Archive for ‘7 – 10: Chapter Book’

March 8, 2015

Cooking is a science? Who knew!

By Angela Verges

Did you know cooking could be a science? Phineas MacGuire found this to be a fact when he had to start cooking dinner every night. Phineas is a fourth grader and the main character in the book Phineas L. MacGuire…Gets Cooking! By Frances O’Roark Dowell and Preston McDaniels. Phineas loves science, but cooking is unfamiliar territory.

When I read Phineas L. MacGuire Gets Cooking! I was reminded of times when my boys worked on science projects. Sometimes their experiments involved cooking up creations in the kitchen. Phineas’ journey began when he complained about eating pizza all the time (even though it was his favorite food).

Title: Phineas L. MacGuire...Gets Cooking! Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell Illustrator: Preston McDaniels Ages: 8-12

Title: Phineas L. MacGuire…Gets Cooking!
Author: Frances O’Roark Dowell
Illustrator: Preston McDaniels
Ages: 8-12

Humor is used throughout the book to develop the character of Phineas and his friends. When Phineas is told that the babysitter, Sarah, will help him cook, he is less than excited. He doesn’t believe it will be time well spent. Phineas tells us that Sarah is “into” Purple and he is allergic to it.

In the story it is Phineas’ friend who opens his eyes to the fact that cooking is science. She tells him that in fact, “It’s chemistry.” As Phineas warms up to the idea of cooking, he actually wants to prepare a dinner that will blow up.

The reader is easily drawn in to this story through quirky characters, vivid images and amusing scientific facts. No protective goggles are needed to join the wacky scientific journey of this book. After spending time with Phineas and his friends, you are sure to discover a new way of combining science and cooking.

Would you let your child incorporate science and cooking in your kitchen?

September 2, 2014

Kick off the school year with reading

Title: Dino-Football Author: Lisa Wheeler Illustrator: Barry Gott Genre: Picture book Ages: 5-8yrs

Title: Dino-Football
Author: Lisa Wheeler
Illustrator: Barry Gott
Genre: Picture book
   Ages: 5-8yrs

By Angela Verges

It’s the time of year where parents are kicking into gear for the start of another school year. In addition to back to school season, it is the beginning of football season for my family. My teen son has played football since he was a little tyke.

We decided to welcome the season by selecting some of our favorite football themed books to read. One of my favorite picture books is Dino-Football by Lisa Wheeler and Barry Gott. The author uses rhyme to tell the story of the Greenblade Snackers and the Redscales on the gridiron.

 

The illustrator brings the story to life with colorful, active Dino’s. There’s an interception and even an end zone dance by one of the Dino’s. Did you know that Dino’s tailgate before a game? You have to check out the story to see what I mean.

One of my son’s favorite football books is Kickoff! by Tiki and Ronde Barber. This chapter book was inspired by the childhood of former NFL football players (and twin brothers) Tiki and Ronde Barber. My son has always been a reluctant reader, to find something that he likes to read speaks volumes about that book.

Title: Kickoff! Author: Tiki and Ronde Barber Genre: Chapter book Ages: 8-12yrs

Title: Kickoff!
Author: Tiki and Ronde Barber
Genre: Chapter book
Ages: 8-12yrs

 

I liked reading Kickoff! because of the underlying theme of teamwork and perseverance. My son liked the book because he could relate to the characters.

If your child is feeling like he has the back to school blues, huddle up and select a book to kick off his new season of school.

What book would you select to read to kick off the back to school season?

June 28, 2014

Jumpstart your summer adventure – Dig into reading

by Angela VergesBlog Photo

 

Schools out! Begin a summer adventure with your child through books. Let your child’s imagination go wild and create a theme for books he would like to read this summer. Make it a challenge for the whole family by offering small rewards for each book read or each story a child has read to him.
If you child likes books related to tractors, planting gardens, or building sand castles, you can use the theme Dig into reading. This theme could also mean digging through your home library and re-reading your favorite books.
When my teen boys were younger, they loved to pretend they were camping out (somewhere in the house). Sometimes this meant throwing a sheet over the Living room table and pretending they were in a cave. For them, pitching a tent meant rearranging furniture to create the effect of being at a campground.
Our bonfire time consisted of sitting next to our sleeping bags in the middle of the floor and eating microwave popcorn. Of course there was a sharing of stories by flashlight.
I recently came across a fun idea recently, related to camps. The idea was to have a stuffed animal camp out. Since my boys are too old for this type of camp out, I challenged them to read a book about campouts or going to camp.
The book I selected to read was Ivy & Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows. Bean’s older sister gets to go to camp, but Bean is not old enough. Bean doesn’t really want to go to camp, but she comes up with a plan to create a camp of her own. With the help of her friend Ivy, rules are developed, a tent is made (using old curtains), and kids invited to join in.
One of the rules the girls develop is, “You can only have as much fun as you are willing to get hurt.” The girls are clever at finding ways to make their camp work. One of my favorite things about the book are the activities at the end.

 

Author: Annie Barrows Illustrator: Sophie Blackall Genre: Chapter book Ages: 6-9 years

Author: Annie Barrows
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Genre: Chapter book
Ages: 6-9 years

Information is listed that tells you how to make your own camp; it lists what to do on day one through four. For example day one list says – pick a counselor, pick a name, make a tent, etc. There is also a word find and crossword puzzle that the reader can complete.
If your child enjoys solving mysteries, Nate the great by Marjorie Weisman Sharmat was a book. Nate the great is a youth detective who says he works alone. And he loves pancakes. One of his cases involved helping a friend find a lost picture. He asked questions, followed clues and satisfactorily solved the case.
At the end of the book there is a recipe for Nate’s Pancakes, directions for making cat crayons (melting old crayons) and Detective Talk (explains words that detectives use). Nate the great is a series that has many books from which to choose.

Author: Marjorie Weinman Sharmat Illustrator: Marc Simont Genre: Chapter Book Ages: 6-9 years

Author: Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Illustrator: Marc Simont
Genre: Chapter Book
Ages: 6-9 years

Do you have a book suggestion to jumpstart summer reading? Dig in and leave your suggestion.

 

 

 

May 13, 2014

Dystopian Fantasy: The End of the World as We Know it

Dystopian Fantasy: The End of the World as We Know It
by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

Hunger Games
Divergent
The Maze Runner
Ender’s Game

What do these books have in common?

a) They’re great books that offer an exciting read.
b) Preteens, tweens, and teens love them.
c) They either have or will soon be made into movies.
d) They are dystopian novels.
e) All of the above.

The answer is e) All of the above!

Books like Hunger Games and Divergent are introducing today’s generation to dystopian fiction. While many adults may not recognize the label “dystopian,” it’s not new. Remember reading Louis Lowry’s The Giver or Stephen King/Richard Bachman’s Running Man back in the 90’s? In fact, a brief Google search will uncover dystopian stories dating back to the 18th Century! But what does “dystopian” mean? The opposite of utopian, dystopian stories take place in a society where people are severely oppressed or live in fear. Usually they take place in an altered reality or a future version of our world where the government wields heavy-handed power.

Dystopian stories draw in middle grade to young adult readers because they offer many of the same features fairy tales offer to younger readers: They show that the world is a dangerous place where people are not always what they seem, but where creativity, intellect, and perseverance can prevail.

If you have a child ages 10 and up, you’ve probably seen them carrying around a copy of Hunger Games or Divergent. But there are more great dystopian books out there than just the blockbusters. Check out these:

 

13th reality

Title: The 13th Reality
Author: James Dashner
Genre: middle grade

 

Title: City of Embercity of ember
Author:
Jeanne Duprau
Genre: middle grade

 

 

Among the HiddenTitle: Among the Hidden
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Genre: middle grade

 

 

Title: The UgliesThe Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfield
Genre: y/a

 

Add to the list! What dystopian novels have your family discovered?

September 5, 2013

Hosting a Super Sleepover (Of course there are books involved!)

by Angela Verges

Angela Verges

Angela Verges

The kids are back in school and will make friends and soon invite them over for play dates and sleepovers. I remember my boys being invited to a friends’ house for a sleepover, so we didn’t have to host many ourselves. When the boys returned home I would hear stories about their escapades.

“We had a pillow fight, played games and stayed up all night.”

Now when I ask my teen boys about their first sleepover, they claim memory loss. I asked questions such as, “Did you tell scary stories, what kind of games did you play?”

The response I received was, “That was six years ago Ma, I don’t remember.”

Since I was planning a sleepover for my nieces, I thought it was also a good idea for the boys to read a book related to sleepovers. Maybe this would help them remember their days of sleepovers and help me with the planning.

jigsawjonessleepoverThe book my son read with me was A Jigsaw Jones Mystery – The Case of the Spooky Sleepover by James Preller. The first page of this chapter book begins with a description or Ralphie Jordan, a popular kid and a “world-champion smiler.”

Title: A Jigsaw Jones Mystery: The Case of the Spooky Sleepover
Author: James Preller
Genre: Early Reader, Mystery
Age:  Elementary

Ralphie wasn’t smiling when he talked to Jigsaw about his problem. Sitting in Jigsaw’s treehouse and backyard office, Ralphie explained that he heard ghost sounds at his house. And so the idea of a sleepover at Ralphie’s house was formed.

The Jigsaw Jones series has a recommended age of 7-10 years. The language was age appropriate and fun to read. The mystery was solved in a satisfying way that left this reader with a smile, just like Ralphie Jordan.

9780316734189For the younger reader, Olive’s First Sleepover by Roberta Baker does a good job showing escapades that occur during a first sleepover. Olive played with her friend Lizard many times, but had never stayed the night with Lizard.

Title: Olive’s First Sleepover
Author: Roberta Baker
Illustrator: Debbie Tilley
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: whenever they are having their first sleepover!

During the sleepover the girls created a petting zoo with caterpillars and other bugs they collected and charged the neighbors a small fee to visit. For dinner they made pizza with crazy toppings like marshmallows and chocolate chips. When it was time for bed the girls made a blanket tent and used pillows to create a tunnel.

Of course the night didn’t end without Olive becoming homesick. After listening to a ghost story, every sound that Olive heard was magnified. The ticking of the alarm clock was loud as well as the dripping of the rain as it trickled down a gutter. The girls experience more mishaps before finally sleeping soundly.

If you’re planning a sleepover either of the books mentioned in this post would be fun to read. If you’re looking for activities to incorporate into your party check out The Sleepover Book by Margot Griffin. The book included ideas such as flashlight tag, radical relays and a recipe for making glow-in-the-dark body paint.

thesleepoverbook

Title: The Sleepover Book
Author: Margot Griffin
Illustrator: Jane Kurisu
Genre: Parenting, Crafts, Cookbook
Ages: Old enough to host a sleepover

If you want to host a super sleepover, include the kids in the planning. Or at the very least, enjoy a good book about sleepovers.

What has been your experience with sleepovers?

August 23, 2013

Be someone else. Then understand them.

We know books can take us places. We know they can introduce us to new people. But we often overlook the fact that they allow us to be  someone else. Not just to meet them, gaze into their life for a day. But actually to walk in their shoes, see through their eyes. Meet new people through the lens of the new person we suddenly find ourselves being. And the trend of first person narrators makes this even more possible.

I have a secret hatred for first person narrators because I often think you lose a lot without seeing the whole picture. However, when done right, they do lend a sense of immediacy and intimacy that you cannot get any other way.

piggyTitle: Piggy (originally “Big” in Dutch)
Author: Mireille Geus
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: Late elementary, Middle

Piggy is a new best friend (of sorts) to the “different” and “special” Dizzy. Or Lizzy, as the autistic girl is not really ever called. The book unfolds as Dizzy, used to being left out of pretty much everything, suddenly finds herself in a tight, and sometimes intense, friendship with the new girl in school. The friendship spirals out of control as the story is told both in the present (in which Dizzie finds herself in a LOT of trouble) and the past (in which Dizzie tells the story as the trouble unfolds).

Is it unfair to say that the book reminds me of a few others (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Out of my Mind) because of the special-needs status of the narrator? Perhaps. But like those two books, this story brings us one step closer to understanding someone that those more neurotypical readers might have a hard time understanding.

Let me be clear: this book didn’t do well (at least in the states–it was translated from Dutch). I bought it for $1 on one of those outdoor racks at the bookstore. But I liked this book. It was a fast and fun read with a good story and good characters. It’s short and nothing completely unexpected, but good nevertheless. It would be a great read for any kid just because it’s a good story, but I like that it will give those readers a closer understanding of someone different from them. If your child is struggling to understand a classmate or get along with a new potential friend, this would be all the more appropriate for them. Definitely read the book along with them and help them to notice how Dizzy reacts to the world around her and how that makes her different. How does it help her or hurt her at different points in the story? This book will help readers carry these images back to school where they can use them to forge a better understanding of their peers.

August 6, 2013

Take Me Out to the Ballpark

by Angela Verges

Line drive, loose hit, home run, these are all signs that baseball season is in full swing. I remember the days of my boys playing t-ball, coach pitch, and then baseball. Sitting on metal bleachers, watching kids in the outfield pick dandelions during the game, was one of the joys of parenting during baseball season.

During the days of little league parents may play the role of coach, snack organizer, and cheerleader. The job doesn’t end there. As my boys got older they wanted to expand from playing baseball into watching “real” baseball games. So it was off to Tiger Stadium to see professional baseball in action.

fenwayfoulupThis summer, we’ve shifted into reading a book with a baseball theme. One book we chose as a quick read was The Fenway Foul-Up by David A. Kelly. This book is one in the series, Ballpark Mysteries. In the story, Kate and Mike are cousins who stumble upon a mystery to solve while they are at a baseball game at Fenway Park.

Mike and Kate are self-appointed sleuths who search for clues to find a lucky bat that was stolen. The bat belonged to the star slugger of the Red Sox. Large print and pictures add to the easy flow of this book. And the story line is good too.

grandmasatbatIf you have an emerging reader, Grandmas at Bat by Emily Arnold McCully is a fun story. When Pip’s team needs a coach his two grandmas step up to the plate, literally. They coach, they cheer and they even take a turn at bat. It sounds like real life parenting during little league season.

If your little slugger can’t seem to get enough of baseball, let him or her have a little fun with baseball related science experiments or activities. At the science buddies website, there was an experiment that shows how to determine whether body position affects baseball speed (www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Sports_p053.shtml).

The TLC website listed activities and instructions for playing them. Some of the activities included, Backward Baseball, Spelling Bee Baseball and a Base Running Game (www.tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/baseball-activities4.htm).

The next time you’re sitting on metal bleachers watching a little league game or sitting in the stands of a professional game, remember kids really do grow up quickly. Enjoy the journey. Soon the roles will reverse and the kids will take you out to the ballpark.

Do you have any adventures in baseball to share?

July 15, 2013

don’t like camp

My memories of my camping experiences include mostly the one where I was stepped on by a horse and one where a counselor carried me upside down across a lunchroom and plopped me at a table of strangers. They did not, as I wondered if they might, eat me alive, so that was good. Oh, and I remember mail day, because I was one of the only campers who got something EVERY SINGLE DAY. (So embarrassing, mom!) But cool, too.

The protagonist in Like Bug Juice On A Burger doesn’t like camp much. And what makes this different from most don’t-like-this-much books is that there’s no major oh-wow-this-is-awesome revelation at the end. She gets through the experience, she makes a friend or two, and she has a few good times. She doesn’t LOVE it. But she doesn’t hate it, either, and that in itself is a valuable lesson. likebugjuiceonaburger

Title: Like Bug Juice on a Burger
Author: Julie Sternberg
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: Elementary, 7 – 10ish

Another thing I love about the book is the language. It’s written almost poetically with frequent line breaks:

“All aboard!”

And Joplin was waiting beside me.

My mom kissed my head

one last time

before letting me go.

Then,

feeling very small,

I followed tall Joplin

onto the humungous bus.

Is that great imagery? “Tall Joplin”? I love that!

Another reason I love this book is that it doesn’t preach the message that everyone is supposed to be good at everything and like everything. It provides the reader with a great role model for a girl who (mostly) has fun at camp, and it shows that this is okay. One of the great messages, of course, is that she tried it. You can talk with your kids about things they’ve tried and liked or not liked, and what they might have gained along the way.

July 8, 2013

Need some science with your watermelon?

I have never tired to make my love for science a secret. Except in high school, and then I actually hated it so there was no secret, just a catastrophic misunderstanding that was luckily remedied by some more creative teachers in college. But that’s another story for another time. Right now, I want to talk about how you can get your kids to love science, too, because, really there is nothing NOT to love. And while most parents know to keep up on reading over the summer, and many also do some math or writing, not everyone thinks about science.

So today I’m linking to an article I wrote for ParentMap magazine in Seattle. It talks about how to bring science to your kid, whether that kid is scientifically, artistically, linguistically, or anything other-istically inclined. So go ahead and click on the link below.

Turn Cooking and Collecting Into Summer Science Fun!

And then, depending on which part you (and your child) likes best, head to the kitchen or the backyard or the library. And let the science learning begin!

Some of the books mentioned in that article can also be found on this blog. LIke Swirl by Swirl, Forest Has A Song, and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different.

July 2, 2013

Minding your own business

AngieHeadShot

Angela Verges

Today’s post comes from Angela Verges, one of our new writers who you’ll be hearing from on the first Tuesday of each month. I’m so excited to have her on board, and I love what she’s talking about here, as well as the book she recommends (which, I just learned while researching it a bit, is written by the nephew of the original author. I think that’s cool!)

Angela Verges is a writer and mom of two teen boys who inspire her daily (even when they don’t know it). She is the author of a forthcoming picture book, Abby and Zach Pray through the Alphabet. You can find her blogging through the corridors of parenting at www.mamaprayed.blogspot.com. Visit her website at www.angelaverges.net or follow her on twitter @AngelaVerges.

Minding your own business and making money

The kids have only been on summer break a short while, yet they are already asking, “What can we do today?”

“Mind your own business,” I responded.

My boys, Donovan and Joshua, looked at me with astonishment and confusion on their faces, “What?”

I proceeded to explain to them about a class once offered at our local recreation department called, Mind your business. It was a class that taught youth the basics of starting and operating their own business venture. The boys were hooked at that point, the thought of earning money for something that they wanted to buy intrigued them.

Although the boys did not have an opportunity to participate in the class, they still liked the idea of starting their own business. Putting on their thinking caps, they came up with idea after idea, then reasons why a particular idea wouldn’t work.

There was the idea of walking dogs as a business, but Donovan remembered a past dog episode. “Don’t you remember the time Norma brought her puppy for a visit and you ran as far as you could from it?”

“Oh yeah, scratch dog walking from the list,” Joshua responded.

As the boys were deep in thought, I remembered a book I came across recently. It was one of my favorite characters, Amelia Bedelia. The book was titled, Amelia Bedelia Means Business by Herman Parish. It features a younger Amelia Bedelia who wants to earn money to buy a new bike.

ameliabedeliameansbusinessTitle: Amelia Bedelia Means Business
Author: Herman Parish
Illustrator: Lynne Avril
Genre: Early Reader, Fiction
Age: Early Elementary

At her father’s suggestion, Amelia Bedelia started a lemonade stand business. True to her character, Amelia has a quirky response to her dad’s suggestion. When her dad tells her she can run a stand, Amelia wants to know if she should “run” or “stand.” Mixing the literal and figurative, Amelia’s adventures continue along this vein.

The book has a suggested reading age of 6-10 years and my boys are a little older than this. However, they like the idea of starting a lemonade stand and have agreed to take a look at how Amelia Bedelia does it, quirks and all. My only question now is can Donovan and Joshua go into business together without becoming too competitive.

lemonadewarTitle: The Lemonade War
Author: Jacqueline Davies
Genre: Fiction
Age: Elementary

As I thought about the challenges Donovan and Joshua could face (with each other) as business partners, I came up with another book for them to read. I don’t think the boys know it yet, but it can be dangerous when I start thinking. The additional book I spotted for them to read is The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.

In the book, Jessie makes a bet with her brother Evan to see who could earn a hundred dollars first. Evan is good at talking to people and Jessie is good at math. So the lemonade war begins, and so does summer reading for my boys.

If your child is interested in starting a lemonade business here are a couple of helpful websites to check out. This site tells how to create an easy to assemble lemonade stand and includes templates, www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/how-to/intro/0,,20210158,00.html. Another site lays out a “Kids Lemonade Stand Business Program” that gives the ABC’s of business for kids, www.teachingkidsbusiness.com/lemonade-stand.html.

The next time your child asks what he or she can do for fun, you can tell them, “mind your own business.” Then show them how to do just that, while earning money.

Has your child ever operated a lemonade stand or other business? What tips would you share?