Monthly Archives: January 2012

Great Deal on The Lego Ideas Book!

I bought this excellent book at Barnes and Noble for $24.99 right before Christmas…I just saw it at Costco today for $6.99!  It’s a great book that provides a lot of different, open-ended projects for use with existing Legos.  It allows kids to develop their building skills (and creativity skills) and also can provide some useful Lego byproducts, such as action figure display cabinet built from Legos.

Here it is on Amazon.


Filed under Book Deals, Book Reviews for Kids, Raising a Reader

Encouraging Reading: A Library is Born

Encouraging Reading: A Library is Born.

One day…we will have a library like this.  When we win the lottery.

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Mason Reviews Upchuck and The Rotten Willy: The Great Escape

Upchuck and The Rotten Willy: The Great Escape is about a cat named Upchuck and a dog named Willy.  They have a fine time together.  They’re friends who have a lot of fun and they go out on adventures to discover the world.  Since they’re animals, they just go find out what people do.  Well, one example is, they crossed the street by themselves and went in a different neighborhood.  The street was a busy street.  They made some friends in the new neighborhood, mostly cats and dogs and one skunk.  The skunk sprayed Willy and Upchuck.

The funniest part is when Upchuck was on top of Willy’s head, and he pushed the button to cross the street.  There was this car with two people in it and the guy said, “Well, would you look at that!  There’s a dog under a cat, and the cat is on the dog’s head!”  And the woman said, “There’s no such thing!  That is a ridiculous behavior!”

I think my rating for this book is an 8.  It was an 8 because it’s a funny book.  To me, I only laughed a little bit, but it’s a funny book.  I think everybody will like it.  It has a lot of pages in it and it has small type too.  It’s not as cool as Origami Yoda, but they’re both kind of funny.

From Mason

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Camille reviews Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back

ImageHello, this is Camille.  I have read this book about a lion.  It is a very a good story about a young but tall lion named Lafcadio.  He doesn’t know anything!  He is used to lying in the sun.

He didn’t know what hunters were.  Then, an old lion came to him and said, “Run!  Run!  The hunters are coming!”  The young lion got up and started running, but he didn’t run very fast.  Then he stopped, “Hunters?  I like the name Hunters.”  Then the hunter came over to him and said, “Eat me, eat me!  If you don’t eat me, then I will have to shoot you.”  The young lion said, “Why are you going to shoot me?  I like being who I am. I don’t want to be shot!”  After that, the hunter said “Run away then!  Run away!”  But the lion didn’t run away.  So the young lion finally said, “I do not want to be shot, and I don’t want to run away.  So I will eat you.”  So he ate the hunter…everything, all his clothes and all.  Then he tried to eat his gun, but it was too hard to eat, so he said “I will keep it as a souvenir!”

ImageThen, after that, he practiced and practiced shooting, just like the hunter did.  So he got really good. One day, a circus man came.  He was a looking for a lion he could take to the circus.  So all of the lions said “Lafcadio!  Lafcadio! It is time for our lunch!”  So he began to do his most famous shot.  “I’m not a hunter like you think I am,” said the circus man.  I am looking for a lion that shoots very well that I can take to the circus with me.  Then Lafcadio said, “Well, you can take me!”  So the circus man said, “You don’t mind?”  Lafcadio said, “No, I don’t! I want to go to the city and see what is there.”

So the circus man took him to the city.  He took him to his home at an apartment building. When he first got in the elevator, Lafcadio said, “I want to do this one hundred thousand, two hundred and ninety-five times!”  So the man said, “No, I will not do this!” so the lion said “GGRRRRSSooo!”  And the elevator man said…”Oh yes, you may do that as many times as you want.”

Then he said, you need to get cleaned up, so they went to his room.  He put him in the bath, and the lion said, “Ow ow ow!  This is really hot!”  Then he said, “Well, let’s wash you up and take you out.  We’re going to make this quick.”  So he took him out of the bath, and took him to the barber shop.  The barber said, “I’m sorry, but we do not allow lions in our barber shop.”  But the lion said “GRRRRRoossshhh!” And the man said, “Ok ok ok, you may get your hair cut as much as you want.”  And then he got his hair cut way short, and his tail was cut so short that you could barely see the fur on his tail.  Then he needed to get a suit and hat.  So, he went to the tailor and got a marshmallow suit because he asked for a marshmallow suit.  As soon as he put it on, it melted all over him.

ImageThen he went to the circus, and he became a shooter, and he shot everything, like there were banners that he had to shoot. It was basically trick shooting.

After the circus, he started crying because he didn’t want to go to the circus anymore.  He didn’t like the job anymore.  The circus man said, “Well, if you don’t like doing this anymore, you can be a hunter.”  And so the lion said yes, but deep down, he was a real lion, and he didn’t remember.  He thought he was a person.

He went back to where he lived, and he was going to shoot the lions.  The old lion who helped Lafcadio get away from the hunters recognized him and said, “Hey, why are you shooting us?  You are a lion just like us, I can see your tail sticking out on your bottom!”  Lafcadio got the feeling that he was a lion again. “You’re right, I shouldn’t be doing this.”  So he turned back into a lion.

It was really funny, because when he was in the city he didn’t know what to do.  He really liked marshmallows but he didn’t know what they were, so we (me and my brother Mason) thought that was the funny part.  The first time he tried the marshmallows, he said he liked it.  We thought it was very funny when he asked for the marshmallow suit, and when he wanted to go in the elevator a hundred times.  I thought it was funniest when he ate a roasted marshmallow just coming out of the fire, and he didn’t know what fire was, and the marshmallow still had fire on it.  He ate it and he said “Ow! My tongue’s on fire!”

On my scale, I think it will be number nine because it is very funny.  I think pretty much all kids would like it.

Your friend,


NOTE FROM MOM:  When I hear my kids LOL’ing while reading, I know it’s a good one.  They both enjoyed this book tremendously and actually fought over whose turn it was to read it.  It is written by Camille’s favorite author, Shel Silverstein.  This is a great book to read aloud (parents will think it’s funny also), or a good one for beginning — mid-level chapter readers to read independently.  This is one of the books I would recommend purchasing over borrowing from the library…I think you’ll get a lot of reads out of it!

Have you read it? Let us know what you think.


Filed under Book Reviews, Book Reviews for Kids

Mom Reviews The Moment, by Douglas Kennedy

Before discussing the book, I’d like to say that this particular author has a very impressive vocabulary.  I make it a habit of looking up words I don’t know, and I had to look up quite a few while reading this book.  Test yourself and let me know how many of these you got right. Answers will be at the bottom of the post.

impecunious:  a)  carefree, without regard  b) penniless, poor c) lacking sense

castellatus:  a)  cloud with small turrets b) of or relating to the baroque period c) percussion instrument

felucca:  a)  men’s hat b) a sailing vessel c) trim surrounding an arched doorway

bromide (in addition to a chemical compound, it is also):  a)  a caustic comment b) a trite saying c) a dubious remark

paroxysm:  a)  coincidental occurrence b)  atypical political viewpoint c) violent outburst

Now…on to the book.

When forced to make a quick but momentous decision, I often wonder afterwards how different my life would have been if I had chosen a different path.  Although this book explores several themes, the residue that is left…the point that I thought about after finishing the book…was the effect of hastily made decisions.  This theme always intrigues me, in part because I morbidly fear that I may be faced with a similar decision one day (swerve or stop?, or more seemingly innocuous decisions such as, let my kids go to the party or keep them home?) and make the wrong decision that ends in tragedy.  I think all parents have this fear to a certain extent.

This book explores that theme through romantic love.  The main character, Thomas, is a writer who is recently divorced.  A package arrives from Berlin which he assumes is from his former lover, and thus begins the flashback that encompasses most of the story.  Thomas goes off to Berlin to write a book, at which point the book explores communism, the Cold War, and all of the related issues in Germany during the late 1980’s.  Midway through, he meets and falls in love with Petra, and we learn how they ended up apart by the end of the story.

Although I enjoyed this book, it could have been edited significantly.  I had to rally about halfway through, because the author often said in 100 pages what could have been expressed in twenty.  For example, the romantic portion (which encompasses maybe 25% of the book) reiterated over and over:  I love her!  How can I love her so much?  I just do! It’s really great! I can’t wait to see her again!  over and over and over.  I get it, I don’t need to be pounded over the head.

BUT…if you can make it through the repetition in the first 70% of the book, the remaining 30% is worth the effort.  Finally at the end, the book provides intrigue, thought provocation, most important benchmark…I couldn’t put it down.

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this book a 7…if it were edited by 100-150 pages, it would be an 8.

Here are the answers to the quiz, how did you do?

impecunious:   b) penniless, poor

castellatus:  a)  cloud with small turrets

felucca:  b) a sailing vessel

bromide (in addition to a chemical compound, it is also):  b) a trite saying

paroxysm:  c) violent outburst

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Mason, 7, reviews The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

I read the Strange Case of Origami Yoda.  It is about a boy named Dwight who folded his own origami Yoda without directions.  People ask Origami Yoda a question, and Origami Yoda tries to answer it.

For example, one kid named Quavondo kept taking Cheetos and not sharing, so they called him the Cheeto Hog. So he asked Origami Yoda, “How can I stop being a Cheeto Hog?”   Origami Yoda told him, “Get Cheetos for everybody.”  He said ok, so at nighttime, he and his big brother went to the grocery shop and he got Cheetos for everybody.  So the day after, at the assembly, he gave Cheetos to everybody.

I  like this book because everybody keeps asking Origami Yoda a question, and he answers really funny questions.  It’s a little bit cool, and it’s about middle schoolers.  I like Dwight because he’s weird, like me.

I think boys will enjoy it because it’s a cool book.  Some girls will like it, girls who like boy stuff.  Some girls do, actually.  I rate this a 9 out of 10.

MOM’S PERSPECTIVE:  Although I did not read the whole book, Mason read a few of these chapters aloud to me.  It has the type of humor you’d find in Diary of  a Wimpy Kid, and also in a similar diary format (although very few pictures).  It centers around middle school-aged kids feeling dorky and trying to figure out how to be cool.  It’s innocent fun, nothing that younger kids shouldn’t read.  Boys will definitely like it, but I think girls will as well.  There are a few significant girl characters in the book, although as Mason pointed out, “the girls in the book are like boys”…I’m assuming that means they are sporty…?  It also has instructions in the back on how to fold your own Origami Yoda, which Mason hasn’t yet tried but is very excited to do.


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Raising a Reader

“My kid doesn’t like to read,” I sometimes hear in frustration from moms who love books themselves.  I can get the frustration. We love to read.  We form book clubs.  We look at it as a special break.  Then…pulling teeth when asking our kids to do so.

Here are a few strategies I’ve used over the years that, I believe, have contributed to my kids’ love of reading.  Some of them were not even thought out, but just organically “happened” as I shared my love of reading with them.

  1. Early Exposure:  We had books EVERYWHERE.  In the living room, in the high chair, in the crib.   My daughter, here at about 14 months, would literally spend hours sitting in piles of books, “reading”: 
    Books were “toys”…I didn’t stress over teeth marks and ripped pages, which is contrary to some advice.  I let them mutilate them and truly enjoy them…by the time they outgrew the baby books, most looked like they had been handled by hungry tigers.  By the way, the first book C is “reading” in this video is Where’s Spot, a must for any toddler.
  2. Read Aloud.  Every day.  And we did, from the time they were babies.  Not only that, it was the time of day I most anticipated:  quiet, special time with my two precious angels.  Personally, I try to read at a level that is beyond their own skills: reading chapter books to a picture book reader teaches them to use their imagination.  Besides helping your children, you’re also helping yourself:  reading aloud is brain exercise.  In addition to academic benefits, there are a host of other reasons to read aloud. For more information on this topic, Jim Trelease has an excellent book on the importance of reading to your children.     Continue reading


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