Welcome to Camp Woggle Review

oodlethunks_3The Oodlethunks: Welcome to Camp Woggle by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu

Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0545732918

Synopsis: School is out for the summer and Oona and her brother Bonk can’t wait to help their dad over the vacation. But now that the kids aren’t in school, Stacy, their pet stegasaurus, is bored. So Oona and Bonk decide to create a summer camp for their pet and the pets of the other kids – Camp Woogle!

Why I picked it up: I loved the idea of having a dinosaur for a pet.

Why I finished it: Clearly I have a thing where I start series not on the first book, which I have referenced before, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying this prehistoric adventure. Oona and Bonk are clever, entrepreneurial young cave people with a can-do spirit and big hearts. They see that Stacy is driving their mom crazy and tearing up the cave, and so the two put their heads together in order to solve the problem of keeping their pet entertained and keeping themselves occupied during the school break. Oona wants to be able to include all of the community’s pets, but runs into a problem when she realizes that one of the newcomers has a pet T-Rex that could potentially eat the other campers. Her ability to create and enforce rules as well as compromise on an effective punishment for rule-breakers shows younger readers that they themselves are capable of creating solutions to everyday dilemmas. Oona and Bonk show a positive attitude in the face of some adverse situations that at first seem discouraging, but in the end turn out okay. Wu’s art reminds me a lot of the animation for the film Inside Out, which seems appropriate since he has done work for Disney. It has a realistic yet whimsical quality that adds to the fun of the story, helping Oona, Bonk, and rest of their friends and family come alive. I’d recommend this book for those of you like me that love strong female characters and for kids who have dreamed of having a dinosaur for a pet – it’s a enjoyable and inspirational story about how we face challenges and overcome setbacks.

Other related materials: Oona Finds an Egg (Oodlethunks, Book 1) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; Steg-O-Normous (Oodlethunks, Book 2) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; The Dino Files books by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Mike Boldt; Dino-Mike series by Franco; Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putman Oakes; Dino Detectives books by Anita Yasuda, illustrated by Steve Harpster; Haggis and Tank Unleashed series by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks; Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott; Who Would Win? Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Veliciraptor by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Rob Bolster

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Listening Now: Brains On!

logo_taglineBrains On!: A Podcast for Kids & Curious Adults hosted by Molly Bloom, produced by Marc Sanchez, writing and reporting by Sanden Totten

http://www.brainson.org/; Available on iTunes, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify, and NPR One

Synopsis: Brains On! is a podcast featuring science and kids produced by American Public Media. We ask questions and go wherever the answers take us. Sometimes that means talking to a food scientist or a snake handler, other times that means putting on a play about sound waves or writing songs about sleep. A different kid co-hosts each episode. We talk to them about the interesting stuff they’re doing and the things they think about. It’s a science lesson for your ears – so join us and turn your brains on! – from the website

This podcast is another one of many that has helped to support the STEM movement, helping kids and adults alike get in touch with hard science (psychology is considered a soft science). The hosts tackle things from farts to how airplanes fly to why mosquitoes are so annoying to how our brains read books – and so much more! I also think it is unique to have different kid co-hosts each show that come on and talk a little bit more about their experiences with the topic. One of the episodes even featured some kid inventors that have won national awards for helping to tackle issues that they notice in their everyday lives. It was inspiring to me because there was never anything quite this big when I was growing up and I’m always so excited to hear about how kids are going out and exploring and interacting with the world around them. I remember science fairs being a huge deal when I was in school and in some school districts around the country they still are a big deal. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter that gives some extra special bonus content to go along with the episodes. It’s a great way to get inspired to get out there – here are so many things to do and explore and showcase their smarts – you just have to know where to look.

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Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue Review

owly_2Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue by Andy Runton

Top Shelf Productions, 2005. 978-1891830648

Synopsis: Best friends Owly and Wormy meet a bluebird who nests with its family in a rotting tree while out gathering apples. When the pair learn that the bluebird’s home is in danger, they decide to build their neighbor a new home. Blue thinks the new house is a trap and threatens Owly and Wormy. Discouraged, the friends pack away the little house in a closet. Months later, when a fierce storm threatens the bluebird’s tree, Owly and Wormy come to their rescue.

Why I picked it up: I read the series for a reader’s advisory class in library school and this wordless comic series has become one of my absolute favorites.

Why I finished it: Owly is a kind but somewhat shy owl always looking for new friends and adventures, much like many of the readers. Even though the characters are animals, Runton humanizes them, giving the story a sort of sweetness and simplicity. The little quirks they demonstrate are really what endears them to the readers. Owly and Wormy display an optimism throughout the story that helps them continue to move forward despite Blue being mean and rejecting their house; plus, I loved that Owly serves tea when they go home to help cheer Wormy up. They show us that it is okay to be saddened by setbacks, but that we all have the power to move on to something even better. It was heartbreaking to see the pair sacrifice their beloved wheelbarrow to build the birdhouse, but it teaches us that there are both easier and hard sacrifices to be made for the sake of friendship. It demonstrates the value of being a good neighbor and caring for the ‘person’ rather than the place. Runton’s art has as much personality as his characters, using curves to create softened edges and an upbeat feeling even when things are sad. It’s a fun, fast read for persons of any age and reading level that shows us the kindness is a universal language.

Other related materials: Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 3: Flying Lessons by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 4: A Time to be Brave by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 5: Tiny Tales by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights! by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter! by Andy Runton; Bone comics by Jeff Smith; Little Robot by Ben Hatke; Korgi series by Christian Slade; Hildafolk books by Luke Pearson; Stinky: A Toon Book  by Eleanor Davis

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One Trick Pony Review

one_trick_ponyOne Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

Harry N. Abrams, 2017. 978-1419721281

Synopsis: In the future, Earth has been overtaken by a race of blob-like aliens that ‘eat’ anything resembling technology. Digital rescuers, like Strata’s family and their caravan, are intent upon saving and carefully archiving any surviving technology to preserve the memory of the human race. Out searching an area with her brother and a friend, Strata discovers a special robot pony that she hopes to be able to save. But when the aliens find them, it becomes a race to see who will survive.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the short story about Hugh Glass in Guys Read: True Stories and I’ve been eager to pick up more of Hale’s work.

Why I finished it: What first drew me in to the story was its simplicity. Yes, there are a lot of different threads, but Hale relies on the intelligence of the reader to piece together a history rather than just giving it to us outright. There’s obviously some explanations at the climax about how the aliens came to Earth, but we’re focusing more on a battle than the war. Strata, her family, friends, and the other members of the caravan might not remember what the old Earth looked like, but they have a vested interest in preserving their way of life so that future generations can have knowledge of the past. To me, Kleidi (the titular one trick pony) represents a sense of hope that humanity can restore itself, using our own manpower to pick ourselves up. Kleidi also shows the reader that technology has the potential to both harm and help us, which we can see playing out in our modern world daily. Strata can use Kleidi to outrun the aliens, but each time they are able to hide they are found again, and the group continues to mass until the aliens capture the pair and take them to their leaders. Strata’s perseverance is a point of contention with the little group of travelers – they believe it would be safer to dismantle Kleidi so that they can escape – but her courage is what really wins the day. She has enough faith in her own abilities and trusts Kleidi to be a loyal companion; she believes that she will be able to save herself and her family with Kleidi’s help and that is what she seeks to do over the course of the story. Hale’s art is realistic yet imaginative as he paints for the reader a desecrated landscape of oddly convex buildings to juxtapose what little natural elements of the Earth are left. I appreciated the muted yellows contrasting with the greyscale, highlighting Kleidi in particular as special and unique. It’s a fast-paced, though provoking ride through a futuristic world that is sure to engage readers of all ages and levels.

Other related materials: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; Guts & Glory books by Ben Thompson; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy by Nathan Olson, illustrated by Cynthia Martin and Brent Schoonover; The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire; The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Cleopatra in Space books by Mike Maihack; Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrated by Rebecca Mock

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Unicorn Crossing Review

unicorn_crossing_coverUnicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449483579

Synopsis: Time flies in this fifth volume of Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn! Follow the lovable duo as they experience somewhat-spooky Halloween parties, ecstatic snow days, and looming summer reading assignments. Although the journey of growing up can sometimes be difficult, along the way Phoebe and Marigold discover something more enduring than goblin fads, unicorn spa vacations, and even a Spell of Forgetting—their one of a kind friendship. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wanted a lighthearted break after all of the heavy books I have been reading for my book clubs.

Why I finished it: I’ve mentioned before that I love this series in large part for Simpson’s often tongue in cheek humor that can be enjoyed by any age reader. Ever the drama horse (that’s a thing; I might have just made it up, but it’s a thing now), Marigold continues in her somewhat half-hearted quest to understand humans – namely Phoebe – when she decides to dress up like her best friend for Halloween. And while the experience doesn’t give Marigold any more insight into the non-unicorn beings, it’s an amusing anecdote about how well Phoebe and Marigold know each other. This bit is followed closely by another in which Marigold goes to a unicorn spa in Canada and leaves Phoebe on her own for a few days – needless to say, that although she survived for nine years without her friend, it proved hard to be without her.  The stories each touch on the notion that friendship is a bond that continues to strengthen and maybe even get a little weirder (in a good way) over time. Simpson’s art is fresh and fun without taking itself too seriously, contributing to the lighthearted humor of the comics. It’s a must read for fans of this series and even if you’re new to Phoebe and Her Unicorn, you’re sure to find something magical within the pages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure; Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock

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Ghosts Review

ghosts_telgemeierGhosts by Raina Telgemeier, colors by Braden Lamb

Graphix, 2016. 978-0545540612

Synopsis: Sisters Catarina and Maya are leaving their Southern California home and relocating to the Northern California coast in hopes that the sea air will help with Maya’s cystic fibrosis. As Cat reluctantly explores Bahìa de la Luna with her sister, the girls become aware that the town is full of ghosts. Maya wants to meet them, Cat does not; but as the day for honoring the dead, Dia de los Muertos, approaches, Cat must learn to embrace the town’s culture and help her sister make the most of her own life while she has it.

Why I picked it up: Raina Telgemeier is another one of those authors that I will read anything she writes forever.

Why I finished it: Telgemeier has a unique ability to take sensitive subjects and situations and create stories about how we can muster the courage to take the next step forward and recover from our own shortcomings. Ghosts deals with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that can cause a buildup of mucus in the lungs which can lead to other serious respiratory problems. Telgemeier takes us inside the lives of these two fictional sisters to explore the very real issues that individuals and families with loved ones batting cystic fibrosis must be aware of on a constant basis. It’s a struggle for Cat to have to share her life with her sister, but she has also taken on the role of protector which perhaps prevents her from having to deal with her own fears. The festival of Dìa de lost Muertos that the town participates in each year (and is celebrated worldwide, usually around the same time as Halloween) helps Cat begin to put some perspective about how we celebrate life and how to live her life to the fullest. She knows Maya’s cystic fibrosis will only get worse as she gets older, and at one point Maya asks her parents why she shouldn’t make the most of the time she has now while things aren’t too bad. Death is a weighty subject to be sure, but Telgemeier seems to arrange the notion in a context that is perhaps not so scary and foreboding to the reader. Thanks to the softness of her art style and the wonderful colors by Lamb, the story still has a lighthearted, wholesome feel to it – like having a conversation with a close friend. Ghosts is a story about how we connect with our family both in life and in death, and how they can give us the courage to keep going when the odds are against us.

Other related materials: Smile by Raina Telgemeier; Sisters by Raina Telgemeier; Drama by Raina Telgemeier; Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; House Arrest by K.A. Holt; Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper; Paperboy by Vince Vawter; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine; Rules by Cynthia Lord; Wonder by R.J. Palacio; So B. It by Sarah Weeks; Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr; Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret; Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter; Dìa De Los Muertos by Ann Heinrichs and Mernie Gallagher-Cole

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Fun and Games: Science Activities for Kids, Part 2

This was a blog I originally did for the lovely Darlene Beck-Jacobson that was originally posted in two parts – part one is here. I know summer is almost in full swing, so here’s some more ideas to keep your mind active over the school break . Check out Darlene’s blog here.


– Egg Geodes Experiment (from tinkerlab.com):

You will need:

  • Eggs
  • Rock Salt
  • Sea Salt
  • Borax*
  • Other substance that could be tested for crystallization such as sugar, epsom salts, cream of tartar, baking soda, or alum*
  • Mini-muffin pan
  • Food Coloring

* Borax and alum are not food products, and using these ingredients with small children should be closely monitored, as ingestion can be fatal. Please use common sense and close supervision with such substances.

Procedure:

  1. Tap a knife around the top of the eggs to remove a bit of shell, and then empty the eggs and clean them with water. Using a finger, it’s important to gently rub around the inside of the egg to remove the membrane because the membrane can discolor crystals as they form.
  2. If you happen to have a mini-cupcake pan, it’s like they were made for this job.
  3. Heat a pot of water (not quite boiling) and then pour 1/2 cup into a mug. Add 1/4 cup of kosher salt into the first mug and mix it until it dissolves.
  4. In the next mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup sea salt. The sea salt dissolves quickly, so you may want to add a bit more. The idea is to saturate the solution without putting in too much of the dry ingredient.
  5. And then the final mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup borax. Dissolved.
  6. Add a couple drops of food coloring to each mug to differentiate between the solutions. Make a chart so you can keep track.
  7. Pour the liquid into the eggs. Each solution made just enough to pour into two eggs. Perfect!
  8. And then you wait. 5  days for the liquid to mostly evaporate. Salt crystals will start to evaporate through the egg shell to create the geode.

– Elephant Toothpaste (from navigatingbyjoy.com):

You will need:

  • 6% Hydrogen peroxide (1/2 cup)
  • Yeast (1 tsp)
  • Hot water (2 tbsp approx) in a small dish
  • Food colouring
  • Washing-up liquid (dish soap)
  • Empty soda/water bottle (small)
  • Tray to stand the bottle on to catch the foam
  • Funnel (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the bottle
  2. Mix the yeast into the water
  3. Add the washing up liquid and food colouring to the hydrogen peroxide in the bottle
  4. Add the yeast mixture to the bottle
  5. Stand back and admire the reaction!

– Oobleck! (from housingaforest.com): If you have never made it before, Oobleck is a mixture of cornstarch and water.  When played with fast it acts like a solid…when allowed to relax it acts like a liquid.

You will need:

To make the oobleck: about 2 cups of Corn Starch to 1 cup of water

To make the oobleck dance:

  • Subwoofer
  • a thin metal cookie sheet
  • a MP3 of an audio test tone ~ you will have to play a bit to see what works best with your equipment.
  • Food Coloring

Procedure:

  1. Place the cookie sheet onto the speaker of the sub, and pour in the Oobleck.
  2. You can download different test tones and play to see what works best for you.  We used 40 Hz, 50 Hz, and 63 Hz, and found that we needed to turn the volume way up.  We tried a number of different frequencies but these three seemed to work the best.  We did a search for subwoofer test MP3.  There are a number of different sites that you can use.
  3. Before you play the MP3 you will need to place your fingers on the edge of the cookie sheet with gentle pressure.  It took a bit of playing to see what worked the best, but the results were amazing.
  4. We decided to add food coloring to see what would happen.  I love how the colors dance together and you can see all the layers of each color.  This was the kids favorite part!

Tips and Tricks:

  • A thicker consistency of Oobleck works best.  Although with that said you don’t want it too thick.  We used a ratio of 2:1 (cornstarch to water).
  • If your oobleck is not dancing, you may need to change the volume on your subwoofer.  You can also try digging your finger in Oobleck to start the movement.  In the video the kids do it a few times just to get everything started.
  • Keep experimenting until you get it to work.  Honestly we played around for a bit until it worked for us.  Everyone will be working with different equipment so what worked for us might be a little different for you.

EVEN MORE fun science-y things can be found on these websites:

lemonlimeadventures.com: blog from a mom passionate about being able to share her relatable successes and struggles with the world. There’s more than just science stuff here, but search the tag “Science Saturday” to pull up everything science-related.

stirthewonder.com: activities and games for toddlers and preschoolers along with teaching tools for parents and educators

pbskids.org/zoom: Site for the PBS Kids show, ZOOM, which features activities and games by kids and for kids. Also has resources for parents and teachers.

fun-a-day.com: meaningful and fun learning activities for kids

igamemom.com: games for learning for kids of all ages!

learnplayimagine.com: outdoor activities, indoor activities, and so much more

growingajeweledrose.com: blog with fun and educational activities for kids

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