Mini Myths: Play Nice, Hercules & Be Patient, Pandora

October 1st, 2014 · Books

MiniMythsHerculesReview By JESSICA ALMY

Loosely based on Greek myths, Mini Myths: Play Nice, Hercules and Be Patient, Pandora are board books that feature cute illustrations. Geared to toddlers and preschoolers, the story lines here are so simple they can hardly be characterized as stories. In the Hercules book, for example, a little boy knocks over his sister’s blocks, she cries, he creates a pyramid of blocks for her, and they knock it over together.

MiniMythsPandoraAlthough these aren’t particularly fun books to read aloud, parents will likely will be amused by the hero Hercules depicted as a rough-and-tumble toddler and the goddess Pandora incarnated as a modern-day curious kid. A brief synopsis of each myth is included at the end.

Some parents will also enjoy these books as parables that speak to the temptations and challenges that young children routinely face. Others may find them to be a bit heavy-handed.

Ages 1 to 4.

I received review copies of these books from the publisher.


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Counta Block

September 29th, 2014 · Books

CountablockReview By JESSICA ALMY

Counting books are a dime a dozen, with good reason. When kids are learning their numbers (usually around age 3 or 4), repetition helps a lot, and books are a fun way to add a bit of story and some visual appeal. Even before kids are ready to count themselves, counting books help young children understand math concepts. Interestingly, research shows that toddlers as young as 18 months have some sense of numeracy.

One recent addition to this rich genre is Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo’s Counta Block. The first thing that struck me when I received a review copy from the publisher is the thickness of the book. All board books are thick, but this one is extra thick. The reason: it goes well beyond 10, teaching numbers all the way to 100.

The illustrations are super-cute, and I found myself engaged by this book, even though my number-learning days (and those of my kiddo) are long in the past.

40EggsSince much of the book is concerned with growing vegetables and preparing food, I did pause when I got to the number 40. “Forty eggs become…” one page prompts, and I held my breath as a I flipped to the next, fearing an omelet. The response? Enthralling. “Forty eggs become … thirty-nine chicks and one dinosaur!”

This vegan-friendly number book would make a welcome addition to any bookshelf. Count me among its fans!

Ages 1 to 4.


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What is the Dog Doing: Singular Present Tense Verbs

September 27th, 2014 · Books

WhatIstheDogDoing-language-book-for-kidsReview by CAROLYN M. MULLIN

Former elementary school teacher, Cindy Olejar, has developed a line of books that hone in on an early elementary student’s use of different words, whether they’re the prepositions in Find the Cat and More or the verbs in What is the Dog Doing?

With the same basic set up, each page depicts a photograph of either a cat or a dog and asks the reader “Where is the cat?” or “What is the dog doing?” The responses are usually two-fold, which help students see that there is more than one way to look at something.

For example, a picture of a cat in front of a house will read,

The cat is next to the tree.
The cat is walking on the sidewalk.

While readers will enjoy meeting a new cat or dog in each photograph (the dog book actually has a unique name listed for each canine), I think my favorite aspect of What is the Dog Doing? is that it shows dogs as more than one-dimensional beings. They’re visiting dinosaur parks, like Murphy the dog, and sprinting, cuddling, sleeping, snoozing, lying, stopping, and much more. And each canine image again can be interpreted in a few ways. For example, Red the dog is in a lake and the accompanying text reads,

The dog is wading in the water.
The dog is cooling off in the water.

The last few pages of What is the Dog Doing? is more of a workbook where students can fill in their own answers of what they think the dog is doing.

While the series is a homegrown effort, students will appreciate this approach to education.

Ages 4 – 8.



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Letters of the West: An ABC Book of the Many Plants, Animals, and Other Curious Features of the West

September 25th, 2014 · Books


I received a review copy of Letters of the West: An ABC Book of the Many Plants, Animals, and Other Curious Features of the West from the publisher just after we returned from a road trip that took us alone the length of Nevada from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe and Carson City. Perfect timing since my 6 and 4 year old had just seen the landscape go from desert to mountain and then back again for our total 16 hours + of driving!


The book is illustrated on scratchboard with muted colors and it covers features of California, Oregon, Washington, and a bit of Nevada. My favorite was the letter “X” for “xeriscape” (desert landscaping). I think it is a beautiful book and the inclusion of scientific names is very neat. I even learned a new word, “alpenglow,” referring to “when the mountains light up in a rosy hue before sunrise or sunset.”

This is appropriate for all ages but I would say it skews to older kids that can appreciate the invitation the book seems to have for spotting what is native to their area. It may also be a good baby shower gift because of the beautiful illustrations.

On the subject of learning new words like “alpenglow,” Vegbooks editor Jessica Almy and I were recently talking about words involving hibernation. Being dormant for the summer, for example, is called “estivation” and “brumation” is what reptiles do in the winter. Have you learned any nature-related new terms recently?

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