Bonjour! Let’s Learn French by Judy Martialay. Book Review.

This part textbook part picture book would be an excellent addition to a French Immersion or Core French classroom. It would also be wonderful for a parent to share with a child who is learning French.

While it tells the story a group of children building a sandcastle and a little snail declaring himself king of Le Chateau, the child is exposed to basic French vocabulary.  It employs humor and a bit of drama to old a child’s interest. Also included are list of common words, a skit, information on French culture, a song, and even a section on Monet the artist and a follow-up activity. There is enough information and plenty of activities to make this book a favorite.

The best thing about this book is the site that goes along with it. http://www.Polyglotkidz.Com expands on the information in the textbook. For those of us whose French is less than bilingual, an hour long download is available that gives the correct pronunciation for everything in the book.

I was dismayed to learn “only 25% of public and private elementary schools in the US offer any form of language instruction.” Because Canada is a dual-language country, French instruction begins generally in grade 4 unless you enroll your child in immersion which begins in senior kindergarten. The cultural, mental, social, and economic benefits of second languages are irrefutable. This book would be valuable in any situation working with children 10 years old and under.

BUY LINK

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Calico Critters Adventure Tree House – Toy Review

Durability 3 stars The tree houses made  of somewhat brittle plastic. dropping the tree or some of the pieces onto a hard tile floor could damage them.
 
Play quality 5 stars There are tons of little engaging pieces that will delight lovers of miniatures. There are nooks and crannies and numerous ways to adjust the furniture. The Calico Critters can have a barbecue, play on the small or large slide, go on a swing, read a book, or even play with their own miniature dollhouse. How cute is that? If you lose the critters, duplo people work just as well.
 
Safety 4 stars There are a lot of tiny, tiny pieces so this needs to be kept well away from children under 3 years old. It needs a decent space to avoid tripping over little furniture. Falling on this tree would really hurt.
 
Age interest 5 stars Children aged three to seven or eight will love this toy. Kids who pass the age of playing with cutsie little critters could certainly adapt this to a Lego treehouse or a pirate Island.
Storage and portability 2 stars As you can see from the picture, once you have set the Treehouse up, it isn’t portable. There are numerous small and large pieces, some missing from this picture, such as the large slide. It doesn’t stay on very well and so often gets  misplaced. The toy doesn’t come close to going back into the box. It needs a very large box for storage even if you take it apart every time you put it away.
Price 3 stars This is an example of huge price variations. I bought this on impulse from Toys R Us because it was regularly well over $100 on sale for 40% off. I see now that it is priced $70 on Amazon, currently $45 on sale. I really should learn to look up my impulse buys on my cell phone before heading to the cash register. It was a very expensive toy.
 
Recommended but shop around.

Blackflies by Robert Munsch. Illustrated by Jay Odjick. Book Review.

This book follows the typical style for Robert Munsch of silliness and repetitive phrases. The thing I loved about it was that it takes place in the  Canadian North, in a community similar to many around Thunder Bay. It starts off in such a familiar way that it made me laugh out loud.

Helen gets up one morning and is thrilled to find the snow is gone and it is finally spring. But when she opens the door the black flies and mosquitoes drive her back inside. While it usually doesn’t all happen on the same day, this is a sadly repetitive scenario for those of us who live in the North. Children who live in this area, and similar locations across Canada, will completely identify with the protagonist. Although the family is of Aboriginal descent, the insect attacks will connect with everyone  who has had similar experiences.

I was happy to see that the family in this book was First Nations and the artist was from the Kitigin Zibi Anishinabeg Algonquin community. While Aboriginal children are used to seeing native artists, it is inspiring to see someone using their talent to create picture books for the very young.

It would make a great gift for anyone who’s been driven indoors by mosquitoes and blackflies. Northern blackflies are not what you might be thinking. They are tiny insects that can get through needle size holes. In spite of their tininess, they take a good chunk out of your skin when they bite.

It is also terrific that Helen is the hero who saves her family from being overcome by the blood-sucking bugs of the North. I’m gratified to see more books with female heroes.

It is very difficult to find funny, picture books that feature First Nations families but connect with everyone. This is sure to become a classroom or camp favorite.

Buy link

 

Sunny Days by Jesse Byrd. Illustrated by Anastasia Ku. Book Teview.

This large 8 by 10 inch picture book is printed on sturdy glossy paper. The large format would make it ideal to share with children. The illustrations are double-page spreads featuring an expressive and lovable little girl named Martine.

Martine is a shouter. She is so happy that she inadvertently startles her neighbors with herenthusiasm. In spite of this, she is well-liked. She loves her neighborhood and the people in it. One day disaster strikes when a terrible rain storm damages much of the neighborhood. It loses its beauty and sense of community. People become depressed and isolated.

Martine refuses to succumb to despair. She walks around naming the sunny days the way the meteorologists named the storm. When she tells the barber this, he talks to others and people’s  attitude slowly changes. They begin to prepare their community. Martine helps whenever possible. Then they throw a neighborhood party to celebrate.

Although this is a story of great loss and recovery, the tone is upbeat and funny. There are so many things to discuss especially with regard to attitude, support, and rebuilding. In an era where climate change is bringing wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, ice storms, and more, this is a timely book to share with children and to remind adults that we are only as strong as we think we are.

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Animal Ring Toss – Toy Review

 
Durability 5 The pieces are made from painted wood and rope. So far they have survived well but I believe that they shouldn’t be thrown or banged together to keep them looking good.
 
Play quality 5 It’s great to have an indoor activity (which could also be used outside) that encourages large motor skills and physical movement. Children learn the names of the animals and the colors as well. If you keep score, children learn how to add higher numbers. With encouragement, they can develop throwing strategies for better accuracy. Children can play alone or with a friend. There are enough rings for four people. It could be a fun center for a children’s birthday party,
 
Safety 5 Children should be encouraged not to run up to the pegs. Although, if they fell on them, they would likely not hurt themselves. The animal pegs have large heads and round edges. There are no stand-alone posts. Even though the pieces interlock like jigsaw puzzles, they would tip over easily if a child fell on them. They are built with safety in mind.
 
Age interest 5 Children 3 years of age and up will love playing this game. Just adjust the starting line closer or farther depending on the child’s development. It’s a game even adults will enjoy.
Storage and portability 5 All the pieces fit easily back in the sturdy box. You may have to reinforce it with some tape if the lid starts to tear.
Price 5 I purchased it on sale for $12 Canadian at Home Sense.I would definitely pay double that for it since it seems to be more safely designed than a lot of Peg Toss games out there.
 
Highly recommended.

Backyard Fairies by Phoebe Wahl. Book review.

This is a delightful picture book for the imaginative child. There are only a few words on each page; the detailed and intriguing gardens filled with secretive hidden fairies dominate.

If I remember my grammar lessons correctly, the book is written in present perfect tense thereby pulling the reader into the story and engaging them in imaginative response. It is also written in a gentle pattern of rhyming couplets. It begins, ” Have you ever found, while out on your own…/A tiny, magical somebody’s home?”  The illustration shows a little girl examining a tree stump with an opening perfect for habitation.

As the story continues, the little girl searches everywhere for fairies who unknown to her, are within Arm’s Reach. There are also other magical creatures like a rock gnome. The child leaves a gift for the fairies. It vanishes overnight and they give something to her. My granddaughter and I were so delighted to read this part. We have made fairy doors in her garden and done exactly that.

The reader  empathizes with the little girl who, despite her thoroughness and determination, is unable to spot a fairy. She goes to bed wondering if they really exist. During her sleep, fairies fly in with flowers and create a wreath for her head. She wakes up in the morning wearing it.

Phoebe Wahl not only writes her own text but does her own illustrations. They are incredibly detailed and intriguing. This is a special book that your child will ask to hear over and over and never tire of finding all the fairies.

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Melissa and Doug Reusable Vehicle Sticker Pad – Toy Review

 
Durability 5 The vinyl stickers are very durable. You need to be a little bit careful when removing them for the first time.
 
Play quality 5 Children can do a lot with these stickers beyond the obvious of making a picture. With an adult’s input, they can learn a great deal about the modes of transportation. They can be used to tell a story like felt boards were used in the past. Kids can make up funny scenarios like my granddaughter did with the people in her picture flying to work. You can play “possible/impossible” where you take turns making a picture and decide whether it is feasible representation of reality. Children will come up with new ideas on their own.
 
Safety 5 I wouldn’t use these with any children under 3 years old or children who still put things in their mouth. The vinyl stickers, like balloons, are choking hazard.
 

Age interest 5 Children aged 3 to 6 will enjoy playing with this sticker book. The older the child, the more sophisticated the pictures will be. They will probably get to the point where they start to move stickers from one sheet to the other and  may also create an entire town. For a fun and educational afternoon, the child can create different pictures that tell a story. They can photograph them, print them out, and writing the words for a personal and impressive storybook.

 Storage and portability 3 The stickers peel off easily and go back to their original page. However, the pages rip out, which can be useful, but also tend to fall out during transportation. The package is pretty large to carry around. I wish it came with some type of envelope. This can be easily rectified by stapling together pieces of Bristol board and cutting out a handle or using a cloth bag, purchased or homemade.
Price 5 It sells for around $6.00, well worth the price.
 
Highly recommended.

Melissa and Doug – Hammer and Bench Toy Review

Durability four stars The toy is made out of wood and it looks like it would last a while. I don’t know how well it would handle severe pounding since my granddaughter didn’t play with it much because it doesn’t work.
 
Play quality one star The holes are too big for the pegs. Not only do they fall right through if you hammer them once but sometimes they slide through on their own. I had to line the holes with felt to make them grip the pegs. Even then it doesn’t work very well.

Safety two stars There are no sharp edges. I don’t know if the pegs would splinter with a lot of pounding but the hammer looks like it might. However, I would not give this to a child under three as the pegs are easy to jam into a child’s throat. There should be a stopper at the top and bottom of the pegs so they can’t be removed from the bench.

  

Age interest two stars The idea is suited for children two and three years old but the product isn’t.

Storage and portability three stars It’s easy to carry and light however the hammer could easily be left behind as well as any pegs which have rolled away.

Price one star It was $10. It wasn’t worth a dollar.
 
NOT recommended.

Chad Valley Kidpad – Toy Review

 
Durability five stars This toy has been dropped on the floor, in the yard, in the car and on  the steps and is still going strong.
 
Play quality five stars There are a variety of activities to engage a child. Children learn numbers, counting, the alphabet, beginning letter sounds, songs, sounds of items and animals, shapes, and French. There is also a sing-along component.
 
Safety five stars The batteries are locked away  with a screw. There are no sharp edges or small pieces.
Age interest five stars This will engage three to six year olds and older children learning French.
Storage and portability five stars 19 cm X 24cm (7.5 in x 10 in) is small enough to carry in a tote. Very light.
Price five stars I bought it on sale for less than five dollars but it’s worth $20.
 
Highly recommended.

My First Best Friend by Derek Washington. Book review.

This picture book is a sweet story of a father’s unwavering love for his child. He expresses his admiration for his son’s determination and his enjoyment of his boy’s growth. Throughout the book he builds the child’s confidence and sense of adventure. They do everything together and their lives are filled with joy and affection.

Then his son takes a major step toward independence. The father confesses that sending his child to school is difficult because his son is missed. When his son says he has a new best friend named Miles, the father reminds him that he will always love him and be his first best friend. I think it is important that when a child has to negotiate the scary and unpredictable world away from home, especially the social quagmire of school, that he knows his father is always there to back him up and support him. However, I would have liked the dad to show more interest in Miles and encourage his son to make friends outside the family.

The book is written in rhyme which holds together fairly well but it isn’t really necessary, especially considering the story’s focus. The illustrations are full color, full-page, cartoon style. There is a color page and a maze the back of the book.

This would make a lovely gift for a new father or father to be.