Thursday, February 25, 2010

The 39 Clues: Book 4 - Beyond The Grave

The 39 Clues Book 4: Beyond the GraveIn this number one New York Times bestselling series we continue on a thrilling journey with the Cahill siblings on a treasure hunt. This is the fourth book in a 10 part series. Each book is written by a different author.  Beyond the Grave is just as exciting as the first three books.
Jude Watson picks up where Peter Lerangis left off in Book 3.  Amy and Dan are in Egypt looking for the next clue that their deceased grandmother, Grace, has left for the Cahill family members on this treasure hunt.  In this adventure they get help from the grave as their Grandmother guides them to the clues to help them to try to win this challenge.

POSITIVE Amy and Dan struggle with dysfunctional family relationships throughout the series.  In this book they have to choose between believing the best in each other and their Grandmother or being just like the rest of their cousins.  They come up against choices that go against everything they have been taught to get ahead of this game. The Cahills decide to choose what their Grandmother Grace taught them.  This will be good opportunities to highlight to your children how choices affect not only them but the people around them.  They also stick together and stay strong in the end.

EDUCATIONAL: Every book gives a history lesson on the country they are in.  In this book your children will learn about ancient Egyptian artifacts and places. This book is a good read for advanced 2nd grade readers to middle school age children.

  • make a video of important Egyptian artifacts and places
  • write the story from the point of view of one of the Cahill ancestors
  • visit the Field Museum of Natural History's section on Egypt
Please leave any comments or suggestions!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea - by Marcus Pfister

From the author who brought you "Rainbow Fish" come another fantastic tale about Rainbow Fish.  With it's sparkly pictures and engaging story Rainbow Fish and his friends are sure to delight your child on every page.
In this new adventure Rainbow Fish is playing with his friends when he loses his last silver scale.  This begins a journey that brings him new and different friends.  Every page glitters with different deep sea creatures that Rainbow Fish meets along the way.

POSITIVE  Rainbow Fish is open to being friends with creatures that are different from him.  This is a good segway into talking to your children about acceptance of different people and about what diversity means.

EDUCATIONAL  Pfister shows many different sea creatures in the book.  This will interest young children into looking up different ocean animals.

  • Teach young children what goes into simple science reports using the different sea creatures featured in this book
  • Introduce elementary age children to Power Point.  Show them how to make a slide show using the different creatures as their subjects
  • Take a trip to the aquarium to learn more about the animals featured in the book

Please leave any comments or suggestions

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Magician's Elephant - By Katie Di Camillo Illustrated by Yoko Tanka

The author of "The Tale of Despereaux" and "Because of Winn Dixie" has come out with a new and enchanting book.  The Magician's Elephant is uniquely and poetically written.  It is a tale of undying hope, faith in things unseen, and enduring love.
The book starts with introducing us to the narrator, a young orphan named Peter.  He lives upstairs in the attic with his care giver Vilna Lutz.  DiCamilllo takes an impossible situation and makes it into a wonderful story.  As the title suggests there is a lot of magic and fortune telling involved. 

POSITIVE Kate DiCamillo does a good job of creating characters that you feel strongly about and are connected to.  The main character, Peter, has strong character traits that you can point out to your child if you are reading the book to them.  He is loving, loyal, honorable, and brave.  The love Peter has for his sister made my heart melt.

EDUCATIONAL  This book is a good blend of fantasy and reality.  While reading it to your child you can point out what makes a book considered fantasy.  There is good character development that progresses through the book also.

  • Character trait chart of one of the main characters (relate Bible verses to these traits and see how your child can develop them)
  • Dig deeper into Christianity and what God's Word says about magic
  • Write chapters from the Elephant's perspective like Ch. 1
  • Make a relationship map on  how all the characters are connected
  • Write about the night at the opera house from your child's point of view - as if they were there
  • Illustrate favorite scenes from the book
Any comments or suggestions are always welcome!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In The Night Kitchen - by Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak is most famous for "Where The Wild Things Are".  Even though this book is not as famous as its counterpart it is an imaginative tale on a simple task.  Mr. Sendak take a simple question - why they always have cake in the morning - and makes it into an adventure.

It's about a young boy who wakes up to a lot of racket in the middle of the night.  He falls through the house to meet three bakers who mistake him for an ingredient in the cake. The book goes along the boy's journey as he tries to get home.

The story is very original.  Sendak's pictures are colorful and imaginative.  The only thing that was an issue for me was when the young boy loses his clothes on the way to the bakers.  There is frontal nudity on some of the pages.  I feel that elementary age children will focus on that and it may detract from them fully appreciating the story.  This is a Caldecott Honor Book.

POSITIVE As written before this is, in my opinion, an inventive way to explain why they get cake in the morning.  The pictures are colorful and will catch the readers attention right away.

EDUCATIONAL This book can be used to spur your child's imagination.  Just like Sendak took the act of baking a cake and making into an adventure do the same with your children.

  • Make a book like Sendak's - example: "How was the soup made?" Encourage them to think of different and improbable ways to make the soup and draw pictures to match.  They can then read it to the family.  
  • Bake a cake like in the story. 
As always any comments or questions are appreciated