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.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Waiting for Snow review

Waiting for Snow

Badger cannot wait one more minute for it to snow. When his friend Hedgehog explains that everything comes in its time, Badger is as unconvinced and impatient as ever. But Badger’s friends have a few tricks up their sleeve to try to get the snow’s attention and distract their pal in the meantime.(goodreads summary)

Badger is trying hard to be patient for snow to arrive. Although his friend Hedgehog reminds him "it will snow in snows time". Badger decides he will wake up the snow from the sky by banging on pots and pansWhen the other forest friends come running from all the commotion, they suggest ways of their own that might help Badger make snow come a little quicker.

This is a cute story about impatience that would be a fun read just before the first snowfall is due to arrive. Waiting for things can be a challenge especially when it is something like snow!  It is hard to be patient when there are so many fun things a child can do outside in the snow.  The friends thought up some funny ideas like throwing pebbles at the sky to punch holes in the clouds or wearing you pj's backwards.  But Hedgehog demonstrated a different kind of patience, as he explained how certain things always came in their own time.  The illustrations are in soft muted colors and each character is sweet with expression. Best of all, Badger learns in the end that some things are worth the wait if you just have a little patience.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title:  Waiting for Snow
Author: Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Renata Liwska
Pub. date:   November 2016, HMN Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 32 pgs. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Warm Winter Review

A Warm Winter

One cold winter morning Little Mouse ventures out in search of enough firewood to heat his nest. But when he tries to drag his pile home, he realizes everything he’s gathered is much too heavy for him. Maybe his friends can help out, but they’d better hurry, because there’s a blizzard on the way. (goodreads summary)

When a cold little mouse awoke one morning, he decided he needed to seek out firewood to warm himself and his family.  By the time he rounded up a big pile of sticks it was too heavy to bring back home. With a little persistence and a few friends, mouse may end up with a warm house for his family after all.

What caught me at first with this heartwarming story was the intricate detail of the illustrations. At first glance, I thought some parts were actual photographs blended in with the drawings.  But at closer look, the detail in the artwork was astonishing. The woodland animals expressions are sweet as they ponder the situations they encounter.  It sends a nice message about friends working together especially in an unexpected snowstorm when they hit a snag.   This is another charming story about persistence, problem solving and working together with a good end result for all because of teamwork.  With beautiful illustrations this is a wonderful book you could get lost in on a cold winter afternoon with a big mug of hot cocoa.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~  

Title: A Warm Winter
Author: Feridun Oral
Pub. date: October 2016
Publisher: Michael Neugebauer Pub. (English edition, Hong Kong)
Hardcover,  32 pgs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bunny Slopes review

Bunny Slopes

Time to tackle the bunny slope! Shake to help Bunny make it snow, tilt to help Bunny ski down the Slope, and turn to help Bunny escape a cliff in his path. Is there any obstacle Bunny can't conquer? (goodreads summary)

Wearing his bright red scarf, Bunny is ready to take on those ski slopes! But first he has a little trouble heading down that hill!  With the help of its' reader, Bunny overcomes a few hurdles for a special warm and yummy treat in the end. 

I love the concept of interactive books! It is so hard for those little kiddos to sit still for any length of time and these are a wonderful addition to a classroom library.  The story is simple but the text and illustrations make for a fun read. For example, Bunny needs snow and asks the reader to shake the book. When Bunny needs to start downhill, he asks the reader to tilt the book to the right. Kids will giggle when Bunny gets to much snow or finds himself suddenly out of control. The powder-blue and white pages with the pop of red in Bunny's scarf adds to the outdoor winter feel the book offers. This short and easy read would be great when a movement break is needed to get out those inside jiggles. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 2-6.~

Title:  Bunny Slopes
Author: Claudia Rueda
Pub. date: October 2016
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Wish Tree review

The Wish Tree

Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don't believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion Boggan is ready to join Charles on a journey to find out. And along the way, they discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways.(goodreads summary)

Little Charles is hoping to find a wish tree. His siblings tell him there is no such thing but that does not stop him. Charles and his toboggan "Boggan" decide to set out the next day looking for one because he believes it just may be out there.  While on his search, he encounters a few forest animals in need of some help. With the assistance of his trusty friend Boggan, Charles is willing to help each one along his journey to find that special wish tree.

This sweet picture book is perfect for the cold winter days still to come. The gentle and kind nature of Charles' character, along with the charming warm illustrations, gives this story a calm and serene feel during reading.  Children may visualize being out in the quiet of the forest as Charles and Boggan Whishhhh along the soft white snow.  It does make for a good read-aloud as well but the ending did leave me with a bit of question mark.  But afterwards,   I thought it just may offer an opportunity for imagination with discussion.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6. 

Title: The Wish Tree
Author: Kyo Maclear, illustrations by Chris Turnham
Pub. date: September 2016
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Hardcover, 40 pgs

Friday, January 27, 2017

2017 - A New Year and New Goals!


Already it is the end of January!  The new year is the perfect time to reflect, re-evaluate, refresh, and restart.  Every year that "To Do" list gets longer and longer. It always says the same things: eat healthier, exercise, loose weight, purge my house and the list goes on. I'm sure this is the same for many people but I know when I don't accomplish any goals on my list, I feel like I failed myself and my family. But for 2017,  I decided to try harder and will do better. After letting January settle in,  I have found a new perspective and attitude this year to make some different and more achievable goals.  One goal at the top of my list is to read more and get back to blogging.  So I ventured to my local library this past week and found several books I'm looking forward to reading and sharing soon.   They also had copies of a reading challenge to take along and I selected a few ideas to share for a new year of wonderful reading~

                                      Diverse Reading Challenge

              A book by an author you wouldn't normally read.
             *  A book written by someone under 30.
             *  A book over 500 pages.
             *  A book set somewhere you have never been.
             *  A book your mom loved.
             *  A book based totally on the cover.
             *  A book of short stories.
             *  A book that came out the year you were born.
             *  A book of poems.
             *  A book based on a true story.
             *  A book you were suppose to read in school but didn't.
             *  A historical nonfiction book.
             *  A nonfiction book.
             *  A book written over 100 years ago.
             *  A book in a genre you've never read.
             *  A play.
             *  A graphic novel. 
             *  A book you can finish in a day.

Some are easy and others could be a bit of a challenge but that is the purpose. Either way they are some fun and inspirational ideas to kick off a great year of reading.  I'm positive there are many "just right books" out there waiting to find.~