Thursday, September 24, 2009

You Are The First Kid On Mars by Patrick O'Brien

Holy crap! This is the best children's book we have read in a really long time! Great information and explanation of what everything this author imagined was. It was basically imagining how it would be if Earth colonized Mars and you were the first kid to go there. First of all, my son LOVED it. He asked me to read it over 4 times. Second, there was no crazy imaginations like Mars people look like weird people with huge heads. Every single idea had reasons why the author thought it was going to be this way in the future. All of them seemed reasonable to me (mind you, I'm no scientist) and seemed to have a scientific basis. He even explained going through the atmosphere and everything! Basically this book was awesome and even more awesome if you have boys that sometimes you have a hard time getting them involved in the reading!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn

It was rather harsh with schools in general, but I think it gives great ideas for how teenagers can get a real life education and get in the real world. It was rather dated with some of its suggestions, especially the portions that dealt with technology but that is expected whenever you mention technology in a book. However, that in itself might turn some teenagers off. However, since the premise of the book is about quitting school and unschooling yourself, most teenagers I know will look past the dated technology parts....

Definitely a must read if you are homeschooling teenagers and worth a read for any parents of teenagers as you can get something out of it for anyone. I think if you are considering homeschooling at all, you should read the book so you will have some sort of confidence about what you are going to do come the teenage years, which like it or not, sneak up on you quick!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud by Julie Navarro

I thought it was a good book, overall. It is based in Italy after a series of accidents lead the Art Crimes Department to believe that there is a conspiracy relating to the Shroud of Turin. Definitely taking off in The Da Vinci Code direction, but it was intriguing and I thought the characters were interesting and many dimensional. It was definitely interesting to try and figure out all the puzzles yourself while you were reading the book. Definitely not a happy ending if that was what you were looking for, but life doesn't always end in happy endings, I guess.. What did you think??

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

While We Were Out by Ho Baek Lee

Children's book - the illustrations were fantastic and I loved the very fuzzy sense the author gave to the whole story with the pictures. This is basically a story about a bunny who is normally kept on the porch but the family goes away for an overnight and someone accidentally left the door cracked and the bunny comes in. The bunny then proceeds to do everything in the house that he has always wanted to do (go in the library, search through the refrigerator, etc.). Then he goes to sleep in one of the beds with the covers all pulled up around him. It is cute! Then he goes back outside and pretends like nothing happened and the book asks if the family is going to know who made all the mess. Of course they will, there are rabbit droppings everywhere! My kids really liked this book and it was a nice short read that even my 1 yo sat through. Maybe 5 minutes if you ask a lot of questions (or your children do - and whose don't?). Overall, good book, but I won't be purchasing - library read.

Snowie Rolie by William Joyce

All the dreams of snowy days that you had as a kid will come rolling back with this really fun book! Rolie Polie Olie wishes that they could have snow even though he has never seen snow and then it actually starts snowing and they have a fun snowy day! Then, however, it stops snowing and the snow starts to melt. Very disappointing, especially for Rolie and his friends who made a snow friend while there was snow and now he is melting! Ahhh! Well, they go on a fabulous adventure to a new planet where it is cold and snowy all the time so their friend can stay safe and cool. And then they get a small souvenir to remember him by! My kids loved everything about this book, especially because we also live in a climate where it snows very infrequently (less than once a year) and they have frequent snow playing dreams also. The large, loud pictures and text fit the story wonderfully. It was about a 10 minute read, although I was convinced twice more to read it again which made it into a 30 minute book - LOL! Lovely book and I will be purchasing it to put underneath the Yule tree this year!

Silent Lotus by Jeanne M. Lee

This is a children's book about a small deaf girl in a small village in Kampuchea. This is based on the Silent Lotus legend. The legend was that this small beautiful deaf girl grew up to become one of the best dancers in the kingdom and danced for the king frequently. The text is set on a white page opposite the very colorful picture on the other page. I loved this offset because it really allowed me to focus completely on the picture and how it related to the text. This was a longer book, which I think makes it more appropriate for the 5-8 range but both my younger boys listened politely until almost the end. However, if you are weird about nudity, my children did ask why the girl in the pictures was not wearing a shirt when she was a child playing outside. Nothing is shown other than bare skin, no nipples or anything, but they did have questions, so if that is something you want to avoid, be forewarned. It did do a good job of illustrating to the children that having a handicap did not necessarily mean that you couldn't do anything with your life.

"From Publishers Weekly: Young Lotus was born deaf and unable to speak. Her days are filled with basket-weaving, swimming and walking among the wild birds, "joining them in their graceful steps." Although she is good-natured and beautiful, the other children run from Lotus, leaving her lonely and heavy- hearted. Seeking solace from the gods , the girl and her parents travel to "the temple in the city," where Lotus, imitating the temple dancers, exhibits the extraordinary talent that eventually wins her favor with the king and queen. Set in Cambodia, Lee's tender tale intertwines universal childhood concerns with intriguing elements of a rich and unfamiliar culture. The bold-hued paintings--of lush lotus blossoms, waterfowl and ornate costumes--display an Eastern serenity as they depict life in a distant land, though most of the human figures are less skillfully drawn. Young readers will be heartened as they watch Lotus transform into a successful woman despite her handicap. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc."

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea

I liked this book, but it was very loud and had a lot of excitement in it. I loved the theme, that the little dinosaur takes on everything in his life and wins except for bedtime, but there was so much noise and not that much wind-down time that I'm not sure it was the best choice for the last story of the night. The loud colors and sharp edges of the drawings fit the story perfectly though and it was a very short read (maybe 5 minutes read aloud) so you would have the option of making this very fun story the first in your bedtime repertoire and making another more relaxing story go after it.

"From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Shea (New Socks) makes a hilarious commentator as his hero, a small red dinosaur, elevates everyday encounters into a series of matches worthy of the WWF. Dinosaur versus... a bowl of spaghetti! announces Shea and, with a trio of bold typographic roars (and two chomps), the bowl is vanquished. Dinosaur wins again! declares Shea, as Dinosaur coolly acknowledges his triumph. Again and again, Dinosaur proves unbeatable—the foes he defeats include a pile of leaves, a big slide and talking grown-ups—but the title hints at his Achilles heel. Dinosaur may not resemble anything found in a paleontology textbook, but he's a terrific surrogate. Incorporating paper, paint, photo collage and quick strokes of crayon, Shea's freewheeling compositions convey both a beguiling spontaneity and a preschooler's sense of invincibility. Kids will be only too happy to capitulate to this irresistible package. Ages 2–6. (Sept.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker

THIS IS A FABULOUS KIDS BOOK!!! We got it from the library and the kids were totally involved in guessing what was coming next in the story and pointing out the feelings of the characters in the book and the pictures were absolutely delightful, which in my opinion, is all you can really ask for in a kids book. Basically, Bear is a bear that does not allow visitors because he is pretty sure that he will not like them. He even has a sign. But along comes a very persistent Mouse who makes Bear discover that he actually likes having a friend and having visitors. The book was great at illustrating how we should treat guests and friends and also illustrating the feelings of both the mouse and the bear. My children correctly identified when the characters were being rude which is a huge social skill to learn for preschoolers - LOL! The watercolor painting illustration made my children want to paint the next day and we talked about bears and mice and if they could really be friends all day the next day. It was a nice length, probably 15 minutes read aloud, making it perfect for bedtime (although there is a little excitement in it so maybe not the best one for the last story of the night).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Up In Heaven by Emma Chichester Clark

This is a great kids story about a little boy and his dog who died. It goes through the story of how beautiful heaven is for the dog but she just can't be happy until she knows that the little boy is not sad anymore about losing her. It has beautiful pictures of dogs frolicking in heaven and how happy they are and it ends with the dog sending dreams to the little boy that help him move on from the loss of his dog. It's touching and would be great for a child that has lost a pet. However, if your child has not lost a pet, you might want to consider that this might bring up more questions than you want to answer. Also, obviously if you do not believe in heaven, this is not the right book for you and your children because they tend to latch onto things very literally and especially religious things (IMHO). The illustration is nice but not wonderful and my kids (whom I always try to get to look at the actual art in the book) were not interested in this one. Overall, I loved the story but there were some downsides to reading this story, particularly before bedtime as then we had to have a 45 minute conversation about animals and people dying and where they go after they die. You might want to read this as a one on one book so you can discuss it more personally with each child.

I already know I love you by Billy Crystal

This is a kids book written by Billy Crystal about expecting his baby granddaughter. It's a great book to give to expecting grandparents and a great book for them to read to their young grandchildren. My kids liked thinking about the fact that someone loved them even before they were born. The pictures were watercolory and windblown and my kids thought that they looked "loving". It's a nice short book (probably a 5-10 minute read) so appropriate for younger ages or if you are tired at night and don't want to read that long. It's a very soft book and any time you use the word love in a book, kids like it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Santa Calls by William Joyce

Children's Santa story. This is a very touching story about a little girl that writes a letter to Santa and all she wants for Christmas is for her older brother to be her friend. Santa sends them a box that makes a flying machine that takes them all to the North Pole where they battle Dark Elves and use their inventions to help them and in the end, the little girl is friends with her brother. And the brother still never knows the reason for the adventure. This is a 10-15 minute read aloud book but there is a lot of action to keep them involved and fabulous storytelling through pictures. Both my children liked it and I think that the Santa theme is a perennial favorite if you don't mind perpetuating that myth with your children.

Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric A. Kimmel

This is a great kids book and the Anansi stories are wonderful! I love them so much and this author is great in my opinion. This is a great story of a trickster and his trickiness and sometimes that is a hard concept for kids to grasp with the word. Plus, this is the first book that a spider was in that my kids actually liked! Janet Stevens illustrated this book and the pictures are vivid and a very good description of what is actually happening in the story. All the kids enjoyed this book. It is about a 10-15 minute story reading aloud so be aware of that before you agree to three bedtime stories including this one - LOL.

Going North by Janice N. Harrington

This is a children's book. It is about an African-American family in the 1960's moving from the South to the North to try and find some better opportunities for themselves and their families. This book is written from the oldest daughter's perspective. I truly liked this book. It had a good rhythm with the words which lends itself really well to reading aloud. It also introduced good ideas about discrimination in a non-offensive way and not too hard for small children to understand and relate to. The pictures were wonderful and fuzzy and my kids spent plenty of time imagining what was really in those pictures.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey

Fun story about the dish and the spoon "after" the nursery rhyme. The dish and spoon become a vaudeville act and become famous but dish gets caught up in gambling and drinking until they borrow money from the wrong people to keep up their habits. They rob a bank to pay the money back and they get caught and have to go to jail. Eventually they re-find each other and put on a show again for free and live happily ever after together. I liked this book because it was funny and had some true life aspects to it but it does have some more adult themes that I had some difficulty explaining to my 3 year old. I would recommend no younger than 5 on this story. The illustrations were beautiful.

The Accidental Zucchini: An Unexpected Alphabet by Max Grover

This is an alphabet counting book with a somewhat different choice of words for the examples. Instead of A is for Apple, A is for Apple Autos with a picture of people driving around in apples. Very cute and my son liked it. I would recommend it for any children learning their alphabet. Even my daughter who knows her alphabet laughed at the funny pictures and liked the funways they did the illustrations in this book.