Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Animals in Danger series from Lerner

In addition to these two titles:
Endangered and Extinct Amphibians
Endangered and Extinct Reptiles
this series includes Birds, Fish, Invertebrates, and Mammals. Let me just start by saying that these cover photos immediately made me WANT each of these animals (well, maybe not the pterodactyls), which is probably one reason many of them are endangered. When even tween pop idols (ahem) are caught smuggling illegal pets, it's hard for a species to get a break. Disappearing habitats, pollution, fashion trends, bizarre medical myths - it's all just too much, without adding misguided exotics enthusiasts!
Each of the books in this series begins with a simple explanation of that class of animals, then delves into some specific species. Unfortunately, these seem to lack some of the structure of other series Lerner produces - the text seems to meander a bit, and explanations are not given as to why some of the species are endangered. A young reader might have a hard time looking at the Chinese alligator and understanding why it should feel threatened!
Some of the other usual strengths are still there - glossary, web sites to visit, bright photographs and simple text, etc. Hopefully, these are just a fluke, and not a sign of a good thing becoming too mass-produced.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Galapagos George, by Jean Craighead George

Did you know that tortoises don't die of old age? Actually, that's one of those legends that's mostly true but not 100% - many species of tortoises stop aging, or age very slowly, once they reach adulthood, so theoretically they COULD live forever. So far, though, the oldest on record was a tortoise from the Galapagos Islands named Harriet, who lived to be 179. Another famous tortoise from the same islands was:
Galapagos George
George lived to be at least 100 years old, and died within weeks of one of my favorite authors, Jean Craighead George. Just last week I handed her Summer of the Falcons off to a young lady who reminded me a bit of myself at that age, and I predict by now she is firmly hooked on George's writings. In this nonfiction account, published posthumously, George's passion for animals shines through her description of this species' journey through time and geography, along with a simple understanding of adaptation within a species. (I'll overlook the horribly inaccurate definition of 'evolution' in the endnotes.) Wendell Minor's soft watercolor illustrations are the perfect companion. A rich selection for any library, from elementary to even high school.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Peek-a-Boo Bunny by Holly Surplice

Peek-a-Boo Bunny
Okay, HarperCollins sent this to me to review for Easter, but I kind of fell behind. Fortunately, it's a perfectly cute book for any time of the year. Bunny is SO excited about playing hide and seek, and Surplice's illustrations convey that adorably. His excitement, however, keeps him from slowing down and paying attention long enough to actually find anyone! Kind of reminds me of certain children looking for Easter eggs. Little ones will feel SO smart when they spot the animals Bunny can't find. Rhyming couplets on each spread will make this a good read-aloud for future story times. I toyed with keeping this one for myself, but decided to share wit hthe library - we'll just check it out a time or two! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: New Junior Readers

Pinkalicious and the Perfect Present
Love me some yard sales! A good saturday is one where the kids and I pick up Grandma, and we scour the town for great deals on things we didn't know we needed. Pinkalicious gets money from Mommy to spend on a treasure of her choice - and ends up finding the perfect ghift for Mommy. One of the better Pinkalicious books of late.
These next two are part of a series from Lerner, "Responsibility in Action":
How I Care for My Pet
How I Pack My Lunch
Okay, yes, I grabbed the two that were most relevant in my own household, so sue me. The series also includes (How I)
- Clean My Room
- Do My Homework
- Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
- Clean Up a Park.
How I Clean My Room being the least relevant.
I've grown to love these little sentence-a-page readers that have 'chapters' and glossaries, making kids feel like they are reading a 'big kid book'. If wanting to read is 90% of learning, feeling like you can is another 9%. These short sentences are chock full of other hidden skills and lessons, like the use of "first, next, last". There are even "fun facts" and a suggested activity. Quite a lot in a 7"x7", 24-page book!
The only part I found odd was the blurred picture on pg. 19 of How I Care for My Pet. Sure, you see blurry pictures on this blog all the time, but one would assume the kids in these books are being posed by a professional photographer - not caught by a tired Mom who is always three steps behind them. Otherwise, the photos very clearly illustrate the text. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reviews: Three New Picture Books

Let's Dance, Grandma!
Lucy (like Sheridan) loves to dance, and she loves spending time with Grandma, but Grandma is just, she just doesn't dance. So, when Lucy asks her to dance, Grandma comes up with other activities that she probably thinks will be less tiring. Hah! In the end, Grandma discovers dancing may just be the way to go after all. A very sweet book.
Pete the Cat: Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Nothing new on this farm - which, given some of the stinkers in this series, is probably a good thing. Worth buying if you have a market for children's songs in text, but not a must-have.
Ziggy's Big Idea
Kar-Ben Publishing
Ziggy gets some unusual ideas - like, a cube-shaped ball (it won't roll into the street while he is playing!) Some of his ideas don't turn out so well, but others are quite yummy! The book includes a recipe for Ziggy's invention, the bagel, but would have done well to also include a glossary of Yiddish words, such as shtetl and bimah. Without the afterword, readers would have no idea how Ziggy got "bagel" out of "bracelet." A fun story, with pleasing pictures, but it doesn't seem to be intended for non-Jewish readers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Shaving Cream Easter Eggs

(***published the day AFTER Easter because my computer was being difficult - bookmark it for next year!)

Ever third Mommy blog seems to feature shaving cream Easter eggs, so we thought we'd give it a try. Shocking, I know, that we would be drawn to something messy. All we had in the house was shaving gel, but fortunately Daddy was headed to town, so we sent him on a side trip. Supposedly whip cream will work, too, but I didn't have much of that either, and I didn't want to risk wasting it!

So, we hard-boiled our eggs, then filled baking pans with shaving cream and a few drops of food coloring.

By "we" I mean "Mommy". I'm not totally crazy.

Swirl it a bit with a toothpick, then you're supposed to roll an egg from one end to another.

Ours didn't roll, they just scooted. Too much shaving cream? Too little? I have no idea.

No matter, everyone was happy to just squish them around.

We do a lot of semi-naked crafting, for obvious reasons.

Mmm-hmm. Being the overachiever she is, Sheridan didn't stop with getting her hands messy.

NO idea how that happened.

Aaaaaand, on to the sink!

We let the eggs sit on paper plates, covered in shaving cream, while we ate lunch, then wiped them off.

Pretty! Mostly pastel-type colors. I may experiment next time with gels vs. liquid food coloring, or see if we should have added more drops. At any rate, the kitchen and dining room smell nice and fresh - although Sheridan's arms kept their greenish tint for a while...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Three New Junior Readers

We have three new Junior Reader books hitting our library shelves this week:
Charlie the Ranch Dog: Charlie's New Friend
We love Charlie at our house - both the real Charlie, found here, and the fictional character. My kids especially like finding the chipmunk on each page, so it will be interesting to see their reactions when I bring this home - while the chipmunk is present, he's not on every single spread, and I'm not sure what their reaction will be! What really gave me pause, though, was the author line: "Based on the..." Based on? Based on? As in, not actually written by?
The MARC record only lists Drummond and DeGroat, but they named Amanda Glickman and Rick Whipple are thanked for their "editorial and artistic contributions". Are we turning the series over to ghost writers? Or are these interns? Google searching leads my imagination in both directions...curiouser and curiouser...

At any rate, I didn't notice any differences (other than the missing chipmunk). Charlie tries to keep a carrot-stealing rabbit out of Mama's garden, and ends with a compromise. Bacon is mentioned, so S. will approve.

Pete the Cat: Too Cool for School

Not as bad as the previous junior readers - in fact, I kind of like this one, if I don't compare it to Eric Litwin's picture books of Pete the Cat. When Pete tries to take everyone else's advice on what to wear, he ends up looking rather silly. It might be fun to read this, then let everyone in the house pick out a piece of an outfit for everyone else - and wear the results for the day! Not to Walmart, though. Nobody would notice if you looked strange. (P.S. - Hey, HarperCollins - the title makes NO sense whatsoever.)

Fancy Nancy: Just My Luck!

With a second grader at home, we are in the throes of believing everything we hear from our friends. (Moms, as we all know, don't know anything.) In this well-timed (for probably more than me) edition from Fancy Nancy, a classmate tells nancy all the things that are bad luck, and she works herself into a tizzy trying to avoid them all. Or, is Ms. Glass right when she says there is no such thing? (She is a grown-up, after all, so probably not all that bright!)

It's a Fancy Nancy, so it will be popular regardless, but a good early reader all on its own. After reading it together, see how many good and bad luck items/actions your class/family can think of. Maybe research what other cultures think of as lucky.

Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copies!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: The Shibboleth by John Hornor Jacobs

The Shibboleth
If you haven't read The Twelve-Fingered Boy by Jacobs, stop here. Don't even read the description of The Shibboleth, because it won't make sense to you now, and contains too many spoilers for you to enjoy the first book properly.
"There are certain shibboleths to our condition."
At the end of the first book of The Twelve-Fingered Boy Trilogy, Jack and Shreve are incarcerado—physically locked up. Shreve's back in the custody of the state of Arkansas, and Jack's somewhere in the clutches of Mr. Quincrux—both problems Shreve aims to rectify.
Cages might hold Shreve's body, but the power that's been growing since his encounter with Quincrux has reached a pinnacle. Nothing can prevent his mind from scaling the etheric heights. Freed from his body, Shreve discovers the magnitude of the evil that's stirring in the east. The wave of insomnia that's paralyzed the nation is only the beginning.
To save Jack—and maybe all of the humanity he no longer feels part of—Shreve has no choice but to join Quincrux and the Society of Extranaturals.
The Twelve-Fingered Boy started off like any number of books about a teenage boy incarcerated for something he did, in fact, do, although he is not at heart a bad kid. At first, it is just about surviving in the juvenile detention system, then slowly slips into the paranormal abilities of Shreve, Jack, and others.
The Shibboleth is firmly planted in the paranormal. While both boys are still under lock and key, that is almost a minor nuisance compared to what is going on in their minds, and in the minds of thousands of people across the country - some gifted with paranormal abilities, but most the victims of some as yet unnamed being. Characters from the first book reappear, and there are some twists as to who the good and bad guys are. Jacobs' writing has definitely improved - he never lost my attention as he did a couple times in the first book.
A trilogy worth picking up for any middle or high school library, and handing off to teens into paranormal adventures that involve more mind power than romance and renegade fae.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: Returning to Shore by Corinne Demas

Returning to Shore
Her mother's third marriage is only hours old when all hope for Clare's fifteenth summer fades. Before she knows it, Clare is whisked away to some ancient cottage on a tiny marsh island on Cape Cod to spend the summer with her father—a man she hasn't seen since she was three.

Clare's biological father barely talks, and when he does, he obsesses about endangered turtles. The first teenager Clare meets on the Cape confirms that her father is known as the town crazy person.

But there's something undeniably magical about the marsh and the island—a connection to Clare’s past that runs deeper than memory. Even her father's beloved turtles hold unexpected surprises. As Clare's father begins to reveal more about himself and his own struggle, Clare's summer becomes less of an exile and more of a return.
A quiet book, full of character development over action. The shifting in the relationship between Clare and her father in the amount of time they have together is believable and touching. Some secondary characters are rather superficial, but I found that realistic as well - sometimes people are in and out of our lives too quickly to give them any depth in our impressions. A solid choice for middle or high school libraries and introspective teens.