Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kid Lit: I'll Wait, Mr. Panda

I received this book for free from the publisher at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

I'll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Anthony

To be published on October 25, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Mr. Panda's black-and-white animal friends are curious what he's making, but only one has the patience to stick around. An alpaca, an aardvark, rabbits, and a bird all wind up missing out. It's the penguin who declares, "I'll wait, Mr. Panda." The penguin is rewarded with a big SURPRISE: a giant doughnut!

I'll Wait, Mr. Panda is a graphic, kid-friendly way of teaching the value of patience and the importance of saying "thank you."

My Thoughts:
I loved Please, Mr. Panda, so I was super excited to see that Steve Anthony had written another character lesson book using Mr. Panda. In this story, Mr. Panda is mixing something up in a bowl. Various animals come along asking what he is making. He tells them they have to wait. It's a surprise. The only animal patient enough to wait is a small penguin, but he's in for a big treat at the end. It turns out Panda is making a giant donut.

This book is cute. The text is simple. The illustrations are sweet (although not as fun as Please, Mr. Panda because there aren't as many donuts). The moral is simple - if you are patient, you will be rewarded. It's an easy enough concept for kids to grasp, and it's written in a fun and engaging way. The page with the bunny features a bunch of little bunny butts disappearing into holes while they're all saying, "Good-bye." I know this page would have been the highlight when my son was younger. This book is perfect for ages 2-5.

My Rating: 4 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.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: How to Be Brave (YA)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Strictly No Elephants

While reading fiction picture book nominees for Cybils, I came across another great book for Perfect Picture Book Friday. This weekly meme is hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill. Head on over to her blog to check out some other highly recommended picture books!

Title: Strictly No Elephants

Written By: Lisa Mantchev

Illustrated By: Taeeun Yoo

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, October 2015

Suitable For Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: pets, inclusion, friendship

Opening: The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in.

Brief Synopsis: (from Goodreads) When the local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, he finds a solution—one that involves all kinds of unusual animals in this sweet and adorable picture book. 

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend. 

Imaginative and lyrical, this sweet story captures the magic of friendship and the joy of having a pet.

Why I Like This Book: This book is adorable. I loved the small lessons about friendship. A boy has a pet elephant who doesn't like walking on cracks in the sidewalk. The boy helps him over the cracks because that's what friends do. When they go to Pet Club, there is a sign saying "Strictly No Elephants." As they walk away, the elephant doesn't mind the cracks because his boy is sad, and friends are brave for each other when needed. The boy finds a girl with a pet skunk, and they decide to start their own club where everyone is welcome.

This book reminded me of The Berenstain Bears No Girls Allowed, which was one of my favorites from childhood. When I re-read that book recently, I was startled to find that it had some disturbing comments about gender roles. Strictly No Elephants is the inclusion book for a new generation. It has the same great message, and it also features a tree house, which was one of the main reasons I loved No Girls Allowed as a child.

On the blog last year...

Home Improvement: Painting

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Half Birthday Celebration: Pokemon Hunt

Tuesday was Christopher's half birthday. We have been celebrating half birthdays for a few years since he has a spring birthday, and it was hard watching his friends have birthdays at schools and having to wait so long for his own birthday. And, of course, since we started, now he expects something each year. It's partly my fault because I brought up his half birthday recently as a milestone for when we were going to start using a normal booster seat instead of the high back booster seat. But I digress.

Christopher reading the first clue.

For at least the last year, Christopher has been asking me to set up a scavenger hunt for him starting with a letter in the mailbox. He got the idea from a Hobby Kids YouTube video about a Superman hunt. I actually tried to find Superman stuff not too long after viewing the first video, so I could set something up, but Superman is really hard to find at toy stores. DC Comics is seriously under-represented.

Christopher reading the third clue.

Over time his request evolved to be a Shopkins hunt, but since he doesn't do much with Shopkins after initially opening them and because I knew he wanted some Pokemon comic books that we'd bought for a friend's birthday back in April, I made a Pokemon hunt. It was fun to FINALLY do it. And Christopher had a blast!

Checking out his final treasure.

I threw this all together yesterday because I'd kind of forgotten about getting him a gift. Originally I planned to just run to Barnes & Noble and get the comic books, but Tuesday morning I had the idea to throw a hunt. I stopped at Target on my way to work and picked up 2 Pokemon booster packs and a larger bundle that came with 3 booster packs, a special card, and a Pikachu coin.

The spoils! Pokemon cards, a Pikachu coin, and Pokemon comics.

During the day I wrote up the clue notes using fun riddles I found on the Riddles and Answers website. I had wanted to write the clues on index cards, but I forgot to take them with me to work, so I settled for ordinary paper.

All of the clues.

I snuck out of work a little early to swing by Barnes & Noble for the comic books, and so I could get home before the bus. I put the first clue in the mailbox, and then Jim and I put the treasures out around the house to match the clues: his bed, the freezer, the shower, and behind the keyboard in the playroom.

Choosing which treasure to open first.

We had to ask Christopher to go get the mail after he came in from the bus, but he compiled right away when I mentioned there might be something in the mailbox for him since it was his half birthday. As he came back to the house, Jim asked if it was all for him (Jim). Christopher excitedly said there was one item for him. He had a huge smile on his face.

Christopher was so cute reading and figuring out the riddles. He needed a little help, but he had a lot of fun and was super thankful (which is very rare). It was a fun half birthday celebration. I also let him have chocolate ice cream after dinner, and then we went to get our haircut. Super fun, I know.

Do you celebrate half birthdays?

On the blog last year...

YA Book Club: October 2015

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kid Lit Blog Hop: Cara's Kindness

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

Cara's Kindness by Kristi Yamaguchi

Published on October 4, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
When you pass on some kindness, it might make its way back to you...

Cara the Cat is struggling with picking the perfect song for her new ice-skating routine. But when a friend in need turns up at the rink, Cara drops everything to lend a helping hand. All she asks is that he pay it forward! Before long, Cara's kindness is passed all around...and might even make its way back home!

Kristi Yamaguchi is an ice-skating Olympic gold medalist and world champion who knows how to lend a helping hand! As founder of the Always Dream Foundation, Kristi helps promote early childhood literacy. Through her newest picture book, Kristi inspires children of all ages to pay it forward!

My Thoughts:
I grew up watching Kristi Yamaguchi skate, so I was super excited when I saw this book at BEA. I didn't get a copy there, but I was approved to review it on NetGalley. This book is adorable! We often talk to children about being kind, but it's hard to give examples sometimes. This book is full of small examples of how to be kind. 

Cara the Cat helps Darby the Dog learn how to ice skate. When he thanks her, she tells him to pass on the kindness, and he does. Darby shares his lunch with Pax, who's forgotten to bring his. Then Pax the Polar Bear helps Marky the Monkey get his ball out of the river. Each friend does a small kindness for someone else, until the kindness comes back to Cara. I loved this story. It's a sweet story that illustrates a good lesson. It's perfect for ages 4-8.

My Rating: 4 stars

I'm linking up with Reading Authors today for Kid Lit Blog Hop. This exciting, monthly hop, is where they develop an engaged group of people who love everything that has to do with children's literature. Everyone is welcome to join: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers!

On the blog last year...

Book Review: All the Summer Girls

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cybils Fiction Picture Books - Batch 1

When I announced that I had been selected to be a panelist for Cybils 2016: Fiction Picture Book Awards, I promised you that I be sharing books with you. To date 115 books have been nominated for this category, and my county library system had almost all of them. I am slowing wading through the HUGE stack of books in my bedroom - I had to get a basket from the library to carry them home (in addition to the large canvas bag that I'd brought with me).

I will be "reviewing" them in batches of 12, so you can see what's been nominated and what my thoughts are on these books. Some books that I have already discussed have been nominated, so I won't be re-mentioning those books, but I have 6 posts planned between now and December, so we'll see if I can highlight all of the nominated books.

Without further no particular are some of the Cybils nominees.

Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley (ages 2-6)

This book is a sweet story about a young hedgehog who is moving away. He doesn't want to leave his home or his best friend. They play together one last time like nothing is changing. This book would be great for kids in this situation. The ending is perfect. (P.S. The anteater snuck pictures and notes into his friend's suitcase.)

4 Stars

My Dog's a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari (ages 4-8)

Lula Mae wants a dog, but her mother thinks a dog is just another mouth to feed. She looks around the yard at all of the family's chickens and decides that maybe a chicken can be a dog. She selects the chicken who struts around like she owns the place, and Lula Mae makes her a dog. It's pretty cute. Even Mama comes around at the end.

4 Stars

Bloom by Doreen Cronin (ages 6-10)

Bloom is a fairy who's covered in mud. She maintained the kingdom until everyone wanted everything shiny and got sick of her muddy footprints. She left the kingdom to live on her own in the woods. Now the shiny kingdom is crumbling, and the king and queen coming looking for her. They don't believe that her magic is mud, so they send an ordinary girl thinking maybe Bloom is afraid to share her magic with royalty. Bloom teaches her magic to the girl and proves that there is no such thing as an ordinary girl. This book is wordy, but it's worth it if you can push through.

4 Stars

Giraffe Meets Bird by Rebecca Bender (ages 3-6)

Giraffe and Bird are unluckily friends. In an almost sibling-like way, they love and annoy each other. There is a lot of discussion about emotions in this book. The illustrations are really sweet, and there's a page that requires rotating the book. When danger comes along, Giraffe and Bird are in it together. They help each other out and decide to move on to someplace safer. Together.

4 Stars

The Water Princess by Susan Verde (ages 5-8)

Gie Gie pictures herself Princess of the African sky and the dusty earth. She can command dogs, grasses, and even the wind, but she cannot make the water come to her. Instead she and her mother journey very far every day just to bring water back for their family. This book was inspired by the life of model Georgie Badiel, and it was written to raise awareness for the number of people in the world without access to clean water. There is a great nonfiction spread in the back for parents (and children) to learn more.

4 Stars

Trainbots by Miranda Paul (ages 2-5)

This book is cute, and the train and robot aspects definitely appeal to young kids. My son wanted to read this book right away based on the cover, but this book is rhyming and does more telling about the pictures than telling an actual story. Maybe I'm just beyond that since my son is older, but I didn't enjoy this book as much.

3 Stars

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir & Surishtha Sehgal (ages 2-4)

This book is an Indian version of "The Wheels on the Bus." It includes some of the original items - wheels, wipers, people. But it also has other cultural items as well - Diwali fireworks, Chai tea, rupees, elephants, cows. It's cute, and it would be great for exposing young children to other cultures.

3 Stars

Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon (ages 3-6)

This book is kind of weird. Yes, there are cute animals operating machinery, and they use it to build an awesome amusement park. But there's also a story about bullying. Three mean kids keep knocking over the cute animals sandcastle, and that leads to the escalating better sandcastle building and ultimate destruction of the playground and replacement with the amusement park. It just didn't resonate with me.

3 Stars

Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer (ages 4-8)

This book is beautiful - both the pictures and the words. Daniel sees a sign for "Poetry at the Park" on Sunday, but he doesn't know what poetry is. He asks all of the animals at the park, and they all say something different - morning dew, cool water, etc. At the end of the story, Daniel goes to the poetry reading a shares a poem he's written of all of the animals answers. I loved it.

5 Stars

Penny & Jelly Slumber Under the Stars by Maria Gianferrari
(ages 3-6)

Penny and her dog, Jelly, enjoy looking at the stars together, so when Penny receives an invitation to sleep out under the stars, she is super excited. Except, when she reads the invitation more carefully, she realizes she cannot bring Jelly. She tries to make a replacement Jelly - out of paper, out of yarn, out of fleece, etc., but none of them is right. Finally, she has the perfect idea - her own sleepover under the stars with all of her friends and their pets. It's a sweet friendship story.

4 Stars

Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty (ages 6-10)

Ada is a very curiuos girl. She asks loads of questions using why, what, and who, and she's trying to solve the question of a mysterious smell. Her parents get annoyed with her, but she doesn't give up. She's a determined young scientist. I really enjoy this whole series, and this book is no exception. It does a great job of explaining the scientific method along with a very amusing, rhyming story.

4 Stars

Pirate's Perfect Pet by Beth Ferry (ages 3-6)

Captain Crave is the perfect pirate captain - or so he thinks until he receives a message in a bottle from his mother. It contains a checklist for pirate captains, and Crave is missing the perfect pirate pet. He goes on a quest over land and sea to find the right pet. Can you guess what it is? This book is cute. I think kids will enjoy it, but it wasn't quite on the level with some of the other nominees.

3 Stars

Have you read any of these books? Did you nominate one of them?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Cars & Beasts and Counting Skills

We got 2 new books in the mail last week. The new illustrated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets arrived on Tuesday afternoon, so we were able to start reading it and take it along on our trip last weekend. It's beautiful!

And then we had Dino-Racing waiting for us when we got home on Sunday. October 4th was a pretty great book release date for us.

Dino-Racing is Lisa Wheeler's latest book in the Dino Sports series. I pre-ordered it because Christopher loves racing, and I knew that this book would be a new favorite. He read it to Jim right away, and then 2 nights later he read the first half to me. It has a lot of hard words with the dinosaur names and car terminology, so I read the second half to him. There are 3 races: drag-strip, off-road, and stock-car. It's another great installment in the series. I'm happy we own it.

4 stars

I didn't like When a Dragon Moves in Again as much as the first book. This book is about the little boys parents having a new baby. The boy has to be quiet and not play with the baby's things. He's mad, and he wants his parents to "send him back."

The dragon is still there causing mayhem, and the book is written in the same style. But it didn't have the same magic, even though the ending is cute. Maybe it's because we never had to deal with a new baby in our house - since Christopher's an only child.

3 stars

The Penny Pot is part of the MathStart series, which I read about recently. It's a cute story that incorporates counting money. A little girl really wants to get her face painted at the school carnival, but she doesn't have enough money. The art teacher has a "penny pot" available at the face painting tent. When kids have extra pennies, they add them to the pot, and eventually the girl has enough money to get her face painted. It's fun, and I loved the math.

4 stars

Christopher and I read Who Would Win? Tarantula vs. Scorpion and totally creeped ourselves out. We were already grossed out by the giant spider facts and the scorpion babies, and then I accidentally brushed his leg with my hand, and he screamed and jumped. Then I laughed at him, and he started crying. It was hilarious.

The book is pretty cool, just like the others in the series, but it was a little too creepy-crawly for us I guess. The fight in this book was pretty cool. We both correctly predicted the winner.

4 stars

Monster Trucks didn't make the cut for my 8 Great Halloween Picture Books list, mainly because I could not figure out what was supposed to have happened at the end. The book is a monster truck race with an unexpected winner. Each truck is a different monster - Frankenstein, a vampire, a ghost, a werewolf, etc. The characters are cute, and the text was easy enough for Christopher to read. But it was just too confusing at the end. Has anyone read this? Please explain the ending to me.

3 stars

Then of course we read some additional books in the Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series.

Christopher read the entire Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Voodoo Vultures from Venus last Thursday evening while my mother, my sister, and I were eating dinner. It was hard to follow completely because I wasn't able to read over his shoulder, but he was really into it, and it seemed like another really fun story. All of these books follow the same basic plot: an evil animal from another planet is trying to take over Earth, and he's created some sort of villainous monster to help him. The monsters and the Mighty Robot have a fight - in flip-o-rama. They're so fun.

5 stars

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Mecha-Monkeys from Mars was a little different than the others. Ricky and his robot are skateboarding at the beginning, and the robot uses his parents' car and destroys it. Ricky is supposed to find a way to pay his parents back. After the classic fighting the bad guy stuff, Ricky is able to get a flying mini-van from the government for helping save the world. It's pretty cute.

Christopher read this one while driving to my sister's house and while we were staying there, so he was able to read some to his cousin, Andy, who was interested in the series first. That was pretty fun.

5 stars

Christopher struggled a bit with Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Jurassic Jackrabbits from Jupiter. I don't know if he's just gotten burned out on the series or if he just didn't like this book as much. Last night I finally finished the last couple of chapter thinking we could just move on to another book or the next one in the series. He enjoyed listening to it, and he did read the flip-o-rama fight. He enjoys that part of each book the most, especially when the robot does his victory dance. Maybe we'll take a little break for a week or so and then try the next book. We'll see.

4 stars

What did your family read this week?

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Carry On (YA)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Great Reads from September 2016

Here are the great books (4-star and 5-star) that I read in September. Click on the book title to open my full review from Opinionated Book lover.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse...
On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma...finds herself falling in love again. Emma and Sam get engaged...Jesse is found. 

The ultimate love triangle! I loved this book so much. I didn't know who Emma would pick, so I couldn't put this book down.

5 stars

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

When Caroline's little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can't help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother...

My new favorite Jennifer Mathieu book. Ethan's therapy is so realistic. The friendship between Caroline and Ethan is adorable - reminded me of Emmy & Oliver. The family dynamics were interesting.

5 stars

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Audrey Rose slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

More mystery than horror, this story was a little slow, but I loved the characters. Audrey Rose is so strong, and Thomas is brilliant. Their banter was super fun.

4 stars

Gaining Visibility by Pamela Hearon

In her late forties, Julia is now used to being invisible. But even if she has to do it alone, she’s determined to celebrate her victory over breast cancer by hiking Italy’s Cinque Terre. Invigorated by the beauty of the Italian countryside, Julia seems unstoppable, until she’s injured by a rock—one that happens to belong to thirty-something stone mason Vitale DeLuca.

This book is more than a love story. It's about rediscovering who you and being true to yourself.

4 stars

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack. Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. 

Every mother should read this book. I identified with Maribeth right away. Gayle has found her calling with adult fiction.

5 stars

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

What great books did you read in the last month?

On the blog last year...

NerdCon: Stories - Part 2