Saturday, October 17, 2009

Seven Spirals: A Chakra Sutra for Kids

Seven Spirals: A Chakra Sutra for Kids is a picture book by two stay-at-home moms from Florida. It is designed to introduce children to the seven chakras of the body, by illustrating the principles of each through short stories. Each story is loosely connected to the next one, and features a group of children.

The first story, in which Tree explains human roots to young Rowan, is probably the easiest story to understand, as it is almost the most concrete of the seven spirals. The others will require much more thought, as they are increasingly abstract.

I think that the stories and concepts are a little too abstract for young readers, but older, elementary-aged children would be able to glean some understanding through conversation about each one. The authors include a glossary of sorts in the back, which can help adults explain the meaning of each. Conversation with children can include brainstorming other ways in which each spiral can be used.

Children of all ages will fall in love with the gorgeous, colorful illustrations accompanying each story. The youngest can learn the most about the seven chakras through the associated colors. Red is root, orange is sacral, yellow is navel, green is heart, blue is throat, indigo is forehead, and violet is crown. Make it more concrete by doing a life-sized body tracing, putting the colors in the appropriate locations, or by putting stickers directly on the child's body.

Also at the end of the book, following the glossary, is a paragraph explaining how to "tune up" the chakras by sitting cross-legged and breathing slowly to empty and calm the mind. This concept will be the easiest for the youngest children to understand, and can help lay the foundation for later chakra exploration.

Purchase Seven Spirals: A Chakra Sutra for Kids

Tinycandy's Gift

Tinycandy's Gift by Susan E. Estes is a touching new children's book that is available just in time for this year's Christmas season. Written completely in verse, it is the story of a special little elf living up at the North Pole. He has a slight limp, and got the name "Tinycandy" because his ears look like little round pieces of candy. Santa gives him a cane to help him maneuver without falling down.

Tinycandy is sad because he hasn't yet been able to find his special talent for making Christmas gifts. Everything he tries ends up reflecting his sadness and despair. Mrs. Claus takes pity on the small elf, and invites him to help her in the kitchen, where he finds that he is a talented baker. And thus, he creates the first candy canes.

The story is one that is inspirational, in that the elf is able to capitalize on his disability and turn it into a positive. It sends the message that even those with disabilities possess tremendous abilities, and hopefully lays a foundation that reduces prejudicial feelings in children.

The illustrations by Mike Motz are beautiful, almost reminiscent of Christmas classics from the first half of the 20th century. They have tremendous detail, and the vibrant colors really stand out with modern printing techniques.

Included with the book are a read-along CD and a recipe for making candy canes at home. Author Susan E. Estes hopes that families will make this book, as well as the candy making experience, a regular part of their holiday tradition.

Purchase Tinycandy's Gift

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Queen Vernita's Visitors

Queen Vernita's Visitors is the first installment in a series of five books by author Dawn Menge. (I previously reviewed the second book, Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains.) In this book, Queen Vernita is feeling lonely in her castle in Oceaneer and misses her friends from the land of Quails. She decides to send out invitations to twelve of her friends, inviting each one to spend a month with her.

Each one of her friends comes for an entire month, and they develop a weekly routine of fun that corresponds with the season. At the end of the book, Debbie, who visited in January, arrives again, allowing for the book to naturally cycle back into itself, representing the cycle of a year.

Each month has its own page detailing their adventures. "On Mondays they....On Tuesdays they...." Activities are seasonally appropriate. The number of days in each month is mentioned as a learning tool. Days of the week and the fact that there are twelve months until the month comes about again are repeated on each page, emphasizing the concepts for learning. Topics include indoor and outdoor games, flowers, apples, pumpkins, fall fun, turkey, and snow.

Vibrant illustrations by Bobbi Switzer illustrate caricatures of the friends and family about whom Menge writes her stories.

The book won an EVVY award from the Colorado Independent Publishers' Association and a Reader Views Literary Award.

The book can be used best as a learning tool in a classroom. It is a little long for reading to a group of really young children, but each page can be used as an independent lesson, or basis for further study. Children could also be asked to create their own activity agenda for each month of the year.

Purchase Queen Vernita's Visitors

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

Cheese Louise!

David Michael Slater's play on words in the title Cheese Louise let you know you're in for a comical treat before you even open the cover. The verbal groaners just keep on coming, and you can't help but smile as you encounter each one.

Cheese Louise is the story of a slice of Swiss cheese of the same name. She wakes up in the refrigerator one day, not knowing where she is. Seymour Carrot and Pop Corn fill her in on The Wait. Their goal in life is to look as appetizing as possible to be Chosen, while simultaneously avoiding Kit the Cat, who delights in opening the loose door searching for a snack. Cheese Louise fears that with all of her holes, she is too ugly to be Chosen.

When the wise old Leader (baking soda) calls a meeting to strategize how to save Humphrey Yogurt, who has been left sitting out on a table and may turn sour, Cheese Louise sees her chance to be brave and use her holes to her advantage.

Cheese Louise becomes a hero, and her shining enthusiasm and self-assurance allows her to achieve the ultimate goal of all foods in this world.

Cheese Louise is one of those rare books that can appeal to all ages. Young children will get a kick out of the cartoony characters in the illustrations. Older children will enjoy the story, and sharing how smart they are as they figure out the puns throughout. Those same puns will make adults smile, and not feel so bad about reading and rereading the story.

Children will benefit from hearing about Cheese Louise learned to believe in herself. Follow-up conversations can be had between children and trusted adults to enhance their positive self-concept. Adults can even benefit from the reminder to be creative in their endeavors and to use what they have to their advantage.

And English teachers can have fun dissecting the literary puns and deeper meanings interspersed throughout the story.

David Michael Slater has found a way to make his mark on the children's book world, by combining strong narrative with linguistic fun. Accompanied by vibrant illustrations by Steve Cowden, this book will be a fan favorite for years to come.

Purchase Cheese Louise!

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

The Butterfly's Treasure

The Butterfly's Treasure by Schim Schimmel is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring books I have ever seen. The vibrant colors on the cover alone inspire dreams of far-away places. Each turn of the page reveals another jaw-dropping, inspirational view of some of the world's most majestic creatures and places. As I read this book to my class of 3-6 year-olds, I was moved by their exclamations as they saw each painting.

The story itself is just as inspiring as the artwork. Young Caterpillar is the last of this season's monarchs. He meets Old Monarch, who is the last of last season's monarchs. Old Monarch wishes to impart his wisdom upon the young caterpillar, and proceeds to tell him of his travels around the world over the last year to find treasure. Old Monarch encounters some of the greatest creatures around the world, including brown bears, polar bears, seals, elephants, lions, gorillas, tigers, snow leopards, penguins, dolphins, and wolves. He finds them in the most beautiful locations around the world. Young Caterpillar realizes that the whole world is a treasure to cherish, and after becoming an adult monarch, sets off to seek it for himself.

Following the reading of the story, I went around the circle and asked the children to tell me what some treasures were. A few mentioned jewels and pirate's gold. But even at their young ages, most were able to identify that animals, people, and nature were things to be treasured. This is testimony that Schim Schimmel's message is easily conveyed to even the youngest reader.

Schim Schimmel is the artist/author for three other books that have garnered international attention for their artistry and message: Dear Children of the Earth -- A Letter From Home, Children of the Earth...Remember, and The Family of the Earth. All of these titles are perenniel favorites in my classroom and those of my colleagues. The Butterfly's Treasure will earn a place of honor next to them on the shelf. I'm already eagerly anticipating his next work!

Purchase The Butterfly's Treasure

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

Zebert the Rainbow Striped Zebra

Zebert the Rainbow Striped Zebra by Janice Beier is a delightful new book for children that teaches about diversity and being comfortable in one's own skin.

Zebert is just like any other zebra, having black stripes on his white body. But after witnessing the multicolored beauty of a rainbow, Zebert wishes hard to have his own rainbow stripes.

The next morning, Zebert wakes up, covered in rainbow stripes. At first, he is excited and proud to look different. But no one wants to play with him, and the other animals think he looks weird. So, he desperately tries to cover up the rainbow stripes. Each attempt simply manages to draw more attention to his differences.

Zebert finally manages to prove to his friends that despite his different looks, he can still be a great friend and is a beneficial teammate.

The illustrations in the book are beautiful, yet simple. The muted backgrounds enhance the brightness of Zebert and his independence, while enhancing the murkiness of others being small-minded. Children will enjoy trying to recreate the illustrations.

The language is clear and easy for children to understand. The large print and spacing on the pages will allow early readers to easily practice independent reading or to read along with an adult.

The book was also accompanied by a read-along cd, including a cute little song about Zebert.

Janice Beier was inspired to write this book because she is raising three bi-racial children, and wants them to understand that everyone has inner beauty, despite their outward appearance. Families can use this book to celebrate their own special qualities. Educators will enjoy using this book to promote diversity in their classrooms. Follow-up activities can include creating their own versions of Zebert, listing ways in which they are alike and different, and even a study on the different animals featured throughout the book.

I shared this book with my class of 3-6 year-olds, and they loved it!

Zebert the Rainbow Striped Zebra is currently only available for sale through the author's website at

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Germs Are Not For Sharing -- Paperback

Germs Are Not For Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick is a great book for preschoolers through early elementary children. It is a more advanced version of its board book counterpart. Children learn about where germs lurk and how to prevent their spread. Scrubbing hands while singing the ABCs and coughing or sneezing into arms instead of hands are two of the most effective ways to do this.

The book's language is easy enough to understand, yet doesn't talk down to the kids or sound babyish. Illustrations include relatable children of similar ages and diversities. The back includes a follow-up read-together section that goes into even more detail about germs, in a more scientific, yet child-friendly, fashion.

Educators can use this book to supplement their health curriculum. One reading could be done in a group circle. Then the supplemental section in the back can provide a springboard for further classroom discussion and research.

I shared this book with my class of 3-6 year-olds, and they loved it! Together we acted out proper covering of the nose and mouth for sneezing and coughing, and how to properly wash our hands. I used it as a springboard for a demonstration on the proper use of a tissue. The afternoon class of older children enjoyed our discussion of germs, based on the back of the book.

Families should also use this book as a reminder for everyone, regardless of age, about proper hygiene procedures. They can work together to make sure the house is properly cleaned, and that there are adequate supplies available. Extra attention is imperative, as we are entering cold and flu season!

Germs Are Not for Sharing is just one of several titles in the award-winning Best Behavior series published by Free Spirit Publishing. Other topics include using kind words, hitting, and gentle pet care.


Cover image used with permission from Free Spirit Publishing

Germs Are Not for Sharing -- Board Book

Elizabeth Verdick's Germs Are Not for Sharing, board book format, is the perfect introduction to washing hands for young children. Simple words printed on sturdy pages are easy enough for young listeners to understand. Accompanying illustrations further demonstrate hygienic practices, such as covering coughs and sneezes. The characters in these illustrations are also the same age as the intended audience of children ages 0-3.

Children also learn to not eat food that has fallen on the floor and to avoid giving kisses when sick. Instead, throw away germs or wash them down the drain! Stand back and blow kisses! When reading this book with young ones, practice acting out the pictures.

In the back of the book are tips for parents and caregivers to prevent germs in the environment, and how to teach even the youngest children to be healthy.

I tested this book out on my class of 3-6 year-olds, even though they are slightly older than the intended audience. Their eyes lit up as they looked at the pictures, and they enjoyed acting out the handwashing and covering techniques.

Germs Are Not For Sharing is a timely book, as we entering into cold and flu season, including fears of the H1N1 virus. Educators can use it to supplement their curriculum. Families can read it as a reminder to be hygenic at home, as well. The sturdy board book format allows the youngest readers to peruse the books anytime they want.

Germs Are Not For Sharing is one of the many books in the award-winning Best Behavior series by Free Spirit publishing. Other topics include kicking, hitting, biting, kind words, pet care, and easing pacifier dependence.

Purchase Germs Are Not for Sharing (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)

Cover image used with permission from Free Spirit Publishing.