Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kid Lit: The Fog

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

The Fog by Kyo Maclear

Published on May 16, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Warble is a small yellow warbler who lives on the beautiful island of Icyland, where he pursues his hobby of human watching. But on a warm day, a deep fog rolls in and obscures his view. The rest of the birds don't seem to notice the fog or the other changes Warble observes on the island. The more the fog is ignored, the more it spreads. When a Red-hooded Spectacled Female (Juvenile) appears, Warble discovers that he's not the only one who notices the fog. Will they be able to find others who can see it too? And is the fog here to stay?

My Thoughts:
This book is cute, but I felt like there was a deeper metaphor that I just wasn't understanding. Warble, a small yellow bird, enjoys people watching. I loved this concept of the animals watching us. He lives on Icyland island, but when a mysterious fog rolls in, he can no longer people watch. No other birds seem bothered by the fog. They all act as if it's always been there, but it bothers Warble. When a little girl shows up and notices the fog too, they send letters out into the sea looking for others that can see the fog.

At this point in the book I was really liking it. I thought maybe it was supposed to be about the destruction of the environment or something serious and important like that. But then the fog disappears when more and more letters come back saying others can see the fog. So perhaps it was about connection with other people? Maybe the prevalence of smart phones and our disconnection from each other? I kind of got lost. Maybe it's just a kids book without a deeper meaning.

Either way, it was still a decent read, and the pictures were cute. The length of the text makes it appropriate for ages 4-8.

My Rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Juvenile Pile: School-Related Books

We've been cramming in some extra reading this past week because the library reading program ends on Saturday. Then they do a special reading program for just August. It's kind of weird. I wish they would just have one program for the full summer, but whatever. We have 2.5 hours left to squeeze in to the next couple of days, so Christopher can get a second reward.

Here are some school-related books we've read recently.

Second Grade Rocks by Judy Katschke

Christopher won this book on the last day of school. Since he's going into 2nd grade in September, I thought it was the perfect reward, and he finally read it to me recently. This book is great for beginner readers because it has a repetitive style and prose. All of the kids except one are excited about starting second grade. Andrew is apprehensive, but he finally comes around. It's a cute read.

4 Stars

Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler

I read this book to Christopher, and I liked the premise of the book. The teacher, Mrs. Ruler, is teaching her students about kindness. They're given homework to do something kind at home. It had more of a random acts of kindness type vibe to it. It was a lot of chore type activities that the kids did at home vs. actually just being kind to someone. That bothered Christopher a bit. But we still enjoyed reading it.

3 Stars

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub

Christopher suggested this book after we'd read a different Little Red Riding Hood spin-off. He read this book at school, so we got it from the library, and I read it to him again. Little Red Writing is a pencil who's trying to write an exciting story, but she can't find the words, so she sets off through the woods to find some. It's a little abstract, but it's a lot of fun. And I thought it was great that Christopher remembered hearing this story and suggested that we read it together.

4 Stars

The Bot That Scott Built by  Kim Norman

This book is written in the style of The House That Jack Built. Christopher read it to me, and he had a little trouble with some of the words, but he did really well with the rhyming. Scott's class is having a science fair. He's built a robot, but some of the other experiments are going awry: the volcano, the frog, the snake, the ant farm, etc. We had a lot of fun reading this book. And of course the robot saves the day.

5 Stars

Ready Set Boo by Judy Katschke

After reading Second Grade Rocks, I looked at the library to see if they had any other books from the First-Grade Friends Forever series. The only one I could find was this Halloween book. One of the girls in the class forgets her costume, so all of her friends try helping her come up with a replacement. She's a little picky. Haha. But I know it was done, so again the book could have a repeating pattern. Christopher did a great job reading this book, and we both enjoyed it.

4 Stars

What books have your kids been reading?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We Bought an Electric Car!

I have wanted a Nissan Leaf since they first came out in 2010. Sadly, they were not released in Wisconsin until 2012, and by then, we'd already bought two new-to-us cars, my parents' 2001 Honda Accord and a 2006 Toyota Prius. Fast forward to a few months ago, when we noticed that the Honda was leaking gas, and we needed to buy a replacement car. We could finally get the Nissan Leaf!

It took a couple of months of searching and waiting to find one in our area. Not many people in Wisconsin trade in used Leafs. There were tons available down in Chicago, but we didn't want to drive all that way not even knowing if we'd like the car.

We didn't exactly plan to buy the first Leaf we looked at, but you know how used car salesmen can be. On June 14th, we bought a 2012 Nissan Leaf with 35,000 miles on it for about $9,000. That seemed a little too good to pass up. And we LOVE it!

We weren't able to drive it right away because we had get a 240-volt outlet installed in our garage, so we could charge it. Technically, it can be charged with a standard 120-volt outlet, but it's pretty slow. We also had to decide what to do with Jim's car before switching over the insurance. We decided to donate his car since the dealership was only going to give us $200 on a trade in. It took about a week to get the electrician in to give us a quote and get the work done in the garage.

We had planned to buy a charging station, but Jim's friend used to have a Leaf, so he gave us an old charger that had been converted to 240-volts.

The Nissan Leaf is 100% electric, and the 2012 model is quoted as getting 87 miles to the charge. My work is 19 miles from home, so I typically drive about 40-50 miles per day, which means I have plenty of charge that I don't need to be worried about running out of electricity. Although, let me tell you, the first time we drove the car more than just around the neighborhood, we were a little freaked out. It kind of feels like running on empty with a gas vehicle until you learn how the car can handle speed and distance. I feel like my 6 years of driving a Prius (a hybrid vehicle) have been good practice.

It takes 3 bars of energy to get to work. There's a gauge, kind of like a gas gauge, that shows the remaining charge and the estimated miles that can still be driven. The car charges back to full power in about 4-5 hours depending on how far we've driven in a day. It also shows you the estimated time to full charge using either 120-volts or 240-volts, so that's pretty cool.

For the first couple of weeks, we were setting a timer and then unplugging the car after it was fully charged. I was worried that like a laptop battery or cell phone battery, it might not be good to have it plugged in and "over" charging. But we've stopped doing that. It's just not practical, and Jim's pretty sure it doesn't matter.

The car drives really smoothly, so Jim's taken to calling it "the spaceship." And of course, it's pretty much silent because of the electric motor vs. a gas engine. It's 6 years newer than the Prius, so that helps as well as far as how well it drives. Christopher isn't in love with it yet because it's a little harder to buckle his seatbelt. The buckles in the backseat retract into the seat, so sometimes they get stuck. Jim's going to make something to hold them in place using his 3D printer, and then Christopher should be happy.

One of the other reasons I wasn't too apprehensive about getting an electric car is that there is a charging station at my work. It's outside one of the other buildings on the campus, and charging is free to employees who work in park. I don't plan on charging at work every day because it's a bit of a walk to that building, but I had a chance to try out the ChargePoint app and the charging station last week.

I went to lunch with a friend somewhere 10 miles north of my office, so I was a little nervous about driving home with only 35 miles of charge remaining. I wasn't sure if I'd get stuck in traffic or whatever. And since it was Friday, I thought it would be a good day to try out the charging port. The ChargePoint app shows all of the charging stations around town and whether they're free. The port at work has both a 120-volt and 240-volt charger. I was able to get the 240-volt charger after I came back from lunch.

Once I went back into the office, I was able to monitor the charging via the app. It showed me how long I had been charging and how many miles were added onto the battery. It was pretty cool. There is a 4 hour charging limit, but I didn't even need to charge that long.

Electric motors aren't as efficient in the winter because of the cold, so the verdict is still out on how well it will drive this winter. I may need to charge it daily at work, so I may have to drive the Prius when it's really, really cold. We'll see. For now we are really LOVING our new car.

What kind of car do you drive? What do you love about it?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Kid Lit: Shark Lady

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

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating

Goodreads Summary:
At 9 years old, Eugenie Clark developed an unexpected passion for sharks after a visit to the Battery Park Aquarium in New York City. At the time, sharks were seen as mindless killing machines, but Eugenie knew better and set out to prove it. Despite many obstacles in her path, Eugenie was able to study the creatures she loved so much. From her many discoveries to the shark-related myths she dispelled, Eugenie's wide scientific contributions led to the well-earned nickname "Shark Lady."

My Thoughts:
This book is about one girl's dream and how she made it come true. Eugenie Clark always loved sharks, and she wanted to study them when she grew up. Despite many people discouraging her against following her dream, she studied hard and finally got to study sharks. She made many important discoveries about them and showed the world that sharks are smart animals.

This book is both interesting and inspiring. It's written in a fun and engaging way. It's perfect for parents or teachers looking to share true stories with their children, but it's also a great read for anyone. It's not boring or preachy.

The end has facts about sharks and a timeline of Eugenie's life. I really enjoy when there are additional resources in non-fiction books. It gives adults and older children more information on the topic if they're interesting.

This book is a great read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kid Lit: My First Book of Soccer

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

My First Book of Soccer (A Rookie Book) by The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids

Published May 16, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
The ref blows the whistle, the striker approaches for kickoff, feet fly-a soccer match is underway! With a fun mix of Sports Illustrated action photography, simple text, a full glossary of terms, and awesome graphics, My First Book of Soccer introduces readers to the world's favorite game. Kids (and probably a few adults, too) will learn how the clock counts "up" and never stops, what an offside means, what's up with those yellow cards, and how kicks become a gooooaaaallll!

Illustrated "rookie" characters appears on every page, guiding the reader moment by moment, and helping to make My First Book of Soccer an ideal shared reading experience between parents and their little rookies before, during, and after the game.

My Thoughts:
Soccer is a complicated game, but this book breaks down the rules - including all of the extra kicks for penalties and balls going out of bounds. I love this series. It makes things simple and understandable for kids, and it has the little rookie character (in this case characters) making funny comments throughout the book.

We own a couple of these books already, and I will be adding the soccer book to our library. These books are fun to read over and over again, even once your kids know the rules. The pictures are from real life soccer teams, so there's a variety of people - men and women. It can be a little confusing because it's not two teams playing each other throughout the book, but it shows the universality of soccer across the world.

I highly recommend this book and the others in the series.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Great Reads from June 2017

I am finally caught up on my reviews over at Opinionated Book Lover, so while I don't have a ton of books to share with you this month, I will in July. Below are the 4-star and 5-star books I've read and reviewed recently.

My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter

Behind the white-washed walls of the compound, life was simple. Follow the rules, “live in the Light,” and all would be well. Zylynn was excited to turn thirteen...but when she is taken away by a man who claims to be her father, Zylynn is confused and desperate to return to her home.

This middle grade book about a girl raised in a cult is amazing. It's crazy to think of all the things Zylynn wouldn't know. So well done!

5 Stars

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

The first book in a witty, suspenseful new trilogy about a brilliant new crime-solving duo: the teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.

This Sherlock Holmes re-imaging is really fun. Jamie Watson, a boy, and Charlotte Holmes, a girl, meet at boarding school when students start being murdered. They become fast friends and partners. I loved it!

4 Stars

The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot

Becky Flowers hasn’t thought about her high school ex, Reed Stewart, in years. Until suddenly—thanks to a news story that goes viral —Reed comes bursting back into her life like an Indiana summer twister.

This book is written entirely in emails, texts, news articles, etc. It worked so well. The plot is fairly predictable, but every second of this book was enjoyable.

4 Stars

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Yet when Bex seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king, she can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince.

I wasn't sure about this book, but I loved it. The characters are so great, and the drama is so fantastic. I couldn't stop listening.

4 Stars

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding.

This book is super nerdy. I want to be real life friends with Leia. Haha. The family drama was great too, but I mostly loved this one for the MC.

4 Stars

What great books have you read recently?

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Kid Lit: Are You a Girl or Are You a Boy?

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

Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? by Sarah Savage

Published on February 15, 2015.

Goodreads Summary:
Are you a Boy or are you a Girl? is unlike any kind of children's book you've seen before. With your help, we can talk gender creatively and with confidence, and assist parents and teachers the world over. What makes this book new is that it leaves it up to the reader to decide the gender of the main character. It's a book that includes all forms of gender expression, and it allows parents and children to begin to break down the barriers of gender and to talk about what different stereotypes and roles mean to them.

My Thoughts:
In the book the main character does not identify with being a boy or being a girl. Other characters keep pressing the question, but no answer is ever given. Statements are made about the two genders, i.e. girls cannot be firefighters, and then refuted by the characters. The goal is to get discussion going with children about gender and what it means.

The illustrations are colorful and complementary to the text. This book was produced as a means to raise funds for a few groups in the UK that focus on gender identity issues and trans people.

I think it's a good resource.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Library Summer Reading Program

We've been doing the library's summer reading program again this summer. You have to mark off each 15 minute increment and sign off on each hour. And then for every 6 hours of reading, your child gets a prize. Christopher got his first prize this week. There is a selection of discounts or free tickets to local attractions. He picked the trampoline park.

Here are some of the books he read to earn that prize.

Independent Reads

Gryphons Aren't So Great (Adventures in Cartooning) by James Sturm & Alexis Frederick-Frost

I love these junior comic book style books. The main character is a knight with a horse named Edward. They get into all kinds of adventures together. In this one the horse is jealous of the knight's new pet gryphon. It's short and cute, and a great independent read for ages 6-8, depending on your child's reading level. Christopher read this book quickly.

3 Stars

Sleepless Knight (Adventures in Cartooning) by James Sturm & Alexis Frederick-Frost

In this book, knight is going on a camping trip with Edward the horse. They've packed everything they need, but they cannot from Teddy at bedtime. A helpful rabbit thinks he knows what's being described, but she leads them to a bear. It's amusing and a great, short graphic novel for early readers.

4 Stars

Fly High, Fly Guy! (Fly Guy #5) by Tedd Arnold

This book is silly, but a perfect read for beginning readers. It's well below Christopher's reading level, but the repeating "chorus" is great for reinforcing and building confidence for early readers. Fly Guy's boy and his family are going on a road trip, and Fly Guy tags along. He's "lost" at each place, which is a fun hide-and-seek for the reader. But he's always found on the next page, and in the end he saves the day.

4 Stars

Roger is Reading a Book by Koen van Biesen

This is another simple book, but it's so fun. Roger is reading a book, but his next door neighborhood, Emily, is making a racket - bouncing a ball, dancing, etc. Roger keeps getting frustrated and knocking on the wall to try to get her to be quiet. In the end, the gift of a book quiets her down. I loved the illustrations in this book. And Christopher read it with great inflection.

4 Stars

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz

I loved this book! It's a retelling of The Three Little Pigs, but instead they're studying martial arts. The first pig gives up after two weeks, so when the wolf comes, he cannot defend himself. The second pig goes a little longer, but still cannot win, just like how sticks are stronger than straw. The third pig (a girl!) studies through her black belt and keeps practicing. The wolf is afraid to even try to fight her. The brothers learn their lesson and decide to stick with their studies.

5 Stars

Read Aloud Books

The Two and Only Kelly Twins by Johanna Hurwitz

I couldn't resist getting this book from the library since it's about twins, and I'm a twin. I knew Christopher wouldn't read it because it's a contemporary book about girls, but he did listen to me read it to him. It plays on the twinness a little more that I would have liked, but it's a fun book about sisters and friendship. I good alternative to Junie B. Jones for young readers.

3 Stars

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

We'd read this book before a couple of years ago, but my sister mentioned it to me again after we visited The Highline during our Girls Weekend in NYC. It's a cute story about a boy who starts a garden on an old elevated train track, and it sparks a rebirth of greenery around the entire city. After reading it, I finally showed Christopher a picture that I'd taken of the trees and plants growing up around the train tracks on The Highline.

3 Stars

At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin

This book is very unique. It's a very tall and narrow book, and it takes the reader around the world, showing what someone is doing at the same moment in each of the time zones. At the end of the book is a map of the world showing which time zone each character was in. It's pretty cool. The activities the people are doing are secondary to the concept of time though. I was hoping for a little more reality in each of the places.

4 Stars

Does your library have a summer reading program? Are your kids participating? What prizes have they earned?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Kid Lit: Blossom Plays Possum

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

Blossom Plays Possum (Because She's Shy) by Birdy Jones

To be published on July 17, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Blossom is bashful and "plays possum" so she won't be noticed. She wants to talk and play with other kids, but doesn't know how. But soon with some courage and support from her friends, she learns how to connect with others, take risks, and be more confident with herself. Blossom Plays Possum aims to show kids and parents that there is nothing wrong with being shy and helps boost self-esteem. Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers" with more information and resources about overcoming shyness.

My Thoughts:
This book is really cute. I was SUPER shy as a kid, so I can definitely relate to Blossom. She's a possum who plays possum every time she's confronted with a scary situation. She can't tell someone her name or answer a question in class. She's too shy to join in singing with some girls at school or play her flute in front of her music class. Her music teacher tells her it's OK to be nervous, but he gently suggests she try to see things a different way, so they're not so scary. After an incident in art class, Blossom begins trying new things.

This book is written in first person, which is kind of unique for a picture book, but it worked well. Shy kids will empathize with Blossom and perhaps her experiences will help them be open to new opportunities as well. This book is perfect for kids ages 4-8.

The end of the book includes helpful resources for parents.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Kid Lit: Can You Find My Robot's Arm?

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

Can You Find My Robot's Arm? by Chihiro Takeuchi

Published on July 4, 2017.

NetGalley Summary:
One morning, a robot wakes up to find he is missing an arm. He and his robo buddy search inside and outside the house, through a garden, an amusement park, a library and even a candy shop, but it's nowhere to be found. Where can the arm be, and what might make a suitable replacement? A lollipop? A fish bone? How about a fork?

Can You Find My Robot's Arm? humorously invites children to explore the beautiful and intricate hand-cut images of Chihiro Takeuchi.

My Thoughts:
This book is all about the pictures. Each one is hand cut and shown in black and yellow. A little boy's robot has lost his arm, and they search everywhere for it, trying out different things as a potential replacement - a leaf, a fork, a lollipop, etc.

The prose is simple. It would be good for a beginning reader or young children - ages 2-4. Even younger children may enjoy gazing at the intricate images.

There is no resolution at the end. The arm is not found. A fork will have to do.

It's a cute read.

My Rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Christopher's Corner: Mini-Reviews by Christopher

Last night when I mentioned blogging about a book we were reading, Christopher asked if today we could read some books, so he could write about them on my computer. Perhaps this will be a regular thing.

He Came with the Couch by David Slonim

I liked this book because it's silly. A boy and his parents buy a couch from a rummage lot, and it comes with a blue guy who won't get off the couch.

It was weird because there were couches everywhere: in the grand canyon, the beach, and the Lincoln memorial.


There's a Cat in Our Class!: A Tale about Getting Along by Jeanie Franz Ransom

I liked this book because I like the pictures. I like the animals. I like the background.

This book is about getting along with others. The dogs in the class have to learn to get along with the new student, a cat.


Have your kids ever written on your blog?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Beginning of Summer

I can't believe the first few weeks of summer are already over. I haven't even looked through the papers and summer homework in Christopher's backpack. Oops. Maybe I will now that it's July. We've been pretty chill on reading as well. We're mostly reading chapter books on the nights that Christopher hasn't stayed up too late to read.

Here's what we've been reading lately.

From the library...

The Good for Nothing Button (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #3) by Charise Mericle Harper

Jim read this book with Christopher, but I couldn't resist reading it quickly on my own before I took it back to the library. I love Mo Willems, and Elephant and Piggies, so I had to see what was next for this new series. I really loved this book. It captures the spirit of the original books so well. There's lot of excitement and humor. It's just a lot of fun.

5 Stars

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Anyone who's read bedtime stories to children and had them interrupt a million times will love this book. The father chicken is reading to his chick at night, and the little chicken cannot help telling an alternate ending to each story he tries to read. There's a cute twist at the end. It's a funny one.

4 Stars

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Beth Coulton

Christopher read this book to me while he was laying in bed, so it was a little hard to follow. It's an interesting twist on the classic tale. The Three Bears have a band, and they need a new singer - enter Goldi. He enjoyed it, but didn't love it.

3 Stars

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller

I heard about this book from a roundup about kids books discussing kindness. This book was an easy read for Christopher. It had a repeating section, which is always good for beginning readers. Rabbit's new neighbors and otters, and he isn't sure how to treat them. He learns that he should treat them the way he would like to be treated. It's a good book about the golden rule.

3 Stars

From our own collection...

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld

This book was an all-time favorite in our house. We haven't read it in a couple of years, so I was pretty excited when Christopher picked to read it to me. It's the perfect bedtime book - especially for construction vehicle lovers. Christopher even had names for the vehicles when he was younger, and we had the corresponding toys.

5 Stars

Duck Soup (Max the Duck) by Jackie Urbanovic

This book is another modern classic. Max the Duck is making soup. After trying many recipes, he's crafting his own. But when he goes out to get something from the garden, his friends arrive and can't find Max. Seeing some onions and carrots in the soup, they fear the worst. Max's soup is ruined, but at least he's OK. This one will have both kids and parents laughing.

5 Stars

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss

Christopher impressed me while reading this book. Obviously the reading level is quite low, but he read it almost as fast as I could have. It's a classic Dr. Seuss with plenty of rhyming words and humor. I didn't even realize we owned this book. (We got tons of Dr. Seuss books handed down from Jim's cousin.) It's a good read, and it's not as long as many other Dr. Seuss books, so that was good.

4 Stars

What has your family been reading?