by Angela Verges
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike without training wheels? You could finally zoom around with the big kids. Now it’s you kids turn to experience the freedom of bike riding. I recently discovered that May is National Bike Month.
Before you dust off you bike and hit the trails, spend some time with a good book related to bike riding. Whether your interest is fiction, non-fiction of something on bicycle safety, the local library has vast variety from which to choose.
A few interesting books rolled off the library shelves and into my hands. The first book was Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen. Sally Jean began her bike riding journey in a seat on the back of her mama’s bike.
As Sally Jean got older she transitioned to a tricycle, a bike with training wheels, and finally riding without training wheels. As she got older, she learned to do tricks with her bike, but soon began to outgrow her bike that she named Flash. Thus began her problem.
Sally Jean was the Queen at fixing other people’s bicycle problems, but could she resolve her own? There was no money to buy a new bike, so Sally Jean had to creatively come up with a solution. You’ll have to read the book to discover how she attempted to resolved her bike problem.
If you like stories with animal characters, Duck on a Bike was very entertaining. Duck had a bright idea that he could ride a bike, so he hopped on a parked bike and wobbled along. As he rode past many of his animal friends, they had an opinion of what they thought about Ducks bike riding skills.
As the humor unfolds, children are sure to become easily engrossed in the story of Duck on a Bike. The next time you’re at the library, pick up this great read aloud and discover what Sheep, Horse, Chicken and Goat have to say about their friend Duck riding a bike.
If you have a young child learning to ride a bike, check out Off We Go! A Bear and Mole Story. This was a heartwarming tale about friendship and learning to ride a bike. The language was simple, but packed a punch with each encounter.
Mole pushed off on his bike and went wobble, wobble, crash. He was ready to quit, but Bear offered a word of encouragement. Mole encountered many animals on his bike ride, all of whom had to scramble to get out of his path. Pick up this book and see if you can predict what will happen with each page turn.
Do you have a favorite bike story?
by Wendy Lawrence
Looking at the cover of the picture book Rude Cakes, I wasn’t so sure what to expect. There was a picture of a cake smiling and presumably being rude (if you can judge a book by its cover) to the cupcake and marshmallow running away from it. What I didn’t notice on the cover is that the green hill-like thing on which the said confections are standing is actually the head of a cyclops. Yes, I expected a lot of things from a book called Rude Cakes, but the Cyclops wasn’t one of them. So that shows you about books and covers and judging things.
Rude Cakes starts out with a cake that is, predictably, being rude. Really rude. This is one rude cake and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near her. (Her? I’m making the assumption because it is pink. You can yell at me later for that.)\
Title: Rude Cakes
Author/Illustrator: Rowboat Watkins
Genre: Totally awesome picture book
But just as the rude cake is ignoring her parents’ specific instructions to go to sleep, she is plucked from her house by a Cyclops who understandably mistakes her for a giant hat. Cyclopses, you will find out if you have the good luck to get this book, love small hats and also are never rude.
As for the rest? I think you just need to read it. This might be one of my favorite picture books I’ve picked up in a long long while. I love the humor. I love the randomness. The messaging is not subtle, nor does it need to be–it’s surrounded by total zaniness! My 7yo doesn’t read a lot of picture books anymore, but I still love to curl him up with one every now and then and this one will be perfect. The whole family will laugh. Is there any gift better than that? Thank you Rowboat Watkins!
by Wendy Lawrence
Sometimes, a book can speak for itself. Here’s the opening of Interstellar Cinderella:
Once upon a planetoid, amid her tools and sprockets,
a girl named Cinderella dreamed of fixing fancy rockets.
She fixed the robot dishwasher and zoombrooms in her care,
but late each night she snuck away to study ship repair.
The books continues with the familiar but definitely new story. She can’t go to the ball because her spaceship is broken. But not to worry! The fairy godrobot is here–to fix the ship? No! To give her a new toolbox so she can fix it herself! Another twist parents who are sick of marrying princess might like: She says “no” to the prince’s marriage proposal and suggests she be his chief mechanic instead.
Title: Interstellar Cinderella
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Meg Hunt
Ages: 0 – 7
Genre: Picture Book, Fairy Tale, SciFi? :)
This book is coming out in May 2015!
Parents can have fun talking with their children about the differences between this book and other Cinderella stories they’ve read. And asking them which parts they liked better in different versions. Then, it would be super fun to come up with your own version!
Older kids might just be set free with some blank paper and colored pencils.
Younger kids could fill in blanks as you ask them questions: Where do they want their Cinderella to live? In a forest? Under the ocean? On Mars?
By Angela Verges
Guess what? April is National Humor Month. This is an ideal time to read a humorous book. I recently had the opportunity to meet author/illustrator Peter Brown at a book signing. He was funny and so are some of his picture books.
During his presentation, Peter Brown showed the audience how he drew the tiger from his book, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. As he read the story, the kids in the audience roared and laughed along with the story. Add this to your reading list for April to see what adventures arise.
Add a bit of hilarity to your reading with another one of Peter Brown’s books, Flight of The DoDo. Mr. Brown’s humor begins on the first page when Penguin is pooped on by a goose flying overhead. What will happen next? Open this delightful book to find out what happens with Penguin and some of his bird friends.
One more book to add to your list of humorous reading is, Children Make Terrible Pets, again by Peter Brown. Has your child ever asked to have a pet? In this story, the author has cleverly woven together a story about a bear who wants to keep a boy as a pet.
In addition to reading humorous stories this month, you can also schedule a few fun family activities. Here are three to get you started?
1. Read a joke book.
2. Gather the family and have each person tell their favorite joke or make one up.
3. Do a silly dance, then laugh at yourself.
What are some of your favorite humorous books or family activities that add humor to your life?
By Angela Verges
Did you know cooking could be a science? Phineas MacGuire found this to be a fact when he had to start cooking dinner every night. Phineas is a fourth grader and the main character in the book Phineas L. MacGuire…Gets Cooking! By Frances O’Roark Dowell and Preston McDaniels. Phineas loves science, but cooking is unfamiliar territory.
When I read Phineas L. MacGuire Gets Cooking! I was reminded of times when my boys worked on science projects. Sometimes their experiments involved cooking up creations in the kitchen. Phineas’ journey began when he complained about eating pizza all the time (even though it was his favorite food).
Humor is used throughout the book to develop the character of Phineas and his friends. When Phineas is told that the babysitter, Sarah, will help him cook, he is less than excited. He doesn’t believe it will be time well spent. Phineas tells us that Sarah is “into” Purple and he is allergic to it.
In the story it is Phineas’ friend who opens his eyes to the fact that cooking is science. She tells him that in fact, “It’s chemistry.” As Phineas warms up to the idea of cooking, he actually wants to prepare a dinner that will blow up.
The reader is easily drawn in to this story through quirky characters, vivid images and amusing scientific facts. No protective goggles are needed to join the wacky scientific journey of this book. After spending time with Phineas and his friends, you are sure to discover a new way of combining science and cooking.
Would you let your child incorporate science and cooking in your kitchen?
by Wendy Lawrence
Early readers like their series. Actually, intermediate, advanced, and adult readers like their series. I’m a fan of No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, personally–do you have a favorite?
But I’m getting off track. We were talking about early readers. Series are great for these kids because the books become familiar. They know the characters and the general plots. They get to know the structure of the book. Kids can read a higher level of books in a series because there is so much about the book that is comfortable and familiar. In this way, series books can both stretch a reader and give them easy reading practice.
The question that I get asked by moms more than any other question is “what kind of series does your son like?” They always ask the question in the same way, which is this “What should my son/daughter read after Magic Tree House?”
So, for sure, Magic Tree House is a good place to start! I also remember my anxiety as a mom when I saw my son getting to the end of the series. What would i do next? I still feel this a little bit each time he gets near the end. But then a trip to the library always straightens me out. Here are some that he loved in his early reading days:
The Secrets of Droon – a great beginning fantasy series that has the advantage of having a lot of books to keep them busy for awhile. The books are short and fairly simple, although they can get a little dark towards the end of the series. But nothing too major.
Beastquest – This is one of those formulaic series, but it was one of the first my son read and because there are so many, it kept him busy for quite awhile. The same author has a Deep Dive series (called SeaQuest in England), and a higher-level but still beginning fantasy series called Chronicles of Avantia.
Oliver Moon is one of my favorites to recommend. It’s really fun, about a boy in magic school in a world where everyone is magic. This is a great starter series.
Galactic Time Travelers is, I believe, a self-published series. We found it in a Seattle independent bookstore–or rather Great Grandma did–but I’ve also seen it online. I love this series because it’s five books long and each book is slightly longer and more complicated than the previous one. The fifth book is about twice the length of the first one. You can practically watch your kids learning how to read as they go through this series. Plus, it’s one of my son’s favorites. If there’s ever a lull between finishing one series and a trip to the library, he picks this one up to read again.
Hopefully that will keep your reading going for a little while, but I’ve got plenty more ideas where those came from! Happy reading! And if you or your young reader has a favorite series, please let us know in the comments below!
By Angela Verges
Once upon a time in a two storied house in a small subdivision near a forest, lived Dreadlocks and his Mama Bear. And thus begins my fairy tale of living with a teen bear known as Dreadlocks because of his hair style.
Did you now that February 26 is Tell a Fairy Tale Day? This is an ideal time to pull out your child’s favorite tale and read it over again. There are also fairy tales waiting to be discovered by your child.
While reading an article in the Metro Parent Magazine. I discovered two interesting books – The Sock Fairy and The Knot Fairy. Have you ever begun to put away laundry only to discover mismatched or missing socks? This is the time to call on the sock fairy.
Have you ever wondered why your child wakes up with knotted hair? There may be a magical explanation. The videos below will give you a peek the two fairy tale book mentioned here.
If you’re looking for an activity to celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day, check your local library or bookstore. In Ann Arbor, MI, Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom will hold a “fairy tea” story time on February 19.
Turn your once upon a time into happily ever after on Tell a Fairy Tale Day – choose a fun but or activity to engage your child.
By Angela Verges
Has your child ever spoken the dreadful words, I’m bored? It has happened at my house. No matter how often I respond to my boys by saying, “I can always find something for you to do,” they stick to their phrase. “I’m still bored.”
As a new year rolls in, I continue to encourage my boys to find ways to cure their boredom. One of my suggestions was, “find an interesting book to read.” My teens looked at each other, then at me and said, “We’ll find something to do.”
My teens are not as excited about picture books as I am. I let them select a book of their choice to read before venturing off into other activities to relieve their boredom. As for my selection of reading, there are several books that I found entertaining. They all relate to being bored.
I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black was the first book to jump off the library shelf and into my hands. The text is simple and kid friendly. The main character doesn’t think there is anything boring about being a kid. However, she has a hard time explaining that to a potato. She demonstrates all the things kids do for fun, but the potato was still bored.
Through ninja kicks and cartwheels, the main character becomes exasperated trying to convince the potato to not be bored. If your child continues to sing a chorus of “I’m bored” after reading this book, pull out another book. Bored Bill by Liz Pichon may stimulate his creative juices.
The main character in Bored Bill is a dog who is really bored, but his owner Mrs. Pickle, is never bored. Mrs. Pickle tries to convince Bill to try the things she loves like, reading, gardening and kung fu. Bill just grumbled and said he was bored.
Something happens when Bill and Mrs. Pickle go for a walk. A gust of wind sweeps them into the air and land Bill into space. You’ll have to read the book to discover what happens on Bill’s adventure.
A final book in my collection of must reads is Bored! Bored! Bored! By Jill Newton. This book has brilliant colors and features sea animals. Claude is a shark who doesn’t want to do the things his friends are doing. When his friends don’t invite him to a party, Claude has to find the thing he loves to do that will get him back into his circle of friends.
When your child shouts, “I’m bored!” give him a symphony of books to stimulate his imagination.
Happy New Year and happy book reading!
By Angela Verges
The Holiday season is upon us. It’s the time of year where folks all around the world celebrate in their special way. At our house it is a time where aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends feast together.
My boys look forward to our Holiday gathering because they know something wacky is sure to happen. Although we don’t have antlers, my family members resemble the characters in the picture book Uncles and antlers by Lisa Wheeler. This holiday themed picture book uses rhyme and counting as we are introduced to a family of wacky reindeer.
Uncle Uno had one hat. Uncle Duce who wore two wigs and bellowed out a tune, reminded me of myself singing at our annual Christmas dinner (off key). My brother could fill the role of Uncle Quint who is long and tall and shoots basketball.
Add uncles and antlers to your reading list and see if you can find any comparisons to your family. Uncle and antlers had their wacky side and so does my family. No matter how silly our family Christmas dinner becomes, it’s always just right.
As I searched for more books to add to my holiday reading list, I came across Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black. The story begins with the king buying a bright red cloth from the market. The cloth was used to make a gift for the princess. Once the gift was complete, the leftover scraps were placed outside the back door of the castle.
The story continued with someone finding the scraps and taking them home to make an item for a family member. Each time the scraps were placed outside a door and another person received a gift. By the end of the story, the smallest animal around received a gift from the last piece of red cloth.
Just Right for Christmas was a heartwarming tale of giving during the Christmas season. This book can be used to begin a discussion about the joy of giving or helping, not just during the Holidays, but at other times of the year.
The next time you get together with the uncles and antlers in your family, turn it into a wacky celebration. Make it a joyous, just right occasion.
What’s on your reading list for the upcoming Holiday season?
by Wendy Lawrence
I have a gorgeous book for you today, a story of a girl and a penguin told entirely in whites, blues, and yellows. White mostly for the snow, blues for the penguin and the girl’s snowsuit, yellows for her hat, his feet.
Title: Flora and the Penguin
Author/Illustrator: Molly Idle
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 0 – 6 (I usually think kids need to be a little older to get books without words, but this is a story anyone, even the youngest, would love to look at.)
There are no words, and I have mixed feelings about books without words. On the one had, I love them. The illustrations tend to be powerful and emotional. The stories tend to be mixed with a certain kind of humor that can only be told without words. (Remember Flashlight and the raccoon pointing the light back at the boy?) On the other hand, when I’m “reading” them to my kids, which is clearly the wrong verb, I’m sometimes at a loss.
Do I describe the pictures? But if I do that, which sometimes I do, then I’m just writing the words myself, and that seems lame, because even though I call myself a writer, I don’t think that the words I’m using would be any better than the words the author might have used and, in the end, decided not to.
Or do I remain quiet and just flip the pages, letting my mind and my son’s mind wander through the story? But then sometimes he gets mad, and doesn’t believe me when I say there are no words.
Or do I ask him to tell the story? Ask him what he sees? Ask him to describe?
Usually, I settle for a mix of all three. Which is probably what the authors intend. Plus, it has the added benefit of forcing interaction with the book! Which is why I started this blog in the first place! So bring it on, books that demand me to do more than think about the laundry while reciting words my brain has long since memorized!
Flora and the Penguin is a great one for this because the story is told so obviously. Also, it adds to the interactive nature of the book with tabs that your kids can flip. Flora starts ice skating, she finds a penguin. She ice skates with the penguin. The penguin disappears. She is a little sad. Penguin brings her a fish. She throws it back in the water. The penguin is a little sad. There is resolution and love in the end. It’s a super sweet book with beautiful colors and lines and surprise. With the snow on its way, it would make a great fall or winter birthday present or a gift for the winter holidays!