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.