Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Review: Fun Experiments with Forces and Motion by Rob Ives and Eva Sassin


Make a rocket from a plastic bottle, a hovercraft from a balloon, and a drag racer from cardboard! These amazing science projects use readily available items and have simple step-by-step instructions. Discover the science behind each experiment. They're quick to make and fun to show your friends and family. They bounce, they fly, they push, they whirl—they're forces and motion!

You know it's a fun science book when you read through each experiment and say "Ooh, I want to try that! And that!" And best of all, you actually understand from the explanation WHY each thing is doing the cool thing it does.

Let me say just one more time - I am not a sciencey person - but Lerner has come out with some great series lately that actually make me feel a little less clueless. Where were they when I was bombing 10th grade science?!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Review: Stickmen's Guide to Your Beating Heart and Your Brilliant Brain by John Farndon and Venitia Dean


Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom . . . your incredible heart beats more than once every second, no matter what you're doing. And your lungs pull in up to 145 gallons of oxygen each day. So how are your heart and lungs connected, and what do they do? Join the Stickmen as they explore your body to find out how your heart pumps blood, how oxygen travels through your body, and how your body fights off germs. You'll discover why you need two trillion red blood cells, how exercise affects the body, and what exactly is inside your lungs. Colorful diagrams and fascinating text show how your circulatory system works to keep you fit, warm, and alive!

Where was this book when I was pregnant with Shane, and suddenly needed to know very simply but thoroughly how the human heart works?

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I am not a sciencey-type person. This is one area where I need clear explanations in simple terms, with lots of pictures and examples. Stickmen to the rescue!


Just think, every single thing you do is handled by an amazing computer inside your head—your brilliant brain! And it's helped by your body's internet—your nervous system. Join the Stickmen to discover how spidery nerve cells send messages to the brain in seconds, how quick reflexes keep you safe, and how different parts of your brain are in charge of different thoughts and actions. Learn how all the parts of your body work together with the brain to help you to see, hear, smell, and make memories. Fun illustrations and fact-filled text reveal the mysteries of your brain and what it is that makes you so smart!

From the bright, attractive covers to the clearly labeled drawings (complete with entertaining stick figures), this series is highly accessible to anyone from about 3rd grade on up. In formation is 'chunked' to help with retention and to seem less overwhelming. Each title also includes a timeline of related discoveries, and a fun fact section. Other titles in the series include:

Stickmen's Guide to Your Gurgling Guts
Stickmen's Guide to Your Mighty Muscles and Bones

Both entertaining and informative, these are great books for report writing or just for browsing.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: Come Home Already by Jory John and Benji Davies


Squee! Another Bear and Duck book! 

An excited Duck wants to hang out with Bear. But Bear’s gone fishing for a whole week and is happy to finally get a second alone.
What will Duck do while Bear is gone? How will he survive without his best pal?!

Poor Bear. He just wants a little bit of quiet time. Moms and Dads, you can relate, right? So he goes off fishing. By himself. No Duck. Right???

Not to give a spoiler, but you HAVE to read this book out loud, just for passages like this (said all in one breath): 

"Bear! It's me. Duck! From next door. I found you, ol' buddy, ol' pal, ol' chum. Are you hungry? Are you cold? Are you scared? Why were you screaming? Why was I screaming?"

Seriously, best set of friends since Elephant and Piggie, or Bear and Mouse. Coming soon to a story time near you!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Three Little Monkeys by Quentin Blake and Emma Chichester Clark


Tim, Sam, and Lulu are the mischievous and naughty three little monkeys who are told each day to be good while Hilda goes off to do her errands. And each day, Hilda returns home to find a bigger mess than the day before. These mischievous monkeys will likely never learn to behave!

The first thing I said (out loud, to the person next to me trying to get her own work done), was that "Hilda Snibbs" is a really fun name to say*. Try it! You get to say it a few times, before it is brought down to just plain Hilda. You won't notice the loss, though, because there are plenty of other fun lines to read, with whimsical illustrations to accompany them. My favorite refrain, every time she scolds them: "Tim and Sam and Lulu looked at her with their big round eyes and said nothing." Yep, that perfectly describes my children monkeys. If your little monkeys EVER get into just a little bit of trouble when left unattended, then they and you will thoroughly enjoy this read - and there's a bit of sage advice for the grown-ups on the last page as well.

*Emma Chichester Clark is also, btw, a really fun name to say.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Magical Mystical Monkey

The other day - the day after Valentine's Day, as a matter of fact - I was in another city, driving home through all sorts of construction. In between all the orange barrels and cones and heavy equipment, I spotted something red: A heart-shaped balloon, attached to something wedged down in the mud.

Being in a hurry, and surrounded by busy traffic, of course I pulled over and ran back down the curb to investigate.

Poor guy was obviously not having a happy post-Valentine's Day, so I offered him a lift. I deposited him carefully in my trash can, and we slipped through Border Patrol without any uncomfortable questions (I don't actually know his nationality, and I wasn't about to go through his pockets for ID until he had had a bath. Fortunately, they didn't ask.)

I picked up the kids on the way home, and by the time we pulled into the driveway, we knew his name (Magical Mystical Monkey) and the short version of how he came to be stuck where I found him. He got a quick rinse in the sink, then, divested of the escape balloon (more on that later), a real bath in the washing machine. 

Once dry he quickly made friends with last summer's refugee, who seems to be staying on permanently. 

Clean and comfortable, he was finally able to tell us more of his story (certain parts are still top secret!)

"First you should know, I am a spy. But don't tell anybody. I was trying to help my girlfriend. She is a spy too. There's this human baby. She was wandering around spying on the baby. Another baby came up behind her while she was spying on the baby and that baby GRABBED her!

After the baby grabbed her, she had a walkie talkie and she called me. I came to help, but it was too late. She was gone! So I went looking for her. I found her and the baby saw me with her, and she just wanted my girlfriend so she grabbed me and threw me out the window.

After that I saw a balloon floating by, so I grabbed onto it but it was running out of helium, and I got stuck in the sinking sand. Then the Jones Family came and rescued me from the sinking sand!"

When asked, "But what about your girlfriend?" he said he was still looking for her. When the Jones Family leaves for the day, he sneaks out and goes looking for her.

I just hope she doesn't catch sight of that last picture...things may not go well when they meet up again!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: Magnetism Investigations by Karen Latchana Kenney


You've probably played with magnets or seen them on a refrigerator door. But did you know that magnets are used in everything from laptops to electric guitars? Why and how do these magnets work? Throughout the centuries, scientists have wondered about magnetism. Why are some objects always magnetic while others are magnetic for only a short time? How do compasses work? Do migrating animals use magnetism to navigate? When scientists have questions like these, they complete experiments to find the answers. Learn what they have discovered about magnets and magnetism.

At first glance this seemed pretty basic - the introduction talks about a compass pointing north, but doesn't actually explain how to USE that knowledge to find your way around. It quickly got into more detail, however, explaining early thoughts and discoveries about how magnets work, how everything has its own magnetic field, and the ways animals use the Earth's magnetic field to navigate. There are interesting side bars with tidbits such as farmers feeding cows magnets (I grew up in farm country, and I totally did not know that!)

Everything is presented with clear explanations and real life connections that make this accessible to even non-sciencey people like myself! It is part of a series from Lerner titled "Key Questions in Physical Science", and we will definitely be ordering the rest of the titles:

Electricity Investigations
Energy Investigations
Forces and Motion Investigations
Sound and Light Waves Investigations
State of Matter Investigations

If science fair projects are at all a 'thing' in your neck of the woods, you will want to purchase this set as well!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Best Part About Valentine's Day

...besides all the chocolate going half off tomorrow...

is the Cybils Awards! Click here to see the absolute bestest book in each category, from Board Books to YA Speculative Fiction. Winners are chosen from hundreds of nominations, based on both literary merit and kid appeal. These are the must-read, must-purchase titles of the year!

Now, to start my list of nominations for next year...

Review: Monster Trucks by Joy Keller and Misa Saburi

Monster books are always popular around Halloween, but have you ever wondered what the monsters are doing with themselves the rest of the year?


Well, they certainly aren't sitting around on their tails! Apparently, in addition to being proficient scarers, they are also quite good with heavy machinery. The witch trades her broom for a street sweeper, and the yeti, of course, mans a snow plow. The end result? They are far too tired at the end of the day to creep around your closet or under your bed!

Keller's rhymes make for a fun read-aloud any time of year, and Saburi's bright illustrations are full of fun details to make your kids chuckle. Monsters and machinery are a perfect combination for any children's book collection!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse, by Nicholas Gannon


I absolutely adored the first book in this series, and asked for a sequel in my review. I'm sure Mr. Gannon obliged just for me. Ahem.

Archer Helmsley’s grandparents—famous explorers who went missing on an iceberg two years ago—are finally coming home. Archer is overjoyed, but he may be the only one. Rumors are flying that Archer’s grandparents were never really abandoned on the iceberg; that they’re making it all up. Archer knows that the rumors are false. With his best friends, Oliver and Adélaïde, and their new neighbor, Kana, Archer sets out during a snowstorm to rescue his grandparents’ reputation.

The second in this series did not disappoint in the least! Favorite old characters (mother gets a little more depth this time), new intriguing characters, adventure and mystery and exquisite illustrations. Speaking of illustrations, don't just skim over the cover illustration: as with the first volume, there are bits and pieces of the story hidden in plain sight, and you will find yourself flipping back and forth at times as you spot them! I took this with me to a week-long jury duty and was able to read it much more quickly than the first. I kept stopping, however, to mark favorite lines! Here are just a few:

"People do love to talk." Grandma Helmsley shook her head in disgust. "Especially when they've not the slightest idea what they're talking about. Makes them feel clever."
I saw a lot of this on Facebook this weekend...

His face was filled with wrinkles, but dust had settled into the cracks and softened them a bit.
What a lovely description! Don't you just automatically like this person?

Archer tried to play the fool, but fooling a one-legged French girl is no simple task.
Well, that's what I always say!

This time I was able to close the book with a sigh, happy in the wrap-up of this particular adventure, but confident that there will be more to come. If you do not have this series in your library, pick up both volumes immediately! It will not be a hard sell at all, especially once kids start telling each other about it!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review: Fort Building Time by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Abigail Halpin


Winter, spring, summer, fall. Each season brings new materials to make the perfect fort. From leaves to snow, from mud to sand, there is a different fort throughout the year. As a group of friends explore and build through the seasons, they find that every fort they make is a perfect fort.

If you finish this book and do not have the urge to run out and build SOME sort of fort, then I just don't think you can be my friend.

The lyrical word play makes this a fun story to read, either silently or aloud. Halpin's illustrations are bright and whimsical and inspiring. When reading it with your little ones, make sure you take time for the end pages, and talk about all the different materials you can use for a fort, and the different shapes it can take. Some are meant for the moment, some may be longer lasting, but all of them give that sense of a special place that is just for you and your friends. Methinks I will have to work a fort building project into one of our next Builder's Clubs!