Friday, June 28, 2013

Knit Your Socks on Straight: A New and Inventive Technique with Just Two Needles, by Alice Curtis

Knit Your Socks on Straight:
A New and Inventive Technique with Just Two Needles
Author: Alice Curtis
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Publication Date: May 15, 2013
Oh thank goodness I found this book! I'm still a beginner knitter and though I've finally figured out how to follow a pattern (mostly) I'm terribly intimidated by "knitting in the round." If you're not familiar with that, it usually means knitting round things (like socks and hats) by using four double-pointed knitting needles at the same time (that's a total of eight pointy things!) or else using a circular knitting needle that has a point at each end and a bendy cable in the middle. It's all very scary to me. I'm just not ready! Why can't I make everything with seams? At least for a little while?

Well thanks to Alice Curtis I absolutely can! Her sock patterns all have seams (along the top or the side) and only require two normal, straight knitting needles (no double points or bendy cables required). Plus she's got some insanely cute patterns (some with buttons and at least one with fringe and tassels called "moccasocks") that might make even experienced "knitters in the round" consider trying something different. I haven't made any of them yet but I can't wait to try!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Time to Create: Hands-On Explorations in Process Art for Young Children, by Christie Burnett

Time to Create:
Hands-On Explorations in Process Art for Young Children
Author: Christie Burnett
Publisher: Gryphon House
Publication Date: May 1, 2013
This book is wonderful! I've already used a lot of the ideas with my three-year-old (Magda and I did shaving cream painting today and tomorrow we're using it to paint the windows or shower walls!). Even though I spent ten years as a daycare teacher before taking time off when I had my daughter, and even though I've set up thousands of art activities over the years, it's still always great to have new ideas. Most of these were ones I would have definitely used in daycare as well, so I would absolutely recommend it for teachers as well as parents. 

I'm not sure why, but I feel like I've been a bit stuck lately when it comes to setting up art activities for Magda, so this book was a welcome "kick in the pants" to get out there and paint, play with materials, and get creative (just like I would have done as a daycare teacher). Fantastic resource!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity, by Monica Kulling (illustrated by Esperanca Melo)

Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity
Author: Monica Kulling 
Illustrator: Esperanca Melo
Publisher: Tundra
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
I was absolutely delighted by this book. The illustrations are fun, lively and full of movement (and full of interesting detail as well--the dog's ears and bowtie match the little girl's hair and scarf). And the story is so cute! Mister Dash is a clever and loyal dog (dogs made up of five different breeds are the most loyal of all, after all) who helps his owner, Madame Croissant, bake and deliver cupcakes. And he wouldn't mind it so much if it weren't for the awkward saddle bags and goofy baker's hat. Luckily he has help, in the form of Madame Croissant's granddaughter Daphne. Together, can they fulfill Mayor Chester Field's order of 500 cupcakes and deliver them on time?

I loved everything about this book. I especially liked that Madame Croissant peppered her speech with French words and phrases, which prompted my daughter Magda and I to try out a little more French ourselves (I keep meaning to brush up on my French!). I liked that Daphne calls her grandmother "Grand-mere" just like Magda and I both do. I liked that the mechanic who fixes the delivery van is female. My only complaint? The author didn't include a recipe for Madame Croissant's salted caramel cupcakes! 
Magda's Take:
"I want to know more about the van. My favourite page is the picture where the van breaks down. Why does the mechanic call it a buggy? If the author makes any more books, I hope the van is in it. I want to see more of the van!"
Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity 
Acrylic on gessoed paper
Illustration © Esperança Melo

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Man Up! Tales of my Delusional Self-Confidence, by Ross Mathews

Man Up!
Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence

Author: Ross Mathews
(Foreword by Gwyneth Paltrow)
(Afterword by Chelsea Handler)
Publisher: Grand Central
Publication Date: May 7, 2013

I LOVE ROSS MATHEWS SO MUCH AND I WANT TO BE HIS BEST FRIEND AND HANG OUT WITH HIM EVERY DAY! That's how he got to be friends with Gwyneth Paltrow. He met her on a red carpet and said, "Okay, we're best friends now." And now they are! Of course, I've never met Ross Mathews, but at the beginning of his book he says we can be best friends so I'm taking him at his word. Yay!

If you're not familiar with Ross Mathews, he was also known as "Ross the Intern" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. His unabashed enthusiasm for celebrities, television and, well, life were absolutely infectious. And all of that is in the book. The way he talks about what would otherwise be mundane details of life in a lesser man are handled with the gleeful enthusiasm you love so much in your new best friend. That's right. Ross Mathews is your new best friend too, even if you don't know it yet.

Oh, and if you're wondering what all the balloons are about, you'll be delighted to read about his elementary school's tradition of Balloon Day. One day a year the students of his grade school would write down their most sacred wishes on tiny slips of paper then send them up to the atmosphere in a magical sea of brightly coloured balloons. On lucky years, Ross Mathews got a pink balloon. And now, years later, he can have all the balloons--and wishes--he wants.

Ugh. I just read that last sentence and it's terrible. But the book is not. So fun!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby's First Year, by Dawn Dais

The Sh!t No One Tells You

A Guide to Surviving Your Baby's First Year

Author: Dawn Dais

Publisher: Seal Press

Publication Date: June 4, 2013
This is the book I wish I had read when my daughter was first born. Except that I could barely keep my eyes open and I was still convinced that my precious free moments were best spent scrapbooking the precious memories of my baby's new life into an adorable hardcover book that I would proudly show off for an entire week and then never look at again. I was a sleep deprived idiot. 

But had I been able to formulate cohesive thoughts during those first few months, let alone process complex sentences, I could have really benefited from this book, with such reassuring chapters as:

  • "Breastfeeding is F'n Hard" (it really is); 
  • "No One is Loving This as Much as Their Facebook Posts Would Have You Believe" (soooo true...if you don't believe me, go back and look at your own Facebook posts from when your child was first born--if your child was born after 2007 of course--and notice the lack of posts that say "that little @#!$ woke me up every 30 minutes for no good reason and I'm starting to suspect it's some sort of personal infant vendetta");
  • "Your Newborn is Not Cute" (screw this, mine was adorable! ...sort of);
  • "Who Needs a Health Plan When You Have the Internet?" (the internet is hella dangerous to new parents--just ask the very nice nurses at my local emergency room when I brought in my five-week-old because when I took her temperature I thought it was half a degree higher than the other eight times I had taken it that day, and is it possible that she has malaria or scarlet fever or something?); and
  • "It Does Not Go By 'Soooo Fast'" (especially those first three or four months...those are like the longest night that never ends...I mean awesome, but also awful...both)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres, by Marie Letourneau (with Danielle Reed Baty)

The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres
Author: Marie Letourneau (with Danielle Reed Baty)
Publisher: Tanglewood
Publication Date: June 6, 2006

I would recommend this book if you have children and you love any of the following things:

  • food, particularly soup
  • cafes or bistros
  • cute talking mice
  • french
  • things that are awesome

This is like the fantastic book that I imagine Ratatouille could have been based on before Disney turned it into a CGI bland fest. Okay, that was harsh. Ratatouille was a pretty good movie. But this book is sooooo much better.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Potty Mouth at the Table, by Laurie Notaro

The Potty Mouth at the Table
Author: Laurie Notaro
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
The Potty Mouth at the Table is funny in the same kind of faux-confessional foible-blog way that Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) or Justin Halpern (Sh*t My Dad Says) is funny. A "foible blog," in case you were wondering, is what I call that style of blog that consists of everyday stories of the author getting up to humourous hijinks, usually with the undertone of "Can you believe the things that happen to me? It's ridiculous! I bet you can relate/sympathize/feel less crazy by comparison." I have a lot of those blogs bookmarked.

But Laurie Notaro is no Jenny Lawson. It's not that the book isn't funny, it just...well it's hard to pinpoint, but I'd say there's somewhat of a mean-spiritedness in her writing that you don't find on The Bloggess, for instance. She seems to take some trivial things TOO seriously (to the point it's a little weird) and then is too flippant about other, actually serious things. Here are some examples:

--She tells the story of almost finding a dead homeless person in her backyard, whom she insists on calling "her hobo," then muses that she doesn't understand why people object to the word "hobo" because it makes homeless people seem "jaunty" and "jocular" like they're going to start humming to themselves while riding the rails with their bindles in hand (That's EXACTLY why, Laurie! It's because "hobo" makes it sound like homelessness is an amusing caricature for your entertainment instead of a real, serious problem affecting real people.)

--She flips out on her entire family when she discovers that her shower puff has been moved (Okay, I'm sort of with her on this one. I had a similar experience recently and it was !*%^-ing gross.)

--She seems to hate a lot of things (food restrictions, yoga people, crazy people of all sorts) and even though I can understand her points, sometimes her rants cross over into bitter intolerance territory, which is a lot less funny.

Basically she's the difference between Kathy Griffin and Chelsea Handler. I love Kathy Griffin and I find her brand of celebrity bashing/fandom to be hilarious. I could watch her all day long. Chelsea Handler, on the other hand, well I just find her a little mean. And crass. On the other hand, Chelsea Handler has a HUGE fan base and many people love BOTH of these ladies, so I think it's fair to say that loads of people will also love Laurie Notaro (and probably do already). For me, though, I *almost* love her. But not quite. (And let's face it. If the worst thing I say about her is "she reminds me of Chelsea Handler" I don't think she's exactly going to be crying over that.)

Bottom line: It's a book for moms and other grownups, but not so much for kids.

But if you want to check Laurie Notaro out for yourself before you decide whether or not to get her book, you can go to her website:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beyond the Solar System: Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More: A History with 21 Activities, by Mary Kay Carson

Beyond the Solar System
Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More
A History with 21 Activities 
Author: Mary Kay Carson 
Publisher: Chicago Review Press 
Publication Date: June 1, 2013

Space has been a BIG theme in our house lately. My daughter Magda is three-and-a-half, which I think is also known as "the astronaut age," meaning that she really wants to be an astronaut. Plus all of those fantastic videos by Chris Hadfield have been making it an exciting time to be a young Canadian space fan. We even had a "Space Day" recently, which involved decorating the hallway with lots of silver and black wrapping paper, stars, astronaut posters and "star maps" made out of black bristol board and white paint, then dumping two tonnes of bubble wrap on the floor for a "moon walk." It was awesome.

In preparation for Space Day, Magda and I went to the library to look for books about space, preferably ones that had lots of pictures, plenty of information that was both scientific and practical, and ideas for followup activities we could do at home. Most of the books we found met one or two of those criteria, but not all. Then I remembered that the book I was looking for was already on my computer! It was the digital galley of Beyond the Solar System that I got from NetGalley. Huzzah!

This book truly is fantastic. It checks all the boxes. It explains a lot about space, plus gives a history of space exploration that goes all the way back to ancient stargazers, plus it has activities that range from simple crafts to some pretty cool science experiments. It's a book that spans a lot of age ranges, though it's probably best suited for kids ages 8-14.

My only complaint is that I only have the digital galley. I can't wait until this book is released because I really need to pick up a print copy so Magda and I can flip through it again and again.

Also, hit the jump for a video of Chris Hadfield wringing out a wet cloth in space!

Friday, June 14, 2013

American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics, by Dan Savage

American Savage:

Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love and Politics

Author: Dan Savage

Publisher: Dutton Adult

Publication Date: May 28, 2013

I've been a fan of Dan Savage's weekly sex advice column, "Savage Love," for as long as I can remember. Well not literally, but for at least 10-15 years. I don't always agree with the advice but I love reading it. It's nice to know that there is such a shockingly wide array of human sexual experiences out there, and that everybody basically wants confirmation that happiness is possible, even for them. It all makes me feel so, well, normal. But more than that, I appreciate that there's an advice column that runs in newspapers all over North America that is so fiercely pro-LGBTQ, and that shows people that being gay is, well, pretty normal too.

American Savage is a little like "Savage Love" in that I don't always agree with Dan Savage's conclusions (his views on infidelity are a little challenging for me) but I very much enjoy reading them.

I particularly liked that he didn't presume his audience would know everything about him or get all his references, so he found ways throughout the book to explain the details without sounding pedantic or condescending.

And my favourite part of the book was when he talked about creating the It Gets Better project to help LGBTQ youth see hope for their futures. "You have got to give 'em hope," he says, quoting Harvey Milk. While the subject of "what to do about teen bullying" seems to be a favourite one these days, particularly among adults with task forces and committees, I love that Dan Savage went out and did something, and it was something hopeful. You've probably seen a thousand of those "It Gets Better" videos on YouTube, but here's one of my all-time favourite ones (after the break):

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Read Literature, by Terry Eagleton

How to Read Literature
Author: Terry Eagleton
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
It seems to me that critiquing a book about literary criticism is somewhat akin to using a lathe to make another lathe. If the book is good, I should be even better at critiquing it, based on the new literary criticism tips I gained. But if I can't muster up an effective critique, surely that reflects poorly on both me AND the book? Then again, that's not a very good metaphor so I guess I'm not off to a great start. What I'm getting at is that it's all very circular. Not unlike a lathe. (Nailed it.)

But How to Read Literature is not itself literature, so I guess I wouldn't use its own advice to criticize it. But I do think I will use its advice elsewhere. It's not so much an all-inclusive guide to literary criticism or to reading (despite the suggestive title), nor is it a reference book that students could use as a quick guide to writing better essays for English class, though their essays would certainly be improved by having read the book. Rather, it's a more of a treatise on why one should read carefully, paying attention to the form and intent of a piece of writing and not simply its content. Eagleton rightly points out that literature is not merely information and should not be read just for the plot points. A novel is more than what it's about. It is also how it is written, the choices the author makes, the degree to which those choices are skillful and effective. 

Eagleton uses numerous examples (including novels, poems, and even Shakespeare and the bible) to illustrate the art of careful reading. None of these examples are full literary criticisms of the works in question, but anecdotal examples to help the reader in their own reading. For instance, Eagleton spends a fair bit of time analyzing what we can learn from the opening line of Moby Dick ("Call me Ishmael"). It does not amount to a book report of Melville's classic novel, nor does the example necessarily bring deep insight into the novel, but rather shows the reader the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves in our own reading.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History's Mysteries, by Elizabeth MacLeod

Bones Never Lie:
How Forensics Helps Solve History's Mysteries
Author: Elizabeth MacLeod
Publisher: Annick Press
Publication Date: February 4, 2013
This book is good, but it could have been great. The idea is that the author presents some of "history's mysteries" such as what killed Napoleon, the supposed disappearance of Anastasia Romanov, the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask, etc., and then reveals how forensic science helped solve those mysteries. The problem is that many of the examples she chooses were NOT solved by forensic science at all, so many chapters end with the conclusion that "we just don't know" or "using deductive reasoning this is our best guess." Why did she choose mysteries that didn't fit her theme?! It's baffling. 

The chapters that do use scientific evidence--like the chapter on Napoleon--are interesting and well done. I just don't know why she opted to include material that didn't fit the theme of the book.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Help Your Kids with Language Arts: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Grammar, Punctuation and Writing (DK Publishing)

Help Your Kids with Language Arts:
A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Grammar, Punctuation and Writing
Author: DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley) 
Publisher: DK Adult 
Publication Date: May 20, 2013

I read a lot of books about language and education, and I've reviewed some great ones (see below for just a few) but this one is AMAZING. I'm serious. It's amazing. I was actually exclaiming out loud as I read it (things like "Wow! This book is amazing!").

What makes it so great? Well first of all, every page could be blown up and used as a poster on the classroom wall. EVERY PAGE. Just look at the illustration below. It's beautiful! Every page is like that: a colourful, easy-to-read infographic that can be used as a handy reference for things like parts of speech, verb tenses, silent letters, and a whole bunch more.

It's a fantastic reference for teachers, students, writers, bloggers (especially those of us who are smug about our writing skills and then find ourselves getting lazier and lazier with grammar and spelling until one day we realize that a handy chart on the wall might, in fact, be in order), and anyone else who might need some reminders about the language. Actually, it would be great for people who have learned English as a second language and want to make sure they have the rules down.

But the book is really perfect for--as the title suggests--parents. Specifically, it's for when your kids are coming home with homework about things like the past perfect tense or when to use a semi-colon, or something called phrasal verbs, and you think, "When did this get so hard? I speak English. I went to elementary school, for heaven's sake. Why don't I remember this stuff?" But you don't want to tell your kids you don't remember because you should remember. And you do remember, really. You just might need a little handy-dandy reminder. And that's where this book comes in.

You know what else makes it great? (Besides EVERYTHING!) It starts each section--grammar, spelling, punctuation, even the introduction to the book itself--by asking the same simple question: Why? Why learn English? Why learn proper grammar? Why learn to spell? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

More Money Please: The Financial Secrets You Never Learned in School, by Scott Gamm

More Money Please:
The Financial Secrets You Never Learned in School 
Author: Scott Gamm 
Publisher: Plume 
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels my stomach leap into my throat when I think about money. Just the words finances, budget and debt make me feel like I'm going to throw up. It's not that I don't know how important it is to understand where my money goes and how to budget it, and it's not like I'm even that "bad with money." It's just stressful. 

But Scott Gamm gets that. He knows I don't like thinking about money. He knows you don't like thinking about money. So he didn't fill his book with lots of extra noise about how you should "feel" about your finances, or try to convince you to enjoy doing taxes. He just got right to the point. He's like your straightforward, reliable friend who comes to help you move by loading sh*t on to your truck, not spending hours talking about where you got this particular teapot. He's to the point and he gets it done.

This book is like that. It's filled with practical, specific and straightforward advice. Some of it is a lot more applicable to Americans than Canadians (things like tax laws and student loan procedures) but the principals are sound. How to make a budget. How to choose a bank. Why you need to be saving for retirement now. There's even a section on job search skills, which I assume is aimed at a younger reader who is new to the job market.

I can't say he alleviated my low-level stress about thinking about handling my money, but he gave me a very helpful guidebook for actually doing something about it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What Learning Leaves, poems by Taylor Mali

What Learning Leaves
(New and Revised Edition)
poems by Taylor Mali
Publisher: Write Bloody
Publication Date: November 15, 2012
(First published January 7, 2012)
It wouldn't be National Poetry Month without at least one review of a book of poetry, would it? Apparently not. But I can't think of any book of poetry I'd rather be reviewing than that of Taylor Mali. He's one of my top five favourite slam poets of all time, he's amazing, he's smart AND he's a teacher. It would be harder for me NOT to be a fan of his than to just go ahead and love him (which I do). 

What Learning Leaves contains many of my favourite Taylor Mali poems (including "What Teachers Make" and "Like Lilly Like Wilson" which you can see him perform in the videos below) as well as many I hadn't read before. As I was reading them, I kept getting up to read them aloud to my partner Mike, who is a junior high (middle school) teacher. He particularly liked the notion of "saving the world one eighth grader at a time" and making his classroom a "like-free zone" (as in, like, not, like, letting students say, like, like all the time).

Hit the jump to see videos of Taylor Mali performing some of his poetry. He's truly outstanding.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Digital Wildlife Photography, by John and Barbara Gerlach

Digital Wildlife Photography
Authors: John and Barbara Gerlach
Publisher: Focal Press
Publication Date: November 14, 2012
Boy, if there was ever a book that needed a subtitle, it's this one! I thought it was a book OF wildlife photography, not a book ABOUT wildlife photography! It's my fault for not reading the description better. I was really looking forward to some beautiful, high-res photos of wildlife, like what's on the cover. Instead it's a book about how to get the most out of your digital camera when trying to take pictures like that on your own. So disappointed!

That's not to say that YOU'LL be disappointed because now that you know what the book is about, it might be exactly the book you're looking for. Unless you're looking for a coffee table style book of glossy animal pictures, in which case you will be disappointed (but don't say I didn't warn you). Here are some of the topics covered in the book:
Chapter 1 - Cameras and Accessories: The Best Wildlife Camera SystemsChapter 2 - Choosing and Using Lenses: Selecting Quality LensesChapter 3 - Exposure StrategiesChapter 4 - Precise Focusing TechniquesChapter 5 - Shooting Quality ImagesChapter 6 - The Crucial Role of LightChapter 7 - CompositionChapter 8 - Electronic FlashChapter 9 - Getting Close to Wildlife
Not covered: Adorable little lambs jumping over their mothers. For those photos, you should really check out the Flickr stream of photographer Roeselien Raimond. She has nothing to do with this book, but she took this photo. Look! It's a leaping lamb!
Photo by: Roeselien Raimond
It's not in the book. It has nothing to do with the book. It's just an awesome photo.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom, by Daphne J. Fairbairn

Odd Couples
Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom
Author: Daphne J. Fairbairn
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: April 28, 2013

I think the problem with this book is that it is a scientific paper trying to be a commercial book with wide mainstream appeal. As a result, it's neither. The author acknowledges that she tried to reach a broader audience by limiting the scientific jargon--which resulted in over a hundred pages of notes, appendices, glossaries and charts in the back of the book--but she doesn't seem to understand what she could have added to the book to give it more lay appeal. There are almost no photos or illustrations in the book see update below (but lots of charts! charts everywhere!), and the ones that are included are mostly line drawings of sea creatures (I think I saw an octopus penis but, honestly, I'm not even sure). Where are the photos?As a lay person, I was disappointed.

It's not that I couldn't follow along with the science of the book. My first year as an undergraduate was spent as a biology major. So I have some background. Some, but not a lot (as you may have guessed, I switched majors pretty early on). But the thing is, am I the target audience? I felt like anyone with less knowledge of biology would be lost (I was straining at times) and anyone with more (like a biologist) would find the book too "dumbed down." As for me, I was a little bored. I really wanted the glossy pictures of the male and female elephant seals or some high-res shots of those "female tubeworms with harems of minuscule males" I was so excited about.

Just know what you're getting into. I'm not saying the book is terrible. But it is NOT a coffee table book, if that's what you're hoping for. 

*UPDATE: I was contacted by the author who assured me that the finished book does, in fact, contain full colour photos. She even sent me a few to look at. It really does make a big difference. It's always hard to know which things will be different in the final copy of a book, compared to the advanced digital galley, but I really wish the galley had better indicated what the photo spread would be like. I do, however, stand by my initial assessment of the tone of the book. But photos help a lot.

**UPDATE UPDATE: The author had her publisher send me a finished print copy of the book. While that was very nice of her, it didn't make that big a difference. There are fewer pictures than I thought there'd be (STILL!) and they're mostly of the walruses. Meh. I'm thinking it'll be a future giveaway or else I'll donate it to my library.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In the Tree House, by Andrew Larsen (illustrated by Dušan Petričić)

In the Tree House
Author: Andrew Larsen
Illustrator: Dušan Petričić
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
In the Tree House was not what I expected. I had previously been rather hard on artist Dušan Petričić after he illustrated a new edition of Robert Munsch's Mud Puddle. (It wasn't that it was bad, I was just partial to the original drawings by Sami Suomalainen.) But this book could not have been more different. The illustrations reminded me of a cross between Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree and Pat Shewchuk's In Lucia's Neighborhood (illustrated by Marek Colek). They are lush and textured and rich and simple, all at once. My partner and I enjoyed reading this to our three-year-old as much as she enjoyed hearing it.
The story is very sweet, and also struck a chord with me as an adult, as much as it did with my child. It's about a boy who lives in a city (or well-lit town or suburb) and dreams of building a tree house and gazing up at the stars in the night sky. The latter dream may not be possible, since the street lights in his neighbourhood make it difficult to see any stars, but he does get to build the tree house, with the help of his dad and his brother. The story is about their relationship with each other, the neighbourhood and the night sky, as much as it is about the tree house.

In the Tree House made me nostalgic for my own childhood, which included stars, tree houses and older siblings who grew up so much faster than I did. My daughter liked this book, but I loved it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Which is Round? Which is Bigger? by Mineko Mamada

Which is Round? Which is Bigger? 
Author: Mineko Mamada 
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2013

This is a simple picture books for toddlers and preschool books that will delight young children with shape "tricks." It'll show a picture of an apple and an anteater, for instance (I think it's an anteater...hedgehog maybe?), and ask "Which is round?" Obviously the apple. But then on the next page, the apple will be bitten into and the armadillo will be curled into a ball. NOW which is round?
It's cute and I like the way it not only teaches shapes and proportions, but it also challenges perception based on movement and changing positions. Very young children tend to create broad categories for the things around them (a ball is round, therefore all round things are balls; an apple is a fruit, therefore all fruits are apples...or balls) so this kind of "trick" will bring giggles to younger toddlers. It was a little young for my three-year-old, but she still enjoyed the pictures.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Congratulations to the winners of the JOE THE MONKEY GIVEAWAY!

Congratulations to the winners of the JOE THE MONKEY GIVEAWAY!