Monday, April 24, 2017

Life on Mars review

Life on Mars

A young astronaut is absolutely sure there is life to be found on Mars. He sets off on a solitary mission, determined to prove the naysayers wrong. But when he arrives, equipped with a package of cupcakes as a gift, he sees nothing but a nearly barren planet. Finally, he spies a single flower and packs it away to take back to Earth as proof that there is indeed life on Mars.(goodreads summary)

Everyone thinks this cute little Astronaut is crazy because he believes that there is life on Mars.  He is determined to prove them wrong and sets out on a a mission to find it.  He also brings along a special gift of chocolate cupcakes to offer just in case he finds anyone living there. But when he discovers the planet to be cold, barren and possibly uninhabitable he must admit he could be wrong himself!  All the while the reader sees an alien life form following him around that he does not know is there.  In the end, he discovers a few surprises but  one that will leave him second thoughts on his long journey back home.  

This is a fun story with subtle and sweet humor that kids will enjoy.  They will giggle when they see the Martian following the boy around as he seems unaware on his quest for life and that only the reader knows that it is there.  The text is simple and short for reading while the illustrations depict the dark, gloomy planet well giving you the feeling of what it could be like in outer space.  Any book by this author is a good choice for young kids and I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title:  Life on Mars
Author:  Jon Agee
Pub date:  February 2017, Dial Books
Genre:  picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Friday, April 21, 2017

10 Things I can do to help my World review

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World

Even young children are eager to help the environment — and here is a bright, inviting novelty book that offers simple ways to make a difference.(goodreads summary)

This Saturday, April 22nd is Earth Day and to help celebrate here is a wonderful book that covers a very important topic! It is never to early to begin teaching children the importance of taking care of our planet and this book is a great start to getting the little ones thinking about what they can do to help our environment.  It offers suggestions that can be done in a simplistic way such as turning off the light when you leave the room or making sure you throw away your trash and not leave it on the ground.  It also opens up a great discussion opportunity about recycling or even my favorite thing to do upcycle things for other purposes.  The pages are large, vivid and bold in color while the layout includes a flap so that when you lift it you find an answer to what kids can do which also makes it fun for learning.  The answer includes a brief explanation as to why that act is so important.  The reading works well either in a large group setting or one-on-one. By the end of this book kids will think of even more ways to help keep our world beautiful not only for ourselves but for future generations.  My favorite page is the front cover which has a stamp marked that this book was made from 100% recycled material! I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~   

Title: 10 Things I can do to help my World
Author:  Melanie Walsh
Pub date:  August 2008,   Candlewick Press
Genre:  non fiction
Paperback, 40 pgs.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Children's Garden review

The Children's Garden: Loads of Things to Make and Grow

A garden can be a place for discovery, creativity and fun, and a space that encourages children to enjoy and engage with the natural world.(goodreads summary)

Do you have an interest in building and tending a garden, looking for bugs, doing crafts and outdoor games or just enjoy being outside getting fresh air on a nice day? This book covers over 52 hands-on activities with some fun and engaging seasonal ideas that will help get the family out into the garden.  Not only is getting outdoors healthy for our kids but garden discovery stimulates the senses and brain. Inside it is divided into the four seasons and offering plenty of different ideas you can do for each one.  In Spring, you can start with planting seeds and plants in a pot or recycled old handbag or maybe you would like to make a beast habitat out of pallets and bricks for observing critters or bugs.  Summer arrives with butterflies, potato print art, outdoor games on the grass and nature hikes. Soon it will be Fall and you can make pies with your fall harvest, plant bulbs for spring or just enjoy the autumn colors. Winter is not left out because we can still make a compost bin or feed our bird friends with homemade feeders.  It offers information on just about everything pertaining to gardens which makes for a great educational opportunity as well. There are bound to be a few ideas to spark the creativity and help find your own sense of place in the garden.  Many things in the book seem geared for the older child but activities could be tailored towards younger ones by just using your imagination to change around or use proper supervision.  I definitely feel it is never to early to get kids outdoors to learn in nature!  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 5 and up.~

Title:  The Children's Garden
Author:  Matthew Appleby
Pub. date:  March 2016, Frances Lincoln
Genre: non fiction
Hardcover, 144 pgs.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Bunny's Book Club review

Bunny's Book Club

It tells the story of a book-loving bunny who sneaks into the town library and borrows books for all his forest friends.(goodreads summary)

A book loving bunny is at a loss when the summer reading program moves indoors because the weather turns cold.  So one night, Bunny sees an opportunity sneaking into the library through the book return and is amazed by all the books he finds.  Each night he returns collecting new ones and soon his little home is bursting with many interesting stories ! One-by-one Bunny's forest friends start to wonder his whereabouts and decides to let them in on his secret by taking them to the library.  With much curiosity, the critters discover wonderful choices to read for themselves. Suddenly, the librarian comes in and catches the group! There are rules in the library but she offers them an unexpected surprise that will help keep their love of reading books alive.  

I knew when I saw this sweet cover that I would find a delightful story inside.  This charming book is perfect for a library story time or just snuggling up to read aloud to your child. The soft watercolor illustrations add to the whimsy of the story with cute character expression and detail. I enjoyed the subtle humor and will make kids giggle as porcupine asks about a book on balloons to read or when bear gets stuck in the book drop causing a delay.  While the animals explore all that the library has to offer, this book sends a positive message on reading, adventures, imagination and finding that just right book. In the end, Bunny has a book club that just may inspire one in your classroom or home. I am definitely glad I found this story to share.  I hope to see more bunny loving book stories by this author and illustrator in the future.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title:   Bunny's Book Club
Author: Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Pub. date:  February 2017, Doubleday
Genre:  picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Over and Under the Pond review

Over and Under the Pond

In this book, readers will discover the plants and animals that make up the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain pond.(goodreads summary)

A boy and his mother paddle across a pond exploring all that it has to offer while learning about one of our most diverse ecosystems. This beautifully written story will take you along on the journey as they glide silently in a canoe discovering the hidden world over and under a pond.  They find turtles, various birds, insects, tadpoles and many animals who call this special place home. The illustrations are peaceful and the gentle text express the feeling of calmness during reading. Each page details how the different creatures are dependent on one another and the pond for their survival.  Included at the end is a wonderful note from the author about the importance of ponds/wetlands and the interconnected community along with information about the animals you will find in the story.  So many things are threatening our environment and changing it at an alarming rate. Sharing this book with our children will help teach them about the importance and preserving these amazing ecosystems for themselves and future generations.  After reading this book,  I was inspired to add canoeing in Northern Wisconsin and other states on my bucket list!  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4 and up.~ 

You may also enjoy:  Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Title:  Over and Under the Pond
Author: Kate Messner
Pub. date:  March 2017, Chronicle Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 48 pgs.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Get Crafty review

Get Crafty: Fun, Creative Crafts for Children

'Get Crafty' is a craft book for everyone. You do not need to have any previous art or craft experience to enjoy the crafts included.(goodreads summary)

With the snowstorms currently around the country, it seems like winter is not planning on going away anytime soon. To help ease with cabin fever or maybe spring break is just around the corner, here is a fun crafting book to share with the family.  What I found inside was a wonderful variety of simple craft ideas that will keep those kids inspired for a few hours.  Not only is crafting fun for for all ages but it also encourages motor development and social skills, eye/hand coordination and sparks the imagination!

After looking it over there were several interesting ideas that stood out. For example; salt dough snowmen, paper mache` vase, driftwood sailboats, decorated pirate hat, butterfly masks, mini ice cream shop, mess-free dyed pasta, pencil snake toppers, mini tea party cups, painting marshmallow people and dolly puppets made from toilet paper rolls just to highlight on a few. There are also sections on celebrations and holiday themed crafts for the year.  Each project lists things needed (some you may even have around the house now), detailed instructions and included are bright, vivid photographs showing a step-by-step process. The author placed crafting tips as a side note at the bottom of the pages that are helpful suggestions too. The various ideas are creative with a few new ones I have not seen before and are easy enough to keep the attention spans going for several hours.  These all can be done either one-on-one or with a larger group of kids for a planned party.  Any time of year can be a good time for crafting but these ideas can be done either inside or taken outside on a sunny day.

Spending quality family time together is so important today. Sometimes we just need to unplug from this hectic world and take a day to let those creative juices flow.  This book will help make those special moments together memorable not only for you but for your children as well.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-10.~

Title:  Get Crafty - Fun, Creative Crafts for Children
Author: Ali Coghlan
Pub. date:   February 2017, Mercier
Genre: nonfiction
Hardcover, 192 pgs.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mouse and Hippo review

Mouse and Hippo

Mouse creates a painting for his new friend Hippo—and Hippo returns the kindness in an unlikely way—in this delightful story about doing your best to make a friend happy!(goodreads summary)

A little mouse finds the perfect rock in a lake to paint a picture.  His painting spot turns out to be a resting hippopotamus when it suddenly moves and tosses him into the water. Unfortunately, Mouse cannot swim but Hippo saves him.  Mouse would like to paint Hippo's portrait as a thank you for rescuing him.  Hippo is so inspired by Mouses artwork that he also wants to paint a portrait of mouse to share with him.  This is a cute and funny story about two very unlikely friends with the appreciation for each others artwork and point-of-view When the characters talk, the text is in different colors differentiating between hippo and mouse speaking.  It is simple and short making for an easy read-aloud. There is also a gentle tone of politeness between the two in conversation as the new pair develop a special friendship. The illustrations help in making their personalities stand out and in the end a bit of problem solving adds to the humor of the story of how things are seen from different perspectives. I think this is a "just right" book for ages 3-6.~

Title:  Mouse and Hippo
Author:  Mike Twohy
Pub. date: February 2017, Simon & Schuster
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

All the Answers review

All the Answers

What if your pencil had all the answers? Would you ace every test? Would you know what your teachers were thinking? When Ava Anderson finds a scratched up pencil she doodles like she would with any other pencil. But when she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, she hears a clear answer in a voice no one else seems to hear.(goodreads summary)

In the family's kitchen drawer, Middle Schooler Ava Anderson finds a very unusual pencil. It looks ordinary enough but it seems to have a magical power.  When she writes a question with it, there is a voice that only she can hear giving the answer.  Feeling anxious about a math quiz, she takes the pencil to school to see if it would help her on the test.  She then decides to show her best friend Sophie. The pair cause some unexpected results when they use it on the kids at school fooling them with their so called psychic ability.  As Ava becomes more reliant on the pencil, she asks some personal questions about her family but then wonders if there are some answers that are best not knowing.

If I had a magical pencil, I'm not sure if I would want to know answers to my many questions. Although, it does make me somewhat curious and it might be intriguing for kids, as in this story from one of my favorite authors for middle grade readers.  Kids will connect to Ava's worry's about test taking, friendships, personal family issues, fear of trying out for the jazz band, track and her upcoming field trip to the obstacle course. Her mild personality makes for a likeable character and the family interactions were touching throughout the story. Especially when it comes to the girls wanting to do good with the pencil helping the residents find happiness at her grandfather's nursing home. She found that her grumpy grandpa's favorite jazz artist was Johnny Hodges and taught herself to play his favorite song on her saxophone passing on instant joy for him.  Another key moment for Ava was after the pencil told her about her mom's unknown cancer and only she knew of the diagnosis. So when her mom was going to cancel a doctors appointment to accompany her on the field trip, Ava found the strength within herself to face her fear of the challenge course and do it on her own so her mom could keep it.  I also liked how the other kids cheered her on with encouragement and reading her accomplishment was heartwarming. She amazed herself so much completing it that she felt like she could take on anything. There were many more great character developments throughout not only for Ava, but also for the many other characters as well. I originally thought this book was going to be a fantasy read about a magical pencil. Instead, it turned out to be a wonderful realistic coming of age story touching on many topics such as; anxiety issues, rightful thinking, doing good for others, death, the possible cancer of a parent and facing your fears. I think this is a "just right " book for ages 9-12.~

Title:  All the Answers
Author: Kate Messner
Pub. date:   January 2015, Bloomsbury
Genre: realistic fiction
Hardcover, 256 pgs.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Chicken Story Time review

Chicken Story Time

A wonderfully silly take on library story time that s perfect for children, chickens, and everyone in between.(goodreads summary)

You can never have enough children at library story time but what about too many chickens?  At first, only one chicken shows up to listen to the librarian read a story to the group . But as each week passes more and more chickens stop by. This was a funny and silly book that would be a quick read aloud for preschoolers.  The wording is simple but the pages are bold, colorful and fun to look at.  With the combination of too many children and chickens, kids will laugh at all the mayhem happening. When things get out of hand, the librarian finds a nice solution to regain control of the group.  Although the story is short, the illustrations add many extras to see.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-5.~

Title:  Chicken Story Time
Author:  Sandy Asher
Pub. date:  December 2016, Dial Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Can I Tell You a Secret? review

Can I Tell You A Secret?

A frog named Monty tells readers his dark secret.....(goodreads summary) 

Little Monty the frog has a secret that he is not sure he wants to share.  He might though if he is absolutely certain that you can keep his secret? Once he knows he can count on you, we soon learn that he cannot swim. That does seem a bit unusual since he is a frog but he does have some quick explanations.   To overcome his fears, Monty is in need of some help and this delightful book engages the reader in doing just so.  

In this sweet story about facing fears, Monty finds a friend in the reader and the encouragement to let his parents know that he is afraid of waterIt will give children a sense of relief that having certain fears are normal and talking to a trusted friend or adult can help with those feelings.  The gentle text and illustrations make it feel as if Monty is actually talking to you. He has the cutest facial expressions that definitely makes him a lovable character. Another nicely done book by one of my favorite authors.  I think this a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title: Can I Tell You a Secret?
Author:  Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Pub date:  May 2016, Harper Collins
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Big Bear, Small Mouse review

Big Bear, Small Mouse

Bear is big, big, big, and mouse is small, small, small but these friends stick together through all the highs and lows! (goodreads summary)

We can never have enough new books that will help teach kids!  Once again, here is another nice concept story featuring Bear and Mouse who are big and small.  As the two wander through the forest, they are finding many other opposites amongst their other friends.  The text is large, repetitive and the opposite words stand out making it easier for learning and remembering.  Kids could easily read along out loud.  The illustrations are also bright, colorful and cheery with sweet character expressions.  This is a great addition to the many other Bear stories done by this author/illustrator combo.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-5.~

Title: Big Bear, Small Mouse
Author:  Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
Pub. date:  November 2016, Margaret K McElderry Books
Genre: picture books
Hardcover, 32 pgs. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ghostlight review


Avery is looking forward to another summer at Grandma’s farm, at least until her brother says he’s too old for “Kingdom,” the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. Lucky for her, there’s a new kid staying in the cottage down the road: a city boy with a famous dad, Julian’s more than a little full of himself, but he’s also a storyteller like Avery. So when he announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery is eager to join in.(goodreads)

Twelve-year old Avery is spending the summer at her Grandma's Tennessee farm with her older brother Blake.  She meets a boy named Julian whose family is renting a cottage on the same property and is seriously into film making. When he sees an old vacant house called the Hillard House, he knows it is the perfect scenario for a haunted movie.  This empty house is also owned by Avery's Grandmother and for unknown reasons she forbids anyone from going there.  Even though she does not want to disobey her Grandma,  Julian eventually convinces Avery that this is the best place to collaborate on a movie and she gives in to his idea. As the kids explore the creepy old home, they find many strange and ghostly things are beginning to happen.  

Anytime of the year is a great time for a ghost story!  This one was the perfect spine tingling adventure on a cold and windy winter weekend.  The story was suspenseful and just spooky enough to make it a page turner.  Julian and Avery dove into the history of the small town and the Hillard House as their inspiration for their filming.  But as the project unfolded, they found themselves questioning some unexpected and bizarre paranormal events happening at the house.  My heart raced more than once as I visualized the ghostly activity by the descriptive details of doors slamming or Avery feeling the sudden temperature change of cold to hot while entering a room I like it when authors offer something inspiring in their writing for their young readers as well. For example, in this book the idea of historical research, creativity and film making.  The characters worked together learning about history while building a story off their own findings about the abandoned house and using that energy to produce a real movie. Unfortunately, Avery did learn a lesson when she placed her trust in Julian and he eventually did something that strained the relationship.  But it did give Avery the strength and motivation to start and finish her own filming project while she learned about the history of her family and the secrets hidden in the small community around her.  Once she realized the truth behind the ghostly happenings, she knew she needed to tell it to others to help release the ghost and free it from its sorrows to finally rest in peace.  Within each character is a story of its own as well and the author touched on things like fear, mental illness, regret, lying and sibling disconnect.  The easy flowing steady pace pulls the reader into the mystery until the story wraps up in the end with an interesting twist.  It gives you second thoughts about having secrets, judgement or blame and the impacts on society without knowing all the facts first.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 11-14.~

Another wonderful ghost story for young adults by Sonia Gensler -
The Revenant

Title: Ghostlight
Author: Sonia Gensler
Pub. date:  August 2015, Knopf Books
Genre: middle grade fiction
Hardcover,   256 pgs.