Category: children’s books

Cool Math

By , May 12, 2010 5:34 pm

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Do you have a reluctant math student? Unfortunately I have two of them.  My 7 and 9 year-old are stuck in that very tedious phase of math where everything seems to be all about drilling problems.  According to her recent parent-teacher conference, my 4 year-old on the other hand, currently spends much of her time in the “math environment” of her Montessori classroom.  As her proud Mom, I have of course already planned out her future career as an engineer!

The foundation of math can be pretty boring.  I remember that from my school days.  Fortunately I ended up loving math later, and even took it in college.

I keep thinking, if only there was some way to make it clear to them that math can actually be really cool later on, then perhaps they’d be willing to slog through this early stuff until the light bulb comes on for them as it did for me.

Fortunately I recently discovered the math stories by Theoni Pappas.  I bought Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales (that’s some of the cool stuff!) and The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat (my kids love cats).

I have begun reading the fractals book out loud with my oldest daughter. We have read several chapters and she keeps wanting more!  Each short chapter has an easy and creative explanation of a different complex, mind-bending concept presented in story format.  Often there are related activities to do, or puzzles to solve.  At the end of the chapter is a highlighted box with more complete information about the concept, usually involving history or practical applications.

The Möbius strip was one of the real WOW chapters that we have read so far (see our photo above).

Will these books turn my children in to math-lovers?  Who knows, but they are fun!

Great Magazine Find! “Tessy & Tab Reading Club”

By , March 9, 2010 1:36 pm

I get tons of offers to review all sorts of odd things: snack foods (no thanks), prenatal vitamins (not pregnant), infant video games (did you read the title of my blog?), celebrity this and celebrity that (my interest in celebs = ZERO).  Do any of these marketers actually READ my blog first? I rarely accept a review offer.

Well, a while ago I got a very nice email about a publication that sounded pretty good and well-matched to Unplug Your KidsBlue Lake Children’s Publishing wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing their bi-monthly “magazine” (really more like a little book) for 2-6 year-old pre and early readers.  The magazine is called Tessy & Tab, and after checking out their website, I decided that my 4 year-old and I might like to give it a try.

The verdict?  We love it!

As I mentioned before, Tessy & Tab is more like a small stiff paperback book than an actual magazine. This is helpful if you have destructive little-ones!   But as Heather of Blue Lake explained, “kids like the word ‘magazine.”  Your preschooler will love getting their own “magazine” twice a month in the mail.

The main characters of Tessy & Tab are a duck named Tessy and a kangaroo…obviously named Tab.  Each 14 page issue features Tessy and Tab doing fun things that children will enjoy learning about, or are perhaps familiar with.  My packet included issues about flying kites, ice skating lessons, learning to write, making pizzas, a yoga lesson, and crafting jewel mugs.

The subject matter was very interesting to my 4 year-old and the bright and simple illustrations were fun for her too.  The text is basic and the font is large, dark, and easy to read.  My daughter was pleased that she could sound out some of the words herself, and LOVED the part where she got to do an “I Spy” finding different pictures and words that appeared throughout the story.  I think she sat quietly on the sofa for at least half an hour working on her packet of Tessy & Tabs.

From a parent point of view, I like the following:

  • I can do more than just read the content aloud.  There are also a few activities, some of which my 4 year-old can do on her own.
  • The featured letter and number are useful bi-monthly teaching tools that might especially be helpful for homeschoolers.
  • There are three “Story Questions” at the end of each issue.  The questions check to see if your child remembered and comprehended the story (there are visual hints too).  A good introduction to the idea of “reading for comprehension” which they will face for many, many years to come in school.
  • Twice a month is ideal in my mind for publications geared to children so young.  Although it flies by for us grown-ups, a full month’s wait is a Very-Long-Time when you are 4ish.
  • The website has printables, learning games, and activities that go along with each issue.

And last, but DEFINITELY not least!!!

  • Tessy & Tab has no advertising.  I don’t have to endure tortured requests for Disney princess fruit snacks or Sponge Bob sneakers after we read an issue.

I have subscribed.

If you decide to subscribe and like this magazine, please tell your friends about it.  If you have a blog, please write about it.

Blue Lake Publishing is a low budget operation and it does not accept advertising.  I really respect this attitude and I wish them well.  I also thank them for bringing Tessy & Tab to my attention!

LINKS:  How does the Tessy & Tab Reading Club Work?

Ta Da!! (2010 Newbery & Caldecott)

By , January 19, 2010 2:06 am

Yesterday morning was the big announcement of this year’s Newbery and Caldecott children’s book award winners. Drum roll please…

 

John Newbery:

“The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

 

2010 WINNER – When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 HONORS –

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (YIPPEE!! Bought this for my 9 year-old for Christmas!)

Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

 

Randolph Caldecott:

“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”

 

2010 WINNER – The Lion & the Mouseby Jerry Pinkney

2010 HONORS –

All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman


CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!

PS: How well do you know your children’s book awards? If you can’t tell your Theodor Seuss Geisel Award from your Pura Belpré Award, then you can read up on them all here.

Help! I am Drowning in Candy!!!

By , November 3, 2009 6:20 pm

A few more Halloween candy ideas:

  • Send it to troops overseas for them to pass out to local children.  For more info, go to the Operation Gratitude website, but basically just send your candy (plus an optional but very welcome $11 to cover the cost of shipping overseas) before December 8th to:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, California 91406
ATTN: Charlie Othold

You can also send it anytime to Operation Shoebox at this address:

Operation Shoebox
8360 E Highway 25
Belleview, FL 34420

(Keep in mind that soft or chocolate candy might not travel so well, especially to a hot climate.)

  • Find a local dentist who is participating in a Halloween Candy Buyback program.  Participating dentists give your kids $1/pound of candy and then they send it to troops overseas!  Go to the Halloween Candy Buyback website to do a zipcode search for participating dentists in your area. Consider encouraging your children to donate their dollars to a charity that interests them.
  • Some food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters accept candy.  Be sure to call first to find out if yours wants it.
  • Buy inexpensive cellophane party favor bags and make pretty little candy packages.  Tie the top with a scrap of ribbon or yarn and donate them to your local charitable thrift store for them to sell.  Great stocking stuffers for someone!
  • Of course you can always do a Candy Bank too, and then use one of these ideas as the final destination for your traded candy!

Nasreen’s Secret School (Jeanette Winter) – Review

By , October 28, 2009 9:48 pm

If you like multicultural children’s books, then I hope you are familiar with the books published by the Global Fund for Children.  The Global Fund for Children recently discovered my review of their wonderful Global Babies board book and contacted me regarding a review of a brand new book, Nasreen’s Secret School.

I am very picky when it comes to requests to review books, most queries end up in my email trash.   But I just knew that this book would be of great interest to us, and to many of you who read Unplug Your Kids, so I accepted this particular request.  Soon I was sent a free review copy of Nasreen’s Secret School.

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter is subtitled “A True Story from Afghanistan.”  It is published by Simon & Schuster for the Global Fund for Children.  The author based this book on a story told to her by an organization supported by The Global Fund for Children that aided secret schools for girls during the reign of the Taliban (1996-2001).

This is the powerful tale of young Nasreen, a little Afghan girl who has not spoken since her parents’ disappearance.  The narrator, Nasreen’s grandmother, is determined to get her out of the house and into school, but girls are not allowed to attend school in Afghanistan:

“The Taliban soldiers don’t want girls to learn about the world, the way Nasreen’s mama and I learned when we were girls.”

There were “whispers” about a secret school for girls behind a green gate.  Nasreen and her veiled grandmother hurry down alleyways to towards the green gate, hoping not to be seen by soldiers (women were not allowed to leave the home without a male relative):  “Please Allah, open her eyes to the world” prays her grandmother.

My 7 and 9 year-old loved this book and I still often come across them reading it and rereading it in quiet corners of the house.  My daughter (age 9) said she liked that it was a true story and how it showed that not all children have the same life she does.

Although the book is written in a simple picture book format, it is recommended for ages 6 to 9.  On every page you will find a vibrant acrylic illustration (also by Jeanette Winter) and just a few short sentences.

Despite its colorful picture book appearance, I would agree that this is not a book for very young or sensitive children due to the serious subject matter.  Nasreen’s father is taken away by soldiers and her mother never returns home after going off to try and find him.  Although mention of these events is brief, it could be distressing for littler ones.

The ultimate feel of the book though, is very uplifting.  It celebrates the strength of ordinary people (particularly women) to overcome adversity and carry on.  It is a wonderful lesson for older children in the value of education and how an education opens windows to the world, and that knowledge is always with you, “like a good friend.”

We also liked the tidbits of Afghan culture that are sprinkled throughout:  Nasreen’s ancient city Herat was once a beautiful place where music and learning “flourished.”  When a soldier demands to enter the school, he finds only a room full of girls reading the Koran, which is allowed (the girls hid their schoolwork).   The women wear a burqa and are completely covered while out in the streets and the girls wear headscarves.  This book offers lots to discuss and discover about Afghan culture, history and politics.

There is additional interesting information about Afghanistan in an author’s note.  Teachers and parents might find it helpful as a starting point for teaching about modern Afghanistan.

Thumbs up from us for this beautiful and educational multicultural book!

LINKS:

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