Friday, August 28, 2009

A Sad Day For Reading Rainbow Fans

I have fond memories of being a little girl watching the classic Reading Rainbow on PBS. A show filled with endless possibilities and wonder, any child could watch the show and magically be transported in to a fun and exciting storybook world. Following a new book's story each week, with LeVar Burton as your host, you'd take off on an extraordinary adventure. A bookworm's delight, this show, geared at children ages 4-8, inspired creative thinking and an immense love for reading. You could hear and see the book's story on tv, but then go to your own local library to pick up a copy for reading yourself. It was great because not only did you get ideas on what sorts of books you'd like to read yourself, but you also got the opportunity to hear other kid's reviews and opinions of the books as well. All around, it was a wonderful, wholesome show that parents and kids alike enjoyed watching.

That's why I'm so sad today over the announcement I only just this morning read on the NPR website. After a 26 run, Reading Rainbow is no more. It seems the cost is just too much to consider producing the show for even one more season. Reason's given suggest that funding and interest now lies in shows which help viewers learn to read, as opposed to Reading Rainbow which inspired the love of reading. I can't begin to see how that makes since in any way, as it's only natural to think if you're teaching kids HOW to read you should also give them reason to WANT to read.

Truth be told, to me it sounds like a bunch of bureaucratic garbage. However, unfortunately my opinion is just that- mine. I suppose in the face of this sad and regretful news we should look back on the history of Reading Rainbow and rejoice that it has come along as far as it has. For as the third longest running show in the history of PBS, Reading Rainbow has only been surpassed by Sesame Street and Mr Rogers' Neighborhood. A 26 year run is certainly nothing to be scoffed at, and I guess we will always have reruns!

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high,Take a look, it's in a book — Reading Rainbow ...

(To see the original NPR story that spurred this post, go HERE.)

FREE e-books from Sylvan Dell!!!

I review a lot of books from Sylvan Dell, as I'm sure most of you have noticed. We love them! They're educationally entertaining and are always filled with the most beautiful illustrations. You simply can't go wrong with their books.

So, if you've been following my reviews and thinking how you'd be interested in checking out some of those titles for yourself now is the time! No matter how short on time or money you may be right now, Sylvan Dell wants to share their wonderful library with you. For a limited time only Sylvan Dell is offering a FREE trial of all 45 next generation e-books on their site. You can view the digital book online and have it read to you in either English or Spanish.

Pop on over and see what all you've been missing!! But don't wait; this special promotion will end October 31, 2009.

Come see why Sylvan Dell's tag line is, Science and Math through Literature!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's New At The Zoo? by Suzanne Slade

What's New At The Zoo? An Animal Adding Adventure by Suzanne Slade
Illustrated By: Joan Waites
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: Fall 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934359-93-8

Coming from a household where frequent trips to visit the animals at the zoo is practically mandatory, there was no thought involved when I accepted the review opportunity for this book. What's New At The Zoo? An Animal Adding Adventure, written by Suzanne Slade, is a zoo lover's delight.

On this animal adventure, readers travel through the zoo checking out each animal habitat and counting to see how many are in each. From elephants, to giraffes, to penguins and more. Readers get the opportunity to visit eleven different animal exibits, and in each they get the opportunity to learn both the name for the adult and for the baby. It's great fun because, as opposed to a regular picture book, What's New At The Zoo? is more than just a cute story. It's a story that makes you pay attention and think, but it doesn't do so in a way that makes it any less enjoyable than it's traditional counterpart. Quite the opposite in fact.

Both my girls, ages 3 and 5, couldn't get enough of this book. The colorful illustrations, by Joan Waites, and Slade's rythmic text is enough to draw any reader in. Then when you consider the mathematical question posed in each two page layout, it's like factoring in a game to the equation. Even my youngest daughter, who isn't really all that familiar with addition yet was totally able to work through the questions. She might not fully grasp the concept of these math skills yet, but because it was written in to the story like a game she found it fun and wanted to try it. Another fun aspect of the book was that Waites cleverly included a single soaring red balloon hidden in each picture. Both of my girls, but especially the youngest, had fun seeking it out in every animal's scene. That's what makes this book so great. It has appeal for both the younger and older readers.

And anyone who is familiar with Sylvan Dell's fabulous line knows none is complete without the brilliant "For Creative Minds" educational section always included at the back of each book. What's especially great about this particular "Creative Minds" section is that the publisher has offered some wonderful, real world, learning advice that is practical and not just fun to know but actually something they'll need to know. It explains and demonstrates two different methods of addition, adding everything in groups of ten and also adding by columns. There's also a section that offers short mathematical problems and then uses a number fact family triangle to help illustrate the problems. It's hard to explain, but trust me it's cool. Something like this will be an incredibly useful tool for a math beginner.

Plus, since this is a book all about animals, this section wouldn't be complete without a part dedicated just to them. Last but not least readers will enjoy learning the classification of each animal and doing the Animal Matching Activity. In this area you are given a thumbnail size picture of each animal and a list of eleven animal fun facts which you must then match together. Readers who paid attention during the story will have picked up the name for each baby animal, making this puzzle a cinch.

Parents and educators want to be sure to take advantage of the free online resources and training tools offered at Sylvan Dell for this and, I believe, all their delightful kids books. View a virtual preview of the book, hear a segment read aloud, download copies of the "For Creative Minds" section to print, or even have your child take a quiz (Reading, Comprehension, or Math) about what he/she learned from the book.

There's just no other way to say it than, you can't go wrong with this or any of the other marvelous titles from Sylvan Dell. You just can't!

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Sneakiest Pirates & The Heroes of Googley Woogley by Dalton James

As a kid, did you ever dream of writing and illustrating your on book? I did. Actually, I had my own little series of books that I wrote and illustrated back in elementary school. They were about a family of bears. Sure they might sound like a rip off of Stan and Jan Bearanstain's series, but I promise you that was not the case. (*laugh*) Either way, though, it's all a mute point because those storybooks never went farther than the copy or blue lined school paper they were printed on. So, while I do still have them today, they are no more likely to be read by anyone outside my immediate family than they were intially.

Now Dalton James, on the other hand, did not let his age stand in the way of his aspirations. Last year, at only seven years of age, Dalton wrote and illustrated his first book, The Sneakiest Pirates, for publication through Outskirts Press, Inc. Then only a few months ago, Dalton, now eight, released his second book, The Heroes of Googley Woogley. Dalton advises readers to be prepared because he's not done yet. There's yet a third book slated for release in this series, and still others in the works that are completely unrelated to this set.

I would like to note that I've seen it mentioned that these books are geared towards children ages 9-12, but truthfully I think anyone from age 5-9 would be more within range. It's true that a five year old might not be able to read all of the words on his own, but I belive he would be able to fully understand the story if it was read to him. Likewise, a twelve year old would have certainly no trouble reading the books, but I wonder if maybe the subject matter/style/length wouldn't be just a bit beneath someone of this age. However you look at it though, young readers of all ages will enjoy knowing someone close to their own age wrote these frolicsome and adventurous anecdotes. The stories are short, but they're fun and full of imagination.

The Sneakiest Pirates by Dalton James
Geared Towards: Ages 5-9
Published By: Outskirts Press, Inc
Publication Date: May 20, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4327-2477-1

It is obvious that this book was not penned or illustrated by a professional, but that's what gives it it's charm. The simplistic storytelling and pictures really bring alive the idea that this book was born of a child's creativity and not of someone with a literary degree under their belt. In that, it's refreshing and genuinely inspiring.

In the story of The Sneakiest Pirates Pirate Pete and his daddy Scurvy James follow the contemptible Peg Leg Chuck as he steals and later buries the king's gold. Peg Leg Chuck, being so consumed with getting away from the king's ships, never even realizes that he himself is being robbed. Rapt with greed themselves, Pirate Pete and Scurvy James then go head to head over the new found treasure.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

The Heroes of Googley Woogley by Dalton James
Geared Towards: Ages 5-9
Published By: Outskirts Press, Inc
Publication Date: March 22, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4327-2782-6

Having gone a long way with the money they stole from Pirate Peg Leg Chuck, Pirate Pete and Scurvy James are back. Known only as Rock Star Pete and Rock Star James, this father/son duo is ready for another rip roaring adventure. But instead of racing across the salty seas as they did when we first met them in book one, Pete and James are now rearing to soar the skies in their brand new spaceship.

Once in space, Space Boy Pete and Space Man James decide that instead of doing naughty pirate-like things they'd rather help people in danger. Upon picking up a satellite message from the residents of the planet Googley Woogley, Space Boy Pete and Space Man James rush to their aid. It seems there are two kinds of aliens living on Googley Woogley, and they don't get along. The SooDos are friendly and compassionate. The SooDonts are not. The SooDos enjoy helping one another and living peacefully. The SooDonts, however, enjoy pilaging and destroying everyone and everything around them.

Before they can return to Earth, Space Boy Pete and Space Man James must figure out how to help the SooDos overcome the mean and nasty SooDonts and bring tranquility back to the people of Googley Woogley.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts