If you or someone you know is going on
a vacation with children, here or abroad,
be sure to check out the following books
for added fun during any upcoming travel plans.
Around the World in 50 Ways
Written by Dan Smith
Illustrated by Frances Castle
(Lonely Planet Kids; $19.99, Ages 6-8
A clever travel maze of sorts, Around the World in 50 Ways is designed as a “choose-your-own travel adventure” where readers set off from London and try their hand at globetrotting with the goal of finishing up again in London. So much depends on what mode of transport or next destination is selected as to whether they’ll navigate the winning route the first time around. There are myriad means of travel and a plethora of possible routes, but beware of dead ends! Not to worry though because, like any good maze, readers just return to the beginning or the place where they ventured off incorrectly and try again. Along the way, kids will learn about some of the world’s most popular, exotic and interesting places while picking up fascinating facts—did you know Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh or that Hanoi in Vietnam is sometimes called “The Paris of the East”?—and enjoying bright and bold illustrations. From Bangkok, Barcelona, Battambang, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest and Buenos Aires all the way to Tokyo, Toronto, Trondheim, Vancouver, Venice, Victoria, Wellington and Wuppertal with tons of exciting destinations in-between, there’s tons to see and do (164 pages worth to be precise). How to get from point A to point B? Try a bus, a cruise, a rental car, a ferry, a felucca, a tuk-tuk, a canoe, a jumbo jet, a rickshaw, a sled and lots more! Whether going abroad or enjoying a local staycation, fit this book into your itinerary. Click here for a link to cool Lonely Planet quiz.
My Vacation Scrapbook
Written by Kim Hankinson
(Lonely Planet Kids; $9.99, Ages 6-8)
My Vacation Scrapbook (with over 150 stickers) is full of creative activities that will keep kids entertained for hours and also jumpstart their imaginations as you head off on holiday or even on day trips to the zoo, national parks, Disneyland or other theme parks. Not only is this scrapbook a great way to help kids experience a vacation from a new perspective, it’s also going to become a unique time capsule of special experiences away from home. One of my favorite activities included in My Vacation Scrapbook is the Bar Code Decode where children can play secret agent by using bar codes from various vacation purchases to track down enemy spies around the world. Included for that is a map with starred cities and numbered coordinates making this an inviting game for the entire family. There’s a two-page spread where readers can glue or tape found objects and turn them into art, there’s a place for snack wrappers (never thought of including those in my scrapbooks!), a competition involving meal receipts and loads of pages to stick other prized momentous from the trip. Kids will be able to find lots to do with the stickers provided and at the back, there’s even a “handy pocket to collect your souvenirs” like postcards, stamps, receipts and used museum passes and transportation tickets. An elastic band secures all the treasures for future viewing and reminiscing. The assorted 40 pages are thin enough for doing some rubbings of textured items yet sturdy enough to withstand frequent use. This would make a wonderful going away gift when paired with a pack of crayons, tape, glue sticks and scissors (just remember scissors cannot be brought on an airplane).
My Family Travel Map – North America
(Lonely Planet Kids; $14.99, Ages 9-12)
This “fold-out, fact-filled poster” is a map of North America meaning included are Canada’s 13 provinces, America’s 50 states and 21 other countries plus 22 dependencies (territories that are governed by, or make up part of, another country.The range of destinations spans from Antigua and Barbuda to the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you’re a fan of geography this is a definite must-have, but even if you are unfamiliar with the map, it’s an interactive, educational and entertaining way to get to know North America. It’s easy to personalize the map with the over 180 stickers that say things like GOING HERE SOON, BEEN HERE!, I LIVE HERE plus hearts, stars, arrows, modes of transportation, sun, rain, clouds and other assorted weather stickers, as well as blank stickers to customize. When you’re done exploring, turn the map over for interesting details about places you’ve traveled to, plan to visit or may have on your “dream destination” list. Bring My Family Travel Map along on any upcoming road trips or play armchair traveler from the comfort of your home.
Read our review of First Words French from Lonely Planet Kids.
CHRISTMAS BOOKS FOR KIDS
A ROUNDUP – PART ONE
Here’s the first of several roundups full of great new Christmas books for kids that we hope you’ll enjoy. There’s really something here for everyone under age 10 who’s interested in a great story or activity during the long holiday break. Let us know which ones ended up being your family’s favorites. Merry Christmas!
A World of Cookies for Santa:
Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World
Written by M.E. Furman
Illustrated by Susan Gal
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BYR; $16.99, Ages 4-7)
In A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World, Santa takes a journey across the globe to drop off gifts and savor treats children leave for him.
The story begins appropriately on Christmas Island in the South Pacific where Santa finds the children’s gift of chewy coconut macaroons. From Christmas Island, Santa visits Asia, Africa, Europe, South American and North America before heading home to the North Pole. Santa’s entire journey may be traced by using the map at the beginning of the book.
Splashes of orange and dashes of red flood the 48 pages and create warm cheery scenes. The joy of giving and receiving is vividly expressed on the faces of smiling children. Parents may stumble over a few foreign words, but there’s lots of opportunities for fun-learning. Furman provides recipes for baking Santa’s cookies which may inspire children and families to try new multicultural holiday recipes. Countries may have different Christmas customs, but they are similar in keeping the traditions of preparing and enjoying treats.
• Reviewed by Randi Lynn Mrvos
Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things:
Written and illustrated by Gergely Dudás
(HarperCollins; $14.99, Ages 4-8)
Growing up, I was always a fan of the “find the hidden objects” puzzles, so it’s no surprise that I love Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things even now as an adult. As the title suggests, the reader is invited to help bear find the items he needs for his upcoming holiday party. Children will enjoy the challenge of perusing through the crowd of cute critters, the jumble of gingerbread, and the sea of snowmen to get bear’s party going. The 32 pages of colorful confections, gift bags galore, and a multitude of mittens make a Christmasy camouflage that will keep the young ones engaged while they look for ice-skates, an ornament, and an array of other goodies. Some things are easier to spot than others so don’t be surprised if this turns into fun for the whole family.
If you’re looking for something to keep the kids entertained while you’re planning a party of your own, Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things should do the trick. And don’t worry, this is not a one-and-done book either. Even after they’ve found everything for Bear, little ones will enjoy looking through the wintery scenes again and again to see what else they might have missed.
• Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher
Written by Martha Brockenbrough
Illustrated by Lee White
(Arthur A. Levine Books; $17.99, Ages 5 and up)
Will this be the year your child learns the truth about Santa? You may want to hold off sharing this purposely green foil-banded book until your youngest is ready to have “that conversation” with you about whether or not Santa is real. While Scholastic suggests that this picture book may be appropriate for children aged 5, another publication recommends it for ages 6-9 and still another says it’s for kids ages 9-12. To be honest, only a parent knows when their child will appreciate the heart felt message Brockenbrough so beautifully and thoughtfully conveys.
The story is interactive in that a little girl does her annual correspondence to Santa and young readers can actually open an envelope, pull out the letter and then have it read to them or read it themselves. Naturally she’s curious about all things North Pole, until she turns eight. That’s when she leaves Santa’s note for her mother instead, inquiring whether she is actually the wondrous world traveler. Her mom’s response will no doubt resonate with all readers of a certain age. “Santa,” replies the mother, “is bigger than any one person. He always has been.” The message that the truth and tradition of Santa is carried on by all who cherish the magic of believing in something good and selfless is one that will touch everyone this Christmas. Certain to be treasured by all who receive it, Love, Santa is THE book to reach for whenever a child questions the existence of Mr. Claus.
• Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
MORE GREAT HOLIDAY READS HERE
Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part Two
Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part Three
Holiday Gift Books Guide
– A Roundup of Holiday Books –
A First Celebrations Book
Written by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
Illustrated by Peggy Tagel
(Charlesbridge; $6.95, Ages 0-3)
Going to relatives or friends for Thanksgiving and don’t know what to bring along to keep your little ones occupied and entertained? Why not consider buying a copy of this counting themed board book, part of the Charlesbridge’s First Celebrations series for the youngest readers in your family? With its vibrant colored turkey cover, this new book introduces the first Thanksgiving and one ear of corn going all the way up to six multi-hued leaves falling from a tree and lots of scrumptious food in between. Thanksgiving Counting is a great way to get your children to observe all the decorations and food around the dinner table while learning to count all the wonderful things that make this holiday so enjoyable.
Written and illustrated by Michael Hall
(Greenwillow Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
For Hall fans and those who also appreciate the art of Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert, Wonderfall is sure to delight. As the jacketflap says, “In this book you will discover 1 colorful tree, 2 scurrying squirrels, and 15 blended words created to celebrate the wonder of fall!” So much goes on around this one majestic oak tree. In 15 brief poems that tell the story of the people and animals that live and work near it, we see what an important role this tree plays as autumn turns into winter. Peacefall, Plentifall, Playfall, Frightfall, Thankfall, and Watchfall, are just a few of Hall’s wordplay topics that culminate in Snowfall. The stories move from acorns dropping with a plink, plunk, plop to the magic of fall’s magnificent colors. The tree is there to welcome trick-or-treaters, witness animals enjoying nature’s bounty and provide piles of leaves in which children frolick, and branches in which squirrels chase. A bonus for readers is the five pages of back matter containing great information about the tree, the animals that find shelter in it and get nourishment from its acorns. I’ll weigh in here with one more blended word that happens to be my reaction to reading this charming new picture book – Joyfall!
Thankfulness to Color:
Gratitude to live and color by
Written and illustrated by Zoë Ingram
(Harper; $15.99, Ages 4 and up)
Coloring books are so popular right now and with the hectic holiday season upon us, there’s no better time to find a few quiet moments with your kids to decompress. Coloring helps foster creativity and mindfulness, and most of all, it’s calming. Adults and children alike will find the designs and quotes that Ingram has provided to be perfectly suited for Thanksgiving. On the last page of Thankfulness to Color is a list of these quotes including Henry David Thoreau’s “I am grateful for what I am and have,” all of which have been woven into the plethora of beautiful patterns. Keep this book to enjoy with the family or give as a gift to your holiday hostess.
Here are links to our book reviews from previous Thanksgivings:
LITTLE CRITTER: JUST A SPECIAL THANKSGIVING
Written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer
BEST THANKSGIVING BOOKS – A ROUNDUP 2015
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING ESCAPE
Written and illustrated by Mark Fearing
If you have a doodler, or a kid who likes geometrical shapes and patterns, then This is Not a Math Book is for you! There are over 30 fun and creative drawing activities that just so happen to have a subtle math spin. With a few drawing and math tools in tow, kids’ll be set to choose an activity. I can see this book coming in handy for the classroom or for homeschoolers. You can learn to make tessellations or fractals, and see how neat it is to create drawings with lots of circles and triangles.
Interior artwork from This is Not a Math Book by Anna Weltman, Kane Miller Books ©2015.
Interior artwork from This is Not a Math Book by Anna Weltman, Kane Miller Books ©2015.
I decided to try my hand at a little tessellation and I really enjoyed inventing a creature to match my shape. This book makes math entertaining and gives ample creation decisions to the reader.
Sample of Transformers activity from Kane Miller Books’ This is Not a Math Book completed & photographed by reviewer Lucy Ravitch ©2015.
Even as an adult I found the book fascinating. I also watched my kids spending a good amount of time on their creations, intent on making them just right. The instructions were easy to follow and could be used by most kids ages 8 and up. It’s helpful, too, that there’s a handy Table of Contents and Glossary if you’re looking for a particular activity.
Kudos to Weltman for coming up with this unique, hands-on math/drawing activity book that is sure to be a hit with children and parents alike.
Lucy Ravitch is the blogger behind KidsMathTeacher.com and author of The Pancake Menu: What will you order? An interactive book that lets kids practice math as they play restaurant, with free printable order sheets and play money on KidsMenuBooks.com. Lucy loves everything that makes math fun, and enjoys crafting and cooking books as well. She has a degree in Elementary Education and lives in Southern California with her family and cute, crazy dog.
Play and Learn with Wallace: Giant Workbook
by Roger Priddy is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Play and Learn with Wallace: Giant Workbook by Roger Priddy, Priddy Books/Macmillan, 2014.
Summer is lots of fun for children, but it can also mean learning loss for some students. This might be especially true for students gearing up to enter kindergarten. Play and Learn with Wallace: Giant Workbook (Priddy Books/Macmillan, $12.99 Ages 3 and up) with
content created by Ellen J. Bretherton, has over 300 activities that work on tracing, pen control, cutting and pasting, the alphabet, phonics, numbers 1-20, times table, days/months/seasons, colors/shapes/patterns, and telling time (both analog and digital).
Wallace the dog joins our young learners and helps them throughout the book. He’ll let them know what they need to do, such as “follow the direction of the arrows” or “paste the cutouts into the white squares.”
Number recognition is presented in fun games such as Matching Socks where you draw lines between socks or Bone Hunt where you match the dogs to their bones using number pairs.
For phonics, children will trace each letter and then draw a line to connect the sound to the picture that it begins with. They can also play Which Letter? where they look at each picture and then circle the letter that makes the starting sound.
Full of bright illustrations and photographs with multicultural persons, the Giant Workbook is engaging, as well as educational. The reward chart is a bonus. My youngest child has greatly enjoyed working her way through this book and hasn’t complained at all that this is “work.” I don’t think there’s a more positive review than that.
Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins, Candlewick Press, 2014.
My youngest daughter adores a certain mouse by Lucy Cousins, so Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book (Candlewick Press, 2014; $11.99, Ages 3 and up) was a huge hit with her. With over 50 activities, it’s perfect for doodling, coloring, drawing, and, most importantly, using imagination. Each of the pages has a prompt and an illustration to inspire little hands to get busy with crayons, markers, or pencils. For example, your child can give these mugs some pretty patterns or can help draw some food that she [Tallulah] would like to eat. The prompts help children learn or reinforce colors, patterns, shapes and content knowledge.
As with all Maisy books, the illustrations are splendid in their simplicity, and Maisy’s friends are there to join the fun. Draw lots of teeth for Charley so he can crunch on this tasty carrot. Make his shirt striped. Panda has been eating tomato soup. Draw the TERRIBLE MESS he has made on his face and everywhere else!
The pages are 12.5” x 9”, so there is plenty of space to color. When we’ve been on our way to dine out, I’ve torn pages from the book and taken them with us. That way, my daughter has her placemat(s) at the diner, as well. In her words, “You could color it, look at it, and it’s fun.”
Check out this terrific My Friend Maisy/Maisy’s Fun Club site for kids.