Every now and again, it’s nice to be able to read the boys a story that doesn’t feature Transformers or other toy characters. Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal new book. A Bucket of Blessings is beautifully drawn by Jing Jing Tsong. The tale, based on an Indian legend, tells the us about Monkey and his quest for water during the dry season. The story is told through bright vibrant colors and simple text. The narrative is clean and focused and just the right length for bedtime. All of this isn’t important to LTD because all he cares about is the fact that the protagonist is called Monkey and the more you say the word Monkey to a little boy the more they laugh. The book also features an Afterword by Maya Angelou with the words, “it is a blessing to be a blessing” which fits nicely into LTD’s lessons at school as the kids are learning about empathy. The blue of the water is so bright that I thought we were going to wet the bed reading it. And in keeping with my policy of not spoiling the ending of books, I won’t tell you if the village gets water or not, I would only remind you that the book isn’t called a bucket full of dirt.
As long time BTCS readers know all too well, LTD is, in his words, a great artist. The Mommy and I are always looking to encourage his growing talent without pressuring him. Sophie Benini Pietromarchi’s The Colour Book features a clear easy to read approach to explain how to mix shades and use color effectively to create striking images. She deals with topics including primary and complementary colors, how to create your own color and shading all through collages and story telling. She also goes deeper into how color can convey feelings and mood. LTD especially enjoys making up his own names for colors and I think it is pretty cool that he is moving beyond using red, green, yellow and blue all the time.
LTD has been watching a lot of shows featuring volcanoes (I would like to be able to tell you that they were on the NOVA or Reading Rainbow apps, but truthfully a lot of Justice League, Young Justice and Ben 10 sport crazy volcano action). So in the interest of steering him towards some science instead of secret lairs, it was time for make our own volcano action. Mike Adamick’s new book, Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments features 30 cool experiments that were right up our alley. Among the DIY family friendly experiments you’ll find clear easy to follow instructions and even clearer pictures. The experiments are grouped by subjects including Biology, Physics and the Human Body. The banana balloon may be a little gross but it is a lot cool. However, I caution you not to try the Mentos and Coke Rocket indoors. Also some of the experiments can be medically helpful like the Marshmallow that measures your pulse (if you can manage to keep LTD from eating the lab materials). Oh and before I forget, yes the book includes instructions on how to make a volcano, that childhood right of passage that LTD is now old enough to enjoy.
In a way things today are a lot easier for kids in terms of no spanking and the iPad, but they have to deal with things we never really had like constant testing in school and over scheduling. Lori Lite’s book, Stress Free Kids examines the different pressures children face and offers instructions to steer parents in a helpful direction (and to not add to the stress). She offers exercises in breathing, relaxation and positive reinforcement. One of the things that I liked was her real world situations chapters including holidays, death and terrorism. As LTD is really into Yoga he already “practices” some breathing, but then again we haven’t taken a plane trip with him yet. The book also covers traveling and sports so we are getting ready for potential future trouble spots. Interestingly, she adds sections on diet, exercise and how to deal with anger so her advice can work in the real world. BB is taking a nap as I write this or I’m sure I would have more tension filled words.
Photographer David FitzSimmons first Curious Critters did indeed make us curious so much so that we have been enjoying Volume Two. These crisp, striking and up close images of bugs, birds and furry animals are almost hypnotic. He now offers audio books features new songs by Foster Brown and those in the know will understand why that is a cool name. The audio books feature animal’s talking, sound effects and music. Don’t ask how an animal can talk you might not be ready for the answer. In addition to the beautiful pictures you also learn cool facts like Eastern box turtles can live longer than humans (over 150 years). I can’t stress enough how neat it is to see these animal up close against a stark white background. My attempts to duplicate the effect with our dog have ended in disaster.
Now that LTD is doing what Huck Finn used to call “book learn’” I have so far been able to help him with his spelling as most of the words are, as you can imagine, short. However, since I am a horrible speller I have turned to Jim Halverson’s kid friendly book, Spelling Works. Long time teacher, Halverson features the methods and exercises he has had success with in the real world. His goal is to get beyond mere memorization and have the children do exercises that play into a larger story. And yes before you remind me, yes the book also has spelling mazes. Of course, I have turned to the book for the rules that I can never ever seem to remember like the silent e rule and apostrophes. He also places a premium on being able to spell in the modern world so you can correct auto-correct. The book is a little above LTD’s current pay grade but great for my refresher course. And yes The Mommy will be teaching him math because if you think I’m a bad speller wait till we get to algebra.
The term ADD gets thrown around a lot, but even if it is overused we can agree that some children have atypical learning styles or personalities that require a little more attention in certain areas of development. Carolyn Dalgliesh’s book, The Sensory Child Gets Organized: proven systems for rigid, anxious, or distracted kids offers advice and tips in order to “teach parents how to tap into systems, routines, and visual aids to organize and empower their rigid, anxious, or distracted kids. As a huge believer in the importance of good routines one of the main focus of the books involves advice on setting up structures and routines for the sidetracked child. I also liked that she addresses situations and reactions that you just know will come up after you implement some of these new strategies (in other words she deals with ‘feelings/tantrums’). As in the case with another helpful book, 1-2-3 Magic, the goal is to spend less time struggling with your kids so that you can actually spend time enjoying each others company.
As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know LTD wants to be an artist when he grows up and when he lists the things he likes there are only three: Robots, Monsters and Dinosaurs. Well, Adventures in Cartooning: Characters in Action has two out of three (robots & monsters). The book (really a graphic novel) by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost stars a Knight on an overweight horse on his quest to well basically meet crazy characters. The book is part of a series designed to inspire and help kids create their own cartoons and comics. This one focuses on character development and by that I mean The Peanut Butter and Jelly Fish and Evil Owl. The plot centers on a director making a movie and everyone in the kingdom auditions, hence the introduction of wacky characters. The story explores not just what makes a character stand out (costume and look), but their motivations as well. Of course this is all well and good, but LTD was a little too focused on the before mentioned robots and monsters to really get the true message of the book.
LTD is a big fan of space and beginning to get into science, but in reality what he is a really big fan of is asking the famous child question, why? PHYSICS: An Illustrated History of the Foundations of Science by Tom Jackson is part of Shelter Harbor Press’ Ponderables series. So I know what you’re thinking, isn’t a book like this way above LTD’s paygrade? Yes and No. The book features 100 landmark facts set up to show how universal problems were discovered and solved. So for LTD the following fact appeals to his sensibilities. “By complete accident, Luigi Galvani turns freshly cut frogs legs into a simple battery and sparks humankind’s link to electricity.” The book also features a ton of great pictures and yes a Tesla Coil is one of them. The book concludes with profiles of important physicists to show the little guy that one day he can be included in a cool book. Of course we both got a little flustered by the whole Einstein space and time are the same thing stuff, but the Atom Smasher section distracted us. A word of caution the 12 page removable contextual timeline is not for small, sticky hands.
Every so often I ask LTD what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer is always an artist. Even when he picks rock star or astronaut he adds, and an artist. Chip Kidd is probably the most well known modern graphic artist (check out the Jurassic Park book cover) and he has turned his talents to the world of children. Kidd’s design book for kids, Go, features an easy to understand introduction to the world of graphic design including form, typography, content and concept. The main theme explores the best way for a young designer to communicate their idea and share it with everyone. Lastly, Kidd includes 10 design projects like “design a logo for a cause you believe in.” LTD is a little young to appreciate all the concepts, but truthfully I am learning a lot so maybe we will be opening a family design shop, but if LTD has any voting power I’m sure the shop will just be about robots.