Recently I’ve been working on updating the library’s Pinterest page with children’s books. We often get questions about books for certain age groups, so this is one avenue to make recommendations. In deciding which books to include I’ve been reading Amazon reviews, and am often surprised at the negative reviews for some of the “classics”. However, they do make a person think. Here are some of the titles and the reasons people give for not liking them. Which of these do you agree or disagree with?
- Guess How Much I Love You — “this book is nothing more than a game of “one-upmanship” between family members”
- Stellaluna — “the momma bird is a terrible role model for adoptive parents”
- The Polar Express – “the North Pole is a grim place full of factories & workers. Santa Claus is not presented in a friendly way at all”
- Where the Wild Things Are – “the characters, with the exception of the mother, are violent and mean; Max is an angry, disrespectful, and grossly wild child who constantly, intentionally goes against the rules”
- The Giving Tree – “the boy in the story is cruel, selfish, and indifferent; he grows up to be a cruel, selfish, and indifferent man. Along the way, he killed the tree.”
- Love You Forever – “deeply creepy and totally unsettling”
- Olivia — “it models inappropriate parent-child dialogue; if I do put these ideas into her head with this book she will learn it is OK”
- Runaway Bunny – “I am sure that this baby bunny will turn into a rebellious teenage bunny because he has such a rigid, controlling mother bunny”
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – “if you want your child to learn inaccurate science, use this book with them”
- Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – “the Pigeon is pretty rude and an obnoxious loud-mouth”
- The Rainbow Fish – “the book is supposed to be about sharing, but giving away everything you have isn’t sharing, it’s buying friends”
Next on the list: Kiss a stranger.
No, I don’t plan on kissing a stranger anytime soon. This is on the list that June Parker, main character of this funny and touching story, is completing. Driving home from a Weight Watchers meeting one night, she offers a ride to 24-year old Marissa, who has recently reached her weight loss goal of 100 lbs. In a freak accident, June veers off the road and her passenger is killed. Consumed by guilt, both from Marissa’s death and June’s own lackadaisical behavior, she sets out to complete the rest of Marissa’s list by her would-be birthday.
I actually read this book in less than 2 days – that doesn’t happen very often! I found it to be a very enjoyable read; while the premise was a sad one, its tone and characters kept it humorous. I thought the situations in the book were quite true-to-life; although things don’t always turn out as we expect, we dust ourselves off and try to find the positives in life.
If you’re looking for a quick read for a rainy night, I definitely recommend this one!
Memorial Day is almost upon us, a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. For many, Memorial Day weekend also signals the beginning of camping season. I have been busy “pinning” campfire snacks to try this summer, and I wanted to share a few of them. I plan on trying at least a couple of these this weekend (if the rain stays away long enough)!
S’MOREOS (Why have I never thought of this?!)
Instead of using graham crackers for your s’more, replace them with an Oreo™. Place the roasted marshmallow between the two halves of an Oreo™, smearing some Nutella™ on one side for extra chocolate taste.
GRILLED BANANA CHOCOLATE MELTS
Slice a banana down the middle and stuff it with marshmallows and chocolate chips. Wrap it in foil and add it to the campfire for a few minutes until the chocolate and marshmallows are melted. Remove it carefully with a tongs, throw a handful of crushed Cinnamon Toast Crunch™ cereal or graham crackers on top, and enjoy the chocolatey goodness!
UPSIDE DOWN PINEAPPLE DOUGHNUTS
Cut 5 doughnuts in half horizontally and spread with butter. For each packet, place a doughnut half cut side up on a square of heavy-duty foil. Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Top with a pineapple slice; place a cherry in the center. Seal foil tightly. Grill over indirect medium heat for 2-4 minutes or until heated through.
HOW TO CREATE A S’MORES BAR
Tired of plain old s’mores? This website gives ideas for variations to use for creating a “S’mores Bar” (think peanut butter, nutella, strawberries, etc.) http://martieknows.squarespace.com/blog/2010/6/6/summer-fun-how-to-create-a-smores-bar.html
Try some of these treats at your next camp-out and let me know how they turn out, or share your own favorite campfire snacks!
Is reading on your children’s “to-do lists” for this summer? It should be! Children who don’t read and engage in educational activities during the summer lose over two months of reading achievement. This means by middle school these kids will be 2 years behind their classmates! Summer is a great time to encourage kids to read for fun, to spend time reading as a family, and to do fun activities involving reading and learning.
Make sure you have books available for your children — of course there’s always the library, but if your child wants books they can keep you can find gently used books at garage sales and 2nd-hand stores for not a lot of money. I recently completed my education praciticum at an elementary school; one of my favorite memories of the experience was sitting in the library the last day with one of the 1st graders who had chosen a HUGE baseball book (we’re talking 400+ pages!) to check-out because he thought his dad would enjoy it. His enthusiasm was contagious — I don’t even like baseball, but looking through it with him was so much fun! Let your children see you reading, and be enthusiastic about their book choices.
So how can you encourage children who aren’t “readers”? Make it fun! Do book-related activities. Let them choose their own books. Hold a book swap with neighbors or friends. Watch shows or movies based on books. Join a summer reading club. As a former children’s librarian I cannot stress enough how great library summer reading programs are! You have librarians who specialize in helping children pick out books, wonderful programs and performers (for free!), games, prizes, and of course the excitement and satisfaction of a job well done.
In addition to your local library, you can find many summer reading programs online. I have bookmarked some sites that either offer a summer program (children can earn free books through some of them!), or have tips or activity ideas for reading over the summer. In addition, check out the library’s Pinterest page as I try to keep it updated with children’s booklists, book crafts, and other fun stuff.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/summer-reading/379003570/ (Barnes & Noble Summer Reading — read 8 books, bring completed reading journal to a B&N store, and choose a free book)
http://www.rif.org/documents/us/summer_reading.pdf (RIF’s Summer Reading Calendar: 8 Weeks of Fun) — check out RIF’s other pages as well!
http://www.scholastic.com/ups/campaigns/src-2013/parent (Scholastic Summer Challenge)
http://www.bookadventure.com/Home.aspx (Book Adventure — kids in grades K-8 can search for books, read
them offline, come back to quiz on what they’ve read, and earn prizes for their reading success)
If you follow my blog at all, you may have noticed a lack of “what I’m reading”. Between work, classes, volunteer activites, and observing at a local school, any extra time I’ve had has been devoted to Facebook and Pinterest! What can I say, Facebook games are my way of relaxing. It’s hard to believe that this school year is only 2 weeks from being over — and being a student myself, that means lots of assignments to finish up! I’m definitely looking forward to a slower-paced summer and hopefully a chance to catch up on some of my reading. On my to-read list, some books I checked out earlier this year and haven’t gotten around to yet: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Discovery of Witches, Divergent, and The Next Thing on My List. A couple books I want to read (or reread) before the movies come out: Anna Karenina, Catching Fire, and Beautiful Creatures. Plus, my sister and I read each year to help select the Iowa Children’s Choice books, and the Iowa Teen Award books. Which is another, oh, 40 or so books (I’ll be lucky to get about 10 read!).
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal shared results from studies on music and exercise motivation. Research has found that at the right tempo, music can reduce the sense of exertion as well as boost motivation. The studies showed that when athletes synchronize their movements to a musical beat, their bodies can handle more exertion: Treadmill walkers had greater stamina and cyclists required less oxygen uptake. And swimmers who listened to music during races finished faster than others who didn’t.
Other results from the studies:
- Music has the capacity to stimulate people even before they go to the gym.
- Benefits of music seem most pronounced during low-to-moderate-intensity exercise (more effective for recreational exercisers than elite athletes).
- Most of the benefits of working out to music come from psychological factors (perceived exertion is lower when running with music).
- Music is able to divert attention through a neurological mechanism. Unpleasant feedback of exercise (such as difficulty breathing) is transferred to the brain using the sensory nervous system. Listening to music interferes with the transmission of those sensations.
- The optimum music tempo for exercise is 125 to 140 beats per minute, which isn’t difficult to find since a lot of popular music falls within that range.
So, what are some good fitness tunes? The articles gives the following sample playlist for the optimum exercise tempo:
- “Boom Boom Pow” — Black Eyed Peas (131 beats per min.)
- “Drinking from the Bottle” — Calvin Harris featuring Tinie Tempah (128 bpm)
- “Oliver Twist” — D’Banj (125 bpm)
- “Die Young” — Ke$ha (128 bpm)
- “Gangnam Style” — PSY (132 bpm)
- “Let it Roll” — Flo Rida (128 bpm)
- “Scream & Shout” — will.i.am featuring Britney Spears (130 bpm)
- “Beat It” — Michael Jackson (140 bpm)
- “Edge of Glory” — Lady Gaga (128 bpm)
What are some of your favorite songs to work out to?
Picture source: Costas Karageorghis, Brunel University
Reddy, S. (2013, April 2). Optimal music for the gym. Wall Street Journal, 261(76), pp. D1, D2.
I’ve shared some homemade cleaning products before, but here are a couple I’ve recently tried for myself. In addition to cost savings (the laundry detergent figures out to about 4¢/load) , making your own cleaners is good for the environment since the ingredients are natural, and less packaging is used. I’m actually using old pickle jars to house them — I knew they would come in handy someday!
You may want to do some research on these yourself, but they seem to be safe for all types of washers. And a final tip, when my mom was making the laundry detergent, she grated extra soap so she wouldn’t have to do it each time. She used a food processor, but I did it by hand using an old cheese grater.
POWDERED DISHWASHER DETERGENT
- 1 cup WASHING soda
- 1 cup borax
- 1/4 cup kosher salt (reduces the effects of hard water)
- 1/4 cup citric acid (or use the same amount of Fruit Fresh or 2 packets of unsweetened lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid)
Add 1 to 2 TBS of this mixture to your dishwasher detergent compartment along with 3 drops of dishwashing liquid (don’t add more than this or the dishwasher will overflow).
Then splash 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher & start the machine.
POWDERED LAUNDRY DETERGENT
- 1 bar (or 4.5 ounces) of bar soap ( such as Ivory or Fels-Naptha)
- 1 cup of borax
- 1 cup of washing soda
Simply grate the soap (I added some of my mom’s awesome-smelling homemade soap!), add it to the borax & washing soda, and mix well. Store in a closed container. Add 1 TBS to each load of laundry, or 2 if it’s an extra dirty load!
And there you have it….pretty easy & economical. Now I can’t wait to for spring to get here so I can finally start hanging clothes on the line again!
March 8 is “International Women’s Day”, a time to commemorate the achievements and contributions of women, and to discuss the challenges they continue to face in politics, education, employment, and other areas of daily life. The origins of celebrating women’s contributions to society go back to 1909 when thousands of garment industry workers in New York City participated in an uprising, protesting poor working conditions and low wages. This alliance of working women inspired Clara Zetkin (a German) and Alexandra Kollontai (a Russian) to declare an International Women’s Day in 1911. In the 1970s the focus on labor rights fell away and concentrated more on the achivements of individual women. In 1981 Congress declared a Women’s History Week around March 8th, and by 1987, by presidential decree, the week expanded into an entire month devoted to women’s history .
The history of women’s history month. (n.d.). In BIO.Classroom. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from http://www.biography.com/tv/classroom/the-history-of-womens-history-month
There are so many great biographies to honor inspirational and pioneering women, but in this post I thought instead about fictional books which have strong female characters. And not just one woman, such as Jane Eyre, or Katniss of The Hunger Games fame, but books which had a whole cast of strong women. Which books would you add to this list?
1) The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the town’s most vicious racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love.
2) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant — Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that tell of her father, Jacob, and his twelve sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, Anita Diamant imagines the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of the mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s lives.
3) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg — Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women–of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth–who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present–for Evelyn and for us–will never be quite the same again…
4) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan — Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. Forty years later the stories and history continue. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, and more entwined.
5) Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares — They were just a soft, ordinary pair of thrift-shop jeans until the four girls took turns trying them on–four girls, that is, who are close friends, about to be parted for the summer, with very different sizes and builds, not to mention backgrounds and personalities. Yet the pants settle on each girl’s hips perfectly, so they make a pact to share them equally, to mail them back and forth over the summer from wherever they are. Beautiful, distant Lena is going to Greece to be with her grandparents; strong, athletic Bridget is off to soccer camp in Baja, California; hot-tempered Carmen plans to have her divorced father all to herself in South Carolina; and Tibby the rebel will be left at home to labor for minimum wage at Wallman’s. Over the summer the Pants come to represent the support of the sisterhood, but they also lead each girl into bruising and ultimately healing confrontations with love and courage, dying and forgiveness.
In literary terms, “atmosphere” is the mood or emotion that is conveyed by the setting. To me, there are some books which have such a strong atmopheric presence that the setting is almost its own character. Whether it’s Heathcliff’s damp and desolate moors, Oklahoma’s suffocating dust, or the absolute bleakness of The Road, these books all stand out as evoking feelings, often of despair, which will remain with you long after reading them.
Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January books (including A Free Man of Color; Fever Season; and many more) – Mysteries centered around a former slave, who is a mixed-race surgeon and doctor. The stories take place in New Orleans and the surrounding area, where the oppressive heat, humidity, and pestilence are so thick so can almost cut through them.
Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag– The classic story of a Norwegian pioneer family’s struggles with the land and the elements of the Dakota Territory as they try to make a new life in America.
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse — This gripping story, written in sparse first-person, free-verse poems, is the compelling tale of Billie Jo’s struggle to survive during the dust bowl years of the Depression. With stoic courage, she learns to cope with the loss of her mother and her grieving father’s slow deterioration, along with the loss of the ability to play her beloved piano. The 1998 Newbery Medal winner.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte — The enduring tale of love and revenge, centered around the love between Catherine Earnshaw and her father’s adopted son, Heathcliff.
I can’t believe I haven’t posted since October! One of my New Year’s Resolutions should have been to start blogging regularly again, but January seemed to come and go without me even coming up with goals for the year. I guess it’s never too late — maybe I’ll sit down this weekend and come up with some things to work on. Of course I’ll have to squeeze it in somewhere between working, going to basketball games, taking a test, volunteering at an art program, doing projects for school, and watching the SuperBowl! And did I mention our pets went totally berserk last night? It appears they worked in cahoots — the cat would knock things off the counter so that the dog could then chew them to pieces, so I’ve got all that to deal with when I get home tonight. Apparently the dog was missing my daughter, Ashley, who is even busier than me these days, especially since it’s pledging time with her sorority. But is it MY fault she’s not home? According to the dog it is, and she plans to make me pay!
This term I’m taking my “Foundations of Education” class where we learn about the history of American education, along with the issues confronting today’s schools. A component of this class is a 20-hour practicum working with a teacher in an area school. I started mine this week, and am happy to be in a class of 4th graders. It feels good to be out in the schools again helping kids! Also as part of this class we’re reading “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them“. It is the inspirational story of a teacher and her students whose hard work and determination changed lives. Thinking about this story reminds me of other books which were about strong, caring teachers, or books which showed a tougher side of life that some students deal with. With that in mind, I’m sharing my first “Friday Five”, books about inspirational teachers or the troubled students in their charge.
1. There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz