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.

Monsters on my Mind by Lauren Tortora. Book Review.

This picture book is a hardcover 8 by 10 . The illustrations grab the reader’s attention. They’re made with acrylic paint and black ink and fill the pages with bright colors. The cover shows a child frightened and hiding below a blanket. From the title and picture, it seemed the book would mostly be about monsters but they actually play a fairly small part.

I had mixed feelings about this book so I decided to solicit my granddaughter’s opinion. She’s almost 5 years old but listens to a wide variety of books, some for much older children. The book held her interest throughout.

Lily is a child who loves imagining. She practices making pictures with her mind. She snaps an imaginary shot like a camera but she also has a camera hanging around her neck in several of the pictures.  From the author’s note at the back, I figured out this was a cardboard camera. My granddaughter and I were unsure whether she was literally taking pictures.

The line between reality and imagining is difficult to discern in this book. Lily starts to make excuses for the disappearance of her mother’s silver mirror and her dad’s deck of cards by blaming it on the monsters in her room. Has her imagination taken over to the point where she is using it to excuse things she’s not supposed to do? We weren’t sure what was happening. She even blames the monsters for eating her homework. She throws away her camera.

But then she has a magical dream where in, “I didn’t remember seeing any more scary monsters! I just remembered all the fun I had with my camera by my side.” She decides to reconnect with her imagination and from that point on, she controls what she dreams. The monsters are no longer scary and she doesn’t let them get her into trouble.

We decided that the story was telling us to use our imagination but to not let it run away with us. We had an interesting discussion about whether we could really control our dreams.

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Melissa and Doug Best Friends Forever Deluxe Magnetic Dress-Up Play Set – Toy Review

Durability five stars. These toys are tough. They’ve been banged together, dropped, and thrown into boxes without chipping, cracking, or flaking.

  
Play quality four stars. The dolls will provide hours of fun. The girls are from diverse backgrounds. There are enough clothes to provide a variety of scenarios of imaginative play.  The dolls could even fit in a Barbie doll house or a cardboard box construction of the child’s own creation. Although the dolls are not bendable, they are suited to children who are not ready for the fine motor control it takes to dress and play with Barbie style dolls. The dolls seem to be 10 or 11 years old and the clothes are suited to a younger girl. I wanted more variety though.
I found that it was easy for me to make a template for my granddaughters to use to create their own clothes. We made party dresses, pajamas, and and career clothes. The sky is the limit.
nightgown, onesie pjs, party dress, ball gown
 

Safety four stars. The dolls are suitable for children to play with who are three years old and up and no longer put small objects into their mouths. However, the box is heavy and awkward for a child to carry.

 Age interest five stars. At first children will be happy just to play with the dolls. Older girls may become interested in designing clothes. I recommend using Bristol board or heavy printer paper and gluing at least three magnets on the back of a dress. There may be other dolls that are easier to design for since these ones do not have their arms separate from their body. One way to get the clothing to fit properly is to scan the doll on your computer, print it out on heavy paper, then cut out the doll completely removing the purple background. Make sure the child traces outside the body when making clothing.
astronaut, judge, police officer, ballerina
Storage and portability three stars The original dolls and clothing can be stored in the box. The lid does not stay on so you will have to tie a strap to keep it in place. Once you add clothing of your own design, the little nooks quickly fill up and you will have to add something else to store them. It’s already heavy and awkward to store and carry.
Price four stars. On Amazon the price varied from $20-$38. Personally I think $25  is reasonable for this product. If your child shows an early interest in older dolls or, later, is really into designing clothes for her own dolls, this is a wonderful little toy.
 
Well recommended.

Edu Baby 5 Games Around the World – Toy Review

Durability four stars The cardboard and plastic pieces are solid but some pieces don’t stay together very well.
 
Play quality three stars  Children learn animals and their habitats, rooms in the home,  and children of many nations in cultural clothing. They put together puzzles, play bingo, learn shapes and colors, and play a memory game. Unfortunately, it is mostly jigsaw puzzle based.
 
Safety four stars The game is recommended for 2+ but I would closely supervise children who still put things in their mouths.
 
Age interest four and a half stars Two is a little young for most of this although they would like sorting the pictures of children. They can play with the puzzle animals but might struggle to fit them together. Definitely engaging for three to five-year-olds.
Storage and portability five stars Everything fits back  into the box which has a handle and is light to carry. I recommend putting the memory game pieces in a ziplock bag.
Price three stars I bought it for $9.99 at Home Sense.  It is no longer available on Amazon so I don’t  know what they charge.
 
Recommended (with reservation) as long as it is under $10.00. Watch the video for suggestions.
This less than three minute video explains the games in more detail and gives ideas on how to use them. https://youtu.be/I_cSrkLvKGU

Three Random Questions Interview with Author Joy Heyer.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Joy Heyer to my blog. Duck, Duck, Moose seems to be your first book. If that is correct, what inspired you to use animals in your book and feature such an unusual take on a child’s game?

Joy Heyer: I love puns and word play so when the phrase “Duck, Duck, Moose” popped into my head, I immediately pictured a fearful duck riding on the back of a moose. How did the duck get to the moose? Where was goose? What would it be like to play duck, duck, goose with a moose instead? Or a pig? Or a porcupine? And suddenly I had a picture book.

Ferrante: When did you begin writing and why have you chosen children’s picture books as your genre?

Heyer: I studied writing and illustrating children’s books when I was in college but it wasn’t until 2009, when a friend invited me to join her writing group, that I really started seriously writing and illustrating.

Ferrante: You have four children and are now a grandmother as well. Have you used your family as inspiration for your book?

Heyer: Oh yes! My children have been sad, grumpy, and lonely many times because their best friends were out of town. Watching them decide to be happy and make new friends is always a delight.

Ferrante: I see we have similar interest in reading, writing, painting, sewing, and dreaming up home-improvement projects. How do you balance these interests? Do you switch for a break after a long period working on one craft or do you do several at a time? How does this impact your writing?

Heyer: Drawing and painting are my favorite things to do so I have to make sure I set aside time for all the other things that need doing, including reading and writing. Fortunately, reading, writing, and drawing are interconnected so I find myself doing at least a little of each every day. As for home-improvement projects…well, maybe someday I will get to them.

Ferrante: Your bio mentioned that you have a dog that goes crazy whenever you leave the house. Do you think this pet might show up in one of your future books?

Heyer: Definitely. He provides me with lots of great story ideas—so many I hope to create a whole series of books with him as the main character.

Ferrante: That sounds fun. As a new author, what have you learned the hard way that you wish you had known earlier?

Heyer: It takes a lot of hard work and practice to be good at writing and illustrating. Who knows? Maybe I would be discussing my tenth book instead of my first book if I had started practicing earlier!

Ferrante: Absolutely. What are you working on now?

Heyer: I continue to draw and write everyday (practice, practice, practice!) so when the next project comes, I’m ready. In the meantime, I’m enjoying sharing Duck, Duck, Moose with everyone. Maybe I could start a home-improvement project…

Ferrante: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share?

Heyer: I would encourage everyone to find someone who is lonely and be their friend, even if at first they are grumpy. Just like moose and duck.

Ferrante: If you could MC any television show which one would you choose?

Heyer: PBS Masterpiece Mystery! I LOVE mystery shows and books. It all started with my first Nancy Drew book. Maybe one day I will write a mystery book, maybe a dog who solves crimes…

Ferrante: Go for it! If you could compete at an Olympic level, which sport would you pick?

Heyer: Snowboard Half-Pipe. I would love to have that talent. I can’t even handle little rollercoasters so all that twisting and spinning they do is doubly impressive to me.

Ferrante: That’s a gusty choice. What is your favourite children song and why?

Heyer: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, though in our home it is the Eeby-Beeby Spider because that is how one of my daughters sang it when she was little. It reminds me of the happiness one little song sung by a child can bring.

Ferrante: There’s nothing sweeter, that’s for sure. Thank you for answering my questions and sharing your experience with us. Best of luck with Duck, Duck, Moose and your future writing.

Book review of Duck, Duck, Moose