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Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime

Marcel Marceau: Master of Mimethumbnail-1.asp, written by Gloria Spielman and illustrated by Manon Gauthier ($17.95, Kar-Ben, ages 8-11), is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

There are many mimes, but there is only one Marcel Marceau. In Spielman’s compelling children’s biography complemented by subtle artwork from Gauthier, we learn of Marceau’s early inspiration, the silent film star Charlie Chaplin, as well as his childhood growing up in Strasbourg, France, close to the German border. Always the performer, young Marcel could make people laugh with his impersonations and amiable personality. This ability to entertain would not only save his life but countless others as well.

The son of a Jewish kosher butcher, Marceau and his older brother Alain fled to Limoges when, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and the French government ordered the people of Strasbourg to leave their city. The Marceau brothers changed their last name from Mangel in a move to avoid being targeted by the Nazis who, in 1940, had taken over most of France. Marcel had an aptitude for art and worked secretly during the war to alter identity cards in order to help young Jewish children avoid the labor camps where so many were being sent. In addition to this risky business, Marceau faced untold danger helping a cousin in the Resistance by leading groups of children across the Swiss border on more than one occasion. “On one trip, Marcel got the children singing so happily that Nazis traveling on the same train complimented them on their voices.” Here his skill at performing allowed him to smuggle children out of Nazi territory “right under their noses.”

At age 20, Marcel began to study drama working under the famous mime, Etienne Decroux. Because Marceau never lost his love of mime, as a volunteer soldier in the Free French Army, he performed his first mime review in front of 3,000 American troops. How fortunate that Marceau continued to pursue a career on the stage, bringing the craft of mime to new heights. He went on to create the eponymous Bip, part clown, part Chaplin Little Tramp in “white face paint, tight-fitting pants, a striped shirt, flower, and a crumpled hat.  Spielman helps us marvel at how the masterful Marceau, without so much as word, could speak volumes the world over.

Find this review in October’s issue of L.A. Parent at

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Of Thee I Sing

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters, written by Barack Obama and illustrated by Loren Long is reviewed by Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. Stop by and see her when you’re next in the Valley.

1It is time to put politics aside.  Democrats, Republicans, Independents, anyone who has children will, should adore this incredibly beautifully written and illustrated book.  Helping a child to have self worth as they journey through life is one of the hardest jobs a parent has.  In Of Thee I Sing, President Obama reinforces all the positive qualities of his daughters, as he asks them and, in fact, all the children of this country…  “Have I told you that you are smart?”  “Have I told you that you are kind?”  “Have I told you that you are creative?”

To illustrate the answers to those and other questions, he tells of Americans who have inspired generation after generation. 

“Have I told you that you are strong?  A woman named Helen Keller fought her way through long, silent darkness.  Though she could not see or hear, she taught us to look at and listen to each other.  Never waiting for life to get easier, she gave others courage to face their challenges.”

part-of-a-family_240bHe tells his daughters that what makes this country strong and great is because it is made up of…

“People of all races, religions and beliefs… sharing their unique gifts and giving us the courage to lift one another up, to keep up the fight, to work and build upon all that is good in our nation.” 

So listen, children, listen.

I strongly believe this special book and its message should be passed down from our children to their children, to their children.  It tells of those who have come before us that made this country a better place and by our own actions and our children’s, we should never stop trying to do the same.  Of Thee I Sing is a gift for the ages.

lindymichaelspic2The 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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Three Books that Teach Children About Saving the Earth

These three reviews by Debbie Glade are dedicated to our planet.


How the Weather Works: A Hands on Guide to Our Changing Climate (Templar/Candlewick, $17.99, ages 7-11) is written by Christiane Dorion and illustrated by Beverley Young.

Put a pop-up book in front of me, and watch me revert gleefully back to my childhood. This one is a very sturdy, beautiful, unique, interactive science book with flaps to lift, wheels to turn and tabs to pull. It explains what causes our weather to change and how weather is predicted, and there is way cool page about hurricanes, (which I am all too familiar with, living in Miami.) There is even an awesome pop up that explains how we are adding greenhouse gasses to the environment. I love that fact that this book is fun to use but is about an important and serious topic. You’ll love it because it answers all those weather questions kids ask (and even some you’ve often wondered about). It really is quite sophisticated, so older kids will get the most out of it. This one is a keeper!

E is for Environment: Stories to Help Children Care for Their World – at Home, at School, and at Play ($18.99, Atria/Simon & Schuster, ages 5 and up) by Ian James Corlett

This is an innovative idea for a book. It includes 26 short stories that focus on the environment. Then questions are posed to make the reader think about solutions to the environmental situations presented in the stories. For example, one story is about a girl named Lucy, who loves to draw and writes many notes, stories and poems and uses a large volume of paper, crayons and pencils. The reader is asked what Lucy can do to waste less paper and make better use of her other materials. I like the way this book makes children think about how they can change their every day habits to reduce waste and keep the earth cleaner.

climt_cover2How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Environment: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming (Paperback $11.95; Hardcover $18.95, Ages 9-13, Dawn Publications) by Lynne Cherry and Gary Braasch

Young curious minds get more than just an introduction to the science of climates and global warming when they read this sophisticated 66-page book. It’s packed with detailed facts and wonderful photographs to teach readers everything from changing animal habitats, rising seawater and temperature changes, to what they can do on their own help change their own “Climate Footprints.” There’s also a list of resources, a list of scientists mentioned in the book and a detailed index. I love that this book encourages students to think like scientists, and perhaps even inspires them to become scientists in the future. It sure got me thinking about saving planet earth.

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Can They Get Any Cuter?

So Many Animals!

It’s no wonder kids get so excited about reading books about animals. There are so many cute creatures to discover and an abundance of fascinating facts to learn. Today Debbie Glade reviews three adorable books…

9780375858864Orangutans are Ticklish: Fun Facts from an Animal Photographer ($16.99, Schwartz & Wade, ages 3-7), written by Jill Davis, is a uniquely wonderful book. The book starts with photographer, Steve Grubman explaining what it took to get all those amazing photos of the animals in this book, including his frightening experience having a tiger run after him. And the photos of the animals in the book are uncommon indeed, as Steve waited for the perfect moment to capture each of them in rare poses. The descriptions about each creature, along with the photos are a great read. Did you know that, unlike a crocodile, when an alligator’s mouth is closed, you can’t see his bottom teeth? Or that a zebra has black stripes on a white background, rather than having white stripes on a black background? Read this book and you’ll find out why. And yes, Orangutans are undoubtedly ticklish!

all_agesyoung_childrenThose who love baby animals will delight in two ZooBorns books (Beach Lane Books, ages 2 & up), written by Andrew Bleiman and photographed by Chris Eastland. ZooBorns: Zoo Babies from Around the World is written from the perspective of the animals. ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World’s Zoos and Aquariums is a bit more sophisticated and includes animals’ birthdates and facts. The photos in both of these books will melt your heart, and your kids will want to look at them again and again! You’ll enjoy them too.

debbieglade24Debbie 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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How Do You Measure Up?


HOW BIG IS THE LION? MY FIRST BOOK OF MEASURING by William Accorsi inches out all the other measuring books according to reviewer Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

61wydxmtgsl_sl500_aa300_This delightful board book helps to teach youngins that learning really can be fun. Using the enclosed ruler, each page has something to measure, from a dancing pig, “… from snout to tail, is this pig big?” …to a lion’s height. “Don’t you worry, he won’t bite.”

Illustrated with colorful, felt cutouts, the book can also be used by parents to help children identify colors and objects. I love when a children’s book can be used for more than one thing. And on the last page, there is a ‘grow chart’ to hang on a wall, so little ones can, that’s right, be measured themselves and keep track of how they are growing!

Believe me, after reading and measuring all the items in this book, I know kids will spend hours, days and weeks measuring everything in sight… including you! I say that’s a better thing to do with their time than being glued, mindlessly, to the television!!

Educational, fun and colorful! What more could a parent ask for to keep their little ones busy, having fun and learning at the same time?

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 in Studio City for Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Raccoons and Foxes Up-close and Personal

Fascinating Facts About Every Day Animals

Debbie Glade reviews these two books about wildlife from Firefly Books.

516hhuw27il_sl500_aa300_foxesIt’s fun to learn about unusual animals, but what about every day animals we encounter in parks and alleys? They’re fascinating too! Exploring the World of Raccoons and Exploring the World of Foxes by Tracy C. Read are informative little books that are packed with details about these foxescommon, furry creatures.

Both books have excellent close-up photographs that make the animals look so cute, you can’t help but love them. Readers will discover facts about the animals’ physical traits, their habitats, their natural talents as well as their mating habits.  Did you know that the raccoon’s black mask on its face helps to reduce glare so it can see better at night? Or that both a baby raccoon and a baby fox are born blind and completely foxeshelpless and do not even open their eyes until they are 2 – 3 weeks old? A fox can jump seven feet and has keen eyesight similar to a cat! And a raccoon is highly intelligent and has a fantastic memory. These two books are perfect for curious young readers who are always a lot of questions about animals. Parents will enjoy them too.

debbieglade2Debbie 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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Terrifying and Terrific: Halloween Books

This year there has been a deluge of dark, demonic books for the ghoul next door. I cannot pick a favorite but here is a sampling of what you can read to your kids or give them to read on their own. Just remember, keep a flashlight close at hand!

51wctlw6ecl_sl500_aa300_How To Be A Zombie (Candlewick Press, $14.99, ages 12 and up) by Serena Valentino – A gruesomely good read for those of you “who crave brains.” Find out what the undead in your neighborhood are up to. There are tips to share, fantastic photos and artwork as well as info on Zombie fashion, terminology and so much more.

9780810939004_s3On a Windy Night (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95, ages 4-8) by Nancy Raines Day with illustrations by George Bates – “Clacklety-clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours – if you look back.” I don’t know about you, but I’m outta here! It’s a windy Halloween night below the light of a full moon. Creepy creatures abound on the street and in hidden images throughout this imaginatively rendered book with pictures resembling wood cuts. A little boy is finishing up with his trick-0r-treating and unlike you or me, goes home through the dark woods and scares himself silly imaging all sorts of frightening sounds and spirits out to get him.

barronseduc_2125_67692250Octavius Grimwood’s Graveyard Guide (Barron’s Educational Series, $9.99, ages 8 and up) by Rod Green – “Prepare to be scared” is how this book touts itself and it’s absolutely right. Learn all about the supernatural, spooky and weird, but memorize Octavius’ secret spell first to keep you safe. Turn the pages at your own risk as youdtravel near and fear (oops, I meant far) exploring haunted houses, unmasking wicked witches and unfathoming phantoms.

9780439634304_xlgZen Ghosts (Scholastic Press, $17.99, all ages) by Jon J Muth is one of those timeless tales that will captivate the entire family. Stillwater, the wise and friendly Panda returns in a spine-tingling story set under a full Halloween moon. Inviting his young friends Addy, Karl and Michael to meet a special storyteller who’ll tell a ghost story, Stillwater (or the mysterious storyteller) introduces the children to some Zen Buddism concepts, imparting his unique Panda wisdom to the listeners and readers alike. The water-color artwork only adds to the atmospheric tale and takes us right onto the pages alongside the characters.

thmb-chills_coverChills and Thrills: The Ultimate Anthology of The Mystical, Magical, Eerie, & Uncanny (Welcome Books, $16.95, all ages) Edited by Lena Tabori & Natasha Tabori Fried and designed by Timothy Shaner is an indispensable guide to all things scary, superstitious and spine-tingling! Overflowing with curses, spells,tales of magic and fantasy, magic tricks and more, Chills and Thrills is a creepy compendium you’ll feel compelled to keep on your bedside or coffee table. Whether you seek a classic poem like Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven or a recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds, it’s included here.

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Get In The Spirit With Kohl’s

kohlsgrinchattachmentI love how Kohl’s gives back with their Kohl’s Cares program, and with these great values, it’s like they are giving away the shop! Now through December stock up on your holiday presents and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Are you looking for an ideal gift that your heart and your wallet will feel good about giving? Through the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program you can get both! This season Kohl’s is featuring How the Grinch Stole Christmas, There’s a Wocket In My Pocket, Oh Say Can You Say?,  and Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose along with adorable coordinating plush toy, for just $5 each through the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program.

For just $5 each you can feel good about staying on your budget and giving back. Kohl’s donates 100 percent of the net profit to children’s health and education initiatives nationwide.

In addition, Kohl’s is offering The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra CD. The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook offers a collection of sixty cookie recipes; each recipe is designed to make large batches that are perfect for holiday cookie swaps. The book also provides information on how to host your own cookie swap. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra CD contains 12 heart-warming holiday songs that are sure to get anyone into the holiday spirit.

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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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A Biseleh (a little) Bit of Yiddish and Comedy Stars

9781439152829Yiddish for Babies, A Language Primer for Your Little Pitsel,

written and illustrated by Janet Perr (Simon & Schuster, $12.99, all ages) puts this language that is related to German and spoken by Ashkenazi Jews at your fingertips. Maybe you’ve heard some Yiddish words and expressions or perhaps you’ve even used them. Schlep(p), for example, a Yiddish word I use all the time which means to carry or to lug, as in I schlepped this heavy backpack around all day and now my shoulders hurt, has become part of the American lexicon.

When I was a kid and my parents spoke Yiddish in hushed tones so that my brother and I couldn’t hear, I would often catch snippets of conversation and if the word gelt came up, I knew they were speaking about money issues. Now with this humorous visual primer, parents and children alike can learn this rich language and begin using it immediately.

Bubbe – grandmother

Baby has so much fun when her bubbe comes to visit.

If the pictures don’t make you laugh, the sentences surely will!

Ferklempt (emotional, ready to cry), made famous by comedian Mike Meyers on Saturday Night Live, is demonstrated with a photo of a tired baby wiping its eyes.

It’s naptime and baby’s getting a little ferklempt.

Kvelling, a word my parents said frequently at bar mitzvahs, graduations and weddings means proud, bursting with joy.

Baby made in the potty, and mommy is kvelling.

Oy, it’s obvious I could go on and on about all the terrific Yiddish words included, the fab and funny photos and the apt descriptions, but I think you’ve got my drift so zai gezunt (be well, good-bye)!

978-0-8225-9942-5_medJewish Comedy Stars: Class to Cutting Edge

by Norman H. Finkelstein (Kar-Ben, $9.99, ages 11 and up)

You’ve heard the the line: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

Kids today may be familiar with Jon Stewart, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Ben Stiller, but we need to jump back in time to the roots of comedy “shtick” to really understand how it’s evolved.

Tying into the book review above, it’s hard to talk about Yiddish and not bring up Jewish comedians going back almost a century. Jewish comedians have had a lasting impact on the entertainment industry and this easy-to-read primer on who’s who from the 20th through 21st centuries will introduce kids to a few a names they might not know and even more that they do. In over 40 mini biographies, author Finkelstein, explores the backgrounds of such luminaries as Fanny Brice, Molly Picon, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle +and so many more.

Kids will get a kick from reading about The Three Stooges’ slapstick humor to the original shock jock Lenny Bruce as well as the pre-Borat days of Sasha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G.). From Vaudeville, to Broadway and Film, TV to Comedy Central, the community of Jewish comedians is as rich and diverse as the jokes and stories they tell.

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Two Engaging New Activity Books From Chicago Review Press

9781556529559Theodore Roosevelt, Brains, Brawn and a Love of Nature

Reading Theodore Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times by Kerrie Logan Hollihan made me realize that there is so much I do not know about the fascinating lives of our past presidents, including this 26th President of the U.S. Did you know that both Roosevelt’s wife, Alice, and his mother died on the very same day in 1884? Or that his oldest child, Alice, named after her mother, was a wild and outspoken woman, who carried a green snake in her purse named after her stepmother’s skinny sister?

Born in 1858 to a wealthy family in New York, as a young boy, Roosevelt was called “Teddie” by his parents (and later “Teddy” by all). Young Teddie was a sickly, asthmatic child, but that did not stop him from seeking knowledge about the world. He was fascinated by nature and read voraciously about a variety of subjects that interested him. He hunted, collected birds, insects and fish and studied them in detail. Due to the family’s wealth, the Roosevelts traveled a great deal, and by the time Roosevelt attended college he had been to Europe twice as well as the Middle East.

Readers of this book will discover much more about his fascinating, adventurous personal life and how Roosevelt often voiced his political opinions while attending Harvard, leading to his long political career. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1881, served as Republican Vice President to William McKinley in 1900 and took over office as President (as the youngest to ever hold office at age 42) when McKinley was assassinated in 1901. President Roosevelt was loved for his great balance of understanding between big business and ordinary working class people. He believed people should be judged individually and not classified by popular opinion. His role in helping put an end to the Russo-Japanese war earned him a Nobel Prize for Peace. Today Teddy Roosevelt is remembered for his adventure travel, love of nature and his laws to preserve our nation’s natural wonders; he worked hard to protect our forests and established the U.S. National Park Service.

Kids will not only learn fascinating facts about Roosevelt but can also participate in 21 fun activities, such as drawing out Roosevelt’s many travels on a world map, stargazing by seasons and making a campaign button. There are resources in the back of the book to guide curious readers to more information.

9781569762806Native Americans, Culture, Conflicts and Treaties

Did you know that there are 562 different American Indian Tribes? Or that the true story of Pocahontas and John Smith is that Pocahontas was a young child when she met the much older John Smith, and there was never a romance between them? You’ll discover these facts and many more when you read   Native American History for Kids by Karen Bush Gibson.

There is a great deal of essential information about American Indians packed into this book including theories on how Indians arrived on the North American Continent, what life was like when European settlers came to America, wars and peace treaties, the destruction of many reservations at the end of the 19th Century, and modern lifestyles for Native Americans.

I love the offset copy in the book that features famous Native Americans like Jim Thorpe, one of the best athletes in U.S .history, who faced many hardships, and famous English settlers like Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth, an interpreter who was instrumental in encouraging peace between Indians and settlers in the 1730s.

Kids who read this book will not only get insight into the lives of Native Americans but will also get important lessons on many different milestones in American history, such as the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War and much more. Plus there are 21 activities; how to make Arapaho Fry Bread; creating a Three-Sisters Garden; making a totem pole; and even how to decipher a Navajo code. There’s a glossary of important terms and a detailed index at the back of the book. Everyone in the family should read this and talk about what they’ve learned together!

What I like about the Chicago Review Press biographical/history books for kids is that they are straight-forward, comprehensive, informative and never patronizing to young readers. Even though they are written for children, they are always a great read for adults too. They encourage you think, inspire you to do great things and leave you yearning to research more about the subject.

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 She blogs daily at

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Get Into The Thick With Super Heroes & Villains

Workman Publishing’s Fandex Family Field Guides (Workman,, $12.95) are the fun-to-take-along, full-color, individually die-cut cards, layered to provide facts at your fingertips. My kids love to take the Fandex Guides along in the car and quiz each other which in turn gets my husband and I involved, too.

9780761158561Flip through the new Deluxe Edition DC Comics Super Heroes and Villains which is just jam-packed with info about 75 icons from the DC Universe including your faves and foes: Superman, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, The Riddler, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and more!

flashMeet the Elongated Man, The Rogues, The Flash and Harley Quinn and find out things you never knew like real names, abilities and powers, their base, affiliation and where they debuted. Bring on road trips and test your parents’ trivia I.Q., bring to friends’ houses and test their knowledge or simply store away the details because you never know when someone is going to ask you about Power Girl or Gorilla Grodd.

Whether you’re a die-hard super hero fan or dilettante looking for general info, here are all the facts-at-your-fingertips so c’mom, get lost in the layers.

Test Your Knowledge of The DC Universe (Answers below)

1) Where was Wonder Woman born?

joker2) True of False: The real name of The Joker is unknown.

3) Who were the original Teen Titans?



1) On the remote island of Themyscira (also known as Paradise Island)

2) True

3) Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl and Speedy

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Winter’s Tail

A Story of Healing and Hope

winter12044bf3bac_480x370Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again told by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff ( Turtle Pond/Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4-8) is the kind of story that comes along only once in a blue moon and manages to capture hearts with its universal message of hope and healing.

Once a 3 month-old bottlenose dolphin got caught up in a crab trap and, despite being rescued by an astute fisherman and brought to safety at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, lost her tail. Named after the chilly night on the day she was rescued, Winter beat all odds and survived although she suffered from extreme exhaustion and life threatening injury. Somehow this determined dolphin compensated for the loss of her appendage by eventually learning to swim from side to side like a fish instead of using the up and down motion employed by dolphins.

Abby Stone, the head dolphin trainer at CMA along with volunteers, bottle-fed Winter who grew stronger, but it was soon evident to Winter’s caretakers that there could be potential damage to Winter’s backbone as long as she continued swimming the wrong way. At the same time, Winter’s willpower, enthusiasm and infectious personality earned her a loyal following and fan base. She inspired others to face their challenges as she overcame hers. After lots of publicity and media attention, Kevin Carroll of Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics, a creator of prostheses (devices that replace lost arms and legs), designed and engineered a new tail for Winter. This device was able to mimic the up and down movement Winter needed. With the success of Winter’s prosthetic clearly proven, Carroll could then try to put the same material to work for humans. Today Winter thrives at CMA and her spirited nature continues to amaze, entertain and motivate others around the world!

If this is not a story of endurance and encouragement, I don’t know what is. I strongly encourage families to read this book together and then go to the website by clicking here to find further interesting Winter-related activities. You can also visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida or go to their website to learn more about Winter, see videos, blogs and more .

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