Monday, July 30, 2012

8 Excellent Books by Michael Morpurgo

I just discovered a new author, Michael Morpurgo. He lives in England and has written more than 100 books - that's a lot of books! He's written picture books, middle grade books and books for older kids. Here are just a few of them...

 The Pied Piper of Hamlin illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
I love this book! It tells the story of the Pied Piper in a lovely way, from the point of view of one of the kids. It begs to be read aloud, the writing is so musical. Warning: if rats freak you out, stay away from the illustrations :)

 The McElderry Book of Aesop's Fables illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
I love Aesop's Fables. They are short and give lessons anyone can understand. Aesop wrote over 300 fables more than 2,000 years ago! Morpurgo took 21 of the fables and rewrote them in easier to read language. The stories, and the illustrations, are terrific.

 Great Boy Stories: A Treasury of Classics from Children's Literature
There are 17 stories in this book, all chosen by Morpurgo. They include Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone, Dragon Slayer and others. There is just a piece (Morpurgo calls it a taste) from each story. If you like what you read - get a copy of the whole book to read the rest. Although the title says Boy Stories, anyone would like these stories, not just boys.

 Jo-Jo the Melon Donkey illustrated by Tony Kerins
Jo-Jo carries melons for his master, who sells them in the market. When a flood threatens, Jo-Jo warns the town. I liked this story a lot. It's well told and has strong characters. It's aYellow Banana (level 4) book, which is a British early readers series.

Arthur: High King of Britain illustrated by Michael Foreman
If you are a fan of King Arthur and Merlin stories, you'll want to check out this book. It's a big book with over 130 pages and pictures every 2-5 pages. It tells the story from Arthur's point of view, starting when he was young until the last days of Camelot.

 Dolphin Boy illustrated by Michael Foreman
Young Jim lives in a fishing village. Unfortunately, all the fish are gone and no one goes out fishing any more. One day, Jim spots a dolphin beached on the sand. He runs to get help and everyone works together to return the dolphin to the water. The dolphin stays in the harbor and helps the people in the village. This book has real magic.

 War Horse
This story happens during World War I. It’s told from the point of view of the horse, Joey. Joey tells terrible stories of being in the war. He has great courage and makes friends with horses and people wherever he goes. I listened to this story as an audio book and liked it very much. There is a movie based on the book. The sequel is Farm Boy.

 Kasper, the Titanic Cat  illustrated by Michael Foreman
Fourteen-year-old Johnny Trott works at London's Savoy Hotel in 1912. He becomes caregiver to Kaspar, the Prince of Cats. Together, they have many adventures, including stowing away on the Titanic. This is a terrific story.

I hope you will read some of the books by Michael Morpurgo. You can start with these or try one of his other 100 books. Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fun Game Sites for the Olympics

The Olympics start today! Here are some game sites to help you (sort of) participate. Some sites require you to download an Adobe Flash Player (free).

Individual sports plus related other games. You need to download Adobe Flash (free) first.

Individual sports games.

Coloring pages (printable and online coloring) and puzzles.

The Smurfs Olympic Memory Game – 3 difficulty levels.

Hurdles, matchrace and shot put.

The games don’t look all that Olympic-related, but you can click here for good Olympic information.

What are your favorite Olympic sports? Write them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Promoting Literacy during the Summer Olympics

The 2012 Summer Olympics starts Friday. :) The Olympics provide lots of opportunities for research, crafts, food, games and family reading fun. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Research: Use online resources and books.
  • Olympic history
  • Individual sports
  • Individual athletes
  • Participating countries
  • London
  • Flags of countries
  • The Olympic torch
  • More ideas on the sites listed below
  • Eat like an athlete
  • Food from different participating countries
  • Create your own family/neighborhood/school Olympics. There are lots of ideas on the sites listed below.

Lots of Olympic information.

The following sites are official London 2012 Olympics sites.
Do you want information about a particular country’s team? Try googling 2012 Olympics [country]. For example, try 2012 Olympics USA, 2012 Olympics Australia, 2012 Olympics Jamaica

History, information and many activities

The official London 2012 video Sport at Heart (wonderful!), printables, crafts, puzzles, information, recipes and more.

Crafts, food, quiz

Information, crafts, games (I like the mascot idea)

Games, activities, crafts

Crafts, activities and ideas.

The following sites are more classroom-oriented but also have some ideas that could work at home.
Math, music, history and more.

Education World Part 1 Part 2
Math, reading, language, art, activities, sites and more.

Mostly worksheets but also a Reader’s Theater script, called Olympics Dialogues.

Researching for this post has me psyched for the Summer Olympics now. I hope you are psyched too!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Get the Olympic Spirit! Olympic Books for Kids

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London start this Friday. :) Get in the spirit with these books. They will give you information about the sports, the athletes, a little history and even give you ideas for your own Olympic games.

 The World's Greatest Olympians by Michael Hurley
This book follows 11 outstanding Olympic athletes. It tells briefly about each athlete and why he/she is so great. Some of the athletes are famous (Carl Lewis and Michael Phelps) and some not so famous (Usain Bolt and Chris Hoy). Other books in this series:
Great Olympic Moments
High-Tech Olympics
The 2112 London Olympics
The World of Olympics

 Olympic Sports: Gymnastics by Clive Gifford
If you are looking for informtion about individual sports, this is a great series to check out. Gymnastics gives information about all kinds of gymnastics: floor exercises, the vault, parallel bars and others. There is a nice glossary in the back, plus a list of books and websites for more information. Other books in this series:
Basketball and Other Ball Sports
Combat Sports
Swimming and Diving
Track and Field

 Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo, illustrations by Dom Lee
Sammy Lee was a Korean American who dreamed of being an Olympic champion diver. However, he was unable to practice at the local pool due to discrimination. This story tells of how he worked to overcome the obstacles.

 Dream big: Michael Jordan and the Pursuit of Olympic Gold by Deloris Jordan, illustrated by Barry Root
This picture book is written by Michael Jordan’s mother. It shows his dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal. It goes on to show how he worked to make it happen.

 The Kids Summer Games Book: Official Book of Games to Play by Jane Drake, Ann Love and Heather Collins
Do you want to create your own Olympics? This book gives lots of ideas. You’ll find more than 150 games and activities. There are indoor games, water games, and games for just one or two players.

 Going for Gold! by Andrew Donkin
This book tells about 6 Olympic athletes: Jesse Owens, Shelley Mann, Mamo Wolde, Daley Thompson, Jennifer Capriati, and Kerri Strug. It gives information about the athletes and their sports.

 Jesse Owens: Olympic Star by Patricia McKissack and Frederick McKissack, illustrated by Michael David Biegel
Jesse Owens started life in a very poor family. Through hard work and overcoming hardships, he became an Olympic legend. He also challenged Hitler’s racist beliefs about whites and people of color.

  Ancient Greece and the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Osborne
This is the nonfiction book to go along with Hour of the Olympics, book #16 of the Magic Tree House series. I gives lots of information about Greece back when the Olympics first started. It also tells about how the old Olympic and the new Olympic games compare. There are resources listed in the back for more Olympic information.

  Wilma Rudolph by Victoria Sharrow, illustrated by Larry Johnson
Wilma Rudolph had an illness called polio when she was a kid. This left her unable to walk. Rudolph worked hard to learn to walk again and then went on to become an Olympic racer. She was the first woman to win three gold medals in track in the same Olympics.
Another book about Rudolph:
Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz (The illustrations in this book are really great.)

I can't wait to watch some of the Olympics! What are your favorite events?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Backseat Travel Activities for Kids

Looking for activities to do in the backseat during long car trips? Here are sites with a ton of ideas.

Road Trip Activites! from Mom’s Minivan
Travel journal, fun with aluminum foil, roadside oddities…

Coloring, bingo, connect-the-dots…

Mazes, Backseat Boredom Busters, scavenger hunts…

On the Road Games from Disney Family Fun
Matching games, travel games, mazes, word searches…

Activities featuring Nick Jr. shows.

I'd love to know your favorite backseat activities. Write them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Promoting Literacy while Traveling

Traveling gives us lots of ways to promote literacy in easy and painless ways. Here are a bunch of ideas that I’ve learned from experience and through my research.

Before you set out, spend time researching your destination. If you are driving, research the places along the way too. Involve your kids in this, and let them take as much responsibility as they can. The more they invest their time and effort, the better. They may find some oddball attractions that end up being highlights of the trip.
Monday’s book post has books to check out, plus the internet has endless possibilities. If you are a member of AAA, be sure to give their resources a look.
  • Road trip: do online research to find interesting places to stop for breaks (historic sites, museums, charming towns) and also places for picnics (state parks, lakes, waterfalls).
  • Museums
    • Many have web pages with information about exhibits and special shows. Which exhibits interests your family the most? Giving your kids a say in what they see and the order in which you see them can help keep the visit kid-friendly.
    • Association of Children’s Museums membership gives free access to over 150 children’s museums in the US.
    • Consider making the gift store your first stop. Purchase several postcards of the important works on display (or download images off the museum’s web site before you go). Make a game/contest of finding the pieces of art as you tour.
  • Zoos
    • Check the website for when special shows and feeding times are scheduled.
    • See animals of particular interest? Research them before you go.
  • Visiting a big city? Make transportation decisions before you arrive as to how you’ll get from place to place. Cost, convenience and fatigue all need to be considered.
  • See if an audio tour is available.
  • Plan a balance of activities to meet individual interests, movement needs, down time and food interests.

Here is part of a nearly limitless list of things to take along for car, train and airplane trips.
  • Pipe cleaners in assorted colors from any craft store. making necklaces, swords, bracelets, towers...
  • Maps
  • Audio books
  • Supplies that encourage your kids to burn off some of their excess energy at highway stops: a few jump ropes, bucket stilts, a couple of inflatable beach balls, and sidewalk chalk (for playing hopscotch and four-square).
  • Customized word search and crossword puzzles to do in the car or on the plane, using words from your trip and destination.’s Puzzlemaker  makes this simple and fast.
  • An inexpensive metal cookie sheet makes a terrific lap table for a child during car trips. It’s a food tray, a writing desk, a clipboard (with the addition of a clip-style fridge magnet) and an instant play table for all sorts of magnetic toys.
  • Pack a guide book with the flora and fauna, interesting landmarks, notable sights, native foods, transit systems…
  • Playing cards, card games and board games
  • Create a family trivia game. Click here  for directions.
  • "Are we there yet?" Hand the asker a map and ask him to figure out how much longer we’ll be on the road.

  • US car trip? Collect a jar full of quarters with US states on the back. During the journey, when someone spots a state's license plate, that person collects the state’s quarter.
  • Take pictures of stops you make along the way. The pictures will make great individual and/or family scrapbooks.
  • Take along language practice tapes or CDs, and make a contest out of remembering words for things seen on the road (tree, car, etc.).
  • Make up your own road scavenger hunt game.
  • Allow your kids options that you are comfortable with. For example, “Do you guys want to go to the park today or would you rather go swimming at the pool?”
  • Create a job for the day:
    • Navigator: The navigator is responsible for making sure you get to your destination. He gets a road map, a pen, and printed directions from an online mapping web site.
    • Banker: The banker is responsible for keeping track of the money. She is given a realistic budget and a list of the required expenses (gas, food, hotel room…). She also gets a notepad, a pen, and some cash. When you stop for gas, she pays and gives the family an update on how much you have left. When you stop for a meal, she looks at the menu and decides if you can afford to eat there.
    • Car Maintenance: This person is responsible for keeping the car in reasonable order. Maybe has the power to levy fines?
    • Swap roles.
    • This wouldn’t work for every family and/or trip, but definitely an idea to consider.
  • This website Hazel Mail will convert your vacation photo into a postcard and send it anywhere in the world.

Please visit these websites for more traveling ideas. They offer a wealth of information.

I bet you have lots of your own traveling tips. Please add one to the Comments Box!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Travel Books for Kids

Summer is a great time to travel to places you either don't go often or have never been before. This might mean visiting far-away relatives, traveling to another state or even flying to another country. It might even be discovering new places in your own town. This week's books are full of ideas about where to go, some things to do in the car and what to do when you get there.

 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12! by Joanne O’Sullivan
A lighthouse, an aquarium, a hall of fame – these are all places you’d expect to see in this book. But how about a faraway island, the teacher’s lounge or a special place to sleep? At the end of the book are addresses of some of the places. I agree with all the 101 places and think I’d better start adding some of them to my own bucket list!

 Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas by National Geographic
 I spent more time than I intended looking through this book. I stopped to read about states I've been in and states I'd like to go to. That's many states! Each state has 5 Cool Things to Do, Roadside Attractions, Traffic Laws You Won't Believe, a Boredom Buster and a map to study (I love maps). If' you're taking a road trip, this would be a great resource.

 National Parks Guide U.S.A. by National Geographic Kids
Are you off to visit a national park? Lucky you! This book gives some great tips and ideas. Each park description includes sections on Basic Facts, Ranger Tips (like Don't get too close to the edge.), Best Views, Dare to Explore and others.

 Map It! Topographic Maps by Ian F. Mahaney
I love maps and can spend hours looking at them. Topographic maps are fun because they show you when the land is steep and when it's flat. This book explains how topographic maps work and when to use them. Other books in this series:
Climate Maps
Physical Maps
Political Maps
Road Maps
Weather Maps

 Not-for-Parents New York City: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Klay Lamprell
This book gives inside information on New York City. It tells about the skyscrapers, subways, sports, superheroes, rats, Martians and more. There are other books in this series:
Not-for-Parents : The Travel Book
Not-for-Parents : Rome
Not-for-Parents : London
Not-for-Parents : Paris

 The Everything Kids' Travel Activity Book by Erik Hanson and Jeanne Hanson
This book has a lot of ideas: things to count (you'd be surprised), games (talking-type and writing-type), be a road detective (find out about your destination), read alouds, sing-alongs, cool stuff about the states and more.

 Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit by The Editors of Klutz
This book comes with the directions you need, plus the supplies ( felt-tip pens, a pair of dice, a string loop, a 100 page activity pad and more). Since it's a Klutz book, it has great instructions. There are lots of Klutz books. Here are a few that would probably work well in the car:
Bookdoggle: A Book of Lanyard & Lacing
Braids & Bows
Draw the Marvel Comics Super Heroes
Friendship Bracelets
Cat's Cradle: A Book of String Figures

 Travel Doodles for Kids by Anita Wood
If you like to draw, this book is for you. The pages are filled with pictures that are started, with a prompt, and you just need to finish it up. Funny is good here! An example: What's making everybody itch in Scratch Ankle, Alabama? There are also pages to keep track of things to count.

If you will be traveling to other countries, the next books may help you learn about the places you are going to. If you are staying closer to home, they will help give you a sense of life outside your own country.
 Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel
Sixteen photographers traveled to 30 countries to live for a week with families  in that country. At the end of each visit, the photographer shot a bunch of pictures, including a portrait of the family outside of their home, surrounded by all of their possessions. For some families, there are just a few things. For others there are lots. This book gives a good look at how people live all over the world. Also by this author:
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets  

 Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A Photographic Journey around the World by Maya Ajmera and Rhesa Versola
This must have been a fun book to create! There is a country for each letter of the alphabet. The authors had to choose only one country for each letter, which must have been hard. Although there is plenty of information, I liked the pictures best. They show kids living their lives and having fun. Another book by this author worth looking at:
Children of the U.S.A.

 Wake Up, World: A Day in the Life of Children Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer 
This book shows 8 children from 8 different countries: United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Ghana, Russia, Vietnam, Australia and India. It begins when they wake up and follows each of them through a day. We see them eating, in school, playing, helping others and going to bed. Similar books by this author:
Let's Eat: What Children Eat Around the World
Our World of Water  

 A Life Like Mine: How Children Live around the World by UNICEF and DK Children
This book presents 18 children and explores what life is like for them. It’s organized into four parts – Survival, Development, Protection and Participation. It has a ton of photographs, plus maps and children's quotes. This is my favorite of the books in the It’s a Big World section. Also by UNICEF and DK Children:
A School Like Mine

If you are traveling this summer, I envy you! While I'm staying close to home this summer, these books have been endless fun for me to read. Bon Voyage!

Friday, July 13, 2012

25 Jokes for a Summer Day

Time for jokes again! I hope you have a laughing day!

What do you get when you cross an elephant and a fish?  
Swimming trunks.

What do you call a shoe made from banana peels?  
A slipper!

Where do you learn to make ice cream?  
Sundae school

Why did the bubblegum cross the road?  
Because it was stuck to the chicken's foot.

What do you get when you cross a cheetah and a burger?
Fast food

What kind of shoes do frogs wear?  
Open toad.

Why shouldn't you swim on a full stomach?  
Because it's easier to swim in a full swimming pool!

Why did the chicken cross the playground?  
To get to the other slide.

What did the frog order at the diner?  
French flies and a Diet Croak.

Why was the mother firefly unhappy?  
Because her children weren't that bright!

What do you call an elephant in a phone booth?  

What has four legs and says OOM?  
A cow walking backwards

What do Triceratops sit on?  
Their Tricerabottoms

How do clams call their friends?  
On their shell phones!

Who's there?
Little Old Lady.
Little Old Lady Who?
I didn't know you could yodel!

Who's there?
Anita. Anita who?
Anita drink, I'm so thirsty!

Why do bees have sticky hair?
Because they have honeycombs!

What kind of dog likes to smell flowers?
A bud hound

How do you confuse a fish?
Put it in a round fishbowl and tell it to go to the corner!

 What is a mosquito's favorite sport?

What is a frog's favorite music?
Hip hop!

What goes dot-dot-croak, dot-dash-croak?
Morse toad!

What do you get when you cross a dinosaur with a pig?
Jurassic Pork

Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Doughnut. Doughnut who?
Doughnut ask, it's a secret.

What did zero say to eight?
Nice belt!
(I've used this before but it still makes me laugh!}

These jokes came from:

Know any good jokes? Write them in the Comments Box!