Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight


From Bunmi Laditan, the creator of the Honest Toddler blog, The Big Bed is a humorous picture book 
about a girl who doesn't want to sleep in her little bed, so she presents her dad with his own bed—a camping cot!—in order to move herself into her parents' big bed in his place. A twist on the classic parental struggle of not letting kids sleep in their bed.

This went quickly from "looks cute, I'll order it," to "reading parts (and then all) out loud to the person next to me," to, "wait, I'm taking this home to read to my husband!" 

I'll probably let the kids read it, too, but this is definitely a book to make the adults laugh out loud. The voice of the young protagonist is both very real and very adult. Anyone who ever hears their own words and reasoning coming back to them out of a pint-sized mouth (while you cover your own so you don't get caught laughing) will relate. The illustrations, particularly facial expressions, are spot on.

Hmm...maybe I won't let the kids read this, particularly the Catnip Kid - that little con man does not need any additional ideas! You, however, need this book, whoever you are. Hi. larious.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Review: Lola Dutch by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright


From the best ways to serve breakfast — an elegant feast! — to the ideal sleeping spot — a majestic blanket fort, of course! — Lola is inspired all day long.
Her dear companion Bear sometimes says she is just too much, but Lola is rich with imagination and originality, which even Bear will agree is AMAZING.

Does this description remind you of any young person you know? Someone who loves to go all out and make things bigger, better, grander, more exciting? Someone who goes all out, full throttle, all day long? Or does it remind you of any grown-up you know? (E.C., I'm looking at you!)

Whether you know someone who is the high-energy Lola, the happy accomplice gator, Pig or Crane, or the quietly shaking-his-head, there-when-you-need-him Bear, this is just an all-around great gift book. Give it to someone having a birthday, expecting a new baby, or embarking on a new project. And by all means, get one for your library shelves so everyone can enjoy it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Up, Down and Other Opposites with Ellsworth Kelly


Ellsworth Kelly's paintings and sculptures take center stage in this creative visual presentation of opposites. The pairings range from together/apart to vertical/horizontal, from full/empty to front/back [of a canvas!], providing readers with both expected and unexpected visual vocabulary. Images include Ellsworth's most famous works, as well as some lesser-known pieces, providing a stunning representation of colors and dimensions.

Concept books are a popular genre for board books. This series uses those concepts (in this case, opposites) to also introduce the work of a particular artist. I had never heard of Kelly myself, but abstract art is a perfect foil for this genre, with its simple clear lines and shapes. At times it seems as if the text is being forced to fit the art (I don't know that I would say a half is an opposite of a whole), and it would have helped if the opposites in texture had surfaces you could feel as well, but overall the comparisons are clear enough for little ones. The text goes a bit further than some others in that it actually uses the word "opposites" over and over, whereas most just offer examples.

A solid addition to your board book collection. Other books in this series include:
Blue and Other Colors with Henri Matisse
Squares and Other Shapes with Josef Albers
Birds and Other Animals with Pablo Picasso
One and Other Numbers with Alexander Calder

We will most likely be ordering these for our collection soon!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Today is Brought to You by the Letter A!

Very, very beginning letter studies with Shane and Grace! Once a week Grace's teacher sends home worksheets for her to trace letters. Gosh, that's exciting. And, seriously, homework for preschool?? (No, we don't do them.)

It seems a bit counter-intuitive to have a child with fine motor issues trying to trace letters she can't identify, so we are starting with just recognizing letters - no sounds, no writing, that can come when they are ready. Shane already knows some of his letters, while Grace just guesses "G" for each one (it is the most important after all!), so we are starting at the beginning. These are just some fun activities we did to help cement that first letter in our heads:

These are free printables found at totschool.shannons.org

She has all sorts of fun activities, and you have to love her tagline: "Because I can't handle another episode of Barney." There aren't any posts from the past few years - I hope that doesn't mean Barney came calling - but she still has her old posts up to explore. It occurred to me recently that we haven't used our dot markers in a while, so this was a great way to introduce the letter and practice motor control.

Anything with foamy shapes is a win. I just opened the tub and challenged them to see how many As they could find.

Grace is an all-or-nothing kind of gluer. Some got barely a dot, while others...

While they were working, I did a Google image search for "letter a", and printed out a few pages of results. I cut them into strips and told them to pick out the ones they wanted to cut out and glue on another paper.

The choice seemed to be "all of them", which was great! They are both doing a super job with scissors, and Grace kept running to me to show me "I cut in the lines!"

Ignore coil of wire, I was supposed to be putting up a chicken fence.
They had so much fun, they both wanted to do multiple pages, so I told them to get more paper out of the art drawer. Somebody apparently had already used this one. 

Shane refused to cover it up.

I printed out several "A" coloring pages and we did different things with them. This one was supposed to be colored in one color per space, but they decided at this point they weren't doing what the teacher told them to:

Sheridan helped Shane cut out his (purple) one, while Gracie did her own. Her scissor skills are actually coming along, not too long ago she would have cut right through the middle!

That pretty much signaled we were done for the day, but we will continue later by coloring the other A's in different ways - painting, thumbprints, and gluing cereal on them. Next up: snack time with Scrabble crackers, during which we will eat all the "A"s we can find!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review - Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones by Sara Levine and....T.S Spookytooth?


Did you know that we have mostly the same bones as a dinosaur? Sure, they are shaped a bit differently, and in different quantities and places - but we both have skulls, vertebrae, phalanges, femurs, etc. What kind of dinosaur would you be if your vertebrae extended further on both ends of your body?

This introduction to types of dinosaurs (always a hot topic in itself) uses comical illustrations of what humans might look like with the same features. At the end the relationship between dinosaurs and birds is discussed, inviting children to go outside and look for these "theropods" around them. A glossary and pronunciation guide (thank-you!) round out the final pages, along with a list of books and web sites for further exploration.

Illustrations are colorful and silly, without sacrificing accuracy in the actual dinosaur skeletons. Your young readers may be inspired to try drawing themselves or family members as different dinosaurs, or as other animals. Be sure you really want to know how they see you, though, before you propose that activity!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: A Queen in Jerusalem by Tami Shem-Tov, Rachella Sandbank and Avi Ofer


In Jerusalem, in the early 20th century, a little girl named Malka—"queen" in Hebrew—dreams of dressing up as Queen Esther. It is the festival of Purim, and all the kids are looking forward to celebrating in their costumes. But Malka's mother doesn't have time to prepare a Purim costume for her. Where can Malka get a costume in time for the holiday?

"I hope it doesn't rain and get the laundry wet," says Malka's mother, hanging a shirt on the line.
But Malka hopes it will rain and get the laundry wet.

The opening lines perfectly capture the petulance of a child who did not get her way. Malka's mother did not have time to put together a costume, presumably because she has been busy with everything else that goes into life. Maybe it's the busy Mom in me, but I would have liked to see a little more sympathy expressed towards her by the end. It can never hurt to remind children who are moving developmentally out of the egocentric stage that there are other people in the world besides them. (If she's old enough to wander the streets of Jerusalem, she's old enough to help Mom out a bit!)

From feeling "cold and grey" like the streets, Malka steps into a seemingly magical place where beautiful miracles are created - what a fantasy world for a little one! This world is based on the very real Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and young readers are introduced to its founder, Boris Schatz. A brief biography is included at the end, and may inspire young readers to find out more about him and the Academy. If not, the story itself should inspire a bit of dress-up around the house, for Purim or just for fun!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Review: I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl and Sarah Horne


I remember one Christmas asking for a brown stuffed dog. Every time we were at the mall, I dragged my parental unit in to the store to point out the exact stuffed dog I wanted. On Christmas morning, I opened my gifts and found a brown stuffed...bear.

We've all been there, right?

The heroine of our story asked her Abuela over and over for tickets to the amusement park. On her birthday, she got...a chicken? Okay, that's not even remotely close. In fact, I would venture a guess that the chicken and the amusement park tickets were not even sold in the same store. 

Not that chickens are all bad. In fact, we just picked up half a dozen ourselves, and this weekend I bled all over the chicken coop I am fixing up for them. Nothing beats real, fresh eggs! But...her chicken is too busy to lay eggs. What on earth is she doing??

Children will love gleaning hints from Horne's fun illustrations, while adults will get a smile out of the wry humor in Gehl's sparse text. All can appreciate the message that sometimes what we get is better than what we thought we wanted. This is sure to tickle my Medium Guy in particular, and I predict it will make the rounds of several bedtimes before I can wrestle it back to the library to catalog it. Pick it up if you want something a little different and fun for your shelves!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: The T-Rex Who Lost His Specs by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross


Poor T-Rex has lost his glasses. Without them, he can't tell toast from toasted slippers or a towel from an owl. Let's hope his friends can help!

There is plenty of silliness to be had in this one. Washing your face in the toilet? Wearing your sister's undies???! The humor is sure to please any young audience, while the rhythm and rhyme make it a natural read-aloud. You may, however, need to explain to American children what kippers are (and then someone will have to explain to me why you would eat such a thing). I'm also a bit confused as to why this particular T Rex is smaller than most of his friends. And why it says he ate his specs when they are clearly behind him. But I don't think the intended audience will be bothered by such details. Any Little Princess fan will be sure to recognize the illustration style of Tony Ross, making these two again a winning combination!

***This book will be available on shelves April 1.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Guest Review: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

NOTE: This guest review was written by Rebecah, a student at a nearby high school. It is always fun to hear what teens have to say about the books they are reading, whether they are new publications or older!


     Impulse is a young adult fiction novel by Ellen Hopkins. The characters; Conner Sykes, Tony Ceccareli, and Vanessa O'Reilly. The main setting is at a mental hospital. It starts off with the three main characters talking about their experiences and how to get out of the hospital. They all struggle with their own problems. Conner can’t bear the memories of his childhood and the only thing that helps him is pills. Tony has a good life except the fact that he can’t stand to be with his parents and everyone else without there being a fight which takes a huge toll on him. Vanessa has quite a bit of secrets but one keeps bringing her back to cutting herself. The only way to get well and out of the hospital is if they all help each other out and conquer their problems, not only temporarily but forever.

I like how all the characters had an opportunity to have a second chance in life no matter what they did in their past. My favorite character is Tony. I would recommend it because I feel like many people can relate to this novel mainly because everyone needs a second chance in life no matter what they did.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Toddler STEAM - Patterns and Sorting

Recognizing patterns and sorting are a basic foundation for SO many other things - math and science, obviously, but also music, spelling, grammar, foreign languages, writing...plus they are a lot of fun to play with! We even worked some colors and shapes in this week. This was probably the cheapest STEAM program ever, since almost everything was already on hand or left over from previous projects.

The sorting table was easy, I just grabbed the first three containers I saw of sortable objects.

We had to have at least ONE messy table! Playing with your food is always a sure hit, and I had leftovers from our scouting snack.

Of course some did patterns, some just painted.

That's totally okay! STEAM explorations mean letting the kids find their own way. Sometimes it will go the direction you want it to, sometimes not. The important thing is that they are learning and absorbing something.

Some less messy art (shapes left over from an earlier craft):

Okay, not a pattern, but we learned LOTS about colors and shapes!

My big expense - a $2 bag of pipe cleaners and a $3 bag of cereal. 

I like pipe cleaners for stringing with littler kids, because the end doesn't flop around.

 Not to mention, if they decide to eat it later, they aren't likely to suck a string down and choke!

Rubber bands, on the other hand, are a definite choking hazard, so you probably don't want to do this one with the babies. The bigger kids love it, though! (We have the Geo Boards available for circulation).

Ah, symmetry. Child after my own heart.

Cheap reinforcement stickers - or you can use colored dots or the star stickers that come a million to a package. 

Anything with stickers is good.

Most of these I grabbed from my front yard or kitchen:

The books are part of a great series, and I had those scattered around the room.

These linking chains are also available for check-out:

Oops - can you spot the break in the pattern?

And the blocks stay here for our monthly Builder's Club:

As expected, the kids mostly just built towers, but that's all good! Thanks for everyone who came (and let me take their pictures!)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Review: Ancient Mysteries series from Lerner

Nothing beats a good real-life mystery to reel kids in!


On Easter in 1722, a fleet of Dutch ships exploring the southeastern Pacific Ocean came across a small island that at first seemed uninhabited. Instead, the sailors found a community of people—and hundreds of giant stone statues. Easter Island and its statues have long been a source of mystery for explorers, historians, and tourists. How did people come to live in such a remote place? How had the islanders carved such enormous statues without metal tools? And how had they moved them? Read all about the myths and theories surrounding Easter Island, as well as the science researchers are using to learn more.

I have read a bit about the Easter Island statues, but this was more than a rehashing of old information. Various theories are given equal time and consideration, allowing students to discuss and compare on their own. Science and math are used here (and explained clearly) to show how scientists have figured out mysteries such as whether the statues were moved while standing upright, or while lying in their 'backs'. (Answer: probably upright).


In 1911 an American explorer came across an ancient city hidden high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Since then, explorers, archaeologists, and tourists have been fascinated by this beautiful and mysterious city known as Machu Picchu. The city appears to have been carefully constructed—every stone is perfectly cut and placed. The Inca people built Machu Picchu at the height of their empire, but no one knows for sure how or why they created it. Read all about the myths and theories surrounding Machu Picchu and its history, as well as the science archaeologists are using to understand this ancient city.

The Inca civilization has many fascinating aspects, not least of which is this ancient city. But who built it, and why? Was it a prison? A military stronghold? A home for priestesses? A test farm? An alien outpost? A royal estate? As with the other title, readers are given information and theories to compare and debate among themselves.

How the city was built is just as fascinating. The large stones that make up the walls fit together perfectly - there is no mortar holding them together, yet they are still standing hundreds of years later! Challenge your kids to do the same with rocks you find around your home, and see just how difficult that can be.

Other titles in this series include:

Mysteries of Pompeii
Mysteries of Stonehenge
Mysteries if the Egyptian Pyramids
Mysteries if the Great Wall of China

Each are sure to capture the attention of kids and adults alike!