Who Says That, CAT the CAT? (Board book)

Sprout Score

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IMG_20160710_124642546This is the second experience we have had with a Cat the Cat book.  (The other was Who Sleeps, CAT the CAT?)  Both books follow the same design, with the cat, named Cat, speaking to different animals to see what they do.  In this book, Cat finds her (she’s kind of wearing a t-shirt/dress, so I’m guessing Cat is a girl) friends and asks “What’s your sound?”  Cat’s friends all respond with a resounding woof/peep/moo until we meet Bunny, who responds differently than all the rest, leading into a snuggly ending.

Cat the Cat throws me as a reader and therefore confuses my daughters as they listen.  The repetition of the animal having a name that is the same name as their species is, for some reason, hard for me to read smoothly.  It feels awkward and I’m never comfortable with Continue reading

Ben Loves Bear (Board Book)

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IMG_20160424_145951The story in this book follows Ben and Bear as they go through a typical day together.  Ben appears to be a two or three-year-old, big enough to sleep in a big-kid bed, and Bear is his teddy that never leaves this side.  The illustrations are uncomplicated and focused on only those two characters, showing snapshots of the fun they experience throughout the day.

The language is succinct, with an almost calming cadence as you read through the three to five-word sentences. For me, the reader, it is challenging to embellish.  For my toddlers, Continue reading

Beach Babies (Board Book)

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Beach Babies, Author Puck

This book is a lively bunch of illustrations of babies and their families having fun at the beach.  There is  a snippet of text to start the dialog as you turn the page, but the main appeal of the book is pointing out all of the different babies and the fun they are having.  The children and adults are diverse and dressed in lots of bright colors.

There are two pages at the end with tips for the reader with questions to ask and things to point out on each page. This is a great idea for a board book.  The first few times I read this with my toddlers I skipped over those pages and they were indifferent to the book.  Once I took the time to read and use the tips, it turned this book into a favorite that needs to be read before bed each night.

The most exciting page for my daughters is the one that has some mischievous babies who have taken off their swimsuits.  They point and laugh and say “butt! butt!”  I guess that kind of humor starts earlier than I realized.

Once I took advantage of the reader tips, this book became a lot more enjoyable for me.  We interact, point and ask questions, and it is great reading time for both parent and kids.

Sprout Score: ★★★★★ 

Reader Score: ★★★★

Author: Puck

Illustrator: Violet Lemay

For Ages: Toddlers and Preschoolers

ISBN: 9781938093234

For more about the authors and Beach Babies, go here.

Sprout Score Book Reviews

As a book-loving parent, I spend a lot of time reading, reading, and re-reading children’s books to my family.  Since I have three kids, including twins, there is an ever-present array of books scattered throughout my house. They might have a permanent home on a bookshelf, but spend most of their days in use or scattered across the floor, waiting for the next time.  We make regular trips to the library too, so there is also a library heap that stays stacked in the living room to reduce the chances of getting lost. It may change in content and height, but the library heap is a regular part of our decor.

Though I have three kids, my focus for Sprout Score reviews will be the books my twin daughters are reading.  There are a lot more books rotating through this house for them than my school-age son, simply because his days are filled with other activities and his books take more time to read.  So this blog series will be devoted to books for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

These reviews will not only be a simple synopsis of the story. As a parent, I find it very helpful to hear what other parents, and especially other kids, think about the products/books/activities they see and do every day.  So, each review will contain a Sprout Score and a Reader Rating:

Sprout Score

  1. ★ I won’t sit still to read this book
  2. ★★ I’ll sit but I will be bored
  3. ★★★ I’ll sit and be interested
  4. ★★★★ I really like this.  I’ll point and interact.
  5. ★★★★★ I love this!  Again!  Again!

Reader Rating

  1. ★ I’m bored while I read this out loud.
  2. ★★ I’m indifferent while I read out loud, just another book.
  3. ★★★ Good book, I enjoy reading out loud.
  4. ★★★★ I have fun and feel good about reading this out loud.
  5. ★★★★★ A favorite that I love to read to my kids and will remember.

Since this series is all about sharing, I welcome and encourage you to give your rankings in the comments if you have read the book being reviewed with your kids, too.

Let’s Read!

 

 

 

4 tools this (not so) new blogger wants to share

In February of this year, I did a “re-launch” of my blog.  I started blogging  back in another life, in 2011 when my only child was 3 and I found I finally had more time on my hands.  I blogged for a while about finding my identity again after getting completely immersed in motherhood.  Then I went through a twin pregnancy, and my blog pretty much went quiet while I got back into the life of 24-7 child care.  Now those twins are toddlers, and I don’t quite have enough time on my hands to add anything more, but I chose to get back into blogging anyway.  This time around, though, I wanted to challenge myself to make more of the blog.  The original version was more of a personal journal, shared with whoever cared to read it.  Now I am writing differently, writing more, trying new things, and being intentional about growing my audience and defining my brand.

I started over without any idea how to do so.  I have spent a lot more time doing research and learning how to do things blog-related than I have actually writing.  Most everything I have learned so far has been through using resources available online.  There is SO much information available.  There are bloggers blogging about blogging, freelance writers writing about writing, reviews of plug-ins, step-by-steps on how to do pretty much anything, advice about marketing, about social networking, about titles, about images, it goes on and on.  I feel like I have read a lot of it.  I haven’t even scratched the surface, and it is sometimes overwhelming.  But I do think I have figured out a few things.

When you are blogging for more than a personal journal, it takes a larger time investment.  Exactly how much is of course up to the owner, but staying current and active in social media and spending time reading other blogs takes extra effort.  I’m trying to find and share relevant and interesting content from other places, creating and sharing my own content, reading and commenting on other blogs that I find interesting, and all of that on top of my full-time job, marriage, and three kids.  This isn’t something I would do without really enjoying it. In fact, even while I really enjoy it, I still struggle to balance everything I want to do.  Not a new concept to any bloggers, I know.

There are so many talented bloggers and writers publishing content.  So very many.  With all of that talent out there, you would think it could be extremely competitive, but I have found the opposite.  Sure, everyone is focused on their own work, but the majority of writers are psyched to help out the newbies, to support up-and-coming talent, to give advice when it is needed.  To all of you I say a big ol’ thank you! I’m trying to do the same as I stumble along.

It is always helpful to hear what works for other bloggers.  With that in mind, here are a few tools that are working for me:

  1. Transitioning my blog from Blogger to WordPress.com.  The instructions were easy to follow once I found them, and there were little to no hiccups.  I chose to make that move based on my impression that it is a much more popular and widely-used service for what I’m doing.  Someday I’ll work at moving to my own self-hosted site, but I have to learn to walk before I can run.
  2. Canva is a really easy and impressive online design program for creating awesome graphics.  I’m just starting to figure it out, and I am not very artistic, but I know if anything can make me look like I am, it’s Canva.
  3. Elna Cain is a freelance writer and coach who I stumbled across when I first started thinking about re-launching my blog.  I signed up for her Free 6 Day Email Course to learn how to get paid to write online.  (She also offers other freelance courses and services for a fee). I didn’t sign up for the purposes of starting a freelance career, but I was interested in reading about what that world looks like.  I’m a fan of step-by-step, and the content was extremely helpful.  When I was completely overwhelmed and sorting through the massive amounts of information available, this was a nice, clean, easy-to-follow guide.
  4. @SarahArrow‘s Twitter account.  She offers paid coaching as well, but just by following her tweets I have discovered a treasure trove of helpful posts to improve my blogging skills.

Do you have a post like this one sharing tips and tools that work for your blog?  Please share in the comments and we’ll all learn together.

 

Five elements of board books that make toddlers say “Again!?!”

IMG_20160302_210237Board books for toddlers are an interesting type.  I have to admit, as a parent, when it comes to stages of children’s literature, this is not my favorite.  The next stage, from approximately 3-5 years old, is what I enjoy most.  The animation, the simple lessons, the beauty in stories from the eyes of a child; I can’t get enough. What we are reading now is not that stage.

When we go to the library, I let Goose and Bear tear through the board book bins, pulling out a random selection of whatever was closest when they stuck in their hands.  When we sit down at home and read them, there is an occasional stand-out, but the majority seem so very….pointless.  I can already hear your questions, wondering how much of a point there can really be in stories for little people who simultaneously love and hate every choice put before them. My answer isn’t that I expect there to be some grand moral to every story, just that there is an element of the book that makes a two-year-old want to see it again.

For my daughters, what inspires them to keep bringing me a book again and again are those with at least one of these things:

  • Animation that is one to two steps above a stick figure.  They don’t appreciate anything complex, tiny, or extremely detailed.  A good example of this is the Leslie Patricelli Board Books series.  “Potty” and “Tubby” are very popular in my house, and the images are adorable and simple.
  • Characters that are mostly, if not all, animals or babies.  That’s pretty universal, I think we all gravitate towards those characters.  If you scroll through any of your social media feeds right now, chances are good you’ll find them both.
  • Pages where you can lift a flap, or a story-line involving hide and seek.  The girls are still in love with peek-a-boo games, and covering and uncovering objects, etc.  They fight over who gets to lift the flap in Rod Campbell’s “Dear Zoo“, even though they know exactly who is hiding underneath.  “Mommy! Mommy!” by Taro Gomi features two little chicks tracking down their mother, and my daughters point and yell when they find her too.
  • Changes in texture.  When there are little cut-outs made of shiny foil, or animal fur, or a bumpy strawberry, it engages them to interact with every page.  Those are the books they like to look at on their own, too, without anyone reading to them.  Carry-Me Diggers and Dumpers by Sarah Creese has patches on each page mimicking the texture of tires and tracks on the machinery, a handle to carry the book around, and very popular in our house.
  • Stories that are relatable to what they do every day. If they describe the simple routines like dressing, going to the store, eating with silverware, I see the recognition in their eyes, the excitement when they can point something out that they have already learned.

What other features did I miss?  What does your toddler love?  Please share any recommendations you have for other books with these attributes, too.  Anything to make the reading more exciting until we graduate to paper pages is a win for everyone.

Power (?)

I took a few minutes in between cooking and laundry, ironically enough, to read an article in the Chicago Tribune today about power.  The article, “Women and Power”, explored the definition of power that is met by the women on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list, and whether Forbes’ definition of “money, access, and connections,” is really the measure we should be using.  Not surprisingly, most, but not all, of the women on the list have more money at their disposal than the rest of us.

Of course, first there had to be some talk about the disparity between men and women, the difference in the standards to which they are held, the corporate boy’s club, etc.  I didn’t find this as interesting as I did the quotes from a few very intelligent women that were interviewed about what they thought of this list.  First, a woman named Nilay Yapici, who is a “postdoctural fellow in the laboratory of neurogenetics and behavior at The Rockefeller University in New York.”  I’m going to go out on a short limb here and guess that this woman is brilliant.  While her point of view that there should be more scientists and researchers on that list is certainly biased towards her profession, I think she is spot on.  She asked, “Who is really powerful: the person who gives the money, or the person who has the idea and makes the discovery?”  According to Forbes it’s the money.  But I tend to agree with her underlying point, the people that make it happen aren’t given nearly enough credit.  Obviously the research doesn’t exist without the funding, and having the position to control where the funding goes gives that power, but shouldn’t the brain that solves the problem get some too?

Next they asked psychotherapist Simone Kornfeld, (again, probably pretty smart) about supermodel Gisele Bundchen holding the number 83 spot.  First she noted that while Bundchen may be a very savvy businesswoman, her presence on this list is an acknowledgement of the “reality that beauty is power.”  Whether we agree that it should be or not, I would bet that most women who grew up in this American society would have a similar reaction to mine: smirk…..pppfffttt…….shake of the head……sigh…..ain’t that the truth.  But where Simone Kornfeld goes next fascinated me.  The article says that having Bundchen on that list “probably provoked the most eye rolls.”  She says, “We push women to have beauty all the time, and then we get mad at them when they do.”  It’s such a sad statement, but I believe she is right.  Girls are pushed to reach an impossible standard, and when 99% of us can’t meet it, we respond with envy, anger, gossip, and rejection.

I will admit, I am happy to be nowhere near the top 100 list.  I don’t want the power to make the decisions that those people have to make.  I don’t want to spend hours on my appearance every day with the worry that I would be caught with a bad hair day.  But of course there is some awe (envy) in watching these power players live out their lives in very public fashion.  I think that I’m mature enough to be done worrying about meeting societal standards that I can’t/don’t want to meet, but I won’t pretend that I don’t slip sometimes and fall to the temptation of making fun because the internet makes it easy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of it.