Saturday, August 19, 2017

Code 7: Cracking the Code for an Epic Life

I initially thought this was a book of short stories for middle graders... and it kind of is. The chapters can be read as stand alone stories, but the characters all go to the same school, and work together in the last story. It reminds me a lot of Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar - each chapter can be read as a complete short story, but all the characters go to the same school and interact with each other. Like Sachar's book, there is humor is the Code 7 stories, though it is more subtle and tongue-in-cheek than Wayside

These stories have a positive spin, with the students taking action for an idea they're passionate about. This shows the kids reading that they have the power to change the world around them, just like the characters they're meeting in Code 7.

Code 7 is a great book for parents and teachers to read aloud to, or read along with, their middle grade kids. These engaging, quick stories are sure to inspire the readers to take action.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Art Parts

Art Parts: A Child's Introduction to the Elements of Art by Kim Bogren Owen

Art Parts is a fun, simple way to introduce kids to basic elements of art. The book shows examples of lines, shapes, color hue and saturation, texture, and more. There are blank pages next to each "lesson" so the kid has a chance to try their hand at what they just learned. It's kind of like an art workbook, except it's a beautifully bound hardback so kids will be excited to see their art in a real book!

There are resource pages at the end to extend the activities in the book, and help relate the lessons to everyday life. It's fun to help your kid point out different lines and shapes they see in real life, identify colors and light, and more.

I was excited to get this book because my husband is an artist, and I thought he would have a lot of fun introducing these concepts to our three year old. He loves working hands-on teaching art to kids, and this book really helped him figure out how he can break concepts into small lessons that kids can understand and master. I, on the other hand, can hardly draw a stick figure, so I figured this book would just be a father and son experience. But I've gone over it with my son and really enjoyed experimenting with the concepts myself! I think this is a fun, engaging, interactive book for all ages.

If you buy the book, you get access to journal pages so a whole family or classroom can create their own art books! If you've already bought the book, you can get a code to access the pages. If you don't have the book, you can access the journal pages for a fee. Trust me, this book is so engaging, it's worth it to expand lessons and creativity beyond the book!

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Free Rain

Free Rain written by Daniel Wentzel, illustrated by José Lucio

Spring thunderstorms have kept the chickens cooped up (no pun intended!). When the blue chicken overhears words that sound like "free rain", he alerts the others. They remain unimpressed, seeing that rain has been dripping through their roof for days. But when they realize that Blue is out of his cage, they understand the words as "free range". The chickens are scared to leave their cozy coop and confront the wild world and large creatures that live in the barnyard beyond. But when their food supply stops coming to them, their hunger pushed them to leave the barn. 

The concept of the story is nice, but it goes a little long, and lacks a nice punch at the end. The typography is excellent, though. Some words are placed in paragraphs like a typical book, but the exclamations and animals noises are written in a big font, almost scattered across the page. It was really engaging to go from more rigid text to words stretching across the spread.

The illustrations are gorgeous. The colors are vibrant, and the chickens are very expressive. Who knew a beak could convey so much emotion?! Lucio's collage style is amazing, from the way he uses sewn button holes for chicken eyes to the way you can practically feel the coop's dirt floor when you touch the page.

As far as age range, it was a little advanced for my three year old son. I think it's a good read for kindergarteners to second grade. The concept of "free range" and the chickens being nervous about exploring freedom is perfect for that age, as they adjust to relative freedom at school and with other transitions. But it's easily adaptable for younger readers. Each chicken is a different color, and it's fun to point out and name all the colors with a younger child. You can also identify the barn animals that poke their heads into the coop and scare the chickens, and make animal noises with younger children.

Disclaimer: The illustrator sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tundra Turns 50!

Tundra Books is celebrating its 50th year! They have Instagram reps sharing in the fun, and I was lucky enough to be one for spring!

Check out my short reviews of some of Tundra's amazing books:
If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur by Linda Bailey and Colin Jack
Sam Sorts by Marthe Jocelyn
It's Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry
Little Blue Chair by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper
Count Your Chickens by Jo Ellen Bogart and Lori Joy Smith
Wolfie & Fly by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Zoe Si

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods
by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

The Warren Hotel has been traveling for several months now, but exploring new terrain means Warren the 13th has to stay on his game to keep everything in tip-top shape, especially since the hotel is nearing the Malwoods. Witches and other dangerous creatures live there, so Warren needs to make sure he can change the hotel's path to ensure he doesn't put his hotel guests in harm's way.

But everyone wants a little bit of what the Warren Hotel possesses, whether it's the fame of the hotel itself, or someone staying inside it. And those villains aren't going to stop until they get what they want!

What is especially wonderful about this book is how Warren the 13th isn't the only "main" character - Petula and Sketchy get into their own troubles and really develop as strong characters. It's engrossing to have separate suspenseful storylines going on at the same time.

This book is just as gorgeous as the first, with green as the highlight color, compared to the first book's red. There are beautiful, expressive illustrations on every page; even the table of contents is no exception!

The graphic designer in me can't get enough of these beautiful books. They're so unique in look, layout, and story that I haven't stopped recommending it to kids (and adults, let's be honest). I love a lot of books and love to share those favorites with others, but this is one series that I am so eager to share with my son, because I know he's going to love soaking in the visuals and the story as much as I have.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Quirk Books, but the review is my own.

Thank you to my husband (LightBoxArt) for letting me use two of his paintings as backdrops for book photos! They fit so perfectly with Warren the 13th!