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!
By Angela Verges
Do you have a child who likes to collect…stuff? Over the years my son has collected football trading cards, Yu-gi-oh cards and a bunch of other things. A couple of times a year I would encourage him give away some of the things he no longer played with. The task was anything but pleasant.
November 15th is America Recycles Day. If you have a child who likes to hold onto things forever, this is a great time to introduce the concept of recycling. This task may require you to use creativity. When I attempted to help my son part with some of his old toys, he responded with, “Don’t throw that away, I still play with that.”
If you have a little pack rat who likes to keep everything, he might enjoy reading Stuff! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This is a story about a little pack rat named Pinch who keeps everything from magazines to toy cars, boats and games. Pinch had so much stuff that it was spilling onto the street.
You will have to read the story to find out what Pinch does to reduce, reuse and recycle. Expand your child’s knowledge of recycling by creating green crafts. You can find a variety of projects in the book Cool Crafts with old Wrappers, Cans, and Bottles by Carol Sirrine.
Cool Crafts tells you how to make projects reusing items you already have. Did you know you could make Itty Bitty Frames using metal bottle caps? It’s as simple as gluing a magazine a small picture into the cap and adding a magnet strip.
Do you have a suggestion of things to do for America Recycles Day or a favorite book related to recycling?
by Wendy Lawrence
The illustrations in this book are stunning. Junzo Terada is the celebrated artist behind them. They are full of retro-gorgeous colors like real red, a soft blue, yellows, and greens and browns. The images are slightly splotched (that’s a terrible description from someone who is obviously NOT an artist) with patches of white and gold, making them even appear old.
The story is a little bit retro, too. It’s a toy store story. And a forgotten toy, kind of like Corduroy. Tabi the mouse cleans the store at night and loves Max more than anything, but tried to make the very serious dog with a somewhat unhappy face more likable so he will get taken home, too. The story is simple and predictable with a happy ending, which is pleasantly old-fashioned. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the new things going on in picture books these days, but sometimes you don’t feel like a zombie robot or a creepy carrot or using all your energy mixing pretend paints.
Sometimes you just want a nice story. With nice characters. And undescribably nice–beautiful, too, and poignant–illustrations.
I think the title of this book Robot Burb Head Smartypants, pretty much says all you need to know. Our favorite robots from the totally awesome Robot Zombie Frankenstein book by Annette Simon are back. Only this time they are trying to teach you things. Like counting. And saying the alphabet. But, inevitably, burping gets in the way. So as you can see, there is NOTHING NOT to like about this book! It’s phenomenally awesome.
Here’s a sample page:
Seriously. If you need more than that, I can’t help you. Well, okay, I can give you one more reason to get this book. The illustrations–digital images made of geometric shapes mixed with real photographic images–are as awesome as the text. So there. And check out Robot Zombie Frankenstein too!
by Wendy Lawrence
I was super excited when this book landed on my doorstep. Its predecessor, Press Here is one of our longtime family favorites. (If you don’t know that one, and unexpectedly interactive book of colors, definitely check out the link above.)
Mix it Up! uses the same principles of Press Here, but adds a whole dimension of colors and how they are made. Kids mix their fingers on the paint illustrations and make their own colors as if they were mixing paints themselves. What happens when you rub your finger on the blue then dip it in the yellow? Turn the pages to find out! What about if one page has a red dot and the opposite page has a yellow dot and you close them together? Turn the page again! What about if you mix a bunch of colors with white? Or with black?
Kids will love playing with this book. And when you are done, they will love playing with paint! You could even really easily let your kids recreate this whole book with a simple supply of finger paints. How much fun would that be?
by Wendy Lawrence
It starts with a mother bird who says “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” But the youngest only remembers “Tell Peter: Hit pop flies and homers.” That changes to “Tell Peter: Prop planes are for fliers.”
The game of telephone, played by birds on a telephone wire, appropriately enough, gets out of hand at one point:
Tell Peter: There’s a giant monster lobster named Homer! He smells like socks and he breathes red fire! His eyes blaze like stars and he rides a crocodile that flies and he’s coming to this wire! Tell Peter to fly! Fly far far away! He’s too young to be somebody’s dinner!
Then there is one of those beautifully brilliant pages with no words. Where an older owl gives this latest message the kind of look that parents sometimes give the younger set. And he turns and says “Hey, Peter.” Which is another of my favorite pages. I love that it slows down a little. Then he straightens his glasses and says “You mom says fly home for dinner.”
:) Which made me love the book. Because really, as parents, doesn’t that just sum up the whole job? Yes, it’s nice to have fun with the kids, but sometimes, when dinner is on the table and the craziness is out of hand, it’s up to us to cut out the monsters and the crocodiles and boil everything down to the main point.
That and the illustrations. Which are gorgeous.