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?

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Write a Review Wednesday: Dream Big Little Pig

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 Banjo of Destiny. This week we read SourcebooksDream Big Little Pig (age 4-8), written by Kristi Yamaguchi and illustrated by Tim Bowers. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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Poppy is a pig who dreamed big. From a posh prima ballerina to a big-time splashy super model, Poppy had big dreams about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Even when she discovered she didn’t have a talent for singing on-key or that she wasn’t very graceful, Poppy always remembered the encouraging words from her family and kept trying. She kept trying new things that interested her until she discovered skating. Like her other career endeavours, she wasn’t very good at skating either but the more she tried the better she got; the better she got the more she liked it.

Kids are full of big dreams and I think that’s something that should be encouraged, even when things don’t turn out as planned. In Dream Big Little Pig, Poppy has great aspirations for her life and she takes a few risks following her dreams. Yes she’s disappointed when things don’t turn out but the encouraging words she remembers from her family and friends always keep her trying something new. Dream Big Little Pig gives kids a great example of having dreams and taking chances and sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding but always trying. It’s also a reminder to us as parents that our words, though we may think they aren’t being listened to, are being absorbed and referenced when the time is needed. Words of encouragement may be the difference from giving up to trying again or trying something new.

I like how near the end of Dream Big Little Pig, Poppy seems to have found her gift and made her dream come true, yet that doesn’t stop her from having new dreams and aspirations. That’s probably a lesson for some of us adults.

Kristi Yamaguchi,figure skating superstar, believes in and lives by the motto ‘Always Dream. This is seen in her Always Dream Foundation, founded in 1996, designed to support organizations that have a positive influence on children. The inspiration behind Dream Big LIttle Pig is to instill this motto and belief to ,always dream, in the hearts of children.

To add a copy of Dream Big Little Pig to your own library, visit your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are you kids reading?

Write a Review Wednesday: Banjo of Destiny

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 Me and Rolly Maloo. This week I look at Groundwood Books’ Banjo of Destiny (age 10-12), written by Cary Fagan. I have to thank Trisha at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum is stinking rich. He lives in a house with nine bathrooms, a games room, an exercise room, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a tennis court. His parents, a former hotdog vendor and window cleaner who made it big in dental floss, make sure Jeremiah goes to the very best private school, and that he takes lessons in all the things he will need to know how to do as an accomplished and impressive young man. Etiquette lessons, ballroom dancing, watercolor painting. And, of course, classical piano.

Jeremiah complies, because he wants to please his parents. But one day, by chance, he hears the captivating strains of a different kind of music — the strums, plucks and rhythms of a banjo. It’s music that stirs something in Jeremiah’s dutiful little soul, and he is suddenly obsessed. And when his parents forbid him to play one, he decides to learn anyway — even if he has to make the instrument himself.

I’ll admit, I was personally drawn to Banjo of Destiny because of my love of the ukulele. I realize they’re not the same instrument but they are viewed in the same way: strange, uncommon, lowbrow. But like Jeremiah, I was drawn to its sound.

You may think a book about a boy playing the banjo wouldn’t be that appealing to kids, but Banjo of Destiny is more than that. It deals with growing-up and finding your own voice. Jeremiah has let his parents have control over all his life: where he goes to school, what he wears, the classes he takes, even the music he listens too. But when the sound of the banjo strikes a chord with him (no pun intended), he doesn’t let his parents’ desires get in the way.

When his parents won’t let him learn the banjo, he decides to do it in secret, even going as far as building one in shop class to ensure he doesn’t break his parents’ rule about spending any money on the instrument. Jeremiah’s best friend Luella, who isn’t rich and has a wilder, more relaxed view on life, encourages his desire. Knowing how much playing the banjo means to Jeremiah, Luella even pushes him to let his parents know, to stop keeping it a secret.

Banjo of Destiny is a great story for kids about finding your passion and pursuing it, not letting others deter you. It’s also a wonderful story about friendship. I love Cary Fagan‘s writing too (Thing-Thing from Tundra Books is still one of my favourite pictures books to date).

To add a copy of Banjo of Destiny to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Groundwood Books. For other great book ideas for kids, reach through the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are your kids enjoying?

Hawaii is for Families

Hawaii has always has always been one of those places you go on your honeymoon or something you save up for after your kids are out of the house. When planning a family vacation destinations like Mexico or the Caribbean or maybe Florida come to find before Hawaii does. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the east coast, or closer to the east coast, so getting to a sunny destination that is quick to get to makes sense.

But in January we decided to try something different. We had a little more time on our hands and thought of going somewhere that took a little more travel time, like Hawaii.

You may think that traveling with 3 young kids on a 12 to 15 hour plane ride is crazy, and I’ll admit I was a little worried, but it went rather smoothly. I was annoyed at first about being bumped and having to take 3 planes versus 2 planes but I actually think the breaks were good for the kids, especially since they weren’t that long. And coming back, with the longer flight, the kids slept most of the way since we were flying over night, so that worked our great too. With the entertainment on the plane plus our own entertainment (electronics, snacks and colouring supplies) the kids were more then content to sit quietly on the plane. I think flying from a border city helped also (I much prefer going through customs in a car versus at the airport and would recommend it to anyone who has it as an option.

Unlike visiting Mexico or the Caribbean, Hawaii is still a US state so you don’t have worries about currency or medical are or water safety or any of those issues that come up with visiting foreign resorts. Yet it still has a very tropical feel. Of course it helped that our hotel, Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, offered a spectacular location and service. I even wrote how this trip was one of our best vacations to date. But that was my feelings; what about the kds? When I asked my kids where they wanted to go for their next vacation, Disney World or Hawaii, it was Hawaii all around. That says a lot since our family is a Disney family.

You can read all the reviews I posted on our Hawaiian trip over within EverythingMom‘s Family Travel section: from our stay at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach to visiting Pearl Harbor and a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and more.

Below are a few photo highlights. Makes me wish I was back there now.

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Picture It Picture Books – Illustrated by Your Child

Books are big in our house as I’m sure you can guess from the Write a Review Wednesday posts every week. I love how books encourage learning, discovery and imagination. So when the folks at Mom Central Canada told me about Picture It Picture Books, I was interested to see these first hand how these would work.

The concept behind Picture It Picture Books is to tap into your child’s creative imagination. The stories are already written and your child adds the illustrations, sharing their interpretation of the story being told. There are currently 6 different titles available and the subject matter varies depending on your child’s interest. For younger kids there’s My Alphabet where kids illustrate something for each letter, something that might be more personal to them.

For older kids (and by older I mean maybe six or seven), there’s Captain Zane or The Moon Story. These are closer to stories to actual stories you might read and your child adds the illustrations.

The sample we were sent was Imagining Me, a story about your child. This isn’t really a story but rather a collection of pages about your child’s interests: their job when they grow-up, a wacky hairdo, playing with their best friend. I thought the Picture It Picture Books would be appealing to my 8-year old who has a current fascination with illustrating her own stories, but the sample didn’t appeal to her at all. She has a few books like this, books that she can customize based on her preferences and she had no interest in doing another one. This wouldn’t be one of the books I would have chosen either. For a book about your child, some of the pages are very specific and are of topics kids might have no interest in.

My 6-year old decided he liked a few of the pages, like developing a vehicle or designing a new toy (as his job) but that was the extent of his interest. I would love to see one of the more story oriented books to see if there would be more interest; the kids would actually be illustrating pictures of a story versus more of a workbook type activity (like the alphabet or Imagining Me).

The finished books do make great keepsakes for your kids as they grow-up or maybe even something to give to grandma (a story to read together when visiting and something grandma can enjoy because of the personal illustrations).

You can find the Picture It Picture Books on their website or at other stores and markets across the country.

I want to thanks the folks at Mom Central Canada and Picture It Picture Books for sending the review copy along to me.

In the Dark with Franklin for Earth Hour (Giveaway)

Earth Hour is this Saturday and my kids are really excited. We spend so much time immersed in technology (iPads, computers, video game systems, TV) I think they’re actually look forward to a little quiet time. You never saw that coming did you. Actually, I think they’re looking forward to flashlights (checkout EverythingMom for this really fun rechargeable flashlight the kids will love). After making shadow puppets and telling stories we’ll be settling down to a few stories by flashlight.

If you plan on celebrating Earth Hour with little ones, why not enjoy some flashlight reading with Paulette BourgeoisFranklin in Franklin in the Dark. Twenty-five years ago, a little turtle named Franklin conquered his fear of the dark with the help of a night-light. Since the 1986 publication of Franklin in the Dark, Franklin has brightened story time for millions of children worldwide, selling over 60 million books in more than 30 languages.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the world’s most beloved turtle, Kids Can Press is marking the occasion with a special, larger-format edition of Franklin in the Dark that offers a fun behind-the-scenes peek at this Canadian classic, including an excerpt of the first manuscript and a selection of original sketches.

GIVEAWAY

In celebration of 25 years of Franklin, I am giving away one (1) copy of the special 25th Anniversary Edition of Franklin in the Dark to one of me readers today (sorry, Canada only). To enter leave a comment below with one other Franklin book you’ve enjoyed (there are over 30 different titles).

For an extra entry tweet the following (be sure to leave a separate comment): Fingers crossed I win the 25th Anniversary Franklin in the Dark from @cbadov http://bit.ly/fLdgPd

Contest closes midnight March 24, 2011, after which I’ll randomly choose a name from those qualified entries.

For other great books for kids, read through my Write a Review Wednesday reviews. Enjoy your time in the dark this Saturday.

Write a Review Wedneday: Me and Rolly Maloo

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 Bunny’s Lessons. This week we read Charlesbridge Publishing‘s Me and Rolly Maloo (age 8-12), written by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Elizabeth Buttler. I have to thank Donna at Charlesbridge Publishing for my review copy.

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Jenna is a star at math which makes her not so popular at school. So when Rolly Maloo, the most popular girl in school, invites Jenna over to her house, she is beyond thrilled. This could put Jenna on the popular list, hanging with the cool kids. But when Rolly asks Jenna to help her cheat on a math test, Jenna doesn’t know what to do. She knows cheating is wrong but is it so bad helping a friend in need?

We’ve all been here, well some of us anyway, on the outside of the group, wanting anything to be included. With kids of my own I see these issues rearing their ugly head again, especially with my 8-year old daughter. Everyone wants to feel included. Sometimes that desire can take over cloud your judgement, causing you to make bad decisions and miss the good things you already have.

Me and Rolly Maloo puts you in the shoes of Jenna, wanting to fit in and struggling with right versus wrong and misconceptions of friendship. I like that Jenna’s character, though she knows cheating is wrong, really struggles with the idea. Jenna doesn’t just take the moral high ground or stoop to cheating without giving it much thought. The way the story is written we don’t really know which path Jenna would follow since the actual cheat is interrupted.

Although you might perceive Rolly Maloo to be the bad guy (or girl) in this story, her characterization depicts her as having her own internal struggles over the whole cheating issue. This just reinforces that being popular doesn’t mean life is easy either; there are pressures and stresses and influences that Rolly falls pray to also.

The unique style of Me and Rolly Maloo makes it a great read not only because of the subject matter and issues touched upon, but also in the illustrations used. Me and Rolly Maloo is a chapter book with elements of a graphic novel. This graphic novel aspect gives you a peek at some of the more subtle feelings that not only Jenna and Rolly are encountering but also their friends and mothers (there is no father presence in this story. Actually, there is only one real male figure in the story, one of the classmates). This helps give some background without having to add another whole layer to the story. Plus it is a nice way to break-up the copy for those reluctant readers.

My 8 year old daughter hasn’t had a chance to read Me and Rolly Maloo yet but I think the storyline and the illustrative treatment will be something she will enjoy. To add a copy of Me and Rolly Maloo to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Charlesbridge Publishing. For other great book ideas for kids, take a read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are your kids reading?