Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Great Reads from January 2017

I should really title this series "Great Reviews from January 2017" since I didn't actually read all of these books in January, but "Great Reads" sounds better. Regardless, I read these books, and I rated them all 4-stars, so it still works.

Click on the book title to open my full review from Opinionated Book Lover.

 Always by Sarah Jio

As she leave a restaurant with her fiance, Kailey Crane spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

This book reminded me a lot of One True Loves. It had the same level of suspense and uncertainty. It was a fast, great read.

4 Stars

 Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Young

On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. Award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013.

This book is anything but enjoyable to read, but it is incredibly important. It documents 10 short lives, and highlights the problem of guns in America without getting too political.

4 Stars
 The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras

Super-achiever Viviana has never had room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection is derailed when her boyfriend leaks a private picture of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Vivi feels like a complete and utter failure.

I loved this story. The character was very relatable, and the writing style was unique. Fun summer romance/friendship YA book that is a quick, easy read.

4 Stars

 The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood

Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood.

I couldn't put this book down. The suspense was subtle but perfect. There were many character perspectives and a quick moving plot.

4 Stars

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. 

So cute! YA romance that occurs all in one day. Surprising depth. Loved it!

4 Stars

Today's post will be linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for her Quick Lit series.

What great books have you read recently?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: Paint by Sticker Kids

Paint by Sticker Kids by Workman Publishing

I first saw Paint by Sticker at BEA in May 2016. I brought home a sample for Christopher, and he enjoyed putting together the bird using 20 or so stickers. I kept this idea in the back of my mind, and come Christmas, I bought a book for Christopher, my niece, and my nephew, thinking they'd be perfect for car/plane trips over the holidays.

Each book comes with 10 activities: a full page map and a corresponding page of stickers. All of the pages are perforated and easily rip out of the book. Many of the stickers are very small though, so these proved a bit challenging for 5 and 6 year olds.

Christopher ended up working with either Jim or me on his pages, so it turned into a fun family activity in the airport or on the plane. I was actually delighted that he wanted to take a turn peeling off the stickers, so I got a chance to put them onto the picture. It took us about 15 minutes to do a page, and we have only done 3 pages so far.

I know we'll pull this out again when we have our next vacation.

4 Stars

Sheet of stickers and half-completed lion page.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Monsters, Aliens, and a Personified House

I am going to try moving this series to Tuesdays. I am cutting down my posting to 5 days a week, at least for now. Hopefully that will enable me to post more consistently.

For any new readers, Juvenile Pile is a weekly series where I share the books that my son, Christopher (age 6.5), and I have been reading together recently.

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman & Ben Cort

Christopher selected this book from the school library, and then he read it aloud to me. It's a pretty funny story about how much monsters love underpants. It features many colorful illustrations and rhyming stanzas on each page. It was a great read for him, and we both enjoyed it.

Ages 4-8

4 Stars

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

I borrowed this book from the library thinking it was one of my childhood favorites, but it's not the book I was remembering. This story about a little house and the passage of time is cute, but the book I'm thinking of has a little lady buying it and starting a bakery at the end. Can you help me?

Ages 3-6

3 Stars

A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper

This book is strange, but cute albeit a bit predictable. Cards of all sorts train for their specific roles before being sent out into the world. Little Card thinks he'll be a birthday card, but there's been a mixup. He's really meant to be a library card. It's silly, but fun. Christopher and I enjoyed this book.

Ages 4-8

4 Stars

One Family by George Shannon

Christopher wasn't really enjoying this book at first - the text is simple and repetitive. Then he realized he could hunt for the items mentioned on the pages, so he backed up and began again, enjoying it more the second time. This book is a variation on a counting book, but also highlights the diversity of families (by size).

Ages 3-6

4 Stars

Otters Love to Play by Jonathan London

This book tells the lifecycle and activities of otters. It's non-fiction told in story form essentially. It's cute, but not exactly what I was expecting. If you're looking to teach your children about a new animal, this book would be great. We enjoyed it, but didn't love it.

Ages 4-8

3 Stars

Not Every Princess by Jeffrey & Lisa Bone

The illustrations in this book were so whimsical and lovely. The text attempts to challenge gender norms. It didn't make a huge impression on either Christopher nor me. It also has a good message about creativity that I enjoyed.

Ages 3-8

3 Stars

The Lima Bean Monster by Dan Yaccarino

Christopher almost made me stop reading because it was a little bit scary. The boy in the story doesn't like lima beans (actually, he's never tried them), and he hides them everywhere he can think of. Eventually they turn into a lima bean monster, and the children have to eat the monster to make it go away. Morbid, I know. But funny.

Ages 5-8

4 Stars

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

I was a little unsure about letting Christopher read this book to me because I knew it had made up words. I thought it might be frustrating, but it wasn't. He did a great job. It's a fun story about friendship and manners. We really liked it.

Ages 4-8

4 Stars

What have you been reading with your kids lately?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Goodreads Summary:
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. 

Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course, “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter.

My Review:
I had always wanted to read this book since I love everything Harry Potter, so I suggested that Jim guide Christopher to it as he was picking out a Christmas present. I read it aloud to him over several nights while he tried to fall asleep. Don't let that deter you from reading this book - it's not boring, but the language is a bit much for a 6 year-old. 

This book is a collection of 5 fables from Rowling's wizarding world. After each tale, there is also a commentary by Albus Dumbledore. The tales were very creative, but also hard to understand - being a Muggle. I appreciated the commentary because it helped to explain the point that Beedle was trying to make with each story. 

This book is a fun read for any fan of Harry Potter because it's fun to play along. And, of course, it once again shows the genius of J.K. Rowling. But as a stand alone book, it doesn't really hold up.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Animals and Non-Fiction

Last week I was putting away laundry when Christopher came into my room wanting to hang out. Seeing that I was busy, he decided he wanted to read me a book he'd read the previous night with the babysitter. The particular book was so funny that he felt he had to share it with me. I absolutely loved that notion.

I'll start my list this week with that book.

This book is pretty funny. A boy in a restaurant repeatedly asks for new bowls of soup because each one contains an animal. The animals get crazier and crazier and the boy is quite dramatic. This book is a great read aloud. I enjoyed listening to my son read it to me. And he had a fun time reading it and pointing out the animals in order when we got to the last page. 

4 Stars

Bear's Loose Tooth by Karma Wilson

This book is another fun one in the Bear series. This time bear has a loose tooth. All of the other forest animals try to help him pull it out. I selected this book from the library because Christopher once again has a couple of loose teeth. It's a fun read for kids about to or in the midst of losing their own teeth. It even has the tooth fairy at the end. 

4 Stars

This book was another great addition to a really awesome non-fiction series for kids. Once again the two animals are described and compared for many pages, and then they're pitted against each other in a fight. I didn't know much about either of these animals, so I learned a lot. The fight wasn't as dramatic as some of the others in the series, but we still enjoyed this book quite a bit.

4 Stars

Maxwell the Monkey Barber by Cale Atkinson

I didn't like this book as much as I was hoping. I think I'd read that it was really funny, but I just found it kind of odd. Maxwell is a monkey barber. He cuts hair, mustaches, and manes for other animals in the jungle. The animals all have really, really long hair, and he ends up with a lot of clippings. He needs something to do with all of them, and the perfect solution comes along. It took Christopher a minute to figure out what had happened when he saw the picture. He read this book, and maybe he liked it more than I did. We didn't really discuss it. Maybe my expectations were too high.

2 Stars

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda

I love interactive books. This book was such fun. Christopher read it, and he did everything the book asked - tilted it, shook it, turned it upside down. I wasn't sure if he would, but he really got into it. In this book bunny is skiing, but he needs some help making the snow and the hill. The reader gets to participate in the story, and you even get hot chocolate at the end. Perfect for ages 3-6.

5 Stars

This book is a Level 3 easy reader, but it has a lot of words. I read it to Christopher, and it was another fun non-fiction book. It chronicled the history of ice cream. Sadly, not as much is known about the exact origins of ice cream, but the book was still very interesting. It was broken down into chapters, but we read the whole thing in one sitting. I think we both enjoyed it, especially the parts about the presidents and about favorite ice cream flavors.

4 Stars

What books have been read in your house recently?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Kid Lit: Gertrude and Toby's Friday Adventure

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Gertrude and Toby's Friday Adventure by Shari Tharp

Published on December 5, 2015.

Goodreads Summary:
Gertrude the goat and her best friend Toby the tortoise are adventurers. No sitting around on the boring farm for them! They love to explore, and every Friday they sneak off the farm for some extra fun. One Friday, Gertrude and Toby decide to visit the local candy store in town. They discover yummy goodies and treats, but soon find that the treats are not free!? Uh oh! The market owner grabs Toby. He demands money for the candy that Gertrude and Toby have taken by mistake. Gertrude must find a way to save her friend and get back home before Farmer Sam returns. 

My Thoughts:
The first in a series, this book tells of an adventure that Toby (a turtle) and Gertrude (a goat) have on a Friday when Farmer Sam is away from the farm. They take a walk to the Hay Bale Market to get some candy. On their way there they pass many familiar fairy tale characters - Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and the Beanstalk), a Frog Princess, and the Gingerbread Man. When Toby gets into some trouble at the market, Gertrude will need these other characters to help save the day.

It's a wild tale that children will likely think is fun. This book is a little longer than a typical picture book, but it isn't set up as a chapter book. There are plenty of pictures, so the next isn't too long. It's good for ages 4-8.

My Rating: 3 Stars

I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The love of a little boy...

Since Christopher has been born, I have wished for him to be older. Every day is better than the last in my mind because he's growing up. I don't particularly like babies or toddlers. I prefer older children. Ones you can actually have conversation with. Young people you can reason with.

So as Christopher has gotten older, I have never wished to return to a prior age. This fact is a huge part of why we never had a second child. I couldn't do it all over again. I have often wondered whether there would be an age that I wouldn't enjoy and then might look longingly on a previous time. I don't really think that will happen (until perhaps he goes away to college), but you never know.

I do have to say though that I am loving our current age. 6.75 years old is pretty marvelous, and the main reason is that Christopher is suddenly very much in love with me. He will often stop what he is doing to spontaneously kiss me, hug me, or tell me how very much he loves me. It's so sweet. And I know it's 100% genuine. He's not at all saying it to butter me up for something he wants. He's just honestly expressing the feelings in his heart.

Snuggling on the couch when he was sick earlier this month.

I'm not sure that I'll ever want to return to this age once we move beyond it, but I know for sure that I never want to forget it.