Friday, February 24, 2017

Kid Lit: Fantastic Flowers

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

Fantastic Flowers by Susan Stockdale

To be published on March 1, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
It's hard to believe that these flowers are real, but they are! With engaging rhymes and bright, bold images, award-winning author and illustrator Susan Stockdale introduces young readers to a wide range of unusual flowers. Can you imagine a flower that looks like a ballerina? A baboon? A napping baby? Back matter tells a little bit more about each flower (including color photographs) and describes the pollination process.

My Thoughts:
The illustrations in this book are drawings of real life flowers, but they also look like other things. The author/illustrator has asked children to imagine the flowers as a parrot in flight, purses with flaps, fluttering bats, etc. They're almost like optical illusions. 

The text is simple, and the colors in the drawings are vivid. It's almost laid out like a board book. The ARC was incomplete, so I couldn't get the full feel of the book, but I would guess it will appeal to children between ages 2-4. 

The ARC did not contain much of the promised end notes either, but there were full color photos of the actual flowers, and Stockdale has done a terrific job of reproducing their likenesses in her illustrations. I would have liked to read some of the facts about the plants themselves.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kid Lit: To Burp or Not To Burp

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

To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space by Dr. Dave Williams and Loredana Cunti

Published on October 11, 2016

Goodreads Summary:
Of all the questions astronauts are asked by kids, the most frequent one is “How do you go to the toilet in space?” This book not only answers that question, but many others about the effect of zero gravity on the human body: How do you brush your hair in space? What happens when you sweat? What does food taste like? The best thing is that the answers are provided by Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut who speaks from first-hand experience. Written for kids ages 7 to 10, this book uses age-appropriate language to explain the different phenomena that astronauts encounter during a mission. The bright, colorful pages, short blocks of text accompanied by photos and humorous illustrations make this a very attractive choice for young readers. The opening message from Dr. Dave empowers kids to follow his example by believing in themselves and following their dreams.

My Thoughts:
This book is terrific! It's full of all manner of interesting facts about space. Kids ages 6-10 will enjoy it immensely. It's broken down into sections by topic: going to the bathroom, eating in space, bathing in a microgravity environment, etc. We understand a world with gravity, but Dr. Dave knows that kids have many questions about how things work in space where there is no gravity. 

Since the author is an astronaut, the answers come from first hand experience. The pages of the book are laid out with small snippets of information inside boxes, so it can be read through cover to cover or picked up and read out of order one box at a time. All of the questions and answers center around Dr. Dave's experience on the International Space Station. It's fascinating and funny!

There are quirky illustrations and many photographs to accompany the information, so no page seems too heavy with information. This book was definitely written with kids in mind. It covers everything, and the answers are incredibly blunt and honest. It's well organized, and the pages are well laid out. The back of the book has suggestions for further reading and a full index.

For kids interested in space, or even just how our bodies work, this book is a great resource. 

My Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Political Wake Up Call

I haven't been blogging as much lately as I'm sure you've noticed. I've had sort of a political wake up call since Trump's inauguration. Jim and I protested that night, and we hosted a letter writing party a couple of weeks later, but since then I've shifted my energies into local politics. I realized that I'd been rather politically-apathetic apart from the Presidential elections. I think there's a lot better chance of my efforts being worthwhile on the small scale, local level.

What I mean is that other than Presidential races and Federal Senate/House seats, I don't often vote. Voter turnout even in the national elections isn't great, but it's so much worse in the mid-term elections. That needs to change. Until our letter writing party on February 1st, I didn't even know who our Senators and Congressman were. And surprise, surprise 2 of them are Republican. I want to get more involved in 2018 and try to change that.

But I don't want to wait until 2018 to do something. I have found a number of local organizations - some new, some already established, and we're getting involved - attending meetings, looking for ways that we can help.

An acquaintance of mine is running for the local school board. Another friend and I have dedicated several hours over the last couple of weeks putting together a website for her campaign. Check it out: I'll be hosting a house party for her as well in a couple of weeks and most likely knocking on doors as we get closer to the April 4th election.

We also have an important State Superintendent primary election today in Wisconsin. I've done some research and heard the incumbent, Tony Evers, speak. I'll be casting my vote today and encouraging others to do so as well.

It feels good to be doing things. But it all takes time. Which means less time for blogging. I hope you understand if I post less frequently. I'm trying to find my new balance.

How are you handling the current political situation?

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