Monday, August 20, 2012

'When Helping Kids Find Books They Love, Don’t Forget Nonfiction' Guest Post by Bridget Heos

Today's guest post comes from author Bridget Leos. I reviewed her book What to Expect When You're Expecting Hatchlings a few weeks ago. Here is why you need to try out more nonfiction no your kids.

When Helping Kids Find Books They Love, Don’t Forget Nonfiction

By Bridget Heos

When I was a kid, I had a habit of snooping. I think I would have been one of those amateur detectives except that nothing good ever happened in my neighborhood, meaning nothing bad. While snooping around on my brother’s bookshelf, I found that he had inscribed in an early reader about Jackie Robinson, “This is the greatest book I’ve ever read!” Other favorite books of his included a story about germs and a biography of St. Luke the physician. I guess even then I was interested in what kinds of books people liked.

When I started taking my oldest son to the library, I soon realized that he loved nonfiction, too, and as a matter of fact, wanted nothing to do with fiction. That meant there would be no weepy-eyed readings of The Giving Tree or The Velveteen Rabbit, which I had imagined would conclude every day of motherhood. We would be reading about turtles. And then dinosaurs. And then insects. Then tide pools. And finally mammals. As it turned out, I kind of liked these books. Pretty soon, as a freelance newspaper and magazine writer, I asked myself who was writing these books, and learned that they were written by freelance writers like me. That’s how I became a children’s book writer.

My son now reads both fiction and nonfiction, but much of the fiction he reads is based on fact. Meanwhile, my middle son prefers Guinness Book-type books, as well as picture book biographies. Only my youngest son prefers fiction. My husband also tends to read about half nonfiction—in the form of sports biographies. I read about half and half, as well. So about three-fifths of our household reading time is dedicated to nonfiction.

I think it’s important, as parents or teachers, to figure out what kinds of books kids like, and to know that many kids prefer nonfiction (and often nonfiction about one topic in particular, animals, for instance, or fighter planes.) Without the option of the books they really want to read, they may be labeled nonreaders or reluctant readers.

I think we’re all reluctant readers to some extent. I’m a reluctant reader of Pokémon handbooks. I dread reading them to my children even though reading to them is my favorite part of the day. I hide Pokémon handbooks so that I don’t have to read them. If every book I had the option of reading were a Pokémon book, I would not read. I think that’s how a lot of people feel about books they don’t like.

When trying to find books that kids DO like, be sure to include lots of nonfiction options. You may be surprised by how many “reluctant” readers turn out to be voracious readers. And if you are a nonfiction reader yourself, I encourage you to share this enthusiasm with the kids you know, so that they can see that being a voracious reader includes being a devourer of facts.

Check out her book What to Expect When You're Expecting Hatchlings and explore her other titles through the link below:


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review of 'Teddy's Camp: On a Bearish Adventure Into the Woods'

Book Blurb:

Teddy gets on the bus to start off for camp, sad to part."

Teddy takes his adventure to the next level - off to summer camp to meet new friends and explore the woods. Follow along and you'll see that every step away will bring you closer to home. Isn't it exciting?

Experience the wonders of summer camp with Teddy and his new friends:
  • Meet some crazy counselors
  • Stay in a cabin
  • Swim to your heart's content
  • Take a grassy nap
  • Make tie-dye t-shirts
  • Sail away with the wind at your tail
  • Race the waves with your friends
  • Horseback riding - Woo Hoo!
  • Campfires and songs galore
Take the journey with Teddy on his first trip away from home... off to summer camp for to make new friends from all over the world and together go on new adventures.

Cast of Characters:

Teddy R. LeBear
Benjamin Ursinae Brown
Kenneth C. Koala
William B. Polar
Evan Hwan-ung Moon

With guest appearances by:

Mom - the coolest bear of them all
Counselor Kieth "Grizzly Tail" Kodiak

**My thoughts**
The story is a cute way to introduce young children what they can look forward to when going to camp. It also shows how there is an element of sadness when first going away to camp, then happiness while having fun, and finally sadness at having to leave camp. I also appreciated Mom sniffling as she sent her little bear off to camp. Moms often have a little sadness when their young ones go away for a little while, as well.

The illustrations clearly show Teddy and his friends having a great time while they are at camp. The text is written in a rhyming format. Sometimes it works for me; other times it doesn't. A couple of times, the phrases suddenly don't rhyme at all, which throws off the entire rhythm of the book for me. Other rhymes felt like a bit of a stretch. I know it is difficult to get a story across with good rhymes. I feel like you need to decide to either have rhyming or not, for consistency.

Nevertheless, it is one that kids are going to enjoy. It will get them excited to go to camp and to discover their own potential adventures. I look forward to checking out some of Teddy's other adventures. 

I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review of 'Mother's Mother's Day'

Book Blurb:

It's Mother's Day - a time for visits and gifts. A charming family of mice are planning to see their mothers. Hazel and her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother all go to see their mothers on this special day. But where did Great-great-great-grandmother go?

**My thoughts**

This book is cute. I adore the illustrations of the little mice women. They're old-school charming, reminding me of the classics from when I was a kid. The story is cute, how all of the women are off to visit their respective mothers on this special day, and sad that they aren't around. I will say that I think the generational spread went just a little too far back. No child is going to understand the concept of seeing a great-great-great grandmother. Many don't even get to know a great grandmother anymore.

The cat is a little scary at first and catches you off-guard. I can see some kids gasp in fear that the great-great-great grandmother has been eaten and then be on edge until all of the mice safely reappear at Hazel's house. 

It's a great addition to a Mother's Day library.

I received a set of galleys from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review of 1-2-3 Draw Princesses by Freddie Levin

Teach children how to draw step-by-step with books from the 1-2-3 Draw series by Freddie Levin. Here is more about her latest book, 1-2-3 Draw Princesses.


These days the word 'princess' can have a very negative meaning. The image of a princess is often that of a spoiled, pampered girl who gets everything she wants or a pretty, passive young woman who is badly in need of rescuing. However, the dictionary definition of a princess is just 'a daughter of a king or queen'.

Many positive qualities can be found in the stories of princesses, both historic and fictional. Princesses can be kind, grateful, courageous, smart, curious, and even imperfect. They can be great warriors like Nzinga (page 45) or scholars like Eleanor of Aquitane (page 34). They can have hopes and dreams for themselves and their people. They can make a difference in their world.

See page 63 for a reading list of stories that present princesses in a most positive way. With 1-2-3 Draw Princesses, her 12th 1-2-3 Draw title (series total: 23, over 1.5 million sold), Freddie Levin not only applies her proven step-by-step drawing instruction, but provides inspiration and encouragement with positive female role models.  

My thoughts:

I love this series of books. Pictures are broken down into simple forms and steps for you to follow. You need a light hand with a regular pencil and good gum eraser. Kids can do these and so can adults. I would share my picture, but I don't have any pencils on hand. I was using a pen and cannot erase the extra lines.

Aspiring artists could also trace the drawings in the book, step by step, to help guide their hands.

In addition to basic royal people, you can learn how to draw a castle, carriage, crowns and scepters. Create your own paradise. I can just imagine spending hours creating my own fairy land and stories to go with it.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review of 'Baby Jaimie Has a Crush'

Book Blurb:

From the minute she met him everyone thought Baby Jaimie's first crush was Derek. Derek even thought so. That's why he asked her first grade teacher, Mrs. Smith if he could come in to visit her.

The day of the visit didn't go as planned. While Derek was introducing himself a new student, Jack, entered the room and stole everyone's attention. Especially Baby Jaimie's. For that reason Derek took an instant disliking to the new kid.

Baby Jaimie is forced to choose between Derek and Jack, and she doesn't know what to do. Is there a way to combine old friends with new friends? Can't they all just get along? Find out in The Adventures of Baby Jaimie: Baby Jaimie Has a Crush.

My thoughts:

The Baby Jaimie series is very sweet. All of them are based on author Jaimie Hope's real life. Her situation in this book is a familiar one to parents and teachers of six year-olds. Baby Jaimie really enjoys spending time with her friend Derek, who also has a wheelchair. A new boy named Jack shows up, who has braces on his legs. The other children don't seem to like him, so Baby Jaimie takes him under her wing. Derek is jealous of her attentions to Jack. Her family, particularly her sister, gently teases her about having a new boyfriend. Baby Jaimie makes it her mission to make Derek and Jack understand that she can be friends with them both.

I have students with the same big heart as Baby Jaimie in my classroom. They want to be friends with everyone and are determined to be the peacemakers in the classroom. That quality in the character will resonate with young readers. The fact that the children all have some kind of physical disability can help demonstrate that just because a person looks different, doesn't mean that they are mentally or emotionally different. This book is a gentle way to incorporate that lesson. Most importantly, the book focuses on the lesson of friendship. I think it could be a great springboard into either classroom discussions or one-on-one talks with your child about being a friend at school and how to handle difficult situations.

Children are also going to relate to the illustrations in the book. They are all hand-drawn and have a youthful quality about them. I recommend checking out this series.

Buy links: Kindle | Paperback

About the author:

I was born November 3, 1976 in New York. Growing up one of my favorite time of the day was story time.

Even at an early age, I became wrapped up in whatever story was being read. At the time, I just wanted to be part of the story. It wasn't until high school that I decided I wanted to be a writer. This is when my ideas for the Adventures of Baby Jaimie started forming.

I was on the newspaper staff for two years in high school and really enjoyed it. We didn't have assigned stories, but we were able to do investigative reporting if we chose to. I was usually more into the freelance style of writing about whatever happened to be on my mind at the time.

In my senior year, I took a creative writing course where I got to explore the depths of my creativity. After graduation in 1995, I put writing aside for a while. I went to college and did what most people try to do, "try to find myself". I got my Associates degree in 1999.

In 2002, I moved to Florida. I did quite a lot while I was there. I was an active volunteer in the local historical society. I also did volunteer work at the local library.

During this time, I also sang on a few demos at the local studio, tried my hand at songwriting and ran a book club.

It wasn't until 2005, when I picked up The Adventures of Baby Jaimie and started working in earnest to get it done. I finished the text of my manuscript within a month. I submitted it to a handful of publishers, only to be rejected.

Again, I shelved The Adventures of Baby Jaimie, temporarily, when I moved back to New York in the spring 2006 that I even thought about picking it up again. I had lunch with a friend one day in the summer of 2006 who told me about a friend of hers who was also an author. She put me in contact with him, and he gave me advice on how to go about making my dreams of becoming a published author come true.

In November of 2006, AuthorHouse released The Adventures of Baby Jaimie.

After the release, I got busy trying to promote it, and as they say, life happened. I began to try my hand at writing a novel. This proved to be a slow process as well, but not as slow as my first book.

In July of 2008, PublishAmerica released my first short novel, Who Says You Can't Go Home.

You may be asking yourself what's next. Only time will tell.

Visit her website at

Follow her on Twitter @jaimiehope.

Visit her on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest Post by Freddie Levin on Drawing for Kids

Today I am honored to have a guest post from Freddie Levin, creator of the 1-2-3 Drawing series for kids. I asked her for her thoughts on helping to inspire kids to be artists, even if they think they have no talent. This is what she had to say...

I am always amazed at the way drawing is viewed. It seems that people think it is something you are born with like the color of your eyes. It is true that some people have a 'natural' talent for drawing just as some people have a pleasant singing voice. That doesn't mean that everyone can't enjoy drawing and singing. There is an old saying that I love: if only the bird with the best voice sang, it would be a very quiet world.

I always ask kids if they can ride a bike or swim. Then I ask if they could when they were born. No, of course not - they LEARNED HOW. Drawing is the same way. It can be learned. No one would hand a child a violin and ask him to compose music or even produce a pleasant sound. It must be LEARNED!
Part of learning to draw is learning to see. The other part is making marks on a page. This has been true since the very first cave person picked up a piece of burnt wood and drew an animal on a stone wall.

The 1 2 3 Draw books encourage a child to look, to see and to practice drawing basic shapes. When you practice, you gain command of small motor control and eye-hand coordination. For very young children or children with poor motor control, I let them trace a cardboard shape so they can get the feel of the shape and the muscle memory of drawing it.
Dr. Suzuki of music lesson fame cheerfully says: Practice and Practice, never be lazy; Practice and Practice until you go crazy!

The other thing I encourage is looking at many different kinds of art. ''Realistic" art isn't the only kind of value. Children can be so self critical about their drawing because it doesn't look 'real'. They need to see abstract art like Mondrian, pure design such as Tibetan mandalas, whimsical work like Paul Klee and Miro, cartoons and so on. There is room for every kind of work of art just as there is room for all kinds of music, all kinds of dance and all kinds of people.

Most important of all, is that drawing should be fun. Don't afraid to be silly! Don't be afraid to be elaborate, or dramatic or outrageous. Don't try to be someone else. Nobody can make a drawing just like you and that's okay.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Meet Freddie Levin, Author of 1-2-3 Draw Princesses

Freddie Levin has been making art since the sky was yellow and there were witches and dinosaurs and no TV. She has a studio in Chicago that she shares with two noisy, colorful birds and a fish named Seabiscuit.

She has illustrated picture books, readers, workbooks, greeting cards and game boards. She is the author/illustrator of an award winning series called 1-2-3 Draw. Books in this series include 1-2-3 Draw Ocean Life, 1-2-3 Draw Horses, 1-2-3 Draw Pets and Farm Animals, 1-2-3 Draw Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals, 1-2-3 Draw Wild Animals, 1-2-3 Draw Knights, Castles, and Dragons, 1-2-3 Draw Cars, Trucks and Other Vehicles, and 1-2-3 Draw Mythical Creatures. Over a million and a half copies have been sold worldwide. In this new series, the first title was Draw Plus Math.

Her licensing company, Polkadot Pie, produces images for paper goods, greeting cards, holiday decorations, home decor, stickers, window clings, puzzles and much, much more.

Levin also loves to make puppets, tiny stages and fine giclee prints. Besides art, she is also interested in ballet, yoga, gardens, birds, and anything with frosting.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

'Ms. Joanna and Preschool' Guest Post by Luis Rodriguez

Today's guest post comes from children's book author Luis Rodriguez. In addition to writing his books, he is the director of a child care center. This is a story about some of the children and their beloved teacher, Ms. Joanna. Those of us who work with young children will be able to relate.

Ms. Joanna and Preschool

As the director of a preschool, I decided to have a discussion with the kids that are being promoted to kindergarten, and to pick their brains about this important milestone in their young lives.
As soon as we all sat around an imaginary round table in the playground, I asked, ”Would you like to leave this year or stay a little longer?”
I would like to stay here forever,” said Isabel.
How about you, Henry?”
I’d like to stay here another year plus two hundred more years,” answered Henry. Everybody laughed.
Me too,” said James.
What is it that you are going to miss the most?” I asked.
Ms. Joanna," said all of them almost at the same time.
And why is that?” I asked.
Because she teaches us,” said Richard. ”And we have a lot of fun,” added Samantha.
I think that is the essence of an ideal preschool program. To blend learning and fun. This will invariably lead to love for learning. And that is the best seed we can plant in a young mind: To love learning.
Ms. Joanna is simply a natural teacher. Yes, she went to college and gathered all the academic credentials that certify her as a teacher, but she has this natural ability to connect with children that I respect and admire so much, and that is not taught at any school. It is a gift.
It is just her love for kids. Her love for teaching. Her love for all the aspects of this so noble profession. You see this everyday when she adheres to her routines, when she imparts gentle discipline, when she corrects grammar and manners, when she praises the kids' efforts, and encourages continuous growth... When she enthusiastically organizes carnivals, and farm events, or arranges trips to the zoo or a nearby park; and that weekly journey to the library to pick the best reads for the theme of the week.
And that is a blessing that all kids and parents in the world should be so lucky to have. To have someone like Ms. Joanna in their preschool experience.
Thanks, Ms. Joanna.

Luis Rodriguez wrote and co-illustrated The Klampie Mystery. He is the  director of a child care center in New Jersey, where he enjoys watching children and their imagination at play. The Klampie Mystery is the result of such
observations and his love for writing. Now he looks forward to sharing this story with many more children. Born in Bogota, Colombia, Luis Rodriguez is now an
American citizen and lives in New Jersey.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Excerpt from The Klampie Mystery by Luis Rodriguez

The Klampie Mystery is the latest children's book by author Luis Rodriguez.


The adventure begins in San Diego, when Samantha gets a life-sized stuffed koala, before she and her parents go on a trip to visit an aunt and an uncle in Australia around Christmas time. The koala looked very real. Samantha just loved him and named him Klampie, since his arms clamp onto anything, just like a real koala.

Samantha clamped Klampie onto her backpack where he stayed during the flight, and then in the ride to her aunt and uncle's home after landing in Sydney.

The mystery begins when they stop to get gas. Something happens at the gas station that goes undetected by Samantha, her parents and her aunt and uncle. Something that is going to have everybody wondering later on...

In any event, the adventure continues during their exciting stay in Australia, that beautiful country down under. Samantha was amazed by the differences in weather, time and customs between the United States and Australia, and enjoyed all the additional love and affection she received from her aunt and uncle.

They all visited different interesting places, did a lot of shopping and even enjoyed a "barbie" (cookout) by the beach.

Most of the times Samantha left Klampie, so he wouldn't get lost. They had a great time in Australia!

Finally, it is time for Samantha and her family to return home to San Diego, and that is when the mystery unfolds...On the overnight plane ride home, little Samantha wakes everybody up screaming: "Klampie! Klampie! Klampie's alive!"

What a confusion! Is Klampie alive? What has happened? It is a true mystery for Samantha and everybody else, but not for the readers!

Children will love being on the truth while Samantha remains in the dark!

The Klampie Mystery is a sweet, heart warming story for all ages.

Excerpt from The Klampie Mystery
Uncle Tim parked the car near the truck carrying the eucalyptus trees and suggested that everybody stretch their legs or use the bathroom.

The koala saw what he thought was another koala and clamped to a backpack in the rear seat of Uncle Tim's car. He managed to climb into the car to greet the other koala, but the other koala wasn't real; it was Klampie.

The koala shook and shook Klampie, but Klampie did not respond. He shook Klampie so hard, that Kampie came loose and fell under the driver's seat. The koala was confused, and decided to clamp himself onto the backpack. Then he fell asleep again. Koalas sleep a lot!

A few minutes later Samantha, her parents and Uncle Tim and Aunt Sophie were back in the car. They buckled up and continued the ride home.

Samantha hugged the koala, thinking it was Klampie. She noticed the fur felt a little warm, but didn't make much of it. The koala felt good and liked Samantha right away. 

Visit the author's website here.