Baseball books for a baseball kid

Baseball books for a baseball kidMy son had run out of books. Already read the new Rick Riordan. Finished his school-assigned books. Bored of reading.

I needed to rekindle his interest in reading, but how?

I looked to his main hobby–nay, obsession–baseball.

I’d already done something I thought was pretty darned clever. I found a couple of novels written by former baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. (Super-sized Slugger and Hothead). My son loved them because not only were the protagonists his age and baseball players, but the novel was written by a baseball player so it was authentic. It spoke his language.

He read them and loved them. But after that, I was tapped out.

So I went to the library and asked the librarian if she knew any baseball novels.

She did. In fact, one of her favourite books as a young girl was E. L. Konigsburg’s About The B’nai Bagels. It’s the story of a kid whose mother ends up being his baseball team’s manager. (Awwwkward.)

She put that one one hold for me and while it was working its way toward my library branch, she ferretted out a couple more: Haunting at Home Plate by David Patneaude and Throwing Smoke by Bruce Brooks.

My son loved them!

So there’s the idea for you. Think about your kid’s hobbies and then talk to a librarian. It can be kind of hard to Google these things, because you’ll get all manner of how-to books, instructionals… but those librarians, man, they know stuff. Tell them what your kid’s into and before you know it she’ll find you something amazing.

That’s what happened for me.

 

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Must Pop Words – great game for literacy, typing skills

must pop words enterHere’s a smart, fun game that’s great for literacy and for improving typing skills.

In Must Pop Words, letters – inside bouncy balls – fall down and accumulate at the bottom of the page.

You have to type words using the letters. Every word you type erases those letters. If the letters pile up to the top of the page (which they will inevitably do) you lose.

Little tasks like, “create a word ending with e” or “create a six-letter word” let you earn extra points.

The balls bouncing around and the cute penguin who sticks his head in every once in awhile make this a signature Bart Bonte game – one of a series of elegant, fun games you can find on his website. (In my opinion, Bonte is the best casual game designer on the Internet.) Enjoy!

Play Must Pop Words here.

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My picture book, Gabby, launches January 2013

  • October 27, 2012 at 11:28 am
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Gabby posterI’ve written a picture book called Gabby, which will be in bookstores this January.

You can also pre-order it on Amazon here.

Gabby is illustrated by the wonderful Jan Dolby and published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

Gabby is a smart, quirky little girl with a special reading book. When she accidentally drops it, all the letters fall out. When she starts putting the letters together into words, whatever she spells — she creates! As you can imagine, this gets her into quite a muddle. What can she do to put things right?

Visit my author blog for Gabby here. The author blog has lots of fun illustrations, colouring pages and information about Gabby.

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Fun, active (and profitable!) literacy game

Dollar_sign_(reflective_metallic); from Wikimedia CommonsMy niece told me about a game that her friend’s mom used to set up to get her kids more interested in reading.

She would scatter letters around the room. Each letter had a price on it.

“Easier” letters like E might be worth a penny or five cents, whereas “harder” letters like Q or Z might be worth a quarter.

(Are you seeing where this is going?)

The kids would run around the room, collecting the letters; they would then put them together into words or phrases.

Then they’d add up the “money” they’d earned and… cash them in, using their parents as the bankers.

My niece said the game succeeded in making her friend much more interested in words and in reading.

And, presumably, in banking.

Here’s another case in which a mom successfully bribed her daughter into reading.

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Has your kid met Winnie the Witch?

Winnie the Witch 8 in 1Oh Winnie, how I love thee!

Winnie is one of my all-time favourite children’s book characters. She’s a bit edgy, a bit subversive and fairly narcissistic. She’s unorganized, often scatterbrained, resourceful and thoroughly likeable.

When she gets an idea she just runs with it. Looking for a birthday gift for her cat she finds a fishing boat excursion on the Internet and bam! next thing you know they’re on a boat, poles in the water, with a magical orca on the line. She lives for the moment. Winnie has a cat, Wilbur, who is a great foil for her impulsiveness–and often a victim of it. But it always works out in the end.

I wish I could be more like Winnie. I wish everyone could. What a hectic, colourful, madcap, fabulous world that would be.

I’m deep into the witch’s new 8-in-1 anthology right now (having read the all of the single-story books with my son when he was young). There are also older-kid versions with more words and fewer pictures. And a great website here.

Winnie was craftily created by Valerie Thomas, wittily written by Laura Owen and is colourfully illustrated by the uber-quirky Korky Paul.

I’ve written about Winnie before–here. Because she is much fun, so darned much fun!

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Stuffed letters are great for literacy

Letters for GabbyMy picture book, Gabby, is coming out this September.

I’m excited! The illustrations are by Jan Dolby and it’s published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

I’ll be doing some readings in schools, book stores and at Word On The Street to publicize the book.

I sewed and stuffed some fabric letters to use during the readings. It occurred to me that letters like this are also great for new readers, since they can hold them and make words out of them. Making letters and words tactile for kids is a terrific way to get them reading.

There are lots of ways you can do this without making your own fabric letters (trust me, it’s a lot of work). You can use Scrabble tiles, foam letters from the dollar store, letter dice from a game like Jr. Boggle or Alphabet Scoop, or you can cut out letters or words from magazines.

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The best Canadian picture books

Julie Booker is an author, a teacher, a librarian and last but not least, the mom of twin toddlers.

All this to say, she knows her picture books!

Her Canadian summer picture book reading list was recently published here on 49th Shelf, an awesome Canadian book website.

Below is her list of the best of the best. For her comments about each one, visit 49th Shelf.com. Click on their book links for more information about each book.

Drumheller Dinosaur Dance by Robert Heidbreder

Jelly Belly by Dennis Lee

M is for Moose by Charles Pachter

The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier

City Alphabet by Joanne Schwartz and Matt Beam

Eenie Meenie Manitoba by Robert Heidbreder

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service

Butterscotch Dreams by Sonja Dunn

My pick from here - If you're not Canadian and you've never read The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, get your hands on a copy because you will fall in love with its folk-charm illustrations and true-life story about a boy who loves his Montreal Canadiens hockey team. (If you are Canadian? You've already read it.) Oh, and another way you know Julie Booker knows her books? Her last name, sha-zam!

 

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Keeping kids reading all summer

dock sepia; Image: kiwiowner, Wikimedia Commons

Image: kiwiowner, Wikimedia Commons

Studies show that kids who read during the summer jump back into school with a head-start.

Kids who take the summer off (reading, that is), often tend to find September a bit of a struggle.

So for all kinds of reasons, it’s good to keep your kid reading during the summer.

Some of my best memories are of going to the tiny library near our cottage and loading up with a week’s worth of books.

But what if your kid isn’t a super-voracious reader?

Here are some tips:

* See if your library has a summer reading program. Here’s an example. They typically bundle reading incentives into the program – it works! And if you live in Canada, here’s a link to TD’s summer reading club.

* Plan on a quick trip to the library at least once a week. Even if your kid takes out one book, it’s worth it.

* Use books on CD (or MP3) to replace TV time.

* An ebook by the dock? Why not? (Just don’t drop the Kindle in the water…)

* Outdoor time can be reading time. Check out this outdoor literacy suggestion for active kids.

* Alternative reading material counts! Comic books, magazines, ebooks, books on CD… all better than mind-numbing video games.

* Buy your child a book, wrap it up, and hide in in their bed as a bedtime surprise. It’s not a school night, so sure you can stay up and read for a while longer!

* If you’re really serious about breaking some rules for a good cause, include a flashlight with the book you give your child. They’ll figure out pretty quickly that it’s fun to “fool your parents” into thinking you’re sleeping, when you’re really reading in bed with a flashlight. (Of course, you’re one step ahead of them.)

 

 

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Why you should “do philosophy” with your kids

Metaphysics Amy Leask booksAmy Leask believes that the best and most interesting philosophers are kids.

They tend to ask the “big questions” like: Where did I come from? Why is this good and that’s bad? And, “Why can’t I have another piece of cake?”

What is philosophy?

The word “Philosophy” comes from the Greek words Philos (love) and Sophia (wisdom).  In other words, philosophy is the love of wisdom.  It’s the practice of asking very big questions, ones that often have more than one possible answer, or no clear answers at all.

Leask has written a series of books that help kids learn philosophy in a fun, simple and understandable way.

Her series of books covers: Metaphysics (“What is all this stuff?”); Aesthetics (“Gee, that’s pretty!”); Epistemology (“How do you know what you know?”) and other big-question topics. There’s also an introductory book to get you and your kids started.

Amy says it better than I ever could, so click on the video below to listen to her explain why kids should ”do philosophy” –

Check out the website for the books, which includes activities for kids.

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Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” as a picture book

The Circle Game; picture book cover“I’m not illustrating the words in the text so much as I am the gaps between the words.”
–Brian Deines, Illustrator, “The Circle Game”

Joni Mitchell’s hauntingly beautiful “The Circle Game” is put to pictures by illustrator Brien Deines in this lavish new picture book that takes the reader through the protagonist’s life from boy to young adult.

Deines has done a wonderful job illustrating the gaps and bringing the song to life.

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