Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Paper Crafts

Summer officially started several days ago but most kids have been out of school for almost a month now and if they are anything like mine boredom is setting in. Here are some crafts that can be done with any combination of paper, paper plates, chenille sticks,glue, markers, craft sticks a wee bit o glue and a little ingenuity. Crafts are good because not only do they help beat boredom but they also develop fine motor skills in little ones as well as help kids to think creatively.

This fan is not only visually stunning but it is also a perfect way to beat the heat. I would recommend using tempera paint due to the fact that this paint cleans fairly easily. Be warned though that as with many paints when it dries it may cause paper to get a tad stiff.   For the melon use some green paint (you may have to use more than one coat since the paint may dry very light) and then stick the various colored paper on the plates.

Paper Plate Fruit
The directions for this and for others can be found here.

Summers are hot because of the sun so how about making a cool paper plate sun. Paint or color a paper plate yellow and if you have a hole puncher punch some holes around the edges through which you will thread the chenille sticks (you can slip some plastic decorative pieces over those) and if you'd like glue some decorative jewel pieces on the plate.

This next craft is really easy to do and you will need a few different kinds of construction paper which you will then cut in small strips and then fold them and stick them to the craft sticks. Then cut another piece of paper in a circle and stick that on top of everything. It comes out looking very nice.

 The above crafts are perhaps a bit too involved for a preschooler to work on independently so I am including two crafts that are perfect for this age group. In this first craft a grown up will have to cut the fish shape first or perhaps cut the circle before the little one sticks the triangle onto it. Little ones can then stick on little pieces of construction paper to serve as the scales of the fish.

This next craft is one that I like because there are many ways to do it. If you have more than one child you can have them use their hands only or you can do the craft as shown in the pic below and use everyone in the family's hand. If you want you can use plain construction paper and have the child color it, write something on it or even stick something on it to decorate it. When completed you can stick it up somewhere in the house that way you can keep a ready visual of how small the child's hands were at one point.

Till next time, keep crafting!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rebels of the Lamp by Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman.

Jinn, jann or djinn are frequently seen in Islamic folklore and most people know about the genie from Disney's Alladin (for me one of the late Robin Williams' best roles) and from Alladin and the magic lamp. What if a centuries old genie was awakened and bound to a middle schooler?  Not just any middle school student mind you but one with issues who is in need of some guidance. This is the story of Rebels of the Lamp by Michael  M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman.

Parker lives with his mom in Los Angeles California and although they love each other they frequently disagree usually due to Parker's bad choices in school. After one escapade too much Parker's mom sends him across the country to sleepy New Hampshire to stay with his uncle Kelsey. Theo his cousin isn't exactly pleased to see him nor is he happy to be attending the same school as his wayward cousin.

Theo's dad does repair work at a local college and when the boys accompany him on one such job things get very strange.  Parker takes a strange metal container at just the exact moment when some strange men begin pursuing them and thus begins their adventures with Fon-Rahm the genie. at first the boys along with their friend Reece enjoy all the benefits that Fon-Rahm has to offer (think fast cars and adventure) but soon things get serious-there are other genies out there and not all of them are friendly.

The first few chapters of the book are interspersed with some entries written in a journal by a powerful sorcerer who created the genies and they allow us to see his motivation behind dabbling in such ancient and powerful magic. There is also another link between him and the genies but I won't reveal too much of the plot.

I enjoyed this book since, like most good ones it takes something I had already known about but used it in a different way. Most of the genie stories I have seen dealt with genies somewhere in the Middle East so seeing a story set in a plain New England town was very refreshing. I recommend it for readers aged 9+.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Plague of Bogles by Catherine Jinks

Set in Victorian era London, A Plague of Bogles is just as good as the first book in the series, How To Catch a Bogle.  What is a bogle you ask? A scary creature that can be as small as a dog or as big as a man. The creatures are fierce and devilish  and Alfred Bunce is the man to do the killing.

In the first book a young girl with a beautiful voice called Birdie McAdam was his apprentice but in this novel Jem Barbary, a street urchin and former pickpocket is reluctantly taken in by Alfred. Catching bogles requires a young helper because they love to eat children and babies.

Killing the bogles is not easy but Alfred is unstinting in his task. He soon realizes that something is amiss. There are way too many bogles near to each other in the city. What could be causing that? Jem, for his part has his own reasons for helping Alfred, he has a score to settle with an old nemesis.

Mrs Jinks is a fantastic writer, she recreates the era through her use of slang from the time (there is a glossary in the back) and perfectly depicts the class distinctions characteristic of Victorian era Britain. She demonstrates fantastic use of descriptive language like for example when she tells how one character has to jostle with other patrons in a pub you can actually create a mental image of that scene.  The bogles are scary creatures but thankfully no encounter with them lasts very long and when it does you find yourself waiting for the next one.

This is a good read and I recommend it for ages 8+.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

There was a time in American history when the specter of Communism loomed large in the national consciousness and the FBI was tasked with determining whom among us held views that went against the American Way. Agents used a variety of methods to help in this quest.

The main character in the novel Catch you Later, Traitor is a kid called Pete who lives a regular life in New York City but things change drastically when his teacher accuses him of having a Communist father. Pete, a fan of detective radio shows and comic books, begin to use his budding detective skills to prove that his dad is no Communist. What he discovers however are some secrets that will forever change him.

Avi  uses elements from his childhood growing up in the time of the Cold War and it is amazing how much things have changed but still remain the same. Some of the food Pete encounters are new to him but are ubiquitous now. Pizza for example is a huge treat for him back then whereas people eat it literally for all three meals.

This novel explores various themes as well, among them family, marriage, friendship. Avi uses a light touch however so the reader does not get bogged down with the details. Pete does not have the closest relationship with his older brother Bobby and their encounters are usually short and terse. Pete is very close to his father however and their bond is strengthened through the trying circumstances in which they find themselves. Pete has also placed various extended family members in neatly defined categories but this changes as the plot unfolds.

Friendship is a major part of the story also and Pete finds his friendship with his best friend, a girl called Kat, sorely tested. In the climate of the day friends who were loyal were hard to come by since there were many government agents bent on rooting out anyone with suspected Communist ties.

Avi lives here in Denver and even checks out books from a branch of my library system (how cool is that!). I am ashamed to say that this is the first of his books that I have read but it will not be the last. I recommend it for ages 9+.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry

The Worst Class Trip Ever by author Dave Barry is a story about friends, terrorists and farts...I kid you not. A group of middle schoolers go on a field trip to Washington D.C. hoping to learn more about the history and see some of the many tourist attractions there.  Told from the point of view of Wyatt Palmer, an ordinary eighth grader whose parents are loving if not a bit zany. His mom is a loving, doting parent...but she doesn't suffer fools gladly as his father finds out early in the book.

Wyatt is a typical student, not too good but not too bad. Things get off to a bad start literally from the time the kids get on the plane when he and his best bud Matt get into a minor tiff with some strange guys sitting next to them try to flout the rules about baggage. The guys want to put a bag somewhere but are told not to by the stewardess. Things don't end there however because Matt, the goofy friend takes something out of the bag. This leads to perhaps the weirdest sequence of events I have read in some time.

In addition to this Wyatt has to deal with his affection for a girl who for all intents and purposes is unattainable. She is taller, smarter and more worldly than he and she also doesn't know how he feels about her. But this situation is so crazy he just might be able to use it to his advantage.

The kids find themselves having to make some serious decisions and I like how Barry was able to frame the decision. On one hand they realized when things got serious and that they would need grown up help but on the other hand theywant to follow instructions they received This for me is adolescence in a nutshell; yes there are some things that can be done on your own but there will still be times when adult assistance will be required.

This is a good summer read for kids aged 10+. I enjoyed it and I think middle grade readers will identify with the social scenarios and mild friend drama described in it. This is a good summer read.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Father's Day crafts

Father's Day is around the corner so here are some of the cool crafts I found that I plan to add to my craft session this year at my library.

This one uses a paper plate and some cut outs that can be made with construction paper. Both cutting the cutout saw and writing the message may be a little difficult for young ones so I would advise grown ups to handle those portions of the craft.

Another paper plate craft that I like is this one which uses the outside of the plate to write a heartfelt message to dad. Some colored or construction paper can be used to make the design piece at the bottom.

This tie is a cool craft as well. I am thinking that 8 1/2" X 14" paper might be good for this due to the length of the tie. I found a template here that can be adjusted as need be. I am also thinking that most baby and little kid hands would fit on there.  This tie is after all a decorative thing that most (all) dads will hang proudly in the office.

For the father whose little ones(s) are good with words, this card is a nice way to tell him how much he means to them. A simple construction paper folder in a card shape and then decorated as needed.

This last craft I found on this site and I like it a lot because it is perfect for the modern connected dad. You can use a recycled drink tray or similar sturdy recycled material. Some craftiness is required to paint and decorate it but I am thinking once it says "dad" on there most dads will be pretty pleased.

Happy Father's Day!