Archive for February, 2014

FORMULA FOR READING SUCCESS

Johnny’s Adventure Makes Reading Fun

Written by Jodi DeSautels

Illustrated by Sarah Bowman

Johnny's Adventure in Readingpic

The story begins with a familiar scene for many parents. It’s a rainy day and Johnny cannot go outside. His mother suggests that he read a book, but Johnny does not want to read. In school he is often a victim of bullying because he reads too slowly and has trouble sounding out the words.

Fortunately, Johnny’s mom encourages him by inquiring what kind of adventure would he like to experience. Maybe he could transform himself into a hunter, king, acrobat or adventurer. When he says that he he would like to travel to outer space, she accommodates him by helping Johnny find a helmet, walkie-talkies and a refrigerator box for a spaceship. Together they use their imaginations and bodies to act out a space launch scenario.

Johnny now feels so much better about himself. His mom takes advantage of that to urge him to write and illustrate a story about the adventure. She continues to draw him into conversations that will extend learning as he gets deeper and deeper into the project. In no time at all, Johnny has stretched his knowledge base and enriched his vocabulary.

This book will not only provide an enjoyable story of encouragement for reluctant readers in the early grades of elementary school, but also allows parents and teachers to use it a a teaching model. This adventure  provides a warning about the effects of bullying on the self-esteem of children. The author makes her points simply and effectively. I recommend that you take a look.

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MICKEY’S MAGIC

Walt Disney: Saving America’s Lost Generation

Written by R.H. Farber
WaltDisney,pic

I thought I knew quite a bit about Mickey Mouse and the Mickey Mouse Club TV show that I enjoyed watching on TV while growing up in the fifties. Turns out, the Micky Mouse Club involved a lot more than the TV show, and its origin happened quite by accident.

Back in 1927, the young Walt Disney signed a one year contract with Universal Pictures to do animated films with his new creation, Oswald the Rabbit. After the contract expired, Walt learned that he had been misled. A loophole in the contract gave Universal full ownership of the character. To make matters worse, the studio had stealthily hired Walt’s best animators so they could continue making the cartoon. Walt refused to deal with the studio and developed a new character, a mouse named Mortimer. His wife encouraged him to change the name to Mickey, and so the soon to be famous character was born. When Disney decided to produce his third Mickey cartoon, Steamboat Willie with sound, it met with rave reviews.

Children were flocking to the movies to see the cartoons that preceded the movie. An entrepreneur named Harry Woodin of the Fox Dome Theater had a brilliant idea. He suggested to Disney that they launch a fraternity for children which would focus on the latest Disney cartoon. Walt’s brother, Roy, worked with Woodin to develop the club with Mickey Mouse as its central character. Walt was delighted that these clubs could teach children about values he thought were important: honesty, integrity, compassion and patriotism. He insisted that these clubs be made available to all children regardless of race, creed or sex. Club membership was open for children in grades one through seven; children had to be enrolled in a school. They needed to maintain high grades and moral values. All members were eligible for election to officer positions. The first club opened in September, 1929, and by 1933, three million children were enrolled. The Saturday meeting with entertainment, contests, and child centered activities helped lift the spirits of children and parents during the Depression when there was so little to be hopeful about.

Mickey Mouse became a role model to children and adults. Merchandise and advertising sprung up everywhere. Mickey Mouse and his character friends became associated with every major holiday and event like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Mickey became a part of weddings and family vacations. The California Pacific Exposition and the New York World’s Fair featured the cartoon character. Mickey became a symbol of all that is good versus all that is evil in society. By the time World War II came around, the original Mickey Mouse Club members would find his name and image a significant inspiration in war operations.

This book contains pictures of priceless Disney mementos. There are movie posters, flyers, pictures of historical events, touching photos of Disney and his family, as well as Disney merchandise and the adorable children who enjoyed it. Personally, I wish the author would have continued the saga into the later stages in the fifties and beyond with the advent of television and the development of Disneyland. Perhaps too much time was spent on the early years. Unless, of course, the author plans to write another book finishing the story to the end of Disney’s life. If you are in the mood for some nostalgia and an uplifting read, this book is recommended for ages eight through eighty.

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Mid-Winter Blues? SUGGESTED READS FOR KIDS

Maybe you have had the children home all week for midwinter break. Much of the Western Hemisphere has been in the deep freeze for awhile now. Ready for some reading suggestions that are family friendly. I recently participated in a blog hop which shared some interesting book links.

Take a few minutes to take a look….

Turtle Wish by Murielle Cyr
http://www.amazon.com/TURTLE-WISH-Murielle-Cyr-ebook/dp/B00DV1FA9G/ref=la_B00C4L464O_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392752524&sr=1-2

I’m Proud to be Natural Me by Marlene Dillon
http://www.amazon.com/Im-Proud-Be-Natural-Me/dp/1470151995 

 Miro by Saoirse O’Mara
http://mirodrakonia.wordpress.com/the-miro-series-die-miro-reihe/

 Fiddle and Dee and the Bedtime Band by Lindsay Brant Brumwell
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IICQHMM 

Picture Books by Rhonda Patton
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Rhonda+Patton 

Jazzyland by Gia De Saulnier
http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Jazzland-Gia-Saulnier-ebook/dp/B00FNGOX18/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1392988115&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=jazzyland 

Amazing Matilda by Bette Stevens
http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Matilda-ebook/dp/B00AU9ZISA/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1362172868&sr=8-1 

Little Miss History (series) by Barbara Ann Mojica
LMHFrontCoverWithISBN
http://www.amazon.com/Barbara-Ann-Mojica/e/B00B9DOVKC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 

Books by Corine Dehghanpisheh
http://www.amazon.com/Corine-Dehghanpisheh/e/B008ETCI5Y/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

The Wiggly Squiggly Princess by Alissa Dix (Maureen)
http://www.amazon.com/Wiggly-Squiggly-Princess-Alissa-Dix-ebook/dp/B00GUPGS6Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392813620&sr=8-1&keywords=the+wiggly+squiggly+princess 

 The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too! by Bette A. Stevens
http://www.amazon.com/Tangram-Zoo-Word-Puzzles-Too/dp/1470124777/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392687736&sr=1-1&keywords=the+tangram+zoo+and+word+puzzles+too

The Wonderf ul World of Color Olors by Nina Carothers
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=nina+carothers

BEDTIME BONANZA

LOTS AND LOTS (RHYMING CHILDREN BEDTIME STORIES)

Written by Peter Collier

Lots and Lots pic

What a refreshing collection of amusing short stories written in rhyme! This collection is very different from the typical bedtime fairytale or animal story. I especially like the fact that the featured character is a very bright little girl named Frances Nicolson, who just can’t stop asking questions. She inquiries about common everyday activities like baking a cake without a recipe and using the wrong kind of pebble as a skipping stone. Frances questions her neighbor about the funny words he uses like, “Hunky Dory” and “old curmudgeon.” She refuses to believe in tales like the Loch Ness Monster because they can’t be proven. Her imagination is unlimited: Frances uses her own backyard to go on an African safari, have tea with kings and queens, and climb the world’s highest mountain.

Frances’ curiosity is insatiable. Some of her questions include:

Do you have any bellybuttons?
If chickens are boneless, how could they walk?
What’s the difference between hunks and chunks?

When the circus came to town, Frances had all sorts of questions for the clowns like what is the reason for their baggy pants and why don’t they get dizzy from standing upside down all the time. Frances has a friend named Susan Jane who has a habit of exaggerating the truth. That exasperates Frances because she just has to have the right answer! There is only one time when Frances is quiet. Can you guess when?

The bottom line of this enticing book is that you cannot learn without asking questions. That might be annoying to parents and teachers, at times, but it is the way all children enrich their minds. Collier is to be commended for a clever story line and a character who represents a wonderful role model for children.

MONSTER MELANGE

Monsters I Know (Rhyming Bedtime Stories

Written and illustrated by Peter Collier

MonstersIKnow, picThis book would make a delightful Halloween read. The types of monsters are unorthodox and most of them are not very scary! First, the reader encounters The Big Foote Belly Button Lint monster. He lives at the feet of Thomas Mcfee’s bed. It began as some belly button lint and grows bigger every day eating only colored string. There is a Hungry Tree who walks about eating farm animals, the Smelly Kiss, Smelly Sam stomach gasses monster, a Spaghetti Dinner Monster, and the Dead End Rubbish monster.

Perhaps the scariest is the cursed School Chair monster.
The author describes it as,

“One moment you’re there
and the next you’ll be gone;”

The Jones family certainly lived to regret not getting rid of The Fridge. I won’t give away its secrets except to say,

“No one goes near it anymore:
Never will anyone open its door;
All it does now is snarl and snore.”

Children age six and up will love the absurdity and the silliness in these rhymes, although some of the vocabulary will not be understood by younger readers This kind of slapstick humor is especially appealing to middle grade boys. Although the concepts are clever, the rhymes are sometimes a bit forced. There are some issues with punctuation and line placement. In this kindle version, the illustrations are very small. Larger pictures would have added a lot more to the desired effect of the tales. On the other hand, if you are looking for a very different and funny Halloween book of short tales, this one will surely fit the bill.

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NEOLITHIC NIGHTMARES

Angel Bones (Angel Cats)

Written by Linda Deane

Angel Bones,pic

This is the second book in a series exploring the somewhat mystical and supernatural powers of cats. But make no mistake, this book is not a fantasy novel. It is set in the neolithic age on the island of Cyprus on which recent archaeological excavation has revealed, cats were present in the neolithic period, about six thousand years before their domestication in Egypt.

It is a short novella, yet the plot explores characters in depth and there are many twists and turns in the adventurous life of Melita, Yannis and their three children. They have been driven from their home on the mainland to flee in a makeshift boat in the dark of night due to the jealousy and superstition of their peers. A trader named Andros attempted to woo Melita and when she refused him, he spread rumors implicating her as a sorceress because of her gift in communicating with animals, especially the strange creatures later known as cats. He was also jealous of Melita’s husband, who was a gifted tool maker and pottery artisan. Their terror escalated until the family feared for their lives.

Eventually they land on an island only to find a strange people who had never seen cats. Over a period of time, the family earns the trust and respect of the village. However, as they settle into a peaceful existence, trouble looms on the horizon once more as a hunting party from the mainland arrives to stir up trouble in the tranquil settlement. Melita and her daughter called Eleni will have to summon all their strength and powerful connections with Tammy, their cat, in a desperate effort to survive and save the community.

The author develops the characters well; the reader quickly identifies with the personalities of each and the conflicts each must face, whether they be good or evil in intent. There are many twists and turns in this short read. One senses the overwhelming hardships and difficulties early humans faced in their daily existence in the face of the powerful forces of nature and the brute force of a “might makes right” philosophy. Tweens, teens and adults will all enjoy this carefully researched historical fiction story with just a tinge of the supernatural. I am looking forward to more in the series.

JAMAICAN ADVENTURES

Essie’s Kids and The Rolling Calf -3:Island Style Ghost Story

Written by Dr. & Mrs. Luke Brown

Essie'sKids3pic

I came across this e book as a promotion. I had not read the first two books in the planned five book series. This third short story is a strange combination of Jamaican folklore, adventures, and moral lessons that pleasantly surprised me. It makes a good addition to a classroom multicultural library. The book is well written with lots of colorful verbs, analogies and descriptive language though I did find one typo in which the word joint was used for the verb join. A smattering of Jamaican lingo like the word, “mon” also provides an authentic touch.

At the outset, the reader meets Karl who is tossing in his bed because he is haunted by the memory of the dreadful beast known as a rolling calf , a large swift running creature with dragon like eyes who voices terrifying sounds. Karl has met this creature in previous stories and now is anxiously awaiting to confront him once and for all. When he finally succumbs to sleep, he dreams that he is tiptoeing down the ghost-like streets at night. Suddenly, his brother Leonard shakes him; Karl realizes it is all a nightmare.

Karl’s family has journeyed from the city of Montego Bay to their country home in Clear Mont for the summer. His sisters, Myrtle, Geena and Betty play hopscotch and jump rope, while the boys play tag in the front yard. The author contrasts nicely the differences between the “city” and “country” folks. The country children wear plain clothes and no shoes. City kids are teased for being cowardly and not willing to get dirty. In the end, both learn to give and take and respect each others skills and differences.

Junior’s best friend here is named Ben. He encourages Junior to come to the river and fish. Junior realizes his mother will probably say no, so he hesitantly decides to slip away without asking permission. Ben meets up with his friends, Johnny, Dave and Jasper, who he calls “bad company” because they always manage to get him in trouble. The girls, on the other hand, get their mother’s permission to go to the river and enjoy their day without worries.

Karl had not been himself since the nightmare. He sat by himself most of the day. Karl continued to believe that this strange beast had a message for him. Then he decides to go to the river by himself. As night is about to fall, he sees a bolt of lightning flash before him and feels the swaying of the ground beneath him. Will Karl find his way home? Does he succeed in his quest to confront the beast?

The story abruptly shifts back home to the children listening to their mom, Essie, relating one of her nightly stories. She talks of two men locked in a prison cell. The innocent prisoner sees the possibility of being set free someday even though he has no money to defend himself, but the other guilty prisoner is unhappy and mean. Essie’s lesson is that the mean prisoner continued to see only bad things, but the innocent prisoner continued to see promise and beauty outside his window. Before sending the children to bed, they are reminded to look for the good in every situation.

Boys and girls age seven and up will each find elements in the story to their liking. Adults will enjoy the clever interweaving of sound moral lessons intertwined with the charming setting and folklore of Jamaica and the familiar antics of children everywhere.

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THE BUZZ ON BEES

A, Bee, See: Who are our Pollinators and Why are They in Trouble?

Written by Kenneth Eade

Photographs by Valentine Eade

A,Bee,Seepic

The author decided to write a children’s edition of his adult book. You might expect it to be written by a biologist, but Kenneth Eade is a lawyer with the vision to look ahead toward environmental responsibility. He begins by explaining the interdependence of plants and animals and then introduces the bee as our most important pollinator. Bees have been at work for more than one hundred million years. There are thousands of kinds of bees, but Eade concentrates on the most common types like the honey bee and the bumblebee, and how they accomplish their work. Most of us are aware of the bees work, but are less familiar with the fact that moths and bats pollinate plants at night. Did you know that bats pollinate three hundred kinds of fruit and cacti?

The reader will learn how the honeybee colony is organized into queen bee, workers and drones. Did you know that honeybees have five eyes that help them navigate with light, color and direction? For years I have been telling children to stand still when any type of bee flies near them. I felt vindicated that this is the right action. What I found really interesting is that worker bees have two stomachs, one for eating and one for storing the nectar they gather, They even have tiny bags on their hind legs for carrying the pollen to the hive. I was never aware of the processing bee that puts nectar into a honeycomb cell nor that she adds an enzyme that allows it to ripen and dry into honey. Such a perfect food for the bees which lasts for years and provides nutrition for humans as well.

Bees are endangered now because excessive land clearing depletes home-sites for bees as well as other animals. At the same time the wildflowers are disappearing. Many farmers treat their crops with pesticides that kill bees. Children can help by urging their parents to plant wildflowers in their gardens and writing to government representatives to make them aware of environmental concerns.

This book contains beautiful photographs and is well written. It belongs on the shelves of every elementary classroom. Younger children can learn a lot about plants, animals and the environment by using this book as a reference. Older children might use it as a starting point for more advanced study. This book is enlightening and informative for all ages.

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