Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's so Amazing! Sharing with your children how our amazing body works!

I just read an interesting quote about kids and sex education--it's never too early, but it can definitely be too late!  Here are some great books that cover changing bodies, growing up and sexual health.  The first three books are part of a series, each appropriate for a different age group.  I like how this series presents information in a simple no nonsense manner that is easy for kids to understand and makes the topics easy for parents to talk about.  The last two books focus not on sex, but on puberty, your changing body, and how to take care or yourself.

It's Not the Stork: A Book About Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends by Robie H Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley -- This book is recommmended for ages four through seven.  It covers the differences between boys and girls bodies and how boys and girls look different as they grow older.  Basic information on the journey of the egg and sperm is included, as well as how babies grow inside a women's uterus. Lastly the book covers different kinds of families and okay touches and not okay touches. Written in a straightforward manner, this book provides kids with an understanding of their bodies and encourages them to be proud of what their amazing body can do. A great book for curious kids!

It's So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley -- This book is recommended for kids ages eight to ten.  It continues in much the same vein as the pervious book in the series just going into a bit more detail. A great book that can lead to important conversations with your kids.

It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley -- This book is recommended for ages ten and up and covers a wide range of topics. Less emphasis is given on the growth of a baby inside the uterus (hopefully your kids know all that by now!) and more information is given on topics like: puberty, different kids of families, homosexuality, birth control, abortion, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, making good choices and staying healthy. Kids generally know what information they can handle when and this book, with such a wide range of important topics, makes it a great book to share a little bit at a time.

American Girl has a great series for girls about taking care of their bodies called The Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Schaefer, illustrated by Norm Bendell. This book covers body basics, how your body is changing, eating disorders, fitness and emotional changes that occur when you are going through puberty. One thing I like about this book is that it encourages girls to take control and be proud of their bodies even when they may start to feel out of control. A great book for young girls.
The Boy's Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing up YOU by Kelli Dunham, illustrated by Steven Bjorkman. This book covers the same information as: The Care and Keeping of You, but for boys. This book is a great book to help get kids and parents talking about growing up and taking care of your body.  However, it is a bit wordy so it's unlikely an eight to ten year old would read this book cover to cover. A good reference source and jumping off point for more in-depth discussions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Riddles for Early Readers to Amaze Their Friends!

There comes a certain age when kids are obsessed with riddles.  They love to tell them, they love to make them up, and they love to laugh at the punch line! I think the thrill is in finally delivering the punchline that everyone has been beating them to for years! Here are some great riddle books for the beginning reader.  An additional benefit: they can read them on their own!

Spooky Riddles by Marc Brown "What does the Mother ghost say to her child when they get in the car? Fasten your sheet belts!"

Dino Riddles by Lisa Eisenberg and Kay Hall, Illustrated by Nicole Rubel "What do you call a dinosaur in a cowboy hat and spurs? A Tyrannosaurus Rex!"
Buggy Riddles by Lisa Eisenberg and Katy Hall, Illustrated by Simms Taback "Why are frogs so happy? They eat whatever bugs them!"

Fishy Riddles by Lisa Eisenberg and Katy Hall, Illustrated by Simms Taback "Why are fish so smart? They are always in schools!"

What do You Hear When Cows Sing?: And Other Silly Riddles by Marco and Giulio Maestro "What do you call a train that sneezes? A-Choo-Choo Train!"

Knock, Knock Who's There: My First Book of Knock Knock Jokes by Tad Hills "Knock, Knock. Who's There. Anita. Anita Who? Anita bath!"

Look for more riddle books under the call number 793 in the non-fiction section or in the Early Readers section of your local library.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mini Theme Week: Native Americans

With a four day weekend on my hands I felt like it was the perfect time for a mini-theme week!  Since we just moved to Maryland and as November is Native American Heritage Month, I decided we should study the different Native American tribes that originally lived in this area.  We read some amazing Native American folktales, did some Native American crafts and visited the fabulous Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

There are many wonderful retellings of Native American folktales. Here are few of the books that we read.

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: The Iroquois Story of Creation, Retold by John Bierhorst, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Author and illustrator Paul Goble has written numerous stories about the Plains Indians including: The Return of the Buffaloes, Crow Chief, The Gift of the Sacred Dog and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses.
One of my favorite Cinderella tales is taken from Algonquin folklore: "The Rough-Face Girl" by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon.

Tomie DePaula is well-known for his retelling of folktales, two of my favorites that focus on Native American stories are "The Legend of the Bluebonnet" and "The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush."

We also used many non-fiction books covering the life of the Native Americans in the Maryland area, specifically the Powhatan, as well as books on Native American crafts.

The woodland Native Americans lived in longhouses, so that was our first project. There are many wonderful examples of longhouse projects online. We went with a very simple idea of using a shoebox and ripped paper. The kids had a great time completing the project and it was not too overwhelming.

The Bullroarer was my favorite project.  The Bullroarer was used in Native American celebrations as a type of musical instrument.  The wood used for the instrument was usually taken from a tree that had been struck by lightning.  We used paint stirrers, which we painted brown and then decorated with animals and designs.  The best part of this project was the surprising low, loud moaning sound the Bullroarer makes when swung around!  My son said he could just picture twenty Native Americans spinning them all at the exact same time during a festival.

Our sunset paintings were inspired by the book "The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush" about a young boy who is trying to find all the colors in the sunset to make the perfect painting.  When he finds all the colors he completes his painting and the paintbrushes he leaves behind become beautiful flowers.

On the last day of our four day weekend we visited the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The kids loved the children's area which was very hands on and interactive. The kids got a passport which they stamped after completing an activity or exploring an aspect of Native American culture.  We also saw an exhibit on the importance of the horse in Native American culture and learned about how Native Americans continue to celebrate their culture today.
Completing a magnetic puzzle

Weaving a basket

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four Fantastic Books About Elections

It's voting day!  What better way to celebrate than teaching your kids about elections?  Here are four great books that will educate and entertain!

Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio, illustrated by LeUyen Pham -- Grace's school decides to hold an election for class president with one person from each class selected to run.  Each student represents a different state and receives the number of electoral college votes for that state.  The two candidates campaign and give speeches, but in the end will the best candidate win? A fun book with an obvious "best" candidate and a good easy way for kids to learn about how the electoral college works.

Duck for President by Doreen Cronin illustrated by Betsy Lewin -- Duck is tired of doing work on the farm and decides to run for president, little does he know this is much more work that he imagined.  In this hilarious book, by the well-known authors of Click, Clack, Moo!, Duck takes on corruption and humans and manages to win the election without saying a word!

So You Want to be President by Judith St. George Illustrated by David Small -- This wonderful book covers a lot of information in a fun and engrossing way.  The comical sketches of each president bring to light personality traits, physical features, home life, and pervious jobs.  Kids will enjoy the light-hearted focus of this book and the wonderful illustrations.

Vote! by Eileen Christelow -- Using a mayoral race as a backdrop Christelows fun cartoon like sketches educate about debates, rallies, and voter registration.  Presented in a appealing format this is a great book to introduce the complicated world of politics to kids.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Hoots and Howls Poems by Joan Horton

A poem for the day of Halloween:

Igor's Mummy

Igor's mummy drives the bus
That takes the kids to school.
Boys and ghouls who ride with her
Must always mind this rule:
No throwing things or hitting.
Or making any fuss.
And screaming hyenas had better behave
or else get off the bus.

Some tombstone verses:

this slab lies
Lennie Lixer.
He Fell Into 
A Concrete Mixer.
Poor Stiff

Here Lies the Body of
Jeremy Victor
He Shouldn't Have Hugged
His Boa Constrictor.
Sleep Tight.

Danny Dimm
Was not too Bright.
He Ate a Stick of Dynamite.
Rest in Pieces.

From: Halloween Hoots and Howls. Joan Horton, illustrated by Joann Adinolfi, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1999.

Beverly Cleary Audio Collections

I'm a huge fan of Beverly Cleary. Her wonderful stories about the joys and trials of everyday childhood life are as relevant today as they were during the 1950's and 60's when they were originally published.  Cleary describes the emotions of her characters in so familiar a way we can remember exactly how it felt to be in that place, at that age.  I'm also obsessed with audio books which is why this post focuses on the audio collections of Ms. Cleary's books.  The whole family will be mesmerized listening to the extremely well performed audio editions of this classic series.


Stockard Channing truly does an amazing job of bringing the timeless story of Ramona Quimby to life. Her performance of the varied characters from teachers to parents are spot on.  I love the way she changes Ramona's voice in each book from Ramona the Pest to Ramona Forever --you can hear Ramona getting older.  My kids have listened to this entire series of books twice.

We just started listening to the Henry Huggins series on audio book and I must now sing its praises!  The Ramona series was so wonderfully read by Stockard Channing that I that wasn't sure what to expect for the Henry Huggins series.  Imagine my delight when I found out  it's performed by none other than Neil Patrick Harris.  Two delightful timeless series read by two amazing actors!

To read about why I love audio books!

Friday, October 26, 2012

"You Wouldn't Want to......." A wonderful Non-Fiction Series

I love this series of non-fiction books focusing on historical events and people.  My son, age 6, in particular loves this series. While the text is advanced he loves the illustrations and the fun (and sometimes disgusting) facts he learns!  What makes these book so wonderful is the vibrant comic illustrations, that will draw even the most reluctant reader, and the depth of information found in each book. The subject matter covered in this series ranges from the middle ages, to American colonist, to World War II, to being a skyscraper builder. The most recent historical topic I found was You Wouldn't want to be on Apollo 13! Here are a few of our favorites from the series:

You Wouldn't Want to be A Roman Gladiator!: Gory Things You'd Rather Not Know by John Maham, Illustrated by David Antram

You Wouldn't Want to Live in Pompeii!: A Volcanic Eruption You'd Rather Avoid by John Maham, Illustrated by David Antram

You Wouldn't Want to be Polar Explorer!: An Expedition You'd Rather Not Go On by Jon Green, Illustrated by David Antram

You Wouldn't Want to be a Samuari!: A Deadly Career You'd Rather Not Pursue by Fiona MacDonald, illustrated by David Antram

Monday, October 15, 2012

Five Fantastic Books About Pigs

Pigs are funny animals and kids love them.  Unlike foxes that are sly and owls that are wise, pigs are most often silly, which makes them wonderful characters for children's books. The pigs in these stories are silly, but also occasionally clever.  You can't judge a pig by his sterotype! Here are five wonderfully silly and fantastical tales about pigs.

Me First by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger -- Popppington always has to be first.  First in line, first for lunch, first on the bus.  One day, on a pig scout outing he meets his match in the Sandwich who shows him that first is not always best.  A fun book by one of my favorite author/illustrator teams.

Pigs by Robert Munsch -- Told in Munsch's usual frantic style this story of pigs in the pigpen will delight children. A daughter doesn't believe her father when he tells her that pigs are smart, but soon learns her lesson.

Pigsty by Mark Teague -- A young boy with a very messy room welcomes his first few pig visitors, but soon he realizes pigs in his room are not all fun and games.

Piggie Pie! by Margi Palatini, Illustrated by Howard Fine --A hungry witch decides that piggie pie would be the perfect thing for dinner.  Can the creative and cunning pigs in the barnyard outsmart the witch and save their skins?

Piggies by Audrey and Don Wood -- A wonderful creative twist on "This Little Piggie."  With detailed and vibrant illustrations by Don Wood the classic fingerplay takes on a whole new life.  Each finger is given its own personality and as the setting changes on each page these personalities come alive. Audrey and Don Wood have collaborated on several other wonderful books including The Napping House and Hackedy Peg.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Four Funny Books About Underwear

'Cause who doesn't love a book about underwear? Not high literature, but lots of fun, young children will laugh out loud at these silly stories. Please be sure to establish underwear sharing guidelines before you start reading!

Underwear by Mary Elise Monsell, illustrated by Lynn Musinger -- all the animals love underwear, except for the grouchy buffalo.  Everyone enjoys picking out their new underwear at the underwear fair, except the buffalo.  Everyone can't say the word "underwear" without laughing, except buffalo.  The animals are determined to change his mind and make him laugh.  Kids will laugh right along with this silly story.

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort -- Vibrant, comical illustrations set the tone for this whimsical book.  Aliens come to earth, not to meet earthlings, but to steal their underpants!  Set in rhyme the aliens show us why underpants are so much fun.

Charlie's Superhero Underpants by Paul Bright and Lee Wildish -- Charlie loves his new Superhero Underpants, but one day while they are hanging out to dry they blow away!  Charlie sets off an expedition across the world to find them. When he finally does he is able to trade his woolen hat for the one item that means so much to him.

What Color is your Underwear by Sam Lloyd -- This lift-the-flap book presents each animals with the question "What color is your underwear?" Each animals shows their silly underwear until the surprising ending!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Inspirational Biographies of African American Women

Three of my favorite inspirational biographies about African-American women.  All of these biographies feature strong women who overcame huge obstacles and did amazing things.  Biographies are one of my favorite genres to read, they allow the reader to become immersed in another persons life, very different than their own, and share in their journey.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rodolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by David Diaz

A truly inspiring story about the will to overcome lifes challenges. Wilma was often sick as a child and at five contracted polio.  Wilma's legs were affected by the illness and doctors thought she would never walk properly again. Wilma's determination live the life she wanted pushed her to strengthen her legs and she soon no longer needed her leg braces. Wilma became a star athlete excelling at running and in high school played many different sports. She was offered a track-and-field scholarship to Tennessee State University then went on to compete in the summer Olympics of 1960.  She amazed everyone by winning the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and 400-meter relay. This once sickly child had become the first American women to win three gold medals in a single Olympic games!  This book has unique illustrations using a combination of lovely watercolors with photographs as backgrounds.

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, pictures by Brian Selznick

Marian Anderson's inspirational story tells of a young girl with an amazing talent and how she overcame racial prejudice to share her gift with the world. Ryan and Selznick beautifully show Marians's confusion when, as a young girl, she is not allowed entrance into a music school due to her race. By 1927 Marian was a successful singer worldwide and was welcomed everywhere....except the United States.  In 1939 Howard University booked a concert with Marian and looked for a place to hold the large crowd she was expected to attract.  They tried to book the 4000 seat Constitution Hall--but were told they had a white performers only policy.  Fans wrote angry letters to the newspapers and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the board of Constitution Hall in protest.  At Eleanor's urging President Roosevelt agreed to let Marian perform in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. On the day of the performance 75, 000 people, of all races, showed up to hear Marian sing.  I love this book for its wonderful muted illustrations and beautiful story.

Minty: A Story of Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder, Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This book tells the story of young Harriet Tubman before she escapes to freedom. While some of the exact details of the book are fictionalized, they are based on fact.  Harriet was a 'difficult' slave who was often mistreated and abused by her masters. This book does not shy away from the difficult demeaning life that slaves endured.  The author and illustrator depict the realities of the day to day life of a slave, but also show Harriet's determination to escape to the freedom she deserves. It is easy to imagine the girl that Harriet once was, knowing the determined, brave, spirited woman she became.  Renowned illustrator Jerry Pinkney, has created detailed period accurate illustrations that add wonderfully to the story.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Poetry of Jack Prelutsky

Jack Prelutsky is one of my families favorite poets.  Humorous and irreverent Prelusky's poems appeal to kids of all ages.

His poems can be laugh out loud funny and spooky too. Some are realistic, some fantasy and some the pure nonsense that kids love.  These collections are best shared read aloud and enjoyed together.

Prelutsky was selected the first Children's Poet Laurete in 2006 and has published numerous poetry collections. Prelutsky, who is also a musician and singer, brought his anthology A Pizza the Size of the Sun to life with joyful renditions of the poems in the audio edition of this book.  The Dragons are Singing Tonight is a wonderful collection of poems dedicated to dragons. The poems are funny, sad, haunting, and silly. Beautiful watercolor illustrations accompany each poem.

Here's a poem to memorize from I've Lost my Hippopatamus: "A centipede was thirsty, But to satisfy its need, It drank too much for it to hold --, And so the centipede."

In Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant Prelutsky combines an animal and an object and creates something totally new. Whimsical and inventive kids will love the ideas presented in this collection and will enjoy coming up with new ideas on their own. An elephant and an umbrella -- an Umbrellaphant!

For more information on Prelutsky and to view his numerous poetry collections check out his website at: