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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Is it Spring Break Fever of Freezer?

Unfortunately, not every family can travel to Florida (or any other state with temperatures above freezing). If you are remaining in the Arctic Wasteland (also known as Michigan) over Spring Break you may be looking for some cheap and local entertainment for those cooped up kids.

If cabin fever sets in, the Portland District Library will be hosting a daily event April 7-11 at 2pm.

 Monday, April 7th: Board Games
Turn of the Wii and go old-school. The library will have games available for all ages and interests or you can bring your own.

As a mom of three, I know that it can be difficult to play board games for older kids when you have little ones constantly interrupting. This is a great opportunity for kids to play board games with other kids their own age.
Tuesday, April 8th: Movie
The father of fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson, was born on April 2, 1805 which since 1967 has been celebrated as International Children's Book Day. In honor of the master behind The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, The Snow Queen, The Princess and the Pea, and so many more the library will be showing the classic musical Hans Christian Anderson starring the incomparable Danny Kaye (whom I love, love, love). This is not a biography, but rather "a fairytale about this great spinner of fairy tales."(introduction of Hans Christian Anderson).

I know that musicals can seem a bit corny to some people, but they are so magical and fun and Danny Kaye is one of a kind. Watch him perform an entire movie musical in this video from his first film Up in Arms (1945).

The movie will begin at 2pm and we will be serving free popcorn, so do not miss out on this oldie but goodie.

Wednesday, April 9th: Think Inside the Box Craft Time
Bring your creativity with you to the library and let your imagination run wild. Library Director, Cory, will be leading a special Spring Break craft time.

Thursday, April 10th: LEGOpalooza
Calling all Lego master builders to the library for an afternoon of creative construction. The library has Legos but you are welcome to bring your own from home (just make sure to keep them separate).

Perhaps, one day someone from Portland will be featured at Brickworld. This video is on one of the displays from Brickworld Chicago 2013 and it is astounding what they have recreated out of Legos.

Friday, April 11th: Video Games
The Wii and XBox will be available all afternoon for kids to play together. Bring your favorite games or play some of the ones that we have at the library. Don't forget to invite your friends!

Monday, March 17, 2014

All Ears

Spring Break is is only three weeks away and that means many families will be traveling. Now, if you are lucky you are taking a plane ride to somewhere with palm trees, sandy beaches, and drinks with tiny umbrellas.

I can dream!
If you are like me, though, vacations entail endless car rides with three whiny, tiresome children in the backseat.

Of course, tablets, phones, hand held game systems, portable DVD players etc.will keep kids occupied on long car rides; but sometimes they need a break from the tiny screen. At least I think they do, but if you ask my children I am the meanest mom on the planet because I am the only one who restricts screen time.

So what do you do to make those endless miles go by a little bit faster? Well, you could torment your children with a family sing along just like the Griswolds. Personally, my choice for family road trip entertainment is to listen to audiobooks together. Not only do audiobooks require imagination, they help children expand their attention spans (and an attention span is something that most kids are lacking). My family has been listening to audiobooks in the car for several years and we love it! My kids stop bickering and whining because they do not want to miss anything and then we have something to talk about when we make pit stops.

There are amazing audiobooks in multiple genres for every age group. However, before you load up the car you should preview a small portion of whatever audiobook you plan on playing. I recommend this because the success of an audiobook is totally dependent on the reader. An insipid reader can induce a coma even when they are reading a spectacular book.

If you do not have time to try out multiple audiobooks here are a few that my family has enjoyed.

1. The first one I want to mention is a cross between a musical and an audiobook, and it is great for younger kids.  This is not just someone reading E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan. It is a "Novel Symphony for Actors and Orchestra" and I can not come up with enough adjectives to describe how wonderful it is. The cast includes John Lithgow (love, love, love), Kathy Bates, Jesse Tyler Fergusen, Mandy Moore, Martin Short and they are accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra. After listening to this CD you will wonder how you ever read the book without listening to Louis's trumpet. My kids have listened to this one multiple times. In fact, my son who is ten  has it on his iPod and I regularly hear it playing in his room.

2. Anything read by Jim Dale i.e. The entire Harry Potter series
Take a summer of car reads and listen to the seven Harry Potter books read by British actor, Jim Dale. I promise that you will be entranced by the way he brings Rowling's magical world to life. Dale also reads the Books of Beginnings Series by John Stephens, Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper, A Christmas Carol, Peter and the Star Catchers and the rest of the Peter Pan Series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, The original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne, Return to the 100 Acre Wood by A.A. Milne and many more including adult books. Dale narrates something for every age and I would listen to any of his audio books.                                                                

3. One of my favorite actors is Tim Curry, who can play any character imaginable (I am still terrified of Pennywise the Clown).  I also love his voice work; he was Nigel Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys. Curry is the perfect reader for Lemony Snicket's sardonically dreadful Series of Unfortunate Events. Since so many horrible things happen to the Baudelaire children this series is best reserved for older listeners. If you do not have time to listen to all 12 books watch this hilarious video in which Tim Curry summarizes the series in a scant 2 minutes.         
4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is sure to elicit "yucks" and  "eeewwws" from boys but if you have girls the audio version read by Finola Hughes (All My Children's Anna Devane for all of you soap fans) is beautiful. Audiobooks are a phenomenal way to introduce classic books that your child would normally leave on the bookshelf. After all, if you play it in the car they are trapped and have to listen.

5. Also in the oldie, but goodie category are The Chronicles of Narnia by
C.S. Lewis. I love these books and I have read them more times than I can count. There have been many readers of these books, but I particularly adore the versions read by Kenneth Branagh. Most kids would recognize Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart in The Chamber of Secrets, but he first was known for writing and starring in film adaptations of Shakespeare (Hamlet, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, etc.) If you have a high schooler at home they have probably watched one of his movies in English class. More recently, Branagh has been directing and producing movies, including Thor and Jack Ryan. Branagh puts so much energy and joy into his reading that you feel like you are a part of the story.

6.  You may be surprised to learn that the How to Train Your Dragon movie veers significantly away from the book series written by Cressida Cowell. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because the movie is awesome and I cannot wait to watch the sequel in June. Even though the written adventures of  Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III are vastly different than the movie they are just as entertaining.

 If you can, I highly recommend that you try to read these in book form, because the whimsical illustrations really enhance the stories. As you can see from the pictures above Cowell's original characters do not match up very well with their movie counterparts.

Whether or not you read the books, the audio versions are a treat for younger and older kids. The Scottish actor, David Tennant, reads all of the current books in the series. All of you Doctor Who fans probably recognize Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. Here is a sample of Tennant's Scottish Brogue reading the first book in the How to Train Your Dragon series.

7. I have probably mentioned (more than once) that Roald Dahl is my absolute favorite children's author and I would happily read or listen to his books a thousands of times. In the original audio versions of Dahl's books the author reads them himself. I enjoy listening to these versions, but I admit that my judgement could be clouded by my idolization of the author. Dahl's readings may  may be a little low key for younger listeners.

Recently, Penguin Audio has recorded new audio versions of multiple Dahl books and they are performed by some exceptional British authors. Kate Winslett reads Matilda; Andrew Scott (Moriarty on Sherlock) reads The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar; Stephen Fry reads The Enormous Crocodile; Miranda Richardson reads The Witches; Hugh Laurie reads The Giraffe the Pelly and Me; Dan Stevens (Downtown Abby hottie) reads both Boy and Flying Solo. 

Above is an interesting video about the process of recording these new versions complete with sound effects.

I hope that readers of this blog are not too tired of me mentioning Roald Dahl in every post I write (or almost every post). What can I say, Roald Dahl is the paragon of children's literature so I compare everyone else to him.

Even if you are not going on a vacation over spring break try listening to an audio book with your kids. If anything it will be something new and fun to share with your children (or spouse, or alone, or whatever way because they are so much fun).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Disney's Frozen

Come join us to celebrate the best animated movie ever!
For anyone who hasn't seen Frozen yet and for everyone who wants to enjoy it again.  We are premiering the movie on Saturday March 22nd @ 10:00a.m.  We are kicking off the fun with mining ice with Kristoff to help Elsa build her snow castle.  You will also be able to build a snowman and make a crown to be a princess or make your own antlers like Sven.   Then we will team up to find Olaf and put him back together, which ever team can do it the fastest will win a prize. You will also get to make your own snowman out of marshmallows and chocolate.  Then we will all gather to enjoy "Frozen" themed snacks and watch the movie. At the conclusion of the movie we will draw names to win some of our wonderful prizes. (like a Three Foot Olaf Balloon!)

Here is a preview just in case you haven't seen the movie or just for fun if you have. :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hooray for Non-fiction

I must confess that I do not usually choose to read nonfiction books.  Even the word nonfiction makes me think of school and dreary hours spent studying dry, stodgy textbooks.
That being said, I have read several nonfiction books this year that are entertaining, interesting, and educational too (just don't let your kids hear that "E" word).

1. Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone   Book Trailer
In my opinion, history is the easiest form of nonfiction to read. Books about history are more likely to contain narrative and this makes them easier to relate to and immerse yourself in. The history of the little-known Triple Nickles is recounted in personal stories that are compelling, appalling, and inspiring. Stone begins Courage Has No Color with a stirring quote from WWII historian, Stephen Ambrose: "Soldiers were fighting the world's worst racist, Adolph Hitler, in the world's most segregated army." Courage Has No Color is a fascinating tribute to brave Americans that had to fight a war within their own army before being allowed to fight for their country.

2. The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
I know that I already wrote in  length about this book in my previous post. Let me just reiterate, though, that this book is Breathtaking and I think that everyone (adults and children) should read it! Please do not be deterred by the wonky cover!

3.  The Great American Dust Bowl written and illustrated by Don Brown
This is a historically accurate account of the "Dirty Thirties" written in a format that is sure to engage those reluctant readers. I know that not everyone is a fan of graphic novels, but The Great American Dust Bowl contains gripping facts and quotes from survivors of the dust bowl. Also, Don Brown's illustrations will help kids visualize the massive scope of the dust storms and the havoc that they reaped during the thirties.  

If you enjoy The Great American Dust Bowl, Don Brown has several nonfiction picture books and graphic novels that are a great way to kids kids interested in history.

4. The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins
Let me start off by saying: STEVE JENKINS IS AWESOME!!!!! Like all of his books, The Animal Book contains spectacular artwork and fascinating facts about animals. Many of his previous books like Actual Size or What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? are more picture books for younger kids. In The Animal Book Jenkins draws from his previous books, but really beefs up the text and information for older readers. The book is arranged by chapters on topics such as senses, family, predators, etc. that are further broken down into subtopics like eggs, born live, and attracting a mate (in the family chapter). Each chapter includes Jenkins' amazing illustrations and also graphs and charts that contain tons of interesting information in an easy to understand format.
Jenkins also includes a wonderful section about the process he goes through writing and publishing his books that is sure to intrigue would be authors and artists. You can watch a video in which Steve Jenkins talks about his book making process here
If you have a child that loves nature and animal science The Animal Book would be an excellent gift. Learn more about Steve Jenkins and his other books on his website.
Wow! Stubby was an UGLY dog, but brave and loyal which is much more important.
Nemo was one of the only dogs to return to the states after the Vietnam War.
5. Dogs on Duty by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent This book was the winner of the 2013 Mitten Award (WooHoo!) and it is way more than a cute book about dogs. Kids can learn about dogs that have served soldiers in the military throughout history. Like Stubby who served 18 months during World War I  and Nemo who saved his handler after being shot during Vietnam. Patent also explains how dogs currently serving in the military are chosen and trained. Combining dogs with the military is sure to make Dogs on Duty a huge hit with boys. I enjoyed this one, but I must admit that I cried when I read the part about how the majority of dogs that served in Vietnam were just left there instead of being brought back with the American soldiers. Be aware that more sensitive children might be upset about this too.