Tractors and Weapons – Books for the Boys

As much as we love fiction, I do think reading non-fiction is important. Children are naturally inquisitive and engaging biographies, science books, and other non-fiction selections can serve as great tools to feed those minds. And, well, sometimes they are just downright cool! The past week or two has brought a few excellent non-fiction reads into our home that my boys have loved.

When I visit the library I always take a quick peak at the children’s non-fiction section. I was actually looking for a Lego book my son wanted and Total Tractors caught my eye. I grabbed it thinking it would appeal to my six year old son and it was definitely a hit. Total Tractors is published by DK and is quite the encyclopedia of tractors. 141 pages of tractors. Fabulous, bright, sharp pictures of tractors: modern tractors, steam powered tractors, diggers, forestry tractors, and more and more!  Among the photos little blurps of information are scattered on the page. There is enough information to answer some basic questions and share fun tractor facts. The pictures are definitely the draw of this book.

The soybean fields around our home were recently harvested. My son searched the book until he found the harvester he saw at work in the fields. We had a great discussion on how the harvester worked and other ways tractors were used. I have a lovely stack of his own drawings of tractors on my desk.

The surprise is how much my 17 month old son loves Total Tractors. He loves to grab it, sit on the couch, and flip through the pages. If you listen closely, he will even make a few tractor sounds. He loves to have someone sit with him and look at the pictures. I may have to hide it to give his older siblings a break from Total Tractors.

Tommy: The Gun That Changed America (Karen Blumenthal) shares the history of the Tommy Gun. The goal was to create a light weight, rapid fire gun for American soldiers to use on the battlefield. John Thompson, however, found that there was no marker for his gun in the military. It did become the weapon choice of outlaws such as bank robbers and bootleggers. You not only learn about the Tommy Gun but about significant names in history and the beginning of gun laws.

I had this book on my desk to read but never seem to have the time. My 14 year old son needed some new reading so I handed the book to him. He found it very interesting and would definitely recommend it  Discussion on guns, gun laws, gun control could definitely come about from reading Tommy: The Gun That Changed America. It could also serve well to round out studying this time period in history. If you have a reader who enjoys weapons, guns, history, this could be an excellent selection.

The Illustrated History of Weaponry (Chuck Willis) is exactly what it says it is.  A huge collection of weaponry photographs from the Berman Museum of World History.  Swords, clubs, daggers, guns…..most basic to the most elaborate weapons…page after page of photographs. My 14 year old son grabbed this from the adult non-fiction section. The content is photographs with a tiny bit of commentary here and there. If you are looking for information on weaponry or history, this is not the book. This is more like a quick visual tour of a museum. My son has enjoyed looking at the various weaponry and how different weapons changed over time. Definitely not a book for everyone and would likely be classified as a “coffee table” book. From a teenage boy’s view, it was pretty cool.


Escape from the Library

Well, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) to be exact.

Kyle Keeley is a twelve year old boy who loves games, especially video games. Reading a good book? There is definitely no interest for Kyle. Why read when he could be playing the latest Lemoncello game? All of this changes with a contest to play Mr. Lemoncello’s most amazing game yet: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

Kyle’s town of Alexandria, Ohio lost their town library twelve years ago. Mr. Lemoncello lived in Alexandria as a boy and loved nothing more than an afternoon in the library with a good book. To celebrate this love of reading, Mr. Lemoncello has built a new library complete with holographic images, hovercrafts for reaching those high shelves, and an intense game room. And now the great game of escape begins…..

To celebrate the grand opening of the library, twelve 12 year old students enter and the first one to find the way out (not the door they came in) will be the big winner. Who can be the first to find and decipher the clues? Who will be the first one to find the way out that wasn’t the way in?

My kiddos and I enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. It was a fun, lighthearted read perfect for those hot, summer afternoons. My older ones enjoyed catching literary references (and there were many) and we all enjoyed the game aspect.  My children were all trying to follow the clues and figure out the path of escape before the end. Those who are familiar with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might get a sense of familiarity. I think fans of The Westing Game would be at home with Mr. Lemoncello as well.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is an enjoyable read for ages 9 – 12. While we read it aloud and enjoyed it,  I think it is best suited to individual reading. It would make a great book club  selection as there is lots of opportunity for discussion on game play, sportsmanship, teamwork, etc. Your reader might just ask for another book or two.

And…I just discovered that Mr. Lemoncello is coming back! Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics should hit the bookshelves early 2016. I know it will be on our to read list.



CursiveLogic – A Review

Recently we have been reviewing CursiveLogic Workbook from CursiveLogic. My thirteen year old son is using the CursiveLogic program to improve his cursive penmanship. Due to working with his dad away from home, he did not learn proper cursive technique earlier and needed some focused study and practice with this skill. However, at thirteen, he did not need a workbook or program designed with just younger students in mind.

This is how CursiveLogic was a perfect fit for my son. CursiveLogic was created by Linda Shrewsbury who was asked by a 23 year old young man to teach him cursive so that he would have the ability to sign his name. Faced with the need to teach cursive quickly, yet effectively, the CursiveLogic teaching strategy was created.

Incorporating simple techniques and learning tools, CursiveLogic takes the lowercase alphabet and allows the student to master cursive writing in four lessons. Since this is a self-pacing workbook, the student sets the pace and can move as quickly or as slowly as needed. Beautifully flexibility for all ages and abilities!

The instruction method of CursiveLogic incorporates letter shapes and letter strings to help students quickly learn letters by learning how they flow and join. Along with this, letters that share common shapes are color coded and verbal chants are given to help the student quickly retain the letter formation. You can read more about CursiveLogic’s Method.

The CursiveLogic Workbook walks the student through the five step process of learning to write the letter strings. In four lessons, the student has learned to write all lowercase letters and how to join them perfectly. While teaching the cursive form of the lowercase letters is the main focus of CursiveLogic, instruction in capital letter formation is included as well. For extra practice, pages of historical sayings are included as well as dry-erase practice pages.

The set up of the CursiveLogic Workbook is a bit unique. The workbook is spiral bound at the top. At first this seemed a bit odd but really makes perfect sense. No matter if your child is left-hand or right-handed, there is no binding to interfere with the flow of the hand while writing. Such a little thing that makes a huge difference!

Did CursiveLogic Work?

My son was not exactly thrilled to have CursiveLogic added to his day. But guess what? I found that once he got started, that he was voluntarily working on it each day. Sometimes he pulled the workbook out more than once to practice. The most challenging part for him was correcting his pencil grip. At the beginning of the workbook, the student is shown how to properly hold a pencil. Caleb’s grip hindered his ability to allow for the flow in cursive writing. He is improving but he still has to remind himself to relax his grip on the pencil.

We both appreciate the simple layout and presentation of the material. Having a program that was designed with all ages of students in mind has been a huge success for us. I’m not sure Caleb would have been as willing to work with other programs. At his age, it was also helpful that he could work through this program independently and at his own pace.

If you are looking for a cursive writing program, CursiveLogic is an excellent resource to consider. You can also read how others have been using CursiveLogic.

CursiveLogic Review
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