Leanna

Aug 012019
 
 August 1, 2019  Book Reviews No Responses »

Want to teach your child ecology, patience, and community all at once? So often, community gardens are an oasis of green space as well as inclusion in urban life.

When we first married and lived in an apartment, we rented a little space in a nearby community garden. I loved going out to our plot in the evenings, when it was cool. Half of the neighborhood was there as well! The community garden was a supremely social space, and people often brought music and food to share.

Here are wonderful children’s books that convey that sense of sharing and well-being that community gardens represent. Are you part of a community garden? Share your story in the comments!

Community Gardens: Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Community Gardens: Books for Kids

Though How to Grow a Friend never mentions community gardens by name, it is a lovely way to teach children about the underlying values at an early age. Author Gillingham shows how friends, just like plants, must be carefully and patiently tended. With its beautiful, simple metaphors and sweet images of children gardening together, it is the perfect way to help children understand the skills needed to be a true friend.

The simple, lyrical text and enchanting artwork of Green Green: A Community Gardening Story make it ideal for young readers. Everyone knows that green green is playing in the fresh air and brown brown dirt is for digging, but what about the gray gray of buildings rising ever higher? I love that in this book as in many others on this list, it is the children that lead the way, inspiring the adults to create a community garden in the middle of all that gray gray. Includes at the back ideas for making your world a greener place, as well as information (and a craft!) specifically on bees and butterflies.

Errol’s Garden is a wonderful example of exactly why community gardens are so needed! Many children, like Errol, have no yard to have their own garden, yet with some perseverance and teamwork, people come together to make a green, growing space they can all share! When Errol discovers the perfect spot for a garden (the apartment building’s rooftop), he shares the news with his neighbors, who luckily are just as excited as he is. (Consider all the diversity boxes checked off in this community, from racial and religious diversity, to gay couples, a man in a wheelchair, and a woman with incredible green, spiky hair!) Everyone has something to contribute and works together to turn their rooftop into a beautiful garden. Illustrates beautifully how our differences are truly our strengths when we have a common goal.

Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos is a story told in Spanish and English about a girl who loves to garden with her family. But this summer Lupe has to solve a big mystery – where have all their juicy, ripe tomatoes gone? When Lupe discovers it is the new kid, just arrived from Mexico, who is taking the tomatoes, she digs deeper to find out that his family can’t afford to buy their own. That’s when Lupe shows her true colors, by inviting the boy to help in the garden in exchange for more tomatoes. The two become friends as they work together that summer, and Lupe is inspired to invite their neighbors to work with them in the garden the following summer.

In time, the Amigos Garden becomes a gathering place for the community, growing lasting friendships. Children will love this beautiful book and the kindness and confident leadership of its young protagonist. I love that diversity is shown not just in the having people of different colors working together, but in the small details, like the salsa Lupe’s mother makes, or the norteño musicians playing in the garden at the end. Don’t miss the easy recipes from Lupe’s garden!

The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City is based on a real community garden in Seattle! It was started by a local organization dedicated to teaching people to grow their own food. The Children’s Garden was founded soon after the organization was founded in 1978 and is still going strong today! This book showcases how community gardens can be particularly special for children. It conveys what a wonderful sensory experience gardening is, and the pride that the children feel in what they grow. I love the gorgeous illustrations of diverse children working together and connecting with nature.

Like Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos above, The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos De Huerto also comes from the bilingual publisher Piñata Books. The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos De Huerto tells the story of a very clever solution to a common problem: Often when people set out to add some green to their urban neighborhood, the spaces available are too small to build a traditional community garden. That is the problem Toña runs into, when she is inspired by stories of her abuela to create her own garden in the city. She gets permission from the church to use a little patch of land, but when the other children in the neighborhood want to garden, too, Toña quickly realizes her garden isn’t big enough for all of them.

And that is when she comes up with the idea of a patchwork garden, just like her abuela’s patchwork quilts! By asking at businesses around the neighborhood, Toña is able to assemble a number of small spaces for garden (outside the clinic, for example, and just next to the shoe shop). Now everyone can have their own little garden patch!

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is an absolute gem because it is based on the story of a real life hero. Former basketball star Will Allen saw a need for children in Milwaukee to have access to fresh vegetables, so he bought an abandoned city lot and got to work! But it wasn’t as easy as that. The soil was polluted, a problem that would have stopped most people, but not Will Allen. He started composting to create better soil, and soon the neighborhood kids took notice. Slowly he and the kids turned that empty lot into a thriving farm, right in the middle of the city. And now Will Allen travels widely, and he and his farm inspire others to start their own. He won a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2008, and through Growing Power he helped revolutionize urban farming. A truly inspiring story, which includes an afterword from Will Allen himself!

The Forgiveness Garden is a completely different take on the idea of a community garden. This parable of two warring villages was inspired by Beirut, torn apart through years of Civil War. In the parable, one girl, herself bitter after being attacked, decides to make a change, by opening her heart to forgiveness. When given the opportunity for revenge, she instead invites the people of both villages to work together to build a forgiveness garden. Yet even once it is built, people from both villages are scared to enter it, until finally the girl’s attacker, himself transformed through her kindness, joins her in the forgiveness garden. Inspired by the Forgiveness Garden in Beirut, which has sparked a global movement.

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Jul 252019
 
 July 25, 2019  Spanish Comments Off on Outdoor Spanish Learning Activity with Chalk

If you’re like me, you are trying to get your kids outdoors as much as possible! I’ve got a few little tricks, like eating breakfast in the backyard (which always morphs into playtime as well) and taking school time outside. We’ve got a great picnic table we can use for crafts and written work, but I also try to take advantage of being outdoors by including more active learning. Here is one super easy outdoor Spanish learning activity that helps with gross motor skills as well as language learning. Big bonus: my kids didn’t want to stop playing!

Outdoor Spanish Learning Activity with Chalk

It can sometimes be a challenge to find Spanish activities that engage all three of my children. But all of them learn well through active learning, so this simple outdoor Spanish learning activity was an instant hit!

Good news for busy parents and teachers: no prep involved, and all you need is a sidewalk or patio, and chalk!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Draw a house with chalk. Make it as detailed or simple as you want, to match the level of the children’s vocabulary.
  2. Call out a part of the house, and the children must jump there as quickly as possible.
  3. Repeat for as long as they want to play!

You can play this on two levels:

  1. Adentro/afuera. At the simplest level, you call out either adentro or afuera, and they must jump either inside or outside of the chalk drawing. That’s actually where this whole idea came from, when I noticed my children were getting these two words confused.
  2. Las partes de la casa. For a more complicated game, call out a different part of the house each time, and the children must jump there as quickly as they can. For example, our house had a door, windows, roof, and chimney. We later added to the outside of the house, with a patio, tree, and clouds in the sky.

If your children enjoy this game as much as mine did, you can try different variations, like numbers, colors, and so on.

What’s your favorite outdoor learning activity?

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Jul 192019
 
 July 19, 2019  Book Reviews Comments Off on Fun New Picture Books to Engage Your Kids

I love discovering new books with my kids. It makes story time so much fun! Here is a whole crop of fun new picture books to engage your kids and make reading together a blast!

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Fun New Picture Books to Engage Your Kids

Stop! Bot! is a great book that manages to convey a relatively complex story with only a few words. Yet while it’s simple enough for very young readers, older kids will enjoy the humor in the drawings and the twist ending. This is one of the fun new picture books that my three year old loves to read over and over. She not only requests it every night at bedtime, each time she wants to read it at least 5 times in a row! My favorite part is when the bot flies through a woman’s huge hairdo! A unique book sure to engage young readers.

I Am a Wolf is a funny tale with an important message. Sometimes even the most prickly personalities cover tender hearts. A tough little puppy does not want any friends. She is a wolf, she insists, because she isn’t cute or cuddly. But at the animal shelter, they can see past her tough exterior to the scared, lonely pup beneath, until one special little girl decides to take her home to show her the extra love and kindness she needs. A book that many children will be able to relate to!

I Am Not a Fish! is my seven year old’s current favorite. When I asked him why he loves it so much, he said because it’s so funny. Edgar the jellyfish is tired of being so misunderstood. He’s not jelly or a fish, after all. He joins a support group for “mislabeled” sea creatures, finally coming to understand that no matter what anyone calls him, he’s special just as he is.

A fun way to introduce kids to space is with a beautiful picture book like Birthday on Mars!. Its sweet, colorful pictures of the Curiosity rover really engage very young readers, who will love the idea of celebrating a robot’s birthday – on Mars! Even better is the fact that this is based on a true story! The Curiosity rover really did sing itself happy birthday in 2013, to mark one year of being on Mars. Older kids will enjoy the “fun facts” about Curiosity and Mars at the back of the book.

My oldest loves reading I’m Trying to Love Math. He adores math, so he enjoys this funny book about an alien trying to convince a professed math hater that math really is fun! This book manages to cover a great deal of math facts in a humorous way, showing how math is relevant to our everyday lives – from music, to cookies and pizza! Fun whether you already love math or still need some convincing.

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Jul 122019
 
 July 12, 2019  Book Reviews, multiculturalism Comments Off on Awesome Middle Grade Books by Diverse Authors

Looking for more great summer reading for your kids? Here are some wonderful middle grade books we’ve discovered this summer. And big bonus! They are all by diverse authors! Some address race and culture directly, while for others it is more part of the background. Either way, I can promise that your child will not want to put these books down, plus you will enjoy reading them yourself!

Awesome Middle Grade Books by Diverse Authors | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Awesome Middle Grade Books by Diverse Authors

 

My son read New Kid four times before I was able to wrestle it away from him to read it myself. This graphic novel from award-winning author and illustrator Jerry Craft centers on a seventh grader just starting at a new school. Jordan finds himself at a prestigious private school where suddenly he is one of only a few students of color in his entire grade. This book brilliantly captures the ways that Jordan must learn to navigate his new school, dealing with both the wealth of most of his peers, and the many small ways that racism seeps into school culture. For example, he is often mistaken for other students of color, even if they are otherwise nothing alike – and teachers are often some of the worst offenders. Beyond just highlighting these microaggressions, the book shows – often through use of Jordan’s own artwork – how hurtful they can be. Highly readable book that manages to tackle the big issues in a nuanced way and still end on a high note.

 

I was already a big fan of The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (see my full review), so I was excited to find Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish, a new book from author Pablo Cartaya. Marcus Vega is often misunderstood. He’s big, he’s tall, and he already has the start of a mustache. So people assume that he is a bully, just like they assume because of his name that he speaks Spanish. But the truth is that Marcus barely remembers Spanish or his Puerto Rican father, who left years ago. The only time Marcus gets aggressive is when someone insults his younger brother, who has Down Syndrome. When just such an insult leads to a fight and a possible suspension from school, Marcus’s mother decides it’s time for a family vacation to Puerto Rico. To Marcus this means the chance to finally find his father, yet he ends up discovering much more, like the true meaning of family, and when it is time to let go of someone. He even learns a little bit of Spanish!

This book is incredibly funny and poignant, and its characters are wonderfully complex but very relatable at the same time. Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish is a beautiful tribute to Puerto Rico and its people. It is set before the Hurricane Maria, and Cartaya wrote that it is meant to honor the memory of the lives lost.

 

We are currently in the midst of reading The Last Last-Day-of-Summer. You couldn’t get more contemporary, as it is set in August 2019 – hopefully we’ll finish well before the story actually takes place! The legendary Alston cousins are just looking for one more adventure before school starts, when a mysterious stranger shows up to offer them a gift of a camera. Yet this gift has a sinister side, as it has the effect of freezing time! Now Otto and Sheed must find a way to save their town, before it’s too late! A great read for anyone who likes science fiction or adventure. I love having kids of color front and center in a genre where they are often overlooked. This isn’t a “gritty” urban drama about escaping poverty or gang life, it’s just a clever, funny story about some amazingly heroic kids – who are about to save their small town from extinction!

NewsPrints and its sequel EndGames follow the adventures of Blue, a newsboy with a big secret – he’s actually a newsgirl. Fearing rejection (and losing her job), Blue disguises herself as a boy, which also lets her have many more adventures than she would be allowed as a girl. Indeed, much of the plot of the book focuses on going deeper than the surface, as Blue discovers that many of those around her are hiding secrets, including her own government. In the midst of an ongoing war, Blue and her new friend Crow must learn to trust each other with their true identities in order to save themselves.

A great adventure story that challenges young readers not to judge by appearance but to find out the truth for themselves and trust their instincts, particularly when it comes to knowing whom to trust.

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Jun 262019
 
 June 26, 2019  Book Reviews, STEM Comments Off on Moon Landing Books for Kids: Celebrate 50 Years!

Are you excited about the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, coming up next month? Celebrate with your kids with these wonderful moon landing books, including some that were just recently published! From picture books to middle grade works and graphic novels, you’ll find something for everyone and are guaranteed to learn something new yourself!

Moon Landing Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Moon Landing Books for Kids

Teach your children about the first lunar mission with these wonderful moon landing books for kids!

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I adore Margaret and the Moon. First of all, Margaret Hamilton, whose story is told here in a very readable, engaging format, is my new hero. She is completely fearless, despite being one of the only women in computer science back in its very earliest days. The field was so new, that Hamilton herself is credited with inventing the term “software engineer” to describe the work she and others were doing. Thanks to her early success and innovations, she was chosen to lead the team whose coding guided Apollo 11 (and other Apollo missions). Keep in mind, she was only 32 when the moon landing took place in 1969! (For even more on Hamilton, don’t miss this great article, which includes a photo of Hamilton posing with the stacks of coding for the lunar mission).

This book does a great job of explaining the technical side of Hamilton’s innovations (and how her team’s coding saved the moon landing). It also places it in the context of a lifetime of being curious about the world and courageous enough to do what others say cannot be done.

What could be more thrilling for a child than to take part in one of the most momentous events in history? Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story (Tales of Young Americans) tells the story – based on actual events! – of a young boy who helps Apollo 11 land safely back on Earth after its moon landing. Marty lives on Guam, where his father manages the NASA tracking station. This tracking station relays signals back and forth between the astronauts and Houston, so it is absolutely critical to the mission. When the equipment begins to malfunction during the Apollo 11’s return to Earth, Marty’s father and the other engineers must act quickly. And so they turn to Marty, who is small enough to reach inside and fix the antenna. This story is really eye-opening, making you think about all of the people that made the Apollo 11 mission possible, including a 10 year old boy on Guam!

Moonwalk: The Story of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is a great non-fiction introduction to the moon landing. Each page spread consists primarily of a large photo, making it seem almost like a coffee table book. Tells the story of the moon landing in a very cohesive narrative appropriate for younger readers.

My 9 year old discovered Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon first, and for a while would lug it around everywhere, which is saying something because it is a large book! But it’s easy to see why he loved it so much. This award-winning book is full of glossy photos and presents a great deal of information, but in a narrative format that draws the reader in. It’s no wonder that the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine included it on their “Best Children’s Books” list!

With so much attention on the astronauts who first landed on the moon, I really love the emphasis of Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. It’s a great lesson for children to see that with the moon landing as in almost all endeavors, there are so many unsung heroes working behind the scenes. This book gives them their proper due, even including direct quotes from many of them! There are so many interesting stories in here, such as how the fear over germs from the moon meant that scientists had to work for 18 months to come up with a reliable method of decontaminating the film the astronauts brought home effectively – and quickly! – since everyone wanted to see the photos right away.

Author Steve Kortenkamp has written a number of books about space for young readers, one of which is The First Moon Landing, part of a series by Capstone Press of books for young readers about the solar system. This non-fiction work for younger readers is a great introduction to the topic, with lots of color photographs, larger text, and “fun fact” inset boxes. Includes a glossary and internet resources to learn more.

Neil Armstrong and Traveling to the Moon is a more detailed look at the first moon landing, interweaving the history of the space race with the story of the man who would ultimately be the first to walk on the moon. This is not a biography, strictly speaking, but it does give a personal dimension to the wealth of scientific information. For example, we learn details about the spacecraft as well as the tests and training the astronauts had to go through. Personally, I was interested in the section at the end on life after Apollo 11, and how Armstrong was careful not to profit from his celebrity.

The Space Race (Blast Back!) is an early chapter book that gives an overview of the space race, including a chapter on the first moon landing. It is a good way to help children see the moon landing from the perspective of the politics of the time as well as learn about the history of the science behind it. Very engaging format, with black and white illustrations.

Older children will enjoy Moon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11 for an in-depth look at the history leading up to the moon landing. But it doesn’t read like an ordinary history lesson. Instead, it is organized by the timeline of lunar mission itself, taking each stage and explaining the science (and the scientists) behind the principles and discoveries at work, such as learning about gravity during the “lift-off” stage.

I always love learning about the lesser known stories of historic events, so I really enjoyed the graphic novel Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11’s Third Man, which focuses on Michael Collins. While Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, Collins had the less flashy but essential job of commanding the lunar orbiter so they could all safely return to Earth. We learn about his background, and the twists and turns of fate that resulted in his selection for the lunar mission. What would it have been like to be totally out of contact with the other astronauts and mission control as he orbited the far side of the moon? He later became the director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and, though he may not be as famous as his fellow astronauts on that first lunar mission, his role was just as critical.

Another graphic novel about the moon landing is Rocket to the Moon!: Big Ideas that Changed the World 1, a brand new book that covers everything from the history of rockets to the politics of the space race. It is “narrated” by Rodman Law, who in 1913 became the first person to attempt to travel by rocket. Incorporates direct quotations from many historical figures into a highly readable story that I found difficult to put down.

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Jun 182019
 
 June 18, 2019  Book Reviews, STEM Comments Off on STEAM Biographies for Kids

Inspire your children to follow their dreams, whether in science or the arts, with these wonderful new STEAM biographies! These beautifully done picture books teach children (and adults!) about pioneers in painting, dance, astronomy, and marine biology. But more importantly, they encourage children to be brave enough to pursue their interests, no matter what obstacles they may face.

Disclosure: I receive a complimentary copy of Dancing Through Fields of Color for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

STEAM Biographies for Kids

Great collection of STEAM biographies for kids, perfect for summer reading!

If you have a child who loves to color outside the lines, you must read Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenthaler together! At a time when girls especially were meant to follow the rules, Helen Frankenthaler persisted in following her own path, letting her colors run free. She was in love with color and movement, from the swirl of blue waves around her in the ocean to the sunset rays streaming in their apartment windows.

Yet her whole life she had to fight against those that wanted her to do things as they always had been done, and who relegated women artists to small, less experimental exhibits. But she followed her instincts and went on to become a leader in the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1950s. She pioneered the revolutionary “soak-stain” method of letting paints actually soak into the canvas, thus ushering in the Color Field movement in painting.

A wonderful book to encourage children to follow their hearts and be courageous enough to color outside the lines. Outstanding illustrations capture the lush, vibrant colors of Frankenthaler’s work, plus a reproduction and photos of the artist at work can be seen at the back.

Mexican folkloric dance is ubiquitous these days, but it was not always so celebrated. Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet by the award-winning Duncan Tonatiuh, celebrates the achievements of dancer and choreographer Amalia Hernández. Accomplished in both ballet and modern dance, Hernández was moved to study traditional dances of her native Mexico, and she soon began to incorporate them into her pieces.

She founded the world famous dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México, renowned for integrating elements of these regional dances into ballet and modern dance. It is largely thanks to Hernández’s efforts that Mexican dances are so well known around the world today. Hernández and her dance company (which still performs and tours internationally) helped celebrate the diversity of Mexican heritage and win recognition of Mexican traditions as art.

I adore Tonatiuh’s illustrations, which themselves are known to integrate elements of pre-Columbian art. Gorgeous book published on the 100th anniversary of Hernández’s birth.

Caroline’s Comets: A True Story is one of those stories that I read and think, “Why did I never learn about this in history class?” before answering my own question, “Oh wait! Because she was a woman…” Caroline Hershel was the first woman to discover a comet and the first woman to be paid for scientific research. Along with her brother William, she helped make astronomy into a modern science. Between them they found 2,500 nebulae, along with a number of comets discovered by Caroline. Yet as a child no one expected much from her. As a girl, she was taught “practical skills” rather than the arts and sciences taught to her brothers. She was often no better than a scullery maid for her family and was only allowed to go live with her older brother William – to whom she was devoted – when he paid for a maid to replace her.

When William began to focus on astronomy, Caroline joined him in his pursuits, becoming an assistant inventor and helping him build what was at the time the best telescope in the world. All of this, of course, while serving as a maid and accountant for her brother. It reminded me of the old saying about how Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels! While William is best known for discovering the planet Uranus, Caroline is famed as the Hunter of Comets. Fascinating book about the early history of modern astronomy, as well as the practical problems faced by female scientists.

Today we take for granted deep sea diving and all of the discoveries that have come from it, but Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere reminds us that it is really a very new field of exploration, one still full of danger and mystery. Otis Barton and Will Beebe were an unlikely pair. Beebe was a renowned explorer who saw the sea as another adventure. Barton was a young engineer who came up with a plan to make a deep sea dive a reality. Barton’s contraption, the Bathysphere, was a hollow metal ball just big enough for the two explorers – only four and a half feet! So many things could go wrong, and in fact, when they first went down in 1930 something several things did go wrong. First it was a small leak, but more serious was when sparks from a searchlight cord showered over them, threatening to reach the oxygen tanks. Luckily Barton was able to stop the sparks and save the dive…and their lives.

This was the first of 19 deep sea dives the men would do together in the Bathysphere. They were the first humans to see deep sea creatures alive, swimming in their own environment. Thanks to their courage, people began to see the ocean as a complete habitat, one that deserved study and protection. One of the great mysteries is that Beebe named four new species on his dives that have never been seen since. Did he imagine them, mistake existing species, or, since 95% of the oceans remain unexplored, have we just not come across them again?

Includes actual photos of the Bathysphere at the back of the book. And also I loved the note at the back from Beebe’s former assistant (and later Head of Science Reference at the Library of Congress, Constance Carter). She states that Beebe would often ignore letters from well-known scientists, instead focusing on answering letters from children, saying that it was more important to inspire a child.

What STEAM biographies inspired you as a child?

Jun 052019
 
 June 5, 2019  music, Summer Comments Off on Summer Music Playlist for Families

Taking a road trip this summer or simply looking for some great kid-friendly tunes to listen to at the pool or a backyard barbecue? We’ve got you covered! Read on to learn about fab new music children’s music, plus a summer music playlist for you! And don’t miss your chance to win a pack of four CD’s in our summer music giveaway!

Summer Music Playlist for Families | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the music below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Summer Music Playlist for Families

Get your summer started with some toe-tapping music by streaming this amazing summer family road trip playlist, put together by Sugar Mountain PR! Read on to find out more about the music featured on the playlist, plus don’t miss our big giveaway at the end of the post – you could win a package of ALL FOUR of the albums below!

Earworm is a fitting title for the latest album from Sean McCollough, because you’ll find yourself singing these songs all day long (though not in an annoying way!) McCollough is Parents’ Choice and NAPPA Award winner and host of the Kidstuff Radio show on WDVX in Knoxville, TN. As if that weren’t enough, I discovered that we have a personal connection! One of the guest artists on Earworm is Billy Jonas, a friend of my brother (and amazing musician) Chris Rosser! I have a lot of respect for Billy Jonas, so having him give his seal of approval for this album just confirmed my feelings that Sean McCollough is the real deal when it comes to great children’s music!

I love love the concept behind Canta Las Letras. I was already a big fan of 123 Andrés, so my expectations were high, and I wasn’t disappointed! If you have a preschooler, like me you are likely inundated with ABC songs and stories; yet, I struggled to find versions I liked in Spanish. Canta Las Letras has songs for every letter of the Spanish alphabet, teaching children the sounds for each letter. And far from being boring “educational” songs your kids will dread listening to, these 38 original tunes are so catchy you can’t help but hum along! A must to add to your collection if you are raising a bilingual preschooler or if you are just trying to learn a little Spanish yourself!

My kids love Can You Feel It from Jessa Campbell and the Saplings. In fact, now whenever we get in the car my three year old requests “The T Rex song”! I wasn’t surprised to learn that Campbell is based in Oregon, because the whole album has a PNW (Pacific Northwest) vibe, with its emphasis on ecology and nature, and folksy feel. Campbell has a beautiful voice, with a background in performance that includes opera, theatrical pop, and even touring with “Dragon Tales Live”! 

Under the Big Umbrella from Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could is a feel-good album that is sure to lift spirits and encourage kids to be themselves. It is full of tunes that celebrate diversity, kindness and respect. Rymer is a three-time Grammy nominee, and his joyful music has a message of “hope for a future with ‘room for everyone.’ ”

Summer Music Playlist Giveaway

2019 Summer Music Playlist Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win all four of the CD’s reviewed above, a value of approximately $50! Just comment on this post to tell us your family’s summer plans! (You can also enter by commenting on our post on Instagram). US residents only. Contest ends Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at 11:59 pm PT. Winner chosen by random selection.

May 292019
 

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is almost over, but it’s always a good time to highlight children’s books that focus on Asian and Asian American cultures! I’m so pleased with the collection of books below because not only are they quite varied in style, they also show just how rich and diverse these cultures are. I also love that they explore Asian Pacific American heritage in ways that celebrate the past but are also very relevant to today’s readers.

Asian Pacific American Heritage: New Children's Books | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of several of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Asian Pacific American Heritage: New Children’s Books

Enjoy this collection of new children’s books that celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage!

Without a doubt, one of my heroes in the blogging world is Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom. She is fearless, co-founding Multicultural Children’s Book Day to promote diversity in children’s books and also using her blog to shine a light on issues like the #MeToo movement in children’s literature. So I was delighted to discover that she is now a children’s book author herself!

Sumo Joe is her debut book, and it is a delightful look at martial arts from a child’s perspective. Sumo is one of those sports that most Americans love to joke about without really knowing much about it, so it’s wonderful to have a book that actually teaches kids about it in a fun way. We watch as Sumo Joe teaches his friends sumo moves and training, and for those that want to know more, there’s an illustrated glossary at the back of the book. But what will Sumo Joe do when his beloved younger sister wants to join in what has traditionally been a male sport? A charming book that is sure to win fans young and old.

Soon after I received my review copy of When Spring Comes to the DMZ, our Global Reads for Grownups Book Club had coincidentally started to read The Girl with Seven Names, a memoir of a defector from North Korea. So it was incredibly poignant to look at When Spring Comes to the DMZ, a gorgeous new children’s book that contrasts the natural beauty of the demilitarized zone between the Koreas with the harsh reality of the razor wire fence and lines of marching soldiers that surround it. Because the DMZ is a no man’s land, it has become a wildlife refuge, though a precarious one that is still full of landmines, under careful watch of heavily armed guards.

This book shows clearly the absurdity of war and the need to make the DMZ an area of true peace with the potential to reconnect a divided peninsula.

Ming’s Adventure in the Mogao Caves is a real treasure for anyone who loves religious or art history. Young readers, of course, will just appreciate it as a young boy’s enchanted adventure! Ming is traveling through the Gobi Desert to visit the famous Mogao Caves – a holy site and a treasury of Buddhist art – when a sandstorm separates him from his parents. He is saved by a nine-colored deer, who leads him to the caves.

Once there, Ming finds himself inside one of the cave’s murals, where he discovers he can use his magic paintbrush to help restore the animals in the painting. A lovely adventure story as well as a beautiful introduction to this important historical site.


Gondra’s Treasure is a fun read for any child that loves dragons, but especially those that comes from a intercultural family. Gondra’s parents are both dragons, but one is from the East and the other from the West. Gondra teaches us about what it’s like to have parents from different places: while Mom (from the West) breathes fire, Dad (from the East) breathes mist. Gondra, of course, can do both! (Though no fire breathing unless Mom or Dad is around!) A cute look at mixing cultures, as well as a fun comparison of how differently dragons are imagined in the different parts of the world.

Mina vs. the Monsoon is another fun read that also has a more serious message. Mina, an avid soccer player, is not happy when the monsoon rains begin. Though most others in her village celebrate the arrival of the rains because of the bounty they bring to the land, Mina can only think about how the monsoon rains will keep her indoors and away from her beloved soccer. Is there anything she can do to stop the rains from coming?

I love that this book shows such a tender relationship between Mina and her mother – and Mina’s surprise when she finds out her mother used to be a soccer player! There is a guide at the back to the Urdu and Hindi words that are sprinkled throughout the book, as well as more about why the author chose to feature a soccer playing girl in her book. In several states in northern India, communities are trying to combat child marriages by teaching girls to play soccer! Learning a sport gives the girls a sense of accomplishment and helps them think they can do more with their lives.

Pashmina I discovered not because it was related to Asian Pacific American heritage but simply because I was looking for a great graphic novel for my son. Pashmina was highly recommended, so we ordered it from our local library. When it came, neither of us could put it down!

It is the story of a young girl intrigued about her past, especially about India, the country her mother is from but never wants to talk about. One day she discovers a magical pashmina (a type of scarf) in her mother’s old suitcase. When she puts it on, she is transported to an enchanted version of India, though one in which she is followed by a mysterious shadow. It is only when she dares to travel to the real India that she is able to confront the mystery of her birth and her mother’s past, as well as the reality of life for women in India.

A beautiful coming of age story that is also woven with growing awareness of the difficulties faced by women in many parts of the world.

May 172019
 
 May 17, 2019  Education, STEM Comments Off on Conservation for Kids: Endangered Animals

One way to really engage kids on the topic of environmentalism is to talk about endangered animals. As most children love animals, this is a subject that often speaks to their hearts. Here is a collection of learning resources on conservation for kids that focuses specifically on endangered animals, including a gorgeous new picture book that conveys the urgency of the problem as well as how we can help.

Conservation for Kids: Endangered Animals | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Don’t Let Them Disappear for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Conservation for Kids: Resources to Learn About Endangered Animals

 

A wonderful introduction to the topic of endangered animals is the beautiful new picture book by Chelsea Clinton, Don’t Let Them Disappear. After the success of her other children’s books, such as the New York Times bestseller, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, Clinton has now turned her attention to conservation for kids, connecting their hearts and minds to endangered animals around the world. Some of the animals included on the list may surprise the reader, such as giraffes and elephants. (When we read the book the first time, my son said, “Wait! They’re endangered, too?”)

This book drives home the point that each animal is unique and a part of the tapestry of life on the planet. For each one included in the book, we are given some facts about what makes it special, as well as why it is endangered. In our house, this has sparked a lot of discussion about what habitat destruction is, and how war can harm animals, too.

Below are even more resources to teach kids about endangered animals. How do you teach conservation for kids?

General Resources and Ideas

Endangered Species Projects and Lessons for Kids: Kid World Citizen

Using a Live Webcam in the Classroom to Learn About Endangered Animals: El Mundo de Pepita

Earth Day Videos About Animals: Kid World Citizen

Endangered Land Animals 3-Part Cards: Homeschooling My Kinetic Kids

Endangered Marine Animals 3-Part Cards: Homeschooling My Kinetic Kids

Z Is for Zoo: Teaching Preschoolers About Animals: Inspiration Laboratories

Using a Zoo Trip to Teach Young Kids About Global Conservation: Multicultural Kid Blogs

 

Resources about Specific Endangered Animals

Learning About African Manatees: All Done Monkey

Learning About Andean Condors: All Done Monkey

The Flightless Birds of New Zealand and Australia: Kid World Citizen

Games to Learn About Endangered Animals of India: All Done Monkey

Book Review and Service Project: Crafty Moms Share

Spirit Bear: Endangered Animals Book Review: All Done Monkey

Learning About Bees Unit Lesson Plan: Nurture Store

Saving Elephants in Kenya: Multicultural Kid Blogs

18 Ways to Teach Kids About Coral Reefs: Kid World Citizen

Panda Facts, Books, Crafts, Videos, and More: Kid World Citizen

May 162019
 
 May 16, 2019  activities, crafts, recipes Comments Off on Star Crafts, Activities, and Recipes for Kids

Are you getting ready for a unit on the stars, or do your kids love looking at the night sky? Maybe you are thinking ahead to holidays like the 4th of July, or the Bahá’í holiday the Declaration of the Báb. Or maybe your kids just love those stars! Either way, here is a collection of great star crafts, activities, and recipes that kids will love!

Star Crafts, Activities, and Recipes for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Star Crafts, Activities, and Recipes for Kids

Star Crafts

Easy Nine-Pointed Star Craft: All Done Monkey

Straw Star Craft: All Done Monkey

Felt Star Treat Bags: All Done Monkey

Easy Origami Stars: Red Ted Art

DIY Origami Star Cards: hello, Wonderful

Origami Stars: Crafty Moms Share

How to Fold and Cut Origami Stars: Pink Stripey Socks

DIY Paper Star Decorations: Organized 31

Paper Bag Stars – 5 Minute Craft: Red Ted Art

Paper Plate Star Twirler: Red Ted Art

Patriotic Star Thumbprint Craft: A Dab of Glue Will Do

Star Softie Pattern: hello, Wonderful

Star Princess: Crafty Moms Share

Star Bubble Wands: Red Ted Art

DIY Star Wands: Artsy Momma

Splatter Paint Star Decorations: The Preschool Tool Box

Easy 3-D Paper Star Bowls: Red Ted Art

DIY Paper Quilled Solar System Model: STEAM Powered Family

Desert Night Preschool Resist Painting: The Keeper of the Memories

Good Night Moon and Stars Art Project: Fun with Mama

Glitter Galaxy Art: The Keeper of the Memories

Star Activities

Simple Star Treasure Hunt: All Done Monkey

Starry Night Preschool Theme: The Preschool Tool Box

Star Pre-Writing Activities: Toddler Approved

Constellation in Your Hand: Crafty Moms Share

Printable Constellation Mats: JDaniel4’s Mom

Marshmallow Constellations: Edventures with Kids

Learning About Constellations: Artsy Momma

Star Recipes

Galaxy Cake Pops: The Flying Couponer

Maple Cinnamon Star Cookies: Sally’s Baking Addiction

Chocolate Star Cookies: Williams Sonoma

Star Shaped Fruit Pops: Bakers Royale

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