Thursday, June 29, 2017

Kid Lit: Zoo Zen

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

Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids by Kristen Fischer

To be published on July 1, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
What could be more fun for kids than to hop like a frog, slither like a snake, and roar like a lion--all while learning an empowering, healthy life skill? Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids is a delightful pose-along adventure for children ages two to six. Readers will join our heroine Lyla as she learns ten yoga poses from her friends at the zoo, receiving helpful tips along the way from each animal she encounters. Using rhyming and counting to make memorization easier, here is an imaginative book that combines the benefits of yoga with kids' natural love for animals to create a magical learning journey that parents and children can enjoy together.

My Thoughts:
This rhyming, counting book features a little girl trying out yoga poses with help from her friends at the zoo. Each page shows an adorable illustration of Lyla in her yoga position, along with 1-10 animals giving helpful instructions. The rhyming stanzas don't specifically say how to do the pose, but they give enough description to make the story fun. The end of the book includes the list of poses Lyla was doing with instructions on how to do them correctly.

This book is perfect for kids ages 3-5 who need to take a moment to relax. I could see my son following along when he was younger. The counting aspect makes this a book that younger children would also enjoy. The text is fairly simple, and the focus could be on counting the animals and not necessarily on the yoga poses.

My Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Date Night, Paint Night

A couple years ago Jim bought me a couples paint night for Christmas, and we went with another couple and had a great time. Since then Jim has been anxious to do another paint night. Let's just say his painting turned out a LOT better than mine that first time.

When I scheduled a paint night with friends a couple of months ago, Jim was a little jealous. He couldn't come along because he was going to be out of town for work. I had a blast drinking and painting with my friend. We laughed a lot, and my painting didn't turn out all that bad this time.

So when our plans to go out with another couple fell through a few weeks ago, I quickly suggested doing a paint night since we already had a sitter lined up. Jim was thrilled. My last two paintings had been planned around the content of the painting, but with these last minute plans, we couldn't be that selective. There were three studios by us, but we ended up choosing the closest one for its location and starting time. The image was whimsical and fun, and we had a great time painting together.

If you've never done a paint night, it's fairly easy. An instructor walks you through a painting, step by step, telling you how to mix the paint, which brush to use, and how to make your strokes. And the best part is that they serve alcohol, so you can relax and just have fun with it even if you're not the best at painting.

Of course you don't have to actually hang your finished paintings, but we have. Our boat pictures hang side by side in our downstairs bathroom. And my lighthouse painting is in our bedroom as it fits our nautical theme. But since we ended up with two of the same paintings from this most recent date night, Jim's hangs in the guest bedroom and mine is at my desk at work. I don't like how my grass turned out, so I've conveniently placed a couple of framed photos of Jim and Christopher in front of it. Perfect!

What fun activities have you done for date night?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: The Escapades of Clint McCool #1 (Chapter Book)

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Octo-Man and the Headless Monster (The Escapades of Clint McCool #1) by Jane Kelley

Published on May 9, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Zing, zong, zing. Brain flash! A pirate hook. Underground tunnels. Brains in jars. It's time for an Escapade!

Clint McCool always has a lot of great ideas. That’s what makes him such a great hero. But sometimes he has too many great ideas. Armed with his super-powered cap, his brain flashes, and his two best friends, Clint is ready to solve any problem and find adventure anywhere. When he runs onto a film set, he gets into trouble. A lot of trouble. Can Clint McCool still save the day?

This easy-to-read, highly-illustrated book is a perfect first chapter book, printed in black and blue to help readers transition from full-color picture books to black-and-white chapter books. Exciting adventures, relatable characters, and engaging art—early readers will love joining Clint McCool for his Escapades.

My Review:
I enjoyed this book. Clint McCool is Walter's alter-ego. He wears a cap with special powers. I couldn't determine whether they were just imaginary or whether he was supposed to be an actual superhero. I am leaning towards make-believe. He and his friends, Marco and M.L. (a girl), enjoy getting into trouble together. This time that trouble involves a movie set. Clint McCool has his heart set on being in movie. Chaos and humor result.

This book is perfect for emerging chapter book readers. It's decent length, but the text is large and pictures abound. The sentences are short and simple. I read it to my 7 year-old son, but he could have read it to me if he'd been inclined. I'd guess the reading level is around grade 2 or 3.

The plot is fairly ridiculous, as most kid's stories are, but it's fun, and it has a good message about friendship. I really liked the mom as well. She was realistic - present, mildly annoyed at times, very loving, and pretty cool.

My Rating: 3 stars

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Kid Lit: A World of Pausabilities

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

A World of Pausabilities: A Exercise in Mindfulness by Frank J Sileo

Published on February 13, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
This is a rhyming guide that introduces children to mindfulness and shows them how to live mindfully by taking pauses in their lives. Pausabilities encourage children to take a breath and be present and pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the world around them. A World of Pausabilities reminds children that everyone can be mindful and that there is no wrong way to take a pause. Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers" by the author which explains mindfulness and provides tips for implementing pausabilities in their children's lives.

My Thoughts:
This book introduces children to the concept of mindfulness, taking a pause to be aware of their present situations and feelings. After a simple explanation, it dives into examples of different types of pauses. It ends by asking the child to think of different ways that they could take a pause.

The illustrations throughout the book depict children being children - playing in the rain, catching frogs, picking apples, and snuggling with a parent. The people in this book are diverse, which is wonderful because the message is universal.

As always with Magination Press books, this book includes an end note for parents that provides more information about mindfulness and how to practice this exercise with children.

I enjoyed this book. I think it is a great resource for parents and teachers interested in teaching children about mindfulness.

My Rating:  3 stars

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Movie Review: Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

IMDB Summary: 
Two overly imaginative pranksters named George and Harold, hypnotize their principal into thinking he's a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants.

My Thoughts:
We went to see the Captain Underpants movie on opening day with some friends. We all loved it. There is a lot going on in this movie; it's kind of overstimulating. It loosely follows the plots of The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Captain Underpants #1)Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (Captain Underpants #2), and Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants (Captain Underpants #4). They included the origin of Captain Underpants and then some of the attack of Professor Poopypants, only he's equipped with the Turbo Toilet 2000 instead of the Gerbil Jogger 2000.

They did an excellent job capturing the essence of the characters. George and Harold were the trouble-making, comic-loving, best friends that are portrayed in the books. Mr. Krupp was a little bit more awful than the series makes him out to be, but of course the movie needed a villain. Captain Underpants is impulsive and dense, but incredibly funny.

There is a large plot about the boys being put into separate classes, which kind of fuels the whole movie, but it works. There really isn't a lot of plot in the books between the comic books the boys draw and the villains in each story, so this added storyline makes the movie work.

I loved the comic books at the beginning and throughout the movie. And the best, best part is when they broke the action to do flip-o-rama. In the movie! It was so amazing and so perfect for this series. I hope there are more movies.

My Verdict: Two Thumbs Up! (out of two)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Juvenile Pile: We're Reading Picture Books Again

As I mentioned in my last Juvenile Pile, we're struggling with finishing chapter books, so I got a bunch of picture books from the library to give us a little break.

We still mostly read at bedtime, but this picture was a spontaneous morning read in my room. Because we'd been reading Wonder (which we finally finished - yay!) I got the picture book from the library, and Christopher was excited to read it.

Here's what we've been reading lately.

We're All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

This book is simple. It gleans the most basic concept from Palacio's Wonder (middle grade) and creates a beautiful picture book. It sparked conversation with Christopher. He wondered what made him a "wonder" and settled on his glasses. This book allows parents of younger kids to share the message of Wonder with their kids. Everyone is worth loving and has unique characteristics that they bring to the world.

4 Stars

Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler

Christopher read this book to me. It's about two kids determined to rule the playground. They claim territory, they create rules, and they take all of the fun out of playing. Just when they decide to end the war, another potential ruler comes along. It's a little strange, but we enjoyed it well enough.

3 Stars

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires

When I reviewed this book I said I'd have to get it from the library to read with Christopher, and I did. He enjoyed it, but I think he got a little annoyed with me because I wanted to talk about the message of the book. He had gotten it without me needing to discuss it. Haha.

5 Stars

What a Day It Was at School! by Jack Prelutsky

Christopher picked this book out from the school library. It's a collection of poems about school. We didn't read all of them, but he did read me quite a few. It was so cute to listen to him read poetry. He did such a great job with the cadence and the rhyming. We skipped one poem during our first reading because it was about going on a field trip the day before. We saved it for the day after his class field trip. That was pretty special.

4 Stars

Bean Dog and Nugget: The Ball by Charise Mericle Harper

This book is a short chapter book kind of reminiscent of Elephant and Piggie. Two friends, Bean Dog and Nugget, play with a ball. The ball gets stuck in a bush, and they have to rescue it. Christopher read the whole thing in one sitting because it was a little easy, but the story was cute and the characters were fun. There's a second book, and we'll be getting it from the library soon.

3 Stars

What have your kids been reading?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Great Reads from May 2017

Today, I'm sharing the 4-star and 5-star books I reviewed over the last month over on Opinionated Book Lover. I actually kept up with my blog this month, and I read a lot of great books, so my list is pretty long this month. Click on the book title to read my full review.

Tumbling by Caela Carter

Five gymnasts. One goal. By the end of the two days of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, some of these girls will be stars. Some will be going home with nothing. And all will have their lives changed forever.

This book was wonderful. Great characters. So many emotions. Some intense gymnastic moments. I honestly didn't know how it would end.

4 Stars

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant. But as the week wears on, Lo witnesses a woman being thrown overboard. 

The suspense in this book was so well done. I didn't know what to believe. And strangely I really wanted to be on a cruise. Haha.

4 Stars

The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant

A fresh, funny, and spirited reimagining of Jane Austen's beloved Pride and Prejudice, The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet brings the voice of the wildest Bennet sister alive and center stage like never before.

I thought I knew everything about Lydia from Pride and Prejudice, but this book really brings her character to life. I found myself actually routing for her. It was pretty amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

4 Stars

Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.

This book is adorable. It's an unbelievable but 100% fun-to-read contemporary YA romance. I loved it.

4 Stars

The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan

After Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs to travel around the world, they're given a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away. The only three rules for the envelope: Don't overthink it; share your experiences; don't feel pressured to give it all away.

This memoir is so phenomenal. Kim is so honest and so brave, and I truly enjoyed reading her story. I also interviewed her along with my review.

4 Stars

Come This Way by Michelle Schlicher

Come This Way is an emotional, honest look into the lives of women who are discovering their own strength. It is a story about difficult choices and the people around us who help us find our way.

This book weaves together multiple stories. It's about all different kinds of love. It reminded me of Love, Actually, and I blew through it.

4 Stars

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

On a rainy New Year's Day, Elsie Porter heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn't expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they've eloped. Only nine days later, Ben is...killed on impact. 

Like all of TJR's books, this one is emotional and wonderful, although sadder than I was expecting.

4 Stars

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls.

Part memoir, part advice column, and part essay collection, this book is fun and funny. I enjoyed it tremendously.

4 Stars

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

So nerdy! I loved this book. It's like an epic Dungeons & Dragons quest.

5 Stars

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. 

This book really helped me understand the fundamental differences between Liberals and Conservatives. It's something I've been struggling with since the Presidential election in November. I highly recommend it.

5 Stars

What great books have you been reading lately?

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Junie B. Jones / Garden Field Trip

A couple of weeks ago, I went with Christopher's 1st grade class on their spring field trip. We went to a First Stage Children's Theater performance of Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook. It was a play adapted from the books Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook and Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren. We'd never read those two books, but you know we've read quite a few Junie B. Jones books in our house.

Program from Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook and field trip instructions.

I was assigned two other students to chaperone alone with Christopher. Both were girls I've known for a couple of years, so that made things a little easier. There was some shuffling of seats on the bus, and Christopher and I ended up sitting together. He was in a kind of crabby mood, and he just wanted to stare out the window.

Christopher on the bus ride to the theater.

When we got to the theater, there were many other school groups there. The theater staff led the groups in one by one after reviewing the theater rules, and we were given pretty great seats - last row on the floor in the center section. It's a pretty small theater with seating on three sides and a small balcony.

Christopher, Katie, and Ryleigh at First Stage Children's Theater.

We shared one program, and I flipped through it with the kids a little before the show started. We even did a couple of the pre-show questions. The cast of the play was elementary and middle school students, and Christopher thought it was pretty cool that they were missing school to do the performance.

The play was amazing! The young girl her played Junie B. Jones talked almost the entire hour. I was so impressed with her ability to memorize all of those lines and her mastery of Junie B. Jones' personality. She was spot on. I really loved how she narrated the story while also interacting with other characters in the play. It was exactly the same as the way the book series is written. The rest of the cast (Mrs., Principal, Warren, Meany Jim, Grace, Lucille, etc.) were all great as well. We really enjoyed the show.

After the theater we went to the Boerner Botanical Gardens, so that meant another bus ride. There were post-show questions and "Who Said What?" lines in the program, so Christopher and I did them together (he got all but 1 right - I was impressed), and then he read them to the girls. That took pretty much all of the the time to get to the garden.

Christopher reading questions to Katie and Ryleigh on the bus.

We had lunch at on the patio at the garden, and then we had a quick plant lesson where the kids got to plant pumpkin seeds. Ours are now growing rapidly in our kitchen. Then our garden volunteer took us on a tour of the garden.

We saw many plants and trees, and even went on a boardwalk through the swampy area where we tried to hear nature. One kid thought he heard a ferret. The kids also got to smell skunk cabbage and taste chives. I was a little jealous that some of the kids actually liked the chives. I wish Christopher would eat onions.

Our guide, Jean, talking to the kids on the boardwalk.

Before we left the garden we got a group picture of the whole class. First grade was such a great year for Christopher. I'm pretty sad that it's now over. His teacher was amazing, and I don't know if we'll have another one as amazing as her.

Mrs. Destache's first grade class.

It was a great day, and the perfect end to a wonderful school year.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: The Bone Sparrow (MG)

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

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Goodreads Summary:
Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

My Review:
The Bone Sparrow will open young minds to one of the atrocities of modern society - refugee camps. Subhi is ten year-old Rohingya boy who's lived his whole life in a refugee camp in Australia. The conditions are awful. They eat slop, essentially, every day, unless there are government visitors. The guards are brutal, and his 12 year-old best friend is sent over to the men's area because they need the space for another family with small children.

Jimmie is a ten year-old girl living near the refugee camp. Her mother is dead, and her father works long hours. She lives far away from her school, so she doesn't always make it, and she's never learned how to read. She finds a way into the refugee camp at night, befriends Subhi, and gets him to read her mom's stories to her.

They share hot chocolate and horrible jokes. Jimmie shows Subhi pictures of her world on her phone, and amazingly they never get caught.

It's a sweet story of friendship, imagination, and fighting against an unjust system with a bittersweet ending. Subhi witnesses something awful, and he's going to tell the truth at the end in the hopes that conditions might get better for his family, himself, and the rest of the refugees.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Friday, June 9, 2017

Kid Lit: Grow Happy

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

Grow Happy by Jon Lasser and Sage Foster-Lasser

Published on February 13, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Kiko is a gardener. She takes care of her garden with seeds, soil, water, and sunshine. In Grow Happy, Kiko also demonstrates how she cultivates happiness, just like she does in her garden. Using positive psychology and choice theory, this book shows children that they have the tools to nurture their own happiness and live resiliently. Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers" with information on how our choices and paying attention to our bodies and feelings affects happiness. 

My Thoughts:
Grow Happy draws parallels between Kiko caring for her garden, and growing happiness, with caring for herself and making her own happiness. Just like the garden needs someone to make choices, nurture it, and get help from friends when Kiko cannot do all of the work alone, Kiko must make good choices in her own life, care for her growing body, and ask for help from friends and family when she cannot do everything alone.

I love that this book teaches kids that they have the power to make themselves happy. It's all about the choices they make and how they care for themselves - both physically and mentally. The metaphor of the garden makes these concepts more tangible.

The illustrations in this book are whimsical and happy. The characters' facial expressions match the moods conveyed through the text of the story. I really enjoyed this book.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Kid Lit: There, There

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

There, There by Tim Beiser

To be published on June 1, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Do you ever feel like everything is terrible? Like nothing is ever right and you just want to hide under your pillow? Well Rabbit does, and he's not shy about sharing it. He whines, he complains, he moans, he grumps... until Bear has had enough and decides it's time for Rabbit to learn to appreciate what he has. Using nothing but the lowly common earthworm as an example, he teaches Rabbit a lesson about taking things for granted. Something the worm knows all about... 

My Thoughts:
The moral of this story was good. Rabbit is always complaining, and Bear usually says, "There, There." One day he cannot take it anymore though, and he shows Rabbit a worm and tries to explain that Rabbit has things pretty good compared to the worm. It's a little more telling vs. showing than I usually prefer in a kids book, but it gets the point across.

This book is written in rhyme, which is not my preferred writing style. It's kind of clunky at times and would be a little challenging as a read aloud.

I loved the illustrations, especially the chess game in the opening spread. The pages were full with so much for kids to look at.

I enjoyed this book as a single read, but it isn't one I would want to own.

My Rating: 3 stars