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Write a Review Wednesday: Star Wars DK Readers

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors. This week we’re participating in DK Canada‘s May the 4th be with You event, supporting reading in Canada thanks to Star Wars. We reviewed Star Wars The Clone Wars: Pirates…and Worse! (age 5-7), part of the DK Readers series. I have to thank Chris at DK Canada for my review copy.

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Get eye-to-eye with the bad guys including Nuvo Vindi and the Separatist leaders, buddy up with jedi and droids as well as extraordinary creatures like the Gutkurrs and Blurrgs, and meet the terrifying pirates Hondo Ohnaka and Turk Falso in Star Wars: The Clone Wars Reader: Pirates…and Worse!!

My 6-year old son is a beginning reader. He loves books and loves hearing stories read to him, but finding a story that interests him enough to practice reading on his own can be a bit of a challenge. There are a lot of leveled reading books out there but he doesn’t have much interest in reading about bunnies or Dora or digging in the dirt so when I was introduced to the DK Readers Star Wars series, I thought these would be ideal for my son. And I was right. He loved the four books we were sent: Watch Out for Jabba the Hutt and Pirates…And Worse! (both level 1); Stand Aside – Bounty Hunters and Boba Fett: Jedi Hunter (both level 2).

It’s amazing just how different leveled readers are from publisher to publisher. Level 1 in the DK Readers series is designed for those beginning to read. Unlike other beginning readers that have 1 sentence on a page, the DK Readers actually consisted of two or three sentences which I preferred as a parent. Most of the vocabulary is understandable but I did have to help my son with a few words. Many of the words are repeated in the story, helping to reinforce vocabulary. The hardest words I found were character names; some my son knew, others we guessed. My son actually enjoyed reading these books and I even found him reading one of the level 1 books to both his dad and little sister; that’s a good sign.

The level 2 books we looked at not only had more sentences per page but the sentences themselves were a little more complex in grammar: He blows things up, and, above all else, he enjoys a good fight. There were also call-outs throughout the story, providing tidbits of Star Wars info; my son loved these elements. In both the level 1 and 2 books we reviewed, my son loved that the topics were on the bad guys; reading about bounty hunters and pirates versus the good guys. The illustrations used are the same as in the animated series, The Clone Wars, drawing a closer connection to the series my son is already familiar with . The only problem I have with this is that many of the illustrations are very dark but this didn’t seem to be an issue with my son.

If you have a child in your family that’s into Star Wars, you’ll love the May the 4th be with You contest DK Canada is running this month. Simply submit a photo of your chid or family reading a Star Wars book and you could win a complete DK Star Wars collection and a Canadian school or library of their choice will receive a complete DK READERS Star Wars set. Plus, for every photo submitted, DK Publishing will donate a “toonie” to Frontier College, Canada’s original literacy organization. For more information visit their site: cn.dk.com/starwars

If you have a Lego Star Wars fan in your home, you might be interested in the review I wrote over at Best Tools for Schools blog: Lego Star Wars: A Visual Dictionary also from DK Canada.

To add a copy of DK Readers: Star War Series to your own personal library, visit your nearest bookstore or DK Canada. For other great books for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are you enjoying with your kids?

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Write a Review Wednesday: Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Dream Big Little Pig. This week, with Easter on our doorstep, I thought an appropriate book would be Sterling Publishing‘s Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors (age 4-6) written and illustrated by Lisa McCue. I have to thank Katie at Sterling Publishing for my review copy.

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It’s springtime in the forest and Quiet Bunny loves all the colours. But looking at his own brown and white fur, Quiet Bunny feels more like a winter bunny. He wishes he was a spring colour instead. Then Quiet Bunny got an idea. Using elements from the forest he would change his colour: some honey and dandelion flowers and he’s yellow, some juice from a patch of blueberries and he’s blue. Quiet Bunny transforms himself into a variety of colours until they all are washed away and he’s left with his white and brown fur again. Its the words from a wise owl that remind Quiet Bunny that it’s all of the different colours in the forest, including Quiet Bunny’s brown and white fur, that makes the forest so beautiful in spring. ‘ We are all different colors, and we are all beautiful.’

Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors is a wonderful book for kids on so many different levels. Stories about bunnies make a nice idea for Easter but Quiet Bunny’s story extends past just the holiday season and into spring as a whole. Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors is a great way to reinforce colours with kids too. Each spread in the book talks about a different colour with illustrations emphasising the colour being talked about. With spring here or approaching soon, you’ll be seeing some of these colours outside yourself. Quiet Bunny is a great way to extend the conversation around spring colours that you and your child might see while out for a walk. Quiet Bunny’ Many Colors as has the subtle message about enjoying the beauty around you but also appreciating the beauty that you, yourself offer. A child may like their sister’s straight hair instead of their own curly hair or that their friend doesn’t wear glasses but they do. Quiet Bunny is a nice way to address the beautiful differences in the world without getting too preachy.

To add a copy of Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors to your own personal library, visit your nearest bookstore or Sterling Publishing. For other great books for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are you enjoying with your kids?

On Raising a 4 Year Old: Don’t Test Their Will

Yesterday the weather was pretty good and even though I’m dealing with some sort of flu bug I still walked the kids to school (versus driving them). If we get out the door on time, the 20-minute walk can actually be good for everyone. Even my 4-year old, who seems to have all her energy drained from her as soon as she hits the end of the driveway, is able to keep up and get to school without a single whine. I think it helps to have siblings to walk with; they’re more entertaining than walking with mom I guess.

But after dropping my older two off at school, the 4-year old and I have to walk home. Alone. On our own. As soon as we step off school property it hits: I can’t walk! My legs are broken! This is the worst day ever! Why didn’t we drive? All sung out in that not-s0-wonderful shrill that 4-year olds are so good at.

With my cold still fighting my body for supremacy, I didn’t really feel like taking on this battle. Then my super intelligent mom brain kicked in. My 4-year old decided she didn’t want to walk so I agreed. Instead we stood there in the snow outside a row of houses on our walk home. I would show her. She expects me to fight with her and drag her home unwillingly but not this time. This time she would get what she wants and see that you have to be careful what you wish for. Sort of reverse psychology stuff I guess. My daughter would quickly get bored and reluctantly decide to walk home with me without any fuss and that would be that.

What was I thinking! Trying to play a phycology games with a 4-year old!

So she sat there, on the house’s stone wall, playing in the snow. She drew circles with a stick. She made foot prints. She guessed with each person walking by if they lived in the house we were standing in front of or not. It took every fibre in my body not to cave and just resort to dragging her home. Give it a few more minutes I thought, then she’ll get bored. But of course right at that moment a neighbourhood cat came by and loved hanging out on the step with my daughter.

I was getting cold (and I didn’t have my phone to twitter out my stupidity). I asked my daughter if she was getting cold. Nope. I said we should get home so she could get her snack. Not hungry. Three hours went by. Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration, maybe 20-minutes since I didn’t have my phone to confirm how much time we were wasting.

Eventually my daughter decided it was time to go home. I suppose I could have used this moment to relax and observe the world through my daughter’s eyes. Perhaps if the weather was warmer an I was feeling better, maybe. One thing I did learn is not to put a 4-year old’s will to the test.

Write a Review Wednesday: Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth. With today being Groundhog Day, it seems fitting to review Sterling Publishing‘s Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox (age 3+), written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Carmen Segovia. I have to thank Derry at Sterling Publishing for my review copy.

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It’s Groundhog Day and Brownie steps out her door to be greeted by her dreaded shadow. As she laments another 6-weeks of waiting, with none of her friends around, Brownie is knocked over by February Fox, who is trying to eat her for breakfast. While Brownie holds off February Fox from snacking on her, the two look for signs of Spring, enjoy a snack together and make arrangements to spend time together the next day. Maybe the next 6-weeks of Winter won’t be so bad after all.

We are all familiar with the Groundhog Day shadow ritual. Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox is a great book about celebrating the day with kids. I’m personally a big fan of seasonal book but Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox also has a nice discussion angle. The two animal friends looking for signs of Spring is also a great opportunity to discuss the differences in the seasons and what to look for in the Spring. Kids will enjoy making their own Spring discoveries outside and adding to the discussion about other Spring signs.

I love the use of colour in the illustrations too, grey and white mainly, mimicking the cold of winter, with splashes of red (the fox, Brownie’s scarf, flowers poking out of the ground). Even if Groundhog’s Day has pasted, Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox is a great book to read throughout the month of February.

You can add a copy of Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox to your personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Sterling Publishing. For other great books for kids, read through the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 22 – Christmas Wrapping Tube Craft

My kids love doing crafts, even my 6-year old son, so I knew for one of our 25 Days of Christmas activities I would have to work in some craft ideas. I was going to pick one of the great Christmas crafts found on EverythingMom‘s site but as I was wrapping gifts I had another idea. My wrapping used up a lot of paper from last year which meant I was left with a few of those cardboard rolls the paper was stored on, 6 rolls to be exact. I was going to put them in the recycling bin when I had an idea: Wrapping Paper Tube Garlands.

I cover the dining room table with newspaper since this craft would have the kids painting. We received a sample of Faber-Castell’s Young Artist Texture kit that included primary paint colours as well as 6 brushes with unique heads on them for making patterns and my 4-year old has been bugging to use it so this activity was perfect. I also brought out the Reeves Oil Pastels (I love these).

The kids each had their own wrapping paper tube to paint and colours as much as little as they wished. The experimented with the different pattern brushes but of course just plain paint brushes would have worked too.

Aft the tubes dried I cut them into shorter lengths using scissors. The actual lengths don’t really matter and because I’m not a big measuring type of person our pieces ended up in all sort of different sizes which I actually liked. We used thinner rolls so they were easier to cut, however, I still did the cutting.

With a single hole punch I cut a hole in the each end and then tied a piece of ribbon through the holes. I just repeated this until either all the ribbon was gone or all the tubes were connected.

Then the kids strung their garland around the tree. They loved pointing out which segment was one they painted. I love it on the tree too. And our recycle bin isn’t as full. If you’re looking to keep the kids occupied and distracted today, checkout these other fun holiday crafts on EverythingMom.

Merry Christmas!
How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Write a Review Wednesday: Christmas Delicious

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed A Porcupine in a Pine Tree. This week, with Christmas just days away, we’re reading Blue Apple Books Christmas Delicious, written by Lyn Loates and illustrated by Mark Jones. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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Raisin and Rice are two mice who were once hungry and poor. But now living in the storeroom of the Zanzibar’s Deli they never want for food, enjoying lamb and ham and cheese and more. With Christmas approaching they decide to celebrate with a feast and set out gathering and brewing and baking. Christmas day arrives and Raisin and Rice dress in their finest ready to enjoy what they had prepared but something is missing. It’s not the goodies or decorations, it was their friends. They went out and invited all their old friends to join them and had the merriest Christmas ever.

Christmas and food go so well together; that’s what appealed to me first about this book, Christmas Delicious. Although I’m not a fan of mice living and eating in a deli my kids didn’t seem to mind. But then they think of mice as humanized characters and Raisin and Rice do share their wealth with their less fortunate friends. Written in rhyme, Christmas Delicious is a very lyrical read, almost coming out as a song. Mice aside, I do love the message of sharing with friends, that no matter how much you have you don’t get the same joy out of it unless you can share that joy with someone else. It’s a wonderful message for Christmas and all year-long.

The illustrations fill the pages with warm Christmas colours. My 3 kids loved the story of the animals enjoying Christmas together, especially Christmas that involves food.

You can add a copy of Christmas Delicious to your personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 18 – Tree Decorating for the Birds

I know I’ve said this many times but we really are fortunate to live beside a huge natural park right here in the middle of the city. And even greater, is the High Park Nature Center located in High Park. They offer great programs for kids, families and schools. They demystify nature and bring it closer to kids, the next generation to care for and respect our symbiotic relationship with one another.

In time for winter, the Nature Center ran their wonderful Tree Decorating for the Birds workshop so as part of our 25 Days of Christmas I took all 3 kids over to participate.

I’m always amazed how the program leaders remember my kids by their names. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone and I’m sure they see many kids but it’s a wonderful feeling for the kids and shows the involvement the staff takes with the kids involved with their programs.

When we arrived the room was set-up with 5 workstations on big tables. Each station covered a decoration you were to make for the trees in the park. But these were typical decorations, like paper chains or pipe cleaner candy canes. The purpose of these decorations were to give the animals of the park food for the cold winter that lays ahead of them.

The first station the kids visited had them making Garlands. Long pieces of thread were precut and knotted and a needle hung on the other end. Around the table were bowls filled with popcorn, cranberries, apple pieces, Cheerios and orange segments. We quickly discovered that Cheerios weren’t the best item to put on the chain first (they slipped right off the sting and needed something bigger on the end) and that popcorn is harder to string than you think. My 4-year old managed her needle pretty well on her own, carefully pushing it through the different items for her chain. After about 10 pieces she was ready to move on to the next station. My 6 and 8-year-old however  wanted to finish their chains right to the end of the rope.

Each child was given a plastic plate to place their crafts on as they moved from station to station. I took my 4-year old to the next station which was making Seed-Head Bouquets. She clipped a few seed heads and bunched them together. I held her bunch while she wrapped a piece of string around the stems. I tried to let her do the crafts as much as she was able. The idea was for the kids to make the decorations and although I could have done things faster or easier my kids were getting more enjoyment out of doing each thing on their own.

After the Seed Bouquet we moved on to Yuletide Logs. This was a messy one. My e-year old took at popsicle stick (it had to be the purple one) and worked on spreading lard all over a stick, just like painting it. Eventually she decided to copy some other kids and just rub the lard on her stick with her hands. Then she dropped her lard covered stick into a bowl of seeds and rolled and patted as many seeds as she could get to adhere to her stick. Surprisingly she kept herself pretty clean.

My two oldest were still at the garland making table. It seems they were competing with each other to see who could fill their string the quickest. Ah, nothing says family fun like a little competition.

The last activity was to make Pine Cone Bird Feeders. Similar to the Yule Logs, you had to cover a pine cone in lard and then stick seeds to it. Covering a pine cone in lard is a little trickier than covering a flat stick but my 4-year old managed.

After washing up we enjoyed some hot apple cider and cookies and then listened to the story Night Tree before heading out for our forest walk. I had never heard of the book Night Tree but it’s a delightful tale about decorating a tree in the woods for the animals, just like we were going to do.

On our walk we stopped to feed some of the birds in the forest. My 8-year old was fortunate enough to have a Nuthatch eating out of her hands 4 different times on our walk. We even had the chance to see a beautiful red cardinal. Some interesting things I learned:

  • Unlike many birds, Cardinals don’t eat things off the ground.
  • To warm up after a night’s sleep birds puff their feathers up to 3x their body size.
  • A woodpecker’s tongue is too big for its mouth. There is a spot in its head where it coils its tongue around when it’s not being used.

In the forest all the kids found spots to hang or place their decorations for the birds and then we headed home. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.