Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hi. Remember Us?

Hi.  Remember us?  Blogging has dropped off of my radar over the past few months/years.  The "Infant Bibliophile" has turned into a voracious reader, whipping through books faster than I can/care to review them, and his little sister loves reading as much as he ever did.  While balancing two children, school, hobbies, life, etc., blogging has fallen to the bottom of the list for awhile.  Nonetheless, we DO still read great books, and I have a bunch that I'd like to review ... so I am going to try to set up some quick mini reviews to post over the next few weeks.

For now, I leave you with collages of some of the children's recent favorites... most represent series in which they enjoy the entire collection.

The 6 1/2 year old boy:



The 3 1/2 year old girl:





And one of MY favorites lately:





Rosie Revere, Engineer

I rarely pay full price for a hardcover picture book, and I actually ordered this one sight unseen on the recommendation of a feminist science teacher friend.  So glad I did!  I absolutely love it and its message for little girls AND boys about multiple failures being an intrinsic part of the path to success.

Looking at the two collages above, I'm struck by how gender-specific they seem!  But, in reality, both children enjoy the other's books as well.

Disclosure: If you click on a link in this post and purchase anything, we may receive a small commission through our affiliate relationship with Amazon.com.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Plants vs. Zombies: More Books

We were happy to receive two more Plants vs. Zombies-themed books recently.


Plants vs. Zombies: Brain Food






Plants vs. Zombies: Plant Your Path Junior Novel






Both were instant hits with our 6 year old Plants vs. Zombies fan.  Here is what he has to say about them:
I really like the puzzles in "Brain Food", especially the unscrambles and the secret codes. for
Plant your path, I Like some of the endings, such as Defeating Dr. Zomboss, Joining Football zombies,
and teaching a plant.

Update: Brain Food gets pulled out every now and then, and Plant Your Path has been reread many times.  The variety of endings obviously keeps the book fresh.  I've often recommended Choose Your Adventure type books for reluctant readers, and combining that with the popular appeal of Plants vs. Zombies is a recipe for success.  I'd love to see more of this type of book on the market.

Disclosure: If you buy any books by clicking on links in this post, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with Amazon.com.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Plants vs. Zombies

We love Plants vs. Zombies (and the newly released Plants vs. Zombies 2!), so we were all super excited to receive three new P v. Z -themed books in the mail a few weeks ago.

Two of the books were clever rewrites of popular age-old tales - Jack and the Beanstalk and the Three Little Pigs.  The text is witty and charming, with obvious appeal to P v. Z players.  I might be a little hesitant to gift zombie books to anyone under age 6 or so without first knowing if their parents were OK with that, but if you know a child is a Plants v. Zombies fan, these are such a great find.  We read another zombie-related children's book recently and found it far too gruesome for our tastes; these three books lack violence other than silly references to zombies being squished flat or made into "zombie salad."  As zombie books go, they are low on gore and high on silly - perfect for our household.

Plants vs. Zombies: The Three Little Pigs Fight Back
, back cover: "The three little pigs aren't afraid of the Big Bad Wolf - but zombies are another story!  The pigs must use the plants in their garden to fight off the fun-dead.  WIll they be able to plant fast enough to save their brainy-brain-brains?"

Plants vs. Zombies: Brains and the Beanstalk
, back cover: "The zombies want Jack's brains!  He must work together with the plants - especially the beanstalk - to stop them.  Join the plants and zombies in this raucous retelling of the classic fairy tale."

Although the picture books are fun (and we highly recommend them), we get the most re-reads out of the guidebook.  (Plants vs. Zombies: Official Guide to Protecting Your Brains ). I would have bought it for twice the cover price (it costs less than $8).  It is packed with basic information for new players, as well as sarcastic humor that will appeal to a wide range of ages.  Bacon fans will take particular delight in "Crazy Dave's Much Much Better Guide to Protecting Your Brains" near the back of the book.

Super-Gigantic List of Handy Things to Have
OK, so there are zombies.  What you are you gonna do now?  Well, you need stuff otherwise you won't be doing much except getting your brains munchy-munched.  None of us want that to happen, so I've made this massive list of handy things to have.
 * Notebook and pencil - so you can keep track of how many zombies are around.  And so you can draw pictures of bacon.
 * Saucepans - for cooking dinner (bacon), or for wearing on your head (this helps keep rain off and also protects those brains).
 ...
* Bacon - because bacon.
* Extra bacon - just in case.  I'm always prepared like that.
* Hidden supply of "backup bacon." I call this BACKCON.  Pretty clever huh?
In addition to descriptions of the different zombies and plants, the guide also contains amusing sections on "Dead vs. Undead: Crucial Differences," Zombie Myths, etc.  We usually find ourselves flipping through it, rather than reading cover to cover, and the format lends itself well to that.

All three of these instantly made it onto my mental list of book recommendations for reluctant readers.

As for the (now 5 year old) infant bibliophile, this is what he has to say:
Everything in red has been written and typed by him:


(By the way,  P v. Z stands for Plants vs. Zombies) I really just wanted to say what P v. Z stands for, but I came up with a nice thing to say. It is: The other 2 books (The three little pigs and Brains and the beanstalk, which i originally thought was titled "Jack and the Brainstalk") were really detailed.

Which was your favorite of the three books?
Official guide to protecting your brains

What was funny in these books?
The chilli bean (Just because it's my favorite plant).

Did you learn anything new?
Some other zombies (Including the Roller zombie, which I just thought was an equivalent to the dancer zombie).



Disclosure: We received these books at no cost from Harper Collins (thank you!) in order to write this review.  If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with Amazon.com.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review and Give Away: Jumpstart.com in New York City

 
We have posted about Jumpstart.com a few times in the past.  The Infant Bibliophile really enjoys the site.  We were pleased to be offered the opportunity to take a sneak peek at some new New York City sites added to their Madagascar themed play area recently.
As if the arrival of the Central Park Zoo and the animal’s European Habitat were not enough to quench your kids thirst for all things Madagascar. Now, they can help us welcome Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman back to New York. With exciting new areas and games, there are so many more adventures for your kids to enjoy while in the JumpStart World. From the city skyscrapers and iconic yellow cabs to the arrival of Central Park, all the sights and sound of the city are just waiting to be discovered...
Pros:
  • Jumpstart is fun, and the Madagascar area is no exception.  Website excerpt: "Some missions might have your Jumpee unscrambling riddles or mastering secret codes using the handy toolkit that the Penguins provided, while other missions might have you collecting clues by talking with confidential contacts or searching high and low for your next target. The Penguins will give clues and instructions along the way to help solve all the challenges your Jumpee is faced with. These trying missions will take your Jumpee to every corner of the JumpStart World and having them work incognito with the Penguins. Is your Jumpee ready to take on the challenge?"
  • Favorite, familiar Madagascar characters will delight little movie fans, and NYC sites like Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, etc. will please aficionados of the Big Apple.
  • Jumpstart is constantly changing, which keeps the site entertaining.  Not only do they add large new areas, like the New York City sections, but they add many themed elements for each holiday (St. Patrick's Day, Easter, etc.), which our little guy tends to notice and love.
  • Fun for multiple ages.  While our 5 year-old is our main player, our two year old also enjoyed flying in a makeshift aircraft over the NY city skyline and riding bumper cars in Coney Island.
  • You can add multiple children to the same Jumpstart account, each with their own login.
Cons:
  • We sometimes have problems getting Jumpstart set up the first time we use it.  We have to fiddle with our cache, try some downloads, and sometimes switch browsers.  But once it is running, then it keeps running fine every time we use it.  They do have a responsive customer support team to help with this.
  • There is quite a bit of loading time in the game, both initially and as you enter new areas.  This might be unique to my (well-loved) MacBook, but it frustrates the kids (and me).
  • It is not always clear to me what I am supposed to be doing within Jumpstart.  Some areas are far more guided than others.  This seems to bother me more than the children, and it encourages them to explore, but I sometimes feel like they are missing out on some of the fun that they could be having if they knew where to go.  There are tours on a Jumpstart YouTube channel, but I think we'd prefer guided tours with commentary, like the Infant Bibliophile often finds on YouTube for Wii games he has recently acquired (or would like to acquire!)
Overall, we remain big fans of Jumpstart, despite some slow loading and connection issues here and there.  These New York City areas might not be the most educational parts of Jumpstart, but we love how Jumpstart continues to mix fun and educational learning.

Give Away  This give away is now closed.  The winner has been notified by email.
Want to check out Jumpstart for yourself?  Jumpstart.com has generously offered a three-month membership to one of our readers.  To enter, please like Jumpstart on Facebook or Google +, and leave a comment letting me know.  Give away will close at midnight on Sunday, March 24.


 “Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.”

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Super Hero Early Readers

Do you have a reluctant reader on your hands?  Trying character-based early readers can be a great way to (re)ignite their love of reading.  We had a slight lull in the Bibliophile's interest in reading last year, and Star Wars early readers were a life saver.  We moved onto graphic novels and character encyclopedias, and then were able to interest him in a variety of subject material again.  Super heroes have never been our thing (they were deemed "too scary"), but we've recently started trying a few from the library, and they have been well received.



Wonder Woman Classic: I Am Wonder Woman (I Can Read Book 2) - nothing to be scared of here.  Both of my children were really interested to learn about Wonder Woman, who apparently they hadn't been exposed to before.

Here is what my 5 year old son has to say about it:
"so, i think that it is sneaky. because she does not want to become queen, so she is a superhero on pages 10, 11 and 12. she has somthing like a wondercar on pages 18 and 19. (compared to the batmobile.)"



Superman Classic: I Am Superman (I Can Read Book 2) -- from the same series.  Because my kids are not all that familiar with super heroes, these introductory "I am..." books are perfect for them.

Thanks to HarperCollins, we've also been sent a few more advanced super hero picture books recently, and the Infant Bibliophile has taken to them.



Superman Classic: Attack of the Toyman -- A toyman put out of business goes on a rampage, until Superman comes to the rescue (of course) and stops him.  We giggle every time we read it at the fact that Lois Lane doesn't recognize Clark Kent as superman, just because he changed his clothes.



Batman Classic: Fowl Play - IB had been reluctant to read this one, thinking it seemed scary, but he just plowed through it by himself a few minutes ago and said he liked it.  The Penguin has been training birds in an underground aviary and sending them out to commit strange crimes.  Of course, Batman takes charge and saves the day. 

Infant Bibliophile says:
"so, he looks funny. he has a clear colored eyepatch/monacle. ...he is like toyman, because he likes toys. and umbrella tricks... i can't think of any more..."
                                                                                               
I love that character books like these tend to be inexpensive (less than $5), and really well received by little readers.  I think it would be a mistake if this kind of literature was the only exposure given to children, but they can be a great tool to engage a children's interest in reading, particularly for "reluctant readers".

Disclosure: We were provided copies of the last two books in this post at no cost in order to review them.  If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we will earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with Amazon.com.

An Awesome Book of Love!



A few years ago, we read and enjoyed An Awesome Book!, by Dallas Clayton, so we were really excited to have the chance to review An Awesome Book of Love! this month.  It is one of those rare books that pulls off sentimentality without (too much) sap.  It is silly, fun, sweet, and a whole lot of fun to read. I find myself hoping the kids will choose it for me to read aloud to them.

And you know / I'm aglow / with a smile on my face / when I wonder / what magic / you'll make of this place / of this town / of this world / you'll transform your surrounding / that spirit inside you / is truly astounding.

Son (age 5)(in his own words/typing): I think that it is kinda funny,  beacuse after this 1 part, it says:"i love you i love you". It makes it out of beeds,  then paint,  then leaves, then yarn,  then wood, then blocks,  then stitched from a sewing machine.

Daughter (age 2): she likes it too.  No part stands out for her, but she pays attention throughout the book.

Overall, this is a fun book with a beautiful message.  If you like this, you might also like:
An Awesome Book!
An Awesome Book of Thanks!
The I LOVE YOU Book
More on author Dallas Clayton


Companion Activity -- 
Spell "I Love You" out of toys and objects around your house (in keeping with some of the illustrations in the book):




Disclosure: we received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost in order to review it.  If you click on any of the links in this post and purchase anything,


Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Little Sweet Potato

 

Little Sweet Potatois a charming story about a sweet potato who accidentally becomes separated from his home/garden patch, and struggles to find a place to belong.  Along the way, he meets some not so welcoming strangers ("And the fact is, you are dumpy, bumpy, and kinda lumpy.  What I'm trying to say, pal, is -- scram . . . He didn't know the world has such mean vegetation in it."  At the end, he finally finds his way home, to a welcoming motley crew of veggies and flowers.

What we thought of it:

Mom: I thought it was cute, and fun to read aloud.  I especially liked this passage: "'Some just like their own kind,' one of the pansies said sweetly.  'But we're the kind that like all kinds.'" 

"Infant Bibliophile" (Age 5): i really like this page. it says:"you're so nice," said sweet potato."i met some flowers that looked just like you, but they weren't very nice."some are, some aren't,"said a friendly carrot. "we are." and i love this page that says "that's how it is, kid," said a gleaming eggplant. "it's not all mulch and sunshine out there."
"oh, i know, said little sweet potato." which is right next to it this way: --------->

Baby Sister (Age 2): She says she liked it.  She rates it a 2.  But that's only because she is 2, so she answers "2" to any numeric question.

Suggested Activities:
Eat some fresh sweet potato, of course!  Bake it, mash it,or  try sweet potato french fries, sweet potato chips, or some sweet potato muffins.  You can also use sweet potatoes to make sweet potato stampers, or a homemade Mr. (Sweet) Potato Head!

Disclosure: We were provided a copy of this book by the publisher at no cost in order to review it.  If you click on any of the links above and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission from Amazon.com.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

We heart Fancy Nancy!

Every now and then, I pick up a book series that we haven't ever read, despite having heard it mentioned many times.  We recently discovered Fancy Nancy.  Love!  Harper Collins (thank you!) has sent us a beginner reader (Too Many Tutus)
, a four-book paperback set called Fancy Nancy: The Wonderful World of Fancy Nancy (including Explorer Extraordinaire, Poet Extraordinaire, Aspiring Artist, and Ooh La la! It's Beauty Day) and a chapter book (Secret Admirer).  Quick reviews appear below.  Both of my children (ages two and five) will sit and read them with me, cuddled up on either side of the book.  They have requested a few of these many times; luckily, the ones that they enjoy the most are also the most educational titles.

In case we are not the last family on the planet to have read a Fancy Nancy book, "Fancy Nancy" is a loveable, glamour-loving little girl who loves all things "fancy," including fancy words, which makes the Fancy Nancy books great for vocabulary-building.

Too Many Tutus-- our first Fancy Nancy book.  A cute story about Nancy trading in some of her tutus at a school swap (for... more, but less, tutus!).  Nice message about thoughtfulness, as two of the girls want the same, single tutu.


Fancy Nancy: The Wonderful World of Fancy Nancy-- Includes the next four titles:


Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire!-- Nancy and her friends form a club and explore birds, flowers, butterflies, leaves, etc.  Very educational and cute.  We like this one very much.


Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinaire!-- Nancy explores different types of poetry, including trying to write her own, despite a case of writer's block.  This is probably the kids' favorite, and I love how much they are learning every time they read it (again and again).


Fancy Nancy: Aspiring Artist-- Very educational, as Nancy learns about different types of art.  My children loved seeing Nancy do some Jackson Pollock painting in the backyard.  This might be my favorite (tied with Poet Extraordinaire). 

Here are my little artists doing some Jackson Pollock painting of their own last year:



Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It's Beauty Day-- Nancy gives her mother a makeover.  An entertaining read.  Her mother handles Nancy's ministrations admirably.  Not my favorite of the bunch, because it isn't as educational as some of the others, but still a fun read.


Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Secret Admirer-- We have only read the first chapter of this one so far (It is more difficult to read chapter books with my 2-year old around, and when I have 1-on-1 reading time with the 5 year old, he is opting for Star Wars books lately).  But I am mentioning it here to highlight that chapter books exist.  "Nancy Clancy and her best friend, Bree, have love on the brain -- after all, they're learning about the human heart in science class!  But when the girls decide to play matchmaker, nothing works out as planned.  So the big question is: Will love conquer all?"


Comment: Do you like Fancy Nancy books?  What other undiscovered series should we check out?! 

Disclosure: I was provided copies of all of the above books at no cost in order to write this review.  If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, I may earn a small commission through my affiliate relationship with Amazon.com.