Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Children’s Book Review, You Can Never Run Out of Love

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

You Can Never Run Out of Love is a children’s picture book written by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Ali Pye and published by Simon and Schuster. RRP: $Au 14.99 PB.

From the publisher:

A heart-warming and funny tale about the different kinds of love, and how no matter how much love you give you can never run out.

You can’t measure love in a bucket or cup. You don’t have to worry you’ll use it all up.
Because love’s not a game where you have to keep score. Whenever you give some, you’ll always have more.
When you’ve run out of everything else you’ll still find . . .
You can never run out of love.

It’s lovely to find a children’s picture book that points out to kids something we adults tend to take for granted: despite being able to “run out” of all sorts of things, we don’t ever run out of love. Docherty doesn’t preach, and that underlying message is always light-hearted. The text is rhythmic and rhyming, with the title used as a refrain for kids to join in.

The cover of You Can Never Run Out of Love is a strong sunshiny yellow, and features a smiling girl with an armful of pets. I predict kids will grin back and reach for the book, and I know they will enjoy all the humour inside! Author and illustrator work together to show us all the things we CAN run out of, and hint at why. “You can run out of chocolates..” is accompanied by a smeary-faced toddler inside the chocolate box, licking her fingers. Not all the situations are dire though - running out of socks just means an enormous pile of them provides a look-out place for a young adventurer and his telescope.

Pye’s illustrations are lovely. Characters’ faces are so expressive, and she has added an immediacy and imperfection by using textures from mono prints. There are many details that will reward young readers’ close scrutiny. I loved the simple palette of reds and blues, complemented by aqua, yellow and pink.

You Can Never Run Out of Love would make an excellent book to use when helping kids develop the skill of inferring. Also, because it’s in rhyme, I think classes might like to become so familiar with the text that they can recite it to their parents. I’ll be adding this picture book to my List of Picture Books with Strong Rhyme and Rhythm. I hope you will share it with the kids you know very soon!

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Children’s iPad App, Toca Kitchen

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Toca Kitchen is an iPad and Android app by developer, Toca Boca. I have previously reviewed Toca Life: City, Toca Life: Town, Toca Life: Farm, Toca Life: Stable and Toca Band by the same developer.

From the developer:

- Four cute characters to cook for - each with their own favorite food!
- 12 different ingredients that can be prepared in 180 different ways!
- Slice, boil, fry, cook, microwave anything you like!
- Professional and fun kids app design!
- No rules or stress!
- Kid-friendly interface
- No in-app purchases
- No third party advertising

Toca Kitchen is not a game - it's a toy where you and your kids get to explore cooking. What happens if you mix a carrot and then fry it? Will the cat like it? And what is the bull's favorite food? Toca Kitchen supports free play for all ages and is a great way to use your imagination.

As with all Toca Boca apps, there are no high scores, time limits or stressful music. Rest assured this app for kids let’s kids play however they want!

What I liked:

Like many other Toca Boca apps, Toca Kitchen is a digital toy. It is not linear. Kids should be encouraged to play how they wish. Ideally, adults will get to play too, just like they do in real life games. This gives parents and caregivers opportunities to ask questions that elicit a response, or nudge kids to think about something. I liked that the music is “easy-listening” in the background. Everything works well. And even though kids can make as weird a digital culinary mess as they want, there is no real clean up afterwards!

Basically the game revolves around four characters in the kitchen - a boy, a girl, a cat and a bull, all sitting at the table ready to eat. Each character has access to “food” items in a fridge and ways to prepare them. Some characters will relish eating certain things raw. Some won’t, and it’s fun to see their reactions. The idea is for kids to experiment and role play, just the way they would when making mud pies in the backyard.

While the blurb says no third party ads, there is an ad for other Toca games. I don't see the need to advertise within an app aimed at quite young kids, because surely parents can look online, or the ad could be behind a code. I also found the “action” quite limited compared to other Toca Boca apps.

Watch the trailer for more of an idea.

Where to get it?

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Children’s Book Review, Ellie, Engineer: The Next Level

by Susan Stephenson,

Ellie, Engineer: The Next Level is a junior novel by Jackson Pearce, published by Bloomsbury (2018.)

From the publisher:

After Ellie's first elevator build goes terribly wrong, her parents decide her "punishment" is to assist an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Curran, around the house. Ellie and her friends Kit and Toby are really only supposed to help with little things, but Ellie can't turn down the opportunity to use her engineering skills here and there where she sees a need--because that's what engineers do! It's no fun, though, when Mrs. Curran always gives Toby the credit for all the ingenious projects, and acts like Kit and Ellie were just helping him. . . . Can Ellie come up with another great build to elevate Mrs. Curran's ideas about this girl engineer?

This is a light-hearted romp with a strong female heroine who loves to invent things. It’s a follow-up to Ellie, Engineer, also published by Bloomsbury, but there is no real need for children to have read that book first. The humour is perfectly pitched at children of the target age - I think kids about 7+ would love it. I very much appreciated how “real” the children seemed, even though their adventures tend toward wacky and wonderful! Problem solving is woven naturally through the story, allowing kids to gain an understanding of how to apply what they learn at school in their own lives.

Ellie, Engineer: The Next Level would be a fine choice for a class read-aloud prior to starting a unit on Simple Machines, and there’s a child-friendly explanation about them in back of the book. Kids will enjoy the sketches depicting Ellie’s actual designs. I hope both boy and girl readers will be inspired to learn more science, and even aspire to a career in engineering.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar. You might also be interested in my articles, Activities for Maker Ed and Resources for Maker Ed.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Activities for Alpacas with Maracas NSS 2019

by Susan Stephenson,

This year, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) has chosen Alpacas with Maracas as the National Simultaneous Storytime book for 2019. NSS will be held at 11am on Wednesday 22 May in 2019.

Here are some activities to help kids extend the literature experience based on Alpacas with Maracas. I have included ideas for a range of ages, because I hope older kids get to join in all the fun and help celebrate books and reading too!

* What do real alpacas look/sound like? Find some pictures and share them. Here is a short video.

* What do real maracas look/sound like? Here is a short video.

* Here’s another short video from ABC Education about alpacas. Did you know they are always smiling and spit like camels? Ewww!

* Using crayons or mixed media, draw a picture of an alpaca and some maracas.

* Kids might like to recall the activities Al and Macca tried before describing their own talents to the group.

* A talent show is a kind of contest where people compete against each other to be the most entertaining. Have a contest to see who can make the silliest face, or clap their hands the fastest, or some other amazing feat. Older kids might like to come prepared to show off their talents! Can someone play the leaf, the kazoo or the comb? Can anyone tap their head and rub their tummy at the same time?

* Make or adapt your own maracas with kids via these step by step directions at PBS involving cardboard rolls, duct tape, paper and rice. You can also make maracas from plastic bottles filled with dried beans or lentils. Remind parents and helpers about the danger of small ones choking if you decide to do this.

* Have kids explore making a maraca noise some other way. They could try their voices, rubbing their hands together, whispering etc. If you have real maracas handy, compare the noises. Can you build an orchestra using body percussion and maracas? Try a tune like This Old Man.

* Can children make up a silly Alpaca dance to a maraca rhythm?

* Here’s a short and bouncy song suitable for kids called Share the Maracas in a video on Youtube.

* Playing with rhyme is a great activity for kids. Quite young children may not have a concept of rhyme, but will enjoy the silliness of play. Alpacas with Maracas might become Cats with Splats or Elephants with Yellephants.

Older kids could innovate on Frogs with ……Sharks with …. Eagles with……… Bats with …. Owls with ……Sparrows with ….. Cockatoos with ….. and draw pictures of their choice(s). If you have time for a more formal activity based on the above, you might like to download my PDF: Playing with Rhyme NSS 2019. All my PDFs are free for parents, teachers and librarians who would like to use them with the children in their care.

* Playing with rhythm is lots of fun too. Can kids use nonsense syllables and sounds from the book, and combine them to make their own rhythms? What body movement can they combine with that rhythm?

* Do you only have time for a fast activity that kids might finish at home? Here are some alpaca colouring pages, and here’s an alpaca outline that could be filled with glued crumpled or torn paper, snippets of yarn, or cotton wool.

Extra Challenges for Older Kids:

# Alpacas with Maracas would be a good book to compare with one of Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama books like Llama Llama Red Pyjama.

# Where do maracas originate? (Said to be Puerto Rico but are now common in lots of Latin American music.) Do kids know any other percussion instruments that are shaken? Why are instruments like this probably common across many cultures?

# Alpacas with Maracas is written with lots of rhyming couplets. Can kids create their own rhyming story or poem?

# Use software or a digital tool to create a picture of an alpaca with maracas. I made my alpacas with Assembly app, but you could draw and scan or combine digital shapes to create your own alpaca.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Let’s Celebrate World Book Day

by Susan Stephenson,

Tomorrow, March 7 2019, is World Book Day. Let’s Celebrate!

There are lots of resources at the UK World Book Day website. Although it’s too late to register with them, there is nothing to stop children and adults celebrating World Book Day anywhere, anytime in the world, whether at home, school or work. Below are some ideas for discussions and activities.

* Why do we need a World Book Day? Do you think each country in the world would celebrate it in the same way?

* How could you and your friends celebrate World Book Day?

* Ask significant adults in your life just why books are important to them.

* Giving books to others who need them is a great way to celebrate on World Book Day. How could you do this?

* Compile a list of class favourite books and display it.

* Challenge another class to read more books than yours during World Book Day.

* World Book Day would be a lovely time to pack a picnic and your favourite books and head outdoors. Too busy during the day? How about a picnic at dinner time?

* Write a menu for a World Book Day picnic.

* At bedtime, turn the lights out and read by torch-light.

* Create a poster that communicates the importance of books and reading.

* Have a book swap event and find some new favourite reads.

* Compile a display of favourite quotes about reading and books.

* Write a newspaper article about something that happened in a book you have read.

* Collaborate with friends to write your own book.

* Little ones might like to invite their dolls and teddies to celebrate World Book Day with a party and a shared read-aloud.

* Older kids might like to design a book mark, or a book cover for the book they would most like to read.

* Dressing up as a book character can be fun. Or making a craft inspired by your favourite book. The World Book Day website has stacks of great activity ideas.

* What else could you do to celebrate books and the joy of reading?
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