Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - We Remember

My daughter brought a simple, yet meaningful poppy craft home from school last week. Underneath each one of the poppy's four leaves is an reminder of a way to remember the servicemen and women who gave their lives for our freedom, for our country.

I'm not sure where her teacher found the template so I can't give credit where credit is due, but I think that this is one of the best crafts I've seen for Memorial Day. The poppy is easy to make yet it truly captures what today is all about.

Even without the written reminders under the leaves, the poppy itself serves as a way to help remember the fallen heroes. A woman named Moina Michael wrote a poem describing the poppy's significance after reading another poem "In Flanders Fields." She was the first person to make and wear a poppy in honor of those who died while in service to our country.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

- Moina Michael

President Barack Obama, in his Memorial Day proclamation, has called for a time of prayer for peace at 11:00 a.m. and asks that we observe a Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time -- two more ways we can remember.

How will you remember? What's under your poppy's petals today?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (5/27/11)

Today is the last day of Armchair BEA, and I've enjoyed participating this week. I've talked about my love of Rhubarb cake, 2011 Children's Books and some tips for parents wanting to keep up with the ever changing children's book market.

The final Armchair BEA prompt is blogging about blogging. One thing I've learned about blogging is that there is never enough time to write about all that I'd like to write about, especially when it comes to books. I try to pick and choose our favorites and write about books that I think others will enjoy reading. Balancing life and blogging gets a little tricky sometimes, and in general, it seems I've started accepting fewer and fewer titles for review. Reviewing is easier if I'm writing about something that interests me and I enjoy.

Speaking of time, I've started to question whether or not my "Full to the Brim" posts are worth the time to compile. Do you like the list? Is it worth my time? I'd love your feedback today regarding this feature.

I apologize that today's list is rather short, but we have a busy weekend ahead of us. Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I *try to* publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. If I missed your book giveaway, feel free to mention it in the comment section or send me an email. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

My giveaway(s):

The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy - Ends 5/30

Other book giveaways:

My Four Monkeys - Book Giveaway Ends 6/6
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
My Four Monkeys - Book Giveaway Ends 6/6
Thank You God for Mommy by Amy Parker
Mymcbooks- Book Giveaway Ends 6/10
Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish by Janet Halfmann
Kids Momo - Book Giveaway Ends 5/30
Children’s Book Week Sweepstakes Prize Pack
Obviously Marvelous - Book Giveaway Ends 6/19
How Things Work In The Yard and Bugs By The Numbers
Obviously Marvelous - Book Giveaway Ends 5/30
NFL Board Books
Baby Center - Book Giveaway Ends 6/1
Monday is One Day! by Arthur A. Levine, undies set and other Scholastic books
Rookie Moms - Book Giveaway Ends 6/1
Monday is One Day! by Arthur A. Levine, undies set and other Scholastic books
Vintage Kids' Book My Kid Loves - Book Giveaway Ends 5/29
The Animals of Farmer Jones
The Children's Book Review - Book Giveaway Ends 6/20
Random House Beat the Heat with Summer Reading Book Set Giveaway (middle grade/YA)
From the Mixed Up Files.. Of Middle Grade Authors - Book Giveaway Ends 5/28
Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford
Janet Halfmann - Book Giveaway Ends 6/10
Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish by Janet Halfmann
Retail Therapy Lounge - Book Giveaway Ends 6/20
Let's Get Ready series: Let’s Get Ready For Kindergarten! and Let’s Get Ready For First Grade!
In the Know Mom - Book Giveaway Ends 5/31
World Almanac Workbook
No Time for Flashcards - Book Giveaway Ends 6/4
Win 20 Picture Book Favorites from MeMeTales
The Tween and Me - Book Giveaway Ends 5/31
Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton
Stiletto Storytime - Book Giveaway Ends 5/31
Alice‘s Pawfect Tea-Party Kit by Storybook Tea Kit Company
Imagination Soup - Book Giveaway Ends 5/31
Alice‘s Pawfect Tea-Party Kit by Storybook Tea Kit Company

Charlie and Lola [Candlewick Press ] gift pack giveaways:
Bonggamom Finds Ends 6/10
Mom Most Travelled - Ends 6/7
Babes and Kids Review - Ends 6/13
New Age Mama - Ends 5/28
Mommy's Memorandum - Ends 5/30

National Geographic Kids Almanac giveaways:
Night Owl Mama - Ends 6/10
Posh on a Budget - Ends 6/5

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer also has a new book giveaway linky with lots of YA and some other kid's books.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Charlie Needs A Cloak by Tomie dePaola - Review and Natural Dye Craft

Every so often I like to share books with my children that I remember reading during my childhood. It took me awhile to rediscover the shepherd book, Charlie Needs A Cloak. I could picture the cover, but for some reason I couldn't recall the story and thought it pertained to the Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Well, dePaola's book is about a coat or, rather, cloak, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible! The book actually covers the process of making wool fabric. Isn't it funny how our memories fail us sometimes?

Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola. Prentice-Hall (1973); ISBN 0131283553; 32 Pages

"Charlie was a shepherd. He had a cozy house, a big hat, a crook, and a flock of fat sheep. But everyone said, "Charlie needs a cloak."

A hardworking shepherd named Charlie needs to replace his tattered, old red cloak. Beginning in the spring he shears his sheep and washes and cards the wool. Throughout the year, with the "help" of a particularly pesky sheep, he continues the process of making his cloak. He spins and dyes the yarn, weaves the yarn into cloth and sews the fabric. Finally, as winter sets in, Charlie is ready to tend his herd wearing his brand-new, beautiful red cloak.

This dePaola classic is still in print for several reasons. First of all, it's hilarious! The reason Charlie's cloak is tattered is because his silly sheep keep chewing on it. One of his sheep isn't very happy about getting sheared and spends the rest of the story trying to take his wool back. Then there's an illustrated side story of a little mouse that steals various items and places them in a tree stump. My son so enjoys pointing out the funny mouse! Another reason that this book is a classic is because it has educational value. The process of turning wool into cloth is one that most children probably don't understand. While the hand techniques Charlie uses aren't practiced much anymore, the book still provides a very interesting historical overview of the process and introduces children to terms such as shear and card. If your kids are like mine, they'll want to read it over and over again.

Related Links:
Tomie dePaola Website"Charlie Needs a Cloak" Storytelling Patterns [Arkansas Department of Human Services]
Captioned Media Program "Charlie Needs a Cloak" Lesson Plan
Weston Woods "Charlie Needs a Cloak" Viewing Activities

❖ ❖ ❖ Story + Art Craft: Dyeing Cloth With Cranberries ❖ ❖ ❖

In the story, Charlie uses pokeweed berries (a.k.a. inkberry) to dye the wool yarn. As far as I know, we don't have any pokeweed plants nearby, plus all parts of the pokeweed plant are poisonous, making them a poor choice for a children's dyeing project. Because we wanted to match the books and dye our cloth red, we instead decided to try using cranberries for our natural dye. The kids used scraps of an old t-shirt and banded the fabric with rubber bands to make a tie-dye pattern. We boiled the cranberries in water and briefly submerged the banded cloth. The cranberry dye makes a dark reddish-pink color.

My daughter was disappointed the dye didn't make her cloth deep red like the color of the cranberries. Perhaps if we had let the cloth soak longer, the color would have been a little darker. I'm not sure how this dye would hold up to repeated laundering. Perhaps we'll have to try dyeing an actual t-shirt later this year using natural dye. If anyone has successfully dyed clothing with natural dye, please comment with any tips.

abc button Shibley Smiles

A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell. Wrote a post about play? Join the It's Playtime party! Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parents Staying Current - How to find the latest and best children's books

Just the other day I questioned other members in the kidlitosphere group about the best ways for parents to learn about newly published books. I didn't really receive any specific answers. Obviously, reading blogs is a wonderful way to stay current. Checking bestseller lists and watching the new book shelves at the library and bookstore is another way. Thankfully, the internet provides parents with several resources for navigating the shelves in the constantly evolving children's book world.

Blogs: (Although many excellent children's book blogs exist here are several that frequently mention new releases. Visit KidLitosphere Central for a comprehensive list of children's book blogs.)

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - Awesome illustrations? Julie Danielson keeps you informed of the latest and greatest in her equally awesome blog. A must read!
A Fuse #8 Production - Elizabeth Bird is a rock-star in the children's book world. All the librarians read her reviews. Parents should, too. Find out about what's to come in her preview posts.
Waking Brain Cells - Wisconsin librarian Tasha Saecker posts wonderful online reviews of her favorite children's books.
100 Scope Notes - Elementary librarian Travis Jonker puts a unique, contemporary spin on his reviews. If it's a fantastic new book, he's probably read it.
From the Mixed Up Files - This top-notch blog features news about the latest middle-grade books.
Anita Silvey's Book-A-Day Almanac - While this blog doesn't often feature newly published books, Anita Silvey's daily posts on the stories behind the children’s book classics are a perfect resource for parents.

Professional Reviews:
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
The Horn Book
The New York Times Book Review
Publisher's Weekly
School Library Journal

Catalogs/Collection Development:
Growing Minds - A publication of Baker & Taylor, Growing Minds is published 10 times a year. This resource is primarily used by librarians but it is available online as a pdf and features many of the newly published titles in a well laid out format.

Junior Library Guild - JLG is a company that helps libraries with collection development. Browse the Books & Levels lists of new book picks ranging from pre-K through YA.

See yesterday's Armchair BEA post for Individual Publisher Catalog links

Bestseller Lists:
National Indie Bestsellers
The New York Times Bestseller List
Publisher's Weekly Bestsellers

Online Storytimes and Book Trailers:
Online Storytime by Barnes and Noble
Penguin Storytime
Watch. Connect. Read. - Mr. Schu, an elementary librarian, connects readers with books through book trailers.

Children's Publisher Blogs:
Liz's Book Snuggery - Penguin Group
MacKids Blog
On Our Minds @ Scholastic
The Open Book - Lee and Low
Sylvan Dell Publishing's Blog
Tea Time at Annick Press
Tiger Tales
Top That!
Unabridged - Charlesbridge
Under the Green Willow
The World of Peachtree Publishers

Children's Publishers Facebook/Twitter
Abrams Books or @ABRAMSbooks
Barefoot Books or @liveBarefoot
blue apple books
Bob Books or @Bob_Books
Candlewick Press or @Candlewick
Capstone Publishers or @CapstonePub
Charlesbridge Publishing or @Charlesbridge
Chronicle Books or @ChronicleKids
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Greenwillow Books
The Gryphon Press
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt or @hmhbooks
Kane Press
Lee & Low or @leeandlow
Lerner Publishing Group or @lernerbooks
MacMillan Kids or @MacKidsBooks
National Geographic Kids Books or @NGKidsBks
Penguin Group USA or @penguinusa
Peachtree Publishers or @PeachtreePub
Random House Kids or @randomhousekids
Scholastic or @Scholastic
Silver Dolphin or @SilverDolphin
Simon & Schuster or @SimonKidsYA
Sylvan Dell or @SylvanDell
Tiger Tales or @tigertalesbooks
Tommy Nelson or @TommyNelson
Workman Publishing or @WorkmanPub

Newsletter Subscriptions by Email:
BookPage Reading Corner - published the 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the month and discusses new books for kids and teens
Candlewick Press Newsletters - late-breaking Candlewick news. Additional newsletters for educators and librarians.
Chronicle Kids Newsletter - discusses newly published Chronicle books children's books. Includes contests and special offers.
Growing Bookworms Weekly Newsletter - In addition to her newsletter, Jen Robinson regularly compiles a Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup along with Terry from Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, and Rasco from RIF
Random House Read and Play Newsletter - a monthly newsletter for parents that includes age-by-age recommendations, discounts, activities and news about upcoming Random House children's books.
The Reading Rockets Newsletters - literary resources, research, and news for parents and educators
Scholastic Parents - advice on children's books & reading, arts & crafts, activities & school achievement
Simon & Schuster Kids

* This post is a work in progress. If you have suggestions for additions to the list, please leave them in the comments.

Wordless Wednesday - Daytime Moon

My preschooler son was perplexed by the moon yesterday morning. He noticed the moon in the sky after we finished walking my daughter to the bus. A moon during the day? It's not night! I think the explanation is a little complicated for him to understand right now. See NASA explanation: The Moon During the Day. I did tell him that the moon is always there. Sometimes we can see it, sometimes we can't. Time to read Moongame by Frank Asch! What's your favorite moon themed book?

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Children's Books in 2011 - What We've Liked, What We Want to Read

It's hard to believe that we've almost reached the halfway mark of 2011. As far as picture book go, we've had the opportunity to read a few new releases. It's always hard to pick favorites, but here are a few that come to mind:

Last week we reviewed Perfect Square, a really neat concept book by Michael Hall that provides the perfect inspiration for a creative art project. The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez is another favorite because it introduces beginning Spanish words in a fun way. (F.Y.I. -Illustrator Rafael Lopez is the designer behind this year's “One World Many Stories” Collaborative Summer Library Program’s (CSLP) poster.) Every year we look forward to Wisconsin author/illustrator Kevin Henkes' new releases. As usual, his adorable spring picture book Little White Rabbit did not disappoint.

One board book of note this year is Rocket Town by Bob Logan. Logan's illustrations are out-of-this world! Also, Joan Holub's fun Lift-the-Flap What Does Cow Say? with colorful illustrations by Jannie Ho would make a wonderful baby gift. Look for a review and giveaway of that book soon here on Brimful Curiosities.

I keep a journal nearby my computer to write down titles I hope to read with my children. Of course our "want-to-read" list increases every day. Here are a few 2011 titles on our list, in no particular order:

The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman
RRRalph by Lois Ehlert
Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell
I'm a Shark by Bob Shea
The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon
Tumford The Terrible by Nancy Tillman
The Red Wagon by Renata Liwska
Chuckling Ducklings and Baby Animal Friends by Aaron Zenz
Chamelia by Ethan Long
Follow Me by Tricia Tusa
Ice by Arthur Geisert
Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator! by Mo Willems
Press Here! by Hervé Tullet, illustrated by Christopher Franceschelli
Clink by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Matthew Myers
Grandmas' Wedding Album by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Karla Gudeon
Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by Jacky Davis and David Soman
A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid
You're Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt
Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg
Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators by Jim Arnosky
Grandpa's Tractor by Michael Garland
Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier
I Spy With My Little Eye by Edward Gibbs
Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld
Where's Walrus? by Stephen A. Savage
Cars Galore by Peter Stein
That's How! by Christoph Niemann
Wow! Ocean! by Robert Neubecker
My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger

Middle Grade and Up
Junonia by Kevin Henkes
True (. . . Sort Of) by Katherine Hannigan
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Bless This Mouse by Lois Lowry
Wild Wings by Gill Lewis, illustrated by Yuta Onoda

Upcoming releases that caught my eye:
Mine by Shutta Crum, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo
Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist
Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein
King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman

What 2011 children's books stand out in your mind? Let me know so I can add them to our list!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Of Rhubarb Cake and Armchair BEA

Book Expo America (BEA) is a pretty big deal in the publishing world. Many book bloggers are attending the event in NYC this week. For those of us not attending there's Armchair BEA.

And rhubarb cake. Staying home has its benefits.

Now, for Armchair BEA, I'm supposed to introduce myself today. Honestly there's not much to tell other than what I've already covered in the sidebar and About section of my blog. I'm Janelle, and I blog primarily about the children's books I read with my two young kids. We read mostly picture books, beginning readers and easy chapter books together, but every so often I review middle grade and YA titles. On Fridays I compile the weekly "Full to the Brim" Kid's book giveaway list. Besides reading we spend time crafting, exploring the outdoors, gardening and doing all the normal things families do together ...

... like making rhubarb cake. (I like it much better than rhubarb pie.)

We picked the rhubarb at my grandparents' farm. That's my grandparents' garden pictured in the header. We try to visit the farm as often as possible. In fact, I much prefer the country to the city, and I'm not altogether sure I'd enjoy BEA even if I had the chance to attend. NYC is a little too big for my liking. Plus, I imagine that trying to find rhubarb is a little tricky in the city. Did you know that when you harvest rhubarb you shouldn't cut it off with a knife? You just gently twist and pull the stems off at the base of the plant.

So, this week, instead of marveling at all the new books at BEA, I'm up to the usual -- attending Music Together classes with my son, volunteering at my daughter's school, working outside in my vegetable and flower gardens, going for walks, spending time together with other moms at playgroup, trips to the library, grocery store and visiting with family, going to church, blogging, and so on and so forth...

... and making rhubarb cake. I used the "Rhubarb Cake I" recipe from allrecipes and made the following alterations -- I used three cups of rhubarb instead of two and only one cup of white sugar instead of 1-1/2 cups. We also added a handful of blueberries to our batter. The rhubarb flavor is subtle, not at all tart and the cake is very moist. The kids even like to eat it, especially with a little ice cream or whipped cream!

There aren't many children's books about rhubarb. Rhubarb pie makes an appearance in Elizabeth Enright's Then There Were Five. Mona tries her hand at making it, but she forgets to add sugar! Yuck. In Patricia Polacco's autobiographical picture book about her childhood and relationship with her brother, My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, the two siblings have a little contest eating raw rhubarb. Yuck again! I think I'll stick to rhubarb cake.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (5/20/11)

Sorry about the lack of FTTB posts the past few weeks. My weekends have been extremely busy, and I just haven't found the time to compile the giveaways. Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I *try to* publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. If I missed your book giveaway, feel free to mention it in the comment section or send me an email. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

My giveaway(s):

The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy - Ends 5/30

Other book giveaways:

Busy Working Mama - Book Giveaway Ends 5/24
How Things Work In The Yard and Bugs by the Numbers (Blue Apple Books)
Maria's Space - Book Giveaway Ends 5/28
How Things Work In The Yard and Bugs by the Numbers (Blue Apple Books)
Cincinnati Coupons - Book Giveaway Ends 5/24
How Things Work In The Yard and Bugs by the Numbers (Blue Apple Books)
Mymcbooks- Book Giveaway Ends 5/21
Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn Galbraith
The Children's Nook - Book Giveaway Ends 5/31
Mini Racer by Kristy Dempsey
Cracking the Cover - Book Giveaway Ends 5/25
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Two Writing Teachers - Book Giveaway Ends 5/26
Buglette, the Messy Sleeper by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
So Easy Being Green - Book Giveaway Ends 5/22
Perfect Piggies by Sandra Boynton
Muse Reviews - Book Giveaway Ends 5/23
Dear Tabby by Carolyn Crimi
Vintage Kids' Book My Kid Loves - Book Giveaway Ends 5/22
Who's Got the Apple? by Jan Loof
The Children's Book Review - Book Giveaway Ends 6/15
Buglette, the Messy Sleeper by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
From the Mixed Up Files.. Of Middle Grade Authors - Book Giveaway Ends 5/21
FLUTTER: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey by Erin E. Moulton (middle grade)
Cheryl Rainfield - Book Giveaway Ends 6/15
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (teen)
My Busy Children - Book Giveaway Ends 5/28
Discovery Girls Magazine

On Our Minds @ Scholastic - #12 Artists Signed Poster Giveaways - End Dates Vary

Monday is One Day by Arthur Levine book giveaways:
Sippy Cup Mom - Ends 5/28
Crash Test Mommy - Ends 5/22
Memoirs of a Not So Single Dad - Ends 5/31
KidGlue - Ends 4/27
The Guavalicious Life - Ends 5/22

Cheerios “Spoonful of Stories” giveaways:
Planes, Trains and Taxi Cabs - Ends 5/20
Having Fun Saving - Ends 5/21
Flying Giggles and Lollipops - Ends 5/22
My Thoughts Ideas and Ramblings - Ends 5/30

Dinosaur Train Get Caught Reading Giveaways:
Simply Stacie - Ends 5/27
NYC Single Mom - Ends 5/31
Capitally Frugal - Ends 5/31
Fun Being Frugal - Ends 5/30
No Time Mommy - Ends 6/13
Sage and Savvy - Ends 5/30
Susan Heim on Parenting - Ends 5/29

The Klutz Guide To The Galaxy Giveaways:
She Scribes - Ends 5/30
3 Garnets and 2 Sapphires - Ends 5/23
Tree, Root and Twig - Ends 5/23
Mommies with Cents - Ends 5/22
The Children's Book Review - Ends 5/23

Other Giveaways:
My Four Monkeys - Human Planet DVDs Ends 5/30
Toddler Approved - Cat in the Hat Game and Visual Strategies for Improving Communication book Ends 5/25
The Children's Nook - Gustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock Ends 6/12
Muse Reviews - My First Scholastic Storybook Collection DVD Set - Ends 5/24
Spanglish Baby - My First Scholastic Storybook Collection DVD Set - Ends 5/22

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer also has a new book giveaway linky with lots of YA and some other kid's books.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Perfect Square by Michael Hall - Book Review and Transformed Square Art

What is a square? A square is a shape with four equal sides and four right angles. But what happens when a square is forced to break out of its boxy, confining shape? Though it starts out as a perfect square it can transform into something else entirely, something beautiful and perfectly amazing.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall. Greenwillow Books (March 2011); ISBN 9780061915130; 40 pages
Book Source: F&G provided by publisher

"It was a perfect square. It had four matching corners and four equal sides. And it was perfectly happy."

One square. Unlimited possibilities. One bright red square starts out perfectly happy. But then something happens. On Monday, the square gets cut up and punched with holes. Though no longer a perfect square, it transforms into something just as wonderful...a babbling, giggling, clapping fountain. On Tuesday, the square (now yellow), gets torn into pieces and turns into a garden. Each day of the week something different and extraordinary happens to the square and out of brokenness comes beauty. All the square's colorful adventures cleverly tie together into a perfect and inspiring story.

Colors, shapes, days of the week, but with a sophisticated theme that appeals to all ages, I can honestly say that this is one of the best books out this spring. With every page turn my kids wanted to know what was next for the ever changing square. And, inspired by the story, they wanted to have a try at transforming their own square. The book screams for an art project. I love how the story sort of comes around full circle, or rather, in this case, full square with a twist. The "rise to the occasion when forced to break out of your mold" message is probably, for the most part, lost on the youngest crowd but if you know a recent graduate, Hall's book with an adventurous, out of the box message, would make a thoughtful gift for all those ready to embark on a new path in life.

Related Links:
Under the Green Willow - "How My Office Manager’s Shoe Left an Imprint on Perfect Square" - Author shaped 'Perfect Square' while coping with his daughter's diabetes diagnosis

❖ ❖ ❖ ❖ Story + Art Craft: Transformed Square Art Project ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖

I love projects that allow my children to think for themselves and create something new. Hall's book provides the perfect art challenge. What can you make out of a perfect square? I provided both kids with a square in the color of their choice, cut to the same size as the square in the book. They set to the task, cutting up their perfect squares with scissors and pasting the pieces together to make something different.

Here are the results. My son originally wanted to make a lamp but in the end decided the pieces made a better lighthouse (all his own ideas, I might add)! My daughter wishes she could add her hat to the book. Maybe her hat could land on the head of someone standing by the fountain?

abc button Shibley Smiles

A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell. Wrote a post about play? Join the It's Playtime party! Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Spotted in the Sky

My son and I saw this hawk circling over our house yesterday afternoon. After all of our eagle studies the past few weeks, my son thought it was an eagle at first. I guess we'll have to learn about all the other raptors next and work on our bird identification skills! I'm pretty sure this one is a Red-tailed Hawk.

In case you missed my Bald Eagle Activities post, here's a picture of my son comparing his armspan to the wingspan of an adult female eagle.

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2011 Summer Reading Challenges and Contests for Kids

Avoid the “summer slide!” Encourage your kids to read and reap the rewards this summer!

Borders Double Dog Dare Challenge
Read 10 books, get one free! (Ages 12 and under).

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Imagination’s Destination
5/24/11- 9/6/11
Kids earn a free book selected from a list of titles when they read 8 books and record them in the reading journal. Enter for the chance to win a NOOK Color by checking the NOOK contest box on the entry form.

Chuck E. Cheese’s Reading Rewards
Deadline 12/31/2011
Download and print out the Reading Rewards Calendar. Read a book each day for two weeks and redeem the completed form for 10 free tokens.

Sylvan Page Per Day Contest
Deadline 8/1/2011
Enter to win a gift card for your child and their classroom. Have your child complete five age-appropriate worksheets and submit the worksheets along with the entry form. In addition, entrants must write a short paragraph (150 words or less) about how you think working on the Sylvan workbook pages has helped your child.

The iVillage + PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge
Begins 6/6/2011
A free 6-week program to help children discover the joys of reading that includes daily emails, advice for parents, book suggestions and the chance to win prizes.

Scholastic Summer Challenge
4/27/11 – 8/31/2011
Log reading minutes and enter sweepstakes, win digital prizes and help set a new world record for summer reading.

Summer Library Programs
The public libraries in Wisconsin as well as many libraries throughout the nation use the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) materials to plan summer programs. The 2011 children’s theme is "One World, Many Stories" and "You Are Here" is the teen theme. This year some libraries may also offer an Adult Summer Library Program. This year’s CSLP adult theme is "Novel Destinations." Make sure to visit your local public library this summer with your family and participate in the free summer library programs!

If you live in Wisconsin, the public libraries are collaborating with the Wisconsin Historical Society. Ask your library if your child is eligible to receive a free pass to a Wisconsin Historical Site or Museum.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bald Eagle Projects, Activities and Crafts for Kids - Decorah Eagles - Science Sunday

About a month and a half ago my family started watching the live stream video of the Decorah Eagles. We watched as the three adorable eaglets hatched (along with thousands of other viewers). We watched as the family weathered high winds, thunderstorms and even a late April snow storm. The eaglets continue to grow bigger each day and work on their skills. We can't wait to watch them fly for the first time. It's incredible to witness such an amazing miracle of nature live, right from our home! This certainly is technology at its best.

We've learned a lot about eagles as a result of observing the Ustream feed. The eagle video stream inspired us to do a little research on eagles and over the last few weeks we have worked on a few related science activities and projects.

Life-sized Bald Eagle Drawing
Using freezer paper, I drew a life-sized eagle with wings outstretched. The kids colored in the gigantic drawing. The wingspan of an adult female Bald Eagle is around 7 feet and average height is 3 feet! Males are smaller in size. Because we could not find any information on body width and head sizes, we just estimated that part of our drawing. This activity provides a neat, hands-on way to discuss size. We looked closely at a real picture of an eagle and tried to color areas of the raptor accurately based on the photo. My kids, impressed at the size of the wingspan, compared their own armspans to the drawing.

Life-sized Bald Eagle Nest (called an Eyrie or Aerie)
We used brown packing paper to construct a 6 ft. diameter nest in our living room. The Decorah nest is about 6 feet across, about the same depth and it weighs about 1½ tons according to the Ustream site. Bald Eagles reuse their nest and add new materials to it every year. My kids added the life-sized eagle drawing to the nest. They also pretended to be eagles and carried prey to the nest that we printed from the paper bag bald eagle puppet in school. Its wings flap up and down with your arm motions and the kids played with the puppet in the nest. We had fun making the eagle puppet feed pretend baby eaglets with its mouth, just like a parent eagle.

Bald Eagle Egg Size Comparison:
Bald eagles lay one to three eggs. The dull white eggs are about 2"x3" and the incubation period is around 35 days. We drew a picture of a 2"x3" egg and compared it to a chicken egg.
You can see an actual Bald Eagle egg comparison here:
For more information, read the comprehensive RRP Blog post about Eagle Egg Questions and Answers.

Decorah Eagles Ustream

Live TV : Ustream

For a little background information on the eagle parents and eaglets, visit the Ustream website at or the facebook page Also, The Des Moines Register published a nice article on the famous eagle pair and eaglets, "Decorah eagles are stars online, in person" that includes pictures of the nest on private property near the fish hatchery and an interview with Bob Anderson of the Raptor Resource Project, the man responsible for installing the eagle cam.

Surprisingly, this is not the first time the Decorah, Iowa, eagles have found themselves in the spotlight. The nest was one of a few featured in the 2008 PBS Nature Documentary, "American Eagle." The episode is available for viewing online. It is fascinating and a little heart-wrenching! We learned that the Decorah male eagle had a previous partner, a one-eyed female that died during a snowstorm. Part of the video details this tragic event. The current Decorah female eagle also appears in the video about midway through and you can witness her first experiences as a mother. The eagle pair currently occupying the nest has been together since 2007-2008. And, just a warning for sensitive viewers -- the documentary briefly shows the effects of lead poisoning on an unrelated eagle after it eats bullets left in an animal carcass.

Lastly, I wanted to mention an interesting blog I came across in my online search for information on Bald Eagles. Taking Flight discusses the raptor rescue and rehabilitation efforts of Raptor Education Group, an organization based in Antigo, WI. My daughter has expressed interest in ornithology and someday I hope to take her on a tour of a bird rehab center. In the meantime, we'll keep our eye on this site. The Taking Flight blog serves as a wonderful and fascinating resource for those wishing to learn about injured raptors and raptor care and it includes many pictures. It's a well-written, informative blog that both children and parents can enjoy. The blog regularly features Bald Eagles, including a fuzzy baby eagle rescued in April.

Other Bald Eagle Crafts and Activities:
The Bald Eagle: An Educational Activity Guide [U.S Army Corps of Engineers] (includes a Build an Eagle Wing Pattern, page 27)
Bald Eagle and River Otter Finger Puppets [Illinois Department of Natural Resources]
Paper Bag Bald Eagle Craft [DLTK's Crafts]
Bald Eagle Handprint/Footprint Craft [Busy Bee Kids Crafts]
Bald Eagle Geometry Kit - Southeastern Raptor Center
Bald Eagle Activity Sheets: PreK-1st, 2nd-5th, Middle School [Colorado Department of Natural Resources]
Birds of Prey Activity Sheet [Arizona Game and Fish Department]
Connect-the-Dots Eagle [National Biological Information Infrastructure] Eagle Themed Preschool Activities
Canon Bald Eagle Paper Craft (complicated)
Bald Eagle Lapbook [Homeschool Share]

Informative Links:
Journey North - Bald Eagle Project and FAQs
National Geographic Kids Bald Eagles
Guide to Identification of Midwest Raptors - The Raptor Center
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Bald Eagle Fact Sheet
Defenders of Wildlife Bald Eagle Facts and Video

If you enjoyed this post you can find more Science Sunday experiments involving kids at or even join in the weekly meme. Science is Fun!
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos - Arroz con Leche Recipe and a Cazuela Craft

Rice pudding happens to be one of my favorite comfort foods. I've tried out several different versions but never realized that the dish is a popular Mexican dessert called Arroz con Leche. In fact, different versions of rice puddings can be found all around the world! Making rice pudding on the stove-top is a slow process that takes patience and involves frequent stirring until the pudding thickens, but the end result is so worth the time and effort. The pudding tastes fantastic served either warm or cold, and it is a yummy treat to eat year round.

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos, illustrated by Rafael López. Charlesbridge (February 2011); ISBN 9781580892421; 32 pages
Book Source: Review copy provided by publisher

This is the cow / that made the fresh milk / while teaching the CABRA / that churned the CREMA / to make the MANTEQUILLA / that went into the CAZUELA that the farm maiden stirred.

Samantha Vamos, in her newest bilingual picture book, cleverly combines both Spanish and English words together to tell the story of a farm maiden who makes a delicious batch of Arroz con Leche in a big pot (the cazuela). With the help of several helpful farm animals and a farmer, she adds all the rice pudding ingredients in a pot. While waiting for the pudding to cook the whole colorful group of characters dance and play instruments and they forget to tend the bubbling, burbling pot. Ay! Apparently the farm maiden needs to stir her pot more often. Who knew that making a pot of rice pudding could result in such a fantastic, flavorful fiesta?

Much like in the familiar tale The House That Jack Built, Vamos' cumulative story builds and builds upon itself as each ingredient gets added to the simmering pot. The repetition and sequencing really helps young readers learn new animal and cooking themed Spanish words like cow/vacha, goat/cabra, duck/pato, donkey/burro, milk/leche and egg/huevo. Each new term is first introduced in English and then appears in the following verses in Spanish. A glossary in the back of the book provides a helpful pronunciation key and printable flashcards can be found online in the Activity and Discussion Guide. My kids use the flashcards to interact with the story and place the cards on the floor sequentially as I read the cumulating verses.

I honestly don't think Vamos could have found a better suited illustrator for her book than Rafael López. He creates his bold, vivid illustrations by painting with acrylics on grained wood. His illustrations infused with orange-red backgrounds perfectly parallel the story. The pictures build in excitement, exhibit movement and vibrancy and López evens adds in a dash of humor.

We own Vamos' other bilingual book, Before You Were Here, Mi Amor, and I adore how the talented author seamlessly blends both English and Spanish together in her books. If you are trying to teach your child basic Spanish terms, I highly recommend both of Vamos' lovely picture books. And for libraries that are using the Collaborative Summer Library Program, this is a great book for this year's theme, One World, Many Stories. Like I said, rice pudding seems to be a popular dish worldwide.

The book includes a recipe for Arroz con Leche, and of course we tried it out and made sure to use the Spanish words for the ingredients as we added them to the pot! This version contains eggs and butter and is a bit heavier and richer than the recipe I normally use. It is also a little more complicated to make. My son says it tastes like custard ice cream. While it's not my favorite, I do love the addition of the lime zest. It adds a very light, refreshing edge to the dish, and I will certainly add lime or lemon again next time I make a batch of rice pudding.

Related Links:
Samantha Vamos - Website
Rafael López - Website and blog

❖ ❖ ❖ ❖ Paper Bowl / Cazuela Craft ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖

A fancy cazuela (cooking pot) appears frequently in the illustrations of the book, The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred. My son and I crafted our own version of the cooking pot out of a square 12" x 12" piece of brown scrapbook paper. I considered trying to make a paper-mache bowl, but this taped paper bowl takes a lot less time to construct and doesn't create as much mess. Now we can add our flashcard ingredients to the cazuela as we read the story together.

1. Find a small bowl (we used a 3 cup Pyrex) and trace the bottom of the bowl on the center of the square paper.
2. Use a scissors to cut six symmetrical lines that radiate outward from the circle drawing.
3-4. Center the bowl on the paper and fold and layer the around the bowl using the shape of the bowl as a guide. Secure the flaps together with clear tape.
5. Cut the top of the bowl uniformly with a scissors.
6. Attach two paper handle strips with tape to the sides of the bowl. Paint the bowl as desired.

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A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell. Wrote a post about play? Join the It's Playtime party! Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up.

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