Monday, March 28, 2011

Word of the Week/Bink & Gollie

It's time for our Word of the Week feature here at LitLad. Here's how it works: Every Sunday the boys and I read a book from which they pick their favorite-sounding unfamiliar word. They each write the word that night and we try to use it in conversation as much as we can throughout the week. According to The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, "the only words children learn having heard them only once are the words you wish you had never said in front of them."

This week's word is implore, a verb meaning "to beg for urgently," as Johnny Boo does when he says, "I implore you to read Bink & Gollie to me again."

And we're reading Bink & Gollie, in which a note on Gollie's door says, "Bink: I implore you, do not knock."

Bink & Gollie
Authors/Illustrator: Kate DiCamillo, Alison McGhee/Tony Fucile
Publisher: Candlewick (September 2010)
Source: Public library

Bink and Gollie are marvelous companions who are complete opposites. Bink lives in a small cottage at the base of Gollie's modern tree house, and they see each other every day. Whether it's to share pancakes or peanut butter sandwiches or to fulfill their need for speed and adventure, the two are almost inseparable. In the book's three humor-filled short stories, the two learn to compromise and overcome jealousy. They go to a sock bonanza, followed by a "compromise bonanza;" after several interruptions from Bink, they meet up at the top of the Andes Mountains (which just happen to be in Gollie's living room); and, after the purchase of a fish named Fred, they learn that fish don't actually long for speed (at least not when roller skates are involved). The digital illustrations (black-and-white with some splashes of color) show off Bink and Gollie's personalities and add to the humor. This book is now a favorite in our house for both boys, especially as a read-aloud. I think we must have read it at least six times in the last couple of days.

Tintin's note: I thought it was really good. It's a fantastic book. I like when the river was frozen and the fish was still swimming under there.

Johnny Boo's note: I liked when Gollie makes pancakes. I liked when Bink got a fish. I recommend this book to people who like people.

For more about Bink & Gollie – the book and the girls – go to the Bink & Gollie website.

For more on Kate DiCamillo, check out Happy Birthday Author.

For more on Bink & Gollie and Kate DiCamillo, visit Johnny Boo's favorite blog, Watch. Connect. Read.

And here's the book trailer:

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Sunday, March 27, 2011

8-Year-Old Boy Books of the Week: The Book of Beasts, Imagine a Place, Rose (Bone)

Here are Tintin's favorites from the past week:

The Book of Beasts
Author/illustrator: E. Nesbit/Inga Moore
Publisher: Candlewick (October 2001)
Source: Public library

To Lionel's surprise, he's just been made king of his people, even though he's just a boy and there hasn't been a king in quite some time (the people had been saving up for a crown ever since the death of Lionel's great-great-great-great-great-grandfather). When Lionel discovers the palace library, he calls it "a worldful of books" and decides he must look at a book right then and there, despite the chancellor and prime minister's warnings that the books might be magical. He finds a book called The Book of Beasts and opens to the first page. Out pops a beautiful  butterfly. On the next page, a bird flies out. Before Lionel can turn the page, the book is snatched away and put up on a very high shelf. The prime minister and chancellor worry that what's next might be "a snake or a centipede or a revolutionist," but Lionel is tempted and takes the book outside when no one's looking. What he finds is much worse than anyone could have imagined, and now he must find a way to get the fearsome creature back into The Book of Beasts.

Tintin's note: I like it when the dragon comes out of the book. I like when the boy is flying on the hippogriph.

 Find it: Amazon
Imagine a Place
Author/illustrator: Sarah L. Thomson/Rob Gonsalves
Publisher: Atheneum (September 2008)
Source: Public library

Imagine a Place follows Imagine a Day and Imagine a Night, two books we still need to read but will be getting soon. Each magic realist painting is accompanied by lyrical text that always begins with "Imagine a place..." The artist, according to this bio, was influenced by René Magritte and M.C. Escher, and you can definitely tell. Gonsalves's work, according to the same bio, "is an attempt to represent human beings' desire to believe in the impossible." Tintin liked the text and especially loved the pictures and would keep saying, "Wait, can you go back to the other one for a minute?"

Tintin's note: I like when there was a houseboat because it is cool, but you can't really take a house out on the ocean. The poems were beautiful. I like when those people were skiing on the blossoms.

 Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Bone: Rose
Author/illustrator: Jeff Smith/Charles Vess
Publisher: Graphix (August 2009)
Source: Public library

Rose is the the first prequel to the original Bone graphic novel series, of which there are eight books. Princess Rose and her sister, Princess Briar, are taking lessons to help build awareness in their dreams. Their parents, the king and queen, soon send them off to take their final test at Old Man's Cave, and that's when the adventure really begins. When a river dragon possessed by the Lord of the Locusts is let loose during one of Rose's dreams, Rose feels she must be the one to stop it. It's a difficult task, seeing as how it appears that the dragon cannot be permanently hurt. The Great Red Dragon gives Rose the solution she needs, but there is a price to pay, and the princess must make a difficult choice. This is the second Bone book Tintin has read (his first was the eighth), but Tintin has said he now wants to read them all in order, which shouldn't take too long, since he finished this one without interruption.

Tintin's note: I liked when Rose cut off the dragon named Mim's head. The drawings were awesome. They were bloody and they were adventurous.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Saturday, March 26, 2011

5-Year-Old Boy Books of the Week: Adopt a Glurb, Baby Brains and RoboMom, Children Make Terrible Pets

Here are Johnny Boo's favorites from the past week (we'll write about another favorite, Bink and Gollie, for our Word of the Week feature in a couple of days):

Balloon Toons: Adopt a Glurb
Author/illustrator: Elise Gravel
Publisher: Blue Apple Books (August 2010)
Source: Public library

After reading Balloon Toons: Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors (see our review), we were eager to read Adopt a Glurb, a book about a most unusual pet. The book is chock full of everything one needs to know about this cute little monster, with both good points and bad. For instance, three glurbs will make your bed for you, but yell at them and you might wake up with plucked eyebrows. And they stink, even when they're clean. And, like a certain someone I know, they like to unroll toilet paper. But, did I mention they're cute? They even fit in your pocket. They need a lot of attention, though, and act silly if you don't cuddle with them enough. Plus, their hunger rivals that of an 8-year-old boy's. But they're cute.

Johnny Boo's note: It was good. Glurbs stink a lot. I like their freakiness.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Baby Brains and RoboMom
Author/illustrator: Simon James
Publisher: Candlewick (March 2008)
Source: Public library

Johnny Boo insisted on getting this book after having fallen in love with the first two Baby Brains books (see our review). The smartest baby in the whole world is back, but instead of becoming a doctor or a rock star, he's focusing on making life easier for his tired-out mom and dad. He designs RoboMom, who is a huge help – at first. She does the dishes and fixes the car but then soon takes over some responsibilities that Baby Brains would rather his parents do, like changing his diapers and putting him to bed. When RoboMom starts acting a little strange (she serves nuts and bolts in engine oil for breakfast and hangs Baby Brains out to dry with the laundry), Baby Brains realizes it's time to go back to the drawing board, especially after a rather explosive ending for the malfunctioning robot.

Johnny Boo's note: I like when RoboMom exploded. I like when he says, "I want my Mommy!"

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Children Make Terrible Pets
Author/illustrator: Peter Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 2010)
Source: Public library

Lucy is a bear. One day she finds a child spying on her. Lucy really wants a pet, so she takes the child home with her and asks her mother to let her keep "Squeaker" for a pet. Lucy's mother tells her that children make terrible pets, but Lucy doesn't believe her. Squeaker is just so cute that he can't possibly do anything wrong. It turns out, though, that Lucy's mother is right – Squeaker's behavior is really terrible, plus he's hard to potty train. When Lucy finds Squeaker after he's suddenly disappeared, she finally realizes that he's not the right pet for her and tells her mother that she was right, children do make terrible pets. Her mother's reply: They really are the worst.

Johnny Boo's note: It was terrific. I liked when Lucy was being watched by that squeaky person.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Monday, March 21, 2011

Word of the Week/Chibi: A True Story from Japan

It's time for our Word of the Week feature here at LitLad. Here's how it works: Every Sunday the boys and I read a book from which they pick their favorite-sounding unfamiliar word. They each write the word that night and we try to use it in conversation as much as we can throughout the week. According to The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, "the only words children learn having heard them only once are the words you wish you had never said in front of them."

This week's word is chibi, a Japanese adjective meaning "tiny."

And we're reading Chibi: A True Story from Japan, in which the tiniest duckling is named Chibi: "Among the duck watchers was a news photographer, Mr. Sato, who gave a name to the tiniest duckling. Sato-san named her Chibi... ."

Chibi: A True Story from Japan
Authors/Illustrator: Barbara Brenner and Julia Takaya/June Otani
Publisher: Clarion Books (February 1996)
Source: Public library

Set in Tokyo, Chibi is the true story of a mother duck who settles down in a pool beside a downtown office building to raise her 10 ducklings. The people of Tokyo, including a news photographer named Sato-san, become mesmerized by the family of ducks and come to watch them, rain or shine. When the ducks grow too big for their pool, they venture across a busy highway to get to the moat of the Imperial Gardens. Not long after, a typhoon arrives, keeping the citizens of Tokyo inside and threatening the animals outside. When the storm dies down, Sato-san and others look for the ducks and find that Chibi, the smallest duckling, and two of her siblings are missing. The people worry, especially about their favorite, Chibi, and continue searching until finally Chibi reappears, albeit in an unexpected manner. The book includes a one-page glossary of Japanese words used in the book, such as Oka-san (Mother) and kamo (duck).

Tintin's note: It was very precious. I liked when Chibi was on that floating thingie because it was good to see him come back.

Johnny Boo's note: I like it because it's wonderful. And my name is Chibi now. It made me sad because I was lost. Quack quack.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Books of the Week: Franny K. Stein, Holler Loudly, Baby Brains, Hide and Seek Mr. Croc

Here are our favorites from the past week (Tintin is in the middle of several chapter books – Hardy Boys, Harry Potter, Encyclopedia Brown, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc., etc., – but isn't far enough in any of them to consider it to be a favorite of the week):

Tintin, age 8

Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist: The Fran That Time Forgot
Author/illustrator: Jim Benton
Publisher: Scholastic (October 2005)
Source: Scholastic Book Club/home library

In the fourth installment of the Franny K. Stein series, Franny comes up with a science fair project that for once doesn't pose a threat to anyone. At least, not until Franny decides to use the Time Warp Dessert Plate on herself instead of on her cake. After Franny becomes the laughing stock of the school all because of her ridiculous middle name, she goes back in time to change it to something more befitting a mad scientist and to warn her baby self against those who laugh at her. As often happens when one interferes with time, however, things don't actually end up for the better, and Franny must figure out how to save the world from her future, now-evil self.

Tintin read this book in one sitting. Shortly after, he went to his room, closed the door, cleaned his room (mostly), turned it into a lab, and became a mad scientist. He stayed up until midnight and came up with 10 inventions. The next day he found a faithful lab assistant and came up with 10 more inventions, complete with diagrams. Fortunately, none of these inventions was as terrifying as Franny's remote control scissors or tornado in a jar.

Tintin's note: I like when she goes back in time because it's awesome.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Johnny Boo, age 5

Holler Loudly
Author/illustrator: Cynthia Leitich Smith/Barry Gott
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (November 2010)
Source: Public library

Holler was named for his loud voice, a voice he has trouble controlling. He gets shushed and shunned constantly because of it. He finally decides to keep quiet and learns that he actually likes listening. When a tornado strikes, however, Holler proves to the townspeople that his hollering can actually come in handy sometimes. He learns that there are times for quiet and times for loud. Johnny Boo isn't quite as loud as Holler, but this is still a good lesson for him to learn. As I write this, the two of us are in his room while he sings (after annoying his book-reading brother in the living room).

Johnny Boo's note: I like when Holler screams, "SOOEY!" It's so LOUD!

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

More about Holler Loudly at Cynthia Leitich Smith's website, including some amazing teacher guides.

Baby Brains Superstar
Author/illustrator: Simon James
Publisher: Candlewick (September 2005)
Source: Public library 

Baby Brains Superstar is the second Baby Brains book, about an incredibly smart baby. In the first book Baby Brains starts reading the newspaper the day after he's brought home from the hospital and goes on to become a doctor and a space explorer while still an infant. In Superstar we find out that he's also a musical genius, and while he of course has mastered just about every instrument, like my own baby brains, he prefers the electric guitar. He becomes a famous musician and performs in front of a huge crowd, but he soon realizes that maybe he's not quite ready for the rock star lifestyle. This book, at least for Johnny Boo, is a "Read it again!" book.

Johnny Boo's note: I like it because there are so much brains in there [not really–Ed.]. I like when the baby calls for his mommy.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

More about Simon James

Hide and Seek Mr. Croc
Author/illustrator: Jo Lodge
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books (November 2007)
Source: Half Price Books/home library

Hide and Seek Mr. Croc is a book that opens up into a house, as you can see from the picture at left. Johnny Boo reads it occasionally, but mostly he uses his imagination to make up his own Mr. Croc stories. The book comes with a small Mr. Croc figure that can sit at a kitchen table, in a chair and in a bathtub, sleep on a bed, and hide in a closet. Johnny Boo will sit and play with this for a very long time, which makes this one of the best impulse purchases I've ever made.
Johnny Boo's note: It's playable. I like to play with it so much at night. I like when you get to hide Mr. Croc.

Find it: Amazon

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Trouble With Chickens

Review by Tintin, age 8

The Trouble With Chickens: A J.J. Tully Mystery
Author/illustrator: Doreen Cronin/Kevin Cornell
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (March 2011)
Source: NetGalley

The Trouble With Chickens is about two chicks and one chicken and one dog who go on an adventure to find their two missing chicks. Moosh is a chicken that is annoying. She bothers the dog by talking too long. Moosh is very loquacious. J.J. is very taciturn. He used to be a search-and-rescue dog and now he lives on a farm. I like that scary dog at the end because he's silly. I like the adventure they go on. My favorite part is when they tricked Vince. I would recommend this book to kids who like mystery and adventure books.

LitLass's note: As a retired search-and-rescue dog, J.J. Tully longs for another mystery to solve, but not one involving a crazy chicken who runs around "like a chicken without a head." He's approached by Millicent the chicken, also known as Moosh, and reluctantly agrees to help her find her two lost chicks. When his nose leads him to the house, and to inside dog Vince the Funnel, the real adventure begins. The short, humorous chapters (the black-and-white illustrations are fun to look at, too) make this detective book a great read-aloud but also wonderful for both reluctant and not-so-reluctant readers. And Tintin was happy to find out that this is the first in a planned series of J.J. Tully mysteries.

Find it: Amazon (check out the book trailer), IndieBound

To go along with the book, we made our own chicks. We started by dipping cotton balls (with a tweezer) into a cup of water and yellow food coloring:

And then we glued googly eyes and a folded-up piece of orange pipe cleaner to the head, glued the head to the body, and stuck the whole thing in a cleaned-out egg shell:

We're linking this up with stART, A Crafty Soiree and Kids Get Crafty.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Word of the Week/Love That Kitty!: The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to Be a Cat

It's time for our Word of the Week feature here at LitLad. Here's how it works: Every Sunday the boys and I read a book from which they pick their favorite-sounding unfamiliar word. They each write the word that night and we try to use it in conversation as much as we can throughout the week. According to The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, "the only words children learn having heard them only once are the words you wish you had never said in front of them."

This week's word is hapless, an adjective that means "luckless, unfortunate."

And we're reading Love That Kitty!, in which a boy pretending to be a cat pounces on "hapless, unsuspecting prey."

Love That Kitty!: The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to Be a Cat
Author/Illustrator: Jeff Jarka
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company (September 2010)
Source: Public library

Peter wants to be a cat. He dresses up in a cat suit, he practices his balance so he'll land on his feet, he scratches the furniture, and he even uses a litter box. Peter's parents are not amused, until one day Peter decides he's had enough of being a cat and goes back to being a boy. Unfortunately for Peter's parents, their happiness is short-lived.

Tintin's note: I like the picture of his mom yelling at him when he's climbing the curtain because it's silly.

Johnny Boo's note: I thought that it was adorable. I like when the kitty is standing on the window.

For more about Peter, see Love That Puppy!: The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to Be a Dog, and for more on author Jeff Jarka, go to Love That Site!

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

It seems that someone posted to the blog without my knowing it. I've added a picture.

Review by Tintin, age 8

Harry Potter has many adventures. I think this is a really great book. I think people should read this book because it has magic and magical creatures. Harry Potter is a boy who learns magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I would recommend this book to kids and adults who wish to learn magic.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Books of the Week: Daniel Boom, Frankie Pickle, Interrupting Chicken, Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors

Here are our favorites from the past week:

Tintin, age 8

The Adventures of Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy: Grow Up!
Author/illustrator: D.J. Steinberg/Brian Smith
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (April 2010)
Source: Public library

In the fourth and possibly final installment of the Daniel Boom graphic novel series, Daniel and his friends once again try to get rid of Kid-Rid Industries. Their parents all just happen to work there, and when the company decides to have its first-ever Bring Your Child to Work Day, the five superheroes jump at the chance to spy on what goes on behind the scenes. While they're there, however, they all happen to lose their superpowers and youthful energy, which makes it a bit more difficult for them to bring down Kid-Rid and its kid-hating owner, Doctor Docter. Both boys love this series (the colorful artwork helps) and are really hoping for more.

Tintin's note: I like when they turned into old people. It was a great book because they arrested Doctor Docter.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom
Author/illustrator: Eric Wight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (May 2010)
Source: A Real Bookstore

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom is part chapter book, part graphic novel. Franklin Lorenzo Piccolini, also known as Frankie Pickle, doesn't like to clean his room. When his mom gets tired of telling him to clean up, she finally tells him that he no longer has to clean his room, as long as he deals with the consequences. So Frankie does his best to make a mess, with a little help from his active imagination. What happens, though, is a little too much mess even for Frankie, and so he uses that same imagination to help him conquer his closet of doom.

Tintin's note: I liked all the comics because they were so great. Frankie Pickle and his dog were doing exciting things.

More info on Frankie Pickle and its author at Watch. Connect. Read.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound 

Johnny Boo, age 5

Interrupting Chicken
Author/illustrator: David Ezra Stein
Publisher: Candlewick Press (August 2010)
Source: Public library

Chicken can't stop herself from interrupting all the stories her father reads to her at bedtime. He starts reading Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little, but before Papa can finish, Chicken jumps right in and saves the characters from danger. Papa runs out of stories to read to Chicken, but Chicken can't go to sleep without one. Papa suggests to Chicken that she tell him a bedtime story, but she soon gets a taste of her own medicine. Johnny Boo loves that Chicken can just jump right in to the books and interact with the characters.

Johnny Boo's note: I like it because it's a great book. I like when the chicken interrupts the stories.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Balloon Toons: Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors
Author/illustrator: Ethan Long
Publisher: Blue Apple Books
Source: Public library

Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors is a graphic novel for beginning readers. In it Rack teaches the reluctant Rick to fish, figures out the mysterious tracks (from a fire-breathing dragon, maybe?) made during the two animals' hike, and shows Rick how to row a canoe and why it's important to wear a life jacket. Each of the threes stories has a funny ending and left Johnny Boo wanting more. While there aren't any more Rick & Rack books, there are several more Balloon Toon books, and if you're a fan of Toon Books, you'll probably like these as well.

Johnny Boo's note: I like it because they go fishing. I like when they're on a path.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Share a Story, Shape a Future: iPad/iPhone Apps That Promote Literacy

Share a Story, Shape a Future is a five-day online literacy event whose theme this year is "Unwrapping the Gift of Literacy." Today's topic, hosted by Danielle at There's a Book, is "Unwrapping Literacy 2.0." For my part, I'll be talking about some of the book and reading-related apps my children use and how they fit into our reading lifestyle.

First, though, a little background on us. We're a family of readers. I read to my boys (8 and 5) during breakfast every morning, and their dad and I read to them every night. The whole family (dad on weekends) has sustained silent reading time every afternoon. The 5-year-old doesn't have much trouble convincing me to take him to the library two or three times a week, and the first thing the 8-year-old does when he gets home from school is run to our stack of new library books. At school he has library time once a week and usually picks one book for himself and one for his little brother; his little brother is entering Kindergarten next year, and the thing he's most looking forward to: library time. The older one is always reading three or four chapter books or graphic novels at a time; the younger one likes to line up series books in order of publication date.We all love playing bookstore and library. And, as I write this, the older one is reading library books to the younger one (overheard from the other room: "You want me to read you another book? I'll read you whatever you want, even if it's a chapter book"). It's important to us that we see one another around books (and any form of the printed word, really), and we have books in every room.

Bottom line: In our house, the printed book isn't going anywhere.

But then there's the iPad. And the 8-year-old's iPod Touch. Here, they complement our print material, except in the case of the newspaper – we read the local paper on the iPad, and the 8-year-old reads his comics on Flipboard. Both boys have their favorite book and reading-related apps. We don't have a standalone e-reader, so sometimes when I think they're reading or doing something else educational, they're actually playing Cut the Rope or World of Goo (both fine games, when used in moderation). Or they're creating their own accounts on Amazon and adding Harry Potter books to their carts (don't get me started). But mostly, I think, they use the iPad and iPod Touch for good.

There are the books, of course, some of which we get via NetGalley, iBooks, and Kindle, and some of which we get from the App Store. We've reviewed a couple of our favorites: How Rocket Learned to Read and The Three Little Pigs. Here are a few of our other favorite bells-and-whistles book apps:

Bookster (free): Listen to a book called What If... (more stories coming soon) in read-along mode with words highlighted as they are read, or record yourself reading the story. Individual words highlight and are read aloud when tapped.

Dr. Seuss books ($2.99): Listen to the narrated story with words highlighted as they are read; read it yourself; or let it automatically read and turn pages. Words zoom up and are spoken when pictures are touched, and individual words highlight and are read aloud when tapped.

    PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit ($3.99): Listen to the narrated story with words highlighted as they are read, or read it yourself and hear individual words spoken with the tap of a finger. Features include pull-tabs, spin-wheels, and spring-mounted elements.

    Toy Story Read-Along (free): Listen to the narrator, read it yourself, or record your own voice. The record-your-own voice feature is the 5-year-old's favorite in a book app – hearing his own voice gets him (even more) excited about reading.

    Our favorite book apps that appeal to our obsessive, book-hoarding nature:

    International Digital Children's Library (free): Features a collection of thousands of books in dozens of languages; you can also view the books online.
    Tales2Go (30-day free trial): Gives you on-demand and unlimited access to more than 1,400 streaming audio stories for kids, including one of our favorite series, Ivy & Bean. This is now the 8-year-old's favorite app, and the 5-year-old loves searching for his favorite books.
    And, finally, some reading-related apps that really challenge my boys to think and create:

    BrainPOP (free): Delivers daily animated, captioned movies, covering the following subjects: science, social studies, English, math, arts & music, health, and technology & engineering. After watching the featured movie, children can test their comprehension with the accompanying interactive quiz. Thanks to BrainPOP, I might just have the only preschooler who knows how to use a semicolon (the featured topic on National Grammar Day).

    Mad Libs (free; $3.99): Just like the Mad Libs books, except that this app features an interactive fill-in-the-blank type-pad for those kids who know their parts of speech and, like Mad Libs Jr. but interactive, a plethora of words from which to choose for younger kids.

    Montessori Crosswords ($2.99): Helps kids learn reading, spelling, and writing with three levels of crossword play; displays colorful interactive visual effects that can be manipulated by the child every time a crossword is completed. For open-ended activities with letters, the standalone movable alphabet lets kids move letters around, resize them, and form words or sentences.

    Story Patch ($4.99): Write stories for your children or have them write, illustrate, and read back their own stories. The app includes several themes, such as A Trip to the Zoo and Discovering a New Planet, for which kids answer a few questions to personalize an already existing story. Kids can also create stories from scratch. There are more than 800 illustrations to add to both themed and made-from-scratch stories. Both boys love this; the 5-year-old has been spending copious amounts of time creating stories and reading them back to us.

    Timed Reading ($1.99): Readers in grades K-4 practice fluency by reading short, timed stories. Read our review to find out more.

    Let's face it: Children need to read, to be read to, and to have access to reading material. All that matters is that they're excited about reading, whether it's print books, e-books, or reading-related apps (or, in our case, all three). As Maya Angelou said, "Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him."

    Disclosure: The Share A Story, Shape A Future button was created by Elizabeth Dulemba.

      Tuesday, March 8, 2011

      Word of the Week/How to Raise a Dinosaur

      It's time for our Word of the Week feature here at LitLad. Here's how it works: Every Sunday the boys and I read a book from which they pick their favorite-sounding unfamiliar word. They each write the word that night and we try to use it in conversation as much as we can throughout the week. According to The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, "the only words children learn having heard them only once are the words you wish you had never said in front of them."

      This week's word is perplexing, an adjective that means "confusing, puzzling."

      And we're reading How to Raise a Dinosaur, in which a boy helping us pick out a pet says, "Picking the perfect pet can be perpetually perplexing. There are so many choices!"

      How to Raise a Dinosaur
      Author/illustrator: Natasha Wing/Pablo Bernasconi
      Publisher: Running Press Kids (October 2010)
      Source: Public library

      Narrated by a young boy who is quite knowledgeable about all the usual kinds of pets – dogs, cats, horses, lizards ... and dinosaurs? – How to Raise a Dinosaur tells you everything you need to know to buy the right dinosaur and make a happy home for it. With lots of flaps to lift, the frightened expressions of passersby, and the humorous take on the similarities to raising a dog, this was an entertaining read for both boys and received more than a few laughs.

      Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

      Saturday, March 5, 2011

      8-Year-Old Boy Books of the Week: Alvin Ho, Just Disgusting, The Storyteller's Secrets

      Here are Tintin's favorites from the past week:

      Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters
      Author/illustrator:Lenore Look/LeUyen Pham
      Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (June 2009)
      Source: Elementary school library

      In Alvin Ho's second book (see our review of the first one), Alvin's dad is convinced Alvin will come to like camping and hiking. But Alvin is scared of almost everything and is worried he won't come back alive. He gets help from his brother, who uses their dad's credit card to buy survival gear, and from his uncle, who teaches him how to trap (Alvin actually does a good job with his first trap, but his victim isn't too impressed). As with the first Alvin Ho book, there's a glossary of the things he's afraid of as well as some of his favorite things. Tintin is looking forward to reading the third Alvin Ho book, Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes.

      Tintin's note: I like when he's scared of bears because it's funny. The bears look just like the one in the Greek myths graphic novel [Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders].

      Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

      Just Disgusting
      Author/illustrator: Andy Griffiths
      Publisher: Scholastic (February 2005)
      Source: Public library

      Just Disgusting is just that: disgusting. The first chapter is a list of 101 disgusting things, the first of which is brussels sprouts (and then it's all downhill from there). The rest of the chapters are short stories, all disgusting, of course, and all having to do with young Andy. There's a choose-your-own adventure story about making a cake, a comic about two brown blobs in a bathtub, a play whose cast consists of nothing but dead flies, and more. This book is so disgusting that it's perfect for boys 8 years old and up. And now I'm getting requests for more of Andy Griffiths' Just books (including Just Annoying, Just Joking, and Just Stupid).

      Tintin's note: They have a lot of disgusting things in the book. I like when the two brown blobs are getting closer to the rubber ducky and the kid.

      Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

      The Storyteller's Secrets
      Author/illustrator: Tony Mitton/Peter Bailey
      Publisher: David Fickling Books (June 2010)
      Source: Public library

      Twins Toby and Tess share their lunch with an old stranger one day, and to thank them he tells them a story in rhyme. He comes back several more times to tell them his stories and each time he gives them a little treasure to remind them of the tales he's told. He begins with "The Woodcutter's Daughter" and goes on to tell them "St. Brigid's Cloak," "The Seal Hunter," "The Pedlar of Swaffham," and "Tam Lin." The book ends with "The Map of Marvels," in which the storyteller gives Toby and Tess a mysterious map, reveals a secret, and then disappears. I've started reading a book to the boys during breakfast each morning, and this was one of them. I read a story each morning until we were done, and Tintin always wanted "just one more story."

      Tintin's note: I like all the treasures that Teller gave Toby and Tess. I like when Tam Lin turned into all those freaky animals.

      Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

      5-Year-Old Boy Books of the Week: Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye; Owly; The Silly Gooses

      Here are Johnny Boo's favorites from the past week:

      Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye 1: Hamster and Cheese
      Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye 2: And Then There Were Gnomes
      Author/illustrator: Colleen AF Venable/Stephanie Yue
      Publisher: Graphic Universe (April 2010)
      Source: Public library

      Sasspants is a bookish guinea pig who lives in a pet shop, but when she loses a "G" from her tank, one of the hamsters mistakes her for a PI and insists that she solve a case for him. Hamisher the hamster, who thinks he's a koala (the pet shop owner isn't very good at telling animals apart, and so the snake tank is labeled "Llamas" and the mice tank is labeled "Walruses"), refuses to leave Sasspants alone until she agrees to find out who keeps stealing the pet shop owner's sandwiches. In And Then There Were Gnomes, Hamisher again convinces Sasspants to solve a case for him, but this time they need to find out who the ghost is and where the missing mice are. At the end of each graphic novel, there is a section called "Hamisher Explains": In the first book Hamisher tells us about snakes and in the second one his subject of choice is mice. And because Mr. Venezi, the pet shop owner, gets his animals confused, the last page of each book explains the differences between the real animals and the ones he mistakes them for. Tintin likes these too, although he hasn't been able to get the first one away from his brother yet.

      Johnny Boo's note: I like when Sasspants meets that hamster. In the second book I like the title because it's kind of scary.

      Find Hamster and Cheese: Amazon, IndieBound
      Find And Then There Were Gnomes: Amazon, IndieBound

      Owly, Vol. 5: Tiny Tales
      Author/illustrator: Andy Runton
      Publisher: Top Shelf Productions (October 2008)
      Source: Public library

      The fifth volume of Owly includes a new Owly adventure and a collection of the first Owly stories from the original mini-comics. There are also two Free Comic Book Day stories, as well as sections on how Owly came to be and how to draw Owly. In this all-ages wordless graphic novel, and in the other Owly volumes, the adorable Owly and his friends show a love of nature and the importance of helping friends in need. Johnny Boo loves it when we read Owly together, but I think he wishes a lightbulb would appear over his own head whenever he gets an idea.

      Johnny Boo's note: Owly has no words, but I like it. I like it because it has lots of pictures. I like every picture of Andy Runton.

      Find out more about Owly at Watch. Connect. Read.

      Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

      The Silly Gooses
      Author/illustrator: Dav Pilkey
      Publisher: Blue Sky Press (1997)
      Source: Public library

      The Silly Gooses is six chapters of silliness. Mr. Goose is not proper and serious like the other geese in his flock. He plays the accordion and wears a jester's hat, and he rests on a beanbag chair instead of in a nest. While all the other geese are ready to be married, Mr. Goose just keeps on being silly. But when another flock of geese appears, one goose (who happens to be riding in a hot air balloon and playing the banjo) catches his eye. They fall in love and get married, and instead of having a cake and throwing a big party, they have a party and throw a big cake (at the proper and serious geese). They eventually have two silly babies who put ketchup and mustard on their ice cream sundaes and hot fudge sauce on their burgers, and they all go on to lead a very silly life. I'm not sure how many times we've read this book this week, but it's been a lot.

      Johnny Boo's note: Dav Pilkey – his first name is really funny. I like when the silly goose falls in the water.

      Find The Silly Gooses activities

      Find the book: Amazon

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      iPad App Review: The Three Little Pigs

       Review by Johnny Boo, age 5


      The Three Little Pigs
      App developer: Nosy Crow
      Price: $7.99 ($1.99 till end-of-day March 3); free lite version
      Requirements: Compatible with iPad (will soon be available for iPhone and iPod Touch)

      The Three Little Pigs is about a wolf coming in the neighborhood. The pigs were building their houses. And then the wolf couldn't blow down the brick house. I like The Three Little Pigs because it's good and wondrous and wonderful. I like when the wolf hides against the pigs' house in the very beginning. I like to flick the van up. I would recommend this app to kids who like little pigs and kids who are wolves for Halloween.

      LitLass's note: I don't think my boys will ever tire of this app. They are of course familiar with the story of The Three Little Pigs, but they've never seen it like this. They can touch the pigs to make them talk, jump or spin; flick the wolf's van to make it jump or flip over (their favorite part); help the pigs build their houses; and help the wolf blow the houses down by blowing into the microphone. They can also tilt the iPad to see more of the scene and zoom in to reveal hidden details. Everything about this app (Nosy Crow's first, by the way) is, as Johnny Boo says, wondrous.

      The Three Little Pigs is the first of at least four fairy tale apps from Nosy Crow. The others are Cinderella (summer 2010), Little Red Riding Hood (autumn 2011), and Goldilocks (early 2012). 

      March 3 is World Book Day! To celebrate, Nosy Crow is dropping the price of The Three Little Pigs to $1.99 in the U.S. (£1.19 and 1.59 Euros) for one day only. 

      Find it: full version, lite version

      Disclosure: We received a promo code for this app from Nosy Crow at no cost in exchange for this review.