September 29, 2011

Music for bedtime

Singer-songwriter Eddie Douglas has put together a soothing collection of poems and nursery rhymes to lull little ones and parents to a good night's rest. His melodies bring new life to well-known verses such as the Latin-tinged Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the gentle Star Light, Star Bright and a liltingly charming version of Hey Diddle Diddle
His interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Swing begins and ends with  the twittering of birds, evoking, as all Douglas' songs do, the fond images and memories of childhood and children and the children we once were. Especially touching is Carry Me, whose verses magically convey all the love and security that comes with being a parent.

September 27, 2011

Journey into the Deep

Journey into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures
by Rebecca L. Johnson

In 2000, scientists from around the world began a ten-year quest to learn more about the ocean and everything that lives in it. They named their quest the Census of Marine Life

In this book app, Rebecca L. Johnson takes readers on an underwater journey as part of the Census team. As you explore eight different ocean depths, from the shallow edges to the unfathomable deep, you encounter all sorts of wondrous creatures while getting a first-hand look at how scientific expeditions are conducted. Packed with spectacular photographs, the book can really captivate readers. An especially dramatic photo is that of a whale skeleton on the ocean floor. By tapping and scrolling, you can view the entire skeleton.

The book is very well-written and entertainingly informative. But the app does have a few problems. Firstly, the chapters are stacked, meaning that you have to scroll up and down to read a chapter, but then scroll across to get to the next chapter. This takes time to get used to; users can easily get lost. Secondly, you can't bookmark, search, highlight, or make notes. And thirdly, the app doesn't contain enough videos. There are only three - an introduction by the author, a long 6-minute film at the end of chapter 4, and the capture of a sea cucumber in chapter five. There are also a few "slideshows" which make you tap an icon to see the next slide. The film, which depicts the motion of many sea creatures, is fascinating and, due to its length, hypnotizing as well. Unfortunately, none of the creatures are named, but I was able to identify the obvious ones such as squid, jellyfish and octopi.

All in all, Journey into the Deep is an excellent book app on an extremely interesting subject.

September 22, 2011

Animal stories from Tradewind Books

by Virginia Frances Schwartz
illustrated by Christina Leist

Amos, a fat former alley-cat, narrates this wacky tale about life with a tailless, baby squirrel. Like a jealous sibling, Amos is not so happy about the attention that Nutz, as the squirrel is called, commands. His owners forget to feed him and blame him when Nutz makes a mess. The house is also overrun with seeds and nuts. So Amos tries everything he can to get rid of the squirrel.

Schwartz shows a good understanding of cat and squirrel behavior, especially in regard to sleep and food (particularly gizzards). Leist's cartoon-like squiggles also add to the fun. 

by Irene N. Watts
illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker

When Matthew moves from the country to the city, he has to leave his dog Lucky behind. Lucky can’t live with him because pets are not allowed in his new apartment. 

Matthew is lonely, so he invents an invisible dog to keep him company. He calls him Fred. Matthew enjoys playing with Fred, but the building manager is not so understanding. How Matthew and Fred change his mind is at the core of this short chapter book.

Kids will enjoy the drawings of Fred, who is depicted as large, soft and fluffy, with muted black and grey tones. They may have difficulty with the dialogue, which is a bit too long and formal. Less description and simpler words would have been better. However, readers will warm to Matthew, whose feelings are very authentic. Watts understands a child’s realistic imaginings; an ability that makes No Pets Allowed an enjoyable and entertaining book.

Both books are good for beginning readers aged 5-8.

September 20, 2011

Multicultural tales from Tradewind Books

I recently received an exciting package of books from Tradewind. They produce beautiful picture books, chapter books, fairy tales, and poetry, along with a good selection of young adult titles.

Here are two of their picture books:

by Karim Alrawi
illustrated by Bee Willey

A young prince saves the life of a mouse, who repays him in an unexpected way. A gentle story, simply told, about kindness and its rewards. With lovely, luminous paintings.

by Rachna Gilmore
illustrated by Pulak Biswas

Chandra’s parents are swept away by a flood. The only thing she has left is her mother’s flute. When Chandra’s aunt and uncle mistreat her, the flute brings her food. And when Chandra is caught in another flood, the flute brings her to safety. 

An enchanting Indian fairy tale about hope and endurance.

September 15, 2011

For "C" students everywhere

by Kate Jaimet

Josh’s mother wants him to run for class president. Magnolia’s mother wants her to be the lead in the school play. And Wang’s father makes him play chess. Out of desperation, Josh creates a new club - Dunces Anonymous - for kids who aren’t as good at stuff as their parents think they should be. Their mission: to ensure Josh’s defeat in the presidential campaign, to help Magnolia not be Juliet, and to get Wang out of chess. 

Together, the Dunces hatch a few cunning plans that predictably, don’t work out exactly as intended.  Their problems include Magnolia’s deluded mother, the egotistical actor Emmett Blackwell, a nervous chess player named Wilmot Binkle, and Wilmot's angry, contentious father. Plus, there’s Stacey Hogarth, who thinks the club is called “Young Leaders of the Future”, and demands to be included. After many wacky and hilarious complications, everything eventually works out. They even manage to make some real changes in their lives.

Kids who suffer from well-meaning, but overly ambitious parents will enjoy this book and it's laugh-out-loud ending.