Post Tagged with: "girls"

Taboo Buzz’d will get ’em reading

Taboo buzzd gameHere’s a really fun game that will get your kids reading, and they won’t even knowing they’re practising their reading.

Best of all, this game is electronic, which will make kids like it even more.

Taboo is a popular board game–Taboo Buzz’d is an electronic version of it. You have to get your partner(s) to say a certain word. But you’re not allowed, yourself, to say any of the four “taboo” words.

Here’s an example: Try to get someone else to say sandcastle but you can’t say beachpail, water or moat. Or blend but you can’t say colours, mix, combine or together.

It’s pretty difficult — and fun. And with the electronic (“Buzz’d”) version it’s super-simple, which
means kids can concentrate on the words and the synonyms and the game play without any distractions.

How to play
You press the big orange button on the hand-held unit to start the game. A screen gives you the word plus four taboo words. If your teammate guesses the word, you press the orange button again. If you just can’t get them to guess your word, you can press the “pass” button. And if you accidentally say a taboo word, you press the big purple “taboo” bar on the top of the unit and your team loses a point. Each round continues with six games. The unit keeps track of the scores for two teams.Taboo Buzzd package

The reason the game is so good is that they’ve chosen really appropriate “taboo” words. It’s pretty difficult to think of a way to play the game without using those words. And of course, that’s where all the fun is. “Oops! I said necklace!”

Taboo Buzz’d is most fun when you’re playing with teams of two or more, but my son and I were even able to just play it ourselves, albeit the scoring was kind of wonky but that was fine. The game is aimed at kids 13 and up, but I think younger kids would find it fun. You could modify the rules so that younger kids had to use the taboo words. It would still be silly and fun–and they’d be reading.

Taboo Buzz’d by Hasbro, age 13+, 1,000 words per unit, requires three AAA (not double-A) batteries and they’re not included, so make sure you pick some up when you buy the game. It sells at Toys R Us, Amazon, etc., for about $22. Worth it.

On a different topic: I apologize for the backwards apostrophe in the headline of this article. I can’t get it to go the right way. Frustrating.

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“Spirit Animals,” a new multi-author book series with an online game

Wild Born Book 1 Spirit Animals Books in series are popular with kids because, once they’ve found a book they love, they can keep reading as long as the author keeps writing.

Sometimes, of course, that’s not often enough. After all, there are only so many books a writer can produce in a year. Kids can read ’em faster than writers can write ’em.

That’s one reason why multi-author series are so popular.

39 Clues, of course, is one of the best and most popular multi-author series, with some big-name children’s authors including Gordan Korman and Rick Riordan.

Scholastic recently launched a new multi-author series called Spirit Animals. Book I is Wild Born, by best-selling author Brandon Mull.

The series is almost certain to be a hit with kids. It deliberately hits all the right buttons—an interesting fantasy world in which kids are the heroes, likeable, imperfect protagonists that kids can identify with, and… animals. Kids love books about animals, there is no doubt of that.

But these are not just any animals. In Wild Born, certain children can conjure up a “spirit animal,” with whom they then bond for life. That spirit animal gives the child powers—but only after the child has already proven himself capable.

Wild Born’s world is Erdas (which, naturally, is in peril and will require the kids and their spirit animals to save it.)Hunted Spirit Animals Book II Maggie Stiefvater

Erdas is similar enough to Earth that kids don’t have to mentally venture too far from home. Relatability is important for middle-grade readers, some of whom may get turned off something that is just too “out there.”

Erdas’s continents are given relatively recognizable names: Arctica, Eura, Amaya (“America”) and Zhong (“Asia”) – in real life, the Chinese word for China is Zhong Guo.

Brandon Mull scoped out the plot for the whole series, which the other writers will follow and embellish. The uber-popular children’s author Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Boys) picks up the torch for book two in the series, Hunted, which comes out in January. There will be seven books in the series; the last one comes out in April 2015.

Another plus for a middle-grade book is a plot that clips right along and Wild Born has that in spades. The reader is introduced to each child in turn and his or her spirit animal; the children are quickly united in a massive, action-packed save-the-world adventure.

While there is a lot going on—with four main characters and four spirit animals, it’s a lot for the reader to keep track of—kids love that kind of mental juggling.

The animals, incidentally, are an eagle, a cheetah, a wolf and a panda (whose bonded child never quite appreciates it in Book I: “What skills would it bestow on a fighter? The ability to eat bamboo,” Meilin asks herself.).

The Spirit Animals series is known as a “multi-platform fantasy adventure series” because it includes an online game kids can access using a code in their book. Kids create an adventurer and conjure their own spirit animal. In fairly short order, enemies start attacking–I was bitten by a magic rattlesnake quite a few times before I could find a way to right-click him into oblivion–and the Greencloaks waste no time in ushering your character into Erdas.

It’s not necessary to go online to enjoy the books. It’s just an added bonus to help get—and keep—kids reading.

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For tween girls: Small, Medium at Large, by Joanne Levy

small-medium-at-largeIf you’re looking for a lovely, humorous read for your tween girl, look no further than Small Medium at Large, by Joanne Levy.

The title refers to the fact that after our heroine, Lilah Bloom, is struck by lightning (at her mother’s wedding) she begins to hear ghosts–starting with her grandmother, Bubby Dora.

The ghosts Bloom communicates with are always interesting, funny and helpful. And come to think about it, isn’t that exactly what a tween girl needs? Helpful, fun mentors she can turn to for advice during those tricky in-between years.

And what girl wouldn’t give anything to be able to spend a few more days with her grandmother?

The story clicks right along, in Small Medium at Large, with just enough character development to satisfy most young female readers and just enough action to make it a fast and easy read.

The ghosts help Bloom solve some problems, like finally getting her dorky dad to go on a date. And she helps them, as well.

The main character, Lilah Bloom, is a girl who’s smart but just imperfect enough for the reader to be able to relate to her. Small Medium at Large is a good read, for girls at an age when it can be difficult to find reading material that’s not babyish but not inappropriate, either. This book fits the bill.

There is an excellent review of the book on the blog YA Love.



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“What Happened To Serenity?” by PJ Sarah Collins

What Happened to Serenity by PJ Sarah CollinsWhat Happened to Serenity? is a well-written, absorbing read for teens or tweens.

There are no questions allowed in Katherine’s town. At least, the adults aren’t allowed to ask questions.

That’s the reader’s first clue that everything’s not quite right in her world. Everyone in the town works for the collective good and shares equally; no colour is permitted (everyone wears brown); and kids learn in school that the outside world contains dangerous “unstable air.”

When Katherine’s best friend’s little sister, Serenity, disappears Katherine decides to do something. She goes searching for answers to her unasked questions.

Katherine is a well-rounded character with solid values. Her parents are presented as smart and supportive. And the novel has a slightly dark, dystopian feel. (Kids do like their dystopia.) The writing is fast-paced and readable.

For kids who like dystopian novels like Hunger Games, Serenity would be a solid bet.

By PJ Sarah Collins, published by Red Deer Press. Collins’s author website is here.

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Plucky picture-book heroine defies discrimination

In The Bag! by Monica Kulling/David Parkins“In The Bag!” by Monica Kulling, illustrated by David Parkins

Here is a lovely, empowering book you should read with your kid for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s a terrific book, a good story with wonderful illustrations. Second, it’s empowering for girls. It teaches a young generation—that sometimes can’t believe that women were ever discriminated against in North America—about women’s struggle for equality. Third, it’s a biography–a great way to introduce the genre.

In The Bag! tells the real-life story of American Margaret Knight who, in the mid-1800s, became an inventor.

Kids will enjoy reading about how she invented something we all take for granted: a flat-bottomed paper bag. (Before that, we learn, “bags” were simply scrunched-up cones of paper.) While Knight starts out simply trying to solve a problem, kids will be amazed when she comes up against the “how can a woman be an inventor?!” mindset of the day.

It’s a book that can open up a really interesting dialogue with your kid. Or, at the very least, get him thinking about paper bags a little differently.

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Advice from a young author: Dare to suck

Do you have a kid you’re trying to encourage to write more?

Is your kid discouraged because she’s worried that her writing isn’t good enough?

Here’s some great advice from a young author, Maureen Johnson, who is currently working on her 10th novel for teens.

She will tell your kid (in her own inimitable way) that in order to write well, first you need to suck. (3:56 but it goes fast.)

Here’s a link to Maureen’s website.

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Test your Potter fan with these clues

Harry Potter, magical quills; image: www.pottermore.comWe’ve all been missing Harry and the Gang, of course, which is why we were so excited to see the new website, Pottermore.

Getting Kids Reading has qualified to be an early, beta-tester of the new Harry Potter site.
That means we’ll be able to bring you an insider’s view of all of the magical outpourings of J. K. Rowling’s imagination, a month or so before the site is open to everyone in October.

(There are one million other beta-testers, incidentally, so we’re not exactly letting our special status go to our heads.)

They chose the beta-testers through a special contest. For one week, asked a question a day to elicit a clue which we then used to “find” a magical quill.

Test your little Potter fan and see how many he or she would have gotten correct!
Here are the clues they asked:

Day 1 Clue
How many breeds of owl are featured on the Eeylops Owl Emporium sign? Answer: 5

Day 2 Clue
What is the number of the chapter in which Professor McGonagall cancels the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff? Answer: 14

Day 3 Clue
In the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match, in Harry’s third year, how many points is Gryffindor leading by before Harry catches the golden snitch? Answer: 60

Day 4 Clue
How many students take part in the Triwizard Tournament during Harry’s fourth year? Answer: 4

Day 5 Clue
What is the house number of the Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix in Grimmauld Place? Answer: 12

Day 6 Clue
How many chapters are there in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? 
 Answer: 30

Day 7 Clue
How many deathly hallows are there? Answer: 3

The image of the magical quills came from the “Pottermore Insider’s Blog,” which magically disappeared after I clicked on it. OK, maybe I’m not so much “magical” as I am “technically incompetent” – but my point is, I’d love to know who the artist is. These are beautiful. And, clearly, magical.

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Bubbles are fragile things

bubble-pin; image at resolve not to burst my kid’s bubble.

I’ve been noticing lately that kids are subjected to a lot of scolding.

The problem with scolding is that it can so easily be the cold bucket of water that douses the flames of creativity.

Here’s what I mean.

Kid: “Hey mom, flies spit stuff on their food that makes it dissolve!”
(This kid is excited, he’s sparkling, he’s on fire, beautiful bubbles are rising from his brain.)

Mom: “Wow, that’s cool!”
(The mom is kind of grossed out, but wants to share her kid’s excitement.)

She continues:
Mom: “Where did you learn that?

Kid: “This really cool comic book called Zombies And Things That Kill. It’s so cool—”

Mom: “Where did you get that comic book? You know you’re not allowed to have comics with violence in them!”


The mom just wants to be a good mom. She wants to uphold the rules she’s laid down for her family. She doesn’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble. But there it is.

The kid’s excitement is gone. Now he’s a “bad kid” because he broke a rule. Now, instead of going back to reading—or reading something else—reading has pretty much been ruined for him today. Hopefully only for today.

And the moment he was about to share with his mom, that fragile beautiful thing, has been ruined as well.

I scold, of course I do. We all scold from time to time. But from now on before I scold, or even get the urge to scold, I’m going to look for the bubble and make sure I’m not the one to burst it before it can even be enjoyed.

By the way, this bubble isn’t the “reading bubble.” That’s another beautiful bubble that we don’t want to shred. Apparently I’m a bit light on new metaphors. Read about the reading bubble here.

And while you’re at it, check out this thoughtful blog post on a similar subject, over at Storytiming.

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L. M. Montgomery’s newest book is dark and lovely

The Blythes Are Quoted, by L. M. MontgomeryHere’s a mother-daughter book you may want to check out.

Wait, I’m assuming you’ve both read (and loved) the Anne of Green Gables series.
You have? Good. Let’s continue.

So, I’m browsing the shelves of Chapters in a small town in Ontario recently, and my fingers are drawn to a soft green cover with gold embossed writing on the spine. It says, The Blythes Are Quoted, by L. M. Montgomery.

I’m intrigued. I take it down from the shelf. It’s beautiful, a hefty volume of about 500 lovingly bound pages with a painted scene of PEI on the cover.

I call a Chapters-woman over. “What’s this?” I ask her.

She tells me essentially what the book’s foreword says, which is, “The Blythes Are Quoted is the last work of fiction the world-famous author of Anne of Green Gables prepared for publication before her untimely death on April 24, 1942. It has never been published in its entirety… Until now, the full text of The Blythes Are Quoted has remained something of a secret.”

Apparently someone delivered the manuscript to Montgomery’s publisher on the day of her death, but it was never published. Long-story short, any publisher who tried to put it into print either annotated the material or left half of it out.

There’s a reason for that. The book is a collection of short stories, none of them directly about Anne of Green Gables (but she’s usually mentioned at least in passing). After each story is a poem or two that “Anne” has written, and some dialogue between Anne and her family members about the poem.

Here’s the other reason: some of the stories are kind of dark. There’s one about a girl who is taken by her aunt into a forest upon each full moon to meet ghosts. There’s another one about a man who is taken on a joy ride by a knife-wielding lunatic. Actually, did I say “kind of” dark? These stories are dark. But oh so much fun!

Some publishers left out the poems, and some left out the “dark.” Viking Canada in 2009 and now Penguin this year have published all of it, and it’s good stuff.

If you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan (you people in Japan*, I’m talking to you), you and your daughter would do well to pick up this strange and delightful nugget of Anne-inspired wonderfulness.

It’s not exactly a spunky redheaded orphan getting into mischief. More like her dead, insane, murderous older sister on a drunken rampage—if she were still cute and likeable.

Anyway, the price of the volume is worth it just for the lovely cover art.

*I’m not trying to be funny… the Japanese love Anne like the French love Jerry Lewis. They’re obsessed with her. They’ve got good taste.

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Play on Words – literacy action game

Cards for literacy activity

By Nancy Miller

Here’s a fun activity that can take five minutes, or roll out to 10 or 15.

The goal here is to have fun with words — and encourage your kid to get reading!

Play on Words
This activity uses three major learning styles:
• visual: they see the words.
• aural: they hear the words.
• kinesthetic: they act out the words

Here’s how to play:
1. Ask the child to say his name and what he likes to do. For instance:
“My name is Fraser. I like to swim.” (or ride my bike, or run, etc.)

2. Write down the answer in large letters.

3. Then together, pretend you’re swimming hard (lie across a chair and kick your feet while stroking with your arms; diving… make sure there’s lots of action!)

3. Read the words aloud, pointing to each word. Read the words together.

You can also extend the learning:
*Do the actions again. Then ask your child to pick out the words that go with that action.
*Keep a record of the words.
*Later you can also cut out pictures to go with the activities; this is excellent for reinforcement.

Other times, pretend:
*Animals; “My name is Fraser. I am a lion.”
*Vehicles: “My name is Fraser. I am a train.”
*Sports: “I like to play baseball.”

This will work with whatever your child’s interests are.

This activity is a shortened version of a longer learning-to-read program. If you would like more information on the program, please contact: Nancy Miller at

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