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20Jan 09

Come Read With Me!

millionsofcats1Can you remember the first books you read as a child, the ones which have remained firmly planted in your memory while what you did yesterday is long gone? I can, and now most are considered classics: Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag, Caddie Woodlawn and Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink. These were engaging books, books that set my mind wandering and because of them (in addition to a very astute school librarian) I haven’t stopped reading since.

imagesSo many books, so little time you may say, which is exactly why we at L.A. Parent decided to launch this blog. We know how busy you are and want to simplify your life as well as your bookstore experience, especially if you have little ones in tow. Now you can check here first before heading out to the store, making your shopping trip less overwhelming as you view shelf upon shelf of kids’ books.

Not only am I passionate about reading, I am a children’s book author wannabe. Every time I find a great children’s book I think to myself, “Wow, I wish I’d written that!” But since that great idea just hasn’t dawned on me yet, I continue to remain satisfied with all the great stories by new and not so new writers I read here daily. And if you’re like me, you’ll agree there’s nothing like sitting down with a hot cup of tea, stretching out your legs on the ottoman and settling back for a good read with gorgeous illustrations that jump off the page and transport you to another time and place.

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20Jan 09

Our 44th President

barack-obamaBarack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope – by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, $16.99, ages 5-10). Barry, as he was once known, always had hope. President Obama’s life story is recounted by a single mother whose hopes for her young son David are the same as any mother’s. We learn about Obama’s journey from Hawaii to Indonesia to Kenya, from New York to Chicago and ultimately Washington, D.C., meet his blended family and all the inspirational individuals he met along the way, and see how his path was molded from a very early age. Share this book with your children or let them enjoy it on their own. The artwork is thoughtful and the text simple, yet substantial. There are more reviews about American Presidents in our exclusive web only Presidents Day and Black History Month book roundup.

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21Jan 09

Hillary’s Hope

hillary-rodham-clinton1The title inspires. And the subject, Hillary Rodham Clinton – our former First Lady, New York State Senator, Presidential Candidate and Secretary of State designate – simply
soars through the pages of this readable children’s book. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Amy June Bates (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, $16.99, ages 5-10) shows readers how, spurred on by her father, Clinton started on her path toward shattering the glass ceiling at an early age. Cataloging both the setbacks and successes of her life, the book details her accomplishments, from speaking up for migrant workers and abused women worldwide to championing healthcare in an enlightening end piece. A recommended and empowering example for young girls.

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22Jan 09

A ‘Little’ Goes A Long Way

I can’t make it to Santa Monica this Thursday evening, January 22nd, but maybe you can. Head over anytime between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. for your last opportunity to view the exclusive exhibition of Garth Williams’ original illustrative art from children’s classic, Stuart Little only at Every Picture Tells A Story Gallery. Join them for readings, refreshments, family fun, and your last chance to own one of these unique historic treasures of children’s literature.


Give a ‘Little’ bit today
Incidentally, another great reason to attend: A portion of all the proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross of Santa Monica.

Every Picture Tells A Story Gallery: 1311-C Montana Avenue, Santa Monica CA 90403 (310) 451-2700 www.everypicture.com 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

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23Jan 09

Walk (or Pull) This Way!

loose-leashesYou may have heard that “Loose lips sink ships,” but what about loose leashes? In a rollicking good read entitled Loose Leashes, husband and wife team Amy and Ron Schmidt explore the possibilities both poetically and photographically. But before I say anymore, I recommend you check out editor Carolyn Graham’s recent blog post on Jan. 22 about her family’s newest member who, at this writing, is yet to be named. The ESCAPE-ades of her Houdini-like Lab is certainly fodder for future posts.

I recently sat down with my seven year old son, Coleman, and had such a good time together reading all the playful poems by Amy Schmidt. We both enjoyed Adventurers where some daredevil dogs chase a ball downstream. And, because he adores Chihuahuas, Coleman roared with laughter at the poem and Ron’s portrait accompanying The Battle of the Bone. In an amusing collection of haikus to limericks, 19 pooches from Beagles to Bulldogs jump off the pages and tug at your heartstrings, not to mention your leash. The funny “Furry Facts” at the end make for a fab finish, too. I give this hilarious new book a resounding two paws up!

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26Jan 09

Life As a Quilt

Stitchin’ and Pullin’ by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, came out this past October and is one of those special books that all school libraries should have on hand.

stitchin-and-pullinThe women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have kept more than their quilt making tradition alive. They have kept their culture flowing from generation to generation with the stitch of a needle, creating their own unique fabric of life. Through beautiful, touching poetic vignettes, author Patricia C. McKissack has woven together the history of Gee’s Bend now famous community of quilters whose artful works now grace the walls of museums. The vibrant illustrations by Cabrera add another attractive element to the book. Being unfamiliar with the Gee’s Bend quilters, I was grateful for both the introduction and the author’s note at the end offering insight into the story behind the book’s conception. I certainly will be on the lookout for the next time an exhibition comes to town. In celebration of Black History Month, visit our web page to learn about more great reads in our exclusive book roundup.

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28Jan 09

Try Not To Eat These Books

img_55551Terresa Burgess, a graphic artist here at L.A. Parent and mom to Teagan, aged 16 months, has helped review these two new fun children’s books called Books Are For Reading by Sally Becker and Duck & Goose: How Are You Feeling? by Tad Hills.

catalog_cover_100Terresa says she found Books Are For Reading to be a “clever interactive” book for babies and toddlers. They can even take a bite after they’re done reading the book because of the colored textured teethers at every corner. Short and sweet sentences guide little ones on what not to eat (e.g. Toes are for stomping, not chomping!). With its simple, but funny illustrations, this makes an enjoyable read (and eat) for the nibblers in your life. Terresa says she’d “definitely buy this as a gift for someone. ”

img_5581duckgooseThis adorable board book, Duck & Goose: How Are You Feeling? is the third book in a series. “I love the bright colorful and warm watercolor illustrations,” says Terresa. The easy to read, one word text will help young ones identify their feelings and, says our new mom, Terresa, “Parents can act out the different emotions like being patient, selfish, happy, etc.” This book provides a great way for parents to ask their kids “how are you feeling?” and let them know that it’s okay to feel frustrated or angry. The last page is both Teagan and Terresa’s favorite, LOVING. The comical team of good friends, Duck and Goose, embrace in a hug. So cute!

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05Feb 09

A Stink-y Good Read

When my seven year-old Coleman needs a good giggle, I know just what book to give him.  Any book starring beloved character Judy Moody’s younger brother Stink is guaranteed to bring a broad grin to my son’s face. In fact, he’ll take the book and read it cover to cover in one sitting, it’s just that good.  Today he slunk down into the sofa and read to himself for at least one half hour (and who can argue with that kind of staying power?) and returned with this review. 51aesalsgql_sl160_aa115_ 

Stink-o-pedia: Super Stink-y Stuff from A-Zzzzz by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is full of fun facts.  It has practical jokes and stuff that makes you laugh.  It’s written in alphabetical order, too, so you can go right to the letter H and look up something.  Did you know that Hippos don’t sweat, they slime?  And, the slime acts like a suntan lotion!  Coleman told me there are less words than in a dictionary, but all the descriptions are from Stink’s point of view. I could not believe how many pages he dog-eared to show his friends at lunch tomorrow.  One thing’s for certain, I’ll be having a good look-see at all those folded back pages tonight to find out why he asked me if we had any Superglue in the house …

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08Feb 09

Calling All Reviewers!

images1Maybe you just love reading, or maybe you’re into picture books. Perhaps your daughter  wants to earn extra credit in her English class, or perhaps you’re already hard at work on your first children’s book. Whatever your inclination or motivation, I’m looking for you! Just submit your name  and age of your child to me as a potential guest reviewer.  If selected, you will be sent an age appropriate book to review. In return you’ll get to keep the book as our way of saying thanks for your contribution. We’d also love to have some digital picture of you reading the book to your child, or your child reading the book.  If you’re not sure you’re up to the task, take a look at the posting by Terresa Burgess to see how easy it really is.images-1

There are loads of terrific books coming my way and I’d be delighted if you’d join me in reviewing some of them for the rest of the good book hungry blogoshphere!

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10Feb 09

Staying Awake and Going to School With Jake

laparent1When I picked up Michael Wright’s two kids books, Jake Stays Awake and Jake Starts School, I didn’t know what to expect, but was instantly wowed by the cover artwork. I first saw Wright’s name on a flyer at my son’s elementary school in La Canada where he was scheduled to be a guest reader. I ran home and flipped through the school phone book to no avail. He was not a school parent. After Googling him along with the Jake book titles, I ended up at his cool and colorful website and contacted him.

Turns out he’s what we call a local writer at L.A. Parent. Hailing from Manhattan Beach, this father of three has a hit series on his hands and the good news is 9780312367978there’s more on the horizon. Despite the downpour last Thursday, I headed over to hear Michael’s talk and found him to be not only an engaging speaker, but truly in love with what he does. The kids in the audience got such a kick out of Wright’s comic delivery when he read the stories out loud and projected the images on the screen – my favorites being the family asleep on the kitchen counters in Jake Stays Awake and the whole family riding together on one tricycle in Jake Starts School. 97803123679852Let me know which pix are your faves by leaving a comment for me below. And if you’ve ever had similar experiences as Jake’s parents did (a child who did not want to sleep alone in their own bed or an anxious kindergardener), I’d love to hear about that, too!

Wright treated us to a short story (rather loudly since that’s part of the plot) called Russell the Butterfly about patience and kindness. I have no doubt a few aspiring writers went home that img_0673evening to try their hand at short story writing. The funniest comment of the evening came as a youngster asked how long Wright took to design a two page spread and when he replied, “around two weeks,” the child was shocked remarking he could “draw a picture in like, ten minutes!” img_0672Inspired by his youngest son, Michael explained how he began incorporating his zany artistic style into writing children’s books and it’s clear the hysterical stories are drawn from personal experience. In a brief conversation after his book chat I also learned we had several things in common.

Like me, he’s originally from Long Island, N.Y. and has a peanut butter obsessed child. But when you’re as talented as Wright is, you take that obsession (or to quote Wright, his son’s “deep and abiding love for peanut butter) and create what is bound to be another super story called Jake Goes Peanuts, so watch out for that one at your local bookstore. And speaking of local bookstores, Wright was brought to Coleman’s school’s attention by Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse, an L.A. Parent’s Best Of 2008 Winners!

Wright told me that as a child his favorite books were Ferdinand The Bull and Curious George and, in addition to an old collection of Hemingway, and a book by David Sedaris on his nightstand, he still enjoys reading H.A. Rey today. Right now he’s working an a storyboard for a one hour animated version of Jake Stays Awake and his agent has a comic strip of his with a syndicator, so that, too, may be something exciting on the horizon. I asked Wright what he would tell parents about dealing with bedtime problems and his response was no surprise. “Keep it funny. Somehow figure out a way to make it their idea to go to sleep. That’s mental manipulation of the highest order – convincing them that they thought of it themselves!” As for dealing with anxiety about starting school, Wright says he thinks there is no quick solution, “just preparing well in advance.”

I like to ask authors and illustrators their favorite color in a Crayola crayon box and Wright’s, I learned, is Aquamarine – “because it always made me feel like I was going to dive into water.” By the way, Wright’s planning another book called Jake Meets Monster and I can’t wait to dive in!

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11Feb 09

A Question of Love

Guest Reviewer, Jessica Smith and her daughter, four year-old Norah, are from Dracut, Massachusetts. For another review from Jessica, check back next week.norahreadingbook1
Reminiscent of Q-Bert from the popular 1980s arcade game, a colorful and adorably cute orange being peeks out from the bottom of the cover of Joost Elffers’ and Curious Pictures Do You Love Me? 9780061667992 The other colorful characters, dubbed “Snuzzles,” in this simple and appealing storyline, take parent and child through one of the most enduring ties of parenthood: the unfailing love of a parent for his or her little one and the reminder to each of our children how special they are. As the inside flap indicates, “Here is a very little book that answers a very big question.” The book, for ages 2-5, highlights a time in a child’s life where they are opened up to various new experiences and sometimes scary new changes; the reminder that they are loved always and that we’d leave them “never ever” is the most telling part of this book.

The softness of the illustration is tender and sweet. My daughter Norah, having just turned four, particularly liked the bold, bright colors and loveable, “smooshy” animals. She giggled as two red and green Snuzzles encouraged their little orange guy to “snuzzle closer” for a kiss goodnight while going nose to nose. The orange Snuzzle from the cover seemingly tucked into the back flap of the book, sleeping soundly with its stuffed elephant and bear is a sweet surprise at the end.

norahreadingbook3A simple message from the heart of a parent to his or her child about wanting them forever and always being there to be held “snug and tight”, Elffers’s book is sure to become a quick favorite. Norah, ever my yardstick for measuring the likeability of a book, smiled as we finished and asked, “Can we read it again?”

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12Feb 09

Let’s Celebrate Lincoln

Today I am celebrating the birthday of our nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, with a roundup of several noteworthy children’s books. It’s definitely worth noting that February 12th is also the 100th anniversary of the NAACP as well as Charles Darwin’s birthday.

9780060848194What Lincoln Said, by Sarah Thomson, illustrated by James E. Ransome is recommended for ages 6-9. From earning his first dollars to outlawing slavery, Honest Abe’s life was one of hard work and dedication. Along his journey, Lincoln’s quotes, such as “Leave nothing for tomorrow that can be done today,” and “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” were as well known as the man himself. In this book we learn about Lincoln’s character through his words as well as his deeds.

0763637238medLincoln and His Boys, by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has a suggested age range of 8-12. Told through the eyes of Lincoln’s sons Willie and Tad, this engaging story about Lincoln’s rise in politics is both enlightening and endearing. Willie and Tad were the closest of the Lincoln boys and their experience being “first children” is probably not very different than what Malia and Sasha Obama will encounter in the White House today.

9780805082647 Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier, for ages 5 and up, is a deftly crafted story bringing together two of history’s greatest statesmen. The book introduces young readers to a most unusual relationship of its time. The year is 1865 and the setting is Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball. From there the book details the path of Douglass, former slave, leader of the abolitionist movement and reformer and how it crossed fortuitously with that of Lincoln, our nation’s 16th president.

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13Feb 09

Send a Message of Big Red Love


We all know it only takes a little to BE BIG…

Join with Scholastic Media and Clifford The Big Red Dog’s campaign today to raise awareness for how Clifford’s BIG Ideas (Sharing, Helping Others, Being Kind, Being Responsible, Playing Fair, Being a Good Friend, Believing in Yourself, Respecting Others, Working Together and Being Truthful) can make the world a better place.

The BE BIG campaign urges civic engagement and volunteerism and the BE BIG Fund will support local community engagement opportunities that will recognize and reward others for their BE BIG actions. So what can you do?

Get involved!
The official BE BIG! website includes a chance for users to create and send a virtual Valentine’s Day card to Clifford. For every card delivered through February 28th, Scholastic will donate one dollar to the BE BIG Fund*.

cliff_beanbag8inScholastic has joined with specialty retailer FAO SCHWARZ for the launch of the BE BIG program and is currently carrying exclusive BE BIG tagged Clifford Plush in its flagship locations as well as in its FAO SCHWARZ boutiques in Macy’s stores nationwide. Scholastic will donate 10% of the net proceeds from the sale of designated FAO SCHWARZ CLIFFORD BE BIG! products to the BE BIG Fund at HandsOn Network.

And on the 14th, don’t forget to send me a card. I simply love that Big Red Dog!

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17Feb 09


Today’s Guest Reviewer, Sean Burgess, is a professional drummer and music teacher originally from Massachusetts. He lives in Hollywood with Terresa, his wife of 8 years, their 17 month old daughter Teagan and two crazy dogs named Nigel and Sable. So, Yo! Check out what he has to say about some pretty popular new books.

My family became instant fans of the hit children’s television show “Yo Gabba Gabba!” We are totally taken with the infectious, indie-new wave-electro songs with themes from brushing teeth to weather. The unique characters and personalities featured in each episode really catch your eye.

61oyvl378ql_sl500_ss100_1With all of the merchandising launched from the show, the coolest has to be the Welcome to Gabba Land hardcover book by Irene Kilpatrick. Fans of the show will immediately recognize that this book is shaped like DJ Lance’s boom box. The book is more like a play set, folded open to reveal the setting of the show. It also comes with characters that are paper dolls. We have fun every time we open the book to recreate the opening of show. DJ Lance opens the boom box to reveal the characters that soon come to life and romp around their respective “Lands”. This book is geared towards baby to preschool ages. My 17 month-old daughter Teagan has a img_5744habit of ripping papers so we use the actual stuffed toys rather than sacrifice the paper dolls. If you’re looking for a book to read, this may not be it. The only words are the descriptions and the names of each character. However, it is fun to find out what each creature really is. Welcome to Gabba Land is visually striking and closely reminiscent of the show. I would say we play with it more than read it.

314nemcmqyl_sl500_aa180_The Yo Gabba Gabba! book that is a good read is Party in My Tummy by Jessica Echeverria. This board book is geared towards ages 4-8. The look and story content sounds just like the song from the show. “Party in My Tummy” happened to be the first song on the first Yo Gabba Gabba! episode we watched. It is super catchy and is sung at every one of our family feasts! The img_50591book is totally interactive allowing your young ones to open all the flaps to see what each character is going to eat. The Gabba bunch promotes healthy eating habits as well as reinforcing other positive life lessons. Although the age range is older than my img_50581daughter, being familiar with the show and song keeps her focused on all the words as we read. Even if you have not seen the show, the kooky characters, fantastic graphics and fun rhyming words will keep any and all reading this book over and over. “Now there’s a party in my tummy! So yummy, so yummy…”

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18Feb 09

Esau Andrade

perfectseasonfordreamingThis Thursday, February 19 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. join the friendly folks at Every Picture Tells a Story to celebrate the genius works of master folk artist Esau Andrade, who has come all the way from Mexico.
maninhammuckOften celebrated amongst the company of famed Latino painters such as Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamay, Andrade’s works are found hanging in respected museums and galleries. Get your own signed copy of his new best selling book, A Perfect Season For Dreaming and enjoy readings and refreshments at:

Every Picture Tells A Story: 1311-C Montana Avenue, Santa Monica CA 90403 (310) 451-2700 www.everypicture.com

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20Feb 09

Crazy Cattitudes

My 16 year-old cat, Nikky, would love local author Steve Fisher’s book The World Is Your Litter Box since it’s actually a how-to manual written for cats, not humans, which she could have written had she opposable thumbs. But for those of you still getting to know me, allow me to digress.1402752962m

I wasn’t always a cat person. I grew up devoted to my Standard Poodle, Bridgette, and vowed to have dogs my entire life. Back in 1969, an eventful year with the Moon Landing and such, my brother found a stray cat which our parents allowed us to keep with the proviso it remained outdoors so as not to upset Bridgette. Well, our interest in that cat, which we’d imaginatively named Frisky, lasted about as long as the first moon walk. Soon after, Frisky began spending more and more time in our neighbor’s backyard and was aptly renamed Apollo.  The rest, good readers, is history.

Fast forward 20 years to 1989. My then future husband, Dan, had a cat named Tiger and so sparked my newfound fondness for all things feline and finicky. Tiger happily lived to a hearty old age of 19 and since then with our travel-filled lives, we’ve always only had cats as pets.

quasi-bio2Now back to this delectable, delightful read as told to readers by Quasi, Fisher’s cat affectionately known as Big White Guy or Quaz. This is a seriously laugh-out-loud book which I have already read with tears in my eyes (yes I laughed that hard) to my husband, my son and L.A. Parent’s managing editor, Christina Elston. One of my favorite chapters is Humans’ Questions About Cats which includes these classics (and even these two were hard to choose since they are all so very, very funny. In fact  I am laughing as I type, but must remind you that the full impact does come when the list is read in its entirety!):

Late at night, do cats levitate themselves toward the ceiling and hover over their sleeping humans? Yes.

While sniffing catnip and kicking their back legs, do cats sing Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane songs to themselves? Yes.

Reading Amusing Tricks and Games is bound to bring a grin to your face, in particular, the Psycho Kitty entry and its accompanying warning  that playing this game will make your human extremely upset, to say the least. And frankly, if 20 Good Places to Throw Up doesn’t break you up, I don’t know what will! Fisher’s sense of humor and insight into a cat’s psyche is unparalleled, and the categories he’s covered are so on the mark (or should I say so in the litter box?). Even when he covers a visit to the vet, he’s got it down! However, he never met Ellis, my Tabby who died in 2005. In her prime, Ellis, though mush in my hands, could only be removed safely from her cage by vets wearing heavy duty gardening gloves!

At this point I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that I usually do not read these types of books, but now am so glad that I have. I’ve been told to expect a new book later this year and I simply cannot wait.

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23Feb 09

Letting Some Cute Cats Out of The Bag

Cat Cover 7x10.5 wrk DOkay, so I’m on a cat bend right now, but for good reason. Cat, by Matthew Van Fleet with photography by Brian Stanton is fancatstic! The cover alone drew me in with its little grey cat pawing at an unsuspecting goldfish swimming contentedly in a bowl (push the arrow tab and watch what happens) and the in-your-face Siamese with the soft, touchable tail. And what’s not to love about Mo, the Exotic Shorthair? I learned this big orange cat’s name along with all the others from the back inside cover where all the felines featured are pictured in frames with their best face forward. Little ones will not be able to put this book down with its clever push/pull, open/close mechanics and tactile pages. They’ll meet furry cat, bald cat, and a toy that goes squeak, a scary cat, a cute cat , a hide one and a seek. The pictures may also help you decide which breed of cat interests you if you haven’t yet chosen a little kitten for your family. I’m partial to Raja, the Bengal, whose pleading eyes shout “cuddle me now, please.” Who is your favorite?

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24Feb 09

Frequency Hopping With Ignatius McFarland

dsc_0026Editor Carolyn Graham’s 8 year-old daughter, Kate, read Paul Feig’s new book called Ignatius McFarland: Frequenaut! and had this to say about it:

I like the fact that it is about aliens and one of the bullies is based on one that bothered the author in his childhood. To have that connection and feeling is both happy and sad. On top of that, it was really fun and exciting, too. I also liked a part in the beginning when one of the first female characters arrives on the scene and how she was described like this:

ignatiusmacfarland2“I saw a shadow about 10 feet away from me. It looked like it was from a big bird in the sky above the field. I looked up to see if it was going to be something as weird as the trees and plants I was seeing and quickly realized it was even weirder than I could have imagined. Because it wasn’t a bird. It was a girl.” So I hope you like the book. Bye.

For more about Paul Feig, please check out the  exclusive extended web interview and also see our Chat Room on page 70 in the March edition.

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27Feb 09

A Princess, A Castle and a Mouse …

juliareading1Guest Reviewer, Jessica Smith from Dracut, MA is back, this time with her older daughter, Julia.

“Ooh, a princess one!” squealed my 6-year-old daughter as she picked up Mary Balfaz’s Princess Emily and the Secret Library. Illustrated by Stan Gorman, the cute, clear drawings make a wonderful backdrop for this story about a pigtailed princess’s many adventures in her home, Castle Clarion. Ever the girly type, my daughter was delighted by Princess Emily’s brightly colored poufy dress, crown and her interaction with the castle mice. After all, what little girl doesn’t love an imaginative, magical fairy tale?

After stumbling upon a tiny door, Princess Emily discovers a world within in
her own world—Mouseville. Magically created years ago by a wizard, the
kindly man used an amulet to keep the secret of the magical talking mice
library hidden within the library. But when the amulet’s power begins to
wear off, curious Princess Emily uncovers quite a treasure! We were
especially delighted with the miniature town the mice had set up, complete
with streets, tiny buildings and neatly planted gardens. In the story, we
are introduced to a mayor, a school principal and even the town jester!

After discovering that the mice need Princess Emily’s help to save
Mouseville from her mother’s intended castle renovation, they realize that
Emily is in the possession of the amulet that keeps the mice safely hidden
within their world—a treasure she had found days before on one of her many
castle adventures. She quickly returns the magical amulet, and Mouseville
is safe once again. My daughter easily identified with the bouncy, curious
heroine of the story, having starred in countless of her own imagined,
dress-up fairy tale adventures.

A surefire hit for the for the daydreamers in the 5 years and over set,
Princess Emily and the Secret Library is fuel for the imagination and a fun,
wholesome tale for the princess in your family.

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02Mar 09

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

cathat22How fortunate that my son’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Carol Wawrychuk sent home a notice last week reminding parents that March 2 was America’s Read to Kids Day and Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Did you know that 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday to You! which has sold over 650,000 copies?

Imagine my surprise when in the mail today two beautiful, shiny books arrived from Random House just in time for this special day. I cannot wait to read the limited edition Happy Birthday To You! and will also check out the new Happy catalog_cover_100-12Birthday, Baby! To honor this great occasion, I went around the office at L.A. Parent and asked staff to tell me their favorite Dr. Seuss book, or their child’s favorite. And as an added bonus, graphic artist and frequent guest reviewer, Terresa Burgess, supplied me with a photo of none other than the beloved Cat in The Hat about to hi-5 young Teagan!

Here are some of the responses I got back from my colleagues:

2The only two books I remember having of his (Dr. Seuss) when I was growing up that were my favorites were: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Green Eggs and Ham. – Dean Gojobori

Green Eggs and Ham!…Of course! – Lillian Doshay

My daughter’s favorite was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. – Helene Chemel

I like Green Eggs And Ham and Fox In Socks, because they are so fun to try to read fast out loud. – Michael Berick

3I love Horton Hears A Who!!!!! It’s my favorite. What a great moral. We all really have a voice, no matter how big or small we are. It’s so important for all of us as individuals to be heard. – Michele Weiss

My very favorite Dr. Seuss book has to be Horton Hears a Who! When my daughter Lauren was a baby, we read it so often that I actually knew it by heart. This came in handy one very stormy day when Lauren and I were stuck in freeway traffic, me in the front seat and her in her carseat in back. She started to fuss, and to quiet her down I “read” her the story from memory. It worked!
“On the 15th of May, In the jungle of Nool …” – Christina Elston

I love it when the tweetle beetles battle on a noodle-eating poodle!
My vote is for Fox in Sox! – Carolyn Graham

catalog_cover_100As for me, I have such fond memories of reading Go, Dog. Go! I loved how my son and I would recite it together while snuggling close. He’d be the friendly dog and I’d be the poodle. We were always so happy that the two rode off together into the sunset, but while it was part     of the Dr. Seuss ‘I Can Read’ series, it was actually by a wonderful author called P.D. Eastman.  He also wrote Are You My Mother? Does anyone recall that other terrific story, A Fly Went By by Mike McClintock? Another couple of faves are Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? both by Dr. Seuss.  I must mention, too, that my daughter adored The Foot Book.

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04Mar 09

Get Crafty

Crafting Fun: 101 Things to Make and Do with Kids by Rae Grant is a hands-on, hands-down winner and the perfect book for National Craft Month. The binding makes holding your place as you prepare to craft a breeze. Projects are simple and straightforward, and will entertain your children for hours.

Organized by season, crafts such as a Pumpkin-Seed Necklace, a Snow Globe, Glitter Pinecones, Sponge-Painted Eggs, Mother’s Day Potato Print Cards and a Fourth of July Confetti Blower will keep your kids crafting through the months. The book’s Animal Track Casting craft has me inspired for my next family hike. A lot of these crafts aren’t new, but it’s handy to have them all together with useful step-by-step instructions in one beautifully designed book. If you like the format, check out the companion book, Cooking Fun: 121 Simple Recipes to Make with Kids, also by Rae Grant.

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05Mar 09

Henry’s Pitch for Sandy Koufax

Today’s guest reviewer is my brother-in-law, Henry Grossman. Henry is a retired science teacher from New York who has been a lifelong Dodger fan from the early 50s. He remembers with great fondness the great L.A. championship teams of the 60s led by the immortal #32, Sandy Koufax. He writes enthusiastically about a book introducing a new generation of ballplayers to “the man with the golden arm.”

1You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax by Jonah Winter is a beautifully written and illustrated biography of a great Dodger hero of mine. Narrated in a folksy “Brooklynese” vernacular, the young reader is given a thoroughly entertaining account of how a struggling hard-throwing southpaw matured into a great superstar and role model. The book also captures the character of a man who had to make difficult choices in his life such as refusing to play in the first game of the 1965 World Series because it was the Jewish High Holy Day.

He was a Brooklyn kid, a rookie when the Brooklyn Dodgers won its only World Series in 1955. Throughout the book, there are many interesting and revealing stats that underscore how remarkable and dominant a pitcher he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 60s. The exhilaration and anticipation of a new strikeout record or a no-hitter each time the great lefty took the mound was to baseball fans what Tiger Woods winning championships is to golf.

During World Series time, many games were broadcast from L.A. to New York audiences in the early afternoon on a school day. Practically everyone brought transistor radios and teachers had a TV in the faculty lounge. When Koufax pitched, we were all rivoted to the broadcast. If you were late to class, everyone understood. Yeah, Koufax was that big a deal!

The story concludes when Sandy Koufax, the youngest inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, retires from the game when he was in his prime with records yet to break and championships to win. This book will spark interest to learn more about this legendary athlete and about Major League Baseball of that era.

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06Mar 09

Comics to Go!

9781934706381_normDo you have a child, like mine, who loves to draw, invent wild and wacky characters and create little hand made books? Then I have the ideal book for you. It’s called Comics To Go! by Mike Herrod from Blue Apple Books, a wonderful publishing house with lots of unique books out of Maplewood, New Jersey.

Here’s a sample of what my son Coleman did when he discovered the book last week. This design is the last cell for a comic strip called Rodrigo The Magnificent. The book contains 19 ronna-book2stories for children (or adults if you are so inclined) to complete and then color in. What is even more exciting is that at their web site more comic panels can be downloaded! Kids will love Super Squirrel, The Dog Walker, Duck Amok and so many others. When all the strips have been completed, kids will find some blank comics at the book’s end so they can flex some more creative muscle. I suggest keeping the book in your car so that when you go out for a meal you have something with which to entertain the kids which in turn will surely entertain you! The clever, colorful book will appeal to many age groups and would make a most welcome gift for any occasion.

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09Mar 09

Barbie is 50!

images1It’s official, I am older than Barbie! Heard on NPR this morning that today was the day the Barbie doll was launched onto the toy scene in 1959.

What are your memories of Barbie? I remember trading in my old Barbie every year at our local toy store Big Top on Long Island and paying a few dollars to upgrade to the latest model. One day my older cousin Shelley gave me her old dolls which I have saved to this day. That stash included the original Barbie with all separate fingers,
pristine styled blond hairdo (now minus the cut bangs courtesy of my daughter, Gemma) and pearl earring studs. And speaking of studs, the Ken I was given had real fuzz for hair and his clothing resembles that of a college fraternity brother. While perhaps no longer valuable in the eyes of a collector, both dolls remain priceless to me especially since I was able to pass them along to my daughter. I will never part with the first pieces of Barbie furniture and outfits which also accompanied that treasured gift from Shelley. While my daughter has long since outgrown playing with dolls, I will save these precious remnants of my childhood for my grandchildren to enjoy.

catalog_cover_1001I also have fond memories of having to buy everything Barbie for several years once my daughter turned 3 years-old. We had to have all the accoutrements including Barbie stories, coloring books, and more. If you’re looking for the latest in the Barbie book collection, check out your local bookshop. To see what is in print in today’s current Barbie collection of books, definitely visit publisher Random House for inspiration.

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12Mar 09

Is Anybody Listening?

I knew I was going to love this book simply from the title. In fact I would not change a single word of Austrian writer i-have-a-little-problem-medHeinz Janisch‘s  “I Have a Little Problem,” said the bear, a two claws up read from North South Books;  nor could I ignore its gorgeous, whimsical illustrations by acclaimed artist, Silke Leffler.

The bear needs to discuss something, something which seems to be worrying him. However in his futile yet comical attempt to find someone to lend an ear, he finds everyone and everything but! Very patiently, our big brown protagonist carries on his quest to be heard, from a visit to the inventor and tailor all the way to the street vendor, eye doctor and shoemaker. HELLO!!  Is anybody listening? When eventually the frustrated bear climbs to the top of a hill to assess all his encounters, he meets a very understanding fly who not only listens to the bear, but befriends him as well. I Have a Little Problem,” said the bear is not only a satisfying read, but a meaningful one, too.  What works so well in this story is the kind-of in your face (or in bear’s case, on his body) way the author drives home his message that as adults we are often too quick to offer a solution before really hearing the problem.  So tonight at dinner I am going to make a very conscious effort to open my listening ears and close my mouth except when taking a bite to eat.

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13Mar 09


Today’s Guest Reviewer is Kim Phillips from Boston, Massachusetts. She is the mother of Andrew, 6 (pictured below) and Lia, 4.

Andrew and I recently read  I’m Really Not Tired, a  children’s book written by Lori Sunshine and illustrated by Jeffery Ebbeler from Flashlight Press. During a time in his life when he is normally consumed by stories about Star Wars, Bakugan, robots and superheroes, my son welcomed this change in our nightly reading!

The story is about a little boy who does not want to go to bed because he is convinced that he misses out on tons of fun when he’s sleeping. He imagines his Mom and Dad attend a circus and zoo right there in his own house, he imagines there are toy trains and fish in his bathroom that come to life while he’s asleep and even a rocket in his front yard! He plans to stay awake one night so he can see for himself and catch his parents in the act of having fun without him.

It’s funny, because I remember thinking all these things when I was a kid. I was convinced that all the fun began after I hit the pillow and on more than one occasion my son has expressed similar feelings: “It’s not fair! Grown ups get to stay up late and do whatever they want!” “You and Daddy get to stay up late and have fun while I have to go to sleep!” “What do you and Daddy DO while I’m asleep anyway?” “But I’m NOT TIRED!”

andrew_book2-1My son was intrigued by this book because he could really identfy with the boy’s plight. Reading page after page he said, “hey, this is what I think” or “this is what I say!” He really saw himself in the story and felt some comraderie with this imaginary character. He wanted the boy to catch Mom and Dad, I think, to prove that we do throw parties without him every night. I admit, I was a little nervous he’d get some ideas from the story, but thankfully our explanations of what we do when he goes to bed seem to satisfy him. I mean, who wants to stay up late and clean the living room, right?

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18Mar 09

Noah Knew A Thing or Two

Not only is TOTZ ONLY a fabulous toy store, it’s really a one-stop shopping, playing and learning venue for families with a warm and welcoming staff. Located in Burbank, TOTZ ONLY was featured in our Best of 2008 issue so I wanted to shout out about a SPECIAL AUTHOR EVENT they’ll be having tomorrow (immediately following Storytime with Jamey Hood). Make haste and head over to this fabulous shop at 3009 W. Magnolia, Burbank.

320310481Storytelling and Booksigning by author
Zachary Shapiro, (Rabbi of Temple Akiba
in Culver City)
We’re All In the Same Boat
Thursday, March 19, 2009
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

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19Mar 09

Before Wonder Bra

The Guest Reviewer today is none other than my soon-to-be 8 year-old son, Coleman. He devoured (and so did I) Robert Crowther’s Pop-Up House of Inventions from Candlewick Press and then wrote a book report about it for his class homework assignment. When I saw 0763642533medwhat he wrote I knew I just had to include it here. Enjoy!

I just read this great pop-up book filled with facts of things around the house. Want to hear some? Then I’ll tell you some. The first brassiere was invented in Greece in 2500 B.C., the first DVD player was bought in 1996. Or maybe this will interest you: the first electric egg beater was sold in 1910. If you like learning wacky facts, I think this book would be right for you.

NOTE FROM RONNA: This book is filled with inventive room by room pop-ups such as clothing hanging in a closet, a sliding shower door, and a revolving train track. The trivia, too, is great fodder for some fun conversations! While recommended for ages 6-9, grades 1-4, consider sharing it with younger and older siblings as well and they will not be disappointed.

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20Mar 09

Bubble Homes, Fish Farts and Snapping Shrimp

bubblehomesCharlesbridge out of Watertown, Massachusetts publishes some really awesome books for kids. A particular favorite of mine was their recent title, Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock with full-color illustrations by Carolyn Conahan.

While we all adore squishy, shimmery, floating bubbles, have you ever realized they make excellent homes for Water Spiders, are a fun place to hide for the Juniper Spittlebug (did you even know there was such a thing as a Juniper Spittlebug?) and make playtime fun for Bottlenose Dolphin? I especially enjoyed reading about Snapping Shrimp. Found in coral sneefs, these shrimp make a loud sound to scare animals away, communicate and also catch prey. The bubble they make by snapping their claws moves so quickly and with such great force that it produces a snapping sound as the bubble implodes upon itself. And we all thought we were so cool when we squirted water through our palms at our local swimming pool!

The charming illustrations help show exactly how bubbles work above and below the water when used by animals. Helpful, too, are more facts included on the endpages as well as a glossary and index. Oh, and if you noticed I left out the fart bit, it’s because you’ll just have to get the book to learn what that’s all about!

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25Mar 09

Big Thinker, Big Story

p1010819Guest Reviewer Lynn McSheehy is a graphic designer and single mother from Ohio. When she is not helping her parents run the family business, she spends her free time playing with her two spectacularly cute little boys. Her interests include music, art and theology, and she hopes to some day write a children’s book or two of her own! We’ll certainly look forward to that, Lynn.

When I first saw the title of this book, Little Ant, Big Thinker:
Or Where Does The Ocean End?  it made me smile because it reminded me of my 3 1/2 year-old son, Jack! He is a busy little guy who asks all sorts of questions! As soon as Jack saw the book, he wanted to hold it and read it right away. As we sat reading it together, he studied the pictures intently and made comments about all of the little details hidden in the illustrations. The illustrations seemed like something that Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle might come up with after spending a cloudy day on a beach. Jack and I both liked the page that was set “portrait style” so that you had to turn the book on its side to see the ant and the elephant stacked up on top of the palm tree to see farther out to find the end of the ocean!

little-ant-mediumMy preschooler, Jack, wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the book. His 17 month old little brother, Luke, squealed and pointed to the pictures of the ant, elephant and fish, and sat contentedly through the entire story.  After we were done reading it, I put the book away and started in on some housework. As I was working, I looked up to see Jack leafing through Little Ant, Big Thinker on his own! I asked if he wanted me to read it to him again, but he said, “No, mommy…I just want to look at it by myself!”  Hooray for independence!  Overall, it was a fun book to read, with interesting illustrations. I am thinking the philosophy of it all went a bit over Jack’s head, but that didn’t keep him from enjoying it, thoroughly!

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25Mar 09

Snoopy’s Too Cool For Words, But I’ll Find Them Anyway!

0762435836One of several recurring questions in my home these days comes from my son, Coleman. Born in London while we were Ex-Pats living there, Coleman wonders if he can become President. I realize he’s thinking big (see yesterday’s blog about Little Ant, Big Thinker), but I certainly don’t want to discourage him.  Can an American born on foreign soil became our nation’s leader?  As parents, my husband and I spend a lot of time telling Coleman he can be anything he’d like to be, so when I saw Running Press just published a hardcover (featuring my son’s favorite beagle, the beloved Peanuts character Snoopy) entitled Peanuts: You Can Be Anything! by Charles M. Schulz I knew I had to review the book.

Based on Schulz’s long running comic strip Peanuts featuring the inimitable Snoopy, the book gives anyone who needs a little inspiration just the right dose of  the first beagle on the Moon, Joe Cool or the World War II Flying Ace ready to take on that nasty Red Baron, all in crisp colors ready to jump off the page. My favorite, the world famous Literary Ace, reminds me that I still have a strip tacked to my bulletin board torn out from Newsday (my Long Island, NY newspaper) sometime in the late 70s when I imagined myself becoming a bestselling novelist.  I can still dream, can’t I? Need a great gift for a grad or simply want to bring some words of encouragement to your own little Beagle Scout – here’s the book for them.

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27Mar 09

Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat!

We’re All In The Same Boat is written by Zachary Shapiro (read on for my interview with the author immediately following this review) and illustrated by Jack E. Davis. Today’s Guest Reviewer is 8 year-old Allegra, from the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles. A second grader, Allegra loves playing soccer, swimming, spending time with her family and visiting her Arizona friends!

100_2293The book, We’re All in the Same Boat, was about a bunch of animals on Noah’s Arc who were unhappy to be on a boat! They were naggy, bored and grumpy all of the time. They blamed Noah. Noah finally shouted, “We are all in the same boat!” and that helped the animals feel better. They started being happier and then they went to sleep and there was peace on the boat. I liked the book because, I believe in Noah and I love animals and the pictures were really pretty!

NOTE FROM RONNA: This is an ideal book to use when helping kids learn the alphabet since the alliteration from A-Z is quite appealing. You may actually get attached to the astonishing assortment of animals on board Noah’s Arc!


I sat down and chatted with author and Rabbi Zachary Shapiro at Totz Only in Burbank last week. I’ve never seen books fly off the shelf so quickly and it’s obvious why – Zach, as he asked the kids to call him, loves what he does. In his third year now as Rabbi at Temple Akiba in Culver City, Shapiro says he “always had a dream of writing children’s books.” His goal was “since being a kid, to bring goodness into the world.” Extra good fortune arrived in the form of illustrator Jack E. Davis, a winning pick served up by G.P. Putnam. Encouraging to me was learning that Shapiro’s manuscript was sent to the publisher unsolicited and then chosen, quite a feat these days when stories of overflowing slush piles prevail! He originally hails from Boston and is also a musician who enjoys playing the guitar and writing music. The audience at his reading last Thursday clearly found his philosophy of goodness and loving kindness contagious. Catch the bug, too, by visiting him either at www.RabbiZachShapiro.com or at www.allinthe sameboat.com

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30Mar 09

Must Go-To This Event!

Get Mixing Tonight!
Kimberley Clayton Blaine, a national child development expert and internet’s “Go-To Mom” is hosting a Mommy Mixer to celebrate the release of her new book, Mommy Confidence: 8 Easy Steps to Reclaiming Balance, Motivation and Your Inner Diva. You can find the Go-To Mom at www.laparent.com.

Untitled-3I’m told this is the first in a series of Mommy Mixers aimed at helping moms build inner strength and self awareness. Attendees will be able to buy the book before and after the event, with a portion of the proceeds going to Children’s Institute, Inc. and the Center for Non-Violent Parent and Education.

WHEN: Monday, March 30, 2009, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

WHERE: Vroman’s bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd.
2nd floor, Pasadena, CA 91101

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31Mar 09

Who Ya Calling Monkeypants?

2009-march-002 Christopher Burgess, today’s Good Reads Guest Reviewer, and proud Dad, is an active duty member of the United States Air Force stationed at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada. When he is not at work he spends his time chasing his 22 month-old, Logan Atreyu, around their home. His interests include working out, reading, music, sports, volunteer work and
spending as much time as he can with his lovely wife Chelcy.

33491504The first book I read with my son was Mommy Calls Me Monkeypants, a board book which became an instant favorite in the Burgess home. J.D. Lester’s clever writing explaining each character in the book set up Hiroe Nakata’s whimsical illustrations and made for an exciting, fun read. Logan (A.K.A. B-LO) loved the bright, bold colors as well as the numerous animals introduced in the book. He laughed and pointed at the pictures while I read along explaining each mothers “pet” names for their children. This adorable book emphasizes the special, silly connection a parent and child can share. This is one book that I see our little monkey holding dear to his precious little heart for years to come.

Mama, What’s In There?, another adorable board book from Random House, encourages children to explore just2 what is in bellies of all their favorite pregnant animals. The book is written by Diane Muldrow with creative and descriptive illustrations created by Rick Peterson. My son is fascinated by babies as most little ones are at this age. Totally interactive, this book that not only allows your child to find the baby in the mama’s belly by lifting the flap, but it also serves as a great opportunity to teach your child animal sounds, where animals live, and the body parts of animals and humans. The highly colorful illustrations captured my son’s attention and left him wanting to read the book over and over again. This would be a terrific book to introduce to your child if you were expecting a child of your own. The ending of the book helps the child identify just “what is in Mama’s tummy.” This book is bound to be a hit in any household, expecting or not!

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03Apr 09

Listen to Your Parents

the-dancer-2-13As a psychotherapist who works with children and adolescents, I am always looking for the impossible – a book that engages both adults and children and teaches “the big lessons” of life with humor and wit. I may have found just that in Marc Gellman’s “Always Wear Clean Underwear!”: And Other Ways Parents Say “I Love You”  published in 2000 by Harper Collins in paperback. While it may not be a new book, its message withstands the test of time.

Gellman’s list of 32 annoying parental “Do’s and Don’ts” is the subject of this delightful book. In a light hearted way, Gellman explains the “hidden reason” behind the oft repeated phrases (Don’t pee in the pool, Don’t talk with your mouth full, Clean your 21079238plate, Do your homework etc.). Everything on the list has a big meaning and a little meaning. Gellman is right in saying that once you understand the Big meaning of each phrase you will be a better person. Sounds stuffy but the truth is once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. This is just the type of book you could read a chapter at a time together with your child before bedtime. It’s funny, thought provoking and life changing. A MUST HAVE for any parent serious about raising balanced, thinking, caring children.

Guest Reviewer, Barbara Waldman, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist with 38 years of experience in working with children, adolescents and families. She practices in La Canada, California.

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04Apr 09

Judy Moody is Way Not Boring!

dsc002572My name is Ivie and I am a twelve year-old living in the San Gabriel Valley. As Guest Reviewer for Good Reads With Ronna, I have read both The Judy Moody Mood Journal as well as Judy Moody’s Double-Rare Way-Not-Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do by Megan McDonald. Together or apart, these books are inspirational with added humor and very hard to put down. The books seemed short when you are reading them, and make you want to continue reading.

Judy Moody’s Double-Rare Way-Not-Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do is fun-filled and helps make children want to write. The book is hilarious and filled with numerous to-do activities such as making your own fortune cookies and giving your pet a makeover. The crossword puzzles, jokes, and other fun activities make kids easily laugh, and are fun to read.

dsc00259The Judy Moody Mood Journal is also terrific. With the release of these two books, the popular Judy Moody series has taken a step forward from being just a book series, to an exciting, new way for kids to express their feelings and moods! Writing about how I felt every day was really enjoyable and a fun activity. It gives kids ideas of how to start off writing in their journals. For example, “What mood are you in on the first day of school?” and “Write about a funny thing you did with your friend.” Also, there are a lot of blank pages where you can write your own thoughts and express your own feelings.

I would highly recommend these two books as a birthday gift or just good, fun reading and writing. In my opinion both books are great for kids from 2nd grade through 5th grades.

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05Apr 09

i want my DSi …

…or maybe I need to call in CSI!

because this morning (after last night’s amazing midnight launch party at Universal City Walk) I discovered someone has taken my new Nintendo DSi. The evidence is strewn across our kitchen table: an empty box, some plastic bags and a soft foamy envelope-like packet which originally contained the matte black-colored unit.

I’ve done the preliminary forensics and all signs lead me to conclude that my son, Coleman, is the culprit:

1) the haphazard way all packaging still remains undiscarded despite a garbage pail only a few feet away (and the ideal place to hide anything incriminating)
2) Coleman’s schoolwork has been tossed aside and a slight crumb build-up means the pages have been sitting awhile
3) an untouched glass of orange juice and bowl of cereal stare at me as hunger pains begin to erupt in my stomach
4) the cat is missing and suspicious early morning sounds of movement and muffled giggling emanate from behind my son’s closed bedroom door

I dash down the hallway, knock briefly before entering with a frenzied, “It’s Mom,” warning and there on the bed sit Coleman and the cat.  He with DSi in hand, and the cat, now the subject of his attention, calmly waiting to be fed.  “So,” I surmise, “at last I know the truth.” Clearly Coleman’s been using my DSi to take silly photographs of our family pet with the DSi distortion feature.  I want to lecture him about taking something without my permission, but when he pats the bed and throws me the sweetest smile, I join him, immediately disarmed.

In no time at all we are both howling with laughter at some of the funniest photos I have ever seen because one of the coolest things about the new DSi is its camera and ten interactive ‘special effects’ lenses. Coleman and I hug. He plays a riotous recording of our cat meowing because the DSi also has some neat sound applications such as voice alteration.  He snaps a zany picture of me.  We giggle again. All is forgiven. Case closed.

To learn more about the new DSi and the downloadable games now available, please see editor Carolyn Graham’s  March 31 and April 5 “I Don’t Have Time for This” blog posts at http://losangeles.parenthood.com/busy_parents_blog.php  or visit the official Nintendo DSi website at http://www.nintendodsi.com/

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06Apr 09

Secrets, Asylums and Squandered Fortunes

img_0696Holly, our Guest Reviewer today, is a ten year-old who loves to read, do karate, ice-skate, swim, and play on the Internet. She is also a Girl Scout. She likes fantasy books such as the Warriors series and The Spiderwick Chronicles. She loves to draw cartoon characters and likes to make comic strips. Her favorite color is green. Here’s some of Holly’s advice on life: First of all, don’t tell your deepest, darkest secret to any of your friends because one day they might not be your friends and they will blurt your secret to the world. Also respect all animals. Holly is a vegetarian by choice.  The book Holly has chosen to write about  from Candlewick Press is called  Secrets of Greymoor by Clara Gillow Clark.

34207125Hatte Belle Basket is a twelve year-old girl whose Mother is dead and her father is far away. She lives with her Grandmother in a large house. They are in danger of losing their wealth. They struggle with taxes (but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to Grandmother) because Hatte’s grandfather, Mr. Greymoor (who had passed away some time ago) had lost the fortune, the treasure, the family wealth. Her search for the treasure will take the reader into the world of Hatte Basket. Readers will discover through the main character that trying to be something you’re not is not such a good idea, because Hatte begins to feel very guilty after all of her dishonesty; Hatte lies to her friends and pretends to have maids, and butlers, servants and footman, when really she only has one cook.

The first couple chapters are a little slow, so if you’re looking for something that has a lot of action at the beginning, you might want to try another book. This is probably a good book for patient readers ages 9 through12, just because the plot might be a little confusing for younger readers.

All in all, this was a very good book and I think that it was really worth the trouble. While there were some very disappointing parts in this story, the ending was exceptionally good and I am glad I read it.

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08Apr 09

A Passover Tale

Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim from Kar-Ben Publishing is written by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Jago. Today’s Guest Reviewers are L.A. Parent calendar editor Michael Berick and his 6-year-old daughter Julia. A first grader, Julia enjoys reading (especially Harry Potter), creating art and making up characters.


The book Nachson, Who Was Afraid To Swim tells the story of a young Jewish boy (Nachshon) back in the days when Jews were slaves in the land of Egypt. Few things scared young Nachshon, not even the Pharaoh, so people started calling him “Brave Nachshon.” However, he does have one major fear – that is going into the water. Later, as a young man, Nachshon meets the prophet Moses and listening to his words changes Nachshon’s life.

The book nicely tells both the bible-based tale of Nachshon’s role in the Jews’ exodus from Egypt as well as the more universal story of facing one’s fears. This is not a particularly well-known Passover tale so non-Jews might not be that familiar with it; however, its story of courage speaks to everyone.

Julia liked the book and was glad that there’s “no Pharaohs to rule over us now.” The part of the book she liked the best was (and this is a spoiler alert) when Nachshon jumped into the water at the book’s end. The slightly stylized 978-0-8225-8764-4_medillustrations, which somewhat recall Allison Jay’s drawings, suggest ancient times without seeming old-fashion. Julia liked the illustrations at the book’s end where you could see people’s reflections in the water. Julia also thought that it would be a good book to be read to kids ages 3-7, and I would agree with that. While it might not be the best way to introduce the story of Passover to young readers, it is a fine way to teach children about overcoming fears.

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09Apr 09

Why Is This Night Different?

Passover Seders are held for two nights so I thought I’d post this review which appears in our current April issue of L.A. Parent.

sedr-yankee-at-sederFraught with emotion, The Yankee at the Seder by Elka Weber and illustrated by Adam Gustavson, (Tricycle Press, $16.99 ages 7-9), is an engaging true story based on the life of Philadelphian Myer Levy, a Yankee corporal and Jew who fought in the Civil War and Jacob Josephson, a young Southern boy. With tensions high and Yankee soldiers patrolling the streets of post-war Virginia, Levy seeks out the Josephson family for his Passover leave, much to the chagrin of Jacob. Despite hearing disagreements over dinner, Jacob comes to understand that to celebrate Passover is to embrace the basic human tenets of freedom for all, and a battle for liberty is one well fought and never forgotten. The soldier thoughtfully repays the generosity of his host family one year later during the hard times of Reconstruction and his timeless message engraved on a silver goblet still resonates today, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto All The Inhabitants Thereof.”

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13Apr 09

Horrid is The New Hilarious

Meet Therese Louk who says, “As a teacher of second graders and a mother of boys, I could not stop laughing when reading the new Horrid Henry book with my son, Robbie.” The author, Francesca Simon, and illustrator, Tony Ross, are well known in Great Britain and their best-selling Horrid Henry series has just been released here.

Happy to Read These Horrid Tales

hh-s“I never knew being horrid could be so fun!” says Therese. “Francesca Simon’s series of Horrid Henry books are hilarious and mischievious adventures that are guaranteed to keep children reading. Each book has four fun adventures featuring young Henry and his friends. I recently finished the first book and can’t wait to continue on the series.” Read on to learn more of what today’s guest reviewer has to say.


In this first book, Horrid Henry tries to be like his brother, Perfect Peter. Leave it to Henry to figure out a way to act “horrid.”

The second story has Henry begging to go to Saturday karate classes instead of dance class. Only Henry can find the way to adequately ruin the dance performance and get kicked out.

The third story has Henry playing with his friend Moody Margaret. Henry easily finds a way to get everyone to eat “glop,” everyone that is, except him!

The last story in this first book has Henry and his family out camping. Wilderness camping was not what Henry had expected. No doubt, Henry finds a way out of the situation.

I cannot wait to read all the other titles in the hysterical Horrid Henry series from Jabberwocky. I will have them stocked in my classroom from now on.


NOTE FROM RONNA: Click on this great website from Jabberwocky to find out more about the other terrific titles (Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine, Horrid Henry and the Mummy’s Curse, and Horrid Henry and the Soccer Fiend) in this series as well as other special offers from this innovative publishing company. The recommended age for these books is from 7-10 years-old.

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14Apr 09

Horses, Hope and Friendship

mail-11Guest Reviewer Jared is a 7 year-old second grader who lives in Los Angeles with his parents and younger brother, Derek. He began reading at an early age and is known to read  for hours on end.  In addition to his love of books, Jared enjoys playing with Legos, swimming, and skiing.

When I was reading Black Diamond and Blake by Deborah Blumenthal, I did not know what was going to happen to the racehorse Black Diamond after he got injured. The book was suspenseful as described like this:

“Where were they taking him? Why was he leaving his home? Black Diamond looked back once more, then stepped inside. After the doors slammed shut, he watched through a small window as his world changed to a new home among green hills.”

I liked this book because Black Diamond does not have much pain after he gets injured. I also liked the book because he does not get slaughtered once he could no longer race. Instead he finds friendship with a boy named Blake. My mom says that the book is about hope and friendship and I agree with her. The future is better for Black Diamond and Blake because they have each other. Also, the drawings by artist Miles Hyman are very nice and they look like the paintings you would see in a museum.

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15Apr 09

Watch Out For Those Black Lagoons!

mail2Guest Reviewer Derek, from the San Gabriel Valley,  is a 6 year-old currently  in kindergarten. Like his brother Jared, Derek also started to read early. He likes to draw cartoons, play with Legos, and swim.

Derek has chosen to review  The New Kid from the Black Lagoon and The Class from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler.


61lbajtpbql_sl500_aa240_I like all the stories from Scholastic’s Black Lagoon series. My brother and I have read many Black Lagoon books. They are funny and crazy with creatures that are not real. Some creatures in these books have a pickle nose, some have Velcro skin that sticks to everything, some have laser breath, and some like to eat crayons, chalk, and erasers. The drawings of these wacky creatures are funny looking, too!

I like this part in The New Kid from the Black Lagoon book: “Maybe he’ll be a giant chicken, or a bionic turnip with three arms and four legs. If he is, then I want him on my basketball team.”

And in the The Class from the Black Lagoon book, I liked the part where the students are described like this: “Some grow two noses so they can pick them at the same time.” 02615_90Another good part is:  “And they’re always late when they come to school. But they only come when they have highly contagious diseases. When they’re healthy, they stay home.”


Both these stories are mysterious and made me want  to find out what will happen next, but I cannot tell you here.  You will find out at the end of each story.

NOTE FROM RONNA:  While the recommended age is from 9-12, it’s evident that younger children are loving this series!

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18Apr 09

This Land is Your Land

ehwns-dHappy Birthday John Muir!

As we approach Earth Day 2009, the book Earth Heroes: Champions of the Wilderness is an ideal one to consider. It showcases the lives, adventures and stellar accomplishments of some remarkable naturalists/environmentalists. They include: Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Richard St. Barbe Baker, Margaret Murie, David Suzuki and Wangari Maathai.

The recurrent theme in this book is how these individuals began observing and enjoying the natural environment at an early age. These transformative experiences led to life-long careers and commitments in educating advocating and actively working to protect beautiful wild places on Earth.

This book was an eye-opener to me; half of these heroes I had never heard of before. It’s truly astonishing how much good one individual can do.

This book is quite entertaining and can inspire young boys and girls to learn about local wild places and to have a greater appreciation and respect for nature.

Today’s review comes courtesy of my brother-in-law, Henry Grossman. A retired science teacher and avid outdoor photographer from New York, Henry has visited many of the national parks mentioned in this book.

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20Apr 09

Change is Good

mailMeet Calli Rae, today’s Guest Reviewer. She  is 15 years-old and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Calli Rae currently attends school in Sedona, Arizona.


Change the Way You See Everything For Teens from Running Press Kids, is a book all adolescents should have on hand.  It helps kids learn healthy coping skills and better ways to keep their minds healthy. Also the acronyms that are in the book make it ctwyse-teens_230x230-150x1501easier to understand the lessons the book is trying to teach. This book also helps you practice the skills by giving pages for the adolescent to reflect on. The graphics that are presented in the book also serve as good motivation because all of the kids in the pictures look happy. Overall, Change the Way You See Everything For Teens, is an inspiring and motivating book that can help many visual learning adolescents and even audio adolescents to live an all around happier life.

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21Apr 09

Got Gas?

whatssobadgasbookAs a parent, I am sure many of us hop into the car on a daily basis in our role of family chauffeur without even thinking what’s fueling our cars. When prices soared, perhaps we thought harder about taking unnecessary trips, but when the cost of a gallon dropped again, we were back in our vehicles filling up as usual. It’s actually music to my ears when my teen says, “Hey Mom, I’m going to walk to Rite-Aid.”

With Earth Day around the corner, I took a look at this terrific educational book and can now recommend it to you.  So here I am, along with my kids, learning how our reliance on fossil fuels is contributing to global warming. A Stage 2 reader in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out series, What’s So Bad About Gasoline (HarperCollins, 2009, $5.99, ages 5-9) brings important science concepts to K-4 students. It’s packed with information, colorful illustrations (some with speech bubbles offering further explanations) and a whole bunch of interesting gasoline facts. Reading this book with your child is guaranteed to promote positive discussion about alternative energy sources and ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.

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22Apr 09

Save Our Planet And We All Win Contest

Amazing EARTH DAY Giveaway Starting Today!

To coincide with the opening today of the new film Earth from Disneynature, Good Reads With Ronna is offering an exciting contest. Read on to learn more about this spectacular film and the great prizes being offered here to one lucky winner!

Click here for your chance to win these educational and awe-inspiring prizes by May 6, 2009, and remember to include your mailing address:

earth_dvd-board-gamecropped• Earth Interactive DVD Board Game (Imagination International, $29.97, 2-6 players; ages 6 and up) features extraordinary footage from the Earth film. With the DVD board game, parents and children can explore the Earth and work together to answer a range of trivia questions based on the movie. All components of the DVD board game – except for the disc – are made from recycled material.

• Earth Deluxe Activity Padded Board Book: Animals of the Earth(Earth Film Publishing Line from Modern Publishing, $14.99; ages 2 and up), captures the incredible wonder, beauty and spirit of nature with its large, colorful wildlife pictures and fun facts.

planet-earth-dvd-lo-res• Planet Earth, The Complete Series (3 disc DVD set from BBC Video, $79.98) includes over 90 minutes of bonus, behind-the-scenes footage. From the creators of Blue Planet, and narrated by David Attenborough comes this epic series, called “A tour de force…A masterpiece,” by the New York Times.

My husband and son were, as the British say, gobsmacked (blown away, speechless) by the beauty of Earth. No film has ever captured the epic scope of the drama of an entire planet, and if it gets us thinking about how we, as inhabitants of this our only home, can be kinder and forward thinking, all the better. Now, with the help of some great products that showcase the amazing species featured in the film, families can extend their movie-going experience and education. This fun giveaway includes new products available at Wal-Mart, Target and Barnes & Noble.

Click Here for Contest Rules.

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23Apr 09

Explore-A-Story Online Auction

Bidding on Movie Memorabilia Helps Buy Books For Kids

variety_kids2For the first time ever Variety’s Kids, a fundraising program of Variety, The Children’s Charity of Southern California, will host an Explore-A-Story Online Auction with proceeds to benefit The Wonder of Reading.

On April 24th at 5p.m. people can log onto www.ebay.com/varietyskids for their chance to bid on exciting pieces of Hollywood movie memorabilia.

About The Wonder of Reading
The Wonder of Reading (www.wonderofreading.org) exists to inspire in children the love or reading. Since 1994, they have partnered with more than 200 elementary schools to help at-risk students by renovating dilapidated school libraries, restocking library collections with new books, and providing enriching literacy programs. In 2008, more then 130,000 children attended their partner schools, and they trained more then 500 new volunteers to be one-on-one reading mentors.

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25Apr 09

It’s National Poetry Month – Does Your Hippo Have The Hiccups?

Or Does Your Doggie Like To Disco?

9781402218095Pick up a copy of My Hippo Has The Hiccups from Sourcebooks’ cool kids imprint Jabberwocky to find out. I guarantee you’ll have tons of fun reading aloud with your children and then laughing yourself silly with the fantastic collection of poems from poet and sought-after school performer, Kenn Nesbitt. Then, when you’re done and yearning for more, why not keep the poetry pulse pumping by visiting Kenn’s website, www.poetry4kids.com?

Not since Shel Silverstein and his belly-laugh inducing poetry have I dog-eared so many pages in a children’s poetry book. Wild and wacky, inventive and inspiring, the 109 poems in this book are certain to entertain. And if they don’t get your kids eager to write their own poetry, I don’t know what will! It was utterly impossible to pick a favorite because I adored them all, but let me contradict myself and select the beginning of one here:

I Often Contradict Myself

I often contradict myself.
Oh no, I never do.
I argue with me day and night.
That simply isn’t true.

With titles in Nesbitt’s vast collection ranging from I Cloned Myself on Friday Night to Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister, I thought I’d give you a taste of what’s in store when you bring this book home (and the best part is there’s even an audio CD included for your portable poetry pleasure). Whet your poetry appetite and listen to Kenn Nesbitt read the following poems by clicking on each title below:

Something I Need to Remember
Dexter McDwyer
Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister

Want a chance to see your poem in print? Go right now (contest ends April 30), please don’t delay, tell the world, you’ve got something to say and visit TIME for Kids in conjunction with www.poetry4kids.com and enter their contest. The best funny poem gets published on the TFK website!

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30Apr 09

Speak with Spinelli

Write SPINELLI on your calendar and recharge your cell phone batteries now!


If you or your child has a question for the author, think about heading over to La Verne to join readers as they chat with this renowned author about his beloved books, STARGIRL and LOVE, STARGIRL. “As charming and unique as its sensitive, nonconformist heroine.” —School Library Journal

WHO: JERRY SPINELLI – Newbery Medalist and author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal; Milkweed; Wringer, a Newbery Honor book; and Knots in My Yo-Yo String, his autobiography.

WHAT: “DIAL INTO SUMMER” tour via telephone (something right up every tween and teen’s alley) is a new initiative from Random House Children’s Books in which Jerry Spinelli “tours” via telephone and calls in to bookstores to speak with readers! How cool is that?

love-stargirlAccording to Random House, this innovative “Dial Into Summer” tour is in support of the paperback release of New York Times bestseller LOVE, STARGIRL on sale April 28th, (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $8.99; Ages 12 up)

1030 Bonita Avenue,
La Verne, CA

For more information call: (909) 599-4558

WHEN: Monday, May 4th at 4:00 pm (PST)

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05May 09


earth_dvd-board-gamecropped1Have you entered to win the 3 great prizes for Earth Day? Enter now for your chance to win the interactive EARTH DVD game, the EARTH padded activity book (both in conjunction with Disneynature’s new documentary film, EARTH)and the PLANET EARTH 3 Disc boxed DVD set.

This contest is for blog readers only, but it ends today! Click here to read the original post to find out how to enter.

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07May 09

A Mother’s Day With Moore, Julianne That Is!

Freckles, Fun and Julianne Moore

frecklespotbLooking for something different to do with Mom or Grandma this weekend? Why not join actress and mother, Julianne Moore this Mother’s Day, May 10th from 11 am- 1 pm at the Ralph Lauren store 141 N. Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood. Moore will be reading and signing her Freckleface Strawberry books, plus there will be some neat Freckleface activities there for the kids, too! This event, a partnership between Bloomsbury, Cookie magazine and Ralph Lauren, promises to be fun for the entire family.

For my frank Freckleface confessions and book reviews, please check back next Tuesday. Right now, though, get out your PDA and make a date to meet Julianne Moore for Mother’s Day. And remember to bring your freckles!

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09May 09

RAISING READERS: A Literacy Festival

Get Lit at the Raising Readers Festival

(From our May Calendar section edited by Michael Berick)

imagesSanta Monica College will be the place to be for book lovers old and young (but especially the young ones) May 9 during the annual Raising Readers: A Literacy Festival. Since 2001, the nonprofit child care resource and referral agency Connections for Children (in collaboration with Santa Monica College and Association for the Education of Young Children/North Bay Chapter) has been presenting this special day that celebrates reading and literacy in a number of ways. There will be storytellers, theater groups, musicians and, of course, books. This free event is particularly aimed at children in preschool and the primary grades, where establishing a strong foundation in reading and literacy is so important.

Raising Readers: A Literacy Festival, noon-4 p.m. May 9, Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Free. 310-452-3325, www.connectionsforchildren.org.

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10May 09

Mom and Me

9780887768668In this beautiful World Vision Early Reader book called Mom and Me in collaboration with Tundra Books of Canada, young children can read or be read to while admiring the touching pictures on every page.

Author Marla Stewart Konrad has captured in text what the numerous photographers have
captured in photos from around the world.  


mailWe see mom beaming with pride, carrying and feeding her children or simply doing what moms do best, comforting her child in a warm embrace. While the women portrayed may not dress the same or look the same as you or I, they share something in common with moms everywhere, the love of a child.  The colors are bold and vibrant as seen in a sari or a shawl, the scenes are varied from a village shop to a dirt road, but the message of a mother’s devotion to her offspring speaks volumes this Mother’s Day and every day.  Look for more new titles in this splendid series coming soon.

NOTE:  All royalties from the sale of this book go to support World Vision’s work with children.

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11May 09

When Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

p6_kungfoomarthaOkay, an informal parent poll – do you know any child who likes to apologize (or adult for that matter)? I bet my kids are not the only ones who steer clear of that five letter word which is exactly why Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry! by Samantha Berger is so very spot on. The terrific water color illustrations by Bruce Whatley add to this charming and humorous book’s appeal.

Make no mistake about it, this feisty little otter has lots to offer in lots of other ways: she gives hugs, she shares a snack (a biggie in 9780316066822_388x5861our household), but she can also get up to serious no good! And, when one day Martha oversteps her otter boundaries in a big way, she learns an important lesson from her family about taking responsibility for her behavior. Suddenly, saying, “I’m sorry” is not so scary and can even bring delicious rewards! Well done, Martha!


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11May 09

Earth Day Contest Winner!

Announcing the Earth Day contest winner!

Congratulations go out to lucky Maria Angulo of Alhambra. She’s won the interactive EARTH DVD game, the EARTH padded activity book (both in conjunction with Disneynature’s new documentary film, EARTH)and the PLANET EARTH 3 Diplanet-earth-dvd-lo-ressc boxed DVD set.

earth_dvd-board-gamecropped1Thank you to everyone who entered. Please continue reading the blog to find out when and what my next contest for blog readers only will be!

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12May 09

Chinese Cooking With Kids


What: Join TOTZ Only in celebrating the launch of the third cookbook in the Handstand Kids Cookbook series. The Chinese Cookbook is packaged in a large takeout box with chopsticks!  Kids, aged 3 to 10, will make yummy, organic treats including spring rolls and Chinese noodle clusters!
Where: Totz Only, 3009 W Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 91505
When: Wednesday, May 13th, 2009, 3:30 pm- 5:00 pm
Cost: FREE! AND receive 10% off ALL Handstand Kids purchases that day.
Sign Up: Handstand Kids – (818) 917-7200 to make reservations or for more information email info@handstandkids.com. Space is limited so hurry!

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12May 09

Starring Mom

210690365Okay, so I’m still stuck on Mother’s Day, humor me. From the editors of LIFE Books comes LIFE With Mother (Time Inc. Home Entertainment, $17.95), densely packed with pictures of mothers throughout the last few decades in poignant and playful poses. Accompanying almost every photo are quotes and proverbs such as my personal favorite:

“God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.”

Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine

These, plus the varied selection of portraits from the past and present – from Diana, Princess of Wales to a Maryland mom of triplets – serve to celebrate moms around the world. This multi-faceted look at moms will warm any heart for Mother’s Day, a birthday, anniversary or to simply say you care.

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14May 09

A Pop-Up Book from Paul Frank

With summer vacation fast approaching, I’m thinking about parents (myself included) pressed to find something fun and different to do with their kids, be it at the beach, in the car or even in a restaurant. Here’s one sticky solution from Chronicle Books and Paul Frank Industries.

9780811860956_normIf your kids go crazy over Julius the monkey, then they’ll flip over this Julius! Pop-Up Sticker Activity Kit. Included in this portable package of plenty are a pop-up tropical island scene with 2 sticker sheets to decorate it (plus another 8 on separate sheets to stick in the activity book). With mazes and pictures to sticker, to an abundance of other doodling distractions like design the latest invention or create your own costumes and cupcakes, the 48 page activity book is packed with super stuff to entertain your child for hours.

9780811860956_detailKids can stick and draw to their hearts’ content while you catch up on the latest summer fiction. Inside the kit they’ll find familiar Julius and other Paul Frank friends such as Clancy, Bob, Birdie, Worry Bear and Steve the Crab. And be sure to turn to the last page where you can pop out more characters to stand up at the beach and surf shop scene. I’d recommend this for kids 8 and under and at $14.95, it makes a perfect party present, too.

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15May 09

How To Win Friends and Influence Weasels

9780375856259My 8 year-old son Coleman loved Sneaky Weasel written and illustrated magnificently by Hannah Shaw and I know why. With its wacky type face, its fun illustrations, Shaw’s strong style sense and storyline work together seamlessly to get readers scanning every corner of every page because you won’t want to miss a single thing.

sneaky-interior-2It seems rich, Sneaky Weasel has played one too many a trick which, while bringing him fame and fortune, does not necessarily bring him friends. A castle, a fast car and a huge pool are simply not enough when you cannot share them. However throwing a party to show off is not the best way either. And when no one answers his party invitation, weasel wants to know why. So, you may ask, what’s a clueless weasel to do?

He asks Rabbit who he picked on at school. He asks Rat in his lab whose science experiment was botched by the bully. Hedgehog’s mom intercepts Sneaky Weasel who has made her son itchy from fleas. A bit guilty now, he creeps by Shrew’s house who Weasel once almost served to his cat. Shrew proceeds to tell him off and can it be so? Do we actually witness Sneaky Weasel experiencing more than just a rush of remorse after this confrontation? And, because my son wants a moral to this story, Weasel concocts a plan to be good since it does not come naturally to him. In addition to the Herculean effort he makes to right his wrongs, he still has to learn to say those 2 magic words, “I’m sorry.” But sometimes, just sometimes, he regresses just a little tiny bit …

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15May 09

Reading is Fundamental and Rewarding!

image001Soar to Great New Heights Today …

by joining the exciting online challenge from US Airways and RIF. It’s as easy as a click here to add yourself to the growing list of readers (including celebrities like Al Roker, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld), and make your minutes count. As I write this there have been over 2.2 million minutes registered since the campaign’s April 1 launch. And the good news is this challenge continues on through June 30 so there’s not a moment (or a book) to waste!

images1In the 2008 Read With Kids Challenge more than 16,000 participants nationwide logged over 3.8 milllion minutes of reading and this year the goal is a collective 5 million minutes. New for the 2009 campaign is the ability to create a team of three or more adults if preferable to joining individually. Everyone who gets on board this high flying contest is entered to win a grand prize drawing of a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package from US Airways Vacations, US Airways gift cards, and other great prizes.

Consider also supporting children’s literacy by making a donation to RIF and donors can receive a special edition of Off You Go, Maisy! by best-selling author Lucy Cousins and also be eligible to get up to 5,000 US Airways Dividend Miles.

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready to embark. So pull your kids away from their game consoles, computers or TV shows and get reading now. My comfy chair’s calling.

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19May 09

EA Sports Active Challenge and You!

easactwiipftfrontboxGet Active!

Have you heard about EA Sports’ amazing new exercise program exclusively for Wii called EA SPORTS Active ? Or maybe you watched ELLEN last Monday go up against host Alison Sweeney as the very publicized EA SPORTS 30 Day Active Challenge drew to an end? Well today you, too, can join the exercise excitement with the release of EA SPORTS Active!

I was first introduced to this D.I.Y. fitness program back in December at EA’s Winter Gaming Wonderland and thought, “Wow! I can do this.” But like most get fit programs of late, let it sadly slide to the back burner. Then last week I had the chance to see it again and this time I tried it out. Okay, I lie, I stood right next to Jen Riley at EA as she demonstrated it for me and was SO IMPRESSED and MOTIVATED by how doable it was.

Now, you, too can embark on the 30 Day Challenge, learn 25 fun and easy exercises and activities or participate in a fitness circuit custom designed just for your individual needs. Whether you seek upper, lower, total body and cardio workouts, you can do it all and even journal your progress as you improve your routine and your health. What I got most psyched about was that it felt like with EA SPORTS Active I’d have my own personal trainer without the financial commitment. Plus, I could exercise when I wanted and wear whatever I wanted (even pajamas) and not be embarrassed about how out of shape I am. Order online today or head over to your nearest Target or Wal-Mart and get your copy before they sell out!

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20May 09

Freckleface Strawberry

frecklespotb1Freckleface Strawberry And A Whole Lot Moore!

I must confess right now that I have always wanted freckles. While those who found themselves ‘afflicted’ with those darling dots might have taken to wearing ski masks, I was dreading school daily because of my unruly, frizzy, and very curly hair. I ranked rainy days total torture and would have traded places with Julianne Moore in a heartbeat! That’s why I absolutely adored both Freckleface Strawberry and the newer Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully, 2 books from Bloomsbury by 4 time Academy Award nominee, Julianne Moore, illustrated by the always excellent LeUyen Pham.

Both books, ideal for the 3-8 age range, introduce readers to the sassy star of the Frecklface series. In the first book, Freckleface Strawberry, we realize right away that this young girl will do anything to rid herself of what she freckleface-strawberry-cvr1considers to be the bane of her existence, the clusters of concentrated melanin marring her face. With crude and insensitive comments coming at her from other kids like, “You look dirty,” or “You look like a giraffe,” Freckleface decides to tackle the problem with some home D.I. Y. After scrubbing them, applying lemon juice and wearing make-up don’t work, her only solution seems to be donning a face mask. It suddenly dawns on our flame-haired heroine, when her friends begin to wonder where she’s gone, that everyone likes her the way she is. And that way, special, unique and freckled, is just fine.

In Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully (new this month from Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books), parents and children alike will recall episodes from their own lives similar to the one Freckleface and her classmates encounter on rainy, indoor days at Early Bird school time. Meet Windy Pants Patrick, the bully who makes Dodgeball on these days, “Scary dodgeball. Hairy Dodgeball,” that often sounds like, “Thwack!” and sometimes like, “Thwock!” but mostly like: “AAAARRGGGHHHHH!” to the kids getting hit by the hard ball blasting right at them. Then someone freckled and unfrazzled makes a bold plan involving a monster and some fast foot action and pretty soon one Early Bird Ball bully is singing a different tune!

If you did not catch Julianne Moore at her recent book signing at Ralph Lauren in West Hollywood, click here to read an interview with her now.

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21May 09

Prepare for Pokémon Battle Dimension


My son, Coleman, is obsessed with all things Bakugan and Pokémon and perhaps your son is too. If your home is anything like mine, not a day goes by POKEMON: SINNOH READER #4: TRIPLwithout one or the other being mentioned over dinner or at bedtime and honestly, I cannot follow or keep up with it all. On the other hand, my husband and my dad have had to learn all the different names involved in addition to the characters’ respective powers in order to bond over various DS, Wii and card games along with the television show. It’s at times like these that I am grateful for being the mom because, were you to ask me to name a Pokémon besides Pikachu, I would lose that battle hands down! And speaking of battles, this is what Coleman had to say about Scholastic’s latest release …

The book I just finished is called Pokémon Battle Dimension: Triple Trouble (available from bookstores nationwide) based on the T.V. episode, “The Thief That Keeps on Thieving.” This book was very exciting because it shows how teamwork is better than just a single person fighting evil. The bad guys are Jessie, James and a talking Pokémon, Meowth. The good guys (and girl) are Ash, Dawn, Brock and Tyler. Tyler is trying to catch a Yanma, but team Rocket (a.k.a. the bad guys) catch it. If I say any more I will spoil the story for you. But I can truly tell you it’s a good book if you are a Pokémon fan like me!

NOTE:  This a Reader 2 level book.

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22May 09

Puppet, The Story of The Last Blood Libel Case

taliaTalia is a 7th grader who lives in the Los Angeles area with her parents and younger sister Mica. Her older sister Adrienne now lives in New York City. Talia enjoys basketball, food, travel, music, learning, and television. She believes Puppet was an intriguing novel and you should read it as well. Read on for more of what our guest reviewer has to say below:

9780887768286Puppet, written by Eva Wiseman, is a riveting novel about the real last blood libel case, in 1882. Before reading this book, my knowledge of the term “blood libel” was nonexistent, but now I know more than I might want to about it. For many centuries, Christians have accused Jews of killing Christian children to use their blood as a ritual for making a holiday bread (called matzo). This has never been true but Jews have suffered serious consequences from these accusations, especially in places and times where the Christians have been uneducated, poor and needed a scapegoat.

images2In a rural town called Tisza-Eszlar in Hungary, Jews were held accountable for the disappearance and death of a young servant, Esther Solymosi. In court, a Jewish boy named Morris Scharf was brainwashed by the local police to testify against his own people of the village: the Jews. The story’s narrator is Julie Vamosi, a peasant girl who is juggling the difficulties of life while also trying to find the real murderer of her close friend Esther. Unlike all the other peasants of Tisza-Eszlar, Julie doesn’t follow the crowd in accusing the Jews. While also dealing with her mother’s illness, worry about her baby sister and facing an abusive alcoholic father, Julie is lost in a frenzy of lies, evil and mystery.

Due to the graphic nature of the blood libel story, Puppet is well suited for teenagers ages 12+. Deep consideration should be taken about deciding whether you should read this book or not, because it does include blood, crude words, and a sophisticated plot. It is an easy read, as long as the reader is prepared for the painful subject.

Puppet is fascinating and unstoppable, a mixture of mystery, drama, action, and friendship. Pick it up and surely it will never be set down, due to the enthralling story. Look beyond the shockingly graphic journey of Julie and the Jews of Tisza-Eszlar and read the spectacle on paper, Puppet.

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23May 09

A Difficult Question To Ask

readingemmasquestio1Jessica Smith is back again, this time reviewing a Charlesbridge book addressing a very import ant topic in many families.

The book Emma’s Question arrived at our home just before a very tumultuous time, and was like a small port in the storm for me as a mother. Written by Catherine Urdahl and illustrated by Janine Dawson, the book takes us through a young girl’s curiosity and sadness upon the hospitalization of her grandmother.

emma_p20-spot-72Being a mother of young girls, I am always looking for ways in which to explain the “tough stuff” in life to them. I find that through books such as these, I’m better equipped to explain certain situations and help them understand in a way that makes sense to them.

We were drawn in to Emma’s Question by the soft watercolor-like illustrations and the friendly intricacy of the character’s features. Emma, a kindergartner, looks forward to her emma_p27-spot-72Grandma reading to her class the next day, only to find out that her much-loved Grandma has fallen ill and needs to stay in the hospital for a while. Emma has a burning question that “scratches at her throat” as she goes through the ins and outs of the next couple of days, worried about her Grandma and wondering what will happen.

When Emma’s mother finally takes her to see Grandma at the hospital, Emma is frightened and can’t bear the weight of her question anymore. “Are you going to die?” she bursts out. “Not today,” answers Grandma. As they begin to talk about the things in the room that help Grandma—the IV fluids, the medicines, the special hospital bed—Emma becomes more comfortable and sees that her Grandma is just the same as she always was, and still just as special. They talk about going out for bagels again, having tea parties and making up silly stories, just as they’ve always done.

When my own grandmother was recently hospitalized, I noticed that my Kindergartner, too, had questions. I thought back to the gentle way in which Catherine Urdahl pens Grandma handling Emma’s confusion and worry and channeled it to my own situation. After leaving the nursing home one day after a visit, I asked my daughter, who is very close to her great-grandmother, “Do you want to talk about Grammy?” “Will Grammy die?” she asked, eerily similar to little Emma’s inquiry. “Well…” I said. “Yes. Someday. But not today.” We walked on together, and I hoped she was thinking of all the fun things we usually do with Grammy and remembering, just as Emma did, that her great-grandmother is just as special as always.

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25May 09


a-big-sur2-12-081Abigail is a third grader from Los Angeles who absolutely loves to read, and often is the last one at the dinner table because of a book she can’t put down. She also is a pianist and is busy preparing her recital pieces for June. When she is not reading or playing piano, Abigail can frequently be found in the pool, or planning her next move in a chess game, or enjoying time with her family and friends. She also can do a perfect split.

curious-cats1I was instantly amused while reading A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco from Tricycle Press. The author combines simple poetry and thoughts into a gathering of cat pieces that are humorous, clever and creative. Often, the words overlay the pictures as part of the poem’s message. I think I could even put some music to her poems. They seem to have rhythm and bounce, and remind me of the playfulness of cats, and of how impatient I am with my parents to give me the pleasure of a cat as pet. The inventive illustrations by Michael Wertz involve collages of bold colored shapes that seem to practically jump out of the page.

I wonder how Betsy has come up with so many original ideas for her cat poems. On the book jacket, Betsy herself credits her cat with inspiring her writing. Hear that, Mom and Dad?

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26May 09

Are You Just Dying For A Slice?

dsc01141From today’s guest reviewer comes a decidedly delectable good read:
My name is Vinny. I am twelve years old and I live in the the San Gabriel Valley. In my spare time, when I am not doing things like homework or studying, I enjoy reading different books. I truly enjoy horror, mystery, thriller and suspense books, rather than dull and boring ones. I also enjoy riding my bike around the neighborhood because this gives me a sense of freedom that I cannot have enough of.

51jledny1wl_sl500_aa240_The book Killer Pizza, by Greg Taylor, was a fantastic story that went in-depth to explain a boy named Toby’s experience with the monsters of the night; he always thought to be non-existent. Quickly after applying for a summer job at a run-down pizza shop, he and his two co-workers find that although the given surroundings may seem very convincing, it’s all a lie. Little does Toby and his two co-workers know, it’s all a front for the headquarters of an elite monster hunting organization. And as the three co-workers share an unbreakable bond of friendship, through thick and thin, mostly thin, their skills and abilities always seem to get them out of the worst. I thought this book served up a blazing hot slice of drama, with a cool side of suspense, and thanks to the brilliant writing of Greg Taylor, I found it more likeable. I would one hundred percent, definitely, recommend this book, without a doubt.

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27May 09

Literally Healing at CHLA


chla-logo-clr-2My colleague, Terresa Burgess, asked us in the editorial department if we had any spare books we’d like to donate to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles since she was heading over with a donation. The response at L.A. Parent was a resounding, “YES!” Once we review books we frequently find ourselves giving them away to charities around Los Angeles. When we learned about the Literally Healing Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we jumped to be involved, dropped everything and got a box together that day for Terresa to bring over.

lhSeveral months after Terresa’s request, Carolyn Graham and I made it over to CHLA to meet with Claire Austin, the program’s awe-inspiring Director and this is what I learned. A Children’s Bibliotherapist, Austin runs the Literally Healing Program at CHLA with her heart and soul. Faces light up when they see her strolling a corridor. And rightly so because what she does for children and their families is truly a blessing.

Literally Healing
has both a therapeutic and a literacy arm.

Austin created a ‘Therapeutic Library’ comprising a collection of over 1,000 titles that ‘speak directly’ to patients, and their siblings, to help them better understand and master the sensitive issues they face on a day to day basis. The wide assortment of therapeutic books they have on hand addresses the key challenges that may result from specific medical conditions. These therapeutic books for children provide a comforting, non-threatening way to discuss difficult topics such as adjusting to hospitalization; overcoming ridicule or exclusion because of a medical condition; and, coping with disability or death.

moobile-2009As part of Literally Healing’s commitment to literacy promotion, the program created a ‘Gifting Library.’ Each day that a patient is hospitalized they, and their siblings, are eligible for a free book. The program gifts over 17,000 children’s books annually.

Literally Healing has been around 8 years and continues to grow under the caring, committed and watchful eyes of Austin and her dedicated assistant and volunteers.

lobbyIf you’ve ever been to the lobby of the hospital, you might have seen a Story Time in session in the Saban Story Corner or perhaps you caught fleeting glimpse of the Book Moo-bile. Both are initiatives to promote literacy and lift the spirits of children at the hospital. Highly trained volunteers, Bedside Readers, use these cow colored carts to deliver books to patients.

The Literally Healing program welcomes donations of children’s books from the public. A wish list of needed titles is posted on the hospital’s website www.childrenshospitalla.org under the ‘Giving’ tab. However, the hospital’s infection control standards require that all gifted books must be new. Space in the hospital to store these much needed books is now at a premium, so they suggest you consider donating “Gift Cards” instead of actual books. Gift Cards also allow the program to be more flexible. The program can make “on-demand” purchases to better meet patient requests as well as therapeutic books that may be integral to the child’s healing. The program welcomes Gift Cards from Barnes & Noble, Borders, Children’s Book World (310.559.2665) and Vroman’s (626.449.5320).

For further queries please e-mail Ms. Austin at: caustin@chla.usc.edu.

I’m also excited to share the news that Claire Austin will contribute reviews to
‘Good Reads With Ronna’ so readers can learn more about the diverse and
often sensitive subjects Literally Healing handles with children’s best
interests at heart. If her reviews are even half as dynamic and passionate
as the woman herself, you will not want to miss a single one.

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29May 09

When Royals Wore Ruffles

100_2352Move over Immelda, here comes Gabriella

lo-res_ruffles_e280a6erior_28_29Gabriella is an 8
year-old 2nd grader from Los Angeles who loves
play dates with friends, playing games, soccer, swimming and
reading. She also loves clothes and shoes!

I enjoyed reading the book When Royals Wore Ruffles: A Funny and Fashionable Alphabet! by Chelsey McLaren and Pamela Jaber
because I liked learning about all of the clothes people wore back in time. It was a fun and funny
book with great illustrations that kept me turning the pages. I also liked ruffles_art_2seeing what
people did throughout history, like the twist. I learned that people have liked shoes and perfume
for a very long time. And that’s something that has not changed
although I am very glad women no
longer have to wear bustles!

NOTE: From Cleopatra to flapper, from goth to grunge, this BOWdacious book is a great introduction to the trials and tribulations all fashionistas must endure from A-Z.

Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Chesley McLaren. All rights reserved.

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30May 09

Writing Contest For Kids

Smart Poodle Publishing Announces the:

I Love Costa Rica’s Rain Forest!

Young Travel Writers


Artists Contest

glade_2Smart Poodle Publishing, publisher of The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica, is pleased to announce its national children’s travel writing and art contest. Children from Kindergarten through 5th Grade are invited to submit original stories and artwork to the “I Love Costa Rica’s Rain Forest!” Contest, based upon a real or imaginary travel adventure in the Costa Rican rainforest. For an entry form and complete contest rules, visit smartpoodlepublishing.com or Click here to enter today!
All prizes donated by Rand McNally’s online store at www.RandMcNally.com.

flag-map“Smart Poodle Publishing is on a mission to do its part to help improve geography education in the US,” said publisher and author Debbie Glade. “We are thrilled to be able to offer exciting prizes directly related to geography education this year, all of which have been generously donated by Rand McNally’s online store at www.RandMcNally.com.”

A total of nine winners will be chosen. There will be First, Second and Third Place Winners in three grade categories: 5K-1st grade, 2nd-3rd grade and 4th-5th grade.

First Place Winners will each receive (Value listed):
– Rand McNally Personal Journeys World Pinable Wall Map ($84.99)
– Rand McNally Hard Bound World Atlas ($24.95)
– Kids’ Travel Activity Bundle ($15.80)

Second Place Winners will each receive (Value listed):
– Rand McNally Traveler Series Kids Illustrated Wall Map ($64.99)
– Kids’ Travel Activity Bundle ($15.80)

Third Place Winners will each receive (Value listed):
World Knowledge Bundle ($22.90)

This contest is free. No purchase necessary. The deadline to enter is September 30, 2009. Entries will be judged by a panel of travel and education experts. Winners will be announced on October 15, 2009. Winners’ stories will be published on www.smartpoodlepublishing.com as well as on www.RandMcNally.com.

About Smart Poodle Publishing
Smart Poodle Publishing is the publisher of The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica (ISBN 978-0-9800307-9-2) and the Ask Lilly Badilly All About the World Geography Q and A video program. Award-winning author Debbie Glade visits schools with her reading and geography programs. Smart Poodle Publishing recently sponsored the “What I Wish Everyone Knew About Librarians” national writing contest for librarians.

About Rand McNally
From America’s number-one-selling Road Atlas, The Thomas Guide®, FabMAP® and Goode’s World Atlas to StreetFinder® Wireless and IntelliRoute® trucking database, Rand McNally has been an industry leader in the mapping, routing, geographic reference and trip-planning tool marketplace for more than 150 years. With More Roads-Better Directions™, the Company’s products are sold in more than 50,000 retail outlets and distributed to 98% of schools across the U.S. Rand McNally is the premier resource for online travel planning as well as maps and directions. For more information, please visit www.RandMcNally.com, call 800-333-0136 or buy maps and travel gear online at http://Store.RandMcNally.com.


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01Jun 09

Horrors Galore!

adam-school-picture-08-09Here for the first time is today’s guest reviewer,  Adam, a 9 year-old from Glendale, currently in the 3rd grade. 

I liked Welcome To Camp Slither  by R.L. Stine because it was very exciting. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. First it’s a regular summer camp but then it turns into a nightmare!

I had some favorite parts, too. The first one was when the mice attacked the main characters. The second one is when the snake did something really unexpected. I think you’ll be surprised. You don’t know who is causing the problem at the camp. You don’t even know what the problem is!  

welcome_to_camp_slitherI think the Horrorland books are even better than the Goosebumps books because in the Horrorland books some people’s enemies from Goosebumps books come back to get their revenge. There are also some new enemies and new problems (like this one).  I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery.

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02Jun 09


Juli Barry is a mother of three – two of them teenagers – and an avid reader of popular and historical fiction as well as biographies on famous women throughout history.   She also reads poetry on a regular basis to keep her Spirit blossoming.  She reviewed So Not Happening (A Charmed Life Novel) by Jenny B. Jones  from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

sonothappeningA teenage girl named Bella moves from the big city to a small hick town where she meets many unusual characters and experiences a series of strange mishaps.  Sound familiar?  Well, that’s where the similarities end between So Not Happening and that other book people are reading.  There are no vampires  nor werewolves in Truman, Oklahoma, but Bella Kirkwood feels as if she has entered an equally less-than-human world that has, “…no fashion. No style. No Starbucks,” when her ex- New York socialite mother marries a farmer/factory worker that she met over the internet.  Bella is suddenly torn away from her NYC existence to join her mother, stepfather and two stepbrothers in a rundown Oklahoma farmhouse, trading her prep school status, favorite clubs and shopping haunts — even her room!! – for public school and pickup trucks, pet cows and mud, mud, mud.

Our snobby heroine immediately alienates herself from most of her new classmates when a blog she writes back home is circulated around Truman High.  But Bella has a veritable Marc Jacobs bag full of pluck and perseverance as well as a humorous hotline to God as she navigates her way through this small town life and her role within her new family. 

As the newest member of the school newspaper she pays her dues with a story on the school’s lack of a recycle conscience – landing her both in the trash cans and onto a bigger, darker story involving members of the Truman High School football team.  She also gets in deep with her editor, the nerdily gorgeous (gorgeously nerdy?) Luke Sullivan while still trying to hold on to her New York guy, Hunter.  The novel conveys both humor and suspense with LOL scenes interspersed with eerie cult aspects and real danger.  Who knew life in Oklahoma could be as exciting as the Big Apple! 

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04Jun 09

Meet Rebecca, The Newest American Girl

Meet Rebecca, An American Girl by Jacqueline Dembar Greene and illustrated by Robert Hunt, with vignettes by Susan McAliley.

jenniferjuliaagresizedToday’s Guest Reviewers are playwright/screenwriter Jennifer Maisel, whose work includes the critically acclaimed plays The Last Seder and There or Here (www.dogear.org) and the hit web series Faux Baby, and her almost 7 year old daughter, Julia, a first grader who is a big fan of American Girls, and just may be a singer-songwriter when she grows up.

As a child I was a big fan of Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series, about a Jewish family with five daughters living on the Lower East Side of New York at the turn of the century; recently Julia dug up one of my dog-eared copies of the book and we started in, pleased the writing held up for a new generation for readers. It seemed to be a nice synchronicity when the news came of American Girl’s newest history doll launching May 31 – 9 year old Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish girl living on the Lower East side with her four meet-rebeccasiblings in 1914 – and Meet Rebecca landed on our doorstep. And indeed there are marked similarities between the two series, both giving vivid pictures of the life of Jewish immigrant girls, yet not getting too much into the gritty details of the period.

As in other American Girl books, our main character faces a personal moral dilemma that is steeped in the historical milieu of the time. Rebecca’s family has close relatives that need to leave Russia but do not have the money to do so, and Rebecca’s family cannot easily afford to bring them over. Rebecca, however, is most concerned with being considered too young to light the Sabbath candles and searches for a way to stand out amongst her four siblings – something children of any generation can relate to. Rebecca hits on an ingenious way to earn money to buy her own candlesticks, but realizes, as time goes on, that perhaps the objects she longs for will not satisfy her as much as helping others could.

It’s a sweet story and Dembar Greene portrays the inner workings of a nine year old’s mind in a relatable way that kept my daughter eager for the next chapter. Julia thinks the person who thought this character up is our own “Clever Karina” (you’ll have to read the book to find out.) There are a lot of religious and cultural mores that Dembar Greene, for the most part, manages to deftly cover while keeping Rebecca’s journey in the forefront. I wished, however, that she had addressed the generational clash of concerns about the father in the family working on the Sabbath despite the grandparents’ disapproval more extensively – it was covered better in the Looking Back, America in 1914 chapter after Rebecca’s story was completed. But any book that opens my daughter’s eyes to trials her great grandparents went through when they came to this country and gets her slacker parents to celebrate Shabbat (at her insistence) has something going for it.

And for those Mommy fans of All-of-a-Kind Family – there is a doll just for us.
NOTE: This Sat., June 6 at 4:30 p.m. is American Girl at the Egyptian Theater. Call 877-247-5223 for more info.

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08Jun 09

Witches and Ballet

image0011Hazel is a second grader in Southern California and lives with her two fish, Bruce & Carl, her three dogs: Betsey, Roma and Luvey (pictured), her sister Katie and brother Sam. Along with reading, Hazel loves to skateboard, cheerlead, and is looking forward to starting acting classes. Lately, she has been helping her parents in their garden. Unfortunately, she has no time to clean her room. 

Rumblewick’s Diary #1:  My Unwilling Witch Goes to Ballet School by Hiawyn Oram.


Hi my name is Hazel and this is my first book review for Good Reads With Ronna. 

9780316034722_154x233This book is about a witch named Haggy Aggy, also known as HA for short, who wants to go to ballet school.  In this story, a black cat named Rumblewick, also known as RB, is HA’s caretaker.   RB wants HA to be a normal witch. The high hags are the witches who hired RB to make HA a good, mean witch like all witches are supposed to be, but RB is not doing so well in her efforts to make HA into a normal witch.

 HA wants to be an Other Sider.  Other Siders are fancy ballet dancers.    Ha was afraid the school would not allow a witch to audition, so she acted like she was homeless.  She thought they would feel sorry for her and it worked!  Before the audition she went into the bathroom and changed into a raggedy dress.  She took off her shoes and put dirt on her face.  At the end (oops I almost ruined it for you by giving away the plot) Haggy Aggy was so happy, but you will have to read the book to find out why. When the story is over, HA decides she want to be a normal witch after all, but not that bad of one! 

I liked this book because I think it is a funny idea of a witch going to a ballet school.  RB was my favorite character because he was so funny.  I think you should read this book to see if you agree with me.

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09Jun 09

Smart Sleuthing

I wanted desperately to expose my 8 year-old son, Coleman, to something more than the A-Z Mysteries. Not that these are not wonderful and worthwhile books, they are. However, what I will inevitably one day pronounce when he is dating I recently said regarding reading: “Coleman, there are many fish in the sea.” In other words, try a lot of different books to experience what’s out there. After taking my advice, and broadening his book horizons so to speak, he found Saxby Smart: Private Detective in The Curse Of The Ancient Mask and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire with pictures by R.W. Alley, Roaring Press from Roaring Brook Press.

97815964347451According to Coleman, “this great book is about a boy named Saxby Smart who attends a local school called St. Egbert’s. The book contained a total of three separate stories (aka Case Files) about mysteries that happened in the town where Saxby lived. There are two people he constantly relies on.

“One of them is named Muddy, a tech genius and the other is named Izzy. She is a keen researcher always looking up facts for Saxby. Muddy creates things out of old scrap junk he finds and makes them into amazing inventions like The Whitehouse Bike 2000 which can go really, really fast. (I think I know why my inventor son relates to this character so well). Website searcher for Saxby, Izzy looks up all the facts like how much the golden clasp is worth (see page 121 for The Clasp of Doom).” Coleman liked The Curse of the Ancient Mask best, “although,” according to him, “the others were pretty darned good, too!”

“In The Curse of the Ancient Mask, Saxby is friends with this tall girl from school and her dad is in a company that makes things. His rival company, Posispark set her dad up because they know he likes to buy souvenirs whereever he goes. He goes to Japan on business. Before he leaves he gets this mask from a store and once home, for some odd reason every time he announces something to his family that his company is building, Posispark somehow get the idea and starts building it. To find out what is going on, Saxby steps in to investigate, but you will have to read this book to find out his discovery.” The drawings totally added to how much he enjoyed the book and he’s already asking when the next book will come out! Fishing is good!

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10Jun 09

Worst-Case Scenario: Middle School

ilovereedIn her free time, guest reviewer and 6th grader Shira loves to listen to Taylor Swift, read, and text or IM her friends from camp and different sport teams. When she isn’t doing homework, she is playing cards, swimming, or talking with friends. She loves to read, especially fiction books!

The Worst Case Scenario
Survival Handbook: Middle School

By David Borgenicht, Ben H. Winters, and Robin Epstein

This book is everything a new middle schooler will need! It has tips from wardrobe emergencies to being the shortest guy in school to having your 9780811868648_normsibling attending school with you to surviving horrible haircuts! There are also super-helpful hints, like how to organize your backpack, study for tests, and survive the school dance. One of the most important things in Middle School is your locker. This is used for keeping those all important, extra in-case-of-emergency clothes and shoes, hygienic products, Chap-stick/lip gloss, and books for class. I really enjoyed the tips on how to keep your backpack and locker clean, and the tips for stopping bullies and cheaters were really good! This is a book every soon-to-be middle schooler should have.

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11Jun 09

Heroes & Villains

sarah-school-08-09Sarah is an 11 year-old fifth grader from Glendale, California who loves to doodle and read. See what books have made it to her short list!

I have reviewed two books by author Andy Briggs today because they are supposed to (and should definitely) be read together. The two books are part of two different “anti series.” Each series is one side of the same story.

51flekfklsl_sl500_aa240_ One of the books is titled Hero.com: Rise of the Heroes. It’s the first book in one of the two series. There aren’t many words that can describe it, but two come to mind: Awesome. Suspenseful. Makes you want to gnaw on a chair in excitement. I think one of my favorite parts in this book was when Toby, Pete, Lorna, and Emily (the main characters) are battling the supervillian Doc Tempest (another major character) in his icy lair in a mountain in Antarctica. If I could rate this book on a scale of one to ten, I think I’d give it an 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

The second book is titled Villain.net: Council of Evil. It’s the first book in that other series I mentioned in the introductory paragraph. Here are nine words to describe it: ONE OF THE 51da301rnjl_sl500_aa240_BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ!!! My ABSOLUTE favorite part in this book was when a 14- year – old boy named Jake Hunter (the main character) learns the terrifying truth about what has been happening to him over the course of the past few days (over the course of his life, for that matter) from the superevil supervillain Basilisk.

Anyone who likes the Internet, adventure, and superpowers, or is just sick and tired of having their opinion made for them (that all superheroes are 100% good and all villains are total madmen), these books are for you. In case you’re hooked like me, the second book in the Hero.com series is titled Virus Attack and the second book in the Villain.net series is titled Dark Hunter. Watch this space!

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12Jun 09

SUPERWHY EVENT! Calling all super readers!

imagesYou know the Super WHY show, now check out the new toy line.  Spend another sunny day in L.A. at this fun and FREE event for the family this coming Saturday, June 13. Yes, Super WHY, the award-winning preschool PBS show invites Los Angeles-area kids and families to enjoy a not-to-be-missed day of reading-powered fun with a “super” special event celebrating the series’ anticipated toy launch at Toys”R”US!

This exciting day of activities includes a storybook reading, an interactive bingo game, Super WHY-inspired coloring activities and more! Be the FIRST to enjoy exclusive “hands on” play with the new toys based on the hit Emmy nominated PBS KIDS TV Series. Plus, you won’t want to miss all the great giveaways and coupons that will be distributed as well.

sw_vertical_loge280a6finalWho: Super WHY fans of all ages and Toys“R”Us!

What: Kids from coast-to-coast will hold the “power to read” in their hands – literally! – as the highly-anticipated Super WHY toy line from Learning Curve, based on the hit series seen daily on PBS KIDS (check local listings), makes its retail debut at Toys“R”Us stores nationwide!

Why: To celebrate the arrival of Super WHY toys, on Saturday, June 13, kids can be among the first to experience the new toys based on the Emmy nominated Super WHY preschool show!

Guests of the celebration also will have the opportunity to receive Super WHY-themed temporary tattoos, stickers, masks, coloring and activity sheets, while supplies last.

When: Saturday, June 13
12 noon – 2 p.m.

Where: All Toys“R”Us stores nationwide!
click here to find a location

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14Jun 09


d-0144-1Meet today’s guest reviewer, Riley.

I am 13 years-old and am about to start 8th grade. I enjoy reading, computer games, skateboarding, the beach and playing with my dogs. Mysteries, science fiction, comedy and horror books are my favorites, but if desperate I will read just about anything. Because you never know when you will be stuck running errands with your family, I try to always have a book with me.

9780316011730_154x233The Postcard by Tony Abbott is a fantastic mystery that intertwines fact and fiction. The two main characters Jason and Dia find themselves trapped in the mystery of Nick Falcon, and whether he is real, or just another made up character in one of Emerson Beale’s story.

It starts as an average teenage boy named Jason finds himself in Florida after being flown down to help his Dad pack up his deceased grandmother’s house. When alone at the house the phone rings and someone asks “how smart are you?” The voice continues to say “you can learn many things at a desk,” and then abruptly hangs up. Jason then goes to his grandmother’s old desk and finds a postcard. The mystery then begins as Jason and Dia try to find out the truth about Nick Falcon, and Emerson Beale. As they fight the secret order of Oobarab it is a thrilling race to find out the truth. Tony Abbott is an excellent writer so if you like a good mystery this is the book for you. Abbott ties up all loose ends perfectly in an exciting conclusion.

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17Jun 09

Puddin’ The Yorkshire Terrier

Back again, this time to review a fun book, is my colleague, graphic artist Terresa Burgess:

nigelvtsBeing the owners of an adorable Yorkie named “Nigel,” my daughter Teagan was immediately drawn to the cover of the book, Puddin’ the Yorkshire Terrier. Teagan called out “Nigie, Nigie” and quickly flipped through the book calling out his name every time Puddin’ appeared on the page. The recommended age range for this book is 4-8, but I felt that Teagan, being older than her 20 months in so many ways, would have fun following the hippest Yorkie around town as she struts her stuff all over the city. Puddin’ shops for the latest fashions and even models them for you. We also get to experience the doggie diva dining with a pack of her closest pals. Kelli 41sssj9jnrl_sl500_aa240_Chipponeri’s cardstock creation is cut into the shape of a purse making it fun to carry to and from the bookshelf. The book also comes with canine couture stickers and a dog tag necklace just like Puddin’s. The stickers were fun, but the necklace could become a hazard for a child as young as Teagan. For now I have decided to keep Puddin’ The Yorkshire Terrier’s necklace attached to the book around her neck and told Teagan it’s just like Nigel’s collar.

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18Jun 09

The Best Day Ever!

“It felt like Father’s Day,” according to our guest reviewer, Rob Wheat.

img_0007Our four year-old Violet had long awaited the return of spring and couldn’t wait to visit a local touristy-type farm near our Kansas City home.

We caught fish, fed a baby goat, rode a pony, had a picnic and enjoyed being together as a family in the warm sun.
Those types of experiences made up the book It’s the Best Day Ever, Dad! written by movie and television actress Brooke Shields (yes, that Brooke Shields) and is both cleverly and pointedly illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld.

bestday02The book captures a perfect day in the life of a father, who has two small daughters, the youngest coincidentally named Violet. During the day, the three decide to let mommy catch up on precious sleep as they conspire to make it the best day ever.

Daddy is gently awoken by “The Alarm Clock Girls” who help him shave, they all enjoy animal-shaped pancakes, play at the dog park, enjoy ice cream, learn responsibility, watch sports, draw with chalk in the park, have a tea party, help with dinner, watch the stars and collectively fall into a contented sleep…

While engaging in all those activities during a single day might be ambitious for even the most well-intended father, the book skillfully provides subtle suggestions for both rookie and veteran dads on outings with their young girls while also relaying important parental lessons.

bestday03Each of the outings or activities are simple, and yet memorable as examples of how fathers and daughters (and mothers and sons) can plan out activities that will have an important and lasting impact on one’s children.

The girls in the book are young, but both are old enough to remember those perfect days with dad that ultimately provide an important foundation for self- esteem and how they will both view themselves and others in current and future relationships.

The impact parents have on their small children cannot be underestimated. And the book also provides simple, but almost inspiring suggestions on ways that dads can bond with their daughters.

These bonds eventually transcend time and distance, and the book leaves the reader with the emphasis that the daddy and the girls can have another “best day ever” tomorrow…

The illustrations masterfully capture both the delight and determination that young girls feel during a day with their fathers, and may be best embodied by the illustration where older sister Frankie helps pass on instructing her sister on taking care of the family dog – hers is a face of sheepish respect as she looks up at her father and takes in the responsibility, while Violet’s face is a mask of discipline and determination as it becomes her turn to learn how to feed and instruct the dog.

Instilling structure and responsibility within children also can’t be underestimated, and the book’s theme is illustrated by the 12-word quote on the back of the hardcover: “Every day can be Father’s Day when you spend it with Dad.”

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19Jun 09

Happy Father’s Day!

I love Father’s Day because it gives me a chance to celebrate my one-in-a-million dad and let him know how much he means to me. When I was in college and a friend backed out of our Spring Break plans despite my having booked tickets to Florida, it was my dad who went along with me! When friends visited me from abroad and I was still living at home, it was my dad who chauffeured them around Manhattan giving the sightseeing tour. He’s always been there for me, been my number one fan and in return, I am his.

When looking for something this Father’s Day to celebrate
that special Dad you know, consider these books.

9781599620671We wish we knew an expecting or new Dad so we could give him the The Little Big Book For Dads from Welcome Books this Father’s Day because it’s one of those “must have” books a parent will return to again and again. Mothers, too, will enjoy the colossal content which ranges from nursery rhymes, activities, songs, fairy tales, poetry (Edward Lear’s An Alphabet is a personal favorite in our house), essays (offered by dads from Bill Cosby to Kenny Loggins), recipes, tongue twisters and jokes. The endearing artwork of such notables as Kate Greenaway and Jessie Wilcox Smith recalls a bygone era when bonding time with Dad was as simple as flying a kite

5815-1m-lowKlutz’s Build-a-Book is a complete book-building kit and for this Father’s Day there’s the convenient Why I love My Dad – By Me for your child to design. Recommended for ages 6 and up, the book contains 10 colorful pages, mostly blank, so kids can let their creativity flow. Included are double-side custom papers, chipboard letters, glue, double-tipped black marker, googly eyes and assorted cool foam shapes to help make the finished product unique and memorable. There’s also lots of neat ideas and helpful hints to inspire them. My kids were always making books when they were little, but finding all the right bits and pieces was our biggest challenge. Build-a-Book just gives them the perfect head start. Simply supply some scissors, a snack and disappear.

9780545134026_xlgScholastic’s Things To Do With Dad by Chris Stevens and illustrated by A.J. Garces (with additional illustrations by David Woodroffe) guarantees a good time will be had by all. Filled with indoor and outdoor activities kids can enjoy together with Dad, the book provides details on how to catch a shadow, have a thumb wrestling contest, throw a car wash party and even turn your kitchen into Dad’s diner (I’m sure Mom will love that one!). And in case you needed more suggestions, Things To Do With Dad has at least 50 others to try out. I liked the idea of creating a crazy golf course and I am definitely going to get my husband to make the paper helicopters with Coleman.

612n-znoelsx156Bertie: Just Like Daddy by Marcus Pfister (of Rainbow Fish fame) from North-South Books is a spot-on story of a little hippo who wants to do everything his daddy does whether it’s drinking coffee, shaving, having a credit card or skipping a nap. Daddy somehow has all the right answers. Daddy replies “When you’re bigger,” and Bertie seems content with his father’s suggestions of drinking the foam, wearing some shaving cream or holding the receipt. It’s not until Bertie’s up from his nap, eager to now play trains and Daddy’s asking if he can be kid that the tables are turned in delightful way. Perfect for toddlers, Pfister’s latest Bertie book is sure to please with its tropical looking wallpapers and backgrounds of vibrant colors along with vividly drawn characters.

1360808The black and white photographs as well as the color ones shout LIFE Magazine which is why I love the new LIFE with Father published by Time Inc. Home Entertainment. At $17.95 this book makes a wonderful and meaningful gift to present to Dad this Father’s Day. Of course there are celebrity dads likes Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas and Nat “King” Cole and ordinary dads, but all are portrayed lovingly with their children and as one quote says, “Even a famous father is simply Dad to his kids.” Any LIFE collection would not be complete without touching pictures of JFK or RFK, and the accompanying quotes on most pages only serve to add to the warmth of this tribute to fathers around the world. A beautiful shot of President Barack Obama having a quiet moment with daughter Malia ends the book with a fitting quote, “I’m inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart…They make me want to be a better man.”

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22Jun 09

Imagine That, An Interview With Rising Star, Yara Shahidi


If you haven’t seen Imagine That yet, I suggest you do.  I had a grin on my face during the entire film and I was especially captivated by the big talent of Eddie Murphy’s charming and vivacious young co-star, Yara Shahidi. I recently interviewed Yara, so read on to find out just what makes this terrific nine-year-old tick.

IMAGINE THATDid you have a favorite blankie when you were younger?
I did and still do have a favorite blankie that I call my lovie!  My little brother has taken it recently, he is  a one-year-old!

Was the name Goo-Ga your idea? (Goo-Ga is the name of Yara’s beloved blankie in Imagine That which she’s holding in the photo)
That wasn’t my idea, but I love the name!

The film’s message about less work and more play is an important one with all the distractions families have today.  What things do you like your parents to do with you when you are not in school?
When I am not in school, I love to travel with my parents, eat chocolate with my mommy and learn great recipes from my *Baba.

IMAGINE THATI loved the pancake scene when you slathered on all the different toppings like Hershey’s syrup and mustard.  Should busy parents do more cooking with their children?
I think every parent should think about having some fun in the kitchen with their kids…we love it, kind of messy, but fun!

What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
The best meal I have ever had is my Baba’s home made, organic cheese pizza!

Do you get to eat good food while you’re making a film?
The fun thing about working is all of the fun treats and good food. My brother Sayeed, who is 6 would come visit me on set, but I think he was visiting the snack truck!

IMAGINE THATIs it difficult being a 9 year-old actress and finding time to be a kid, doing all the silly kid things kids get up to?
It isn’t difficult, because acting is just being a kid!  I also have tons of friends and we love to have play dates.  My brother Sayeed is one of my best friends, so we do a ton of things together too.

Do you ever get time to read for pleasure and if so, what are some of the books you enjoy reading?
I read so much that my mommy has to tell me to put my books away so I can eat or go to bed!  I love history, and mysteries!  I just read Chains by Laurie Halse  Anderson and the Encyclopedia Brown books.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a historian, an inventor and an actor.

What’s your favorite movie?
Kirikou, a French cartoon movie about an African Village.  A little boy saves his entire village from an evil sorcerer.

NOTE: *Baba means “father” in Farsi.  Yara is half African-American and half Persian.  She knows and is learning Farsi!

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24Jun 09

Flip-a-Face Furry Friends: Same and Different

Sean Burgess is back again as guest reviewer today with his take on a fun new toddler book from Chronicle Books/Blue Apple.

9781934706589_normWith my 18 month old daughter Teagan interested and even more knowledgeable than ever about the parts of the body, the book Flip-a-Face Furry Friends: Same and Different came to us at just the right time. Every time we hold Teagan she always points out the features of our face; nose, eyes, ears, teeth. This book brings new attention to details of the face. That’s why I love this Flip-a-Face book. The reader is asked: “How is the cat’s face different from the dog’s face? What is missing from this face?” Plus, this book is a wonderful way to get kids talking about faces in a fun, interactive way, even making a game of it.

The author SAMi’s vibrant colored animal artwork, like Japanese anime, also features each animal set within its environment on a pull out page. Other animals featured are lion, lamb, cow, horse, tiger and fox.

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25Jun 09

A Butterfly Fable

The school year may be over for teacher Therese Louk who we welcome back as today’s guest reviewer, but she’s always on the lookout for great books to read to her students:

33663825Spring has sprung and with it come butterflies.  I read Adios Oscar!: A Butterfly Fable by Peter Elwell to my second grade class and had rave reviews from each student.  They laughed and enjoyed the story of Oscar’s adventures.  There is a great message embedded in the story to always try to achieve your dreams.  There were many favorite parts in the story from the students.  Ask your child which part is his/her favorite.  It may change each time your read it.
Oscar is a curious caterpillar who meets a beautiful Monarch butterfly on his way to Mexico.  Oscar is so intrigued by the lovely wings on the butterfly.  After conversing with Bob (the beautiful butterfly), Oscar decides it is time for him to do some research on his own to find out if he truly will grow wings.

Enter Edna
Edna, the reliable bookworm, introduces Oscar to the most fabulous library to research any topic he would like.  He becomes convinced he will become a beautiful butterfly and fly to Mexico.  He begins to learn Spanish tp prepare to talk to the other bugs when he gets Mexico.
Oscar soon goes through his metamorphosis stage dreaming of beautiful wings.  When he wakes up, he knows he has wings and is very excited.  It isn’t until Oscar sees himself in a mirror that he discovers he is not a butterfly but a moth.  Oscar doesn’t let anything stop his spirits.  He continues on his venture to get to Mexico and be with the other beautiful butterflies.
Read Adios Oscar! to find out if he gets there.
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26Jun 09

The Cow That Was The Best Moo-ther

9780061664724Harper Collins brings you The Cow That Was The Best Moo-ther by Andy Cutbill with illustrations by Russel Ayto for children ages 4-8. This book is a follow-up to Cutbill and Ayto’s first book, The Cow that Laid an Egg!

Bold and brilliant illustrations pull you into each page to join Marjorie the cow as she pursues an opportunity to enter her baby Daisy into a Beautiful Baby Contest.

Remember however that the sign reads CONTEST STRICTLY FOR COWS.THE BEST COW Ints. US SALES

While moms practiced with the baby cows to prepare them for the big event, Daisy, hatched from an egg, preferred to hang out with the chickens. Despite rampant Mom cow gossip about little Daisy not meeting developmental milestones such as talking or chewing cud, Daisy’s mom Marjorie kept up her spirits.

The contest proved disasterous when it was declared by the Farmer’s wife that Daisy was a chicken and therefore ineligible. But chicken or cow, Daisy was Marjorie’s daughter whom she loved her with all her heart. And Mom Marjorie clearly wins in another way as Bull Derek awards her “Best In Show.”

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27Jun 09

This baseball book is a hit

img_1766Here’s first time guest reviewer Nathan and his mom, JoAnn writing about something they both love, baseball. Nathan and my son have been on the same baseball team for the past three years. When I saw this book, it shouted Nathan’s name.

Wow! What a good read about a young man and his Grandpa. Oliver’s Game by Matt Tavares takes place in Chicago where the Chicago Cubs baseball team plays in season at the famous Wrigley Field. It is also the story about a boy who really likes the game of baseball much like our son Nathan feels about the game.

0763618527medIt was fun to read the book together, seeing Nathan get excited about the book and the story of a young boy liking the same sport he likes. The boy’s Grandpa, in the story, was such a huge baseball fan that he actually got to try out with the Cubs in 1945. However, the war broke out and he went to fight for his country, was wounded and then told he could never play baseball again. So, he went on with his life, had a family and opened this really neat store, “Hall’s Nostalgia” where he collected and kept memorabilia from over the years. His grandson found an old Cubs uniform (the uniform he got to keep from his tryout) that had the Cubs official logo and his Grandpa then told him the story of his big ‘tryout’ with the team just before wore broke out. Grandpa gave the uniform to his grandson because he could see this meant just as much to his grandson as it did to him when he tried out with the team back in 1945, the same year the Cubs made it to The World Series. Grandpa was proud to share and give this precious gift to his grandson. Even though Grandpa did not ever get to play for the Cubs, he knew then “the game of baseball was more than just the players on the field.” Everyone is a part of baseball, from the fans to the guys selling the hot dogs in the stands!

While reading this book with Nathan, I got tears in my eyes knowing some of the facts to be true. You see, my Dad was a massive Cubs fan and also fought in the war from 1942 through 1945 when it ended. I remember the stories my dad told me as a child about how he and his friends used to climb the back wall of Wrigley Field to sneak a peek at the game on the day when the Cubs (cubbies) were in town.

This special book was definitely a most enjoyable read for Nathan and me. The look on Nathan’s face was priceless as he read the book. The excitement created while reading about Oliver and his Grandpa is one not often found in books about baseball. It brought heartwaming smiles to my face as I recalled the stories told to me by my father.

Reading takes one into a whole other world, often emotional and educational and Nathan and I were overjoyed to have been on this journey together. We would certainly read more books by this author Matt Tavares.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here to see what the next exciting project Matt Tavares is working on.

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30Jun 09

Standing Up to Bullies

Erin, our guest reviewer today, is a first grader who loves to read books. She lives with her parents and her older brother Connor in the San Gabriel Valley. Her favorite books are about adventure and mysteries. Erin also likes to act out the books she has read for fun.

9780689861871Bullies Never Win by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Arthur Howard is a good book. It teaches you an important lesson about standing up to bullies.

Jessica is the main character and she is not mean. You see Jessica is a “worrier” and she is scared of a certain bully called Brenda Bailey at school. The bully calls Jessica “toothpick legs” when she wears skirts. Another nasty thing she does is that when Jessica gets a good grade on her homework, Brenda tells Jessica that she must have cheated. It was hard, but finally Jessica stands up to the bully and never gets bothered again.

The pictures in the book are perfect because they really show Jessica getting more and more angry along with the story. Then, when Jessica stands up for herself, Brenda Bailey begins to look more and more nice. I liked this book and I think all of the kids at my school should read it!


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01Jul 09

The Great Dog Wash and Spoonful of Stories Contest

bc_1416971165Maybe you’re like me and would love to one day pen a children’s book. Well here’s your chance so get writing. Don’t forget to tell your friends, too!

The Great Dog Wash by Hellie Braeuner with illustrations by Robert Neubecker (Simon & Schuster, $15.99; ages 2-6) is the winner of Cheerios new author contest called Spoonful of Stories in conjunction with Simon & Schuster. Click to find out more or to register for your chance to win (hurry up deadline is July 15th). This hardcover comes out on July 7th

Much like the addictive rhymes in Jamberry, Braeuner’s rhythmic writing has captured the essence of a carefree carwash where dogs of all kinds, from “slippery slobbery,” pedigree to stray will have their stinky doggie smell washed away. But who brought a cat? And now what’s up that tree? Who guessed it would all end in a wet ‘n’ wild doggie jamboree?

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02Jul 09

Let’s Celebrate Independence Day! In 1776 by Jean Marzollo

IN 1776
Written by Jean Marzollo
Illustrated by Steve Björkman
(Scholastic; $ paperback prices vary, Ages 7-10)



In 1776, by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by Steve Björkman, while first published in 1994 by Scholastic, is still relevant today as we look forward to July 4th in 2017.

This paperback, part of the Scholastic Bookcase series, is a great book to bring out this holiday before all the BBQs and fireworks get started so youngsters can understand just exactly what it is we are celebrating. Told in easy to understand rhyme, “The colonists were angry, because they had no say, when the British king gave orders, three thousand miles away.” Kids will learn in simple language how, as colonists of Great Britain, Americans refused to be burdened with more taxes levied by King George III without representation. When the British marched on Lexington and Concord, fighting broke out. Soon the seeds of independence were sown, “So their leaders met in Philly, in June and in July. They picked some men to tell the king, “We must be free – here’s why!” The American Revolution or the War of Independence was bravely fought under the guidance of its leader, General George Washington and the rest as we say, is history.

“On the Fourth of July, in seventy-six, after a long and heated morn, The Declaration was approved, and the U.S.A. was born.”

Happy 4th of July everyone! 🇺🇸

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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07Jul 09

Son of A Secret Agent Man


Avid reader and guest reviewer Vinny is back with his enthusiastic, glowing review of Alibi Junior High, by Greg Logsted. And to quote Vinny, “I REALLY liked it!!!”

I thought that the book Alibi Junior High, by Greg Logsted, was a fantastic book that tells of a CIA agent’s son’s experience as he tries to adapt to a life he had never known because he and his father worked undercover for an elite branch of the CIA hardly anyone had knowledge of, and he didn’t have the time to live it. This time, 13 year old Cody Saron’s father is working on a case he believes is too dangerous for his son to be involved in, so he sends Cody to live with the Aunt Jenny he never knew in the state of Connecticut. Surviving in this “normal” way of life, where kids do not partner with their fathers in the CIA, proves to be quite an interesting experience for Cody, and although he may be starting a new life, his past, such as the mysterious event at the café, will always haunt him forever more, and will become a central part of who Cody will become.

BG_AlibiJuniorHigh_cvr.inddWith his new friend from the army, Andy, fitting in seemed to come by a little easier, being that Andy was also doing service for the country, and all of his other friends also helped him fit in as best he could, from clothes to cool. Although life was difficult, especially at school, where he got escorted to the principal’s office many times a day, there is a sense of warmth that this new life has to offer, even if it’s in the simplest way. Could it be the way that Aunt Jenny and Cody seemed to get along well? It could also be many other things. This marvelous book offers mystery, crime, fighting, romance, suspicion, love, trust, protection, sense of instinct, and much more. Cody’s father gave him a simple instruction; to become the invisible boy. By the time they meet again, Cody could not have been more popular. Overall, I thought that this wonderful story was great, and perhaps the BEST book I have read in my own 13 years.

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09Jul 09

There’s Always Lots of Heinies at The Zoo


A Raucous Rear End Read

You may think you have seen it all when it comes
to books, but(t) think again because now there’s
Always Lots of Heinies at The Zoo
. Thank you Disney-Hyperion for publishing this hysterical
picture book which is as much for adults as it is
for kids! Watch this fun video now to get you psyched
about reading this bodacious book of backsides.

Written in rhyme by Ayun Halliday with detailed, derrière oriented Disney-esque illustrations by Dan Santat, this cheeky insider’s educational tour of the zoo goes upfront, behind and very personal. Read on as a mom, dad and their young son visit the animals. There’s feathered booty, hairy haunches in the cages at the zoo, a mandrill’s fanny, a bunny’s bun, and a jellyfish whose bottom is see-through. And who is the one creature at the zoo not showing off his rear end? Why it’s me and you, but(t) of course. Bottoms up!


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10Jul 09

Colorful, incredible Costa Rica

dsc_0021If you know a family heading off to Costa Rica, or even just one that loves nature and exotic travel, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica written and illustrated by Debbie Glade is certainly worth buying and bringing along.

Picture, if you will, a brightly colored mature millipede who has been bitten by the travel bug (pun intended) and you’ve got one of your main characters, Grandma Nellie O. Badilly. Nellie, along with her hubby ‘windy’ Grandpa Willie Z. (my 8 year old son Coleman’s fave) and talented Granddaughter Lilly live in teeny, tiny hole in Concourse A at the Miami International Airport. Soon they are stowaways inside a business man’s briefcase on a flight to Costa Rica despite Lilly’s tremendous fear of ‘millipede-chomping spiders.”

glade_2Knowing very little about Central America and in particular Costa Rica, I was surprised to learn courtesy of Lilly’s guidebook that there are over 800 different types of birds, hundreds of mammals and more than 35,000 different kinds of insects there. No wonder Costa Rica is experiencing a boom in eco-tourism. I had no doubt Lilly was going to encounter more than her share of scary spiders on their journey to the rain forest and Poas Volcanic National Park.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan until a storm and an injured beetle arrived on the scene. Glade weaves rhyme and humor along with fascinating facts seamlessly into this tale of an adventurous family getting themselves into a very sticky situation involving a cruel spider. Read how Lilly’s inventiveness and musical talent save the day and the vacation. You’ll laugh while you learn and will be looking forward to Glade’s second installment in Lilly’s series of travel expeditions.

Included with the book is an engaging audio CD filled with music (remember that Lilly plays the piano and loves music) and songs plus Costa Rican sound effects bringing Lilly’s adventures alive and making this a great gift for the entire family.

Readers can have FREE SHIPPING on Glade’s website. Just
enter FBS1208 (case sensitive) in the Shipping Code Box on the order page. http://www.lillybadilly.com/store.ph

dsc_0024Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com and is running a writing contest for kids that can still be entered today. To learn more, click here.

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13Jul 09

When The Library Lights Go Out

Three library story time puppets feature in When The Library Lights Go Out by best-selling author Megan McDonald with warm, detailed illustrations from Katherine Tillotson from Aladdin Paperbacks.

when-the-lib-lights-go-out_page_10_11Meet Rabbit, Lion and Hermit Crab. Lion snores while Rabbit, who cannot fall asleep, seeks the help of Hermit Crab, with a few minor distractions along the way. But Hermit Crab is nowhere to be found. Join these two friends on their first time out of their storage boxes at night as they explore the deep dark recesses of the library in search of their pal. Have you ever wondered what it was like inside the library when the lights go out?

Will their efforts be thwarted by a giant? Will they get home safely? Will there be time for a picnic since adventures can make puppets very when-the-lib-lights-go-out_page_28_29hungry? Broken down into kid-friendly sections called ‘Giants,’ ‘Map,’ and ‘Lost and Found,’ the book is perfect for anytime of day since parents can read the book all at once or in brief bedtime-sized bits. A truly magical read that is guaranteed to enchant.

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14Jul 09

The Benefits of Bath Time

Fairly new father, Sean Burgess, shares his impressions of some bath time products for us:

9781934706305_detailWhen I was handed Simms Taback’s Bath Time Gift Set I first thought,”books in the bathtub?” Traditionally, when I think of bath toys, I think rubber ducky, spongy type letters, maybe even bath crayons. Definitely not books. After closer review and a test run at bath time, I found a lot of color, personality and especially movement brought to our bath time fun.

img_5632Simms Taback’s Bath Time Gift Set brings distinctive, joyful animal illustrations to the bath! Kids are invited to swish like a fish, bark like a seal, smile like a porpoise, and wriggle like an eel. The book comes packaged with a plastic crocodile puppet, and a “baby” finger puppet for the child to use. Teagan insists on having this set as part of her bathing ritual. A little more water ends up outside the tub every time she swims like a fish. But the extra cleanup is worth it knowing how much more fun and interaction is included at bath time.

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15Jul 09

From Mousehole to Grand Hotel

pip_grandhotelPip in The Grand Hotel by Johannes Hucke and illustrated by Daniel Muller is reviewed by Julia Claire. She’s  a soon-to-be 3rd grader from the San Gabriel Valley of California who especially loves reading about animals because she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

I really think this is a good book because it left you thinking “Okay, what will Pip do next?” Also, the illustrations were AWESOME! I think the illustrator put good detail in all of the pictures and the author did a great job of describing Pip (who is a pet mouse that escapes his owner, Mary, and travels all around a big hotel). You could probably tell that he was trying to say that Pip was a good fella, but he was also pretty sneaky. Oh, and he could easily win a game of hide-n-seek. However, I would have preferred a different title than Pip in the Grand Hotel because to me the author mostly described Pip’s adventures like he was in a food court. I did learn all about the places in a hotel, though. All that food just made me hungry! Other than that it was a good book and if I could give it a grade it would be a B+.

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16Jul 09

Be Careful What You Wish For!

159Wishworks Inc. by Stephanie Folan, from Arthur A. Levine Books was reviewed by Derek, 8 years old (7 at the time he read it).

I think the story is good because Max thought fast, not hard and strong, so he didn’t always get what he wanted, and it would make a huge disaster. Like when he wished for a real dog he got a real dog, just a crazy one. But when he wished for it to go away, he made his mom and sister so unhappy they wanted to cry. When he wished for a nice real dog, he found his dog again and this time around she wasn’t so crazy (or as ugly as he thought the first time). That made Max happy and his mom and sister were happy, too!
I found the story  interesting because of the fun use of the boy’s imagination. Some words were hard and some were easy. There were hundreds of paragraphs. But I liked it a lot.
From a parent’s perspective, the book is good because it is challenging, and it has a good moral: be careful (and specific about) what you wish for! Our son is an advanced reader for his age and he finished the book within about a week.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Life is unsettling for young Max.  His parents have divorced,  he’s moved to a new part of town and is often bullied at school. As an escape from the chaos he feels at home or simply to leave boredom behind, Max uses his Adventure Time (daydreaming) to have all sorts of exciting escapades with a dog named King.  Somehow though, Max does not end up with King, but with a very different dog whose devotion to her adoptive family is eclipsed by their love for her.
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17Jul 09


dsc_0024Guest Reviewer Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com. Today she enlightens us about The Enemy: A Book About Peace by Davide Cali.

If I had met author Davide Cali on a plane flying to Italy (that’s where he lives) and he said to me, “I am writing a children’s picture book about war, enemies and killing,” I would have wished him luck and feigned sleep for the remainder of the trip.

the-enemy_low-resI would have thought, “That’s obviously not a good subject for a children’s picture book, is it? No one would want to read that to their kids!” To say the least, I would have been wrong. Dead wrong. The Enemy: A Book About Peace is so brilliantly done and offers such a powerful message about conflict and misunderstanding, that everyone – young and old – should read it. And yes, the point of this tale is all about peace.

The simple, adorable illustrations by Serge Bloch perfectly complement this sophisticated, yet simple story. The story is told in first person, in a most captivating manner, by one of two enemy soldiers. Each soldier sits in his foxhole waiting for a chance to shoot at the other soldier. The enemies never actually see each other, but know the other is there waiting to kill. They grow lonely, weary and hungry from waiting. The storytelling soldier even wonders if his enemy is looking up at the same stars every night. He wonders if that enemy thinks war is pointless too. And he really hates when it rains and soaks him as he waits for the enemy to attack. He wonders when this war will end. Out of desperation one day, he crawls out of his foxhole covered with leaves to disguise himself. This way, he can go over to the enemy’s hole and surprise him and shoot first.

enemy24What that soldier finds in the enemy’s foxhole changes his opinion about everything he had been told about war and the “enemy.” What happens after that, I cannot tell you. You’ll have to read this book yourself to see.

What I can tell you is that the message in this clever book is very poignant. The Enemy: A Book About Peace will really make you think deeply about everything from actual wars between countries, to enemy22conflicts between family members. In fact, if there is someone in your life you struggle to get along with, this book would be a perfect gift. While recommended for children ages 4 to 8, kids older than 6 will be better able to understand the concept of the story.

Buy it. And read it often. You don’t have to have a child or be a child to benefit from reading this book. It will be a worthwhile use of your time.


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20Jul 09

To The Moon!

I’ve put together a Moon book roundup online in honor of Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon and Neil Armstrong’s first steps. Here’s a brief sampling of what you’ll see:

9780789318428Back when you could get six postcards for a quarter, Miroslav Sasek wrote and illustrated what is now the classic, This Is The Way To The Moon (Universe Publishing, www.rizzoliusa.com, $17.95; ages 8-80). Originally published in 1963 as This Is Cape Canaveral and then re-released as This Is Cape Kennedy in 1964, Sasek’s whimsical words and illustrations recall a bygone era when nothing related to interplanetary traveled was viewed as commonplace. Hotels and businesses near the famous Cocoa Beach and Cape Kennedy captured the spirit of outer space with names like Astrocraft Motel and Missile Taxi, and Alan Shepard, Jr. became the first man in space. Filled with fascinating facts, the book is an inimitable introduction to the rise of the American space program, combining lots of details with Sasek’s subtle humor. One interesting thing (amongst many others) I learned was that back in 1973 residents successfully petitioned to have Cape Kennedy once again called Cape Canaveral.

Visit our website now at: http://losangeles.parenthood.com/moonbooks.php

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22Jul 09

You and Me: We’re Opposites

Today I’m looking at You and Me: We’re Opposites by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Ethan Long (Chronicle Books/Blue Apple Books, $12.99; ages 4-8). I love going to the zoo and so will your kids.  Opposites have never been more agreeable!

9781934706480_normHey kids, join the busy zookeeper doing his daily rounds,

And learn what opposites all the animals are talking about.

The flamingo says she nice, but thinks the gorilla is grouchy.

One wet seal is in the water, one dry seal is out.

An alligator is on a log and

A buzzing bee is off.

The giraffe tells the penguins

He’s tall while they’re short.

The crisp, colorful illustrations add a comical touch to this amusing introduction to opposites kids will enjoy again and again.

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23Jul 09

Yes Day is The Best Day of The Year!

picture-536Yes Day!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld from Harper Collins Publishers, is reviewed by Trevor, age 6. Trevor is entering 1st grade in Long Beach.

Everyone loves getting the answer yes to his or her requests. Yes Day! is about a boy who gets an entire day to celebrate this answer. The boy, who is the main character, gets to ask his parents all kinds of fun requests: pizza for breakfast, inventing games, choosing items at the grocery. My favorite part of the book is when the boy gets to invite his friend, Mario, for dinner. The pictures were really funny and made me laugh. I would definitely read more books by this author. I keep asking my daddy and papa if we can have a ‘Yes Day,’ but I think it will be “We’ve discussed it, considered all the factors, and decided Absolutely Not Day!!”

Can Mario come over for dinner?

Parent Note: The book has a nice theme and great illustrations. Inside the front and back book covers is a really funny calendar of “No Days” that lead-up to “Yes Day!” Trevor thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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24Jul 09

I Made This For You

danny-graduation1Guest reviewer Erin is a wife, a third grade teacher
as well as the the mother of two sons, ages 10 and
13 years old. Reading, and creating fun,
learning experiences based on books are her passions.
She also enjoys running, baking, the beach and hiking in local mountains.

9780811868631_normLooking for a fun way to entertain your children on your summer road trip, and create holiday presents at the same time? It couldn’t get better for the busy mom. I Made This For You! The Incredible Draw-a-Picture, Write-A-Message Gift that kids can make themselves, published by Chronicle Books, is the answer. This adorable stand up flip book will easily fit in your purse to keep active children busy while running errands, at restaurants or on those long summer drives. Each page has a pre-printed title, a framed box for your child to draw in and lines below for a brief caption. Titles include everything from, “I made this picture of me for you!” to “I made this ice cream sundae for you!”

Don’t limit yourself to drawings. If you have a precious picture of your darling eating that ice cream sundae, attach the picture inside the frame instead of a drawing on that page. On the “I made this sand castle for you!” page, put a picture of your child playing at the beach. 9780811868631_detailThe end of the book has empty titles to create your own pages. Carry it around all summer and you not only have creatively occupied your children but also completed a wonderful holiday present for the grandparents. It is the must have book of the summer for all moms.

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25Jul 09

A Different Kind of Dust Bunny

courtneyCourtney is an energetic 5 year-old. She loves animals, play-dates, gymnastics, and ballet. She will be entering Kindergarten in the fall.
The book Courtney read (with help from her Dad, Jim) was rhyming dust bunnies by jan thomas. To quote Courtney’s father, “My daughter doesn’t capitalize her title or name, why should I?”

Summing up the book in a nutshell, Courtney said, “It’s funny. Bob is really funny.”

9781416979760Rhyming Dust Bunnies is the mesmerizing tale of four ill fated dust bunnies and their attempt to escape capture. The story teaches rhyme in an entertaining and approachable manner for the 3 to 5 year-old age bracket. It is Hilarious to the same age group.
It is best read in multiple voices—very loud.
The book also does a very good job of demonstrating rhyme and situational urgency. It reminds us that dust bunnies just want to have fun, but Bob is there as a grounding force to observe and report to us the world we live in.

Have fun with this book as we did. You can use various voices for the different characters as you read. The story is engaging, and encourages multiple readings. Word choice and subject matter are also appropriate for ages 4 and up. Courtney was pointing out words and “reading” along.

If you couldn’t guess, we STRONGLY recommend rhyming dust bunnies!

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27Jul 09

Woof! It’s a Cool New Back To School Marley & Me Contest


marleyschoolcover-720371Following up Bad Dog, Marley and A Very Marley Christmas is Marley Goes to School (HarperCollins Children’s Books, $17.99; ages 3-8) by John Grogan. Cassie’s all set for going back to school and so is Marley, but “School’s for kids, not dogs,” says Cassie. How will Marley handle his best friend going off without him? After tunneling his way out of the back yard, Marley makes haste to the school in search of his beloved Cassie. Wreaking havoc wherever he goes, whether in the copy room or cafeteria, in the gymnasium or on the playground, good-hearted Marley has one goal in mind. watch out!

51gxuo-mozl_sl500_aa240_-1After reading the book, no doubt you’ll be eager to watch the original exploits of this popular pooch. The DVD of Marley & Me, a family favorite, is about a young couple (both journalists) who raise a dog called Marley and children while the dad, author John Grogan, documents daily life with the growing dog and family Marley & Me managed to move me and make me laugh at the same time, but I do recommend one tissue box for those sentimentalists out there! A must have for your home DVD collection.

Click here for your chance to win these fun prizes by August 3, 2009, and remember to include your mailing address and write Marley & Me contest as subject.

Click here for rules.

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28Jul 09

Topol in Fiddler On The Roof

17_nedIt seems a lifetime ago that, as a young single working girl, I first saw the film, Fiddler on the Roof starring Topol. How fitting that I, now married with children, should have the pleasure and privilege of seeing the inimitable talent that is Topol perform live in the stage production’s Farewell Tour at The Pantages last week. The show runs through August 9th and tickets can be purchased online at www.BroadwayLA.org or by phone at 1-800-982-ARTS (2787). Tickets can also be bought in person at The Pantages Box (opens daily 10a.m.) and all Ticketmaster ticket outlets.

55665535PR006_Fiddler_On_ThIn my twenties I watched the show and related to the five daughters of Topol’s character, Tevye. This time around, I saw the performance through the eyes of a wife and mother, and like a good, aged wine, I drank it up. That’s why I say to all who read this, don’t see Fiddler On The Roof just once, but twice in your lifetime, at least!

For those of you not familiar with the storyline: Topol plays Tevye, a poor, but honest milkman trying to eke out a living in the small Russian village of Anatevka around the time of the Tsar. Life is changing, 425becoming more modern, and many of the traditions his family and the Jewish culture has known are being challenged by the younger generation. In the course of the show his three oldest daughters fall in love with suitors who are not necessarily what he would have chosen. This drama mixed with humor (the hilarious dream sequence is just one example) plays out against the backdrop of the Tsarist Pogram, when riots and anti-Jewish sentiment forced Jewish villagers off their land to relocate, many moving to the States as my great-grandfather did at the time.

426Topol, the star of the original motion picture, who is already in his 70s, brings new life to  this staging.  The rest of the cast, including Susan Cella as Tevye’s tough, but loving wife Golde, are incomparable and the sets, so evocative of the early 1900s Russian countryside. No doubt you’ll recognize some of the hit songs from the brilliant score:
Tradition, If I Were a Rich Man
, Sunrise, Sunset and Matchmaker, Matchmaker. What you may not know is that Fiddler on the Roof is based on stories by famed author Sholem Aleichem. All this, plus the show’s dance scenes, courtesy of Jerome Robbin’s original choreography, make this Farewell Tour a must-see in every way!

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29Jul 09

The Legends Behind the Comic Books

marvel_heroesComic-Con may be over, but … Batman! Spider-Man! Captain America! LIVE ON!

The greatest super heroes of all time — and for the first time, the true stories behind the creators of these comics and many more will be revealed as illustration gallery Every Picture Tells A Story Gallery on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica presents an amazing evening of art, books, and movies dedicated to comic books and their artists and writers.

WHEN: On Wednesday, July 29, Every Picture Tells A Story Gallery, in association with the American Cinematheque, presents two exciting debuts, at 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: Every Picture Tells A Story Gallery introduces, for the first time ever, MARVEL ARTWORKS — an exclusive, brand new, limited edition series of fine art prints from the Marvel Comics archives, including works by classic and contemporary comic illustrators like Jack Kirby, Alex Ross, Jim Lee and many others. Along with the exhibit, the gallery will host a book signing and reception with very special guests including MICHAEL USLAN (Producer, THE DARK KNIGHT, BATMAN BEGINS, BATMAN FOREVER, CON AIR, NATIONAL TREASURE, and more), MARK EVANIER (author of Kirby: King of the Comics), MICHAEL MALLORY (author of X-Men: The Characters and Their Universe) and DC and Marvel artist GLEN ORBIK.

images3WHEN: At 7:30 p.m., the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre presents the West Coast debut of THE LEGENDS BEHIND THE COMICS, a new documentary film, produced by Michael Uslan. The film, a behind-the-scenes look at the origins of the most popular heroes of our time, features comic creators Jerry Robinson, Stan Lee, Joe Kubert and many of the Golden Age innovators.

Following the screening, the Aero will host a panel featuring MICHAEL USLAN, MARK EVANIER, MICHAEL MALLORY, GLEN ORBIK — moderated by Every Picture Tells A Story’s LEE COHEN. After the panel, the acclaimed animated feature, BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM, will be screened.

The events at Every Picture Tells A Story Gallery are free and open to the public. Tickets for the Aero Theatre screenings will be available at their boxoffice.
Every Picture Tells A Story… is located at 1311 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. The American Cinematheque is at 1328 Montana, Santa Monica.

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30Jul 09

This Little Bunny Can Bake

dsc_0024Today’s guest reviewer, Debbie Glade, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com

1Pay close attention to the clever, retro illustrations in This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein because they really tell the story. The action takes place at “Chef George’s School of Dessertology.” Naturally, the chef, and all of the students are animals, including the Little Bunny. The illustrations are in black and white, except for the Little Bunny, who is pale pink. Chef George tries his best to teach the class the basics of cooking, but the attention span of all but one participant, is critically lacking.
The story is cute and teaches an important lesson – how much you learn and what you accomplish in life is entirely up to you.

a-dessert-should-look_spreadI read the book and looked at the pictures a few times, and I got more out of it with each read. One of my favorite parts was reading the recipes on the inside front and back covers. I think I am going to try to bake Chef George’s Crazy Coconut Macaroons. If you love to bake with your kids, you’ll both enjoy reading This Little Bunny Can Bake together.

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01Aug 09

Got a Grumpy Grandpa?


Jason, a first time reviewer here at L.A. Parent, will be entering third grade this fall. In his free time, Jason likes to play basketball, ride his skateboard and hang out with his friends. He’s reviewed Grumpy Grandpa written by Heather Henson with illustrations by Ross MacDonald and published by Simon & Schuster/Atheneum.

This story is about a Grandpa who is always grumpy. Grandpa likes to be alone. The grandson doesn’t get why they have to drive two days to get there when Grandpa doesn’t want any company. When the grandson visits he plays tricks on grandpa to try to get him happy. The reason I like this book is because I think it is funny! I like when the kid thinks his c_1416908110grandpa lives in a zoo. I also like it when the kid plays pranks on the grandpa, like when he threw toy cars at his grandpa when he was asleep (EDITOR NOTE: Not recommended!). The only part I didn’t like was when the grandpa got happy when they were fishing and they fell in the water. I did not like him getting happy because it was actually more funny to me when the boy annoyed the grandpa! I think grumpy people should read this book because it would make them more grumpy! And if boys read it they could learn pranks to do to grumpy people!

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02Aug 09

Marley & Me Contest Ending Soon!


Monday, August 3rd is the last
day you can enter the contest
for your chance to be one
of 5 lucky winners of both
the DVD and the funny new book!

to be eligible to win one of 5 Marley & Me DVDs along with one of 5 Marley Goes To School children’s books.

marleyschoolcover-720371And good luck! WOOF!


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04Aug 09

What Sisters Are Like

Today’s guest reviewer is author, Esther Jantzen.  Her new book, Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids shows parents just how to do that. You can check it out at <www.plusitbook.com>. and read Jantzen’s article in our Fall 2009 Education Directory available online.

0763641790medDid you ever wish you had an older sister? Zelda and Ivy: Keeping Secrets written and illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky (Candlewick Press, 2009) can give you a taste of what that might be like.

The two charming fox sisters, who have appeared in four other books, experience plenty of the rivalry that often occurs between siblings. Sometimes older sisters can be bossy, sometimes they might try to trick you, sometimes they like to show off. And sometimes younger sisters figure out smart ways to take care of themselves without fighting or complaining.

This book, with three short chapters, is for the 5–8-year-old set. With the benefit of engaging illustrations, we first learn how Zelda sets up Ivy and her friend Eugene to test whether they can keep woozy-weasel-promised secrets. (Well, it’s very challenging…)

In the second chapter, we see how April Fools jokes can be played by the big sister AND by the little sister. And the final chapter depicts a marvelous attempt by Zelda to stage an opera when those around her are more intent on catching butterflies. One just might end up with empathy for both the elder and the younger. It’s not easy being Sis!


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05Aug 09

Unearth FREE Nintendo Fossil Fun at Tar Pits


Nintendo Fossil Fighters Launch at La Brea Tar Pits this Thursday, August 6th – Free Page Museum Admission for Adults Accompanied by a Child

la-brea-tar-pits-image-1Visit the renowned La Brea Tar Pits for a day of fun with Nintendo to celebrate the upcoming launch of Fossil Fighters for the Nintendo DS/Nintendo DSi hand-held gaming systems in advance of its August 10th release. Parents will be granted free admission to the nearby Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits when accompanied by a child, and there will be several activities going on throughout the day, including:

A competitive fossil dig, in which kids will be split into two teams and dig through sand pits to find puzzle pieces. The teams will then work together to complete the puzzle and build a large dinosaur-like creature known as a “Vivosaur.”

· Guided tours of the George C. Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits

· Opportunities to play Fossil Fighters throughout the day before its release or compete in a Fossil Fighters tournament

· Trivia contest based on what the kids learn throughout the day

· Lot of chances to win prizes (while they last)

fossil_fighters_ndsboxart_160wWHO: Kids, parents, teens, fossil enthusiasts and gaming fans of all kinds

: Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

WHERE: The Great Lawn at Hancock Park
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

51stphdugsl_aa280_WHAT: Already a world-famous destination for prehistoric discovery, L.A.’s La Brea Tar Pits will be the site of an extraordinary entertainment find as Nintendo heralds the upcoming release of its new Fossil Fighters game for the portable Nintendo DS system with a launch event for kids and their parents.

Fossil Fighters combines the fascinating fun of fossil study with the engaging hand-held game play of Nintendo DS. Players must use the stylus and touch screen to find and carefully clean fossils in order to revive and power-up battle-ready Vivosaurs, expanding their collection and attempting to become the best Fossil Fighter around.

The game also allows players to battle or trade their fossils with friends via a local wireless connection.

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07Aug 09

And Here’s to You

31yh89nhxsl_sl500_aa180_And Here’s to You, written by David Elliott and illustrated by Randy Cecil, is a cheerful, fun to read book. The illustrations are bright and colorful and really make the verse come to life. This New York Times Bestseller is a celebration of life. You can think of it as a toast to the birds, fish, bears, bugs, cats, dogs, cows, frogs and people.

This is a great, feel-good book for young readers to read aloud. There are some silly words too, which make this extra fun . . .

Dogs! Here’s to the howling ones,
The running, yipping, yowling ones,
All go and fetch a stick ones,
The lick, lick, lick, lick, lick ones.

0763614270int1And Here’s to You makes us appreciate all things
living – even ourselves. What a lovely message!
Read it with your child before bedtime.
Sweet dreams will surely follow.

dsc_0024-300x217 Today’s review comes courtesy of guest reviewer Debbie Glade. Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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08Aug 09

An Interview with Grammy-Nominated Trout Fishing In America


Following a successful stop at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, four time-grammy nominated Trout Fishing in America will play in various venues around the country. You can see them at the Robert Irwin’s Central Garden at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles August 22 & 23.

This fantastic duo is on tour promoting their new storybook-music CD My Name Is Chicken Joe (for more information, please visit http://www.thesecretmountain.com) which I can wholeheartedly recommend. Not only is the book filled with funny illustrations and original, sometimes zany song lyrics, but when you listen to the accompanying music (11 songs in total) you’ll soon be humming along. I can see why it’s so easy to get hooked on Trout Fishing in America!

I recently interviewed the multi-talented Keith Grimwood who plays bass, sings, and writes songs with Trout Fishing in America. (In case you’ve seen a picture of the group, Grimwood is the shorter half of the band.) He’s really excited about the new book and I am sure you will be, too.

Q. Why write a book called My Name is Chicken Joe?

We have always felt that our songs are very visual and the idea of having them illustrated has always appealed to us. The trick was to make the connections to make it happen. Roland Stringer, of The Secret Mountain publishing company, and Dick Renko, our manager, are friends. Well, as I understand it, they got to talking one day and the idea of a book/CD came up. We jumped at the chance right away.

Q. Which came first, Chicken Joe lyrics or music?

Whew…you scared me! I thought you were going to ask, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Now that’s a really hard question.

dsf7008_medWhen we write, I generally start with lyrics and Ezra starts with music. Then we get together in a co-writing session and see if any of my words fit any of his chord progressions. That’s how this song got started. So the answer is that they started separately, but pretty much at the same time. Don’t you wish that chicken or the egg question was that simple?

Q. I love the character of Chicken Joe and how he pops up throughout the book. Is he based on a cat you know?

Chicken Joe is one of my cats. I have a lot of cats but Chicken Joe is one of our favorites. When he was a little kitten, he’d turn up missing when we went to feed the cats in the morning. We’d find him out in the chicken coop. He’s a smart cat. You may not know it, but hens generate a lot of heat. They really kept him warm. That’s how he got the name Chicken Joe.

Q. The illustrations are wonderfully evocative yet simple – how did you find your artist?

Roland sent us examples of several artists that The Secret Mountain had worked with before. We were particularly fond of the beautiful watercolor works of Stephane Jorisch. He sent us some initial sketches and we gave him a few suggestions. He really captured the personalities of all these animals. I especially like his chickens. They look like a bunch of punk rockers to me.

Q. Does a reader need to be familiar with your music to enjoy the book?

Not at all. You can even read the book without the music playing, or listen to the music without the book. Of course, I think it’s best appreciated together. For those of you not familiar with the music of Trout Fishing in America, know that we strive to play music that both kids and adults will enjoy. There’s a lot of good music to listen to with lyrics that don’t sing down to the kids. We have received 4 Grammy nominations for Best Album For Children. It has been difficult to define exactly what kind of music it is that we play. Give it a listen. Go to our website at <troutmusic.com> and then you tell me. One of my favorite answers so far is “Music for people who take their fun seriously.”

page_06Q. A Cat Named Chicken Joe, It’s a Puzzle and Why I Pack My Lunch are my 3 favorites. Please give me the back story to these three songs.

Well, Chicken Joe is one of my cats, but he’s not the only animal mentioned in this song. The other animals are all real animals, too. Miss Kitty was Ezra’s mother’s dog. His mother has a weird sense of humor. She wanted to be able to say, “Here kitty-kitty,” and have a dog run up. King Kong was Ezra’s son’s parakeet, and Mister is our neighbor Fred’s mule. They all have odd, misleading names. Sometimes you need to look beyond names and labels to see what a thing really is. By the way, we promise that none of these animals were injured in the writing of this song or the publishing of this book.

It’s a Puzzle has a verse in it about wanting to go to Idaho. Trout Fishing in America has been to 49 of the 50 states, but we’ve never been to Idaho! Why? It’s a puzzle…
“Do you want to know why I want to go to Idaho?
Gotta go to Idaho, I haven’t been there.
It’s excuses and saying it’s no use
That keeps us from getting anywhere.”

Why I Pack My Lunch began with my wife, Beth. She works at the elementary school in West Fork, Arkansas, where she runs the computer lab. Every weekday when I’m home, I pack her a nice sack lunch to take with her to school. When I asked her why she didn’t just eat the school lunches, she explained by writing these lyrics. We came up with some appropriately creepy music and this lovely song emerged.

Q. Which are each of your favorite selections?

I asked Ezra and he says he likes Boiled Okra and Spinach the best. He thinks it contains one of the best lyrics we’ve ever written. “I’d rather eat boogers than black-eyed peas…” It does have a nice ring to it.

I like Something Sweet. It takes me back to my childhood. When I was a baby, I cried a lot. My mother would get frustrated and hand me to my father. She would tell him, “Say something sweet to him. Make him stop crying.” Dad would sing to me, “Say something sweet to my baby, chocolate, custard, pudding and pie.” For years I thought he was singing a song that had already been written. When my sister asked him about it, we found out he was just making it up as he went along. Ezra and I finished it for him and I love singing it. He loves it too since he’s not even a musician and he still gets writer’s royalties for it.

chicken-joe-guitarQ. Do you see yourself coming up with more books in the future?

Yes, we do. I love the way the book has turned out. We are currently working with these 4 main characters, writing stories and mapping out songs. Each character is so distinctively strong in my mind that I can see hundreds of scenarios, both hilarious and tender emerging from their interaction.

Q. What have your fans said about this new concept and has it helped garner new fans?

I am a reader. I have always loved books. I have always loved music. When you love something you naturally want to share it with your children. I think reading to kids and sharing music with kids are about two of the best things you can do for them, ranking right up there with loving and feeding.

The first day the book was available at one of our live shows, we started playing the song Chicken Joe and I saw a couple of kids open up the book and follow along as we sang. I got so choked up I could hardly make it through the song. To me, that’s what this is all about. A book and a collection of songs…what could be better for a kid?

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10Aug 09



picnic-playgroue280a6image-webIf you’re looking for something fun to do that involves music and the outdoors, read what L.A. Parent Calendar Editor Michael Berick has to say about L.A.’s very own Rhythm Child. And after you’ve arranged your schedule to see the band perform, take a minute to enter this new contest from Good Reads With Ronna for your chance to win one of 5 Putumayo Kids Picnic Playground CDs from Rhythm Child by clicking here. Remember to put Picnic Playground as your subject. Contest ends Monday, Aug. 24th. CLICK HERE FOR RULES.

Rhythm Child drums up the fun this month!

Putamayo is serving up summertime music fun with its latest kids compilation, Picnic Playground, which dishes out a feast of delicious songs from Denmark to Australia. Work up an appetite grooving to tunes like Asheba’s Carribean-coated “Ice Cream” and the Cuban-flavored “Bolitas de Arroz con Pollo” by Jose Conde y Ola Fresca.
As an extra treat, Putamayo is taking this picnic on the road, with two local shows this month headlined by L.A.’s own Rhythm Child, whose tune “Bowl Of Cherries” is part of the disc. And speaking of cherries, visit www.putumayokids.com to enter their cool recipe contest now until August 25th.

_e2b3695 Rhythm Child’s frontman Norman Jones says he feels “honored to have the opportunity to promote this record, as well as act as an ambassador for the Putumayo Kids mission that introduces children to other cultures through music. It was very important for me to connect with (Putamayo) since I felt that they incorporated a lot of the same positive messages that I wanted to present.” Jones plans to bring out some friends and special guests for these Putamayo shows.
August is shaping up to be a busy month for Rhythm Child. The group also has shows at the Zimmer Museum and the Grove, and they are preparing for a September release of their new disc, Bowl of Cherries.


Putamayo Kids Picnic Playground with Rhythm Child, 7 p.m. Aug. 12, Levitt Pavilion, 30 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. Free. www.levittpavilion.org and noon Aug. 13, Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., L.A. Free. www.laparks.org/pershingsquare.

Wonderful Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. Aug. 19, Zimmer Children’s Museum, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 100, L.A. Admission: $8 adults, $5 children 3 and older. 323-761-8984.

Kids Club, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 20, The Grove, 189 The Grove Dr., L.A. Free. 323-900-8080.

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13Aug 09

We All Need a Monster To Call Our Own

final_cover2-249x247I wish I had I Need My Monster written by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam from Flashlight Press when I was growing up!

Okay, true confessions time. I had a lock installed on my closet after being scared silly when one of my cousins (now a heart surgeon) played a prank on me during an extended session of hide and seek. Now if I’d had a monster to count on to keep all interlopers away and to keep me tucked up tightly, I’d have never gotten the lock, but then again, I had a captain’s bed so where would my monster have lived?

In this imaginative and must-have children’s book (an Indie Next Children’s Pick for summer 2009, chosen by independent booksellers), one night young Ethan looks under his bed and discovers his monster missing along with a note:




Now what’s a boy to do with an absentee monster? How is he supposed to fall asleep at night? In a quest for a scary substitute, Ethan knocks on his floorboards and wonders who he has summoned. Enter Herbert (his name being the first clue as to his monster-ability), but upon seeing Herbert’s lack of claws, Ethan quickly dispatches him.

16-17_cynthia-low-resWhen a new monster named Ralph, with well-groomed claws, appears on the scene, followed by a girl monster called Cynthia, Ethan remains disappointed as clearly no one fits the bill. Upon being told by yet a fifth monster that perhaps Gabe’s gone because Ethan is just “SO-O-O picky,” Ethan grows concerned that he’ll never get to sleep until some familiar loud creaking and scratches alert him to one more monster. Is Gabe back? Or will Ethan have to pull an all nighter?

This book is sure to entertain children whose fear of those “things that go bump in the night” is as prevalent today as it was during my lock-on-closet-door-days decades ago. At last we have a story that will help children discuss this perennial fear and look at it from a whole new perspective with the broadest grin on their faces…and one eye on the foot of the bed. What does your under-the-bed, blanket-stealing, pinky-nibbling monster look like?

NOTE: I loved the artwork in this book and felt that both the illustrations and characters would work well as a children’s TV cartoon series.. Ethan and Gabe would get up to all sorts of adventures together (if Ethan dared step down from the bed)! If your child is still itching for more monster fun, Flashlight Press has some great options:

1) Kids can print out a Make Your Own Monster page from the Flashlight Press website. Click here for monster parts to color, cut out and paste in all kinds of combinations. If kids want they can send a scan to the publisher and they will add it to the online Monster Gallery!

2) Look out for the book this October where it is being featured in both Borders and Barnes & Noble stores, in “Spooky Books for Kids” – a lead-in to Halloween. After buying the book and bringing it home, readers can request a free autographed bookplate to stick in the front of their copy by clicking here.

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15Aug 09

Happy 40th Anniversary, Woodstock!

Three Days of Peace & Music

maxsaidyesbookcovercover3“Some boys and girls got the inspiration, to hold a giant celebration, where drums, pianos and electric guitars would play beneath a million stars.” That’s how Max Said Yes! The Woodstock Story (Change The Universe Press, www.maxsaidyes.com; $17.95), written by Abigail Yasgur and her husband, Joseph Lipner with illustrations by Barbara Mendes, describes Woodstock, a festival billed as “three days of peace and music” celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Yasgur, a cousin of Max, felt compelled to tell his story in a way that would help children understand the historical significance of the event. This tribute leaves the sex and drugs out, but keeps the rock ‘n’ roll in. I like this book for ages five and up. After being turned down by owners of many local fields, organizers seeking a location for the festival finally heard a resounding “Yes!” from upstate New York dairy farmer Max Yasgur. On August 15, 16 and 17, 1969, musicians as varied as Janis Joplin to Sha Na Na performed before a reputed half a million people. Max became a local celebrity of sorts and Joni Mitchell mentions him in her song, “Woodstock:” “I’m going down to Yasgur’s farm. I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band. I’m going to camp out on the land. I’m going to try an’ get my soul free.”

abbyjoeyIn their Note on The Woodstock Festival, Yasgur and Lipner give more details about the famous festival. Dazzling artwork from Mendes accompanies the rhyming text and richly evokes the “Aquarian age” when “Rock songs and incense filled the air.” Not only will the kids enjoy learning about the Woodstock nation, they’ll get a big kick seeing mom and dad reliving an era when entry to such a huge concert cost only $6!

I had the chance to meet Lipner and Yasgur at a launch party earlier this summer at Every Picture Tells A Story in Santa Monica. I learned that, in regards to getting Max Said Yes! off the ground, everything came together about three years ago with the help of a a truly “magical person” named Cheryl Kusner, acccoring to Yasgur. Additionally the meeting with artist Mendes was also meant to be and the collaboration turned out to not only be a colorful one, but a meaningful one as well. At the launch I was also introduced to Stan Goldstein, who worked on Woodstock as the Campground Coordinator although on the organizational charts he was referred to as Chief of Staff. He told me the music was just one element of the three day event and showed me some wonderful souvenirs including a glass milk bottle from Yasgur’s dairy farm and original tickets.

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17Aug 09

Book A Brighter Future Supports Literacy

Back-to-school Savings Offered to Macy’s Shoppers Who Give to Support Literacy
38848-hi-imagea2This summer Reading Is Fundamental and Macy’s have teamed up to launch Book A Brighter Future, a national partnership to raise awareness and support of children’s literacy. The Book A Brighter Future campaign is an annual promotion held at Macy’s stores during the back-to-school season to help raise money for local RIF programs and to provide reading resources to the children who need them most.

38848-lo-bookmarkThis campaign provides an opportunity for Macy’s customers to join the effort and have an impact on literacy in their community. From July 1 through August 31, 2009, Macy’s customers can give $3 and receive a coupon for $10 off a $50 in-store purchase at any Macy’s nationwide. Macy’s will donate 100 percent of every $3 to RIF.

“Giving back to the communities where we work and live is a long-standing priority at Macy’s,” said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s, Inc. “We are proud that, last year alone, more than a million Macy’s customers participated in Book A Brighter Future helping to raise more than $3 million dollars for children who lack access to books. It is a great way for our customers to support the education of children in their own community while enjoying special savings for their back-to-school shopping at Macy’s.”

For every $3, $1 will support local RIF programs near the Macy’s store; $1 will support RIF’s Multicultural Literacy Campaign; and $1 will help RIF’s ongoing efforts to provide reading resources to millions of underserved children across the country.

“RIF’s vision is a literate America in which children have access to books and discover the joy and value of reading,” said RIF President and CEO, Carol H. Rasco. “Nearly two-thirds of low-income families do not own any books for their children. This campaign with Macy’s allows RIF to provide free books and literacy resources to the children at greatest risk for developing reading difficulties.”

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19Aug 09

A Bevy Of Board Books Roundup

img_01151Meet two guest reviewers new to Good Reads With Ronna who happen to be husband and wife.
Michael Faucher is a network administrator for an organ transplant research lab at Harvard Medical School affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital. He has been a journalist and writer for 13 years, writing for The Lowell Sun (MA) newspaper, and music magazines Instant, Northeast Performer, Music & The Arts and Micstand. Candace Faucher is an elementary school teacher in Somerville, MA and is currently on hiatus to care for the couple’s new twin boys, Hunter Robert and Beckett Alexander. The family lives in North Reading, Massachusetts.

Bedtime Kiss for Little Fish (by Lorie Ann Grover, illustrations by Debra Ziss) and The Book of ZZZs, photographs and written by Arlene Alda

smbookzzzs34723267When it comes to sleep, nothing makes anyone happier, baby or adult. Bedtime Kiss for Little Fish is a very fun little book that has big, bright fish drawings perfect for reading after a bath (but before bedtime or a nap). Pretend with your baby while they’re bathing that they’re a fish or a baby shark- probably appropriate if they’re teething- and they’ll be swimming in good dreams all night! Arlene Alda’s The Book of ZZZs has sharp pictures of animals and babies in all sorts of states of nocturnal bliss, sure to encourage your newbies that it’s ok to sleep whenever the urge strikes!

Good Night World, by Adam Gamble and Cooper Kelly

51edc3lhill_sl500_aa240_Although a little loose in its mantra, what’s nice about Good Night World (most recent of the Good Night Our World series) is how it spans the world, highlighting different cultures and animals as they begin and end their day. From the beginning of “Good Morning, rain forest” to “good night stargazers, dreaming of other worlds” very colorful illustrations highlight people around the world to show young readers how everyone else begins, spends, or ends their day!

Baby Giggles, by Rachael Hale

51ekcgyqttl_sl500_aa240_Having just purchased my first digital camera, I would aspire to take such wonderful pictures of my twin boys as there are in Baby Giggles, by Rachael Hale. With large pictures and vibrant colors, infants are immediately drawn to this durable board book, while toddlers can enjoy and mimic the smiles, frowns, pouts, and other faces and emotions displayed. With such relatable images and wording that rhymes, it’s easy to show growing children other tots feeling as they often do.

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

9781416979173Being a first and second grade teacher, I am automatically drawn to all books by Eric Carle, and this book is certainly no exception. Created for children ages 3 and up, The Tiny Seed is able to reach a wide range of children at varying stages of development, and is an excellent tool for parents to teach about how seeds become flowers. Younger children will enjoy following the little seed on its journey using the bright bold pictures that Carle creates using tissue paper collages, while older children can engage in discussions of what happens to seeds throughout the seasons and rejoice in the tiny seed’s ability to survive and continue the plant life cycle. What I also love about this version of the book is the seeded paper and instructions that are included to grown your own flowers! This is the perfect way for children to first read about what happens to a tiny seed, plant seeds and witness what takes place. From the science lesson to the art possibilities, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle does not disappoint!

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20Aug 09

Some Very Good Books


I am Debbie Paquette from Hanson, MA. I decided to be a stay at home mom once I had my twins. Connor and Kayleen are 4 years old. We love to keep busy between cheerleading, hockey, music, story times and preschool. Our favorite place to hang out is at a library so we frequent several local libraries in order to have some variety. 07-29-2009-015We read in the mornings if they have evening activities otherwise we read at bed time. I love to search the Internet while they nap for local children’s activities that we can participate in and attend. We are always on the go, but this allows us to try new things.

Time for Bed Little One by Caroline Pitcher, with illustrations by Tina Macnaughton from Good Books.
timeforbedlittleone My children loved the illustrations in this book, they had to look at the book several times to make sure they didn’t miss anything in the pictures. It is a great book to read at nap time as well as bedtime. When we read the
book for a second time, my kids who are both 4 years old, wanted to talk
about nocturnal animals. It turned into a great learning tool. I joke that my kids are napturnal, sometimes its hard to take a nap when you feel like everyone else is playing. The story also shows kids that even when you think you are different there are others out there just like you.

Tom’s Tree by Gillian Shields from Good Books.
My kids enjoyed this book. My 4 year old son enjoyed Ned’s dreams of what
37923951 could become of his tree. I liked that it teaches kids about perseverance. Not everything provides instant gratification. What you do today can have an impact on tomorrow. My kids wanted to go out and plant a tree for their children to have. I am not sure they fully understood that concept, but it was cute to hear. It sparked their imaginations as they have had conversations between the two of them as to what they would do with their trees.

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22Aug 09

Spend Summer With Some Young Adult Fiction Books

Today’s guest reviewer Grace will be entering 8th grade this fall.


ruby_bigRuby UNSCRIPTED by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma. “Life is what happens when you lose the script.” Ruby Madden moves to what she thinks is her dream town. Marin High School is a place for rich people, but not Ruby. Ruby joins a film group and starts a new life in Madden, but will she forget about her friends in her home town?

This was a very good book about a real girl going through real issues. It is a slow read, but still good. The book is well written and I recommend it to anyone that just needs a real read.

A Time for Dancing

9780316036344_154x233A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin. This book was about this girl, Jules, who gets sick and how she and her friend have to deal with it. These two girls have been best friends since they were nine years old and were basically inseparable! They both loved to dance and Jules had a whole career ahead of her. But then she is hit was an illness. How will the friends deal with this?

This book is very well written. I could picture everything that was happening and what people looked like because of the fantastic description. The author explained what the girls were going through in such detail that as a reader I felt like I were one of them. This was a very visual and amazing book and I don’t know any other words to describe it. I recommend it to teens and adults. Make sure you have a lot of time on your hands because you will never want to put this book down.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

9781416968238The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han is an amazing story about a girl, Belly, who measures her life in summers. She is 16 and this might be her last summer at her beach house. As she grows up that summer she finds romance, memories and sorrow. This is a really terrific book, and, without a doubt, a very fast read.

One of my favorite things about the book was, when something happened which recalls a memory from a previous summer back, Jenny Han would start a new chapter to explain the story. It was a great way to hold the interest of the reader. This was a well written book.

Though I really enjoyed the book for the most part, I found there were sections of it that I did not like as much. One of the charters really bugged me. There was this pretty, amazing, and smart girl who she finds a nerdy guy to like. This really bugged me because I personally thought she could do better (Editor’s Note: What’s wrong with nerds?). Other than that this was, like I said before, a very well written book. I would definitely recommend this book.

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23Aug 09

Putumayo Picnic Playground CD Giveaway Ending Soon!

picnic-playgroue280a6image-web1Monday, Aug. 24th is your last chance to enter the Good Reads With Ronna Picnic Playground CD giveaway courtesy of Putumayo Kids.

Take a minute to enter this new contest from Good Reads With Ronna for your chance to win one of 5 Putumayo Kids Picnic Playground CDs including music from L.A.’s very own Rhythm Child by clicking here. Remember to put Picnic Playground as your subject. Contest ends Monday, Aug. 24th. CLICK HERE FOR RULES.

Putumayo is serving up summertime music fun with its latest kids compilation, Picnic Playground, which dishes out a feast of delicious songs from Denmark to Australia. Work up an appetite grooving to tunes like Asheba’s Carribean-coated “Ice Cream” and the Cuban-flavored “Bolitas de Arroz con Pollo” by Jose Conde y Ola Fresca.
For a delicious contest, visit www.putumayokids.com to enter their cool recipe contest now until August 25th.

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25Aug 09

Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year

Welcome again to guest reviewer and teacher, Erin Lewis-Morris. Erin is a wife, a third grade teacher as well as the the mother of two sons, ages 10 and 13 years old. Reading, and creating fun, learning experiences based on books are her passions. She also enjoys running, baking, the beach and hiking in local mountains.

9780316020893_154x233School supplies have returned to the stores and as you plan your back to school purchases, one new book is perfect for the teacher or student in your life. J. Patrick Lewis is a poet for children, whose books include one of my class’s favorite Blackbeard: The Pirate King. His newest book is Countdown to Summer: a Poem for Every Day of the School Year and is illustrated by Ethan Long.

This book offers just what it says, a poem for the 180 days of school, counting backwards so that on the last day of school you will be reading poem number one. The poems are well balanced between older and younger children, as well as poems about school and not, with many different styles of poetry throughout the book. From food fights to cows in France, the poems are amusing and some will even challenge your thinking. For teachers, the book gives an easy way to incorporate poetry every day of the school year. For parents, if you pack your child’s lunch each day, start a new family tradition and use this book to add poetry to their lunches. Keep it in the car and enjoy a poem on the way to or from school or use the poems as an enjoyable ending to each day. It is worth spending those precious book dollars on Countdown to Summer as it will be read over and over.

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26Aug 09

Something’s Afoot in New Skelly & Femur Book

picture-536Skelly & Femur, by Jimmy Pickering from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
is reviewed by Trevor, age 6. Trevor is entering 1st grade in Long Beach and has previously
reviewed for Good Reads With Ronna.

9781416971436Many things go missing in Skelly Manor. Where has everything gone?

The main characters are a skeleton girl, Skelly and her dog. I liked figuring out what happened. This is a story that maaaaybe (sic) could happen. The illustrations were colorful and really looked beautiful and cute. I liked them. I would tell all my friends to read this book and I would read a lot more from this author.

Parent Note: The illustrations were quite good. Trevor paused at each page to look carefully at the details before reading aloud the fairly easy words. It was fun to try and figure out what happened, but the ending wasn’t really on anybody’s radar.

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27Aug 09

A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe

Guest reviewers today are a brother and sister team, Isabella and Andrew from San Gabriel Valley, California.

c_1416939148The book, A Crazy Day at the Critter Café written by Barbara Odanaka and illustrated by Lee White, was about a quiet morning the cook and the waiter were having…until a loud and hungry bunch of critters barge through the café doors. Dozens of demanding animals squawk, yip, screech, and holler to let the cook and waiter know how hungry they are. The chef and cook try so hard to make the animals happy but they are unsuccessful in their attempts as all the animals do is complain about how their meals are too hot, too cold, or too sticky! Just when it couldn’t get any crazier at the café, Cow rides in on her skateboard and causes the biggest commotion yet! Read A Crazy Day at the Critter Café to find out how this once quiet day ends for the cook and chef.

What a great book! This outrageous story was so funny that we wanted to read it again (and we did)! We loved all the detail in the colorful pictures and the funny expressions on the animals’ faces. This is a great book for anyone who likes silly stories.

Parent Note: This was a rhyming book, which my children loved. The rhyme kept the story fast paced and added to the silliness. I give this book a resounding thumbs up!

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28Aug 09

Kohl’s Cares For Kids and Keeps Kids Reading


Learn why lizards break off their tails … and how $5 helps kids in your community!

Did you know? 100% of the net profit from the sale of Kohl’s Cares for Kids merchandise will be donated to support children’s health and educational initiatives nationwide.


1. What is the world’s fastest animal?

2. What insects have ears on its knees?

3. How do you keep kids reading all summer long?

The answers to all of these questions can be found within the pages of three books by award-winning children’s author Steve Jenkins.

plush-and-book-tailKohl’s is featuring, Biggest, Strongest, Fastest! and What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? along with coordinating plush toys for only $5 each at all Kohl’s stores and online at Kohls.com as part of the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program. The books are available now through September 26 in Kohl’s stores and at Kohls.com.

Through the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program, 100 percent of the net profit from sales of the Steve Jenkins books and plush toys will benefit children’s health and education initiatives nationwide. Since the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program’s inception in 2000, Kohl’s has turned $5 merchandise into more than $126 million that has made a positive impact on the lives of children across the country.

More info on Kohl’s Cares for Kids is available at: http://www.kohlscorporation.com/communityrelations/community01.htm


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29Aug 09

The Year of The Bomb

9781416958925The Year of the Bomb by Ronald Kidd is an enthralling tale of communist conspiracies, secret spies, and surprisingly, horror movies. It all starts in the year 1955 as four boys find out that the latest horror movie is going to be filmed in their small hometown of Sierra Madre, California. The boys then immediately find out if they can go to watch the movie being shot. As the boys start to go to the movie shootings, they soon find out that one of the men working on it is an FBI agent. They take him to an ice cream parlor and as he goes to the restroom they sneak a peek at his secret confidential notebook. They see that a possible spy is at Cal Tech University. The four boys decide to take matters into their own hands, and find themselves trapped inside the adventure of a lifetime.

I thought this was an excellent book particularly for people who live in the San Gabriel Valley, as it is steeped in local lore. Reading The Year Of The Bomb and watching the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is a great summer activity for any teen.

d-0144-1Today’s review comes from teen guest reviewer Riley who just happens to live in the San Gabriel Valley. Riley is an avid reader and has written other reviews for Good Reads With Ronna. His mom, Erin, is also a frequent contributor.

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30Aug 09

READ ALL ABOUT IT – Top 100 Picks For Kids

The 100 Best Children’s Books

Here’s another great article from www.parenthood.com to help you make some worthwhile summer reading selections or even if you’re just looking for that great gift to give to someone special.
images-3When it comes to great children’s literature, kids have hundreds of books to choose from – everything from the enduring classics to award-winning, modern-day picture books and novels.

Here, listed by category, title, author and illustrator is our list of the best children’s books on the shelves – stories that will excite your kids and remain in their memories for years to come. This list represents the views of parents, children’s literature experts and our own readers.

While not every classic children’s book is listed, these are the books that strike a special chord and stay with us through adulthood.

Books for Babies l Picture Books l Chapter Books l Nonfiction/Poetry

My Bookd

images-5Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

Have You Seen My Duckling?, by Nancy Tafuri

Pippo (series), by Helen Oxenbury

Spot (series), by Eric Hill

Ten, Nine, Eight, by Molly Bang

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle


images-31Alfie (series), by Shirley Hughes

Arthur (series), by Marc Brown

Babar (series), by Jean De Brunhoff

Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

A Chair for My Mother, by Vera Williams

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert

images-12Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

Doctor DeSoto, by William Steig

Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant

Frog and Toad (series), by Arnold Lobel

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

A Hole Is to Dig, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss

images-7If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond

Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg

Lon Po Po, by Ed Young

Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans

Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey

Martha Speaks, by Susan Meddaugh

images-10Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag

Miss Nelson is Missing!, by Harry Allard and James Marshall

Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney

The Mitten, by Jan Brett

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, by John Burningham

Olivia, by Ian Falconer

The Ox-Cart Man, by Donald Hall

Peter Rabbit (The Tales of), by Beatrix Potter

images-11The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr

The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

The Spider and the Fly, by Mary Howitt, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson

The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, illustrated by William Nicholson

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, by Varda Aardema, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon click here to see Chapter Books and so much more


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel

Anastasia Krupnik, by Lois Lowry

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo

images-8The Borrowers (series), by Mary Norton

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Patterson

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen

Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers

The Friendship, by Mildred Taylor

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Patterson

Grimms’ Fairy Tales, by the Brothers Grimm

images2Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Mary Grandpré

Hatchet, by Gary Paulson

Henry and Mudge (series), by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson

Holes, by Louis Sachar

Homer Price (series), by Robert McCloskey

The Indian in the Cupboard (series), by Lynne Reid Banks

images1Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia series), by C.S. Lewis

Little House (series), by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

M.C. Higgins the Great, by Virginia Hamilton

Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

images-14Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

One-Eyed Cat, by Paula Fox

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

Ramona (series), by Beverly Cleary

Redwall (series), by Brian Jacques

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

images-22Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Stone Fox, by John Reynolds Gardiner

The Story of Dr. Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting

Stuart Little, by E.B. White

The Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke

Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

images-15Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle


Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank

It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley

images-9A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

The New Kid on the Block, by Jack Prelutsky

Talking Like the Rain (anthology), by Dorothy and X.J. Kennedy

The Way Things Work, by David Macaulay

You Be Good and I’ll Be Night, by Eve Merriam

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31Aug 09

The Rules on True Friendship

1Third-grader and guest reviewer Hazel is back, this time with some very positive words on Portia’s Exclusive and Confidential Rules on True Friendship by Anna Hays. Hazel is pictured to the right with her dog, Luvey.

Characters: Portia, Misty, Amy, Indigo, and Patch

9781416978060Summary: Portia is a normal girl but, also a detective. In this story she tries to find her missing father Patch. She also tries to find out why the new girl at school, Misty, loves animals so much and goes through a lot of challenges to find out why she is so obsessed with animals.

Author’s Point of View: The author wrote this book for kids who want to know things about true friendship.

What I Thought: I thought it was a great book and I sure learned more on true friendship! At the beginning Amy didn’t like Misty and got jealous because she thought Portia and Misty were better friends than Amy and Portia were. Then at the end all of them became friends because Amy found out it was a detective project all along. When Misty walked into her new class her locket flew open and out came her pet spider, Chester. See she loves animals!

Indigo is Portia’s mom who owns an organic market and is working on recipes for pomegranates. Indigo likes to help Portia fix her friendship problems. Like when Portia thought she was going to lose her best friend, Amy, over the jealousy with Misty. Pomegranate cake was her best invention!

I learned that talking it out with your friends will help get the feelings and sadness out of your head.

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01Sep 09

Connect with Your Grandkids Through Books

Connect with Your Grandkids and Promote a Lifelong Love of Reading

Here’s some great info I’d like to share with you from our www.parenthood.com website.

imagesEveryone knows how important it is to promote a love for books and reading in young children. And teachers, librarians and reading specialists emphasize that reading aloud to children helps them learn to read.

Yet, in today’s busy, fast-paced, screen-time-dominated (TV, computers and video games) lifestyles, the traditional reading of books can easily fall by the wayside. That’s why it’s up to the adults in children’s lives to be proactive and creative in finding ways to introduce the joys of reading.

Experts urge parents to read with their children for about 20 minutes every day, continuing the activity long after a child can read on his or her own. But reading shouldn’t be considered a chore, something to be checked off at the end of each day. Grandparents can leave the routine to the parents, and give themselves over to the pleasure of reading.

Reading aloud to a grandchild creates a wonderful opportunity for snuggling, laughter and conversation. Reading together can break the ice, build bridges and seal the connection between grandparents and grandchildren. Imparting your pleasure and enthusiasm for the stories you share will go a long way toward making your grandkids readers for life.

Selecting Books

images-1Sometimes, your grandchildren will have a clear idea of what they want you to read them: a favorite story, a subject of special interest or an author of whom they just can’t get enough. But what if they don’t? How do you select an age-appropriate book that will engage your young one?

Everyone has their favorites, but most book-lovers agree that there has to be a good idea, believable characters, wonderful language and, for picture books, pictures that help tell the story.

For Babies and Toddlers – Look for board books with rhymes, playful language and colorful illustrations.

For Preschoolers and Kindergartners – Select picture books that are visually appealing and are on topics that are of interest to your grandchild. For beginning talkers, select books that have just a few words and phrases that repeat, so the child can chime in as you read.

For Early Readers – Look for books your grandchild can read (even in part) alone but that still have interesting or funny stories. Continue reading picture and chapter books to your grandchild, but mix them with these “easy readers” that they can read alone or out loud to you.

images-2For Intermediate Grades – Children’s awareness of authors and their works develops during the fourth through seventh grade years. They will frequently seek out all of the titles in a series or by a particular author. (Remember Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys?) Reading books that are part of a series helps to develop reading fluency and establish a reading habit. You can contribute to this habit by adding to a child’s collection of a series.

Encourage your grandchild to read many different types of books, including more sophisticated picture books (of which there are many today), informational books, biographies and poetry. This is a good time to seek out books on interests you share with your grandchild. Does she want to know about scientific advances that were made in your youth? Combine a good book about the solar system with your own memories of the first moon walk.

For ’Tweens and Teens – “Young adult books” (YA), the term used for books for teens, typically grapple with sophisticated topics. You probably won’t be reading aloud to your grandchildren at this point, but you can certainly read what they’re reading. If you pick up a copy of the latest YA novel, you’ll have something to talk about and you’ll know how your teen-age grandchildren react to difficult content.

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17Sep 09


Third grader, Isabella, is back with a rave review on How to Get Married …by Me, the Bride written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Sue Heap. Today’s guest reviewer Isabella thoroughly enjoys reading. She is often up late at night reading with a little light be her side while the rest of the house is quiet and still! Isabella enjoys funny stories and mysteries. She also enjoys playing sports, drawing and arts and crafts.

marriedjktThis is a funny book about a little girl pretending to be a bride as she discusses and demonstrates the steps on how to get married. The main characters are a young girl and boy who plan their own pretend wedding. The little girl describes step-by-step who you should marry and who you should not marry. She talks about finding the “right” person to marry. Can you marry your teacher, your pet, your daddy? Who should come to the wedding? According to the bride-to be your friends and sisters, and pets and toys can even come to your wedding!

Join this little bride-to-be through her adventures of planning a wedding. You will be pleasantly surprised to see what happens in this hilarious story as a young girls’ imagination goes wild!

I enjoyed reading this funny book. I highly recommend that other young children with creative imaginations read this book. Plus, the illustrations are great!

Editor’s Note: This book is for ages 4-8 and is published by Schwartz and Wade, an imprint of Random House.

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18Sep 09


A Friend Like You by Julia Hubery and illustrated by Caroline Pedler from Good Books is reviewed by Andrew. Andrew is a fan of reading and enjoys mysteries and adventure stories. He spends his free time playing sports and building new creations with Legos.

51fj28lrql_sl500_aa240_This is a story about Panda and Monkey who set off on an adventure on the first day of spring. They set off to the highest mountain meadows to see its secrets. Panda and Monkey enjoy the company of one another as they discover beautiful creatures in nature on their way to the highest meadow. Although Monkey traveled too quickly for Panda, they both enjoyed the sights along the way. Their friendship blooms along the way as they see the most amazing sight of a thousand butterflies at the top of the highest meadow. The sight was worth the long journey to the top!

I enjoyed reading this story about friendship and adventure. I also liked the soft looking illustrations in the book. They are beautiful! I think any child who likes adventure and friendship will enjoy this book.

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19Sep 09

Read and Wonder

dsc_0024-300x217The following Read and Wonder Books (a series recommended for ages 5-8) have been reviewed by regular contributor Debbie Glade.  Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

Sea Horse by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by John Lawrence; White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Michael Foreman;  Caterpillar Caterpillar by Vivian French and illustrated by Charlotte Voake;  Think of an Eel by Karen Wallace and illustrated by Mike Bostock.

0763641405medSea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by John Lawrence, is a wonderful educational journey through the life of a Barbour’s Seahorse. Until I saw all the illustrations of the different types of seahorses, I never knew how many different species there were. The book explains the life cycle of a seahorse from mating to birth and the survival of the tiny babies. The unique illustrations are an excellent complement to the story. Any child interested in animals or the ocean would love learning about the seahorse in this enlightening book.

0763639966medWhite Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies is both an entertaining and educational story about barn owls told through the perspective of a little girl. The girl’s grandfather builds a nest box in a tree, and the two of them wait patiently for a barn owl to move inside. The misty illustrations of owls in the night by award winning illustrator, Michael Foreman, are outstanding. What I like about the story is that the author weaves in educational facts about barn owls with handwritten notes on the illustrations. The author even tells the reader where to go to get information bout making a barn owl box. I love owls, and I love this book.

0763642630medAuthor Vivian French was inspired to write Caterpillar Caterpillar because as a child herself, she watched with her grandfather as caterpillar eggs turn into butterflies. Illustrator Charlotte Voake uses predominantly green watercolors to demonstrate the life cycle of the butterfly in a charming way. The story is told from the viewpoint of the child. It not only educates children about the process of metamorphosis, but it also teaches children about patience while waiting for the butterfly to emerge. I love the little side notes with facts about what is going on with the creatures in the illustrations. This is a great book for kids who love butterflies, and who doesn’t love butterflies!

0763615226medDid you know that young eels are see-through or that eels can breath out of water for up to 2 days? You will learn about this and many other facts about eels when you read the book and listen to the CD, Think of an Eel by Karen Wallace. The book teaches kids about the life of an eel as he thrives in the ocean south of Bermuda. You’ll love looking at the watercolor illustrations by Mike Bostock as you read this book. The CD that comes with book provides you with a read-along version as well as facts about eels. What a great addition this makes to the book! There’s nothing better than a children’s book that educates the parents too. I really enjoyed learning about the life of an eel, and I am sure you and your kids will too.

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21Sep 09

Let’s Do Nothing

danny-graduationLet’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile is reviewed by frequent “Good Reads With Ronna” contributor, Erin Lewis-Morris. Erin is a wife, a third grade teacher as well as the the mother of two sons, ages 10 and 13 years old. Reading, and creating fun, learning experiences based on books are her passions. She also enjoys running, baking, the beach and hiking in local mountains.

0763634409medIt is that time in the summer when camps are over, video games have been played, the pool is no longer fun and the kids are bored. The timeless shouts of, “MOOOOMMMMMM there is NOTHING to DO,” echo across the years and out of our children’s mouths. Let’s Do Nothing, a wonderful new picture book by Tony Fucile, might help solve the boredom blues. Tony Fucile, an animator for Disney on such beloved movies as Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, delightfully brings to life two boys who have done everything there is to do. 0763634409int1The boys attempt to spend just 10 seconds doing nothing and find that doing nothing is much more challenging than they expected. While doing nothing, their imaginations take over, hopefully encouraging our own children to dive into their creative minds and find something to do as the summer draws to a close.

Editor’s Note: Read an interview with the author by clicking here.

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22Sep 09

Welcome to Spookleville! Contest

spooklesincolour1I’m excited to be offering readers of my exclusive Halloween Book Roundup at www.laparent.com a chance to enter this creepy and cool contest courtesy of Spookles, a new series of monsterously funny books from Colleen Wenn. I’ll be giving away two sets of 12 books each worth a total of $59.88 so please click here for your chance to win and remember to put “Spookles Contest” in the subject line. The contest ends on October 26 so enter now. Contest rules are available by clicking here. Read below to see a sample from my roundup which doubles as a review of this frighteningly fun new series.

Meet The Spookles

booksSold individually with various sub-titles such as “Dracula’s Peace Treat-y” or in sets, this new series, Spookles, (Available on Amazon.com or www.wennenterprises.com, $4.99; ages 4-10) by Colleen Wenn and illustrated by her son Daniel Wenn along with Maciej Janczak, is reminiscent of the Mr. Men series, only geared for Halloween and slightly more sophisticated and quirky. There are almost a dozen different characters who inhabit the happy town of Spookleville including wrapped up, mummy-like Rapper, the adorable cupcake loving Drool and Bolts who, as his name implies, has his head held together with metal fasteners. Try one or try them all for some fun, monsterful moments.

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23Sep 09

Getting There

As a travel writer, children’s travel adventure author and member of the National Council for Geographic Education, I say any book written for kids that exposes them to the world is a wonderful thing. Getting There by Martha Stewart Konrad from Tundra Books is a simple, adorable book with vivid photographs written for very young readers.

It is all about how people from different parts of the world get around. You name it – Yak, camel, moose, bike, canoe, cart, boat, on foot, being carried and more. It shows children that no matter how different our lifestyle may be from people in other parts of the world, we all have a lot in common. I applaud the author for doing her share to promote geography education, which is greatly lacking in our schools.

The best thing about buying Getting There is that all royalties go to support children of extreme poverty through an organization called World Vision. So when you buy this book, you will not only be educating a child you love, but you’ll also be helping a child in need in another part of the world.

dsc_0024-300x217Getting There was reviewed by Debbie Glade. Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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24Sep 09

Frogs, Toads and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher

Have a beginning first grader in your life?  Two new books, The Frogs and Toads All Sang by Arnold Lobel and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes To School by Laurie Halse Anderson and Ard Hoyt are perfect for your 6 year-old.

9780061800221Arnold Lobel is the author of the most loved Frog and Toad books, including Frog and Toad are Friends, and Frog and Toad Together.  The poems in The Frogs and Toads All Sang were originally found at an estate sale, many years after Lobel passed away.  They were part of books Lobel had written and given as gifts to family friends.  His daughter, Adrianne Lobel, arranged the poems and added watercolor to her father’s pictures to create this new book.  The book is perfect for a beginning reader, or a true lover of Lobel’s Frog and Toad series.  The best poem of the bunch is “I Love To Eat” about a toad that truly loves his food.  Reading this book is a visit to an old friend and a reminder that the most simple of books can be profound.

Watch a video interview with Adrianne Lobel.


c_0689858094The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School, by Laurie Halse Anderson and Ard Hoyt, is the story of a young girl struggling with conforming to the rules of school.  Zoe Fleeferbacher has very wild hair.  Her hair does not want to follow school rules and, according to her rule oriented first grade teacher, must be controlled.  The struggle to control Zoe’s hair perfectly illustrates the challenge for many six year olds facing controlling their behavior after a fun, free summer.  It reminds them that following school rules can be a creative process and reminds teachers that non-conformist students bring many gifts to the classroom.  The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School is the perfect bedtime story to encourage and delight your child when the excitement of the first week has worn off and the confines of school rules has set in.

Both book reviews were written by Erin Lewis-Morris.

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26Sep 09

Laughing Loudly for Literacy

Once Upon a Time bookstore of Montrose was featured in L.A. Parent’s October “Know Your Neighborhood” section. I thought you’d enjoy hearing about this fabulous upcoming event.

Who: Four outstanding and very funny authors and illustrators will be appearing together on one stage:

Jon Scieszka, David Shannon, Adam Rex and Mac Barnett.

What: The authors will read, the illustrators will display their work, and audience participation will be greatly encouraged! A book signing will immediately follow the event and a portion of the proceeds will benefit “Friends of the Library” for the newly remodeled La Crescenta branch of  the County of Los Angeles Public Library.

When: On Monday, September 28th, at 6:30p.m.

Where: Crescenta Valley High School, Mac Donald Auditorium, 2900 Community Ave., La Crescenta, CA


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29Sep 09


candor_cover_final A wonderfully refreshing, entertaining, and important novel, Pam Bachorz’s Candor from Egmont, USA (available 9/22) is a great read for young adults and teens. A picturesque city in Florida, Candor attracts rich families who want to “straighten out” their teenagers. Everything in Candor is perfect, and everyone is happy and well-behaved. Only Oscar, whose father founded the city, knows the dirty truth: Candor’s inhabitants are brainwashed by subliminal messages. Oscar secretly helps kids escape the city, if they can pay him enough; but when he meets Nia, a beautiful and rebellious girl new to the town, Oscar can’t decide whether to keep her close to him, risking everything, or to help her escape the messages.

Reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984, Candor is a surprisingly deep piece of young adult fiction. Through a highly entertaining and thought-provoking plot, Bachorz discusses the dangers of conformity and the importance of individuality in an exciting way. The writing style is advanced but easily accessible, and comic relief throughout the book helps to soften the darker aspects of Candor. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a particularly stimulating, but light read. All teens should read this book! Editor’s Note: Please see below for a trailer.

mail-5Rachel Glade is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School in Fort Lauderdale. She has been named a 2010 PSAT National Merit Semifinalist and a College Board AP Scholar with Distinction. She plays the piano and sitar and has been featured in the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Teen Link Magazine for her role in producing music for the book/CD, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica. She plans to pursue a degree in both earth science and music and is particularly interested in geology and preserving our environment.

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01Oct 09

Cousteau and His Calypso


Meet 2nd grade guest reviewer, Naomi. She’s 7 years-old, hails from Southern California and loves to swim (in pools and the ocean). Her favorite animal is the Seahorse! Today Naomi has reviewed The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino who is both author and illustrator.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino is a wonderful book overflowing with terrific colorful pictures. It was about the ocean, the fish, and world-famous Jacques Cousteau, who loved the sea. Jacques Cousteau was born in France and was a sickly boy. Doctors told him he needed to swim if he wanted to get healthy and so he began to love the water. When he was a young man a friend gave him a pair of goggles so he could see underwater. He loved watching the fish in the ocean and wished he could stay underwater longer and longer to 41vxsizt4yl_sl500_aa240_learn about the sea. An engineer friend of his invented the Aqualung (Mom Note: a breathing device allowing swimmers to breathe underwater for long periods of time.) He liked to explore the sea and the ocean animals with his boat, the Calypso. Soon Jacques Cousteau wanted to go even deeper so he invented the Diving Saucer which could carry 2 people and go 350 meters deep and the Sea Flea which could hold 1 person and go 500 meters down.

imagesHe filmed the first underwater (feature) film and a TV show, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” (Editor’s Note: I grew up watching this program and all his ‘specials’ on TV as a child.)

I liked the main character in this story because he loved the sea so much and so do I, and he had lots of adventures.

This book is for people to learn more about the sea, so maybe they would start to like it too. I think the author did such a good job that I would like read more books by this author, especially more books unknownabout the sea, and ocean animals.

Oh and by the way, in addition to telling such an interesting story, Yaccarino’s art was good-looking, stylish, fantastic. It was drawn in a cartoony way and the drawings are very colorful.

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02Oct 09

Globetrotting With Kiwi and Pear

The very talented artist, Joyce Wan, won a greeting card illustration contest as a child, and that led to creating greeting card collections with the loveable hugging monkeys we see on her new book, Greetings from Kiwi and Pear.

9781934706596_normHaving just returned from the annual National Council for Geography Education Conference, I was delighted to review this book. Young children in America are in desperate need of educational materials that teach them about the world. When you open this sturdy, compact book, you will find a colorful map of the world showing the plane routes taken by Kiwi and Pear on their world journey. And to make that even better, there are 34 stickers at the back of the book, so children can mark the monkeys’ travel locations as they read or listen along to the story. I love that!

41xv-btml1lOn each set of pages is a simple postcard describing what Kiwi and Pear did in each destination, with a postage stamp that matches a sticker (with illustration and place name) to stick on the map. An outline showing where the sticker should go is included on the map to make it easier for little ones to find. Brilliant! The pages on the right fold out to display adorable, colorful illustrations of the monkeys enjoying their travels. Among their destinations you will find something on every continent – places such as New York, Antarctica, Paris, India, China, Mexico, Australia and more. And to make this even more fun, there’s a page about outer space!

I can’t say enough about the importance of books like Greetings from Kiwi and Pear. This book introduces children to travel and geography in a fun and educational way. Parents and grandparents will thoroughly enjoy sharing it with their loved ones. It’s never too early to teach your kids about the world, and Greetings from Kiwi and Pear is a great place to start!

Editor’s Note: This book is available from Blue Apple, an imprint of Chronicle Books and is recommended for ages 4-8.

dsc_0024-300x217This delightful book was reviewed by regular contributor Debbie Glade. Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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13Oct 09

Hi! Fly Guy

Hi! Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold from Scholastic is reviewed by Trevor, age 6.
picture-536Trevor, from Long Beach, is currently a first grader
and has previously reviewed books in Good Reads With Ronna.

This is Fly Guy! Is he a pest or is he a pet?

images-1This book was about a boy (Buzz) who wanted to put a fly into a pet show. But, the judges said flies are pests not pets! Buzz had to show the judges how smart the fly was. I liked this book because the fly got into the pet show. The little guy won. The pictures are funny and good. I would recommend this book to my friends.

Parent note: This Level 2 book was perfect for the 1st-2nd grade reading level. We had a lot of fun repeatedly saying “pests” and “pets” as fast as we could. This book helps practicing “-st” pronunciation.

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14Oct 09

One Beetle Too Many

076361436xAuthor Kathryn Lasky did extensive research before writing One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin. She read many books, audited evolutionary biology classes and even attended lab sessions to look at bones at Harvard University. What resulted from her impressive preparation is a factual account of Darwin’s fascinating life, from childhood to his later years.

Before getting into the meat of the story, I simply cannot go further without mentioning the captivating illustrations in this book. Artist Matthew Trueman used a most unusual assembly of mediums to achieve the uniquely spectacular illustrations you see here. These included layers of acrylic ink, watercolors, graphite pencils, gouache paints and colored pencils. He then brilliantly used collage elements like paper, string, flowers and leaves to really give the illustrations true depth. You’ve simply just got to see these illustrations for yourself to appreciate them.

Now back to the story . . . Readers of One Beetle Too Many will not only learn about the focus of Charles Darwin’s passion – nature – but also of his struggles. As a young boy in the early 1800s, Charles was a failing student, though his sister shined in school. His disappointed father urged him to join the clergy, but although Darwin spent many hours each day reading the Bible, his passion was with nature. After a friend invited him on a long voyage to South America to serve as the naturalist on board a ship called The Beagle, Darwin had found his true calling. I like that this book mentions his early struggles so children can understand that not everyone who is smart and accomplished successfully mastered every aspect of his early life.

In the pages of the book, we learn of the many plants and animals Darwin observed on his long journey, and how he viewed the world only as a true scientist would. He noted minute details and questioned so much of what he saw. His observations led him to realize that animals of the same species differed slightly from island to island in the Galapagos. The outcome of his great voyage was Darwin’s theory that species changed over time to adapt to their environment, stating that sometimes the most minuscule changes may have taken millions of years. Naturally Darwin’s theory of evolution was not received well by many religious people of his time. To this day there remains controversy among some over Darwin’s theories. Yet still we can all greatly benefit from learning about Darwin’s life and work, and One Beetle Too Many is a great way to introduce readers ages 7 to 12 years old, the scientific world of naturalist Charles Darwin.

dsc_0024-300x217Regular Good Reads With Ronna contributor Debbie Glade gave us this informative review. Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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15Oct 09

Amelia Rules

mailAmelia Rules! The Whole World’s Crazy by Jimmy Gownley is reviewed today by Ellen, a fifth grader from Pasadena, CA. Ellen likes to dance, write and draw.

51tsn05nx9l_ss500_What a great book! This graphic novel/comic book-style story is about a girl named Amelia who has crazy adventures and fun times. She and her friends, Rhonda,
Reggie, and Pajamaman, go camping with Amelia’s dad, have an awesome Christmas, try to find out if Santa’s real or not, go trick or treating, and survive hard gym class. As you may have guessed, I cannot say it enough, “This book was hysterical!” (Editor’s Note:  Originally self-published and now picked up by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, this book is recommended for ages 7-12)

What makes this book so totally readable is the fact that Pajamaman always wears pajamas and sometimes when his emotion changes an emote icon changes on his pajamas. Also, in one story, Rhonda is in gym class and throws a ball, almost killing a girl named Violet. This was such a clever, humorous book that I want to read the second one!


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17Oct 09

From the Great Wall to the Land Down Under

dsc_0024-300x217Natasha Lands Down Under by Katherine McCaughan is reviewed by frequent contributor, traveler and author Debbie Glade.  Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

377_frontNatasha is a ten-year-old Russian girl who is forced to adjust to abrupt lifestyle changes when her family flees from China to Australia in 1950. The challenges and hardships Natasha’s family faces are beautifully depicted in this young adult novel, Natasha Lands Down Under. Author Katherine McCaughan was inspired to write this fictional book to reflect her own heritage. Katherine was born in China to Russian parents, and her family fled to Australia – just like the family in the book.  She knows firsthand what it feels like to be an outsider in unfamiliar land.

Back to the book…Natasha is an intelligent, curious girl who is headstrong and cannot help but speak her mind – though this often gets her into trouble. Her family has no choice but to escape China during the Communist Revolution and journey to Australia to live with Natasha’s difficult, annoying aunt and her two spoiled sons. No one in the family including Natasha can speak English, yet she must attend school and learn as quickly as possible. She longs to find a true friend and adjust to her new way of life, but she desperately misses her life in Shanghai.

The story takes place during the course of a year, revealing many flashbacks as well as the gamut of emotions Natasha experiences as an immigrant to Australia. She herself discovers something about her baby sister that becomes a difficult reality for her parents to face. And throughout the book, Natasha learns unexpected truths about other family members. All of the characters in Natasha Lands Down Under are well developed, making them easy for readers to conceptualize.

In Natasha Lands Down Under, the words cascade off the page like a gently flowing river, and the engaging dialogue takes the reader right to the heart of each scene. I love the way author Katherine McCaughan exposes young adult readers to different cultures, languages and lifestyles by subtly weaving the information into the story line. A curious reader will not be able to resist researching more about Russia, China and Australia after reading this book.

Like me, readers young and old will finish this book with a new appreciation for modern day comforts and familiar surroundings. They will also think about the struggles their immigrant ancestors faced when coming to America. Natasha Lands Down Under is a pleasure to read, and I would love to find out in another novel what lies ahead for Natasha.

Natasha Lands Down Under won the 2009 Moonbeam Children’s Book Gold Award in the Young Adult Fiction – Historical/Cultural category.

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22Oct 09

Come Hear and Watch A Story!

vis_smcovHave you heard of Booksicals? Well I had not, but I am so glad I can now share this info with you.

Susie Chodakiewitz, author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House is founder of Booksicals, encouraging reading through the arts

WHAT: Booksicals is currently performing the picture book Too Many Visitors for One Little House.

WHEN: They will be having their B & N debut this Sunday, October 25 at 1p.m.

WHERE: Barnes & Noble, The Grove

Booksicals performs for schools, libraries and special events. They also partner with individual and corporate sponsors to bring Booksicals programs to underpriviliged kids and kids in hospitals. Come out and support this wonderful literacy program.

You can see all the fun things they are doing and even hear the musical of the book at www.booksicals.com


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26Oct 09

Hurry Up Halloween

Fall is my favorite season. Pumpkin patches that sprouted up overnight are beginning to be depleted of their stock while houses around my neighborhood are gearing up for the big night with scary bats and goblins hanging up creating a wonderfully frightening effect every evening. Those very same pumpkins are now decorating doorsteps as families prepare costumes for their kids and amp up their candy collection.

9781402230967-mOne of my favorite things every Halloween is finding some fun books to tell readers about, ones which I hope will make your hair stand on end or simply set you up with some spooktacular Trick or Treat spirit.

Halloween just got more ghoulish with the release of The 13 Days of Halloween from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, written by Carol Greene, illustrated by Tim Raglin, and originally published in 1985. I didn’t have children when the book first came out and I am grateful to Jabberwocky for bringing it back. Now the kids and I can carol our way through Oct. 31 with this twisted take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas:” “On the first day of Halloween, my good friend gave to me: a vulture in a dead tree.” The illustrations are cool and creepy and when coupled with the offbeat verse make this an irresistible read.

For more ideas about what to read, check out my Halloween Book Roundup at http://losangeles.parenthood.com/Halloween_2009Roundup.php today!

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28Oct 09

An Interview With Carl Reiner

51zybomaivl_sl500_aa240_Just in time for Halloween and all the haunting activities which typically accompany it, I was thrilled to interview multiple Emmy-winning comic icon, and a personal fave, Carl Reiner, about his new hit book, Tell Me Another Scary Story…But Not Too Scary! Illustrations are by James Bennett and the book, ($16.95, ages 4-8) published by Dove, an imprint of Phoenix Books, is available in stores everywhere as well as online. Fans will love the fact that a bonus ‘read-along’ CD of the book is included so they can take Reiner reading his Scary Story on the road.

carlrQ. Where did your idea for Tell Me Another Scary Story… come from as you certainly did not have a next door neighbor named Mr. Neewollah and how does it differ from your first Scary Story?
A. It came from the original Tell Me A Scary Story and it being a hit, and the publisher asking me for another Scary Story. In the second story, the boy becomes friends with the neighbor who one frightened him to death in the first story.

Q. The message in the story is an important one and so well conveyed. Do you think children today are less respectful, less thoughtful than when you were a child?
A. I think children have already reflected the mores of society and the disciplines that their parents instilled in them, and that has not changed.

Q. Has the media together with books actually helped make children of the 21st century more prepared for emergencies like the one in your story?
A. Yes, the media has prepared children. At the end of Tell Me Another Scary Story, the boy, faced with a man who obviously fainted, calls 911. Weeks before on TV, I had seen or heard or learned about a four year old who actually dialed 911 to get help for his mother, who had collapsed while driving.

Q. Is it harder or easier to write for children?
A. Equally. It is the same process. I get a good idea and develop it.

Q. I love how you tease the reader with your warnings about turning the page. To me that’s the fun part of a scary story and Halloween; all the frightful possibilities.
A. I’m very proud of the fact that I found in the first Scary Story the idea of warning the children that they have an option…that if they get scared, they have the option of not turning the page.

Q. What elements come together to make a great scary story for kids?
A. The same elements that make any great story. Good characters, good situations, suspense, and ultimately, a happy ending.

Q. Apart from the candy, what makes Halloween such an enduring holiday in our culture? I’m a sucker for Tootsie Rolls, what’s your treat of choice?
A. Dressing up. Kids always love to put on costumes and make believe they are somebody else, and this holiday makes it possible for them to live out their dreams… and get candy while doing so. I think Tootsie Rolls were everybody’s favorite, including mine.

Q. What do you say to children who ask you how to become a writer?
A. Write…write…write…write…write. Nobody can stop you from writing if you have paper, a pencil and an idea.

Q. What is the best thing about writing for kids?
A. Hearing about how much they enjoyed reading and re-reading, and re-reading, and re-reading and re-reading the book you have written.

Q. Are people simply born funny?
A. I think people are born with a clean slate. If they are born where parents put a premium on laughter and expose children to television, movies and albums that are meant to make you laugh, they will appreciate and be honed by, this experience.

Q. Who are some other authors you admire?
A. Let’s start with Mark Twain, who was probably the greatest writer of all time, and then of course, we have Phillip Roth and Richard Dawkins, and Doctorow, etc. etc.

Q. Do you know what you’ll be writing next?
A. If that’s the last question, then nothing…oh yes, for next year, I have written Tell Me A Silly Story and Tell Me A Sillier Story, which I think may be my best works. We’ll see.

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03Nov 09

The Scrambled States of America Contest


Election Day is a perfect day to celebrate our great country and win a prize, too! Based on the hit book by Laurie Keller from Henry Holt And Company, Gamewright brings us The Scrambled States of America Game. Billed as the Whimsical, Mad-Dashing Geography Game, according to my eight year-old son, Coleman, it’s simply an amazing game! But don’t just take Coleman’s word for it. The amount of awards this game has garnered is so impressive and these are just a few!

Got twenty minutes to share with your child? This game for two to four players makes learning the states a snap. The object of the game is to send the most states home (because they’ve all gone somewhere else hence the ‘scrambled’ in the game’s title) by matching State Cards to Scramble Cards. The player who collects the most State Cards wins.

I am giving away one of these educational games recommended for ages eight and up to one Good Reads With Ronna winner. Click here now to enter for your chance to win. The contest ends on November 23. Be sure to write Scrambled States of America Contest in the subject line. For contest rules click here now and good luck!

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05Nov 09

Catch a Wave, Surfer Dude!

picture-536Gilbert, the Surfer Dude by Diane deGroat from Harper Collins Publishers is reviewed by Trevor, age 6. Trevor is a 1st grade student in Long Beach.

gilbertsurferGilbert is a possum. Gilbert, his baby sister, his mom, and his dad go to the beach. Gilbert wants to be a surfer dude. But, Gilbert forgets something VERY, VERY important. Find out what happens!

I liked this book because it was funny. The pictures were good, too.

Parent Note: This Level 2 book in the “I Can Read” series introduces a 3-chapter layout. It is perfect for the 1st grade, developing reading level.


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06Nov 09

Writing and Art Contest for Children

glade_224 Days Left to Enter
I Love Costa Rica’s Rain Forest”
Writing and Art Contest for Children

Prizes Donated by Rand McNally’s Online Store

Smart Poodle Publishing announces its final call for entries for the “I Love Costa Rica’s Rain Forest” Writing and Art Contest for Children. The contest is FREE and is designed to teach children about geography and give them an opportunity to practice their writing skills as well as express themselves artistically. The deadline is November 30, 2009. Children in grades 5K through 5th grade are invited to write a story about Costa Rica and submit art work to win fantastic prizes generously donated by Rand McNally’s Online Store. In addition to these valuable prizes, Smart Poodle Publishing will award the First Place winners in each age category $100 as listed below.

Teachers are welcome to submit all their students’ essays and artwork together, using the teacher’s email address as the contact, rather than each parent’s email. Please visit www.smartpoodlepublishing.com for full contest rules and entry form.

First Place Winners in three grade categories (5K-1st grade, 2nd-3rd grade, 4th-5th grade) will each receive these three prizes (Value listed):

Rand McNally Personal Journeys World Pinable Wall Map($84.99)
Rand McNally Hard Bound World Atlas ($24.95)
Kids’ Travel Activity Bundle ($15.80)
A Check for $100

Second Place Winners in three grade categories (5K-1st grade, 2nd-3rd grade, 4th-5th grade) will each receive these two prizes (Value listed):

Rand McNally Traveler Series Kids Illustrated Wall Map ($64.99)
Kids’ Travel Activity Bundle ($15.80)

Third Place Winners in three grade categories (5K-1st grade, 2nd-3rd grade, 4th-5th grade) will each receive this prize (Value listed):

World Knowledge Bundle ($22.90)

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11Nov 09

Every Picture Tells A Fancy Nancy Story

9780061235900The Fancy Nancy children’s book series is one of the more popular today. On Saturday, Every Picture Tells A Story will host a fantastique (that’s French for fantastic) event for Fancy Nancy fans. The book’s author Jane O’Connor and illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser will appear at the store to celebrate their latest effort, Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas. A portion of the day’s proceeds will go to The Hobart Shakespeareans, a Los Angeles inner city education program. While admission to the event is free, book reservations are strongly recommended.

When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14
Where: Every Picture Tells A Story, 1311 Montana Ave., Santa Monica.
Contact: 310-451-2700, www.everypicture.com

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12Nov 09

War, What Is It Good For?

indexBeing a book reviewer has significantly broadened my literary horizons. The truth is that I’d never have chosen to read Back Home by Julia Keller (EgmontUSA, $15.99) on my own. Yes, it is a young adult novel, and well, I’m not really a young adult any longer. But that’s
not the reason I’d never have read this book had I not been asked to review it.

The reason is that I don’t like to read about or think about anything having to do with the Iraq War – or any war for that matter. War is not exactly a happy, heart-warming topic.

After I finished the last page of the book this morning, I stared off into space for a good long while. Now that I’ve read Back Home, I cannot imagine myself not having ever read it. It is rare that a book leaves me with this much to think about. And it isn’t that often that I find a book – any book – to be this well written. It is tremendously difficult to write in a simple, easy-to-comprehend style for young readers, while at the same time create insightful depth in a story. But Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller does just that. And she does it with a profound honesty that will leave you too, with many thoughts to ponder. As a journalist, Keller wrote a three part series about traumatic brain injuries for the Chicago Tribune. This experience inspired her to write this compelling novel, and I am so glad she did.

The story is told from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old girl named, Rachel. One day, Rachel’s Mom sits her down with her younger sister and brother to tell them that their Dad is returning home from his National Guard duty in Iraq. But he is not the same person he was when he left; he is severely injured. Dad returns back to US only to be hospitalized for a very long time before actually coming home. What follows is a tale of family’s struggles to get through each day as their lives have suddenly been turned upside down, and Dad’s progress is not at all what they’d hoped it would be.

There are so many memorable quotes in Back Home, I wish I could cite them all. Here is how thirteen-year-old, Rachel describes how her family coped with the situation:

“We weren’t separate people anymore. We were all piled together…We were one thing now. This blur: Our family didn’t have the normal lines or spaces any more. One person flowed into the next person, and the next and the next. I guess it sounds like kind of a mess, but it didn’t feel that way. It was the way it had to be, so that we could live. There wasn’t time to worry about each little piece of our family anymore…”

Back Home made me realize that we need to talk about war, to understand the consequences and struggles – rather than sweep them under the rug because they are so unpleasant. Learning about Rachel’s experience as a teenager provides the reader with a poignant, truthful look at how war adversely changes lives forever. Every teenager and adult in America must read this book.

I detest war. But I love this book.

dsc_0024-300x217Guest Reviewer Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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13Nov 09

Celebrate With Storyopolis

mitzisworld80044jlOn Saturday November 14th, from 1 – 3p.m., Storyopolis is celebrating its 23rd birthday. There will be lots of fun activities, including free food, drinks, games, a Moonbounce, and Harry the Clown, as well as the author and artist of the acclaimed children’s book Mitzi’s World.

There is no need to register, and this fun event for the entire family is free and open to the general public. Don’t miss author actor Deborah Raffin and artist Jane Wooster Scott who will be present to sign copies of their book.

Storyopolis is located at 14945 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

For additional information, call Courtney at Storyopolis – (818) 990-7600

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16Nov 09

Let’s Go Exploring for Geography Awareness Week

According to guest reviewer Debbie Glade, Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure (Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick, $19.99; ages 8-12), written by A.J. Wood and Clint Twist, “is the highest quality, most inviting, most creative, most entertaining, most sophisticated and most informative children’s science book I have ever read. There, I said it.”

dsc_0024-300x217Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

51lyslu9b5l_sl500_aa240_As soon as I took one look at the unique cover, I knew this was a special book. The pages are accessed by opening the flaps of a sturdy, magnetic cardboard cover. What lies inside is a visual wonderland of flaps to flip and envelopes to open, revealing letters, illustrations, maps, photos and scientific information regarding Darwin’s findings aboard the HMS Beagle. You will actually feel as though you are reading Darwin’s diary from the famed voyage of 1831 to 1836. The pages were even printed to look as though they were hand sewn to the binding! (FYI – This book is one of three historical notebooks from Templar Books, all of which I’d love to read.)

This is not a book for you or your child to rush through; rather you will want to curl up on the couch and take your time reading and discovering. You don’t want to miss a thing. Open the inside cover to pull Darwin’s family tree out of an envelope. Then continue on to read about the experiences that led Darwin to a life of scientific exploration and discovery. View a map of the track the HMS Beagle took, read a letter from Darwin to his father about his decision to take the voyage and then soak in all the flora and fauna as seen by the great naturalist himself. And of course, learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution.

0763645389int1Did you know that the HMS Beagle’s departure was delayed numerous times before setting sail? Or that there were 74 people on board the not-so-large ship? And that Darwin experienced severe seasickness? Or that Darwin was a very religious man? You will learn about these facts as well as details about Darwin’s tracking of plant and animal species and how he collected specimens in South America, around Cape Horn and on his voyage back to England.

Reading Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure is as close as you can get to actually being on Darwin’s voyage of 1831-1836. This book is indeed a lifetime keeper.

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17Nov 09

Animals As Seen By Darwin & Polo

Yesterday, guest reviewer Debbie Glade looked at Charles Darwin and today she is also reviewing Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure and Animals Marco Polo Saw: An Adventure on the Silk Road, two Chronicle Books by author Sandra Markle.

9780811850490_normAnimals Charles Darwin Saw (Chronicle, $16.99; ages 7-10) is beautifully illustrated with bright colors by Zina Saunders. The depictions bring the reader closer to the reality of Darwin’s nineteenth century world. Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzinni’s illustrations in Animals Marco Polo Saw (Chronicle, $16.99; ages 7-10) are both vivid and somewhat smoky at the same time, demonstrating her originality. Her use of light and shadows are incredibly impressive, and I really enjoyed studying all the detail.

In the Darwin book, readers learn about the naturalist’s expedition aboard the HMS Beagle. The author does a good job introducing his theory of evolution to young readers, and I like the way she explains what Darwin was trying to accomplish on his voyage. In reality, Darwin’s findings and theories are quite sophisticated, and Sandra Markle simplifies it for children in a way that is understandable yet not at all patronizing. In Marco Polo, readers are taken on a j9780811850513_normourney from Italy, through the Middle East and to China, along the same path this great explorer took during the 13th century. Young readers learn about Marco Polo’s interest in the people he encountered (Kublai Kahn among them), their cultures and religions, as well as the many unique animals he saw that were unfamiliar to him. Both books highlight specific animals with offset copy, giving the reader a greater depth of information.

Also, each book starts off with a note to parents and teachers and has a Table of Contents. In the back is a Glossary, a “For More Information” page and even a helpful Index.

unknownAnimals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure and Animals Marco Polo Saw: An Adventure on the Silk Road teach children about two curious men from long ago, with great minds, who journeyed afar in search of answers. They each brought back an abundance of new information to share that would change the way we think and live. There is so much that Charles Darwin and Marco Polo have taught us, and these books are a great way to expose young readers to these great men.

dsc_0024-300x217Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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20Nov 09

Eclectic & Electric: Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin

Read what guest reviewer Debbie Glade thinks of a new biography for kids on Benjamin Franklin.

bfcover-221x161I had been thinking about reading a biography of Ben Franklin, when the opportunity came up for me to review Benjamin Franklin, American Genius: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities. (Chicago Review Press, $16.95, ages 9 – 12). Naturally I jumped at the chance. Ever since I started to read the book, I have noticed just how often Franklin’s name has come up on television, in movies, in newspaper and magazine articles, in other books and in every day conversations. As a nation, we owe a great deal to Franklin, and award-winning writer, Brandon Marie Miller explains why in this book.

No one could dispute the fact that Benjamin Franklin was one of the most ingenious Americans of all time. A lover of books and learning, Franklin educated himself and was in so many ways, ahead of his time. He was a printer, a publisher, a writer, a scientist, a businessman, a politician, an educator and so much more. His combination of intelligence, freethinking and persistence changed our nation and the world.

Franklin and Adams reviewing Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence (pg. 80), courtesy of Library of Congress

Franklin and Adams reviewing Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence (pg. 80), courtesy of Library of Congress

Readers will learn about Franklin from birth to death. They will get a glimpse into his writings and printing expertise. They will discover in detail the extensive electrical science experiments Franklin completed and how Franklin continued to pursue scientific truths in spite of being criticized by other scientists for his findings. (Check out page 43 for an excellent, simple explanation of the Basics of Electricity.) They will learn how he founded the first library and what is now the University of Pennsylvania. Readers will also come to know how Franklin got involved in politics, signed the Declaration of Independence and negotiated treaties with France and Great Britain.

Benjamin Franklin, American Genius was written for 9-12 year old readers. I like the fact that it is quite a meaty and comprehensive book (122 pages), as most books for readers of this age are not as thorough. It is obvious that Brandon Marie Miller spent a great deal of time researching Franklin to write this factual account. The book is ideal for use in the classroom, and there are 21 fascinating activities for students scattered throughout the book. From dipping candles to making a walking stick, there are a lot of fun and interesting projects that will teach students about American life in the 1700s.

Franklin, in fashionable wig, pointing to a stroke of lightning, courtesy of Library of Congress

Franklin, in fashionable wig, pointing to a stroke of lightning, courtesy of Library of Congress

In addition to the activities, the book includes many drawings and photographs plus a resource guide with vocabulary words, Ben Franklin-related places to visit and further reading suggestions. This is the kind of book that is not just for the classroom. The entire family will enjoy reading Benjamin Franklin, American Genius and delving into the captivating life of one of our greatest citizens. Available at bookstores everywhere and through Independent Publishers Group at www.ipgbook.com

Note: This book mentions that Franklin “hung out with low women” despite his engagement to a Deborah Read and also indicates that Franklin fathered a child with a woman he never married. That child was born after his marriage, and his wife raised the child, even though she was not the biological mother. These facts are worded gently, however given the young age of the targeted readers (9-12), this may generate some questions.

dsc_0024-300x217Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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23Nov 09

Earth Bug Action

jacket-earth-bugsIntroducing the Earth Bugs’ first book! Lu and the Earth Bug Crew Zap the Energy Spikes by Derek Sabori ($17.95; ages 5-10) is just the right vehicle to pave the way for meaningful discussion about energy, recycling and the environment with your children. In addition to its being a fun and educational story to share with kids, the illustrations by Steve Riley and Mark Adams are colorful, creative and so very au courant! So get your copy today and get ready for Lu, Rock, Fern, and Kordy to become your child’s newest BFFs.

page-3I met local author, Derek Sabori at a green event in Pasadena this summer and read the book that evening. I simply did not want to wait until Earth Day 2010 to recommend it to readers.

Boys and girls  (all over, especially Southern Californians, will get a kick from the skate and surf theme which dominates the book. More than that, though, they’ll enjoy the action and adventure as the Earth Bug crew are pitted against the nasty Energy Spikes whose very existence is a result of waste and “un-green” behavior worldwide. While kids will certainly find the battle scene and resourcefulness of Lu’s Earth Bug Crew thoroughly entertaining, parents will welcome that Earth Bug books are printed using soy-blended inks and printed on 10% post-consumer waste paper helping to reduce the “environmental footprint…in an eco-friendly manner.” Readers can learn more and purchase the book at www.earthbugcrew.com. A handy Eco-Glossary is included in the end pages. I’m an Earth Bug. Are you?


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24Nov 09

The Battle for Duncragglin


Count on avid reader and guest reviewer Vinny to find the most fascinating fiction for Middle Schoolers. Today’s book is recommended for ages 11 and up and is published by Tundra Books.

9781770490253I thought that the book The Battle for Duncragglin by Andrew H. Vanderwal was a fantastic story that tells how Scottish descendents, Alex Macpherson and three of his friends, Annie, Willie, and Craig, managed to go back in time through underwater caves below the cliffs of Scotland. Both Alex and his friends had reasons why they wanted to go inside the caves. Alex’s goal was to find his missing parents, and his friends’ goal was to find their missing mother, all were said to have disappeared in the village where the crushed remains of Duncragglin castle once stood, brave and proud. When they awoke from what seemed like a terrible dream in the caves, from getting lost, to seeing unreal visions, they find themselves back in the time of medieval Scotland, where there were castles and guards and war.

Throughout the story, Alex and his three friends learn what it means to be a part of history, from being held captive, to eating stale bread, to fighting in war. Meanwhile the battle for the Scottish castle, Duncragglin, rages on, and the feeling of war is traveling and spreading through the medieval air. It affected everyone, including Alex and his friends. Will Alex rescue his captive friends before they are hung at the guillotine? Will Alex and William Wallace’s team be able to defeat Lord Husselrige’s? Alex, Willie, Annie, and Craig ever be able to reach the portal back home? Will Alex stay back and search for his long-lost parents? Will his friends find their mother? You have to read to find out! You’ll want to because this novel has its twists and turns like any great book. I do recommend this book; it was a plate of historical fiction. I wanted seconds.

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01Dec 09

Milo’s Special Words

dsc08201These books were reviewed by Heather, a physical therapist and former L.A. mom recently relocated to Manhattan. Kieran is almost 2 1/2 years old and soon to be a big sister. One of her favorite activities is storytime with mommy and daddy and she especially likes to question “Why?” with each turn of the page.

Getting this book to review could not have been more timely. My daughter, Kieran has recently taken to placing orders with us rather than saying the preferred “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Milo’s Special Words (Robin Corey Books from Random House) by Charise Mericle Harper features Milo, a little toddler cat thirsty for milk. However, his mommy (who 2happens to be a bunny) won’t get it unless he uses those magic words. With the assistance of his little sister, Lucy (a puppy), he is able to ask nicely and enjoy his milk. Kieran loves to sit down and read this book with us, which is great to further reinforce her learning of these good manners. This is an interactive book that includes flaps and wheels. I like that although it has these features, they are not on every page. This allows her to enjoy the story with me, rather than focusing on flipping the flap or turning the wheels right away. Her favorite page is helping the mommy “do the laundry” by spinning the large wheel. She looks up at me every time and asks “Why I am helping the mommy do the laundry?” Yet another good act I hope she continues.

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03Dec 09

Kohl’s Offers $5 Books

mouse-and-bookThis holiday season head over to your closest Kohl’s so you can stock up on books or use them to stuff stockings. Either way at $5 for a book or exclusive plush toy, you’ve got a sure hit on your hands (or under the tree).

Now through the end of December, for only $5, you can buy a copy of the best-selling If You Give… series by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond including If You Take A Mouse To The Movies, If You Give A Cat A Cupcake and so many more great titles. There are also adorable stuffed animals toys to accompany each all-plush-and-booksbook so why not get a set or two?

At more than 1,000 Kohl’s stores nationwide (or online at Kohls.com), your purchase can make a positive difference in the lives of children which the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program helps support.

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07Dec 09

Facebook Contest


tinycandy-coverHere’s a great way to win a bunch of new Christmas books (worth a total of $78.37), just in time for the holidays! I’ll supply the reading material and you supply the comments.

Read my online exclusive kris-kringle1Holiday Book Roundup at LAParent.com then go to the Good Reads With Ronna Facebook page and become a fan. It’s really that simple.

thegifts_To enter for your chance to win one set of these five wonderful books, all you need to do now is leave a comment on the Facebook page. Contest ends Dec. 18th so hurry! I’m looking forward to hearing from you.


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11Dec 09

Good Eats With Ronna


images-2Today’s posting is dedicated to Christina Elston and Debbie Glade who have both been teaching me how to cook.

I could not let Chanukah (or Hanukkah) pass by without changing Good Reads With Ronna to Good Eats With Ronna courtesy of El Al Airlines. While I won’t be flying to Israel this year, I do have a lot of family there and like Jews the world over, we celebrate our Festival of Lights by cooking some delicious foods in oil to commemorate the miracle of the day’s worth of oil discovered which actually burned for eight.

image001Here are a couple of Chanukah recipes from EL AL Airlines, Israel’s National Airline, for both latkes as well as sufganiots (donuts) . To make sufganiot and traditional latkes at home, follow the easy and tasty EL AL recipes outlined below, created by Executive Chef Steven Weintraub of Borenstein Caterers (a subsidiary of EL AL). Borenstein offers healthy, freshly prepared in-flight kosher meal options which are served to all passengers traveling from New York (JFK/Newark).

1 cup warm water All-purpose flour as necessary
1 cup sugar to give dough a bread-roll
4 oz. melted shortening (not too hot) consistency
1 dozen. whole eggs 24 oz. raspberry jam
2 tbs. baking powder 1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon

Combine yeast, water, sugar, shortening, eggs, baking powder and flour. Roll into donut hole-size balls. Set over warm stove and allow to rise to double in size. Fry donuts in hot oil until golden brown. Remove from grease and cool partially on wire rack. Fill with raspberry jam using a spiked pastry bag. Roll donuts in cinnamon-sugar. Cool at room temperature. Makes about 3 dozen.

5 raw, peeled, shredded Idaho potatoes
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 diced small spanish onion 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 diced red pepper 1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 cup flour 1 cup canola oil
1 egg (beaten)

images-1Sauté onions and red pepper in 2 tbs. in oil. Add shredded potatoes; quickly sauté and blend. Remove from heat and add flour, egg, baking powder, salt and pepper. Blend well. Heat skillet and add remainder of oil. Drop a 1/4 cup of mixture in a skillet. Form round pancakes and fry until golden brown on each side. Makes about 2 dozen.

As with all Jewish holidays EL AL, Israel’s national airline, is bringing Chanukah to the skies by serving thousands of passengers special holiday treats. An anticipated 1,375 potatoes, 6,600 ounces of raspberry jam, and 68 cups of cinnamon will be used to prepare festive sufganiot (jelly donuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) that will be served on flights from New York (JFK/Newark). These treats will also be offered in premium class lounges throughout the world, in addition to the selection of snacks that are usually available. A nightly candle lighting will also take place.

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14Dec 09

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) Down Deep

covermenorah-under-the-seaHappy Hanukkah! I have been hearing such wonderful things about this new book from Kar-Ben Publishing I had to blog about it. So the first thing I did when I got the galley was to ask my son, Coleman to read it. On a scale of 1 – 4, he enthusiastically rated it a 5!

Menorah Under The Sea by Esther Susan Heller introduces readers to marine biologist, David Ginsburg, at work one December in Antarctica. As The Festival of Lights approaches, Ginsburg wonders how, with constant daylight, he can celebrate menorah-sea-imagethis holiday when we traditionally light candles for eights days at sundown? While he had a portable Hanukkiah, a nine branched Menorah used only at Hanukkah, it was the darkness he sought.

My son and I enjoyed the photographs in this book because they took us down under to explore the sea along with Ginsburg, and in such a colorful way. But most of all, we loved the imaginative way marine biologist Ginsburg created his Menorah from sea urchins and star fish!

menorah-sea-image-2This/These [image[s] from Menorah Under the Sea appear with the permission of Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, MN. Copyright © 2009 by Lerner Publishing Group. For more information, please visit www.karben.com.

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16Dec 09

Hanukkah Around The World

hanukkah-around-the-worldHere’s a book for the whole family to share this December after the Menorah candles have gone out and all the latkes have been eaten. Called Hanukkah Around The World from Kar-Ben Publishing, this enlightening book, is written by Tami Lehman-Wilzig and illustrated by Vicki Wehrman.

booksFrom Istanbul, Turkey to Turin, Italy to Nabeul, Tunisia, readers are introduced to Hanukkah customs, traditions and recipes they’ll want to return to again and again.

I found the facts included both in each country section and in the end Hanukkah Potpourri end pages to be of particular interest. For example I had no idea it’s traditional to sing two songs after lighting the candles, nor did I know that Gerona, Spain has one of Europe’s best preserved medieval ghettos or that the Jewish community in Bukhara, Uzbekistan supposedly goes back 2,000 years.

books-1Between the beautifully drawn maps and other artwork plus the tempting international recipes and the handy glossary, there is much to enjoy and learn about. Whether you already celebrate The Festival of Lights or are just interested in other cultures, Hanukkah Around the World will take you on a fascinating journey.

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17Dec 09

Dreaming Anastasia

pc070618Today’s guest reviewer is Rebecca, a 12-year old girl from Virginia. She enjoys reading, playing the piano and violin and is currently writing her own book. She is on a competition dance team and during the summer she is enrolled in a theater group.

9781402218170-mDreaming Anastasia, written by Joy Preble is about three very different people, but they are
all linked in some way. Most people think that Anastasia Romanov, the last grand Duchess of Russia is dead, but she’s not. She is imprisoned in Baba Yaga’s hut. Baba Yaga is a “fictional witch.”

Anne Michaelson is a modern girl in high school. She is having weird dreams. She is dreaming that she is someone else, living someone else’s life. Ethan is a member of a secret immortal brotherhood. The brotherhood is supposed to protect Anastasia until she can be freed from Baba Yaga’s Hut. The Brotherhood is led by an evil man named Victor. Ethan’s job was to find Anne and get her to save Anastasia. Now he has met her and he has found out that this is going to be harder than he thought.

This was a great book for young adults. It had adventure, fantasy, history, and romance all wrapped into one book. I would give it a score of 9 on a scale of 1-10. I loved it!

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18Dec 09

Sure Picks for Your Holiday Shopping Cart

I adore this time of year because of all the beautiful books that come across my desk on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis. There is not enough time to review them all, but I can list some of the recent releases that have caught my eye and are certainly worth a second look.

There’s lots of fun books included below, so for all those ‘nice’ kids on your list, make some room in your shopping cart. Don’t forget to check out my Holiday Book Roundup and then become a fan of my Good Reads With Ronna blog on my Facebook page. Please leave a comment on Facebook for your chance to win 5 Christmas books which are described in a recent blog. Today is the last day to enter!

9781402758249mRichard Scarry’s Favorite Christmas Carols (Includes a musical keyboard!) from Sterling ($14.95, www.sterlingpublishing.com/kids; ages 4-8). Both my kids were huge Richard Scarry’s fans so when I saw this book, it brought back wonderful memories and a huge smile to my face. I even managed to pound out a few tunes.

0763644943medHo, Ho, Ho, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk (Candlewick Storybook Animations) from Candlewick Press ($14.99, www.candlewick.com; ages 2-5). Kids will love sharing Christmas with Tucker, the Terrier. An all-in-one activity pack includes an interactive poster, stickers, full-color hardcover book and a dual disk DVD with animation on one side and audio on the other, including a bonus audio track with page-turn signals. Take along this winter break either in the car or on the plane.

9780064435291The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown with pictures by Jim LaMarche (www.harpercollinschildrens.com, $6.99; ages 3-6). A classic Christmas tale by the author of Good Night Moon with illustrations as lovely as the story. Here’s a book certain to warm hearts on a chilly Christmas Eve.

0310719402-1The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain (Zonderkidz.com, $12.99; ages 4-7). Meet the the Bear Family who, while searching for a Christmas tree, learn a meaningful lesson from their Bear Country Friends about the importance of respecting nature.

9781402236419-300Coupons From Santa for Good Boys And Girls are adorable little stocking stuffers from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky (www.sourcebooks.com, $5.99; ages 3 and up). There are 22 green, red and white cool coupons in here for parents to hand out offering special privileges such as: “Santa’s letting you invite a friend to sleep over tonight.”

9781402768620tSecret Santa is a colorful, clever book packed with pop-ups cluing kids into the secrets abounding about Santa and his elves! The book is illustrated by Simone Abel with design and paper engineering by Richard Jewitt (www.sterlingpublishing.com/kids, $16.95; ages 4-6). With letters from kids and Santa on every spread, maybe your kids’ questions are answered here.

santa_bookSanta’s God by Neale Donald Walsch and illustrated by Em Claire (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, www.hamptonroadspub.com, $17.95; ages 4-8) is destined to become one of your family favorites. You’ll want to bring out this beautiful holiday book every year as you share this children’s fable “about the Biggest Question Ever.”

Additional titles worth noting:

The Nutcracker retold by John Cech and illustrated by Eric Puybaret
Maisy’s Snowy Christmas Eve
by Lucy Cousins (A Holiday Board Book)
Christmas Tree by David Martin and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Board Book)
Panda’s Christmas Gifts by Tara Jay Morrow and illustrated by Aaron Boyd
The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer and illustrated by Jannie Ho
A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Anne Mortimer

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19Dec 09

Win a Talkin’ Sid the Science Kid!

Calling all Sid fans and curious young scientists! You know the animated TV series, Sid The Science Kid produced by The Jim Henson Company and KCET (PBS/ Los Angeles). Well now you can bring the inquisitive 5-year old Sid right into your living room!

We have one of the first ever TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID plush toys to give away!! Simply click here for your chance to win this great prize and remember to write TALKIN’ SID in the subject. The contest ends Dec. 30. Click here for contest rules and good luck!

Plus, if you want to buy one immediately, you can get a $3.00 off coupon to use towards your purchase of the TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID plush toy from Playskool/Hasbro at Toys ‘R Us. Go to www.coupons.com and then click on the “Toy and Game” link on the left hand side of the page. Right now the TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID is only available at Toys ‘R Us


(Approx retail price: $24.99/Available Now; Ages 3 and up)

Now kids can bring their friend Sid home with the lively TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID plush character. This soft and loveable plush SID is 12 inches tall and comes ready to play and learn with his iconic “microphone.” Squeeze his belly to hear seven different popular phrases from the series. Requires two “AA” batteries, included. Plus this toy also includes a DVD called “The Sticker Chart.”

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21Dec 09

“I Love Costa Rica’s Rainforest!” Contest Winners

Debbie Glade is a regular contributor here at Good Reads With Ronna. I’m happy to share the following info with you about the contest I helped judge for Smart Poodle Publishing.

Smart Poodle Publishing Announces The “I Love Costa Rica’s Rainforest!” Contest Winners

Smart Poodle Publishing, publishers of the children’s book and CD, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica (978-0-9800307-9-2) announced the winners of its national “I Love Costa Rica’s Rainforest!” Writing and Art Contest for Children. 176 entries were received from children in grades kindergarten through 5. Students were asked to research the plants and animals of Costa Rica’s rainforest, write a real or imaginary story about the destination and illustrate their stories. Several teachers across the U.S .had each student in their classes submit an entry.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Publisher, Debbie Glade. “We never expected to receive so many excellent entries. And the artwork is incredible! We are grateful for the generosity of Rand McNally’s Online Store for donating such high quality educational prizes!”

Contest judges included: Ronna Mandel Associate Editor of LA Parent Magazine; Dr. Jessie Voigts, Publisher of Wandering Educators; Eli Gerzon, founder of World School Travel Tours, Dave Fox, award-winning travel author; Tim Lytle, Publisher of the Real Costa Rica website; Tim Ravenna, award winning graphic designer and artist; Rachel Glade, high school student, PSAT National Merit Scholar and College Board AP Scholar with distinction; and Debbie Glade, award-winning children’s book author, illustrator, book reviewer, comic strip artist and publisher.

The Contest winners are:

K5 – 1st Grade

First Place – Hansel Desouza (Age 6) CA
Second Place – Emily Juncosa (Age 7) FL
Third Place – Lauren Nicole Ramirez (Age 6) FL

Honorable Mentions
Hallie Fumero (age 6) FL
Breanna Galindo (Age 6)
Jadin Hankin (Age 6) TX
Suzanne Juncosa (Age 7) FL
Arianna Plancher (Age 6) FL

2nd – 3rd Grade

First Place – Peter Finch (Age 7) RI
Second Place – Adeline Shaw (Age 9) MI
Third Place – Justin La Jesse (Age 8) AL

Honorable Mentions
Kylie Grant (Age 8) FL
Jasmine Macchia (Age 8) FL
Michael Pierce (Age 8) FL
Anita Summers (Age 7) NC
Colby Tomasello (Age 8) FL

4th – 5th Grade

First Place – Kevin Huo (Age 10) CA
Second Place – Aidan Hawkesworth (Age 9) FL
Third Place – Nimai Agarwal (Age 10) MD

Honorable Mentions
Cassandra Anderson (Age 9) FL
Claire Bower (Age 9) FL
Kennesey Del Castillo (Age 10) AZ
Daniel Marquina (Age 9) FL
Melanie Rose Hampton (Age 9) AZ
Emily Weeks (Age 9) FL

The award winning entries and list of prizes donated by Rand McNally’s Online Store can be viewed at url= http://smartpoodlepublishing.com/contest.html.

Debbie Glade
Smart Poodle Publishing

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22Dec 09

Call Of The Poodle

pc070621 Matthew, a 10-year old boy from Virginia, is today’s guest reviewer. He loves to play basketball, is very involved in the Weeblos and loves to camp. He also plays piano and viola. 9781416974741I really, really liked 100% Wolf, written by Jayne Lyons with illustrations by Victor Rivas. I thought it was funny that Freddy Lupin was all ready to become a great wolf like his father and instead turns into a pink poodle. Freddy tries to figure out how to help himself, and he meets fun dogs along the way. Freddy realizes it’s okay to be different.

This book made me laugh. A lot of my friends want to read it after I told them about it. I think you will want to read it, too!

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29Dec 09

Dec. 30 is Last Day to Enter Talkin’ Sid The Science Kid Contest

Calling all Sid fans and curious young scientists! You know the animated TV series, Sid The Science Kid produced by The Jim Henson Company and KCET (PBS/ Los Angeles). Well now you can bring the inquisitive 5-year old Sid right into your living room!

We have one of the first ever TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID plush toys to give away!! Simply click here for your chance to win this great prize and remember to write TALKIN’ SID in the subject. The contest ends Dec. 30. Click here for contest rules and good luck!

Plus, if you want to buy one immediately, you can get a $3.00 off coupon to use towards your purchase of the TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID plush toy from Playskool/Hasbro at Toys ‘R Us. Go to www.coupons.com and then click on the “Toy and Game” link on the left hand side of the page. Right now the TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID is only available at Toys ‘R Us


(Approx retail price: $24.99/Available Now; Ages 3 and up)

Now kids can bring their friend Sid home with the lively TALKIN’ SID THE SCIENCE KID plush character. This soft and loveable plush SID is 12 inches tall and comes ready to play and learn with his iconic “microphone.” Squeeze his belly to hear seven different popular phrases from the series. Requires two “AA” batteries, included. Plus this toy also includes a DVD called “The Sticker Chart.”

read more
30Dec 09

Finesse Your Family Tree

th_scotland_bagpipePerhaps your children spent some of this holiday with relatives who were not born in the United States. Well I’ve got just the perfect way to help you delve into your family’s past. In our home, a copy of My Heritage Book arrived just in time for my third-grader’s Family Pilgrim project at school. He began asking questions about which of his grandparents or great grandparents came to America from another country.

sample2My Heritage Book (KidsHeritage Inc., www.myheritagebook.com, $39.95; ages 5 and up) by Deanna Bufo Novak with beautiful watercolor pictures by Alicia Bresee, helps children embrace their heritage and is sure to become a treasured keepsake. In this personalized book, children foray into the past to learn about their family’s ancestry with more than 60 countries to choose from. My Heritage Book also includes a letter to the child from the person(s) purchasing it, the child’s birth date, the child’s name throughout, a glossary, and pages where the child can fill in his or her own family’s traditions and a family tree. Each book contains up to th_ar_mapfour countries, making this an ideal gift for multi cultural families. The ordering process is easy: simply go online, choose up to four countries of origin (see website for complete listings), then fill out the required fields with the child’s first, middle and last name. There are also prompts for the child’s birth date and a closing for the letter on the first page (i.e. We Love You!) along with names for the closing letter (i.e. Mommy & Daddy).

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31Dec 09

There’s No Place Like a Funeral Home

pc0706211Matthew is a 10-year old boy from Virginia. He loves to play basketball, is very involved in the Weeblos and loves to camp. He also plays piano and viola.

9781416935964From the The Funeral Directors Son series comes Kip Campbell’s Gift, written by Coleen Murtagh Paratore. This is the best book I have ever read. Kip Campbell can talk to dead people. That’s really awesome. Some people think Kip is weird, but I think that would be cool. Kip helps his family because he can talk to dead people. The dead people leave Kip gold when he helps them.

Editor’s Note: This book is recommended for ages 8-12. If you want to get hooked, try reading an excerpt from the first chapter by clicking here now.

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01Jan 10

Getting Back Into the Yard


b02635treasuresmFrom L.A. Parent’s Managing Editor, Christina Elston, comes this timely review as families make resolutions to get the kids (and themselves) off the couch and away from the computer.

Remember Follow the Leader, Kick the Can, neighborhood baseball? These were the things we did as kids when the grown-ups sent us outdoors to play. And without such enticements as chat rooms, iPods and Nintendo, these were the best game in town.

b02635baseballFor children of the electronic age who might not have learned these neighborhood pastimes (and consequently spend lots more time sitting), there’s a new series of books called Project Play ($9.99-$14.99, www.ProjectPlayBooks.com).

b02635leadersmThe series features hardcover rhyming books for new readers (around ages 5-7) and paperback chapter books for the big kids (ages 8-12). Both sets of tales feature “Play it Again” Sam and his friends on the block as they play classic outdoor games. The narrative and illustrations are engaging enough to inspire your own kids to give these games a try – and the books oblige by including the rules. Hardcover books offer parents tips for getting the game going. The 5th installment in the series is called Ghosts In the Graveyard

Be a Character in Project Play’s Upcoming Book Contest:

From January – June 2010 they are accepting applications for children ages 5-12 to suggest a great game and story about that game for their next book.

Looking for the latest health news? Check out Managing Editor Christina Elston’s “Health-e” blog at L.A. Parent.com

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05Jan 10

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs Giveaway

“A perfect storm of humor, heart and hot dogs.” – Michelle Tan, People Magazine

cloudy-art-of-making-bookFrom the Academy Award ® nominated studio behind Open Season comes CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, the box office hit from Sony Pictures Animation, arriving on DVD, Blu-ray TM High-Def and PSP, today, Tuesday, January 5.

To celebrate the DVD release of this classic kids’ book, “Good Reads With Ronna” is giving away (1) fun prize pack worth a total of $60.

1 lucky winner will get:

ratbird-image(1) The Art and Making of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs book by  Tracey Miller-Zarneke, $50. This behind-the-scenes look at the hit film features interviews and insights from film designers about special effects and animation techniques in 300 colorful pages. Plus there’s scratch-and-sniff stickers, a booklet on “How To” make the perfect burger and so much more!

(1) Plush Toy Ratbird will be the perfect companion as you read the book, $10.

Please click here for your chance to win and remember to type CLOUDY in the subject. The contest ends on January 18. For rules, click here now.


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12Jan 10

Add These Books to Your Collection

p1210564Today’s guest review family is the Medina family from the San Fernando Valley area. Audrey Medina, a mother of two works at Wella Corp as Color Tech Support and her husband, Tony Medina works as an ad developer for Los Angeles News Group. They are the proud parents of Gavin, a Pre-K student in Woodland Hills and Reese, their 6 month old cutie pie.


9781416950561My son Gavin is four. He was immediately drawn to the stark graphic illustrations as well as the interactive pop up sequences in School Bugs by David A Carter. The text nicely bolstered the illustrations. It was short, sweet and a nice paced read, the perfect night capper for the kiddies.

I would not recommend this book for very young toddlers in observance of the intricate pop ups which might tear easily, or at the very least not something left on the book shelf within the reach of the young toddlers. However I do recommend it highly for the rest looking to bolster their story book library.


9780545101455_lgThe illustrations in There Was An Old Monster, by Rebecca Emberley with illustrations by Ed Emberley and Rebecca Emberley, were subdued against the dark backdrop of the pages.
I felt with the proper reading style (low gruff dramatic voice) Gavin’s interest was held. Also accompanied by the occasional scare and grab tactics for emphasis. For those nights when some energy is in vast reserve this book helped expend some of it.

I do recommend it highly for the over age 3 crowd.

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13Jan 10

The Looking Book

51e7imzbjjl_sl500_aa240_The cover of The Looking Book by P.K. Hallinan is so cute, I couldn’t wait to open it up. A mommy insists that her boys stop watching TV and go outside to play. But the boys resist until Mommy gives them “lookers,” special glasses that she promises will help the boys see things like they’ve never seen them before. (This got me excited to read on.)

The first thing the boys notice are the green, green leaves on a tree, followed by marching bugs, twigs, rocks and much more. From the smell of roses to a purring kitten, these boys really have a great time exploring their yard. It’s so much more fun that just watching TV! Best of all, in the end they discover something important about their “lookers.” Artist,
Patrice Barton’s wonderful illustrations are perfect for this book. Author P.K. Hallinan has more than 8 million books in print, and loves to inspire young readers and teach them about life values. He does exactly that in The Looking Book.

dsc_0024-300x217Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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14Jan 10

It’s All in The Wrist

img00212Welcome to new guest reviewer, Angie C. Angie is an on-air radio personality and entertainment reporter. She worked for many years in Boston radio at heritage alternative station WFNX, and has also worked in various markets around the country including the legendary Indie 103.1 FM in Los Angeles. She can currently be heard weekdays on www.HoundstoothRadio.com. Angie is a wife, and mother of an energetic and creative 5-year old daughter named Kendall. She now calls Studio City, CA her home.

9780753463802I Can Draw: PETS, illustrated by Simon Abbott (MacMillan/Kingfisher), is a “wipe clean” book that teaches children how to draw basic animal shapes in a few quick steps. My 5 year old LOVES to draw, so this was right up her alley. Once she saw the basic outline of the animal she was off and running. It wasn’t long before she was drawing other animals and shapes in the book. The illustrations are simple and effective. This book definitely improved my daughter’s animal drawing ability! Very cute. EDITOR’S NOTE: This book is recommended for ages 3-6 and is part of the I Can Draw series of books.

img00215The first thing I’ll say about The Zoo I Drew by Todd H. Doodler (Random House) is how much I LOVE the cover. It’s corrugated (cardboard)! Or at least, it’s textured to feel that way. I’m big on textures. Once you open this book, you realize that 11this is an alphabetical tour of animals through the Zoo. (A is for Alligator, B is for Beaver…etc) The illustrations of the animals are very simple and cartoonish. The descriptions of the animals and their histories are cute and written in rhyme. I think I liked this book a bit more than my daughter did. Well, to be fair, it just held my attention longer than hers. I would say it’s probably more for 3 to 5 year olds.

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15Jan 10

I’m Indestructible Baby!

Nothing Can Do Me No Harm …

9780761156963creep1Introducing the fantastic new “Indestructibles” series for ages 0 and up from Workman Publishing. Right now there are three titles, Creep! Crawl!, Flutter! Fly!, and Wiggle! March!, all the brainstorm of Amy Pixton, a mom of triplets. With the help flutter1of her mother-in-law, illustrator, Kaaren Pixton, Amy’s idea has come to fruition in the form of these chew proof, rip 9780761156970-1proof books. Not only are the books beautiful to look at, they are fun to touch, too. The best part is they are non-toxic and 100% washable (and waterproof) so your little ones can drool and spit on them to their heart’s delight. Expect to see more of this series because it is sure to be a hit!

wiggle1Oh, and did I mention you can fold them every which way? I just love the idea of scrunching up these books in a diaper bag or glove compartment 9780761156987and pulling them out whenever you need to entertain or distract your child. The artwork is irresistible, bright and simple and since there are no words, the reader can make up a new story each time. As babies grow and develop, the stories can adapt to every new stage of their life. And because of their durability, these books are destined to last, providing years of reading enjoyment. Priced at just $4.95 each, you will definitely want to buy all three.

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17Jan 10

Last Chance for Cloudy With a Chance …

Tomorrow is your last chance to enter this contest! IMPORTANT: All entries must be sent to this e-mail address so click for the link now.

To celebrate the DVD release of this classic kids’ book, “Good Reads With Ronna” is giving away (1) fun prize pack worth a total of $60.

1 lucky winner will get:

ratbird-imagecloudy-art-of-making-book(1) The Art and Making of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs book by Tracey Miller-Zarneke, $50. This behind-the-scenes look at the hit film features interviews and insights from film designers about special effects and animation techniques in 300 colorful pages. Plus there’s scratch-and-sniff stickers, a booklet on “How To” make the perfect burger and so much more!

(1) Plush Toy Ratbird will be the perfect companion as you read the book, $10.

Please click here for your chance to win and remember to type CLOUDY in the subject. The contest ends on January 18. For rules, click here now.


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18Jan 10

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Clifford

pbs_kids_logoleftbox-littleScholastic Media and PBS Kids invite families to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Clifford the Big Red Dog!

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, PBS KIDS and Scholastic Media will kick off “BE BIG WITH CLIFFORD: TEN DAYS, TEN WAYS,” featuring ten days of favorite Clifford episodes that will focus on each of Clifford’s ten Big Ideas. The ten days of programming will begin on Monday, January 18th, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and showcase important life lessons that help teach social and character building skills.

If you’re looking for any entertainment highlights this month, “BE BIG WITH CLIFFORD: TEN DAYS, TEN WAYS” will be a best bet for you and your family. It’s also great for parents of young children who may be unable to participate in a major volunteering project on MLK Day.

Click here now to see a clip.

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19Jan 10

One Very Curious Cat

Here’s regular contributor Debbie Glade’s impression of this smart and stylish series. “I love Candlewick Press books! Oscar and the Snail: A Book About Things We Use is unique, creative and educational.” Read more below:

This “Start with Science Book” features Oscar the curious white kitten, who loves to explore both inside and out, like kittens often do. But this special 0763640395medcat asks a lot of questions about why things are the way they are. Through his snail friend, Oscar learns about how birds use items they find like sticks and feathers to make their nests, why rocks don’t float and even how glass is made. Oscar and the Snail introduces very young children, age 4 and up, to the science of making things out of different materials and why we use those materials. At the end of the book is a simple chart that 07636403951summarizes what Oscar learned in the garden and where the materials come from. Written and illustrated by Geoff Waring, this simple little book is really quite sophisticated. Click here to read about more books in the “Oscar” series.

debbiegladeDebbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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19Jan 10


Congratulations to Erika Lutz, winner of the Good Reads With Ronna CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS contest.  Thank you to all who entered.  Coming soon: CALL OF THE WILD DVD contest.

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20Jan 10

Revisiting a classic – Mr. Popper’s Penguins

9780316058438_154x233Originally published in 1938, and a “Newbery” honor book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins still delights. I asked my son, Coleman, a third-grader, to read the book without mentioning its classic status and he raved about it. Having a cool cover design by Michael Emberley pulled him in, but the marvelous story by Richard and Florence Atwater with illustrations by Robert Lawson is what kept his interest peaked.

According to Coleman, the main characters in the book are Mr. and Mrs. Popper, their son Bill and daughter Janie plus 12 penguins. Mr. Popper is a house painter and one day he sends a letter to Admiral Drake in the South Pole. Several weeks later Admiral Drake’s show about his Antarctic explorations is live on the radio. During his show he addresses Mr. Popper on the radio, referring to his letter. “Since you want a little piece of Antarctica, there will be a special surprise for you in the mail.”

In a few weeks, the box from Admiral Drake arrives and when Mr. Popper opens it, out pops a penguin as curious as a cat. The penguin proceeds to explore the house and is named Captain Cook by the Popper family. When he gets sick, the local aquarium sends over another penguin named Greta. Soon Greta lays an egg and then another until there are a total of 10 baby penguins.

The story, according to my son, is about what life is like for the Poppers who are now the proud owners of 12 penguins. During their stay at the Popper home, the penguins discover that staircases are for tobogganing, and sibling rivalry is not all fun and games. The family puts on a show and travels from coast to coasst, but you have to read the book to find out the rest!

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21Jan 10

There’s a Babirusa in My Bathtub

babir-dKids love to learn about exotic animals, and so do I! Written by Maxine Rose Schur, There’s a Babirusa in My Bathtub: Fact and Fancy About Curious Creatures starts out with an adorable poem about unfamiliar ronna1animals. 13 unique animals are featured in this book, including introductory poems and fascinating info about each creature, “fabulous facts” and gorgeous illustrations by Michael Maydak.

Have you ever even heard of a Babirusa, also known as a pig deer in its native Indonesia? What about a bat-like Coluga from Southeast Asia? A Hagfish that makes a ronna3bunch of slime to make it hard for predators to catch it? And so much more! At the back of the book are two extra pages with fun facts and activities for readers to enjoy, including a list of other rare animals worth researching. There’s a Babirusa in My Bathtub is a great book for both kids and parents to learn about unusual critters. It will surely pique children’s curiosity enough to make them want to learn more about our wide and wonderful world.

Winner of the
2009 iParenting Media
Greatest Product Award


Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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25Jan 10

Call Of The Wild DVD Contest

Enter this contest to win one of two copies on 3-D DVD

cotw_3d_skew_dvdsmallYou’ve read the book, maybe even seen the 1972 version with Charlton Heston, but now this Jack London classic gets a family-friendly, modern day adaptation. From Vivendi Entertainment comes
Call of the Wild
on 3-D DVD available in stores now.

The all-star cast includes Back to The Future’s Christopher Lloyd, Ariel Gade, Wes Studi, Aimee Teegarden, Devon Graye, Kameron Knox, Jaleel White, Joyce DeWitt, Veronica Cartwright and Timothy Bottoms. For your chance to win one of two copies, click now and remember to enter CALL OF THE WILD in the subject line. For rules, click here now. The contest ends on February 8, 2010. Good luck!

Call of the Wild is the timeless story of a young girl visiting Montana who rescues an injured wolf that her grandfather feels she should return to the wild. Complications arise after she trains the wolf. The bonus features include a fun Call of the Wild game, a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as deleted scenes and audio commentary. The single disc DVD, containing both the 2-D and 3-D versions of the film, is a must for your family’s DVD library. Priced at $19.99, it comes with two pairs of special 3-D glasses.

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27Jan 10

Someone’s in the kitchen and cooking!

51rrzm19w1l_sl500_aa240_I have been using Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest Cookbook since I got married, some 21 years ago. Naturally I was delighted to be able to review her latest cookbook, Honest Pretzels: And 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Kids Who Love to Cook now in paperback. What a great name for a cookbook for kids, huh? And the cover is darling! Molly does her own cheerful illustrations, and I love them! She starts her book with two special messages: one to kids and one to the parents and then gets into basic cooking techniques and safety issues.How does a Giant Baked Pancake Puff sound for breakfast? Or a Grilled Cheese and Broccoli Sandwich for lunch? All the recipes you’ll find in here are vegetarian and are nutritious and delicious. Mysterious Dipping Sauce for Vegetables and Tofu caught my attention, as did Peanut Butter Do Dads and Purple Passion Power Shakes. Yum!

What makes this 178-page book perfect for kids to use is the fact that the author simplifies the cooking/baking process by breaking each recipe down into steps with basic illustrations. Before the recipes are listed, she also writes a beautiful introduction to the dish, explaining what the food is and why it tastes so good. Honest Pretzels is a beautiful cookbook that teaches kids the basics of cooking healthy vegetarian dishes and how to have fun while doing it. What a great gift for the child in your life.

Ready for more mouthwatering recipes?

51jmp7xycl_sl500_aa240_The Junior League has published over 200 popular cookbooks since 1940. Their latest, In the Kitchen with Kids: Every Day Recipes & Activities for Healthy Living, is an essential cookbook that was published to not only get children interested in cooking, but to teach them all about healthy eating. I love the fact that, although cooking or baking these recipes requires adult assistance, this book was written for children.

Beautiful illustrations, easy to follow recipes and complete nutritional information ensure that this cookbook will not just sit on the shelf. The recipes look delicious, and are essentially foods that children love, prepared in creative, healthy and appealing ways. How do Never-Fail Banana Muffins or a Make-a-Meal Sunrise Smoothie sound for breakfast? What about a Bunny Salad or Gobble-Up Turkey Burgers for a power lunch? And Porcupine Meatballs or Meat Loaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato and Carrot Icing for Supper? There are some beautiful desserts too, like Strawberry Yogurt Pops and Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon-Sugar Crisps.

In the back of the book you’ll find a food pyramid and nutritional guidelines that teach children about healthy eating in a most easy to understand way. If kids can learn to cook their own delicious food from an early age, they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices for life. In the Kitchen with Kids is a perfect way to get them started.

Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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27Jan 10

A Rollicking Good Time With Rhythm

stomp124_smallAdd buying tickets to Stomp to your must-do list today.  Last night I brought my husband to see the opening of the L.A. limited run (Jan. 26-Feb.7) and cannot thank him enough for urging me to attend!!  I had no preconceived notions of what to expect, and I can honestly say this show will not disappoint. Children and adults filled the packed Pantages Theatre and at the end, none of us wanted to leave. Maybe it was my seat’s proximity to the speakers, but I think not. There was a palpable energy last night encircling the audience and all credit goes to the amazingly talented cast for such an exuberant and skillful performance, the likes of which I’ve never seen elsewhere.

stomp2Billed as an “International Percussive Sensation,” Stomp is UNSTOMPABLE and during this tour, they’ve added some new surprises that are “the biggest since the late 1990s.” It seems there is nothing this group of young performers cannot turn into an instrument. I will never be able to look at a broom, a sink or for that matter, a folding chair, the same way again.  From a paper lunch bag to a truck tire’s inner tube, the Stomp crew created memorable music and creatively choreographed dance movements and skits to accompany every last beat.

stomp3I love a show with a sense of humor and this one had it whether it was simply suggestive (without words, only mimicry) like in the tube size certain characters were playing, where spotlights were focused, or with clever hand clapping. Without giving anything away, I’ll simply say that pulling the plugs from the portable sinks made for quite an entertaining moment on stage as did the superbly synchronized cigarette lighter sequence.  The lighting and set were brilliant and I cannot imagine any other way to stage a show like Stomp. When the cast clanged out a powerful performance while suspended above the stage, I knew I was experiencing one of the most enjoyable shows in decades and deserving of every honor it’s been awarded.

For more information visit www.stomponline.com or click here now.

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09Feb 10

Call of The Wild 3D Contest Winners Announced

Congratulations to Call of The Wild 3D (from Vivendi Entertainment) DVD contest winners Nate Kraut and Gwen Romine! A big thanks to all of you who entered. Watch this space for more exciting giveaways coming soon.

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12Feb 10

Children’s Book World

cbw-right-colorsHere’s a quick rundown of what’s happening at Children’s Book World in February:

ellenscbwimg_0725February 13 – Storytelling With Ellen Switkes, 10:30 a.m., ages 3-7 Join professional storyteller Ellen Switkes for interactive storytelling fun with classic children’s books and tales.

Feb 20 – Mandarin Fun Chinese New Year Storytime With Michele Wong McSween, 10:30 a.m., ages 3-6 Join author Michele Wong McSween for Chinese New Year fun. In Michele’s new books, Gordon & Li Li: Learn Animals In Mandarin and Gordon & Li Li: Count in Mandarin, cousins Gordon, from New York, and Li Li from China, teach each other their favorite animals and how to count in Mandarin. gl-count-in-mandaringl-animals-in-mandarin


*Feb 22 – Shannon and Dean Hale Author Talk & Book Signing, 4:15-5:30 p.m. Westwood Branch Library Join award-winning author Shannon Hale and Dean Hale for an author talk, hosted by Children’s Book World and the Westwood Branch Library, about their popular graphic novels, the new Calamity Jack and Rapunzel’s Revenge, and Shannon’s other books. A sequel to the highly acclaimed Rapunzel’s Revenge, the Hales have delivered an all-new, hilarious tall tale about Jack, his beanstalk .. and his best-friend-with-wicked-braids, Rapunzel. ilenecohen227grandopening-010

Feb. 27 – Storytelling With Ilene Cohen, 10:30 a.m., ages 3-7 Join Ilene Cohen and her puppet friend Woody for stories and songs.

10580 1/2 Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, 90064
(310) 559-BOOK www.childrensbookworld.com

*Westwood Branch Library
1246 Glendon Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90024

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16Feb 10

So Many Questions!


It’s obvious that Dr. Stephen Law, the author of Really, Really Big Questions: About Life, the Universe and Everything, (Roaring Book Press) wrote this book just for me. After all, my husband often says of my curiosity, “Why did I marry Andy Rooney?” I just like to ponder things I don’t understand and then dig for the answers, question the data and look for the truth. And if your child is one who asks you relentless questions, then you’ve got to get this book.

I love that the cover of Really, Really Big Questions is made to look worn. When you open it up you will see big titles, colorful paper and simple yet bold illustrations. The purpose of the book is to address “The biggest and strangest questions of all.” Can you bend a spoon with your mind? Can I make something true by believing it? Did we all used to be monkeys?

The author will really make you think as you read. In fact the answers are not really answers, rather they are “ponderables” to make you think long and hard about what you are asking. And there is a great sense of humor amongst the discussions here. Sometimes we will learn that the problem lies in the question itself, rather than the answer. For example, “Can I think about nothing?” Go ahead, you try to think about nothing. Well, can you?

My favorite children’s books are ones that parents and grandparents enjoy reading as much as kids do. This is the kind of book where you read one chapter and then discuss your thoughts in detail. It’s the kind of book that gets your mind rolling, and you won’t be able to stop it. I am still stuck on the question “What is the meaning of life?” where Dr. Law has the reader imagining that his or her purpose in life to clean alien underwear and love doing it. Don’t worry. You’ll “get it” when you read it for yourself.

debbiegladeDebbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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18Feb 10

Ballet Advice from Twinkletoes

51kqnct38gl_sl500_aa240_norahandjuliaGuest reviewer and mother of three (Julia, 7, Norah, 5 and Evelyn, 1), Jessica Smith from Dracut, MA is back.

Having two girls who are both currently taking ballet classes, we were delighted when we sat down to read The Ballerina’s Handbook from Templar Press (ages 4-8). The book begins with a fold-out letter from Flora Twinkletoes, whose journey through ballet we follow throughout the book. She encourages the reader of the book to “stand tall, hold your head high” and to “find the dancer in you.” Ideal for my almost seven-year old, The Ballerina’s Handbook is filled with letters, postcards, booklets and flaps that make it seem as though you’re reading Flora’s own personal scrapbook.

Julia and Norah practicing a position

Julia and Norah practicing a position

From advice on how to find a dance class, what to pack in your dance bag, how to decipher the positions and language of ballet, and how to present oneself to an audience, The Ballerina’s 51blnjvzggl_aa240_Handbook does not disappoint with its soft, watercolor-like pictures and fold-out surprises. We even read along as Flora shares mementos from ballet school, rehearses for a recital, and joins a ballet on tour. My girls especially loved the handy cards that tutor the reader in the five positions of ballet. They wasted no time practicing these moves themselves as they flitted around the living room, imagining themselves as graceful ballerinas.

As a mom, I especially liked that Flora also shares the history of ballet in snippets small enough for a young child to take in while also showing the reader the beauty, fun and excitement of dance. This is a must-read for the dancer (or the dreamer!) in your home!

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22Feb 10

This World Is Your World

The spectacular illustrations of Caldecott Honor Medalist Marla Frazee make All the World a very special book. Visit this illustrator’s website www.marlafrazee.com, learn about how much effort she puts into her illustrations and you too will be enchanted as well as inspired. Her illustrations of rainfall are extraordinary!

9781416985808All the World (Simon & Schuster, grades Kindergarten – 2) is a big square picture book with big double page pictures and short, rhyming prose by author Liz Garton Scanlon. It’s about our world and all the things in it – us, our families, the food we eat, our land, the sky, our weather and much more. The text sends the youngest of readers an uncomplicated, but important message about the basics of our earth and our lives, while the illustrations take you right to where the author wants you go.

This is the kind of book you keep on the shelf for years, read over and over again and savor the illustrations to capture what you missed the time before.

“All the world is here. It is there. It is everywhere. All the world is right where you are. Now.”

debbieglade1Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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25Feb 10

Much Ado About Maisy!

teaandmaisyimages-2L.A. Parent’s graphic artist, Terresa Burgess takes a look at a bunch of books starring MAISY, her daughter Teagan’s favorite character.

This special post is dedicated to Maisy. Maisy is one of Teagan’s favorite characters from a book. Not a day goes by without reading at least one Maisy book. Maisy is fun, simple and I think Teagan can relate to that mouse’s experiences and emotions. They both love to explore, play and set out on adventures. Toddlers are influenced by their surroundings. They are sponges when it comes to what they see and what they hear. My husband and I feel that the Maisy series has a positive effect on Teagan’s reading and language skills. She recognizes many of the words she sees in the Maisy books in her daily reading. We also love how friendship is a theme throughout Maisy’s
books. Many of Maisy’s experiences are shared with her friends Charley, Eddie, Cyril and Tallulah, much like what Teagan shares with her new friendships.

Check out these titles by Lucy Cousins published by Candlewick Press:

maisyblocksMaisy’s Book Tower ($9.99, ages 2-5) features 4 small block books packaged in one tall box. These tiny and fun books include Maisy’s favorite animals, toys, clothes and things. The books are great for learning and associating words and pictures. The books stand up to the rough and tumble hands of our toddler. Once kids are done they can stack the books on top of each other like blocks. Teagan loved the books. These cute little books that are easy to carry and care for came in handy when my husband, Teagan and I went out
for dinner the other night. Have Maisy will travel. Maisy’s Book Tower is available this February 2010.

The following Maisy titles ($12.99, ages 2-5) all belong to the First
Experiences Book

maisylibrarymuseumIn Maisy Goes to the Museum, Maisy spends the day exploring a museum. Visiting a museum is super quality time spent exposing kids to history, science, art, and Teagan’s favorite – dinosaurs! The last time we read this book Teagan counted the bones on the T-Rex.

In Maisy Goes to the Library, it’s book time! Maisy is on a quest for a book about fish. On her search she encounters her friends and their noisy library discoveries. Maisy loves her friends but she also enjoys quiet time. Libraries are a great place for kids of all ages to find a quiet spot and melt into a book. We don’t know if Teagan is ready for the library as of yet. Quiet is not a toddler vocabulary word! But she does like to say “shhhhh!”

The last title in my review belongs to A Maisy First Science Book series:

Toddlers are constantly on the go. Running, jumping, riding, always moving! Maisy’s Book of Things That Go ($12.99 , ages 3 and up) addresses a toddler’s curiosity of how things work. In this particular book we find out what makes a bike pedal. Teagan has been trying very hard to learn how to ride her tricycle. This series features paper engineering with pop-ups, pull-tabs, rotating wheels and other paper devices to show how things work. Teagan loves books that come alive. But I make sure that I supervise and monitor her as she handles these types of books. Sometimes she gets a little too excited and pulls the tabs too hard. This book is available May 2010.

All of the Maisy books are delightful and engaging. The story lines are fun and toddlers can relate to them. The illustrations are bright, colorful and I like how the books aren’t gender specific.

Learn more about Maisy, and Lucy Cousins at Maisy’s Fun Club where you’ll find crafts, downloadable coloring pages, games and more!

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26Feb 10

Oh, The Fun You Can Have!

event_detailread-across-america-logoLooking for something fun and free to do this weekend? Well if you and your kids are fans of books and love to read, head over to your nearest Target. Oh all the places you’ll go!

This Saturday, February 27, 9 – 11 a.m., all Target stores nationwide will host free in-store events including readings by volunteers and local notables, reading activities and giveaways.

imagesTarget has partnered with the National Education Association to support the Read Across America program. Click here for more information on the Read Across America program at Target. Just in case you were wondering, the Dr. Seuss theme honors the birthday of beloved author Theodor Geisel, (aka Dr. Seuss) born on March 2, 1904.

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02Mar 10

High-Tech “Digital Bookmobile” Rolls into L.A.

hm_logoIf you’re like me you probably never heard of the Digital Bookmobile, so consider checking it out at:

Central Library, March 3,

Mid-Valley Branch, March 4

This 71-foot, 18-wheeler is a high-tech update of a traditional bookmobile and comes to you courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Wednesday, March 3: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Central Library, Flower St between (between 5th & 6th St.), downtown L.A.
Thursday, March 4: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Mid-Valley Regional Branch, 16244 Nordhoff St., North Hills

WHAT: High-Tech “Digital Bookmobile” continues its national tour with stops at the Los Angeles Public Library to help Angelenos discover their library’s free downloadable electronic books, music and audiobooks.

The 71-foot, 18-wheeler “Digital Bookmobile” is free, open to the public and features:

· “Gadget Gallery” with iPod, Zune, Sony Readers and the latest electronic gear,

· Interactive learning stations with broadband PCs, high-definition monitors and a wide variety of portable devices, and

· Demonstrations of how to search and download the library’s digital collections.

Digital downloadable media are among the Library’s most popular collections and include 10,400 e-books, 4,500 e-audiobooks, 400 e-music titles and 1,500 e-videos. All are free and accessible at www.lapl.org.

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09Mar 10

A Snowflake & A Chicken Dance

We may be about to ‘spring forward’ this weekend, but I thought there was still time to get one last snowflake in there! Guest reviewer Michael is a 6-year old boy from Virginia. A proud Tiger scout, Michael also enjoys soccer and playing the piano. Michael has reviewed The Smallest Snowflake and Chicken Dance.

37190265I really liked The Smallest Snowflake ($16.95, NorthSouth Books, ages 3-8) written by Bernadette Watts with illustrations by Edith M B. B. All of the snowflakes found their home. The Smallest Snowflake had a hard time finding a special home. I thought the pictures were pretty.

39185208Chicken Dance, ($14.95, Sterling Press, ages 4-7) written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Santat was really funny. I liked the pictures. The chickens do dances to win a contest. No one thinks they can win. The chickens try very hard. Everyone is proud of them.39188178

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11Mar 10

Gotta Love ‘Em! A Charlie and Lola Contest

518tgvmjvrl_sl500_aa240_When we lived in London, my kids discovered the Charlie and Lola series of books from the very talented Lauren Child and soon so many of their expressions became commonplace in our household. Now I am excited to offer a reader contest for the latest DVD from BBC Video: Charlie and Lola Volume 10: I Can’t Stop Hiccupping and other stories based on their Playhouse Disney hit show here on the Disney Channel. This latest installment features Lola battling a bout of hiccups before a school performance in the title episode along with eight other episodes making this over an hour and half in content.

The popular Charlie and Lola books and DVDs are perfect for preschoolers. Join older brother Charlie and younger sister Lola in their endearing escapades presented in Child’s trademark photomontage style with realistic dialogue and engaging adventures. I love the sibling relationship and how Charlie cares so much for his younger sister and always hoped this sentiment would rub off on my oldest child.

The DVD series is a Gold Medal recipiet of the 2006 National Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA) and continues to receive countless honors in the parenting industry.

Enter here now for a chance to win one of two DVDs along with one of two paperback books I’ll be giving away. Remember to write Charlie and Lola as the subject. For rules click here. The contest ends on March 22.


  • cl10_3dCharlie and Lola Volume Ten: I Can’t Stop Hiccupping! (DVD)
  • 619gnshugol_sl500_aa240_I Can’t Stop Hiccupping! (paperback)
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12Mar 10

National Math Day is THIS SUNDAY, March 14th!

In honor of National Math Day, here’s a book that gives new meaning to number crunchers!

1Tyrannosaurus Math by Michelle Markel, with illustrations by Doug Cushman ($15.99, Tricycle Press, ages 6-9) is a fun new way for kids to explore mathematics. Fifteen math problems including numbers sentences, skip-counting and symmetry are explained courtesy of T-Math. Counting and problem-solving his way through this colorful book, T-Math makes this often vexing subject look easy (and whoever thought dinosaurs were brainy?). Join T-Math, his family and friends for a lively look at all sorts of math problems. The end page features Tyrannosaurus Math Skills, a handy review page of all the topics covered by the clever, claw-footed creature.

Make sure to visit the publisher’s Web site for an author interview and an excerpt from the book.

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15Mar 10

Beware The Ides of March

A Storyteller’s Version of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,
and The Story of Rome
, as told by Jim Weiss on CD
$13.45, www.greathall.com, ages 7 to adult
1124-44Beware the Ides of March. From Jim Weiss, winner of countless awards for his unparalleled storytelling, come some excellent additions to the Greathall collection. Weiss has a way of drawing listeners into a story and keeping them thoroughly entertained, and my husband and I are delighted when listening pulls our kids away from less educational electronic distractions. I can’t think of a better introduction to this timeless tragedy by Shakespeare than hearing it brought to life by Weiss with a variety of voice characterizations that keep the story moving. Weiss weaves excerpts from Julius Caesar in such a seamless fashion that kids will think they’ve read the entire classic. The Story of Rome includes background information to help set the scene for Julius Ceasar which follows, and is full of interesting anecdotes and facts I never learned in school. The CD ends with an epilogue called “What Happened Afterward.” There’s no better way to pass a long car journey with children than with Jim Weiss as your companion.

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18Mar 10

Mother/Daughter Book Party This Sunday!

Join L.A. Parent at the launch of our new BY THE BOOK series.

11You’ve seen the promos, now learn more about this exciting Mother/Daughter event L.A. Parent is sponsoring along with the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

Bring the tween readers in your family to the Community Center of La Canada Flintridge from 2-4p.m. this Sunday, March 21.
9780312602383 There will be 7 authors on hand to meet in a fun speed-dating style roundtable format where the authors will pitch their books in the hopes that your daughters will want to read them!

bobby_cover1Recommended for Girls in 3rd- 6th Grade and their Moms

Location: The Community Center of La Canada Flintridge 4469 Chevy Chase Dr., La Canada Flintridge

Date: Sunday, March 21 Time: 2- 4 PM

depressionmPrice: A $5.00 ticket covers both mother and daughter. Use your ticket to save $2.00 off a book purchased at the event.

Share your love of reading with your daughter and introduce her to 7 authors. Find terrific book selections for your Mother/Daughter Book Club. You will meet and talk with these authors: Carol Hughes, Victoria Forester, Amy Goldman Koss, Diane Leszezynski, Sally Nemeth, Heather Tomlinson, and Lisa Yee We recommend that you reserve a place for you and your daughter. Purchase a ticket in advance at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

We’ll be giving away a portable BOOK LIGHT IN A BOOKCOVER (with a retractable LED light) courtesy of PERISCOPE and a trendy tote bag courtesy of Ecobags (www.ecobags.com) made from 100% Recycled natural cotton fibers to raffle winners! Must be present to win.

Tickets will be available at the door, but space is limited.

Contact: Catherine Linka for more information. catherineL@flintridgebooks.com

Sign Up At The Front Desk.

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23Mar 10

Charlie & Lola Contest Winners Announced

Congratulations go out today to Charice Adams and the Bickham family, winners of the Charlie & Lola DVD and paperback book contest here at Good Reads With Ronna. Thank you to everyone who entered. Watch this space for an exciting Wii Storybook Workshop contest courtesy of KONAMI.

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24Mar 10

A Little Seuss Goes A Long Way

kohlsHead over to your closest Kohl’s so you can stock up on books or give them as birthday presents. Either way, at $5 for a book or exclusive plush toy or both, you can’t lose.

lorax-book-and-plushNow through the end of April, for only $5, you can buy a copy of the best-selling and beloved Dr. Seuss books The Lorax, The Foot Book, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! and If I Ran the Circus. There are also adorable stuffed animal plush toys to accompany each book and, at such an incredible value, why not get a set or two?

At more than 1,000 Kohl’s stores nationwide (or online at Kohls.com), your purchase can make a positive difference in the lives of children which the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program helps support. The program contributes 100% of the net profit to benefit children’s health and education initiatives nationwide.

seussbookandanimalsAs we approach Earth Day, there’s also an important lesson about caring for our environment that children can learn from reading the The Lorax and at the same time, parents can take something away with the New York Times Bestseller The Green Book, by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen, also available for just $5! This book is bursting with info about how to be eco-friendly and gives you the big picture all the way down to the little picture for things you can do right in your home. There’s also great reference tools and anecdotes from celebs such as Jennifer Aniston, Ellen DeGeneres and Will Ferrell about what they do to make a difference to the environment.

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27Mar 10

More Than Just A Pretty Cover

janfeb-2010-1234Last Sunday Catherine Linka of Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Canada and I had the pleasure and privilege of co-hosting  an awesome author event for tweens, billed as a Speed Dating With Authors Mother/Daughter Book Party. All I can say is we sure know how to grown ’em here in SoCa! Lucky for us, these six seriously talented authors (pictured at left) happen to live locally and love to encourage reading. The response from attendees was overwhelmingly positive and the atmosphere was electric due to the good vibes given off by these wonderful women writers.

Victoria Forester

Victoria Forester

Sally Nemeth

Sally Nemeth

Avid reader and La Canada mom, Juli Barry, said her her daughter, 9-year-old Julia Claire, found it thrilling to be able to meet authors and have them sign her books. “I learned from Lisa Yee that it was okay to read books about boys,” remarked Julia Claire.

S. Jones Rogan and guests

S. Jones Rogan and guests

Taking a turn at every author’s table, I also learned that you cannot tell a book by its cover (although there were lots of gorgeous covers). It was great having the opportunity to get up close and personal, learning about the motivation behind the books and what makes each writer tick.  I especially enjoyed getting the lowdown on  tempting plots a plenty plus colorful, charismatic characters. I strongly recommend you visit these authors’ Web sites or their publishers’ sites to get acquainted with this super selection of books for your voracious or reluctant reader.

Lisa Yee

Lisa Yee

Heather Tomlinson

Heather Tomlinson

Sally NemethThe Heights, the Depths and Everything in Between;

Heather TomlinsonToads and Diamonds, The Swan Maiden, Aurelie: A Faerie Tale;

Victoria ForesterThe Girl Who Could Fly;

Diane Leszezynski

Diane Leszezynski

Diane LeszezynskiFern Verdant & The Silver Rose;

S. Jones RoganThe Daring Adventures of Penhaligon Brush, The Curse of The Romany Wolves

Lisa YeeBobby vs. Girls (Accidentally), Absolutely Maybe, Millicent Min, Girl Genius, So Totally Emily Ebers, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time

clockwise l to r: L.A. Parent's Christina Elston, me, Catherine Linka and Jill Sayre

clockwise l to r: L.A. Parent's Christina Elston, me, Catherine Linka and Jill Sayre

These fab photos come courtesy of Gemma, my teen reader and Deb Littel, a local mom who truly captured the excitement of  L.A. Parent’s new “By The Book” series. Watch this space for reviews of these books and dates of more “By The Book” events coming soon.


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29Mar 10


tale-of-two-sedersA Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra Portnoy
Illustrations by Valeria Cis
($17.95, hardcover, $7.95 paperback www.karben.com, ages 5 to 9)
Splitting the two nights of Passover between her parents’ two houses after their divorce isn’t easy, but the main character in this poignant picture book finds something positive about the experience. Over the course of three years, she attends six seders and watches as her mom and dad move on with their lives in different ways. Author Mindy Avra Portnoy uses the seders to convey the little girl’s feelings as she adjusts to new people and new traditions. I liked Portnoy’s use of charoset (a varying mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine representing the mortar used by Jewish slaves when building cities for the Egyptian Pharaoh) at her dad’s apartment, her mom’s home and at the synagogue as a way to show that families also vary in composition. The girl’s mom explains: Some are sweeter than others. But each one is tasty in its own way. The end pages contain four charoset recipes and a handy glossary.

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31Mar 10

Our Forest Friends

“Animal lovers will love to read this book day or night,” says guest reviewer Debbie Glade.

39984042Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy books with foldout pages and detailed illustrations of animals. Parents can be thoroughly entertained by this too. Day and Night in the Forest by Susan and Peter Barrett introduces readers to how the entire ecosystem of a forest works including the life forms that vary between day and night.

The book starts out with a simple page that tells you how to best use the book. Following the two fabulous foldouts of the Daytime and Nighttime Forest (with keys to help you identify the animals) are pages separated by Conifer Forests, Dense Forest, Mixed Forest and the Forest’s Edge so that readers can understand how and why different animals live in different forest locations during either the daylight or nighttime hours. Each page has illustrations of animals along with short descriptions of its habits and survival techniques. There is a helpful index in the back of the book along with a glossary of terms.


What I like about the book is that many of the animals described are those that children are familiar with and have seen in their backyards or local parks – butterflies, chipmunks, squirrels, woodpeckers, owls, deer, raccoons and more. It is wonderful that the readers can learn about these creatures’ homes and the importance of preserving our forests for their survival. It is obvious that the Susan and Peter Barrett spent a great deal of time researching and writing this valuable book to educate young readers. The only thing that could have made Day and Night in the Forest even better would have been the use of brighter colors for the incredible illustrations.

Editor’s Note: This book is recommended for ages 7-10. If you like this, there’s also Day and Night in The Swamp.

Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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01Apr 10

National Geographic Educates Kids of All Ages in Many Creative Ways

Debbie Glade has looked at 5 different National Geographic books and reviews them all here today.

6300526Everyone adores National Geographic, including me! So I was thrilled to dive right into a stack of National Geographic Kids books. We’ll start with the two short, paperback, Easy-to-Read books for Curious Kids. Trucks! (Level 1 reader, $3.99) by Wil Mara will satisfy the interests of the child(ren) you know who can’t stop playing with and talking about trucks. Slick, the truck driver, teaches kids about all kinds of different trucks, from cement trucks to mixers and from haulers to big rigs. The book has large photographs rather than illustrations and adds simple copy ideal for the early reader.

6300528Mummies (Level 2 reader, $3.99) by Elizabeth Carney is a little bit creepy in all the right ways. There are both photographs and illustrations of mummies, plus basic information that a young reader wants to know. (The book is not for the faint of heart because it mentions bodies decaying, removing organs for mummification and other gory, but fascinating facts.) I like that this book introduces kids to ancient Egypt and the origin of mummification. At the back of the book is a simple fill in the blank page so readers can use the science words they learned.

6300582Now on to the two paperback Picture the Seasons books by Jill Esbaum. Being an avid gardener myself, I treasure books like these that teach young readers a bit about what it takes to grow food. Seed Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie ($5.95, ages 4-8) is a simple book all about pumpkins and squash. From planting, flowering and growing to how the vegetables are used in our food (and as jack-o-lanterns), Pumpkin Pie will introduce early readers to the world of pumpkins. Apples for Everyone will take the reader on a journey from planting to harvesting and from bobbing to eating apples. I learned what I had already suspected; apples are eaten in America more than any other fruit. I eat at least one a day and so should you! The photographs are wonderful in both of these straightforward books.

6300519Being an author myself, who wrote a book about bugs, I am fascinated with Science Fair Winners: Bug Science ($12.95, ages 11-14) by Karen Romano Young. This book is for middle readers who need ideas for their science fair projects. The book has cute illustrations by David Goldin and contains 20 different workshops for getting acquainted with bugs and using what you learned for a science fair project. I was instantly attracted to Workshop #4 “Honey Help Me with this Hay Fever,” because I have lessened my own allergy symptoms by eating a lot of local honey. Honey contains pollen, and eating local pollen is said to be similar to getting allergy shots. Among the many other great lessons in Bug Science are: trying to make an ant get lost, learning what color a butterfly likes best, composting with worms, studying spider phobias and many others. At the end of the book is a short chapter about presenting your findings. I love Science Fair Winners: Bug Science. It’s fun and educational, and it gets kids thinking creatively when it comes time to do their rite-of-passage science fair projects. I wish we had this book when my daughter was doing her science fair project years ago trying to prove that mint repels ants. (And it does!)

debbieglade1-150x150Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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03Apr 10

An Angel and A Dove at Easter

theangelandthedoveHow does a parent explain Easter to a youngster?   By  introducing them to an angel and a dove. These two characters, coupled with charming watercolors,  help author Sophie Piper and illustrator Kristina Stephenson achieve their goal of sharing the significance of this holiday to  pre-school and kindergarten-aged children.  In  The Angel and The Dove: A Story For Easter ($12.99, Lion Children’s, an imprint of Lion UK, distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing from Independent Publishers Group) little ones learn about  life, rebirth and the return of Jesus on  a miraculous spring day.

Through beautiful imagery of butterflies, flowers, new baby chicks  and changing weather, along with sensitive text, parents can show their children that with every ending comes a new beginning and the very first Easter.

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05Apr 10

Loveable and Lethal: The Lunch Lady

catalog_cover-1catalog_cover_100Serving Justice! And Serving Lunch!

The Lunch Lady series of graphic kids’ books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka from Knopf has “TV series” written all over it (but according to his blog, Krosoczka says it’s in development for a feature film which is so cool) and given that opportunity, my son, Coleman, would be glued to the tube watching it. He’s devoured each book about a half dozen times and his face lit up just recently when I brought home the latest release. He took the book from me and finished it in one sitting and then proceeded to re-read it all over again, grinning and giggling all the while.

catalog_coverIf you have any reluctant readers at home, this is the series for them. They’ll not only get hooked, they’ll get hysterical over the Lunch Lady’s shenanigans because she is no ordinary monitor. She combats forces of evil that threaten to wreak havoc on her school and she is no match for mortal man or Cyborg for that matter!

catalog_cover_100To date there have been three titles published with the fourth (Lunch Lady and The Summer Camp Shakedown) due out in May and I can tell you right now your child will want them all. Coleman has read the first three books which, in order of publication, are Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, and Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta.

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning on attending the L.A. Festival of Books on April 24, you can see Krosoczka there.

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06Apr 10

Fun Flap Books

kierananddaddyThese books were reviewed by Heather, a physical therapist and former L.A. mom recently relocated to Manhattan. Daughter Kieran is 2 1/2 years old and new big sister to Brendan. One of her favorite activities is storytime with mommy and daddy and she especially likes to the question “Why?” with each turn of the page.

9780340931936Who Is It? is a series of three, fun flap-style books by Helen Jackson (Hodder & Stoughton/Hodder Children’s, ages 3-5) that will keep your toddler guessing!

With subtitles such as It’s a Princess!, It’s a Spaceman! and It’s the Three Little Pigs!, there is a book to please every little tot. While my toddler hasn’t been introduced to many mainstream characters or the storylines presented in the latter, identifying Snow White or Cinderella is still a bit of a challenge. She subsequently gravitates to the other two books, which feature more generic characters such as a ballet dancer or a pirate. Each page 9780340931974provides five short clues with simple illustrations leading to the identity of the mystery character. Kieran loves to tap her chin as she ponders each clue, such as “She eats a bowl of porridge,”“He wears an eyepatch” or “She wears a golden halo.” Each set of clues leads to the flap that she enjoys opening to reveal them. It also features textures such as the tulle of a tutu, the velvet of Little Red Riding Hood’s cloak and the scaly green skin of an alien to further peak my little one’s interest.

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07Apr 10

Tombstones, Tea and Sympathy

Rebecca is a 12 1/2 year old girl from Virginia. She enjoys reading, playing the piano and violin and is currently writing her own book. She is on a competition dance team and during the summer she is enrolled in a theater group.

0762437189Tombstone Tea (Running Press Kids, grades 6-9) written by Joanne Dahme is the story of a girl named Jessie. Jessie has always been sort of a strange girl. She senses people that are not there. When she moves to Philadelphia she will do anything for friends. A chance for friendship is offered and she takes it. However it means she must take a dare to spend a night at the local graveyard and collect rubbings from 10 different tombstones. There she meets a boy named Paul. Paul tells her she is just in time of the rehearsal of Tombstone Tea. He explains it is where actors gather and play the role of the dead. Jessie notices there is something odd about the actors; it seems like they’re really trying to convince her the dead person’s lives they are “playing” are real. Jessie wonders if her life is at risk.

This was a great book! I couldn’t wait to finish it. It had me hanging on every word. I love how Jessie had to deal with real life problems-moving, meeting new people, a new school all while trying not to be different. If you asked me to describe this book in one word it would be brilliant! I would recommend it to everyone eager for great, edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

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08Apr 10

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) Needs Your Support


Let’s Keep Everyone Reading!

The government’s 2011 proposed budget will cut funding for Reading is Fundamental. As you probably know, RIF is a longtime kids’ program that provides free books to millions of kids. RIF receives 80% of its funding from the government.

rif-kids-at-distributio2The deadline for Senators to sign RIF’s Dear Colleague letter is this Friday, April 9th!

Currently, the organization is rallying parents, educators and the community with a ‘write your politician campaign’ on the internet – already thousands have offered their support. You can just click here and sign your name – that’s it!

rif-kids-at-distributio1Without federal funding, more than 4.4 million children and families will not receive free books or reading encouragement from RIF programs. Let’s keep giving books to those who yearn to read and learn! Thanks for your help.

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09Apr 10

The Wii Storybook Workshop Contest

storybook_logoThe Best Stories Told Are The Ones That Come to Life!

Good Reads With Ronna is giving away one copy of this fun new Wii educational game from Konami, a must-have for all you electronically inclined families.

One lucky winner will receive this “E” rated game with a value of $39.99. Enter now by clicking here, and remember to write STORYBOOK in the subject line. For rules click here. Hurry, because this contest ends on Monday, April 19th.

51h7dj8dl_sl500_aa300_* 16 Classic Fairy Tales and 4 sing-along songs

* Become storybook characters using the microphone (included)

* Record your readings and playback later

Enjoy Little Red Riding Hood, The Ugly Duckling, Old MacDonald, The Happy Prince, The Golden Goose, and more.

Attention: Hours of fun await you! Parents and children can read along together or alone, record and play back readings of favorite stories, including the most beloved tales from Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Aesop and around the world. The coolest feature kids will love: Storybook Workshop’s unique microphone functionality will even magically change your voice to sound like the characters in the stories, including fairies, giants and robots!

In addition to all the wonderful reading attractions with Storybook Workshop, kids are able to create memories and tap into their creativity simply by using the sound of their voice and “painting” colorful masterpieces that they are able to display on their own personal virtual easel. With all this and more, Storybook Workshop will transform family story time into a wonderfully memorable, fun and enriching experience with your pre-schooler.

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11Apr 10

On Holocaust Remembrance Day

978-0-8225-9929-6_medWhile never an easy subject to discuss with children,  the Holocaust is one of the most important. Benno  and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott and illustrated by Josee Bisaillon is  the story of Kristallnacht, viewed by many historians as the beginning of the Holocaust.

Told through the eyes of  a Berlin cat called Benno, the story unfolds  as Benno goes about his daily and weekly routines of visits to  the residents of this Jewish neighborhood.  He’d stop by the Adlers, the Schmidts, Moshe the butcher, Frau Gerber, the grocer’s wife, Mitzi Stein’s dress shop and even Professor Goldfarb where he’d often curl up on his desk.   Then came “a night like no other. The air filled with screams and shouts, sounds of shattering and splintering glass, and the bitter smell of smoke.”

In the days and nights that followed Kristallnacht and its horrible fires and violence against Jewish citizens,     Benno witnessed fear and sorrow, heads held low.  His neighbors and friends  “went quietly about their business” but nothing was ever the same.

In an afterword, an explanation is given about the horrors of November 8, 1938 and what it meant in regards to the persecution of of Jews on a mass scale. There is also a helpful  list of additional children’s books about the Holocaust you might like to consider for future reading

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12Apr 10

Every Picture Tells A Story Event

heartApril 13 – Not To Be Missed Event

The subtle humor and appealing visuals of Irish author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers will be on display in abundance when he signs and reads from his latest picture book, The Heart and the Bottle and the bestselling Lost and Found at the Every Picture Tells A Story gallery in Santa Monica on Tuesday, April 13 from 3-5 PM.

Jeffers’ work has been featured in the  New Yorker and his new book,  The Heart and the Bottle was called “heartbreaking, witty and filled with hope” by   Kirkus Reviews. This is a rare opportunity to meet and listen to one of the most important new illustrators in children’s books today.

Every Picture Tells A Story is located at 1311-C Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403. Phone is (310) 451-2700. On line at everypicture.com

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13Apr 10

Ugly is the new Adorable!

L.A. Parent graphic artist and mom to Teagan, aged 2, Terresa Burgess has some interesting info to share about the Uglydolls.

“Ugly” doll? Who would want an “ugly” doll? Have you ever seen an Uglydoll? Here’s a little history in case you’re not familiar with
Uglydolls. The origin is actually quite romantic!

The Uglydolls characters are from the creative minds of husband and wife team David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. Horvath’s soon to be wife, Sun-Min, who at the time lived in the USA, returned to Korea. David was unable to join her. He sent her many “I miss you” letters with his little Wage character drawn at the bottom. As a surprise, Sun-Min sewed this character into a plush doll and sent it back to David. David asked Sun-Min to sew a couple more for the Giant Robot store in Los Angeles and they sold out in one day! A very excited Sun-Min sewed many more and those sold just as fast. That brought on the ultra-big bang of the “Uglyverse”!

My daughter Teagan received an Uglydoll on her 1st birthday. It goes by the name of Babo. Babo means “fool” in Korean. He does look pretty foolish but is quite loveable. Uglydolls have 2 Board Books out with a 3rd one set to release this month. We were able to read and review all three books. Teagan loves the characters and the hubby and I love the humor and off beat story line!

All titles by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. Illustrated by David Horvath.
Published by Random House Children’s Books.

catalog_coverABC U Later
Ages 0-4 years

There are many ABC titles to choose from in this world but none are like this board book. “A is for Apple” is probably the only standard line. “B is for Bargain”, “C is for Check-up”…each page has a little scene or skit that represents and follows the sequence of letters. You are also introduced to a vast array of Uglies from the Uglyverse. This book is a huge hit in our house! Teagan loves to recite her ABCs and there are distinctive new words for her to learn. Mommy and daddy love the to read them, too.

Ages 0-4 years

1234U is of course about counting. The book counts up to “10”. Not only are you seeing the number “2” but also see the word “two”, and two items, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to count, calculate and associate the words with the numbers. Again, a big hit with Teagan. She loves counting the cookies and snackies. The artwork is atypical and the content created to count is so kooky! My husband, a music teacher, even shared these with the literature teacher and math teacher at his high school for a laugh!

colorsuglyUgly Colors
Ages 0-4 years
Release date: April 27, 2010

Ugly Colors is the latest edition to the Ugly Board Books. This book continues the hilarious discourse found in the first two books. The pages are full of color “commentary.” Teagan enjoys pointing out and naming colors especially the brown cookies. She’s also learning about a secret color!

We love reading to Teagan and have enjoyed even the most “baby” of baby books we have shared with her. But what a surprise when we found ourselves laughing out loud and actually reading the Ugly Board Books again after Teagan went to bed. One of the rare moments where there is an exceptional combination of kid and (not quite) adult humor.

All titles can be purchased online at Random House by clicking here.

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14Apr 10

King Lear in graphic style

Guest reviewer, Rachel Glade, writes about King Lear: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds from Candlewick Press. (Recommended for ages 12 and up.)

0763643432medA horrific tale of pride, betrayal and insanity, Shakespeare’s King Lear tells the tale of the downfall and the final rebirth of two disillusioned, excessively proud men. Seriously misunderstanding the meaning of love, both King Lear and Gloucester give everything they have to their cruel offspring and disown their only good children. After they are both completely ruined by their evil children, they finally open their eyes and see their mistakes; but it is too late for them to reverse their bad decisions.
In his surprisingly accurate rendition of King Lear in the form of a graphic novel, Gareth Hinds spins the complex tale with vivid illustrations and dialogue from the original Shakespeare play. The novel is engaging enough for teenage readers, yet stays true enough to Shakespeare’s masterpiece that scholars will not be upset by the unconventional remake. As a book for young adults, the original horror of the play is slightly toned down; yet the message against pride and superficial measures of love is still carried strongly throughout the novel.

0763643432int1Versatile in its audience, this book can be enjoyed by readers of any age and any knowledge of Shakespeare; whether a teenager looking for an introduction to Shakespeare or a seasoned Shakespeare reader who is interested in revisiting the story of King Lear in a new, playful style, anyone who reads it will absolutely love Hinds’ King Lear: A Graphic Novel. I give it my highest recommendation.

racheldsc_0031Rachel Glade is finishing up her senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School in Fort Lauderdale. She is a National Merit Scholar Finalist 2010 and a College Board AP Scholar with Distinction. She plays the piano, dulcimer and sitar and has been featured in the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Teen Link Magazine as well as Listen Magazine for her role in producing music for the book/CD, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica. In the fall, she will attend The University of Pennsylvania as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar and plans to major in both physics and music.

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15Apr 10

Support Teen Literature Day


nlw2010_banner-600x200_3pSupport Teen Literature Day is today, April 15, 2010. The event is celebrated every Thursday of National Library Week, by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) during National Library Week from April 11-17.

The purpose of Support Teen Literature Day is to raise awareness that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens. Support Teen Literature Day also seeks to showcase some award-winning authors and books in the genre, as well as highlight librarians’ expertise in connecting teens with books and other reading materials. Every year on Support Teen Literature Day, YALSA launches the Teen Read Week Web site and announces the Teens‚ Top Ten nominations, as well as Operation Teen Book Drop.

“Librarians that serve teens work closely with teens in their communities to create teen literature collections that meet the needs of the teens,” said Linda W. Braun, YALSA president. “Support Teen Literature Day is a chance for them to inform everyone in the community about what‚s available to teens at the library and why these collections are important.”

teenbookdropYALSA will again be part of Operation Teen Book Drop, with 10,000 new books being delivered to teens on native reservations and tribal Lands, to coincide with Support Teen Literature Day. In its third year, Operation TBD is part of a massive effort by librarians, young adult authors and avid readers to spur reading on a nationwide scale. The day aims to encourage teens to read for the fun of it.

The effort is coordinated by readergirlz, the Young Adult Library Services Association, GuysLitWire and a new partner, If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, a national reading club for Native children.

To learn more, visit the Operation TBD Web site. The readergirlz Web site has more information, including downloadable bookplates.

In addition to participating in Operation TBD, libraries can help celebrate by displaying and recommending books that YALSA has honored through its book awards and selected lists, as well as highlighting the Teens‚ Top Ten nominations.

For more information on Support Teen Literature Day and suggestions on ways to celebrate it, click here now.

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20Apr 10

WORDGIRL CONTEST – Packing powerful punches and dictionary strength

512fwcjievl_sl500_aa300_WORDGIRL EARTH DAY GIRL CONTEST

“Fighting for Truth, Justice, and Use of The Right Word”

A girl after my own heart (and vocabulary), WORDGIRL EARTH DAY GIRL comes to us courtesy of PBS Kids and Paramount Home Entertainment. This exciting new animated series follows the adventures of a superhero who fights crime and enriches vocabulary usage all in a day’s work. Join WORDGIRL and her sidekick CAPTAIN HUGGY FACE as they battle Dr. Two-Brains, The Butcher, Mr. Big, Lady Redundant and more in 100 minutes of word walloping wackiness! Here’s to word power.

Good Reads With Ronna is offering three lucky winners the new-to-DVD called WORDGIRL Earth Day Girl that includes eight adventures, interactive games, video shorts, coloring pages and each episode introduces four new vocabulary words and reinforces their meanings in a variety of contexts. ($14.99, not rated).

Your child will be introduced to 16 new vocabulary words including Recycle, Excess, Coincidence, Perplexed, Motivate and more! Enter now by clicking here for your chance to win one of three DVDs. Please click here to see rules. The contest ends Monday, May 3 so don’t wait and remember to write WORDGIRL in the subject line. Good luck!

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21Apr 10

Mo Smells Green, A Scentsational Journey


Aromas aplenty as Mo goes a roamin’!!

If you’re not already familiar with the marvelous Mo series of books about a dog who smells colors through his nose, MO SMELLS GREEN is the perfect place to start.

This Earth Day, celebrate all the wonderful shades and scents of green that surround us and then actually smell them at the end of the book. A clever and creative collaboration with Aura Cacia 100% pure essential oils aromatherapy, allows the publisher to introduce this delightful smelling concept to children. Kids will also enjoy the easy to turn cut-out pages as well as the alluring scent of the outdoors getting closer and closer as they approach the story’s end.

body_fixp16_r212Written by Margaret Hyde with illustrations by Amanda Giacomini, Mo Smells Green puts the fun Press 2 Smelly experience at kids’ fingertips while sharing the “immense beauty of our planet” via an adorable story about a dog’s day out exploring nature.

Parents and children alike will appreciate the opportunity a read through of this book provides as it opens the door for body_fixp16_r218discussion of our planet and the precious gift of life it gives us all. Mo’s “scentsational journey” is really just a starting point (or companion) for your own family’s fruitful forays in the forests and woods, parks and meadows where we live.

Here are the scents that you will experience when reading Mo Smells Green:

body_fixp16_r219Grass: A combination of lemongrass, sweet basil along with a hint of bergamot essential oil.

Lime: Fresh and juicy, this uplifting scent is derived from cold-pressed lime peels.