Saturday, June 23, 2012

{Reading Challenges: Week 26}

An Italian Journey: A Harvest of Revelations In The Olive Groves of Tuscany
Continuing on with my current obsession of Italian travel books, I finished this one up last night. It's the story of James Ernest Shaw as he traveled around Italy as a WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). He traveled to various farms that listed a need for help during the annual olive harvest. His reception varied widely as did his experiences, which he chronicles in An Italian Journey. The book was excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone that has a taste for Italy.
As I read (on my Kindle) I highlighted a few passages that especially caught my eye for one reason or another. 
"In the English language, goodbye comes to us with an interesting story as well. Up until the sixteenth century, the valediction used was God be with you. Within a century it had gone from God be wy you to god b'w'y to godbwye to god buy' ye to good-b'wy and then to goodbye
Throughout the book Shaw speaks frequently of Italian hospitality and how the majority of people he ran into went out of their way to help him. At one point he says "In America, the national pastime is baseball. In Italy it's hospitality."
One point that Shaw continually talks about is the idea of buying local and supporting farming in your community. Shaw owns a farm in Wisconsin and part of his goal in traveling Italy is to explore farming methods to use on his own farm and in his personal life.
"What meat I don't raise myself I'll buy from my local butcher who cuts the meat in my town - not meat that's been processed in a factory hundreds or thousands of miles from my home. What vegetables and fruits I don't raise myself I'll buy from my neighbors whenever possible. We create our communities with every dollar we spend locally. And we destroy our communities with every dollar we spend carelessly - every dollar we spend eliminating our neighbor, and every dollar we spend buying more land than we can take good care of."
"A growing number of Americans are beginning to take a Tuscan-like approach to food. But powerful forces are arrayed against us. Mass purveyors of food force unhealthy methods of production on food factories to supply our seemingly insatiable demand for lower prices. Not reflected in those cheap prices is the collateral damage to the health of our bodies and to America's soil and water that the rest of us, the future generations, must pay for. The task before us is to collectively take the production of food away from industial agri-giants and place it back into the hands of agrarians who will honor not only the food, but also the land on which it is produced."
Finally, just because I thought it was an interesting tid-bit tucked into the story, Shaw thanks: "Frederick W. Smith who envisioned FedEx and submitted it as a class project at Yale - for which I might add, he received a grade of "C""
52 Books in 52 Weeks - 16 
100+ Books- 25
150+ Books - 25

Sometimes the books I pick are intentional, more often though I just randomly pick something off of the shelf. This is especially true with audio books. I usually check out three or four at a time which gets me through about two weeks and when it comes to audio books, I completely judge books by their covers, or titles as the case may be. I generally stick to fiction and easy reads, my drive is long enough without listening to a book that is boring or hard to keep up with.
Which is why I ended up with Why We Broke Up. I wasn't sure about it at first. The entire book is based on a letter a teenage girl writes to her ex about why they broke up. It begins as she's returning a box of things that she's collected throughout their relationship, ticket stubs, stolen sugar, a jacket, a school pendant, other random things. As she puts each item in the box there is a flashback and the story explains why it's there, so the whole book isn't in letter format. The story is rated for YA, but like most YA books I pick up lately, I wouldn't want my sixteen year old reading it. 

From Amazon: "Min, precocious and equally obsessed with classic cinema and good coffee, broke up with Ed, a popular math-loving jock who secretly carries a protractor. Daniel Handler weaves this heartrending story of first love and other powerful firsts as Min reveals, item by item, what's in the box she's leaving on Ed's doorstep. As readers learn why these two unforgettable characters broke up, the significance of these simple love tokens, beautifully illustrated by Maira Kalman, charmingly unfolds. Written with an emotional depth that allows both adult and teen readers to revisit memories of heartbreak and find pieces of themselves in Min--and maybe even Ed, Why We Broke Up will leave you wondering how Handler knows exactly what it's like to be a teenage girl in love." --JoVon Sotak
52 Books in 52 Weeks - 17
100+ Books - 26
150+ Books - 26
Audio Book Challenge- 6

{Reading Challenges Jr: Week 26}

I haven't read Charlotte's Web since I was a kid. It is such a sweet story. We read the book over several weeks, trying to read a chapter each night. Both of the boys seemed to enjoy it, though I'm not sure how much Monkey understood. Bubby said it was really sad when Charlotte died but he really likes the baby spiders, so that made it all ok. Bubby types: "i liked it it was really nice it was really funny"
Award Winning Books - 8
Excellence in Reading -  12
100+ Books
150+ Books

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

{Reading Challenges Jr: Week 25}

Since I signed us up for a couple of summer reading challenges, I've gotten back into gear with our nightly reading. It helps that the boys are super excited to read books on my Kindle.

Last night we shared a montage of titles:

Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown
I love this book but haven't pulled it off the shelf for a long time. It is on our Excellence in Reading list for this year so I picked it for last night. The images are sweet and my boys always seem to enjoy anything that rhymes. Monkey asked me to read it a second time but fell asleep before I could make it to the end. This is one of those classics that come in all forms and should be shared with all ages.
Reading Challenges:

Andy and The Lion - James Daugherty

 I've never actually read this book, but it is on our list of Five In A Row books for the coming school year. I really like the illustrations and the story is sweet. I didn't really enjoy the way the text flowed though. There are not complete sentences on any particular page and it seems like I'm trying to flip through the pages quickly in order to finish a thought. I think we'll enjoy it more when we row it as we'll read it multiple times and will have a better opportunity to revisit the pages.
Reading Challenges:

We also had to read a few options from the Kindle of course:

The Moon and The Cap - Memetales
I especially liked this one, it has a cute storyline.
Reading Challenges:

Timmy and Pepe - Memetales
The boys chose to listen to the Kindle read all of these, and that was fine with me. The stories are generally short, and pretty simple, and don't interest me a whole lot.
Reading Challenges:

Too Many Bananas - Memetales
Reading Challenges:

I also found for free via Amazon:
Who is Who at the Zoo!

The illustrations in this book are really really cute. One page has the animal, typically with their face covered, and a short rhyming description. The next page shows a full view of the animal and says "I'm a zebra!" or "I'm an elephant!". Monkey loved guessing the animals and because he's still learning some of their names, the book had a little bit of a challenge. Bubby asked me to read it to him later and I had him close his eyes while I read the description, then he guessed the animals. It was still pretty easy for him but it added some fun into the story.
Reading Challenges:
Aldo Tanners! Where Are Your Manners?!

The point of this book was good, manners are always important, and their use of illustrations was creative. Generally speaking though, I don't find "potty" humor funny and would pass on this book in the future. Bubby seemed to enjoy it though he didn't make any specific comments.
Reading Challenges:

Monday, June 18, 2012

{Summer Reading}

There are some great reading groups to join for the summer. I've signed up for a couple to keep the boys busy:



{Bottle Top ABC's}

 My sister saw this cool idea to use paper plates and lids to make paint pallets (that's another post) so we all started saving lids to things. I now have a nice collection of lids in all shapes and sizes, including a huge collection of lids from Coke bottles thanks to my mom and dad.
letter recognition
 The other day I was sorting through things and putting together some tot trays (another post again) and came up with these fun pop bottle alphabets. I had everything on hand and it took me less than fifteen minutes to make.
I used a 1" punch to cut the green circles out of scrapbooking scraps, used hot glue to adhere them to the top of the lids then added the stickers. I especially like these stickers because they are thick and add some dimension.
Letter Recognition
I had enough lids and stickers to make two sets. We'll be using these for matching.
Letter Recognition
and alphabetizing.
Letter Recognition
and spelling sight words.
Letter Recognition

{Readathon Via Memetales Week 1}

We had a great time with our first couple of books! The boys are super excited to use my Kindle regardless of what we are doing so that definitely helps.
 I introduced Memetales to Monkey as soon as I downloaded it and he LOVES listening to all of the stories. I love that you can use it as a read aloud, or there is an option to have each story read to you which makes it perfect when I need a few minutes to myself.
It's also really easy to navigate. I showed Monkey (3 yrs) how to get from one book to another and he had it figured out in about thirty seconds.
It also appears that there are games attached to some of the books but the app doesn't push the games so the boys haven't even figured it out yet.

The first book we read is The Donkey and the Wolf. The pictures are pretty silly and the text is simple. I read the book out loud and then took a few minutes to explain the meaning of "wit" to Bubby. The story was cute, but the boys were content to hear it just once.

(I can't find the actual Memetales version but this looks like a cute non-Kindle option)
Both of the boys really liked this book. I think they are especially drawn to the repetitive sing-song sound of it. We read this three times in a row.
The first time I simply read the story out loud. Then I showed them the hand motions I learned when I was younger to go along with the story. After that Bubby wanted to "read" the story himself and he did a very good job, I was impressed with how well he remembered the wording after hearing it just once. Halfway through the story he suddenly went "oh, each time one duck doesn't come back and so they are sort of counting down!". Love those "ah-ha!" moments.
Finally I let them listen to the audio version. I've noticed in pretty much all of the books the audio version doesn't follow exactly with the wording on the page, but it isn't really a big deal. When the boys were listening to the audio version of Five Little Ducks there is one page with the reader adds two extra words to the end of a sentence. Bubby caught it immediately and told me I hadn't read it right. I explained to him that I read the words on the page but that the audio reader had added a couple of words, it happens. It was nice to know that he was listening and absorbing the book so closely, sometimes it's hard to tell since he sits still for exactly one minute during reading time.

If you're interested this Laptime Songs website has the rhyme with hand movements. While you're there, check out some of the other rhymes listed, they have a pretty good collection.

The Lion and the Mouse
 This was our book for Tuesday. The Lion and The Mouse. For some reason the book didn't download well onto my Kindle, which in the end turned out to be a blessing. The pages showed up so small I wasn't able to read the words, and unfortunately the pictures didn't show up very well. The blessing is that we had to listen to the audio version in order to share the book and it was fantastic! The reader did an amazing job with voices and sound effects. The story was the classic, lion spares mouse's life/ mouse saves lion deal.

Memetales included some fun activity ideas in their newsletter this week. Inspired by their playdough animal tracks, I thought we'd try the same thing with ink pads instead. I actually thought about using paint but was too lazy to break it out on a work night.
I layed everything out and invited Bubby (Monkey fell asleep during story time again) to join me in creating some art work. It didn't work very well. The animals were too stiff to create good prints. I did get some fun ones but it took a lot of wiggling and pressing here and there. Bubby lost interest quickly.

Since we already had the ink pads out I suggested thumb print art. Bubby received this Ed Emberly book in his Easter Basket:

Love love love this book!
We took turns choosing which creatures to make. He seemed to be having a hard time focusing on the steps so I talked him through one at a time as we each drew our own pictures. Even The Mister got in on the action.

 The Mister's

We've been enjoying some other Kindle inspired animal books and apps, so I thought I'd pass them along as well:
Kids Match'em
Animal Match-Up - When you turn a card over you hear the respective animal sound
Animal Book
Animal Book - Free App

All of these books I downloaded when they were free, they may not be free anymore
Who is Who at the Zoo!
Crosby the Crab
 Find It! Hidden Picture Book: Animals

Sunday, June 17, 2012

{Reading Challenges: Week 25}

Week 25!? Sheesh....I am way behind. I have been reading a lot though, so it isn't for a lack of material.

Under The Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes
There is simply nothing about this book that I don't like. I have been in love with everything Italian or French lately and Under The Tuscan Sun does not disappoint. I have listened to the book before but equally enjoyed it this time. (On a side note: I LOVE the movie as well, but one really has nothing to do with the other).
Francis litters her book with mouth watering recipes and descriptions of their daily dietary endeavors. I have a slight fascination with olive oil these days and despite it's price tag, I simply can't bring myself to cook our food in that yellow vegetable crud.
Every word of her book makes you want to jump ship and buy a little cottage in Tuscany complete with 12" wood ceiling beams and brick floors. Surely you can stand the chaos and frustration of dealing with the local builders if the final result is a sunny, warm, fragrant kitchen in Tuscany.
52 Books in 52 Weeks - 12

If there is anything I like more that Francis Mayes and Under The Tuscan is the trials and triumphs described by Peter Mayle in A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence

Like Francis Mayes, Peter Mayle transfers you, heart and soul, into his life. He and his wife purchased a 200 year old farmhouse in France at which point he begin chronicling their life month by month.  I immediately fell in love with Mayle's descriptions, his obvious love and fascination for the country he calls home, his wit, and most of all his regard for everything culinary. I devoured both of his books and can't wait to get my hands on some others. Mayle and his wife will charm you from the first page to the last.
52 Books in 52 Week - 13 and 14

The Fiction Class - Susan Breen
Arabella Hicks has an overpowering, opinionated mother, who is currently dieing in a nursing home across town. While she struggles to finish her book she's been working on for seven years, Arabella teaches a weekly writing course to a variety of trying and amusing writing enthusiasts. 
As Arabella goes through the weekly chore of her community class, she begins to see that there are more to people than strictly meets the eye. As Arabella makes friends, suffers heartache, and falls in love, her eyes are opened to the mother she thought she knew and understood.
I very much enjoyed this book and the characters I found in it. If you want to join in with Arabella's class, you will find her writing assignments at the end of each chapter.
52 Books in 52 Weeks - 15