The World of the Bible – an Archeological Approach

bible stories coverFrom time to time I receive books from National Geographic Kids to review. I’m always super amazed by the imagery they use and some of the books present really amazing information in a very fun way. Of all of the books I have received from them, The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them might be my absolute favorite.

The Bible is an important book, no matter how you look at it. The Old Testament is studied by Jews and Christians alike. What makes this book amazing is that it takes specific passages from the Bible and then looks at them from a historical and archeological viewpoint. Add in that there are amazing photographs and paintings that transport you to a different time.

The description from the publisher reads as follows: “Have you ever wondered about the real location of the Garden of Eden?  Or how Moses could have parted the Red Sea? The World of the Bible takes the reader back to ancient times to revisit classic Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments, learn fascinating facts about biblical history, and explore that same landscape as archaeologists are studying it today. Stories include the Samson and Delilah, Joseph in Egypt, Noah and the Flood, the birth of Jesus, Paul’s conversion, and many more.  Classic paintings and photos of the Middle East today enrich the archaeological explanations. Additionally, this book was reviewed by biblical scholars to ensure the most up-to-date and accurate information and includes profiles of important Bible personalities, analysis and explanation of key archaeological sites and maps of the Middle East to provide context to the stories and sites. Kids won’t just revisit classic Bible stories in this book … they’ll dig deeper into the history behind the tales to learn more about the biblical world.Continue reading →

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Hanukkah Book Roundup 2017

Hanukkah Book Roundup 2017

Every year as the winter holidays roll around I’m always on the lookout for new Hanukkah books. We of course have our long-time favorites, but finding new books is always a great adventure. Since Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown, I wanted to finally get my collection up.

it's a miracleWhile not a new book, Stephanie Spinner’s It’s a Miracle! A Hanukkah Storybook, is new to us. We found this one at our school’s book fair and it is a great little gem. This book manages to tell a little bit about the story of Hanukkah while also showing how it really is about spending time with and appreciating your family. Young Owen is getting to light the Hanukkah candles himself for the first time. Each night, after the candles are lit, his grandmother tucks him into bed and tells him a story about someone in their family, without actually saying who the story is about. Owen is learning about family history while also spending quality time with his grandmother. The book ends with a simplified telling of the Hanukkah legend. This is a great book for younger elementary aged children to listen to around the holidays.

little redThis year’s book from the PJ Library was Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale, by Gloria Koster. This super fun story takes the beloved story of Little Red Riding Hood and joins it with the story of Hanukkah. Little Ruthie is on the way to her grandmother’s house to make latkes when a wolf steps into her path. Ruthie couldn’t let on that she was scared, she needed to “be as brave as the Maccabees.” Smart girl convinces the wolf to let her be because she will be much more delicious after 8 days of latkes. But he still goes off to grandma’s house, though she is out. He occupies himself by putting on her clothing. When Ruthie gets there, she still manages to stall him by making him latkes and telling him the story of the Maccabees. Her resourcefulness saves both herself and her grandmother and listeners get a wonderful telling of the Hanukkah story. A super fun book and one that I plan to use when I go into classrooms to share Hanukkah! Continue reading →

Dorothea Lange – Picture Book Biographies

We have lots of picture books come in and out of our house. My 5th grader still loves to see a new pile from the library and settle in to see what she can experience. Lately, I have been getting a  lot of non-fiction, I just haven’t had a chance to write about them all. But there is something special when a random selection from the library proves meaningful to something she is studying in school.

migrant mother

In one of my recent library trips, I discovered Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression, by Carole Boston Weatherford. I have long been fascinated by the faces that Lange was able to capture with her camera and the way she put such emotion into the reality of the Depression and her role in the Farm Security Administration. Photojournalism has long been a passion of mine, and she is vital in the field.

So I found it comical when my 5th grader came home with an assignment about the Depression that featured Lange’s iconic photograph, Migrant Mother, and she recognized it because she had read this picture book. Continue reading →

Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo

My 7 year old adores audio books. She falls asleep to them every night and sometimes does art projects while listening to them. My 10 year old has enjoyed them since she was about the same age, but she only listened to books she had already read whereas my younger child likes to listen first. We have quickly made our way through all 6 Land of Stories books, the Ramona books (Stockard Channing!!!), and quite a few others. But sometimes, finding a series that she likes can be a challenge. Enter Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo.

book 1This series, by Nancy Krulik, was published from 2002-2011, but we have never read it before. It just wasn’t on my older daughter’s radar, for whatever reason. E is adoring the series and I’m rather impressed myself. The concept of the series is that young Katie Carew makes a wish after an exceptionally bad day asking to be anyone but herself. Now when a special wind blows, she becomes someone else, even the class hamster! Within about 70 pages, she manages to learn something about others, or other situations, by walking in someone else’s shoes.

Katie Kazoo offers a great option for those ready to read longer chapter books, but not quite ready for the likes of Harry Potter. There are still illustrations that keep them engaged and while the stories are silly and fun, Katie learns that bad behavior doesn’t work – for example, in book 5 she thinks having no rules would make everything better, but realizes that we need some rules to avoid mass chaos. Continue reading →

#whatsyourgift – Leo’s Gift

Recently I was given the opportunity to review Leo’s Gift, by Susan Blackaby and Joellyn Cicciarelli, through the Kid Lit Exchange. The book moved me in a number of ways. I am a sucker for books about music, but also, since I freelance for OutreachNC, a magazine that often covers topics about caring for those with dementia and other memory issues, a book that illustrates how “music carves a memory” is something I feel strongly about.

leo's gift cover

There are so many pieces to this wonderful book! First off, the illustrations, by Carrie Schuler, are top notch. She captures so many emotions and concepts beautifully and it all feels so fresh. The story itself touches on a variety of topics from finding your passion to sharing your personal gifts with others. Young Leo doesn’t know what his gift is, but all children are encouraged to figure out their own special talents through this moving story.

The story itself starts with Meredith practicing piano and complaining about it. But her music touches her young brother, Leo, and Meredith manages to teach Leo some basics only to discover that Leo has a natural gift for the piano. Meredith’s true passion is basketball, and while she stays late to practice with the team, Leo finds the music room and his own time to practice. Continue reading →

That’s Not a Real Book: In defense of non-traditional reading by Amy Gibson

I have been super busy these past few weeks, but I am still here! In the meantime, check out this spot on piece from the Nerdy Book Club. I am a huge fan of audiobooks and graphic novels and so are my girls. Why does the format of the book matter?

Nerdy Book Club

“How do you ever find time to read all those books?”

”Well, I listen to audiobooks during my commute…”

“Oh. That’s not really reading.”

I find myself having this conversation more and more these days. What counts as real reading? Is listening to an audiobook the same as reading the book? Is a graphic novel “rigorous” text? Should students be “allowed” to engage with these types of texts for classroom purposes?

I answer yes wholeheartedly to all of the above questions, and this is why.

Audiobooks

During my commute which is about thirty minutes each way to school, I live on audiobooks. Often, I am still listening as I walk into the classroom each day leaving people I passed in the hallway wondering why my pants are talking. Audiobooks are not just a way for students to shirk reading assignments. They offer both students and adults an opportunity to access…

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Q&A with Ted Enik – Sticks ‘n’ Stones Blog Tour

Back this summer, my kids and I had a fun time reading Sticks ‘N Stone ‘N Dinosaur Bones. I saw this book as a must for the dinosaur lover and a great read-aloud. I could definitely see how this would get a classroom of kids talking about fact and fiction, competition, and the importance of fair play. So when I was offered the chance to participate in a blog tour for the book, I jumped at it.

I’m a huge fan of the use of rhyme to engage kids. Check out the wonderful interview with author Ted Enik below as he talks about his use of rhyme and meter!

cover

Welcome to Day #3 of the “Sticks ‘n’ Stones” Blog Tour

To celebrate the release of “Sticks ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Dinosaur Bones,” written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content about this humorous tall tale and giving away chances to win a copy of “Sticks ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Dinosaur Bones.”

Rhyming picture books are fun. Kids love them. Parents enjoy reading them out loud. Teachers know how well they engage children and teach them about language. But writing them isn’t as easy as it looks. Ted, author of “Sticks ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Dinosaur Bones,” offers advice to writers who want to try to tackle rhyme.

Q: Do you believe rhyming picture books are being published more today? As a master of the genre, do you think picture book writers should try their hand at it?

A: More than they were only a few years back. Rhyme seemed to be off limits for decades because a) I suspect a generation of editors felt it read old fashioned and, b) in a word, Seuss.

Dunno about “master,” but thanks, and I’ll work to live up to that. As far as writers giving it a try goes, I want to say a qualified “sure!” But, looking ahead at the rest of the questions, I see that some of those qualifiers will be discussed.    Continue reading →

My Brigadista Year

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the free review copy of his book – all opinions are my own.

I have found that I really enjoy reading middle-grade historical fiction. They are an amazing way to learn about periods in history from a completely different perspective. Of course, I realize that you have to take the information with a grain of salt, but they encourage readers to ponder aspects of history and potentially do additional research themselves.

Recently I was given the opportunity to review My Brigadista Year, by Katherine Paterson, thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange. This book tells of an “army” of volunteer teachers who were called upon to end illiteracy in Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro came to power. The book itself takes place between March and December of 1961 as we follow young Lora on a life-changing journey.

brigadista

Lora is a thirteen year old girl inspired by the posters put up at her school that called for young men and women to join an army of teachers. She has never been outside of Havana and her family doesn’t want her to participate, but she is determined. Continue reading →

Picture Books that Make Math Fun

I will admit, I loved math as a kid. Wait, I loved math after I finally mastered borrowing – for some unknown reason, that was a major challenge for me, enough so that I remember it 30+ years later. But algebra, loved it. So I want my kids to feel comfortable with math and to enjoy it. The problem is, math is not as simple as it used to be, or at least, it doesn’t feel like it. By trying to make math accessible to everyone and to a variety of different learning types, they have somehow made it more complicated, especially to parents! But at least there are a number of picture books that attempt to bring some fun back to learning math.

Picture Books that Make Math Fun

The book that inspired me to write about this is Let’s Estimate: A Book About Estimating and Rounding Numbers, by David A. Adler. I am going to start of by saying that it would have made more sense to title this book about rounding numbers instead of estimating, but it does talk about both things, their similarities and their differences. The best page in this book is when it defines the two concepts and explains that “estimating is not rounding. Rounding is not estimating. But rounding can help you to estimate.” The majority of this book focuses on place value and how to round numbers, but with a colorful cast of dinosaurs, it is a great book for the K-2 crowd.esimate inside Continue reading →

Picture Book Biographies of Literary Giants

One of my favorite books when I was younger was Little Women. I still have my beloved copy for my daughters to be able to read. J has read an abridged version, but hasn’t yet delved into the meaty version of the classic yet. So finding a beautiful biography of Louisa May Alcott was like reading about an old friend.

louisaYona Zeldis McDonough’s wonderful book, Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott, is a joy. Louisa’s early life is reminiscent of Little Women, which is not surprising since she based that book on her own experiences. Louisa became who she was due to her parents’ unusual, at the time, beliefs, which are explained fabulously. She had a challenging upbringing and knew that she would find a way to contribute.

I loved reading about how her writing came about and her sheer determination. Her family and experiences shaped who she was and the work that she created. The back of the book also has some great quotes from Louisa May Alcott and samples of her poetry. Continue reading →