Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

New Features coming to The Kids' Stacks!

For 2011 I'm planning some fun new features for the blog.

- Weekly highlighting a pre-reading skill and some great books and activities to help prepare the kiddos in your life for educational success.

- Monthly favorite series highlights.

- Monthly favorite author highlights.

- And print to screen highlights of children's films coming to theatres near you based on literature and how you can incorporate some screen time and literacy.

I look forward to your readership and comments!

I hope you have had a very happy holiday season and that this next year is a wonderful one!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Reindeer Christmas

Today's highlighted book is: The Reindeer Christmas by Moe Price

What did Santa do to get around before the reindeer? This picture book full of lush illustrations tells the story of how Santa gained his sleigh and the his famous flying reindeer. A charming story you are bound to share again and again.

Similar Titles:

Candy Cane Reindeer

Candy Cane Reindeer are super easy for even the littlest hands to do. You'll need candy canes, googly eyes, small pom-pons, pipe cleaners and glue. If you want to get really fancy you can also use beats and brick-a-brack to dress up your reindeer. The picture below is pretty self-explanatory for how to put the pieces together. When done you can give them as stocking stuffers or use them as ornaments!

Clothespin Reindeer

Clothespin Reindeer are a little tougher to make, but not by much. You'll need plain wooden clothes pins, tacky glue or a glue gun (watch out for little fingers), googly eyes, small pom-pons and any extra decoration pieces you want to use. It takes 2-3 clothes pins, depending on how you want to do the legs. If you use two clothes pin glue them together overlapping the pin heads, but tines pointing in opposite directions, for 3 clothes pins, glue two together the same direction and the 3rd with tines in opposition. Be sure to give the glue time to dry or cool before decorating. When they are finished you can stand them up in a cute display like the ones below, or use them as ornaments for your tree.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scholastic Experts Issue List of ‘Ten Trends in Children’s Books from 2010’

Read The Full Text of the Article Here

1.The expanding Young Adult (YA) audience: More and more adults are reading YA books, as the audience for these stories expands.

2.The year of dystopian fiction: With best-selling series like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, readers can’t seem to get enough of fiction that suggests the future may be worse than the present.

3. Mythology-based fantasy: Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series set the trend – and now series like The Kane Chronicles, Lost Heroes of Olympus and Goddess Girls are capitalizing.

4. Multimedia series: The 39 Clues, Skeleton Creek and The Search for WondLa are hooking readers with stories that go beyond the printed page and meet kids where they are online or via video.

5. A focus on popular characters – from all media: Kids love to read books about characters they know and recognize from books, movies and television shows. Titles centered around those popular characters (like Fancy Nancy, David Shannon's “David,” or Toy Story characters) are top sellers.

6. The shift in picture books: Publishers are publishing about 25 to 30 percent fewer picture book titles than they used to as some parents want their kids to read more challenging books at younger ages. The new trend is leading to popular picture book characters such as Pinkalicious, Splat Cat and Brown Bear, Brown Bear showing up in Beginning Reader books.

7. The return to humor: Given the effects of the recession on families, it is nice to see a rise in the humor category, fueled by the success of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Dav Pilkey's The Adventures of Ook & Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, and popular media characters like Spongebob, and Phineas & Ferb.

8. The rise of the diary and journal format: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is the most well-know example of this trend, but the success of Wimpy Kid is leading to popular titles such as Dear Dumb Diary, Dork Diaries, The Popularity Papers, and Big Nate.

9. Special-needs protagonists: There is a growing body of literary fiction with main characters who have special needs, particularly Aspergers Syndrome and Autism. Examples: My Brother Charlie, Marcelo in the Real World, Mockingbird, and Rules.

10. Paranormal romance beyond vampires: The success of titles like Shiver and Linger, Beautiful Creatures, Immortal, and Prophesy of the Sisters shows this genre is still uber-popular and continues to expand.

Dinosaur on Hanukkah

Today's highlighted book is: Dinosaur on Hanukkah by Diane Levin Rauchwerger

This books tells the story of a little boy and a dinosaur friend who comes to celebrate Hanukkah. The dino is no native to the traditions, but he tries with his best intents to celebrate, though he is not always successful and sometimes makes a rude and messy house guest. Still, boy and dino have a good time and the little boy even invites Dinosaur back for Shabbat! All in all a cute story and one children of all faiths can enjoy.

Similar Titles:

Tonight is the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. If you have Jewish friends, why not make them a Happy Hanukkah card? You can incorporate the traditional colors of Hanukkah, and the flag of Isreal: Blue and White, into your card as well as the symbols of the Menorah, Dreidle and Star of David.

If you don't have any Jewish friends, then check out your local Jewish Community Center to see if they do a public menorah lighting that you can attend! Hanukkah is all about sharing the miracle light with the world and many JCCs welcome the opportunity to share their faith traditions with others.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Russell's Christmas Magic

Today's highlighted story is: Russell's Christmas Magic by Rob Scotton

Russell is an adorable sheep who helps save Christmas when Santa's sleigh crash lands nearby. This is a cute and exciting story that will draw kids in. I love the illustrations!

Similar Titles:

Here are the instructions for some fun Felted Sheep from Martha Stewart, with a grown up to help, kiddos can definitely create!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Penguin Story

Today's highlighted story is: A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis

This adorable winter tale is all about a young penguin's search for something new and different. It seems his whole world is white, black and blue, but he senses there must be something more out there and so goes in search for it. Children will enjoy the endearing illustrations, and it may open up a great conversation about favorite colors and new discoveries.

Similar Titles:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are You Grumpy Santa?

Today's highlighted book is: Are You Grumpy, Santa? by Gregg & Evan Spiridellis

We all have those bad days where nothing seems to go our way, turns out even Santa does. This rhyming picture book tells of Santa's no good, very bad day, and the kicker is it's also Christmas. Fortunately some kind children help to save the day and drive the grouchiness away!

Similar Titles:

Elf Yourself and More!

The author's of today's highlighted books are also the brothers who founded JibJab. Every year around this time their website hosts a tool to let you Elf Yourself for free, sponsored by Office Max. Using digital pictures you can elf your whole family and easily share it with friends via email or Facebook.

In addition to Elfing Yourself, you can also send ecards using you family's digital photos, including versions of "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story". There are even sendables for Hanukkah!

Your family is sure to get a good belly laugh from this activity, one Santa himself would be proud of.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Santa's Eleven Months Off

Today's highlighted book: Santa's Eleven Months Off by Mike Reiss

In this rhyming story the reader follows Santa through the eleven months of the year between New Years and next December. Take trips with Santa around to world to relax, recuperate and refuel before starting on the coming Christmas' work. This is a fun story with some good illustrations and the rhyming text helps pre-readers develop their phonemic awareness.

Similar Titles:

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Today's higlighted book: Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini

Mooseltoe is a follow-up to an earlier story about a Moose with a spectacular moosetache. In this book Moose gets so busy with his list of to-dos before Christmas, checking off the decorations, baking and shopping, but in the hub bub he forgets the crucial tree! Unable to find a tree so late on Christmas Eve the moose family comes up with a clever alternative.

Similar Titles:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Auntie Claus

Today's highlighted book is: Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

In this book a little girl named Sophie learns the truth behind the old adage that it is better to give than to receive. The story is cute, but a little choppy, kids are unlikely to notice that though, and it's the illustrations that really make the book. An fun read that kids, especially 3-6 year olds are apt to enjoy, and hopefully learn a good moral from.

Similar Titles:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dear Santa

Today's highlighted book is: Dear Santa: The Letters of James B. Dobbins complied by Bill Harley

This book tells the story of hockey loving big brother, James Dobbins, as told through his own letters to Santa in which he tells St. Nick of his difficulty with being nice to his sister, his strong desire for all things hockey, a rink in the back yard would be amazing, and how sorry he is for the bad things he's done in the past year. One particular touching moment happens when James gives his teacher her Christmas present and then confides in Santa how much fun it is to give to others and see their faces when they receive your gift. An endearing book, great for sharing.

Similar Titles:

Write a Letter to Santa

There's not real instructions required for this activity - just make it fun! You might consider including: Christmas stationary, special Christmas stamps (The USPS has made evergreen seasonal Forever Stamps this year), stickers, rubber stamps, glitter and sealing it all up with some sealing wax before mailing it off to Santa! (I love Nostalgic Impressions for sealing wax and seals).

One suggestion I do have might be to include a thank you within the letter and requests for gifts for needy children, especially if your family sponsors a child. And if you don't sponsor a child, you might consider it, even if just for the holiday season, through organizations like The Angel Tree, Salvation Army Angel Tree or Operation Christmas Child.

Also, if you want to be really green and not use paper to send Santa a letter, you can Email Santa.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eight Winter Nights

Today's highlighted book is: Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book by Laura Krauss Melmed

This picture book tells the story of one family's Hanukkah celebration through several short poems. The illustrations are charming and the final pages include great information on the story of Hanukkah and it's traditions for those that might not be familiar with the story of the temple and it's miracle lamp oil.

Similar Titles:
Make Potato Latkes

Here is a super easy recipe for classic latkes from My Jewish Learning.

2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes
2 large eggs
Oil for frying
Peel and finely grate the potatoes. Put them straight into cold water, then drain and squeeze them as dry as you can by pressing them with your hands in a colander. This is to remove the starchy liquid, which could make the latkes soggy

Beat the eggs lightly with salt, add to the potatoes, and stir well. Film the bottom of a frying pan with oil and heat. Take serving-spoonfuls, or as much as 1/4 cup (50 ml), of the mixture and drop into the hot oil. Flatten a little, and lower the heat so that the fritters cook through evenly. When one side is brown, turn over and brown the other.

Lift out and serve very hot.


You may add black pepper, chopped parsley, and finely chopped onion to the egg and potato mixture.
Adding 4 tablespoons of potato flour binds the fritters into firmer, more compact cakes, easier to handle but not quite as lovely to eat.

Tonight at sundown Jewish families around the world will light the first candle of Hanukkah.

Happy Hanukkah! Nes gadol haya sham!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Site Update

I recently updated the Resources for Grown-Ups page to include some book titles along with the list of useful links. I hope you will check these out, and more will continue to be added as I discover them.

If you have any of your own that you have discovered, please leave a comment - I always love to learn about new books!

Don't forget, A Story a Day 'Til Christmas starts in just a few days.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Story a Day 'Til Christmas

There are so many children's books available for the holidays it hardly seems fair to try and highlight them all in just 3 or 4 weekly posts, so this year The Kids' Stacks will be highlighting A Story A Day 'Til Christmas. 25 different stories along with craft ideas and recipes for families and care givers to share. The countdown will begin on Wednesday, December 1 so be sure to check in and check back each day as we count down to Christmas.

And don't fret, while I personally celebrate Christmas, I will, as always, be sure to highlight books and activities appropriate for families of all cultures and beliefs - because no one should be left out!

I hope you and yours have had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I look forward to seeing you back here December 1.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, One and All!

I found a wonderful craft activity that would be great for children 2+ to share with their parents. Here are the directions for creating your own "Tree of Thanks".

Creating a Tree of Thanks

  • Naked branches (Note: it would be a nice activity to go on a walk with the kids and let them pick the branches for themselves)
  • String or yarn
  • Construction paper or card stock for leaves (Note: these could also be prefab dye cuts, pre-cut by a grownup or with older kids you could make a leaf stencil for them to trace and then cut out the leaves for themselves)
  • Terra cotta pot or basket
  • Floral foam, gravel and or decorative marbles to support the branches in the container
  • Hole punch
  • First create the leaves, if they are already cut out then you can jump straight to the next step, otherwise trace a leaf shape (I recommend oak or maple) on your paper and cut out as many leaves as you'd like, at least 3 per person.
  • Next put the gravel into your chosen container and then add the branches in such a way that they are well supported, not slumping over and look like a small tree or shrub.
  • Then write what you are thankful for on each leaf. Older children can write this for themselves and younger kids may be encouraged to try. Parents can also take dictation for younger children and should of course add their own contributions of gratitude to the leaves. (Note: this portion of the activity helps develop print awareness and fine motor skills in pre-school aged children and written communication skills in older kids).
  • Finally, punch a hole in the end of each leaf and thread it with the yarn. To help with fine motor skills parents may wish to have the children tie their own knots in the strings before allowing the kids to put each of their blessings on a branch, being sure to share with every one else what it is they are thankful for as they do. Again, care givers should definitely include their own blessings on the tree.

In the end you will have a Tree of Thanks that not only has helped develop fine motor and communication skills, but more importantly makes a great centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table that focuses on gratitude and the true meaning of the holiday.

Now here are some great books to share with your family this Thanksgiving:
May your family have a blessed and wonderful holiday!

Be sure to check back here a week from today for the first installment of A Story A Day 'Til Christmas.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books Week. I strongly support parents being aware of what their kids are reading, and even putting restrictions on them if they feel it is necessary - but I still think it is important that libraries provide all those resources and not self-censor or limit information.

So today I wanted to ask some questions that will hopefully stimulate thought and conversation, rather than highlighting a particular book, series or selections on a theme as usual.

  • Are there any books you don't want your kids to read? Why?
  • Are some books ones you don't want them to read now, but would be okay with when they are older?
  • Do you remember reading any books as a kid that you found offensive at time? What bothered you about them?
  • Do you remember your parents putting any restrictions on your reading as a kid?
Here are some great links to online resources about Banned Books Week, and about oft-challenged children's books in particular.
I look forward to your comments and discussion!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

On The Road Again

The 4th of July is just around the corner which means patriotic festivities, BBQ and often, summer road trips. The holiday is a great excuse to sneak in a mid-summer history and geography lesson, under the guise of some entertaining reading and games!

When I was little I fondly recall reading The Little House series while on a road trip one summer, I honestly don't even remember where we went on our trip - but I do remember reading about Laura and Mary, Ma and Pa, and imagining what it would be like if we were traveling in a covered wagon instead of our Volvo station wagon. Some people prone to motion sickness can't read while in the car without getting sick, so books on tape or CD are a great alternative to bound books.

I would strongly recommend The Little House series as well as the diary-based Dear America and My Name is America series, especially for school aged kids. They are historical fiction stories from different times and places all over America, written from the perspective of young boys and girls - so you are bound to find one related to the place your trip is going and that your child identifies with.

For all ages here are a couple more fun books of facts and fun for the summer - Greetings from the 50 States: How They Got Their Names by Sheila Keenan is chock full of fun facts about all 50 states, their history, nicknames, and of course, how they got their names. Go, Go America: 50 States of Fun by Dan Yaccarino is full of entertainingly illustrated pages, following the map in the table of contents through all 50 states, each page with fun facts about the states.

What follows are some ideas for car games and survival kits to make road trips more bearable (along with the books of course). There are of course many books of car games available as well!

Making a Car Trip Survival Kit

Grab a backpack or tote bag, your child's school back pack can work - but if possible - having a special bag just for trips goes a long way in getting them excited about the trek ahead! Make sure their name is on it, that way it cuts down on spats about whose bag and whose. Here's a list of suggested items to stock it with:

  • A Small Pillow - for naps, camp pillows and travel pillows are great options
  • A Music Player and Headphones - because I don't know any kids that want to listen to dad's music all the time, or any parents that want to listen to their kid's music all the time either; you can also pre-load it with some of their favorite books read aloud - for younger kids pick something cheap and durable like the Lego MP3 player
  • An Activity Book - more than just a coloring book, but also with activities like word searches, mazes and math problems
  • Travel and Trivia Games - Brain Quest makes great portable decks of trivia questions on many topics and for all ages
  • A Road Atlas - a great opportunity to teach geography and map reading skills when your kids inevitably ask "are we there yet?!", you can help them follow the path of your trip in the map, ask them "what town comes next?", "what town is north of us? south of us?", "what direction are we heading?", "are there any rivers or lakes nearby?", "where is the next rest stop?", etc. Rand McNally makes great maps and road activities for kids.
  • Snacks and a Water Bottle - salty snacks make you retain water, sweet snacks can make you need to pee more often, so choose wisely when picking your road trip snacks; dried fruits, nuts and seeds are great options

Make Your Own Car Game Placemat

  • 11x17 paper - heavy weight, card stock if possible . . . 8.5x11 will work too
  • Slip cover, contact paper or laminator
  • Wet erase markers
On one side of the paper print a full color map of the US, with all of the states labeled. On the other side print or draw blank game boards such as Tic-Tac-Toe, Bingo and MASH. Laminate this on both sides with contact paper or take it to your local copy store to laminate. On the road you can use the map side to play blackout bingo with license plates - see if you can find all 50 states on the road with you! On the other side you can play multiple games of Tic-Tac-Toe, etc. all you need is a wet wipe to wipe your mess away and start all over again.

The bonus is that because it is a placemat - you can use it to make messes easier to clean up when you stop for lunch along the road side - and especially if you are having to eat in the car!

Safe and Fun Travels!! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Life Lessons

When I was little my mom was pretty sneaky. I didn't really realize it at the time, at least not as much as I do now, but she would use books to teach us values and common sense. One of her favorite series to use was the now classic Berenstain Bears. When my baby brother was going to be born, we read Berenstain Bears, when she wanted to teach us about stranger danger, we read Berenstain Bears, when we were afraid of the dark, Berenstain Bears . . . they are still in publication and, in my opinion, as useful as ever when it comes to disseminating important information to children. They are entertaining and explain important topics in ways that kids understand. What follows is a list of some of my favorite titles, though there are many more:
  • The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers
  • The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners
  • The Bird, The Bees and the Berenstain Bears
  • The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need
  • The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream
  • The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies
  • The Berenstain Bears Count Their Blessings
  • The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food
Check out their home at PBS Kids!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Making Music

I wanted to highlight to Jazz inspired poetry picture books today. Poetry and Jazz seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly, and these two books are good compliments to each other as well. The first is I Live in Music by Ntozake Shange and the other is Jazz by Walter Dean Myers. Though not a book of poetry, a good prose book to throw into the mix is Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman. All three of these books, and their illustrations, speak to the way that music makes us feel more alive.

Putting together a dress up trunk like the one in Song and Dance Man is a great way to bring these books to life. Gather up some old clothes from relatives, garage sales and/or thrift stores, include shoes and accessories too. Put on some music, for these books I would recommend Putumayo Kids' New Orleans Playground CD and let your kiddos put on a show!

When I was little my sister and I had a dress up trunk of old dresses and costume jewelry that was given to us for Christmas by my great-aunt and great-grandmother. We occasionally added new pieces as old ones got worn out - but it was well used for many years. Creating a dress up trunk is not just an investment for one day's activity, but for years of pretend play!

As a side note: creating your own dress up trunk from used clothes is a lot more personal than just buying one of the pre-fab trunks or costumes that are available - and it is a good green option that cuts down on consumer waste!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

My local library had a great display of books up for Father's Day at my last visit, so I grabbed the one with the most interesting title. They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but title's are usually pretty telling and this one did not disappoint: The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman (who also happens to be the brilliant author of the Newbery Award winning The Graveyard Book - someday I'll do a whole post of Neil Gaiman books, but today is not that day).

The illustrations, by Dave McKean, are wonderful and the story is engaging. I hope you will check out a couple great Dad's Day books this year to share as a family. Dads, reading to your children is one of the bests gifts you can give them, and will insure that you will be knee-deep in ties, soap-on-a-rope and "World Greatest Dad" mugs, paperweights and mouse pads for years to come!