Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to Turn "Mom, I'm bored," into "Let's Join the Writing Club!"

Some days it's just too hot to play outside...

Why not Join
The Writing Club?
When my oldest grandson was in the third grade he had a brilliant teacher who came up with a clever way for her students to remember the writing process. Here's how it goes:

The Brain Drain
 The kids write down anything and everything that comes into their minds.

The Sloppy Copy
This is the first draft. Don't worry about perfection.

The Pair Share
The kids get with a critique partner (or sibling) and work out the bugs of each other's stories.

The Sweet Sheet
This is the second draft where all of their corrections from the Pair Share show up.

Goof Proof
The Teacher (or Mom) acts as editor.

The Glory Story
The corrected Final Draft is published to the classroom computer.

Need more ideas?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review of The Secret Cipher by Whitaker Ringwald

Jax Malone and her cousin Ethan Hoche didn't expect the bizarre birthday present that their estranged great aunt sent Jax to contain a dangerous magical urn. An urn belonging to Pandora's daughter that has the power to suck hope out of the world.

Now they must race to Boston to find and destroy the two remaining urns . . . urns that could rid humanity of both faith and love.

Unfortunately for Jax and Ethan, the existence of the urns is no longer hidden and there are powerful enemies who want to use them to control the world. Their only chance of finding the urns first is decoding a mysterious ancient Greek cipher . . .

The Secret Cipher is the sequel to The Secret Box, a rollicking adventure full of family rivalry, magic, questing, and laugh-out-loud humor.

I wasn't sure this second book was going to be as good as the first, but it delighted me. It was as much fun to read as book 1, with some new characters and added twists that I did not see coming.

It just goes to show that things are never exactly as they seem. The cipher was very unexpected, very unique.

The only problem is waiting for book 3 to come out. The Secret Cipher came out earlier this year so we may be waiting . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

3 Summer Reading Programs

Are you armed with cures for Summertime boredom?
Kids need a good mix of physical and quiet-time activities:

Family Hiking


Water Fun


Kids love a challenge with rewards.

Salt Lake County Library System has a fun program--
contact your local library!

Here's a great link to a summer reading challenge by a home-schooling mom with a free downloadable and lots of book suggestions for each genre.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review of Moon Mail and Star Kisses by Amanda Salisbury

Book Blurb:
A loving adult and child must be separated for a little while. The adult promises to send greetings and kisses through the night sky, shared no matter the distance of place or time apart. The moon, the stars, and a person's love are bright and constant even when they cannot be seen.
Moon Mail and Star Kisses
by Amanda Salisbury

I loved this sweet little book. What a lovely way to ease a child's fears when a parent must be away. It comforts adults just the same. This book could be used in so many personal situations, even if it's just saying goodnight and sleeping in another room, going to daycare, or having grandparents who live far away. It could even be used to let children know that loved ones who pass away will always love them.

I loved the book cover--how inventive is that?

Moon Mall

Moon Mail and Star Kisses  Moon Mail and Star Kisses by Amanda Salisbury In Moon Mail and Star Kisses, a loving adult and child must be separated for a little while. The adult promises the child to send greetings and kisses through the night sky, shared no matter the distance of place or time apart. The moon, the stars, and a person’s love are bright and constant even when they cannot be seen.
add to goodreads
  Copy of IMG_0500Author Amanda Salisbury Amanda Salisbury lives on the red planet of Oklahoma. All her best stories are sifted through the screens of her education and experience in history, law, finance, and mothering. She lives with her husband and boys in a lair, a classroom, or a castle, depending on the moment.
25_Amazon_Paypal Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 6/2/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Amy Reviews Cheechako by Jonathon Thomas Stratman

by Jonathon Thomas Stratman

Genre:  MG/YA Realistic Fiction
Content: Some  intense scenes
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release date: March 2012
Number of Pages:  144

Book Summary/Teaser:
Will Rollins, a greenhorn--cheechako--(chee-chock-oh) is miserable in his new Alaska life. In addition to the bully after him, he can't seem to make any friends in school and doesn't know a thing about dogsleds, riverboats, hunting, or surviving at 40 degrees below zero. When Will darts out alone onto rampaging river ice to rescue a stranded dog, his bravery wins him a valuable, trained sled dog, Blackie, and a new human friend as well, an Alaskan Indian boy named Elias. It's Elias who challenges and inspires the cheechako to become a rugged outdoorsman and a real Alaskan. Will starts out by feeding, harnessing and then driving a sled dog team. He learns to throw a hatchet-and hit what he aims at! He learns to snowshoe and stay alive in the cold, to challenge his fears and to push on when everything he wants to do is quit. Best of all, he learns to be a good friend. But when a fierce, Siberian blizzard rampages across central Alaska, stranding Will's family, nearly burying their log cabin in wind-blown snow,it will be up to Will and Blackie to try to make it out alive. With Elias injured and Will's family in danger of freezing, can a cheechako save them? Can he save himself?

Definitely a quick read, but very fun and engaging.  After making the move from Boston to Alaska Will faces a lot of new challenges.  It's fun and scary and exciting.  He learns and changes a lot from the boy he is at the beginning of the story.  He learns confidence and how to be a friend.  He never gives up, even when it looks like the end.  I think this would be a great book for teenagers to read.  I have learned one thing for sure from this book -  I NEVER want to live in Alaska!
Rating: *****

You can find it on Amazon:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review of The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald

Book Blurb:
On her 12th birthday Jax (short for Jacqueline) Malone receives a surprise gift from her great aunt Juniper: a mysterious locked box that will only open in one location. If Jax's mom hadn't freaked out and tried to return it, Jax wouldn't have paid much attention. She would've assumed it was just another boring present to add to the most boring, unmagical birthday ever.

Instead, Jax decides she must open the box--whatever it takes. So she recruits her reluctant cousin, Ethan and together they trick Ethan's obnoxious, older brother, Tyler into helping them find the site where the box will open.

But, what starts as a fun adventure quickly turns crazy, even dangerous, when Jax, Ethan, and Tyler discover themselves at the center of a mysterious family legacy--and learn that the box was not intended as a gift, but as a call for help. . .

I spotted the second book in this series at my local library--the cover grabbed me. I've been on the lookout for a good Middle Grade adventure and I knew this was the series I wanted to read. I couldn't possibly start with book 2. I must read from the beginning, so I searched for book 1 and luckily it was checked in. I knew if I liked it, I'd have to read every book in the series.

So, Book 1--The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald
Middle Grade mystery adventure
297 pages from Katherine Tegen Books

This was a super fun book to read. It has good, solid characters that I could relate to as a grandma, memories of how sneaky my kids were and memories of myself growing up.

The mystery and suspense slowly builds to a fast, relentless pace, but not so fast that I couldn't keep up. There is a twist at the end that I hope to learn more about in book 2.

This is a fun adventure that I think my 8-12 year old grandkids would enjoy reading. **** 1/2 stars

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Easy Readers and Chapter Books

According to  Easy Readers are books for kids just starting to read for themselves with levels starting at Kindergarten through 3rd grade. The books can be 32-64 pages long broken into smaller chapters. Here are two samples I checked out from the Library:

Butterfly Garden
by Margaret McNamara
illustrated by Mike Gordon

Easy Reader Level One
Part of The Robin Hill School Series

This is a very good example of an Easy Reader with short, simple sentences and
very relatable to the kindergarten-1st grade crowd.
The illustrations are very cute and kid-friendly.

A chapter book is defined by for kids ages 7-10,
45-60 pages long, broken into chapters of 3-4 pages.
The sentences are more complex than Easy Readers with more action.

The Boxcar Children
by Gertrude Chandler Warner

There are 19 books in this series. This book was written in 1924. I was surprised by its simplicity, even for a chapter book. The sentences are simpler than I expected. Some of that might be related to the year it was written--life, in general, was a simpler time. But, I also learned, after reading about the author, that she helped develop a series of easy readers especially for children who struggled with the usual school books.

It also surprised me that these books were around when my parents grew up, but I'd never heard of them until my kids were in school. I think I would've enjoyed them when I was 6 or 7.

The story structure is simple with easy vocabulary and short sentences. In the background of the story the children have very good manners and are easy to please. Maybe that isn't realistic, but it teaches children how they can behave. Kids like the idea of being on their own. I enjoyed reading this book and I know my grandkids have enjoyed this series.

The Fairy Bell Sisters: Christmas Fairy Magic
by Margaret McNamara

This is a sweet little story of sacrifice, love, and service.
The illustrations are delicate and fairy-like as if the fairies drew them.
This is definitely for the dainty. Me? At this age I was into Harriet, the Spy.

In complete contrast to that story is

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business
by Barbara Park

This is written in first person exactly the way I've heard my five-year-old grandkids talk, a little spoiled and obnoxious, but funny and true to life. Junie B is very relatable to kids and to this grandma
because I acted a lot like Junie. I was always in trouble at school and I was obnoxious.