Monday, January 27, 2014

Another freebie: Golden Mane

Free find for Kindle on Amazon today, with good reviews there and on Goodreads.  It is the first of a series.  Looks good for Zach and maybe Noah, but Noah is hesitant on paranormal stuff, finding it a bit scary, so I'll have  Zach read it first.  Has anyone already read this series?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kids freebie: Puddly the Penguin

Saw this Kindle freebie this morning and picked it up for Noah.  He loves stories about animals, and this one looks good.  You can read the first few pages inside Amazon to see if you/your kids would like it, but it's hard to beat free for a price.  Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book review: EKHO: Evil Kid Hunting Organization

My rating 3.5 stars out of 5

Elvis and his three friends, Levi, Jordy and Jackson, are 4th graders now, and have been bullied by the same bullies for several years. This year Elvis decides to do something about it, and enlists his friends to form EKHO, the Evil Kid Hunting Organization, to stop the bullies of their school. All four main boys have characteristics that make them the targets of bullies, Elvis having muscular problems, being wheelchair bound in the past, and still with a limp.

The good about this book: Strong boys who are bullied but not beaten down, good friends, who want to help all the bullied kids in school. Elvis talks about his mom and his extended family with love and pride. His mom loves him, and stands up for him. Elvis and his friends are true to themselves and proud of it. Mentioned are adaptive PE, IEPs and all kinds of other things typical public schooled kids would encounter and possibly make fun of.

The author, Marie Jones, also covers a lot of important topics as privacy when the EKHO agents start "spying" on kids. Elvis' mother points this out clearly so no reader could mistake it:

"EKHO has my blessing, but within certain boundaries. [She had described no video taping in bathrooms, teachers picking their noses, etc.] Those boundaries are breached and the only echo you'll be hearing is an empty bedroom with no computer, gaming gadgets, and the rest."

The spy gear, internet/tech stuff, gaming references, social media references, etc., etc., are all things to draw kids into the book. And those are presented in really a pretty positive way in this book. There is humor appealing to kids of the age group.

And there is a good mystery going on for the kids here ... with a bit of a cliffhanger ending to keep kids coming back for that next book.

My dislikes:

Too much of a focus on liking girls at times.  Again, these are 4th grade boys.

Lastly, too much specific name dropping - iphone, Halo, on and on. That might be specific to rope in reluctant readers, but it takes a book so fast. I doubt kids even a few years from know are going to recognize "Cake Boss," if they even do now.

Overall impression though is a good start to a series, and I might appeal to many kids. The wider the selection the better for kids ... keep them reading and enjoying. I feel the good messages in this book, explicit and implicit, far outweigh my dislikes above, but I do note those for parents and teachers. As for the mystery, I too want to know more about "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide an honest review.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Free ebooks for kids!

Free ebooks for adults (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc) abound, but the number for kids is much smaller and a bit harder to find IMHO.  It occurred to me to share a few I have found lately.  My older two (ages 11 and 8) read on Kindle, and the youngers read theirs on ipad as our Kindles are not color/fine graphics (i.e., Kindle Fire) but rather just for reading. 

For younger ones, we picked up these freebies lately:

Those were obviously for Eden and Lily (ages 6 and 3).  For Zach, I found this freebie today:

He has read one in this series before from the library and really enjoyed it. 

Obviously, my links may not be free when you read this, but they are as of this posting so hope you get a chance to grab them if you want them, and keep an eye out as books for kids do go free occasionally, or at least discounted. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014


As you know, we are privileged to have monarchs in our backyard each year.  Our kids love hunting for and observing them throughout their lifecycle.  Observing first hand has made them so appreciative of the miracle they are, and interested in learning more about them as they migrate.  In addition to our observations, I pick up books for them to read about all topics, including butterflies.  I happened across this new release pictured above, and wow, it is stunning.  I highly recommend this one.

The picture comes from the author's website:

She has there not only the usual bio and other books listings, but a nice little teacher resource area as well.

Her photographs were by Ellen Harasimowicz.  If you just want some eye candy, check out her site.  So fabulous.

This book describes for kids the lifecycle of a butterfly while depicting a butterfly farm in Costa Rica.

The photographs in this book could honestly be framed and hung in a gallery. They are just incredible really. Any kid (or adult) with a love of nature would pour over this book again and again to see the photographs within. I can think of no other children's book recently with photographs nearly as nice as these.

The text? Well, it is just okay. There is not anything wrong with it, but it doesn't stand out to me either. And that is okay. It is factual and informative, but really is just backup to our star player the photography. This book is ideal for a kid who doesn't like reading I would think.

In addition to photography, there is a simple lifecycle of the butterfly diagram, a map and glossary, further reading recommendations and website. This is a gem for early elementary kids for sure. I give it 4 stars overall, 3 stars for the content of the text and 5+++++ stars for the photography in this one.

I received an electronic copy of this book via Netgalley for an honest review.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Book review: Tools and Treasures of Ancient Egypt

As I have already mentioned several times, we follow the classical method of 4-year rotating history cycles, and this year is ancients again.  I had the opportunity to review this new resource and love it!

This is an overview book of ancient Egypt, best utilized probably as a read-aloud for around 1st/2nd grade or an independent level reading book for grade 3 or so. It carefully covers all the basic ancient civilization topics at an introductory level:
* What did they create/leave behind?
* What was the environment like (desert/water, homes)?
* What major crops did they eat/grow?
* Who were the neighbors/trade influences?
* What was the religion/language/culture?
* Brief intro to Egypt of today

Each page has 3-5 sentences of text and a clear photograph or illustration to add interest. All information is presented so that the youngest school-age children will understand and stay interested. There is a nice map with simple details and an inset showing where the detail map appears on the globe, again appropriate for grades K-3.

The back contains a very brief 1-page glossary, list of books for further information, websites and a very brief index. All of these would serve well as introductions to these features in books for early learners.

I give this book 5 stars used as an introduction for K-3 students approximately. The photos and text are clear and concise, visually interesting, not overwhelming at all. There are shelves and shelves of Egypt books in just about every library I have ever visited, but many are geared towards more middle school and up. It is very nice to see an updated intro book with modern photos and illustrations for the youngest set.  This is really especially suited to a first pass through a 4-year history cycle if you are classical homeschoolers. 

I received an electronic copy of this book free through Netgalley for an honest review.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Nature Journaling


I purchased this book a little over a year ago now.  After using and appreciating it, I wanted to review it a bit for those in need of a guide. 

This guide shows how to create a gorgeous ongoing project of a nature journal. It is applicable to kids or adults, though kids might need a parent helper to read and interpret it all. Projects are given for a variety of ages or "all ages" depending on the project. No prior experience drawing is required. The examples given are inspirational without being overwhelming for those of us without a lot of native art talent. Most are shown black and white as would be common if you were out with just a pen and paper, but it also shows colored pencil or watercolor addition.

The book shows tons of examples in text and pictures how to add details such as dates, temperature conditions, scientific facts, etc., to your journal. The drawing techniques and examples could to be used to teach a child to enhance lab notebooks rather than a "journal" per se.

I use this with all my kids, and they are really taking to the idea, even now grabbing their journal without prompting to run into the yard to draw something. Nature journaling is helping them to be more aware in the world, and recognizing smaller details.  Even my youngest (age 5/6 at the time of starting) is able to do basic drawings and observations.

There is a companion almost blank (few notes or hints) hardcover journal that you can buy to go with this guide that I highly recommend. The HC journal is tough and withstands kids very well.