Archive for August, 2014

August 27, 2014

when your early reader is (not) a robot

by Wendy Lawrence

At some point, early readers (the people) get tired of the early readers (the books). For my first son, this was before he even opened them. I think I bought one or two out of a sense of duty, but wasn’t even that excited to read them myself. Some of them lack any obvious attempt at plot, characterization, voice, or any trait necessary to call something a “book”. And don’t get me started on the phonics ones.

But these! These are about robots! And aliens! And space adventures! And they have great titles! In fact, I’m pretty sure my son was drawn to this series, which was one of the first ones he read, just because of the title Ricky Ricotta’s Might Robot vs. The Stupid Stinkbugs from Saturn.

rickyricottaTitle: Ricky Ricotta’s Might Robot vs. The Stupid Stinkbugs from Saturn
Author: Dav Pilkey
Genre: Early Reader, Science Fiction
Ages: 4 – 8

Written by Dav Pilkey, of Captain Underpants fame*, these are a great beginner series. They are books that can be read in one sitting, with easy words (and not too many words per page), tons of pictures, Pilkey’s characteristic flip-o-rama (essentially a two-page flip book illustration), and even instructions on how to draw all the major characters (well, the robot and the alien villians, not the boring ones like mom and dad). 😉 One of my son’s drawings based on those instructions can be found here:

filename-1*For those of you who worry about that sort of thing, there’s nothing of the toilet humor in these books that so pervades Underpants. I realize that my first example has the word “stupid” in it, but that’s not really indicative of how these books are written.

My son’s favorites as he remembers them, are Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Mecha-Monkeys from Mars, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Uranium Unicorns from Uranus, and … vs. The Mutant Mosquitos from Mercury. There is a first one, and they were written in planet order (Mercury, Venus, etc.), but you can read them in any order. Every book stands alone.

So, if you have an early reader, I would highly recommend these. A reluctant reader might read them with you–one page you read aloud, then next page he/she reads aloud. (Although I do think reading aloud makes it even harder, so consider that.)

Have you tried these? Do you think you might?

August 25, 2014

scared yet?

Wendy Lawrenceby Wendy Lawrence

When my son first pointed to the Goosebumps books at the library, I was skeptical. I’ve seen one “scary” movie in my whole life. (I was dragged there more or less against my will. I spent almost the whole movie with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears.) Another example: I used to love the show The Closer. But I would start watching at the 15 minute mark to avoid the violence. Seriously. You should try it sometime–it’s more G-rated AND makes the mystery even harder to figure out because first you have to figure out what happened.

goosebumpsTitle: How I met my monster
Author: R.L. Stine
Ages: 6 and up
Genre: Horror, but not all that bad 🙂

But I digress. Goosebumps is NOT a series I would have picked out as a child. In fact, I wasn’t even super excited to read it now. But the things we do for our kids, right? I read one of them. And I liked it so much, I read another. Then I let my 6yo read them. Here’s the scoop:

– They are not that scary! At all! And this is from a true wimp! The covers are the scariest part of the book by far. In one of the books I read, a kid is given a shrunken head as a gift that starts to move and things, but doesn’t do anything too terrible. I read another one in which the main character thinks his new friend is a monster, but no one believes him. Finally he realizes that not only is that friend a monster, but so is his best friend, his parents–and even him! But they are friendly monsters, at least to each other.

– Now, they aren’t without scare. In the monster book above, for example, the boy has a repeated nightmare about a monster scaring him while he’s swimming. The description of the dream could be scary but it is, at least, just a dream.

– I only read 2, but my son spent most of the summer engrossed in this series, and he thinks that some of the books were scarier than others. Of course, he loves that, and my guess is that any child who would read a book with a cover like these would love it just the same. To be safe, I would start with the original series. If your kid likes those, you can move on to the others, like Horrorland, or Most Wanted.

Some of the Goosebumps books have a neat twist at the end. My son read one where the main character claimed to have a best friend who was invisible. In the end, you realize he DOES have an invisible friend, and that invisible friend stays that way because they are a monster–which when described, you realize is just a human. And then you realize that all the main characters all along were alien creatures. I like that, because I like that it’s teaching my son to read carefully and understand more complex books. (Yes, I said complex in a post about Goosebumps.) He didn’t understand the twist at first and had to ask about it, but then when he read another one with a similar twist, he got it! Reading comprehension success! And all because of some children’s horror stories! Which just goes to show–the important thing is that they are reading.

Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone when choosing books for your child? Let me know which books it was for and how it went!

August 9, 2014

Hooping for fun and fitness

By Angela Verges

Have you heard the saying, “what goes around, comes around?” Now apply that to the Hula Hoop. That hoop that goes swish, swish and round and round can be used for your fitness routine.

Hula Hooping for fun

Hula Hooping for fun

As a young girl, I remember competing in a neighborhood hula hoop contest. There were a few of us who thought we were the best. We could swirl the hoop around our neck, our knees and even one leg. Arms in the air and hips swaying were the ways we kept the hoop moving.

The hula hoop craze is still around, some like to do it for fun while others engage for fitness. I once challenged my kids to a hula hoop competition during a backyard picnic. They thought old people couldn’t hoop. It took a few attempts, but I managed to keep the hoop going for several revolutions.

When I read The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin, a flood of memories surfaced. The story opened with the main character saying, “Today is the day I’m going to beat Jamara Johnson at hooping.” I was instantly transplanted to a summer’s day in fourth grade standing in my grandmother’s yard with a hula hoop. I had no other care in the world except practicing with my hoop.

Title: The Hula Hoopin' Queen Author: Thelma Lynne Godin Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Title: The Hula Hoopin’ Queen
Author: Thelma Lynne Godin
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The main character Kameeka had a Hula Hoopin’ itch. She was so focused on becoming the Hulu-Hoopin’ Queen that she accidentally ruined the birthday cake that her mother was making for a special neighbor. The combination of lively language and detailed illustrations could easily cause the reader to want to swish and swirl a hula hoop with the characters.

After you’re done swishing and swaying through The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen with you child, check out Hooping-A Revolutionary Fitness Program by Christabel Zamor. This is a book for grown-ups that contains 50 step by step exercises to do with a hula hoop. There is also a 40 minute DVD that accompanies the book.

Title: Hooping - A Revolutionary Fitness Program Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane Conrad

Title: Hooping – A Revolutionary Fitness Program
Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane Conrad

Title: Hooping – A Revolutionary Fitness Program Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane ConradTitle: Hooping – A Revolutionary Fitness Program
Author: Christabel Zamor with Ariane ConradCreate a challenge at home that includes fitness and a hula hoop. You could set up challenge stations.

Station 1 Hula hoop for 15 seconds with the hoop on an arm or around the knees.
Station 2 Walk forward a few inches while hooping.
Station 3 Clap your hands 5 times while hooping (slow hand claps are allowed).
Station 4 Hula hoop with more than one hoop for 5 seconds.
Station 5 Toss a football through a hula hoop.

Are you convinced yet that hula hooping can include fun and fitness? Grab a hoop and start going round and round.