Category Archives: book tie-in activity/recipe

The Beasts and Children, Day 12: Christmas with the Mousekins

Christmas with the Mousekins

Christmas with the Mousekins, by Maggie Smith (2010)

As we enter the last two weeks leading up to Christmas, this book about a mouse family’s activities during the same time might lead to some inspiration…and maybe some cinnamon snails!

The book opens as Papa Mousekin starts getting out the Christmas decorations two weeks before Christmas. (I’m actually right there with him this year!) The family–Papa, Mama, Mimi, Momo, and Baby–goes to find the perfect tree, and before they even get it set up at home, Nana Mousekin arrives for her Christmas visit. She and the older children make decorations while Papa and Mama set up the tree, and the children write their letters to Santa while the adults get the lights up. Then they all decorate the tree. Ten days before Christmas is the baking day; they bake cookies of all sorts to give as gifts (and to keep for themselves!). A week before Christmas is spent ice skating, sledding, and building snowmice in the fresh snow. Five days before Christmas, the carolers come around, and the Mousekin family has cookies and hot drinks to share. The day before Christmas, everyone is hurrying to finish up their gifts for one another. When everything is finished, Nana tells the story of Papa Mousekin’s first Christmas, the one where Santa Mouse had to rescue Grandpa Mouse from a snowstorm and delivered him down the chimney! On Christmas morning, the children come down the stairs to see the stockings filled and the tree surrounded by gifts. Finally, after their Christmas dinner, the Mousekins go around to all their friends and neighbors to deliver Christmas cookies, then they return home to enjoy their gifts together. On the very last page, on the day after Christmas, Mimi writes a thank-you letter to Santa for “all the good cheer that Santa Mouse brought to her family this year.”

It might not be possible to explore all of this book in one sitting with a young listener, and an independent reader might get sidetracked by ideas, too–even the endpapers are filled with craft instructions! BoyChild was obsessed with the speech-bubble-esque words in the illustrations (no actual speech bubbles, but spoken words in hand-written text to differentiate from the italicized story font), and I had to stop reading the story to read each word that was spoken by the mice in the pictures. There are so many details in each image that a child could spend an hour just looking through the book and still not catch everything. Then there are the craft instructions and recipes interspersed with the story, and there are even some items pictured (like the felt skates with paper clip blades and pinwheel cookies) that don’t get an explanation because there just isn’t enough space! This would be a great book to use with your elementary aged children to create a personalized family timeline of Christmas plans (maybe opting to start decorating a little earlier and not wait until the last minute to finish craft projects!) to both pace your Christmas activities and to help manage anticipation by laying out what comes next. You might get some great ideas for spending time together, too!

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The Beasts and Children, Day 7: A Letter to Santa Claus

A Letter to Santa ClausA Letter to Santa Claus, story by Rose Impey, pictures by Sue Porter (1988)

Charlotte lives in a rural area with no other children around except her infant brother. She spends her time like many small children, drawing, watching television, playing dress-up, and visiting the animals around her home. Her favorite thing to do, however, is write. Charlotte doesn’t yet know how to read, though, so she often copies lists, notes, and addresses from envelopes. Charlotte writes a letter to Santa Claus by copying what her mother has written for her, including a request for a surprise gift and a mention of the Christmas list she plans to send with the letter. When she starts to clean up for dinner, she drops several papers on the floor, and–since she can’t read–she picks up the wrong list to include with the letter to Santa and seals them into an envelope for her father to mail up the chimney. When Santa receives her letter, he is a little confused by the list (which is actually a copy of one of her mother’s shopping lists). As Charlotte impatiently waits for Christmas to come, she spends time watching her animal friends in the cold and snow outside, and she worries about them, hoping to get one of the busy adults at home to find some food she can give them. While she is lying awake with excitement on Christmas Eve, she sadly remembers that she hasn’t yet fed her animal friends and hopes that Santa sometimes brings something for the animals. Santa visits after she falls asleep, eager to “see this little girl who had sent him such an unusual Christmas list” and hoping she won’t be disappointed by what he has brought. When Charlotte wakes in the morning and begins to open the parcels in her stocking, she finds a loaf of bread, a bag of carrots, a package of raw fish, a bag of nuts, a carton of milk, and a hot water bottle. She feels like “Santa had been able to read her mind” and has brought her just what she needs…to take care of her animal friends! Before her parents even get up, she is outside with the animals in order to distribute the gifts she has received. And for her surprise, Santa has brought her a farm playset, “the perfect present for a little girl who liked to look after animals.”

This is another oldie-but-goodie in my opinion. Modern enough to mention television in passing, the rural setting is (as I’ve mentioned before) a kind of timeless backdrop; Charlotte could be a child sending a letter to Santa this year just as well as she did almost 30 years ago when this book was published! The pictures help make the story and sometimes include significant information that the printed text does not. While this book could be enjoyed independently by readers up to the middle elementary years, young pre-readers would probably love to have this book read aloud by someone who would let them take the time to explore the pictures and to point out important clues found there. I haven’t yet read this to BoyChild, but I’m considering asking him to find some environmental print to copy just to see what kind of a crazy Christmas list he might come up with if he wrote a letter to Santa like Charlotte did! (My guess is that he’d have a nice copy of the to-update list for our home that hangs on our refrigerator or a note to schedule a doctor’s appointment!) Animal-loving readers might be inspired to make a list of their own for things to help make the animals they love more comfortable this Christmas. As much as you can, help them out–encouraging compassion and generosity at Christmas time is important!

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Themed Third Thursday: SQUIRREL!!!

This is a quote from Up that my family cannot seem to let go, and I couldn’t help thinking about it at story time at the library a few weeks back! The librarian read some of her favorite squirrel books (I’ll let you know the ones she chose so she gets [anonymous] credit!), and the kids did a cute letter S squirrel craft. (BoyChild cannot get enough of story time right now, and he’s loving the crafts afterwards, too! I have never seen him so predictably happy!)

[SQUIRREL!!! book list]

Acorns Everywhere!Acorns Everywhere!, by Kevin Sherry (2009, preschool to early elementary, curated by Marian* the Librarian): The bug-eyed main character is a squirrel with a one-track mind, and it goes: gather! dig! bury! He doesn’t seem to notice that he’s snagging other animals’ treats, and he doesn’t notice the big bear until it’s almost too late…except the bear is after berries, not the squirrel. That little scare, however, makes the squirrel forget where he’s hidden his acorns, and his mind turns instead to berries. While the squirrel stuffs himself with his stolen berries, the other animals raid his forgotten stashes to retrieve their acorns so that they can have something to eat, too. Each page features a few simple, repetitive words and simply illustrated images with photo collage elements (the acorns and berries). Young listeners will need to be clued in to a few things, like the fact that the squirrel is saying “bury” just before the bear goes for the “berries” and that the other animals are frustrated by the squirrels selfishness, but they will find his antics very silly anyway! (*Not her real name.)

Squirrel’s Adventure in Alphabet TownSquirrel's Adventure in Alphabet Town (Read Around Alphabet Town), by Laura Alden, illustrated by Judi Collins (1992, preschool to early elementary): This really simple story utilizes the letter S as a focal point. Squirrel lives in an S-shaped house. She loves everything that starts with S. She even wears size six sneakers! The alliteration emphasizes the sound of the letter for young listeners or early readers, and there are letter-related activities in the back of the book, including identifying names that begin with S, words that begin with S (with sneaky words ending with the S sound thrown in), and an S hunt through the book with the suggestion to write your own S adventure. BoyChild previewed this book and actually gave me a decent summary based on the illustrations, and he was interested to know what the actual story was and to do the activities, so it’s a great book to use with little ones just starting to realize that certain letters make certain sounds as well as older ones practicing their phonics! Part of the (kind of old and maybe not available for purchase) Read Around Alphabet Town series.

Squirrel's Fall SearchSquirrel’s Fall Search, by Anita Loughrey and Daniel Howarth (2013, preschool to early elementary): Squirrel and his little brother are gathering food and playing chase when Squirrel loses sight of his brother in the woods. Soon Squirrel starts to worry about his food and if his brother is taking it, but he can’t remember where he put it! He asks the other animals he passes if they’ve seen it, and they each give him a suggestion for where to look, but it’s Owl who finally spots his brother and the missing food. Instead of being angry, however, Squirrel says that sharing makes things taste better, and they enjoy the food together. At the end of the book, there are a few crafty fall activities adults and children might try together, and there is a list of things readers might have learned about fall from the events of the book. Best shared as a read-aloud with a young child or group of children as part of a unit about fall.

The Busy Little Squirrel, The Busy Little Squirrelby Nancy Tafuri (2007, preschool to early elementary, curated by Marian the Librarian): Squirrel is a very busy creature, and although all the animals make their noises and ask him to join in on their activities, he is just too busy and must hurry on his way. When the owl finally asks him, however, he is not too busy…but he is asleep! The illustrations are more realistic than many other picture books, and the many animal sounds give both listener and reader an opportunity to practice!

Ol' Mama SquirrelOl’ Mama Squirrel, by David Ezra Stein (2013, preschool to early elementary, curated by Marian the Librarian): A read-aloud for those who are interested in imitating the “chook-chook-chook!” of an angry squirrel, this book by the author of Interrupting Chicken and Dinosaur Kisses tells of a protective mother squirrel who, when faced with the threat of a bear, gathers the forces of all the neighboring mother squirrels together to put that bear in his place. A very cute and silly read-aloud.

Leaf Trouble, by Jonathan EmmettLeaf Trouble (2009, preschool to early elementary, curated by Marian the Librarian): Pip, a young squirrel who lives in an oak tree, is caught off-guard by the changing colors of his home and his sudden realization that the leaves are falling! He and his sister Blossom race around trying to gather and replace all the leaves until their mother arrives and assures them that the falling leaves are natural, that the tree is taking a rest and will grow new leaves later. Then the family plays in the leaves until the colors of the setting sun match the beautiful colors of the fallen leaves. The art in this book is a unique kind of collage and layering and is worth exploring with a young child!

Squirrel's New Year's ResolutionSquirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, by Pat Miller, illustrations by Kathi Ember (2010, early elementary): Squirrel gets the idea to make a New Year’s Resolution when she hears the suggestion on the radio. Her first stop is to check with Bear at the library to find out what a resolution is, then she goes around to visit her other woodland friends as she ponders what her resolution could be. When she has almost given up because everyone else already has a resolution and she can’t think of one, all her friends come into the diner where she’s having lunch and acknowledge what she’s done for them that day. Rabbit says that Squirrel seems to be doing a good job on her unspoken resolution “to help someone every day.” A good read-aloud for the younger set that might actually give them a reasonable idea for a resolution! (GirlChild’s are often some serious wishful thinking–like making her bed every day or not being late!)

The Squirrels’ Thanksgiving, The Squirrels' Thanksgivingby Steven Kroll, illustrated by Jeni Bassett (1991, early elementary): Brenda and Buddy Squirrel have a hard time appreciating one another like their parents tell them to do in honor of Thanksgiving, but putting in a little effort (although not perfect–their behavior in the pews at church gets them in some trouble!) produces some good results and pleasant feelings. When their naughty cousins come for Thanksgiving dinner and make everyone pretty miserable before their parents decide they’ll have to try again some other Thanksgiving when the children are better behaved, Brenda and Buddy realize how good they have it with one another! I wouldn’t consider this the best book ever written, but if you’re looking for a squirrel book for Thanksgiving with a side dish of appreciating your family and trying to get along, this might work!

The Secret Life of SquirrelsThe Secret Life of Squirrels, by Nancy Rose (2014, early to middle elementary): While the story itself is cute and well illustrated, the story behind the pictures was the most fascinating part of this book for me! In the book, Mr. Peanuts, “a rather unusual squirrel,” goes about his day doing things other squirrels wouldn’t dream of doing: grilling, playing piano, reading the classics…writing a letter to invite a cousin to come for a visit since he’s lonely. The two of them have a lovely time together doing more things other squirrels wouldn’t dream of doing: playing chess, having a picnic, telling ghost stories… They have a wonderful time together. I was a little surprised to find a section titled “Ten Tips for Photographing Wildlife” since I assumed this was a pet squirrel being photographed, but then there was a brief Q&A with the author/photographer, and I discovered that she creates these sets and puts them on her porch, tempting neighborhood squirrels with hidden treats to try to catch the perfect pose to use! Her website is http://www.secretlifeofsquirrels.com, and you can see many other photographs she has taken of her backyard squirrels! Really fun concept, and an aspiring young photographer might even be able to mimic some of her techniques! (I have a friend of GirlChild who comes to mind, actually, to whom I think I’ll be recommending this book!)

Those Darn Squirrels!, Those Darn Squirrels!by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (2008, elementary): Although this is just a picture book, the contents are the sort of sly story that it might take a slightly more mature listener or reader to really appreciate. Old Man Fookwire loves birds but hates pretty much everything else (including squirrels). When faced with the prospect of the birds he loves to paint flying away for the winter, he tries to tempt them to stay with beautiful birdfeeders filled with seeds and berries, but the clever squirrels manage to raid the feeders despite all his best (and craziest) efforts. When the birds inevitably leave for the winter, the squirrels feel sorry for Old Man Fookwire and try to cheer him up by giving him a gift to make up for taking all the seeds and berries. Their efforts eventually prove successful when they dress themselves up like birds and Old Man Fookwire is inspired to paint them in their elaborate disguises. (Just a note–BoyChild loved this book and looking through the pictures to create his own version of the story, so younger readers can also appreciate it with a little interest or assistance!)

Scaredy SquirrelScaredy Squirrel, by Mélanie Watt (2006, early to middle elementary, suggested by GirlChild): In this introduction to the series, we meet Scaredy Squirrel, a perpetually worried creature with a contingency plan (and emergency kit) for just about any emergency, from green Martians to killer bees. He stays in his own nut tree and has the same routine day after day: he wakes up, eats, looks at the view, eats, looks at the view, eats, looks at the view, and goes to sleep. One day, however, he sees a killer bee and is so shocked that he drops his emergency kit and jumps to catch it before realizing that he is not wearing his parachute. He is delighted to discover that he is no ordinary squirrel but a flying squirrel! After landing and playing dead for the obligatory two hours, he returns home and makes big plans to add “jump into the unknown” to his daily schedule (at promptly 9:37 a.m.). These books are full of different kinds of fun text, diagrams, and lists, and even the most worried of children will see how silly Scaredy Squirrel is as he faces his days and triumphantly overcomes the mundane!

Animal Ark: Squirrels in the School, Animal Ark: Squirrels in the Schoolby Ben M. Baglio (1996, middle to upper elementary): The Animal Ark series is apparently set somewhere in the U.K. and has been around for over two decades. It features Mandy Hope, the daughter of two veterinarians who run the Animal Ark Veterinary Hospital. Mandy (aided and abetted by her friend, James) is a little overly dedicated to the cause of animals, going so far in this book as to hope that a person is responsible for the damage she discovers to the costumes she is making for a school play rather than believe it of a family of grey squirrels! Crusading animal lovers will appreciate the dramatic sentiment behind Mandy’s interventions and will probably enjoy all the books in the series. They might actually learn a few things, too, since one of Mandy’s character traits is that she is driven to learn all she can about each animal she encounters, and her parents and James are good sources of scientific detail.

Flora and UlyssesFlora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo (2013, upper elementary to middle school): Ulysses is the squirrel in question, and he’s quite an amazing squirrel–even cynical Flora can see that! I’ve already reviewed this book here, so I won’t do it again. This is a Newbery Medal winner, however, so it’s worth checking out, particularly for fans of graphic novels!

Nonfiction:

Animals in My Backyard: Squirrels,Animals in my Backyard: Squirrels by Jordan McGill (2012, preschool to early elementary): The face-value contents of this book are very clearly meant for very young listeners or the earliest readers of nonfiction. Each page contains a large photograph of a squirrel with a single sentence (or rarely, two sentences) relating to the photograph. The sentences are mostly very simple statements, and a few are compound. Another feature that makes this book easy to read is the repetition of phrases or words on the page or from one page to the next, and the typeface is a geometric sans-serif font that is the printed equivalent of a preschool teacher’s handwriting (possibly Futura–I’m no expert), increasing letter recognition for children who struggle with letters that are often different in handwriting and books (like ‘a’ and ‘g’). This is a “media enhanced book” by AV2 Books, and I was kind of hoping for an interactive experience that BoyChild could navigate on his own, but the media content (as accessed by going to http://www.av2books.com and entering the unique book code printed inside your book) varies in content between short videos (which BoyChild loved) and weblinks to related pages to simple word searches and reading-based activities (which he can’t do yet), mazes, and matching activities on PDF. It is possible that an adult could print out the worksheet-like pages, although it would be preferable if your PDF viewer supported filling in fields (which mine didn’t, for some reason). There is also an answer key available. I was hoping for a little more interactivity, but just having readily available media extensions, however limited, is a bonus.

Backyard Wildlife: SquirrelsBackyard Wildlife: Squirrels (Blastoff! Readers, level 1), by Derek Zobel (2011, early elementary): This leveled non-fiction reader is perfect for a new reader to learn a little about squirrels. The minimal text on each page is supported by photography intended to aid comprehension, and bold words are defined in the glossary. For further learning, a few books are suggested, and the webpage factsurfer.com (with instructions for how to search for squirrel information) is recommended. This appears to be a very simple curated search engine for kids; not all of the links were helpful, but the Discovery Kids site has promise for regular animal research!

Life Cycles: Squirrels, Life Cycles: Squirrelsby Julie K. Lundgren (2011, early to middle elementary): While this book has a lot more text than the following one, I feel like the age range is just as broad, particularly because it feels like it could be easily read aloud to students. Independent readability is more in the middle elementary range, and independent readers would need to know how to use a glossary for some of the unfamiliar vocabulary that is in bold print but isn’t defined in the text. Large photographs, Did You Know? sidebar trivia, and a simple life cycle diagram at the end to review the information presented in the book add to the readability. Besides the life cycle information, the book includes information about the three basic kinds of squirrels (ground, tree, and flying), a map of where in the world squirrels can be found, and information about predators and attracting squirrels to your yard for your personal entertainment (which is actually against code in my town!). A very nice book for a squirrel unit or basic research.

Backyard Jungle Safari: Gray SquirrelsBackyard Jungle Safari: Gray Squirrels, by Tammy Gagne (2015, early to middle elementary): I’m not sure of this book’s gimmick, but the information seems solid. The human characters in the book, Jack and Sophia, are a brother-sister team of backyard explorers…but we never see them. They speak some, but the majority of the text is a combination of somewhat stilted language and a more casual tone. (So is their dialogue, I suppose. I’ve never heard children use the phrasing these kids sometimes do!) While it’s not exactly a gripping narrative, middle elementary readers will probably learn a good deal in a relatively concise way with many photographs of wildlife (with illustrated backgrounds) and snippets of trivia that might catch their interest. Other topics in the series include foxes, opossums, and raccoons.

Take-Along Guide: Rabbits, Squirrels, and Chipmunks, Take-Along Guide: Rabbits, Squirrels, and Chipmunksby Mel Boring, illustrations by Linda Garrow (1996, middle to upper elementary): While older readers might prefer a less juvenile looking field guide, the contents of this take-along guide to small mammals are perfect for independent use by upper elementary students, particularly if being used for research or for reading straight through for general knowledge. Featuring different varieties of rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks from around the United States, each page has multiple illustrations of the featured animal and text sections for what it looks like, what it eats, where to find it, and an interesting fact. After each section, there are a few activities or crafts to try, such as making a rabbit paperweight, a squirrel nut-ball, or a chipmunk tightrope. There are also some empty pages for scrapbooking pictures or other artifacts related to your small mammal search. The only things I would suggest to improve the usability of this book as a field guide is to include a small map on each page to show the range of the species or to group them by region to make identifying a specimen in the wild easier for young explorers. For simple research purposes, it is fine as it is.

Other:

Squirrels,” by the Beastly Boys (parody of the Beastie Boys’ “Girls”): You might want to give this song a listen before letting your young children hear it just in case it gets stuck in their heads and you don’t care for the lyrics, but this is always my first thought when I think of squirrels because of my brother’s dedication to the Dr. Demento Show as a teenager!

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Fun Fourth Friday: Bookworm Gardens

I had a themed post almost all the way ready, but then today I visited a magical place…a place called Bookworm Gardens. (That should be read in a voice of hushed awe, by the way, possibly with starburst hand movements.) The planned post will wait until next month.

Bookworm Gardens (in Sheboygan, Wisconsin) is awash in story-themed imagery and interactive experiences for kids. Everything is there to be looked at, touched, climbed on, climbed in, and read about. Even the bathrooms have picture book murals, a laminated copy of a book, and a bay windowsill to perch up in to read! Instead of trying to do it justice in words, however (as a picture is worth a thousand of those), I’ll leave it to my photos and brief annotations to show you how it is (and link you up to the books being featured)! (Believe me, though, seeing the pictures is nothing to being there and having your children immersed in storyland! The place was bustling (you won’t believe how hard it was for me to get the clean shots of these things without someone in the frame!), but it didn’t feel claustrophobic or crowded. It’s an amazing place!) Then I’ll link you up to some other places to stop while you’re in Sheboygan so you can justify a weekend or weeklong visit! (Just pay attention to the open dates–May through October–so you don’t come for the beautiful gardens and end up looking through the fence at a snow-covered garden!)

[Bookworm Gardens book list]

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First of all, I have an almost unhealthy obsession with Little Free Library boxes. This was right outside the Bookworm Gardens. The book at the very front was quite appropriate: Books Every Child Should Know: A Literature Quiz Book.

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Here’s the scene as you walk up to the front gates. I believe the cottage you see is called the Hansel and Gretel Learning Center, and there’s where you’ll find the tiny gift shop, the restrooms, and the huge and lovely reading room pictured to the left!

2015August_031This isn’t the only place in the two acre gardens where you can sit and read, though (just one of the few indoors). All throughout the grounds you’ll find chairs or other suitable perches along with stashes of the featured books that have been disassembled, laminated in heavy plastic, and bound back together with a spiral binding. To the left you’ll see one of the pillars that marks the beginning of a new section of the gardens with a little metal cubby for storing the books (pictured open to the right).

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Some of the displays are pretty stinking elaborate. Here’s the one for Little House in the Big Woods (set in Wisconsin!), 2015August_087complete with an actual house and covered wagon! Inside, in a little cabinet, they even have a china shepherdess like Ma’s! The kids loved setting the table, sweeping the dirt floor, and pretending to build up the campfire outside!

Others are more floral and decorative, like this tribute to Lois Ehlert’s (a Wisconsonite as well!) Planting a Rainbow. Note the conveniently placed chairs! The plants all through the gardens, whether trees or flowers or vegetables, are labeled so you can tell what they are. (If you look to the far right, behind the yellow pot of gold flowers, there’s a tiny Harold and the Purple Crayon plot–just a purple metal crayon and a bunch of purple flowers!)2015August_035

There were also a number of sculptures, topiaries, and mosaics dedicated to various books or just as an embellishment to an already beautiful scene.

2015August_136Here’s a treehouse gazebo that would be just right for breaking out a certain Magic Tree House series.

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Here’s a metal sculpture that I’m pretty sure has something to do with a children’s book, but I can’t recall the title! (This dangerous looking venus fly trap wasn’t labeled.)

2015August_203Here is one of the sidewalk mosaics; there were several with different encouraging words on them!

Here is one of many child-sized statues of children reading 2015August_258(and GirlChild just had to cozy up to this one and ask, “Do you want to read together?”).

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I actually almost forgot the bathroom murals, and I totally missed an awesome photo op with my daughter! How fun would it have been for her to climb up in the “tub” and read the The Big Red Tub? Again, rushing, rushing to get through the whole garden (and we were there for three hours!), and we didn’t stop here. (The men’s restroom had Bugs for Lunch as its theme, but I didn’t get photos of that one.)

Now I’ll just put up a few pictures of some of the amazing and interactive displays found throughout the gardens and links to their books. Generous supporters sponsor these structures and activities, and kids absolutely love them!

2015August_065Winnie-the-Pooh (child-sized door allows small children to enter and sit in a tiny chair to play with a few themed toys and stuffed animals)

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Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog (kids could take the doggie wheelchair off of the cement dog statue to examine, and there was a big chair right next to the display to sit and read the story (which we didn’t do because we plan to come back again and just wanted to get a peek at the whole garden this visit))

2015August_230The Three Little Pigs (just big enough for a small child or two to enter, my kids made their daddy be the Big Bad Wolf for a good ten minutes–there are many, many versions of this story to choose from, so I just linked one!)

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Katie and the Sunflowers (various sized frames where kids can pose with some of Vincent Van Gogh’s works peeking out around the frame–there was a child-sized ballerina statue to represent Degas and the Little Dancer, too!)

2015August_247Stuart Little (a tiny toy house complete with car!)

2015August_117Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (a Japanese teahouse, there was a large paper crane hanging precariously outside–I’m sure they’ll adjust that soon!–and a gong to ring)

2015August_152Charlotte’s Web (look closely right above the joist for the titular character–I’ll let you go and see the Diary of a Worm (and composting!) display that shared this space for yourself!)

2015August_143Tops and Bottoms (the sliding door revealed the roots below–this book is actually a trickster tale that was a Caldecott honor book!)

2015August_219Horton Hatches the Egg (one of the few things kids couldn’t climb on, there were three giant, concrete eggs in nests below where they could sit!)

2015August_241Dinosaur Bones (while they couldn’t climb on this part, either, there was a sand pit fossil dig right below this reading dinosaur statue!)

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A Playhouse for Monster (the book might be out-of-print and hard to find, but a goodly number of kids fit in this playhouse complete with chairs, a table,  some play food, and plenty of windows and doors to open–my kids loved this thing!)

Seriously, this place is beyond amazing, and many others visiting (many who mentioned that displays were new, indicating that this wasn’t their first visit!) agreed! My small sampling of pictures doesn’t even begin to do it justice, I promise. (We’ve already made plans to visit again in October with my librarian sister and her family!) If you get a chance to go, admission is free, but definitely consider dropping in some paper money to show your appreciation for what these amazingly dedicated people do!

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As promised, a list of local attractions to fill out your trip (although this place could take you all day!):

Il Ritrovo: We went here for lunch. It was a little pricey, but it was good stuff. Definitely worth a drop-in while you’re here!

Victorian Chocolate Shoppe: Right down the street from the Italian place, we stopped here for dessert. The website isn’t kidding about the chocolate aroma when you walk in! It was chocolate covered raspberries and truffles for the win!

Blue Harbor Resort: We didn’t stay here this time, but we came here for the weekend earlier this year to celebrate BoyChild’s fourth birthday (at his request to go to a waterpark)! It’s a beautiful place–huge!–and there are some shops and restaurants within walking distance (if it’s not March in Wisconsin and freezing like it was when we visited)! The waterpark is pretty fun for the kids, and our kids loved the aquarium-themed room we got (marina side to keep the costs down)–complete with bunk beds! There were several free activities for the kids throughout the day, a couple restaurants, an arcade, and a gift shop in the main building, and there are also spa services available!

Above & Beyond Children’s Museum: We didn’t get a chance to visit this museum (we were actually only in town for the day!), but at $6 a person for admission, it’s another decently-priced activity to do with the kids (particularly if the day turns rainy like it did today)!

If those ideas aren’t enough, here’s the Visit Sheboygan site to give you more reasons to come visit America’s Dairyland!

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Chalk, by Bill Thomson

Chalk, by Bill Thomson

Chalk, by Bill Thomson (2010)

This wordless book has become BoyChild’s favorite this week!

What drew BoyChild to this book initially was the dinosaur (well, dinosaur ride-on toy) on the cover. We picked it out once before sometime last year, and he and GirlChild both browsed it, but this time, it has been an every day request! We started by just looking at the pictures and discussing what was going on in them, but then BoyChild asked me to make up a story to go with it. Janelle, Christina, and Billy are the children’s names in my story, and if I forget to roar in the right places, BoyChild lets me know! Because there aren’t any printed words at all, the reader can make up any storyline at all and include as much dialogue or as many sound effects as necessary to hold the listener’s attention (or let the little “reader” make the story up him or herself–I love listening to BoyChild tell stories to himself!). The basic plot is that some kids are out on a rainy day and find a bag of chalk that makes drawings come to life!

The illustrations are nearly photo realistic, and the back pages contain a note assuring the reader that the artist is not using photographs or computer illustrations…these were done in acrylics and colored pencil! It’s almost hard to believe when you look at the sheen on the dinosaur toy, the texture of the concrete, the level of detail given to even the smallest things (like the back of an earring). The illustrator plays with angles and perspective so you feel like you’re sometimes spying from above, sometimes in the thick of things, sometimes looking on from the sidelines. There’s a distinct Jumanji feel to the story and the illustrations, but it is definitely still a unique work!

Although the illustrations are amazing and the appeal obvious, one of the best things about this book is, I think, the variety of possible extensions beyond the pages. I have asked BoyChild what he would draw (a dinosaur…but that’s pretty much all he does draw!), where he thinks the chalks came from (another boy put them there), where he thinks the chalks got their magic (he couldn’t figure that one out)…on and on! This is not only a fantastic one-on-one exercise to practice comprehension and critical thinking, but I believe that this book would be an amazing springboard for a creative writing/art project in any elementary grade. What a child in kindergarten might draw and write about would differ completely from what a fifth grader might dream up, and therein lies the beauty! There is just so much a teacher or parent could do with this…I could even see a library summer reading program from it! Check out the book, grab a bag of chalks, and enjoy!

Additional titles:

Fossil(another wordless book)

Building with Dad(illustrated by the author/illustrator)

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Themed Third Thursday: April Showers

Okay, so it’s been another one of those months. (Guess what! BoyChild gets to get his third set of ear tubes soon! Um, yay?) Instead of our regularly scheduled programming, I’m going to share websites and blogs with book lists and activities for rainy days!

17 Rainy Day Books for Kidshttp://69.195.124.116/~jdanielf/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/jdaniel4smom_17_rainy_day_books_collage_title.jpg: JDaniel4’s Mom shares seventeen picture and informational books about rain for younger readers and listeners. These range from Mo Willems’ Are You Ready to Play Outside? (an Elephant and Piggie book) to The Big Storm: A Very Soggy Counting Book. A good resource for rain-themed reading for preschool and early elementary aged children.Books About Puddles

Puddle Play Rainy Day Ideas: Fantastic Fun and Learning gathered a collection of links for rainy day activities (indoor and out!) and a list of puddle books for small children. A preschool or kindergarten teacher might find a rainy day saved with some of these ideas!

Umbrella Stories for Kids10 Umbrella Stories for All Types of Weather: This book list by Edventures for Kids has books for kids from preschool to middle school. I did not realize there was this kind of variety in books about umbrellas! (My personal favorite book that has an umbrella in it–be it ever so briefly–is Un Lun Dun, a great read for upper elementary and middle school readers!)

FREE Rainy Day Pre-K/K Pack: This Reading Mama 5 Rain-Themed Read Aloud Books | This Reading Mamashares a download that includes lesson plans and worksheets for the littles along with her list of five rain-themed read aloud books to go with the lessons. Looks like a great resource for homeschoolers and preschool and kindergarten teachers!

And for the grown-ups? Pretty much any book is a rainy day book! My favorite current series for adult readers is the Jane Austen Mysteries series by Stephanie Barron!

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Fun Fourth Friday: Halloween Book Blog Round-up

Well, wow. I promised an Andrew Clements themed post, and then we took a weekend trip, BoyChild got a cold, then BoyChild’s sinus issue changed into his asthmatic cough, and none of us have gotten any decent sleep for several days. Between necessary errands, a trip to the doctor, and helping with preparations for the festival at GirlChild’s school this evening, I just haven’t had the chance to give the books the attention they deserve. Therefore, I’m serving up leftovers, so to speak–I’m linking you to other blogs that have reviewed Halloween-themed books for kids so you can at least get something useful from my blog this month! (All blogs were found via Pinterest.)

Scary and Scary-ish Halloween Books on Imagination Soup: This list of books about Halloween is for ages two to twelve. It includes not-scary picture books, a Halloween craft and recipe book, and scarier chapter books.

Halloween Books That Won’t Give Your Child Nightmares on No Time for Flash Cards: I’ve linked this blog before, and here’s another goodie–a list of easy-on-the-spooky picture books about Halloween. Includes contributions by many favorite children’s authors, like Jane Yolen, Laura Numeroff, and Karen Katz.

Halloween Books and Crafts to Match on No Time for Flashcards: Not reviews on this No Time for Flashcards entry, but each book and its link is paired with a craft (image shown so you know what you’re considering) and its link. Perfect for family or small-group activities at the library or in the classroom!

Halloween Book Countdown on Simply Kierste: While it’s a little late this year for the whole one-book-a-day countdown to Halloween that this family does, there are a number of Halloween and pumpkin-themed books here from which to choose–thirty-one, to be exact! The books aren’t reviewed (the post is mostly a description of the tradition), but there are links to the Amazon pages for each of the books she uses so you can check them out and decide for yourself (and maybe give it a go next year!).

Best Kids’ Halloween Books {a children’s librarian’s list} on Modern Parents Messy Kids: Just seven books long, this selective list suggests a good mixture of old and new, artsy and simple, funny and spooky.

Halloween Books for Preschoolers on Little Us: Most of the books on this list are unique (although there are a few repeats from other blogs), and I really like the looks of Are You My Mummy? (GirlChild always called the mummy rubber duck we had the “mommy duck” because the only use of the word “mummy” she knew at that time was from Topsy and Tim…) The summaries are apparently taken from the front flap or back cover of the books, so you get a good idea about each of the titles from which to choose.

There are many, MANY more lists from which to choose, and I’ll let you peruse them on your own. Here’s a link to my Pinterest search that you can use to discover the perfect Halloween books for your family!

(Don’t forget to visit your local IHOP to let your kids try out their Scary Face pancakes this year–free on Halloween at participating restaurants! My kids love them!)

GirlChild's scary face pancake (2013, age 5)

GirlChild’s scary face pancake (2013, age 5)

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