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.

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!

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!

Get the first book in the Redwall series free!

Redwall (Book 1, Redwall)

I’m not sure how long this will be free, so you might want to grab it now. Redwall (Book 1, Redwall) is the first in a series of well-known and loved books for children by Brian Jacques. I was excited to see it listed for free today on Amazon (for the Kindle and/or Kindle reading apps) because I have a comprehension guide on hand that I plan to use with Otter this semester! Now I don’t have to check it out from the library. 😉

Happy downloading!

I nearly wish I had a baby so I could buy these books…

Well, O.K. that’s a huge exaggeration. I’ve had teens and that pretty much cured any baby yearnings I may have had in the past… 😉 But still….these books are so deliciously CUTE! They combine adorableness (perfect for babies & toddlers) with the classics (perfect for literature loving moms & dads).

Cozy Classics

I always worked hard to nurture the love of literature in my children from an early age. I wish this brilliant idea of a baby board book was around when they were in arms. What a perfect way to introduce babies to time-honored stories and characters! Babies won’t have any idea of what is going on, but after cutting their teeth on these board books (perhaps literally, lol) they’ll at least have a foundation of being introduced to some of the greatest stories of all time. How many of us can say we loved Pride and Prejudice before we could read a word? 🙂 Thanks to Cozy Classics, that can be a reality for your nerdy baby (and I say that as a compliment).

Each book features felted figures (cozy!) in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings. The pictures look almost 3-D and remind me of some of the story books I used to have (and adore) as a child.

Each page features one word on the left side of the 2 page spread and felted character or objects on the 2nd that illustrate a part of the classic story. I find the illustrations (photographs actually) to be really original and endearing.

classics for kids

If I had a baby, I would get these books. Even without one, as a collector of children’s books, I’m highly tempted… They are lovely! Who said babies can’t be homeschooled? Start their love of literature with these sweet introductions to the classics!

Here are some pages from the Jane Austin book:

jane austin for babies

Here are some pages from the Moby Dick book:

Moby Dick for babies

I was given free e book versions of these adorable board books in exchange for my honest review.

Want to read more of my book reviews (for adults, teens and children)? Click here!

Book Review: Stick Dog

Stick Dog

Stick Dog by Tom Watson is a newly upgraded version (the screenshot above is from my free review copy) of what used to be a freebie on Amazon that looked like this:

Stick Dog

 

Apparently the story was picked up by HarperCollins and repackaged as a hardcover and a newly illustrated Kindle version (with some edits and additions to the original text). The original was illustrated by Tom. The new version has illustrations by Ethan Long based on Tom’s original sketches. There are still a couple of Tom Watson books on Amazon that are free such as:

When Cows Fly and Garbage! Monster! Burp!

Stick Dog is a cute book.  It’s plain silly and I think it will appeal to kids on many levels. First, it’s about dogs. Second, the author has little conversation asides that add a bit of personalization and humor. He starts out with explaining that he can’t draw and likens a tree he draws to a “big thingy of broccoli”. All throughout the text he interrupts the story to talk to the reader. It really adds to the narrative and makes the entire thing  really appealing, friendly and fun.

In the original version of Stick Dog it’s clear that a grown-up is sharing this but in the new version of the story the author appears to be repackaged as a student because he talks about his English teacher in the present tense and states, “While I have a feeling I’m not going to get very good grades for my Stick Dog stories, that doesn’t matter when it comes to you me and our agreement. So the final thing we need to agree on is that this Stick Dog story (with the bad pictures that my art teacher doesn’t like) will also be told in a way that I like (but my English teacher doesn’t).”

I think it’s a shame they (HarperCollins??) had to turn the narrator into a child because throughout the book Tom Watson keeps shining through as what he is, a grown-up. I think it would appeal to kids even more to have a grown up admitting he’s not so good at something. At any rate, I wasn’t convinced by the tone of the “new” narrator. It’s so obvious that the author is an adult and yet, for the purpose of “reaching out to the kids who are going to read the book” he must be transformed into a child. It doesn’t fit. No matter, Stick Dog is still an entertaining book and I don’t think most children will even notice this detail at all, especially if they’ve not read the first version, before it was picked up by a publisher.

So, once the author introduces his abilities (or rather, lack thereof), we get introduced to Stick Dog and  his doggie friends: Poo Poo, (where it says: “There’s a poodle named Poo-Poo. Now, it’s important to know that Poo-Poo is not named after, you know, going to the bathroom. He’s named after his own name. Get it? POO-dle.”), Stripes, Karen and Mutt.

The entire story revolves around how these stray dogs want to steal hamburgers from a family picnicking at the park. Don’t worry, they don’t end up stealing them after all, but that IS what the entire story is about – doing something wrong…but, I guess, stray dogs don’t really have moral standards, do they? Still, if you are a conservative family, this may not appeal to you. I know it would give me pause, with a young child.

On the way to the park the dogs run into a distraction: Poo-Poo sees her nemesis – a squirrel. Never fear though, Stick Dog, who is the brightest of the pack, manages to get Poo-Poo  to get back on track with a little old fashioned manipulation and reverse psychology.

Then the dogs concoct really silly and impractical methods of obtaining the hamburgers like driving a car as a distraction (not stealing it – just driving it a few blocks – in the words of one of the dogs), jumping off a cliff (and then the humans will feel sorry for them and give them the hamburgers) and so on. As each dog comes up with an idea that is just outrageous and Stick Dog gently moves them along to the next idea – sometimes with a bit of dishonesty like saying something is a terrific plan when he clearly knows it’s not – as he takes the blame for why the plan won’t work so that he can get to the hamburgers sooner. Then, when one of the dogs feels bad about his plan not being chosen, Stick Dog cheers him up with a big of flattery mentioning how great his friend’s fur looks and asks, “Did you have a bath recently?” “Yes, I did, as a matter of fact,” said Stripes, “Just a few months ago.”

Stick Dog ends on a happy note and I can see the series continuing, even though this ending is solid and satisfying. The humans not only give them hamburgers of their own volition, they end up showering the dogs with affection as well.

As for inappropriateness, there is a lot of silliness but nothing especially distressing. The book doesn’t take itself seriously and I’d put it in the Captain Underpants category. You aren’t going to find anything especially redeeming here but there isn’t any evil, either. “Dang it” and “Heck” are used, but there are no other words of that nature. There is the whole issue of the dogs wanting to steal, but it’s in the context of them being dogs. They are kind to one another as friends. If I was handing this over to a very young reader, I’d have to take into account some of Stick Dog’s methods for getting to his ultimate goal: the hamburgers. As mentioned above, he employs flattery and dishonesty but not in an obnoxious way as with some current children’s humorous books or with the intent to hurt anyone.  Compared to a lot of books nowadays, it’s extremely tame and certainly not “in your face”. I mention it though, because some families may not think these things appropriate and wouldn’t want wrong ideas put into tender minds. I have mixed feeling about it and would say it would depend on the child.

Stick Dog is definitely entertaining. As a child I would have totally connected to the story and enjoyed it immensely. Even as an adult I was amused. I think it would appeal to reluctant readers especially because of the humor and simple story line. There are some “big” words though that might be beyond a NEW reader. Children who are solid readers though will probably enjoy the silliness. It reminded me of the crazy stories my dad would make up for me when I was little. 🙂

If you are a conservative family, as I mentioned before, you may not like Stick Dog because of how the entire story is centered around stealing (and the other minor issues I pointed out). My 14 year old son (who is way out of the intended age range) read it and commented on how it was OK and some parts were funny but immediately picked up on the fact that the entire thing was about stealing and didn’t really like that.

I give Stick Dog 3 stars because of the minor issues I have with it. It’s really cute and funny (kids are going to really enjoy it) but there are a few small things that would make me pause in recommending it to just anyone.  Hopefully my review will better help you make a decision if it’s appropriate for your family and your family’s values.

Final verdict: 3 stars 3star

*I received a free copy of Stick Dog in exchange for my honest review.

Want to read more of my book reviews (for adults, teens and children)? Click here!

Guest Post by Author Jennifer Grant

Yesterday I posted my review of Momumental.

Here’s a guest post from the author Jennifer Grant:

The Funny, Broken, Love of Parenting

I click open a Facebook message. A friend has sent me a word search and tells me to let my eyes fall onto the image and take note of the first three words that I see. These are the words that best describe me, she promises.

I shrug, take a sip of coffee, and glance at it. “Funny,” “broken,” and “love” are my words.

When I close the message, I’m tempted for a moment to try again. What other words are hidden in that tangle of letters? Maybe on my second try, my eyes will land on a combination such as “smart,” “attractive,” and “successful.” (That would be nice.)

I don’t give it another try, though. The words I read the first time are just right considering how I’ve been spending my days for the past several months, thinking and writing about the family in which I am the wife and the mother and about my family of origin, where my story began.

Funny, broken, love – sounds like family.

MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family is about my own missteps and small victories as a mother. Over the years, after beginning my parenting journey – as so many of us do – staggering under the weight of the expectations I had for myself, I’ve loosened up. I’ve come to learn that none of us is perfect. We all fail, misunderstand our kids sometimes, and mess up in countless ways. In MOMumental, I share stories of some of my “epic fails” as a mom.

The dire messages that flash on the computer or television screen that warn what a mother absolutely must or must not do no longer hold me tightly in their grasp. I now look at myself – and at other mothers – with less judgment, knowing that we all work it out, there is no manual for motherhood, and that the most important thing in raising kids is to be authentically connected with them.

(And a person can do that whether she serves microwaved macaroni and cheese to her kids for lunch every day or gives them homemade bread and a sampling of organic greens from her vegetable garden. Whether or not she homeschools them, uses “the family bed,” or exposes them to Mozart by the time they are six days old.)

I hope in sharing my own personal – and often quite cringe-worthy – story in MOMumental, other parents will show themselves, and other parents, more grace as we raise our children.

To me, those three words – funny, broken, and love – are great ones to reflect on when I think about the gift of family. To be able to enjoy our kids, repair our relationships with them when needed, and most of to love our children like crazy covers a multitude of parental crimes and misdemeanors.

Wishing you all the best in your own messy family-making adventures!

Book Review: No Thanks, But I’d Love to Dance!

No Thanks, but I'd Like to Dance!

No Thanks, But I’d Love To Dance, Choosing to live smoke free

I recently had the opportunity to look over No Thanks, but I’d Like to Dance, a semi-autobiographical fictional book written by Jackie Reimer. I like it so much that I’m going to include it in Little Otter’s Science – my human anatomy science program for preschoolers through about 2nd grade. I think it’s a great story for little ones to learn about not smoking as well as making good choices. The book has a simple but engaging story line with bright, colorful cartoon-like illustrations.

In the story, Grandma Bee is living with the consequences of choosing to smoke earlier in her life. Grandma has an oxygen tank and explains to her granddaughter Belle how her lungs were damaged from smoking. The consequences of this choice are serious, but nothing is presented in a scary way. Belle wonders why grandma ever took up smoking in the first place and listens in as her grandmother tells her about how she was a young woman at a dance was asked to try a cigarette and agreed to because it looked glamorous and everyone else was doing it. At the end of the conversation Belle exclaims:

“I know what you should have said when he asked you to smoke, Grandma!”

“You do?” asked Grandma Bee.

“YES!” Belle exclaimed. “You should have said, ‘No thanks, but I’d LOVE to dance!!!”

The story then goes on to talk about how Belle grew up and how people would ask her if she would like a cigarette (or other things not healthy for her) and how she would think of Grandma Bee and reply with “No thanks, but I’d LOVE to dance!” It is both sweet and empowering.

I think the way the story is set up encourages a child to rehearse saying no, long before a situation like that may come up. You can practice after reading the book with “No thanks, but I’d like to….” (fill in the blank with your child’s favorite activity).

It’s really hard to find appropriate books for younger children that cover concepts like this. I think that No Thanks, But I’d Love to Dance is a great opportunity to cover this very important message with your little ones. In my opinion, the age group that would get the most out this story is the pre-K through about 2nd grade crowd because of the simple text. I did read it though to my 4th grade son (who enjoyed it) and then followed it up with a BrainPop movie about smoking.

You can visit the author’s website for more information as well as free coloring pages that are perfect for helping to make the story stick. The coloring pages feature illustrations from the book so you can also get a sneak peek at the inside pages of the book from them. wink