Soccer School – Where Soccer Saves the World Season 2 by Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton. Book Review.

 

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This unusual book explains the science, and more, behind soccer. It covers such topics as why the soccer ball is round, how to have healthy grass for the soccer field, languages around the world, and filming the event. There is a class schedule at the beginning that lists such subjects pertaining to soccer as biology, math, art, religious studies, psychology, business studies, and engineering. How the authors connect all of these topics to soccer is impressive and interesting.

Just in case your child resists reading an educational book disguised as entertainment, the authors have extensively discussed vomit and urine as it relates to soccer. You will learn more than you expect.  Although there is a fair bit of humor interjected into the content, it is extensively well researched and written. Each chapter ends with a quiz of five or six multiple choice questions. The level of knowledge is quite high. The answers are in the back of the book.

Some tidbits that caught my attention were:

  • The lawn mower was a spinoff of an invention to cut off the tufty bits  of cloth from soldiers uniforms.
  • Some languages have original words that exist nowhere else. For example in the Philippines they have a word for taking a bath with your clothes on.  In India and Bangladesh they have a word for the sound, sight, or motion of a big person’s buttocks rubbing together as they walk.
  • Since cameras broadcasting a soccer game are scattered in and around the field, they receive different lighting and so must be color adjusted to match each other.

The book also contains helpful information on meeting personal goals and motivation. It’s quite amazing how much has been packed into this 198 page book. Although the vocabulary is quite rich and some of the concepts  are a bit challenging, I think kids aged eight and up who enjoy trivia, science, and soccer will love this book. More than a few adults we’ll find something interesting  here as well.

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Petscapade (Mystery Book Club 1) by Nadishka Aloysius. Book Review.

Petscapade is the story of four girls and a boy, 9 years old, who form a mystery book club. When a purebred kitten goes missing they decide to use their knowledge to solve the mystery of whether the cat has wandered off or been stolen. The novel starts out quite slowly and the reader needs to show patience as this is a gently paced book. The cover fails to inform or interest the reader.

About a quarter of the way through the novel I discovered it was taking place in Sri Lanka. I’m not sure if I missed that indicator earlier on. It’s important to realize this as the way that children speak is unusually articulate and adult for 9 year olds.

“Yes, it is rather,” agreed Lal, with a grin.

There are several cultural behaviors that may strike North Americans as unusual if they are not aware of the context. For example, the children are not allowed to bring fiction books to school to read and their social interactions are strictly controlled. Once the reader realizes the environment, it becomes quite intriguing to learn new customs and terms.

The story is told in a straightforward manner with little emotion. However, There are moments of humor.

Cara laughed. “If every grumpy person is a criminal, we would all be in jail!”

The author doesn’t shy away from controversial viewpoints.I think this book should launch some interesting discussions about our abysmal treatment of animals such as supporting pet stores, eating meat, and abandoning pets.

I’m not sure political remarks belong in a book for 9 year olds though.

“And she is Tamil…” Amal broke off.

There is one beautiful paragraph that will give food for thought.

“I have taught my son that sometimes, you need to intervene to help others. I don’t believe in sitting on the sidelines watching the world fall apart. Children must be taught to take whatever action they can to make the world a better place.”

The case of the missing cat, which turns out to be cats actually, is resolved positively even though the children are discouraged and sometimes condemned for their actions in trying to locate the missing kitten. The lesson of perseverance is worthwhile.

 

 

Best Books I’ve Reviewed in 2018

These were my favorite books I reviewed in 2018. Click on the titles to go to the complete review.

Adult Books

When by Daniel H. Pink. 

It will give you insights into time that you never considered and strategies that will make your days more successful.

The Sherrif’s Catch by James Valla-Bardon. The Sassana Stone Pentalogy. 

This is a robust and gruesome tale of a Spanish soldier, Abel de Santiago, a gifted sharpshooter, seeking revenge for the murder of his wife. Anything and everything horrible that can happen to this man, does.

Young Adult/Junior Grade Books

Laura Monster Crusher by Wesley King. 

This will be a favorite with readers who love fantasy and unusual female heroes.

Picture Books

Bloom – A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad.

This is a 8X10 picture book that tells the story of a fascinating and unique individual, Elsa Schiaparelli. It begins in early childhood where we learned that Elsa was a disappointment to her parents because they wanted a boy and she wasn’t as pretty as her sister. This compelled Elsa her to examine the concept of beauty.

Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure by Danual Berkley. Illustrated by Amariah Rauscher. 

I knew I’d like this author the moment I read the dedication. Simple words with a powerful, important message.

Backyard Fairies by Phoebe Wahl. 

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.

Duck, Duck, Moose by Joy Heyer.

This is a delightful picture book about missing a friend.My granddaughter found this book very engaging and loved the humorous bits as well as the emotional moments. Highly recommended.

Kameko and the Monkey-king by Melissa Addey and Claire Loescher. Book Review.

Kameko is told by the Buddha statue that in order to cure her seriously ill mother she must obtain the jewel from the Monkey-king’s crown. On her way to The Monkey-king’s Kingdom she meets and befriends several characters. They warn her not to drink, eat, or sleep in The Monkey-king’s Palace or she will wake up a monkey herself.

She pretends to go to sleep but creeps in and steals The Monkey-king’s jewel. He pursues. In spite of being helped by her new friends, the monkey regains the jewel. Kameko returns home heartbroken but the magic from the jewel has saturated her hands and her touch cures her mother. She grows up to be a renowned doctor and healer.

The story has a lyrical quality as though it is being told by an oral Storyteller of old. The print illustrations suit the story line perfectly. The illustrations seem simple at first glance but are actually quite complex for lino cuts. They are black and white with touches of red giving it an historic Japanese flavor.

Kameko’s interactions with the people she meets are positive especially when she takes time from her trip to help an elderly woman gather wood. However, as a Buddhist myself, I find the fact that her only strategy was to steal disappointing. I’m not sure if this is based on a traditional story or original, but to be cross-culturally relevant I think it needs to be updated.

The Monkey-king has a right to be enraged. We have no proof that he is actually going to bring harm to Kameko and, even so, Kameko goes there by choice. I had hoped she would use her wits to gamble and win the stone or win a challenge from the Monkey-king. Simply stealing it in the night does not comply with true Buddhist ethics. Neither  would I want a child to go away with the idea and stealing is the first and best response.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Check out my video with your child.

A Christmas wonderland made from Legos tells short visual stories while the music for We Wish You a Merry Christmas plays. Words appear on the screen. Then the music takes a more lively twist while the history of the song is revealed. Lego enthusiasts will be inspired to make their own winter town.

 

Notice that the carollers have the actual words to the song on the booklets.

Crazy Moon by Lucia Greene. Illustrated by Shannon Sands. Book Review.

This is the second book I have reviewed by Lucia Greene. Her five star review for A Tunnel in the Pines is available here. https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/a-tunnel-in-the-pines-by-lucia-greene-book-review/

This book is written in the same easy-to-engage style. However, it is less intense and suspenseful than A Tunnel.

Madison goes to summer camp for the first time. Her cabin has a mixture of girls, nice, shy, bully, and bystander. I expected Madison to be an advocate for respect among the girls but she is preoccupied with her own experiences. When Nancy, the ostracized girl runs away, I expected a connection to the title of the book “crazy moon.” This refers to aggressive behavior of animals in breeding mode. There are tales, in my northern community, of hikers and campers attacked relentlessly by moose in heat. But Nancy spent the night safe and sound in a tiny pine hideaway.

I thought the counselor would intervene and have the girls discuss and work on the group dynamics at several points in the book, but there was no real resolution. Madison’s take away from all this was to advise Nancy not to take things so seriously.

This could have been a book on personal and social growth wherein the reader gained perspective and empathy for the bullied girl and some strategies for dealing with put downs and other anti-social remarks. This could have been, like A Tunnel in the Pines, a nail-biting emotional roller-coaster ride for the reader. It was an enjoyable read but not of  the truly high-caliber of Greene’s first book. It will appeal to girls who love riding as Madison falls for Mouse, one of the camp horses. That, too, could have been a theme to expand upon. Why is this horse so afraid? What happens to them when they no longer can be ridden.

While I love Greene’s writing style, I think this particular book had some unfulfilled potential.

 

Silly Scientists Take a Peeky at the Solar System by Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Marianella Aguirre and Ying Hui Tan. Book Review.

This is the second in the silly scientists series wherein Lindsey Craig uses humor to teach children about nature and science. This time the aliens travels through our planetary system. The illustrations are a mixture of wacky drawings and photography from NASA.
The text is written in rhyme such as “Uranus is an ice giant that has a wonky ride. Its seasons last forever since it orbits on its side.” The beat is quite musical.
There is humor in the text as well as the illustrations. For example Jupiter’s red spot is compared to a zit.
The last two pages contain information for parents and older students on our solar system. The best part about this book is that you can also go online and listen to a catchy song with highly professional animation that reinforces learning the planets. It enriches and supplements the text.
Kids who like space and aliens will enjoy this picture book.

Laura Monster Crusher by Wesley King. Book Review.

This book is suitable for middle-grade to early young adult. This will be a favorite with readers who love fantasy and unusual female heroes.

Laura is a big girl who has been bullied since childhood about her size. Her family moves to a new town and enrolls her in a different school to give her a fresh start. Unfortunately the bullying begins again but this time two other victims befriend her. When Laura fails to stand up for one of them, her new relationship is at risk.

But the real challenge is navigating the secret world Laura can only access through a hidden elevator in her closet. She discovers she is destined to be a monster crusher and without her rising to the challenge, her family, friends, and world are in great danger. Laura, however, is neither athletic nor nimble. Night after night, for this is when she can secretly train, Laura fails to acquire the necessary skills of a monster crusher.

The danger rises to the point of crisis when her beloved blind little brother is kidnapped by the monsters. Betrayed and vastly outnumbered, Laura must pull off a miracle in order to save her family.

The affectionate relationship between Laura and her humorous little brother, her struggle with self-identity and confidence, her desire for friends, and her reluctant courage make her an endearing and interesting hero. An enjoyable read that picks up pace and increases in suspense as it progresses. Although it has a satisfying ending, the danger is still imminent and a sequel or series is possible.

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Grand Prix Marble Works – Toy Review

This is an older version of marble works. I bought a newer one to expand the set and found out the pieces aren’t compatible. There are several cool and intricate sets out there now but I’m just going to talk about the basics.
Durability 5 stars The first set lasted an entire generation. I even brought it to school for my students to use when my son became too old for it.
 
Play quality 5 stars This is science, problem solving, and creative play all rolled into one. Kids  may need some direction  when starting out.
 
Safety 5 stars The marbles are small enough to choke a child but this isn’t  suitable for children under three anyway. Otherwise, I  haven’t encountered any issues other than marbles rolling everywhere.
 
Age interest 5 stars Kids from four to forty  will love this. I recommend more than one box so they can really get creative. Start with a single route to the bottom and then challenge them to  create alternate paths. How can they influence which way the marbles roll? Does the type of marble matter? Can they fix a race?
Storage and portability 4.5 With a lot of patience, you can fit all  the pieces back in the box. Reinforce the edges with tape as the cardboard is rather thin.
Price 4 stars. Price for a basic set varies from $16.00 to $37.00 on Amazon so shop around on their site and other places.
*Be warned. This sucker is a NOISY activity.
 
Well recommended.