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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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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

*Westwood Branch Library
1246 Glendon Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90024

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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 She blogs daily at

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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 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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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,

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.

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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.,, $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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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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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

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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 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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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

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 She blogs daily at

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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 She blogs daily at

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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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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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Read and Wonder

The following Read and Wonder Books (a series recommended for ages 5-8) have been reviewed by regular contributor Debbie Glade.


Sea Horse by Chris Butterworth, with illustrations 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.

Sea Horse coverSea 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.

WhiteOwlBarnOwl coverWhite 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.


Think of an Eel cvr you know that young eels are see-through or that eels can breathe 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 the 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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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,; $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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