Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kid Lit: Animals Do, Too!

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

Animals Do, Too!: How They Behave Just Like You by Etta Kaner and Marilyn Faucher

To be published on May 2, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
"Do you like to dance?" asks the first spread of this playful nonfiction picture book. "Honeybees do, too!" responds the next. Illustrating the simple text are joyful drawings that visually connect the children enjoying a dance party to the honeybees performing their own "dance" in the hive. A block of more in-depth text fleshes out what the honeybees are actually doing and why: their waggle dance tells other honeybees "where to find a tasty meal." Using this same rhythmic question-and-answer style throughout, the book compares a series of children's favorite activities to similar things that animals do. From playing tag and leapfrog (gazelles and cattle egrets) to blowing bubbles and getting piggyback rides (gray tree frogs and marmosets), there are seven activities/animals in all. And though the behaviors might look the same, while the children are playing, the animals are performing essential tasks such as finding food or caring for their young. 

Award-winning author Etta Kaner has created a fun, engaging exploration of some ways animals behave just like people. By highlighting connections between human and animal behaviors, she encourages children to develop compassion for other creatures and to recognize their place within the natural world. This book would make an excellent resource for early life science lessons on the characteristics of living things, especially with the expanded information in the back matter about each of the animals found in the book. The question-and-answer pattern of the text together with Marilyn Faucher's inviting, detailed illustrations work as an entertaining, interactive read-aloud as well.

My Thoughts:
This book is so interesting! It parallels human behavior with animal behavior and gives facts about why animals do these certain behaviors, i.e. babysitting, leap frogging, dancing, playing tag, etc. The prose can either be simple, for ages 2-4, if you only read the large text. But it can be expanded for ages 4-6 if you also read the smaller text with the animal facts.

I love when books make non-fiction interesting for kids, and this book is the perfect example. Even I learned several things while reading this book. I love how the authors made these interesting animal facts relatable and fun for children (and adults).

My Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Kid Lit: Milo and Georgie

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

Milo and Georgie by Bree Galbraith

Published on April 11, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
When Milo’s family moves to a new city, he vows to officially retire from having fun. So he stays inside for days while his little sister, Georgie, yearns to explore the new neighborhood. Finally, Milo ties Georgie to the end of a ball of yarn so she can go out, on one condition: she has to come home when he tugs the string twice.

But one day, Georgie isn’t at the end of the string. Which means Milo might just have to step outside and discover everything he’s been missing. Charming, detailed artwork illustrates their vibrant new city in this heartwarming story about supporting each other, building community, adapting to change, and embracing new things.

My Thoughts:
This book is adorable. Milo and Georgie are brother and sister, but they have completely different attitudes when their mother tells them that they are moving. Georgie (age 6 maybe?) takes it in stride; she chooses to see the positives, i.e. she and Milo will get to share a room. Milo, on the other hand, swears he'll never be happy again. He refuses to go outside. He stops having fun.

It's summer, so they're home all day with a old woman as their babysitter. She sleeps on the couch all day while Milo watches TV. Georgie wants to go out and explore, so Milo ties yarn around her waist and tugs when it's time for her to come in (right before their mom gets home from work).

One day Georgie doesn't come when Milo tugs, so he's forced out into the world. He follows the yarn to try and find Georgie. Along the way he meets many of her friends: a dog walker, a pizza man, a mail carrier, and even a baseball team. Milo finds Georgie, and he finds himself. He's happy once more.

I enjoyed this unique story. It's about being flexible and about making friends. I loved the brother-sister relationship. And the illustrations were very whimsical and fun. A perfect fit!

My Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Kid Lit: Hand Over Hand

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

Hand Over Hand by Alma Fullerton

Published on April 4, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Who says girls can’t fish? 

When Nina asks her grandfather to take her fishing with him on his old banca boat, his answer is always the same: “A boat is not the place for a girl.”

But Nina is determined to go. She knows that if her lolo will show her how to jig the lines, to set the hook, and to pull in a fish, hand over hand, she can prove to everyone in their Filipino fishing village that she deserves her turn in the boat, girl or no!

My Thoughts:
I always love a good girl-power book, and this book was no exception. Nina wants to go fishing with her grandfather, Lolo. At first he dismisses her, saying that girls can't fish. But she is insistent, and she has nothing to do on shore anyway. They can catch twice as many fish if she helps. Her grandfather gives in and then defends his decision when the other fishermen question him.

Out on the boat, Lolo reels in fish after fish, hand over hand. Nina begins to wonder whether the men were right. Why isn't she catching any fish? Her grandfather dismisses this idea since the fish don't know she's a girl. While pulling in her line to check the bait, she catches a huge fish that pulls out her full line. She struggles to pull it in, and she doubts herself, asking her grandfather for help. And this is my favorite part - he doesn't help. He tells her it's her fight, and she eventually hauls in the giant fish. When they get back to shore late, all of the fishermen are shocked that Nina caught that fish. 

This book is so great on many levels - the cultural story of the Philippines, the relationship between grandfather and grand-daughter, the gender stereotype discussion, and the message of empowerment. I really enjoyed it!

My Rating: 4 Stars

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Puny Pirates (MG)

Published on September 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
At last Charlie Bumpers is assigned to the same soccer team as his best friends Tommy and Hector. They can't wait to try out the stupific offensive plays they've perfected at school recess. Their team, the Pirates, is sure to win the championship this year! But the three friends high hopes are crushed on the first day when they see their shrimpy and inexperienced teammates bumbling around on the field. They also find out that their new coach doesn't believe in star players. He expects everyone to learn all the positions and never gives the dynamic trio a chance to perform together. Even though supposedly no one keeps score in this league, the first few games are a big disappointment to Charlie. To make matters worse, his big brother Matt has joined a video club and he is recording every one of the Strikers disastrous plays. If we can't be on a winning team, Charlie thinks, then maybe Tommy, Hector, and I can at least win the prize for selling the most candy bars for the fundraiser. They pool their resources and sell their candy together. What could possibly go wrong with that? After a series of near catastrophes, Charlie and his friends learn that hotshot plays and gimmicky sales techniques aren't as effective as hard work, honesty, and cooperation.

My Review:
I really enjoyed reading this book with my son (almost 7 years old). Even though it's book 5 in a series, it works well on it's own. Charlie and his best friends are finally on the same soccer team, and it's first year in the under 12 league. They're excited to play together, and they're convinced they're going to dominate the league. Their coach has other plans though. He's focused on teaching the boys to play all positions and to work on their soccer skills. He doesn't let Charlie, Hector, and Tommy play together because he doesn't want any superstars, and anyway they don't even keep score in this league. I was reading this book at the same time I was reading Mindset for Parents, and I loved the growth mindset of the coach.

The subplot focuses on a candy bar sale fundraiser for the soccer team. The boys really want to win the big prize for selling the most candy bars, so they decide to pool their resources and work together. Everything goes wrong: they eat too many candy bars without paying, they lose some money, etc. Things spiral out of control, and Tommy decides the solution is getting more candy bars to make more money. Sadly it doesn't work that way as Charlie points out. This part of the book stressed me out big time. Why didn't they just tell an adult and get some help? The suspense made me keep reading with my son night after night, and it gave us a good opportunity to talk through some of the issues that the boys were facing.

We both really enjoyed this book, and we'll have to check out some of the others in the series. 

My Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kid Lit: Bruno

Bruno: Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So Far by Catharina Valckx

Published on April 1, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Bruno, the cat in the checkered cap, takes life as it comes. When it's too rainy to go outside, he rustles up an inside picnic with his friends. When he meets a fish swimming in the air, he follows it. Why not! When the canary forgets how to sing and can only speak gibberish, Bruno helps out.

My Thoughts:
This book is quite peculiar. It's set up with 6 chapters - each one chronically a different day in Bruno the cat's life. The illustrations are fun, but the text is a bit hard to follow. It's almost like jumping in in the middle of a book. Parts of the story are meant to be told with the pictures, I think, but I found it distracting that the text didn't tell a complete story.

Also, since this is a rather simplistic chapter book, I thought the text should have been larger. The sentences were simple enough for an early reader to decode on his/her own, but the font was small, like a picture book.

I think children's books should be entertaining for adults as well as children, but this book seemed like one written with only kids in mind (I guess?). I didn't really care for it.

My Rating: 2 Stars

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Junie B Jones, Peters Powers, and Charlie Bumpers

Why are kid's book series all named after the main characters name? We're continuing to read a lot of chapter books, and I'm sensing this theme.

Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) (Junie B. Jones #28) by Barbara Park

I really enjoyed this book. We started it a long time ago when Christopher got it from the school library, and I had to borrow it from the public library because I wanted to finish it. Christopher read the whole book, so it took a while. Junie B and her class are making a thankful list for Thanksgiving, and it's so honest, it's hilarious. I'm not always a fan of Junie B books, but this one was great.

4 Stars

Junie B. Jones Is a Graduation Girl (Junie B. Jones #17) by Barbara Park

We bought this book a few months back, and we finally finished reading it recently. Junie B is graduating from kindergarten, and she doesn't listen to the teacher and takes her white graduation gown out of the box and gets grape jelly all over it. She tries to solve the problem herself, which was kind of painful to listen to as an adult. Again, Christopher read this book to me, but I cringed the whole time. Junie B is not the best example, but she did give us something to talk about.

3 Stars

Peter Powers and the Rowdy Robot Raiders! (Peter Powers #2) by Kent Clark

Christopher and I alternated reading with this book since it's a higher grade level - maybe 3rd grade. It still has a fair amount of pictures. We loved the first book in the Peter Powers series, and it was fun to be reading this one together. Peter's ice power is getting a bit stronger, and once again his grandfather is a big encouragement - Growth Mindset! This book is all about teamwork as Peter and his siblings save their parents from a giant robot.

4 Stars
Charlie Bumpers vs. the Puny Pirates (Charlie Bumpers #5) by Bill Harley

I'll have a full review of this book up next week, but I wanted to share a bit about it here since Christopher and I read it together - again alternating chapters. Charlie Bumper's and his best friends join a soccer team, but they're frustrated that their coach won't let them play together. The coach - another great Growth Mindset example - is trying to work on their skill development and not just on winning. I kind of missed a chance for major discussion with this book. Luckily I have a copy from BEA, so we may need to read it again.

4 Stars

What have your kids been reading lately?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: Mindset for Parents

Goodreads Summary:
All parents want their children to be successful in school, sports, and extracurricular activities. But it's not just about giving your kids praise or setting them on the right direction. Research shows that success is often dependent on mindset. Hard work, perseverance, and effort are all hallmarks of a growth mindset. That's where Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids comes in. Designed to provide parents with a roadmap for developing a growth mindset home environment, this book's conversational style and real-world examples make the popular mindsets topic approachable and engaging. It includes tools for informally assessing the mindsets of both parent and child, easy-to-understand brain research, and suggested strategies and resources for use with children of any age. This book gives parents and guardians powerful knowledge and methods to help themselves and their children learn to embrace life's challenges with a growth mindset and an eye toward increasing their effort and success!

My Review:
I read this book for a two-part parent book discussion at my son's school. Growth mindset and fixed mindset were terms I was only vaguely familiar with before reading this book. Afterwards I was intimately aware of their meaning. In that sense this book was a terrific overview of these concepts for parents.

I took the quiz at the beginning of the book and was not too surprised to discover that I have a rather fixed mindset about learning and ability. I was praised for being smart my whole life, and I strongly believe that my ability is based on something innate within me. And I feel the same about my son. This book did point out that emphasizing intelligence over hard work can make it difficult for children when they're faced with new experiences requiring skills that they don't already possess. I know I have always shied away from things that I don't do well.

Coupled with the book discussion with our school's vice principal, I learned a lot about how to speak to my son about perseverance and persistence. I have found myself trying to encourage him to try again or put forth some additional effort in the things he's been doing lately - video games, building marble tracks, etc. I am still struggling with the academic side of things because it comes rather easily to him, but I know we can use other areas, i.e. sports, etc., to help him build a growth mindset that will help him all throughout his life.

This book features a decent amount of concrete examples for children of all ages. But without talking to other parents, I don't know that it would have been quite as effective for me. As I said above, it's a great introduction, but parents truly looking to implement growth mindset practices may need to go further in their studies.

My Rating: 3 Stars