Summer Camp Week 1: Oceans

There are about a million resources for parents right now, but I wanted to see one that had more of a “camp at home” type feel. I figured I’d try this out for at least one week – centered around oceans – and see if there is more interest. If so, we can go from there, and if not, well, folks will at least have one week of activities to check out.

I think it makes sense to center each week around one book. Parents can either purchase it in advance, see if if the publisher has a free reading of it online, or check it out from the library (if your’s is open). This week I chose to center the camp around Professor Astro-Cat’s Deep Sea Voyage, (gifted to us from Flying Eye Books). If you’d like to select a different book to base your week around, you can see other suggestions (and crafts/toys/puzzles, etc. on this theme) on my Amazon affiliate page, which is here.

Ready for the activities, worksheets, coloring sheets, videos and more? Head to page 2!

Rainy Day Reads

It’s been a dreary few days here – the perfect time to curl up with a book or two, and even better if they feature rain. Not sure where to start? Here’s a list! If you’d rather check out the list in my Amazon shop, you can find that here.

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Singing in the Rain – Tim Hopgood (Henry Holt & Co.). If a rainy day is giving you the blues, bust out this one and sing along; the bright colors and song are guaranteed to cheer you up.
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Rain! – Linda Ashman and Christian Robinson (HMH Books for Young Readers). Find the positive in everything and join a young child as he convinces a grumpy old man that rain can, in fact, be a great thing.
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Rain (Seasons with Grandad) – Sam Usher (Templar Publishing). A beautiful book in a weather-inspired series focused on the relationship between a grandfather and grandson and the many adventures their imaginations can take them on.
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The Big Umbrella – Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates (Simon & Schuster) – A message of inclusion is woven into this story about an umbrella. Perfect for reading on rainy – or sunny – days.
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Worm Weather – Jean Taft and Matt Hunt (Penguin Random House) – With sparse rhyming text and vibrant illustrations, this is a joyful book that celebrates rain (and the sun after the storm).
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Tap Tap Boom Boom – Elizabeth Bluemle and G. Brian Karas (Candlewick)- Tiny tinkling rain drops tap tap and then boom boom as a rainstorm covers New York City. When everyone rushes down to the subway for cover, they find that rain can bring people together. With a fun repeated refrain, this is a great one to read aloud.
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Bruce’s Big Storm – Ryan T. Higgins (Disney-Hyperion) – Everyone’s favorite grumpy bear is back, this time, begrudgingly offering shelter to his neighbors when a big storm arrives. In typical Bruce fashion he ultimately helps save the day, but his neighbors have some saving to do if their own as well.
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Cloudette– Tom Lichtenheld (Henry Holt & Co.) – A little (tiny) cloud proves that even the smallest among us can do mighty things. Bonus: Cloudette is the absolute cutest cloud you’ve ever seen.
 
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Ivy and the Lonely Raincloud – Katie Harnett (Flying Eye Press) – Another entry in the told-in-the-perspective-of-the-cloud category, this time a lonely cloud is in need of a friend and it finds one in a grumpy girl. Beautifully rendered illustrations combine to make this a great addition to the list.
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On A Magical Do-Nothing Day – Beatrice Alemagna (HarperCollins) – A child, stuck at a cabin in the woods with his mom, learns a lesson about the magic of a rainy day in nature when he’s forced to unplug from his video game.

Love is Love

Publisher: Sourcebooks

June is Pride Month. Why? Because it’s the month the Stonewall Riots took place in New York City – riots that served as a catalyst for the equal rights movement that followed.

I love how this book comes from such a great place: the perspective of a child with two dads.

When the child wonders why people would think being gay is wrong, he realizes “maybe being different is scary to some people.”

And isn’t that so true? He then goes through how gay parents are just like straight ones. They love each other and their child. And really, that’s all that matters.

There are extensive notes, which I’ve captured here.

The author, a gay father himself, states that he wrote this book to show that “being gay is another kind of normal. Period. And I wanted to use the word ‘gay’ as much as possible to normalize it.” He goes on to say “There’s still too much permissiveness in the pejorative language some people use about gay people even in an era that’s progressing toward greater equality.” And this book hits that head-on.

When is the right time to read this book with your child? That depends on your family. But we should all recognize that kids will encounter ugly language and how they react is a reflection of the values we instill in them.

Happy Pride Month everyone – and thanks to Sourcebooks for sharing this beautiful, important book with me. ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

Pink is for Boys

Publisher: Running Press

Go buy this book (or check it out from the library) ASAP! This is hands down going on my Best of 2018 List. I was so excited when I heard the title and the book doesn’t disappoint. From the message, that ALL colors are for ALL kids, to the jubilant illustrations that are full of kids of every shape and color, this book is an all-around winner. I’m in love.

Snail Mail

Publisher: Running Press

This is one of those books where you kind of can’t believe it took so long for someone to come up with the concept. I mean snails that deliver the mail? Snail mail? It’s perfect!

I love how it starts off with a simple (but true!) premise – some things are better by snail mail! But here, the twist comes in. We have an actual group of snails who deliver the mail.

Are those names fantastic or what?! Once they start on their cross country journey, the illustrations take off.

I mean, how great are these?!

This is an absolutely adorable book (and I love the ending, where the snails finally get a plane for long journeys!).

A perfect book for reminding us to slow down and savor every day. And a great message about determination too! Big thanks to Running Press for sending this one my way.

Our Disney Cruise Experience: Part 1 – Fish Extenders and Facebook Groups

Alright. Let’s start off by acknowledging that a post about our first Disney Cruise experience has nothing to do with picture books. Or does it? Well, there is a connection, but I will get to that later.

Where to start? Well, I’ll start by saying that while this was our first Disney Cruise, this was not my first cruise ever. I’d been on a couple of cruises as a teen/young adult with my family, and had fond memories of them. That said, this was my husband’s first cruise, as well as our first cruise with kids (and yikes – the thought of all of us sharing less than 300 square feet of space for SEVEN nights was slightly terrifying). This was also a trip with extended family – as in, my parents, my sister and her husband and kids, and my single sister, so there were 11 of us total.

As a Disney Cruise newbie, I knew there was a lot that I *didn’t* know, so I dove right into the internet and start searching with queries like “Disney Cruise sleeping two kids different ages” (ha!). Within a day or two I learned about something called “Fish Extenders” and this led to the revelation that there are actually private Facebook Groups for each and every Disney Cruise sailing. Yes, you read that correctly. Every Disney Cruise sailing has a private Facebook group that you can join and connect with fellow cruisers ahead of your sailing date. Don’t ask me how these groups come about or what goes into managing them. All I can tell you is that it is a team of people who volunteer to do this and it’s no small job!

(Header picture from our Cruise Facebook Page)

Once you join the Facebook group you have a wealth of information available to you. Many folks are repeat Disney Cruisers and they are more than happy to share information or tips from their experiences. And this is also where you can sign up to participate in “Fish Extenders” or any of the other exchanges going on (our group had an ornament exchange and, I believe, a magnet exchange as well).

For the uninitiated, Fish Extenders are basically like Secret Santa groups for the ship. Each group typically has about 10 rooms participating, meaning you need to get gifts for nine other rooms. Everyone enters information in a spreadsheet about favorite Disney characters, T-shirt size, and any celebrations taking place while onboard. Then you get to be creative! You can get gifts for each and every person in a cabin, or do one gift for the whole cabin. Gifts range from homemade treats to professionally made tote bags, and it is so much fun seeing what is waiting for you at your room, in your Fish Extender. (Note: you can purchase Fish Extenders like this one or DIY one like this. It’s fun seeing the range of Fish Extenders onboard – I ended up making ours using this nursery hanger, Krylon, Disney-themed fabric, and fabric glue.)

Note: Don’t ever turn your back on your two year old while stenciling names on your DIY Fish Extender! 😳

My kids, who were 5 and 2.5 at the time of sailing, LOVED the Fish Extender experience, particularly whoever the generous souls were who left them both stuffed animals! They were thrilled with each and every gift, regardless of size, and it just added a little bit of extra magic to our trip. Would I participate again? Absolutely. With caveats.

First, I would spend less time stressing about the gifts – it ended up being less fun and more stressful than I had anticipated. Next time I would take it easier on myself!

Second, I would plan when I deliver the gifts more strategically. I delivered ours over the course of the week, thinking that people would like to get a gift later in the week instead of everything at once. While that’s true, I would maybe try to focus deliveries on the “At Sea” days, when people are generally in and out of their rooms more. After the cruise we heard reports of teens stealing gifts out of Fish Extenders and that really stinks. You hope that kind of thing doesn’t happen but with any large group of people you’re bound to find some bad apples.

Finally, I would encourage anyone who books a Disney Cruise to join the Facebook group as soon as possible, regardless of whether you want to do Fish Extenders or not. I can’t tell you how many things I learned ahead of time (so many!), but two tips stood out the most:

  • Book ticketed Character Events ASAP when you are able to register for the cruise (and know that you may even be able to book events before you complete your pre-registration on the day it opens up). There were several ticketed character events that were free, but you had to have tickets. These included  the “Princess Gathering” where you got to meet and greet Tiana, Cinderella, Ariel and Belle, the “Frozen Gathering” with you guessed it, Anna and Elsa, and the Disney Junior Character Breakfast, which featured individual table stops (as in, the characters come to your table for pictures and autographs) with Mickey, Jake (from the Neverland Pirates), Sofia and Doc McStuffins. My kids went NUTS for these and it would have been such a bummer if we had missed out. (Note: they typically reserve some tickets to these events onboard but if you miss out ahead of time it has to be your first stop at Guest Services, to see if you can get some of the tickets that are left.)
  • Get a Rainforest Day Pass for Senses Spa. Here is a video of this area of the spa. You can get five-day passes once you’re onboard but supposedly the individual day passes are only sold ahead of time, and, for $16/person, it’s a bargain. My husband and I loved the hot tubs and the heated lounge seats. Money well spent.

Alright, whew. That covers Disney Cruise tips for BEFORE YOU GET ONBOARD! Now I just need to write up the actual cruise experience. We’ll see how long that takes!

One Day On Our Blue Planet…In The Ocean

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

I’m back home! As some of you may have seen from my previous posts, we’ve been out of town for about 10 days, first visiting Disney World and then going on a Disney Cruise with my extended family. I’m still in an ocean frame of mind, so I knew this would be the perfect book to share today!

This one comes out in June and is the fourth in a series (other titles include in the savannah, in the Antarctic and in the rainforest). Here, we follow a dolphin calf as she goes about her day, visiting different areas of the ocean and interacting with different sea creatures. This is definitely on the lighter side, text-wise, so it is perfect for introducing younger kids to these environments.

The illustrations are vibrant and the end papers make me swoon. I mean, check this out:

Non-fiction can be tough for younger kids and I really feel like this book does such a fantastic job of being age-appropriate (its recommended for ages 3-7). Thank you to Flying Eye Books for sending this one my way!

Now, I’m off to hopefully nap. I’m exhausted from our vacation 😂!

Honey

Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books/Penguin Kids

Oh this follow up to LEAVES has me. In fact, I may go so far as to say I like it even better – which is saying a lot because we own LEAVES and love it!

I love how this starts:

It was his second year.

“I’m back! he said.

💛 Bear remembers honey and goes in search of it, only to keep finding that it isn’t ready yet.

He’s forced to entertain himself doing all the things a bear might do.

Finally, he happily discovers that the honey is ready and is able to indulge. I love that the story continues through, and that the closing page is this:

Just beautiful isn’t it? And so we come fully through the summer season. This book is adorable – perfect for the warming weather as spring heads into summer. 🍯

It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel

Publisher: North/South Books

It’s been a while since I was really and truly surprised by the ending of a book, but this one totally pulled it off. With aplomb.

We start innocently enough. Friends Squirrel, Hedgehog and Bear have just emerged and found that spring has arrived. Hedgehog immediately spots a lady and is flummoxed. How should he get her attention?

Thankfully, his pal Squirrel is there with a plan.

Of course, they will need outfits to go prove their bravery, so we are treated to a few delightful pages of options:

The friends then decide to go prove their bravery by conquering…someone.

Unfortunately, they aren’t the best at this, so they ultimately decide to best their friend Bear (who isn’t quite aware of his being conquered!).

Upon this feat they decide Hedgehog has now proven his worth and may go meet his lady love.

Now. Stop here if you don’t want to see the spoiler for this one. Do not read any further! But if you’re curious, go ahead and click for more.

Read More…

Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics

Publisher: MacMillan

When I shared this over on Instagram, I commented that I was surprised I hadn’t seen more of this one, particularly during National Poetry Month (April). I’m still surprised I have seen more of it, so I’m sharing it here and hopefully that will help others learn about it as well!

This book beautifully captures figures from history – people whose names we know, and people whose names have been forgotten by history. There were so many amazing people included in this one, and I learned so much by reading this book.

Above is a sample page spread. Every person has a full-page illustration and accompanying poem. Then, the end of the book gives you additional information about each person, as well as other important figures who weren’t given their own pages until the text.

Here’s the accompanying page that covers the larger page from above, so you can see the correlation.

This is a great non-fiction, diverse poetry book. Definitely worth checking out.