Monday, July 9, 2018

☀️Kid Tested Summer Reading: Activity and Information Books

Wondering how to make summer learning fun? Here are a few suggestions:

Summer Brain Quest: Between Grades Pre-K & K by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Edison Yan and Maris Wicks
Workman Publishing, 2018, 160 pages, 4+

Before you know it, school will be back in session and your little ones will be off to Pre-K and Kindergarten.  And while I don't advocate overwhelming kids with preparatory material before they begin, a little playing school doesn't hurt, especially if there are older siblings around to play with them, and Summer Brain Quest is just the right book for that - a workbook of a different kind. The book is designed as a quest to get as many achievement stickers as possible on the corresponding pullout map until they reach the finish line.
Kids will learn the alphabet, and how to write each letter, counting and numbers, shapes, reading maps and signs, recognizing patterns, and a bit about the weather among, other things, and all of it is age appropriate. There is plenty of interactive fun and learning to keep curious kids busy, while also feeling accomplished. There is even a Summer Brainiac Award once the quest have been completed. I especially liked that there are suggestions for a number of outdoor quests young kids can enjoy and even a section on reading with book suggestions and questions to think about for discussing a book with another person. Kids don't even have to know how to read yet, if someone can read to them (like those helpful older siblings). And I have to say, the stickers at each completed level really helps to keep kids motivated. My kids aren't young enough for Summer Brain Quest, but my neighbor's kids have been doing the quest and are loving it, and that's how I know the stickers work.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Let's Discover Bugs written and illustrated by Andrea Cascardi
Candlewick Press, 2018, 32 pages, 5+

We're Going on a Bear Hunt has been around a long time, and I know that because I remember reading it to my no-longer-a-kid Kiddo. Now, there are activity books based on that story for kids who would like to go on a hunt but for not bears. Let's Discover Bugs is full of suggestions for finding the most common types of indoor and outdoor bugs, basic information about each kind and a corresponding experiment and/or activity. The book begins with suggestions for how to stay safe and how to plan a bug hunt, including what to wear and what to bring, followed by a good definition of a bug. Did you know that all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs? There is also a short description and a detailed illustration of each kind of bug, plus a fun fact, an activity, and other interesting items (jokes, recipes, grow a windowsill herb garden, etc). We actually made the suggested mini pond and insect home to put in a friend's garden when we visited. We've gone back and checked and both are thriving. My kiddos are very curious to see what will happen. Of course, this is a book with stickers and a there is a two-page spread called the Spotter's List, where kids an put a matching sticker on any insects they find on their adventure. Our plan is to head across the street to Carl Schulz Park and start our big outdoor buggy adventure this week.

The Kids Awesome Activity Book: Games! Puzzles! Mazes! And More! 
written and illustrated by by Mike Lowery
Workman Publishing, 2018, 112 pages, 6+

The operative words for this book are imagination and creativity. Kids can make a flip book, finish a comic, make some finger puppets, solve some puzzles, make a mask, play a game, do words searches, and these are only some of the things that can be done in this truly awesome activity book. In his intro, author Mike Lowery encourages kids to draw, color, and doodle all they want in this book, they can start where they want, end where they want, that is, do they want. There are some many things to do, and lots of room for inventing their own activities using what they find here. There's only one rule - to have fun! One of the great things about this book is that there is enough in it to keep kids busy on long car trips with just a pencil and some crayons, and enough to keep them from getting bored on hot summer days at home. And yes, this is also a book with stickers - lots of them, in fact, there are 400 fun stickers to meet every sticker need  sticker-loving kid could have. My kid's are chomping at the bit to color the large pull-out doodle poster, which they get to do now that I have written this. This book is sure to encourage your youngsters to have some plain old silly fun - just what summer calls for.

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2019
National Geographic Society, 2018, 352 pages, age 8+

When I gave my young readers the Kids Almanac 2018 last year, I was really pleased to see how well it was received. And they are now excited to see that there is a new almanac just like it, but with new information. Following the same familiar format, Kids Almanac 2019 is divided into 11 sections, each one focusing on a particular subject with the latest information about things like animals, science and technology, going green, nature, history, and even geography for kids to learn about. Filled with beautiful full color photos, detailed maps, games to play, and fun facts to learn, like how to say the word friend 12 ways, interesting statistics about the earth's mountains, oceans, and deserts as well as fun stats (e.g. if a 6th grader reads 1 hour every day, they will have read 3, 285,000 in a year). Not surprisingly, my kids always like the section called Fun and Games the best, but that's OK. There is still lots to learn in it and it provides a nice break. Each year the Almanac has a challenge for an endangered animal. Last year, it was sharks, and this year it is lions. Design an Lions Forever poster with a message about lion conservation and one of your kids just might win $500. to host a party with their friends celebrating lions. Click here for more information and an entry form: Almanac 2019

Turn This Book Into a Beehive! And 19 Other Experiments and Activities That Explore the Amazing World of Bees
by Lynn Brunelle, illustrated by Anna-Maria Jung
Workman Publishing, 2018, 288 pages, 8+

We were very excited to receive this book once we realized what we could do with it. Not only does it teach kids all about bees, from what is a bee, to the different kinds of bees, how to tell a bee from a wasp, and what to do if you get stung, but it also explains why bees are so important to humans and in helping to maintain the health of the earth's ecology. All that plus experiments you can do to understand what it is like to be a bee - how they see, how they smell, how they collect pollen, etc. My kids loved this book. They were already aware of hive collapse, so when we reached the section on the solitary mason bee, who does not sting, and learned how they could help, the kids jumped at the chance to turn this book into a beehive. The book comes with a removable cover and a good supply of colorful pages that can be torn out. The cover can be folded to create a hive, than filled with the torn out pages that have been rolled into different sized tubes:
We put our hive together and placed it in my friend's garden. It's still there and we check it every once in a while. We'll let you know how things progress. There are also instructions for making a hive from plastic bottles and paper straws that we are planning on making and giving as Christmas gifts this year. Anna-Maria Jung's colorful illustrations add just the right amount to whimsy to appeal to kids without trivializing any of the important information about bees kids today need to know about.

Ocean: A Visual Miscellany by Ricardo Henriques, illustrated by André Letria
Chronicle Books, 2018, 48 pages, 8+

Whether you are taking kids to the beach or remaining landlocked, this is the ocean book that perfect for summer reading. This slightly over-sized book is big on facts and even some fictions about the world's oceans. Readers will discover what the major oceans are, which is the largest, find out why all boats are watercraft, but not all watercraft are boats. They can learn the parts of a ship, how sailors navigate by the stars, how life on a ship is ordered, some of the known schools of fish among the estimated 22,000 species in the ocean. There is a nice section all about waves which should appeal to kids who like to ride them on a boogie board at the beach a section on explorers, and even icebergs. My kids loved this book and the simple activities and experiments that are included, some of which we have already done like how to make a iceberg in the kitchen, tying nautical knots, and finding out how ships sail on the ocean's surface and why submarines can dive dive and run under water. This book was translated from the Portuguese and adult readers might want to try the Caldeirada (Portuguese Fish Stew) recipe and if you haven't had this kind of fish stew yet, you are in for a real treat. There are lots of illustrations done in white, blues and blacks that give the reader the feeling of being at the ocean. This book is coming with us next trip to the shore this summer.

The Ultimate Guide to Gardening: Grow Your Own Indoor, Vegetable, Fairy, and Other Great Gardens
by Lisa J. Amstutz
Capstone Young Readers, 2016, 112 pages, 9+  

I received this book quite a while ago, but it was caught in the water damage from the fire in an apartment four floors above mine and it took a while to dry and separate the pages. It's a little wrinkled, but still works. Not everyone has a house with a yard but that doesn't mean they can't have a garden. This book has more than 40 projects including instructions that range from edible gardening, to indoor gardening and even enchanted gardening. The instructions are basic and kids can use their imaginations about the kinds of containers to use, and what to put in them. Amstutz turns old tea cups, muffin tins, even tin cans into fun, decorative planters. All of the projects are kid-friendly, though an adult is needed for some help and supervision. I tried to get my kids into doing an herb garden, but ended up doing that myself. If your kids are like mine, they might be interested in growing beets and spinach from seed. These do need to be in a garden, but the ultimate goal isn't to have healthy vegetables. Turn the page and learn how to make natural dyes for tie-dying (we plan on doing this at the beach this summer, but with store bought veg). This is a fun, informative book that is sure to give kids a real appreciation for growing things.

Startalk Young Readers Editon: Everything You Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond by Neil deGrasse Tyson 
National Geographic Society, 2018, 224 pages, 10+

Neil deGrasse Tyson is my newest hero. He's knowledgeable, he's got a great sense of humor, and he knows exactly how to get people, including kids, interested in the universe. This young readers edition of Startalk is based on deGrasse Tyson's popular podcast and TV show on the National Geographic channel. The book is divided into four sections: Space, Planet Earth, Being Human, and Futures Imagined. The topics covered in each section aren't in-depth studies, but rather small information bytes that are designed to whet the readers appetite for seeking out more information about what interests them. If your young readers has ever wondered what to pack for a visit to mars, where storms come from, where creativity come from, or most important of all, could Superman survive a black hole, this is the book that will answer these questions for them. I love the way deGrasse Tyson mixes real science with science fiction and pop culture. One of my favorite information bytes: I used to love watching Star Trek reruns, but I never knew that Nichelle Nichols who played Lieutenant Uhura helped to diversify NASA, did you? There are plenty of illustrations and glorious photographs to support the information here. My only complaint is that the intro to each chapter is a very light gray on white paper and hard to read, even for my kids. And I should mention that in the Being Human section there is a two page spread that features chef Anthony Boudain, whom your readers may know about from recent news reports. This didn't take away from the books enjoyment for my readers, one of whom was so taken with this book he asked to borrow it and I think he may have appropriated it. If that isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is. I think I'll just give it to him - better read and loved than sitting on a shelf.

Happy Summer Reading, everyone!

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