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Star Wars and Brain Quest Workbooks From Workman Help Kids Steer Clear of Summer Slide

KIDS WILL HAVE FUN LEARNING ALL SUMMER LONG!

 

cover illustration SUMMER BRAIN QUEST: Between Grades Pre-K & K from WorkmanSUMMER BRAIN QUEST: Between Grades Pre-K & K
Written by Workman Publishing, Bridget Heos
Illustrated by Edison Yan, Maris Wicks
Consulting Editor: Kimberly Oliver Burnim
(Workman Publishing, $12.95, Ages 4-5)

If the SUMMER BRAIN QUEST® series of workbooks, which launched last summer, aren’t on your radar, now’s a great time to discover them. The most recent addition to the “parent-trusted and kid-approved Brain Quest series, America’s #1 educational bestseller” is SUMMER BRAIN QUEST: Between Grades Pre-K & K and is certain to make learning an adventure! This 160-page workbook/activity book has been designed to prepare four- and five-year-olds for school, something that Workman found both parents and educators have been requesting for this age group.

Billed as a workbook, a game and an outdoor adventure all-in-one, SUMMER BRAIN QUEST: Between Grades Pre-K & K aligns with Common Core standards and cleverly and creatively covers Science, Social Studies, English Language Arts and Math. If your children are familiar with the popular Brain Quest decks, they’ll find this new workbook as enjoyable. Spanning eight levels of curriculum-based activities including ABCs, phonics, vocabulary, counting, shapes, patterns, maps skills, seasons and lots more, the workbook comprises a detachable foldout progress map, over 150 stickers “to track your progress on the map,” outside activities, a Brain Quest mini deck and a super cool Summer Brainiac Award certificate. Not only are there plenty of things to do indoors such as coloring pictures, tracing letters, counting and calendar skills there are also a bunch of exciting outdoor activities called quests including bug detective, making letters from sticks and ABC hopscotch.

The colorful and inviting cover, map, and sticker artwork by video game artist Edison Yan will get your curious kids eager to open the workbook and easily engaged with the interactive style of the exercises. An answer key is provided at the end along with some SUMMER BRAIN QUEST extras. This is one workbook both you and your soon-to-be kindergartners will welcome. And a reminder, the SUMMER BRAIN QUEST series is available up to the summer between grades 5 & 6 so once your children get hooked, there are more books to look forward to.

 

Star Wars Workbooks from Workman cover artStar Wars Workbooks
Grades 3 (Math, Reading and Writing) & 4 (Math, Reading and Writing)
by the Editors of Brain Quest; Consulting Editor: Barbara Black
(Workman; $8.95, Ages 8-10)

The latest installments in the Star Wars Workbooks are for 3rd and 4th graders and, like all the others (Pre-K through 2nd grade), they’re out of this world! Let the Force be with your kids as they conquer the curriculum-based exercises in these well-crafted, engaging books. They seamfully blend Star Wars spirit with “the unique mix of editorial quality, fun presentation, and rigorous educational standards of the Brain Quest Workbooks.”

These 96-paged interactive workbooks make learning or reviewing core subjects, including numbers, ABCs, phonics, and reading readiness for younger grades, and math, reading, and writing for the older ones, an intergalactic adventure. “The material aligns with national Common Core State Standards and is designed to reinforce essential concepts and lessons taught in schools.” In the 4th grade math workbook I had fun shopping with Han where it’s necessary to read a word problem first and, using fractions and multiplication, find the answers to questions such as: “Imagine that Chewie needs quarrels to load in the bowcaster. Each projectile costs 2/6 credit. How much will 6 quarrels cost? 6 x 2/6 = ? _______ credits.” Not sure of the math involved? Answers are provided in the back. I know because I had to double check—it’s been a while since 4th grade. 3rd grade math topics include multiplication and division, measuring area and perimeter, word problems, quadrilaterals and graph reading.

Illustrated throughout with fan faves like Rey and Finn from The Force Awakens as well as Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and other creatures, monsters, Jedi, and Sith, the workbooks make math, reading and writing accessible and surprisingly enjoyable with their array of original art inspired by “Star Wars movies and the expanded Star Wars universe.” I mean it’s not every day that kids will find themselves eager to outline in order to write a Rebel Report from Princess Leia, picking up parts of speech at a new Imperial Pilot Academy or understanding adverbs by Describing Droids—all part of the 3rd Grade Reading and Writing Workbook. Comprehensive yet not overwhelming, the Star Wars Workbooks provide a clever incentive to get kids away from the electronics that will reinforce prior learning and introduce key grade-appropriate skills. Help your kids “stay on target” the Star Wars way for mastering school skills.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Find a review of a math activity book here.

The Kite That Bridged Two Nations by Alexis O’Neill

Windy Days Not Required …
To Enjoy This Story Based On Actual Historical Events

Did you know that April is National Kite Month (officially March 29 – May 4, 2014)? I didn’t until author Alexis O’Neill told me. So what better time than now to review her latest picture book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations (Calkins Creek, $16.95, Ages 8-11) written by Alexis O’Neill with illustrations by Terry Widener? Just like us on Facebook and/or Twitter and let us know you did for an entry into the giveaway. Scroll down to the comment form to enter and please give us your mailing address in the comment section. Giveaway ends midnight PST on Tuesday, June 3rd. A winner will be chosen by Random.org and notified via email on Weds. June 4, 2014. Good luck!!

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The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge by Alexis O’Neill with illustrations by Terry Widener, Calkins Creek, 2013.

As a former New Yorker and a fan of Niagara Falls, I was eager to read O’Neill’s book to find out more about The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge. Perhaps, I wondered, I once even crossed its replacement, The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, when I visited Niagara Falls long ago. I first heard O’Neill read from this fantastic true tale at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference and marveled at her meticulous research and attention to detail. The free verse she chose to use in the picture book, along with having an older Walsh as narrator looking back on this historic event from his childhood, made it very accessible. I think that’s a big part of what makes this nonfiction story come alive for readers.

Homan Walsh is a 16-year-old who gets the “itch to fly a kite” when he feels the wind blowing just right. In fact, his love of kite flying as well as his uncanny ability to read the wind, has made him one of the best kite fliers around. Widener draws us into the locale of the story with illustrations of Walsh so close to the edge of cliffs along the Niagara that we just have to read on first and foremost to make sure he doesn’t fall. Plus, put on some wool socks because Widener’s frosty, snow covered Niagara scenes will pull you into the pages, bundled up right beside Homan as he braves the cold winter clime to fly his kite. When a handbill announcing a kite-flying contest catches his eye, he’s determined to win the …

$10 PRIZE TO THE FIRST BOY WHOSE KITE STRING SPANS FROM AMERICA TO CANADA

Young Walsh builds his own kite which he names Union with “a thousand feet of string to reach across the gorge.” And though I knew the story had a happy ending, I still found myself rooting for Walsh. In the end pages O’Neill notes she could not substantiate Homan Walsh’s tense relationship with his father as depicted in the book, however her research did indicate he lived apart from his family. So when his second kite-flying attempt to span the gorge proves successful, Walsh wins not only the contest, but the admiration and approval of this father.  He’s also laid the groundwork upon which engineer Charles Ellet, Jr. could string his cable to build a suspension bridge between the two countries.

As if the story alone were not good enough which it most certainly is, O’Neill seems to have read my mind and in the back matter of the picture book she answers the many questions I would have asked her in person. Included are an informative Author’s Note, a Timeline and Selected Sources and online links. Thanks to Alexis O’Neill for taking this seemingly little known story of Homan Walsh out of the archives and into our lives.

I encourage you to also check out this terrific interview with author O’Neill to get her personal account of how The Kite That Bridged Two Nations came to be written.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Creatures That Fly, Creatures that Crawl

Our regular readers have figured out by now that I love bugs, because I cannot seem to pass up reading books about them. I often daydream that I am an entomologist who researches and raises insects of all kinds, and even identifies new species. I suppose the next best thing to being a scientist who studies insects is reading books written by scientists, including  these two special books about dragonflies and caterpillars.

Author Chris G. Earley is the interpretive biologist at the University of Guelph’s Arboretum in Ontario, Canada. Most of the photos in the book were taken by the author.

dragonfDragonflies: Catching, Identifying, How and Where They Live ($6.95, Firefly Books, Ages 8-11) will get you hooked on these fascinating creatures. Dragonflies are part of a group of insects called odonates. They are fast fliers and have been around since before dinosaurs roamed the earth! If you want to find dragonflies on your own, look for them near rivers, lakes and swamps from early spring to late autumn.

In this information-packed compact paperback book, you’ll learn about the life cycle of the dragonfly (egg, nymph, adult); what they eat (other insects); how to catch them (using a net); and how to hold them (by gently folding back their wings). You’ll also discover many different kinds of dragonflies with descriptions and incredible photographs. There’s a list of additional books worth reading and an index to help you find what you’re looking for.

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caterp2The cover of Caterpillars: Find, Identify, Raise Your Own ($6.95, Firefly Books, Ages 8-11) makes you want to open this book right up and start reading. Caterpillars never cease to amaze children because their transformation into butterflies is nothing short of amazing.

Readers will be able to identify all the parts of the caterpillar and their life cycle (egg, caterpillar, chrysallis/cocoon, adult stage). They will also learn how to find, raise and feed them. And after reading about all the different types of moths and butterflies, and looking at photos, they will be able to identify a wide variety of species. This book also has a list for further reading and an index for quick reference.

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Both of these books teach children what they can do to protect these insects and to cherish the creatures of the wild. They will also encourage kids to want to learn more about nature and perhaps one day become scientists themselves.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

If you enjoy these books about bugs, read some of Debbie’s other reviews here.

Step Gently Out

Noisy Bug Sing-a-long

How To Raise Monarch Butterflies

Mayfly Day

Absurdly Entertaining, Creatively Fun

Author, Dan Gutman, who penned the 21-book series, My Weird School and Baseball Card Adventures, among other titles, has sold millions of books. Now he’s at it again with The Genius Files series. Let’s read what reviewer, Debbie Glade, has to say about the newest title in the series.

In a word, The Genius Files: Never Say Genius, ($16.99, Harper Collins, ages 8-12) is absurd. And I mean that in the most complimentary way.  It’s also hilarious, fascinating and extraordinarily entertaining.  Who wouldn’t want to read about a set of boy/girl twin protagonists named Coke and Pepsi McDonald? These two 13-year-old geniuses find themselves in the most compromising predicaments (such as being lowered into a vat of boiling oil) as they travel across the country in an RV with their parents on a quest to get to a family wedding.  In a previous book in the series, the twins discover they are part of a secret government program, and they seem to be thrown into unavoidable life threatening situations time and time again. It’s their genius, and a few convenient props (such as cheddar cheese head) that help them get through it all.

The parents take the twins to the most atypical attractions during their RV trip, such at the National Mustard Museum and to see The World’s Largest Egg. As a geography advocate, I love the fact that this series incorporates maps, directions and distances in the story. There are twists and turns to the plot and non-stop action and adventure. You’ll absolutely love the creativity of this book.

If your child has yet to read the earlier book in The Genius Files Series – Mission Unstoppable – the author familiarizes readers with the most important facts about the story using cheeky prose and witty humor. Even reluctant middle grade readers will find The Genius Files: Never Say Genius to be totally fascinating and a great read.

Mouse Gone Missing

My 11-year-old son Coleman has always been a voracious reader. The past few months he’s devoured some interesting middle grade books and I’ll be sharing some of his thoughts on what he’s read and loved.  The good news is that he’s discovered a slew of great books in all sorts of genres by a variety of very talented authors. We’ll begin our conversation by discussing a new series called The Song of the Winns and the first book in the Gerander trilogy is entitled The Secret of The Ginger Mice ($12.95, Running Press, ages 8 and up) by Frances Watts with illustrations by David Francis.   – Chosen as a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book 2011

 Q. In a nutshell, if you described this book to friends, what would you tell them it was about?

 A. I’d have to say this book is part mystery, part adventure about mice triplets. When Alice and Alex, two of the triplets discover their other brother has gone missing, Alice and Alex set out on a journey to find Alistair (a ginger mouse unlike the other two) and learn why he has possibly been mousenapped.

 Q. Where do the mice live in the story?

A. They live in a country called Shetlock which borders a country in turmoil called Gerander. Another nearby country called Souris is trying to take over Gerander.

Q. Tell us something about the triplets. What are they like, what challenges do they face trying to locate Alistair?

A. Alex and Alice are very adventurous yet Alistair is the type who would rather sit on a chair, snuggle with his scarf and read a book.  The two siblings face many obstacles during their exploits like Alex eating all the food on the first day of the journey, encounters with two-faced spies, and being locked in a cellar with almost no way out. 

Q. How do the struggles in Gerander affect the triplets?

A. Semi-Spoiler Alert:  Most of the ginger mice come from Gerander, and Souris wants to eliminate all of the ginger mice no matter where they are from so it will be easier to invade and conquer Gerander. As it happens Alistair was mousenapped by FIG, a pro-Gerander secret organization, in order to keep him safe from Souris mousenappers and spies. So all the time Alice and Alex are worried, Alistair is actually safe.  It’s when Alistair tries to escape to go home that his real problems begin.

Q. What did you enjoy most about this book?

A. It’s so hard to pinpoint one thing that I liked because there were so many things in the story I found enjoyable.  I cared about the mice and felt how they did. I thought the story idea was clever and it kept me turning the pages to see what crazy things Alistair was going to get up to, unlike how he usually behaved. The setting was quite realistic and it was easy getting caught up in the story.

Q. How did you feel when you finished the book?

A. At the end I was like, “No, give me more!” I did not want the book to end.

Q. Who would like The Secret of The Ginger Mice?

A. Anyone who can read well and likes adventure books with lots of surprises would find this a terrific book. In other words probably 3rd through 5th graders, or kids even younger if their parents read it to them. I can’t wait for book #2.

 

Lauren Child’s Fun New Spy Thriller

Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 8-11) by Lauren Child is reviewed today by Amanda Hogg.

Compared to Ruby Redfort, almost everyone is a bozo. At the age of seven she won the junior code-cracker championship. The following year she was offered admission to Harvard, which she declined because she had no interest in becoming “some kind of geek freak.” When we meet her at age 13, Ruby Redfort has been called in by Spectrum, a top secret spy agency, to help crack the Fool’s Gold Gang’s code and stop a robbery. But the code is not the only mystery Ruby has to solve. Ruby’s mother has a couple near misses with death and Mrs. Digsby the housekeeper has gone missing along with the entire contents of the Redfort house.

Bike, drive and sprint through Twinsford with Ruby, her pal Clancy Crew and Hitch, Spectrum agent/bodyguard/butler, as they try to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Who is involved in the Fool’s Gold Gang? Why is someone trying to run Ruby’s mom off the road? And just where has Mrs. Digsby gone?

You may be wondering how this book differs from any other kid genius mystery. Well let me tell you, buster. Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes has layer upon layer of mysteries to solve, codes to crack and clues to find which the reader can unravel along with Ruby. Thankfully, for those of us who have no patience for problem solving and code cracking, www.rubyredfort.com clears up some of the more frustrating conundrums for us.

Filled with cartoonish villains, secret agents and nifty gadgets, Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child is a fun, raucous spy thriller that will have adults and kids alike on the edge of their seats. This book will appeal to readers who like Clarice Bean, Harriet the Spy and just about any book where snarky, spunky kids are smarter than their adult counterparts.

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