Book Review – Drawing School

Drawing School book review

I’m a sucker for art books. When I was homeschooling, I had quite a few on the shelves for my kids like Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad and various Klutz Art books, among others. I have always felt that basic art and drawing skills are important to teach!

I recently had the chance to review Drawing School. (Thank you Quarto Group and Edelweiss!) This book is ADORABLE and stuffed full of over 300 things to draw with very clear and easy-to-follow drawing instructions. The 272 pages are organized into categories of items that will appeal to both boys and girls. The categories are:

  • Pets
  • Sports Stuff
  • Let’s Celebrate
  • On the Farm
  • At the Beach
  • Under the Sea
  • At the Zoo
  • In the Garden
  • At the Circus
  • At the Show (with things like guitars, instruments, a movie star, etc.)
  • In a Fairy Tale
  • Around the House
  • At School
  • Around Town
  • Around the World
  • Beyond Our World (planets, an astronaut, etc.)
  • In the Past (dinosaurs)

The book starts out with a small section on supplies and basic drawing instruction, like learning how to see shapes and different types of lines.

Each section features a number of specific items that belong in the category. The items are shown being drawn in full color with manageable steps like the following screenshot of a cat’s head:

At the end of each section, there is a full color, 2-page spread that shows many of the section’s drawings in a scene like this:

Homeschoolers will like the Around the World section with instructions on how to draw things like an Egyptian pharaoh:

This book is not just for kids. I got it for myself, lol…because the drawings are so cute and perfect for handmade cards and notes.

I LOVE this book. I love the happy, colorful drawings, as well as the simple drawing instructions. If you have a student who loves drawing, Drawing School would make an excellent Christmas present, or a perfect addition to a low-key art program.

Book Review – Nyxia

I haven’t taken any time to review books in a long time, but recently came across a Y.A. (young adult) sci-fi book that looked so promising, I had to grab the ARC copy. I’m SO glad I did, because Nyxia by Scott Reintgen is one of the best YA sci-fi books I’ve read in a long time. It features a host of multi-cultural characters (which is unusual!), unexpected twists, great pacing, and some unique sci-fi elements that were a joy to read for the geeky girl inside me. 😉 I devoured it in 2 days and am chomping at the bit to get the other 2 books in the series (which are, as yet, unpublished)! It reminds me of a mix of Hunger Games, The Maze, and maybe a smattering of Red Rising – and yet it’s quite original.

Here’s the book’s description, and then I’ll add my comments:

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

There’s a bit of mystery swirling throughout the entire book. The author only hints at bits and pieces about the Babel Corporation – letting you know there is something more going on, but not unraveling what that something is. It’s clear Babel is the most powerful corporation on Earth, and it’s clear they aren’t upfront with their recruits. That’s about all that’s clear! They aren’t telling them something about the mysterious and most valuable material ever found – Nyxia, or the circumstances surrounding their trip to Eden. Babel is lying about… something. Babel is hiding…something, not only from the recruits, but from those left behind on Earth. That thread winds itself through the novel, leaving tantalizing clues, but never giving any concrete answers.

There is also something about Nyxia itself that is almost frightening. From it, Babel has achieved unheard of technological advances. It’s a material that can be manipulated into almost anything, and yet you wonder, is the material itself doing the manipulating?

Then, there is the mystery surrounding the Adamaites, the native inhabitants of Eden who are more technologically advanced and powerful then we are. There is something that has gone wrong with the Adamites and it seems they are unable to reproduce. The youngest Adamite is in his 50’s and for some reason it appears that there are no more females. They treasure and adore children…which is why these 10 teens are hurtling through space on their way to Eden. Only children will be allowed on the planet to mine Nyxia and a competition ensues. Out of the 10 recruits, only 8 will be chosen.

The children chosen are from poverty stricken backgrounds, all of them with a huge and desperate needs. Babel exploits those needs in what becomes a brutal competition.  The losing 2 will get a small amount of money, but the winners will get everything beyond their wildest dreams, not only for themselves, but for their families. For Emmett it means saving his mother from the cancer that’s killing her. If he loses the competition, he could very well lose her. This isn’t just about being rich (and famous), it’s about life and death.  That makes some interesting moral situations that don’t always have an easy answer. The desperation all of the recruits face is also something that makes it easier for them to ignore the undercurrent that something isn’t quite right.

I loved the character development throughout the book as these teens are stretched to their limits – both physically and sometimes morally. The adults in the book are also multi-layered. No one is purely black or white as far as good and evil and the struggles the characters go through are thought-provoking. I loved the honest approach to these struggles. It wasn’t always clear what a character would do in different situations, and the author didn’t shy away from allowing even Emmett to have flaws that he had to work and sometimes fight through. You grow to love him and other characters and you also can’t help but hate some as well, and yet nothing is ever totally set in stone in that regard. Even the hated characters have their reasons for being the way they are and because of the depth of the character development and the complexity of the situations, it’s not always totally clear who you want to win, or who you want to lose…

As a parent, I can say that this books is quite CLEAN and promotes morality – but in an honest and non-preachy way. The characters have their struggles, but it’s refreshing to see some take the higher path, even if it could turn out to be a sacrifice. Emmett’s background is also positive. He comes from a rough neighborhood, but he’s stayed away from drugs and other negative lifestyle choices. He loves and honors his parents, and their relationship is touching. There is a little bit of “boy likes girl” with a scene of holding hands and a non-descriptive kiss. The way it’s handled is pretty wholesome and doesn’t seem contrived or out of place, nor is it “obsessive.”

Another thing I noticed is that there are multiple minor religious references. At first I wasn’t sure if they were underhanded digs toward Christians, but over time figured out that the author is coming from a Christian background and drops little tidbits here and there that aren’t proselytizing, but appear as the main character struggles to understand things or in reference to Babel. They won’t offend a secular reader, and they are refreshing to a Christian reader. I get tired of YA books with anti-Christian agendas. This isn’t one of them.

There is a LOT of violence in this book,

***spoiler alert***

including a death that was a bit unexpected (think: a Game of Thrones killing that gets rid of a character you LIKE).

***end of spoiler alert***

The violence is probably at the level of Hunger Games. I recall only one incident of very minor cursing (the word hell).

The “about the author” note states: Scott Reintgen has spent his career as a teacher of English and creative writing in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. The hardest lesson he learned was that inspiration isn’t equally accessible for everyone. So he set out to write a novel for the front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms. He hopes that his former students see themselves, vibrant and on the page, in characters like Emmett.

I think he’s done a tremendous job in creating a page-turning novel that does exactly what he was trying to do. It’s very difficult to find any worthwhile sci-fi that is accessible to teens (and adults who like YA novels!!). Nyxia does a terrific job not only as a sci-fi novel, but also as something that tackles tough issues and brings to life a multitude of cultures in a fresh and exciting way. If you have a teen who loves sci-fi or you want to encourage a student to dip his/her feet into that genre, Nyxia definitely fills a YA sci-fi void! I can’t wait for the next two books to come out!!

A book in my high school anatomy curriculum is on sale!

Alex The Life of a Child

Alex: The Life of a Child is a Kindle daily deal today! For just today, you can get this book for $1.99 by clicking on the link above. It’s a book I schedule in my high school anatomy curriculum. Here’s the description:

“In 1971 a girl named Alex was born with cystic fibrosis, a degenerative genetic lung disease. Although health-care innovations have improved the life span of CF patients tremendously over the last four decades, the illness remains fatal.

Given only two years to live by her doctors, the imaginative, excitable, and curious little girl battled through painful and frustrating physical-therapy sessions twice daily, as well as regular hospitalizations, bringing joy to the lives of everyone she touched. Despite her setbacks, brave Alex was determined to live life like a typical girl—going to school, playing with her friends, traveling with her family. Ultimately, however, she succumbed to the disease in 1980 at the age of eight.

Award-winning author Frank Deford, celebrated primarily as a sportswriter, was also a budding novelist and biographer at the time of his daughter’s birth. Deford kept a journal of Alex’s courageous stand against the disease, documenting his family’s struggle to cope with and celebrate the daily fight she faced. This book is the result of that journal.

Alex relives the events of those eight years: moments as heartwarming as when Alex recorded herself saying “I love you” so her brother could listen to her whenever he wanted, and as heartrending as the young girl’s tragic, dawning realization of her own very tenuous mortality, and her parents’ difficulty in trying to explain why.

Though Alex is a sad story, it is also one of hope; her greatest wish was that someday a cure would be found. Deford has written a phenomenal memoir about an extraordinary little girl.”

This is a heartbreaking and inspiring story. I was so happy to see it on sale today and snatched it up for Otter, who requested to start our new high school anatomy curriculum this fall, when he saw all of the great books!

The Science of Seasons is published!

Science booksI’m so excited to announce that The Science of Seasons set of books is finally published and available for purchase! They are available on our NEW online store and also from Amazon.com! I’ve also created a FREE science curriculum to go with them!

If you are a member of Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited you can check out The Science of Seasons for free via the Kindle lending library! The Science of Seasons Activities book is also on sale for a limited time in honor of our book launch! You can get the PDF of the activity book for only $7.50. That’s HALF off the normal PDF price and even more than half off the softcover price. Visit our online store for detailed descriptions of the books as well as a free handwriting paper pack, and a set of  printable paper dolls with a set of outfits.

Take a peek at some of The Science of Season’s pages (thumbnails do not enlarge):

 sample1  sample2
 sample3  sample4

Here are some pages from The Science of Seasons Activities book:

 

 sample5  sample6
 sample8  sample7
 sample9  samplefall

There are over 100 pages of activities and lessons in the activity book that expand on topics presented in The Science of Seasons.

Some of the activities and lessons include:

  • Greek and Latin Root Cards, Vocabulary CardsArt projects
  • Copywork assignments
  • Cutout playsets and figures
  • Dot-to-dot
  • Geography
  • Greek & Latin roots
  • Lapbook style cutouts
  • Language & culture study
  • Make your own comic book templates and cutouts
  • Mazes
  • Sciencestuff
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary activities and cutout cards
  • ..and much more!

Click here for a list of topics and learning points.

I’ve really worked hard to create books that will teach, but that are also lots of fun. Many of the kids who’ve tested these books are especially fans of Beowulf, a lively and cute fox terrier whose face can be found on quite a few pages!

The Science of Seasons books have been a labor of love and I’m so grateful to everyone who helped make them possible! A huge thank-you goes to my husband for making this all possible, my mom & dad for all their encouragement, and my friend Beth for her hawk-eyed proofreading! I’m also so thankful for all my testers – the moms and kids who read and worked through the books before they were available to the public and gave their wise suggestions with a huge dose of enthusiasm!

Now here comes the hard part: spreading the word!

I need your help to make this series successful so that I can write and illustrate more books. Please tell your friends and share our happy news of the books on your blogs and social media. If you read either of the books, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.com, Goodreads, and/or my store.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for more books in the series!

A Sneak Peek!

I’m getting close to finishing The Science of Seasons Learn-and-Play Activities book!

Here’s the rough draft front cover:The Science of Seasons Learn and Play Activities book

 

Here is the rough draft back cover:

cover2

It’s 142 pages long, so I’m going to change the “Over 100 pages!” quote to something bigger like “Over 140 pages!”, lol.

It’s chock full of fun activities and will be sold in both a softcover and PDF format. In fact, I just finished testing my new online store that will be up-and-running sometime next month! I’m so excited to share all of my hard work with you! I’ll post more sneak peeks very soon!

In other news, I started an illustration blog that will be dedicated to illustration, art and self publishing topics. Those topics are a little different flavor than this blog, so I decided those types of posts needed their own home. You can take a look here! If you want to follow my work as an illustrator and read about me babbling about Photoshop or Prismacolors or some such, feel free to subscribe to those posts at the link above. 🙂

Book update!

My book, The Science of Seasons, is almost ready to be published! I recently received the proof copy. After making a few changes I’ll send for a 2nd proof. If everything looks good, it will be ready to sell on Amazon sometime next month!

I’m also almost finished with the accompanying activity book. It’s over 90 pages long and chock full of goodies. Stay tuned to my blog to see some sneak peeks in the next few weeks!

For now, here’s a low-res copy of The Science of Seasons front cover! I’m so excited to share it with you all!

The Science of Seasons book

 

Amazing deal on The Elements book by Theodore Gray

The Elements (book)

Amazon is having a Daily Deal on the Kindle version of this book for 1.99!! We have the hardcover and it’s a book Otter has taken off the shelf repeatedly for years now. He still thumbs through it at times and really loves it.

The Elements is such an amazing book. Each element has a variety of beautiful and clear photographs to illustrate it along with interesting information. It’s so neat to see the different elements being used in a multitude of different products as well as in their pure forms.

Every homeschooler should have this book and at 1.99, it’s a steal! Make sure you click on the KINDLE version. The other versions of the book are not on sale. You can look at the Kindle version even if you don’t have a Kindle reader through one of the free apps for PC’s, tablets, smartphones, etc.

Happy homeschooling!

My up-and-coming book is closer to being finished!

I have five illustrations left to create for the children’s book I’m working on (not counting the cover art). I’m really excited to get everything finished up so I can send out copies to my beta testers & proofreaders!

Here is a screenshot from one of the pages (just a portion of a page spread with a watermark added).

abigail

 

My first book in this series is about seasons and not only covers the science behind the seasons but also contains information about different cultures, holidays, geography, some simple recipes and even a tidbit of math. The characters are homeschooled siblings (older sister, younger brother, adopted toddler) with their fox terrier (Beowulf). Homeschooling is not a huge component of the book, so it should appeal to all kids whether they are homeschooled or not. 🙂

I’ll be creating optional unit study materials and a printable playset (and possibly a teacher’s manual) that can be purchased from my website but the book can stand alone and will be available via Amazon as a paperback and also as an ebook.

The book itself is heavily illustrated with a mix of comics, text and even some theater style dialogue that should draw in reluctant readers and help boost retention and clarity. Science concepts are clearly illustrated and while there are Christian elements, they don’t dominate the book but are rather integrated where appropriate (kind of like how I taught my own children). God was always just a part of our life and studies as He is for the kids in the story.

I’m just so tired at not being able to find Christian books on science topics that aren’t a part of some curriculum textbook and that also contain solid scientific concepts without just decorating things up with willy nilly Bible verses for no reason. I always had a huge library of science books for my kids to browse but 98% of them were secular where evolution was heavily promoted (or there was some other type of inappropriate material). The Christian books we had were often boring or stuffy or ugly (I’m a sucker for lavishly illustrated books) or only about creation (or the flood or other similar things) and not your garden variety science topics that my kids NEEDED to learn. I hope my new series will address these issues and give Christian families an alternative they can safely hand over to their kids to learn real science (and other subjects).

Christian parents can be assured that there are no “millions of years” comments to have to skip over or cringe at . For those of you who don’t care, I remain neutral on that subject, but do give credit to God for how things work. I do so without “shoving it down your throat”, if that makes sense. 😉 The book has plenty of great science and other info that should still appeal to secular families.

Anyway, I’m in the home stretch and can’t wait to finish this book up and get started on the next one in the series!

If you want to be in the lottery to be a beta tester, please send an email to guesthollow(at sign)memorableplaces(dot)com with the subject “beta tester”. Please make sure you can meet the following requirements:

  • You will post an honest review of the book on your blog or website (if you don’t have a blog, but use social media, that is an acceptable alternative) and Amazon.com.
  • You are willing to let me know if you run across any typos or information that is not clear, etc.
  • If you read the book to any children, I’d love their feedback too. 🙂

Stay tuned to my blog for updates and an announcement when the book is finished!

Book Review: Indian Captive

Indian Captive

The first Lois Lenski book I ever read was Strawberry Girl. I was instantly enamored with it and went looking to see what other books Lois had written. Lois Lenski wrote a host of old-fashioned, wholesome books and illustrated some of the Betsy-Tacy books.

Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison is a wonderful addition to Lenski’s historical novels – a story about the real life of Mary Jemison who was captured on an Indian raid and raised among the Senecas.

In the early days of American, many children were captured by Indians. Some of these children chose not to return to white families when later given the choice. Mary (nicknamed Molly) was one of those children. Her capture occurred in 1758, right in the middle of the French and Indian War. Except for two older brothers who escaped, her family was massacred. Molly was adopted by the Indians and ended up living the rest of her life with them.

The book changes a few of Molly’s circumstances for younger readers, but is otherwise true to the original story. Lenski has done her research and it shows. She not only accurately captures life with the Seneca (and Iroquois tribe), but also successfully portrays the inner struggle in Molly’s heart and mind as she adjusts to her new life. Molly struggles to not forget her family and hangs on with a fierce tenacity to their memories. She clings to what her mother and father told her before being separated and repeats their names to keep them fresh in her mind. After finding out they’ve been killed, Molly has to deal with the dichotomy of knowing that the Indians who killed her family are also the people who have grown to love and care for her. It’s a warfare in her heart as she struggles to come to grips with these realities.

Once she’s given a chance to go back to white “civilization”, Molly finds she has a final choice to make that will forever seal her fate as one thing or another. Is she white? Is she an Indian?

Indian Captive has a satisfying end. After getting there, you can understand why Molly makes the decision she does, whether you agree with it or not. Besides a great opportunity to learn some real history, the book is a terrific window into Indian culture. The Indians are not portrayed as evil or wonderful. They are a range of everything in between, as all human beings are – with some characters more sympathetic than the rest. Indian Captive made a great addition to our homeschool for the mid 1700’s as we learned about the French and Indian War. I read it out loud to my two older kids and was delighted to be given the opportunity to review the Kindle edition. Besides a complex and emotional story, the illustrations by Lenski are a visual treat.

 

Christian parents, there is some mention of Indian spirituality with mentions of the “Great Spirit”.

I also think this story will appeal more to girls than boys, although both my daughter and son enjoyed it when I read it to them years ago.

If you are looking for a book to delve into Iroquois Indian culture or to illustrate the effects of the French and Indian War on both sides, Indian Captive is a great addition to homeschool history studies. It’s also just a good adventure book that explores a little bit of psychological complexities and makes for some good discussion.

Click here to read more of my book reviews!

*I recieved this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

P.S. For those of you who subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed, please read this post to re-subscribe via my new subscription service and my new feed address. I’ve decided to delay shutting off my old feed for a week or two during the transition so everyone has a chance to migrate to the new system. Thanks and sorry for the inconvenience!

 

Book Review: Tiger Babies Strike Back

Tiger Babies Strike Back Review

Tiger Babies Strike Back: How I Was Raised by a Tiger Mom but Could Not Be Turned to the Dark Side

I am a big fan of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a memoir of a mother with an unflinching look at her extreme parenting based on the “Chinese” way of raising super-kids. Though I don’t agree with most of Amy’s draconian ways of raising her two girls, I still found her book secretly admirable in parts, though flawed.

Tiger Babies Strike back is Kim Wong’s answer to Battle Hymn. It’s her own personal look at Chinese parenting and the toll it takes as well as her personal decision not to follow in the Chinese Tiger Mother footsteps. Her book is a humorous foray into Chinese-American culture as she shares her stories of growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown  Her message: “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be robots.”

Kim has a rambling sort of way of writing. She jumps between history and culture lessons about the Chinese to first hand experiences from her childhood up to her parenting her own daughter. She shares all sorts of stories illustrating the damage done from such a harsh version of Chinese parenting and delves off into rabbit trails about other Chinese cultural bits and pieces with a playful and humorous style that is sometimes tinged with a cutting edge of bitterness.

Kim is sassy, astute and also unapologetic for the message behind her book. She says,

“Tiger Parents, you may be asking yourselves, “What is the point of this book?”

“Love your babies, and show your babies that you love them. Withholding your acceptance and praise while pushing your children into achievement might yield certain results, but that kind of pressure stifles other aspects of growing up.”

While I enjoyed getting to peek into the ever fascinating world of Chinese-American parenting, I never felt the book was completely coherent and totally focused on its message. Kim wanders all over the landscape of her upbringing, often popping into the present and delving deeper into the murkiness of history. She is funny, but sometimes I wasn’t totally sure of who her intended audience was. Was she speaking to all parents? Just Chinese-American parents? Tiger Moms? I felt like an outsider peeking into someone’s life with whatever message she was trying to convey slipping past me, a white woman of European ancestry, as I didn’t fit the mold of whomever she seemed to be speaking to, mainly (it appears) those caught between two cultures as she herself is.

Still, despite its faults, I enjoyed learning a great deal about Chinese-American culture and appreciated Kim’s crusade to persuade Tiger Mom’s to put away their claws when it comes to their children. Compared to Chua’s book I think it fell a little flat, but was still an enjoyable and worthwhile read for the cultural aspects.

Read more of my book reviews here!

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

P.S. For those of you who subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed, please read this post to re-subscribe via my new subscription service and my new feed address. I’ve decided to delay shutting off my old feed for a week or two during the transition so everyone has a chance to migrate to the new system. Thanks and sorry for the inconvenience!