Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Traditions

One of my favorite memories of Christmas was making ornaments with my Aunt Marian. She dabbled in ceramics, and my brother, sister, and I would go to her house, sit around the kitchen table, and paint ceramic ornaments like stockings or toy soldiers. We'd get to choose the colors we wanted and add our initials on the back like true artists. While the paint was baking onto the ornaments in the oven, we'd make Rice Krispies treats. For a while, that was our kickoff to Christmas, and even though it's been more than 20 years and my Aunt Marian has been gone for two, memories of those days are seared in my brain. My mom still has these ornaments on her tree to this day, and I unsuccessfully try to steal them every year.

Now that my daughter is really starting to get into Christmas, I want to begin my own Christmas traditions for my kids. Of course, one of our traditions involves books, and I want to share two of the books that we've read over and over this holiday season. Both are classics that I remember reading when I was a child.

First is The Nutcracker. I've never seen a live performance of The Nutcracker, but I've forever been in love with the story. This version, written by Stephanie Spinner and illustrated by Peter Malone, has been hanging around our house for a couple of years. I thought my daughter would be a bit put off by the lengthy copy on each page, but she remains transfixed as I read it. Peter Malone's watercolor illustrations are stunning and give the book an old-timey, magical feel. But what really makes this book special is the nearly 80-minute long CD of Tchaikovsky’s music. It's performed by the Utah Symphony Orchestra and really puts you in the holiday spirit.

Of course, no Christmas story time would be complete without a reading of Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas. Our illustrated depiction of the poem was illustrated by Jan Brett. True to Jan Brett's form, the book is full of color and detail, and a cast of sneaky elves almost steal the show as they stow away on Santa's sleigh on this magical night. What I also love about this is that Santa makes his landing in a wintry New England village and delivers presents to a lovely Victorian home. Like The Nutcracker, it gives off an old-timey feel of warmth and cheer. It does look like this one is out of print, but I found mine on a shelf in a local bookstore not too long ago.  In any case, there are tons of illustrated versions of this poem available. Do you have a favorite?

Do you have holiday traditions or special books you read with your kids during the holidays?

The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Having been a fan of Louis Sachar's work since reading and subsequently teaching Holes to my middle schoolers back in my former life as a teacher, I was super excited to see The Cardturner show up in my mailbox a while back. I finally got around to reading it this past weekend, and while it isn't Holes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Don't you hate it when reviewers compare author's works to their most highly-acclaimed works?)

The premise - Alton Richards is your typical teenage boy. It's summer break, and since his girlfriend dumped him for his best friend, he has no exciting plans. He's not super excited when his mother volunteers him to drive his ailing blind uncle (who also happens to be rich) to his bridge games and be his cardturner a few times a week. As his uncle's health continues to fail, Alton's parents want to make sure Alton charms the family into his will, but there's another family that has mysterious ties to Uncle Lester and who seems to be competing for the inheritance. Soon, Alton is drawn into a decades-long secret and even learns to love bridge along the way.

So, here's what I really like about the book - the characters. Alton is a great character. He's believable - smart, funny, sarcastic, and inquisitive. From the very beginning, you're drawn into Alton's story and really like him as a person. Uncle Lester is the perfect, curmudgeonly old man who really does have a big heart. And then there's spunky Toni Castaneda - the granddaughter of Alton's sister-in-law who is the center of a very intriguing and sad mystery.

Throughout the book, Sachar inserts bridge lessons. I have to admit that I found them interesting at first, but by the end, I was skipping over them altogether. I'm more of a visual learner, and reading about different hands and plays and tactics was a bit much for me and what I think may turn some off from the book. He does, however, at the end of each "bridge lesson" include a short summary for those who don't want to read the more detailed section. And of course, he pokes a bit of fun at himself by including a whale symbol at the beginning of the each lesson - a nice little nod to the often over-detailed Moby Dick.

But, it's not a book about bridge. Bridge happens to be the element of the book that weaves the story and the characters together, but behind the bridge lessons, there's a beautiful story of love, friendship, family, and the search for truth.

Reading level: Young Adult | Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (May 11, 2010) | ISBN-13: 978-0385736626 | Source: Review copy from publisher

The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

100 Things About Me as a Reader, Part 1

So, I'm way behind on blog reading and just came across Mary Lee's "100 Things About Me as a Reader" at A Year of Reading. Inspired by her blogging partner Franki's post, Mary Lee lists some interesting tidbits about herself as a reader and also says that a lot of individuals are posting their own lists, and teachers are assigning this to students. Of course, I can't pass this up. Here's the beginning of my list.

  1. According to my mom, by the time I was two, I was "reading" books my memory. 
  2. Also according to my mom, my first favorite book was The Pokie Little Puppy. I found a copy of this for my daughter when she was one, but it's never caught on. 
  3. The first series I fell in love with was the Trixie Belden series. A family friend gave me a full set when I was in the third grade. 
  4. The second series I fell in love with was the Flowers in the Attic series and then every other dark V.C. Andrews series I could get my hands on. 
  5. My Aunt Marian, along with my mom, helped nurture my love for reading. She frequently bought me books and lent me her own when I was growing up.
  6. When I was young, the library was one of my favorite places to be. It still is.
  7. I read Gone With the Wind when I was in 5th grade. It continues to be one of my favorites of all time. 
  8. I'm not sure that I have a favorite genre. I read whatever I'm in the mood for at that moment, but I do have a soft spot for dystopian fiction. 
  9. I became an English major because I loved reading and writing about what I was reading so much. 
  10. My two favorite classics are "Les Miserables," and "The Great Gatsby." Just mention the name Jean Valjean, and I get giddy.
  11. I often have around six books started at once. Right now, I'm reading four books and listening to one audio book.
  12. I get sad when people tell me they're not readers. 
  13. I love the touch, feel, and smell of books, but I really want a Kindle. I have the Kindle iPhone app, but it's not the same. 
  14. I love Historical Fiction. My favorite periods are the Tudor period, the Civil War, and the Renaissance. 
  15. I love reading nonfiction, but it's challenging to find well-written nonfiction. The best nonfiction authors tell their subjects' stories and don't just present facts. 
  16. I get frustrated with too much detail. I've never gotten through the first book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy because of all the detail, and that makes me sad. 
  17. I haven't read as many classics as I would have liked to because of the whole detail thing mentioned above. 
  18. I feel guilty for not finishing a book even if it's really bad. 
  19. Neither my brother or my sister read for pleasure. I'm not sure why.
  20. When I've had a really rough day, all I want to do is crawl in bed and read a book. 
  21. When it's cold or raining outside, all I want to do is crawl in bed and read a book. 
  22. I've always said that if I was stuck on a deserted island, my one wish would be to have a book of Shakespeare's greatest works. Now I think it would be a Kindle loaded with all kinds of books. 
Whew...this is hard, but fun. I think that's enough for now! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reading Journal: November 2, 2010

Finding the time to review and blog continues to be challenging, but reading every day with the kids is still a top priority. Both kids are growing so quickly, and I want to capture memories of reading with them, which is the very reason why I started this blog in the first place nearly 3 years ago.

Baby Reader:
You know, for me, while having a second child has been more time consuming, I feel less stressed and worried than I did with the first. I think it's because I know what to expect, and I definitely know what to expect with books.

At nine months old, getting my son to sit still for even five minutes is out of the question, but he loves to look at the pictures and touch them. Last night, my daughter learned the hard way why we need to be careful with the baby around her books when he ripped a page out of her beloved Life-Size Aquarium book. That's why when we're reading together, I like to have plenty of board books around that capture his attention. Some books we read with the baby tonight included the old standby, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and some more tactile books like Feely Bugs. I don't even know how we acquired this book, whether it was a gift or from a book or yard sale, but it's been a hit since my daughter was an infant.

Preschool Reader:
We're at the stage with my daughter where she constantly asks for "one more book." She knows I'm weak and always say yes, but we have had to set limits at night. Because some books take longer than others, I start by letting her pick out three books to read. We normally dedicate at least half an hour for bedtime reading, so if we have time for more, we'll read more. She's also at the stage where she'll want me to read the same book to her over and over again.

Tonight, she and my husband read while I was getting the baby bathed, and then once it was time for her bedtime stories, she chose two old standbys, Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity and Splat the Cat. I can't tell you how many times we've read these stories, and watching her face filled with the excitement of knowing what's going to happen next is priceless. And if I miss a word, she is quick to correct me. I'm always amazed at the different observations she makes. For example, tonight, she found a little mouse door in Splat the Cat's classroom that we've never seen before, and she said that it must be the door to mouse school. And while reading Knuffle Bunny Too, she noticed for the first time that Trixie and Sonja had lunchboxes with their initials on them.

Our third book of the evening was a first for both of us, even though it's been sitting on the shelf for a while: Laura Joy Rennert's Buying, Training, and Caring for Your Dinosaur. It's a witty little book that weighs the positives and negatives of owning different types of dinosaurs and tells you how to care for them and train them once you've found one that suits your family. Marc Brown's illustrations are full of detail and are great conversation starters. When we were finished reading the book, my daughter sighed and said, "I wish I had one of those pet dinosaurs."

Wow...writing this post has actually been very enjoyable, something I haven't felt with blogging for a while. I see more reading journal entries in the future!

The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday - October 25, 2010

Today is Mailbox Monday, and here are the goodies that arrived in my mailbox since last Monday.

Maple Tree Press sent:

How Football Works by Keltie Thomas

For ages 8-12, this book will be released in November and according to the publisher, presents "the facts, drama, and one-of-a-kind anecdotes that make football such a popular sport."

And from Owlkids comes the 10th anniversary edition of Catherine Ripley's Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book about Nature, Science and the World around You  

For ages 3-8, this book provides simple answers and colorful illustrations to lots of questions kids commonly ask such as:
  • What makes that toy glow in the dark? 
  • Why do my fingers get so wrinkled in the tub? 
  • Why does popcorn pop? 
My daughter and I have started going through the book, and at 3 1/2, she is able to grasp the explanation of most questions. Her favorite so far, is "Why are some eggs brown and some eggs white?" There's a surprising fact about a type of South American chicken that lays blue eggs.

My only pet peeve? No sources are listed. Ahhhhhh!!!!!!

From Random House Books for Young Readers is Rebecca Barnhouse's The Coming of the Dragon.

From the publisher, "Rebecca Barnhouse weaves Norse gods, blood feuds, and a terrifying dragon into this spectacular retelling of the end of the Old English poem Beowulf." 

As an English Lit  major, Beowulf was on many a course syllabi, so I have to admit this is intriguing.  The book goes on sale tomorrow.

So that's what was in my mailbox this week. What was in yours? Visit today's Mailbox Monday roundup at She Reads and Reads.

The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday - 10/18/2010

So, I'm participating in Mailbox Monday for the first time ever. Not sure why it took me so long because I love reading other Mailbox Monday posts to see what books other bloggers have received.

What is Mailbox Monday? It's a weekly round-up of books people have received in the mail during the previous week. Started by The Printed Page, it's now hosted by other blogs, alternating monthly. This month, She Reads and Reads is hosting.

This week, I received a lot of Middle Grade and Young Adult books and one picture book.

Early Elementary:

The picture book is Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra, illustrated by J. Otto Siebold (Knopf, 2010). It's a follow up to their 2007 hit Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf. In this book, B.B. Wolf (a.k.a. Big Bad Wolf) faces skepticism from some favorite storybook characters when he starts telling HIS version of the Three Little Pigs. To make up for blowing the pigs' houses down, he decides to do a good deed. It's super cute.

Upper Elementary:
  • Kickers #3: Benched by Rich Wallace, illustrated by Jimmy Holder (Knopf, 2010)
    Recommended for ages 7-10
  • Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald (Knopf, 2010)
    Recommended for ages 8-12
Middle Grade:
Older Middle Grade/Young Adult:
  • Trash by Andy Mulligan (David Fickling Books, 2010)
    Recommended for ages 12+ 
  •  Dark Water by Laura McNeal (Knopf, 2010)
    Recommended for ages 12+
  • Jumpstart the World  by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Knopf 2010
    Recommended for ages 14+

Now the only challenge is deciding which one to read first!

Books mentioned in this post were received as review copies from the publishers. The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

    Just One Bite by Lola Schaefer, illustrated by Geoff Waring

    Happy Nonfiction Monday, a day when we celebrate great nonfiction for kids and young adults.

    Today, I'm offering a review of a new nonfiction book for smaller kids. In Just One Bite, kids get life-sized examples of what eleven different animals, from a worm to an elephant, eat and how much of it they CAN eat in just one bite. In Geoff Waring's eye-catching illustrations rendered in brush, crayon, and computer, you see a life-sized frog catching a beetle with its tongue, a parrot eating a nut, a Komodo dragon slurping a snake down its gullet.

    The big finale is a four-page fold out of a sperm whale eating a giant squid with one big gulp.

    The back matter includes brief paragraphs about the eating habits of each of the book's featured animals. I was also super excited to see the author acknowledge the sources consulted for writing the book on the copyright page. It offers a lot of credibility to the book. Thus, I'd definitely recommend it for both home and early-elementary classroom use.

    Check out the other Nonfiction Monday selections at MotherReader

    ISBN-13: 978-0811864732 | Publisher: Chronicle Books (September 1, 2010) | Source: Review copy from publisher

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.  

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Storytime Sunday: Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

    On Sundays, we try to have a relaxing day with the kids before the craziness of the new week begins, and one of our favorite activities is to read and tell stories. On most Sundays, I plan to share a story we've been reading, and I invite you to share yours in the comments.

    One of the stories we've read this week is Louise Yates' Dog Loves Books. As you can probably guess from the title, it's about a dog named Dog who loves books. Dog loves books so much that he opens his own bookstore. When business is slow, Dog gets discouraged until he picks up a book and reads to pass the time. He's taken away on many adventures, and when a customer finally comes, he knows exactly which books to recommend.

    The story is simple and to the point, but what I love about it is that it really shows the magic of reading and the fun that comes with introducing others to the books you've read. The illustrations themselves are just as charming and perfectly complement the story. When Dog is reading, he is surrounded by colorful dinosaurs, hopping kangaroos, and green aliens.

    This is definitely one that we'll read again and a book that makes for a great read-aloud.

    ISBN-13: 978-0375864490 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (July 27, 2010) | Source: Review copy from publisher

    Also by Louise Yates:
    A Small Surprise

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child. 

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Cybils Nominations open!

    If you haven't stopped by the Cybils website and nominated your favorite children's and young adult books of the year, please do so by October 15. They've already received tons of nominations in the different categories, but if you have a favorite that hasn't yet made the list, nominate! Read the nomination rules here.

    What are the Cybils? 
    The Children's and Young Adult Blogger and Literary Awards. The awards are a great way to celebrate children's and young adult books that have kid appeal. Every year, my book list gets bigger as I strive to read all of the books that make the shortlists.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Board Books! Board Books! Board Books!

    With a super busy 8-month-old who is not so gentle with things, especially books, I've remembered how important it is to have a stash of board books around for him to play with. I've put accessible books that can withstand a beating in nearly every room of the house and also have a stash for the car and diaper bag.

    At this stage, he'll touch pictures and is able to flip the thicker cardboard pages. He rarely stays still long enough to get through more than one book and loves "eating" them more than anything. But at eight months, that's all I can really ask for. Introducing babies to books and letting them explore them is an early introduction to literary, and I know at least for me, having board books around offers my baby the opportunity to play with books without the fear that he'll rip a page or poke himself with a sharp corner.

    I've also found board book versions of some of my three-year-old daughter's favorite books. She loves to "read" them to him and show him pictures. Here are some newer board books we are enjoying.

    Happy Birthday, Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton
    In the latest "Pookie" installment, many parents will find this scene all too familiar as Little Pookie wakes up way too early on his birthday and just can't get back to sleep. Once Pookie's finally wake up, the day is filled with birthday festivities. If you know the Pookie books, this one has the familiar rhythm and cute pictures that really engage young children. It's fast and it's fun...perfect for little ones.

    ISBN: 978-0375865398 | Robin Corey Books, May 25, 2010 | Source: Review copy from publisher

    Busy Gorillas by John Schindel, photographs by Andy Rouse
    We've been fans of Tricycle's "Busy Book" series from way back. See reviews of other books in the series here, here, and here. In the next installment of the series, set to release next week, kids come face-to-face with busy gorillas in action. It has a great mix of photographs from baby gorillas to adult gorillas, and This came in the mail just this past Friday, and my daughter absolutely LOVES it. Over the weekend, she kept picking it up and saying, "Look at this guy, Mommy." The baby loves it, too, and we're so excited for the next book, Busy Elephants, to come out in February. Seriously, if you're looking for a series of long-lasting books, these have been favorites of my daughter's since 2008.

    ISBN: 978-1582463520 | Tricycle Press, October 12, 2010 | Source: Review copy from publisher

    ABC, Baby Me! by Susan Katz, illustrated by Alicia Padron
    I know what you're thinking...not another alphabet book, but I promise this one is really cute. Each letter of the alphabet features a scene with a baby getting love and attention from friends and family. A is "Adore Me," B is "Bathe Me," C is "Cuddle Me," and so on. The soft illustrations of happy babies of many different races make this a heartwarming book that I wouldn't hesitate to give to any new parent or grandparent.

    ISBN: 978-0375866791 | Robin Corey Books, September 28, 2010 | Source: Review copy from publisher

    American Babies by The Global Fund for Children
    We've read The Global Fund for Children's Global Babies (see my review here) over and over again, so I was delighted to receive a copy of American Babies. In the same spirit as Global Babies, American Babies introduces you to gorgeous photographs of diverse babies all across the U.S. Brief text on every page sends a positive message about the love babies bring to the world. I think I love this book just as much as my little ones do.

    ISBN: 978-1580892803 | Charlesbridge Publishing, July 1, 2010 | Source: Complimentary copy from The Global Fund for Children

    What about you? What board books are you reading with your children?

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.  

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Written in Bone exhibit at American Museum of Natural History

    Last Fall, I read and reviewed Sally M. Walker's Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland.  This is a book about the discovery of bones and artifacts from Colonial Jamestown, VA and Colonial Maryland. In that review, I said, "What makes this book exceptional are the stories it tells along the way. Not only do we learn more about the actual skeletons that were uncovered, but we learn about the way of life that was often brutal and even deadly during this period."

    I also mentioned that I had visited the exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. before reading the book. I just revisited the exhibit after having read the book again, and this time, it was absolutely amazing.

    Coming face-to-face with the lead coffins found buried under the church floor and seeing actual skeletons of the people who were found was a great experience.

    Lead coffins discovered under church in MD.

    Many of the displays were presented as "forensic case files," allowing visitors see how these cases were investigated and solved. There's even a hands-on lab that lets visitors become scientists.

    Artifacts found during the excavations were also on display, and life-sized replications of some of the individuals found and forensic facial reconstructions really make you realize that the bones in the cases were real humans who lived fascinating, often brutal lives centuries ago.

    Even if you haven't read the book, I recommend visiting the exhibit, but if you have the opportunity to read the book before you visit, it makes for a richer experience.

    Video about the exhibit:

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Banned Books Week

    Today marks the beginning of this year's Banned Books Week. I stopped questioning why others decide to challenge and ban books. It makes me too angry and is something that I just don't understand. So my act of rebellion is to read as many banned books as I can. Especially during Banned Books Week, I try to read or re-read some of the books that have been most challenged during the past year.

    See this year's top 10 and learn more about what you can do here.

    This week, I'm starting with one of my all time favorites, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I treated myself to the 50th Anniversary Edition. When anyone asks me who my favorite literary character is, Atticus Finch is always near the top of my list. What a wonderful character, a wonderful book, and what a downright amazing story.

    I've read most of the other books on the top ten, but I've never read The Chocolate War. I think I'll try that next.

    Are you doing anything for Banned Books Week?

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.  

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

    I finally had some time to read over the weekend and finished Mockingjay, THE most highly-anticipated book of the year for me. This is more my reaction than a "review" because you can find reviews all over the place. I've been purposely staying away from blogs and reviews because I didn't want to find spoilers, so I have no idea what other readers think of the book. 

    What did I want to see in this final book in The Hunger Games series?

    • A resolution to the war. Check!
    • A resolution to the Katniss - Peeta- Gale love triangle? Check!
    • Twists and turns that you've come to expect from the series. Check!
     As you can only expect, the rebels and the Capitol are in the midst of a war, so it's probably THE most violent and goriest book of the series. But I have to say that the thing I liked most from the first two books, the first book especially, was missing - great character development. To me, this book had more of an "action movie" feel than a fully developed story. Sure, the first two books led up to this "final battle," but it seemed Suzanne Collins took less care with the characters in this book than with the action, and truly amazing books balance both.

    That said, I did enjoy this book a lot, and I think readers will be satisfied with the ending (even if they were routing for Katniss to end up with a different person than she did.)

    Now, I'm going to go read other reactions.

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.  

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Pictures of Kids Reading

    I haven't updated the slideshow of kids reading on my blog for a while now. If you'd like me to post a picture of your child reading, being read to, or interacting with books in some way (babies eating books counts!), please send them to me at thewellreadchild AT gmail DOT com.

    Also, if you've sent a picture in the past couple of months and don't see it on the slideshow, please resend. My e-mail crashed a while back, and I lost all of my messages and files.


    A Reading First

    I've been reading so many great books with my little ones lately, and lots of reviews are in the works. While I'm working on those, I wanted to share a fun "reading first" in my house.

    Last night, my 3 1/2 year old daughter asked if she could read her baby brother a book. She sat down on the floor with him and pulled out Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and started "reading" it to him word for word. While she can't really read, she has the words to a few books memorized and loves to show off her reading skills.

    The baby was entranced by his big sister and stared at her while she read the entire book.  I was such a proud momma watching this wonderful literary exchange between the two.

    What about you? Do you have stories of "reading firsts" with your children?

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming, illustrations by G. Brian Karas

    Always a fan of a great story, Clever Jack Takes the Cake is a new story with an old-fashioned fairy tale feel. Upon receiving an invitation to the princess's birthday party, a poor boy named Jack creatively gets the ingredients to make her a cake. On the way to the party, he meets a number of obstacles including a hungry troll and a dancing bear who, little by little, take pieces of the cake until there's hardly any left for the princess. However, Jack ends up giving the princess a delightful gift that is far more interesting than the usual tiaras and gems the other children bring her.

    This is the kind of story that just grabs you from the very beginning and makes you keep turning the page to see what happens next. It's an original folktale that I think has lasting power. On first read, I didn't even look at the illustrations, which is pretty rare when I read a picture book but also the mark of a wonderful story. It doesn't need illustrations to support it, but when I finally did look at them, the soft antique-like colors offer the perfect "old-timey" tone.

    As for the three-year-old test, it passed with flying colors. I can probably recite the book from heart since I've read it so many times.

    With just enough humor and fairy tale magic, this makes a perfect story time book.

    • Reading level: Ages 4-8
    • Hardcover: 40 pages
    • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (August 24, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0375849793
    • ISBN-13: 978-0375849794
    • Source: Review copy from publisher 
    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.  

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Audio Books for Pre-Schoolers

    We're gearing up for a 6+ hour road trip in the upcoming weeks, and I was hoping to check out some audio books from the library for my 3 1/2 year old. Do any of you have any recommendations?

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Re-reading a childhood favorite

    One of the things I love most about reading to my kids is being able to re-read books I read when I was young and relive memories. While she's only three-and-a-half, I've started reading chapter books with my daughter, and one that we are both loving is James and the Giant Peach. I'm actually reading the same copy I read growing up. There's something magical about picking up an old, tattered book and reading it years later.

    I was a little nervous about the part when the giant peach rolled over and squished the aunts or when the rampaging rhinoceros gobbles up James' parents, but I don't give my little one enough credit. She has a good sense of knowing what's real and what's not, and that's part of the magic of books. Bad things may happen, but at least in children's books, they usually work out.

    In any case, even when we're not reading, I'm hearing tidbits from her about silkworms and blind earthworms and spiders and seagulls carrying peaches.

    Oh Roald Dahl...I love you.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Market Day book set by Victoria Roberts, illustrations by Tomislav Zlatic

    More toddler goodness abounds with this really fun board book set.

    Originally published in Great Britain, Market Day is a four book set where readers market stalls to learn basic skills and concepts:
    • Mr. Peacock's Opposites
    • Miss Dog's Shapes
    • Mr. Pig's Colors
    • Mrs. Mouse's Numbers 
    I know, I know. There are SO many books out there that introduce these concepts, but the coolest thing about this set? The packaging! 

    All four books are packaged in a carry case that snaps closed. But that's not the coolest part! When you open the case, you find pop-ups of the market stalls and cut-outs of the characters featured in the books.

    From a three-year-old's perspective, this is super cool and a fun way to learn.

    The set is available in the US in September, but you can pre-order today.

    • Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers (September 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1935279785
    • ISBN-13: 978-1935279785
    • Source: Review copy from publisher 

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child. 

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Mockingjay District Blog Tour

    I don't know about you, but I am counting down the days until Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, releases on August 24th. Luckily, I'm getting my Hunger Games fix by visiting all of the stops on the Mockingjay District Blog Tour.

    Today's stop is District 4 at GreenBeanTeenQueen. Be sure to visit and enter the giveaway for The Hunger Games hoodie. Go Team Peeta!

    Check out the full blog tour schedule here.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    More Life-Size Zoo and Life-Size Acquarium by Teruyuki Komiya, photographs by Toshimitsu Matsuhashi

    Two new books from Seven Footer Kids are huge hits in our house.  First is More Life-Size Zoo: An All-New Actual-Size Animal Encyclopedia. It's a follow up to last year's Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia. Originally published in Japan, this oversize book (14.4 x 10.2), introduces readers to 20 zoo animals.

    The book begins with a table of contents that looks like a map of a zoo. When you turn the page, you're face to face with a wolf named Kinako whose licking her chops. On right side bar you:
    • Learn more about Kinako--her age, gender, and scientific name
    • See questions that ask readers to identify specific features of the wolf in the photograph (pointy ears, white eyelashes, etc.)
    • Read facts about wolves in a comic-strip format. 
    The rest of the book follows a similar format as readers meet animals like Okayu a baby gibbon, Sally, a five-year-old Panther, and Shouta, a four-year-old seal. 

    The outstanding feature of this book is, as the title indicates, the pictures are life size. Special fold-out sections even show up-close looks at a male lion, polar bear, and hippo.

    The end pages include full-color photographs and more basic information about each animal including its habitat and size.

    Also part of the Life Size Book series, is  Life-Size Aquarium  by the same author and photographer.

    It follows the same concept and format and the Life-Size Zoo books, but here readers meet aquarium animals, some you'd expect to see like a sea turtle to more unique creatures (at least to kids in the U.S.) like a leafy sea dragon and Japanese giant salamander. Fold-out sections in this book show a super big Humphead Wrasse (a really big fish), an Orca named Bingo, and a Walrus named Tuck. My daughter loves to hold her arm up to Tuck's tusks to see whether or not the tusks are longer than her arm (they are).

    There are many things I love about these books:
    1. The life-size photos of course. In a world where we can easily access information on the web and e-book readers, we rarely see ANYTHING in it's actual size. To be able to look into the life-size eye of a bison is pretty awesome and offers a real perspective of big and small. 
    2. It's kid friendly. Most of the animals have names and ages. That personal touch is a huge hit at home. The information is presented in a simple format, and the comic book format of the animal facts is super easy to read and understand. Kids of many ages can get enjoyment out of this book. 
    3. There are a lot of learning opportunities. Whether you're a teacher, homeschooler, or a caregiver who loves to use books as learning tools, there are so many opportunities for learning across different curricula from language arts and science to geography and math. Visit the series website for ideas.
    They certainly get the three-year-old seal of approval in our house. Even my little son likes to look at the animals and touch the photographs. Highly recommended.

    More Life-Size Zoo info:
    Life-Size Aquarium info:

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    I left the teaching profession seven years ago to pursue other career opportunities, and while there are many things I miss about the profession, I haven't felt a strong urge to get back into the classroom until I read Markus Zusack's The Book Thief. After reading the first few chapters, I was literally itching to get in front of a group of students to talk about this book. Chock full of literary devices from personification to foreshadowing, amazing well-rounded characters, and a beautifully-told story, this book deserves to be read, talked about, re-read, and talked about some more.

    I've previously been so focused on reviewing the latest and greatest reviews that I haven't seemed to have put much of a dent in my list of "older" books I want to read and review. The Book Thief has been on my radar for a quite a while (it was published in the U.S. in 2006!), so I finally decided to download the Kindle edition a few weeks ago.

    Set in WWII Germany, the book is narrated by Death. Death first sees the young girl Liesel Meminger, whom he calls "the Book Thief," on a train when he came to take away her younger brother. The two children were going to live with foster parents in the fictional town of Molching, Germany. It was at her brother's burial that Death witnessed Liesel steal her first book, The Gravedigger's Handbook. Soon after, Liesel arrives on Himmel (Heaven) Street, the residence of her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. So begins the coming-of-age story of a young girl growing up in the middle of a brutal war.

    The cast of characters is diverse. Some include:
    • Hans, the kind hearted accordian playing foster father who stays up late at nights teaching Liesel how to read. A promise he made many years ago puts his entire family in serious danger.
    • Rosa, the sharp-tongued, no-nonsense mother who, beneath the hard exterior, is just as kind hearted as her husband
    • Rudy Steiner, the somewhat naughty, hilarious, and adventurous classmate who becomes Liesel's closest friend and accomplice in many adventures including book theft. He also has lemon-colored hair and wants to be Jessee Owens.
    • Max Vandenberg, the guilt-ridden Jew with whom Liesel identifies and develops a close bond.
    • Ilsa Hermann, the grief-stricken mayor's wife who allows Liesel to steal books from her library.
    • Death, the sardonic and often "in-your-face narrator" who is haunted by humans. 
     As you can imagine, losing your entire family and being sent to live with strangers is hard enough. Now imagine this happening during WWII where air raids demolish entire neighborhoods and witnessing hundreds of Jewish people being marched to concentration camps is not an uncommon occurrence.

    Markus Zusak's words are beautiful and oftentimes heartbreaking. I marked passage after passage. Here are a couple:

    "Each night, Liesel would step outside, wipe the door, and watch the sky. Usually is was like spillage-cold and heavy, slippery and gray-but once a while some stars had the nerve to rise and float, if only for a few minutes. On those nights, she would stay a little longer and wait. 'Hello, stars.'" (Location 548, Kindle edition). 

    "She had seen her brother die with one eye open, one still in a dream. She had said goodbye to her mother and imagined her lonely wait for a train back home to oblivion. A woman of wire had laid herself down, her scream traveling the street, till it fell sideways like a rolling coin starved of momentum. A young man was hung by a rope made of Stalingrad snow. She had watched a bomber pilot die in a metal case. She had seen a Jewish man who had twice given her the most beautiful pages of her life marched to a concentration camp. And at the center of all of it, she saw the Fuhrer shouting his words and passing them around." (Location 7214, Kindle edition). 

    While there is a serious and often heart-wrenching tone throughout the book, there are many lighthearted moments, mostly involving Liesel and Rudy on one of their adventures as they still find ways to be kids during a devastating time.

    If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. I'd also advise adults not to be put off by the "young adult" label. It was first published for adults in 2005 in Zusak's native Australia, and was inspired by true stories Zusak heard from his mother.

    Read an exerpt here.

    Reading Level: Young Adult | Hardback ISBN:  978-0-375-83100-3, Knopf Books, March 2006 |   Paperback: 978-0-375-84220-7, Knopf Books, September 2007 | Source: purchased Kindle Edition 

    Buy it from an Independent Bookstore. 

    Buy it on Amazon.

    The links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Animal Soup by Todd H. Doodler

    What do you get when you mix a bird and a turtle? A birdle of course! What about a gorilla and a pelican? A gorillican?

    In Todd H. Doodler's Animal Soup, kids can see the funny results of combining two animals that have very few similarities. Animals are presented on a two-page spread, and when you lift a flap on the right-hand side of the spread, you see the mixed-up animal.

    My three-year-old's response to the "squale" (squirrel + whale)? "Oh dear, that's a silly animal."

    The sturdy cardboard pages makes this a fun choice for young children.

    • Reading level: Ages 4-8
    • Hardcover: 14 pages
    • Publisher: Golden Books (May 11, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0375858083
    • ISBN-13: 978-03758
    • Source: Review copy from publisher 

    The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.  

      Monday, May 3, 2010

      Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrations by Jon Parra

      Hoo-boy, the books in my TBR pile have been stacking up since "Junior" was born, but a sprained ankle forced me to take a break this weekend, enabling me to put a dent (a small one) in the pile. Many book lovers can relate to the feeling you get when you pick up a book that's remained un-read for whatever reasons and falling in love with it. It's like finding $10 in the laundry (heck, I'm excited when I find $1.)

      Anyway, Pat Mora's Gracias / Thanks has been hiding in the middle of my TBR pile for months, and the minute I read the first page, I felt like I'd hit the jackpot. In the book, a young boy thanks the big and small things in his life. For example, "For the ladybug that landed on my finger, a little red flying surprise, thanks," or "For my family, who clapped and clapped even when I tripped on the stage in my school play, thanks." The book is written in both Spanish and English, making it perfect for a bilingual family or children learning either English or Spanish.

      To say it's heartwarming and inspiring is an understatement. I've seen similar books that are very cheesy (trust me...I abhor "cheesy"), but the language, the things and people the little boy thanks, and Jon Parra's warm illustrations make it very "uncheesy." You don't feel like you're being taught a lesson or talked down to.

      As I was reading it, I found myself smiling and thinking about things I was grateful for like my daughter who drew me a picture to make me feel better when I hurt my ankle. Books like these can lead to wonderful discussions with your kids (or students if you're a teacher) and help everyone take a step back from the daily grind to think about what they're grateful for in their lives. 

      Project Idea: Have children make their own "Gracias/Thanks" books. If your students or their family members speak another language at home, have them write in both their home language and English if they are able to.

      • Reading level: Ages 4-8
      • Hardcover: 32 pages
      • Publisher: Lee & Low Books; Bilingual edition (October 20, 2009)
      • Language: English, Spanish
      • ISBN-10: 1600602584
      • ISBN-13: 978-1600602580
      • Source: Review copy from publisher

      The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.