Book Review–Get to Know Your Universe series

Book Review–Get to Know Your Universe series

Occasionally, I get books in the mail (#bookexcursion) or bring books home that one of my kids will grab before I get a chance to read it. In this case, both of my children have grabbed these books and kept them from me for a while.

These Get to Know Your Universe Science Comics are right up both of my kids’ alley, so they may be good for your readers too.

*If you have a reader who likes graphic novels or comics, this series could be for them, OR

*If you have a reader who likes nonfiction, this series could be for them, OR

*If your reader asks a lot of “why?” questions, these books could work for them, OR

*If you have a reader that wants to learn more about any of the variety of topics they cover, including dogs, sharks, or volcanoes, this series could be for them.

As you are #RaisingReaders, you probably have a child that fits in at least one of these categories. My kids each fit in more than one, which explains why they disappeared from me so quickly. This series of books have the right combination of information and fun that kept both of my children reading these books over and over.

 

One Hundred Posts + Danual Berkley Author Interview = Giveaway!

One Hundred Posts + Danual Berkley Author Interview = Giveaway!

OMG! I can’t believe it, but this is my 100th blog post! To celebrate, below is my first (of hopefully more) author interviews and my first (again, of hopefully more) book giveaway! Enjoy!

As I shared in this previous post, I recently got to review a book written by a local author, Danual Berkley. And as an added bonus, he agreed to let me interview him for my blog. During our conversation, we covered some of everything–from his childhood to his writing process to his own trials #RaisingReaders. Here’s what I learned:

I think the story of how he became an author is pretty original:

“I actually became a writer by accident. When I was in the 11th grade, my teacher, who was Mrs. Homer at the time, made it mandatory that everyone had to do the Young Author’s competition. She said we would either do a short story or a poem and being the 11th grade teenager I was, I was gonna do the poem. I decided to write a poem about a bully, who had bullied me in elementary school. I didn’t want to do the whole, sad feel bad for me, so I wrote it from the bully’s perspective.” Danual ended up winning 3rd place in the whole state with that poem!

He started writing again while he was deployed to Iraq. “My job was to escort convoys from one place to another. So I had an extremely dangerous job, so to escape my reality and to kind of enjoy life, I would start writing again. I would start writing adventurous stories…about these made up characters in made up places.” After a while, his buddies began requesting to hear his adventure poetry and after their tour in Iraq, one of them even suggested that he consider writing as a career, and that started him on this journey.

He has a lot of ideas when it comes to what he wants kids to get from his books:

“The first thing is, there’s a lack of representation for children of color. That’s the main thing I want to do, I want to close that gap…The second thing is the educational value for non-blacks. I want to educate non-African-American children on what Black culture is. A larger topic is the negative stereotypes about black men in general. They say that black men don’t raise their kids or we don’t get married or settle down. In my book, you clearly see a father who is devoted to his family, to his children.” Mr. Berkley wants to make sure that men like himself, and life experiences like his become more commonplace in children’s books than they are now, and he’s doing his part through his books to help that.

I had to know what his favorite childhood books were:

“My favorite children’s book would have to be Green Eggs and Ham, because believe it or not, my nickname is Sam. I don’t know how they got Sam out of Danual, but my nickname is Sam. My mom she would read Green Eggs and Ham to me, so it was my favorite.” Also, when he was in high school, Danual really got into Shel Silverstein’s poetry, which of course has influenced his current writing.

Here’s what we can expect from him in the near future:

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This is the cover of a book of poetry that Danual is working on, but he also has more books with tales of adventure coming with the characters of his first book, Davy’s Pirate Adventure.

And of course, he has his own stories and trials when it comes to raising his own kids to be readers (his sons are 7 & 2):

“Well for the youngest one its real easy…my wife has this package that comes every month that has a book in it that we read. My oldest, when he’s in school, he has a reading assignment every day. Usually how we try to do it is 15-30 minutes of reading a day, but its getting increasingly difficult because the older one doesn’t want to read, he’d rather be on his tablet.” So Danual and his wife have tried to make a concerted effort to do a couple of things: 1) they have been trying to make reading fun, starting with helping their 7 year old use expression when reading and 2) making sure they are reading themselves in front of their children. As his wife told him, “You can’t be an author and have kids who don’t read!”

I really enjoyed my time talking with Danual, he is very easy to talk to and I appreciated hearing his story as well as his drive to share his story and his books with as many people as possible. You can find out more about him at https://www.danualberkley.com/.

Another super cool thing about Danual: He gave me some books to GIVEAWAY!! So, you have some options. I’m giving away 2 copies of Davy’s Pirate Adventures on Twitter, so you can head on over to my twitter page @DMetzke so you can enter to win! But, he also gave me a book pack, which includes a copy of Davy’s Pirate Adventures AND his first book of poetry, Wonderful Magical Place AND two hardback Princess Truly books, written by Kelly Greenawalt, and illustrated by Amariah Rauscher, who illustrates Danual’s work. You can enter to win that pack below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/2efacd490/?

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What James Said…and Then What We Said

What James Said…and Then What We Said

When #RaisingReaders, there are times when the conversation after the bedtime read is just as important as reading the book itself.

For example, tonight my son and I read What James Said by Liz Rosenberg. This book is about a young girl who is not happy with her best friend James because she heard, through the grapevine, that he said something about her that she didn’t like. This short picture book goes through what happens with the hazards of bad communication, or a lack thereof, but of course has a happy ending.

My son read this book to me (yay!), and afterwards I asked him, “So what do you think the author was trying to teach us in this book?” Now, you’ll have to forgive me, I’m in assessment mode at school, which is why the question sounded so formal. Any other time, my question may have been something simpler, like “So what was the problem in the book?” or a more book specific question, like, “Now why were they in a fight?”. Either way, because this book had a clear message/goal, I felt like it was important to have the conversation right afterwards. If we were continuing our reading of The 26-Story Treehouse or reading any of the superhero books that he owns, that question would not have popped up.  However, since this book is perfect for having those conversations, I took advantage of this opportunity. I thought it was especially important because he read it to me, so I wanted to make sure he understood what he was reading.

I’m glad I did take the time to have the conversation, because he actually couldn’t answer the question. So that led to a short review of what we read, and eventual understanding. As much as I want to my children to be able to read and decode the words they come across, I really want them to understand that the purpose of reading is to understand what the text is about. I have found that one of the easiest ways to do that is through conversation after we read. Like I mentioned, it doesn’t have to be a real structured conversation, but just something to make sure that they know what’s going on.

Keep on #RaisingReaders

 

“Mom, listen to this…”

“Mom, listen to this…”

I’m not a fantasy book type of reader. I consider myself an avid reader, and I’ve never read any Harry Potter books *gasp*. However, somehow (probably due to her Star Wars loving father) my daughter seems to be leaning towards this genre. She’s not into Harry Potter, but she has really gotten into the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. Now, like I said, dragons aren’t really my thing, but not only does she read these books, but she wants to talk to me about them as well.

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Here’s the series, if you’re into that sort of thing…

“Mom, listen to this…” she says to me as I’m scrolling through Twitter.  I put the phone down just as she begins talking about Fish Legs and other people I have no frame of reference for and showing me maps of islands that don’t really exist.  But, as a parent, I’ve learn to fake things all the time, and this is no exception. I pretend to understand what she’s talking about while I ask legit questions. Do I wish that I had more interest in what she is reading? Of course. However, I also want her to continue talk to me (prep for the dreaded teen years) and I know that talking about what you’re reading is beneficial for understanding and enjoyment, so I listen and we end up cuddled on the couch talking dragons.

Because when it comes down to it, as my child gets her own interests, spends more time reading independently, and just grows older in general, I have to relish any opportunity she wants to talk to her mama.

My suggestion is to keep this in mind the next time your child wants to talk to you about their books, even if you would rather be scrolling through Twitter, remember you’re #RaisingReaders.

Twitter Perks for #RaisingReaders!

Twitter Perks for #RaisingReaders!

I have only been a part of Twitter for a little over a year, because Lord knows I didn’t need another social media thing to be attached to, but I have completely reaped the #RaisingReader benefits of it.

There are tons of #kidlit authors, book agents, book bloggers, and publishers who are all on Twitter. And what do they tweet? Book debuts and giveaways.

For a book addict like me, it is a Catch-22. Now that I follow the right people, like @mrschureads and @readbrightly, I get to hear about all the latest children’s books right when they debut or even well before. That is awesome and I love it, but the issue is that my husband and my bank account may not agree.

Beyond the debuts are the giveaways, which are super awesome! My kids and I have won at least 4 books from different authors or publishers. The two pictures below are just a sample, one from Scholastic and one from Curious City.

Recently, we just won one of the coolest gifts yet. If you follow my blog, you know that my daughter and I enjoy the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski. Well, she recently had a cool giveaway, which was a deck of cards with the cover of the latest book in the series on the back of each card. My daughter was so surprised to get the cards, and playing with the cards was a great way for her and her brother to spend their Saturday.

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So, if you’re not already on Twitter, I would suggest you join, even if it is just to follow awesome authors like @joshfunkbooks or important organizations like @diversebooks.  Twitter is a great resource to help in our quest in #RaisingReaders. To be honest, 95% of people I follow are somehow connected to books and 95% of my Tweets are book/reading related. So, feel free to follow me @DMetzke. 🙂

Happy Reading!

Our Book Review– Jada Jones: Rock Star

Our Book Review– Jada Jones: Rock Star

When I saw Mr. Schu mention Kelly Starling Lyons’ new book on Twitter, I knew it was a book we had to have in our house.  Jada Jones: Rock Star is the first in a series about Jada, a fourth grader who knows a ton about rocks! I mean, just look at the cover, isn’t she just screaming “Children will love me, read me!”

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Well, thanks to the generosity of the author, we were able to get an Advanced Readers Copy of the book, and my children and I read this short chapter book over a few nights as our bedtime read.

Jada is your average 4th grader, who starts the book a little upset because her best friend, her ace, her rock finding partner, has moved far away, and she’s trying to figure out how to navigate her way to finding new friends to hang out with.

Now one of the things I loved about Jada was that her passion was rocks. Not because I also have a passion for rocks (because I don’t), or that my kids have that passion (because they don’t either), but because the author made it seem like such an ordinary hobby. I thought for sure my kids would make a comment on her passion for rocks and minerals as something they thought was odd, but they did not. In fact, a few days after we finished it, I found out my son was asking their babysitter what her favorite rock was (which was feldspar by the way, who knew?). I contribute that to how Lyons portrays it as important to Jada, but still makes her relatable, so it does not seem like an odd hobby in the book.

So the book goes through Jada’s struggles to find new friends, the drama with working with others on a group project, and finding a balance between doing what she wants for fun and what her friends may consider fun.

All in all, my children and I really enjoyed this bedtime read. Although it was a chapter book, my 6-year old son stayed engrossed because there were illustrations throughout the book and my 8-year old daughter got into the dynamics of Jada and her classmates. Even though we did it as a family read aloud, I think the book has a great relatable storyline and would be a great book for a child transitioning into chapter books to read on their own. Plus its a series, and we always love a series–Jada is definitely someone we will be keeping up with!

Side note: This is reason #3496854 why diversity in books is important. When I asked my daughter which of the three girls she was like, her response was, “I look like her [points to illustration], so I’m like her.”

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Can you guess which one she picked? Hint: Big hair, don’t care.

Jada Jones: Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons will be released in September 2017, and this #RaisingReaders family definitely recommends it.

Art Parts by Kim Bogren Owen– A Book Review

Art Parts by Kim Bogren Owen– A Book Review

We were lucky enough to receive the book Art Parts: A Child’s Introduction to the Elements of Art, plus a couple of the companion journals from author Kim Bogren Owen. So since we’ve got some free time this summer, we turned on some Kids Bop music and decided to have some #SummerReading fun with this book.

The cool thing about this book is that not only do the readers get to learn about art, they get to practice it at the same time, which makes it real interactive. Here’s how we decided to go through it one afternoon.

The book is really nice and hardback with glossy pages, so even though it allows the child to draw in the book, the book lover in me wouldn’t allow me to let them do that, so I was super grateful that we had the journals, which have the same sketch pages as the book does.

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Here’s the book and the journal

I read it to them first, but they got real antsy and ready to get down to drawing, so luckily the book is short and we went right to the journals. (If I had it to do over, I probably wouldn’t it have read it first, we would’ve done the journal and the book at the same time.)

So my kiddos got to demonstrate that they understood each element, things like shapes, lines, and color, and then (this is the part they really enjoyed) they got to create their own picture using that element.

The way the book is set up with the examples of each element, it worked out well for both of my kids, who have different strengths. My daughter, who is an art lover, did a really good job coming up with her own creative ways to use each element. My son on the other hand, didn’t feel like he could draw anything without looking at the examples. If I didn’t have those, he may have gotten too frustrated to continue.

We didn’t complete all the pages of the journal, but I told them they could keep them and finish whenever they wanted to, which they were excited about. The directions in the journal are simple enough that my 6 and 8 year old will be able to read them on their own. Below are some examples of the artwork my kids created.

Thanks to Art Parts, we really enjoyed some quality time together reading, drawing, and creating masterpieces. You can learn more information about author Kim Bogren Owen, including where to purchase her books at here.