Montessori Map Work

July 25th, 2014 · Books

Image of Montessori Map Work, featuring outlines of continents with images of native animalsReview By JESSICA ALMY

I’d love to hear what folks in the Montessori community think of this new board book, which teaches preschoolers the basics about continents. (Please leave your thoughts in the comments!)

The book is visually appealing, with pages for each continent that feature native animals and a textured outline on the map for small hands to trace. The back cover folds out to show a map of the world and asks: “Where do you live? Where will you visit?”

At age 8, my kiddo is too big for this book (which I received as a review copy), but she loves maps and I can imagine this book would have appealed to her when she was younger. I like that the book brings animals into the curriculum. The emphasis is on mammals, depicting the characteristic megafauna from each continent, but also includes a bald eagle, toucan, penguin, albatross, cockatoo, swan, and cobra.

Ages 3 to 5.

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Julia’s House for Lost Creatures

July 23rd, 2014 · Books

Review By HOMA WOODRUM

This book has the makings of a hit – I read through my review copy of Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke and everything just suits the book so well. The illustrations, the colors, and the titular Julia herself. I love how in just a few pages you can get an idea in a picture book of what sort of person a character is, not because the narrator tells us they are nice or that they are kind but because we see it from their actions. I hate to engage in comparison when I think this book is fabulous on its own but if you like Neil Gaiman’s children’s literature (whether it is Blueberry Girl or The Graveyard Book) then you will love this.

Image of Ben Hatke's Julia's House of Lost Creatures, featuring a redhaired girl by a seaside house

We’re able to instantly suspend our disbelief and find that anything is possible in a world where a story begins, “Julia’s house came to town and settled by the sea. That evening there was a warm fire and toast and tea.”

Julia is independent and intelligent but decides she could use company so she invites, via a sign outside her door, lost creatures to take refuge by her hearth. It is lively and crowded but Julia has to get the mermaids and trolls and my favorite, the patchwork cat, to help around the house so everyone can enjoy the space.

The author is also the author of the Zita the Spacegirl series praised by Amy Kraft (if you love intelligent writing about kidlit and more, you really should be reading Media Macaroni!) so we know he knows smart female characters but if your kids aren’t reading graphic novels with you yet, this is a fantastic starter. I really hope there are more books about red-haired, plucky Julia. (I am certainly thinking of making my daughter a little patchwork cat patterned after the book.)

Highly recommended, a must read/buy.

This book will be released in September 2014.

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I Am So Brave!

July 21st, 2014 · Books

Image of the cover of I Am So Brave! featuring a little boy joyfully going down a slideReview By JESSICA ALMY

The author-illustrator team that brought us the adorable board book I Know A Lot! is back at it with the new title I Am So Brave!

Every time I look at this book (received as a review copy from the publisher), I find myself smiling. The bright colors, modern design, and adorable protagonist together create a book that feels both fresh and classic — and the little boy’s joy as he goes down the slide with his hands in the air is palpable!

This book would have been a great tool when my daughter was in preschool and struggled with shyness. Using the first person, the narrative briefly introduces five common fears: fear of dogs, fear of swimming, fear of the dark, fear of loud noises, and fear of saying goodbye. One by one, each fear is replaced with the joy that being brave brings. Overcoming the fear of big dogs allows the narrator to make new friends. Getting used to the dark allows him to admire the stars. And so on.

Simple and empowering, this new board book is a delight. It would be a perfect gift for a second or third birthday!

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The Zoo Box

July 19th, 2014 · Books

Review By HOMA WOODRUM

Vegbooks readers will rejoice that The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke gets kids thinking about what it would mean to be on the other side of a zoo exhibit without being preachy or making conclusions on their behalf.

Zoo Box cover depicts children dressed as animals and real animals emerging from a boxSpoiler alert: I’ll detail the storyline here since the spoilers are useful to anyone searching for a book such as this but if you don’t want to have the story spoiled, it is certainly appropriate for veg families and has a wonderful artistic style along with a graphic novel style layout/narrative. Nothing is overly explained but the illustrations have subtle surprises that make re-reading a lot of fun.  My 3- and 5-year-old enjoyed it a lot!

Erika and Patrick’s parents are leaving for the evening and they are told that if they’ve gone to bed before their parents return they can go to the zoo the next day. The first thing the kids do is go up to the attic and play dress up. Erika is a tiger and Patrick is a bear as they play and chase and hit each other with pillows upstairs until they discover a zebra-print box labeled merely “do not open.” The pair open the hatbox and an ostrich leaps out. Despite this warning that the box is not what it seems, they peek in again only to be inundated with animals (a penguin, snake, and kangaroo to name a few). They hide in the closet but can’t resist checking out the animals in their house so when the animals appear to be leaving, the siblings follow the animals through the woods to what appears to be a zoo.

The zoo is not what Erika and Patrick expect, though, and the exhibits are of human homes, families, and sports. Not just any home is on display, it is Erika and Patrick’s. Before they can do much else (Patrick has obtained some popcorn to fully enjoy the zoo experience by this point), they are discovered by security and the alarm is raised about the humans’ escape. A friendly zebra gives the kids a red balloon and helps them escape home, pursued by a number of animals. The chase ends when the animals return to the hatbox just as mom and dad return home. Wasting no time, our protagonists get ready for bed and pretend to be asleep as their parents peer in and remark, “Looks like we’ll be going to the zoo tomorrow.”

The final panel is my favorite – both kids are awake and in their beds while the red balloon floats overhead. For my son, he loved the anthropomorphic zoo guests while my daughter and I talked about whether we thought the kids had really had their adventure or not. Subtly, though, is the idea that we wouldn’t like being in an exhibit. I know families are divided on the subject of zoos – we’ve taken our children to zoos that have research and conservation elements and feel comfortable with that choice but I know there are those that are staunchly against zoos of any kind. This book could go either way depending on the experiences you’ve had and in that sense it is very versatile.

The publisher sent a copy of this book for review. It is being released in September 2014.

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