Jorie and the Magic Stones

June 25, 2017 at 7:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

19437293_10100245730471579_2579479098578961460_n.jpgTitle: Jorie and the Magic Stones

Author: A. H. Richardson

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Length: 263 pages

Kiddo and I received this book some months ago as a review copy. We adore fantasy and fairy tales and Cabrynthius was an exciting addition to our travels which already included Narnia, the Land of Stories, Neverland, Hogwarts, and more.

Kiddo is six years old and her official review goes as follows,

“Jorie is a great book. I love the adventures she had. I want to learn more about the mysterious book she found under her bed. Please make a sequel.”

She also asked me to include three happy face emojis, of which I will refrain. But if we’re working on a happy face system instead of star ratings, she gives it three in a row. (I think happy faces may be worth more than stars.)

Richardson is a talented children’s adventure storyteller. I can say I probably would have enjoyed this book thoroughly as a second grader, although the average reading level might fall in a third or fourth grade level.  As an adult reading a children’s book, the story was appropriately paced, the trials and life lessons were concisely addressed, and I looked forward to reading each chapter with my little girl.

My only criticism for the work as a whole lies in an editorial preference: too many instances of the word “quite.” In future works, I hope that Richardson takes a red pen to every use of the word “quite” and marks it out. Keep three, maybe, but lose the rest. I found the word more distracting than descriptive.

All in all, Jorie and the Magic Stones belongs in children’s libraries everywhere. All kids long to go on a quest and to be chosen, but have to learn lessons of discernment and ethical choice; Richardson presents all these things well.  Like my daughter, I look forward to a sequel.

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Bowls of Happiness

December 10, 2015 at 7:02 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

bowls-of-happiness-9780989377645_hr.jpgTitle: Bowls of Happiness

Author: Brian Tse

Illustrator: Alice Mak

Translator: Ben Wang

Genre: Children’s Picture Books/ Education/ Cultural Studies

As the kiddo grows older, she’s becoming more apt to share her opinions on things.  She’s at the phase where not only is she becoming more articulate, she’s realizing that people will listen to her when she is.  She’s five, a just turned five, but five nevertheless.

That being so, I like keeping her in the habit of thinking about what she likes and dislikes about what we read.  I enjoy having her reiterate what we’ve read, to know that she is listening and understanding.

“I like the way the flowers are pretty and I like the way Piggy sits in the flowers and sun.  And the part where the birds sing.  But when Piggy and the bats run away from the rain, that wasn’t really fun.  When Piggy’s bowl was finished with the flowers and the bats, that looked really pretty.  I like the yellow bowl, and the yellow bowl with Piggy on it.  And I like the way there is a picture with flowers with no words.  I like the yellow bowl with pictures of just flowers and leaves, it’s really pretty to me.  I like the bowl with Piggy inside that is blue and branches and flowers and one bird. I like the white bowl with the pond and two birds.  And I like the yellow bowl with flowers and blue kind of moons and patterns on it.  I learned about love and Chinese and the way people love people and I learned ALL about bowls.  I think all of it is cool.  And at the end with the hand with the hole and the piggy nose is pretty cool to me, the one that comes from the other page.”

Then she proceeded to find all the capital I’s in the letter from Chiu Kwwong-chiu at the end.  I’m pretty sure she likes the letter I as well.

All in all, I think this book was a huge success in our house.  Mostly because stud81Bm+U4um7L.jpgying Chinese culture has always been important to us (I grew up in a Kung Fu studio) and the color yellow is kiddo’s second favorite color.  There’s a lot of yellow in Bowls of Happiness.

I don’t think we’ve ever read a book laid out in this fashion, this size, separated almost in a chapter-like manner.  (Story book first, then a detailed nonfiction section that could have easily been published as a separate title.)   We’ve definitely not encounter one on this subject.  It’s lovely.

71hQ8vEZyHLCultural and artistic studies are important for tiny people and teaching them about the artistry found in every day objects as well as museums is a key part of showing them the beauty of the world.  I want my child to see beauty in her world, not through rose-colored lenses, but through intelligence and empathy.

 

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Spend the Holidays with Pout-Pout Fish

November 14, 2015 at 1:00 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

613r-T9OAbL._SY494_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish

Author: Deborah Diesen

Illustrator: Dan Hanna

Kiddo and I fell in love with The Pout-Pout Fish about three years ago when we discovered The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark.  We had a slight aversion to the possibility of “baby talk” in the writing, but were won over by the fun poetry and the fabulous underwater illustrations. (Read my original post here.)

In addition to our joint love of underwater children’s stories, Kiddo has taken on a serious love for Christmas that can be countered only by my mother’s.  These two, I’m not kidding, have enough Christmas spirit for the entire nation. All of America could abandon the idea of Christmas altogether and my kid and her grandmother would still have us all covered. (I’m a little more ba hum bug, but you know – yin and yang and all that.)

So you can imagine our excitement when the publisher sent us a copy of The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish.

“The Pout-Put Fish is like SANTA!” the kiddo exclaimed, seeing his very merry Santa hat atop his very un-merry face.  We’re not Santa promoters in our house – in the modern day sense that has become tradition, but rather in the currently untraditional traditional sense where we talk about the history of the original Santa stories and how the legend of a good man became a magical myth.  Yet, with all our reading and exploration of wonderful tales and things that promote vivid imaginations, we’ve fallen in love with stories like the Rise of the Guardians by William Joyce and so on…

Come the holidays, we have another household tradition.  We like the concept of four gifts (or gift categories that promote specific, well-thought out gifts in moderation): What You’ll Wear, What You’ll Read, What You Want, and What You Need.  So as a parent of such a household, I especially love the line, “And his gifts had meaning/ Plus a bit of bling-zing/ And his each and every friend loved/ Their just-right thing.” No meaningless haphazard gift giving for the Pout-Pout Fish! (Thank you, for that, Deborah Diesen, it truly does mean so much to us.)

“Can we read it again tomorrow?” Kiddo asked when we were through.

“Of course.”

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The End of Summer… Beginning of Christmas

November 8, 2015 at 4:10 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The thing about living in Texas is, the second summer truly ends – it’s not really fall, it’s already Christmas.

The weather tells us so.  Retail tells us so – we went from Back to School displays to Christmas trees almost over night.  Halloween and Thanksgiving disbanded before we even manage to get there.

The reality of this set in as we read picture books tonight.  Kiddo selected a book by Adam Rex called Tree- Ring Circus, a summery affair regarding a lot of animals and a tree losing it’s fall leaves.  It’s got a deep south summery vibe, because even though the tree looks bare, it radiates warmth and feels like a warm summer day.  I’m craving pop corn, ice cream, and trail mix just looking at the illustrations.  The tree becomes an unlikely “hiding place” for a runaway circus clown and his friends, even though there is no hiding in a barren tree on the verge of keeling over.

Of course the animals and the tree itself seem to be lost on my five year old.  She’s more interested in the rapid growth pattern of the tree that grew from the seed and the thunder storm at the beginning of the book.  A tree that grew from a seed to something large enough for an elephant to perch atop in a matter of three sentences.  We do so get hung up in the funniest of details sometimes around here.

For me, it’s details like the fact that my daughter LOVES Christmas books. We’d read them year round if I let her, but I can’t bring myself to do it.  I limit her to one Christmas book a month in non-Christmas seasons.  But as it is November, and therefore practically Christmas in Texas – we’re upping our Christmas book game.  I already have one Christmas picture book review scheduled to post and now, we’re posting another…

61vrBjeJWFLTitle: Casey’s Bright Red Christmas

Author: Holly Dufek

Illustrations: Paul E. Nunn

Publisher: Octane Press

We were sent a promotional copy in exchange for a review.  We’ve never heard of Casey & Friends until this book, but apparently it’s a fairly established series with several previous titles.

As good old Texas girls, we were equal parts excited about the country farm aspect as well as the novelty of the snow featured in the background of all the pictures.  So far, we’ve had snow one time since the kiddo was born, and it didn’t manage to stick to the ground.  She’s fascinated by the stuff and is constantly asking me when we’re going to get some.  I think this may be part of why she likes Christmas books so much – they’re almost fantastical when you’ve grown up in the Lower Coastal Plains Region of Texas.  We have sun, rain, woods, and beaches – no snow, no mountains.

Now, that we’ve met Casey & Friends, we’re definitely going to look for the other titles: A Year on the Farm, Big Tractors, Combines, and Planters & Cultivators.  (I’m not sure if this is the best idea for a little girl who already prances around singing the FarmersOnly.com jingle every chance she gets.  I promise we’re not THAT country.)

“Can I have a note?” kiddo asks.

“Of course, this is technically *your* review,” I tell her.

“My favorite part is where they all say SURPRISE.  Also, dear people,” I love the way she says this, like she’s addressing a letter to my blog followers, “I wonder if you would like to read this book. It’s an awesome book and it’s a great time to read this book right now.  Because it’s lovely.  And I would like it if you read all the other versions.  I bet we could get them at the library, I always have a great time there.  I wish everyone would have lovely days at the library…”

There are more glowing superlatives, but they are mostly the excited ramblings of a five year old loving to hear herself talk.

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October Birthday Books for a 5 Year Old

October 20, 2015 at 4:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Kiddo just turned five. With that come some serious growing up perks – like, for instance, a public library card of her very own.  She now can check out up to 30 books each time we visit and she is over the moon with excitement.  She even wore her fancy new party dress to the library this morning to sign up for her card.

But before we went to the library and checked out new books on her new card, which we will write all about next week – I bought her books at Barnes & Noble that we are pretty thrilled about.  (It was a big deal to buy them from B&N because we’re such used book and library fiends.)

61weEnfu3CL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Snatchabookfeatures a spooky mystery about a village of animals whose bedtime stories are being stolen by a midnight thief.  Who is this thief? Why are they stealing books? It’s all very riveting, and has a gloriously happy ending.

Of course, because the main theme regards the characters’ love of books, this is a great story to share with little ones to get them excited about stories; or, in our case, to celebrate our existing passion.

We adore the illustrations, which always affect our purchasing habits, and look forward to finding more stories from Dochertys.

Julia’s House fo51xXd20Z2wL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_r Lost Creaturesis probably my newest favorite.  I fell in love with this book from a Halloween display at Barnes & Noble and knew the moment I laid hands on it that it wasn’t going to be left behind.  Ben Hatke is a genius.  His art is sweet, imaginative, spunky, and rich.

The story is about generosity and expectations, community and the need for chores, but within the fantastical fun of monsters, ghouls, mermaids, trolls, and more.

No child should go another Halloween without it.

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Moby Dick

October 10, 2015 at 4:00 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

61YmF0KEKoL._SX444_BO1,204,203,200_We’ve all read Moby Dick – I think – unless you’re a very small child, like my child.  As a classical homeschool Mom, I like to expose my kiddo to classic literature early, even before she’s redy to read it for herself.  So, finds like Eric A. Kimmel’s picture book Moby Dick with paintings by artist Andrew Glass are gems.

My four year old had a lot to take in – the enormity of the whale, the importance of Ahab’s obsession, and why anyone would kill a sperm whale anyway.  This picture book has a neat educational page in the back regarding Melville and the ship Essex and how that true event played a role in the cultivation of the original novel.

The illustrations are gorgeous… we love paint work, MobyDick14-700x395as the kiddo considers herself a painter and has been mastering her technique since she was 15 months old.  (I vote to always give kids real paints and actual canvases, if you can.  It’s helped her to be much more adventurous in her artistic pursuits.

We can’t wait to read this one again and again, and hopefully, by the time she reads the novel, she’ll have these beautiful images so ingrained she’ll fall in love with Melville – despite the fact that it takes forever to even get to the whale.

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Spike and Spanish

June 19, 2015 at 4:22 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

SPIKE front coverTitle: Spike, The Mixed-Up Monster

Author: Susan Hood

Illustrator: Melissa Sweet

Genre: Picture Book

Ay, caramba!, we just read this before bed this evening and we love it! First off, I’m a sucker for an axolotl.  I discovered them about two years ago when an avid reddit surfer sent me some images they had found. Strange but cute creatures are kind of our thing, and an axolotl definitely fits the bill.

I remember thinking there should be a picture book about them.  I love kids picture books featuring the odd ducks of the planet and offer educational value at the end of the story.  I have tons of them lined up in my head that I haven’t written yet.  My favorite thing about Hood’s book is that she incorporates Spanish words through out the story and thesusan-hood-spikepic last few pages include research about the creatures who made an appearance.  There’s so much educational value to this book and I can’t wait to own a copy. (We read from a library book.)

Referred to as a water-monster by the Aztecs, I was introduced to these tiny creatures as Mexican Walking Fish.  Either way, they are super cute, come in all different colors, and if ever there was an animal worthy of a picture book it would be this one.

I absolutely adore Melissa Sweet’s illustrations.  They are bright and spunky and the kiddo was riveted by each and every page.  Sweet captured the essence of the story with care and finesse and I look forward to seeing more of her illustrations on picture books in the future.

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Kids Books You MUST Check Out

May 13, 2015 at 6:06 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We’ve been spending more and more time at the library than usual.  About 2-3 hours A DAY.  Before it was every few days, but with this rain – in the tradition of Noah – occurring in the northern Houston area the past few weeks, we’ve been trapped indoors.

So these are our top favorites for the week:

1. Snippet the Early Riser – Bethanie Deeney Murguia (http://amzn.to/1cxqz9Z)

We adore the illustrations in this tail of a snail that wakes up long before his family is ready to start their day.  In the book, you’ll meet a ton of different insects, and then finally discover the source of this family’s plight – Snippet just goes to bed way too early.  It’s a common hazard in family’s with small children and I think most kids and adults alike will be able to relate.

2. When a Dragon Moves In – Jodi More (http://amzn.to/1cxqsew)

Again, the illustrations are fantastic! Kiddo loves the beach setting and the fact that dragons are actually moving into the kid’s sandcastle.  She hasn’t yet caught the nuance that it’s this little dude’s epic imagination at work, but kiddo is – after all – only four.

3. When Rain Falls – Melissa Stewart (http://amzn.to/1bPVhdO)

This is soothing.  And completely appropriate for our current household situation.  So much rain and so many days when it merely threatens to rain, it was nice to read through how rain effects everyone and everything.  We read this right before bed and in the middle of the afternoon several times.  Lovely, lovely, book.

4. Freckleface Strawberry – Julianne Moore (http://amzn.to/1cxsknL)

This isn’t just one title, this is a series of which we have read two. Freckleface Strawberry is an adorable little girl with flaming red hair, completely covered in freckles.  I relate to these books so well because I was the freckle-faced short kid in my class.  Kiddo loves her “because she has so many freckles.  And you know what I like best of her? She has a nickname!”  Kiddo loves nicknames.  Her cousins call her “Fruitcake,” her daddy calls her “Booger,” her tia Danielle calls her “Nugget.”  I call her heathen, but that’s besides the point. Not really, I call her “Nugget” a lot too.

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Springtime Means Seed Time

May 1, 2015 at 4:19 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

We are kind of in love with our librarians at this “new” library branch.  We loved our librarians at the old house, don’t get me wrong, but these ones have definitely weaseled their way into our hearts.  Case and point – there’s this adorable seasonal bin one of the children’s librarians puts together, and of course, we find the *best* things there.

P1030750 This week, it was Flip, Float, Fly and Strega Nona’s Harvest, both perfect stories to read during planting season.  Flip, Float, Fly talks about seeds and how they work, blowing dandelions, and the nature of sticker burrs and such.  Strega Nona, of course, in Tomie dePaola typical fashion, covers not just gardening season – but an entire culture of a family and their village and what fresh vegetables can mean to people.  (More typically, the nature of their rituals to ensure that they get an abundance of these fresh vegetables.)

Of course, when we’re not reading and planting ourselves… we’re out and about playing in creeks and inspecting the forest.

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Maple & Willow

March 15, 2015 at 4:44 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Title: Maple & Willow Together51pSKNjwntL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Author/Illustrator: Lori Nichols

I would have gotten this review up earlier in the week except every time I pick it up to look at it the kiddo stops me and says, “Oh Mommy, read it again, it’s so beautiful.”

So we’ve read this on repeat all week and have yet to put a line down about it anywhere.

We love that the girls are named after trees.  We love that they spend 90% of the story outside.  We love that they are sweet, sweet, but realistic sisters.

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The girls play outside making fairy gardens and blowing dandelions – something we do a lot of.  Collecting worms is also a household specialty; kiddo once delivered earth worms to my sister’s kitchen table and insisted they have lunch along with her and her cousins.  My sister was none too thrilled about this and sent kiddo and the worms back outside where they belonged.

We love how familiar the girls’ lifestyle is, how much these aspects of their lives are in fact the best parts of childhood.  We love… well, we simply love everything about them.  Kiddo has asked that I buy this one for our collection, as we picked this up at the library.  We will do just that as soon as I find it.  We’ll purchase the other books in the series as well.

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