Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

A little leapfrog on leap day! My kids are both enjoying leap year for the second time in their lives.

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except for February alone,
Which has four and twenty-four
Till leap year gives it one day more.

Mother Goose Rhyme

Speaking of sayings about Leap Year, we recently ran across a Leap Day joke in Simms Taback's Great Big Book of Spacey Snakey Buggy Riddles and thought we'd share:

What is the best year for grasshoppers? Leap year!

Guess the same could be said about frogs, too!

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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life - DVD Review (a new movie based on the middle grade novel by Wendy Mass)

It takes guts to write a middle grade children's book centering on the great philosophical question -- What is the meaning of life? In 2006 author Wendy Mass took a stab at answering the age old question in her book, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Her book about living each day fully and finding one's equilibrium after personal loss went on to receive many positive accolades by both adults and kids.

A family-friendly movie version of the beloved story is set to release on DVD on March 6th. Mass' fans will be delighted to discover that the movie, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, retains many of the tender and quirky aspects of the book, even Jeremy's odd peanut butter sandwich obsession! The movie's cast includes some big names including Mira Sorvino, Joe Pantoliano and Roscoe Orman (Sesame Street).

Ever since his father's death, Jeremy Fink has dreamed of finding a way to connect with his dad, so much so that he attempts to build a time machine. Turns out he doesn't need a time machine, he needs a box! Jeremy receives a most mysterious gift a month before his 13th birthday - a locked wooden box with an unusual inscription on the top, "The Meaning of Life: For Jeremy Fink to open on his Thirteenth Birthday. Years earlier Jeremy's dad passed away in a car accident, and, before he died, he assembled the box with Jeremy in mind. Opening the box requires four keys, but sadly the keys are missing. Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzy, embark on a journey around New York City in search of the keys. During the search they meet several eccentric individuals who offer insights that bring them closer to finding the answers they seek.

Tender yet humorous at the same time, the movie provides a fresh and interesting perspective on life. The two teen actors who play Jeremy and Lizzy (Maxwell Beer and Ryan Simpkins) play their roles wonderfully in this coming-of-age story. Their devoted friendship is really the heart of the film. Lizzy helps Jeremy find his way and encourages him to face his fears. One of my favorite lines in the film is, "Are you gonna sit there what-iffing all day when you can actually go out into the world and find the answers?" It is also really nice to see a boy/girl friendship that maintains closeness without becoming romantic, despite Lizzy's "feminine wiles."

Before I watched the movie I made of point of finding a copy of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life to read. I'm so glad I did. Wendy Mass has an amazing flair for bringing unusual subjects to light and writing books that stimulate the mind. Her characters have real emotional depth, while exhibiting true to life, somewhat humorous oddities. I really enjoyed this coming-of-age story and now understand why the book has a fairly large following. It is for this reason I was somewhat apprehensive to watch the movie version.

Thankfully, the book's storyline is only moderately altered. The movie version is lightened with the addition of dorky humor and over-the-top, wacky characters often found in kid flicks. This is definitely a movie meant for tweens, pimples and all! Several of the characters including Oswald and Jeremy's mother are a lot more eccentric in the film than in the book. To be honest, I wasn't very happy with how Mr. Oswald's character was portrayed in the film. In the book he is a distinguished mentor figure, but not so in the movie. Luckily, James the limo driver (played by Michael Urie), in a way, takes over this guiding role in the movie. As a Christian, I am disappointed the characters didn't at least explore a religious perspective on life in the film. I do really like the creative way Jeremy's time machine plays a key part in the search -- a nice twist different from the ending in the book. Jeremy's t-shirt in the middle of the film is an awesome touch. Yes, he is definitely a true "Rock It Scientist."

I'm sure Wendy Mass will gain quite a few new fans with the release of this film. It's thought provoking and full of heart without being too preachy, just like her books. Definitely worth a watch, but make sure to read the book, too! (And, by the way, if you watch really closely at the beginning of the museum scene, you might just see Mass star in a cameo role in the film.)

(DVD Source: DVD provided for review purposes by Phase 4 Films and Team Mom. All opinions expressed are my own. 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.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini - Review and Giveaway

One of the perks of working in a library is that you come across titles that you might not otherwise stumble across. Such was the case for me in 1999. While shelving titles, I discovered a new book, The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini. After reading the cover flaps, I quickly learned the author, Jennifer Chiaverini, resides in Wisconsin. I always make a point of reading books by authors from my home state.

The book's subject also appealed to me right away. Recently married, I had received a special quilt made by my grandmother for my wedding. A cherished and personal gift, I know my grandmother spent much time lovingly piecing it together with my husband and I in mind. Powerful and memory evoking, it's amazing how quilts can tell stories and bring generations together. As I cracked open The Quilter's Apprentice and started reading I found an intriguing story involving two interesting characters, one elderly and one young, whose lives were brought together through quilting. I thoroughly enjoyed Chiaverini's first novel and over the years have read all of the books in her Elm Creek Quilt books series. Earlier this week on February 21st, Chiaverini released Sonoma Rose, the 19th book in her bestselling series.

Sonoma Rose is an adult, historical fiction novel set in California during the Prohibition era of the mid to late 1920's. The book explores the story of Rosa Diaz and Lars Jorgensen, lovers that are forced apart in their youth by old family resentments and personal choices. In a series of flashbacks readers learn that Lars previously struggled with alcoholism and Rosa, finding herself pregnant, decides to marry John Barclay, someone she does not love but deems stable. John becomes abusive and also becomes involved in various lawless activities. John and Rosa disagree about how to best care for their children, who are stricken with celiac disease, a mysterious and fatal (without proper treatment) affliction.

Lars slowly reenters Rosa's life and, at first, Rosa tries to keep him away. Eventually John's violent nature escalates and he almost kills a man. Lars and Rosa seek out each other and escape together with the children to wine country in northern California. Lars is wanted by the mob because he reported John's involvement with illegal liquor trafficking. The pair finds work and a home in the countryside at a vineyard owned by second-generation winemakers, the Cacchiones. While working there they learn all about the difficulties faced by winemakers and the dangers of bootlegging during Prohibition. Lars and Rosa struggle to find happiness together and though they live in fear that they might be discovered by the mob or by John when he exits jail, they remain hopeful for a better future.

Sonoma Rose is a rather complex combination of themes and fairly action-packed, full of dramatic events. The book brings together a lot of subjects including Prohibition, winemaking, spousal abuse, alcoholism, and celiac disease. Unlike many of Chiaverini's books, it does not focus as much on quiltmaking or women bonding as the result of creating quilts together. The setting of the book is really quite fascinating, and I learned a lot about the heartbreaking travails California's winemakers faced when trying to abide by the Prohibition laws and their dealings with corrupted law officers and politicians. Many winemakers lost their land, some which had been tended with care for generations. (For those that want to learn more about the Prohibition, I highly recommend watching Ken Burn's three-part documentary film series, Prohibition.)

Although Sonoma Rose can be easily treated as a stand-alone novel, it is truly a sequel to The Quilter's Homecoming, a story that focuses on the character of Elizabeth Nelson, a cousin to Sylvia, the founder of the Elm Creek Quilt Camps. When Elizabeth moves from Pennsylvania to California, she befriends Rosa and locates previously hidden quilts from Rosa's family's past. Elizabeth, in a sense, provides the tie to the other Elm Creek series stories and her character is also introduced in Chiaverini's The Christmas Quilt. The novel, Sonoma Rose, fleshes out the details found in The Quilter's Homecoming and supplies a satisfying ending to Lars and Rosa's story.
Sonoma Rose (Elm Creek Quilts) by Jennifer Chiaverini. Dutton / Penguin (February 2012); ISBN 9780525952640
Book Source: ARC provided by publisher through TLC Book Tours
Related Links:
Jennifer Chiaverini - Website

Win a copy! This review is part of TLC Book Tours, and Dutton / Penguin has kindly offered to give away a copy of Sonoma Rose to a lucky Brimful Curiosities reader!

For a chance to win, leave a comment relating to this post or if you're a Chiaverini fan, let me know the title of your favorite Elm Creek series book.
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• Contest ends on Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 11:59 PM CST.
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I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me in this book tour. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We Give Books - Read For My School

I thought I'd take a break from our busy Valentine's Day and let you know about a special campaign for public schools. Starting today, Feb. 14, the We Give Books website is running a new literacy campaign, "Read for My School." It's a really good way for kids to help out their schools and get a little reading in at the same time. Depending on the number of books kids read online, schools can earn up to 500 books.
More information here:

We Give Books is a wonderful online resource for digital children's books. It's free although parents and teachers must first register before kids can read books. The website is run by the Pearson Foundation, and every time a child reads a book on the site the foundation in turn provides books to various literacy groups -- a win/win for all. Several Penguin and DK Publishing books, both non-fiction and fiction, are available for children to read and the books are appropriate for various levels up to age 10. Both my kids love looking at all the books online and I'm surprised at the number of popular books available like the Llama Llama books and The Snowy Day. My son especially loves the new book based on a true story, Little Dog Lost by Mônica Carnesi.

Even if your child doesn't attend a public school, make sure to take a look. You can help support other campaigns such as Support My School India and Tinga Tinga Tales Early Childhood Development Programme supporting children in Africa. And all the while your child will benefit as well!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hugs, Kisses and Love: New Valentine's Day Children's Books

I noticed a theme as I recently searched through the new 2012 children's books appropriate for Valentine's Day: Hugs and Kisses! A plethora of XOXOXOXOXO with a smackerel of ♥ LOVE ♥. I've included a list below of the new titles in case you're planning a trip to the library this weekend.

All Kinds of Kisses by Nancy Tafuri
Amelia Bedelia's First Valentine by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynne Avril
The Best Kind of Kiss by Margaret Allum, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley
Big Hugs, Little Hugs by Felicia Bond
The Biggest Kiss by Joanna Walsh, illustrated by Judi Abbot
Goodnight, I Love You by Caroline Jayne Church
Hedgehug: A Sharp Lesson in Love by Benn Sutton, illustrated by Dan Pinto
Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid
Just Because You're Mine by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Frank Endersby
The Kiss Box by Bonnie Verburg, illustrated by Henry Cole
Mr. Prickles: A Quill-Fated Love Story by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon
One Love by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Newton
Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Pinkalicious: Pink of Hearts by Victoria Kann
Snowy Valentine by David Petersen
Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green, illustrated by David Walker
Where Does Love Come From? by Accord Publishing, illustrated by Milena Kirkova
You: A Story of Love and Friendship by Stephen Michael King
Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell

Also, here's a compilation of my past Brimful Curiosities' Valentine's Day posts for your viewing pleasure:

A String of Hearts by Laura Malone Elliott, illustrated by Lunn Munsinger (Heart Garland Craft)
Valentine Surprise by Corinne Demas and Fancy Nancy: Heart to Heart (Cut Heart Banner)
Love, Ruby Valentine by Laurie Friedman, illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath (Candy Airplane Valentine)
The I LOVE YOU Book by Todd Parr
Peek-a-Boo, I Love You! by Sandra Magsamen

Bunny Valentines with Dum Dum Lollipop Tail
Quarter-fold Heart Pocket Valentine's Day Card
Homemade Valentine's Day Cards - both vintage and modern styles

We're busily preparing for a science fair so we haven't had a chance to prepare much for Valentine's Day yet this year! I imagine we'll have a busy upcoming weekend. We have nearly 50 Valentines to write out for my kids' upcoming Valentine's Day class parties. Are you busy with Valentine's Day preparations?

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.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty - Disney Movie (based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton)

In college one of my friends belonged to an anime club. At the time I just couldn't understand the appeal of this animation style. The characters with huge eyes and dubbed voices seemed rather strange to me. Now, 15+ years later anime and manga/graphic novels are mainstream, and I've grown to appreciate the artwork and storytelling (mostly).

Anime adaptions of classic literature are not unheard of. I'm rather excited for Disney's movie The Secret World of Arrietty to open in U.S. theaters on February 17th. This Japanese animated fantasy film is based on Mary Norton's classic story The Borrowers. From the look of the previews, the classic story is updated, and "the Borrowers" live in a modern, suburban setting. The film was originally released in Japan in 2010 and did well in the box office. I'm interested to see how it fairs with U.S. audiences. Due to the animation style, I imagine it will appeal to a broader age range than the typical Disney animated movie.

Hopefully the release will also ignite a renewed interest in Mary Norton's original book! I'm reading The Borrowers aloud to my daughter this month. If you own a Kindle, you can download a copy of The Borrowers by Mary Norton for only $1.59 on

A number of well-known celebrities provide the voices of the characters in the U.S. movie release including Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Bridgit Mendler and Carol Burnett.

Here's the studio's summary of the movie:
Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all. From the legendary Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” “Ponyo”) comes “The Secret World of Arrietty,” an animated adventure based on Mary Norton’s acclaimed children’s book series “The Borrowers.”

Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (voices of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (voice of Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie), a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (2/3/12)

Welcome to this week's edition of FTTB! Full to the Brim is a weekly list I compile by hand of children's book giveaway online contests. 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.

Book giveaways:
Chasing Supermom - Book Giveaway Ends 2/6
Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
No Time for Flashcards - Book Giveaway Ends 2/4
Ring Around the Rosie , Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes , Humpty Dumpty and Pat-A-Cake!
Babes and Kids Review - Book Giveaway Ends 2/10
set of 5 Chuggington Books
Spanglish Baby - Book Giveaway Ends 2/5
Scholastic Art and Imagination Pack
Take It From Me - Book Giveaway Ends 2/4
Gryphon House Books: The Budding Gardener, The Budding Chef, L Is For Lion and What Does A Lion Say?!
Thrifty Nifty Mommy - Book Giveaway Ends 2/16
Being Wendy by Fran Drescher
MomCentral - Book Giveaway Ends 2/7
Kohl's Cares Eric Carle books: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Written by Bill Martin), 10 Little Rubber Ducks, Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? and The Very Busy Spider and plush animals
Thrify and Thriving - Book Giveaway Ends 2/3
American Girl doll Kanani and book
Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports - Ends 2/11
Scholastic Valentine Book Prize Pack
That's IT Mommy - Ends 2/7
Workman Publishing Books: Love the Beastie and The Splendid Spotted Snake
Baba's Farm Life - Ends 2/8
The Sneezy Wheezy Day by Sharon Cramer
5 Minutes for Mom - Ends 2/6
The Perfect Name For You personalized storybook
Little World After All - Ends 2/6
“Have You Filled A Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud
5 Minutes for Books - Ends 2/8
50th anniversary edition of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas - Ends 2/9
Lilly's Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes and other heart goodies
Toddler Approved - Ends 2/8
I Love you Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, Amos and Boris by William Steig, Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Ready Set Read - Ends 2/14
I Love You More by Laura Duksta
Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves - Ends 2/5
Mystery box of 25 books

Magic Tree House Facebook Sweepstakes - Enter to win a copy of Magic Tree House #46 Dogs in the Dead of Night signed by Mary Pope Osborne, and its companion Fact Tracker, Dog Heroes, signed by Natalie Pope Boyce - Ends 2/29

Win a Free Jan Brett Visit to your School or Library Facebook Contest - Ends 4/9

Paddington Goes for Gold competition: Win a copy of the brand new Paddington picture book, 'Paddington Goes for Gold' - Ends 2/23

Lee & Low Books February Giveaway: Tofu Quilt, written by Ching Yeung Russell. - Ends 2/29/12

Bob Books Early Readers Giveaway
- one winner each week, from now until February 17.

Scholastic Storybooks Treasury DVD Giveaways
A Mom's Take - Ends 2/17
Africa's Blog - Ends 2/9

UK Only Book Giveaways:
Book Reviews for Mums - Ends 2/10
Socks by Nick Sharratt & Elisabeth Lindsay
Playing by the Book - Ends 2/10
Usborne Write Your Own Story Book

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

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby - Groundhog Day Snack

How much winter would a woodchuck predict if a woodchuck could predict winter? The woodchucks (a.k.a. groundhogs) emerged from their burrows this morning. Some saw their shadows (including the famous Punxsutawney Phil) and many didn't (among the ranks our own state prognosticators, Jimmy the Groundhog of Sun Prairie and Wynter the Groundhog of Milwaukee). Those silly groundhogs never seem to agree when it comes to forecasting the weather!

The majority of the Groundhog Day groundhogs are male. Why is that? At least here in Wisconsin we're trying to level the playing field. Wynter the Groundhog from Milwaukee is female.

This morning we read a book titled Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox. It's about a girl groundhog named Brownie who sees her shadow and complains about having to wait for spring.

"Shadows mean more winter, and more winter means waiting. Wait, wait, wait." Brownie stomped her foot. "Phooey!"

Brownie is so busy being impatient she doesn't see a red fox lingering nearby. The fox pounces on Brownie and plans to eat her for breakfast. What to do? You guessed it -- implement the old, ever reliable "outfox the fox" tricks. After some quick thinking, Brownie convinces the fox that he has missed breakfast time and now must wait for lunch. Brownie cleverly keeps the fox plenty occupied all day long with skating and looking for signs of spring. When suppertime arrives, both animals witness the first sign of spring and the fox hungrily devours a snack (a tasty wintertime treat, at that)!

Carmen Segovia's painted illustrations are really quite lovely with the striking contrasts of the red fox and red-scarf-wearing groundhog against the snowy winter landscapes. The story of how this book came to be is quite unusual. Carmen Segovia displayed a series of illustrations at the Bologna Children's Book Fair depicting a groundhog waiting for spring. The illustrations were discovered by Sterling Publishing and Segovia's editor sought out an author to write a story for the little groundhog. Susan Blackaby created this adorable tale of patience and friendship with the little groundhog sketches in mind. It's the perfect picture book for reading on Groundhog Day or really any cold, winter day that leaves you impatient, longing for some spring cheer!
Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Carmen Segovia. Sterling Publishing (January 2011); ISBN 9781402743368
Book Source: Review Copy provided by publisher
Related Links:
Carmen Segovia - Website
Carmen Segovia - Blog

❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ Groundhog Day Snack ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄

In the story, Brownie and Fox sit down for a picnic of cocoa and cinnamon toast. This morning for breakfast we had our own cinnamon toast treat shaped like a groundhog! We did not, however, pounce on our meal. No red foxes in our house.

The kids used Cheerios for the ears, mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth and a big, fat blueberry for the groundhog's nose.

"Only with winter-patience can we bring The deep-desired, long-awaited spring
." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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. 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, February 1, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - No Sleds Needed

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