Oct 312019
 
 October 31, 2019  Book Reviews Comments Off on Funny Animal Stories About Daring Adventures

Animal stories are so much fun, especially when they involve a good adventure! The following collection of books includes some really wonderful stories about animals who are out to save the world – okay, along with a few who want to destroy it! These light-hearted adventures will leave your children laughing even as they can’t wait to see what happens next.

Funny Animal Stories about Daring Adventures | Alldonemonkey.com

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 charge to you.

Funny Animal Stories About Daring Adventures

What could be more daring then leaving your home and family to set off on your own? Stretchy McHandsome comes from a large family of cats, but he really needs space to find his own place in the world. What he discovers, however, is the joy of a special relationship with a little girl. But don’t worry, his family hasn’t been left behind! In the end, they all find human companions of their own, close by to their daring brother Stretchy McHandsome.

Didi Dodo, Future Spy: Recipe for Disaster is the first in a series of books about Didi Dodo. First, can we acknowledge how great it is to have a dodo bird as the lead character? And she is so funny! Didi Dodo takes on her first ever case, to find out who stole Koko Dodo’s top secret fudge sauce. But they have to find the thief in time for Koko Dodo to enter the royal cookie contest! Full of plot twists and madcap adventures that will have young readers laughing out loud. This early chapter book is especially good for younger or reluctant readers because it has so many fun illustrations and fairly short chapters.

Older readers will love Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat: The Spacedog Cometh, the latest in the Klawde series. (Read my review of the first two books in the series). My nine year old adores this series! He literally snatched it out of the box as soon as it arrived and sat down to read it. Klawde is no ordinary cat. An exiled warlord from a planet where cats rule, Klawde has been banished to Earth, where he allows himself to become the pet of a young boy named Raj. In this installment, Klawde must face the ancient enemy of his race: dogs. Specifically, alien dogs that have now discovered his location and sent an emissary to Earth to bring him to justice once and for all. Can Klawde survive this new threat, and can Raj handle his own out-of-town visitor, his grandmother?? A very funny, clever addition to this wonderful series of alien animal stories.

What would you do if your dog ran into a haunted house? That’s exactly the dilemma siblings Liz and Toby face in My Dog Sees Ghosts. This creepy chapter book is the first in a series of Liz and Toby adventures, aimed at children ages 7 – 12. (Read my review of a graphic novel from the same author). This is a fun adventure story that is spooky without being too scary for young readers. And I love that the siblings in the story genuinely enjoy being together – and that they’re being raised by two moms! This is a book with a double twist ending – just when you think you have it all figured out, and the mystery of the supposedly haunted house has been solved, you discover that ghosts really do exist, just not in the way you expect!

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Oct 252019
 
 October 25, 2019  activities, Book Reviews, crafts, Education, music Comments Off on 75+ Butterfly Crafts and Activities for Kids

Autumn may seem like an unusual time for butterfly crafts and activities. Here in the US, we typically associate butterflies with spring or perhaps summer; yet in Mexico, butterflies migrating south are a beloved sign of fall. In fact, they are often associated with the Day of the Dead. And so, in honor of their long journey, here is a HUGE collection of more than 75 butterfly crafts and activities for kids, plus don’t miss my review of a wonderful new children’s book!

75+ Butterfly Crafts and Activities for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Señorita Mariposa 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.

75+ Butterfly Crafts and Activities for Kids

Read on to find 75+ butterfly crafts and activities for kids, from painting and origami to STEM activities and music!

Butterflies are more than just beautiful: they are the ultimate metaphor for personal transformation and growth. And we can draw further inspiration from the incredible monarch butterfly’s 3,000 mile migration, which spans three countries (Canada, US, and Mexico).

Señorita Mariposa, the first picture book from award-winning musician Mister G, is a beautiful tribute to this epic journey. (Read my reviews of his albums here and here). Based on the lyrics of Mister G’s song of the same name (included on his album Chocolalala), Señorita Mariposa was inspired by the monarch butterflies he would see each year near his own home in Western Massachusetts. The bilingual text is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations of the landscapes that the monarchs fly through and the diverse people they pass along the way.

This lovely book also comes with a message about the need to preserve the habitat of the monarch butterflies and, more broadly, the natural world that our three countries share. Mister G is deeply committed to conservation and even started The Mariposa Project to inspire communities to engage with these issues.

Señorita Mariposa would be a beautiful addition to any unit on butterflies or conservation more generally and would make a wonderful gift to budding environmentalists and animal lovers.

Butterfly Music

Señorita Mariposa by Mister G, from the album Chocolalala

Butterfly by Nancy Kopman

Butterfly Outdoor Activities

Garden Butterfly Craft: Blue Bear Wood

Creating a Butterfly Garden: Mosswood Connections

Stick and Leaf Butterfly Nature Craft: Artsy Craftsy Mom

Butterfly Nature Craft: Mother Natured

Butterfly Feeder Craft: Glitter on a Dime

Butterfly STEM Activities

Books and Videos About the Migration of Monarch Butterflies: Kid World Citizen

Butterfly Identification Cards: Look! We’re Learning

Caterpillar Butterfly Life Cycle Unit: Fun with Mama

Caterpillar to Butterfly Mini Unit: Carrots Are Orange

Butterfly Life Cycle Printables: Kiddy Charts

Butterfly Life Cycle Craft Using Band Aids: The Preschool Toolbox

Butterfly Life Cycle Craft: Juggling with Kids

Butterfly Life Cycle Handprint Craftivity: Schooltime Snippets

Butterfly Life Cycle Sensory Bottles: Fun-a-Day

Butterfly Life Cycle Craft Necklace: Fun-a-Day

Butterfly Food Sensory Challenge: Preschool Powol Packets

Butterfly STEAM Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers: Team Cartwright

Designing Wings Butterfly Craft for Preschoolers: The Keeper of the Memories

Butterfly Mats to Explore Shapes: JDaniel4’s Mom

Coloring Matching Butterflies: Teach Me Mommy

Butterfly Counting Activity: Look! We’re Learning

Painted Butterfly Wing Symmetry Activity: The Keeper of the Memories

Butterfly Name Crafts: Fun-a-Day

Butterfly Sensory Activities

Bright Butterfly Sensory Bin: The Chaos and the Clutter

Butterfly Sensory Bag: The Chaos and the Clutter

Butterfly Snacks

Butterfly Snack Bags: Mama Teaches

Butterfly Snack Bags: Messy Little Monster

Literacy Related Butterfly Fruit Snack: Primary Playground

Butterfly Crafts

Monarch Butterfly Art: Kid World Citizen

Toilet Paper Roll Butterfly Craft: The Best Ideas for Kids

Quick Cardboard Tube Butterfly Craft: Mama Teaches

Paper Roll Rainbow Butterfly Craft: Non-Toy Gifts

Toilet Roll Handprint Butterfly: Messy Little Monster

Easy Toilet Paper Roll Butterfly Craft: Look! We’re Learning

Paper Plate Butterflies with Dot Markers: Glitter on a Dime

Fluttering Watercolor Paper Plate Butterflies: Pink Stripey Socks

Butterfly Paper Plate Wreath Craft: Creative Family Fun

Cupcake Liner Butterfly Craft: The Joy of Sharing

Crepe Paper Butterfly Craft: Artsy Craftsy Mom

3-D Butterfly Craft: Non-Toy Gifts

3-D Butterfly Paper Craft: Projects with Kids

3-D Paper Butterfly: I Heart Crafty Things

Easy Pop-Up Butterfly Card: Red Ted Art

Paper Butterfly Puppet: I Heart Crafty Things

Transforming Paper Butterfly Craft: Hello, Wonderful

Fluttering Butterfly Craft: Pink Stripey Socks

Paper Butterfly Craft and Template: Artsy Craftsy Mom

Accordion Fold Paper Butterfly Craft: Artsy Craftsy Mom

Easy Folded Paper Butterfly: Red Ted Art

Origami Butterfly Bookmark Corner: Red Ted Art

Butterfly Yarn Craft Activity: Fun with Mama

Rainbow Yarn Butterfly Craft: A Dab of Glue Will Do

Yarn Wrapped Butterfly: Schooltime Snippets

Woven Craft Stick Butterflies: The Craft Train

Butterfly Painting for Toddlers: My Bored Toddler

Oil Pastel Butterfly Craft for Toddlers: My Bored Toddler

Colorful Toddler Butterfly Art: Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds

Butterfly Printing with Sponges: The Craft Train

Painting with Marbles Butterfly Craft: Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds

Colored Salt Butterfly Craft: Fun with Mama

Watercolor and Glitter Butterflies: I Heart Crafty Things

Handprint Butterfly Craft: Simple Everyday Mom

Paint and Fold Butterfly Symmetry Artwork: Still Playing School

Symmetry Butterfly Art with Warm and Cool Colors: Creative Family Fun

Line of Symmetry Butterfly Craft: A Dab of Glue WIll Do

Faux Stained-Glass Butterfly Art: Crayons and Cravings

Marble Painted Monarch Butterfly Suncatcher: How Wee Learn

Coffee Filter Butterflies: Organized Island

Coffee Filter Butterfly Craft: Look! We’re Learning

Butterfly Clay Footprint Ring Dish: Messy Little Monster

Mold and Cast Butterfly Craft: Our Crafty Mom

Footprint Butterfly Art & Poem: Messy Little Monster

Footprint Butterfly Keepsake: Emma Owl

Butterfly Mandala Colouring Sheet: Kids Chaos

Butterfly Coloring Pages: Simple Everyday Mom

Butterfly Notebooks: Pink Stripey Socks

Butterfly Mask Craft: Messy Little Monster

Butterfly Mask Templates: Emma Owl

Butterfly Mask Printable: Red Ted Art

 

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Oct 112019
 
 October 11, 2019  Book Reviews, Halloween Comments Off on Lift-the-Flap Halloween Books for Spooky Fun!

Our family loves Halloween, and that of course includes enjoying some spooky reads as soon as the weather starts to cool off! Young readers love interactive books, which is why today I’m sharing some wonderful lift-the-flap Halloween books we are loving reading this season. Do you have a favorite Halloween book? Let us know in the comments!

Lift-the-Flap Halloween Books | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I receive a complimentary copy of Monsters Come Out Tonight 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.

Lift-the-Flap Halloween Books for Spooky Fun!

Lift-the-Flap Tab: Spooky House is great for kids that really love to lift those flaps! All of the page spreads in this book have multiple flaps, sometimes up to five! It is also a tab book, which means that kids can go straight to the page they want by using the colorful tabs along the book’s exterior. The book takes you through the rooms of this spooky house, where you get to meet tons of fun Halloween characters. My kids’ favorite room is the bathroom, where you can even find a monster hiding in the toilet!

Monsters Come Out Tonight! was an instant hit in our house. It is a wonderful new Halloween board book about monsters getting ready for a big monster ball! The flaps are large and sturdy, so they are easy for little hands to manipulate, and there are plenty of silly suprises to find. I love the juxtaposition in each page spread between a child, dressed up in their Halloween costume, knocking on a door, which is then answered by the actual monsters that the child is pretending to be. The best is at the end, though, when the both pages open up into one large spread showing kids and monsters partying together!

Ghost in the House is another of our favorite lift-the-flap Halloween books! This time around, the monsters are the ones getting spooked by the strange noises they hear in the house. Each time it is just another monster, who joins them as they creep from room to room – until the twist ending, when they are surprised by the scariest creature of all, a human boy!

Seriously, who doesn’t love Pete the Cat? That groovy feline returns in a not-too-spooky Halloween book for kids that are a bit anxious about Halloween. Pete the Cat: Trick or Pete helps kids who are worried about Halloween by showing that trick or treating doesn’t have to be too scary. In fact, often what we think is something scary is just a friend in a costume, or something familiar hidden in the shadows. Full of all your favorite Pete the Cat characters and lots of flaps to lift, this book shares the message that Halloween is full of sweet surprises.

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Oct 092019
 
 October 9, 2019  Book Reviews, parenting Comments Off on Minimalist Living with Kids: Resources

Want to simplify your life and declutter your house? Many people I know want to achieve these goals but are concerned about the effect on their family. Be encouraged that you are doing the right thing! Here are reflections on minimalist living with kids from people that have made the change themselves, and why they think your family will not only survive, but thrive! Includes a review of a new picture book on tiny house living.

Minimalist Living with Kids

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book 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.

Minimalist Living with Kids

Learn more about minimalist living with kids from parents and educators who have made the change!

Plentiful Living with a Minimalist Approach to Life (Part 1) and More Reflections: Mosswood Connections

8 Reasons to Take a Minimalist Approach to Toys: Simplify Create Inspire

20 Reasons to Say Yes to Less Toys, More Play: Best Toys 4 Toddlers

5 Amazing Things Minimalism Can Do for Your Kids: Sunny Day Living

A great resource to talk to your kids about minimalism and “tiny living” is Sissy Goes Tiny, created by long-time friends Rebecca Flansburg and Ba Norrgard. Sissy is an ordinary girl, who loves her home, her toys, her spacious backyard, and her big, cozy bed.

Sissy Goes Tiny: Minimalist Living with Kids

So when her mom and dad (a beautifully portrayed interracial couple) break the news that the family will be going tiny, Sissy is understandably skeptical. But her parents explain that while living tiny does mean fewer things, it also means more freedom and more experiences.

The book goes through each stage of the downsizing, including donating many items, re-purposing others, and making a scrapbook of their favorite things. Though this process is at times difficult, as it progresses Sissy’s skepticism soon turns to excitement, until it finally culminates in the arrival of their beautiful new tiny home!

Born out of author Ba Norrgard’s own experiences living in a tiny house for more than two decades, this book is a wonderful way to introduce children to the idea of minimalist living. Be sure to download a free worksheet from The Wise Owl Factory to help kids think through what minimalist living would look like for them!

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Sep 162019
 
 September 16, 2019  Book Reviews, music, parenting Comments Off on Teach Kids Self-Confidence: Books and Music

Get your child’s school year off to the right start by encouraging them to love themselves just as they are. Help kids embrace their own uniqueness with these books and music that teach kids self-confidence! Because every child should feel comfortable and happy in their own skin.

Teach Kids Self-Confidence: Books and Music | Alldonemonkey.com

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

Teach Kids Self-Confidence: Books and Music

We love these Changing Faces books! They are so adorable and fun for little ones, as the faces of the animals change each time you turn the page, thanks to something like a built-in Venetian blind. And the latest in the series, I Love You, Elephant!, has a special message of being happy just as you are. Little Monkey encounters different animals, wishing he could be like them. Yet his animal friends help him by pointing out what makes him special!

Ninja Boy’s Secret is a beautiful book about a boy learning to follow his heart – even if it means he might disappoint his father. Because unlike so many children, Ninja Boy doesn’t actually want to be a ninja. He wants to be a musician! Fearful of how his father will react, Ninja Boy nevertheless summons the courage to share his secret, by playing a beautiful violin sonata. Great story and I love the Japanese-inspired illustrations!

Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color is a beautiful story for anyone who feels like they don’t quite match anyone else. Simone, a young mixed girl, isn’t as dark as her mother or as light as her father. She longs to find a color of her own. A beautiful story about building self-confidence through embracing your uniqueness. It also sparks a lot of conversations with my mixed kids, who were curious to identify exactly what color they were!

How Do You Dance? is a great book about finding your own way, rather than trying to just imitate what everyone else is doing. There are so many ways to dance, but the most important way is the one that feels right to you! Lovely illustrations of diverse people enjoying music in all different ways!

The Love is a truly unique album! It’s hip-hop music that focuses on “love, belonging, and gender justice.” It features more than 60 artists, including many children. What really impressed me was that the album grew out of the group’s genuine engagement with their audience. As one co-founder explains, “Hundreds of kids and families trusted us with their lived experience to write these songs.” It really inspires self-confidence in kids who feel ostracized and misunderstood and encourages allies to stand up for inclusion. And beyond that, it’s just really great music that my kids love!

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Aug 302019
 
 August 30, 2019  Book Reviews, character building for kids Comments Off on Books that Inspire Kids to Help Others

Want your child to give back to their community – or even just pick up their toys? Children have natural tendencies to want to make a difference in their homes and communities. Nurture them with these wonderful new books that inspire kids to help others!

Books that Inspire Kids to Help Others

It is such a classic dilemma: Parents feel like they are drowning in housework, yet their children never appreciate all of their hard work. In fact, they usually just contribute to the mess! In Llama Llama Mess Mess Mess, Llama Llama – like so many other children – ignores Mama Llama’s calls to clean up. But Mama Llama uses an unexpected strategy to convince Llama Llama of the importance of helping out. What would happen if Mama Llama didn’t clean up either? When Llama Llama realizes how chaotic and stressful life would be without Mama Llama’s hard work, he sees that pitching in means a peaceful home – and more playtime! – for everyone. A fun way to teach responsibility to little ones.

If you are an animal lover, prepare to have your heartstrings tugged with Garbage Dog! This is a sweet, beautifully illustrated book about a dog forced to live on the streets. But throughout his struggles, looking for food and avoiding mean animals, Garbage Dog never loses his sense of decency. He makes friends with all kinds of animals wherever he goes, and looks out for others, even sharing the little food he manages to scavenge. But don’t worry, there is a happy ending for Garbage Dog! A lovely book about friendship and kindness to others.

Endangered Species Superheroes is a graphic novel about a teenage girl living with her grandfather and helping out at his wildlife sanctuary. Yet Lindsey’s idyllic life is interrupted when her grandfather’s nemesis, Mace Zagan, escapes from prison. Overcome with jealousy for her grandfather’s many awards and accomplishments, Zagan is determined to get his revenge. After his first attempts to hurt Lindsey’s grandfather fail, Zagan decides to kidnap Lindsey!

Help comes from unexpected quarters. Several of the animals from the sanctuary – loyal to Lindsey and her grandfather – discover that they’ve developed super powers, ironically, thanks to one of Zagan’s evil schemes. Working together, this super team of an iguana, sloth, rhinoceros, and tapir help Lindsey to save the day.

I love that despite the dangers presented in the book, it always manages to stay upbeat and positive. Plus the relationships shown among both humans and animals are very supportive, as the characters demonstrate true friendship for each other. A great adventure story, and one that will spark an interest in the urgent need to help endangered animals.

The Chupacabras of the Río Grande is the latest installment of the wonderful Unicorn Rescue Society series for middle grade readers. (Read my review of the first two books). There are so many things to love about this book: How its heroes are smart, thoughtful, brave (and diverse!) kids; how it centers on rescuing mythical (but actually real, and very endangered) creatures; and how, through their adventures, the children also learn about other culture and very real problems facing society.

In The Chupacabras of the Río Grande, Elliot and Uchenna travel to the Laredo, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the US, to investigate reports of a chupacabra. This book builds on the previous ones of the series, but new co-author (and Pura Belpré winner) David Bowles brings an intimate knowledge of the bicultural & bilingual communities on the border. The book delves into an issue that children will surely have heard about on the news – the border wall – but in a nuanced way that carefully avoids generalizations. In fact, one of the most brilliant plot twists is that in the end, the children find an unexpected ally in a rancher that they had thought they would have nothing in common with.

Highly recommended series for kids with a lot of imagination and a desire to save the world!

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Aug 012019
 
 August 1, 2019  Book Reviews 2 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 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.

More Learning Resources About the Moon Landing

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