Fantastic New Addition to the Blogroll!

Stumbled across an article covering the StorySnoops, and I’m hooked!

If the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is correct, then four Los Gatos moms are definitely on the right track.

The foursome—Jen Nagel, Tiffany Boltz, Eden Manseau and Shannon Knowlton—recently launched Storysnoops.com, a website that offers children’s book reviews from a mom’s perspective, at a party in Saratoga to coincide with Children’s Book Week.

“We wanted it to be a resource for parents to either seek out a book or check on a book their child is reading,” Nagel said. “If they have a book in their hand at the book store, they can type it in and see if it might be a good fit for their child. We wanted it to be very simple and easy to use. We wanted to give a parent’s perspective, so what we communicate in our reviews is what I think another mom would want to know about a book.”

Later on:

The site is unique in that it doesn’t just offer reviews on the books, it also gives parents in-depth details on the plot summary, tells them exactly what type of content is covered and gives discussion topics. On the site, each book review has two parts—the story and the scoop.

“The story is basically what you could get off the jacket of the book. It’s an overview of the story and we don’t give anything away,” Boltz said. “In the scoop, we have a spoiler alert and may give away something like the main character dies in the end. Some kids only want happy endings, so we basically speak parent to parent.

The scoop offers good parent/child discussion materials, as well as all of the positive and negative things about the book. The scoop also offers content keywords, such as “problem solving,” “lying,” “courage,” “orphan,” “sex talk,” “drug reference,” “jealousy” and “virginity issues,” so that parents can find, or stay away from, books that deal with certain topics.

“We have about 100 content keyword to choose from,” Knowlton said. “You can pick anything from mild violence to cancer to pet death. Friendship troubles is a keyword and if your child is having those troubles and you are looking for a book dealing with it, click on the keyword and a whole list of books with that content will come up.”

Read the Rest

Seriously, go check out the StorySnoops. It’s great (and I’m TOTALLY jealous of their layout!)

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Discovered The Read-Aloud Handbook Website

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to look for this until someone else mentioned it. I’ve got my own copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and refer to it often. Now it turns out he offers ongoing book reviews and updated lists, plus a recommended Read Aloud of the Week, and weekly essays as well. Truly a treasure mine.

Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook Website

Potty Animals: What To Know When You’ve Gotta Go! by Hope Vestergaard

You’ve worked hard for way too long to get your little one to use the potty. Finally, you celebrate with the family, you throw away the diapers, and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Shortly thereafter, you come to the dismaying realization that there’s a whole lot more to this business that your darling doesn’t yet know. Things like “don’t take all day” and “go before you get in your carseat” and “use the potty, not a tree”. Oh my, the potty-train-in-a-day books never mentioned all THIS!

Fortunately, Potty Animals: What To Know When You’ve Gotta Go! steps neatly into this gap. Each two-page spread features a preschoolish animal who has an unfortunate bad habit that needs to be corrected. “Close the door, Farley” ends one such spread. It’s little details like this that can drive a parent to nag, isn’t it? Never again, now you can let the book do the telling!

As for readability, this book is nicely done as well. The text rhymes well, and the subject matter is quite giggly to a small child. Plus, with a few read-throughs, you child will probably enjoy reminding the characters of the closing “rule” on each page. They do like to think they’re smarter than the other kids, don’t they? The illustrations are colorful and cartoonish, playing well with the humorous theme of the book.

I’d suggest this book is one that deserves a place on your bookshelf and regular readings for quite some time.

Available on Amazon

Potty Animals: What To Know When You’ve Gotta Go! by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by Valeria Petrone. Sterling, 2010.

Who’s In The Garden? by Phillis Gershator

I’m approaching my review of Who’s In The Garden? with a bit of trepidation, because I’m not quite sure I can do this book justice. Still, it would be a shame if I never told you about it at all, so here we go.

Who’s In The Garden? is a simple picture book, suitable for the youngest readers, featuring windows through each page to “peek” through (and poke fingers through!) The text is simple as well, with pairs of pages asking “Who’s coming to see how my garden grows?” and then featuring a garden animal. This is not scintillating literature, but it’s easily readable.

The treasure of this book is it’s illustration. Done in a mixed-media style, it’s bright, colorful, and very, very appealing. You can linger over each page, soaking in the art and playing “I Spy” with the charming details. Likewise, it’s a book you can return to many times, to savor the illustrations.

The most exciting thing about Who’s In The Garden? may be the fact that it’s one of many titles from the publisher, Barefoot Books. I’m not familiar with them, but their catalog is quite tantalizing, and it appears that there is a definite vision for the books they choose. Here, I’ll quote from their website:

Explore. Imagine. Create. Connect. Give Back. That’s what Barefoot Books is all about. It’s exploring other cultures, our planet, ourselves. It’s making time for make-believe and letting imaginations run wild and free. Most of all, it’s about using the power of stories to nourish the creative spark in everyone and strengthen connections with family, the global community, and the earth.

Barefoot Books began with two mothers who wanted their children to have books that would feed the imagination, while instilling a respect for diversity and a love of the planet. Today, we are a world-wide community of writers, artists, storytellers, musicians, and others who are committed to providing timeless stories and captivating art that can help children become happy, engaged members of a global society.

My library doesn’t offer a way for me to search by publisher, so I’m going to have to ask the library staff to see what else is in their holdings. I’m quite eager to see more examples of this caliber of work. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Who’s In the Garden? as much as my kids and I did.

Available on Amazon

Who’s In The Garden? by Phillis Gershator, ill. by Jill McDonald. Barefoot Books, 2010.

From Children’s Literature to Readers Theater

Found an article on a group of librarians and teachers that teamed up with some 2nd graders to put on a readers theater performance for some preschoolers. Doesn’t sound like a very interesting teaser, does it? Trust me, the article is much more interesting than any summation I can come up with. My mind is abuzz…. wouldn’t this be a great service project for a troop of Scouts? (Just don’t tell them they’re going to be learning stuff, too!)

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Growing Up With Books In The Home = More Years of Education Completed In Life

I’ll admit, I’ve been accused of going a bit overboard on my book collection. At present, we’ve got 4 full-sized bookcases in the living room, and three small cases in the kids’ rooms, with more books in boxes downstairs. Believe it or not, that’s after a substantial effort at weeding them out (and NOT buying more!) over the last few years.

After reading this, I might just go buy another bookcase. I’m sure I can find a kitchen appliance I don’t use any more <g>.

“Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics,” reports the study, recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.

“This is a large effect, both absolutely and in comparison with other influences on education,” adds the research team, led by University of Nevada sociologist M.D.R. Evans. “A child from a family rich in books is 19 percentage points more likely to complete university than a comparable child growing up without a home library.”

This effect holds true regardless of a nation’s wealth, culture or political system, but its intensity varies from country to country. In China, a child whose parents own 500 books will average 6.6 more years of education than a comparable child from a bookless home. In the U.S., the figure is 2.4 years — which is still highly significant when you consider it’s the difference between two years of college and a full four-year degree.

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Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

Poor kitten!” is the refrain we all shout as we read this book, the story of a small kitten out on his first night-time prowl. He mistakes the full moon for a giant saucer of milk, and gets himself into all sorts of predicaments trying to get himself a treat. In the end, he trudges back home to find the best treat of all.

If you haven’t guessed, this is one our family’s favorites. It’s stuffed full of giggle-worthy moments, and gives a reader plenty of opportunity to dramatize. The illustrations are simply drawn, and in black-and-white, but well-executed to enhance the story. The text is a bit unusual in that it doesn’t rhyme, but it’s well metered and pleasant. It is not a leveled reader, but after a few read-throughs with a grownup, a young reader should be able to manage on his own. I’ve recently overheard my daughter read this book to her younger brother, and listening to them giggle together is a rare pleasure.

Kitten’s First Full Moon is a rare book – one that I can definitely recommend adding to your family’s personal collection. We’ve returned to it time and time again for at more than four years now, and it shows no sign of losing it’s appeal.

Available on Amazon

Kitten’s First Full Moon written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, 2004.