Summer Reading! – Five Picture Books We Have Enjoyed

While summer has officially arrived, we have been enjoying hot and humid days for weeks. One way to beat the summer heat is to enjoy a good book or two in the shade or with a lovely fan blowing your way. Perhaps you are looking for a book or two to add to the summer reading list? Here are several picture books that have been enjoyed here:

A Visitor for Bear – (author, Bonny Becker; illustrator Kady MacDonald Denton) – Bear has no interest in having a visitor. Why not? Well, there is a sign on his door that clearly states that “No Visitors are Allowed”. So. No visitors. All Bear wants to do is to enjoy a nice cup of tea and perhaps a slice of bread. Unfortunately his food preparations keep getting interrupted by Mouse!! Bear repeatedly asks (at varying levels of frustration) for Mouse to leave but Mouse just wants a small cup of tea, please. Bear relents and shares a cup of tea and conversation. Then Bear realizes that maybe he does enjoy visitors after all.
This book was delightful! It was great fun reading this aloud. The language and vocabulary make me smile. Vamoose, begone, intolerable and one of my favorites, “I am undone” are just a taste of  what this text has to offer. The illustrations worked perfectly to capture my children’s eyes and the essence of this cute, engaging story.  When the visitor happens to be a mouse, we can definitely support Bear’s desire to send him away. And it is oh so fun to see where Mouse will appear next!  We can all understand the moment that you realize a bit of quiet company in a friend is beautiful gift. A fun read that will likely have your little ones laughing and asking you to read it again. There are more Bear books to check out as well!

Bear & Hare Go Fishing – (Emily Gravett) – My younger ones really enjoyed Bear & Hare Where’s Bear? so I grabbed this one at my last visit to the library. The tale is a simple one; Bear and Hare go fishing but well, things don’t go exactly as planned. Bear succeeds in fishing out a hat and roller skates but the big catch of the day seems to elude him. Hare? He doesn’t seem to be enjoying the day of fishing. It was his hat, after all! But Hare might bring in the biggest catch of the day!

I think the beauty in the Bear & Hare books are the simplicity. Simple, short text paired with illustrations that keep Bear and Hare front and center make this a win for young listeners and early readers. No doubt you will find yourself smiling at the end.

I Am (Not) Scared – (author, Anna Kang; illustrator, Christopher Weyant) – My children love this series about two fuzzy animals. When I pulled out I Am (Not) Scared even a couple of my older children gathered around to hear me read it aloud. These two friends are facing something scary….a ride on a roller coaster!! But there are scarier things, right? Hairy spiders, fried ants, and snakes!!!! Can these two friends find the courage to face the Loop of Doom!?!!?!?! Perhaps they might even learn that scary things can sometime be fun, too.

I am not sure that my children gained deep understanding about facing scary things. They did however enjoy reading this over and over. Sometimes you just need a fun and silly book, right? And, well, we can all appreciate being scared of hairy spiders and snakes.

Now we shall leave our furry characters behind and move on to the creepy, crawly creatures.

Hank’s Big Day The Story of a Bug – (Evan Kuhlman and Chuck Groenink) – Hank is a pill bug (we call them Roly Polies here) and has quiet the adventure. He climbs a stick, eats a dead leaf, survives a close encounter with a skateboard, and meets his best friend, Amelia (Isn’t she a cutie?). An exciting day in the life of a bug!

We all enjoyed Hank’s adventure. The illustrations were detailed using natural colors and they served Hank’s story well. Not only do we get Hank’s view of the day but we see it from our perspective as well. It really gives us a glimpse into the life (joys and struggles) of being a bug. You might find that you watch your step a bit more closely just in case one of Hank’s friends is close by. This would be a fun way to introduce an afternoon of nature study on insects. I can see my children wanting to check Hank out again and again. Can you really go wrong with a bug named Hank? Also, Hank’s friend, Amelia, pretends to be Amelia Earhart. Subtle way to bring in a bit of history for those interested.

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems about Bugs – (Carol Murray, author and Melissa Sweet, illustrator) I like to keep a poetry book or two available for my children to read and enjoy. Cricket in the Thicket is a perfect poetry selection for summer! When we first brought this book home, I planned to read just one or two poems. The poems were so engaging and fun that my kiddos kept asking me to read one more.

Poems about a cricket in the bedroom (Cricket’s Alarm), cicadas leaving behind shells (Cicada’s Surprise) and dragonflies gliding around (Dragons Fly the Sky) were enjoyable. Dung Beetles, Walking Sticks, Preying Mantis, and Grasshoppers all have delightful a place in the book. Never fear there are poetic words about Mosquitoes, Ticks, Flies and even Cockroaches including as well. Yes. A poem about cockroaches that enlightens us as to who loves them. At the bottom of the pages, there is information given on the highlighted bug and a couple of pages in the back give information as well. This is a great one to have available during summer to encourage reading, writing, and nature study. Any bug lover is sure to want to flip through this book.

What have you been reading this summer?

 

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New Books on the Way!

**This post may contain affiliate links.

In an effort to live in denial about how far behind I am on sharing what I have read this year, I decided to share a few new books that are on the way! I am always on the look out for new reads for the many book devourers that live in my house. Lately I have had a challenging time finding picture books for my younger crew. But! I happened to stumble across a few that I think my kiddos will enjoy.

 

We have all enjoyed the first two books in Jon Klassen’s Hat Trilogy Series: I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat. The final book in this trilogy, We Found a Hat,  will be available on October 11th.

My library has it on order and I have already put in a request for it. While the books are marketed for the 4-8 year old range, you will likely find yourself smiling and enjoying a chuckle or two. A little humor, a bit of mischief, and some great characters make these excellent for the book basket.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…is always a favorite picture book read aloud in our house. I am fairly confident that my kiddos and I could recite this book.  I might have been a wee bit excited to see that Laura Numeroff has a new book to add to this series: If You Give a Mouse a Brownie.

This is to be released October 18th and yes, my library has it on order and I have it requested. I think we will definitely have to whip up a batch of brownies when we read this one!

And another favorite author is Sandra Boynton. Love having her board books in a basket for my youngest book lovers. I must confess that Barnyard Dance might be my favorite. There is a new board book to add to your collection!

Dinosaur Dance was released yesterday, August 30th. I might have to toss this one in my cart to purchase because my library doesn’t even have it on order!!  It will make a great stocking stuffer for someone in my house.

Are there any new books you are looking forward to sharing with your children? Or even new books for yourself? Please let me know. I am always eager to add to our book stash!

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Talking Shapes – Early Literacy Resource Review

It seems that the current trend in the American education system is to begin pushing academics at younger ages each year. I am a firm supporter in the value of young children playing and exploring their world instead of sitting at a desk. However, as a mom with a wide age range of children, I have young ones who want to “do school” like their older siblings. While my four year old daughter does not sit down for formal learning each day, we do have opportunities for her to add to her knowledge in more structures ways.

Over the past few weeks we have been reviewing an early literacy resource from Talking Fingers Inc. Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy is an online learning tool that gives exposure to young children (around 4 – 5 years of age) of letters, their sounds, and how those work together to form words, sentences, and stories.

**Please note that the above link takes you to the Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy App. We did not review the app for this program but the online version.

Talking Shapes is a series of seven stories, told by two sisters, that introduces the 40 phonemes in the English language. To help children remember the phonemes, picture cues are used such as: cat for the letter C, hat for the letter H, and fox for the letter F. There are activities included to help with review and practice: drawing the letters, a game to recognize specific sounds/letters, and popping  balloons that match a word in the story.

Our Experience with Talking Shapes

When we received Talking Shapes a few weeks ago, my initial plan was to have Martha use the resource two – three times a week for about 10-15 minutes. Martha is 4.5 and has had no formal literacy instruction. This seemed like a fun, low pressure way for her to become familiar with letters and sounds. Unfortunately we have had a few issues with the program that have hindered much enjoyment or learning with Talking Shapes.

One aspect of the program is having the child draw the letters on the screen. A touch screen is recommended for this activity which seems a logical choice. I grabbed my Kindle Fire to pull up the online resource and it failed to load. I contacted Talking Shapes for tech support and was told:

“The Talking Shapes app will run on a desktop/laptop computer running MacOSX or Windows.  It will not run on mobile devices based on iOS or Android.  That’s why it doesn’t come up on your Android based Kindle fire.”

Since the only touch screens we have in our home are Kindle Fires this was disappointing but decided we could work around that and still benefit from the program. However, we continued to have technical issues. After being unable to load Talking Shapes on my computer, it was recommended to install Chrome. Instead of installing Chrome on my laptop (which is a bit outdated and running on Vista), I used another computer in our home that already had Chrome installed.

Every time Martha and I signed in to Talking Shapes it would take at least 10 – 15 minutes to load. I was concerned at first that it was an internet speed issue on my end but  it appears to be related to Talking Shapes. We are able to use other online learning resources, stream videos/movies, etc with no such delay time. It was a bit frustrating at first but I simply signed in and didn’t call Martha to the computer until it had fully loaded.

Not being about to use our Kindle Fires made the drawing the letters portion of the program basically useless. In theory, you should be able to use your mouse to “write” the letters. While Martha does have excellent fine motor skills for her age, she found writing the letters with the mouse difficult and frustrating. It didn’t take us long to learn that if you wiggle the mouse around enough, the letters will fill in without you actually “writing” them. Since this portion of the program wasn’t really usable for us, we opted for writing letters on the dry erase board.

We still listened to the stories and used the other activities. Martha enjoyed having her own time to do school.  Since our goal was exposure to letters and sounds and not mastery, I think that goal has been met despite our glitches. If you are interested in using Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy, I would recommend contacting Talking Fingers to make sure it will work with the computer devices in your home. Also make sure to read other reviews from Crew Members to get a broader picture of this resource.

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
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