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The Tweedles Go Electric, by Monica Kulling

Tweedles Go ElectricIt’s the dawn of the 20th Century and everyone’s getting into the coolest technology–cars. Everyone, that is, except the Tweedles. They’re content with their bikes and their horse-and-cart.

Until one day, Mr. Tweedle makes an announcement: “We’re going modern. We’re buying a car!”

The Tweedles don’t buy just any car, however. They opt for an electric car. A green car.

Author Monica Kulling and illustrator Marie Lafrance take us into the world of the 20th-Century Tweedles and their wondrous green, electric car.

Kulling has written more than 40 books for children and is known for her Great Idea series of books on historical inventions.

Her writing is often delightfully subversive. By which I mean that she tends to quietly introduce the subversive notion that girls can do anything.

Meet, for instance, 12-year-old Franny Tweedle:

Like most girls, she is more interested in higher education. Speed gives Frances nosebleeds, and adventure seems to go along with getting lost, which makes her nervous. There’s only one place Frances puts her nose and that is between the pages of a book.

In The Tweedles Go Electric, Frances will end up discovering that she finds speed exhilarating. In fact, (spoiler alert), she saves the day in that electric car.

Oh, and later she will become so exhilarated by speed that she will drive right across the country, “from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” (Sub-ver-sive!)

This is one of those books that—through its weavy, clip-along plot and stylishly flat, folksy illustrations—helps you to feel, taste, smell and understand what went on in another century.

It’s a book that begs you to put your child on your lap for a thoughtful read-along.

The Tweedles Go Electric was written by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Marie Lafrance and published in 2014 by Groundwood Books which always makes such “beautiful and thought-provoking books” as they so correctly state on their website’s home page. Purchase the Tweedles online here.

 

 

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uKloo: Riddle Edition — another great uKloo literacy game

Microsoft Word - Riddle Edition Sales Oct29.docx

uKloo is a terrific literacy game. Incredibly–wonderfully–they somehow managed to top it.

Toronto game-maker Doreen Dotto recently launched uKloo, Riddle Edition.

The premise of uKloo is simple—it’s a treasure hunt. You (the parent) hide cards around the house that kids find and which lead them to the next clue.

For instance, the first clue is “look in your shoes.” The child goes to her shoes and finds the next card, which says “look on the kitchen table,” and so on.

It’s a brilliant strategy to get kids reading because it gives the child a fun reason to read (they want to find the next clue) as well as an instant reward (they find out where the next clue is hidden, and ultimately a grand prize). Fun + reason to read = reading.

Dotto has taken this simple equation and made it even more fun. And she’s added problem-solving to the skills the child will acquire without even knowing they’re learning.

With the Riddle Edition, kids find a card and have to solve a fun riddle to figure out where the next card is hidden.

Depending on the age of the child, the riddles are very easy or quite challenging.

For instance, a level one riddle: “When your hair is full of dirt, get it clean with just a squirt.”uKloo Riddle-cards

A level three riddle: “Not of shell, of turtle or snail, but made of cloth to hike a trail.”

Did you get those? The answers are at the bottom of this post if you want to double-check.

The wonderful thing about uKloo is the way Dotto has adapted it for various reading levels. If the child can’t figure out a clue, she can get a hint: “Lather up for shiny locks!”

If she still can’t quite get it, she can hold a special booklet (in which the answers are written backwards) up to a mirror and find the answer reflected there.

Three levels of clues, a hint and a fun solution give kids the success that is so important for new or struggling readers.

And with different levels, brothers and sisters of different ages or reading abilities can play together. It’s also great for playdates.

As with the original uKloo game, the Riddle Edition ends with a surprise that the parent provides. It could be a chocolate or small toy, or—as Dotto found out from one parent—it could be the announcement that the child is going to have a new baby sister.

uKloo creator Doreen Dotto

uKloo creator Doreen Dotto

uKloo Riddle Edition includes blank cards so parents can write their own riddles (Dotto provides tips on writing riddles) and it includes Surprise cards so that instead of a toy or candy the grand prize could be “a trip to the ice cream store” or “pillow fight with daddy.”

If uKloo is one of the most perfect literacy games, uKloo Riddle Edition takes it one step further. Both are must-get games for any parent who wants to get their kids reading.

uKloo retails for $15.95 and uKloo Riddle Edition for $18.95. Both are available at independent toy stores. You can also purchase them from the uKloo website, here.

You can also check out the new uKloo Early Reader App, currently free (that may change) in the iTunes App Store.

Read my review of uKloo here.

Oh, and I’m sure you figured out that answers are: Shampoo and Backpack.

Lastly, Doreen was on Dragon’s Den. Guess what happened? Check it out:

 

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The Legend of Ranger, the Reindeer Who Couldn’t Fly – by Alan Salisbury, illustrated by Roberta Baird

RangerHere’s a nice, literary way to do something good during the holiday season.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the book The Legend of Ranger, The Deer Who Couldn’t Fly (and related Ranger products) will go to the Antonia J. Giallourakis Endowed Fund in Art Therapy for Children with Cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Ranger is a reindeer with a big dream–to help pull Santa’s sleigh. Alas, Ranger can’t fly.

When he goes looking for advice, he is told that “the secret lies within.” He eventually finds the secret for himself, while helping some sick reindeer.

It’s a lovely story, charmingly illustrated, with proceeds going to a worthy cause.

Find out more about Ranger and the Art Therapy fund.

Purchase Ranger at http://opusonestudios.com/store/ for $12.95.

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Great free, online game with words

RISE onomasticaThe online game Onomastica is what’s known as a “platformer.”

In other words, it’s one of those run-and-jump games, like Mario (except much simpler).

You make the character run or jump using the –> arrows on your keyboard.

With Onomastica, however, the character also interacts with simple words. When he encounters WALL, for instance, he has to push an S next to TAIR to create stairs that will get him over an obstacle.

It’s a super-simple, quick and easy game that kids will like.

And it might just get them thinking about words in a new way.

 

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Writing contest for Canadian kids grades 4 to 12

Madonna with Writing Child, by Pinturicchio, 1490s.

Madonna with Writing Child, by Pinturicchio, 1490s.

If you’re a Canadian kid in grade 4 to 12, you could win a great prize in a writing contest sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Centre and TD.

Here are some details:

  • Deadline is Feb. 1, 2013;
  • Fiction or non-fiction stories or poems;
  • Entries must be mailed in (no emails or faxes);
  • Must include an entry form — found here;
  • Prizes: $250 book gift certificate for a winner in each grade plus two honourable mentions ($50) from each grade.

You’ll find more details, the address to send your entries to and the entry form on the Canadian Children’s Book Centre website, here.

(Oh, the image? Yeah, that’s a child in the 1400s. He’s writing. In a book held by the mother of Jesus. Don’t worry, he’s not eligible for the contest–not Canadian. Phew!)

 

 

 

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Literacy games for in the car

By Julia Mohamed

Going on a road trip? Here are some great literacy games you can play in the car.

THE LICENSE PLATE GAME
● One person begins by spotting a license plate and announcing the letters (not the numbers) on it.

● Everyone else, in turn, must come up with a funny phrase using the letters of the license plate, in order. So for example, KES could become “kiss every squirrel” or “knights eating steak.”

ROAD-TRIP SCAVENGER HUNT
● Create a list of things to look for while you’re on the road.

● Your list can be adjusted, depending on where you’re travelling. For instance, a city scavenger hunt list may have: a flashing red light, someone talking on a cell phone, and a sign in a foreign language. A rural scavenger list could include: a horse, a tractor, road kill, a silo, a pond, and a gas station.

TRAVEL JOURNAL
● Before the trip, buy a note pad and box of crayons for each child in the car.

● Every day on your vacation, or for each memorable event that occurs, have the kids draw a picture and write about it in their travel journal.

● Give them some suggestions to get them started (“how about drawing the beach we were on this morning”) but after that, let their imaginations run wild. Encourage them to use as many words as possible. They may want to do the art in the evening in the hotel room or campground, and add the words in the car while you’re driving to your next destination. Young children can write one or two words (“Beach” or “Playing frisbee”) while older kids can write descriptions and even leave out the pictures altogether.

Julia Mohamed is a freelance journalist. This was her first assignment for GKR and I’m hoping it will be the first of many articles from her. (Hint, hint Julia.)
Photo: Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com.

Car literacy games? Literacy games in the car? Not quite right. Literacy games for in the car? Looks weird – sounds ok. It’s what you’d say but it looks wrong when you see it spelled out. I dunno – today’s not a good headline day for me obviously. Sorry, Julia. Harumph.
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France gives teens the gift of reading

Another way in which the French are awesome.

When kids in France turn 18, the government will give them a free one-year subscription to a newspaper of their choice, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday.

The free subscriptions are designed to instill in young people the habit of reading the news regularly. Apparently, there are fears that the younger generation isn’t as into daily newspapers as their parents and grandparents.

With falling ad and subscription revenues, it’s hoped that the move will help boost the French economy.

What a great idea. I love it when economics and literacy collide. Oh Mr. Harper…?

I got this picture of N.S. by Google Image-ing him. It’s from Foreign Policy magazine. It’s such a great shot. Can you imagine our leader looking this spritely, this charming? Ya gotta love the French.

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Thank you for the Children’s Book Bank donations

Thank you to John Rahme and the CBC for the generous donation to the Children’s Book Bank.

After hearing about our book drive, the CBC donated a huge box of brand-new Mr. Dressup books, including school workbooks.

By that afternoon, the Book Bank had already sent the books along to neighbourhood schools that will put them to good use. The rest of the books will stay in the Book Bank and be handed out to local children.

Thanks also to L.B., who donated a big bag of beautiful hardcover books that will be much loved by their new owners.

I’ll be going back to the Book Bank near the end of next week, so it’s not too late to donate your excellent used or new books. For more information see the post, below.

I took a tour through the Book Bank and it really is fantastic. The books are lovingly displayed and I was very impressed by the excellent titles – these are not “cast-off” books. They’re popular current titles and series. After I got home, Kim at the Book Bank sent me an e-mail thanking everyone for their generosity. Ditto from me!
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