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Halloween Books Roundup

I love Halloween …

Maybe it’s because fall is my favorite season. Maybe it’s because the weather gets a bit cooler here in L.A. The street where I live gets tons of trick or treaters beginning about five o’clock with the littlest monsters, penguins, princesses and elves making an appearance before bedtime. The creative costumes never cease to amaze me. One year I recall we had a Mozart, a rain cloud and a laundry basket!  I look forward to every shouted TRICK OR TREAT?!  In honor of Halloween I’ve put together a varied selection of books to sit down and peruse after they’ve emptied bags and examined their hauls.

Where's Boo? by Salina Yoon
Where’s Boo? by Salina Yoon from Random House Books
For Young Readers, 2013.

WHERE’S BOO? (A Hide-and-Seek Book) by Salina Yoon, Random House Books for Young Readers, $6.99, Ages 0-3. This interactive board book will attract little ones with its velvety-faced kitty on the cover and velvety tail at the end. Parents can help children solve the mystery of where Boo is hiding beginning with a jack-o’-lantern and ending with a door in this die-cut 18 page guessing game. The pictures are sweet not scary, a perfect introduction to All Hallows Eve!




Vampirina Ballerina Hosts A Sleepover by Anne Marie Pace with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, Disney-Hyperion 2013.

VAMPIRINA BALLERINA HOSTS A SLEEPOVER by Anne Marie Pace with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, ages 3-5. Last year’s Vampirina Ballerina was so popular she’s back again and this time she’s hosting a sleepover. While this picture book is not strictly for Halloween, what better time of year than right now to share a vampire tale? Dad helps with homemade spider invitations, Vampirina tidies up, the menu is prepared and the sleepover party begins! Full of the same delightful detailed artwork featuring all the necessary vampire accoutrements including caskets and headstones plus all the not-to-be-missed facial expressions courtesy of Pham, this latest picture book is something to sink your teeth into. Pace throws in puns galore so parents can get a giggle, too. There’s even a pull-out spread to add to its appeal.  This sleepover’s a lids down success.


Ghost in The House by Ammi-Joan Paquette with illustrations by Adam Record
Ghost in The House by Ammi-Joan Paquette with illustrations by Adam Record from Candlewick Press, 2013.

GHOST IN THE HOUSE by Ammi-Joan Paquette with illustrations by Adam Record, Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 3-7. What works so well in this picture book is that it’s not only a cumulative counting book beginning with a little ghost, but it’s a fun read-aloud as well with its catchy rhythm and rhyme. Ghost in the House manages to mix a slightly spooky premise and lighten it with a cute cast of characters including a mummy, a monster, a skeleton, a witch and a little boy. The bonus: No trick or treaters anywhere in sight makes it an ideal read for any dark and stormy night!




Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson
Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson with illustrations by Kevan J. Atteberry, Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2013.

HALLOWEEN HUSTLE by Charlotte Gunnufson with illustrations by Kevan J. Atteberry, Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, $16.99, Ages 4-8. Get ready to boogie to a funky beat that will get your youngsters chiming in. Skeleton’s in a dancing mood, in fact he’s got a whole crew of hustling creatures following his lead, but things keep tripping him up, first a crooked crack, then a cat and finally a zombie’s foot. Here’s the catchy refrain your kids will latch onto:

“Bones scatter!
What a clatter!
Spine is like a broken ladder!”

There’s a hoppin’ Halloween party where Skeleton enters a dance contest, but can he keep it all together?  Let’s see what a friendly skeleton girl and a little super-strong glue can do!

Ol' Clip Clop by Patricia C. McKissack with illustrations by Eric Velasquez
Ol’ Clip Clop by Patricia C. McKissack with illustrations by Eric Velasquez, Holiday House, 2013.

OL’ CLIP CLOP, A GHOST STORY by Patricia C. McKissack with illustrations by Eric Velasquez, Holiday House, $16.95, ages 6-9. This haunting, well-paced and tersely written story is one you’ll want to tell by a roaring fire while huddled next to your child. The climax, where there’s usually a fright, though not as scary for an adult as it may be for a child, is deeply satisfying. The good part is that it’s actually a happy ending because it’s good riddance to the villain, mean John Leep. This well-off, but miserly and greedy landlord has a cruel fate planned for the widow Mayes of Grass Hollow. He’ll demand the rent in full or evict her, throwing her out into the night on a cold Friday the thirteenth, 1741. Velasquez’s artwork of dark upon dark sets the ominous nighttime mood, with the lightest color being the white of widow Mayes’s cap and mean Leep’s linens. The clip, clop, clip, clop sound of Leep’s horse Major gets more and more frightening as Leep feels he is being followed on his way to the widow’s house. What’s in store for the stingy man as leaves the desperate widow wondering if she’ll lose her home? Will he make it home alive?

Three other books I’d like to recommend are:

Calendar Mysteries: October Ogre #10CALENDAR MYSTERIES #10: OCTOBER OGRE
by Ron Roy with illustrations by John Steven Gurney,
Random House, $4.99, Ages 6-9.



Substitute Creature by Charles Gilman, Quirk Books, 2013.SUBSTITUTE CREATURE: TALES FROM LOVECRAFT MIDDLE SCHOOL #4
by Charles Gilman,
Quirk Books, $13.99, Ages 9 and up,



Twisted Myths: 20 Classic Stories With a Dark and Dangerous Heart, Barrons Educational Series


by Maura McHugh with illustrations by Jane Laurie,
Barrons Educational Series, Inc., $19.99, Ages 11 and up.

Find these books at your local independent book seller or online today.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel



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The Exceptional Matilda Turns 25!

Long before I was a parent I got a taste of Roald Dahl’s humor in the early ’70s via the popular film Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Then, in London some thirty years later, I heard The Magic Finger audio book. Now that I’ve read an actual book and seen Quentin Blake’s spot-on illustrations for Matilda (Puffin, $6.99, ages 7 and up), I am eager to see the acclaimed Broadway musical. It seems that Dahl’s work is brilliantly entertaining in any form presented.



Roald Dahl, also known for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, had a wonderful and wild imagination with a wit to match.  And though celebrating its 25th anniversary, the book remains as popular with readers today as it was when first published.

Matilda put a smile on my face and introduced me to one of the most OTT characters I’ve seen in print in a long time. If the name Miss Trunchbull doesn’t conjure up images of a walking, talking mega-sized Medieval torture machine (AKA the Headmistress), I don’t know what will!! Matilda is a child prodigy. Yet, unlike the children whose parents gush over their real or perceived little Einsteins, Matilda’s parents do absolutely NOTHING to nurture their four-year-old daughter. In fact, they barely treat her with indifference being so caught up in their own lunacy.

Hungry for knowledge to feed her growing mind, Matilda makes her way to the local library. There the librarian, Mrs. Phelps helps the youngster find books she’d like. Eventually Matilda takes home books to travel the world from the comfort of her bedroom while avoiding the dishonesty and rudeness of her family. A second-hand car dealer, Matilda’s father, Mr. Wormwood, boasts of tricking his customers and profiting from his deviousness. Readers will thoroughly love all the practical jokes Matilda plays on her dad as a way of getting back at him for his misdeeds.  Blake’s pen and ink artwork perfectly captures all the hijinks in the book, especially those occurring at Crunchem Hall Primary School, and enhance what is already a rollicking good read.

Fortunately for Matilda, school takes her away from her unpleasant parents and there she finds compassion from her teacher, aptly named Miss Honey. Miss Honey is in awe of Matilda’s genius and provides the young girl with the attention and nurturing she’s missed at home. Unfortunately Miss Honey is so very poor and suffering due to the unfortunate loss of income and housing at the hands of a cruel aunt who just happens to be Miss Trunchbull. Now that Matilda has an ally in Miss Honey, she’s emboldened to fight back at the horrendous Headmistress and by doing so discovers a magical power that will help her achieve her goal. The pleasure kids get from Matilda’s success is why this book continues to be in demand. A happy ending that assures the Trunchbull’s comeuppance, restores Miss Honey’s inheritance and Matilda’s future well-being.

I realize that, having had children attend primary school in London,  I am partial to Dahl’s language and exaggerated style but there is simply no denying his gift for great storytelling. The book is certain to engage even the most reluctant of readers with its funny characters, crazy plot and satisfying finish.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Let’s Get Classical

I have always loved classical music CDs for young children, and there’s nothing better than one that comes with a book, like this one. Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music, ($16.95, The Secret Mountain Books, Ages 7-9) is unique in every way; I’ve never seen another book like it.

Each two-page spread of the book features a description of a different type of bird as it corresponds to one of the 20 glorious classical music selections on the CD. Children learn about the correlation between the sounds of natural birdsongs and the melodies of different classical masterpieces.

The book, written by concert pianist, Ana Gerhard and nicely illustrated by Cecilia Varela, doesn’t stop there. It also includes a listening guide for children to learn more about the instruments as well as birdsongs in each piece. There are also introductions to the composers, a wonderful glossary of musical terms and even a timeline of the composers from 1485 to the present. From Vivaldi to Tchaikovsky, from Handel to Mozart, all the greats are here to enjoy. The book and CD are of the highest quality, so it will certainly stand the test of time and can be used over and over again.

What’s so terrific about this book is that it is just as enlightening for parents as it is for children. Little ones who are too young to understand the details of a particular composer or even a species of bird, can certainly feel moved (and let’s face it hopefully feel sleepy, too). And even more importantly, books like these can inspire children to not only love music, but to also get interested in playing an instrument. As a parent of a 20-year-old pianist, I know just how much listening to classical music and talking about composers can shape a child’s future.

As for the relaxation factor, check out this photo of my husband, John and giant standard poodle, Darwin. I am playing the CD on my laptop as I write this, and you can see the effect it has on them!

Interested in more music knowledge for kids? Read my review of Verdi here.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade


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The Funniest Comedy Routine of All Time

Who’s On First? by Abbott & Costello, with illustrations by John Martz, is now available in a picture book format from Quirk Books ($16.95, ages 7 and up). And, as the name implies, this publishing house is anything but conventional having gained recognition with its popular Mashup series of books including a personal fave, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I’m so glad they’ve decided to add Abbott & Costello into their mix.

Now, as we approach baseball season, it’s time to introduce a new generation of fans to one of America’s most beloved comedy teams. Abbott & Costello’s genius for fast-paced, perfectly timed routines should hook your kids as it did mine. In fact you may not know that Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First sketch has been named the best comedy sketch of the twentieth century by Time magazine and the duo was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY.  I’m still trying to figure out their Loan Me $50 routine!


If you’ve got a child with a great sense of humor and a good memory, try practicing this most hysterical of routines with him or her. My 11-year-old son may not read picture books anymore, but he’s a huge Abbott & Costello fan just like his mom and dad. The minute he saw this book land on my desk he picked it up, read it and pronounced, “This is perfect! The rabbit and bear even look like Abbott and Costello.” He also wanted me to tell readers how well imagined the artwork is and I agree. From the fabulous selection of colors Martz (who also happens to be a cartoonist) has used on every page to the way he captures Costello’s (okay, the rabbit’s) facial expressions as he gets more and more frustrated is a big part of why the book works. Even the title design shouts “Batter up!”

Come meet the kooky cast of characters including Who’s, the first baseman snake; What’s, the second baseman dog; I Don’t Know’s, the third base chicken; Why, who just happens to be an alligator and the left fielder and of course, Because! Because, the red-capped cat covers center field and Tomorrow, a duck, is the pitcher. Got that? Don’t forget the heavy hitter, an elephant who is going to bunt the ball. Terribly exasperating? Imagine how the rabbit feels! 

If you think it’s over when the rabbit proclaims, “I said I don’t give a hoot!” Think again! That’s the shortstop (an owl).

There’s a brief history of “Who’s on First?” in the end pages to share with your children and if you’re like my family, you’ll probably want to rent a few Abbott & Costello movies to see how they perform the sketch.  So, in case you couldn’t tell, this book’s a hit with me. NOTE: The book’s publication date is February 19, 2013.

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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You’ll Never Believe This One

neverbelieveThe Land of Neverbelieve ($17.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 7 and up) will take you deep inside an imaginary wonderland of nature. British author/illustrator Norman Messenger writes from the perspective of an explorer who happens upon a most unusual island called “Neverbelieve,” which following his exploration, magically disappears from sight.

Like typical Candlewick Press titles, The Land of Neverbelieve is an extraordinarily sturdy, big and beautiful, high-quality book. The illustrations, which dominate the book, really pop on the thick satin paper, and each spread has a flip flap that opens to reveal more pictures you will not tire of viewing.

As I read the story I was reminded of the animal adventures of Charles Darwin who documented the many different species he observed on his famous journey that led to his theory of evolution. Luckily for the reader, Messenger documented The Land of Neverbelieve adventure in both words and glorious illustrations. Each of these pictures has a lengthy caption describing details of the whimsical “pretend” species, the inhabitants there and other highlights. The book is very imaginative; there are trees made from rope and chocolate, snakes so long they get tied up in knots, catfish that look like cats and so much more.


I like the way the book is presented as an explorer’s findings of a most unusual place and that readers can take their time to study each creative description.  The Land of Neverbelieve is sure to stir the imagination and get every reader thinking about all the wonderful species of plants and animals out there, whether real or pretend.  No one would argue that this is a really unique book and that the illustrations are outstanding. It would make a great gift for any child interested in science or one who loves to make up stories. And what child doesn’t like to do that?

Reviewed by Debbie Glade.

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Arab Americans – Our Neighbors and Friends

Here’s an instance where reviewer Debbie Glade wholeheartedly advises you to judge a book by its cover.


This is by far my favorite cover of all the Chicago Review Press Kid’s Guides, and it really beckoned me to find out what was inside.  A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History: More than 50 Activities ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 7 and up), written by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Maha Addasi educates us about the history of Arabs immigrating to America as well as their rich cultural traditions and accomplishments.

I’m glad this book was written because it dispels many stereotypes of Arab Americans and reminds us that being part of any culture is not only about politics and religion. And by the way, when it comes to religion, Arab Americans can be Christians, Muslims, Jews or may practice other religions – just like the countless other immigrants who have come to America over the centuries. As a country, we pride ourselves on being the melting pot of cultures, cuisines, languages and traditions that we are, and Arab Americans are an important part of that mix.

The chapters of this book take the reader through the different nations where most Arab Americans have emigrated from, sharing rich cultural traditions and facts about famous Arab Americans and their originating lands. There are more than 50 really impressive, well-thought-out activities in this book too. Among them are recipes, making musical instruments, playing games and creating original art.  (I am really looking forward to trying to make my own drum out of a dog rawhide bone and a glass vase. See page 26.) The art and architecture of the Arab world is really quite impressive as you shall soon discover by reading the book.

One of the first pages I read explains that the town of Opa Locka, Florida (just a 15-minute drive from my house) is home to the most Arab Moorish structures than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. Who knew? This and so many other facts about people and places can be found here. In the back of the book are additional valuable resources and websites for further reading. The index is quite detailed and helpful. The only suggestion I would have to make this fantastic book even better would be the addition of maps to help educate young readers about the locations of the countries Arab Americans came from.

If you learn anything from A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History, it’s that Arab Americans are our neighbors, not our enemies. They may be light skinned, dark skinned, blonde or brunette. They may attend our places of worship, they are citizens who vote, serve in our armed forces, build businesses with hard work and determination, seek higher education and want to better themselves and make America a better place to live, just like you and me.

If you like this book, you may want to check out Mirror, a very unique book about two families from two very different cultures.

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Dare to Doodle

Debbie Glade gets doodly with today’s review.

The Pirates vs. Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum ($6.99, Nosy Crow, Ages 7 and up) is the fourth book in the Mega Mash-Up series by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson with more due out December. Basically the reader draws his way through the comic-style book to put his own mark on the story. There are a handful of pirate and Egyptian characters living separately. But both groups run into some financial distress, and they each have maps to the city’s abandoned museum where a valuable statue of a Golden Howler Monkey is housed. The real fun starts when the two groups of robbers both search desperately for the treasure and collide inside the museum. Kids can read the book and doodle their way to the end to find out who gets the treasure and what happens after that.

Due to the nature of the subject, this story may appeal to boys more than girls. What works so well in Pirates vs. Ancient Egyptians is that the story is silly, fun and easy to read and stirs the imagination of the reader. Plus readers get to draw and participate in the story. They can create original art and also add to what’s there already. (There are some drawing tips and a picture glossary.) Reluctant readers will have so much fun with this book, they won’t even realize it is helping to hone their reading skills. Another bonus? This humorous book is really affordable and would make a great gift for a themed birthday party.

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Take a Tumble

Are you the parent of the next Gabby Douglas or Danell Leyva?

Reviewer Debbie Glade takes a look at a great book (to be released November, 2012) that helps children who are interested in gymnastics get started.

With the success of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic Team from the Olympics this summer, there are many young Americans who dream of becoming champions, too. The Gymnastics Book: The Young Performer’s Guide to Gymnastics ($19.95, Firefly, Ages 7-11) is a wonderful way for those interested in the sport to get started. Written by Elfi Schlegel, a gymnastics medalist from the Canadian National Team and writer Claire Ross Dunn, The Gymnastics Book’s meaty 144 pages is packed with information and excellent photos profiling all the basic gymnastics moves.

After reading this comprehensive guide, any budding gymnast will understand the fundamentals of the sport and the basic technical skills required. The book starts with an introduction that will help your child decide if gymnastics is indeed right for him or her, how to choose the proper coach and place for lessons and what’s needed to get started. Readers will learn how to warm up, practice, master the basic skills, cool down properly and even how to stay healthy and eat right while practicing. In addition, there are chapters on adding rhythm to your program and how competitions work. Plus readers will learn about some of the world’s best gymnasts. Some gymnasts have even written a few tips and insights into their routines or even superstitions they practice when competing. There’s a helpful index at the back of the book as well.

This timely book certainly provides children with a nice, positive introduction to a sport they can enjoy, whether or not they want to compete. The information is comprehensive, and readers are likely to be inspired to not only get started, but also to do their best in the sport. The descriptions of the moves are quite detailed, and when paired with the excellent photos, the proper skills for each move is made quite clear.

Gymnastics is a wonderful and well-respected sport for kids, and even more important, it is a terrific way for kids to get and stay fit and build discipline and confidence. The Gymnastics Book provides a solid beginning to this popular sport.

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Open Your Heart to Unlikely Friendships

Debbie Glade, who finds all animals to be fascinating, reviews this captivating book about unlikely friendships.

Part of a three-book series, Unlikely Friendships for Kids: The Dog and the Piglet and Four Other True Stories of Animal Friendships ($7.99, Workman, Ages 7 and up) is both heartwarming and informative. It’s the kind of book that while reading you find yourself expressing  a series of audible, “awwws” because it’s just that darling. Author Jennifer S. Holland is a science writer, who while scuba diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, discovered a fish swimming with a very different species of fish, an unlikely pair. This inspired her to seek out more stories about other animals from different species who became unlikely friends.

The photos in the book are so cute,your kids will love them. They will read five unique true stories about: a large dog and piglet from Germany; an orangutan and a cat who lived in a zoo; a hippo and a goat; a standard poodle and a white-tailed deer; and an iguana and a cat from NY City.  Each story is educational and lets readers into the hearts of the creatures featured in each story.

What is great about this book is that it teaches kids we don’t have to be alike to get along and that friendships, when they work well, don’t really need a rhyme or reason. They just work, and it’s a beautiful thing. They also learn a little bit about the habits of each animal and there’s a nice list of different species in the back of the book as well as a word and phrase list.

Any book that teaches kids compassion, that they can get along with others and be open to branch out into unknown territories is a wonderful book. I recommend checking out the other two titles in this series. What a lovely gift this set would make!

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Good Golly, Miss Molly! The First Female Firefighter

Molly, by Golly: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter ($16.95, Calkins Creek, Ages 7 and up) could not have come across my desk at a better time. It’s August, I live in Miami and every page of this book is magically illustrated with beautifully falling snow.  Naturally I found this very comforting and cooling.

Molly is an African American lady who cooks for the men of the New York Fire Company in the early 1800s. There is a blizzard outside, and many of the firefighters are home sick. Molly discovers there is a terrible fire in the city and is so concerned about the lack of workers, she runs through the snowy streets to the scene of the fire and instantly begins to lend a hand. What she does wins the hearts of the not just the firefighters, but all the people of the city.

What I love about Molly, by Golly is that it accurately depicts the era of the early 1800s. Author Dianne Ochiltree discovered a legend about Molly Williams while doing research for another historical fiction piece. To make the tale truly come to life, she was meticulous about depicting accurate firefighting techniques of that time period. I also applaud the fact that this is a book about heroine, an African American woman who stepped in when it was completely unexpected but desperately needed. Readers will truly appreciate the modern equipment we have available today as compared to back then!

You will thoroughly enjoy the superb, vivid illustrations by artist Kathleen Kemly, who studied old fire equipment at the NY City Fire Museum before beginning her work. In the back of the book are some great questions and answers, a list of additional valuable resources and a bibliography.

I highly recommend this book, as it would make a wonderful gift for any child.

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Learn Chinese With Disney

I love learning languages. I speak French and German, but those are probably ranked a 4 on a scale of 1-10 where Chinese might be a 9, so when I heard from an old friend, Melinda Thompson, that she had helped create a way to teach Chinese to English speakers, I was intrigued.  Could an over 40-year-old still learn with relative ease even as all those brain cell connections were diminishing daily? I made tracks to iTunes where I tried out Disney Publishing Worldwide’s clever new iPad app geared for children that teaches Chinese to English speakers and English to Chinese speakers through Toy Story 3. It makes total sense that working with a familiar story helps children easily pick up some basics of a new language while having fun at the same time. Thompson, Senior Producer, Book & Print at Disney English, sat down with me so I could learn the ins and outs of this exciting new learning tool for kids and parents that is available from iTunes in their educational section for only $4.99 in the U.S. 

Not only is the LEARN AND READ CHINESE app colorful and cool to look at, but it’s so easy to use that even I, a 21st century technology dinosaur, could navigate it after clicking on the tutorial tab. In a nutshell the app works like this: in the most basic setting level , a reader would find all of the story’s words in English which is essentially 100% English. The next level introduces a child to a quarter of the words in Chinese. Level three has half the words in Chinese and next they move on at level 4 to three quarters of the words or 75% in Chinese. Before they know it, they’ve reached the last level where the entire story is in 100% Chinese. 

Trying my hand at the app, I boldy went to the second level where a quarter of the words were in Chinese and noticed I’d forgotten the meaning of one of the Chinese words. First, to hear the word pronounced I just had to touch it.  Then all I had to do was use my finger to flick the word down to the translation box for the meaning. You can imagine I did a lot of flicking so to my delight I learned that rather than a blinking red light warning me to start on some Gingko Biloba, I actually got a little award for the amount of flicking I had done! 

In case you did not know this, the Learn and Read Chinese app uses an approach called Diglot Weave. Thompson explained that Diglot Weave teaches language by making a story based on the similarities of the different languages. In this case English and Chinese.  As I made my way through the different levels she said, “you’ve probably noticed the writing is filled with repetitive words and the sentences are written in a very specific way. And that’s because we only want to use words that are easy to translate.”

I was clearly hooked by this intelligent teaching method. “We don’t want anything that’s going to be too different from English and Chinese.” She explained the nuances of sentence structure, too. “Because you are moving onto 100% Chinese eventually, the sentence structure is important so we want to minimize those instances where English and Chinese are grammatically different. For that reason we have to take grammar and the way things are pronounced into account. The way that a child goes through this is to start with 100% English and gradually go to the next level. The names of the characters are most often the easiest to recognize in Chinese.”  I also learned that in written form using the English language, the Chinese used in the app is called Pinyin (created in the 1950s) because traditional Chinese, such as Mandarin, uses characters in written form.  The voice on the app is speaking in a Beijing, mainland China accent.

The largest image above shows the intro page with the icons at the bottom indicating: Tutorial (how-to), Achievement Stickers, Table of Contents, My Words (glossary), and Pinyin Tonal Marks, and Information (educational explanation and credits).

Q. Toy Story 3 was selected because the app plays off the fact that it’s a story we’re all very familiar with and that also helps us learn the words, right?

A. Yes, that along with the sound effects, that helps the reader and clues them into words.

Q. I thought the images would move, but this is much more like a picture book and it’s beautiful.  Everything is stationary.  Are these cells taken right from film?

A. The artwork in this app was done by our publishing division when the film came out. When they turn a film into a book they always make artwork to go with the book because screen shots from film will not work.

Q. Will my prononciation be corrected if I say a word wrong or if it’s unintelligible with my strong New York accent?

A. Voice recognition is not quite there yet for this app, but there’s no doubt it will happen one day.

Q. Is there something good about getting the award, do you get a certificate?  I liked the alert when I had received one.

A. You collect your awards on the Achievement page which is like a sticker book for each category you’ve completed.

Q. Is there a page that shows a Chinese learner some of the words written in character form?

A. Yes, there’s a Glossary where you can see first English, then Pinyin Chinese and then the Characters. There are around 64 words in glossary for main words used in story.

 QDoes Chinese have the same vowels as in English, a, e, i, o, and u?

A. Chinese is a character based. Pinyin was created to help people who know a phonetic based language like English understand Chinese.

NOTE: One other thing Thompson mentioned is that Chinese is based on tones and on this app there is a way to hear the tones, some easy some more subtle.  Believe it or not there are five tones for the two letters MA, for example there’s a rising tone, a falling tone, and a short tone  All the vowels in Chinese have different tones, too.

To sum things up, in order to use this app effectively, a child should first focus on learning to listen and speak Chinese. Next, once they’ve grasped that, they can start learning characters. This Learn and Read Chinese app from Disney mimics the way that most speakers of English and non-character based languages most frequently learn Chinese. So the key to learning is to move at a comfortable pace as there is no time limit involved. There are more than 100 Chinese words in the book so readers can learn this gradually when taking their time and going through the different levels. Thompson suggests that a child go at least five times through each different level and probably many more times than that.

Zàijiàn- Goodbye and  zhù nǐ xìngyùn – Good luck!


Educational Advisor: Yuhua Ji, PhD Chair, Professor, and PhD Program Advisor,
Department of English Language and Literature, Xiamen University, P.R. China

 App Developer: MegatonMedia

 App Art and Design: Kurt Hartman, Art and Design

 Bilingual Narrator: Elsi Eng

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On Top of the World


Debbie Glade reviews today’s title.

With the recent news that there is a decline in the production of science books for children and that climate change is threatening polar bears and other cold weather animals, I was so happy to read the big, beautiful book, North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration  ($16.99, Candlewick Press, ages 7 and up) by Nick Dowson. This essential book takes readers on a migrating journey over thousands of miles with a variety of animals – polar bears, grey whales, terns, geese, caribou and various types of whales. The book is written with such eloquent and clever prose, your child will be magically swept into the story . . . “Here in the winter, the sun sinks away, blizzards fill the darkness and even the seas freeze deep.” We learn how the animals migrate – whether on foot, by sea or by air – and what they eat, how they live and the challenges they face to survive. In the back of the book is factual information about the Arctic and a useful glossary of terms. The author is a teacher and a naturalist, and he certainly has a gift for getting children interested in animal migration just by the way he puts his words together.

Award winning illustrator, Patrick Benson captures the essence of Arctic wilderness with great splendor, making this an even more exceptional animal adventure for children and their parents alike.  The somewhat smoky pictures evoke the moisture and the darkness of the far, far north. Mr. Benson, who illustrated Roald Dahl’s, The Minpins, is an animal lover himself, as he lives on a 26-acre farm in rural Scotland.

I was not surprised to discover that Candlewick Press published this book. It is well written, educational, beautiful and sturdy – a perfect addition to any child’s library. I highly recommend it.

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Search and You Shall Find

Illustrating Where’s The Meerkat? ($9.99, Barron’s Publishing, ages 7 and up) must have been great fun for Paul Moran, Stevel Wiltshire and Simon Ecob, not to mention very time consuming! This entertaining and educational book can be described as Where’s Waldo meets a travel encyclopedia. Each two-page spread features a scene from a famous world destination, with one member of a (very cute) meerkat family hidden somewhere in the incredibly detailed, colorful picture. In a separate text box, written by Jen Wainwright, readers can learn a few important facts about the destination. In the back of the book are check lists, with specific items to look for on the pages, expanding the search way beyond the meerkat family.

I, for one, am now addicted to looking at the illustrations to find the meerkats and items on the checklist. What great fun that is! What’s better than a book that you can linger over like this with your children? I love the fact that the book teaches geography in a most clever and entertaining way. This would be a great book to take with you on a long car trip or plane.

Where’s the Meerkat has already been a bestseller in England. Now it has just been released in the U.S. and is sure to be a big hit here as well.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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