Inspiring Children to be the Best That They Can Be

For: Primary Educators, Parents, and Kids Inspiring Children To Love Learning And Be The Best They Can Be

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Time to Explore



     It's finally spring! I want to explore the other type of spring! My 'hubby' and I headed to the beach last week, but. . . it wasn't beach weather. . . so, we explored several natural Florida springs. We began in St. Augustine where the 'World Famous Fountain of Youth' resides. (It's really a historic landmark honoring the arrival of Ponce de Leon in 1513, but that's for another day.) I took a drink from the fountain - loaded with minerals - and am still waiting for magical results (never might be a good word to use).  The highlight of the visit was the white peacock. 


Book Reviews for Kids

     My two granddaughters recommended the following two series.

     The Lemonade War Series by Jacqueline Davies was recommended by the fifth grader.
The Lemonade War (first in the series) introduces Jesse and Evan. Evan is in fourth grade and his very smart sister, Jesse, is skipping a grade and will be in the same classroom come September. Evan sets up a lemonade stand, but excludes Jesse. It explodes into a war. . . the winner take all. 
     There are four other books in the series: The Lemonade Crime; The Bell Bandit; The Candy Smash; and The Magic Trap. The books deal with difficult issues, such as divorce, bullying, autism, and dementia, in a straight forward - yet gentle manner. I highly recommend this series for the middle grade reader and am pleased that my granddaughter discovered it.  
     My third grade granddaughter discovered the My Weird School series by Dan Gutman. Miss Daisy is Crazy is the first book of the series. Miss Daisy is a  second grade teacher who cleverly comes up with an idea of getting her class to read a million pages so they can rent the school for one night and turn it into a video arcade. This is just one example of the ways Miss Daisy finds ways of convincing her class that they are coming up with great ideas for 'teaching' her how to read and do math. 

The first series has twenty books promising to delight beginning to middle grade readers. In Dan Gutman's second series (twelve books), the Weird School Daze, A.J. and his classmates move up to third grade with more classroom humor (particularly directed at boys). His most recent is My Weirder School Series (2011 - 2013) - fourteen books. The third grade dilemmas continue as funny things happen. These series are easy to understand and build up confidence at a comfortable reading level.


     What I am reading: Hope Solo, My Story - a young readers' edition adapted from: Solo: A Memoir of Hope. In honor of soccer fans of all ages, it is refreshing to read about a gold medal winner in the summer, 2012 London Olympic Games. 


In My BackYard



      As I sit beside the pond in my backyard, I reflect on the sparking clear fresh water springs we observed in Florida. I want to end with the words of Margaret Ross Tolbert who dived in the Florida fresh springs and painted them for over thirty years. 
     In her book, AquiFERious, she writes, 
". . .the continuous flow of water gives the impression that the springs . . .  are eternal, perpetual. But many are in danger of disappearing in our lifetime. . . .The demands of a growing population, combined with a poor water management policy have accelerated their decline."
     I challenge you to cherish the beauty while it exists. 
                                                                      Joan Bock
Until next time. . . . .


Be Creative. . . . . Inspire Others. . . . . Enjoy Life

   

     







Thursday, February 27, 2014

Egrets and Herons

Time to Explore

     We all know what a heron is, but what is an egret? It's also part of the heron family, with snowy white plumage. 

     All herons have 'powder down' which keeps water off of their feathers and collects dirt and slime. They use their toes to preen and comb out the dirt from this fine powder. 

      Herons live in the wetlands, and as they wade along in shallow water looking for a meal, they keep their long legs straight, with long toes to help them balance. They watch for fish, frogs, worms, crabs, or small turtles to come near. 


     Another method of hunting is to stand still and when a fish comes by, the long, strong neck uncoils and and the long pointed beak opens wide. Others wait on low trees until the prey comes within reach.

Book Reviews for Kids

Feathers Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart (ages 5 -9)
    This book compliments my interest in birds and their versatile - and surprising ways - they use their bodies. Stewart highlights sixteen birds and compares their use of feathers with ordinary objects. For example, feathers could be used as an umbrella, a forklift, or a sponge. 

Gold Medal Winter by Donna Freitas   (ages 10 -14)

     I hope everyone enjoyed the Olympics and were able to watch some of the figure skating. While it is still fresh in your mind, you may want to seek out this touching fictional story featuring a Latina Olympic skater from the Dominican Republic and her dramatic journey as part of the U.S. ladies ice skating team.  Sometimes a victim with vicious rumors and shallow relationships following her, she remains dedicated and grounded. It is a fascinating 'backstage' glimpse into the international skating world.

Superworm by Julia Donaldson    (ages 5 - 8) 
     Superworm is a slimy superhero destined to rescue frogs, beetles, and insects. After a sinister kidnapping by the Wizard Lizard and his henchmen, his buggy friends rescue Superworm and he carries on his charming ways and to save the day.
     The tale is set to a witty, easy rhyme sure to elicite chanting and smiles all around - from all ages.
The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley  (ages 10 - 18)
      We watch Jimmy go through devastating events in his childhood. It's a real life episode of an author taking the 'dumbest idea' ever and turning it into the best thing that ever happened to him - and into his beginnings as a cartoonist. 
      Gownley's popular book series (8 books), Meet Amelia (ages 9-14), features 'tweenage' adventures that strike a real chord and heartfelt dilemmas. Drawn in comic strip style, Amelia meets serious situations with unique sassy messages.





Starring Jules, Super-Secret Spy Girl by Beth Ain (ages 6 - 10)
      This is the third book of the series (also: Starring Jules, as Herself and Starring Jules, Drama-Rama) Authentic, humorous, and entertaining, Jules is a winning combination of a charming second grade kid and her believable family, warts and all. Even though she is on vacation, her best friend sends super spy missions to keep her busy.

In My Backyard

     My introduction to herons began my first week here. We have a wooden heron near the pond and a blue heron would come and sit quietly for what seemed hours just staring at it. It did finally overcome its fear and went fairly close. 
     Now, we have a new supply of fish in the pond, complements of a neighbor wanting to populate it. In reality, it has become a food supply for the blue heron and the snowy white egret. They begin on different bends and banks of the pond, and often switch places after a time. 
     I love to watch as a long beak dips down and comes up with a small fish. Watching them wade on their long legs is how we discovered how shallow or pond is - in most places.

Until next time. . . .


Be Creative. . . . Inspire Others. . . . . Enjoy Life





     








Monday, January 13, 2014

Eyes are on the Olympics


Time to Explore

I went looking for a good book to recommend on the Olympics. I could not find one, but found lots of information that I hope you will enjoy as well.  The original winter sports were: alpine and cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, bobsleigh, and speed skating. The biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, was added in 1960. In 1964, the luge - one or two person sled racing on a track of high banked curves, was added. Freestyle skiing and short track skating were added in 1992. Curling was officially added in 1998. It's nickname is 'chess on ice'.  Players use brooms to sweep granite stones across the 'curling sheet' toward the 'house' - a circular target marked on the ice.  
Snowboarding, tricks are performed across a semi-ciruclar ditch, was added in 1998. Watch Shaun White, a gold medalist, at  Sochi. Skelton, an individual 'face-down' sled race which uses the same track as the bobsled and luge, was added in 2002.
Tune in to NBColympics.com for events in real time. I would love to have you share your favorite event. In the past, mine has been figure skating. 


Book Reviews for Kids 

The Best Figure Skater in the Whole Wide World by Linda Bailey   (4 - 8)
    Lizzy wants to be the best figure skater in the world. She discovers that it is harder than it looks, but is determined to be the best and constantly practices. Her class is putting on a play and her dreams of having a 'lead' part are shattered when she is cast as a tree.  Lizzy leads the other ''trees' in a wonderful unforgettable performance.  She discovers a special way to shine. 

Hocky Meltdown by Jake Maddox    (9 - up)

     Dylan has an injured arm, but really wants to play. His team members convince him that his best support is telling them how to deal with opposing team players as observed from the sidelines.  Dylan is instrumental in helping them win the game - and being a 'team' hero. (Watch for other novels by this author!)


In My Backyard


     There are mallard ducks - with babies, Canadian geese, and the muscovy duck. My next blog will explore the herons and egrets that grace our pond. 


Until next time. . . .

                   Be Creative . . . . . Inspire Others . . . . . Enjoy Life  






Monday, December 9, 2013

Reindeer - Not Just Imagined


Time to Explore

     Very large deer can be found far north - think of Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland - Iceland and Denmark are sometimes included; part of the area is also referred to as Lapland) and Siberia (Northern Asia - part of Russia).  
      Reindeer are often referred to as caribou.  A reindeer has thick fur and broad hoofs.  It feeds on grasses found beneath the snow in winter.  Both sexes have 'branching' antlers.  It is a source of milk, meat, and leather, but is also used as a pack animal.  


     Reindeer seem to be a perfect choice for pulling Santa's sleigh.


Book Reviews for Kids

   I have always had favorite holiday books that I bring out each year.  The favorites for all generations includes The Night Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and more recently, The Polar Express (among others).  The following selections definitely meet the criteria of sparking the imagination and bringing the true spirit of the season.

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn 
Bergren addresses the question of finding Santa - or God - in Christmas. It is a warm, loving story of Mama Bear taking Little Cub on a journey to find God and see how he gave us Christmas.  They climb mountains, view the northern lights, watch a glacier cracking, sight a beautiful morning star, and discover a tiny flower growing in the snow.  It is a simple, but powerful message that a 3 or 4 year old will enjoy and understand ... and continue to find it inspiring as he or she grows older.  

Patricia Polacco has long been one of my favorite authors, so it is no surprise that she has two very heart-warming stories about Christmas - taken from her own family 'memory' tree.
   
     An Orange for Frankie features a ten year old boy, the youngest boy of nine siblings, during the depression era. It is a family tradition for Pa to travel for days across Michigan during the holiday season to obtain precious Florida oranges to place on the mantel for Christmas. While he is gone, another tradition of Ma feeding hobos traveling by train past their farm happens - and Frankie gives his beautiful hand-knit sweater to a hobo who has no shirt.  We see kindness, forgiveness, and love demonstrated in this wonderful family remembrance of a Christmas past. (Children as young as 4 would understand the story, but the actual reading level may be closer to 8 and up).


     Welcome Comfort is a beautiful story of an overweight foster child - of this name, who is often teased - finding a 'family-like' friendship with a janitor and his wife. Although he does not believe in Santa Claus,  a magical dream one Christmas eve becomes the inspiration for a 'Santa Claus' transformation years later. This is not your typical 'Christmas' story, but is an excellent read for a more mature audience (8 and up).

     

  Night Tree by Eve Bunting is a touching story of a family
tradition  that many of us wish we would have embraced. It is Christmas Eve and the family ventures into a forest near by to decorate their 'special' tree with popcorn garlands, apples, oranges, sunflower seeds with honey, and other treats that wildlife habitats enjoy. Then the family settles down on a blanket to have a hot chocolate snack. Although it is not truly a Christmas story, it is one of giving, caring for wildlife, and loving family relationships that bring out the spirit of the season.  (4 years and up) 

In My Backyard

    This is such a wonderful season and I feel guilty that my backyard 'doesn't' reflect the wonder.  No lights, no glamour, but. . . the wildlife still reigns - especially if I remember to fill the bird feeders.
     As I reflect, I wrote down a few thoughts. . .

Holiday Joy

I think of holidays not so long ago,
Of Sleds and skis, and cold wet snow.
Dreams and wishes of Christmases past.
Of wrapped gifts, cookies - the family together at last.

The miles between friends seem to grow every year,
but fond memories bring us bright holiday cheer.
May this spirit and joy fill each of our lives,
bringing peace and love when Christmas arrives.
                                                By Joan Bock

Until next time. . . .

            Be Creative . . . . . Inspire Others . . . . . Enjoy Life



     

  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Searching for Wild Turkeys



Time to Explore

      "Look at those wild turkeys!" said a friend last week.  We were arriving at a country plantation for a tour.  I was reminded of the last time I saw a flock of wild turkeys.  I was with friends in a remote area of Ohio and the question on all of our minds was, "when and where can we see more of them?" They don't normally come near populated areas, so it is exciting when I come upon them.  
     In the coming weeks, turkeys will be front and center, with many classrooms creating 'hand' turkeys.  Here are a few of the fun facts I discovered in my research.





Did you know?   . . .
     that they are 'omnivorous' - ground feeders that will eat most anything.  They love nuts, seeds, berries, and insects.
     that their ideal habitat is a wooded grassland - complete with nut trees to enjoy during the day and to roost in at night.
     that they not only 'gobble', but cluck, purr, yelp, whine, putt, cackle, and 'kee-kee.'
     that Benjamin Franklin rallied to have the turkey as our national bird.
     that turkey hens feed their chicks for a few days after they are hatched, and then they must fend for themselves.
     that the turkey population has grown from 1.3 million in 1973 to over 7 million today - worldwide.  

Book Reviews for Kids

Amber Brown is on the Move by Bruce Coville and Elizabeth Levy
     Paula Danziger's Amber Brown series (Beginning with Amber Brown is Not a Crayon) is now in the capable hands of two good friends who continued the series since her death.  Amber is now in 4th grade and is dealing with divorce and moving issues.  Even more significant for today's audience is her difficulty with focusing (especially during those dreaded test 'exercises').  Early readers (6 - 10) will identify, appreciate, and be entertained with her dilemmas and how she deals with life.  Early readers amy also enjoy, Amber Brown is Tickled Pink.

Like Bug Juice on a Burger by Julie Sternberg 
     Summer camp is a great setting for adventure, new relationships, and problem solving.  As Eleanor describes her experiences, she discovers that she can barely remember her fears and discomforts from the beginning days.  It is a light, fun read, particularly geared to girls (early readers 6 - 10).  Also read, Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie.



The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt  
      This Newbery Honor winner (The Underneath) has written another charming modern folk tale.  She weaves a tale of delightful raccoons recently recruited to be swamp scouts with a warm 'human' 12 year old boy who will win your heart. Throw in the massive furry 'Sugar Man' - plus a profit seeking developer - and you have a regional story filled with drama, heroes, and imagination. (8 - 14 boys and girls)




Twerp
by Mark Goldblatt  
     This book has a little different slant on bullying written from the perspective of a group of boys who ruled a neighborhood in Queens, New York, in 1969.  The story emerges from a journal that 6th grader, 'Julian', is required to write in lieu of being suspended from school.  Episode after episode will find you chuckling - and surprised - how enterprising and remorseful,  the characters are.  The audience would include fans of the 'wimpy kids' series.  (9 - 13 boys and girls)


       In My Backyard

     My  backyard is in desperate need of rain.  The pond is the lowest ever.  Rain may be on its way!  I would like to close with a 'very' short tribute to the wild turkey.

Ode to Wild Turkeys


 On a calm autumn day in the woodland,

A male turkey struts - oh so grand.

The hens scavenge close to the ground,

Looking for nuts all around.


Wild turkeys waddle and wobble,

Just listen for cackles and gobbles.

Some grace dining room tables,

But most look for food where they're able. 


                                                  By Joan Bock 


Until next time. . . .


Be Creative. . . . Inspire Others  . . . . Enjoy Life



P.S.  Be sure to try odysseylearning.com for holiday gifts (games) for the whole family.


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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Revisiting Guinea Pigs

Time to Explore

      In April, I featured my two granddaughters' new guinea pigs.  Reese turned out to be a 'male' . . . and they took precautions "fixed him so he couldn't have babies". . . but soon Hershey was expecting a baby guinea pig.  The family took it in stride, and in fact, got excited about the new addition.






My daughter created quite a haven for them with lots of places to hide. 

     Fast forward. . . .  Hershey had her baby guinea pig and it is adorable.  And . . .  she is expecting another one soon.  (The smaller one in the photo is her first baby.)  
      Reese met a tragic death when two dogs played too rough with him and broke his back.                                                                                 Mama sticks her nose up in the air when my daughter comes into the room, always looking for a treat.  They love carrots, lettuce, and watermelon.  They 'coo' when they are petted.  When Hershey's new baby comes, all are hopeful it remains one 'small' happy family.


Update:  Hershey has 4 new baby guinea pigs!  October, 2013

Book Reviews for Kids




Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst  with Lane Smith as illustrator  (Ages  7 - 9)
        Putting this magic author/illustrator team together is perfect for young readers wanting a clever, humorous chapter book.  Readers will love this 'spoiled only child' who is determined to have a brontosaurus for her birthday.  Beyond the twists the story takes, lessons are to be learned on 'how' to go about asking for something you really want.


         The newest offering by this dynamic duo is Lulu Walks the Dogs
After trying other ways of earning money, Lulu turns to walking dogs in her neighborhood although she knows nothing about them.  Once again, we find ourselves actually liking Lulu in spite of her 'spoiled, bossy' personality. Beyond her frustrations with unruly dogs, Lulu must reluctantly turn to Fleishman, a disgustingly perfect boy, for advice.  Once again, sneaking in a life lesson.

   



The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate  (Ages 12 and up)  We meet a lonely, caged gorilla living among other mistreated, unforgettable, circus animals.  This story was inspired by a real gorilla who spent 27 years of his life in a cage in Washington state before a public outcry allowed him to relocate to Zoo Atlanta where he lived contentedly as a bit of a celebrity for the remainder of his life, dying in 2012 at the age of 50.  What a wonderful way to introduce children to the importance of treating animals with compassion.  There is humor and emotion in this heartwarming tale.




In My Backyard


 This is the time of year to watch the geese come charging down onto the pond during their annual trek south, say farewell to the hummingbirds, and welcome the cardinals and other local birds who reside with us during the coming months.
    But the highlight in our backyard at the moment is our refurbished gazebo that we have been working on almost since we moved in two years ago.  There are days that I literally move my 'desk' outside.  The days are numbered that we will need the ceiling fan - or even the screens for that matter  - but the dog days of summer will return next year.

Until next time  . . . 


Be Creative!     Inspire Others!     Enjoy Life!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Squirrels - and more

Time to Explore


     Squirrels are everywhere!  Did you know there are more squirrels in the United States than any other mammal?  Most of us are familiar with the gray squirrel, but it is fun to see the variations of color in different parts of the United States.
     
     The black squirrels in Michigan and Northern Ohio stand out in my mind as being so unique that I have stopped in my tracks when spotting one.

   


     
     What a surprise the first time I saw a fox squirrel.  They live on the golf course where I live, and after doing some research, I discovered that they love pine trees - and particularly enjoy pine seeds, nuts, and flowers.  So I guess it is not so surprising to find them here since we live in 'Pine Forest' Country Club.  They are much larger than the gray squirrels. They have black facial masks and white markings on their nose, paws, and ear tips.


Book Reviews for Kids


      With the beginning of school year, I tried to find fun, easy books to help readers back into the learning 'groove'.

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes   by Eric Litwin


      Pete doesn't let the little things bother him - he just keeps right on singing.   This book is a great book for a  beginning of the school read-aloud, but don’t miss the other wonderful books, I Love my New White ShBes, Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, The Wheels on the Bus, and coming in October, Pete the Cat and his Magic Sunglasses. 
     These books are sure to appeal to the 4 – 7 age set.  They are rhythmic, interactive, and charming. The rhymes can easily be put to music – and kids can relate to everyday objects, like shoes, buttons, and sunglasses.
There is a new I Can Read format – Pete at the Beach, Pete’s Big Lunch, and Pete the Cat Play Ball, which I wasn’t able to preview.  If you go the harpercollinschildren.com website, there are videos, an ipod app, activities and more.  

Rabbit and Robot by Cece Bell

     This 'transitional' chapter book is perfect for getting kids out of their ruts and into the wonderful world of chapter books. 
 I smile at the unlikely friendship of a 'uptight, list-making' rabbit and a 'easy-going' robot, but the humor of working out their differences in a silly, enticing way will keep early readers returning.  (Picture a pizza with nuts, bolts, and screws) This book would also work as a prelude to that first sleep over.  Watch for other titles (They are sure to come.)


The Trouble with Chickens,  A J.J. Tully Mystery 
           by Doreen Cronin 

      What do search-and-rescue dogs do when they retire?  Well this one takes on the task of protecting a family of chickens.  It is a plea for help by mom chicken, Moosh, to find two of her missing chickens that begins the saga, but it is the clever clues, plot twists, and one liners that kept me reading.  As a dog lover, it is a natural to consider how dogs think – and how they communicate with other dogs, chickens – and in the second J.J. Tully Mystery, The Legend of Diamond Lil, a possum. Just add a dash of imagination. The hidden humor and clever twists in both stories should be well received by readers of approximately 2nd and 3rd grade level (interest 8 – 12)  I’ll be watching for more J.J. Tully mysteries.

Favorite stories from Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman



       What beginning reader wouldn’t like a horse for a friend?  Become acquainted with Cocoa – and her owner, Cowgirl Kate.  The books are easy to read with several  ‘pretend’ stories in each, always with a happy ending and a chuckle or two.  The books have 4 or 5 chapters with satisfying conclusions, making it possible to put down and pick back up without losing the jest of what is going on. 
     Beginning readers will delight in Cocoa’s childlike antics and Cowgirl Kate’s maternal reactions. There are six books currently with adventure around the bend with Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa. 


Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History  by Sue Stauffacher

     At 18, Tillie Anderson was recognized as the best woman cyclist in the world.  This is the story of how she came to America, became intrigued by bicycles, trained vigorously, redesigned a riding costume, and went on to realize her dream.  The words on each page accompany large pictures, making it friendly to read. 
     When Tillie Anderson came to America, all she had was a needle. So she got herself a job in a tailor shop and waited for a dream to find her. The book captures the bicyle craze of the late 1890s’ and tells of an early ‘female’ champion who was recognized by the womans' rights movement.


     For the reader ready for a little more challenging topic, Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass,  The Story Behind an American Friendship,  should fill the bill.   I am just beginning it and enjoying it thoroughly.  I would suggest 10 years and up. 
      It is a carefully researched account of two surprisingly parallel lives and how they intersected at a critical moment in U.S. history. 
     Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were both selftaught, both great readers and believers in the importance of literacy, both men born poor who by their own efforts reached positions of power and prominence--Lincoln as president of the United States and Douglass as the most famous and influential African American of his time. Though their meetings were few and brief, their exchange of ideas helped to end the Civil War, reunite the nation, and abolish slavery


In My Backyard







        If I am in my backyard, Jasmine is likely to be with me.  She is now 9 months old and enjoys the turtles, ducks, geese, and yes, squirrels, as much as I do.  I tried to think of the positive side of squirrels as I wrote poem (yes, they are cute, but destructive).  


 Squirrels - So Much a Part of Our Lives


I saw a grey squirrel out walking,

His bushy big tail was a-bobbing.
One step, a huge jump and a skip. 
He gave that big tail a neat flip.     

He collected pine nuts and red berries,
Burying all he could carry.
Digging holes here and there,
Hoping he would remember where.

He saw a leaf tree nest across the street.
If he took a fantastic high leap,
That nest could be his for keeps.
To capture it was a brave feat.

The ongoing traffic’s a hassle.
He zips through the hustle and bustle.
Two steps, three hops and a skip . . .
 He vaults up the tree - a successful end of his trip.
                                                                                   by Joan Bock


Until next time. . . . 

Be Creative!        Inspire Others!     Enjoy Life!