Monday, November 5, 2018

Dactyl HIll Squad - ON Sale NOW!

The Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older is an odd mix of sci-fi - dinosaurs roam the world;  historical fiction - the setting is the Civil War; and coming-of-age.

The main character,  Magdalys Roca, lives at the Colored Children's Orphanage in New York City during the Civil War.  During a trip to the theater, Magdalys begins to suspect that she can communicate with the dinosaurs that New Yorkers use as messengers and transportation. This secret skill becomes more and more important as slavers attempt to kidnap the orphans and angry New Yorkers take out their frustrations about the Civil War on citizens of color.

It took awhile to build the background. Magdalys' missing siblings, her relationships with the other orphans, the network of adults and teens who work to reclaim kidnapped children, and the ways that dinosaurs helped and worked for humans - these are all pieces that must be fit together while the story moves along.

But once those pieces fall into place, this is a rollicking good tale with action, tween angst and obstinacy, twists and lots and lots of bad guys!

I mean - dinosaurs?  and kids? and flying? and good vs evil?  It's all in here, along with some awesome historical perspective on race and racism.

I read the ARC.  Older references real Civil War battles and racial strife.  I hope the book adds some references to explain the historical events in the book.

 Book - Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Cry Baby

I was a cry-baby.   I owned my crying-ness until I turned 9.  That year I made a brave attempt to stop sniffling every time my feelings or any part of my person was hurt or frightened or angry.     My attempts resulted in a stupendous wail of pent up tears after an almost fight with a bully in the school yard.  I did not cry when I was scolded by Mother Superior.  I did not cry facing down the boy who taunted a school mate and tried to play connect-the-dots with her freckles.  I did not cry until almost an hour later when the hot angry tears erupted in a wail that sounded like a fire engine in our quiet classroom.  My teacher, who was not present at the "fight" or the scolding had no idea what happened.

By college, I decided I was someone who cried easily and that it was all right to be that person.  But years of not crying when I wanted to had confused my "weirdness" radar.  Like a lot of young women, I ended up in positions I did not want to be in because I did not want to make a scene.  Even reclaiming my emotional self did not reset my ability to know when to run.  Heaven forbid, that I hurt someone else's feelings or that I be a "coward" for not wanting to "try something new"! 

My granddaughter likes to cry when she's afraid or something hurts or she gets mad or feels sad.  She likes to cry.  She knows it.  And she is not apologetic.  It can be wearing for her parents and other family members.  She is so good at it, so heartbroken.  Those tears fall and, alas, we rush to comfort her.

In this world of trying to respect other people's rights to be who they are AND of wondering how to teach all children, but especially girls, that they have the right to their feelings, how do we help a child  learn when to cry and when not to cry? (Whew!  Long sentence!)  And is this something we  need to teach?


Humans continue to amaze and confound me.  The way we adapt to society's expectations is not always good.  Books help.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any books to tell children that crying is okay - even for little things.  I can't think of books that help children calm themselves down.  As my opening story shows, bottling strong emotions didn't work for me.  I find a private place to cry when the urge is too strong. 

However, there are LOTS of books that help children understand what is going on when they are confused, frightened, angry, sad or overwhelmed.

Some websites are great for booklists.  Check this one out.

Brightly's Books to Handle All Kinds of Uncomfortable Emotions.  

I hope these books will help you and your children become comfortable with your feelings and learn how to use them to help the world.

Smooch and a hug to you all.



Friday, October 5, 2018

Book trailer


Can a wall keep you safe?  Well, that all depends.

Jon Agee's The Wall in the Middle of the Book shows young readers that a wall can keep bad stuff OUT but it can also keep bad stuff IN.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hey, Kiddo - on sale Oct. 9th - Order today.

Update:  On Goodreads, the date mentioned for publication is September 25th.  I mistakenly assumed that was the correct date.  Not.  October 9th is the publication date for this book.

I met Jarrett J. Krosoczka years ago when he visited the little library for which I worked.  (Grammar lovers, you are welcome.)  His picture book, Annie Was Warned, had just come out.  He stopped by the library, spoke to a bunch of kids and did some line drawings - 15 years ago.

With his Lunch Lady series, Krosoczka has achieved Kid Book Author stardom.

Now, Krosoczka enters a whole new arena of book greatness - the graphic memoir*.  Krosoczka's Hey, Kiddo recounts his childhood and teen years being raised by his grandparents.  His relationship with his mother is strained, and geographically challenged, since she spends most of his life in treatment or prison for drugs and addiction. Kroscozka met his father when he was in late high school. His grandparents, though loving and supportive, are by no means perfect.

As trying as Krosoczka's childhood was, this graphic memoir wins at telling the story in a matter-of-fact voice.  This was his normal.  For many, many children, this kind of fragmented family life IS normal. The story is painful to read and, yet, it reflects the confusion that pervades childhood.  The questions are always the same; who am I? where am I going? what am I good at?  In a family like Krosoczka's, the answers are so much harder to achieve.

The message that family comes from the people who give you support makes this book a triumph.    Always, no matter how acid mouthed his grandmother could be, no how many secrets his grandfather kept from him, they honored his talents and helped him flourish.

One virtue this book offers its readers is hope - hope that by staying in school, by following their talents, they can do okay.  And then there is forgiveness.  In the end, Jarrett forgave his Mom and his Dad and his grandparents - for being human. 

Hey, Kiddo has been longlisted for the National Book Award.  It's on sale soon.  Buy a copy.  Read every page.  It's all good.

*BTW, this is not a book for young readers.  The language reflects how teenage boys sometimes speak.   There are scenes of illegal activities and sexual behavior - though never shown in detail.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Back to School Calendars - and more!


The first day of the third year of D's public school career was Monday. She was pumped and soooo happy when she came out the Big Kid door.  Second grade will be awesome!

"Why don't we have an Advent Calendar for Back-to-School?" she asked.

I think the calendar idea is stellar.
If you like the idea of a calendar that marks the days in special ways, here are some websites to visit.

Learning To Give is a teacher resource page with the mission of teaching kindness and responsibility across the curriculum.  Spend some time on the page to see all that it offers. You can find lesson plans for all ages K through 12.  I am linking to their printable school calendar.  It only gives one mini-challenge per month but it's a good starting point.

Kiddy Charts is an online resource based in Britain that offers calendars, reward charts, coloring pages, etc.  Check out the adorable printable calendar for next year.   Each month has a little blurb explaining what is happening in nature during the month - to give you ideas for what you might want to put on your calendar.

Woo Jr.! offers all kinds of printables for ages 1 through teen.  Check out the different calendar ideas here.    I like the calendar jar, myself.

Do you want to know what National- Day- of  is celebrated on a particular day?  Check out the The National Day calendar.  I linked to September 2018.  Go back to the Home page to find links to Weekly Observances, and International Observances.  Religious holidays do not appear to be listed.

Another source for special holidays is the 2018 Holiday Calendar.  This list includes holidays from various cultures and faiths along with notable events, such as Wright Brothers Day.   

A quick search engine hunt will lead you to endless printable calendars and countless lists of special events.

OR go to the library and look at Chase's Calendar, a resource that lists ALL the special days, commercial, national, religious and facetious that have been named in the English-speaking world and beyond.  The book is EXPENSIVE ($90 approximately) and access to their website comes with a purchase of the annual publication.  Your library may have Chase's online.  Believe me.  It's worth a look for entertainment value alone.

So how do you set up an activity calendar?  


Life is complicated so simple is better!   Your calendar doesn't have to have something every single day.  You might decide that a certain day of the week needs a lift.   You can put stars throughout the month's calendar page to randomly assign fun things to do.

Make sure that YOU have ideas to suggest on these special days.  If time is short, pick activities that can be done quickly, or on the run.

If you use a calendar jar, you can assign a day as Calendar Day and children can pick from all the ideas below.   That's what I'm doing!

Ideas:
 Community Action Day -
1. Pick up litter on your block.
2. Go through your cupboard and set aside duplicate soups for the soup kitchen.
3. Make a box to collect used markers to return to Crayola, com for recycling.
4.  Visit the food bank, soup kitchen, or the animal shelter just to find out what they do.  Look at their websites for hours of operation and directions.

 Family Day
1.  Play a game that can include everyone in your family.
2.  Make a meal together.
3.  Learn how to do string figures like Cat's Cradle.  So many videos are available for string figures.
4. Take a walk together.
5.  Make up a story together with each family member adding a sentence until the story is done.

 Kindness Day -
1.  Remind your family to smile at people, even people they don't know well.
2.  Children can write nice notes and hand them to people they meet - even to family members.  Here are printables to make this easier.
3.  Go over kindness rules such as holding the door open for others; helping people carry things; picking things up when others drop them; speaking to classmates who might be left out.  This Cootie Catcher, also from Coffee Cups and Crayons, can help with the discussion,
4. Visit The Hunger Site to donate with your click.  You can do this every day.

 Learning Day.
1.  Learn how to say hello in another language.
2.  Go outside and look at leaves and grass with a magnifying glass.
3.  Pick a word from a dictionary that starts with the first letter of your name and find out what it means.
4. Go to the library!  Or visit the library's website to check out audio books, use online research resources.
5.  Do a simple science experiment.  Pinterest can help with that.
6.  Spin the globe and then look up the country or area your finger landed on.  It might be part of an ocean - the globe has lots of them.
7.  When it's dark, go outside and try to find constellations you can recognize.

Make one day Silliness Day.  Tell jokes.  Wear costumes.  Do silly walks.

How about Prize Box Day?  Keep a box with small surprises; pencils, dollar store notebooks, ribbons, keychains, snacks, Happy Meal toys - stuff like that!

Or Food Day.  Try new recipes.

Or Arts Day.  Use a different medium.  Create an art gallery.  Put on a recital.

Or Sports day.  Run.  Ride your bike.  Play wiffle ball, or corn hole, or bocce, or bowls. 

OR I Love You Day.  Say something special about each other.  Hug!

I better get busy making my calendar.  Have fun.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

LBBReviews - Mac B. Kid Spy

37825392  Nana got Mac B. Kid Spy #1 by Mac Barnett in the mail.  It took her no time at all to discover all kinds of things about Mac B., Kid Spy.  His mother's boyfriend sounds like a jerk - just saying.  He lo-o-oves his Gameboy.  And he learned a lot about the world when the Queen of England called him up and gave him his first - though probably NOT his last - spy mission.

I told D about it and Nana read a bit to her.  Then D sat down and read the rest. (Win! winwinwinwin!)

However, we (D and me) have our doubts.  We would very much like to see photographic evidence that Mac B. actually was a spy when he was a kid - all those many long years ago.  He says that the book is entirely true - like one of those memory things people write but...is that possible?  And why wouldn't the Queen of England asked an Englander kid to do the spy stuff?  Many, many questions...

 D is 6 years old and I am even younger still because of the toy thing.  Mac B. Kid Spy is written for kids three years - or more - older than D is.  There were things in the book that we had trouble understanding.  How many 6-year-olds know what the KGB is?  Or what the Cyrillic alphabet looks like?  And, what is a Gameboy?  And why isn't there a GameGIRL...or a GameBUNNY?

So this book is a winner on many levels.
1.  Kid Spy!!! Duh!
2.  Actual reliable factual pieces of background in here.  I estimate that 95% of the time that Mac B. tells the reader to look something up the looked up thing is an actual fact.  It's hard to tell with this author though.  He's tricky.
3.  Great drawings - especially the drawings that take place in the USSR.
4.  Funny!  Don't take my word on it.  Read the book!  (When it comes out - which is on September 11th, 2018.)

Downside!  None!  Because guess what?  Mac B. and his mom have bunnies for pets. 

Little Blue Bunny signing off.