Friday, March 22, 2013

Review of 'Pranklopedia: The Funniest, Grossest, Craziest, Not Mean Pranks on the Planet!' by Julie Winterbottom


Every day is April Fools’ Day. Pure heaven for the prankster, Pranklopedia is as indispensable a compilation of pranks as Jokelopedia is a collection of jokes.

Written by longtime Nickelodeon Magazine editor in chief Julie Winterbottom, Pranklopedia is a complete prank encyclopedia. It includes over 70 pranks, with step-by-step directions; a full-color, sixteen-page insert of supplementary materials, including “tasty” soup can labels (mmm, Cream of Sparrow Soup!) and a “winning” lottery ticket; recipes for such essential prank-stuff as fake snot, fake vomit, fake ice cream; tips on how to pull the perfect prank; profiles of famous pranks and pranksters; even a prank woven right into the book—spot the fake entries in the Prankster Hall of Fame.

As for the pranks themselves—they’re priceless. Classics like short sheeting the bed and the dancing dollar. There’s the crude—mouse turds in ice—and really crude—make fake, edible dog poop. And there are pranks especially good to pull on your parents— deliver the “Take Your Teacher Home Day” letter from school and watch them freak out.

One word of caution: Use common sense in deciding how often to use Pranklopedia, or you might find yourself looking for a new place to live.

**My thoughts**

At first, I was hesitant about this book. The teacher in me worried that kids would take advantage of doing cruel things to each other. But then I started reading and found an enjoyable book of relatively harmless pranks that would be a lot of fun, even for adults to try on each other.

I applaud Julie Winterbottom for taking time at the beginning of the book to explain how to execute a prank, how to tell when someone is going to be open and not so open to a prank, and most importantly, how to apologize should a prank go wrong. It is always hit or miss whether or not a prank is going to work on someone! She also labels the ones that pranksters should be prepared to clean up after they are done, as well as those that will require adult assistance for safety.

Another thing I really liked about this book is how she snuck in some history with it. Learn about the history of April Fool's Day, or more about Benjamin Franklin and Presidential Pranksters, as well as some classic pranks over time. I think my favorites are the prank art pieces. Then, there is that subtle art of practicing the alphabet and using references, as entries are arranged in alphabetical order, just like in an encyclopedia.

So many of these pranks are appealing to me. I use a variation of the one about colds with my young students, to emphasize how germs can easily spread. I kind of want to try one in which you thread a banana so that when someone unpeels it, it is already sliced. I think that would be fun to surprise them. One about putting whipped cream in a bag of potato chips to trick someone who is always eating your food could come in handy in the staff room. A fake computer screen would be priceless to use in the computer lab. The comic strip introductions to how the prank works that follow most of them are also great fun. They include both boys and girls carrying out the pranks. So yes, adults could have fun with these, too!

Just keep in mind that if you buy this book for one of your own kids, you will fall victim to many of the pranks inside. If you give this book to a family or friend's kid, you may not hear from them for a while. But most of all, remember that this book will provide hours of entertainment for someone, even yourself!

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review of 'Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations'


Throughout the year and around the globe, people use light -- candles, bonfires, lanterns and fireworks -- to celebrate special occasions. This richly illustrated book is an illuminating tour of the world's brightest and warmest festivities.

**My thoughts**

As a Montessori teacher, I really like this book! In December, we often have Festivals of Light, to celebrate the four major holidays. But celebrations using light occur all throughout the year. This book is a great resource for the teacher who is looking for more cultural studies to include. It's also great for the elementary-aged student who is researching them. Most of the commonly known celebrations are included, with a few that I have never heard of before.

Each festival is introduced by a kid who lives in that country, with a brief description of it. Every month and most continents are represented. The brief intros may encourage kids to research those that pique their interest. There isn't enough information to provide a full template for creating your own celebration.

Illustrations are full of color and excitement to represent each culture and celebration. It makes for a good addition to a kid's library.  

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Buy links: Amazon \ Barnes & Noble 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review of 'How Do Hang Gliders Work?' by Jennifer Boothroyd




Would you want to swoop through the air like a bird? Riding a hang glider is a fun way to fly. But a hang glider has no motor. How does the pilot take off? How does the hang glider stay in the air? Learn the answers in this book!

**My thoughts**

Spice up your studies of transportation with an uncommon one - the hang glider. It is a form of transportation, though definitely a nontraditional one. This simple reader explains what kind of aircraft the hang glider is, its parts, and how it works. It also touches on safety. Each page has a striking photograph with just a few sentences explaining it. Young readers will be able to independently enjoy it, while nonreaders will appreciate having it read to them. 

At the end, there is a review diagram of the parts of the glider, fun facts, a glossary, and sources for further reading. I enjoyed reading it and learned something new. Kids are going to love learning about a new way to have an adventure. 

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review of 'Meaty Main Dishes (You Are the Chef!)' by Jennifer S. Larson


Want to treat your family to some meaty home-cooked meals? You can be the chef with these easy-to-follow recipes for Asian shrimp stir fry, juicy chicken drumsticks, taco meatballs, and other tasty dishes. You'll find simple drawings of important steps as well as photographs of the finished dishes. This book also provides key information, such as an equipment list, a technique list, safety tips, notes on special ingredients, and more. What are you waiting for? It's time to get cooking!

**My thoughts**

I would have loved to have had a book like this when I was a kid! The photographs by Brie Cohen make your mouth water as you flip through the cookbook. I even want to make some of these recipes for myself and my loved ones!

I adore the safety tips that are given in the beginning of the book (such as tie back long hair) and the frequency with which Larson reminds children to wash their hands. She tells them in the beginning of the book how important it is to wash your hands before beginning and after handling raw meat, as well as having it be one of the steps written in the preparation of the meals. Kids are notorious for constantly "forgetting" to wash their hands!

I also really like the definitions of cooking terms and tips for measuring that are found right in the beginning. Most of the recipes also include more cooking tips and variations.  The back of the book further defines a few of the "special ingredients" used in some of the recipes, as well as resources for more reading and fun websites.

Many of the recipes are easily done without adult supervision. Those that involve actually cooking on the stovetop or in the oven should definitely include an adult popping in here and there. Parents could go through the book with their kids to determine which ones are okay for them to make on their own. 

I wish that the page with the cooking tools actually used real photographs. The rest of the book has stunning photographs. I can figure out what most of the pictures are supposed to be, but photographs would make them that much easier for a kid to identify in his or her own kitchen.

I think this book would make for a good addition to a kid's personal library, or even as a classroom cookbook for community lunches. This book has been kid-tested and approved!

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Buy links: Amazon \ Barnes & Noble \ Lerner   

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review of 'Profiles #5: The Vietnam War' by Daniel Polansky


It takes more than one person to bring about War. This book will follow the lives of six key players during one of the most controversial wars in history.

Profiles is so much more than just your typical biography. The next book in our six-in-one, full-color bio series will focus on the five W's of the Vietnam War--who, what, where, when, and why. Kids will learn all of the biographical information they need to know (background, family, education, accomplishments, etc.) about: Ho Chi Minh (prime minister of Democratic Republic of Vietnam) John F. Kennedy (US president 1961-1963), Lyndon B. Johnson (US president (1963-1969), Ngo Dinh Diem (president of South Vietnam), Henry Kissinger (US National security advisor), and William Westmoreland (US army general). This book will help illuminate one of the most controversial wars in American history for a new generation of readers.

**My thoughts**

 When I was in school, the Vietnam War had been over for several years, yet no one talked about it. It was like a passing mention in a textbook. This book serves to teach the next generation more about what shaped those that came before them and to what so much media refers in our current conflicts. 

The book focuses on six men who were instrumental in the conflict, each with approximately the same number of pages of information given to each one. Each one of them had a different role in the war and different reasons for their participation. Each one had different opinions of the conflict. By presenting all six of them, this book allows for a broader and more balanced look at the controversial war.

Each man's personal history, as it relates to the conflict, is given in his biographical sketch. Political reasoning and maneuvering, and military tactics are both discussed. I felt like I learned a lot from reading this book, that I had missed out on when taking history classes at a younger age.

The only thing that caught my eye was impeachment being defined as "the process by which Congress removes the president from office" when discussing Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Impeachment is actually the process of bringing formal charges against someone in public office, such as the President, but not necessarily removing them from office. Removal from office can result from impeachment, though. A recent example is President Clinton, who was impeached, charged and put on trial for misconduct, but was not removed from office. This stuck out to me, because I remember having this discussion in our limited coverage of the Vietnam War in high school. I also double-checked the definition at and other sources.

The end of the book also includes a brief timeline outlining the major events of the conflict, a glossary of terms used throughout, and a bibliography for future reference.

I think this book would be appropriate for middle grades through adult, as one reference for studies of the Vietnam War.

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Buy links: Amazon \ Barnes & Noble


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review of 'Figuring Out Fossils' by Sally M. Walker






Fossils give us a window to the past. Water, sediments, and pressure work together over time to preserve the shape of things that lived long ago. Studying these ancient plants and animals tells us more about our own existence. Have you ever searched for fossils? Unearth some in this book.

 **My thoughts**

The book is divided into short chapters, each of which answers a particular question about fossils. Real photographs help to illustrate the explanations that are given. Only a few sentences are on each page, which allows for a clean and simple read.

Terms are clearly defined within the book, leaving little room for confusion. There is also a glossary in the back. I felt like a lot of information was given in the book, and done so in a way that will be easy for young readers to understand. I definitely prefer the real photographs, so that children can better understand what fossils look like in real life. Young paleontologists will be inspired to start their own fossil hunts!

What I love about this series is that there are recommended books and websites at the back of the book, to give direction to those kids who are sure to want to learn even more. I would recommend this book for kindergarten/first grade and up.

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Buy links: Amazon \ Barnes & Noble \ Lerner

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review of 'Dessert Designer' by Dana Meachen Rau


Turn your boring desserts into fantastic works of food art. Learn to make cupcakes into bunnies or candies into shining stars. The best part of this book is learning it’s OK to play with your food!

For ages 9-13.

* Step-by-step instructions to create each project
* Cool projects! No baking required!
* Photos enhance the projects and appeal to readers of all ages
* In line with the popular food styling trend
* Great family activity

Advance Praise

"Dessert Designer is filled with sweet, creative ideas that are doable, even for the novice designer—and kids, too.”
-Rebecca French, author Sweet Home cookbook and

**My Thoughts**

Creative cooking and baking is all the rage right now. Just turn on any food-related network and even some other mainstream channels. You can even find cooking shows playing alongside sports events in restaurants. This book helps even the youngest bakers and designers get involved in the current trends.

I love the gorgeous photography used to illustrate the book. I don't know that my own creations would ever look quite as good, but the pictures make you want to try your very best!

The Decorator's Toolbox is a great page. The photograph looks much like a real kitchen drawer or box would and helps you to identify what all of the tools are. You can go shopping with your parents to get anything that is missing. Maybe you can even get your own drawer in the kitchen, or your own dessert designs plastic box in which you can store your things.

The cupcake decorations appear to be the easiest and would require less adult supervision. The candies and the cakes are definitely much more complicated and will probably require some help. These creations would be perfect to make ahead of time for a party or other special event. Slumber parties just got more exciting, too, as you could plan to make these desserts with your friends! I am dying to try the rabbit cupcakes for Easter. I think I want to make the Polka Dot Presents for my next birthday cake.

As with any cooking project that you are sharing with friends and family, be aware of everyone's food allergies and/or sensitivities prior to creating and presenting them. Some modifications could possibly be made for some of those.

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.      


About the Author:

Dana Meachen Rau writes about many topics, including food! When she's not writing, she's being creative in other ways - especially in the kitchen. Sometimes she follows recipes, but other times she experiments with new flavors. And she doesn't need a special occasion to whip up a special dessert for her friends and family in Burlington, Connecticut.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review of 'Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball'


Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all. The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students—a bunch of energetic young men—are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy—or someone's going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius. Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

**My thoughts**

I enjoyed reading this book, because I never really knew the history behind the game of basketball. I knew it had originally been played with peach baskets and was invented by a teacher. I was amused at how this book shows the innovation of a teacher who is desperate to corral a bunch of rowdy students, especially because I am a teacher. I also liked how it demonstrated the trial and error involved in creating the game. I think it is important for kids to realize that great things don't necessarily happen without a lot of experimentation and perseverance until you get it right.

The illustrations amused me, as they are reminiscent of an older style of drawing. I got a kick out of how the players become increasingly injured as the story goes on, as Naismith kept trying out new ideas. The history buff in me loves seeing the original typewritten rules, as well. While it mentions how basketball evolved to the sport that it is today, it doesn't dwell on the current game. Some may think of this as a downfall. I like that it stays true to its title. Interested children may be inspired to research more about it.

I think this book will appeal to kids in kindergarten or lower elementary and up.

I received a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

Review of 'Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg' by Tanya Anderson


Imagine being fifteen years old, facing the bloodiest battle ever to take place on U.S. soil: the Battle of Gettysburg. In July 1863, this is exactly what happened to Tillie Pierce, a normal teenager who became an unlikely heroine of the Civil War (1861-1865). Tillie and other women and girls like her found themselves trapped during this critical three-day battle in southern Pennsylvania. Without training, but with enormous courage and compassion, Tillie and other Gettysburg citizens helped save the lives of countless wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. 
In gripping prose, Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the of Battle Gettysburg takes readers behind the scenes. And through Tillie’s own words, the story of one of the Civil War’s most famous battles comes alive.

**My thoughts**

What I loved about this book... I love the real photographs. The Civil War was the first major event that was photographed, thanks in part to Matthew Brady. It was the first time that we saw a true picture of the devastation of war. The Civil War has always felt the most real to me because of that. These pictures are amazing.

I love that Tillie's real words are used throughout the book. Tanya explains the history and then uses Tillie's comments to further illustrate what she is saying. Real eyewitness accounts are significantly more powerful than someone else's interpretations. The fact that these are the observations of a teenager should speak to younger readers, as Tillie is more of one of their peers telling the story. I have visited Gettysburg and have tried to imagine what it was like. Reading her descriptions and feelings, in conjunction with the pictures, brings it more to life as a real event.

I do wish that more of Tillie's words would have been in the book. I think I need to actually find her book and read it to fulfill that desire, though. When I originally read the description, I thought it was going to mostly be Tillie, with a little commentary thrown in. Instead, it was the other way around.

Another aspect of this book that I appreciated was the section at the end that gives follow-up activities and further reading and research that kids can do.

With the amount of reading in this 100-page book and the language used, I would recommend it for middle grades and above. Adults looking for a quick read about the Civil War may also enjoy it.   

Buy links: Amazon \ Lerner Publishing

I received a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. 

Get to know author Tanya Anderson: Blog | Website | Facebook 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

'Healthy Me!' by Cherrie Dejolde Bautista Release Day Party!

We’re celebrating the release day party of Healthy Me! today. The author was kind enough to offer 5 Kindle eBook copies of Healthy Me! as a giveaway. Scroll down for the Rafflecopter form to participate.

The giveaway runs from March 9th to March 14th and is international.

Healthy Me! is a book of healthy affirmations for little stars. Written to promote positive self talk to kids, Healthy Me! encourages children to have a healthy lifestyle --- physically, mentally, and emotionally. This book is full of positive affirmations that focuses on taking care of one's self while having fun doing it! 
Don't forget to check the end for your Bonus Gift to see how you can download a free ebook, you and your family will enjoy!

Book Excerpt
I like to stay healthy,
take care of myself.
I respect my self-image.
I’m proud of my health.

Author Bio
Cherrie Dejolde Bautista is a Certified Empowerment Coach committed to help everyone reach their fullest potential and be the best they can be. Having a technical background who worked as an Analyst/Computer Programmer, she pursued and became certified as an Empowerment Coach in her quest to understand how she can become the best parent for her kids. She realized that in order to raise her kids to be healthy, responsible, confident and successful individuals with a lot of respect for themselves, their family, other people, and life, she needs to empower herself not only to be the best parent, but also to reach her own fullest potential and be the best individual she can be. Being a good role model is the most effective way of teaching, influencing, and nurturing her kids. She teaches her children how to live by letting them watch her do it.


Win one of 5 Kindle eBook copies of Healthy Me! The giveaway runs from March 9th to March 14th and is international.
a Rafflecopter giveaway