Friday, August 31, 2012

Rocket Writes a Story review

Rocket Writes a Story
Rocket loves books and he wants to make his own, but he can't think of a story. Encouraged by the little yellow bird to look closely at the world around him for inspiration, Rocket sets out on a journey. Along the way he discovers small details that he has never noticed before, a timid baby owl who becomes his friend and an idea for a story. (goodreads summary)

I loved the first book How Rocket Learned to Read and this is such a wonderful addition for teaching the reading and writing process. The cute little yellow bird is back as Rocket's teacher and encourages him to sniff out some new words. It combines the love of reading and learning to write a story when Rocket shows interest in writing his own after finding many new words for the word tree.  He's on the right track on how he wants to write his story but finds it is more challenging than he thought once he sits down to write.  He eventually learns how to find his inspiration and when he does writes the best story of a newly found friend . The illustrations are once again colorful, bold and full of cute expression.  Yellow bird is so gentle and encouraging with her tender words, she makes writing a story sound like fun instead of a chore.  A wonderful book to help kids become inspired about reading and writing! I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: Rocket Writes a Story
Author: Tad Hills
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: July 2012, Schwartz & wade
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

You may also like:

How Rocket Learned to Read  How Rocket Learned to Read

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mom, it's my First Day of Kindergarten review

Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten!

It's a child's first day of kindergarten, but who is worried about all the new people and the different things he'll meet--the child? No! The mother. In a refreshing reversal of roles, the child takes it upon himself to comfort and reassure his mother that everything will be fine, she'll get used to him going to big-kid school, and yes, he is ready for the first day of kindergarten. (goodreads summary)

As the last days of summer come to an end, we focus on getting our kids ready for the many new transitions of a new school year.  We understand how nervous and anxious they can be about these changes and parents can feel the exact same way inside. This book is a cute and charming take on the first day of kindergarten jitters that will help both parent and child prepare for their special day.

Mom is worried that her son will be okay at the "big kid's school" but the little boy is totally confident about his first day responding with; "Mom, don't worry. I'll be fine, I am already five!"  How many times have I heard that over the years.........We usually find books where the child is the one with nervousness or fears and the parent is the reassuring calming voice.  But in this story, the shoe is on the other foot and roles are reversed. The watercolor illustrations nicely depict the emotions and feelings of the boy and mother with size and color.  In the beginning, mom is small and the color of blue in comparison to the boy who is larger and full of excitement.  I connected with the mom's wondering: do we have all the needed supplies, will they eat all their lunch or go hungry and getting in the extra goodbye hugs and kisses at the door.  My kids are middle and high school age and I still carry those worries every year.  I feel it is good to let your child know that you too feel nervous about school starting.  This book makes a nice read-aloud together and offers a great opportunity to share your feelings with one another making the transition easier on both parent and child. Since some school districts seem to be adding 3K and 4K, this would also be a good fit for those younger ages as well.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: Mom, it's my First Day of Kindergarten!
Author: Hyewon Yum
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: July 2012, Frances Foster Books
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Listening for Lions review

Listening for Lions

Thirteen-year-old Rachel Sheridan is left an orphan after influenza takes the lives of her missionary parents in British East Africa in 1919. National Book Award-winning author Whelan crafts a wickedly delicious story of treachery and triumph, in which one young woman must claim her true identity in order to forge her own future and transform herself from victim to heroine. (goodreads summary)

Rachel lives in British East Africa among the Kikuyu and Masai. She lives a happy and simple life with her father who is the doctor at the Mission Hospital and her mother a teacher. Rachel explores the wild nature around her and takes in its' beauty at every wakeful moment. At night, she listens for the lions roar and can feel their strength and freedom. Her nearest neighbors, the wealthy Pritchards from England live on the next plantation a few miles away. They live a very charmed and different life from Rachel's family. The 1919 influenza outbreak has rapidly taken millions of lives all over the world and is now spreading to the local African cities and farms. The epidemic quickly reaches Tumaini, the Mission Hospital where Rachel calls home. Sadly, both her parents become victims of the influenza within weeks of the outbreak. The Pritchards offer to take her in as the hospital closes leaving her with many questions about her future. It soon becomes obvious that the Pritchard's generosity is not all that seems to be. They plan a devious and sinister plot for money forcing Rachel with the choice of either joining them in their deceit or be sent to the nearest orphanage with an uncertain future. She finds herself travelling miles away from Africa to a new and unfamiliar place to help carry out with the lies and greed, only to keep the hope in her heart of someday returning back to her homeland.

This book hooked me from the very first page! I quickly found myself drawn into the setting and the characters with the beautifully written details.  The story was rich with diversity and culture giving me clear images of a place and time I have never been to.  Rachel knew she was a willing participant in the scheme along with the Pritchard's. Instead of feeling she was a victim, she takes personal responsibility for her choices.  It sends the message of right vs. wrong and letting your conscious guide you. The storyline kept building with every chapter and each one I kept waiting for the truth to come out.   She finds courage one day to make the right choice and a very happy outcome in doing so follows.  As the years go by, Rachel grows to be a young woman and again must make choices that are different than what her heart tells her. Her dreams and determination to return to Africa to finish her parent's work was inspiring. She faced many obstacles for a young girl in that era but throughout the entire story she always stays true to herself.  I especially liked how the author included many words throughout the book from Rachel's native language, Swahili.  A glossary was thankfully added at the end to decode any confusing and new vocabulary words in this unfamiliar language. I found myself constantly reading until the end, placing myself in Rachel's shoes and wondering if I would be able to handle the many situations she faced with the strength and maturity as she had. All in all, I entirely believe that Listening for Lions is worthy of it's National Book Award and I think this is a "just right book" for ages 10 and up.~

Title: Listening for Lions
Author: Gloria Whelan
Genre: historical fiction, middle grade
Pub. Date: October 2006, Harper Collins
Hardcover, 195 pgs.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Crafty Chloe review

Crafty Chloe
Fancy Nancy meets Martha Stewart in Crafty Chloe, the adorable DIY star of a new picture book series!When another girl has already purchased the most perfect birthday gift for Chloe’s friend Emma, Chloe decides she’ll make a present—something you can’t buy in a store. But crafting isn’t easy, and it’s beginning to look like she won’t have a great idea in time. Fortunately, with a good doodle session and a whole lot of glitter to inspire her, Chloe figures out just the thing to save the day—and with a little help from her trusty glue gun, she just might save a friendship, too! (goodreads summary)

Chloe has tried soccer, video games and dancing.  As hard as she tries, neither of these activities seem to fit her. Instead, what she's good at is making stuff....she can make outfits out of a shirt, coffee filter flower hats and just about anything if there are googly eyes! When Chloe is invited to her best friend Emma's birthday party, she wants to give her the perfect gift.  She learns that another girl has already purchased the same one and must decide to find Emma something else.  She needs to put her thinking cap on and with a little creativity whip up something special.  

This was a delightful story that had valuable lessons added on giving.  Not only is crafting fun and creative but a homemade gift from the heart can be something extra special. I loved the humorous illustrations and subtle coloring to each page. As a crafter myself, I connected with one illustration of frustrated Chloe trying to figure out what to make.  When an unexpected mishap occurs on the way to the party, Chloe gives in a big way that teaches how good it feels to truly give from her heart. It makes for a great conversation about giving to others and how to be a good friend.  The last page of the book lists a website with directions for all the fun crafts illustrated throughout the story.  I'm looking forward to reading what Chloe has up her sleeve in a next book!  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: Crafty Chloe
Author: Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Heather Ross
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: February 2012, Anteneum Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 40 pgs.