One-Minute Book Reviews

August 2, 2008

How to Have More Fun Watching a Sunset — Another Great Idea from ‘365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child’

Filed under: How to,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:36 am
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Back in June, I mentioned how much I like Steve and Ruth Bennett’s 365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child (Adams Media, 1993). If you haven’t yet gone to your library to get the book, I’d like to encourage you with another idea from it. Want to have more fun watching a sunset?

“Get the whole family out for a sunset viewing (a picnic dinner is a great way to get ready),” the Bennetts write. “As the sky turns colors, have everyone take turns closing their eyes, counting to thirty (ten, for young ones), then describing what’s different when they open their eyes again.”

Alternately, the Bennets say, you could have all of your family members close their eyes while you count to thirty. Then ask them to open their eyes and describe the changes. Or ask people to predict what changes will occur, such as shifts in colors or cloud shapes.

You’ll find other ideas in the Bennett’s 365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child (Adams Media, 2002), which is easier to find in stores and on line.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

June 20, 2008

Great Low- or No-Cost Outdoor Activities You Can Do With a Child

Filed under: How to,Nonfiction,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:31 pm
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365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child. By Steve and Ruth Bennett. Adams Media, 430 pp., $7.95, paperback.

365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child: Plus 50 All-New Bonus Activities. By Steven J. Bennett and Ruth Bennett. Adams Media, 512 pp, $8.95 paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Want to keep a child away from the television set this summer and involved in activities that are stimulating and fun? Steve and Ruth Bennett are your friends. Maybe — depending on how desperate you are — your best friends.

The Bennetts have written two terrific books packed with ideas so simple you may wonder why you didn’t think of them on your own: 365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child and 365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child www.adamsmediastore.com/product/814/16. The second book is easier to find than the first, but both are widely available in libraries. And each describes hundreds of no- or low-cost, TV-free activities for ages 3 and up in a paperback small enough to fit into a purse or glove compartment.

Part of the appeal of these books is that they describe many activities that would appeal to a variety of ages (including, in some cases, teenagers). Their “Acorn Toss,” for example, is a variation on horseshoes, scaled down so that all ages can enjoy taking part.

Here are three suggestions from 365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child that will give you an idea of the kinds of diversions the Bennetts recommend in both books:

Acorn Toss. Can’t take children’s favorite games with you on a trip? Use acorns, walnuts or pine cones for sports games, the Bennetts suggest. One of the easiest games begins with gathering a handful of acorns or nuts: “One person tosses his or her acorn from an official throwing point, marked by a line in the ground or a stick. The other players then toss their acorns, trying to come as close as possible without touching the acorn.”

Invent a Constellation. On a starry night, ask children what they see in the way of people, animals, objects, and more. Make up alternate names for constellations — “Meatball Minor,” “Pancake Major,” “Aunt Jane’s Earlobe” — and tell stories about them. “Sound silly?” the Bennetts ask. “Remember, they actually did name one galaxy the Milky Way.”

Water Writing. Write with “disappearing ink” – water – on a sidewalk, driveway, or patio. Fill a bucket or pan with water, and “write” with a paintbrush, roller or broom. The Bennetts recommend that you tailor your writing to a child’s age For prereaders, paint letters, numbers or shapes of familiar objects. For readers, write words or messages. “On a hot sunny day, the object is for your child to guess the picture or message before the water evaporates.” To conserve save, use “waste water” from a wading pool or rainwater collected in a bucket.

As these activities suggest, the Bennetts’ books could inspire not just parents but for grandparents or aunts and uncles who expect visits from children soon.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 30, 2008

Classic Picture Books Every Child Should Read – ‘The Backward Day’ by Ruth Krauss With Art by Marc Simont

“Ruth [Krauss] broke the rules and invented new ones, and her respect for the natural ferocity of children bloomed into poetry that was utterly faithful to what was true in their lives.”
— Maurice Sendak in The Horn Book

The Backward Day. By Ruth Krauss. Illustrated by Marc Simont. New York Review Children’s Collection, 32 pp., $14.95. Ages 3 and up.

By Janice Harayda

Ruth Krauss isn’t as well-known today as Margaret Wise Brown, her contemporary and fellow member of the Writer’s Laboratory at the Bank Street School in New York City. But like Brown, Krauss helped to change the path of children’s literature, partly by incorporating more naturalism into a field dominated by fairy and folk tales. One of her most appealing books is The Backward Day, recently revived in a series of classics from New York Review Children’s Collection.

In a wholly nondidactic way, this brief story reminds us — and children — of the joy of activities that cost nothing. A young boy wakes up one morning and decides that it’s “backward day,” an occasion that some children call “opposite day.” He puts his underwear on over his coat and suit and his socks over his shoes. Then he walks backward down the stairs to the breakfast table, where he turns a chair around. When his parents and younger sister arrive, he tells each of them, “Goodnight.” Without so much as a “Don’t be silly!” they go along with him – and keep going along — until he announces “BACKWARD DAY IS DONE” and everything returns to normal.

Simple as it is, this story speaks to – and vicariously fulfills – children’s yearning for power over others, and does so in a realistic and believable way. Its young hero needs no magic wand or potion to get others to do his bidding, which must make it all the more thrilling to many children. Marc Simont’s appealing drawings of a late 1940s family have an ageless elegance leavened with wit. And in an era of oversized picture books that are way too big for many 3-year-olds to handle comfortably, this is the rare hardcover book that has a scale that’s right for small hands.

Recommendation? This book is smaller than most used for library story hours — it’s about the size of Goodnight Moon — but it could still be a great story hour book for a small group, because it offers so many opportunities for audience participation. Children could turn around at some point during the reading, for example, or the leader could “read” the book upside down.

Best line: “Over his suit, he put on his underwear. He explained to himself, ‘Backward day is backward day.’” This line shows Krauss’s understanding of how children think and reason, a hallmark of her books.

Worst line: None.

Published: 1950 (first edition), 2007 (New York Review reprint) www.nyrb.com.

Furthermore: Krauss also wrote A Very Special House, a Caldecott Honor Book, and A Hole Is to Dig, both illustrated by Maurice Sendak. She won another Caldecott Honor for The Happy Day, which has pictures by Marc Simont.

Other titles in the New York Review Children’s Collection include E. Nesbit’s The House of Arden, Rumer Godden’s An Episode of Sparrows, Lucretia P. Hale’s The Peterkin Papers and Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s Wee Gillis.

This is the latest in an occasional series of posts on classic picture books every child should read. Reviews of books for children and teenagers appear on Saturdays on One-Minute Book Reviews. Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing these posts.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

December 30, 2007

Cheers to Paul Dickson’s ‘Toasts,’ a Book of Ideas for New Year’s Eve and Beyond

“To champagne – a beverage that makes you see double and feel single.”

From Paul Dickson’s Toasts

Blame it on stage fright, cultural illiteracy, or the popularity of nonalcoholic drinks like green tea and Grape Vitaminwater. But the ability to make an artful toast is going the way of fine penmanship. If you’d like to keep it alive, you’ll find inspiration in Paul Dickson’s Toasts: Over 1,500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings, and Graces (Crown, $19) pauldicksonbooks.com, illustrated by Rollin McGrail. Many similar books focus on one occasion or group, such as wedding or Irish toasts. Dickson casts a wider net, offering ideas for events that range from retirement parties to everyday meals. He notes that toasts can be “sentimental, cynical, lyric, comic, defiant, long, short, or even a single word.” And he gives examples of all, including some that fit New Year’s Eve. Looking for an alternative to “Cheers” and “L’chayim”? What about, “To champagne – a beverage that makes you see double and feel single”? If you’ll be celebrating with a spouse who makes that one risky, you could try: “May all your troubles during the coming year be as short as your New Year’s resolutions.” You can find ideas for toasts for occasions other than the end of 2007 by going to the page for Toasts on www.amazon.com and using the “Search Inside This Book” tool.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

/www.janiceharayda.com/  

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