Posts Tagged ‘kids review’

Write a Review Wednesday: Driving my Tractor

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. After a break for Christmas, I’m back with my weekly reviews. To kick off the new year I have the fun (and musical) Driving my Tractor (age 2-5) by Jan Dobbins and David Sim. I have to thank Rebecca at Barefoot Books for my review copy.


Travel with a farmer and his tractor as he picks up various farm animals along his route. The story is written in a fun rhyme and includes a lot of repetitive text making it easy for kids to read along as well as predict what comes next. The farmer picks up animals in increasing numbers, one black-and-white cow, two grey donkeys and so on all the way up to five brown chickens. The text includes descriptors for each animal and also includes animal noises which makes it a fun and interactive read.

My kids noticed that as the farmer travels his route, the seasons on his farm change. You see wheat being harvested in the summer, apples being picked in the fall, a blanket of white in the winter. My seven-year old also picked out the two bunnies that seemed to appear on every page. Now the kids love to point them out as we go from page to page.

The illustrations also add to the fun, child-like feel to the story.

But if you were to ask my five-year old son his favourite part of the book Driving my Tractor, he’d say it’s the singalong CD, performed by acclaimed children’s performer SteveSongs. We actually listened to the CD before the book and my kids loved the song. Now when my son reads the story, he actually sings it. Having the story in song also helped my son with his reading, he knows the story and can figure out what the words are. The CD also includes a musical version of the song without the words incase your child wants to do his own performance. You can hear a sample of the song on Barefoot Books website, plus they have an animal puppet printout to help you and your kids act out the song.

Take a ride with a farmer and his tractor

You can add Driving my Tractor to your home library by visiting If you’re looking for other book suggestions, read past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Review: Leapfrog Tag Reading System

In September we had the chance to review the new Leapfrog Tag Junior reading system, designed to encourage the love of books with kids 2 to 4. My two-year old enjoyed using the Tag Junior during her review; she still does. After that review I had a number of people ask me how the original Tag Reading System compares to the Tag Junior. So the wonderful people at Leapfrog Canada‘s public relations company sent along a Tag and the book Fly High, Fly Guy for a comparison.

Ready, Set, Read

When the Leapfrog Tag arrived my son was ecstatic. He has been using his younger sister’s Tag Junior but the reading material isn’t very challenging for a boy who is at the early reading stage. The Tag Reading System comes with the book Ozzie and Mack. The audio is preloaded on the Tag pen so my son could start using it right away, which of course he did.

Works with Tag Junior Books too

We discovered you can also use the Tag pen to read the Tag Junior books. This is great news if you already have a Tag Junior for either a younger child or your child is transitioning up to the Tag. You will need to download the audio from the Tag Junior books onto the pen. (On the audio download page, look for the Tag Junior picture on the bottom of the page). Keep in mind that the Tag will read the Tag Junior books the same way the Tag Junior reads them, as a whole page, not word by word. The Tag Junior however cannot read the Tag books.

Beyond Reading

The Leapfrog Tag Reading System can be used as a reading tool in a few different ways: you can have the whole story read to you with audio prompts to turn the pages as you follow along, you can have the story read page-by-page at your child’s pace, or your child can read and use the pen to help with the tricky words. The Tag can read each individual word that you point to.

But the Leapfrog Tag Reading System offers great learning and fun beyond just reading the story or having it read to you. Kids can use the pen to explore the page; touch elements or people in the story to hear dialog or sounds beyond the story. My son loved finding these hidden gems. He felt more involved in the story, choosing what to discover. There are also games and quizzes in the story. Your child can choose to play along or not by selecting the appropriate icon at the bottom of the page.

My five-year old son loves using the Tag. He can easily spend an hour quietly reading, learning and enjoying one of the Tag stories:

You can store a number of books on the Tag pen so switching from story to story is easy; just touch the page of the new story and the Tag pen finds the right audio clip. The interactivity of the Tag keeps the stories from becoming too repetitive and boring. Now my son loves to read along with the story. The Tag also gives my son time to explore and learn on his own, without any mom, dad or big sister looking over his shoulder.

Leapfrog’s Learning Path: Discover What your Child is Learning

Like the Tag Junior, the Leapfrog Tag Reading System is enabled with the Leapfrog Learning Path system. By connecting the Tag pen to your computer with the supplied USB cable you can discover what your child is learning. The Learning Path will tell you what books your child uses and for how long, what areas they excel in and what areas they need more practice, plus you’ll find out where they sit skill wise compared to standard levels by grade.  If you’ve never used the Learning Path program before, you will need to install the Leapfrog Connect software (CD provided).

Connecting online also enables you do download the audio for other Tag or Tag Junior books you own. Plus as your child completes sections of the book they will receive a reward, like a door hanger or maze you can printout. My son was always asking me to connect to the computer to discover what new reward he revealed. Using certain Tag books can also unlock online games for your kids to enjoy.

Fun, interactive learning

My son doesn’t have a long attention span, unless Lego is involved, but he could sit and listen, play, read and learn with the Leapfrog Tag Reading System for an hour or more. He loved interacting with the story and it’s helped him with word recognition in other stories.

Manufacturer: Leapfrog
Age: 4 to 8
MSRP ($Cdn): $59.99, includes reader, USB connection cable and one pre-loaded book
Additional Books ($Cdn): $14.97

Unsure if you should be getting the Leapfrog Tag or Leapfrog Tag Junior? Maybe my handy comparison chart will help.

Review: Tickle Tap Apps, preschool fun for the iPhone

I must admit, after I set-up my iPhone, one of the first things I did was tap my way over to the Apple App Store to check out all the cool (and in some cases bizarre) apps I could now get on my phone. I was like a kid in a candy store.

Of course my kids were interested too, even my youngest at just two. When I heard about Tickle Tap Apps, iPhone fun designed for kids 3 to 5 specifically, I had to check them out.

There are currently three completed apps available: Sort Slider, Count Caddy, and Sound Shaker but there are plans for seven more.

Sort Slider ($1.99) is a shape matching game. The screen consists of two fun shapes, like say a flower pot and a tree branch, and a silhouette of one of the shapes. Your child needs to match the silhouette to the correct shape by either tilting the iPhone to slide the silhouette shape or touching and dragging the silhouette shape.  As your child completes matches successfully, Harvey the dog barks enthusiastically and does tricks to encourage them.

My daughter loved playing this; she especially loved when Harvey did tricks after so many correct matches. The movement, either sliding or touching, was easy for her to master. And there’s no negative feedback which is great; if a child slides a silhouette over the incorrect shape nothing happens. The game continues until the slide the shape correctly. The number of shapes is limited but the variety of combinations and placements always makes this game feel new, never repetitive.

Count Caddy ($1.99) helps children learn and practice counting. Jinja the cat encourages kids to drag the balls of yarn into a circle. They start with one, then two and so on up to eight. After accomplishing counting by ones, Robin the bird has them count feathers by twos and Harvey the dog has the kids count bones by threes (and the number count goes higher, to almost twenty). Along with the repetitive audio, the numbers are reinforced visually with the balls of yarn (or features or bones) and the actual number. There are three levels overall and once they are all completed they can be played over again.

My daughter had a little bit of difficulty with the touch and drag, but she quickly figured it out with assistance. She loved the different animals, though she’s only made it half-way through counting by twos. As my daughter played, she became familiar with the numbers and would recite them along with the game.

Sound Shaker ($1.99) is a fun, interactive music making app. Kids can choose from six different sound categories, like chimes, drums or even barn animals. Once they have their sound chosen, they can add it to the screen. A simple tap and a sound ball appears. The longer they hold their finger on the screen a bigger sound ball appears with a different tone of the sound they choose. But that’s not the best part. Once your child has added all the sounds they want, tilt the phone to hear a new musical masterpiece as all the sound balls roll around the screen.

I think this was my daughter’s favourite app out of the three (mine too actually). I love how creative this is. My daughter especially loved the surprise of the bird when she held her finger on screen for a long time. On the streetcar ride home my daughter would play and passengers all around were craning their necks to watch her. The sound is wonderful too, not tinny and annoying to your ears (which is good because your kids will be playing this for a long time).

All three apps, Sort Slider, Count Caddy and Sound Shaker have fun colourful graphics. The layout is very clean, no cluttered background images, which makes it easy for young kids to concentrate on the task at hand, having fun.

I can’t wait to see what’s instore for the next seven Tickle Tap Apps. If they’re anything like these three, I’ll have to own them, ALL.

I have to thank Limelite PR and zinc Roe Design for giving me access to these three apps for my review.

Write a Review Wednesday: Meeow and the Big Box

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 ventured into the realm of non-fiction with Enslow Publishers’ Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Circus (age 6 to 9), written by Jill Anderson and illustrated by Amy Huntington. This week is about the younger set. Meeow and the Big Box (age 2-4 ) is a fun book from Sterling Children’s Books and written/illustrated by Sebastien Braun. Thank you Derry from Sterling Publishing for my review copy.


Meeow is a black cat. Meeow likes the colour red. Meeow likes to make things. What will Meeow make with red paint, a big box, an orange chair and a blue mug. Clever Meeow!

My kids love cats so they fell in love with Meeow even before we opened the book. My youngest loved the velvety feel of Meeow on the front cover of the book also; to her Meeow felt fuzzy like a real cat. The story of Meeow taking simple household elements like a brown box, a blue mug and an orange chair and using imagination to convert them into something fun, is something all kids do and can relate to. The type is big, clear and uncluttered making it easy to read. The dialog is like the a conversation the parent may have with a child, simple yet descriptive. Each step Meeow takes is described. Primary colours are used in the simple illustrations and in describing the elements Meeow uses; instead of just a chair it’s an orange chair.

I could see my two-year old trying to figure out what Meeow was trying to build. With each page turn a little more was revealed. The way the pages are layed out, the dialog encourages kids to think and guess what Meeow could be making before it’s revealed at the very end. And I love how the last page illustrates what Meeow sees the actual creation to be.

While reading Meeow and the Big Box my kids made guesses like a rocket ship or a car or a house. I love the simplicity of this story and the warm, fun, child-like nature of Meeow, but the best part of the story to me was when we finished reading. The book done, my kids went away and started making their own in home creations out of chairs and pillows and blankets. A book that impresses upon kids beyond the reading experience has to be one worth adding to your own personal library.

What is Meeow making?

You can also read the review on Meeow and the Little Chairs.

To add Meeow and the Big Box to your own personal library, visit For other book suggestions checkout the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Review: Jumpstart Escape from Adventure Island Wii Game

PhotobucketNot that long ago our family had a chance to review JumpStart’s 3D World, an online learning environment, as well as JumpStart Pet Rescue Wii game.

We’re big fans of JumpStart so the kids were tickled pink when given the chance to review Knowledge Adventure‘s newest Wii game: Escape from Adventure Island.

PhotobucketGame Synopsis

During an emergency landing on Adventure Island the blimp you and Frankie were traveling in gets damaged. Now you’re on a mission to collect sand dollars, which you’ll trade in for helium tanks to fix your blimp. Complete challenges to earn either white or gold sand dollars.

Story and Practice Modes

The game is played in Story Mode, where you help Frankie complete various challenges, like letter recognition, math problems or just following instructions, and earn a sand dollar. There are various levels to each challenge making it easily adaptable to your child’s skill level now and as they improve. You can practice some of the skills you will need to complete the challenges with educational games in Practice Mode.

On Land or in Water

JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island has two main areas: the Island Hub, where kids play and learn above the water or the Scuba Hub where your jumpee is dressed in scuba gear and you can explore and play under water. Both of my kids loved the Scuba Hub in this game; this environment wasn’t something offered in the JumpStart Pet Rescue game. My son spent most of his time underwater. My son wanted to get right into the game; he didn’t even adjust or customize the default jumpee character.

My daughter missed the fact that there weren’t worlds to explore (in JumpStart Pet Rescue there were more locations to jump to). She also missed the pet adoption aspect. But I think it’s great that the two games are different; you would play them for a different experience.

Improved Use of the Wii-mote

I remember one of my disappointments with the JumpStart’s Pet Rescue game was the lack of intuitive use with the Wii-mote. Well that isn’t an issue with JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island. Watching the kids play, they turn and twist and point the Wii-mote; they seem more involved in the game.

But What do the Kids Think

Rated E for Everyone

The JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island game for the Wii has been rated Everyone (E) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board which means ‘it has content suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.‘ The game play seemed pretty similar to the JumpStart Pet Rescue which received an Early Childhood (EC) rating.

In Stores

JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island for the Wii (recommended for ages 5 to 9) will be available in major retailers starting November 17, 2009 for $29.99US

Time to Escape and WIN

Knowledge Adventure, the creatures of the JumpStart games is running an amazing contest. Visit their blog and tell them how your family uses imagination to escape the everyday and turn life into and adventure. Your story could win one (1) of fifty (50) copies of JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island or maybe even one (1) of the three (3) Grand Prize Family Escape Packs (valued at over $1000). Contest closes November 16 so be quick.

* a review copy of JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island was provided by Knowledge Adventure

Write a Review Wednesday: Adding With Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Circus

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 talked about the first book in Chronicle Books’ delightful girl series Ivy and Bean (age 6-10), written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. This week I’m switching gears and looking at the non-fiction book Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Circus (age 6 to 9), written by Jill Anderson and illustrated by Amy Huntington. I have to thank Lisa from Enslow Publishers for my review copy.


Sebastian the pig is off to the circus and wants to keep track of all the different performers he sees. He carries with him a handy notebook to record his numbers and add them up. Perhaps you can help him.

My daughter loves math. Yup, you read that right. I think that’s great. I remember loving math too. But math doesn’t have to be all about worksheets and drills. When I first read about the book Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus on Enslow Publishers website, I thought this would be an ideal book for my daughter. It incorporates math into a story.

I must admit they didn’t seem overly enthusiastic about reading the book the first time. I’m partly to blame. I think they were expecting more of a bedtime story and I pulled this book out. But as I started to read the story they started to listen. I did find some of the writing a little clumsy; I don’t think it was necessary to break the story into chapters. However, the simple text does make it ideal for beginning readers. As for the kids, they enjoyed the animal antics depicted in the illustrations. The inclusion of Sebastian’s notebook in the bottom corner of each page spread worked well and was a real help with the addition. The illustrations sometimes made it difficult to clearly count all the characters, so having the notebook with very clear images made counting and adding a breeze.

As we went through each page my oldest daughter asked me to cover the addition answers so she could figure out the problem on her own. My five-year old son got into the addition fun too. Even my young two-year old loved counting the animals. She could easily count the heads on Sebastian’s notebook page. The numbers written on each head helped reinforce the counting. A combination of the image on the page, the illustration of animal heads on the notebook as well as the actual addition equation helped with understanding how addition works. I also liked that some addition vocabulary was used and explained in the book too (like sum, and dozen). My daughter loves math, but this book might help explain addition to a child who isn’t so keen on math.

In addition to the story, no pun intended, there is a handy addition table at the back of the book covering numbers from one to ten, plus some suggested reading and websites to further enhance your child’s interest in math. Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus is part of the series Math Fun with Sebastian Pig and Friends. You can get other Sebastian Pig books on subtracting, measuring, money, as well as counting and finding shapes.

You can add Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus to your own library by visiting Looking for other great books? Checkout past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Ivy and Bean

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 talked about Lee Weatherly and Algy Craig Hall cute monster story The Scariest Monster in the World (published by Boxer Books, an imprint of Sterling Kids Publishing). With Ivy and Bean day this Saturday (November 7), my daughter thought I should talk about the book, Ivy and Bean (age 6-10), her new favourite series (written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, published by Chronicle Books. I have to thank Crystal from Raincoast Books for my review copy.


0811849031_normBefore seven-year old Bean met Ivy, she didn’t like her. Ivy didn’t seem like a bad girl; in fact she seemed really nice. That was the problem, in Bean’s mind nice equalled boring. But when Bean gets into a jam with her older sister Nancy, she changes her mind about Ivy when Ivy comes to her aid. Ivy share’s her secret hiding spot with Bean. Bean helps Ivy look like the part of the magician she says she is.  Together they scale fences, pretend to be sick, dig for worms and cast the dancing spell. By the end of the day, Bean and Ivy are great friends and already looking forward to their next adventure.

When I was young I remember how much I enjoyed reading a good series especially with female characters, following them from book to book on their next adventure. I’m always on the lookout for a series that might appeal to my seven-year old daughter. But she’s still young so I don’t want the subject matter to be to old, no high school drama or dating scenarios.

When I heard about Ivy and Bean I thought this would be perfect. I love that Ivy and Bean never wanted to be friends, that their moms kept trying to push them together. That’s the great thing about Ivy and Bean, they are different and the same. Between the two there is bound to be a trait or two that most girls will be able to relate to.  The black and white sketches intermingle with the story and illustrate Ivy and Bean’s personalities and the energetic adventure they take.

My daughter enjoyed reading Ivy and Bean so much she finished it within a few days.  She’s already clamouring for me to get the second book in the series:

I  loved this book. I think Ivy and Bean will be great friends. They both love having great adventures together. I love Ivy’s room and their plan to make a science lab for making potions. I’d like something like that in my room. I liked that the book included a few pages from the second book. The second book sounds great and I’ve already asked my mom if I can get it.

So far there are six books in the series, the most recent Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance was just released. I’m pleased my daughter is excited about this series and is looking forward to reading the next book. Ivy and Bean are great characters that girls will enjoy: strong, free-spirited and fun. And since Ivy and Bean are both seven the activities they get into are all in good fun.

You can add Ivy and Bean to your personal library from Be sure to visit the Ivy and Bean website to read the first chapter of Ivy and Bean and to learn more about the other books in the series. And don’t forget Ivy and Bean day this Saturday. I know I’ll have some fun things planned. If you’re looking for some additional books  be sure to checkout previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: The Scariest Monster in the World

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 the wonderful Halloween rhyming story Over in the Hollow, written by Rebecca Dickson and illustrated by S.britt (published by Chronicle Books). With this being the last Wednesday before Halloween, I’m still thinking about great monster stories. This week have the cute story The Scariest Monster in the World (age 3-6) by Lee Weatherly and Algy Craig Hall (published by Boxer Books, an imprint of Sterling Kids Publishing). I have to thank my friend Derry at Sterling Kids Publishing for my review copy.


scariestcoverOnce there was a very scary monster. All the animals in the world ran whenever they saw him coming. That is until the monster was hit with something terrible: hiccups! Now he needed the animals to help him. The very scary monster tried everything the animals suggested, but nothing worked. The only thing the animals thought would cure the monster’s hiccups was to scare them out. But what could scare the scariest monster in the world?

The Scariest Monster in the World is a not-so-scary monster story. The image of him on the front cover sort of gives that away. The tricks the monster goes through to try and rid himself of the dreaded hiccups made the kids giggle. What ended up curing the monster’s hiccups was a great surprise.

I loved how some words were given emphasis by showing the text large like an image. When reading I couldn’t help but make the sounds associated with these words; the large type invited me to create the sound effects. After the monster cures his hiccups, you would expect the story to end, you would expect the monster to go back to being the scariest monster in the world, but he doesn’t want to scare his new friends anymore. Not only do the animals help the monster with his hiccups, they help him to be a friend.

My kids love monster stories. This is a wonderful monster story that even my two-year old can enjoy without any scary thoughts. This is a wonderful tale of discovering friendship. I love that it shows someone who spends their life being mean can change and be accepted by others, by new friends. This is a great lesson of acceptance that all kids will enjoy.


The scariest monster in the world isn't so scary with hiccups

If you want to add The Scariest Monster in the World to your personal library, visit You can discover other great books by reading past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Over in the Hollow

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 Bobbi Katz and Adam McCauley‘s fun and whimsical book Monsterologist (from Sterling Kids Publishing). This week I’m still thinking about ghosts and goulies as I review Over in the Hollow (age 4-8), written by Rebecca Dickson and illustrated by S.britt (published by Chronicle Books). Thanks to Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.


Take a visit to the hollow and you’ll find a spooky mama owl and her little owlets three, a pale grandpa vampire and his little vampires four and so on. This delightfully eerie counting book is inspired by Olive A. Wadsworth’s poem Over in the Meadow. Kids will enjoy the fun Halloween themed rhyme as they count the creepy critters and ghoulie ghosts on each page. The images are fun and not scary making it a great read-aloud book for all ages.

All three of my kids loved Over in the Hollow. It’s a great way to get into the Halloween spirit without scaring anyone. My son especially enjoyed reading the rhyming line and the line that each of the creatures’ kids said. The rhymes were easy cues to the kids as to what number came next (for early counting). Along with a fun rhyme, Rebecca Dickinson also included great dialog for fun out loud sound effects. My youngest enjoyed  howling and stomping along with the book. The words roll out of your mouth in a fun lyrical way, making it a joy to read over and over again. And S.britt‘s illustrations of the different creatures were fun caricatures. My kids enjoyed picking out which cat or ghost or pumpkin they would be since each creature was different.

If you want to add Over in the Hollow to your personal library, visit Looking for other great books? Checkout the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Brothers

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  Ruth Ohi‘s latest book Chicken, Pig, Cow On the Move (from Annick Press). This week is about siblings as I review Brothers, written by Michael Maze and illustrated by Michael Soloviov. Thanks to Sylvia at Tundra Books for my review copy.


brotherscoverJulius and William are brothers. Julius, the oldest and the story teller, feels he’s wiser, more sophisticated and superior than his younger brother William. Julius feels it’s his duty to share his knowledge and teach his brother a thing or two, especially who’s in charge. But no matter how much sibling rivalry exists between the brothers, they pull together when an outsider tries to separate them. Oh, did I forget to mention Julius and William are dogs.

Yes, it’s true Brothers is based on two dogs. But the story that is told, one of rivalry and friendship is one that even us humans can relate to, especially if you have a sibling. The battles between oldest verses youngest is a common tale, but viewed through the eyes of a dog gives it a fun twist.

My oldest two loved the story. My oldest daughter could see right away the similarities between the two dogs and her and her brother’s constant battles. My son, though I don’t think he thought about the story beyond it being about two dogs, loved their struggle and eventual friendship.

Although Brothers does follow a traditional story with beginning, middle and end, the way it’s told is somewhat unique. Each page is broken into ‘moves’, like Grasshopper, trying to obtain inner peace with William’s over bouncy self or Honor, the battle for the big prize, the bone.

A bone -- my kingdom for a bone

A bone -- my kingdom for a bone

The story builds as the brother’s struggle with each other while their mother is away. Then when the sitter tries to separate them, the two brother’s unite and fight the sitter together, just in time for their mother to return. And just like the brothers, my kids fight until I separate them, then they seem to work together against me. Brothers celebrates the frustration and joy of being a sibling.

If you want to add Brothers  to your personal library, be sure to visit your local book seller when the book is expected to be released November 10, 2009. For other great book ideas, read the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.