of it.).  A super-rich boy named Randall Crandall heard about the Goofballs from that incident and have hired them to find his missing horse, Thunder.  Using Jeff's clue book, making some observations, and looking at evidence, the group helps solve another mystery. 

This book definitely had some humor that had my eyes rolling, but my daughter enjoyed.  When I asked her how she liked it (before I had read it) she said, "It was funny.  He said, "Don't leaf me here" like L-E-A-F instead of leave me here.  Yes.....LOTS of puns are used in this book! 

There are lots of illustrations throughout the book.  I think it's a great new addition to the children's mystery genre.  Overall, we both enjoyed this book, although while my daughter reads the next one in the series, I'll sit that one out!

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Picture Book Review: Love and Roast Chicken

Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains

Love and Roast Chicken:  A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains
Written and illustrated by: Barbara Knutson
Published by: Carolrhoda Books, 2004

* My husband picked this book off the shelf when he took the kids to the library.  The author Barbara Knutson lived in Peru and drew on personal experience to write this trickster tale.  The story takes place in the Andes Mountains where Cuy, the Guinea Pig is about to be Tio Antonio the Fox's dinner.  He thinks quickly and tricks the Fox....and then tricks him again and again, and again.  Cuy gets stuck to a sticky gum baby, which we've seen in other classic trickster tales. At one point I thought that Cuy might get caught, but he's a very clever guinea pig!  The illustrations are bright and colorful and help add to this South American themed tale.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Picture Book Review: Goldilocks and Just One Bear

Goldilocks and Just One Bear

Goldilocks and Just One Bear
Written and illustrated by:  Leigh Hodgkinson
Published by: Nosy Crow, 2011

* We have read many variations of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  This is another twist on the classic, from one of the bear's perspective.  A bear ends up lost in a big city and heads into Snooty Towers to take a rest.  He's hungry and tired and attempts to find some food and take a nap.  After some testing Bear settles on dry toast and a bean bag chair before finally finding a bed.  But then the family arrives home and discovers Bear in their house.  But Bear didn't walk into just anyone's house.  It was his old friend Goldilocks!  The two have a happy little reunion and after some porridge Bear heads back home.

I loved the use of the different fonts in the story and the illustrations are colorful, detailed, and humorous.  Be sure to check out the two page spread of Bear before he enters Snooty Towers.  I love the names of the stores, signs, and streets! 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Picture Book Review: Good News Bad News

Good News, Bad News

Good News Bad News
Written and illustrated by:  Jeff Mack
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2012

* My kids first read this story with my husband.  I had a pile of books that they had read with him that I hadn't read yet.  I asked them which one they wanted to hear again and they both agreed that this book was their favorite!

For a book that only has four words in it "Good News......Bad News" this book offers a lot!  Rabbit and mouse are friends but Rabbit seems to see the positive in things while Mouse tends to see the negative.  Each page has either Rabbit with "Good news!" or Mouse with "Bad news."  I enjoyed having the kids explain to me why each picture was either "good" or "bad" news.  Since I hadn't read the book I made predictions as I read.  My daughter was surprised, "How did you know that?!!" which led me to go back to the illustrations and have her think about the scenario.  In the end the book is really about friendship and spending time with each other, whether you see the glass "half-full" or "half-empty."

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating:  2 thumbs up!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Picture Book Review: The Snow Princess

The Snow Princess

The Snow Princess
Written and illustrated by:  Ruth Sanderson
Published by: Little Brown and Company, 2004

* I happened to find this book while browsing the shelves of the children's section at the library.  The title caught my eye, because we recently experienced some snow.....and I usually check out any book with "princess" in the title since my daughter is such a lover of all "princess" things. 

This fairy tale is inspired by a Russian opera. Father Frost and Mother Spring had a daughter Snow Princess.  When the Snow Princess got older she really wanted to go out and explore the world.  Her parents let her, but warned her that she was not to fall in love.  For if she did, she would no longer be safe from death.  But of course she does end up meeting a boy, Sergei.  She helps to save his life and the two fall in love, which turns Snow Princess (Katia) human. Mother Spring tells her daughter, "You will die surely you are human and mortal, and like all mortals, you will grow old and die." 

The illustrations in this book are beautiful.  Sanderson captures the coldness of the snow but the beauty of the Snow Princess.  The glittering snow on the cover
was also eye-catching.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Picture Book Review: Duck! Rabbit!

Duck! Rabbit!

Duck! Rabbit!
Written by:  Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by: Tom Lichtenheld
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2009

* Our family has read many books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and enjoyed them.  This book was no exception!  This book really focuses on different perspectives and how you look at things.  When you look at the cover do you see a duck or a rabbit?  That's the premise of this book as two different sides argue their opinion.  This is a quick, very fun read!

My daughter and I both saw a rabbit but my son saw a duck.....what do you see?!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Picture Book Review: Snowzilla


Written by:  Janet Lawler
Illustrated by:  Amanda Haley
Published by: Amazon Children's Publishing, 2012

* Written in rhyme, this book tells the story of Cami Lou and her brother who build a huge snowman so big that they name it "Snowzilla."  But then neighbors start complaining about their blocked views and their scared pets and the judge rules that Snowzilla has to come down.  Well, Cami Lou is an activist.  She e-mails, texts, and blogs to get support and comes up with an excellent solution. The illustrations are very cheery and colorful. 

My husband first read this book alone with the kids.  They were just as engaged and interested when I read it with them the second time and were super excited that they knew and could share the ending with me. My how children's books have evolved where I think kids can connect with Cami Lou and her e-mail, texting, and blogging!  This is a great book to read after a big snowfall where I think kids would be inspired to go out and build their own "Snowzilla!"

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Picture Book Review: Penguin and Pinecone

Penguin and Pinecone

Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story
Written and illustrated by:  Salina Yoon
Published by: Walker & Company, 2012

*  One day Penguin finds an object (a pinecone) but doesn't know what it is.  Whatever it is, it looks cold, so he knits a scarf for it and loves his new friend.  Penguin's grandfather explains that Pinecone needs to live in the forest where it's warmer.  So Penguin goes on a trip to bring Pinecone back to the forest. As time passes by Penguin wants to see if Pinecone has grown big and strong, back in the forest.  He discovers that his friend has grown up.  The two play but Penguin can't stay.  Even though they are both sad they know that they will stay in each other's hearts. 

My parents read this story to the kids, on a rare night that my husband and I went out!  I then read it to my son, who enjoyed it the second time too! This was a very cute story about friendship. I enjoyed this one a lot and thought it touched upon more than just friends having fun.  It showed that friends can be apart from each other and think about and miss one other. It also showed that when reunited, friends can have as much fun as they did when they first met. I loved the ending line "when you give grows." The illustrations were cute and helped add to the story.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Picture Book Review: I Need My Own Country!

I Need My Own Country!

I Need My Own Country!
Written by: Rick Walton
Illustrated by:  Wes Hargis
Published by: Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers, 2012

* As my 4 year old son often states when my 6 year old daughter is having a "moment,"  "It's hard to be six!"  This is often followed by feet stomping up the stairs and her bedroom door slamming......I fear that if she's like this at six, I don't want to see what she's like at sixteen!  I tell this because this story begins with the main character, a young girl, similarly going to her room and shutting the door.  She decides that she needs her own country and then proceeds to explain to the reader how to go about creating his or her own country.  First off, you'll need a location, a name, and a flag....and then you'll need to make rules and an anthem.  There may be invasions ( a little brother trying to get in) and visits from foreign leaders (a.k.a. parents!).  The illustrations in the book are humorous and definitely add to the story. 

My daughter first read this on her own when we brought it home from the library and took off with the idea of creating her own country.  Soon, there were signs all over her door and she was sitting with her brother writing rules out. This book reminded me of a project that I had to do when I was in second grade, where I had to create my own country. I'm all for books that inspire creativity!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Early Chapter Book Review: Mrs. Noodlekugel

Mrs. Noodlekugel

Mrs. Noodlekugel
Written by:  Daniel Pinkwater
Illustrated by:  Adam Stower
Published by:  Candlewick Press, 2012

* This book is aimed at the transitional reader who is past the beginning reading stages but not quite ready for large chapter books. In this book Nick and Maxine discover a little house behind their tall apartment building.  They learn about a secret door in the boiler room that leads to Mrs. Noodlekugel's house.  Here you can find a talking, standing, piano-playing cat and four far-sighted mice who like to help make cookies.  They eventually discover that Mrs. Noodlekugel will be their babysitter.

This didn't feel like a complete book to me....more like an introduction and meeting of Mrs. Noodlekugel.  The writing seemed a little awkward, with the scene between Nick and Maxine discussing their meeting with Mrs. Noodlekugel, especially sticking out in my mind.  The illustrations though were cute and abundant!

 My 6 year old daughter and I read this early chapter book together over one weekend.  As critical as I am about the book, I have to remember that it's target audience is right around my daughter's age.  For her it was an entertaining and enjoyable read. She enjoyed this book and is looking forward to reading the next book in the series Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice which comes out later this year.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Picture Book Review: The Three Ninja Pigs

The Three Ninja Pigs

The Three Ninja Pigs
Written by:  Rosen Schwartz
Illustrated by:  Dan Santa
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2012

* I am a big fan of fractured fairy tales and we have read many as a family.  I think this one is one of my favorites!  This story told in rhyme, is a take on The Three Little Pigs with a martial arts theme.  My family could relate to this book since both my husband and kids are all taking tae kwon do.  In this book the reader is introduced to aikido, jujitsu, and karate, since each pig chooses a different discipline to study at the Ninja school, after being bullied by the wolf.  The pigs (and reader) learns that takes time and practice to master.  I liked how the third pig demonstrated to the pig what she could do with some bricks, rather than actually hurt the pig.  That alone was enough to scare him off.  The pig related puns were humorous and the illustrations were colorful and engaging.  This was an enjoyable read that we all enjoyed!

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Picture Book Review: Sky Color

Sky Color

Sky Color
Written and illustrated by:  Peter H. Reynolds
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2012

* What color is the sky?  Most people would probably say blue.  In this book Marisol is a young artist who loves to paint.  When her class paints a mural for the library Marisol volunteers to paint the sky.  But when she goes to the paint box there's no blue.  Marisol doesn't know how she's going to paint the sky.  A bus ride home and a dream help inspire Marisol to paint the sky.  The illustrations in this book are mostly done in shades of black, white, and gray with splashes of color, highlighting the paints and paintings. 

While we were reading this book I stopped when Marisol couldn't find blue paint and asked the kids to predict what she might do.  They thought that she could bring blue paint from home (a realistic possibility!).  It took a lot of hinting and reading on but my daughter finally came up with another, more accurate possibility.

I think this book helps children with creativity and thinking outside of the box.  It helps them see that there's more than one way to look at things.  We all enjoyed this book. 
This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up .

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Picture Book Review: Lemonade in Winter

Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money

Lemonade in Winter:  A Book About Two Kids Counting Money
Written by:  Emily Jenkins
Illustrated by: G. Brian Karas
Published by: Schwartz and Wade, 2012

* A lemonade stand in winter?!  Yes, that is what Pauline and John-John decide to do.  Even though their parents tell them that no one will be on the street and no one will want a cold drink.  But the kids collect their money and go to the story to buy supplies to make lemonade, limeade, and lemon-limeade.  They do end up selling some drinks and chant a catchy little advertising slogan.

This is a great book that I can see being used in classrooms when learning about money.  There's counting change, equivalents, adding, and subtracting.  As we read the book we had my 4 year old and 6 year old computing how much money the kids had altogether, how much the supplies cost, and how much money the kids made.  Of course this has already had my daughter talk about selling lemonade!  Besides being a "counting" book this book had cute illustrations and a good story line.  This was a book that we all enjoyed.

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Picture Book Review: Mossy


Written and illustrated by:  Jan Brett
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2012

* My husband was at the library with the kids when the children's librarian asked the kids if they were interested in reading this book.  It was brand new to the library and she was getting ready to put it out on display.  Of course they said yes.  Our family is a huge fan of Jan Brett.  We have read most of her books and have yet to be disappointed. 

In short, this story is about Mossy an Eastern Box Turtle who is living in Lilypad Pond.  She is special because a garden is growing on her shell.  She has made a new friend Scoot when biologist,  Dr. Carolina, catches her and puts her on exhibit at her museum.  While Mossy brings many visitors to the museum, Dr. Carolina's niece, Tory notices that Mossy looks sad.  Dr. Carolina invites Flora and Fauna to come paint Mossy's picture and then she and Tory return Mossy to the pond. 

As usual, the pictures in this book are beautiful and so detailed.  I found this book interesting and didn't realize until reading it that plants can grow on turtle shells.  Winter has just begun and as the cold weather and snow have just started arriving it's nice to read a book that makes me think about and anticipate spring! 

This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.