Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lili on Stage by Rachel Isadora - Nutcracker book review

Tiny Tot -Waiting to perform in the Nutcracker
We've been living and breathing Nutcracker these past few weeks and months. My daughter performs the part of a Party Girl and a Mirliton in our local Nutcracker production this December.  My son plays a smaller role, but he's super cute nonetheless as a Tiny Tot in the party scene.  They've both spent a lot of time both back stage, below stage and on stage during rehearsals. Now that the performances have started, we've been spending even more quality time at the theater.

Participating in the Nutcracker production has provided both of my kids with a valuable opportunity to witness first hand all that goes on behind the scenes during a live performance.  Most audience members remain blissfully unaware of the hustle and bustle of activity back stage.  Make-up and hair, costumes, props and set, lighting, warm-up - the magic begins long before the curtain opens.

As I was researching Nutcracker themed children's books, I came across a wonderful picture book title by Rachel Isadora that provides a unique look at the Nutcracker ballet from a performer's point of view.  Lili on Stage follows a young girl named Lili as she gets ready to perform as a party girl in Act I of a Nutcracker production.  She and her friends warm-up, put on their make-up and costumes and wait in the wings until finally they walk on stage and join the fabulous party scene, watching as Drosselmeyer gives the gift of a nutcracker. Off stage, as she heads back to the changing room, Lili sees all the dancers who will perform in Act II - Marzipan, Dew Drop, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and more - dressed and ready to dance.

Isadora beautifully captures all the preparation, awe and excitement a young dancer experiences when getting ready to perform in a ballet production.  Her lovely watercolor illustrations suit the theme particularly well, realistically and expressively illustrating the dancers. Both boy and girl dancers are portrayed, and Isadora also shows racial diversity of the cast in her depiction of the performers. Isadora herself was a professional dancer before she began a career in children's books.  Her first-hand knowledge of ballet and the dancer's life is evident in every single page of this book.  Ballet instructors may want to read the story aloud to students before a performance because the book offers plenty of helpful advice for performers: no speaking on stage, hold your head high, don't eat or drink while in costume.  Isadora provides readers with a short summary of the Nutcracker story in the beginning of the book.

Mirliton - Dance of the Reed Flutes
My daughter loves this book because it shows all of the different character dancers in Act II of the Nutcracker ballet.  She performs as a Mirliton (a.k.a. Marzipan or Shepardess) during the Dance of the Reed Flutes, and surprisingly we've had a hard time finding this particular piece depicted in Nutcracker children's books. Luckily, Isadora included the divertissements, although she uses some different terms for the characters than we are used to -- the Russian (Trepak) I believe is depicted as Candycane?!

Lili on Stage is part of Isadora's "Lili" series, a picture book series perfectly suited for young ballerinas.  The book is currently out-of-print, but can be found at a reasonable cost used. Other books in the series include: Lili at Ballet and Lili Backstage.
Lili on Stage by Rachel Isadora. Putnam (October 1995); ISBN 9780399226373; 32 pages
Book Source: Personal copy

Related links:
Rachel Isadora - Website

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.)  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Nutcracker Musical Storybook App By Mouse King Media

This December I plan on reviewing several different versions of E. T. A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker.  Before I start with the book reviews, I've decided to highlight something a little different, an awesome Nutcracker storybook app that happens to be available for free today on Apple itunes! If you're a fan of the Nutcracker ballet and enjoy the music and the story, this is an app you must absolutely download!

The Nutcracker Musical Storybook is an animated, interactive app based on the ballet version of the Nutcracker.  This app by Mouse King Media combines excerpts of Tchaikovsky's music with a short, picture book format story featuring artwork by Yoko Tanaka. The app can be played as either a storybook or movie version.

Illustrator Tanka channels some of the Sugar Plum fairy's magic and beautifully captures the fantasy elements of the Nutcracker in her lovely, enchanting illustrations. It's a splendid treat to interact with this app -- Clara, the Nutcracker, the seven-headed Mouse King and all the dancers magically to spring to life right on the screen.  The scenes in The Land of Sweets are incredible, particularly the Russian Dancers scene.  The story is not narrated, like other storybook apps, so children will need to read the words themselves or have an adult read aloud the story.

I purchased The Nutcracker Musical Storybook for our Kindle Fire last month. Since both my kids are performing in the Nutcracker this holiday season, I thought they might enjoy an interactive version. I highly recommend this app. Even if you can't get it free, it's still a bargain at $2.99. The app provides a nice introduction to both the music of the Nutcracker and also the basic storyline. 

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.)  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mercer Mayer's Little Monster Home, School and Work Book - Review / Tool Flashcards

If you've read books together with a preschooler or early elementary aged child I imagine you've seen Mercer Mayer's popular Little Critter books.  But if you are like us, you might not be familiar with another of Mercer Mayer's fabulously cute characters -- Little Monster.

Little Monster has pointy ears and teeth, wings and a spiky tail. He's a not-to-scary, overall-wearing, dragon kind of monster that spends his days doing the ordinary things all children do: going to school, spending time with his family and trying to stay out of trouble.  The Little Monster series books were first published in the late 1970s, and the bestselling books continue to be popular with young kids today. However, many of the books are now long out-of-print. 

FastPencil is helping to bring back the Little Monster books for a new generation to read. The company has released a fantastic Mercer Mayer Classic Collectible four-book series. The books feature Mayer's “Little Monster” character.  My family recently had the chance to read one of the books in the series: Mercer Mayer's Little Monster Home School and Work Book.

Though it's printed with different formatting, Mercer Mayer's Little Monster Home, School and Work Book is actually a compilation of three of Mayer's original picture books: Little Monster at Home, Little Monster at School and Little Monster at Work. As collections tend to be, this hardcover book is larger-sized, 92 pages long in all.  Each of the stories are treated like separate chapters within the book and a table of content in front indicates page numbers.  The book is also available as an e-book download (we received the hardcover copy version to review).

Young kids can easily identify with Little Monster -- after all, even though he's dragon-like, he acts like a normal kid, not a monster! The illustrations in the book are very similar to those in the Little Critter series, packed full of imaginative, action-filled scenes and interesting characters.

My kids especially appreciate how Mayer includes little humorous scenarios within the illustrations including aliens at the airport and a spider inching down from a bathroom sink right in front of a monster cat.  In fact, the illustrations are so fun to look at, you'll want to spend a little extra time pouring over the pages while reading to make sure you don't miss anything in the book.  Both my kids found the book engaging and enjoyable. It's a good read aloud for preschoolers and also is challenging and interesting enough for early readers.  I'd recommend it for ages preschool-2nd grade.

Little Monster gives a tour of his house in Little Monster at Home. He starts with the cellar, a rather  unusual choice. (Who starts a home tour with the cellar? - I guess monsters do!)  Mayer provides readers with a fun glimpse into the life of the Little Monster family. They take baths and do the laundry just like the rest of us.  Little Monster's pet Kerploppus sleeps on the couch, "even though he is not supposed to."  The book also details what the family does around the house during the various seasons. I adore the winter illustrations.  Little Monster mentions Christmas and likes his house best in wintertime because "it's so very snuggly and warm." 

In Little Monster at School, a student named Yally doesn't seem to like school much at all. He gets frustrated easily and wants to be the best at everything. Little Monster shows how to be a good friend and helps brings out the best in Yally by boosting Yally's self-confidence with some well-deserved praise. [In related news, earlier this year Wanderful, Inc. released a Little Monster at School iPad storybook app.]

My son's favorite section of the book is the Little Monster at Work part. The busy illustrations and focus on vocabulary building in this Little Monster story remind me of Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day. Little Monster follows his grandfather to various places and learns about different occupations.  Together they visit a road construction site, car shop, T.V. station, circus, newspaper business, medical center, campsite,  marina, the moon, a diner, home construction site, airport, farmer's market, the Olympics, craft fair, town square, and also learn about jobs in science.  There's not much explanation in the text as to what the various jobs entail, but the illustrations offer unlimited discussion possibilities.
Little Monster Home School and Work Book by Mercer Mayer. FastPencil Premiere (October 2012); ISBN 9781607469452; 92 pages
Book Source: Review copy provided by publisher
Other books in the Mercer Mayer Classic Collectible series include: Little Monster Word Book with Mother Goose; Little Monster Fun and Learn Book and Professor Wormbog In Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo 

Related Links

Tool Flashcards and Tool Box Educational Activity

The book ends with a question from Little Monster, "Did you see anything in my book that you would like to be?" I asked my son what he wanted to be when he grows up and he replied, "a fixer."  That's not entirely surprising considering both of his grandfathers are retired mechanics. We talked about the different tools mechanics use, and I asked him to identify a few common tools.  He knew a few but it became quickly apparent that his basic tool vocabulary is lacking.

We were on a vocabulary kick after reading the word heavy "At Work" section of Mayer's book, so I decided to further the educational lessons and make some tool flashcards and a paper tool box envelope to hold the flashcards for my son. Now he knows correct tool terminology and can call the tools by their proper names (both grandpas will be so proud). We've played with the cards in a variety of ways including putting the tools in alphabetical order. I'm considering printing out a second set so we can play Go Fish--tool style.

Hand Tools Activities and Worksheets for Kids
Tool Coloring Pages and Writing Practice - Twisty Noodle
Handy Manny Toolbox Printable -
T is for Toolbelt Craft - Brilliant Beginnings Preschool
Matching Tools Printable (Pre-K - 1st) - TeacherVision
Tools Printouts -
Webelos Craftsman Activity Badge Worksheets - Boy Scout Trail
Felt Tools and Toolbox Templates - Serving Pink Lemonade

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.)  

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins Review - Jewel Beetle insect model made from recycled materials

Steven Jenkins has a knack for creating non-fiction books that appeal to readers. His fantastic and elaborate torn- and cut-paper collage illustrations take center stage and kids pour over the pages, remarking on the pictures and learning almost effortlessly. The Beetle Book is Jenkins' newest work and a remarkable one at that. The book has received four starred reviews and is one of the New York Times Best Illustrated books of 2012

The Beetle Book starts out with a compelling introduction, "Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth and one of every four will be a beetle."  With so many beetles in the world, it's a wonder that Jenkins was able to pare down the facts into one 40-page picture book.  Yet he manages to provide a kid-friendly overview of the Beetle family as well as briefly highlighting many, many beetles (over 75 different beetles, in fact), some familiar, some unusual. And, the illustrations are simply magnificent!

The book is organized not by beetle species but rather by beetle characteristics.  Early in the book Jenkins includes a large diagram labeled with beetle parts. There's also a very small section about the life cycle, and separate segments about food, sounds, senses, movement and size, dispersed among the illustrations along with other topics such as chemical defense and clever disguises.  Though many of the beetle illustrations are larger than life, black insect silhouettes found along the edges of the pages are actual size.

Kids will enjoy learning lots of strange and unusual facts about different kinds of beetles from this book and, after reading, should be able to remark on the common traits of beetles. My 2nd grader was especially intrigued by the image of the burying beetle covering a dead bird so its larvae will have food.  She also really liked the large head shot of the six-spotted green tiger beetle.  After looking at the illustration she noticed for the first time that many beetles have antennae beneath or next to their eyes, not above.  

Because Jenkins treats the text almost like captions supporting the illustrations, most readers probably won't read the book in its entirety from cover to cover but instead peruse slowly, reading by choice factual snippets that individually entice. The book leans more toward educational entertainment rather than a hard-core research book useful for writing reports.  Though Jenkins includes a useful index of beetles in the book listed by page, a topical index is not included nor are recommended resources for further beetle research.  However, the only real criticism I have of the book is that Jenkins, in the beginning, glosses over the main anatomy of insects, only briefly mentioning that beetles have three main body parts like all insects, but never specifically stating what those important parts are (though he shows those parts mixed with other "beetle bits" on his diagram). I wish he had better distinguished these parts (head, thorax and abdomen) from the other parts on his diagram as this book has the potential to be a useful teaching tool for early and middle elementary educators.
The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 2012); ISBN 9780547680842; 40 pages
Book Source: Copy borrowed from public library
Related Links:
Steve Jenkins Books Website
The Beetle Book Discussion Guide

Science Project: Japanese Jewel Beetle Model 
made from recycled materials
Jewel Beetle model displayed next to Steve Jenkins' illustrations.

Last month my daughter's teacher sent home an assignment involving insects. Prior to the assignment, the class learned about insects, with a focus on the three main body parts: head, thorax and abdomen. They even learned a special Head, Thorax, and Abdomen song. The teacher asked the kids to create their own insect model out of recycled materials.

My daughter searched through Jenkins' The Beetle Book and also looked at another detailed insect book we have at home, Simon & Schuster Children's Guide to Insects and Spiders and decided to make a jewel beetle. There are over 15,000 jewel beetles in the world so she further narrowed down the type by picking a special beetle called the Japanese Jewel Beetle (Chrysochroa fulgidissima). She was able to find detailed information about this specific beetle in Workman Publishing Company's Bugs Fandex (Fandex Family Field Guides) and also on Wikipedia.

She constructed her bug model using an empty shampoo bottle as the base.  She covered the bottle with green tissue paper using Mod Podge. Using acrylic paint, she added details to her beetle and she painted the head green. The hard wing casings are cut from a plastic liter pop bottle and she made the delicate wings out of wax paper and packing tape. The eyes are old buttons hot-glued on to the head and she cut the antennae out of black paper.  She used pipe cleaners to construct the six legs.

Bottom view of jewel beetle model.

She learned a lot about jewel beetles and beetles in general from this project. Here's her summary:
My insect model is a Japanese Jewel Beetle. It has colorful, shimmering wings and grows about 1.5 inches long. This Jewel Beetle lives in forests in Japan and is a wood-boring beetle. The larvae chew tunnels in the wood of trees and sometimes destroy the trees. There are over 15,000 different kinds of Jewel Beetles in the world.
Jewel Beetle with wings spread
The model took nearly an entire Saturday to make.  The neatest parts of her model are the wings and wing casings. She attached the wings and wing casings to the model with brads and the wings can spread out to fly or fold in just like a real beetle's wings.

Did you know that some people use the beautiful, iridescent wing covers to make jewelry and decorate clothing and other things? Hence the name, I suppose!

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, October 31, 2012

Just Say BOO! by Susan Hood helps kids conquer Halloween fears

The Halloween costumes are ready for a night of trick-or-treating.  My daughter is dressing up as a Prairie Girl and my son's costume is a Bald Eagle (both hand sewn by me with a little help from my mom).  I'm a big fan of homemade costumes because I think they make Halloween just a little more personal and special.

One of my absolute favorite things about Halloween is seeing all the creative costumes. And one of the best things about children's Halloween picture books is the varied illustrations of creative costumes!  But sometimes those costumes and the outdoor sights and sounds can be a little too scary ... then what?

        Just Say BOO!

Jed Henry's fantastic watercolor illustrations in the new Halloween book Just Say Boo! show trick-or-treaters dressed as a bat, shark, witch and more, posed and ready to say "BOO!" to ward off everything scary. Spooky ghost decorations, howling wind in the trees, grim jack-o'lanterns -- kids can make them all less frightening by shouting BOO!  Henry's charming illustrations, combined with Susan Hood's playful text, show young children how to dispel their Halloween fears by making trick-or-treat time fun and silly. The call and answer format of the text makes the book a lively read-aloud and elicits numerous shouts of "BOO!"

"If the ghosts in the trees wibble-wobble your knees, what do you say?  .... BOO!"

Best part of all (and something all parents will appreciate), Hood doesn't stop with just BOO. With a little prompt, she reminds kids that there are other things to say on Halloween, too, like the polite and ever important word, THANK YOU!
Going trick-or-treating tonight?  This is the perfect book to read beforehand.
Just Say Boo! by Susan Hood, illustrated by Jed Henry.  HarperCollins Children's Books (July 2012); ISBN 9780062010292; 32 pages
Book Source: Review copy provided by publisher

Related links:
Susan Hood - Author Website
Jed Henry - Illustrator Website
Just Say Boo! Printable Halloween Cards and Masks

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.) 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara - Easy, Last Minute Ghost Halloween Window Decorations

If there's something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?  GHOSTBUSTERS - right? Maybe not, if there's a certain ghost-catching little girl who lives nearby.

Ghosts in the House, a cute picture book my kids love to read every Halloween, introduces a little girl who is the ULTIMATE Ghostbuster.  She moves into a house filled with ghosts but remains unfazed because she knows exactly how to catch ghosts.  With help from her black cat friend she puts her bewitching skills to work. And after she catches all the ghosts she puts them into her washing machine!

Kazuno Kohara published this bright orange book only a few years ago in 2008, but the story deserves recognition as a classic Halloween tale. Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary kids, it's sure to remain a Halloween favorite of young kids for many years to come.  The ghosts in the book aren't scary at all, and the amusing storyline elicits a few giggles with each reading.  Best of all are the unique linocut illustrations.  Using a limited palette of orange and black, Kohara creates bold, cleanly designed haunted house images.  She superimposes white see-through ghosts over the orange background and black lines. The effect is stunning -- the ghosts look like magical tissue paper apparitions!
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara.  Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan (August 2008); ISBN 9781596434271; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from our personal library

Ghost Window Craft

The kids liked the idea of having a house filled with friendly ghosts, so we made a few translucent ghosts for our window out of freezer paper. Our ghosts look exactly like the ghost waving out of the window of the house on the front cover of Ghosts in the House (you can sort of see the window grid pattern through our ghosts, too). The freezer paper ghosts are a cheap and easy last minute Halloween decoration that the kids can help with. We colored in the eyes and mouth with a black permanent marker. Now our house is haunted but with cute ghosts, not spooky ones!

I wasn't the first to come up with this fabulous Halloween decorating idea -- I saw it on ... where else? ... a Pinterest pin from My Material Life.

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.) 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October Carnival of Children's Literature 2012

Welcome to the October Carnival of Children's Literature!  What's brewing in the blog world of children's books?  The cauldron is bubbling over!  Read on to find oodles of books and posts on a multitude of topics.

For those not familiar with the Carnival of Children's Literature, it is a monthly round-up of submitted blog posts about children's literature.  The carnival is hosted at a different blog every month.  Find out more and/or participate in the carnival at Anastasia Suen's Booktalking.

Wondering about the cute cauldron pictured over to the right? -- It contains my family's collection of Halloween books.  I borrowed the book cauldron idea from Obseussed after seeing it on Pinterest 

Beware! BOOks
Since it's the spooky time of the year, let's start off the Carnival with:

Halloween themed books

The Picture Book Review introduces the picture book, Asiago by Adam McHeffey.
Tiffa, a fellow stay-at-home mom recently enjoyed the book with her son and says, "Asiago is a great book for young children.  It has a vampire theme that will mesh well with Halloween without being all about Halloween.  This book deserves more attention and more readers."  

Storied Cities recommends a picture book she discovered by accident, The Trip by Ezra Jack Keats.
According to Erica, "This is one of the few Halloween picture books with an urban setting. It's also one of Keats' lesser known titles (or so I believe)."

The Adventures in Writing & Publishing featured a series of posts in October called 13 Lucky Days of Halloween Reviews. There's a wide assortment of spooky, fun books for a range of ages. One of Lisa's posts is about a non-fiction book by Capstone Press, How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins by Sarah L. Schuette.

The Cath in the Hat reminds us that Halloween is just around the corner with her review of an enticing short chapter book (also a CYBILS nominee), Maybelle and the Haunted Cupcake by Katie Speck, illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos. 

Early Literacy/Picture Books

Monkey Poop is back to blogging with a review of Ugly Fish by Kara LeReau; illustrated by Scott Magoon. It's a "kooky picture book" that her 2.5 year old finds hilarious.

Flowering Minds offers a must-read for inquisitive minds -- The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers. Darshana says this picture book is, "a quirky, imaginative introduction to the “whodunit” genre for young readers with a message of conservation, recycling, and forgiveness."

Stacey Localzo changed her mind about books containing speech bubbles after reading a book perfect for early readers or a reader who has yet to discover they love reading -- A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse by Frank Viva. "The simple text, picture support and graphic style all make for a winning selection."

True Tales & a Cherry on Top reviews Magritte's Marvelous HAT by D. B. Johnson.  Jeanne comments, "The book is inspired by a real person -- the surrealist artist Rene Magritte and the author imagines Rene Magritte as a dog in his surreal world. Author, D.B. Johnson says, 'You try on a hat that floats in the air and leads you to a place where anything is possible and everything is impossible.' And how impossibly wonderful is that?!"

NC Teacher Stuff reviews a neat-looking new book, Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. Jeff sums it up -- "Infinity and Me is a terrific fiction picture book about a girl who ponders the concept of infinity. The text and the artwork will help students better understand this concept."

Brimful Curiosities introduces a fantastic robot book, BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. "Simply and perfectly told with bold, eye-pleasing illustrations, this is quite possibly the best robot picture book we've ever read (and believe me, we've read several)." Plus, Janelle and son show off their stellar robot building skills by constructing a BOT out of LEGOs.
Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources provides a list of 25 Must-Have Books for Preschooler Bookworms.  Her list includes many favorites including Go Away, Big Green Monster, Harold and the Purple Crayon, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and some more unusual recommendations like Light Up the Night (a book my own preschooler enjoyed this summer). 

Horribly Humorous History for Kids presents an intriguing post this month discussing 19th century alphabet books for kids. "ABC books can be a snapshot of the kinds of pictureable objects that would have been familiar to kids in times past, and some of the pictured objects are, well, shocking to our modern eye." Sarah's post titled, N is for Nylghau, also shows how ABC authors handled the letter X, in the era before X rays were invented.


Wrapped in Foil shares a book for little architects -- Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale. This is a new, nonfiction picture book that "pairs illustrations of children building with common materials and an intriguing shape poem about the process with amazing photographs of actual structures from around the world."  

SimplyScience Blog reviews Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, a "lovely book explains ocean food chains and the source of energy that runs them--phytoplankton."

Chapter Books / Middle Grade / Fiction

Playing by the Book shares a modern-day fairy story, Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts. Zoe writes, "Operation Bunny is a beautifully written and very funny book for fluent young readers about fairies, detectives and a talking cat. We also made our own miniature fairy wings to go with the story."
Literary Lunchbox is a panelist for the CYBILS, and she is enjoying judging middle grade fiction, her greatest literary love.  Ali reviews three "well-written and wonderfully readable books." [The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin, The Humming Room by Ellen Potter and The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine]

Shelf-employed reviews a middle-grade graphic novel, Drama by Raina Telgemeier. The book is "written in “acts” rather than chapters" and "Telgemeier breaks new ground in introducing gay characters to a novel for younger readers (ages 10 and up)."

Book Aunt's entry is about the "Super Middle Grade" with reviews of four recent middle grade books about secret societies, super powers, conspiracies, and super villains.  [Capture the Flag by Kate Messner; Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung, The Cloak Society by Jeremy Kraatz and The Secret Prophecy by Herbie Brennan]

Geo Librarian reviews an amusing and touching middle grade book,  Ungifted by Gordon Korman. The author "demonstrates that while not all students have academic talents, everyone has something to add to the school environment."

Boys Rule Boys Read! shares some good fiction about the early days of baseball. [Bill Penant, Babe Ruth, and Me by Timothy Tocher; Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta; Lucky: Maris, Mantle and My Best Year Ever by Wes Tooke; and the Sluggers series by Phil Bilden and Loren Long]

Yellow Brick Reads reviews Philip Pullman's much-anticipated adaptation, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Children's and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm, Pullman has rewritten 50 out of the original 211 tales. 

Teens/Young Adult

Great Kid Books reviews Every Day by David Levithan.  Mary Ann writes, "I was absolutely fascinated by David Levithan's new book EVERY DAY. It raises questions about identity, memory, relationships in a way that will appeal to teens. I call this realistic fantasy - it is definitely fantasy, but one that will appeal to teens who like realistic fiction."

No Water River welcomes everyone to Poet-a-Palooza. Join in a celebration of the publication of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's important classroom poetry resource, The Poetry Friday Anthology. The post includes an interview with Janet and Sylvia as well as poetry videos by Jane Yolen, Ken Slesarik, Stephanie Calmenson, and Michael J. Rosen.

Book Projects

Teaching Authors -- April Halprin Wayland, talks about her struggles finishing a novel she's been working on for 14 years. She also shares her related original poem, "Patience."


Barbies on Fire interviews children's book author Darcy Pattison and reviews her latest book, Desert Baths. "The book explores the unusual bathing rituals of many animals living in the American Southwest.  It's a great book filled with continuing education resources for those curious about desert critters."

Booktalking goes behind the scenes and talks to Margaret Quinlin, editor (and publisher) of Carmen Agra Deedy's lastest book, Return of the Library Dragon.

Picture Books & Pirouettes interviews picture book author Sarah Lynn. The interview highlights Lynn's publications experiences, which range from iPhone Apps to traditionally published books, and offers advice for aspiring authors. Sarah Lynn's newest book is 1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom! A Counting Book.

The November edition of Carnival of Children's Literature will be posted at There’s A Book  
Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 12, 2012

BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman Book Review - Make Your own LEGO Bot Character

I've traipsed through many a wood and have collected my share of pinecones, but never, never on any of my adventures have I come across a friendly, mechanized, working robot.  I must be walking through the wrong kind of woods, because in Ame Dyckman's picture book world this scenario is entirely possible.

Simply and perfectly told with bold, eye-pleasing illustrations by robot-lover Dan Yaccarino, Boy + Bot is quite possibly the best robot picture book we've ever read (and believe me, we've read several).  The story-line goes like this: Boy walks through the woods.  Boy meets a big, red robot.  Boy and robot problem-solve. Robot and boy become BFF.  Now obviously there's more to it than that, like for instance both boy and bot have similar "misunderstood malfunctions" and need fixing, but to say any more would spoil the fun.  Read the robot parts aloud in your best robot voice. Remark on all the fun things the robot and boy do together like swimming, apple-picking and rock-skipping.  And remember, little boys do not need oiling, and never, ever feed your robot applesauce.

This book deservedly received starred review from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. Take our word for it (and theirs), if you have a young, robot-loving child, BOY + BOT is for them and worth purchasing.

Fun fact: If you look closely at the illustrations in BOY + BOT you'll discover one of Yaccarino's creative additions to the story -- a light-bulb shaped, one-eyed robot that Ame Dyckman calls "Watt."  Not surprisingly, illustrator Dan Yaccarino has a self-described "slight penchant for robots."  He is also the author/illustrator of another robot picture book, If I Had a Robot, a story about a boy who dreams about all the things he could or wouldn't have to do if he had a robot.  His robot illustrations have a retro, vintage look reminiscent of those tin wind-up robot toys from the past. 

Related links: 
Ame Dyckman - Author Website 
Dan Yaccarino - Illustrator Website
Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.  Alfred A. Knopf / Random House (April 2012); ISBN 9780375867569; 32 pages
Book Source: copy from our personal library

Sadly we have not discovered our own robot friend in the woods, so my son and I did the next best thing ... made our own robot out of LEGOs. Our LEGO collection is large and diverse enough to provide ample parts for robot building.   We have eyes, connecting parts to make arms that swing and plenty of multi-sized, red blocks.

My son insisted that our BOT robot have a power switch in the back. Pair the LEGO bot with a boy mini-figure and let the book play-acting begin!  

'"What's wrong?" the boy asked.  The robot did not answer. 
"Are you sick?" the boy asked.  The robot still did not answer.  
"I must help him," the boy said."'

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumn ABC Nature Activity

A is for Acorns 
B is for Bark 
C is for Crunchy Leaves 

While waiting for the school bus to arrive, my son and I gathered some items from nature and practiced writing the first letters of the alphabet. I find it hard to believe that autumn is in full swing and the leaves are already changing colors and falling to the ground. Our summer passed by quickly and despite the fact that I didn't blog about our activities, our days were full of fun activities and plenty of books. The ABC game also provides me a good way to remark on my blogging hiatus.

A = I Apologize for my Absence, summer Activities kept me otherwise occupied  
B = Still Busy but now hopefully Back to Blogging about Books and our Bustling life 
C = Creative endeavors sometimes Call for a Cathartic break

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bald Eagle Snack Food Mosaic - The Eagle and the Great Seal of the United States

In preparation for Independence Day, we made a fun 4th of July snack using crackers and pretzels.  This eagle cracker mosaic is a relatively healthy treat to take to an 4th of July party.

If you'd like to try making one for the upcoming holiday, here are the four types of crackers/pretzels we used in our creation:
White Cheddar Cheez-It Crackers
Snyder's of Hanover Cheddar Cheese Sandwiches Pretzels
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers
Generic brand pretzel sticks

Since 1782 the bald eagle has been a national symbol of the United States.  On the front of the Great Seal, the eagle is shown clutching an olive branch in the right talon and a bundle of thirteen arrows in the left talon. This unique design represents the power of peace and war.

I took some time today to discuss the symbolism of the eagle with my kids, in particular, the eagle's depiction on the Great Seal. We used the back of a U.S. one-dollar bill for reference. Obviously much thought and planning went into the design of this U.S. seal and the process took six years. Many variations were submitted to Congress, and the eagle was not the focal part of the originally submitted design for the seal but was ultimately prominently featured in Charles Thomson's design in 1782.

The eagle, "on the wing and rising," is a symbol of freedom and liberty. The number "13" appears to be a theme throughout the seal, the number representing the thirteen colonies that declared independence from the British Empire and later becoming the first states in the United States of America. Here's one surprising fact -- Did you know that there are thirteen letters in the motto, "E pluribus unum," which means Out of Many, One? [View this website for further information: Symbols of U.S. Government: The Great Seal of the United States]

Obverse Side of the Great Seal - "The most prominent feature is the American bald eagle supporting the shield, or escutcheon, which is composed of 13 red and white stripes, representing the original States, and a blue top which unites the shield and represents Congress. The motto, E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one), alludes to this union. The olive branch and 13 arrows denote the power of peace and war, which is exclusively vested in Congress. The constellation of stars denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers." -- The Great Seal of the United States, United States Department of State, Publication No. 10411, 1996

I found an image for the kids to color that shows the front of the Great Seal on page 7 in the Symbols of the U.S. Government pdf booklet.

Relating to eagles and the U.S., one famous bald eagle in American history is Old Abe, the mascot of the 8th Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.  The mighty eagle accompanied the regiment during various battles from 1861-1864 and was later kept at the Wisconsin State Capitol until his death in 1881.

Related Links:
NIE - Symbols of Patriotism
Enchanted Learning - The Great Seal of the U.S.A.
Eagle/Great Seal Lesson Plan - "Homeschool" is Not a Typo
National Symbols: The Great Seal

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!