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.

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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.

BUY LINK

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.

 

Pukey Poetry – Tale Ticklers by Mz Millipede by Dorianne Allister Winkler. Book review.

First, I have to say that the illustrations in this book are hilarious. The pages are jam-packed with wonky, colorful, and detailed pictures. As well, kids will love looking for the millipede in each double spread and examining the gross elements.
As you can tell from the title, the poems are a collection of silly topics, many disgusting, that children will love. Winkler writes about a giant lollipop, a man who never cuts his toenails, and eating bugs. Children will love the topics though you might want to skip the one about the monster under the bed for your littlest listener.
All the poems are written in some style of rhyme. They are all entertaining and enjoyable but some vary in technical achievement. While they rhyme well, the changingsyllabication sometimes breaks the beat. On the whole children probably won’t mind in the least.
The most impressive poems are Toe-Jam Sam, Wafflerus or Pandacake, (a very clever take on a zany breakfast), and Secret Feast.
The style of these poems reminds me of the Canadian treasure, Dennis Lee. Reluctant readers who love gross stuff will actually sit down with this book. Parents who can get right into the mood of being thrilled by disgusting things are sure to make their children laugh and enjoy reading time.

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

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.

Her experiences might have crushed her spirit if it had not been for her uncle Giovanni. He was an astronomer and also a dreamer like Elsa. He encouraged her imagination and told her she was beautiful. Elsa took refuge in the world of make-believe. She yearned to become an artist.

As a single mother she realized, “To be an artist is to dream big and risk failure.“ In spite of the unlikelihood of success, she brought her dress design sketches to Paris. Fortunately, she fell in with the most creative and innovative people of her time, including Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Although she could neither sew nor knit,  she was able to have her creations made by others and through hard work became an international sensation. She invented the colour shocking pink and her dress designs were like nothing seen before.

The last two pages of the book give more details of her life. It was wonderful to read that she offered high wages and benefits to her employees when she achieved success. Her personal motto was “Dare to be different.”

This would be a wonderful book to read to a child who is labelled as different or not beautiful or too imaginative or a daydreamer. Like Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Without the Elsas of the world, our lives would be stagnant and dreary.

The pictures in this book have have a stylish quality that suits the topic without being ostentatious. The pictures of Elsa clearly show us her gentle, creative personality and her vulnerable introspection. This success story should encourage children to follow their dreams and never give up.
Highly recommended for children age 6 and up. Even adults will enjoy this wonderful book.
I want to  encourage more books like this so, inspired by Bloom, I’ve created my own award “Fostering Female Fulfillment.” This book is the first recipient.

New Gifts for Valentines Day

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There are household items, keepsakes, jewelry, clothing, and more.

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My Favorite Five Middle Grade Books I Reviewed in 2017

Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Erasable and Digby of the Dinosaurs

by Linda Yiannakis

Erasable: The protagonist, nine-year-old Ellie, discovers something in her grandmother’s attic that promises to solve all her problems. But like the genie who grants three wishes, one never knows where magic will lead. Ellie has little understanding of the karmic results of her decisions. What begins as little improvements cascades into major life changes, not all positive.

Digby: A little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson.

The reader can’t help but love the little hero, Eddie, a tiny bug who braves the huge halls of the school, dodging a spider, a mouse, and lots of squishers (humans who stomp on bugs), in order to find his missing aunt.

 

Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr.

The reader is given an insight into the daily struggle of fishermen, the risks taken by Cuban immigrants to reach the United States of America, exploitation of the natural world, the senseless slaughter of wild creatures, and the courageous and giving nature of volunteers trying to protect endangered wildlife and the environment.

 

Something Stinks by Gail Hedrick.

Emily is determined to find out why fish are showing up dead on the river banks by her aunt and uncle’s home. Her small town is suffering from job loss, so Emily’s investigations are less than popular. She decides to focus on an exposé for the school newspaper. Whatever industry she points the finger at may mean disaster for the company and, subsequently, the workers.

 

 

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

Dust flowers by Lisa Gammon Olson. Illustrated by Kyle Olson. Book review. Tales from American Herstory Series.

This lovely and engaging picture book tells the story of the dust bowl era in the United States through the eyes of a little girl. Her grandmother tells her stories of the beauty of the land before the drought. The little girl has no memory of it and barely remembers her mother ever wearing a smile.

One day the girl finds a little green shoot and secretly waters it until it until it blooms into a gorgeous vine of morning glories. When her mother sees it, she smiles and dances with joy with her daughter. Although another dust storm is rising, they also hear the sound of thunder foretelling the coming end of the drought.

The pictures are soft, expressive watercolour hinting at dust without being overly oppressive. The story is told with tact, beauty, hope, and charm. I did, however find the occasional fully capitalize the word distracting and did not understand its purpose. This wonderful book would be a great addition to any classroom shelf or child’s personal book collection.

Buy link http://a.co/4ldRov2

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Little Miss History Travels to La Brea Tar Pits and Museum by Barbara Ann Mojica. Book Review.

Barbara Ann Mojica has written a children’s picture book that will be of interest to students and adults interested in either history or science. Once again Little Miss History takes us on a tour of an interesting American site. This time we explore La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. I had no idea that this prehistoric fossil excavation site was right in the middle of Los Angeles,  California.

Mojica explains the history of the tar pits and the key players involved and its discovery and transition into a museum. Once again clever illustrations are combined with real photographs of the site.

A clear, understandable explanation of how the tar pits form and their impact upon the earth will interest budding geologists. Photographs of the amazing prehistoric animals are sure to intrigue young readers.

The Little Miss History series stimulates travellers to examine well known and less well known historica sites across America. Mojica’s books, including this one, would be a wonderful addition to any school library or classroom. The books are suited for ages seven and up.

Purchase link http://a.co/eMmyovQ

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Digby of the Dinosaurs by Linda Yiannakis. Book Review.

I don’t think I can actually do this remarkable book justice.

Summarizing the plot, a little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

Told mostly from the point of view of Digby, a orphan who feels unloved, the book strikes at the core of personal identity and need for family. The author avoids the trap of info dump even though the culture she is portraying is complex and rich. She allows the background to unfold slowly through the eyes of the little boy who wants, so badly, to fit in. The reader becomes deeply attached to this child and wonders how he is going to possibly survive in this world.

The concept of unconditional love is beautifully portrayed by the mother dinosaur who adopts her foster child without giving into any reservations. In many ways, the dinosaur culture is far superior to that of human culture and give us much pause for thought. This would be a discussion stimulating book to share with your child or class.

The story is not all serious message though, as there are many humorous moments. The ending is exactly what it needs to be and we are left with a full heart and a satisfied sense of completion. Linda Yannakis shows herself to be a superior writer and storyteller in this masterpiece.

Strongly recommended for readers aged nine and up.

Buy link http://a.co/0mb8M48

smilesmilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages