Friday, September 28, 2012

Lois Ehlert Toddler Crafty

It’s been awhile since I’ve read any Lois Ehlert books, and I can just say, WOW! They’re awesome! I love her various illustration methods. They’re unique and eye catching—we spent a good amount of time just looking at them all.

Here are some of the Lois Ehlert books our library had available.

We decided to do crafts based on two of the books. First, Eating the Alphabet. We own this book and have been reading it for, well, 3 years. It’s helped us identify—and try!—lots of fruits and veggies when we go to the grocery store.
Toddler Train Man doesn’t get much opportunity to use scissors, so we went through recent grocery ads and cut out foods that we like (or that I want him to like!). TTM does better when we’re working together, so we both cut out pictures, but I gave him the right of approval on my choices before they were added to our pile. 

After we had a good collection, we did some discussing and sorting. We put foods into groups—fruits and veggies, meat, freezer foods, and so on. We also looked at colors and which foods we’ve eaten most recently.

Finally, we glued the pictures into a collage. I thought we’d group them based on our discussions, but TTM wasn’t so interested in that idea, so he started with big pictures, then medium, then small. I guess that’s a grouping, right?
Yes, that's a boat in the middle. It was in the ad and apparently VERY interesting!

We also did a Leaf Man activity since our yard has perfect crafting supplies. First we did a nature walk around our yard and collected interesting leaves, sticks, pinecones… As we collected we talked about what we might design with them. Well that was an easy question: what else would Toddler TRAIN Man want to make?!

We dumped our haul onto the driveway and TTM decided to use sticks to make the top and bottom of the train (it’s actually Big Boy for other train lovers out there). We filled in the middle with leaves; the small sticks are LOTS of steam stacks and smoke. Wheels were an easy one, and the lone dandelion we found made a perfect light.

This was a fun craft that will never be duplicated! After we finished, we talked about some of the other things we might try to make next time—trucks and other trains, of course. The added bonus: we started fall clean up! This will also be a great activity to keep TTM engaged while I do more raking in the future.

Which Lois Ehlert books are your favorites? What fun activities have you done with them?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Sixes by Kate White

Read while home alone? mostly yes, but some parts might 
                                   require another human's presence!
Tissues needed? nope
Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Celebrity gossip author Phoebe Hall experienced some personal and professional calamities and is taking time out of the high profile scene to teach at a small Pennsylvania college. Unfortunately she chases trouble there as she seeks to find out about The Sixes, a secret society of female students who are creating havoc on campus. Some students have been murdered and Phoebe is determined to discover if The Sixes have gone too far or if there is a serial killer at work. Will Phoebe find the truth before she becomes the next target?

This was a great book! It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book I couldn’t put down until I finished, but also didn’t want it to end. I liked that there were several characters who mixed things up and were potential suspects. I kept thinking I knew “whodunit,” but then something new happened that made me think someone else was involved—great suspenseful writing! There was some delving into Phoebe’s past that was an interesting side story and added a little extra to the main plot. The one thing that kept me from giving The Sixes a full 5 stars was closure. The characters I thought were guilty didn’t quite explain their odd behaviors at the end. Not a serious problem for me, but I would have enjoyed just a little more finality. I’ve already requested a few other books by Kate White at the library, and I hope they’re just as well written!

What’s the last book you LOVED? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Toddler Book Crafts

Toddler Train Man and I have been going to library story time since he was about 3 months old. Sure, it could be argued that since he slept through some of those early sessions it wasn’t so much about him, but fast forward a few years and he now loves going to the library.

Our story time typically has a theme with books, songs, and a craft to take home, but we don’t get to meet every week, so I’ve found some activities online and created some of my own to supplement our reading craftiness. I think adding a craft to a book makes it more memorable and more fun. It also gives us a great opportunity to practice skills like cutting, coloring, gluing, planning, and so much more. But don’t let on that we’re learning, ok?

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons 
author Eric Litwin 
illustrator James Dean 
If you haven’t read any of the Pete the Cat books, you must! The books are also songs and those can easily be found online, but beware: the songs will stick in your head. For days. We changed the materials a little on this craft, using twisties instead of pipe cleaners with the buttons. We taped them on, and then they were easy to POP off as we retold the story. I think the same base could be used to get crafty with the other Pete books.
see the craft link here

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 
authors Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault 
illustrator Lois Ehlert
I helped a lot with constructing the tree. Maybe I mostly made it, but Toddler Train Man twisted the branches the way he wanted them. We had purple “coconuts” (pom pom balls) that were good fun and once little man started taking letters up the coconut tree, there was no stopping him! He repeated words from the book and had fun attaching the letters in different ways. The C was especially exciting because it could hang over the branches. Awesome!
see the craft link here
This was an early picture--clearly more letters need to fill that tree!

Dinosaur Train author/illustrator John Steven Gurney
We used marshmallows (or marshMELONs for the little guy) and toothpicks to create a train. We only made an “engine,” (it was really just a cube with a cow catcher/triangle off the front) then used dinosaur stickers and a boy sticker to act out the book. We also had a little talk about “construction not consumption.” Apparently building makes a boy hungry, so what to do? Eat marshmelons, of course. The conversation was strikingly similar to a conversation I had with 5th graders as we made sugar cube castles in connection to Castle in the Attic. Perhaps I need to think of non-food crafts???
I think the dinosaur is roaring.

Some books just beg to have a craft accompaniment, right? What kinds of book crafties have you done?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Reading Rut

I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut lately. What were the signs?
  •         I’ve been reading the same book for a week and a half. And it isn’t War and Peace.
  •          Two books were due at the library and I hadn’t even read them.
  •          I chose to spend precious evening hours on Pinterest and bad television. For a week.

 Once I self-diagnosed my rut, I tried to think of some causes. Here’s what I came up with:
  • ·      Toddler Train Man just had a birthday, complete with parties. Yes, parties with an “s.” Extended family, our family, friends…all fun, none too overboard, but a bit of a time drain. 
  • ·      I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I should, and Pinterest and bad television take a lot less mental stamina than a good book.
  • ·      I haven’t found books lately that have captured my attention. I’ve been browsing the “new” shelves at the library and have tried several that looked promising, but they just weren’t what I needed at the time. Hard to get motivated to read a so-so book.
  • ·      With summer ending and fall arriving we seem to have increased our activities, so I’ve lost some reading time in that mix. Oh to be on the beach again…

 And now, to escape the rut, my game plan:
  • ·      I spotted and checked out some books by a few of my go-to authors: Carol Higgins Clark and Sophie Kinsella. Both are fun, fluffy books that probably won’t change my outlook on life, but hopefully they’ll get me back into my reading groove. (tangent: Aren’t ruts and grooves synonyms? So why would I be looking to get out of a rut only to get into a groove? hmmm…I really do need to get reading again. Quickly!)
  • ·      It was a lucky day at library check-out: the new Tom Angleberger book was waiting for me (The Secret of the Fortune Wookie). I really enjoyed the first two books in the series (read about the first book here) and while the series is written for children I think they’re awesome. My husband agrees. In fact he was pretty excited to see me reading it when he came home—he knows it won’t be long until it’s his turn!
  • ·      A little guilt trip on myself. I feel badly for not posting here in awhile, so I need to get moving. (disclaimer: I just posted about Twenty Thirty by Albert Brooks, but I read it awhile ago, so that was kind of a cheater) I doubt I’ll review my fluff books, but just knowing they’re there to jump start my reading is all I need. I hope.

On the upside, I did get some great ideas for birthday parties and Halloween costumes on Pinterest! I also discovered some new-to-me blogs that I’m enjoying. And Train Man’s books have taken on a new appeal. So it hasn’t been a total loss, but I’ll be glad to get reading again!

What gets you into reading ruts? What do you do to get out of them?

Great news: I did it...I’m out of my reading rut! I read Gypped by Carol Higgins Clark, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleberger and I’m back in the reading game. Ahhhh…

Friday, September 14, 2012

Twenty Thirty by Albert Brooks

Read while home alone? sure
Tissues needed? nope
Overall rating: 3 stars

It’s 2030 in America and cancer is cured. New medical breakthroughs help people live longer than ever before—seeing age 100 and beyond is not unusual. Sounds perfect. Except all those “olds” are on government assistance and the “youngs” have to work harder than ever before to pay for the olds. Resentment grows, along with despair. Then “the big one,” the biggest earthquake ever, hits Los Angeles. National debt is beyond control; how will the country rebuild?

I liked the idea of Twenty Thirty and I mostly enjoyed reading it, though it wasn’t a quick read. I always think about how great it would be to have a cure for cancer, along with other medical problems, but the ramifications were interesting to consider.  There were many characters in the book, so their various perspectives were represented, including some employees of the all-powerful AARP. I felt like their stories could have been intertwined more cleverly. I was also disappointed in the incompleteness of some of their narratives. Overall a thought-provoking book, but not as well-crafted as I would have liked.

Growing up, the “Jetsons” influenced my thinking about the future; what influenced you?  If medical advances are building blocks for some of the problems in the book, should we work toward those ends? How would you feel/what would you do if you were an old? A young?