Monday, December 31, 2012

Books to Make You Glad It's Winter

Winter has a lot going for it: snow, snowmen, hot chocolate and cozy books to snuggle up with.

 Red Sled by Lita Judge
I have to admit, I laughed several times before I even got it out of the library. Someone leaves a red sled outside on a winter night. A brown bear comes by and sees the possibilities. This is a nearly wordless book. But it is not quiet. Each page has the most wonderful sound effects. This book BEGS to be read aloud.

 Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Annabelle finds a box filled with yarn. She knits for everyone and everything in town.  Then an evil archduke decides he wants the yarn for himself. What makes a good picture book great? There are probably dozens of answers. This one is great because every page made me smile and flip the page to see how this simple story turned and changed.

 The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
A little boy and his mother read a book about a bear getting ready for winter and then go into hibernation. The boy comments about each page and as he turns the page, he gets closer to his own hibernation, at least for the night. Just as the bear wakes up in the spring, the boy drifts off to sleep. This is a perfect read-aloud.

 Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling. This line starts one of the best winter books ever written. It takes us through a cold winter night as a girl and her father go looking for owls. If you’ve never read it before, you are in for a cold and snowy treat. It won the Caldecott Medal in the late 1980s.

 Winter by Siân Smith
Written for beginning readers, this nonfiction book covers what to expect when it is winter. The pictures perfectly support the simple text.

 The Kids Winter Handbook by Jane Drake and Ann Love, illustrated by Heather Collins
This book has everything you need to get you through winter. You’ll find winter information, winter crafts, plus outdoor and indoor winter activities. Warning – you may not have enough winter to do everything here!

How Do You Know it’s Winter? by Ruth Owen (Sorry, no link.)
This book is well put together. It has lots of winter information, organized in short chapters such as, The Shortest Day and A Winter Rest for Plants. Each page has photos of winter scenes and text boxes with extra information and short activities.

 Exploring Winter by Terri DeGezelle
This book also gives winter information in short chapters. Chapters include Trees in Winter, Animals in Winter, North and South (nice explanation of New Year’s Day in the Northern and Southern hemispheres) and others.

 Winter Song by William Shakespeare, illustrated by Melanie Hall
Have you ever read something by Shakespeare? Ever thought you might like to? This poem, written over 400 years ago, was part of Shakespeare’s play, Love’s Labor’s Lost. It is dreamy and the illustrations are too. Some of the words and phrases are ones we don’t use today, but no problem – they are explained in the back of the book.

I started with a list of good things about winter. What are your favorite things about winter? Write them in the Comments Box!

Check later this month more more books to make you glad it's winter.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fun Ideas for a Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Here are some ideas for starting off your New Year with some fun. There is a cool time capsule idea, science and crafts.

Busy Bee


No Time for Flashcards

Science Sparks

Sun Hats and Wellie Boots

New Year's Eve and Day are great times to think about the year you've had and think ahead to all the things you hope will happen in the new year. Do you want to share any wishes? Write them in the Comments Box!

Fun Ideas for a Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Here are some ideas for starting off your New Year with some fun. There is a cool time capsule idea, science and crafts.

Busy Bee


No Time for Flashcards

Science Sparks

Sun Hats and Wellie Boots

New Year's Eve and Day are great times to think about the year you've had and think ahead to all the things you hope will happen in the new year. Do you want to share any wishes? Write them in the Comments Box!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A New Stack of Picture Books

I think it’s time for a new bunch of picture books. Most of these are newly published. Enjoy!

  Big Chickens by Leslie Helakoski, illustrated by Henry Cole
This is my new favorite picture book. I LOVE everything about it! (Thank you Cindy for recommending it!) The text is perfect for reading aloud. The pictures are so funny, you just have to keep looking to see all the terrific details. And… there are 2 sequels: Big Chickens Fly the Coop and Big Chickens Go to Town. I love all 3!

 Hurricane by David Wiesner
Two brothers and their parents weather a hurricane. When it’s over, the boys play safari, pirates and space explorers in a downed tree. Outstanding illustrations.

 Time Out for Monsters! by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Robert Neubecker
A young boy is directed to the time-out corner by a pointed finger. While there, he figures he should fix the place up. How about a little color? A window? Dinosaurs would be nice. A monster truck? He plans on and on and the pictures get wilder and wilder. Great fun!

 Brave Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby
Squish was just a little rabbit. But being little led to big fears. Anyone can relate to Squish’s fears, especially as shown by this book’s perfect illustrations.

 The Chicken Problem by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Peg and Cat love solving problems and eating pie. One day, they go to a farm to have a perfect pie picnic with their friend Pig. But what about the 100 chicks that just got loose from the coop? The text is lively and so are the illustrations – so much to look at!

The Bird House by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Barry Moser (sorry, no link)
A young homeless girl comes upon a house with all kinds of birds flying in and around it. Day after day she watches it, being careful to not be seen by the old woman who lives there. This is an enchanting story, as is true of so many of Cynthia Rylant’s books.

  Mr. Zinger’s Hat by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Mr. Zinger’s hat has stories hiding in it. But he’s not the only one who can find them. His new friend Leo found a terrific story in Mr. Zinger’s hat. Not only that, Leo’s own hat has its own surprises. This book has me checking in all my hats…

 Nightsong by Ari Berk and Loren Long
Chiro is a young bat. When his mother sends him out one night for the first time, he is afraid. But she gives him some advice: Use your good sense…Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you…” Chiro goes out and heeds his mother’s advice. This is a beautiful book. It’s one to read each time we step out into a world that scares us.

  I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi
A new book to love! A girl is bored. Then she meets a potato who is not only bored, but also thinks the girl is boring too. This might not seem like a good idea on which to base a whole book but it is. This book is hilarious!

  A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
This is another hilarious book by Michael Ian Black. I giggled all the way through. In it, Black lists all the reasons a pig parade won’t work. The text is quite silly and the illustrations are a wonderful treat. Read this book!

 This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Have you read I Want My Hat Back? This is by the same author and it's another winner. This time, a fish steals a hat and feel confident he will get away with it. Maybe not...

I love gathering top-notch picture books to share with you. I have the best time! What new picture books do you recommend? Write them in the Comments Box!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Online Christmas Fun for Kids

As I'm sure you know, Christmas is only **4** days away! Here are a few crafts, games, puzzles and activities to help the time pass quickly.



ESL Kid stuff offline games
Jan Brett  Design and Print your own Jan Brett Gingerbread Baby House
DLTK Christmas Games  online coloring, games and puzzles
Activity Village  online and printable games and activities
Kaboose online games

I hope you all have a Merry Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guest Post: Together, Playing AND Reading Are Magical

I'm delighted to present this wonderful guest post by Jerri Hemsworth. Jerri is the editor of Inspiring Play Magazine. She serves on the board of Shane's Inspiration, a non-profit that creates inclusive playgrounds and educational programs to unite children of all abilities. She and her husband are the proud parents of an amazing daughter and love to play in and around Los Angeles.

Together, Playing AND Reading Are Magical

By Jerri Hemsworth

“Someone’s been eating my porridge!” Maggie says in her best grumbly voice.
“Someone’s been eating MY porridge!” Comes her next line in an adorable motherly voice.
“Someone’s been eating my porridge, and THEY ATE IT ALL UP!” She says in her cutest high-pitched voice.

Jessica is finishing holiday projects at the kitchen table when she hears this conversation her 6-year-old daughter Maggie is having in the family room. As Jessica peaks around the doorway, she sees that Maggie has seven or eight of her dolls and stuffed animals surrounding her as she “reads” to them from her favorite book.

This scene is one that many adults take for granted. We don’t stop to think how our children get to this amazing stage in their development. Same thing is true when we see two boys playing on the playground. One is pretending to be Jack climbing the bean stock to retrieve the golden goose from the other, who is very good in his role as the giant.

When children play, they get to make amazing connections. No matter what a child’s physical, emotional or mental ability is, they learn to explore, experiment, imitate, and communicate with others by all they encounter. It gives them an opportunity to practice their language skills. They allow themselves to be free, spontaneous and creative. It’s fun. They don’t realize that they are learning psychologically, physically and socially. Most parents don’t realize how important this kind of play is. When parents and teachers do, it profoundly transforms young lives. Especially with children who have special needs.

While working on a story about the inclusion of special needs students with general education students in schools, one teacher relayed a very touching story. She had a student with multiple physical and emotional needs. His mother arrived one morning with great concern on her face. When she spoke with the teacher, she said, “Michael started speaking in many different voices last night. He’s never done that before. Has he done that here in class? Do you think there’s something wrong?”

The teacher smiled. “No need to worry. Yesterday, our helper students were playing pretend with Michael in the library while they were reading to him. He’s been playing with them.”

Many children of all abilities find story time in school to be their favorite. When the teacher plays with different voices and inflections, children are transfixed. You can see by their faces that they are in a different world. They are in a world of wonder and excitement. When parents read to their children in this same manner, children are allowed to let their mind run free and imagine. Using play during reading time is the best incentive for children to want to read on their own. When they see the grown-ups having fun while reading, they want to do it, too.

According to Deborah J. Leong, Ph.D., and Elena Bodrova, Ph.D., “As we learn more about how young children learn, it is becoming clear that we do not need to sacrifice play in order to meet academic requirements. On the contrary, only by supporting mature, high-quality play can we really help children fully develop their language and literacy skills.”1

There are many studies that support the benefits of play and literacy. Perhaps many parents and teachers need reminding that the more fun we make reading time or story time for ourselves, the more we’re teaching our children. Play is fun. Reading is fun. Together, playing AND reading are magical.

Thanks, Jerri, for this wonderful post!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Get Ready for Christmas with One More Bunch of Books!

Can you believe it? Christmas is a week from tomorrow! That will give us just enough time to read a few more Christmas books!

 Oh, What a Christmas! By Michael Garland
Santa sets out on Christmas Eve as usual, with his reindeer and a sleigh full of toys. But the harness breaks, the reindeer fly off without Santa and the sleigh crashes into a barn. What to do? Never fear, the barnyard animals are ready to help. Now, Sheep! Now Goat! Now Piggy and Cows! Love the picture of the animals flying across the sky!

 Little Bunny and the Magic Christmas Tree by David Martin, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev
I love the idea behind this story: on Christmas Eve, the ornaments on the Christmas tree come alive. Little Bunny, who'd always hated being little, becomes even littler and gets to play in the tree with all the ornaments.

A Christmas Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Kids by Sarah L. Schuette (sorry, no link)
There’s North Pole Pie, Popcorn Garland, Mrs. Claus Cookies and 4 more recipes. All have easy to follow recipes that need no cooking, other than popping the popcorn. My own hint: if you make the popcorn garland, let the popcorn sit a day – stale popcorn breaks less.

 Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas by Julia Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Fletcher the fox is worried Santa won’t be able to find the new home of his friends, the rabbits. He lays out stick arrows on the snow to show Santa the way. But then it snows again, covering the arrows. Now what? The painted illustrations are quite lovely.

 Paper Crafts for Christmas by Randel McGee
There are 8 crafts in this book of decorations, cards and ornaments. Each seems quite simple and do-able. Younger kids might need a little help but older kids could do them independently.

 Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by James Dean and Eric Litwin
There is a lot to love about this book. It’s based on The Night Before Christmas (this always makes me smile), the illustrations are smashing and there is a catchy song. And … there is a link so you can hear the story read aloud and the song sung.

 Ready Freddy! A Very Crazy Christmas by Abby Klein, illustrated by John McKinley
First grader Freddy is excited to have his cousins Kelly and Kasey visit for Christmas. He likes playing with him and he likes how things get crazy when they are around. And they do get crazy. At the end of the story, there are Christmas jokes, a cookie recipe, a pine cone craft and Freddy's Shark Journal. (Freddy loves sharks.)

 Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas: a Safety Guide for Christmas by Mélanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel is a very careful squirrel. He believes in being prepared for everything, including Christmas. This book is a guide to all the possible dangers one can face as we prepare for the big day. This is funny stuff and I laughed several times. I especially enjoyed Shopping for the Difficult Individuals in Your Life.

 Christmas Wombat by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
I have a fondness for wombats so I was delighted to find this book. This wombat is very fond of carrots. When it hitches a ride on Santa's sleigh, it comes across lots of homes with carrots set out for the reindeer. The showdowns with the reindeer over the carrots are wonderful.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2012

MORE Christmas Jokes to Share

Only 11 more day to tell more Christmas jokes!

What did the Gingerbread Man put on his bed?
A cookie sheet!

What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas?
Thanks, I'll never part with it!

Why wasn't the turkey hungry at Christmas time?
He was stuffed!

Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve?
Because it soots him.

Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
Because every buck is dear to him.

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?

What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?

How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?
Deep and crisp and even!

What carol is heard in the desert?
Camel ye faithful!

What do monkeys sing at Christmas?
Jungle bells, jungle bells!

What does a cat on the beach have in common with Christmas?
Sandy claws!

What is Santa’s dog called?
Santa Paws!

Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
Santa Jaws!

What do you get if Santa goes down the chimney when the fire is lit?
Crisp Cringle!

What do you call Santa Claus when he doesn’t move?
Santa Pause!

How do sheep greet each other at Christmas?
A merry Christmas to ewe!

What do they sing under the ocean during the winter?
Christmas Corals!

How much did Santa pay for his sleigh?
Nothing, it was on the house!

What is invisible and smells like milk and cookies?
Santa's burps!

What nationality is Santa Claus?
North Polish.

Why was Santa's helper depressed?
He had low ELF-esteem.

What's a good holiday tip?
Never catch snowflakes with your tongue until all the birds have gone south for the winter.

Why is Santa so good at karate?
Because he has a black belt!

Why did the candy cane cross the road?
Because it wanted to get a licking!

Why did the elf push his bed into the fireplace?
Because he wanted to sleep like a log!

What do elves learn in school?
The elf-abet.

What do vampires put on their Christmas turkey?

What did the ghost say to Santa Claus?
I'll have a boo Christmas without you.

Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Donut who?
Donut open 'til Christmas!

Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Mary who?
Mary Christmas!

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Mary and Abbey.
Mary and Abbey who?
Mary Christmas and Abbey New Year!

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Gladys who?
Gladys not me who got coal this Christmas!

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Santa who?
Santa Clause!

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Irish who?
Irish you a Merry Christmas!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Snow who?
Snow use – I’ve forgotten my name again!


So... What jokes did I miss? Write them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get Ready for Christmas with MORE Books!

Counting down to Christmas: Christmas Eve is now 2 weeks away! Here are some books to boost your Christmas spirit!

  The Child in the Manger by Liesbet Slegers
This is a basic telling of the birth of Jesus. It is simply told with child-like drawings. I like how it ties the birth of Jesus with getting presents today.

  The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
Henry lives with his out-of-work parents in a drafty shack. It is the day before Christmas, 1931, during the Great Depression. Henry and his father cut some trees and take them into New York City to sell as Christmas trees. While there, they make friends with some people. These new friends come the next day and build Henry’s family a new house. Much later, when Henry is an old man, he gets a chance to return the blessing. In the last pages, there is more information about the Rockefeller Center tree and Habitat for Humanity.

  The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge by Sven Nordquist
Tomtes are the Swedish version of elves. All year, this tomte family has worked hard on a human family’s farm. All they want for thanks is their bowl of Christmas Eve porridge. Mama tomte knows they will forget this year and so comes up with a plan to get the bowl of porridge to Papa tomte without him finding out. The story and illustrations are full of magic.

  Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo: A Katie Kazoo Christmas by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by John & Wendy
Katie has an unusual talent. Sometimes a magic wind comes along and she is transformed into someone else. There are 3 stories in this book, all happening in the week before Christmas. Katie gets to see Christmas through the eyes of one of Santa’s elves, her neighbor and a department store gift-wrapper.

  Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke
Anna Hibiscus has a very interesting life. She lives in Africa with her huge family. In this story (part of the Anna Hibiscus series) she goes to visit her grandmother in Canada for Christmas. It’s the first time Anna sees snow. She also meets a friendly dog (first one in her life) and some kids who aren't so friendly at first. I really enjoy this series.

And the Soldiers Sang by J. Patrick Lewis and Gary Kelley
As I’ve said so many times, picture books are not just for little ones. This book is a perfect example of this. It tells of life in the trenches during World War I at Christmastime, 1914. It tells of the difficulties and horrors of war and the illustrations are as grim as the words. In 1914, all along the frontlines, both sides stopped fighting for a Christmas truce, with enemies singing carols and sharing food (this really happened that year). This is a difficult and moving story.

  The Dog Who Thought He was Santa by Bill Wallace
Fifth-grader Don and his family live in a coal mining town in the 1950s. The story is about trouble at the mine, getting ready for Christmas, and trying to figure out what Don’s little sister wants for Christmas. The story is told in alternating chapters by Don and his dog Frank. This is a really good Christmas middle grade novel.

  Must be Santa by Tim Moore, illustrated by Pete Whitehead
Do you know this song? This book tells all the lyrics and matches them with fun illustrations. If you don’t know or can’t remember the tune, you can Google the title.

  Christmas at the Toy Museum by David Lucas
All the toys in the museum gather around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. But there are no presents. No matter, Bunting the stuffed cat has an idea – they can give themselves to one another as gifts. A good idea except… The illustrations give lots of details to look at over and over.

  The Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton
There’s nothing like a Sandra Boynton book. The text and illustrations in this one are so wonderful, you are going to want to read this one aloud – many times.

A happy thing: there are more Christmas books next week!