Monday, June 29, 2015

Reading with My Kids: Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Age Range: 8 - 12 years

Grade Level: 3 - 7

Series: Little House (Book 1)

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (May 11, 2004)

Source: my kids' bookshelf

Our rating: 5 of 5 stars






About the Book:

The book that started it all! Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's treasured Little House series, which was based on her life growing up as an American pioneer. This edition features Garth Williams' interior art in vibrant full color.

Told from four-year-old Laura's point of view, this story begins in 1871 in a little log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Laura lives in the little house with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their trusty dog, Jack.

Pioneer life is sometimes hard for the family, since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But it is also exciting as Laura and her family celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do the spring planting, bring in the harvest, and make their first trip into town. And every night they are safe and warm in their little house, with the happy sound of Pa's fiddle sending Laura and her sisters off to sleep.

And so begins Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved story of a pioneer girl and her family. The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers as both a unique glimpse into America's frontier history and a heartwarming, unforgettable story.

Supports the Common Core State Standards


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Our Thoughts:

This series was one of my favorite as a child, and I read them over and over.  Not surprisingly, I was excited to share them with my own girls. Thankfully, my kids love this book as much as I do.  It was fun to see my girls experience Laura's world for the first time. Both of my older girls fell in love with the story and the family in the book.  They even dressed up in "old fashioned" clothes so they could play Mary and Laura. They also found instructions for making rag dolls and are working on making their own dolls just like the ones in the book.

Obviously, my kids like the book, but have you ever noticed that some books you loved as a kid lose their luster when you read them as an adult? I am happy to report that is not the case here. Ingalls' book stands the test of time and age. I enjoyed the book just as much as an adult as I did as a child.

If you've never read these books, put them on your To Read list immediately, this is a series that everyone needs to experience at least once. If you are wondering what to suggest to your kids next, try this book. There are some amazing stories in it that kids will love reading.

Content: clean

5 STARS


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Murder Freshly Baked: An Amish Village Mystery

Murder Freshly Baked: An Amish Village Mystery by Vannetta Chapman

Age range: adult (appropriate for teens, too)

Genre: cozy mystery

Series: An Amish Village Mystery #3

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Zondervan (June 9, 2015)

Source: From publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars






About the Book:

When delicious baked goods become lethal, a trail of poetry leads to a sweet-toothed killer.
Don’t taste it / Don’t share it /Just throw it away / If you try my bakery pie / You won’t live to see another day.

The Amish Artisan Village of Middlebury, Indiana, might be the last place you would ever expect to find a murderer. But Amber has been managing the Village for decades and there’s nothing she hasn’t seen. Or so she thought.

When poetic notes begin appearing around the bakery, warning that some of the pies have been poisoned, Amber is as confused as she is concerned. Who poisons pies? And more to the point, who leaves poems of warning after they’ve done it? When Amber decides to help the police track down the sweet-toothed saboteur, she enlists Hannah Troyer for another round of Amish-style detective work.

Can Amber and Hannah help the police before the Poison Poet strikes? Both women will need to draw on their faith to preserve the peaceful community they’ve built in Middlebury . . . and to protect the girls who work in the Amish Artisan Village.


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My Thoughts:

I really like this series! I was really excited when I got the opportunity to review this book. I'm not usually a big reader of mystery novels or Amish novels, so this is a different read for me all around, but maybe that's why I like it so much. This is the final book in the Amish Village Mystery series and while some aspects build on the previous books, you can enjoy this book without having read the other two.

One of the things I like about this book is that it doesn't follow the same plot as the previous book. The mystery is built up differently, but still has its moments of suspense. Another bonus — I wasn't able to figure out who the killer was before the author wanted me to. I usually have it figured out after the first few chapters, but not this time.

Based on the cover, you might expect this book to contain only Amish characters, but there is a nice mix of Amish and non-Amish characters.

If you like cozy mystery, small towns, and happy endings, pick up this series. It's a delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Content: brief violence

4 STARS

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Picture Book Review of Tommy Can't Stop

Tommy Can't Stop by Tim Federle, illustrated by Mark Fearing

Age Range: 3 - 5 years

Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten

Genre: picture book

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (April 21, 2015)

Source: Library

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My kids' rating: 5 of 5 stars




About the Book:

Tommy bounces, and he leaps. Tommy clomps, and he bulldozes. Nothing tires Tommy out, and his family can't keep up! But then his sister has an idea: could tap class be just right for Tommy?
This exuberant picture book, written by Broadway dancer Tim Federle, with illustrations by Mark Fearing, stars one very energetic kid who finally finds his place in the spotlight.


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My Thoughts:

My daughter checked this recently released book out of the library and I'm glad she did. We read it several times before returning it and both of my kids loved it.  They liked it more than I did, but that's fairly typical.

It's about Tommy, a young boy that can't sit still and doesn't enjoy his family's many attempts at tiring him out. It isn't until he gets coerced into attending a tap class that he finds an activity he loves. It's a fun story about trying new things and looking for strengths amongst your weaknesses.  It was released just a few months ago, so if you can find it at your local library, I'd suggest picking it up.  It's worth a read to the kids.

4 STARS 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If Hamlet Could Text - A Review of srsly Hamlet

srsly Hamlet by William Shakspeare and Courtney Carbone

Age range: 12 and up

Series: OMG Shakespeare

Genre: Classic retellings

Hardcover: 128 pages

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (May 26, 2015)

Source: from publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars





About the Book:

Hamlet, one of the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts?!

Imagine: What if Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and the tragic Ophelia had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this fun and funny adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays!

A kingdom on the brink of war.
A stolen throne.
A boy seeking revenge.

<3 b=""> and h8. The classics just got a whole lot more interesting. ;)
 
 
tl;dr A Shakespeare play told through its characters texting with emojis, checking in at certain locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for hip theater lovers and teens.

A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it. For example: tl;dr means too long; didn’t read.



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My Thoughts:

Just like YOLO Juliet, this book is told entirely in texts and status updates. It was immensely fun to read, and the author added her own element of charm and humor to the story.  Personally, I enjoyed YOLO Juliet a teensy bit more, but that may have more to do with my familiarity with the story than anything else.

This book is intended for teens, but younger kids will enjoy it too. Be forewarned that there is violence and quite a bit of foul language in the form of text slang/abbreviations. But if your teen loves Shakespeare, they'll enjoy the different approach this book takes.

Content: violence, language

4 STARS

Friday, June 19, 2015

Learn Your Numbers: The Best Books About Counting

It's no secret that kids love to count, and once they learn how, there's no stopping them.  Counting books have always been a big hit in our house since they make it easy to engage my kids in the story.  Here are some of our favorites.

Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Lois Ehlert

I learned about the Chicka Chicka books when my oldest daughter started preschool and we both fell in love with them. This is a fun rhyming book with great rhythm.

Goodreads




The Hueys in None the Number: A Counting Adventure by Oliver Jeffers

If you've followed my blog for a while, you'll know that my kids and I are big fans of Oliver Jeffers.  He always manages to win me over.  This is a fun, quirky look at counting and raises a VERY important question — is zero a number?

Goodreads




Ten Busy Buzzy Bugs by Ruth Galloway

Also known as Ten Busy Whizzy Bugs, this charming little book is a fun introduction to counting for preschool aged kids.  My girls love pointing out the bugs and trying to guess which one is going to disappear from each page.

Goodreads




Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

The artwork is what really makes this book special.  The artist used a limited palette of black, white, and red throughout the book.  If your kids like rhyme, this is a great choice.

Goodreads





100 Snowmen by Jen Arena, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

This is one of the funnest counting books in existence.  Both the writing and the illustrations are top notch and your kids will love it.  My kids make me stop on every page so they can count the snowmen and laugh at their silly antics.  This is a definite must have for every child's library.

Goodreads





What are your favorite books about counting?  Let me know in the comments!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review of Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

The author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, tackles the critical question: How do we change? 

Gretchen Rubin's answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.

So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation.

Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions—oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore:

• Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do?
• Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit, no matter how hard I try. Why?
• How quickly can I change a habit?
• What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit?
• How can I help someone else change a habit?
• Why can I keep habits that benefit others, but can’t make habits that are just for me?

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits—even before they’ve finished the book.


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About the Author:

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She’s the author of many books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project. Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than a million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages, and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. Rubin started her career in law, and was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.


My Thoughts:

Maybe reading this book right after having a baby wasn't the best idea. Starting and maintaining new habits is nearly impossible when your life is a blur of diaper changes and late night feedings. In spite of my sleep deprived situation, Gretchen Rubin has some great advice to offer her readers. The book reads like an extended journal entry or a memoir about habits. It rambled too much for my tastes, but I did appreciate the message of the book. I also liked how she explored different ways of creating habits based on different personality types, because what works for some people won't work for others.

If you read The Happiness Project and want to build off of that, or if you are hoping to make some positive changes in your life, this book could be very helpful. Just keep in mind that it's as much the author's personal journey as it is advice for the reader.

Content: clean

3 STARS


Monday, June 15, 2015

Review Spotlight on The String Quartet

The String Quartet by Dan Hupalo

Age Range: 10 and up

Paperback: 298 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 13, 2013)

Synopsis:
 Loss can be tough to handle, but a young girl named Dawn Arterberry has made a fresh start. She has a new school and a new cello to match. That is, mostly new. . .With her four new friends, Dawn tries to solve the mystery that has taken over her life. What is the Rheingold? Who is the Charmed Duke? And what does the grandfather she never knew have to do with any of it? Inspired by a tradition of myth and story more than a millennia old, The String Quartet takes readers on a journey through the cycle of the Rhein. From the forests of New England to a new world both fantastic and frightening, this story tells of an adventure appropriate for readers of all ages.


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What Reviewers Say:

 "I really enjoyed this book." - Kassady

"The story is very well written and paints an imaginative picture." - Tiffany

"This book had a very interesting storyline, which intrigued me throughout reading it." - Sarah

"Quick and light read for a budding reader." - Heather


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