Posts Tagged ‘back to school’

Write a Review Wednesday: How to Be a Genius

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 Theodore Boone. Kid Lawyer. This week we’re looking at DK Canada’s How to be a Genius: Your Brain and How to Train It (age 10-17). I have to thank Chris at DK Canada for my review copy.


Maybe it’s the thought that school’s starting soon or maybe I’m just suffering from summer brain mush but I’ve been spending a few days with my nose stuck in DK Canada‘s book How to be a Genius: Your Brain and How to Train it.

At first I thought this book would be great for my 8-year old daughter. She loves math and puzzles (like me, well the puzzle part anyway) so I thought this would be a fun read. I always think it’s nice to toss some non-fiction into the mix and this would be fun non-fiction.

How to be a Genius starts off by giving you some information on your brain, including the senses, the differences between the left and right brain and even the physical parts of the brain. The book moves into other areas like the senses, memory, problem solving, language, creativity, plus how your brain makes you who you are and how it continues to develop and evolve.

Now a book about the brain may sound boring but not How to be a Genius. The content is broken out into easily digestible chunks and the pages are eye-catching with unique layouts and typography and a mix of photography and illustration. This book reminds me a lot of DK Canada‘s Pick Me Up (another favourite of ours), in structure not content.

Learning about the brain and how it functions and makes you who you are is interesting (at least to me) but the best part of the book are the brain games. The end of each section includes a few pages of brain games to help illustrate the points made and ‘train your brain’. I’m a big fan of brain games but I think the structure of How to be a Genius offers so much more than just a game to flex your brain matter. The content included with and before the brain game pages explain why your mind functions a certain way, why you may view things differently than others and how to adjust your thinking. This adds so much more to the experience.

Although I seem to have taken over the book, my 8-year old daughter has also spent time with it. She likes to pick an area that interests her, like creativity, and read that section and How to be a Genius is flexible enough to work that way. You don’t need to read the whole book to get some enjoyment (and learning) out of it. I have found my daughter sitting in her room working on the puzzles as an afternoon distraction.

Will How to be a Genius really make me a genius? Probably not but knowing how and why I think a different way then my kids or colleagues has been really helpful. And my 8-year old loves the problem solving, putting her brain matter through the paces. She says after reading How to be a Genius: Your Brain and How to Train It, she’s more than ready for grade 3. We’ll see.

You can add a copy of How to be a Genius: Your Brain and How to Train It to your personal library by visiting your independent bookstore or DK Canada. Looking for other great books for kids? Read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Emily’s First Day of School, Helping Hand Books

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 Charlesbridge’s Ace Lacewing Bug Detective: The Big Swat (age 5-8). With my youngest starting school this fall, I thought we’d look at Emily’s First Day of School (age 5-7), written by Sarah, Dutchess of York and illustrated by Ian Cunliffe. I have to thank Derry at Sterling Kids Publishing for my review copy.


My 3-year-old received a welcome postcard from her new school today though school doesn’t start for another month. My daughter has been talking about school and even playing school games with her dolls and older sister, but sometimes pretend play can be different from the real thing.

Sterling Publishing‘s delivery of Emily’s First Day of School was timed perfectly for us. Part of the Helping Hand Books series by Sarah, Duchess of York, Emily’s First Day of School deals with Emily’s adjustment from staying at home with her mom to being in school all day. I like how Emily is a little apprehensive about school, excited but nervous. I think most kids feel that way, unsure of the unknown. I know my daughter does.

The book takes a brief look at the first day of school, more like a top line approach. Emily makes friends and keeps busy during her day and can’t wait to tell her mom all about it. The book, like all the Helping Hand Books, are designed to address new experiences young kids may face. The Helping Hand Books are meant for parent and child to read together, to open discussion and dialog on the subject being read. At the back of each book there are some Helpful Hints for parents, to help make the adjustment easier for the child.

In Emily’s First Day of School, the hints talk about how to prepare your child, how to help your child express their feelings and ensure the first day of school goes well for everyone. Although most of the tips are familiar, after having two kids already in the school system, they are a great reminder that it’s still the first day of school for my youngest.

My daughter loved Emily in the book. As we read the story, my daughter was all about doing what Emily was doing: drawing pictures, playing in the playground, making new friends. The book was a great way to talk about how my daughter felt and what will happen at school this Fall.

The following books are also part of the Helping Hand Books series: Ashley Learns about Strangers, Matthew and the Bullies and Michael and his New Baby Brother.

You can add Emily’s First Day of School to your own personal library by visiting your local independent bookstore. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

How are you preparing your kids for the first day of school? Any books you’ve been reading?

Getting into routine

Summer! Summer! Summer!

Summer! Summer! Summer!

During the summer we able to sleep a little longer and get up a little later; we travelled more and ate out; we didn’t worry about homework. We all had a little more free time to do things we wanted to do. Then September came along which meant the end of summer vacation and the start of school. It also meant getting back into a regular routine: no more late nights, back to getting up with the birds; no more hanging out in our PJs or yesterday’s clothes, back to keeping on top of the laundry; no more eating when we want, back to making snacks and lunches ahead of time.

You can guess we’ve been having a hard time in our house getting back into routines. The kids aren’t the only ones. I’ve been late walking over to pick-up the kids almost 5 of the 10 school days (remember my encounter with the school secretary?) I’ve volunteered to handle the Scholastic’s orders for my son’s kindergarten class. My hope is this will keep me in his teacher’s good graces for all those late days.

But I don’t dread all routines. I’m actually excited to start my EA Sports Active workout routine again. I know at some point we’ll be back on track again. The big question is when. Hopefully before the kids are off on their Christmas break.

That’s my boy

My oldest was great at following rules when it came to house proofing. I’d tell her once to not touch the stove and she wouldn’t. Ask her to stay in one room to play and she would. I honestly thought the whole parenting thing was pretty easy.

Then my son arrived.

That's my little amazing guy

That's my little amazing guy

When it came time to setting house rules we found out pretty quickly that what worked for my oldest wouldn’t work for my son. (You’ve seen the circus trick video right?) So now when I outline the house rules, instead of following them my son views them as a challenge; he tries to find ways around them. Perhaps it’s a boy thing. I was having this same conversation with the photographer at our Today’s Parent photo shoot (he has a three year old son).

There are many things my son does that are amazing. He’s very affectionate and out-going and the amount of patience he exhibits when working on a LEGO creation is awe inspiring. I find I don’t praise him enough for the good things. Well, not today.

My oldest goes to school all day, my son just in the afternoon and my youngest doesn’t start school until next year. In the mornings when my oldest is at school, I like to work with my son on his school knowledge. There’s so much data supporting how boys struggle in the early years at school and I want to help him past that stage or better still, avoid it all together.

Today we were reading stories and going over some common words (like ‘the’ and ‘and’ etc.). My son started sounding out the letters to say the words. I was amazed. Okay, it’s not like he’s two and reading, but I’ve only gone through the process of sounding letters out with my oldest. Perhaps he’s learnt it from watching his sister. Where ever it came from, I was so excited. And he was excited because I was excited.

Sometimes I don’t give my son enough credit but not today. I was very proud of what he did on his own, without my guidance, and I made sure he knew that. And maybe if I acknowledge all the amazing things he does more often, he’ll surprise me again.

I hate people who hate their jobs

You know who I’m talking about. Those people who have to deal with us, the public, and make it really obvious they’d rather be eating live bugs. The clerk at the coffee store who rolls his eyes and makes audible sighs if you mispronounce those bizarre coffee drink names. The grocery store cashier who makes sure to pack your eggs underneath the watermelon, the twelve naval oranges and the two extra large cans of tomato paste.

Now I can add school secretary to my list of people who piss me off. Today I was late getting my son to his afternoon kindergarten class (how was I suppose to remember over the summer that the afternoon class starts at 12:45 and not 1:00 p.m.). I dropped into the office to ask if she needed me to fill in a late slip. Well, from her response you would think I had asked her to run up to the roof to confirm the time on the sundial. I blurted out that if the school had done it’s job and communicated the start times I wouldn’t be in here talking to her right now. I could have said more but I was worried what would come out, plus we were already late.

What a way to ruin my first day of school high. My son on the other hand seemed unfazed by the whole thing. Perhaps because he’s seen mom react this way too many times lately? (No, I really am a patient person. Really).

This isn’t the first time this secretary has annoyed me with her less than cheerful attitude. I encountered it a few times last year, but since we were new to the school, having transferred just after Christmas, I choose to ignore it. The school secretary is the first impression most people get when they enter the school. I’m not saying she should be out going and initiating conversations with people or dancing in her office. I’m an introvert and I know how hard it is to interact with people. But it doesn’t take much to smile and say good morning. In my mind these are common courtesies. It’s called being polite. I mean my two year old has that one figured out all ready.

I guess someone should let the secretary know this and maybe that someone should be me. Not to her face of course but maybe I need a conversation with the principal. And all parents know there’s no better way to make an impression at the school than to start kicking butt during the first week. Wish me luck.

Write a Review Wednesday: I am too absolutely small for School

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. My two oldest kids head back to school next Tuesday. Last week I reviewed Grumpy Bird written by Jeremy Tankard, my son’s favourite Scholastic school book. This week we’re still thinking about school.


lolacoverThis isn’t the first year of school for my two oldest (starting grade 2 and senior kindergarten) and they’re both really excited about heading back. But starting school for the first time or transitioning into a new grade can be scary for some kids. And Charlie and Lola deal with that issues, starting school, in Lauren Child’s book I am too absolutely small for School.

Lola is about to start school for the first time, but she doesn’t think she’s ready. She comes up with all sorts of reasons why she shouldn’t go to school: she’s not big enough, she has all her books memories and doesn’t need to learn to read, she doesn’t want to wear a schooliform or quite simply she’s far too busy doing other things at home.

That’s where big brother Charlie, who already goes to school, comes in to help address Lola’s fears. He explains in terms his little sister can understand how important and fun school can be, Like how Santa Clause doesn’t own a phone so if Lola wants him to get her wish list, she’ll have to write him a letter. And to write him a letter means she needs to learn how to write.

My kids love the Charlie and Lola books (there are a few). My son thinks Lola is very, very funny. He loves all the crazy things she does and says, something I’m sure he can relate too.

My older daughter’s thoughts:

I like that the words zig zag around the page. And the pictures use bright colours and patterns. I’m not sure if Charlie and Lola are real but I’d like to think they are. Their stories are just like real kid stories.


The Charlie and Lola stories are written from Charlie’s point of view. The language used creates a beautiful distinction between Charlie’s older, wiser big brother voice and Lola’s young, carefree child-like voice. Lauren Child’s books are a delight to read and look at. She treats the copy as an extension of the illustrations, using different fonts and sizes as well as weaving it around the page and other images. I love the mix of photography and illustration.

I am too absolutely small for Schoolis a great story that addresses a number of issues a child might have floating around in their pre-school thoughts. And Charlie and Lola are a delightful in helping relieve those concerns.

Published by Candlewick Press, you can add a  copy of I am too absoluetly small for School from

You can also read other Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Pinkalicious

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 I wrote a review on Colleen Sydor‘s and Nicolas Debon‘s heartwarming tale Timmerman Was Here thanks to my friend Sylvia from Tundra Books (@TundraBooks). It’s almost time for my two oldest to head back to school so for this weeks review I asked my oldest to pick out her favourite Scholastic book from her personal library.


Going back to school means shopping for school supplies, getting up early and peanut-free lunches. But in our house it also means Scholastic Books (@scholastic). As the class rep (aka, teacher’s helper) I was able to see the catalogs first and the kids love going through them. So my daughter pulled out her Scholastic favourite Pinkalicious, written by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann and illustrated by Victoria Kann (age 4-8).

To escape boredom on a rainy day a young girl’s mom makes pink cupcakes, yummy cupcakes, PINKALICIOUS cupcakes! She eats one and then another and then another until her belly turns the colour of a sunset. Dad is upset. Mom is worried. But the little girl is so happy she cries (pink tears), ‘I’m PINKERBELLE‘.

After a bath in industrial strength soap and a misunderstanding with birds, bees and butterflies in the park, a trip to the doctor’s office is in order. But when the little girl refuses to follow doctor’s orders, things go from bad to worse.

As kids we’ve all heard the expression ‘you are what you eat’ and Pinkalicious illustrates this wonderfully by turning a little girl pink from eating too many pink cupcakes. I love that the little girl is happy with her transformation, at first. Any child would understand the little girl’s initial thrill. I’m sure my kids would love to wake up and find out they were made of chocolate. That is until the cats decide to eat them. And just like my kids, the little pink girl soon starts to regret her new skin shade.

My kids delight in listening to this story. My son loves the little brother ending and my oldest daughter loves when the little girl forces herself to gag down all sorts of green foods. Of course my daughter can’t understand why she doesn’t want to eat all those wonderful green foods. I love how shades of pink appear in the illustrates beyond in just the little girl’s skin colour.

Our copy of Pinkalicious is only available through the Scholastic school market, but you can get a version from to add to your personal library.

If you’re looking for other reading ideas, you can view previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Review: Lovable Labels for Back to School

It feels like summer has just started but for some reason when August comes around I can’t help but start thinking about school and back-to-school shopping.

Water bottles. Check.
Lunch bags. Check.
Indoor shoes. Check.
Lunch containers. Check.

I think I’ve bought everything my kids will need for school, at least for the first week. I was just about to go out and buy my back-up supplies, you know, for when the kids misplace or lend out or lose theirs, when I was offered the chance to review Lovable Labels.

bearLovable Labels, a Canadian company started by Laura Porreca, produce colourful, personalized labels made in Canada and designed to stick to the supplies of even the most active child. Well anything that helps me to keep track of my kids stuff (and ultimately saves me from buying replacement supplies) has my attention.

From the Lovable Labels website I was able to personalize my labels by choosing a colour and an icon along with entering a name of up to twenty characters.  Since I have two kids going back to school, a girl and a boy, I decided to choose something generic, a nice red maple leaf and I personalized it with our last name (it’s not a common one). Two weeks later my Back-to-School Mega Pack arrived and included a large variety of labels for all my kids back to school needs: 15 regular sticker labels, 60 slimline sticker, 16 shoe labels, 12 large clothing dots, 12 medium clothing dots, 24 medium clothing dots, 2 mini metal tags, and 5 binder stickers. I loved that each type of lable was enclosed in it’s own package with very clear and easy to follow instructions.

The Back-to-School Mega Pack has everything you will need

The Back-to-School Mega Pack has everything you will need

Labels designed to stick on almost any surface

The labels are made with a special ‘perma-grip’ backing that enables them to stick to almost any surface (pencils, markers, water bottles, shoes, you name it). The labels arrived just as my two oldes were getting ready for camp, a perfect way to test them before school started. I used the metal tags on the lunch bags. They were easy to attach, but sadly the chains somehow became disconnected on both lunch bags during the first day. That was the only item that gave me a problem. I used the slimeline stickers on water bottles, lunch containers, sunscreen bottles, a notepad and pen, even the fork I packed in their lunch. They were so easy to apply. Plus they are UV resistanct and dishwasher and microwave safe, a real plus for lunch containers. We washed the lunch containers, forks and water bottles every day and the labels never budged and retained their bright colouring.

Keep track of your kids expensive footwear this school year

The shoe labels are great for gym shoes, rubber boots, snow boots, indoor shoes, all that expensive footwear your kids require and take off and put on many times during the school day. I put the shoe labels on my kids sneakers as well as their crocs. The labels went on like a second skin. The kids didn’t feel anything, even on the crocs with barefeet. And they stayed on. My son is rough on all his shoes and I didn’t have any peeling or even slipage of the labels.

No iron required

My favourite item in the Back-to-School Mega Pack is by far the clothing dots. They come in three different sizes allowing for the different sized labels that appear on jackets, extra shirts, sweaters, swimsuits and so on. The best part is you don’t have to iron them on like most clothing labels, which is good because I don’t know if I remember how to use my iron. You just peel them off and press them on to the size or washing instructions label. You can’t attach them to the actual fabric but most clothing items have a washing label that is sewn on the shirt. I just stuck it here. You can however stick them directly to the lining on windbreakers and snowsuits. We used these in hats too. I washed and dried my kids camp shirts every night with these labels and they came out looking new each time.

Label all your kids stuff for school

Label all your kids stuff for school

They have a label for that too

Having given these labels a real workout, I’m feeling pretty confident in sending my kids to school with just one set of school supplies this year. They are easy to use, offer great customizable options and still retain their newness after using and washing countless times. I tried out their Back-to-School Mega Pack, which is only available until September 30, but Lovable Labels has countless other label options for your home, allergy allert wristbands, bag tags and even personalized stationary. Visit to see the extent of their products.

Special savings just for you

School is about to start, but there still is time to order labels for your kids. And Lovable Labels has kindly offered my readers a 10% discount on any purchase made between August 17 to August 31, 2009. All you need to do to get your savings is include the discount code ‘anotherday’ on your order form. They will ship anywhere and everywhere.

Enjoy the new school year ahead!