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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE!

 George: George Washington, Our Founding Father

Dear Readers,

This review first posted in in 2012 (hence the different date of Presidents Day), but I felt it was worth reposting again today.

Tomorrow, February 22nd, is our founding father’s birthday.  Since I probably learned about America’s first president over 40 years ago, I decided to revisit some children’s books and found George: George Washington, Our Founding Father by Frank Keating with paintings by Mike Wimmer ($16.99, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, ages 6 and up), to be one worth noting.

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George: George Washington, Our Founding Father by Frank Keating with illustrations by Mike Wimmer, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2012.

The author, former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating, shares this story, part of the Mount Rushmore series, in first person so readers will feel an immediate connection to Washington’s life in Virginia.  The fifth of ten children, Washington was expected to leave school at 15 years old to assist his widowed mother; his father having died four years earlier. From an early age young Washington displayed strong moral fiber, writing a list called The Rules of Civility originally taught to him by teachers, the principles of which would guide him throughout his life.  I had not remembered that Martha, whom he married at age 27 was already a widow with two children although it’s not surprising considering the average life span then was around 37 years old. I liked that the author chose to include various rules from Washington’s list helping me to learn more about what shaped this influential man even prior to becoming commander in chief of the armies or our nation’s first leader.

The award-winning artist, Mike Wimmer, has brought Washington to life through his use of oils painted on canvas in this wonderful picture book. To capture the president in the 18th century so accurately, Wimmer used models, period costumes and a lot of research. He has succeeded in portraying Washington’s life in an engaging, almost photographic-like way and  his paintings truly complement Keating’s succinct narrative . This book would make a great addition to any school or local library’s American History section as its message is timeless.

Rule 1: Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.

Rule 73: Think before you speak. Pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

Now these are great rules to live by!

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds

Christmas Gifts Come in All Shapes and Sizes.

Reviewer Rita Zobayan shares a book about rediscovering the magic of home.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas, (Candlewick Press, 2013; $14.00, Ages 4 and up), written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

Cover art for The Smallest Gift of Christmas

The Smallest Gift of Christmas written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press, 2013.

Roland is eagerly awaiting Christmas and the presents that the holiday brings. What he doesn’t count on is getting a small gift, and not just a small gift, but “the smallest gift he had ever seen.” Well, this simply won’t do and Roland wishes up some Christmas magic for a bigger gift. He gets it, but he still isn’t satisfied! “Roland stomped off, sure there was a bigger gift for him—somewhere.” So Roland sets off to search the universe for his perfect gift. Will he find the BIG present he thinks he deserves? Maybe, but not in the way Roland imagined.

Presented in a cartoon-style illustration from award-winning author/illustrator Reynolds, with a simple but bold color palette highlighting red and green, the images are perfect for the story. The font, which Reynolds hand-lettered, is kid friendly and eye-catching.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas is a gentle and humorous reminder that material gifts, while fun and exciting and sometimes big, pale in comparison to the true gifts of family and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Hensons PAJANIMALS Bedtime Books

Pajanimals logoI’m a huge Jim Henson fan so when I received these new Pajanimals bedtime board books (some even include my fave – reusable stickers!) and paperbacks from Running Press Kids, I knew I had to share them all with you. The best part about this new collection is that they provide parents with ideal reading material for toddlers dealing with concerns and fears quite common for their developmental stage.

The writing in all the Pajanimals bedtime books is upbeat, easy flowing and each colorful book focuses on a way to tackle the title’s issue in a comforting way whether it be about jealousy, nightmares or waking up on the wrong side of the bed. For instance in Sweet Pea Sue Misses Mom and Dad, Sweet Pea would rather sleep with Mom and Dad than spend the night in her own room. However after a quick visit to the Moon with her pals Squacky, Cowbella and Apollo, and a thoughtful question from the Moon, Sweet Pea Sue solves the dilemma herself. I sure wish books like these had been available 18 years ago when my oldest daughter faced many of the same challenges. Children will be able to relate to their favorite TV characters and parents will be thankful for an easy, affordable way to discuss otherwise tricky topics. The books’ size makes them easy to take along on vacations or outings. Why not also consider giving them as a gift because, when paired with another Pajanimals product, they’d certainly please most any toddler you know!

PAJANIMALS PAPERBACKS

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksApollo Has a Bad Day – $4.95

Lots of things are going wrong for Apollo today. When he is feeling too angry and sad to sleep, he and the Pajanimals travel to The Night Sky. The Moon reminds Apollo that though there are bad days, tomorrow is always a brand new day. 

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSquacky Is Afraid of the Dark – $4.95

Squacky is afraid to go to sleep in the dark. Luckily the rest of the Pajanimals know just what to do! They travel to The Night Sky where the Moon reminds Squacky that he is always shining bright in the sky and watching over the Pajanimals.

 

SMALL FORMAT BOARD BOOKS

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSweet Pea Sue Misses Mom and Dad – $6.95

Sweet Pea Sue can’t sleep because she wants to be in Mom and Dad’s bed. When the Pajanimals travel to the Moon, she remembers that Mom and Dad are always close by if she needs them, and that Moon is always there watching over them.

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksCowbella and the Bad Dream– $6.95

Cowbella is afraid she’s going to have a bad dream and doesn’t want to go to sleep. The Pajanimals travel to the Friendly Forest where Jerry the bear assures Cowbella that if her imagination can think up scary thoughts, it can also make happy thoughts! So she learns to only think of happy things before she goes to sleep.

 

BOARD BOOKS/12 pages (Includes reusable stickers – warning: small parts. Not for children under 3 years)

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksIt’s Apollo’s Special Day – $7.95

Tomorrow is Apollo’s Birthday and the Pajanimals are excited to celebrate—all except for Cowbella. She wishes that it was her Birthday so she can get all the cake and presents. But when they visit Mr. Happy Birthday at Birthday Land, Cowbella discovers that the fun part about a Birthday party is spending time with the ones you love.

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSweet Pea Sue Makes a New Friend – $7.95

Sweet Pea Sue can’t sleep because she’s scared of a picture of an octopus she saw in a book. When the Pajanimals go to the Big, Blue Sea, they meet Ellie, a real octopus. To Sweet Pea Sue’s surprise, Ellie is scared of the Pajanimals. The two realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of because they just want to be friends.

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSquacky and The Gift of Christmas – $7.95

The Pajanimals are excited that Christmas is coming! Squacky really hopes he gets the new Fantastic Splash Super Sub, but then becomes worried that Santa won’t bring it. The Pajanimals travel to The Night Sky where the Moon reminds Squacky that Christmas isn’t about the presents you get, it’s about spending time with the ones you love and sharing Christmas traditions together.

To find out more about the Pajanimals, see their TV schedule, see videos, get activities and craft ideas plus enter contests, visit Sprout here.

Sticks and Stones

Author Christy Jordan-Fenton got the inspiration for her true stories When I Was Eight ($9.95, Annick Press, Ages 6-9) and Fatty Legs: A True Story ($12.95, Annick Press, Ages 9 and up) from her mother-in-law, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Both books are based upon the story of Margaret’s experience at a residential school as a child – When I Was Eight is a picture book, while Fatty Legs is a chapter book.

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The Story

Margaret is a tall, curious Inuit girl from Banks Island, situated high above the Arctic Circle. After her older sister, Rosie, returns from a year at a residential school far from home in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada, Margaret begs her parents to let her attend school, too. She so desperately wants to learn to read, but Rosie warns Margaret of the cruel nuns who cut her hair and made her do chores relentlessly. Yet still, Margaret eventually talks her parents into letting her attend the school after her eighth birthday.

On her first day there, Margaret quickly learns her sister was right, as the nuns make her cut off her braids and do chores. She misses her family desperately, hates the food and wonders why she ever wanted to attend in the first place. One witch-like nun in particular, named the Raven, singles strong-willed Margaret out and makes her do more chores than the others girls and is very unfair and cruel to her. Part of the girls’ uniform requires that they wear thick stockings to keep their legs warm. But one day, the Raven passes out grey stockings to all the girls in the school except for Margaret, who is forced to wear bulky, bright red stockings. The other girls laugh and torment Margaret, calling her, “Fatty Legs.” But rather than suffer any longer, Margaret does something unusually brave to stand up for herself.

When I Was Eight

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The picture book offers younger readers a simpler, less detailed version of the story, yet depicts Margaret’s fears and challenges at the school incredibly well. I like that the book introduces different cultures and places to young readers and shares the universal theme that we all experience both as children and adults – fitting in.  It also delves deep into the importance of being able to read well. The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard are excellent and original in style, adding great dimension to the story.

Fatty Legs

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The more I read the chapter book, the more hooked I got on the story. Without sugar-coating the truth about Margaret’s emotional abuse by the Raven, the author tells the story in a way that’s easy to understand, so real, yet not too terrifying for the targeted age of the readers. Margaret’s courage and determination to learn will make readers feel extra close to this likable protagonist and will be able to relate their own personal challenges to hers in some way.

It would be extra special to buy both of these affordable books for your child so he or she could read the picture book in early elementary school and the chapter book when a bit older. The fact that these wonderful, culturally rich books are based upon a true story make them treasures worth keeping.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

All Treat, No Trick Halloween Giveaway

The leaves are changing color, there’s a cool breeze in the air, nights are longer, baseball season’s winding down, pumpkin patches are popping up on every other corner and bags of candy are already stacked a mile high on supermarket shelves. It must mean Halloween’s on the horizon. And to get the excitement brewing, we’re giving away a bunch of books for boys and ghouls (and one for parents as well) to enjoy before their big night out. Scroll to the bottom for more info after reading all the reviews.

Bedtime For BOO ($10.99, A Golden Book, ages 2 and up) written by Mickie Matheis and illustrated by Bonnie Leick is a real treat. Young Boo is going to stay up late to go a-haunting and, as little ones can imagine, Boo’s thrilled. Always with a smile on his face, Boo will swirl through the sky, whoosh past an owl and stir up the leaves as part of the fun. But soon bedtime beckons and Mama Ghost wants young Boo to go to sleep even though he claims to not be tired. “Listen to the sounds of the house,” Mama Ghost suggests. All around you can hear noises from bats flapping, footsteps tapping, mice squeaking and doors creaking. Of course there are black cats hissing and wolves howling all included in rhyme that a parent can whisper as the book nears its end. What could be scary is actually comforting when shared from a sweet little ghost’s perspective. I found the illustrations to be perfectly suited to the text and when kids are less tired they, too, will want to study every page.

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs ($16.95, Charlesbridge, ages 7-10) written by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen with illustrations by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins is just the kind of offbeat picture book that is at times ever so subtly humorous and other times outright in your face. Either way, the variety of the verses are clever and catchy and the gray-toned artwork is moody and evocative with the occasional surprising smidgen of scarlet. Look closely, too, or you might miss some very funny touches Timmins has tossed in to keep you on your toes as you walk amongst the tombstones. Whether the creatures have been crushed, fallen ill or been struck while crossing the street (see page 6 Chicken Crosses Over), the myriad methods of demise are as hysterical as the epitaphs! I have a feeling this original and whacky poetry book might just tickle a few funny bones and get more than a few kids eager to try their hand at a few epitaphs this fall. With a chill in the autumn air, it’s really the right time of year to nurture all those budding Edgar Allan Poes.

Making a Jack-o’-Lantern, Step by Step (Captsone/A+ Books: Step-by-Step Stories, ages 5 and up) by J. Angelique Johnson is a terrific book for children parents will want to have on hand for a variety of reasons. First, the photos are fantastic!  They help to illustrate the simple, straight forward text and are so good they could work without words though not for a beginner pumpkin carver. Second, the book is divided into 4 easy steps or mini-story chapters so a child can learn sequencing along with just enjoying young Elliot’s first time helping his dad find, set-up for, prepare and finally carve a Jack-o’-Lantern. At the end readers are rewarded with seeing the fab finished product and also have a chance to participate in a photo sequencing activity.  Also provided are a helpful glossary, reading recommendations and internet sites for more fun after finishing the book.  So parents, while this may be a messy activity, it will be worth every minute! Other books in this series are: Fighting a Fire, Getting a Pet, and Recycling.

Halloween Howlers: Frightfully Funny Knock-Knock Jokes ($6.99, Harper Festival, ages 5-8) by Michael Teitelbaum with pictures by Jannie Ho will make your child’s All Hallow’s Eve and the days leading up to it a laugh a minute. Whimsical, colorful illustrations pair well with humor like “Knock, knock! Who’s there? Disguise! Disguise who? Disguise giving me the creeps!”  I counted over two dozen jokes, lots with funny lift-the-flaps that help make this inexpensive book something different to send along to school to spice up a lunch box or to stuff into a backpack to make the bus ride home a giggle fest or even to give out as a Halloween season birthday party favor.

Glitterville’s Handmade Halloween: A Glittered Guide for Whimsical Crafting! ($19.99, Andrews McMeel Publishing) by Stephen Brown (craft expert and judge on TLC’s Craft Wars) is for folks who are crafty in the positive sense of the meaning. Are you one of those people like Good Reads With Ronna reviewer Debbie Glade who can make something fantastic out of just about anything or are you like me whose claim to fame is the Pilgrim Placeholders I made for Thanksgiving six years ago from toilet paper rolls. I need good photos, good directions and a lot of motivation and this book has all of those things and then some! With 20 wickedly clever craft projects inside, Brown’s book reveals some spooktacular secrets this successful entrepreneur has gleaned from years of experience. He’ll tell you about the materials you’ll need with handy descriptions of them if you’re not familiar with things like monofilament (aka fishing line), other tools-of-the-trade, basic techniques and then with step-by-step instructions you’ll be ready to roll.  I’m partial to the witchy party hat, but maybe you’ll prefer the Chenille Pumpkin, the Spider Puppet, the Spooky Forest Sticks and (yum) Orange Candy Apples or the Bride of Franky GlitterStein table decoration. There are patterns provided in the back of the book and you can use this book as a jumping point for other happening holiday crafts.

Beginning today Monday, October 8 and then again on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 we’re reviewing and/or briefly mentioning books that we’ve read recently then giving them away the following week! So **read both posts before entering. And guess what? If  you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by midnight on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all 11 books covered (worth a value of $153.77) just in time for Halloween!! Remember to write Halloween Book Giveaway in the subject line.  **YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED IN THE 2 BLOGS as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day!! Click here now for more detailed rules. Good luck!

How To Tame A Wild Queen

Today’s review of The Unruly Queen ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 3 and up) by E.S. Redmond is by Krista Jefferies.

E.S. Redmond’s The Unruly Queen tells the tale of Minerva von Vyle, an unmanageable and impish little girl who refuses to obey any rules or do as she’s told.  Through colorfully detailed illustrations, we learn how Minerva draws on walls and jumps on beds, throws her food to the floor and insists on plates of candy for dinner, refuses to go to sleep and dares to stay up all night. Week after week Minerva exasperates every new nanny that walks through her doors, until nanny number 53 arrives with a Mary Poppins type of demeanor—confident and cunning enough to correct Minerva’s incorrigible ways.

The fifty-third nanny crowns Minerva the Queen of Petulant Peak, donning her knot-filled hair with a lovely crown that Minerva feels truly suits her.  But as Nanny delightfully explains the awful details of ruling such a messy and disruptive place, Minerva begins to protest the idea of being a queen that would be fit for such a kingdom. She insists on brushing her teeth and the knots on her head, putting on pajamas and going to bed, and taking a bath without being led. Minerva does everything she’s expected to do even before she’s told while Nanny simply expresses worry that Minerva is shaping up to be a girl not fit to be queen.  This playful display of reverse psychology is a funny little tale with a pleasant rhyme that any young reader will enjoy. Parents will enjoy it as well, and could possibly discover a few tricks to tame terrifically wild tantrums.  They may even recognize a few techniques they’ve used themselves.

Spring is Here, There and Everywhere

If you could see my shelves at home, you’d know how much I love books about gardening. And one of my greatest pleasures is sharing my gardening knowledge with children. And Then it’s Spring ($16.99, Roaring Brook Press, ages 4 and up) is a perfect book for curious little gardeners. There are but a few wonderful words on every page, written by Julie Fogliano, and a whole lot of story telling going on with the illustrations, by Erin E. Stead. The story is about a boy and his dog who are eager to be done with winter so they can see less brown in the garden and more green. Yet day after day, week after week, brown is all they see. Until one day spring has arrived. I love the way this story charmingly epitomizes the anticipation every child experiences while waiting for something truly important to him or her. It also inspires kids to want to get out in their yards and plant seeds. And that is a very good thing.

What better time than spring to read a book about farmyard animals? Even better yet, this book should be read on a night when your little one is having trouble settling down to go to sleep. Farmyard Beat ($15.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ages 1 and up) by Lindsey Craig is a catchy rhyming story about different farm animals that cannot sleep because they’ve got a beat going on in their heads. What you’ll truly love about this book is the fact that the animals eventually do wear themselves out, hopefully inspiring your child to do the same! You’ll also admire the illustrations by the inimitable Marc Brown (of the Arthur books and cartoon fame). The vivid pictures are actually collages made from hand-painted papers, and they’re just so darn cute.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade. To see Debbie’s organic tomato garden video, click here.

Won’t You Be Mine, Valentine?

Debbie Glade reviews three heart-warming Harper Collins books, perfect for the little Valentine in your life. Scroll down to see our easy Valentine card you can make with your child.

Who wouldn’t love a Valentine book with glitter on the cover and on the inside pages? Plant a Kiss ($14.99 Harper Collins, ages 4 and up) by NY Times Bestselling author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, is charming, fun and so perfect for Valentine’s Day. A young girl plants a kiss in the ground to see what will grow. She waters it and waits and waits for something to happen. Just when she thinks nothing is ever going to happen, she is pleasantly surprised. The book is written with just a few clever rhyming words on each page. The small, cute illustrations by Peter H Reynolds really make the story extra special. I love this book, and you will too.

Snowy Valentine ($15.99, Harper Collins, ages 3-8), written and illustrated by David Petersen, is a story about Jasper the bunny, who longs to find the perfect Valentine for his wife, Lilly. He asks all the other animals in town what they are giving their wives, yet he still cannot find the perfect gift – that is until he discovers something extraordinary by accident. This story is endearing and has a great message. What’s more, the illustrations are outstanding, and you will want to take the time to look at all the details on every page with your children.

As you might imagine from the title, Hedgehug: A Sharp Lesson in Love ($9.99, Harper Collins, ages newborn-7) is a story about an animal with pesky spikes that get in the way of everything. Hedgehug is a little guy who just wants what all of us want – to find true love. So he makes a special card and sets out on Valentine’s Day to find a special someone who may just return his Valentine wishes. It’s just that his hugs cause his would-be-Valentines too much pain.  Just when he thinks there is no hope in finding true love, something really special happens. This adorable story was created and illustrated by Dan Pinto and was written by Benn Sutton. The pictures are colorful and darling, just like the story.

Make a Fun and Easy Valentine Card!

Click here for instructions on how to make the card.

Children’s Holiday Book Roundup and Giveaway

We may not get snow here in sunny Southern California, but we do get all the wonderful holiday books to help us get into the festive mood!  Ronna Mandel and Debbie Glade have put together a brief collection of recommended books for parents to consider when making up their gift lists this season. No matter what time of the year, one of the most important things to do with your child is read. So buy a book or two, put the kettle on and then snuggle up close to your little ones and explore lands near and far as they come alive with every page you turn.  For a chance to be the winner of three of these terrific holiday books, please leave a comment on the blog, LIKE Good Reads With Ronna on Facebook and be sure to provide an email where you can be contacted.  The contest ends at midnight on Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. Scroll down for contest *rules.

Record a Memory: Our Family Christmas Memories (approx. $15.95, Publications International, Ltd., all ages) makes it easy for families to share memories and then treasure them for years to come.  The sparkly, embossed cover beckons readers to open the book, fill in the requested info, add voice messages wherever there’s an icon pictured and turn good times into a customized scrapbook. With a little help from an older sibling or adult, even the youngest child can add their input by simply following the handy instructions provided on the opening page. Everyone will enjoy the 48 beautiful pages, with their ample room to include photos of Christmas stockings, Christmas dinner plus places to jot down specific recollections like a favorite Christmas past or yummy recipe.  Best of all is the six-button module designed to allow users to record a special memory, making Our Family Christmas Memories a keepsake families will return to again and again. Three AAA batteries are included and the books can be found at major retailers nationwide.  Add Record a Memory to the rest of your family’s holiday traditions and capture cherished moments for a lifetime.

A Bad Kitty Christmas ($15.99, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, ages 4 and up), written and illustrated by Nick Bruel cannot fail when its cover alone cracks me up! Anyone who knows me knows I adore cats and now, having just adopted two maniacal brothers whose exploits compare to those of Bad Kitty’s, I love Bruel’s series more than ever. The picture book opens with, “Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the city, not a creature was stirring … (Blam! Crash! Kaboom! indicating sound of garbage pails flying) … Except for Bad Kitty.” If this line does not set the tone for what havoc will be wreaked by this fabulously feisty feline, I’m not sure what does. Soon Kitty shows her disinterest in spending Christmas Eve with Uncle Murray and leaps from her owner’s auto (followed by Puppy), getting lost in the big city until rescued by an elderly lady.  After an afternoon of listening to the old lady reminisce, Bad Kitty  yearns to return home to his family. Sensing the cat’s homesickness, the caring woman realizes she has an important holiday mission to accomplish.  Will Bad Kitty (and Puppy) be reunited with their family for Christmas? Put this book on your holiday list to find out how they all fare.  Still eager to continue the craziness?  Check out more shenanigans at the Bad Kitty website.

Chanukah Lights ($34.99, Candlewick Press, ages 5 and up), is written by Michael J. Rosen with pop-art by Robert Sabuda.  Not all pop-up books are created equal and when you combine the talents of the masterful Rosen with those of Sabuda, you get a rare Chanukah treat for the entire family to enjoy.  Travel across the globe and through time by experiencing eight wondrous and intricately designed scenes of the Jewish Festival of Lights. Whether viewing the Temple where the oil that lasted eight days was discovered, journeying to a shtetl where “six lights flicker,” or traveling to a kibbutz in the Promised Land replete with olive groves and this time showing eight glimmering flames, the faith of those who have carried on the Chanukah tradition is beautifully reflected on every page. This unique interpretation of the holiday will not disappoint.

Create-A-Story Kit: StoryWorld – Christmas Tales ($9.99, Templar Books, ages 9 and up) by John & Caitlin Matthews is just the answer for kids stuck indoors with relatives and other visitors over the holiday break. Christmas Tales allows everyone to take control of their boredom transforming it into fun and games when using the set of cards provided. There are multiple ways to use the colorful cards and a handy storytelling book included that gives tips to get players started. Pick a card and begin telling a tale, or maybe play a card game of hidden clues. Kids can even put on a play based on the card images. My favorite card, The Christmas Ghosts (who appear only at Christmastime) sets my imagination soaring.  Thought provoking questions on the card’s reverse side ask: “What stories can they tell about their lives?”  “Why have they appeared this year?” Or in my case, the question would be “Why have they NOT appeared this year?” Then I would also incorporate the last question, “Who is able to see them and who cannot?” and so would begin my tale … Make Create-A-Story series part of your family’s annual celebration and see what a good time being stuck with relatives and visitors can really be!

The Littlest Evergreen’s talented author and illustrator Henry Cole, ($16.99, Katherine Tegan Books by Harper Collins, ages 4 and up) really knows how to captivate the hearts of his readers. This is an enchanting story, with an environmental message, about a how a tiny evergreen grows into a Christmas tree and about what happens to him after the holiday is over. Cole’s illustrations are beyond exceptional – so much so that I found myself looking at them over and over again. He uses vivid acrylic paints in such a way that they have crisp edges to make featured objects contrast beautifully with the backgrounds. This artist has illustrated more than 50 children’s books, including several he has written himself. Every child, who celebrates Christmas and loves to choose a fresh tree every year, will also adore this book. It is without-a-doubt one to keep and read every year before Christmas. It sure got me in the Christmas spirit!

CONTEST RULES:

*This giveaway will run through midnight on December 23,  2011 (PST). Winner will be chosen using Random.org from all valid entries and notified via email. Winner will have 48 hours to contact us at Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com before another winner is chosen. Giveaway is open to U.S. (18+) residents only.

*Good Reads With Ronna did not receive monetary compensation for these reviews.  Three (3) giveaway items worth a total value of  $67.97 will be provided by Good Reads With Ronna. 
 The reviews are in our own words and is our opinion. Your opinions may differ.

It’s Hard Work Being Perfect

This review by Ronna Mandel of The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $14.99, ages 4-8) by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein, illustrated by Mark Pett, can be found in the November issue of L.A. Parent.

It’s hard work being perfect – not that I know of course, but I can just imagine. And when you never botch up like the main character of this book, Beatrice Bottomwell, people come to expect you will never make a mistake, never forget to do your homework, mismatch your socks or, horror-of-all-horrors, be unprepared for the school talent show juggling act! Pett and Rubinstein’s story and Pett’s totally in sync artwork come together to share an important message: it’s OK to try your best, but when it becomes all consuming and nothing less is satisfying, more is lost than gained!

All that striving for perfection can certainly create a lot of stress. It gets to the point for 9-year-old Beatrice that, after one near miss with an egg while baking, she starts avoiding activities for fear of failure. While Beatrice’s friends and even her younger brother could care less about falling down while ice skating or playing piano the wrong way, Beatrice’s worrying about making a mistake makes her feel ill until … she actually does make a major mistake in front of a packed school auditorium during her juggling performance in the talent show. What results is anything but a disaster! In fact, Beatrice, and the audience, end up finding the whole thing so hilarious, that from that moment forward Beatrice is surprised to find out how absolutely wonderful and rewarding it is to stop trying so hard and just be herself.

Kohl’s Shares the Love This Holiday Season

Kohl’s Cares Books and Plush Toys Spark Kids’ Imaginations While Supporting Health and Education Initiatives

At this time every year I look forward to moving the clocks back, getting my down comforter out from storage and seeing what wonderful books Kohl’s will be offering in their Kohl’s Cares program. Seriously, where can you find $5 brand new books and plush toys to fill stockings and children’s hearts? With these great values, don’t just buy for the family!  Now through December stock up on your holiday presents and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Take advantage today of this inspiring collection of gifts that doesn’t break the bank. Through the generous Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program you can get both quality books to entertain your kids while helping improve the lives of other children nationwide. This season Kohl’s is featuring best-selling author Nancy Tillman’s books The Spirit of Christmas, On the Night You Were BornWherever You Are My Love Will Find You and It’s Time to Sleep, My Love 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 Good Housekeeping’s cookbook, A Very Merry Christmas Cookook. You can also purchase Have Yourself A Merry Little Country Christmas CD featuring tunes by popular country artists. What better way to get into the holiday mood than baking delicious treats with some spirited country music playing in the background?

Wishing you a joyous holiday season. Just remember to spread the love around!

Making Math Fun for Wee Readers

It’s never too soon to introduce math to your children, and it’s never too early to read them a book, so why not combine the two? Today Debbie Glade reviews two books for early readers with cheerful illustrations and clever prose.

Let’s Count Goats ($16.99, Beach Lane Books by Simon and Schuster, Ages 2-6), written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Jan Thomas, introduces the youngest of readers to the world of math. The book features many different goats doing different things and welcomes the reader to count the creatures on the pages. The illustrations are cartoon-like and quite adorable, and the colors are vibrant and inviting. The book works because it is fun and teaches simple math so subtly that the children reading it will not think they are being hit over the head with a math lesson. Parents will enjoy reading this to their children, who are too young to read themselves.

Another book that uses animals to teach math is Double Play: Monkeying Around with Addition ($15.99, Tricycle Press, Ages 4 and up) by Betsy Franco (who has penned more than 80 books) and illustrated by Doug Cushman (who has illustrated more than 100 books). Using simple rhyming verse, this book focuses on recess play-time to introduce simple math equations to the reader. What I like about the book is that children can easily count the number of animals in each picture while looking at the basic math equations on the page. The watercolor illustrations are colorful and appealing and invite the child to relate well to the joys of play-time while learning simple math.

Nancy Tillman Shares The Love

You may know author and illustrator Nancy Tillman from her bestselling picture book, On the Night You Were Born or maybe from Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You. With the addition of her latest picture book, The Crown on Your Head ($16.99, Feiwel & Friends, ages 4-8) one wonderful common theme emerges –  children everywhere need to know that they are special and loved.

You will be pulled into the pages from the very first lines:

“On the day that we met and I put you to bed,
I noticed a crown on the top of your head.

It was made up of sparkling, glimmering things
like moonlight and fireflies, and dragonfly wings.”

Had this book been published when my children were young, I would have read this book to them nightly to instill in them a strong sense of self and confidence. And one of my favorites lines is just below:

“I always knew just what your crown meant.
It said that you were MAGNIFICENT.”

Tillman has an unerring ability to convey her convictions through warm, gleaming artwork, artwork that captures a little one’s inner joy and contentment at just being themselves and being loved for who they are. This book is pure gold.

The Crown on Your Head was reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

I am a Rock. I am an Alphabet Book.

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by  Leslie McGuirk ($15.99, Tricycle Press, all ages)  is just so clever you will kick yourself you did not think of it. How often have you strolled beaches or parks and picked up an unusual looking rock only to realize it resembled something else; maybe a pointing finger, a shoe, a human face or an animal? I know I have countless times, but I never could have envisioned an entire alphabet. Rereading the book as I wrote this review, I still marvel at the humor and inventiveness of every page and want to share this book with all my friends and their families.

It not only took a lot of imagination on the part of McGuirk, but dedication, too!  She began collecting all these rocks 10 years ago and patiently waited until she found just what she was seeking, a letter ‘k’! Whether you love ‘c’ is for couch potato, ‘l’ is for lemon or ‘o’ is for ouch, you will be amazed at the variety of rocks that fill the pages.  There are not only rocks forming the letters of the alphabet, but rocks in shapes that help describe the words she has used.  Consider this: would you have, while leisurely walking the same stretch of Florida shoreline as McGuirk,  looked at the very same rocks she selected in ‘t’ is for toast and seen a slice of bread begging to be buttered? I cannot wait to see what idea she comes up with next – a rock cookbook maybe? If anyone can find a rock in the shape of a measuring cup, it’s McGuirk!

This book was reviewed today by Ronna Mandel.

It’s All in the Dirt

Debbie Glade reviews two titles that inspire young readers to dig in the dirt.

As an avid backyard “farmer” myself, I can’t seem to resist books that teach kids (and their parents) how things grow. An Edible Alphabet: 26 Reasons to Love the Farm, ($16.99, Tricycle Press, ages 5-8) by Carol Watterson, does just that in a most creative way. The book features fascinating facts about animals and plant-based foods, using alphabetic titles as a means to introduce various topics. How does “Flip Flop Fry” sound to you as a way to teach readers about wild salmon and protecting life in the ocean? Or how about “Stink Stank Stunk” to teach readers about how farmers spread manure in the fields? I love the creativity of that! The vivid illustrations by Michela Sorrentino really make this book extra special. And what I love most is both the author and the illustrator grow their own veggies at home, just like I do. This book is sure to inspire you and your children to start your own garden.

How Things Work in the Yard ($14.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 4-8) is an ultra sturdy book, by Lisa Campbell Ernst, which answers many of the questions children often ask their parents. Each 2-page spread in the book features a plant, animal or object one would find in a back yard, such as a ball, firefly, caterpillar, rock or squirrel. Each item is explained in enough detail to teach young readers about how animals live, plants grow and objects come to be. The paper used for the book has an attractive matte finish, not usually found in children’s books, with a graph paper grid. The descriptions are supported by very unique and appealing illustrations, made from paper cutouts.

“When a ball bounces on the ground, it squishes a little, then pushes back to its round shape.”

Don’t all curious kids wonder about things like that? Heck, I’m not a kid, yet I still think about things like that.

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