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Past Posts

The Worst Witch: Kids' Book Giveaway!

When the folks at Candlewick Press offered to help me host a giveaway of The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy, it didn't take me long to say yes! In our family we love Halloween-themed books, and we love finding well-written girl characters.

Mildred's not a bad kid, but things just don't seem to go right for her at Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches! Partly bad luck, partly because she's a not-stuffy kid at a rather stuffy school, and partly because the teacher's pet doesn't like her. But she has two things going for her: a good heart, and a loyal best friend. Now if she could just avoid turning anyone else into a pig...

The Worst Witch is recommended for Grades 3-6 (ages 8-12) but I knew from reading it myself that seven year old Boy Detective would be fine with it. So I read the first chapter out loud to him at bedtime... and then the second chapter, because he had to know what happened when Mildred got her kitten.

After he was in bed, my husband looked at me and said "So what do you think of that book?" I said "It feels like a younger kid Harry Potter, in a good way." He agreed completely. It has the magic, the school, and the friendship, but without the tragedies and dark foreboding.

Continue reading The Worst Witch: Kids' Book Giveaway!.

The phone call you don't want to make

Hearing people yelling in the street near our loud neighbors' house, I pull back the office curtain to check it out...

C-Man: I think it's basketball.

Me: Football.

C-Man: Good thing you checked before calling 911 on them again.

Me: I would never call 911 without looking! But yeah, I think calling the cops on your neighbors for playing football would be really embarrassing.

C-Man: Especially in Texas.

Me: I think the cops might arrest ME for that, actually.

10 Spooky and Monster Books for Kids That Adults Can Love Too (Even After Halloween)

We basically celebrate Halloween year round in our family, and I know we're not the only ones. Monsters, witches, and other spooky stuff are just fascinating to some kids. (Okay, I confess, to some grownups as well!) So we've read a ton of spooky, monster, and creature books, but for this post I've narrowed it down to the best - the ones I'd recommend that even adults read for entertainment, and that Boy Detective came back to again and again.

Let us know in the comments if you have any suggestions! Trust me, we're always looking for more of these...

(If you need to get caught up, here are all the children's picture book posts: friendship, dogs, pirates, bedtime, awesome girls, robots, magic, gardens, cats, superheroes, love and marriage, knights, family, animals, science fiction, food and cooking, art and creativity, dinosaurs, princesses, pets, dragons, spooky and monster books, and kids' poetry books. WHEW, that's a lot of books! You should also check out Good Comics For Kids (Even Little Ones!). Does this post use affiliate links? Yes! More about that if you're not familiar.)

Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke. We were thrilled when we found out Hatke was doing a picture book, since we adore his Zita the Spacegirl series (see our Good Superhero Comics for Kids post for more about Zita.) We were not disappointed! Julia lives in a house on the back of a tortoise. It’s full of wonderful things, including her workshop, but very lonely. But when she opens her home to all sorts of lost creatures, she gets a little more chaos than she bargained for! This book has two of the features which made Zita so enjoyable for me: Hatke’s intriguing character designs, and his attention to sound words. Fans of robots will get a special treat at the end, too.

Continue reading 10 Spooky and Monster Books for Kids That Adults Can Love Too (Even After Halloween).

Sometimes you just have to move on...

Dear All The Songs I Am Deleting From My Computer's Hard Drive,

It's not you! I'm sure you're just as thoughtful, well-crafted, and entertaining as you were when I started listening to you 25 years ago. Or 10 years. (Or, for some of you, one year.)

The problem is that I've changed!

For some of you, I've changed from being a person who has heard you 10 times, to being a person who has heard you 1000 times. Clearly not your fault. Well, maybe it is. You're a victim of your own excellence? When I was young I didn't know that one could get bored with a song one loved. Now I know.

For others of you, the issue is... how do I say this politely? I've just moved past needing songs about toxic romance and self-delusion in relationships. To be honest, I doubt I needed you in the first place, because you reinforced a lot of my completely unacceptable behavior in those areas. I'm permanently grounded from dating even if something happens to C-Man, so there's no risk of recidivism, but still there's not much point in keeping content that hearkens back to the Bad Old Days.

And then there are the mean songs. Yes, you can be funny at times. But I'm increasingly uneasy with having so much mean in my life. There's plenty of that on the internet.

I hope you have a wonderful life. I really mean that. Don't let this get you down. Maybe we'll run into each other briefly someday on Pandora or I'll hear you coming out of someone's car window, and we can say hi.

Sincerely,
Me

p.s. Yes, I am wearing my son's sunglasses in this picture. How could you tell?

Wadjda: A film about how things change

When it comes to renting movies, I have a list of the next 10 films we're going to watch. C-Man, on the other hand, likes to browse. Especially in the new arrivals section. That's where he found Wadjda.

It's the first feature-length film made in Saudi Arabia, which has no movie theaters. It was written and directed by female filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, who often wasn't allowed to be on the set with the actors because of government restrictions on women. It's about a middle-school age girl named Wadjda who's earning money for a bicycle, though her culture frowns on girls riding bikes.

Could be depressing, right? Evil oppressors, helpless victims, wrenching of heartstrings about various plights? Fear not! Al-Mansour knows what she's doing, and she's intent on showing complexity rather than despair.

First we have Wadjda, played by Waad Mohammed. I loved the glint in her eye whenever she spotted a new money-making opportunity. Contraband handmade bracelets, message delivery services (with some double-billing going on!), and finally, signing up for the school's Koran recitation competition. Which blows everyone's mind, since her purple shoelaces and disregard for the rules don't exactly mesh with devout memorization of a holy book. But she's not an angry rebel fighting against authority. She's just a kid who wants a bike so she can win a race. She's going to do whatever works.

Next, her mother, played by Saudi television star Reem Abdullah. At first I read her character as a demonstration of how adult Saudi women are trapped by their culture. Only certain jobs, only certain ways of dressing. But when a friend offers her a new job at a local hospital with very different opportunities, the contrast between their two experiences is intriguing. A good reminder not to reduce women's lives to one story, even in the same time, place, and social class!

Continue reading Wadjda: A film about how things change.

A Boy and His Fortune Wookiee Have A Chat

Overheard from the front seat, where I was driving along minding my own business... and only Boy Detective was in the back. Or so I thought.

Boy Detective: You can't just say you want to invent something and have it happen. It takes lots and lots of stuff.

Fortune Wookiee: HGNRL!

Boy Detective, skeptical: How could you make a magic wand out of tortillas, a ruby, and a battery pack?

Fortune Wookiee: HGNRL!

Boy Detective, tentatively: Maybe if you left out the tortillas?

I'm sorry the photo is so blurry. Have you ever tried to take a picture of a fortune wookiee? It's harder than it looks. But the Origami Yoda series has taken over our house!

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THANK YOU!

Thanks to Chris Giarrusso for the title "Planet Jinxatron." Buy his books!

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