Category Archives: age 4-8

Dear Dragon

dragon coverWe have recently started encouraging our daughters to get into the “old fashioned” concept of writing letters to pen-pals. J has started writing to a cousin and some of E’s closest friends will be moving away this summer. With that in mind, finding Josh Funk’s new book, dear Dragon, has been an absolute delight.

The story is that two young boys, George Slair and Blaise Dragomir, go to two different schools and have been assigned to be each other’s pen pals. Their entire classes have teamed up as a class project and their letters have to be written in rhyme as it is also for their poetry project. What they don’t know is that one school is for dragons and one school is for humans. Much hilarity ensues. Continue reading →

Princess Lila Builds a Tower

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Princess Lila is a princess who had everything in order to be happy, and yet she wasn’t. She lived in an enormous castle, had all of the material things a princess could hope for and servants to take care of her every need. But she wasn’t allowed outside of the walls of her castle and she had no friends. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be so happy in that situation either.

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So begins the story Princess Lila Builds a Tower, by Anne Paradis (CrackBoom! Books, May 2017). Lila tries a variety of ways to get past her parent’s rule about not leaving the castle grounds and still seeing the world outside the walls, until she decides to build a tower with the help of one of her tutors. The tutor is thrilled as it will involve architecture, geometry and mathematics. Continue reading →

Blog Tour & Giveaway – On Duck Pond

Welcome to Day #9 of the On Duck Pond Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (4/11/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane and Bob, plus 10 chances to win a set of On Bird Hill and On Duck Pond !

Seven Babies in a Row
by Jane Yolen

Seven babies in a row,
Hard to watch them, all, I know.Hard to keep them clean and neat,
Though they’ve landed on their feet.Hard to teach them wood duck ways
When they’re gone in sixty days.
©2017 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.
*****

Stop by Marianna Frances tomorrow for the last day of the tour!

Blog Tour Schedule:

April 10th – Word Spelunking
April 11th – Mrs. Mommy BookNerd
April 12th Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
April 13th – Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
April 14th – Mundie Kids
April 17th – Life Naturally
April 18th – Chat with Vera
April 19th – The Kids Did It
April 20th –  Books My Kids Read
April 21st – Marianna Frances
From award-winning and NY Times bestselling children’s author of more than 350 books, Jane Yolen, and award-winning illustrator, Bob Marstall, On Duck Pond is the first sequel to the acclaimed On Bird Hill, which launched the children’s picture book series written for the esteemed Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world authority on birds. 
In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog, as they stopped, looked, and noticed things along their path—ultimately discovering the miracle of the birth of a baby bird. On Duck Pond continues the journey of the boy and dog story, this time in a new place—a serene pond, filled with birds, frogs, turtles and other creatures going about their quiet business. Their intrusion stirs the pond into a cacophony of activity, reaching climactic chaos, before slowly settling back to it’s quiet equilibrium. 

This beautiful and enchanting sequel is sure to delight On Bird Hill fans and millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics.

About the Author: Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world.

Janes husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Hatfield, MA. Visit her online at janeyolen.com.

About the Illustrator: Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.
In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at marstallstudio.com.
About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet. birds.cornell.edu
REVIEW
(I received a copy for review purposes)
On Duck Pond is a charming book best utilized as a read aloud. In this story, a young boy and his dog are taking a walk and the world is still when suddenly the calm is broken by the cacophonous sounds of ducks. The tranquil scene is replaced by chaos as all of the animals in the pond disappear. The mood is heightened by the marvelous illustrations of Bob Marstall showing the animals making their hasty retreats. Even the boy notices that his reflection in the water is disturbed by the appearance of the ducks. But as quickly as they come, they also leave and “wild things returned, as wild things will.” The boy watches the whole thing and gains a better understanding of the natural world.
In addition to the story, there is a wonderful section at the back of the book that gives information on the ducks themselves. There are 10 types of ducks and other birds mentioned in the book and they are all described. The book encourages children to explore natural habitats near them and to learn more about birds and other animals.

Continue reading →

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure

the_not_so_faraway_adventure_0There is a special place in my heart for books that champion the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild. There is much to be learned by having a special bond between generations. The relationship between parent and child can be difficult at times, and often the grandparent is able to have a very special relationship because they don’t have to be the disciplinarian. In this The Not-So-Faraway Adventure, by Andrew Larsen and Irene Luxbacher, children get a glimpse of the relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter, as well as the joys of exploration and adventure.

Young Theodora loves looking through her Poppa’s old trunk full of mementos from his past adventures. Whenever she looked in it, she would find something interesting and it inspired her to explore the world as well. As her grandfather’s birthday approaches, she ponders what she could get him. In talking, she realizes that going on an adventure with him and having a special birthday meal would be the best way to celebrate.

IMG_20160407_100853The two plan out a path, take public transportation, and make it to the beach. “Theo felt like she was stepping into one of Poppa’s postcards.”

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Together they explore the beach finding treasures and taking pictures. Then they enjoy lunch at a restaurant sharing new treats. On their way home, Poppa explains that his favorite part of taking an adventure has always been coming back home. This time, there is a party waiting for him. Theo puts memories from their not-so-faraway adventure into Poppa’s trunk so he can always remember them, and so can she.

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This very sweet story encourages young children to explore the world around them and to treasure the history and stories of their family members. In the overly commercial world that we live in, we often forget that the best gifts can simply be the gift of spending time together and making memories. It was also a nice added touch to see a wide array of cultures portrayed in the pictures as they went on their adventure.

Touring London with a Cat

kitty kat coverMy older daughter is heading to London this summer with her grandfather. Just in time, Usborne books published the really fun book Kitty Kat, Kitty Kat, Where Have you Been – London.

As you may recall, the original poem is quite simple and goes like this:

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

This wonderful picture book pays homage to the original English rhyme, first published in 1805, as a way to tour some of the bigger sites of London.

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In this story, written by Russell Punter and illustrated by Dan Taylor, an owl asks a returning Kitty Kat where he had been. Of course Kitty tells the owl that he had been to London to visit the Queen. When pressed further to say what he saw, Kitty Kat encourages the owl to listen to his story. He then recounts many of the really cool things that he was able to do on his trip to London.

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From going on a boat under London Bridge, seeing the Crown Jewels, hopping on a double decker bus, going to Trafalgar Square,  Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace, Kitty Kat takes a full tour of London. Many of the locations are described within the original rhyme sequence.

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The inside front and back covers have a truly basic map of the region and items that young Kitty Kat sees and even though Kitty wasn’t able to actually see the Queen, he still had a marvelous time in London.

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Books about travel destinations typically engage children through bright and vivid illustrations and this book is no different. The pictures are whimsical yet realistic. A child can get a good sense of what the Tower of London was like and how amazing it is to actually get to see the Crown Jewels. For a child who hasn’t yet been to a location, seeing what another child might have gone to see can help get them excited, especially if there are fun details like how a whisper is heard throughout the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. A place like London has a huge amount of history for kids to be excited by, and this book does a great job for the 4-8 set.

There is also a version that whisks Kitty Kat off on an exciting tour of Paris. Young readers can join him as he cruises down the Seine, climbs the Eiffel Tower, and discovers famous paintings in the Lourve Museum. I don’t have a copy of that yet, but I will 🙂

 

Navigating the Orchestra

I love books that encourage children to experience music. Recently, I picked up the book Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, by Lloyd Moss, at our library and was immediately entranced. What is even more ingenious about this book is that it is a counting book that happens to also build an orchestra.

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We have started taking our children to the orchestra when there is a local show that makes sense for them (Broadway tunes was a big hit). It is difficult to give them tons of information in the auditorium itself, so finding books that help them understand what they are hearing and seeing is especially useful.

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As the book opens, “with mournful moan and silken tune, itself alone came one trombone.” One instrument is a solo musician. Each page adds a new layer, player, description, and number. Through descriptive terminology and colorful illustrations, young readers get a better sense of the instruments that make up an orchestra.

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The book itself was written by Lloyd Moss, a radio personality for NY’s only full-time classical music station. He knows the perfect words to describe the instruments in an orchestra and Marjorie Priceman’s illustrations draw children in with their whimsy and movement.0016705_first_book_about_the_orchestra_300

After finding this book, it made me think about how few children do get to experience seeing an orchestra live. Fortunately, Usborne has a marvelous book that can help fill them in on a variety of key details. In Usborne’s First Book About the Orchestra, children get to see what the instruments that make up most orchestras look like, what families they belong to, and it has good sound that allows them to hear the instruments as well. A very intelligent thing that the First Book About the Orchestra does is that it utilizes one piece of music throughout the entire book showing how each the piece sounds when played by a single grouping of instruments and then how much fuller the sound is when all of the instruments are put together with the full orchestration.meet spread

If you are looking for a way to bring more music education to your child, these two books are a great place to start.

Priceless Gifts

We learn many things from folk stories and fairy tales. Once passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and then in written form, they are becoming less of a staple in the stories that are read to children. An important message that flows through many old tales is that good things come in small packages and that riches are often found in items not worth a lot of money.

Take the traditional story of Beauty and the Beast. In it, Beauty’s father sets off for a trade ship to see if there is anything that he can sell and asks his children what gift they would like him to bring back for them. Of his three daughters, the first two ask for clothing, jewels, and the finest dresses possible while his youngest asks for a rose. The father unfortunately picks a rose in the Beast’s garden after being graciously hosted the previous night and seals Beauty’s fate, but we know how the story resolves in the end.

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In Priceless Gifts, by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, we are swept into the time of the old spice trade, where merchants traveled to distant islands to get precious spices in exchange for other goods. They would trade fine items for things that we take for granted, such as cinnamon or nutmeg.

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On one of Antonio’s journeys to the spice islands, he is invited to the King’s Palace for dinner. Antonio is confused when he see servants holding sticks ready to strike and discovered that they were there because the palace was infested with rats who come out of hiding the moment that food is served. In order for people to eat in peace, there needed to be guards ready to beat off the rats. Antonio gives the king two cats from his ship to deal with the problem. He wants nothing in return, but the King is so grateful that he gives him a chest of jewels.

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Another Italian merchant hears of Antonio’s experience and gathers up fine items of his own in hopes of getting his own supply of jewels from the King. The King of the  island is stunned by the treasures that Luigi brings. Luigi is certain that he will be given a chest of jewels at least 20 times as large as Antonio’s. After a long discussion with his advisors over what they should give Luigi in return, the King gifts him with something truly priceless – a kitten from a litter born from Antonio’s cats. Luigi returns to Italy with the kitten. He didn’t return a rich man, but “he was certainly a wiser one.”

This is a wonderful example of how every person values things differently and that simple items that make your life a little easier and better can bring more joy than riches.

 

Can I Join Your Club?

can-i-join-your-club_diversity-inclusivity-and-friendshipOne of the more important lessons that we can teach our children is to be inclusive rather than exclusive. To embrace others regardless of their differences and to try to be friends with everyone. This is something that we teach at home, through our actions and behaviors, and through books. It is never to young to learn to include others, but it can be a hard message to learn, which is why I’m so happy to have found the book Can I Join Your Club, by John Kelly.

In this simple book, Duck wanted to make some new friends so he decided to join a club. He first approaches Lion, although he does so with a large wig on his head to look like a mane. When he asks Lion if he can join, Lion needs Duck to prove that he is worthy of the club and asks him to roar like a lion. Of course, ducks don’t roar, they quack. “‘Application denied!'” said Lion. ‘You’re not really what we’re looking for in a Lion Club.'”club1

Duck then goes from club to club never quite fitting in and constantly being told that he is denied entrance to their club. As I read the book, I got the odd memory of all of the club tables out on college campus, but especially right before rush week. You wanted so much to fit in, and yet deep down, you knew you were a little different.

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Duck was depressed. Who wouldn’t be? Club after club has just said that he wasn’t worth having around. Luckily, Duck is one smart duck and he knows what he has to do – start his own club! But Duck is also a caring duck and he doesn’t want anyone to feel shut down the way he did, so when Tortoise comes up and asks if he can join Duck Club, Duck has one simple question – “Do you want to be in a club with me?” When Tortoise says yes, Duck of course tells him that he is approved.

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Animal after animal approaches Duck’s table which has now been renamed from “Duck Club” to “Our Club.” Duck realized quickly that you can never have too many friends and you don’t have to all be the same.

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The story is simple and yet profound. If you only surround yourself with people that look and act exactly like you, you will be missing out on all of the things that everyone else has to offer. But if you care less about what’s on the outside and more about what’s on the inside, you’ve opened yourself up to a world of possibilities and a whole lot of fun.

This is a great message for little kids as they are starting preschool and going to playgroups. The book is also rather large so it is perfect for story time and sharing.

** I am an Independent Usborne Books & More Consultant, but I never recommend books that I don’t believe in. If you want any additional information on this book or any other Usborne title, please get in touch with me.

Queen Girls – A New Kind of Fairy Tale

All children enjoy fairy tales. They help inspire us, teach us, and entertain us. Many traditional fairy tales have had a main female character who needs help from a magical being and/or gets saved by a prince. As we as a society change, so too have our fairy tales. The newest addition to the fairy tale scene is a series of books to be published by Queen Girls. The books that they are bringing forth are “stories of real women turned into fairy tales to inspire girls to follow their dreams.”

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The authors of these books approached me as a way to help spread their message and I jumped at the chance because I am highly impressed with what I see. The main mission of collaborators Andrea and Jimena is to “give girls a positive view of life and help them envision their dreams as possible. This is the reason why our stories are based on real women.

Often times, classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men. Female characters are often stereotyped or one-dimensional: the mother figure, the homemaker, the exotic beauty, the love seeker…We believe that we should be telling different stories to our children. Let’s encourage girls to find their happiness, passions, drive and self-confidence from within. At the same time, let’s help boys to move to a place of equality.”

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The first book that they are publishing is called Bessie, Queen of the Sky. This story features Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman in the world to receive her pilot’s license. I was able to read a rough draft of the book and it is wonderful! The story shows how Bessie Smith always wanted to fly, but that between living in a time when flight schools wouldn’t take women and when women were expected  to “learn how to cook, clean, and become moms – not pilots,” she was definitely facing an uphill battle. But Bessie followed her dreams, went to flight school in France, and became the first black woman to fly airplanes in the whole world. She believed in herself, she believed in her dreams, and she made her dreams a reality.

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Publishing these books is the dream of Andrea and Jimena. I for one would like to see their dream come true, so I have backed their kickstarter campaign. You can do that too by clicking here. I look forward to reading more of their work as it continues to come out. They already have one planned based on Isadora Duncan and one about Savitribhai Phule. There is much that we can learn from these marvelous books. For more information about their books, check out their website.

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In Search of Girly Early Readers

About a week ago I received an email from a reader looking for good chapter book series for her young daughters. First, let me say, I LOVE getting emails like this. I can’t always help when it comes to great books for young boys, but girls, I have that covered! That said, there might be more people looking for similar books, so I wanted to share some series that might be lesser known to people.

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billie-and-jackBillie B. Brown & Hey Jack – I’ve talked about these series before. Billie B. is a bold and brave young girl who is learning how to believe in herself. Her best friend is a boy named Jack who struggles with some of the same issues that she does. Together, they navigate the world around them and perhaps learn a lesson or two in the process. There are two separate series that each have about 15 books to them. They are ideal for early readers with no more than 50 words per page and with challenging words in bold.4001_preciousring_1

Lily the Elf – Lily the Elf lives with her dad in a tiny house in a busy city. Her granny lives in a cottage behind their house. In these charming books, join Lily as she finds lost treasures, makes wishes, meets new creatures, and masters new skills. As with the Billie B. Brown and Hey Jack books, Lily is aimed at newly emergent readers with only 50 words per page in a large font.

showtime-fairiesRainbow Magic Series – Some series never grow old and this popular one by Daisy Meadows is constantly attracting young readers. This series is actually multiple series all under one common theme – young friends, Rachel and Kristy, discover the fairies and find that they are able to help them defeat their arch nemesis, Jack Frost. Each time there are seven books with a common theme – rainbow fairies, sports fairies, ocean fairies, party fairies, the list goes on and on. Young readers easily get hooked on these books, even when parents get sick of them.

secret-mermaid-2The Secret Mermaid – This is a really fun series that appeals to fans of the Daisy Meadow’s Rainbow Magic series. The concept of this series, published by Usborne Books, is that a little girl’s grandmother gives her a magic necklace that allows her to join the mermaid world while she sleeps. It turns out that she is one of a long line of secret mermaids and now she is trying to save the mermaid world from an evil mermaid. A great early chapter book series that still incorporates images and doesn’t cram too much text into each page.

fairy-ponies-1Fairy Ponies – In this series, young Holly and her pony friend, Puck, have wonderful adventures including rescuing missing royalty and saving the day from wicked plots and dark storms. With this series, kids get a bit more adventure than their average fairy books. The Fairy Ponies appeals to kids who are 5-8 years old.fairy-ponies-inside

pony-crazed-pinkPony Crazed Princess –  Princess Ellie is crazy about her ponies! Any time she can, she trades in her royal crown and fancy dresses for her riding helmet and boots, and heads out to the Royal Stable. Along with her best friend, Kate, Ellie takes her ponies for rides and jumps all around the palace grounds. Together, they go on adventures, solve mysteries, and, of course, spend lots of time with Ellie’s adorable ponies. This is a great book as an early chapter book

princess-in-black-comparisonThe Princess in Black – Shannon Hale, the writer behind the Princess Academy series and Ever After High, hit the nail on the head with her series staring the Princess in Black. The Princess in Black is a humorous and action-packed chapter-book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black. Princess Magnolia appears to be a normal, perfectly dressed princess, but when her monster alarm goes off, she runs to the broom closet, ditches her frilly clothes, and becomes the Princess in Black! This is a great book because it works well as a read-aloud to 4 and 5 year olds and has larger font and images so that a 6 or 7 year old can read it on their own. Super fun and featuring a girl who is unwilling to “just be a princess.”

ghost-tale-for-xmasThe Magic Tree House – This is not a series that falls under the overly girly category, but there are few young children who have not been sucked into this fabulous series about siblings Jack and Annie who discover a magic tree house that whisks them away to places and times near and far to solve problems for Morgan Le Fay. Kids are able to learn a great deal about history from these fabulous books without it feeling like they are learning anything. My 6 year old has even decided that she is naming her children after them!

There are tons of books out there for every child’s pleasure. If at first they don’t enjoy a given book, don’t despair, they just haven’t found the right book yet!

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