Monthly Archives: April 2012

Library Hits – 4/17/2012

This week’s library returns and and what we thought of them.

Top of the Pile

Mouse and Mole, Fine Feathered Friends by Wong Herbert Yee
Awesome
I really enjoyed this early reader which won a Geisel Honor in 2010.  The Geisel Award is my new favorite award–it’s for best early reader books.  The books on that list were meant for kids like Monkey who learn to read early and need more content than picture books and less than a chapter book, but something that’s actually a story since they’re done with boring phonics concepts.  So many early readers are hit-over-the-head boring, but everything we’ve read off the Geisel list has been a huge hit.  Even if your child isn’t reading, these books are highly readable! Anyway, about the book: a friendship story with some serious emphasis on nature study (one of my new pet homeschooling topics). Continue reading

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Filed under Early Elementary (6-9), Library Hits, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Garden Planning

Before we even had space for a garden, I had fallen in love with Square Foot Gardening.  Never mind that I hate dirt, bugs, and anything resembling hard work.  The possibilities of raising tons of produce with such little effort really caught my eye. (And my husband would point out that it doesn’t hurt that this gardening method takes place in beautiful, little, tiny grids. I can’t deny it.)

Now I’m approaching my third summer of square foot gardening.  I’m working on a major expansion to my garden, and I’ve mostly gotten over my fear of dirt.  We’ve had some successes and some failures over the last two years, but like every spring, I’m optimistic that this is our year.

Like most things in my life, there are several spreadsheets in my files for garden stuff, but this garden planning sheet is the one I’ve found most useful lately.  Simply enter the total square footage of your square foot garden and the total number of squares of vertical space (climbing trellis) available.  Then mix and match plants to your heart’s content.  The spreadsheet will calculate how much room your desired plants should take up and let you know when you’ve reached maximum capacity.

To add new plants, you’ll simply need to know how many fit in a square foot.  You can use this conversion chart to calculate from the spacing on the seed packet.

Once you’ve finished selecting your plant, I highly recommend you take a look at this companion planting sheet by My Square Foot Garden.  It’s a lifesaver that prevents us garden noobs from planting potatoes and tomatoes next to each other. One of the niftiest garden tools out there.

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Filed under Gardening, Spreadsheet Wednesday

Library Hits – 4/4/2012

(And we’re back from the dead.)

I’ve recently decided that lists on a blog is no way to keep track of books.  It’s not searchable, it’s not taggable, it’s not organized, gosh darn it!  In fact, given what we all know about me, I can’t believe I didn’t realize this earlier.  After a failed attempt at creating a spreadsheet (too much by-hand input required and still not searchable), I remembered a lovely book organizing tool I found back in college: LibraryThing!

So now I’ve been busy inputting recommended reading lists into the database (almost done with the Book Crush list, then on the the award lists) along with our recent library hits.  You can browse my database by heading over to my LibraryThing page. I hope this database can be useful to other people as, ideally, it will be made up of only truly awesome picture books without the drivel and the twaddle. (On a side note, “drivel” and “twaddle” are technical terms in my book, “drivel” referring to overly sentimental children’s lit and “twaddle” being overly commercialized pulp lit.)

Since I’m not really including the bad stuff in this database, I’ll limit my library hits reviews to the actual hits. Unless of course there’s something outstandingly bad enough that I just have to share and mock it.  :D

Top of the Pile

Question Boy meets Little Miss Know-It-All by Peter Catalanotto
Awesome
Our entire family adored this book, and that’s rare since reading picture books is the bane of my husband’s existence. The book is pretty much what the title suggests it is, with superhero costumes for all, even the garbage man.  The plotting is awesome and for once, the ending of a picture book is every bit as satisfying as a novel.  Illustrations are also spot on and hilarious.

The Stacks

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
Check-out
When this came up on the Book Crush list I was entering, I vaguely remembered the pictures of it from my childhood.  The pictures were just as stunning as ever, but the writing was a little weak.  I mean, it just sort of ends, with no elaboration on this little mythic world it’s created.

Zelda and Ivy by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
Buy
The beginning of a good early reader series.  I think the story of two sisters and how they interact and get along is interesting.  Probably would have been even more awesome were there any sisters in our household . . . .

Alphabetter by Dan Bar-el
Check-out
Decent alphabet book.  Story in the tradition of each person having what the next one needs, and so they all swap at the end.  The text on the jacket cover is misleading though; it’s not about them working together at all.

A Second is a Hiccup by H. J. Hutchins
Buy
I love a good educational book that’s actually readable.  This book, in a poetic way, gives kids a sense of the scale of different measures of time.

Rating Scale

In homage to Harry Potter, our rating scale contains no simple numbers, but is useful nonetheless, and largely self-explanatory:
Awesome
Buy
Check-out
Filler
Obnoxious
Terrible

Disclaimer: These reviews are not intended to be a review of the overall quality of any picture book, but are totally biased and based on their suitability for this mom and her two children reading together.  Your mileage may vary based on your children’s maturity, attention span, and interests.

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Filed under Library Hits, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)