Thursday, December 9, 2010

No-Bake Gingerbread Houses For Kids

No- Bake Gingerbread Houses For Kids Reviewed by Eileen Hanley for

By: Lisa Turner Anderson

ISBN: 13: 978-1-4236-0590-4

ISBN: 10: 1-4236-0590-X

Publisher: Gibbs Smith

The idea of a no bake gingerbread house is intriguing because I know firsthand that making gingerbread houses can be a daunting task. Just making the gingerbread takes time and the recipe will need to be adjusted to accommodate the sections of the house. Handling the gingerbread is tricky, and its weight works against little hands being able to help with this project.

The No-Bake Gingerbread Houses For Kids takes a lot of the woe out of this fun project.

The author begins the book with directions on getting started, where to build the house, how to use cardboard and waxed paper for the bottom and the spreading of icing as grass or snow to make the house look neat and finished.

The houses are primarily constructed of graham crackers with some recipes using vanilla wafers, Necco wafers and vanilla sandwich cookies, molasses cookies, etc. For each house a specific type of icing is recommended and the term”glue” is used in relation to securing the crackers and cookies into a shape.

This is not just a book for reference during the holiday season but spans the calendar, i.e., Easter Bunny House, Mermaid Palace, Tiki Hut, Dracula’s Castle and many more delightful creations. There is even a Dollhouse!

Each recipe includes a diagram for the crackers, wafers and cookies, a choice of frostings and each specific candy required for decoration. I really liked how specific the diagrams were for each recipe showing where to break off or cut through the graham crackers.

The photography is wonderful and this alone would entice you to attempt one of these houses. Most children will require some adult assistance to construct one of the houses, so this book would lend itself not only to parents but to scout leaders and educators.

Lisa Turner Anderson is an avid crafter with a passion for dollhouses. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Greenzys

The Greenzys Reviewed by Eileen Hanley of

By: Danielle Mentzer

ISBN: 978-0-7566-6911-9

Published By: DK Publishing, Inc.

The Greenzys is a book about our Earth, preserving it saving it and learning about how each of us can make a difference.

We are introduced to Orinda, the oldest living tree on earth, who is being poisoned by the polluted river that flows next to her. She is old enough to remember when the earth was pure but is glad that she will at least be able to leave her pinecone behind that holds the seeds for future generations. Disaster strikes as Mr. Grimy, the villain, steals the pinecone and rides away on his motor bike.

There are magical moments as Orinda’s branches begin to stretch around the whole planet. Each branch connects with the animals of our earth and brings them back to Orinda. She implores the animals to help get her pinecone back from Mr. Grimy. The animals are given power with a touch from Orinda as a green heart appears on each of their chests. Lo and behold, the animals begin to turn green as one of them proclaims, “We’re Greenzys!”

The adventure begins as the Greenzys follow clues to find Orinda’s pinecone. They come upon an oil slick, a polluted stream and Mr. Grimy who has found an inappropriate use for the pinecone. Snatching it out of his hand, the Greenzys make it their mission to teach Mr. Grimy and all of us how to take care of the earth.

The author, Danielle Mentzer, has taken a timely worldwide issue and put it into understandable and memorable language for children. The talented illustrator, Chris De Lara, has brought this story to life through color and expressions which keep the reader or listener totally engaged.

I shared this book with a first grade class, a third grade class and a fourth grader. The general consensus was that it was one of the best books they had very heard/read. They all wanted me to leave the book with them to read again! Several children wanted to know where they could find the animals, and one was sure that if you touched the heart the animal would tell you their specific ecological activity!

This is a highly recommended book for all ages!

5 Woofs

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Bird in a Bathing Suit Reviewed by Eileen Hanley of

By: Dawn Mitchell

ISBN: 978-1-4327-5404-4

Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.

A little blue bird in a red bathing suit flapping his wings in a birdbath greets us on the cover of this delightful little book. He looks so happy even when we see him flying out of a tree with the children down below pointing and laughing, “what a silly sight to see.”

They continue to giggle and conjure up all sorts of situations in which birds act like people wearing bows, tee-shirts, underwear, sunglasses and a variety of outfits that they would wear. They eventually realize that the bird in the bathing suit is not going to come back if he is laughed at. The children recognize that in order to keep and make friends they have to accept how we all look dissimilar.

This is such a timely issue in that society has a difficult time accepting differences. This type of rejection can quickly escalate into full-scale bullying with disastrous results.

Dawn Mitchell has put important lessons on acceptance into rhyme with words and lessons for the young child. This is a wonderful talking point book for parents and teachers to discuss the differences that we all meet with each day.

The illustrations are engaging and the young reader can glean a multitude of contextual clues by just looking at the birds faces. In a beginning reader level, it is important that the print be large and distinctive, and A Bird in a Bathing Suit certainly fits the criteria readability.

4 1/2 Woofs

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Up Down Day

The Up Down Day Reviewed by Eileen Hanley of

By: Brian D. McClure

ISBN: 13: 978-1-933426-07-5

ISBN: 10 1-933426-07-1

Publisher: Universal Flag Publishing

We all come into this world expecting to be fed, clothed, sheltered and loved. As parents we want our children to feel safe and to protect them from the bumps in life. But, many adults and children have been protected to the point of being nonfunctional when life does not go as expected. The Up Down Day is written in a witty whimsical poetic style but has a powerful message to impart.

A young pre-teen boy is the narrator of our story telling us of the strangest thing that happened to him one day. It happened in the morning on a day that he did not have school. He was looking forward to playing all day long, but when he woke up things were different. Instead of the sun in the sky he sees darkness and the moon. He doesn’t know if he is asleep or awake and neither do we. All we know is that he feels panic, shock and fear as everything that was up is down and everything that was down is up!

The young boy tells us the whole town is in this condition, or does he think everyone feels this way. But, he still does not understand why his world has been turned upside down. How could this have happened? “Don’t you know?” asks his book. The narrator lets us know that this isn’t the first time the objects in his room have spoken to him or is he speaking to himself to soothe his fear and panic? This isn’t the way things are supposed to be he says and asks all of the objects in his room, “don’t you agree?” They all tell him “no,” and remind him that he has the answer within himself.

He comes to the conclusion that things aren’t always the way we think they should be. Things are not always how they seem. People aren’t always who we think they are. He feels comfortable that there is support for him if circumstances become unpredictable.

This is a wonderful talking point book for parents to read to their children with extended discussions on things that might not always go their way, fears and anxiety about the unknown. A teacher would do well to read this to her class promoting discussion among elementary children through high school. Picture books are not just for the young. As I alluded to previously, it contains a great deal of hidden meaning. The author gives lots of warm fuzzies to children feeling these anxieties stressing that they are always loved.

4 1/2 Woofs

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Make It Wild! 101 Things To Make And Do Outdoors

Make It Wild! 101 Things To Make And Do Outdoors Reviewed By Eileen Hanley Of

By Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

ISBN: 978-0-7112-2885-6

The title alone would invite the adventuresome to open the cover! There is a child pictured looking at a sailboat that we assume is self-constructed and the promise of more adventure to come scrolled across the bottom of the book. One knows from the touch that this book is meant to be an outside reference as it is coated for durability.

The authors are all about stimulating the imagination and restoring a sense of wonder in children. They are beckoning them to get up from the computer and television and release that sense of adventure. They use the category Ephemeral Art to encompass Beach Art, Woodland Art and Ice and Snow. All of these activities could be done with younger children with supervision. Older children would naturally enjoy these activities and add their own age appropriate creativity. The snow lanterns are beautiful, but would require an adult to light the candles.

The Outdoor Toys section is magical, offering explicit directions on how to make each one. I know how fascinated many children are with Go Carts and there are step-by-step directions for a successful execution of a simple rope steered go cart. The children go on to explore the beach finding pieces of drift wood to fashion cricket bats, type of baseball bat, small rafts and boats. The paper gliders and painted paper kites are ingenious incorporating many important educational skills, i.e. design, balance, fine motor, social and teamwork.

Clay, wood furniture, making paints from natural ingredients, handmade jewelry, leaf crafts and natural mobiles and wind chimes are only some of the activities out of 101. The authors have jam-packed this exciting book with things that most adults would enjoy doing. Many of the activities are geared to children ten and up with younger children included with modifications. This would be a great reference not only for parents but teachers, camp and scout leaders.

Many of the fire-based activities would be just as creative and educational without the element of danger. The authors make many disclaimers throughout the book regarding the use of dangerous materials such as the fire and sharp instruments. It will be up to those who take on the supervisory role for these activities to determine the appropriateness .

Highly recommended book for its creativeness and timeliness in regard to children being more active physically and creatively!

4 1/2 Woofs

Monday, March 29, 2010

is there a monster over there?

is there a monster over there? Reviewed by Eileen Hanley of

By: Sally O. Lee

ISBN: 1-4505-3102-4

ISBN, EAN: 978-1-4505-3102

Publisher: Lee Publishing

As I glanced at the cover of is there a monster over there?, I thought this must be a take-off on Mercer Mayer’s and Maurice Sendak’s well-known “monster” books. As I opened the book, I was greeted with a smiling little girl sitting on a couch with a precocious looking monster peeking out from behind. The setting gives us the feeling of urban living with a bicycle just beyond the front door. Her play horse and a picture book are beside her in this living area. We haven’t even turned to the first page yet, her name is unknown and we are hooked to know more.

It is Mabel hanging over the side of her bed, almost head to head with the monster under her bed, peeking at him outside her window, behind her door or at the foot of her bed ready to pounce. Mabel is afraid of monsters or at least this is what she wants us to think! Mabel and her cat Tiffany build a fort to keep them safe from monsters.

One day Mabel had second thoughts, what if monsters are just like us and not scary at all? She cautiously touches his wet and slimy nose, runs her fingers through his soft fur and strokes his smooth scales. The monster can’t take all of this touchy feely, he gets up and runs away. Mabel can’t believe it, he’s afraid of her just like she was afraid of him. Both Mabel and the monster give up their fears and go home to a celebratory tea party.

This is not just another “monster under the bed” book. It is much more than that giving us the message that if we examine our fears, make friends with our fears, we can overcome them and celebrate our power over things that disrupt our lives. The illustrations are wonderful and will give the younger child the context clues to understand the story visually. Sally O. Lee has taken a chance with this theme, but brings it up a notch to an emotionally enabling conclusion. Children need to know that they can have power over the way they feel.

4 1/2 Woofs

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Book About Tony Chestnut

The Book About Tony Chestnut Reviewed by Eileen Hanley of

By: Laurie Monopoli

ISBN: 13: 978-0-615-31139-5

ISBN: 10 0-615-31139-3

Publisher: Don Monopoli Productions/The Learning Station

Tony Chestnut dances into your life again in The Book About Tony Chestnut. He faces the dilemma all children face when there are transitions in their lives. Tony and his little sister Eileen have moved and it is their first day at a new school. Tony is optimistic about making new friends, but his sister Eileen is sad to leave her old friends and is not sure her friends will get along without her.

Tony and Eileen became observers, hesitating to take part in the activities swirling around them. Eileen is inconsolable and does not respond to any of Tony’s antics. Tony puts his shyness aside and begins to sing. He now had the attention of the entire playground full of children. I don’t want to give away the whole story, but Tony breaks into a little dance pointing to the body parts that make up his name.

His sister Eileen joins in the song and actions and soon all of the children on the playground have joined in song and dance. Tony and Eileen have made friends and all it took was one little shy boy taking a chance – Tony Chestnut!

The illustrations are delightful, childlike and printed on high quality gloss paper. The cover of the book is enticing with Tony dancing across the page, also noting that a CD is included with the book.

The reading level is approximately first grade (6 years old) and up, but the concept is meaningful to both younger and older children. I used the book with a first grade student along with the CD minus the page turn prompt. On the first read through, he was fascinated by the illustrations and was gathering context clues as he turned the pages. Upon using the CD with the music prompt, he had to be reminded when to turn the pages. He said the harp blended into the other music. With further practice listening for the sound of the harp should not be a problem.

I would highly recommend The Book About Tony Chestnut. It is an important issue that children think about on a daily basis, will I make a friend, or will I be rejected? Tony shows that sometimes it is important to take a chance.

5 Woofs