Archive for ‘You (adult) should read it too!’

February 4, 2014

A celebration of hearts – 7 Valentine’s Day activities for families

By Angela Verges

Blog Photo

Do you remember the little Valentine conversation candies? They had messages such as – I Love You, Be Mine and Kiss Me. This Valentine’s Day you can have fun messages such as those found on candy hearts.

Below are 7 fun activities to try with your family. Of course reading can be incorporated into each activity.

1. Heart shaped notes – help your child cut out heart shapes and write messages on them. He could hide a note the day before Valentine’s Day for a sibling or parent to find. A lunch box is one location for a hidden note.
2. Family scavenger hunt – hide heart shaped notes with clues, around the house. Have the final note lead to a special Valentine treat.
3. Read a Valentine story – read a story and a scene from the story (use an animated voice).
4. Make Valentine Play dough – make a batch of white dough and add food coloring or liquid watercolors of your choosing. Click here for a play dough recipe. Don’t forget the heart shaped cookie cutters.
5. Musical Hearts – create a game of musical hearts by cutting heart shapes; number each heart, then place them in a circle on the floor. Write a set of numbers on smaller heart shapes (equal to the number of hearts on your circle. Start the music playing, then stop it at random intervals. Use the smaller hearts with numbers to call a number at random when the music stops. The number called is the winner.
6. Conversation hearts craft – glue conversation hearts to a heart shaped piece of paper. Glue them in a heart shape or create some other design.
7. Valentine message in a bottle – decorate a clear plastic bottle with peel off valentine shapes. Help your child write a message to roll up and slip into the bottle. Tie a ribbon around the neck of the bottle.
After your activities are complete, sit down and enjoy a good Valentine’s Day book. If you’ve read, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, you must read There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Rose by Lucille Colandro.

Title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Rose! Author: Lucille Colandro Genre: Picture Book Ages

Title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Rose!
Author: Lucille Colandro
Genre: Picture Book

The old lady not only swallowed a rose, but some lace, glitter, candy and other stuff. As you near the end of the story you discover why she swallowed the rose and how everything fits together.
Another picture book that I had fun reading was Ruby Valentine Saves the Day by Laurie Friedman. Colorful pictures and clever rhyme brought this story to life.

Title: Ruby Valentine Saves the Day Author: Laurie Friedman Genre: Picture Book Ages: 5-9

Title: Ruby Valentine Saves the Day
Author: Laurie Friedman
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 5-9

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day story or activity?

January 2, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions for kids

The count down to the New Year is done, now what? It’s time for New Year’s Resolutions and keeping warm inside with a good book. Have you talked to the kids about setting goals or creating New Year’s Resolutions? I read an article recently that said that around first grade is a good time to introduce children to the idea of resolutions.     Blog Photo

My boys are teens now so they have a pretty good idea about creating goals and resolutions. However on occasion, I like to give them a few suggestions of my own. Here are a few I would put on their list:

• Complete school assignments AND turn them in on time.
• Complete chores at least once a week without being asked.
• Humor mom sometimes and say, “I’ll be glad to do that for you.”

If you have a tween at home check out Amelia’s Must Keep Resolutions for the Best New Year Ever! By Marissa Moss. The book is set up along the lines of a graphic novel as Amelia lists her resolutions and tells how she plans to keep them.

Title: Amelia's Must-Keep Resolutions for the Best Year Ever! Author/Illustrator: Marissa Moss Genre: Youth Fiction Age: 10-13

Amelia resolves to make her 6th grade year of school better with easy steps to less stress. She comes up with fun resolutions such as:

• Never write a boring book report again.
• Never wear an itchy turtleneck when giving an oral report.
• Try to do homework right after school so she won’t have to get up the next morning to do it.This book has a suggested reading age of 10-13 years and is very easy to follow. The author does a good job relating the scenarios to real life
situations.

 

 

If you have a younger child, Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, by Pat Miller is a picture book worth reading. The story opens with Squirrel pinning up her “Nut-of-the Month” calendar in preparation of the New Year.

Title: Squirrel's New Year's Resolution Author: Pat Miller Illustrator: Kathi Ember Genre: Picture book Age: 5-8

Title: Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution
Author: Pat Miller
Illustrator: Kathi Ember
Genre: Picture book
Age: 5-8

 

When Squirrel hears on the radio that January first is a great time to make a resolution, she doesn’t know what to do. She wonders whether making a resolution is like making a snack. As Squirrel visits her friends she learns more about resolutions and what each of her friends have resolved to do.

Squirrel’s friends try to help her create a resolution by telling her to think of a way to improve herself or to help others. Finally, after having lunch with friends, Squirrel made her very first resolution.

If you haven’t read Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution yet, you can have it read to you by clicking the YouTube video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKMlUI6lJ0I

YouTube Video Credit: babbajessica

If you’re looking for fun ways to introduce New Year’s resolutions to your child, how about throwing a resolution party? As a part of your party you could create resolutions as a family. Cut a piece of construction paper into the shape of a party hat and have your child write his resolution on the cut-out. Post the art work on the fridge with a magnet.

For activities and other resources on creating resolutions check out the Lakeshore Learning website by clicking here.

What do you plan to do differently this year?

August 2, 2013

the secrets of parenting with books

This was a YA book I could NOT put down. I think EVERY SINGLE parent needs to read it right now. And most teens, too. I chose this book for its title and cover. This might make me shallow, but it totally worked. Because Aristotle and Dante DO discover the secrets of the universe, or at least some of them, and they do it in a really realistically teen way.

aristotleanddanteTitle: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author
: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Age: 12 and up

And the cool thing about the parents? Well for starters, they aren’t dead! When is the last time you read a kids’ book where the parents were still alive? Still thinking about that one? Exactly. ALL FOUR parents are involved, and all, despite various issues they might have, are phenomenal role models, or at least doing their best. (And not in a cheesy, role-your-eyes I can’t believe my mom is making me read this book kind of way. Not that your kid would EVER roll his eyes…)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a compelling story about two teenage boys. Both are Mexican-American, which is already an identity with which they struggle, in different ways. And both are discovering sexuality, and again, they discover their own in really different ways. Aristotle is rough around the edges, completely silent inside and out (which makes him a really unique 1st person narrator–he doesn’t understand himself well enough to tell you all the details). Dante is more refined, more talkative, inquisitive. He wants to save the dead bird in the street.

Aristotle and Dante become fast friends and what happens next is nothing less than the story of all boys who grow up. It will, in particular, speak to those teenage boys who are finding out that their own sexuality might be different than the status quo, but I believe this is a book whose teenage angst will speak to all of us: gay, straight, young, and old.

And like I said, this is a book for parents. If you are having a hard time talking with your kids about growing up, having friends, or being gay, please read this book. Give it to your kids to read. And, like Ari’s father, sit down at the kitchen table one day and just start to talk. You might be surprised where it gets you.

If all books were like this, EVERYONE would read kids’ books, everyone would read with their kids, and this blog would be totally irrelevant.

And you don’t have to take MY word for it. This book won the Michael J. Printz Award, the Stonewall Book Award, and the Pura Belpré Award. Seriously. It has three medals on the cover.

If you like this one, I would suggest: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. All are great coming-of-age boy stories with a real MC and real problems in a real world.

August 1, 2013

leeks, boys, and those long afternoons

Today, I’m posting about tough parenting days over at the awesome Leanne Shirtliffe’s IronicMom.com for Whiteboard Wednesday (today making a super special appearance on Thursday!). I’m excited to be there so click here to read my post!

She would post herself, perhaps, but she’s celebrating the awesomeness that is her latest (and firstest!) parenting book, Don’t Lick the Minivan. Leanne is funny, honest (mostly I think), and makes you think you are not alone in the world of parenting.

dontlicktheminivanTitle: Don’t Lick the Minivan
Author: Leanne Shirtliffe
Genre: Parenting, Humor
Ages: Old, or at least those people who feel that way because of their kids :)

Here is a description of her book from IndieBound: (but warning, if you read this, you are going to want to buy it immediately!)

As a woman used to traveling and living the high life in Bangkok, Leanne Shirtliffe recognized the constant fodder for humor while pregnant with twins in Asia’s sin city. But in spite of deep-fried bug cuisine and nurses who cover newborn bassinets with plastic wrap, Shirtliffe manages to keep her babies alive for a year with help from a Coca-Cola deliveryman, several waitresses, and a bra factory. Then she and her husband return home to the isolation of North American suburbia. In Don’t Lick the Minivan, Shirtliffe captures the bizarre aspects of parenting in her edgy, honest voice. She explores the hazards of everyday life with children such as: The birthday party where neighborhood kids took home skin rashes from the second-hand face paint she applied.The time she discovered her twins carving their names into her minivan’s paint with rocks.The funeral she officiated for “Stripper Barbie.”The horror of glitter.And much more A delayed encounter with postpartum depression helps Shirtliffe to realize that even if she can’t teach her kids how to tie their shoelaces, she’s a good enough mom. At least good enough to start saving for her twins’ therapy fund. And possibly her own. Crisply written, Don’t Lick the Minivan will have parents laughing out loud and nodding in agreement. Shirtliffe’s memoir might not replace a therapist, but it is a lot cheaper.

If you are done laughing yet, head on over to see my own post at IronicMom.com.

October 18, 2012

What if someone ELSE could tell your teen it’s going to be okay?

Title: Dear Teen Me
Editors: E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally
Genre: Nonfiction
Age: Upper Middle and High School

Want a great book to read with your teens? Instead of having YOU tell them that things will get better, that they will grow up, that it IS possible to learn from what seem like totally awful life-ending experiences, they can hear it in this book from some of their favorite YA authors. These letters, which the authors wrote to their teen selves, are honest, funny, devastating, and ultimately redeeming. This is a great book for any family that reads together. And if your teen will tolerate it, tell them what you would tell your own teen self if you had the chance. But be honest. Teens can smell a liar faster than a vampire can sniff out a pretty girl.

One author writes about finding a knife in the toolshed. At first she’s surprised there is no blood, then she’s surprised by her parents’ reactions. Ilsa Bick, author of Draw the Dark and Ashes, turns this abrupt and powerful memory from her childhood into an equally powerful lesson for kids today about the mistake her parents were making and how she (and her readers) can learn a different lesson than the one that was being taught to her at the time.

Mark Bieschke, who is the managing editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and author of The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens writes about the night the stole his mom’s car to sneak to a tiny Detroit nightclub. “That night is going to change your life. And no, it’s not because on your way back you make an illegal left-hand turn into the police chief’s personal car…”

Embarrasing moments have their role of course. Geoff Herbach (author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special) starts his letter with “Humiliation and hilarity are closely linked, my little friend. Don’t lie there in bed, your guts churning, as you replay the terrible scene. I’m glad your shirt stuck to the floor.” He then recounts a hilarious break-dancing-gone-bad story. He ends his essay with these wise words: “Don’t beat yourself up, okay? Just relax. Keep dancing by the highway, you splendid little dork.”

Stacey Jay, who wrote Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed, tells it straight. “Misery is misery. I wish I could say that the world will be shiny and wonderful when you’re grown up, but I can’t, because it won’t.” But she does talk about how things get better, and how the really strong friendships that she had as a teenager save her life and then some. She asks her teen self to give them a hug. “From both of us.”

Laura Ellen gives her teenage self some devastating news about the future of her eyesight. But she also has advice on how to stand up to herself when others won’t. And she ends with this always-applicable advice “P.S. PLEASE stop pretending you don’t know the answers in math class! It’s okay to be smarter than the boys. Really. They’ll get over it.” Laua Ellen’s first book, which comes from her experience with legal blindness, has just been released. It’s a teen thriller called Blind Spot.

This is one for the adults too. You’ll find yourself reminiscing about your own funny or awkward or painful or humiliating pasts. Okay, so maybe it’s not for everyone. :)

If you had to write a letter to your own teen self, what would you say? Tell me in the comments. 

June 7, 2012

You don’t have to wear your glove on the correct hand to read these books

Is there anything better than standing in the outfield? The sun on your back and a glove in your hand? If you are a baseball fan, you might not think so. But I think I recently found something slightly better. And that is standing in the outfield, the sun on your back, telling the five-year-old next to you that their glove is on the wrong hand and they should probably switch it over before the batter swings, even though the likelihood of the batter connecting with the ball–much less hitting it to the outfield, even though the outfield in this case is about 18 inches behind second base–are, frankly, low.

I just completed my first (of what I hope will be many) season of assistant tee-ball coaching. It was really the most fun thing a person can do with a few free weekend hours. And so in honor of that, I’d like to suggest a few of my favorite baseball books for all ages, starting with the newborns and going all the way up to the adults. Yep, I’m including you all this time because it wouldn’t be practice without the people in the stands.

Title: Home Run!
Author: David Diehl
Genre: Board Book, Sports
Ages: 0 – 3

The David Diehl sports books were some of my son’s favorite early books. They were the first he learned to “read” by memorizing the words on each page and he was excited to turn the pages and shout out what he remembered. (This one already made the blog, so you can read more about it here if you like.)

 

TitleBaseball Saved Us
Author: Ken Mochizuki
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Genre: Picture Book, Sports
Ages: 2 – 10

I’ve blogged about this book already, but this is a great one for young kids and preschool kids and even elementary students. They will each get something a little different out of it. It’s a very versatile book: the youngest readers will hear a great baseball story and be introduced to some harder topics they will only really understand later. Older readers could use this to talk about more serious historical and ethical issues, especially in a teacher-led discussion. In fact, you could use this book in a middle school class and have the kids do their own picture book on an historical event. That would be interdisciplinary awesomeness! :)

 

TitleFantasy Baseball
Author: Alan Gratz
Genre: Fantasy, Sports
Ages: Upper Elementary and Middle School

I’ve never read this one! But I bought it recently and am excited to. Have you read it? Let me know what you think. He’s a local author and he’s got other baseball books out there, including Samurai Shortstop, if you are interested in more.

 

Title: The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Genre: The Great American Novel (I read recently that this is now a “genre” which I thought was both hysterical and accurate. This books certainly fits within that genre, Moby Dick references and all)
Ages: Adult

I loved this book. It’s a great read for anyone who likes literature and baseball. And if you had to pick only one of the two, I’d probably buy it for a literature-lover before a baseball-lover, although the whole book really does revolve around the sport.

Enjoy your summer, your baseball, and your books!

January 18, 2012

making the world better with “magic trash”

Occasionally, there’s a picture book that’s much more than a picture book. Something for kids and adults who really want to learn about the world. Something colorful, but also political, social, and ecological. Something with a strong message about the world today. This is one of those.

This book combines some powerful images and stories. A boy wants to be an artist, but first joins the army and works in a factory. A neighborhood struggles with poverty, thieves, politics, and the law. And in the end, art finally wins the day, and the Heidelberg project is created.

Regular prose combined with rhymic and poetic verse:

the young boy paints: “brush greens and blues / on wheels and shoes / slosh, slap, and splash magic trash”

the young adult watches his neighborhood fall apart: “Whoo! Spirits whirl. / New Troubles swirl. / Kick, burn, and hurl magic trash.”

the city tries to tear down his urban art projects: “Old houses talk. / Some neighbors squawk. / Crash, bash, and smash magic trash.”

the adult artist succeeds and completes a beautiful project: “Let rockets fly! / Boards tower high. / Bounce, jump, and dance, magic trash!”

Title: Magic Trash
Author: J.H. Shapiro
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Genre: Picture Book, Art, Politics, Poverty
Ages: 4 and up

This book would be great in classrooms and for families who aren’t afraid of a conversation around a story. Talking about what you can do to reduce or reuse your trash, and starting a recycled art project would be fun for anyone on a rainy day.

Do you have a picture book that you think shares a powerful message? Please share it!!

January 12, 2012

Harry Potter for Christmas

I was so excited to open my Harry Potter books for Christmas, I had to blog about it. It’s over at Nashville Parent if you’d like to read.

November 1, 2011

natural parenting if it kills me, aided by THE RHYTHM OF THE FAMILY

“Look, look at that one!” my son screams from the back seat. “And that one. It’s Very, Very, Very beautiful!” There is nothing my son loves more than the fall colors on the trees, and nothing could make me smile more than to hear him wax on about their beauty. Introducing my children to the world they live in is something truly important to me, and it’s something that can be too often overlooked.

In addition to instilling an appreciation for nature in my children, it’s also important for me to bring nature into the home. Right now, I’m on somewhat of a crusade to buy natural items. I consider it an important part of creating a healthy home. Alway in the back of my mind are two things: a responsibility for the planet that seems to have been ingrained in me since growing up in the 90s (when people cared about such things) and the memory of my mother dying way too young from a disease about which we know way too little. I remember the oncologist telling her she couldn’t have conventional strawberries anymore and she should try to eat organic as much as possible. I think about that conversation almost every time I’m at the grocery store, wondering if the $3/pound apples are really worth spending the entire paycheck on. These two thoughts are always with me and since having kids they’ve been percolating, growing, until my desire to buy natural has become somewhat of an obsession.

For example, my kids don’t have a lunch box without at least an hour on the internet trying to find the safest material to transport food. Those plastic cups he used to like to drink from? Sorry, they had BPA; they are gone. And the other ones, without BPA? I’m just going to stay a step ahead of the research this time and get rid of them, too…what are the odds that there is a kind of plastic that is actually healthy for us?

No new purchase is safe from scrutiny: I recently spent probably no less than five hours researching puppet houses and puppets as a present for the kids from their great grandmother. It’s frustrating to me that I can’t find out exactly what things are made of. I finally chose one theatre because I saw a reference to “environmentally-friendly wood” and “non-toxic” paint, although I have no idea what either of those things mean. I found some wool and felt puppets to go with it.

As I take my role of nurturer more and more seriously, I find myself going further and further back to nature. Today, it’s a stainless steel lunch container. Tomorrow, it’s chicken-farming in the backyard. (My husband is really excited about that one.)

Which is why I loved finding this book at a country store in Mazama, Washington. I grabbed it immediately and flipped through it, but I knew I was going to buy it before I even opened the pages. I’ve already read it more than once. I’ve made the strawberry muffin recipe and purchased the ingredients to make my own lotion. The book is a great reminder that you don’t need to buy all the stuff you think you need. There are so many alternatives for making better, simpler, and cheaper options at home.

Chemicals, be damned. I will be a natural mom if it kills all of us.

And my husband thinks it might.

Title: The Rhythm of Family
Author: Amanda Blake Soule with Stephen Soule
Genre: Parenting
Age: Adults

Summary and Review: This book is part how-to guide, part story of a family, part annotated calendar of a wonderful year. Co-written by the mother and father of a family with four (now five if you read their blog) children, they talk about the beautifully natural ways in which they celebrate the seasons, living outdoors and in concert with nature as much as they can. The book itself is a wonderful celebration of the importance of family and the world in which we raise our families. While there are specific recipes and craft ideas, I found it to be more inspiration than resource.

Follow up with your family:

After reading this book, I’ve been inspired to cook more with alternative ingredients–coconut oil instead of butter, brown rice syrup instead of sugar. I bought BPA-free canning jars and am about to start canning my own food. I now make my own face wash and shampoo, and even though those recipes aren’t in this book, it’s the beauty and persuasion of this book that started me on that path. (And the face wash, let me tell you, is amazing! Here’s a link to another blog that describes a make-at-home oil wash if you are interested.)

I have no doubt that if you read this book you may get something entirely different out of it. Maybe it will inspire you to sew or knit. Or maybe it will just make you smile and appreciate how good the simplicity of life with children can be.

August 18, 2011

high school is hard and here are THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

When I think about teasing in school, there are two incidents that come to mind immediately. The first one was 4th grade, when I got glasses. I was SO excited about my glasses and a girl called me “four-eyes”. She was my friend and I think she was just trying to tease me and say something funny. I took it as a compliment. My teacher took it as an insult, though, and talked to her about it. I thought that was ridiculous.

About two years later, I was in the middle school girls’ bathroom when two more girls came rushing in. One was in tears. Sobbing hysterically; I thought someone might have died. When I figured out what was wrong, though, it turned out that one of the boys had called her flat-chested–I forget the terminology he used, but he got the point across. I had no idea how to respond. I really, really, had no idea why she was upset. Because one of the boys said her boobs were small? Really?

That should give you a good picture of me. That’s the nerd I was in middle school (yeah, right, like I’ve changed…)  :), and let me tell you, there are a lot of advantages to traveling socially-unaware through middle and high school in between the cliques and the put-downs.

This book is about someone who wasn’t as lucky. This is about someone who travels right in the middle of the social circles, who tries hard to fit in and who gets trampled on again and again. This is about someone who couldn’t take it anymore. Specifically, it’s about a girl who kills herself and leaves behind a set of tapes explaining why.

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age:  Young Adult, 13 and up

Summary and Review:

Now, nothing is wrong. :) I’m not sure why I’m writing about two books about death right in a row (see my last post about the wonderful story each little bird that sings), but that’s just what I picked up recently. I’ve actually been avoiding this book for awhile now but saw it at a bookstore and decided it was time to read it. It sounds horribly depressing, but it isn’t. And even though the main character and one of the two narrator voices is actually dead (she killed herself before the book begins), it isn’t really about death. It’s more about high school and how we treat each other in high school.

The book is told from the point of view of a boy, one of the thirteen recipients of the tapes. He finds the tapes on his doorstep one day and starts listening. In horror, he realizes the voice he hears is of a girl he knew, a girl he was almost friends with, a girl he wished he had been closer to, narrating her experiences in high school as he walks along the paths she used to walk and visits the sites she used to visit.  He hears about the boy she kissed, the rumors about her that weren’t true, the way she was treated by her peers.

If you are at all interested in YA literature, you’ve heard of this book. It’s as good and as important a book as people say it is. It should be required reading for anyone who has anything to do with high school–especially the teachers who might not remember as acutely as the kids just how much the little stuff hurts.

I do wish I got to know the two main characters a little bit more, but I also liked that I could fill in some of the blanks about their personalities myself. And while I’ve heard others say that the girl who killed herself doesn’t leave a lot of room for sympathy, I disagree.  Yes, she is bitter. Yes, she sounds condescending. But I’m sorry–she’s a teenager, and a depressed, suicidal teenager at that. She’s not beyond blame–that isn’t the point of the story. She’s just the one that couldn’t handle it. The fact that you might not like her only adds to the story–the others didn’t like her much either, but they should have treated her with more respect. It’s a powerful page-turner, and I highly recommend it.

As a mother, I really liked the way the author brought the boys’ mother into the picture. He is clearly a good kid, and she trusts him, but she knows he is lying about what he is up to tonight and whether or not he is okay. But she gives him his space, she allows him to do what he needs to do–miss dinner, stay out late, and listen to the tapes–all without knowing what is going on. And he trusts her enough to ask her to bring him the tapes, even though he knows she will know something is wrong. The malt that he drinks at her suggestion meant so much to me, thinking about my own son in the future, going through a tough time, not able to tell me about it, but able to trust me enough to bring me into the picture for a bit, and to have a milkshake in my honor.

I think this book is an important read for all of us, whether we’ve been there or not. It’s great for high school students to understand the effects of their actions. It’s great for teachers and parents to understand the gravity of the situations their children might be facing–at times adults can trivialize the problems of youth–read this and you will never do that again.

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