Book Spotlight: Minibeasts with Jess French

With her unparalleled zeal for insects, Jess French dives headfirst into the breathtaking world of invertebrates to explore their unbelievable adaptations and evolution and reveal incredible invertebrates from all over the world, from bird-eating tarantulas and glow-in-the-dark scorpions to meter-long stick insects and bat-eating centipedes.

Learn about the perfect co-evolution of nectar-drinking insects and the flowers they pollinate and discover how minibeasts mate, fight, hide, collaborate, evolve, and survive in the most extreme conditions.

MY THOUGHTS: Let’s be honest. When it comes to bugs, you either love them or you hate them. A lot of that is conditioning from when we’re young. If a bee stings a five-year old, chances are that child we become an adult who detests bees. However, there are so many fascinating things about insects that it’s a shame to go through life hating them for being themselves. That’s why I love this book from Jess French.

She definitely has a way of seeing beauty in each bug, no matter how creepy it is. She’s proof of the childhood love-them-or-hate-them theory. Raised with an invertebrate-breeding father, she became accustomed to the ins and outs of creepy-crawlies. Her passion for them is evident all throughout the book.

Each full-color, intriguing picture shows details in the insects that one would never see normally. Her descriptions, explanation, and even choices with which bugs to showcase are fantastic. This is the type of book that gets kids excited about science. It is a must-have in your home school library. If you have a young reader who is currently petrified of anything that flies, crawls, or buzzes, you need to get a copy of this. It promotes a healthy attitude toward entomology and allows these often misunderstood creatures a chance to ‘wow’ kids.

‘Minibeasts’ is a great read for any age (even adults). I highly recommend it.

Bloomsbury Wildlife | Publication date: May 8th, 2018
$18 | Paperback original | 128 pages | ISBN: 9781472939555
**Pic and Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.
*I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.


The World Almanac® and Book of Facts 2018: A Resource Every Homeschool Needs

SYNOPSIS:How does the Trump administration’s first year compare to those of past presidents? How do Harvey and Irma stack up against other historic hurricanes? While 2017 was a momentous year, its significant events will live on and gain context in The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2018, available in print and as an eBook for all platforms on December 5. The 150th anniversary edition of America’s best-selling reference book celebrates its illustrious history while keeping an eye on the future in order to be your go-to source for questions on any topic in the upcoming year.

New features include “150 Years of The World Almanac,” with highlights from its distinguished past and some old-fashioned “facts” illustrating how its defining mission has changed with the times; “World Almanac Editors’ Picks: Greatest Single-Season Performances,” featuring athletes’ best single-season runs; “Statistical Spotlight,” featuring infographics relevant to the biggest stories of the year; and “The Obama Presidency,” a recap of the policy achievements and challenges of the 44th U.S. president.

Favorite sections making their return include “Year in Sports,” “Top 10 News Topics,” “The World at a Glance,” “Time Capsule,” “Offbeat News Stories,” and “Historical Anniversaries.”

“For 150 years, The World Almanac and Book of Facts has remained a constant, authoritative source for people all around the globe,” said Sarah Janssen, senior editor of The World Almanac. “In this anniversary edition, we’ve included special features that look back on our proud history and key milestones from the past—along with additions that spotlight the past year’s developments. And with The World Almanac, you’ll take on 2018 with all of the information you’ll need in the year to come.”

Highlights from The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2018 include:

150 Years of The World Almanac: This special feature celebrating The World Almanac’s historic run includes highlights from its distinguished past and some old-fashioned “facts” illustrating how its defining mission has changed with the times.

Historical Anniversaries: The World Almanac’s recurring feature expands to incorporate milestone events and cultural touchstones dating to the book’s founding year, from the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson to the publication of Little Women.

The World at a Glance: This annual feature of The World Almanac provides a quick look at the surprising stats and curious facts that define the changing world.

The Obama Presidency: A year after Barack Obama’s second term came to a close, The World Almanac reviews the accomplishments, missteps, and legacy of the 44th president.

Other New Highlights: A brand-new biography of the 45th president and profile of the Trump administration; official 2016 election results; and statistics on criminal incarceration and sentence lengths, health care, overdose deaths, shootings, terrorism, and much more.

The Year in Review: The World Almanac takes a look back at 2017 while providing all the information you’ll need in 2018.

2017—Top 10 News Topics: The editors of The World Almanac list the top stories that held the world’s attention in 2017.

2017—Year in Sports: Hundreds of pages of trivia and statistics that are essential for any sports fan, featuring a preview of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games; complete coverage of the 2017 World Series; new tables of NBA, NHL, and NCAA statistics; and much more.

2017—Year in Pictures: Striking full-color images from around the world in 2017, covering news, entertainment, science, and sports.

2017—Offbeat News Stories: The World Almanac editors found some of the quirkiest news stories of the year, from the king who secretly worked as an airline pilot for decades to the state that’s auctioning off its governor’s mansion.

World Almanac Editors’ Picks: Time Capsule: The World Almanac lists the items that most came to symbolize the year 2017, from news and sports to pop culture.

MY THOUGHTS: I know you may be thinking, ‘There’s an App for that.’ True, Google will probably give you all the info, too. However, in my opinion, there is no substitute for holding an actual book. While all the technological bells and whistles can be handy, today’s students aren’t reliant enough on good, old-fashioned research.

This is why I highly recommend keeping reference books such as this in your home/classroom. While it may not be a cover-to-cover read, it will get them engrossed in learning. Looking up on topic may lead to reading about another. That is something a search engine cannot do.

When my generation had research to do, we went to the library and blew a Saturday pouring over books to find info. ‘The World Almanac’ comes with countless topics, information, and education. It will start a ‘Hey, mom, did you know….’ conversation. Start some teachable, family moments.

You can find more info plus ordering information at the following:
Or at most book retailers
*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the publisher.

Book Spotlight: The Electric Pickle: Joey Green

If your kid’s eyes glaze over when you mean the Periodic Table of Elements, I’ve got the perfect book for you! No longer will parents have to agonize over Science Projects that have been forgotten until the night before they’re due. In fact, science will be FUN again.
Let me introduce you to ‘The Electric Pickle’!
“The Electric Pickle: 50 Experiments from the Periodic Table, from Aluminum to Zinc
By Joey Green
(Chicago Review Press; October 1, 2017)

It’s a strange and fascinating DIY guide for the chemistry-curious, featuring an activity for every single element of the periodic table. Activities include:
–          For Lithium: “Horrible Hot Dog”
Insert a lithium battery into an uncooked hot dog and watch it sizzle and bubble
–          For Boron: “Green Tornado Fire”
Use boric acid and antifreeze to create a green glowing flame
–          For Oxygen: “Freaky Soap Soufflé”
Microwave a regular bar of soap to turn it into a large, lava-like cloud formation
–          For Sodium: “Electric Pickle”
Conduct electricity through a pickle to watch it glow bright yellow
Projects range from relatively quick with very few simple ingredients to more exciting and complex experiments that lead to booming or glowing results.

MY THOUGHTS: Trust me: Good, quality STEM books are few and far between. It just seems that its same-old same-old. ‘The Electric Pickle’ is entirely original and quite honestly, fun. Today’s students need to think outside the box. If you’re a homeschooler, you know exactly what I mean. Not everyone has a lab in their basement and sometimes those experiments become monotonous or don’t turn out properly at all.

This book gives you 50 different experiments that are easy, basic, and most of all, unique! Entering a Science Fair this year can be a thrilling experience instead of a poster board full of mediocrity. If you have multiple students needing multiple projects, 50 experiments can go a long, long way. As a parent, I’m all in for anything that makes a child’s eyes light up. Just hearing the words ‘The Electric Pickle’ grabs ahold of their ever-waning attention span and doesn’t let go. As soon as my 9th grader saw the cover, he sat down and immediately began looking through. It was a few minutes later that he began asking if we had some of the components on-hand.

I have to give Joey Greene and his out-of-the-box thinking a full 5 stars! If you don’t have a copy, GET A COPY! You won’t be sorry.

*Pic & synopsis belong solely to the author & publisher.

**I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Movie Spotlight: ‘In Search of Liberty’

As Americans, we move day-to-day without giving much thought to what really holds our country together. For many people, the Constitution is the latest buzzword when college campuses are in an uproar or some pundit believes his or her rights have been violated. How often to we look back to what the Founding Fathers gifted to us all?

This is the exact premise for a new, family movie, ‘In Search of Liberty’. We meet a normal, American family. A chance encounter with a certain historical figure named Ben leads the family to see the Constitution as never before. This modernized Ben delivers witty humor, magical visions of the past, and a love for his country. Most importantly, the family gains an understanding of the amendments, what is and isn’t included in the Constitution, and why it’s still wholly relevant today.

Perhaps a good number of people ‘my age’ may remember those projector films we watched in school. A monotone narrator would tell us why history was important. This is the direct opposite of those movies! In fact, one of the first things we noticed was the cinematography. Seemless transitions and professional acting made it enjoyable as well as believable. The small town setting is perfect and could be any community in our country.

Each of the actors chosen are excellent. They definitely gave you the feeling that they believed in what they were doing and were passionate about their portrayals. This most certainly wasn’t a ‘get-it-done’ and marketed film. It has substance and utilized modern film techniques to make the learning fun.

I watched the movie in its entirety along with my husband and 14-year-old son. We each got a little something out of it, but all agreed that the scenes in the ‘FunHouse’ were our favorites. (You’ll have to watch for yourself! No spoilers!) Both my husband and I were pleased that the film was very pro-Constitution without being preachy or pushy. As a family who is also very pro-Constitution were appreciated that it had no subliminal overtones. Everything is present in a more matter-of-fact delivery.

Due to its family friendly nature ( we only spotted two questionable word choices), I’d say it’s a film for late-elementary/early junior high students- say 4th-6th grades. Homeschoolers could add it to Government lessons while still remaining confident that students are learning. Seeing, physically where the Founding Fathers got the idea to write it as well as real-life, scenarios where the Constitution is used, will help students make the connections as to the document’s relevance. This is especially important seeing that many of today’s curriculum’s are ‘glossing’ over its importance.

If viewers are simply history buffs, then they’ll love Ben and his humor. Regardless, I would recommend adding it to your viewing library. It’s an investment that can be used as reference or to have a family movie afternoon as we did.
‘In Search of Liberty’ was released on 8/29/17.

*Pic belongs solely to the film’s makers & authorized persons. We received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

EASY Ways to Encourage Your Teen To Read

It’s hard to compete with Snap Chat, Instagram & Facebook. Written word has taken a far backseat. But, with school having started or starting soon, apps and electronics need to be shelved. It used to be that public figures sang the praises of reading, but we don’t hear much anymore. Ben Carson has applauded his mother for making him read- a lot- and even demanding he write a book report for every book he read. It’s hard to argue with a neurosurgeon’s logic!

If you’re the parent of a teen or preteen, you know the struggle is real. Once in a blue moon, you find a child who loves to read. Otherwise, it’s like pulling teeth. How do we encourage without being a nag? Here are a few simple ways to do it.

Do you read? Lead by example. When is the last time your son or daughter saw you read? In our house, my youngest knows that bedtime for Mom means she’s reading. My Kindle is never far. He physically sees me reading.

What are you reading? If you’ve read something lately that really excited you, whether it was a newspaper article, digital magazine or book, tell them about it! Recently, I thought my favorite book series was ending. I was legitimately upset. During lunch, I told our son about it. This launched into an entire conversation over what the series was about, why I liked it, and so on. Impart onto them why you prefer a specific genre. If possible, let them see some of the book. Share it.

What is their favorite movie? Chances are, it was a book first. I purposely watch the ending credits of movies just to see if it says ‘based on a book by’. Kids are often blown away to learn movies like ‘Jaws’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and more all started as written word. If they like the movies, perhaps they’ll want to discover its origins. Maybe you’ll be surprised too. Do a Goggle search of a show or movie you love to see if it was a book first, too.

Never assume you already know what they’ll like. Having 3 sons has taught me that I never knew nearly as much as I ever thought I did! I never thought our youngest would like non-fiction. To me, non-fiction is a research tool or read specifically for a reason. However, he seems to prefer actual events and knowledge gained from true stories and books that teach him things. Since he has decided to go into ministry as a profession, he has chosen to read books targeted to ministry and Christ. Recently, a youth leader suggested that the kids read a specific book about being a youth leader. He read it straight through! I was amazed. Now, I have a better understanding of what he wants to read.

Behold the power of peers! What are their friends reading? One of the reasons book series such as Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are so popular is word of mouth. Find out what other students frequently check out of the library (ask the librarian!) or ask your kids. We all know how powerful peer influence can be. Use it for the good!

What are they into? Have a computer/tech fanatic? Do a search for biographies of people like Steve Jobs. Sports books are easy to find. There seems to be a different one daily. Don’t limit it to just fiction. A budding basketball star may be encouraged by books about Christian players. Remember Tim Tebow? He was homeschooled AND he has had a number of books written about him.

Never give up! If you find it frustrating and nothing seems to help them want to read, stick with subtle hints and leave books in plain sight. Sometimes seeing a book that might interest them is enough to pick it up. Keep encouraging them. If you care about it, they will too.

Book Spotlight: Stitching With Jane Foster

Stitching with Jane Foster includes 37 quick and easy cross-stitch sewing cards with punched holes for easy stitching, as well as a 36-page project book featuring instructions for designing your own unique stitching patterns and color combinations. Gather all the tools and materials you need to get started and learn stitching basics, including the straight stitch, cross-stitch, back stitch, and more. A project gallery then shows examples of how to use your adorable stitched cards: everything from bookmarks and journals to greeting cards and ornaments. The simple stitching patterns taught in this book promote growth and development, hand-eye coordination, and creativity and imagination. Includes 37 adorable punch-out templates to get you started! Color them, stitch them, press them out, and play with them; Stitching with Jane Foster will entertain and delight crafters of all ages and is sure to inspire a lifelong love of embroidery.
(Pics/Synopsis property of Quarto)

Quarto Knows has tons of quality books that promote hobbies and ideas for children. No technology required! Get back to basics and give kids an opportunity to exercise hand-eye coordination.

We were provided with a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Having Trouble Understanding Your Child’s Accelerated Reading Program?

Lately, I’ve been working in collaboration with my Aunt, who is a librarian for both a Christian School & a Community Library. Yes, she’s a busy lady! Being that we’re off school until September, I volunteered to help her with her mountainous tasks for back-to-school. This work sparked a conversation about how confusing the Accelerated Reading Program can be.

How are books rated? How many do they have to read? The questions are endless. It seems that no one gives a straight up answer to how exactly it works. I’ll try to explain the best I can.

Obviously, the first thing to know is that it requires reading! Ha, just kidding, you knew that.
The Accelerated Reader program is all about reading comprehension. A student picks book that strikes their fancy and is on their reading level. Each book, based on its length and the reading level, is scored in points. Obviously, the more challenging a book is, the more points it’s awarded.

This is all done via computer. The student(s) will take a comprehension based quiz to determine how well they ‘got it’. The kiddos get a percentage of points by getting questions right. If they’re getting them wrong, they didn’t comprehend the selection. With me so far?

What if my kid thinks reading is a form of torture? I’d recommend using an Accelerated Reading book finder. Yes, it’s a real thing. You can use Google to locate one of those. Type in what your kid is into and find a book he or she might actually read. Example, if you have a sports fan, try Sports Fiction or see if LeBron James has an autobiography.

Why do you have to do this? The answer is to help the adminstrators in you child’s life to see how well they read independently. Plus, it sparks a love of reading. They read at their own pace. However, if your students are like mine, they’re professional procrastinators. Reading is essential to a successful life. Good readers get good jobs and make good money so they don’t end up living in your basement until they’re 60! Real talk.

Your self and your school’s librarian will get these quiz results and be able to see how your child is doing. Moving on, for example, let’s say a book has a rating of 4.5 That simply means a child reading it is on the level of the fourth grade in the 5th month of school. Easy, right? Whether or not this 4.5 rated book is an appropriate choice can be assessed by speaking with your friendly neighborhood librarian.

Quizzes for the books are divided this way: LG (Lower Grades, K–3),MG (Middle Grades, 4–8),MG+ (Middle Grades Plus, 6 and up),UG (Upper Grades, 9–12). Every school may be different, but a successful score is 80% or more.

My child is a super reader, how can he/she read harder books? If your student has consistently aced the quizzes, his/her level will be slightly raised as they progress. Talk to your school folks. They will be a great resource for how well your kiddos are doing. It is NOT an intelligence test. It is a helpful tool. Think of it like a work evaluation. Your boss gives you one, you and the boss determine your strengths & weaknesses.

Anything not covered here can be answered where the books are- with your librarian. Have a fab school year!