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And This Bird Can Read

51thq7kdjel_sl500_aa300_CALVIN CAN’T FLY: THE STORY OF A BOOKWORM BIRDIE ($14.95, Sterling Children’s Books, ages 4-8) written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Keith Bendes is reviewed today by Lindy Michaels, of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

Calvin is a little bird called a Starling. He has seven brothers and sisters and sixty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-two cousins. Wow! Starlings have big families. But Calvin wasn’t like his other family members. While they did Starling things all day long, like discovering worms and dirt and grass and bugs and ants, Calvin discovered books. And as he learned to read, he dreamt of adventure stories and legends, poetry and even of becoming a great writer, himself, one day.

But while he had his beak buried in a book, all the other Starlings were learning a very important skill… how to fly. While they all practiced swooping and hovering and flying figure eights, high in the sky, Calvin’s mind soared with all the knowledge flying into his brain.

And then, one day, it was time for the Starlings to fly South for the winter… everyone except Calvin, that is, since he had never learned to fly. What happens next is two-fold. One, how a family comes together to help one of their own, and two, how one little Starling’s knowledge, learned from reading books, would save his entire family.

This engaging and satisfying tale will delight little ones and reinforce how important, educational and fun the written word can be.

lindymichaelspic1The very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Back-to-School Books

What’s the best part of going back to school? Is it the new clothes, the supplies or simply the excitement of seeing old friends and the prospect of making new ones? I’ve left one very important part of a new school season out – the learning!  And who couldn’t stand to learn a new thing or two? I’ve gathered together a bunch of books I hope you will want to share with your kids. They cover a range of these topics so there really is something for everyone. Dive in and let me know what you think.

catalog_coverA particular favorite of mine is the latest offering from Tad Hill, creator of the New York Times Bestseller Duck & Goose. For those of you with pre-schoolers and Kindergarten-aged kids, How Rocket Learned to Read (Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99, ages 3-7) will inspire. If your children are already readers, this charming tale will bring back those early days when every word was a new adventure. Rocket the darling dog just wants to nap, but a little yellow bird has set up school at the same spot and is determined to teach all the letters of the alphabet to the reluctant Rocket. Soon Rocket is pulled into the story yellow bird reads aloud and waits with baited breath for more, but the bird has flown away for the day. It doesn’t take long for Rocket to become a star pupil, sounding out each letter of the alphabet, “With a G and many Rs as they spelled Mr. Barker’s growl. GRRRRRRRR!” Share the excitement beginner readers experience with this adorable book.

9780810989603_s3The Exceptionally Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School (Abrams, $15.95, ages 4-8) by Albert Lorenz is just the kind of book kids clamor for. It’s clever, creative and incredibly, enormously imaginative. Filled with fun facts (about things like paper and spitballs, anthropomorphism and more!) alongside the narrative, and enhanced by hilarious illustrations, this is a book that will be read again and again. I found myself scanning every corner of the pages, each time delighted at finding new things. While the speech bubbles may at first be a distraction, they really do add to the over-the-top effect the author aimed for. The book introduces us to new (could he be nervous, too?) student John,the librarian Mrs. Dewey and a plethora of interesting schoolmates and teachers. Apparently his parents now seek an ordinary school and life since John’s previous school (a castle) was anything but! Do we believe John or simply go along for the raucous ride? Will your Parents’ Night ever be the same? What a wild and weird way to begin the new school year!

0763646318medHow lucky for us to have Teacher’s Pets (Candlewick Press, $6.99, ages 5 and up) by Dale Ann Dodds with illustrations by Marilyn Hafner. An enjoyable read-aloud story both parents and children alike will relate to. There’s always one teacher like Miss Fry, kind, caring and extremely patient, but when she tells her students that Monday is sharing day, she soon finds herself caretaker to a host of pets the kids have brought to school then left behind. The classroom’s a virtual pet shop what with the rooster, tarantula, and boa constrictor, but somehow the cricket Moe chirrups its way into Miss Fry’s heart making this story as heartwarming as it is humorous.

9781402759956mI was happily tricked by 1 + 1 = 5 and Other Unlikely Additions (Sterling, $14.95, ages 5 and up) by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Brenda Sexton. Try figuring out these quirky equations and you and your kids will have a blast looking at math in a whole new light. The bold and colorful artwork by Sexton adds to the winning formula in a book about thinking “outside-the-box” that will not disappoint. If this doesn’t get kids thinking up fun new math games, I don’t know what will. When does 1 + 1 = 1? When you take 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. which then equal 1 day.

0763650307med0763650293medI am constantly in awe of pop-up and flap book artists and engineers who create new ways to make what could be an average alphabet or counting book outstanding.  Robert Crowther delivers with these two new titles from Candlewick Press. ABC: The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Alphabet Book and 123: The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Numbers Book (Candlewick Press, $12.99 each, ages 3 and up). These interactive titles are great in the way Crowther has configured everything. For example, pull down the tab for “O” and you will see an owl, and pull just a little more and watch the eyes move. I love that added feature!  What I like best is that I know with the great illustrations and creative approach, kids won’t be bored and with the counting book, and will actually spend time counting. Be prepared parents, the numbers book goes up to 100!

9258292193Charlesbridge Publishing brings us two winning books. The first is Lola Loves Stories (Charlesbridge, $6.95, ages 2-5)  by Anna McQuinn with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw, about a little girl who needs no encouragement to read and head off to distant lands, and Kindergarten Day USA and China – A Flip-Me-Over Book (Charlesbridge, $7.95, ages 4-6) by Trish Marx and Ellen B. Senisi , ideal for teachers and classrooms or simply for parents and kids who are curious about what it’s like to attend school on the other side of the world.  And though far apart in miles (and 12 hours ahead in time zones), the average school day is really very similar. While one story is about using our imagination and all the great places it can take you, the other deals with real people and real places and teaches some Mandarin Chinese in the form of pinyin using the English alphabet to sound out the characters. Both books are upbeat and ideal for reading together or alone.  Part of the proceeds from Kindergarten Day USA and China goes to The Global Fund for Children supporting the world’s most vulnerable children and youth.

catalog_cover_100It’s 1970s Boston and forced busing is in place in Busing Brewster (Knopf, $16.99, ages 6-10) by Richard Michelson and illustrated by R. G. Roth.  “Ain’t no Negroes at Central,” Brewster declares after learning that he’ll be attending first grade at Central, a White school and not his local elementary because of mandatory desegregation. With his Mama all positive about the advantages of Central, Brewster figures a school with a pool can’t be all that bad despite an hour’s bus ride. A  rock thrown at the bus window by protesters and two policeman standing guard may not seem encouraging, but when older brother Bryan gets into a spat, a day of detention in the library turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Enter Miss O’Grady, the librarian, who sees all children’s potential regardless of race or ethnicity, and makes Brewster promise to come back, and maybe even consider running for president one day.

9780061762758Here’s my $64,000 question: Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? (Balzer & Bray, $16.99, ages 4-8) by Audrey Vernick with illustrations by Daniel Jennewein. Check off the following list of criteria: Does your buffalo have a packpack? Is he worried about not being good with scissors? Can your buffalo cooperate and take turns? Well I think he’s ready! You’ll turn the pages quickly as you eagerly await what hilarity ensues as the big dude experiences Kindergarten including snack time – and you do know how Buffalos eat their food, don’t you? Can your Buffalo pull off a huge, shiny grin on picture day and charm all your classmates? You decide!

9780448453675lOlder kids should be on the lookout for George Brown, Class Clown: World’s Worst Wedgie in bookstores Oct. 7 (Grosset & Dunlap, $4.99, ages 7-9) by Nancy Krulik and illustrated by Aaron Blecha, but in the meantime they can read the first two in the series George Brown, Class Clown: Trouble Magnet, and George Brown, Class Clown: Super Burp! If you are not familiar with our man George, he’s the disaster-prone titular ten-year old character spun-off from the popular huge selling Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo chapter books. In  the most recent book, George is seized by uncontrrollale super burps.  Whether it’s do-si-doing and swinging your partner or having to stay with the lunch lady during recess for sneezing snot on someone’s lunch tray or making the loudest belch in history, it seems everyday at Edith B. Sugarman Elementary is filled with new challenges for the class clown.

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Taking Literacy on The Road

gh_14010Add a Dash of Literacy for a Big Dose of Fun!

From the Emmy Award-winning PBS Kids Series Between the Lions comes What Does a Lion Say? (Gryphon House, Inc. $14.95) an ideal book for parents to share with their kids this summer and year-round. Here’s an easy way to promote literacy, active listening skills, vocabulary, comparative language and so much more. Kids will be inspired by their favorite Between the Lions characters as they take on new adventures in learning. I wish I’d had this book when my children were younger, but when flipping through the different sections I noticed that these playful language games are suitable for either ages 3-93, 4-94 or 5-95, in other words, I can still play along! Portable and affordable, What Does a Lion Say? is a must for parents to include in their pack list for upcoming travel, dining out, long waits at the doctor’s office or simply to tuck in their beach bag for a day out.

lion1Families will never be bored with the educational and entertaining selection of over 50 games where you don’t have to worry about losing any pieces because most of the time you need nothing more than your imagination though occasionally some games do call for a pad of paper, some type of writing implement (I don’t recommend sharp pencils for a car ride) and a sense of humor. There’s a comprehensive introduction to help parents use the book to its greatest advantage, a More Ideas! section, book recommendations, an Index of Games by Age and one of the most useful, an Index of Literacy Skills so whether you see to work on letter recognition with child, descriptive language or or rhyming, the info’s at your fingertips.

lion2I remember when my daughter first began to read and the fun we all had deciphering billboards, but I was often hard-pressed to come up with other creative ideas to foster her love of reading. The variety of wonderfully inventive games found in the pages of What Does a Lion Say? means I’d never be wanting. Here’s an example of a super storytelling idea that would have been just up my daughter’s alley.

Fantastic Pets
Fantastic Pets make for some fantastic stories:. To play this game, make up a story about a silly or unusual animal that comes to live with you.

What if a bear, an eagle, or a kangaroo moved into your home? What would you name it? What would you do with your new pet? Would you keep it in your room? What would it eat for breakfast

If all these great games weren’t enough, available soon are LION LETTER cards from Between the Lions—a set of Alphabet Cards and a set of Rhyming Cards. For more information about these great educational tools click below:

LION LETTERS Alphabet Cards

LION LETTERS Rhyming Cards

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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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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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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 <>. 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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