Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

February 4, 2015

Can I hear it for the series?

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:

droon1The 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.avantia1

Oliver Moon is one of my favorites to recommend. It’s really fun, about a boy in olivermoonmagic 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!

February 1, 2015

Once Upon a time

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.

Title: The Knot Fairy Author: Bobbie Hinman Illustrator: Kristi Bridgeman Gener: Picture Book Ages: 3-7

Title: The Knot Fairy
Author: Bobbie Hinman
Illustrator: Kristi Bridgeman
Gener: Picture Book
Ages: 3-7

Title: The Sock Fairy Author: Bobbie Hinman Illustrator: Kristi Bridgeman Genre: Picture Book Ages: 3-7

Title: The Sock Fairy
Author: Bobbie Hinman
Illustrator: Kristi Bridgeman
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 3-7

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.

December 31, 2014

I’m Bored

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.

Title: I'm Bored Author: Michael Ian Black Illustrator: Debbie Ridpath Ohi Genre: Picture book Ages: 3-8

Title: I’m Bored
Author: Michael Ian Black
Illustrator: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Genre: Picture book
Ages: 3-8

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.

Title: Bored Bill Author/Illustrator: Liz Pichon Genre: Picture book Ages: 4 &up

Title: Bored Bill
Author/Illustrator: Liz Pichon
Genre: Picture book
Ages: 4 &up

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.

Title: Bored! Bored! Bored! Author/Illustrator: Jill Newton Genre: Picture book Ages: 4-8

Title: Bored! Bored! Bored!
Author/Illustrator: Jill Newton
Genre: Picture book
Ages: 4-8

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!

December 7, 2014

Uncles and antlers for the holiday

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.

Title: uncles and antlers Illustrator: Brian Floca Genre: Picture Book Ages: 3-6

Title: uncles and antlers
Illustrator: Brian Floca
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 3-6

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.

Title: Just Right for Christmas Author: Birdie Black Illustrator: Rosalind Beardshaw Genre: Picture book Age: 3-7

Title: Just Right for Christmas
Author: Birdie Black
Illustrator: Rosalind Beardshaw
Genre: Picture book
Age: 3-7

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?

November 2, 2014

America Recycles Day – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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.

Author: Steven Kroll Illustrator: Steve Cox Ages: 4-8 years

Author: Steven Kroll
Illustrator: Steve Cox
Ages: 4-8 years

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.

Author Carol Sirrine Ages 8-14 years

Author: Carol Sirrine
Ages: 8-14 years

Do you have a suggestion of things to do for America Recycles Day or a favorite book related to recycling?

September 12, 2014

play with your books in Photoplay!

by Wendy Lawrence

When I saw this book, I immediately wanted to buy a copy for every kid I knew. I settled for only one and gave it to an artistic niece as I thought its subtleties might be lost on my younger boys, whose art tends to be a bit more on the abstract side. But I love everything about this book and think you will too. It would make a really nice–and unique–gift for your next birthday party or (dare I mention it yet) the holiday season.

photoplayTitle: Photoplay!
Author: M.J. Bronstein
Genre: Picture Book with a twist–you draw some of the pictures!
Ages: 5 and up

This is an interactive picture book with photographic pages that have pieces missing, just asking for your young artist to fill in the spaces. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s the book trailer:

I love the way this book allows kids to interact with their reading and make their art a conversation between the author and themselves. Maybe if you ask nicely, they’ll let you play too, and you can talk to your own kid through the pictures you each add! And after you do, you can check out what others have done in the gallery, or even email in your own work!

http://www.inthisplayground.com/photoplay/fotoplay-page-archive-made-by-you/

 

September 5, 2014

If you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to summer…

A little while ago, I wrote about A Warm Winter Tail, by Carrie A. Pearson. It will be time to read that soon, but wait. Not. Quite. Yet. My tomatoes still aren’t yet red. My grass is still green (and I guess at this point it will remain that way). And the kids just got dropped off at school a few hours ago. So there’s time. And what is there time for? How about Person’s latest book, A Cool Summer Tail.

Like the first one, it starts with the voice of a child:

How do humans stay cool in the summer, Mama?
Do they hang out their tongues,

like a spring that’s been sprung,
breathing fast in and out like this?

Kids will learn how other animals adapt to the warm summer months through the illustrations and the words which tells us what humans don’t do, but what animals clearly do.

coolsummertailTitle: A Cool Summer Tail
Author: Carrie A Pearson
Illustrator: Christina Wald
Genre: Picture Book, Science
Ages: 2 – 6

Check out this book and use it as a great reference for talking about the changing seasons–very apt right now–and how animals adapt differently than humans. I also think it would be fun to talk about which of the adaptations humans CAN do (lay on the cool dirt like a bear, for example, even if we don’t often), and which we definitely CAN’T (spread our wings for shade like a butterfly).

September 2, 2014

Kick off the school year with reading

Title: Dino-Football Author: Lisa Wheeler Illustrator: Barry Gott Genre: Picture book Ages: 5-8yrs

Title: Dino-Football
Author: Lisa Wheeler
Illustrator: Barry Gott
Genre: Picture book
   Ages: 5-8yrs

By Angela Verges

It’s the time of year where parents are kicking into gear for the start of another school year. In addition to back to school season, it is the beginning of football season for my family. My teen son has played football since he was a little tyke.

We decided to welcome the season by selecting some of our favorite football themed books to read. One of my favorite picture books is Dino-Football by Lisa Wheeler and Barry Gott. The author uses rhyme to tell the story of the Greenblade Snackers and the Redscales on the gridiron.

 

The illustrator brings the story to life with colorful, active Dino’s. There’s an interception and even an end zone dance by one of the Dino’s. Did you know that Dino’s tailgate before a game? You have to check out the story to see what I mean.

One of my son’s favorite football books is Kickoff! by Tiki and Ronde Barber. This chapter book was inspired by the childhood of former NFL football players (and twin brothers) Tiki and Ronde Barber. My son has always been a reluctant reader, to find something that he likes to read speaks volumes about that book.

Title: Kickoff! Author: Tiki and Ronde Barber Genre: Chapter book Ages: 8-12yrs

Title: Kickoff!
Author: Tiki and Ronde Barber
Genre: Chapter book
Ages: 8-12yrs

 

I liked reading Kickoff! because of the underlying theme of teamwork and perseverance. My son liked the book because he could relate to the characters.

If your child is feeling like he has the back to school blues, huddle up and select a book to kick off his new season of school.

What book would you select to read to kick off the back to school season?

August 25, 2014

scared yet?

Wendy Lawrenceby Wendy Lawrence

When my son first pointed to the Goosebumps books at the library, I was skeptical. I’ve seen one “scary” movie in my whole life. (I was dragged there more or less against my will. I spent almost the whole movie with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears.) Another example: I used to love the show The Closer. But I would start watching at the 15 minute mark to avoid the violence. Seriously. You should try it sometime–it’s more G-rated AND makes the mystery even harder to figure out because first you have to figure out what happened.

goosebumpsTitle: How I met my monster
Author: R.L. Stine
Ages: 6 and up
Genre: Horror, but not all that bad :)

But I digress. Goosebumps is NOT a series I would have picked out as a child. In fact, I wasn’t even super excited to read it now. But the things we do for our kids, right? I read one of them. And I liked it so much, I read another. Then I let my 6yo read them. Here’s the scoop:

- They are not that scary! At all! And this is from a true wimp! The covers are the scariest part of the book by far. In one of the books I read, a kid is given a shrunken head as a gift that starts to move and things, but doesn’t do anything too terrible. I read another one in which the main character thinks his new friend is a monster, but no one believes him. Finally he realizes that not only is that friend a monster, but so is his best friend, his parents–and even him! But they are friendly monsters, at least to each other.

- Now, they aren’t without scare. In the monster book above, for example, the boy has a repeated nightmare about a monster scaring him while he’s swimming. The description of the dream could be scary but it is, at least, just a dream.

- I only read 2, but my son spent most of the summer engrossed in this series, and he thinks that some of the books were scarier than others. Of course, he loves that, and my guess is that any child who would read a book with a cover like these would love it just the same. To be safe, I would start with the original series. If your kid likes those, you can move on to the others, like Horrorland, or Most Wanted.

Some of the Goosebumps books have a neat twist at the end. My son read one where the main character claimed to have a best friend who was invisible. In the end, you realize he DOES have an invisible friend, and that invisible friend stays that way because they are a monster–which when described, you realize is just a human. And then you realize that all the main characters all along were alien creatures. I like that, because I like that it’s teaching my son to read carefully and understand more complex books. (Yes, I said complex in a post about Goosebumps.) He didn’t understand the twist at first and had to ask about it, but then when he read another one with a similar twist, he got it! Reading comprehension success! And all because of some children’s horror stories! Which just goes to show–the important thing is that they are reading.

Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone when choosing books for your child? Let me know which books it was for and how it went!

August 9, 2014

Hooping for fun and fitness

By Angela Verges

Have you heard the saying, “what goes around, comes around?” Now apply that to the Hula Hoop. That hoop that goes swish, swish and round and round can be used for your fitness routine.

Hula Hooping for fun

Hula Hooping for fun

As a young girl, I remember competing in a neighborhood hula hoop contest. There were a few of us who thought we were the best. We could swirl the hoop around our neck, our knees and even one leg. Arms in the air and hips swaying were the ways we kept the hoop moving.

The hula hoop craze is still around, some like to do it for fun while others engage for fitness. I once challenged my kids to a hula hoop competition during a backyard picnic. They thought old people couldn’t hoop. It took a few attempts, but I managed to keep the hoop going for several revolutions.

When I read The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin, a flood of memories surfaced. The story opened with the main character saying, “Today is the day I’m going to beat Jamara Johnson at hooping.” I was instantly transplanted to a summer’s day in fourth grade standing in my grandmother’s yard with a hula hoop. I had no other care in the world except practicing with my hoop.

Title: The Hula Hoopin' Queen Author: Thelma Lynne Godin Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Title: The Hula Hoopin’ Queen
Author: Thelma Lynne Godin
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The main character Kameeka had a Hula Hoopin’ itch. She was so focused on becoming the Hulu-Hoopin’ Queen that she accidentally ruined the birthday cake that her mother was making for a special neighbor. The combination of lively language and detailed illustrations could easily cause the reader to want to swish and swirl a hula hoop with the characters.

After you’re done swishing and swaying through The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen with you child, check out Hooping-A Revolutionary Fitness Program by Christabel Zamor. This is a book for grown-ups that contains 50 step by step exercises to do with a hula hoop. There is also a 40 minute DVD that accompanies the book.

Title: Hooping - A Revolutionary Fitness Program Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane Conrad

Title: Hooping – A Revolutionary Fitness Program
Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane Conrad

Title: Hooping – A Revolutionary Fitness Program Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane ConradTitle: Hooping – A Revolutionary Fitness Program
Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane ConradCreate a challenge at home that includes fitness and a hula hoop. You could set up challenge stations.

Station 1 Hula hoop for 15 seconds with the hoop on an arm or around the knees.
Station 2 Walk forward a few inches while hooping.
Station 3 Clap your hands 5 times while hooping (slow hand claps are allowed).
Station 4 Hula hoop with more than one hoop for 5 seconds.
Station 5 Toss a football through a hula hoop.

Are you convinced yet that hula hooping can include fun and fitness? Grab a hoop and start going round and round.

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